In 2018 the AFL decided they wanted to make an overhaul of the existing Match Review Panel (MRP) and instead appoint former Collingwood footballer and Channel Ten expert commentator as the solo match review officer for the 2018 AFL Season.
The previous MRP copped a lot of criticism for it’s regular inconsistency and Christian was appointed as a result of this. I feel as though this has been a failure and if anything appointing Christian has made things even more confusing and inconsistent.
One of the regular inconsistencies of the previous MRP was their refusal to make a call one week and stick to it the next, and appointing Christian was supposed to fix this issue but if anything the problem has become worse.
We only have to go back to the pre-season game between Port Adelaide and West Coast and the incident between Port star Robbie Gray and West Coast defender Jeremy McGovern. Gray’s shoulder connected with McGovern’s head and the Eagle was consequently concussed and Gray received a one match ban for the incident.
The Power attempted to over-turn the decision, however they failed and Gray had to serve out the one match ban and it cost the club $10,000. At least Gray didn’t receive an extra week which he would’ve in the past with that farcical rule that a player gets an extra week if they appeal and the suspension isn’t overturned.
There have been similar incidents this year where players have only received fines and that is what frustrates fans and clubs, the inconsistency is still there even with Christian appointment as the new match review officer.
Another farcical decision this year was that of the suspension of West Coast ruckman, Nick Naitanui for a tackle on Port Adelaide’s Karl Amon. Naitanui was suspended for a week and like Port with Gray, the Eagles appealed the suspension however didn’t have any success and Nic Nat had to serve his suspension.
Now whilst this tackle was a hard one that concussed Amon, it wasn’t worthy of a suspension. It was definitely a free kick to Amon, however a fine at most would’ve been sufficient.
The other ruling that has confused players and spectators is that of the gut punch. Before the season started this year, Christian made a statement that gut punching was going to be penalised and that players were on notice and if a punch was low impact then the offending player would be given a misconduct fine.
In the game between Melbourne and St Kilda on the weekend, St Kilda’s midfielder Jack Steele gave Melbourne’s Clayton Oliver a slap in the gut which caused Oliver to fall to the ground and in obvious pain.
Steele only received a $1500 fine, if they are serious about banning the gut punch then why not give those guilty a one or two week penalty?
There have been some other examples in recent weeks of inconsistency with Christian. Two incidents occurred last Thursday night in the game between Richmond and Sydney and the two guilty players Lance Franklin from the Swans and Nick Vlastuin from Richmond were extremely lucky.
Franklin hit Rance deliberately in the face and only received a fine, Franklin should’ve received a week at least for his bad record and then Vlastuin elbowed Parker in the face and received a one week ban, Vlastuin should’ve been given at least two or three weeks for that incident.
In summary, appointing Christian as the solo match review officer this year has been a failure and has only made the situation more confusing. My suggestion in 2018 is to go back to last year’s MRP with a group of people making decisions not just one person.