Luke Hodge is a true champion of the game. The current Hawthorn captain is a three-time premiership player and All-Australian player, dual Norm Smith medallist and Peter Crimmins medallist and one of the great players in our game. He has thrived on playing on the edge, sometimes edging over the line between hard and questionable but on Friday night he hurdled that line into the downright dirty.
His hit on Port Adelaide forward Chad Wingard was a cheap shot with the possibility of causing real damage to the head and neck. For those who haven't seen it, or need some context before reading on take a look:
What did we see? We saw Hodge accelerate and brace himself to hit Wingard hard and high and be inches or milliseconds away from causing serious head trauma. Despite the chorus of bitter old men who claim otherwise, let's ditch the idea that footy is a soft game because it isn't. But let's also refute the archaic idea that what Hodge did was tough. It wasn't, it was a sniper act and something that arguably today's toughest and bravest player would be embarrassed to watch back.
Some of what has floated around social media about Hodge has been worth reading, some not.
One thing is irrefutable - it is baffling how professional, supposed unbiased adjudicators can find Hodge's actions to be careless (not intentional) and medium impact to the head. Amongst other things, careless is defined as "having no care or concern or not paying enough attention to what one does" - hold that though. Intentional is "done with intent or purpose". What Hodge did was purposely target Wingard, accelerate towards him and attempt to demolish him. Luckily for both, he didn't connect but it wasn't through lack of intent.
The AFL must come under attack for the ongoing Tribunal and Match Review Panel issues. Chris Masten was found guilty by the tribunal for biting Nick Suban. If he was found guilty of biting, the penalty should have been at least six weeks, but it remains that he was convicted on flaky evidence.
On the tribunal side of things Lance Franklin and Kurt Tippett got a week each for strikes while Steven May got three weeks for his collision with Tom Rockliff.
May is in essence an AFL nobody, while Franklin and Tippett are big name, big money recruits for the AFL's biggest cash cow Sydney Swans. Hodge is one of the biggest drawcards in the AFL and captain of the best team in the league who gets people through the gates. The 'wet lettuce' penalty of two weeks allows him to miss what will amount to glorified training sessions against Brisbane and Carlton but be back for the qualifying final, which is an incredible irony.
One can't help but wonder whether he would have been treated so well by the tribunal if he were Steven May.