Kyle Hartigan has come under fire for an ugly swipe on Tom Hawkins that gifted Geelong a goal late in the first half of its thrilling 10.9 (69) to 9.10 (64) win over Hawthorn — while there was an uneasy reaction to how Channel 7 commentators called the moment.
Joel Selwood picked out Hawkins on the lead inside forward 50 at the MCG but Hartigan whacked the Cats star across the head with a late, swinging arm.
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Hawkins got up rubbing his head and the umpire had no hesitation awarding Geelong a 50m penalty, allowing Hawkins to easily slot the final major of the half and extend the Cats’ halftime lead to 17.
Hartigan argued with the official but there was no denying he was in the wrong, as he wasn’t even close to spoiling.
Seven commentators Brian Taylor and James Brayshaw didn’t sound overly concerned with the blow to the head.
“The lead from Hawkins was perfect, and then Hartigan just giving him an old feather duster to the back of the ear,” Taylor said. “That’s old school. Bang!”
Brayshaw then referenced AFL legend Danny Frawley, who died in a car crash in 2019.
“That’s our great mate Spud Frawley, isn’t it? He will be watching down from above, thinking, ‘That’s all you’ve got to do’. Make them earn it.”
Taylor listed several great fullbacks from days gone by and said “that’s the way they operated”.
That commentary — and the reference to Frawley, who after his death was diagnosed with CTE as a result of brain trauma — didn’t sit well with some viewers.
Concussion is being taken more seriously than ever, and Seven’s commentary was seen by some as trivialising the blow to Hawkins’ head.
Journalist Brendan Casey tweeted: “Wasn’t a good look listening to the Channel 7 commentators complimenting Hartigan for bit of old fashioned play either.
“Sensitive issue of concussions and commentary team calling it ‘the ol’ feather duster’.”
Josh Elliott wrote on social media: “If we want to be serious about concussion, commentators need to handle this kind of thing a lot better than in the below. Danny Frawley had stage two CTE when he died.”
Sports reporter Oliver Caffrey said: “Exactly what Anita Frawley has been pleading for commentators to stop doing. The message still not getting through.”
Footy journalist Rohan Connolly was no fan of Hartigan’s ugly foul.
“Someone tell Kyle Hartigan it’s 2021, not 1981. Can’t do that sort of garbage anymore mate,” he tweeted.
Frawley’s wife Anita recently opened up about the traumatic impact of Danny’s death, explaining the pain she and her family continues to feel.
She is determined to make footy as safe as possible and change attitudes around toughness in the sport.
“I want to make it safe. I don’t want my daughters’ daughters’ sons going to play football and having to worry about if they’re going to be looked after properly,” she told Damian Barrett on his In the Game podcast.
“The AFL are trying, they’re starting, but there’s still a long way to go.
“Football back in Danny’s day, it was all known about toughness … that was such a part of the game. It’s not anymore.
“These boys are so athletic, so skilful … let’s focus on that, let’s change the way they talk about the players.
“‘Oh he’s so brave backing into a pack and nearly getting killed’. No. We don’t want to make that something great. It’s dangerous. You don’t know the untold damage that’s being done so let’s change a few things.
“The players have to want to change it was well … look after your brain.”
Anita has done lots of research on CTE since the footy icon’s death and believes suffering from CTE contributed to Danny’s mental health issues before his death.
“You think of the pain that Danny must have been in to take that step and I have discussed with you I believe a lot of that was the CTE, the rash decision making,” Anita said.
“But for him to be in that state, there is no way he would do that, and know the hurt and the pain that he would cause his girls, his mum, his family, his mates, it is just unfeasible that he would do that.
“If he could see now the pain that is left, the ripple effect, families destroyed, it is just so cruel and so hard. I see his mum and the terrible suffering she is going through.
“I don’t know how to explain it – it is so painful for them what they are going through, but the pain that is left behind is a lifetime of pain. It is there for the rest of your life, it is for me.”
Last weekend St Kilda and Melbourne played Spud’s Game: Time 2 Talk, an initiative which aims to tackle mental health issues within the AFL community and encourage people to speak up, seek help and look after one another.
It led to spine-tingling scenes at Marvel Stadium as Frawley’s family and friends gathered to celebrate his legacy.