Port Adelaide coach Ken Hinkley concedes club doctor Mark Fisher made a "big mistake" in his handling of Power star Aliir Aliir’s head knock, with the AFL hitting the club with a $100,000 fine on Friday. The Port defender was allowed to return to the field some seven minutes after a sickening head clash with teammate Lachie Jones in the second quarter last weekend, that resulted in the latter being subbed out of the match at half-time.
It's since emerged that Port's club doctor determined Aliir didn't need to undergo an extensive head injury assessment (HIA) at the time. The 28-year-old was subsequently given the green light to return to the field in scenes described as "shambolic" by Fox Footy's Mark Robinson, and prompting a "please explain" from the AFL.
Aliir did undergo a concussion test after the game and passed his follow-up assessments in the wake of the incident. However, both both he and Jones will be sidelined for 12 days after entering the league’s concussion protocols.
— AFL (@AFL) July 31, 2023
In a league statement on Friday, AFL general counsel Stephen Meade said Port Adelaide had understood the error and taken full responsibility for it. The club has been fined $100,000 but won't lose any draft picks.
"The AFL concussion protocols are some of the most stringent that exist in world sport, however, they require strict and consistent adherence to protect the health and safety of our players," Meade said. "In this instance Port Adelaide admitted that Aliir should have undergone SCAT5 testing at the time immediately following the collision on Saturday night.
"By not undertaking the test, and Aliir returning to the game without being subject to that further detailed assessment, Allir's wellbeing was potentially at increased risk. The health and safety of all players is paramount, and this will continue to be the focus for our clubs and for the AFL."
Half of the Power's fine will be included in their football department soft cap this season. The balance will sit outside the cap unless a similar breach occurs before the end of the AFL and AFLW seasons next year.
Port Adelaide coach admits club doctor got it wrong
Speaking to reporters for the first time since the club doctor's mistake was made public, Hinkley threw his support behind Fisher and said it was a rare error in judgement from the experienced medico. “He himself has said he got it wrong – I think we should be able to go, ‘You know what? He’s got a lot of runs on the board that we should look back – whether that be Olympic Games, Commonwealth Games or football’," Hinkley said on Thursday.
"He’s done a lot of good things in his profession that we should give him some respect for. “His opinion at the time was that Aliir was fine. On reflection, he would have done the full test.
“I think it’s a big mistake... But no one sets out to make any mistake in whatever type of job we do – particularly as a doctor. He’s doing his absolute best and has done great service of this footy club for a long period of time.”
Fisher told the club earlier in the week that he should have performed an extensive concussion test on Aliir straight after the incident and not just after the game. “He looked at Aliir closely – he said he should have completed the whole test,” Hinkley added.
“But he made some judgements on concussion in his professional opinion that Aliir was OK. On his reflection, he says he could have done a bit more than that.
“He’s admitted to getting that one wrong – he hasn’t got many wrong on his journey. He’s pretty resilient, pretty strong, but I don’t doubt he’s had a pretty tough week."
Sign up to our newsletter and score the biggest sport stories of the week.