Two weeks ago five players were fined for making umpire contact as the AFL moved to make a statement to make players more careful around stoppages.
Hardly an eyebrow was raised.
Then, a week later, Geelong forward Tom Hawkins appeared to knock away umpire Dean Margett's hand as he disputed a decision in prime time on Friday night.
Tom Hawkins after being suspended for contact with an umpire.
Suddenly the community became strident about the need to protect umpires at all costs.
Regardless of whether you thought Hawkins' contact was inadvertent or not, the vision of a big man whacking an umpire's hand away did not look good.
So, in the cool light of day, the match review officer and the Cats considered it sensible to get the tribunal to make the call on what was acceptable.
Tom Hawkins missed a week for this incident.
Hawkins subsequently accepted, after some bargaining, a one-match suspension for making deliberate contact with an umpire.
Geelong accepted it wasn't worth fighting, with the AFL agreeing it was important to send a message to all levels of the game.
All of a sudden Tuesday night's tribunal decision that Carlton's Ed Curnow and Charlie Curnow made careless rather than intentional contact with umpires appeared to many to dilute the Hawkins statement.
From nowhere, many previously silent, self-appointed vigilantes suddenly found voice and arose as one to condemn the tribunal's decision to fine rather than suspend the Carlton clan called Curnow.
And Geelong, more than likely, felt duped.
All those factors seemed to force the AFL to appeal against the tribunal's decision to merely fine the Curnows for making contact in last Saturday's game against Essendon.
Fair enough, too.
The AFL have been consistent in their decisions around umpires for the past three weeks.
It's the tribunal displaying the inconsistency.
But if you take a step back, the incorrect decision may have been the one to suspend Hawkins rather than the decision to fine the Curnows.
If Hawkins had been merely fined, as heavily as the action warranted, for careless rather than deliberate contact, then a sense of proportion would have been retained.
It then would have been easier to determine actions where umpires feel threatened, as opposed to actions where umpires have been merely touched, as appears to be the case in the past three rounds.
This is particularly important after the AFL released on Wednesday their direction to umpires to throw the ball up quickly and then back pedal, leaving the onus on players to get out of their way.
That direction is likely to increase the number of players making contact with umpires.
If the AFL doesn't maintain proportion then cue more outrage, more social media hysteria as we examine every time an umpire is brushed to see whether a player should be suspended.
Let's face it, the AFL only applies a 50-metre penalty when a player abuses an umpire for a decision, arguably a much more inflammatory action than inadvertently touching.
Where's the outrage about that?
We need to protect umpires but they don't need to ride around in a popemobile.
Three weeks ago when deliberate contact was mentioned most thought of an egregious act in relation to an umpire.
The AFL community is in danger right now of losing sight of the objective in the clamour to send the right message as they have before in relation to umpire contact.
The right message is to keep a sense of proportion and recognise that the Hawkins decision wasn't right.
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