‘Protecting the head or the Brownlow?’ Port star’s suspension escape slammed as Crow cops ban


Former great David King has blasted Match Review Officer Michael Christian’s decision to not suspend Port Adelaide star Zak Butters for his high bump on Fremantle’s Bailey Banfield, suggesting the league is focused more on ‘protecting the Brownlow’ rather than the welfare of players.

Butters was deemed to have no case to answer after catching Banfield in the head attacking a disputed ball, with Christian not considering the incident a suspendable offence.

However, King wasn’t impressed with the verdict, nor the call to only ban Adelaide midfielder Matt Crouch for one week for a high bump on Carlton’s Jack Carroll, which was graded by Christian as careless conduct, medium impact and high contact.

Matt Crouch has been handed a one-match suspension following this incident with Jack Carroll.

Full Saturday Match Review findings: https://t.co/xObEgPT9Om pic.twitter.com/GCqwAOvuFw

— AFL (@AFL) April 14, 2024

“I want to know if we’re protecting the head or we’re protecting the Brownlow,” King said on Fox Footy’s First Crack.

“We have talked about this and talked about this until we’re blue in the face… that’s [Crouch’s bump] got spinal injury written all over it. That is the exact action that puts people in wheelchairs… we are still waiting for someone to be carried from the field to never walk again before we take this seriously. I’m over it.”

King compared Butters’ incident to former Richmond captain Trent Cotchin’s infamous bump on then-GWS midfielder Dylan Shiel in the 2017 preliminary final, for which he was controversially cleared and permitted to play in the Tigers’ druoght-breaking grand final win.

“We were told at the time, once we’d corrected all the head trauma, once the legal side of things had started, that if that action happened again, it would be a penalty,” King said.

“That [Butters’ incident] is a mirror image of Cotchin on Shiel.”

Is Zak Butters in trouble for this bump late in the match against Bailey Banfield?

???? Watch #SuperSaturday on ch. 504 or stream on Kayo: https://t.co/c5VwhmeFbG pic.twitter.com/x3eyJQu154

— Fox Footy (@FOXFOOTY) April 13, 2024

For King, there is only one reason for Butters’ reprieve – his status as a Brownlow Medal contender, long cited by fans as affordin the game’s biggest stars preferential treatment when dealing with bans.

“I think if it was [St Kilda defender] Jimmy Webster, he [Butters] gets four weeks,” King said.

“But because it’s Zak Butters, and he’s in contention for all the major awards and he’s a star factor player, we go into a different mode. We find ourselves making excuses – ‘Oh, no, he got his hand on the ball, he did this’.

“To me, you’re either taking a stance and you’re protecting the welfare of all players – not just the one guy spearing in, all players – all you’re not.

Sports opinion delivered daily 


“I’m disappointed that after all the progress that we’ve made over the previous 18 months, we’ve given it all back at Round 5.”

However, fellow panelist Leigh Montagna disagreed, saying the AFL has a precedent of not suspending players ‘making a genuine play for the ball’, as Butters did.

“You can’t suspend guys who are genuinely playing the ball,” he said.

“I’m conditioned to believe if you genuinely play the ball, you can’t get suspended. It was like the Peter Wright incident [where he concussed Harry Cunningham] – the only reason Peter Wright got four weeks is because at the last minute he braced, like Matt Crouch did, which is why I’m okay with him getting suspended.

‘Are we protecting the head, or protecting the brownlow?’

David King goes hard at the lack of severe penalties for ‘star factor’ players.

????Watch #FirstCrack on Ch. 504 or stream via @kayosports
https://t.co/Noe0utBGVI pic.twitter.com/Faa9u6fiuC

— Fox Footy (@FOXFOOTY) April 14, 2024

“But we were told if Peter Wright kept his eyes on the ball, he could have knocked Harry Cunningham into next week and it would have been fine, because he was genuinely going for the ball.

“The AFL are telling us that, because they haven’t suspended Zak Butters.

According to Montagna, the collision with Banfield wasn’t the fault of Butters alone.

“I think Zak Butters has gone in with the right technique. We’re rewarding players that are leading with the head,” he said.

Butters’ suspension escape means he is free to face Collingwood in a blockbuster Round 6 clash at the MCG, while Crouch will miss the Crows’ match against Essendon unless the club successfully appeals the sanction at the AFL Tribunal.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.