The last disposal out of bounds being trialed in the AFLW this season pales in comparison to the major changes the AFL plans to institute for 2018.
The league, with the stroke of a pen, has eliminated the Match Review Panel, instead putting that responsibility in the hands of former Collingwood Magpie player Michael Christian. Christian will be in charge of determining player penalties after he runs his determinations past AFL boss Steve Hocking. The AFL will now rule at its discretion, as opposed to an independent panel. The intent is to make the process less confusing, and more transparent and consistent.
The new system will permit players to challenge a decision without the risk of having an extra week tacked on to a suspension. Instead, the club will assume the risk via a $10,000 fine should a challenge appeal be unsuccessful.
The new procedure may have served Patrick Dangerfield last year, who accepted a suspension, rather than risk damaging his club’s premiership aspirations, when he was running away with the 2017 Brownlow Medal vote.
In another case of hindsight, the incident last year between Richmond Tigers’ player Trent Cotchin, who escaped a ban or a fine that would have made him ineligible to play in the grand final.
Records were made to be broken, but rules were made to be changed, and it would seem that the AFL got this one right because it seems as though the stakes surrounding Cotchin may have made for a measure of discretion that might not have been present with a different player, or took place during an earlier round.
Players can no longer received a reduction for entering a guilty plea, as was the case with the MRP. Save plea bargains for the legal system.
The biggest potential benefit of the change is that the AFL has promised to make the entire process faster. Decisions that once took days should now be available in 24 hours.
Good luck, Michael Christian. You have a chance to be hero or goat, god or devil. Some of both, in all probability.