Why the MRP is a farce
Reece Conca of Richmond elbows GWS's unsuspecting Devon Smith. Pic: AFL Media

Tabcorp now has the ineligible Nat Fyfe at $2.75 to top the count on Brownlow Medal night, joining a club that includes North Melbourne's Corey McKernan and Western Bulldog Chris Grant.

Fyfe, rated best afield by Ross Lyon and Mick Malthouse in last week's Fremantle-Carlton clash, is now 15 votes clear of nearest rival Josh Kennedy (Sydney) in the Coaches Association's MVP award. Kennedy and Joel Selwood are the co-favourites to win the medal.

In the coaches award, Kennedy is 29 votes behind and Gary Ablett, the clear favourite before injury ended his season, was overtaken more than 20 votes ago.

Many people are now hoping Fyfe will top the Brownlow count because the AFL's embarrassment might move it to address the inconsistent farce its match review panel has become.

Consider the latest set of mixed messages that the MRP sent from round 19.

According to its penalties, the MRP must feel that Fyfe's accidental head collision with Gold Coast's Michael Rischitelli in round two was as bad an act as Reece Conca's elbow to Devon Smith at the weekend.

Richmond's Conca chased Smith towards the bench and as the unsuspecting Giant was being interchanged, deliberately hit him in the back of the head with a swinging elbow. Both offences drew two-match suspensions after an early guilty plea.

While Fyfe's accident bumping Rischitelli off a kick and clashing heads with him was not deemed forgivable, Lion Daniel Merrett's "accident" was.

Nat Fyfe's Brownlow Medal ambitions were ended after this bump on Michael Rischitelli in round two. Pic: Ten News

Merrett smashed Melbourne's Cam Pedersen with what was loosely described as an attempted spoil, but the MRP cut him some slack because while he spreadeagled Pedersen's nose and drew blood, he also managed to graze the ball some 45cm to the side of Pedersen's head in the process. In the tradition of a sport which awards scores for shots on goal that actually miss, Merrett was given credit for trying.

We know what the AFL will say: Fyfe elected to bump and therefore had to bear the consequences of his actions because of an off-season rule change.

That it is unfair to compare the Fyfe-Conca penalties because under the AFL's points system many things are factored in before penalties are arrived at. And that football takes its obligation to protect the head seriously.

To that, we would say this: Any system that arrives at the same penalty for what Fyfe and Conca did is broken. It sends the message that one is as bad as the other when one was an accident and the other was a hit from behind on a player who wasn't looking and wasn't in the play.

If you want to protect the head to the extent where you make accidental head clashes punishable, you need to protect it from all accidents, including when a 195cm, 103kg defender like Merrett makes negligent and brutal contact to the face of a player trying to mark.

You have to wonder how silly this has to get before the AFL steps in. Perhaps it has to get silly enough to have Fyfe, the ball player who might have won the Brownlow, sitting in his lounge room in WA when the medallist is called to the stage in a Melbourne ballroom.

The West Australian

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