Sport AFL Big hits should be off limits in footy promotion
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Big hits should be off limits in footy promotion

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The AFL has done plenty to remove the spectre of concussion from the game – which makes it all the more perplexing as to why Fox Footy uses images of men being knocked into next week to promote the channel.

During Monday night’s Open Mike episode featuring St Kilda great Stewart Loewe, one of the commercials – a strange paean to former Adelaide Crow Mark Ricciuto – showed his thunderous 1996 bump on West Coast’s Dean Kemp.

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Mark Ricciuto was a rare footballer, equal parts classy midfielder and human battering ram. Photo: Getty

Kemp had taken possession of the ball inside 50 and was shaping to snap on goal when Ricciuto, who had ample opportunity to lay a tackle, ran through him with a shoulder to the head that laid him out cold.

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The ad featured Fremantle captain Matthew Pavlich, who laughs when recounting the incident, and Sydney forward Kurt Tippett, who smirks as he discusses the hit, which is shown in slow motion.

This is not the first time Fox Footy has used footage of collisions that result in concussion – some legal, some not – to promote a game, or the channel.

Nobody thinks using images of Gary Rohan or Michael Barlow or Nathan Brown breaking their legs is fair game for promotional material, so why is the site of a man suffering brain damage deemed ok by the marketing boffins?

In a promotional spot for the season’s first Western Derby in May, they showed an incident from a game last year that saw Docker Clancee Pearce subbed out with concussion and Eagle Andrew Embley slapped with a two-game ban.

Ricciuto was a champion, a Brownlow Medallist and eight-time All Australian – surely they could have used footage of him doing something good to give him a plug.

Of the 291 goals and 1369 marks ‘Roo’ took during his career, could they not have found two or three of those to illustrate his impact on the code?

Kemp has gone on the record to discuss the problems his head knocks caused him.

“I had a bit of a worry with the memory side of things,” Kemp told the Herald Sun in 2012.

“For a couple of hours I couldn’t remember people’s names – family names, or anything.”

In 2001, his final year, things became severe.

“About the first four or five weeks of that season I started to get concussions, even at training in one-on-one exercises,” he said.

“It got to a point where one day I forgot which way to go on the way home from football training.”

Ricciuto himself looked uncomfortable when quizzed about the bump in 2012 on Open Mike.

“I only took a couple of steps I think and sort of got him flush and in those days it didn’t even give a free-kick away. I didn’t get reported or anything,” he said.

“I wasn’t aware for a while afterwards that he had any long-lasting effects and I don’t think it would have been just from my bump.

“I think if you looked a my medical file you’d see I’ve had quite a few concussions as well.”

Former Crow, Eagle and Magpie Chad Rintoul – a friend of both Kemp and Ricciuto who himself was forced out of footy because of concussion issues – said there was no need to show such violent incidents in promoting the game.

“There’s a difference between good hard footy and those kind of hits,” Rintoul told The New Daily.

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Jarrod Harbrow’s sickening, and completely accidental, hit on Jordan Lewis. Photo: Getty

“I’m a good friend of Dean Kemp’s, he wouldn’t be too keen on seeing that.

“I’m friends with both of those blokes, so it’s a tricky one.

“Mark Ricciuto’s a great bloke, he’s done a million good things in footy.

“It’s just a patchy issue these days.

“There’s no need to show those incidents. But some people want to see it, I suppose.”

You’ll get the closet, couch-bound hard men who’ve never suffered a concussion in their lives banging on about how things have become over sanitised.

Nobody thinks using images of Gary Rohan or Michael Barlow or Nathan Brown breaking their legs are fair game for promotional material, so why is the sight of a man suffering brain damage deemed ok by the marketing boffins?

In its own way, it is just as graphic.

The kind of collision between Ricciuto and Kemp was acceptable two decades ago, but it’s not any more. It should be stricken from the record when it comes to efforts to promote the game.

How many times have we seen Barry Hall’s hit on Brent Staker (never legal in any era) used to plug a clash between West Coast and Sydney?

If we’re serious about change, and we need to be, then we should focus on the beautiful parts of the sport when trying to sell it, not the sickening.

Violence in football is nothing to be glorified.

Sure, you’ll get the closet, couch-bound hard men who’ve never suffered a concussion in their lives banging on about how things have become over sanitised.

But times change, and Fox Footy should evolve with them.

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