Everyone screaming about the Jack Ziebell decision being unfair when compared to Sharrod Wellingham’s needs to take a deep breath. And learn how to do maths.
Predictably, the twittersphere exploded in the wake of Tuesday night’s tribunal hearing, with tweets screaming that they “don’t care about discounts … Ziebell gets a week more than Wellingham” and “Wellingham only gets 3 weeks for his hit yet Ziebell cops 4? #afl #MRP #disgrace”.
How can anyone “not care about discounts”? It’s a part of the system, and it’s not new. If you do the wrong thing, you carry an increased penalty for a period of time. If you have a good record, you get rewarded. (Now, we all know the AFL screwed up in the way the good record was calculated in Wellingham’s case, but that’s the way it currently works.) There’s also an argument that the whole concept of a “good record” is flawed – isn’t that simply what you’re supposed to do anyway?
But the bottom line is that Ziebell was NOT penalised a week more than Wellingham, he got a week less, even after taking his record into account.
Wellingham got FIVE weeks, which was reduced by both an early plea and the dud five-year good behaviour clause, which brought the final figure down to three weeks.
Ziebell was pinged for four weeks, with his carry-over points and bad record contributing significantly to the penalty. He could have escaped with three by taking an early guilty plea, but chose to fight the ruling, and will thus miss four. The Roos knew that would happen if they lost, but rolled the dice anyway.
Anyone who has followed the AFL in recent times can hardly fail to have heard the phrase “the head is sacrosanct”. What that means is the head is off-limits, and for fairly obvious reasons. There are huge concerns in the US over concussion-related deaths in the NFL, with many players dying and developing Alzheimer’s-like diseases at a rate far above that of the general population.
As for the “he was just going for the ball” argument – that’s all well and good, but a player doesn’t have free license to do whatever he wants because “he was going for the ball”. There is a concept called “duty of care”, and when you manage to belt the other player in the head, leaving him with a black eye and concussion, you’ve pretty clearly breached that duty of care.
Combine those two things, and we get last night’s result.
It’s true that footy isn’t the same as it was 30 years ago, but players are (generally) a lot safer on the ground. It’s a hard, physical game, and people need to remember that the decision at the tribunal was reached in very short order by three former footballers, ones who played it back when it was a lot more dangerous than it is today.
For the people who say “AFL is turning into netball,” I’d suggest that rather than pontificating from a seat in front of your TV set, you actually getting along to a game and sit on the fence and see (and hear) how hard the impacts are, how hard players run, how much more violent the run-of-the-mill collisions are these days compared to days gone by. Players are fitter, faster and heavier, with better training in tackling and bumping, and it shows. A trip into the rooms after an AFL game shows just how much legal damage is inflicted.
It’s not soft. Far from it. But players need some protection in the workplace, or we won’t have a game to watch.