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Bryce Gibbs’ controversial sling tackle on Port Adelaide’s Robbie Gray is likely to bring to a head calls for the AFL to come down harder on players who forcefully throw to the ground players whose arms are pinned.
The Carlton best-and-fairest winner faces the prospect of a suspension after his tackle on the All-Australian Port star, which left Gray dazed and had him subbed out of the game for the second half.
Gray was taken from the MCG with his neck in a brace after Gibbs’ aggressive tackle slammed Gray’s head into the ground.
It sparked an immediate reaction from commentators and an angry response on social media from former Port Adelaide captain Dominic Cassisi, who tweeted sarcastically: “It’s only taken eight years for Gibbs to lay a tackle. Well done.”
Tribunal observers believe Gibbs’ tackle will be graded careless and high contact, with a three-week suspension down to two with a guilty plea, or two games down to one if the judgement is medium impact.
Sling tackles have been cited by a growing band of football watchers as having the potential to cause serious injury, and have periodically sparked vigorous debate about their treatment by the match review panel, which in 2011 cleared a tackle by Melbourne’s Jack Trengove on the Western Bulldogs’ Callan Ward, but two seasons ago suspended Brisbane’s Daniel Merrett for three matches for a similar tackle on Essendon’s Michael Hurley.
Gray had been pivotal to Port charging back into the contest in the second quarter, and had already accumulated 15 disposals and had eight clearances when he was injured. But Port Adelaide coach Ken Hinkley refused to use his loss to the team, nor some controversial umpiring calls as an excuse for the costly defeat.
“It’s an unfortunate thing that happens in the game of footy. The intent to tackle was just to tackle and wrap him up,” Hinkley said.
“The unfortunate part is on the follow through he hits his head on the ground. I’m not sure how you can help that. It was disappointing to lose Robbie, though, because he was playing fairly good footy at that stage.”
The Power are in perilous waters at 5-7 after the loss, and Hinkley conceded his team was “spooked” by the heavy weight of expectation on it pre-season after having come within a kick of a grand final berth last year.
“It’s a four-quarter game and you’ve got to play the whole of those four quarters.
“We’re just not a team that’s prepared to play the whole of those four quarters at the moment for the most part of this year,” Hinkley said.
“It’s a team not believing. It’s a team that is unsure about what’s going to happen to them next. They’ve definitely lost their composure and their confidence with the ball in hand.
“They’re playing a little bit spooked, unfortunately. That comes when you’re second-guessing how you’re going to play.”
Carlton were buoyant after the victory, their first since the Anzac Day victory over St Kilda, and the club’s first on home turf since a round 20 win over Gold Coast on August 9 last year.
Stand-in coach John Barker said he was proud of how his side withstood the late pressure from Port, the Blues just hanging on for a win after having led the Power by 29 points early in the final term.
“I think the boys were really brave,” he said. “There were a lot of defensive 50 stoppages in a row and we just rolled the sleeves up and did what we had to at that point in time to just halt that momentum.
“Modern football is about momentum now and we’ve got to grow in that area. When the opposition starts to get a little bit of that momentum we’ve got to get better at halting that.”
Carlton, who also showed improved form against Adelaide in their previous game, will give themselves every chance of beating bottom-of-the-table Gold Coast next Sunday at Etihad Stadium.
For Port, meanwhile, the challenges continue. Hinkley’s side will be desperately hoping it can draw a line in the sand with its bye next weekend, but then plays Sydney at the SCG, the Swans having already accounted for the Power this season, then Collingwood before another “Showdown” with the Crows.
Unless the Power find something quickly, however, their season may be effectively over even before that local derby. The Age SportThis story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.