AFL to appeal decisions against Curnows

Jason Phelan
The AFL will appeal the tribunal decisions against Carlton brothers Ed (left) and Charlie Curnow

The AFL had been at pains to underline the message that touching an umpire is unacceptable before the tribunal let Carlton's Curnow boys off with a fine.

So it surprised few when league football boss Steve Hocking decided to appeal the penalties handed down before Wednesday's midday deadline.

The bar for intentionally touching a whistleblower seemed to have been set at a one-game ban when Geelong's Tom Hawkins accepted his punishment just over a week ago.

Confidence that the message was being upheld by the tribunal wavered when Gold Coast's Steven May was fined rather than suspended on Monday night.

And when both Charlie and Ed Curnow successfully argued their charges from intentional down to careless contact and were each fined $1000 on Tuesday night, the league deemed it had to act.

The AFL appealed the verdicts on two key grounds.

The first is that no tribunal acting reasonably could have come to those decisions having regard to the evidence before it.

Secondly, that the sanctions imposed were manifestly inadequate.

The appeals will be heard at 3pm AEST on Thursday.

The May decision was not appealed after careful examination.

His incident did appear to differ slightly from those of Hawkins and the Curnows, who reached out and made contact with their hands.

Just hours before May successfully dodged a ban on Monday evening, AFL match review officer Michael Christian made his position on umpire contact clear.

"We have got to be really vigilant, especially in stop-play situations," Christian said.

"I think the message is clear that you cannot make contact with umpires."

It is just the second occasion in history that the AFL has appealed a tribunal verdict.

The first came last year when then football boss Simon Lethlean appealed a two game ban handed to Richmond's Bachar Houli for striking Carlton's Jed Lamb.

That penalty was increased to four matches on appeal.

Hawkins took a one-game ban in a plea bargain-style deal after he was threatened with a two-match suspension for touching an umpire during the Cats' round-seven win over GWS.

The Curnow brothers made almost identical cases to the tribunal.

Charlie touched umpire Matt Stevic and Ed made contact with umpire Nathan Williamson during the match against the Bombers.

In similar statements submitted into evidence, both umpires said they didn't say anything at the time contact was made, neither felt threatened or had any issues with what had occurred.

Having cooperated with the tribunal with regard to Hawkins' ban, Collingwood coach Nathan Buckley said the subsequent fines handed out would have dismayed the Cats.

"If I was Geelong I'd be bleeding ... absolutely bleeding," Buckley told SEN.

"Hawkins handled himself so well, I thought the club handled it well.

"You'd be scratching your head wondering, 'Why be so gracious when it's not actually supported or followed through?'"