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No red cards in the AFL is a missed opportunity according to James Willis

Host of Halftime on Macquarie Sports Radio James Willis thinks “the AFL has missed a pretty significant opportunity here, and can’t figure out why.”

In today’s Herald Sun, journalist Jon Ralph has outlined a number of changes that will be made to the 2019 season with stricter umpiring interpretations and a crackdown on taggers. Willis opened his program with the following editorial.

“I’ve heard a number of respected commentators and ex-players say that there’s no need for a red card. For some reason it’s being interpreted that the red card is going to be used every week and that players in the AFL are going to be sent off or dismissed in every game.

As we see in the NRL as it stands we had a send off this year that was the first in 4 years, since 2015. This is not a weekly occurrence.

We all remember the Andrew Gaff punch in the Western Derby late in the season when Gaff broke Andrew Brayshaw’s jaw, he was rubbed out for 8 weeks and deserved in my opinion every week, he missed the Grand Final and will come back next year and remains a quality player.

You remember in that game, the fact that Andrew Gaff was allowed to stay on the park after belting an opponent, basically ruined a large part of the contest. The Fremantle players starting bashing Gaff out of the game until he was eventually concussed himself and had to be taken off the park.

Is that really the standard the AFL is trying to set going forward?

The AFL umpires are going to be encouraged to pay free kicks for jumper punches, shoves and blocks, which they believe will stop the niggle and therefore stop an escalation we saw with Andrew Gaff.

As I say, a red card is not going to be used every week, it might not even be used in the entire season. It’s for that rare isolated extreme incident which deserves to have a player sent off for the rest of the game, replaced. It’ll still be 18 on 18 but sent off and not allowed to come back on.

Is that really the message we want moving forward in the AFL for the players to still be arbitrators?

It’s not every round, it may not even happen for an entire season but to have the red card available surely when an Andrew Gaff like incident happens again that just makes sense, doesn’t it?

In 2018 when there’s been such a crackdown and a condemnation of violence in the community, why is the AFL so scared to do something here?

It seems inexplicable to me that in 2018 with cameras rolling in a billion dollar game that if there’s such a focus on violence in the community that the AFL doesn’t take strong action on this issue.”