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Thuggery in our local footy leagues must stop

PHOTO: Adelaide Footy League – Brayden Goldspink (Facebook)

Nonsensical violence in sport is something which has been a bugbear of mine for a very long time and now even more so after the shocking events which occurred over the past weekend in the Adelaide Footy League.

Earlier this week, Mawson Lakes Football Club player, Brayden Bennett, was handed a 10-match ban for a brutal off the ball punch on a Central United 300-gamer, Nathan Fenwick, during the two clubs’ clash on Saturday.

The attack left the Central United player with a broken jaw, which required surgery.

Footage of the incident was posted on the One on One Sports SA Facebook page and has since been swamped with comments calling for a harsher penalty to be handed down – with some even called for a life ban.

Now look, I’m not about to start calling for a witch hunt and will back in the league if they deem the incident to be worthy of the 10-game suspension which was handed down.

However, what I will say is these violent attacks and other unsportsmanlike acts, which are happening at suburban football grounds across the country, are becoming too much and must be called out.

Last year, Salisbury West captain Adam Jones was in the news for all the wrong reasons when he was suspended, and subsequently banned for life, following a sickening running knee which broke the jaw of Trinity Old Scholars player Carl Teusner.

Jones was also charged with multiple other incidents’ during the game.

He apologised profusely after the game and told the ABC his actions were the “biggest mistake of his life.”

I’m certain that Bennett, like Jones, is incredibly remorseful about the situation and the injuries which have been caused.

With that being said, it’s not even these kind of top-tier sickening acts which I have a bee in my bonnet about.

It is the entire culture of the lower divisions across our local footy leagues which I’m calling into question.

I talk to mates and those involved in amateur football and hear stories of players sniping, stomping or other outrageous physical acts which clearly have no place on a footy field.

Another friend, who works as a goal umpire, has also shared stories of disgusting levels of abuse which he has been subjected to while serving as an official on a Saturday afternoon.

PHOTO: Adelaide Footy League – Brayden Goldspink (Facebook)

Before everyone jumps into the comments and tells me I’m being a silly nanny, hear me out.

Recently, while attending a division seven match, I witnessed firsthand an altercation which took place in front of the away side’s interchange bench.

The incident was sparked by an alleged racial slur which was hurled from the bench towards an opposition player on the field.

This in turn evolved into a physical stoush on the field and a verbal barrage between opposing club officials off the field.

The verbal tirade continued and, while I fully appreciate the seriousness of the situation, the behaviour of both club officials was quite simply, ridiculous.

I understand long-term clubmen and women are passionate about their local clubs, but this complete lack of respect for fellow human beings was embarrassing to witness firsthand.

The fact that tempers can flare so much in a game of football where players, or non-players, can resort to violence, racial vilification or vicious verbal attacks is over-the-top and completely out of step with wider community expectations.

I love a bit of biff on the footy field as much as the next person, but there are too many members of our amateur competitions who are out there on the field solely to hurt other players.

PHOTO: Adelaide Footy League – Brayden Goldspink (Facebook)

While not all of these players are belting people to the severity of the incident which occured on the weekend, it is an issue which keeps people out of the game.

When did white line fever get to the point where people resort to such dirty acts?

Many will point to the blatant glorification of Barry Hall’s now infamous hit on Brent Staker which saw ‘Big, Bad, Bustling, Barry’ have a seven week stay on the sidelines.

Just because you’ve slapped on a footy guernsey doesn’t mean you can act, and treat others, like animals.

Local footy is a great spectacle and there are a hell of a lot of people doing the right thing and playing the game the way it should be played.

But it’s those who use the excuse of ‘playing on the edge’ who ruin it for everyone and, unfortunately, those who cannot control themselves end up making decisions on the field which can change their lives, and others’, forever.

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Tom grew up in Adelaide’s northern suburbs and is our resident North American sports expert. Tom has experience as a working journalist and has a keen interest in basketball, ice hockey and American football, as well as cricket, soccer and football. He spent his junior cricket career at East Torrens District and has played for a number of football clubs across Adelaide’s north.