Brisbane Lions star Jarrod Berry has has his one-match ban for making unneccesary contact to the face of Melbourne's Clayton Oliver overturned, allowing him to play in this weekend's preliminary final.
Berry had a match-winning turn for the Lions in their semi-final victory over the reigning premiers, with his shift onto Oliver in the second half proving a decisive move.
However as his heroics unfolded, fans and commentators alike knew there would be a cloud hanging over Berry's availability for the preliminary final against Geelong.
Initially handed a one-match ban by the Match Review Officer, Berry and the Lions opted to challenge the sanction at the Tribunal on Tuesday evening.
Boasting a character reference from AFL champion Luke Hodge and a neurosurgeon to help argue that the contact with Oliver was nothing but incidental, Berry was able to have the ban overturned, freeing him to face the Cats this weekend.
Berry and Oliver had been grappling on the ground behind the play when the Lions midfielder's hand made contact with Oliver's face, with the Demons star indicating to the umpire that he'd been poked in the eye when the pair eventually got to their feet.
Is Jarrod Berry in trouble with this incident with Clarry? pic.twitter.com/7ic6tzy6k2
— 7AFL (@7AFL) September 9, 2022
In his evidence, Berry said that Oliver's forearm was inadvertently over his throat, and that his hand coming up to Oliver's face was simply a response to try to get him off him - saying he felt 'under threat' in the moment.
The the AFL argued that Berry was aware of where Oliver's eyes where when he made contact with his face, but the Lions argued the contact was neither intentional nor careless, but accidental.
Match review officer Michael Christian offered a one-game ban, assessing the incident as intentional conduct, high contact and low impact.
However the evidence from the neurosurgeon said Berry's actions had been 'necessary to allow him to relieve the pressure that was applied to his throat'.
Half an hour of deliberations saw the Tribunal overturn the ban, stating that Berry's actions had not been unreasonable or unnecessary, and that even of the Tribunal deemed they were, they would have downgraded his the grading from intentional to careless, reducing the sanction to a fine.
Berry will instead pay no fine and be free to face Geelong on Friday night at the MCG, with teammate Lachie Neale thrilled by the decision as it come down, telling AFL 360 Berry would have been a 'big loss' had the ban not been overturned.
“That’s great, great news. I sort of tried to follow a little bit of the case... I think that the right decision was made. Really happy for Jarryd and for us, that’s great news," Neale said.
“His second half of footy on the weekend was one of the best halves of footy I’ve seen. He’s an important player for us, he plays outside or inside midfield roles and does it splendidly.”
Brisbane Lions relieved over Jarrod Berry ahead of Geelong showdown
Berry dominated the second half of the Lions' hoodoo-busting defeat of the Demons at the MCG, amassing 22 of his 26 disposals once moving to Demons star Oliver.
Geelong present another stern test for the Lions, who have surprised critics with defiant displays to eliminate Richmond and the defending champions, having started September with a 1-5 finals record through the last three years.
"They're in an incredible vein of form; all of their players are at the top of their games and they'll be refreshed and ready to go" Lions skipper Dayne Zorko said of the Cats.
"But we match up well ... and if we can bring what we brought on Friday we'll be in the game. If you hang in long enough you just don't know what's going to happen."
Key forward Joe Daniher will be available after his late withdrawal last Friday to witness the birth of his first child.
Zorko revealed Daniher had called him for advice before informing coach Chris Fagan of his need to return to Brisbane.
"I said, 'Mate, at the end of the day, it's a game of football, this is the birth of your first child; get home, we've got this'," Zorko said.
Brisbane's forward line held up admirably without Daniher, with Charlie Cameron (three goals) enjoying room higher up the ground and Eric Hipwood (four) and Daniel McStay (two goals, three tackles) lifting.
"Everyone contributed at different times throughout the night just when they needed to," Zorko said.
"It was a real moments game and all the boys played theirs perfectly."
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