Buddy’s Bump: AFL culture changing, fans along with it
Take a look at Twitter’s reaction to Lance Franklin’s hit on Shane Edwards on Friday night and it’s easy to see the message is getting through.
Buddy cannoned into his opponent during the second quarter of the Tigers’ win over Sydney at the SCG after the freakish forward bypassed the ball and opted to bump into the oncoming Edwards.
Scroll through the social network’s feed and you’ll see plethora of tweets saying Franklin will be suspended, ranging from one to four weeks with the majority saying he should get a multiple-week holiday.
With the Australian Rules community unanimous Franklin will have a short break; the culture of the game has changed and the fans have realised its message – concussions are serious and have to be avoided as best they can.
The AFL and AFLPA have put in a lot of work to raise the awareness and reduce the impacts of multiple concussions. The League’s followers now understand when a player hits another, he’s putting his life into his own hands.
Franklin’s bump, while it was a solid hit, wasn’t overly reckless. He collected Edwards high due to the height differential and the Swans forward has gone under those implications before while playing for his former club.
But the issue is the fact he elected to bump and run past the ball. As soon as you bypass the pill and to knock into an opponent, you’re liable for any damage that happens. We all know that now.
Edwards, however, suffered no obvious injuries and stood back up almost immediately. He undertook a concussion test after half-time but was allowed back onto the ground and played out the rest of the game without any lingering effects.
This works in Franklin’s favour. Had Edwards suffered a concussion or an injury, Buddy’s gone for more weeks than he’ll get on Monday night but he might be given a lenient penalty due to the medical report – or lack of.
Without thinking about it, commentators and fans during Friday night’s game were saying Buddy’s hit was an issue whereas a few years ago, the same people would’ve been jumping up and down about the injustice of getting cited.
Those initial reactions say the culture has shifted within the media and supporter circles, for better or worse, to protect the players and we understand that now.
We saw it a bit last week when Bryce Gibbs sling tackled Robbie Gray, concussing the Port Adelaide star and forcing him off the ground on a stretcher.
While this one was more controversial, there was a spate of support for the suspension of Gibbs with many fans voicing their concerns on talk-back radio about a player getting hammered into the ground the way Gray did.
Gibbs may have been unlucky as Buddy actually did the same thing on two occasions on Friday night that didn’t result in the tackled player getting hurt, but we can’t have our players getting smashed by impacts that could be avoided.
Gibbs and Franklin’s incidents’ fall into that category. If Franklin picks up the ball, Edwards then parks his feet awaiting imminent contact, and Buddy can do exactly the same thing and the whole situation never exists because he had the ball in his hands.
Gibbs, on the other hand, is a little more complicated. He was unlucky that Gray had both arms pinned and couldn’t protect himself from the fall but the Carlton midfielder didn’t have to slam him into the ground so ruthlessly.
There’s still work to be done with some former and current players not getting the message just yet, saying it ruins the spirit of the game.
But regardless of whether it’s good or bad for the spectacle, the AFL landscape has evolved and we’re finally changing with it.