The debate surrounding Carlton midfielder Patrick Cripps' Brownlow Medal triumph has intensified after league boss Gillon McLachlan said maintained his belief that overturning his suspension would be wrong.
Cripps won the league's best and fairest honour by a single vote over Brisbane's Lachie Neale, courtesy of his best on ground performance in round 23 which unfortunately coincided with Carlton's finals hopes being doomed by Collingwood.
His win was a controversial one though, owing to an incident against the Lions back in round round 21, in which Cripps was eventually cleared of a rough conduct charge against Callum Ah Chee following a marathon four and a half hour hearing at the AFL appeals board.
The Carlton midfielder had earlier been unsuccessful in appealing the match review officer's decision at the AFL Tribunal, which ruled the findings of the tribunal had been 'unreasonable' and cleared him to play in the final two games of the home and away season.
McLachlan did not hesitate in expressing his unease at the decision at the time, and fans were quick to notice an interview with him in the grand final AFL Record published on Monday in which he again spoke out against the appeals board's decision.
The timing is awkward, coming just a day after Cripps' victory and particularly considering Brisbane star Neale would have won his second Brownlow had the suspension been upheld.
McLachlan gave the interview two weeks before the Brownlow Medal, but his remarks nevertheless came as a reminder of Cripps' fortune.
“People are aware I was very agitated by that (Appeals Board) decision,” McLachlan said.
“It made no sense to me in any way and it is frustrating to have a legal view about due process or procedural fairness - a complete nonsense - really affect a clear mandate to protect the head.
“We confused our supporters and set ourselves back and that really frustrates me.
“When you can have something that is so important, which is protecting the head, and a clear statement from the MRO and backed up by the Tribunal, and then the player getting off because of a legal technicality and nobody really understanding what the hell happened, I find that challenging.
“So, I have asked the guys to review the system and we will see where that lands.”
McLachlan's comments provoked an intriguing response on social media.
— SEN Breakfast (@SENBreakfast) September 19, 2022
AFL CEO Gil McLachlan is right. It was “complete nonsense” for the Appeals Board to overturn Patrick Cripps’ rough conduct suspension. Concussion is THE major issue for all contact sport ..that suspension and its Brownlow ramifications would have sent a strong,important message.
— NickMcCallum7 (@NickMcCallum7) September 19, 2022
No sleep for the wicked as Cripps says he’s unaware of Gil McLachlan’s comments about his tribunal appeal
— Jake Benoiton (@JakeBenoiton) September 19, 2022
Cripps played a straight bat when asked about what McLachlan had said about his successful appeal.
“He called my name for the last three votes, so I’ll just leave it at that," he quipped on Monday afternoon.
Avoiding the fate of the likes of Western Bulldogs great Chris Grant and North Melbourne's Corey McKernan, both of whom won the most votes but were disqualified due to suspension, Cripps instead became Carlton's first Brownlow winner since Chis Judd in 2010.
Cripps said Neale, who he pipped by one vote after polling three in the final round, was one of the first to reach out to offer his congratulations.
There were no hard feelings despite Cripps being eligible after successful appealing a two-match ban.
"He said 'welcome to the club," Cripps said of Neale, who won the count in 2020.
"I was hoping for a tie to be honest - I'm good mates with Lachie so that would have been awesome.
"But he said he was happy for me and said he'd come and give me a big hug - he's a ripper."
Patrick Cripps celebrating Brownlow Medal triumph in style
Others in the "club" to reach out included Judd, the last Carlton player to win the award back in 2010 while he also won it in 2004 when playing for West Coast.
Cripps had also received a message from another Eagles superstar Ben Cousins, who won it in 2005 - although Cripps said he hadn't had time to read their messages.
"I was an Eagles fan growing up, in an era where they were really successful," the 27-year-old said.
"I chat to them a bit - saw Benny at last year's Brownlow and I've always had a close relationship with Juddy so it's great to get their support."
"I still see myself as a young kid, a footy lover and you get moments like this, it doesn't really sink in.
"You get young kids at Carlton training who look up to you and that's pretty special - I was one of them."
The death of Queen Elizabeth II threw plans by the new king of Carlton to rest up out the window with the Brownlow brought forward a day to avoid a clash with her funeral.
In Santorini for a cousin's wedding, Cripps only arrived back into Melbourne on Saturday night and had to power through until Monday with little or no sleep.
But after spending the night celebrating with family and friends with the Charlie Brownlow draped around his neck, a bleary-eyed Cripps said sleep could wait.
"I feel a bit jet-lagged now from staying up all night but sometimes you've got to do it - you don't get moments like this much in your life so you've got to do it," Cripps told reporters Monday morning after back-to-back interviews since 6am.
"Winning it is a moment I will look back on and be grateful to have that experience and it's something I will cherish for a long time."
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