Fox Footy’s Mark Robinson has pleaded with the AFL to stop “wokeness” from “infiltrating” the game after a spate of controversial free kicks were paid last weekend.
In the Brisbane-Hawthorn clash alone, there were 63 free kicks paid – including one against Lachie Neale that commentator Campbell Brown said “won’t get paid in AusKick”.
Another free kick, where Hawk Tom Mitchell pushed Tom Fullarton after a tackle was described by Robinson as “the worst free kick in the history of the game”.
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Figures show umpires are awarding an average 44.2 free kicks a game – six higher per game than 2021.
Umpires are paying the most free games in more than two decades, with stats revealing the last time the count was so high was back in 1999.
Robinson said the game of AFL was being softened – against the demands of the fans.
“It’s a combative sport and not everyone can play it … you’ve got to lay tackles and take the tackles. You’ve got to stand there and get thrown to the ground,” he said on AFL360.
“Arms out 50 goes down in the history of the game as one of the worst comments ever made.
“What I saw on the weekend, I thought umpires were going ‘oh no, no don’t hurt them’. Part of the game is hurting, whether you like it or not. Stop the woke world from infiltrating this really popular, combative game.
“The wokeness of the world have taken our game too far.”
Robinson could only laugh as clips of “soft” free kicks were shown by co-host Gerard Whateley.
Whateley said he reviewed the Brisbane-Hawthorn clash and found only 28 of the 63 free kicks were “without question”.
“I think there are 13 that are a straight out no,” he said.
“I think there was just an over eagerness to blow the whistle.”
Concerning for the AFL is the fact their umpiring ranks have been hit by the same shortage as clubs and players, and turned to younger more inexperienced umpires as a result.
“(They are) about 14 down in terms of illness and injury so they are having to play some more inexperienced umpires,” Fox Footy’s Jon Ralph said.
Robinson said he wanted the powers of the AFL to let the game run.
“It’s such a popular sport because the people aren’t as brave as the players,” he said.
“Don’t kill the golden goose which is contact AFL, Australian rules … Part of it demands bravery, fierceness, competitiveness.
“We have got to protect the animalistic right to play this game, and if you are not tough enough, don’t play.
“Don’t take away these aspects players need to have – talent, heart, bravery.
“I think it’s a ground swell of this new wonderful caring world we live in, but it’s infiltrating our sport. Don’t put your hands out to the umpires, don’t throw him into the ground too much, that might hurt him. We’ve got to protect what we all love.”