AFL News: Buckley’s shock suspension call amid May staging debate, great’s bold Bombers prediction

AFL legend Nathan Buckley has blasted Steven May over the Melbourne defender’s controversial ‘staging’ moment in the Demons’ win over North Melbourne, saying future similar acts should result in suspensions.

May threw his head back and clutched at his face after being tackled to ground by Kangaroo Eddie Ford on Saturday night at the MCG, winning himself a free kick for a dangerous tackle – but also a $1250 fine for the exaggeration.

The incident has been widely condemned around the footy world, but hardest hitting of all was Buckley, with the Collingwood great saying on SEN Breakfast the incident was ‘on the worst level of staging’ and suggesting May himself might be feeling guilty about it.

“Staging has been a part of the game – I reckon I’ve got two bad ones I can remember,” he said.

“One where I threw myself to the ground in the goal square and I felt terrible.

“I can only imagine how Steven May is feeling right now, but that doesn’t escape the reality of what he chose to do.”

Making the incident even worse for Buckley was its exploitation of the dangerous tackle rule, brought in to protect players from concussion by penalising tacklers for allowing players’ heads to hit the ground.

“I actually think it’s on the worse level of staging for me because of what this rule is there to do – this rule is there to protect players, protect the head,” Buckley said.

“It’s not there as just a rule of how we want the game to be played, it’s there for the protection of players.”

If Steven May isn’t given a staging fine tomorrow, there’s something wrong with the system. #AFLDeesNorth

— David Zita (@DavidZita1) June 22, 2024

Buckley even invoked former Demon Angus Brayshaw into the debate, who was medically retired at the start of the season due to the impact of repeat concussions across his career, most famously in a controversial collision with Collingwood’s Brayden Maynard during the 2023 qualifying final.

“The fact that a teammate of May’s in Angus Brayshaw has left the game because of concussive effects and they hand out an award at the end of every game in respects to Brayshaw – that would be about courage and playing the game with the right demeanour,” Buckley said.

“I think whatever the opposite of that is, I think that’s what Steven May did.

“I know he wouldn’t feel great about it and in 24 hours it will be gone. But I think anyone who accentuates head contact in a tackle and does it so blatantly like that, I think it should be a week.

“It should be elevated beyond a normal staging fine.”

Co-host and fellow former great Kane Cornes, who had described May’s act as ’embarrassing’ on Nine’s Sunday Footy Show, agreed.

“It wasn’t a normal exaggeration of contact. There was no contact,” Cornes said.

“He’s just made this up. He’s faked that his head has hit the ground… this was creating something out of thin air to sucker the umpire in.”

Cornes urged Melbourne to confront the incident head on and have May speak to the media, citing a similar but less egregious moment from first-year winger Caleb Windsor later in the game as a sign the club as a whole has a problem.

“I think May should speak today – I think Melbourne should put him up,” he said.

“I reckon there was one with Caleb Windsor that wasn’t as blatant as this [May’s] late in the game, where he also did something similar.

“If you’ve got a senior player doing something and then a first-year player doing similar, I think it’s important that the club stamps this out.

“May should speak today and be asked questions about that, and I hope Melbourne put him up this week.”

However, AFL legend Leigh Matthews is one of the few on May’s side in the debate, telling Nine’s Footy Furnace that the staging moment is a storm in a teacup.

“I think it’s petty from my point of view,” Matthews said of the reaction to the incident.

“He put his hand to the head. Is that staging?

“He went to the ground and put his head on the ground – he didn’t thump his head to the turf. I understand people don’t like staging, but for me: small potatoes.”

“That is clearly a staging fine.”
“I think it’s pretty petty, from my point of view.”

It’s fair to say Tom Morris and Leigh Matthews didn’t see eye-to-eye on the Steven May staging incident ????#9FootyFurnace | Nine & 9Now ????️

— Footy on Nine (@FootyonNine) June 23, 2024

‘100 per cent a lock!’ Great’s bold Bombers prediction

Sitting third on the ladder, Essendon loom as being in with a red-hot chance of breaking their 19-year long finals victory drought in September.

But according to former great Ben Dixon, the Bombers are destined for even better.

Speaking on Fox Footy’s First Crack, the 203-game former Hawk claimed the Bombers are ‘100 per cent a lock’ to not just make it to September, but remain in the top four.

“Everyone’s on them for ‘they can’t win a final’,” Dixon said.

“They’re not just going to win a final, they’re going to get to a prelim!

“So they’re going to give themselves every opportunity to win it.”

Dixon’s prediction would guarantee the Dons at least one finals win if it comes true, given preliminary finals see the qualifying final victors host the winners of the previous weekend’s semi finals.

Giving weight to the bold call is the Bombers’ favourable run home, which sees them play eight consecutive matches at either Marvel Stadium or the MCG, before a final round trip to the Gabba to face Brisbane.

“I think right now is when you get excited as Essendon fans,” Dixon said, before claiming the Bombers were one of only five teams still in the premiership race.

“Three teams are out at the moment in my book – and that’s Port Adelaide, Geelong and Melbourne – so there’s five teams that are in the hunt,” he said.

Jake Stringer celebrates a goal. (Photo by Morgan Hancock/AFL Photos/via Getty Images)

“They’re by far in the top four. So I look at them as a prelim opportunity – and not only going to win a final, and they can count down as much as they want. They’re going to be right up there.

“The run home, have a look at this: if we go through it right now on form, you’d have to say win, win, possibly another win – Adelaide, St Kilda, gettable, Fremantle – that’s a dicey one – Marvel, Gold Coast, haven’t won [there], and then we’ve got Sydney.

“They’re 100 per cent a lock for top four.”

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After 15 rounds in 2023, Essendon sat sixth with an 8-6 record and percentage of 107; similar to their 9-1-4 record and percentage of 102.7 at the moment.

However, last year they faded badly, going 3-6 from this point to miss the finals entirely – a fate Bombers fans will hope to avoid again.

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