Dusty off after AFL ump touch rule change
THE AFL has admitted it has revamped the way it judges umpire contact cases after letting Richmond superstar Dustin Martin off with a contentious fine.
In a major reprieve for Martin and his back-to-back Brownlow Medal hopes, the brilliant Tigers' midfielder received a $1500 fine for pushing his forearm into the side of umpire Jacob Mollison on Sunday, as the pair discussed an earlier free-kick decision.
The Martin ruling has caused widespread confusion because Geelong's Tom Hawkins and Carlton's Ed Curnow both received one-match bans for intentional umpire contact.
Gold Coast's Steven May was also sent to the tribunal for making similar umpire contact as Martin.
But Match review officer Michael Christian said the league had downgraded Martin's verdict to careless umpire contact on the basis of a new interpretation which had been applied since the tribunal let off May with a fine one month ago.
Since the May decision, Christian said players would only be hit with an intentional umpire contact sanction - and be sent to the tribunal for possible suspension - if their actions were either "demonstrative, aggressive, dismissive, disrespectful or forceful".
That is why Eagle Willie Rioli escaped with a fine for tapping the backside of an umpire in Round 10.
Technically, Martin's contact on the umpire Mollison appeared to be intentional in Richmond's 18-point win over Geelong at the MCG.
But Christian said the umpire contact was downgraded to careless because Martin's forearm shove did not meet the "spirit" of the law and was not forceful or disrespectful.
The new interpretation which will come down more heavily on aggressive umpire contact is likely to be formally included to the AFL's rules at the end of the season as part of an all-encompassing review.
The changes have not been implemented immediately because of the time it takes to have rules ticked off by the AFL Commission.
"We are trying to find a way through in terms of interpreting the spirit of the guidelines around intentional umpire contact," Christian said.
"We believe the spirit of those guidelines were more around forceful, aggressive, dismissive, disrespectful contact to umpires.
"That's rather than what we saw (from Martin) on the weekend, where a player was trying to explain, in an amicable manner, what he meant in respect to a decision."