Players going weak at the knees for frees

THE AFL's own Tom Hawkins and Ben Cunnington were recently the poster boys for milk, appearing in advertising because they "grew up on or around dairy farms".

But, maybe the dairy industry could seek out North Melbourne's Lindsay Thomas for its next campaign.

No one milks better than he ... free kicks anyway.

Be it ducking or diving, the Roos sneak, sorry goalsneak, has become a master, and in turn, one of the game's more controversial figures.

His penchant for 'performing' came to a head two years ago when he won a free kick in front of goal against Geelong for a push in the back after he went flailing forward from the lightest of contact from James Kelly.

Thomas responded to the outpouring of condemnation by saying every player does it, it's just that he was "not the greatest actor".

Thomas was back in the thick of controversy on Friday night during North's defeat in Sydney when receiving a free for head-high contact from direct opponent Nick Smith.

Thomas had won the ball in front of the Kangaroos' goal and looked to have a clear passage to burst forward and either kick or dish off a handpass to teammate Ben Brown, but because there was some pressure from the Swans defence, he opted to stop, drop and ... get rolled.

Outspoken Hawk great Dermott Brereton was scathing of Thomas.

"He actually went in reverse, and drove up into the tackle from behind under the armpit," he said on SEN radio. "He actually thought 'where is the tackler? I want the tackler because I can milk a free out of this'.

"This is a blight on the game and I would call on the league's rule makers to cut this crap out."

After being critical of his player for his diving antics, Roos coach Brad Scott this time leapt to his defence, calling those singling out Thomas as "cowards".

And he probably shouldn't be singled out.

It's becoming a learnt skill, like the Peter Daicos dribble kick for goal or Stevie J's 'around-the-corner' shot.

Well-respected players such as Geelong skipper Joel Selwood, West Coast's Luke Shuey and Hawthorn's Paul Puopolo use the tactic, though are probably better actors.

And it has clearly filtered down to junior levels, with Brisbane first-year player Rhys Mathieson showing his talent in gaining six frees, five for head high, on debut.

Having modelled his game on Selwood, it's apparently the young Lion's "go-to" action.

But, when head knocks and concussion is rightly such a serious issue, that's not a good thing, and, though the AFL has maintained the onus needs to be on the tackler, it needs to do its own bit of acting... and not reward these players clearly going weak at the knees.

During Indigenous Round, thankfully Eddie Betts provided a highlight, via his goal of the year contender from the boundary line, showing the right way to go about things.


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