We need Nathan Fyfe to win the Brownlow Medal

Date: August 8, 2014 / Posted by Glenn Mitchell

If Fremantle’s Nathan Fyfe finishes atop the Brownlow Medal count on 22 September it will be a bitter sweet moment.

He will have finished ahead of his peers as the best player for the 2014 season in the eyes of the umpires, however he won’t be eligible to collect the sport’s most coveted individual honour because he was rubbed out for two weeks earlier in the season.

The Brownlow is officially awarded to the “best and fairest” player over the home-and-away rounds. Fyfe’s suspension rules him out of the second part of the necessary criteria to win the medal.

Should he finish on top of the account – with the traditional asterisk alongside his name for an illegible player – he will join Corey McKernan (1996) and Chris Grant (1997) as the only men to have recorded the most votes but not declared the winner.

Fyfe’s “crime” was committed in round two of the season.

He was handed a two-week holiday by the Match Review Panel after it assessed that his contact to Gold Coast’s Michael Rischitelli was negligent conduct with medium impact and high contact.

The point of Fyfe’s body that struck was his opponent was his own head causing both to leave the ground under the blood rule. It is hard to imagine that a player would ever intentionally use his own head to strike an opponent.

But, nonetheless, he was handed a two-week suspension.

At the time he was on the second line of betting, behind Gary Ablett, for the Brownlow.

When the MRP handed down its decision many in the football world felt Fyfe had been dealt with unfairly. As the season has unfolded the MRP has failed to act with any real consistency when it comes to the level of penalties – if at all – it has meted out.

In the past two weeks we have seen two Richmond players banned for totally unsavoury, and dare I say, cowardly incidents.

West Coast ruckman Dean Cox was exceptionally fortunate not to sustain a broken jaw when Tyrone Vickery landed a round-arm right to the face. Cox was knocked unconscious and did not return to the ground.

The MRP handballed the matter straight to the tribunal after it assessed the incident as intentional (three points), severe impact (four points) and high contact (two points).

The total of nine points triggered an automatic tribunal appearance where the Tigers’ ruckman was handed a four-match ban. In many people’s eyes the penalty was not truly commensurate with the crime.

However, it is the case involving Vickery’s teammate, Reece Conca that is the one that is impossible to fathom.

After a scuffle with GWS’s Devon Smith the pair headed toward the interchange bench as part of both side’s regular rotations. Initially trailing several metres behind Smith, Conca accelerated and upon reaching him delivered a forceful right elbow to the back of the head.

Incredibly the MRP determined that the penalty for Conca would be the same as that handed Fyfe – two weeks.

Fyfe was attempting to knock Rischitelli off his kick while in general play. Conca delivered his blow with the ball nowhere in sight and with Smith totally unprepared for such contact.

And speaking of blows, how lucky was Brisbane’s Daniel Merrett on the weekend?

Merrett’s late and crude attempt to spoil Melbourne’s Cameron Pederson left the Demon with a badly bloodied nose. The Lion was running directly at Pedersen and jumped in the air to spoil. He got the slightest touch on the ball while his elbow smashed into his opponent’s nose.

His actions were deemed to be accidental and he was not cited unlike Fyfe whose head-to-head clash cost him a fortnight.

It is impossible to fathom how Fyfe and Conca’s actions could be deemed to be of equal severity.

It defies logic given the suspension that Fyfe received that Merrett had no case to answer.

Fyfe is currently leading the AFL Coaches’ Award by a whopping 15 votes. There is no guarantee that the umpires will vote in similar fashion for the Dockers’ dynamo.

There is no denying though that Fyfe will be among the leading vote-winners.

Should he win, it will throw an even sharper spotlight on the MRP.

And that, given its determinations this year, is not a bad thing.

First published on The Roar – www.theroar.com.au – on 7 August 2014