Should Brian Lake be in jail?

In my opinion, Brian Lake should have been dragged in front of a Magistrate, not the Match Review Panel.

The Hawthorn defender is currently serving a 4 week suspension for choking North Melbourne’s Drew Petrie. Choking. That means he consciously and violently attempted to deny Petrie oxygen. Check it out.

Oxygen, as you may have heard, is kind of a big deal when it comes to sustaining life.


Hey oxygen… Good job allowing us to live, buddy.

Lake cut off Petrie’s airway supply. It is not that far-fetched to suggest that Lake also probably reduced blood flow to the brain via some of the main arteries in the neck. If he had managed to cut off that blood supply to the brain, death is a very real possibility.

This is not ridiculously far-fetched. This is not the same as saying that a shoulder punch in a scuffle should be brought to the police because of the 0.000001% chance of a fatal blow to the chin.

This is a very real possibility when you have a 100kg+ man attempting to choke another man for a sustained period.

That’s why choking is taken so very seriously by the law: Choking carries a maximum jail term of 25 years. THAT’S MORE THAN SEXUAL ASSAULT! Why? Because choking (or attempting to choke) is effectively seen as an attempt to end someone’s life altogether.

Now I’m not for a second suggesting that Brian Lake consciously wanted to end Drew Petrie’s life. I AM suggesting, however, that he momentarily lost control of his emotions and reacted violently. And I’m also suggesting that the end result could have been death.

Lake and Hawthorn supporters will yell about the’provocation’ Lake received when Petrie supposedly scratched and raked Lake’s face. But is it even close to a proportional response to choke someone unconscious (as would have happened had Lake not been dragged off Petrie) just for scratching your face?

So shouldn’t Lake have been charged with a crime? Does being on grass wearing a uniform offer him immunity? It does for crunching tackles and car-crash-level bumps… but where is the line between a law applying and it not applying.

Hint: This isn't the line.

Hint: This isn’t the line.

This is an important question to ask when you watch AFL, rugby, or any contact sport where collisions and tackles take place. If these tackles were transferred to the grass just outside the ground, they’d be considered assault. Inside, across that white line, they’re OK.

And I agree with that. There is a degree of implied consent when it comes to a player stepping onto a football ground. They’re basically consenting to physical punishment (as long as they can dish it out themselves) and that’s a good thing when it is part of the game.

But the line has to be drawn.

Should Barry Hall have faced charges for punching Brent Staker so hard that Staker’s grandkids will have sore jaws? Because that is not part of the game or even close to being within the rules of the game.

There is an insane contradiction in the AFL that the league head office is (I believe) very serious in its commitment on concussion protocols. The league also offers its genuine support to the excellent and important ‘One Punch Can Kill’ campaign.

And yet culturally, the AFL is not all that far removed from the Neanderthal Rugby League and its ‘Bring Back the Biff’ stupidity.

Scientists estimate that NRL players trail the rest of civilisation by around 2 decades of evolution.

Scientists estimate that NRL players trail the rest of civilisation by around 2 decades of evolution.

Campbell Brown can break a teammates jaw and still have Triple M’s breakfast show hosts Eddie McGuire and Luke Darcy rush to defend him as a great bloke who is usually involved in violent incidents “for the right reasons.”

No, sorry Eddie, but one punch CAN kill and Campbell Brown should’ve faced charges. It’s as simple as that.

To provide one glaring example, in 1977 the Houston Rocket’s Rudy Tomjanovich was punched, just once, by Los Angeles Laker Kermit Washington during an NBA melee.

This is the account of that punch, and I warn you, it’s a bit graphic:

“Washington saw Tomjanovich running toward the altercation. Not knowing that he intended to break up the fight, Washington hit Tomjanovich with a roundhouse punch. The blow, which took Tomjanovich by surprise, fractured his face about one-third of an inch (8 mm) away from his skull and left Tomjanovich unconscious in a pool of blood in the middle of the arena. Witnesses likened the sound of the punch to a melon being dropped onto concrete. Tomjanovich had a reputation around the league as a peacemaker. 
Players involved say that right after Tomjanovich collapsed, the absence of sound at the arena, which was filled with shocked fans, was “the loudest silence you have ever heard.” Reporters heard the sound of the punch all the way in the second floor press box, and some rushed to the playing floor in disbelief. The bone structure of Tomjanovich’s face had detached from his skull. He suffered a cerebral concussion, a broken jaw and nose. He was leaking blood and spinal fluid into his skull capsule. His skull was fractured in such a way that Tomjanovich could actually taste the spinal fluid leaking into his mouth.”

Watch it on YouTube (it’s not pretty… you’ve been warned).

Tomjanovich survived, yet Washington was not charged with any crime, despite nearly killing a man in a violent act. Are we seriously OK with this? Sportsmen and women are not immune to the laws of the land when they step onto the field of play, nor should they be. I believe we’ve probably allowed a little too much leeway for sportspeople to declare that “it was part of the game” when melees and cheap shots are clearly NOT part of the game.

It’s a fine line, especially in “sports” such as MMA or boxing where the express goal of the “sport” is to inflict physical punishment on your opponent. But someone has to decide where that line is. And all I know is that choking is going to be on the wrong side of it.


2 thoughts on “Should Brian Lake be in jail?

  1. The AFL (and all sports) should implement a sent off rule for violent behaviour towards opponents or umpires, regardless of provocation. Two umpires can make the decision collectively, and have access to replays. They don’t have to be off for the whole game, but if time out can work for toddlers, it can work for grown men and women too. They need a chance to cool off, particularly if they’ve lost control of their actions.

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