Wild melee in AFL game

By BRAD GREENSHIELDS

A WILLING encounter on Saturday between Grafton and Sawtell/Toormina has been marred by a wild melee.

With only minutes remaining in the game, Grafton's Wayne Phillips laid a high tackle on Saints' defender Dean Matthews.

Matthews' team mates reacted angrily to Phillips' challenge, and that was the catalyst for nearly every player on the ground to become involved.

After several minutes, order was finally restored, and in the end, two Grafton players, Phillips and Shaun Purton were sin-binned.

Two reports were also laid.

Grafton's Jamie Seewald and Sawtell's Mark Innes will be expected to front the leagues judiciary this week.

Other than the cases going before the tribunal, will anything be done about the incident at a higher level by the league?

North Coast AFL President, Jim Woodlock, said until any complaints were fielded by either side, the league's hands were tied.

"The moment we receive a letter though, the executive will investigate in some way, no matter what," Woodlock said.

"It will probably start with a please explain letter about whatever the complaint is."

Sawtell President Mick Britton, says that the league can expect a letter from his club, but it won't be about the melee, or Phillips high tackle on Matthews.

"We're disappointed with the standard of umpiring," he said.

"We just think there should be better protection for players."

There were a few niggles that took place throughout the game, and Britton believes that if these were stamped on early in the piece, than the late-match altercation would probably have never happened.

Britton's main concern is trying to improve the image of AFL in the area, and believes player protection is vital to attracting new players to the sport.

"Dean Matthews has concussion, and there's no report," he continued.

"For an incident like that to happen with five minutes to go, and the difference is 90 points, something has got to be wrong."

This is not the first time that umpiring has become an issue in this area.

But the reality is, that umpiring is possibly the most complained about area in any sport.

The North Coast AFL umpires numbers have been gradually declining in recent years, and are probably in need of an injection of new blood more than any of the teams in the area.

In modern football, a brawl like the one that occurred on Saturday, is a rarity, that occasionally pops up it's ugly head.

Suspensions this week may be the deterrent used to quell the behaviour happening again.



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