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Calls for crackdown on ump contact after bizarre incident, concussion victim slams Stewart’s ‘dirty act’

Rules surrounding deliberate umpire contact need to be ‘changed immediately’ following a controversial incident involving Brisbane’s Eric Hipwood on Thursday night, according to Fox Footy’s David King.

Hipwood appeared to deliberately push Bulldogs opponent Ryan Gardner into an umpire during the Lions’ 41-point win, leaving him unmarked inside 50 and seeing the forward kick a goal moments later.

Under current rules, Hipwood only faces a $1000 fine for the incident, with pushing an opponent into an umpire’s path prohibited.

However, King believes the sanction is too lenient given the potential severity of the incident, saying the fine is ‘a bargain’ given it helped Hipwood kick a goal.

“We’re trying to protect the umpires, we’re trying to look after them in every facet of the game… and then it’s a $1000 fine for pushing a player directly into a field umpire,” King said.

“We need to alter that straight away, don’t we? OK, he [Hipwood] gets the luxury of that one, but that needs to be changed immediately.”

Former legend Jason Dunstall agreed, calling for the AFL to suspend players for similar incidents to Hipwood as a starting point.

“I’ve got no problem if you sit there and say we start with the minimum of a week and then we load it up compared to how bad the contact is.”

“If you’re trying to outlaw a particular act you’ve got to punish it properly.

“Anything that you’re trying to outlaw in the game, fines should not be applicable, in any way, shape or form. It starts with a week, and then loads up depending on how badly you’ve transgressed.”

It’s the second incident of umpire contact in a number of days, with Fremantle captain Nat Fyfe (and Carlton’s Matt Cottrell) escaping sanction after being pushed into a whistleblower in Round 15.

Fyfe was cleared as having no case to answer by Match Review Officer Michael Christian.

All-Australian Eagle slams Stewart’s ‘dirty act’ on Prestia

Former West Coast Eagles star Brad Sheppard, who was forced into an early retirement at the start of this year due to ongoing battles with concussion, has slammed Geelong’s Tom Stewart for his much-publicised bump on Dion Prestia.

Stewart was handed a four-week suspension by the AFL Tribunal for the hit during the Cats’ thrilling win over Richmond last week, which left Prestia concussed and in obvious distress.

Sheppard, an All Australian in 2020 before his career was impacted by a number of head knocks, told SEN the ban was too light, despite maintaining that Stewart did not set out to concuss Prestia.

I don’t think Tom Stewart for one moment had him lined up from 100 metres away. I think in that moment, he saw him there and he collected him high,” Sheppard said.

“But it was a conscious decision to go through with the act, and I think four weeks is a little bit light… it’s a dirty act on the footy field.”

Sheppard has been vocal since retirement about the need for greater awareness around and respect for concussion, in light of his own trauma.

Earlier this year, the 31-year old called for an increase to the mandatory concussion protocol period from 12 to 30 days.

Sheppard also expressed his concern for Prestia’s wellbeing, wishing him the best during a ‘scary time’.

“You never think in today’s game that players are going to go past the ball and to cause severe head trauma to yourself. We don’t know about the long-term future of Dion,” he said.

“Reports are that he’s tracking OK, and I hope for his sake, he is tracking OK.

“Because going through those experiences and symptoms, it is a scary time for him to be going through right now – not only for himself, but for his family and his partner and for the football club as well.”

Sheppard isn’t the only Eagle to have been forced into early retirement by head knocks, with 2018 premiership player Daniel Venables still suffering the repercussions of a nasty series of concussions.

Venables has headed to the USA to seek further help from the Neurological Wellness Institute as he aims to recover from the effects of a brutal knock sustained in early 2019.

Daniel Venables

Daniel Venables – who will mis the entire 2020 season – sums up the feelings of Eagles fans. (Photo by Daniel Carson/AFL Media/Getty Images)

Roos reached out to Simpson for coaching job – again

A report by the Herald Sun claims North Melbourne have launched a second bid to lure former captain and current West Coast coach Adam Simpson back to the club.

Simpson played 306 games for the Kangaroos in a decorated career spanning from 1995 to 2009, captaining the club from 2004 to 2008 and featuring in the Roos’ 1996 and 1999 premierships.

With the Eagles suffering a tremendously difficult season due to the impacts of COVID-19 in Western Australia, winning just two of their first 14 games, the Herald Sun report the Roos reached out to Simpson to gauge his interest in replacing the under pressure David Noble at the helm.

However, the 2018 premiership coach is unlikely to leave the Eagles, where he is contracted until the end of 2024.

It’s the second time in recent years the Roos have made overtures towards Simpson, with the 46-year old one of a number of former Kangaroos turned coaches, including John Longmire and Alastair Clarkson, sounded out in 2019 to replace the outgoing Brad Scott.

Simpson, Longmire and Clarkson rejected the club’s advances at the time, with the Roos eventually making the ill-fated decision to appoint caretaker coach Rhyce Shaw, who resigned a year later for personal reasons and was replaced by Noble.

The Roos and Noble are in dire straits after a 1-13 start to the season, with Simpson’s Eagles overtaking them with their win over Essendon last week.

The last-placed club recently appointed Geoff Walsh to run an intensive club-wide review to assess where things are going wrong.

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