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Dear AFL,

I normally swear on here and act like an idiot, however there will be no profanity or hyperbole in this letter. These are my honest and bewildered thoughts as a current player and lifetime fan of the greatest game in the world. 

The tribunal and match review panel are single-handedly destroying the game. You are making it impossible to play in good spirit, you’re making it impossible to adjudicate and you’re not far off making it impossible to support. 

Over the past 12 months, this is my interpretation of the rules of the game based on what I am hearing and seeing coming directly from the AFL;

Protect the head at all costs, obviously unless a head knock is as a result of a football act, but then it depends on how hard you get hit in that football act and if the player had any other alternatives, but also the player needs to take into account the potential to cause harm, but of course it shouldn’t depend on the outcome of the opponent, unless of course it does result in a concussion, but even then it depends on the intent, but of course a player is entitled to attack the ball with good technique, but it doesn’t matter if the opposition runs in head first like how every kid playing the game growing up gets taught not to do, but then of course it depends on the state of the game and the time of the year, it depends on whether or not we need to make an example out of someone, but then don’t forget if they have had a clean record in the past and do charity work, but then obviously that can only matter once and never again because from now on that doesn’t count, and it depends on the player, and the team they’re on, but really it all boils down to protecting the head because we’re seeing more players retire from concussion than ever before, but we will still let a guy play next week after punching someone in the face in the goal square because it wasn’t hard enough to hurt them.

I have grown up all my life surrounded by football. Playing football, watching football, my family has been engrossed in the AFL system for decades and I have absolutely no idea what is going on anymore. 

My brother is never going to play football again in his whole life because of a jumping smother that turned into a bump that collided with his head. As much as it killed me to watch that, I can put my feelings for Angus aside and say that down to the nuts and bolts of it, Maynard was trying to smother the ball in a qualifying final so technically it was a football act. 

You certainly didn’t care all for the outcome there and Brayden went on to win a premiership. That is precedence. That was as big a defining moment for the tribunal as I can remember, and you went with protecting the sanctity of the game over the protection of the player. I’m not agreeing or disagreeing with that, but it is breaking me that you are constantly backflipping on that stance.

Peter Wright and Toby Green, 4 weeks and 1 week respectively for football acts with not a whole lot of difference. Jeremy Finlayson got less than Peter Wright for a homophobic slur which once again highlights that nobody at the AFL really knows what’s happening at the tribunal, you just make it up as you see fit. 

Matt Crouch has been given a week for picking the ball up the way every single kid playing football is taught to do it. There is goal square footage of Jesse Hogan punching his defender in the face, and he has admitted to swinging with force to try and push his opponent. The AFL’s response “We are not clearly satisfied that was anything more than negligible.” He was swung a fist at a bloke's face and because it didn’t hurt you haven’t given him a week. Punish the action, not the outcome unless the outcome is they’re okay. Ask my little brother Andrew if an intentional swing to the face has the potential to cause harm. Incredible. 

We’ve heard enough about Charlie Cameron being let off for being a nice guy but Tom Barrass can’t escape a week for the same thing. The get-out-of-jail-free card only appears once in the deck apparently. 

This is my last point and I am going to swear so beep this out if you want. Tom Barrass is staying in Perth and missing one game for a dangerous tackle. I don’t think there was much more he could’ve done differently. Walters played the game out and isn’t concussed but sure, still give Barrass a week if that’s the stance, protect the head at all costs. I can’t physically watch the Melbourne Demons play football anymore because my brother’s brain is going to be f***ed for the rest of his life and you didn’t think that was enough for a week off. 

AFL you are the greatest game in the world, but right now you’re a joke. Your systems for protecting the player and maintaining the integrity of the game are broken and desperately need to be fixed. Before they can be fixed you need to actually understand the criteria you want to govern the game by. It needs to be understandable for the public and it needs to be followed. You can’t pick and choose when to dismiss certain things and when to change your views on others. It has to change otherwise this game is going to turn into something unrecognisable and it’s going to happen very quickly. 

Yours Sincerely,

Hamish Brayshaw