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The AFL has taken a firm stance to protect players’ wellbeing but the new concussion rule is inconsistent and needs reviewing, says Brendan Lucas.

If you have watched any AFL game this season, you would have definitely seen some grueling contests; often leaving players’ heads battered and bruised.

Under this year’s new concussion rule, players  who have sustained a head injury are immediately removed from the field. Following the results of medical tests, including balance and motor coordination, they are either deemed fit to return to the field or removed from the game.

But while the AFL is determined to protect players’ wellbeing, the interpretation of the rule by umpires and match review panel has been unpredictable and arguably unfair.

If we take a look back at the Round 7 clash between Melbourne and Adelaide, Jack Trengove’s ‘sling’ tackle on Patrick Dangerfield was brutally penalised under the new rule. Dangerfield was diagnosed with concussion and the match review panel assessed Trengrove’s tackle as negligent conduct, medium impact and high contact. Trengove received a three week suspension. Yet Dangerfield played the next week and went on to kick six goals.

Gold Coast’s Danny Stanley is another player who has come under scrutiny for his ‘sling’ tackle in three separate incidents the following week against Adelaide on Dangerfield, Rory Sloane and Richard Tambling. However, none of these resulted in concussion, so Stanley was never brought in front of the match review panel. If Stanley’s incident was of similar conduct to Trengrove’s, then why wasn’t he reprimanded? Is a resulting concussion the only grounds for suspension?

If this is the case, there are some serious misinterpretations of the rule. The AFL needs to develop some consistency in many of the new rules that have been introduced. The new advantage rule is one such example.

At least umpires boss Jeff Gieschen admits when a mistake has been made. There are too many channels of communication that do not make accurate collaborative determinations of the rule, causing conflict between  umpires, the AFL and the match review panel.

Collingwood coach Mick Malthouse has called for precedent-based hearings, where the AFL Players Association would be allowed to intervene. I tend to agree, especially when a rule, such as the new concussion one, is being so poorly misconstrued.

The AFL needs to step back and create consistency from a range of perspectives to preserve the game’s integrity. This needs to start at the end of this season. Otherwise this rule will bring the game into disrepute.

Excuse the pun, but to me, it seems like a no-brainer.

Brendan Lucas is a second year Bachelor of Journalism student. You can check out his sparkadiar blog and follow him on twitter: @bplucas8.

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