Play On – The Maynard-Brayshaw Incident

If there were ever an incident that demonstrated there is an issue with footy, and with footy supporters, the clash between Brayden Maynard and Angus Brayshaw in the first quarter of Collingwood’s victory over Melbourne is it.

Not because it was horrifically violent or an attempt to take someone out of the play, but by the AFL’s own rules, we could see Maynard sitting on the sidelines and potentially missing the AFL Grand Final as a result of a football action.

Maynard’s initial attempt to smother the kick of the oncoming Brayshaw is exactly what his coach would have expected of him. Had he not launched at the footy as it came off the bot of Angus Brayshaw, Craig McRae would have been right in his face, questioning his commitment. In a final, every kick counts, and when you have a game that ends up being decided by seven points, there were several of those ‘ one kicks’  the Dees would like to have over again. Pressure rules in the finals and Maynard is well aware of that.

However, after reaching for the footy, Maynard found himself in no man’s land, airborne with nowhere to go but down. Sadly for Brayshaw, he was right in line with Maynard’s downward trajectory.

As a result, he bore the full full force of a hit from Maynard that knocked him out and out of the game

And now, the arguments come.

“ Well, Maynard tucked his shoulder before impact.”

It’s a decent point, and an accurate one, but I have to ask – what were his other options?

He could have barrelled into Brayshaw chest first, risking injury to himself in the process, I suppose, although I would opt NOT to do that 100 times in a row. It is a flawed argument, as anyone who has ever braced for a collision would know that leaving yourself wide open goes against every instinct you had on a footy field.

“ He shouldn’t have turned his body.”

Did he? Looks to me like he still hit him pretty much front-on, but Maynard just tucked up to brace for contact. Show me a player that doesn’t go into self-preservation mode of tucking up when contact is about to be made, and I’ll show you a player that will spend more time on the sidelines injured, than on the field. Maynard was well within his rights to tuck up and protect himself. Not only was it self-preservation, it was bloody sensible!

“ He could have not attempted to smother. He wasn’t going to impact the kick, anyway.”

An interesting one. As mentioned above, his coach would have torn strips off him had he opted not to.

Players are forever attempting kicks after the siren from 65 metres out, aren’t they? The chances are they’re not going to be Malcolm Blight, but they try anyway. They do the same with marking contests, hurling themselves into the contest with little chance of taking a clean grab. But they do it, anyway. There was a chance that Brayshaw’s kick was a little flatter. There was a chance he didn’t make great contact with it, and as long as there was a chance that Maynard could get his hand on the footy, he was within his rights to make the smother.

And then we have people cheerleading his suspension, and this is what worries me the most. I’m not really sure whether they believe what they’re spouting, are saying it as they channel their passion for the Dees against the anguish of dropping such a vital game, or have simply become part of the AFL’s re-education program that tells us all contact above the shoulders is bad. “Duty of care,” they say, as though that should end the discussion. Okay, what about the duty of care to his team, his coach, and his supporters to do all he can to impact the kick of Brayshaw? Which duty of care is more important? How do you weight them in such a line-ball action?

If you want to look at a bit of contact that is unnecessary and blatantly against the rules, breaching all “duty of care”, then check out Jacob van Rooyen’s forearm to the chin of Dan McStay. That McStay came back onto the field and kicked a couple of goals seems to have wallpapered over the fact that JVR threw a deliberate forearm at an opponent. He may have been aiming for the chest, and I actually believe he was (it will be his defence), but he opted to do that off the ball. THAT is the incident that is outside the rules.

Over the past 12 or so hours, I’ve read dozens… hundreds of opinions from footy fans, calling for anything from a week to six weeks for Maynard’s actions.

People, this was a football action. This is part of the game that we cannot lose. No, not the head-high contact, but the ability to place pressure on the kicker. Already, we see minimal contact with the person kicking the ball awarded as a downfield free kick, and now we have people calling for the head of Brayden Maynard over a football act. The AFL have done a wonderful job in conditioning a lot of you.

Bayley Fritsch was awarded a free kick downfield for the contact between Maynard and Brayshaw. It cost the Magpies a goal and it is probably right that it did. Accident or not, Maynard still landed on the poor bloke, but to clutch your pearls and channel your best Helen Lovejoy to scream for justice when no genuine crime has been committed reeks of being dragged along by the AFL into the era of PG-footy.

All season long, we’ve seen players suspended for actions deemed illegal when tackling. Bumps have been public enemy number one for years, now. And after Thursday night, it seems as though any contact to the head, irrespective of the circumstance, is going to set the footy world abuzz and have people braying for suspensions.

People – this was a smothering attempt. It is what is called incidental contact. No one is pleased that it took Angus Brayshaw out of the game, but if you think this was a malicious act, then I’m sorry, but nothing I say is going to change your mind – you are caught up in the “must punish” mindset that has seeped into the game over the years.

Not every act of physicality is meant to hurt someone. Once you accept that and look at footy through that lens, you’ll find it is easy to discern which are and which aren’t. Maynard’s was not. Van Rooyen’s was.

As has been the case too often, the AFL may be tempted to punish the outcome rather than the action, but as has been the case most times they’ve done this, it’ll be wrong.

The Match Review Officer could grade this as careless, high impact, and high contact. That amounts to two weeks as per their regimented system, which means it’ll go to the tribunal to take into account the human factor, but was it careless? Or was it just the aftermath of applying pressure?

The next 24 hours will be very interesting as the league once again grapples with their attempt to abolish head-high hits (which they’ll never actually do) and a player’s right to contest. How they handle this will be the difference between Maynard playing in a Prelim, and possibly a Grand Final, or sitting out and missing the biggest games of the season due to a football action.

It should be obvious where I sit on the issue.

Accidents will always occur.

Play on.



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