The AFL Tribunal is sitting on one of the most consequential cases in recent history, with Collingwood trying to throw out Brayden Maynard’s ban for rough conduct that concussed Angus Brayshaw.
Debate has raged across all parts of the footy world and has reached levels seldom seen this year, but ultimately it will be settled by three people: Jeff Gleeson (Tribunal chair), Scott Stevens and Darren Gaspar.
The hearing commenced at 4pm AEST and Maynard was called on by the Pies to give evidence – follow via the live blog below!
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Maynard pleaded not guilty to rough conduct and not guilty to careless conduct.
Giving evidence, he said he genuinely attempted to smother the ball and was not expecting Brayshaw to move inward after disposing of the ball.
“After I smothered the ball, I came and I looked down and I thought ‘shit, he’s there’. I sort of seized up,” Maynard said.
“Next thing I know he was on the floor and I was just a bit rattled myself.”
Maynard labelled what he did a “football act” and said he had no alternative.
“I think with all due respect, the same outcome would‘ve happened (if he changed his approach while in the air),” he said.
“When I went to smother the ball, it was a flinch reaction.
“Like I said, he was in my way and a collision occurred.”
The AFL said Mayanrd’s conduct was unreasonable in the circumstances.
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Maynard will argue what he hinted at on Thursday night and what the Pies will contend as a starting point: This was a “football act”.
The AFL will argue Brayden Maynard turning his body while in the air was “in the bumping of an opponent” and he had a duty of care to Brayshaw he failed to uphold.
This incident has been one engulfed in debate, which extended to within AFL headquarters before Executive General Manager of Football Laura Kane and higher powers ultimately decided this would be a test case to be heard by a Tribunal.
There was even debate over how the incident would get to the Tribunal, with one view to refer it there ungraded before the call was made to charge Maynard with bumping and put it through the usual gradings, which saw it sent there regardless.
Fremantle champion David Mundy believes that by Laura Kane stepping in is a sign of the AFL wants to “adjudicate the game of tomorrow” as opposed to the game “we’ve had in the past, and not the game that we’re seeing at the moment.”
“If Brayden Maynard was falling and that was Scott Pendlebury underneath him, I think he would make a different decision than cover up and just protect himself and not worry about the other player.” Mundy said on 6PR.
When asked what Maynard could have done differently, Mundy offered his response from his knowledge from all of his 376 game AFL career.
“When you’ve jumped up and you’re in the air and there’s a player underneath you, you have the ability to almost catch yourself as you’re falling on top of them. It would have been really awkward and they’d have had a tumble, but that response has a much lesser chance of resulting in serious health concerns.”
Angus’ younger brother Hamish Brayshaw, who played one game for West Coast, has meanwhile suggested the AFL is biased towards Collingwood in its handling of the Maynard charge.
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“It will set a precedent for what is going to happen for a long time in football I think, whether he gets off or whether he doesn’t,” Hamish Brayshaw began on the Shelter FootyCast.
“I think if this happened in Round 3, (the AFL would say): ‘Sweet no worries mate you’ve got weeks’. The scrutiny comes under the fact that I think the AFL are desperate for Collingwood to win a premiership.
“They want the supporters to go nuts, they’ve got 106,000 members, they want to do everything they can, in my opinion, for that to happen.
“The world wants to see that happen — or the Collingwood fans do anyway — and they have a very loud voice, so a lot of that is driven by the Collingwood fans and I think a few people at the AFL who want to see Collingwood win.
“But duty of care for a player, whether that comes into account, I don’t know.”
He also credited Kane for overruling the the Match Review Officer given the seriousness of his brother’s injury.
“The MRO wanted to knock it straight away and not even look at it,” Hamish Brayshaw added.
“For Laura Kane to step in and say: ‘Well actually, this is a pretty serious incident let’s have a look’. Good on her, well done, stepped straight into her role and has gone bang.
For Collingwood, there are two exit paths.
The first: Argue Maynard was contesting the ball and it was reasonable for him to contest it in that way.
The second: Argue Brayshaw’s lack of turning side on to brace for impact, along with a slight move inward, is something Maynard could not control and could not reasonably foresee.
Venturing down the second path would be not only bold and difficult, but also met with the fiercest of resistance from the AFL, not to mention Brayshaw, his family and many of his Melbourne colleagues behind closed doors who are frustrated with the sympathy shown to Maynard in the aftermath.
There isn’t overwhelming precedent for this case, but Tom Lynch’s collision with Alex Keath earlier this season is one that could be relied upon by the Pies.
That hearing, on April 11, saw Lynch charged under the same grading as Maynard, but Richmond successfully overturned the decision, convincing the Tribunal that Lynch did not bump Keath, who like Brayshaw was concussed as a result of the incident.
The Tribunal was not clearly satisfied Lynch engaged in rough conduct, instead findings his actions to be those of a player bracing for contact, rather than intending to bump.
As the Tribunal said that night: “All flight can be misjudged and leaps mistimed” and it is “not careless for a player to do no more than brace for contact in those circumstances.”
The Pies will understandably bring up the fact Maynard’s time in the air lasted less than half a second and appeal to the experienced jury members to put themselves in the same position and question whether they feasibly could’ve done any different than what Maynard did.
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Two other cases are worth mentioning given aspects of them could be fertile ground for Collingwood.
In July, Sydney overturned Dane Rampe’s two-match ban for a bump on Lachlan McNeil in one of the more surprising Tribunal decisions of the season.
The Tribunal found McNeil turned into Rampe and the latter “reasonably braced for contact” that he “could not have reasonably avoided.”
A month later, the Swans again found success, this time for Tom McCartin after the Swans defender left Shane McAdam with a depressed fracture of the cheekbone.
There, the Tribunal found he responded to “a late and sharp change in the direction of the ball” in a reasonable manner.
Both cases are ripe for exploring if the Pies opt to go down the path of unavoidable contact or contact contributed to a sharp change in direction from the victim player, but it is a difficult road that is only rarely navigated successfully.
The AFL will argue Maynard could’ve reasonably foreseen Brayshaw would’ve continued to keep moving forward at some speed having just kicked the ball and landed back on the ground.
Lynch’s act took place in a “pack-type aerial contest”, rather than a spirited attempt to spoil.
The Tribunal found Lynch’s fists were not clenched – although his left does appear closed in the vision – while Maynard’s right fist appeared to be fully clenched as he collided with Brayshaw.
Lynch’s evidence was singled out by Gleeson that night, underscoring the importance Maynard’s words will carry on Tuesday night.
His remorse should not and will not be a factor. He expressed his love for Brayshaw post-game and delivered him a bottle of wine, but contrition is not taken into account in a case where the accused has pleaded not guilty, which Maynard and the Pies will on Tuesday.
Contrition has worked as a method to reduce penalty but does not apply when the objective is to discard sanction.
Neither does it hold much sway when there are factions in the Brayshaw / Melbourne camp saying in no uncertain terms the relationship between the pair is not what it was first painted as.
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Such is the unique nature of this case that it’s worth mentioning the Tribunal has the power to impose a sanction or no sanction in “exceptional and compelling circumstances”.
Given the widespread coverage of this case and the considerable grey area that appears to exist within it, the Tribunal has within its authority the ability to find Maynard guilty of bumping but impose a sanction of fewer than three matches due to the difficulties arising in judging this particular case.
It would be wholly unprecedented and is very unlikely, but bears mentioning given the searing spotlight on this particular hearing and how unique the situation is.
The Tribunal’s ruling on Tuesday night will be seismic either way.
The Match Review Officer has for some time used Tribunal rulings as a guide for what does or doesn’t constitute a reportable offence.
Tuesday’s is as lineball a case as there has been in footy in recent memory. The outcome will determine what side of the line the game straddles from hereon in.
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