Geelong’s AFL finals hopes have taken a significant hit at the AFL tribunal on Monday night after forward Tom Hawkins’ one match ban for striking was upheld.
Hawkins was condemned by fans over the controversial incident during Geelong's AFL finals win over West Coast on Friday night.
After a one-hour tribunal hearing on Monday night, the three-man jury took just seven minutes to uphold the original penalty.
The decision means underdogs Geelong have been dealt a massive blow for Friday night’s preliminary final against Richmond.
The tribunal will sit again on Tuesday night in another major case, with GWS trying to overturn the one-game ban that currently means star midfielder Toby Greene will not play in Saturday's preliminary final against Collingwood.
Hawkins was shattered as he left the hearing and said his job now is to support teammates ahead of Friday night's clash at the MCG.
"I felt like we got a really fair hearing," Hawkins said.
"I'm really disappointed that I'm not going to be there with my teammates on Friday night.
"However, my job now turns to supporting them as best as I can, lend a hand where I can and prepare myself to play next week."
Hawkins' importance to Geelong is illustrated by their two matches in this finals series.
When he sprayed 0.4 in the qualifying final against Collingwood, the Cats lost by 10 points.
Will Tom Hawkins face scrutiny from the MRO for this incident with Will Schofield? pic.twitter.com/mFcZHc5Uid— AFL.com.au (@AFLcomau) September 13, 2019
When Hawkins kicked 4.1 last Friday night in the semi-final win over West Coast, they won by 20.
Hawkins pleaded guilty at the start of Tuesday's hearing.
Rather than fight the charge, the Cats tried to downgrade the classification from intentional to careless conduct.
Had they succeeded, it would have lessened the penalty from a one-game suspension to a fine and freed Hawkins to play against the Tigers.
Hawkins testified he was fighting for position with opponent Will Schofield when he collected the Eagles defender with a high blow.
Schofield went to ground and was dazed by the impact, but played out the game.
The Eagles' medical report said he had suffered no ongoing injury from the impact.
"I didn't intentionally hit him, I was trying to fight for best position, to get back where the football was coming from," Hawkins testified.
Hawkins also said he first played on Schofield when they were at school and considered him a friend.
The Cats star said Schofield was restricting him, holding his arm, and that he hit the West Coast defender as he tried to break clear.
He said his forearm and elbow collected Schofield's neck
Geelong advocate Ben Ihle said the video footage was inconclusive and added the burden of proof was with the AFL to convince the jury that the strike was intentional.
But tribunal advocate Nick Pane QC pointed to Hawkins having a clenched fist immediately before the blow and argued it was a roundhouse motion.
"It was a forceful swinging motion, consistent with an intentional strike," Pane said.
Geelong are 0-3 in preliminary finals since their 2011 premiership.