The Richmond Tigers have been accused of using a controversial concussion substitution rule during Friday night’s draw against Fremantle Dockers at Marvel Stadium.
The Medication Replacement Rule was introduced ahead of the 2021 season but quickly became a point of contention within the AFL community.
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In the last quarter of a tense round of 19, Richmond defenseman Ben Miller was replaced by fast-footed small forward Maurice Rioli Jr., but the exact nature of the 22-year-old’s injury remained unclear.
John Ralph of the Herald Sun initially reported that Miller was replaced due to a “groin injury” before Tigers teammate Nathan Broad stated that he was suffering from full body cramps.
“Benny Miller had cramps all over his body. He just couldn’t move,” he told Fox Footy.
“He couldn’t move. He really couldn’t move. His whole body shut down.”
Richmond coach Damien Hardwicke elaborated in the post-match press conference: “I think he had calves… and by the end he had a lot of cramps, but I think he also flexed his calves.
“Maybe it’s all right, I’m not too sure, I haven’t gotten a response yet.”
Rioli Jr., who is smaller and faster than Miller, made an immediate impact after joining the competition, throwing two resets and two tackles in a tight fourth quarter.
Thus, the medical replacement raised eyebrows among influential pundits, who wondered if the change in personnel was not a tactical move.
AFL law states that a medical substitution can only be made if “it is reasonably determined that the player will be medically unfit to play in any match for at least the next 12 days”.
But this did not happen – after 10 rounds of the 2022 AFL season, 15 players were replaced out of matches, and lined up for their team the following week.
“These changes will always be suspicious because they seem so tactical in terms of timing,” former Richmond striker Matthew Richardson told Channel 7.
“That’s why you would like the AFL to make a decision that was made in advance: they will either miss next week or they can be replaced whenever they want, because there is always suspicion about this.”
Richmond doctors are now required to provide the AFL with a medical certificate as evidence that Miller was injured, and the club could be sanctioned if he is found to have violated the drug substitution rule.
In what was only the second tie for Fremantle in 622 AFL games, Tigers youngster Noah Cumberland could be a hero when he took the 50-meter mark with seconds left.
But the 21-year-old continued to play as long as the siren sounded.as a result of which both teams will play a draw with a score of 7.10 (52) – 7.10 (52).
Thirty seconds before Cumberland’s goal, Fremantle’s Jordan Clark landed a game-tying tackle on Richmond’s Liam Baker, who scored a goal into the pocket, preventing the game-winning opportunity.
And with just 90 seconds left, Richmond had another chance to take the lead when Fremantle’s James Aish passed him to Andrew Brayshaw at center half, but Brayshaw lost the target, allowing Baker to lash out and pass him to Noah Balta. 55 m from the gate.
However, the big Tiger took too long to hit on goal and was told by the referee to play on, allowing Michael Frederick to soften the blow.
Fremantle was also guilty of missing opportunities in the last quarter; Shots on goal by Caleb Serong, Michael Walters and Will Brodie failed to score, while Griffin Logue missed a set-piece from 45 meters ahead.
Richmond defended dismally, and after Fremantle equalized, the Tigers scored against the flow of the game through Shy Bolton. Soon after, Bailey Banfield responded with what would eventually become the game-tying goal.
If the Bulldogs beat Melbourne or, more realistically, the St Kilda beat the West Coast, then the Tigers would be out of the top eight. Meanwhile, Fremantle will slip out of the top four this weekend if Collingwood beats Essendon.
In a disappointing blow to the Dockers, Captain Fife was injured in the third quarter, putting the remainder of his home and away season in doubt.
– with Ronnie Lerner, NCA NewsWire
Originally published as Richmond’s convoluted medical replacement puts controversial AFL rules under the microscope