Patrick Dangerfield has been waiting his whole career to finally reach an AFL Grand Final and he wasted no time making an immediate impact.
The Geelong star flattened Richmond’s Nick Vlastuin in a chaotic opening to the first quarter that also saw Cats veteran Gary Ablett leave the field with a serious shoulder injury that ruined the retiring hero’s night.
After Ablett was brought down in a crunching tackle by Trent Cotchin, Dangerfield and Vlastuin charged for the ball and the Cat got there first, punching the Sherrin away as his opponent bore down on him.
But bracing for contact with the Tigers defender, Dangerfield cocked his elbow and collected Vlastuin in the head.
Vlastuin was knocked out cold and the game was stopped for nearly eight minutes while medical staff attended to him. He remained motionless on the ground before eventually being put on a stretcher, then taken off the ground on a medicab.
The 26-year-old was quickly ruled out of the Grand Final and later made his way to the bench to watch the remainder of the action from the boundary line.
Some said Dangerfield’s blow was accidental and a reflex reaction as he headed for a big collision with Vlastuin, but others weren’t showing the midfield gun the same sympathy.
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Sports writer Sam Vecenie tweeted: “That was UGLY from Dangerfield. He’s going to be out a couple rounds to start next season.”
Daniel Joyce said on Twitter Dangerfield is “dirty” while another sports writer, Tim Barrow, took aim at the Channel 7 commentators for defending Geelong’s superstar.
“Um, quite clearly Dangerfield should be suspended. Not that he’ll care if he wins a flag. The commentary is just awful,” Barrow wrote.
Former football reporter Ray Gatt chimed in, adding: “Just saw the elbow. Surely that guy gets cited and suspended for six weeks?”
After another heavy hit later in the first half, journalist Wendy Carlisle noted: “That’s two elbows form Dangerfield.”
Steve Taylor gave him the moniker “Patrick ‘elbows’ Dangerfield” while Peter Brown said “the elbow could be a match winner” as Richmond’s defence initially struggled to gel without Vlastuin before finding its groove.
On the other side of the fence, Aussie baseball star Travis Blackley said the hit was “totally not intentional” and “Dangerfield was clearly defending himself”.
Journalist Xavier Mardling said Dangerfield “hit the ball and only got (Vlastuin) high after (his) arm slid up upon contact. Be unlucky to cop a ban”.
Dangerfield, who failed to have a major impact as Richmond won a third flag in four years with a 12.9 (81) to 7.8 (50) victory, also downplayed the Vlastuin incident.
“I didn’t think there was much in it” he said. “I was trying to tap the ball away and there was three Richmond players coming toward me.
“Had there been something in it there would have been repercussions on the field, but for everyone it was just play on. It’s a contact sport.”