Rugby League

Marinoff case shows bumpy road ahead as players strive to adapt

Highly-regarded development coach Brendan McCartney says the game can improve the way they prepare footballers to compete in contests as debate rages about the three-match penalty handed to Adelaide Crows’ midfielder Ebony Marinoff for forceful front-on contact.

The Crows appealed the decision claiming the suspension was manifestly excessive and also arguing that it "placed an unreasonable expectation on all players to avoid contact in circumstances where the ball is in dispute".

McCartney, who made his name as a development coach at Geelong before stints at Essendon, the Western Bulldogs (as senior coach) and Melbourne, is considered an expert in helping players win the contested ball.

"We could do a better job teaching players how to read the cues properly, actually putting them in a position where they can see what is around the ball," McCartney said.

"I haven't seen the incident but I've seen [what has been described] nearly happen 1000 times in games."

McCartney said he appreciated how difficult the game was but it was imperative players adapted to the AFL's commitment to protect players' heads and necks.

"You still have to attack the ball but also educate players that if the player in front of you has got their head down, you can't do anything about that. You just have to make every effort not to make contact," McCartney said.

"We could be and should be teaching every young girl and boy simple little drills, see the area, still go for the ball and that will hope them build confidence [in their technique]."

The incident that saw Marinoff charged led to paramedics treating Giants defender Brid Stack, who was playing her first AFLW game, on the ground for a suspected spinal injury but she escaped with a fractured C7 vertebra and is in a neck brace.

Marinoff told the tribunal she felt she stopped before she made contact with Stack however the three-man panel Paul Williams, Jason Johnson and Stephen Jurica said she had a realistic alternative to contest the ball.

McCartney, who will coach North Ballarat in 2021, said he appreciated the difficulty avoiding contact presented for players with the unpredictable bounce of the ball forcing players into split second decisions as they switched from an offensive to defensive position and he empathised with both players.

Although there was no doubt Marinoff did not intend to hurt her opponent the AFL had to have a broad outlook when adjudicating incidents and developing rules with the potential to cause serious injury now a key consideration for the tribunal.

Ebony Marinoff.Credit:Getty Images

"Adapting to the game in this situation is based around protecting one another on the ground but still competing," McCartney said.

"[The decision] will only increase the awareness. It could be one in 1000 times where there is nothing you can do to save it. That's the difficulty of our game."

Marinoff has never been to the tribunal in her AFLW career winning two premierships and earning All-Australian selection along the way and was very emotional when the verdict was reached.

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