The worst sledge I heard was during a Northern League football match in New Zealand.

I was in my early 20s, easy going, up for a laugh and hard to offend. But the words stopped me dead in my tracks.

A team-mate had recently been through a harrowing stillbirth tragedy and word had quickly spread around the football community.

In the heat of battle a few weeks later, during a particularly fierce match, an opponent used it against him.

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"No wonder your son didn't want to come out mate, who'd want a p***y like you as their dad."

The sledging line had been crossed. The red cards and fighting that ensued, inevitable.

It wasn't funny, it wasn't clever, its intent was to hurt and it offended everyone who heard it.

But not all sledges are so obviously wrong. How do we determine where the line is with sport sledging? Is any of it ok?

The question has been raised once again after allegations of abuse were flung at Australian rules player Marc Murphy over the weekend.

The Carlton captain was reportedly verbally targeted by St Kilda players, who according to social media speculation were sledging Murphy regarding a supposed relationship between AFL legend Wayne Carey and Murphy's wife, Jessie.

Both Carey and Murphy denied the rumours were true with the Carlton player responding to the speculation.

"I would like to respond to highly inappropriate social media commentary that has escalated in the past few days," he posted on Twitter.

"I want to be clear that these comments are untrue, hurtful to my wife and family and show a lack of respect to women.

"We would like to move on and will not be making any further comment."


Geelong coach Chris Scott says the AFL must move with the times and accept that on-field sledging and verbal attacks on players are not acceptable.

The problem is, there is no such thing as a clearly defined line that all parties agree to with sledging. Human nature being complicated, what constitutes abuse to one person is banter to another.

It doesn't really matter what a sledgers intent is either - it will be judged by how it was received. Humour, banter, chirp - they are all just words that sometimes disguise the poison that tips the barb.

The aims of sledging are clear, to get inside the head of your opponent and put them off their game. Mental disintegration as it has become known. It is used heavily in cricket because it only takes one lapse in judgement to lose your wicket, but it can be effective in other ball sports. If you are able to get inside the head of a five-eighth in a game of rugby or a football goalkeeper you can be well on the way to victory.

It was an inappropriate sledge which helped Italy win the Football World Cup in 2006.

Italian defender Marco Materazzi told Zinedine Zidane that he preferred his "whore of a sister" to his shirt. Zidane responded by head butting the Inter Milan defender in the chest and being dramatically sent off. That incident preceded France losing the final in a penalty shoot-out.

"Six stupid words. I made a mistake but Zidane also made a mistake in reacting the way he did," said the uncompromising Materazzi months later.

Crossing the line is where sledging gets unsportsmanlike. Abusing someone's mother is not witty banter used to get inside an opponent's head. It is verbal abuse and would get the layman fired in a typical workplace.

The subjects that cross the line are generally accepted to be players' families, wives, girlfriends, sisters, racism, homophobia and other topics of that ilk.

The main problem with sledging is where gamesmanship becomes abuse. Unfortunately, this is very vague and the line differs for every person.

But one we can surely all agree on; if your sledge involves an opponents recently deceased child, you're doing it very wrong.

But here are some other examples that clearly crossed the line:

Nick Kyrgios

Australian sporting fans have known for a fairly long time that Nick Kyrgios is a bit of a tool, but this hatred went global during the Rogers Cup in Canada last year.

Kyrgios was in the middle of a heated clash with French Open winner Stan Wawrinka when he muttered between points 'Kokkinakis banged your girlfriend. Sorry to tell you that mate.'

This sledge made plenty of headlines and there is still a great deal of tension between Wawrinka and the young Australian.

McGrath blows his top

Match: Fourth Test in Antigua 2003 between Australia and West Indies
Ramnaresh Sarwan was crafting one of his finest knocks, steering his side to the highest successful fourth innings run chase in Test history. With the score at 4-236 in pursuit of 417, McGrath began to lip the 21-year old West Indian following some false strokes. With a humiliating defeat on the cards, McGrath asked Sarwan condescendingly, "What does Brian Lara's d--k taste like?"
"I don't know, ask your wife," Sarwan replied.
With McGrath's wife Jane very ill at the time, it was a sledge that backfired for the Australian great as he proceeded to hurl abuse back at Sarwan and point his finger in a very threatening manner.