An AFL star has been caught pinching an opponent throughout the match, sparking outrage from furious footy fans and former players.
Hawthorn Hawks captain Ben Stratton is expected to come under scrutiny from the match review committee over his treatment of Essendon star Orazio Fantasia during the Hawks’ 19-point loss at Marvel Stadium in Melbourne on Friday night.
Stratton’s special treatment of the Bombers’ small forward began within seconds of the opening bounce and continued the entire game.
His tactics behind the play later sparked niggling between other opponents, who came to blows in an all-in-brawl at the end of the third quarter.
Photos later showed Fantasia’s upper arm red and bruised with pinch marks.
‘Have a look at the pinch marks on the back of the arm there,’ Channel Seven commentator Brian Taylor said during the game.
Essendon star Orazio Fantasia went home with a bruised arm (pictured) after copping some special treatment from Hawthorn Hawks opponent Ben Stratton
According to the 2019 tribunal guidelines, pinching incurs a $1500 fine for a first time offence and up to $4000 for repeated offences.
Stratton’s bizarre tactics to try and put Fantasia off his game didn’t go unnoticed by the television cameras or commentators.
‘It was pointed out at quarter-time, so they’ve had time enough to assess it … and they (the umpires) still haven’t acted on it,’ North Melbourne legend and Fox Footy commentator David King said.
‘They’re asking for trouble… what, are we waiting for Fantasia to respond?
‘You’ve got a chance to knock this on the head straight away.’
Channel Seven commentator Matthew Richardson believed the pinching was unnecessary.
Ben Stratton was caught on camera repeatedly pinching Orazio Fantasia during the game
‘You can see the bruising there on Orazio’s arm — and I am not sure why he did that tonight,’ the Richmond Tigers legend said.
‘He is a great defender as it is there is nothing to be gained by him doing it.
‘He’s the captain of the club and it’s just unnecessary. I’m pretty sure he’ll come out and say it was a bit of a brain fade.’
‘I think he’ll be embarrassed by it.’
Fellow commentator Cameron Ling agreed.
‘I don’t like it,’ the former Geelong premiership captain said.
I’m surprised Ben Stratton needs to do that.
‘He’s such a good one-on-one player. To see (Fantasia’s) arm like that (is not great).’
Friday night’s clash was a spiteful affair with an all-in brawl at the end of the third quarter
Furious fans expressed their outrage online, describing Stratton’s actions as unsportsmanlike and a dog act.
‘That utter crap from Ben Stratton deserves a week. It is unAustralian! Low point of the season,’ one tweeted.
Another added: ‘Your on field behaviour against the Bombers’ Orazio Fantasia was disgusting. We could not believe what we were seeing. You can’t deny it because the TV footage shows it and the pictures of Orazio’s arm are shocking.’
Even Hawks fans were unimpressed.
‘Please ask Ben Stratton, can he just play the game. As a member and fan I’m embarrassed that one of our players would resort to this,’ one tweeted.
Current and former AFL players also weighed into the online debate.
There was no ill-feeling toward Stratton from Fantasia after the match, despite the pinches
‘Niggle is fine but I think pinching is crossing the line!’ Western Bulldogs champion Lindsay Gilbee tweeted.
Brisbane Lions star Charlie Cameron, who copped his own barrage of pinching from Stratton a fortnight ago added: ‘Free kick?’
The incident also sparked a reaction from former Fremantle Dockers player Ryan Crowley, the last player to be fined for the offence six years ago.
‘I’m sure Stratts won’t like the look of that tonight when he sees it back on replay. Couldn’t see it happening again,’ Crowley tweeted.
Fantasia, who booted two goals in Essendon’s win downplayed the incident and showed no ill-feeling towards his opponent as the pair shook hands and a laugh afterwards.
‘Stratts loves to pinch,’ Orazio Fantasia (bruised arm pictured) told Channel Seven afterwards
‘I’ve got a couple of bruises on the arm, Stratts loves to pinch,’ Fantasia told Channel Seven.
‘You can’t do anything. He’s a really good defender, he’s got all the tricks in the book.’
Essendon coach John Worsfold and Hawthorn coach Alastair Clarkson refused to be drawn into the incident during their post-match press conferences.
‘There’s rules in place around the game and things that happen within the rules or outside the rules. I assume that will take care of itself,’ Worsfold said.
‘I haven’t seen what it looked like, so I really can’t comment.’
Clarkson added: ‘I wouldn’t like to comment until I speak to Stratts, and once I speak to Stratts I’ll have a better feel for what my attitude is to it,’ he said.
There are also reports Stratton could be in more hot water over an obscene finger gesture to the crowd, afl.com.au reported.