"Protect the head".
It's been pleasing to hear this phrase repeated during match broadcasts and on footy programs throughout this season.
It's often in reference to the sling tackle rule in place to protect a player from getting their head slammed into the turf when they don't have full control of their body.
There's debate about whether match review officer Michael Christian is getting sling tackle decisions right.
Fox Footy's David King has been vocal.
He wasn't happy Hawthorn's Shaun Burgoyne received a fine rather a suspension for his sling tackle on Sydney's James Rowbottom on Saturday.
"Totally lost control with this rule, we have totally lost control of anything related to the head. I don't know how many times we have to talk about this," King said on Fox Footy's The First Crack.
"Anything that can possibly cause head trauma, not necessarily concussion, head trauma. We have to stamp out of the game."
Actions speak louder than words but words are important too.
Pressure from commentators like King is crucial to achieving the goal of making the game safer.
While footy can bring so much joy, it can be detrimental to a player's health.
You only have to look at the Kyron Hayden incident which happened during the Richmond and North Melbourne round seven clash.
Hayden ran back with the flight of the ball into the path of oncoming Tiger forward Tom Lynch who is 199 centimetres and weighs 99 kilograms.
"That was like being hit with a freight train," commentator Luke Darcy said at the time.
The 21-year-old was stretched off the ground after being concussed.
Days after the incident, Hayden said if he had his time again he would do the same thing.
"I saw them coming out of corner of my eye but I'd already made up my mind so I just had to commit. I couldn't pull out because it's just a bad look, so I stuck with my decision," he said in a club interview.
"Thankfully it looked worse than it was. I've pulled up pretty well actually. I don't really have any (concussion) symptoms or anything like that. I'm looking to play this week hopefully."
While he says he would do it again, I suspect he will be more mindful of his protecting his head after experiencing such a knock.
Hayden's response comes as little surprise given what AFL great Jonathan Brown told The Standard in 2019.
He believes players need to be protected from themselves when it comes to head knocks.
"Players need protection from themselves - that's why they're out there playing - they're competitive beasts," Brown said.
He has experienced the side effects of bad concussions.
"I had some really bad incidents," Brown said.
"I was crook for the best part of probably three to four months - I couldn't drive a car for a few weeks and it took probably six months to make a full recovery."
If players really do need protecting from themselves, than it's even more crucial we keep hearing "protect the head" in addition to appropriate punishments for those who put an opponent's head at risk.
Some players are learning fast about how to protect others.
Tiger Daniel Rioli's tackle on Greater Western Sydney's Lachie Whitfield in round eight was not only rewarded a holding the ball free-kick.
He also won praise from commentators for how he executed the tackle.
Wayne Carey noted Rioli pinned Whitfield's arm but was careful not to let Whitfield's head slam into the ground.
"Just controlled it, didn't really swing him, just placed him on the ground," Carey said.
"That was very well done by Rioli."
This kind of dialogue is important to making the game safer.
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