The AFL is completely confused after two major incidents from the weekend got very different treatment at the AFL Tribunal.
AFL360 host Mark Robinson has demanded the AFL appeal the tribunal’s decision to overturn West Coast Eagles star Willie Rioli’s one-match ban.
The AFL was left stunned after Sunday’s match in Perth when Rowell copped a monster bump from Rioli as he chased a ball that was kicked over his head during the third term.
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When Rioli realized he wasn’t going to get to the ball, he jumped with his contact leaving Rowell on the turf after a heavy impact took his feet out from under him.
The AFL was stunned as there wasn’t even a free kick despite the seemingly dangerous contact but the 20-year-old Gold Coast Suns star played out the remainder of the game awarded and brushed off the impact, saying: “Fair play, it was a good hit”.
But while the AFL community questioned the impact, the AFL Tribunal has overturned the decision, leaving Rioli free to play North Melbourne on Sunday afternoon.
The Tribunal said Rioli didn’t engage in rough conduct, arguing the impact was “not unreasonable”.
Rioli’s representation called it “unavoidable” and pointed to a still image to say there was separation between Rioli’s hip and Rowell’s head.
“I believe my duty was to commit to the contest and help my team at any cost,” Rioli said in his defence. “It’s unfortunate it escalated like this but my intention was just to win the ball.”
The AFL representative argued Rioli’s competition for the ball was an outdated method of thinking as there has to be some duty of care from the players.
The AFL said Rowell dodged injury “through good fortune and not good management”.
AFL advocate Nick Pane QC said: “It’s time for players to consider the opposing player is vulnerable and modify behavior so as to minimize the potential for injury.”
Before the decision, Robinson said the “Tribunal should say ‘for wasting our time, take two (weeks)’” and that if he was cleared it would be “one of the worst decisions we’ve seen this year”.
As the news came out, AFL360 was in full swing and Richmond’s Jack Riewoldt and Robinson were able to give immediate reactions.
Robinson said the AFL’s comments were “laughable” amid the decision from the Tribunal.
“Pack it up, pack it up boys, pack it up,” Riewoldt laughed.
But asked for his reaction, Riewoldt said it was setting an “interesting” previous this early in the season.
“Jumping off the ground, I know he’s trying to protect himself and caught Rowell high but I did the pub test walking down here and sussed a few people out,” he said. “I thought it was a week but clearly it’s not.
“If that’s considered a reasonable action, do we now have to look at Rowell’s action in terms of running back with the flight? This memo here says you need to adjust behavior but does that behavior have to be adjusted where you can’t feel safe running back with the flight? Is that the behavior that now has to be adjusted.”
Robinson said that it was an issue that the AFL needed to have a good hard look at and potentially challenge the Tribunal decision.
“I think the AFL better have a press conference tomorrow,” Robinson said. “I think they should have a press conference and announce that they’re appealing the decision. I’m not going after Willie Rioli, I think it’s a fantastic story that Willie is back playing football. That was 20 years ago, oh yeah, you can do that, no you can’t, you just can’t.”
Riewoldt said you have to take the person out of the action and that Rioli didn’t hit Rowell like that on purpose.
“It’s an action that is maybe an old school action that players have grown up with that they maybe need to adjust for the betterment of the game,” Riewoldt said. “Same as the wearing at the umpires. We adjust rules in the game to make the game better but efficiently for player safety.”
Essendon’s Zach Merrett added: “The priority should always be to protect the guy going for the footy and I think that’s a pretty dangerous action and I think my understanding at the moment is that that would be a week. It’s a big call and that will set a previous going forward.”
It was unanimous that the panel believe that Mitch Robinson would be cleared of his front-on bump on Port Adelaide’s Xavier Duursma but he was ruled out for one week.
AFL fans were stunned by the results and took to social media to share its dismay at the decisions.
AFL Media’s Michael Whiting tweeted: “I am more confused by the MRO/Tribunal system than ever. Willie Rioli cleared to play and Mitch Robinson’s one-match ban stands. I’m honestly unsure what to look for any more.”
Broadcaster Quentin Hull wrote: “Court eh? Putting on her best dress in the first week. Rioli gets off yet Robbo doesn’t (nor should he) … Anyone else confused?”
ABC’s Dean Bilton added: “One for the books tonight. Sloane decision seems fair, Robinson a little unlucky but understandable. Rioli verdict is a surprise, but Grace’s case (“death of the screamer” stuff aside) was pretty compelling. It’s a friggen hard game to officiate, and this was in that gray area.”
Sports reporter Mark Gottlieb opined: “If Willie Rioli was trying to take a screamer then Mitch Robinson was trying to do the world’s greatest ground ball get.”