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If Barry Hall Were a Brunette

If Barry Hall were a brunette I wouldn’t be writing this. If Barry Hall were a brunette I’d be letting elbowed Saints lie, and then lie, which is what surely will happen when Matt McGuire walks into the tribunal tomorrow night and tells the panel that he lay on the ground for three minutes, imitating a boated bass, just to make sure of a free kick that never came.

But Barry Hall is not a brunette. Barry Hall is a tall, balding blonde man. He is a Simon Beasley of the new decade, just as I like to think I was a Simon Beasley for the previous decade, just as Simon Beasley likes to think he was a Simon Beasley for the decade before that.

As a tribe we blonde, bald types are not the most presupposing. In action films we are usually extras, like bank tellers or traffic cops, although if we are kitted out with a German accent, we can rise to the lofty heights of second baddest villain. The one that has to die a buildup death as a bloody precursor to the ‘clever’ and even more bloody death of the main villain.For a long time, Barry Hall struggled with the idea that he could only be the second baddest villain, attempting time and again to be the biggest, baddest and most bustling villain on the ground. Only in later years has he come to terms with the Beasley bequest. He’s lowered the elbows. He’s stopped randomly decking blokes. He’s started to think bank teller and traffic cop, and has played footy at a standard that no tall, blonde, balding player has ever achieved before. And that includes Beasley. It includes Dean Wallis. That even includes Terry Bright.

If Barry Hall is suspended tomorrow night it will be a tragedy. Not because he isn’t guilty. Hall probably intended to strike McGuire, and at best, will have to concede it was reckless or negligent contact. And even though the Bluey Hampshire of the new century (another of the great brothers) is unlucky that his punch had the timing and direction of a Mark Waugh cover drive, that doesn’t help his case. Medium contact, to the body, behind the play. No good behaviour reduction. Probably no early plea. Football’s most famous ex-boxer is staring down the barrel of the cruelest of points decisions.

Hopefully a result will be contrived that allows him to play. Hopefully, behind the play can be read as in play by taking a creative interpretation of necessary leading. Hopefully recklessness can be read as mere negligence. Hopefully video monitor Peter Schwab, who tragically missed a fourth premiership in 1989 as the result of a ridiculous three match ban will march into the tribunal and just tell them to find a way, any way, not to ruin Barry’s life.

The AFL has improved the tribunal system immeasurably this year with the points allocation system. It is more consistent, and has encouraged a more straightforward approach from accused players and their clubs. I would argue that for next year, a necessary change is to recognize that the Grand Final is not a normal game. Barry Hall’s offence might have been worth a game in the home and away (just!) but it is certainly not worth a shot at footballing immortality.

When players are suspended during the Wizard Cup, the Tribunal accepts that to miss Wizard Cup games is not an appropriate penalty, because these are of far less value than home and away matches. An opposite assessment should occur at the other end of the year. Double (or triple) penalty points should be required per game when a Grand Final is at stake. It’s only the offences at the serious end of the scale, the ones that could conceivably cause a game-ending injury and therefore affect a finals result, that should be punished with suspension.

Barry Hall, I hope things work out for you over the next 48 hours. I hope that you win the Brownlow, break down in the speech, thank Beasley, thank the brothers, and stand there tall, blonde and bald, a poster boy for fairness and bestness, and all experienced while on death row. And if you get away with it, if somehow the cards fall to allow you to be out there next Saturday, I’ll be there shouting for you, screaming ‘Beasley!’ as you climb into the clouds.

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†When Beasley was actually playing, I was young and had too much hair to actually resemble Beasley. Instead, I looked like Ian Zerring who played the volleyball loving Steve on ‘Beverly Hills 90210’.