“Weak” ban sends poor message to young footballers
HOW can the Ovens and Murray tribunal justify effectively handing a player a one-match penalty for intentionally punching an opponent in the head?
Albury’s Jessy Wilson was one of three players suspended by the tribunal on Wednesday night after tensions flared on several occasions in the thrilling grand final against Wangaratta last month.
Magpie Dylan Van Berlo was banned for two weeks for rough conduct against Albury’s Matt Walker while Tiger Rhys King was handed four weeks for elbowing Wangaratta’s Mark Anderson to the head.
On face value, it appears both of those bans were appropriate, however, the tribunal got it clearly wrong when it came to Wilson’s penalty.
Before the hearing, the striking charge was upgraded from careless to intentional after umpire Jason Raine watched the footage of the incident.
Wilson pleaded guilty and was handed a two-match ban by the tribunal with one suspended.
That means Wilson intentionally punched Magpie Zack Leitch to the head but will only miss one week.
No, Leitch wasn’t injured in the contest and yes, Wangaratta benefited from Wilson spending 15 minutes on the sidelines.
But in today’s world where footballers are looked up to, Wilson’s punch to the jaw of Leitch was a bad look for the game and this sends a bad message to young players in the North East.
The AFL has come down hard on off the ball hits in recent times with Andrew Gaff, Thomas Bugg and Bachar Houli all handed lengthy bans for ugly striking incidents.
And while this incident wasn’t as ugly as those three, the tribunal has effectively told players that intentional strikes to an opponent’s jaw will see you get little more than a slap on the wrist.
Irrespective of Wilson’s history, the O&M tribunal had the perfect chance to make a statement but failed miserably.
The charge was intentionally striking and while Wilson will have to tread carefully given he has a week’s suspension hanging over his head, a ban of two weeks, maybe three would have been more appropriate.
INTENTIONAL: Albury’s Jessy Wilson was handed just a one-week ban for this strike on Magpie Zack Leitch.