Dockers in the hunt for duck season
Fremantle coach Ross Lyon says it is time for rivals to study West Coast’s games and practise the techniques the Eagles are using to draw high tackle free kicks.
Lyon last night said he had barely watched the Eagles this year because he had been focusing on upcoming opponents, but couldn’t ignore the publicity that West Coast’s free kick count was getting.
“The technique is a good technique,” Lyon told 6PR.
“You’ve just got to get low in the tackle and drive.
“I like the technique that Selwood and those guys have perfected.
“It’s a bit about if you can’t beat them join them so I think the rest of the competition will catch on quick and then get low in the tackle.
“No arm tackles, tackle full body and then they won’t be able to slip off you.
“I haven’t watched much West Coast at all to be honest because they haven’t come across my radar. But I am noticing what all the other coaches are saying.
“West Coast, fair enough, are standing their ground. So I’ll alert it to the authorities and try and learn a bit on how to draw some kicks with that technique and emphasise how you need to tackle against it.”
The Eagles have been awarded 60 more free kicks than their opponents so far this season but they yesterday continued to deny they were dropping their knees, ducking, shrugging their shoulders or lifting their arms in tackles.
While Eagles have received the most free kicks, conceded the fewest and led the free-kick count in every match this season, captain Darren Glass said it was ridiculous to suggest they were doing anything wrong.
“I’m not sure what we’re accused of doing,” Glass said. “We don’t speak about it, we don’t look at vision, we don’t practise anything in particular. So for us it is a non issue.”
Glass also defended forward Ashton Hams after North Melbourne coach Brad Scott singled him out after Sunday’s game.
Hams has received 15 free kicks this year, which is the equal third most in the AFL. The 174cm forward is the shortest man to play for the Eagles this year and Glass said he was yet to see him duck his head.
Hams was yesterday offered a two-match suspension for rough conduct against Andrew Swallow.
Ruckman Nic Naitanui could be missing for a second match with his hamstring injury while Adam Selwood (hand) is also in doubt for Saturday’s clash with Essendon at Etihad Stadium.
Defender Sam Butler also backed his teammates, saying players couldn’t perfect the alleged technique unless they trained for it.
“If you’re going to go out there and train for head highs, you’re going to get a few boys getting knocked out at training,” Butler said.
“It’s definitely something we don’t train for. Those boys that have been named obviously go in low for the ball.
“If you get hit in your head, you’re going to get a free kick … it’s part of the game. It’s a rule, so play the game.”
Former Essendon captain Matthew Lloyd yesterday added another element to the debate, saying players were risking becoming quadriplegics by running head first into opponents.
Lloyd called for immediate action, declaring the AFL could not wait until the end of the season to adjust its interpretation.
He said umpires had to differentiate between players who dropped their knees and rolled their shoulders so the tacklers’ arms come up.
“That is a technique-type thing,” he said. “But this (charging in) is a really dangerous tactic players are employing where it’s hard on a tackler but they are also putting their own health at risk as well.
“The AFL has done the right thing by protecting the head. Now they have to make a statement on players who are using their heads to exploit the rules and who are getting closer to serious neck injury.”
Asked if there was a growing danger this tactic could lead to quadriplegia, Lloyd said: “No doubt. For a free kick, players are willing to do anything, including getting bashed in the head.”
Former Western Bulldogs ruckman Luke Darcy questioned whether the Eagles were playing in the right spirit.
“When you put rule changes in place, players adapt really quickly and the Eagles have developed this ability to lower their shoulders, raise their arms and draw head-high contact,” he said on the AFL website. “The question is: ‘do we think this is in the spirit of the way the game should be played?’
“There is a rule that says if you duck your head then the free kick won’t be paid. I just feel as though this is a version of that.”