Leave taggers alone, says former Saint

The idea that umpires could effectively crack down on taggers was futile and given all teams had a tagger, critics should stop whingeing, according to one of the more provocative and effective taggers in the game, Steven Baker.

The former St Kilda tagger, who polarised opinion for his ruthless style, said the tagger was only doing to midfielders what defenders were applauded for doing to forwards.

"The umpires can be told to be harsh on players facing away from the ball and they will try to stamp that out, but it is really hard to do, they can't possibly see everything. There is no rule to say you can't be looking at your opponent, not the ball,'' said Baker who was suspended for nine matches in 2010 for his treatment of Geelong's Steve Johnson.

In light of the debate on taggers following Brent Macaffer's smothering of Trent Cotchin last Friday night, which nullified the Richmond captain's game and limited him to 13 touches, Baker said the best teams gave their taggers more support.

"When I played against Gary Ablett in the last couple of years you would come off pretty bruised. The good teams support their players and they still end up getting it 25-30 times. I would get banged around like a pinball but Geelong had their own tagger - 'Lingy' [Cameron Ling] would tag our blokes.

''All teams have got them and [opposition] supporters hate them because they stop their good players getting the ball, but they all have them so stop whingeing about it.”

Collingwood coach Nathan Buckley supported Baker’s view that taggers were midfield defenders.

''The contests we see at either end of the ground, we shouldn't be surprised to see in the middle now and then,'' he said.

Buckley criticised the ''hysteria'' surrounding Macaffer's game on Cotchin, saying he had consulted umpires this week about possible missed or unwarranted free kicks in the contest.

"They sent through two edits, one of them was questionable, in our eyes. So their feedback was that that contest was umpired well, which is against the hysteria that's taken place over the last couple of days," he said.

AFL umpires coach Hayden Kennedy said at the weekend he did not like the look of the Cotchin-Macaffer contest.

"With all due respect,I don't really care if Hayden likes it or he doesn't like it ... because in the end he is there to coach the umpires around the rules of the game and we are there to coach our players around the rules of the game,'' Buckley said.

"I don't expect anyone to cop extra attention [this week]. We expect the game to be umpired to the letter of the law."

Meanwhile, Buckley said defender Nathan Brown, who trained fully on Tuesday, was a realistic chance to return to the side to play North Melbourne on Saturday, despite dislocating a shoulder a fortnight ago.

''He is ahead of schedule. He has had this injury before in 2010 and played through two-thirds of the season with the same injury, so it is not something he hasn't had to deal with before, but you would not have thought a two-week turnaround he would get to the position he is in, but he is a realistic chance [to play].

Sam Dwyer trained well after missing the Richmond clash with injury and is a strong chance to return.

Taylor Adams is available to return after suspension, but he played as the substitute in the previous two games so may not be an automatic inclusion.

Paddy Karnezis will play his first VFL game this week, while Tim Broomhead will play is first VFL game either this week or next.

The story Leave taggers alone, says former Saint first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.

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