AFL issues rare apology after Lance Franklin controversy

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·Sports Reporter
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The AFL has issued an apology to Lance Franklin, saying the language used during his tribunal hearing has no place in the future. (Photo by Cameron Spencer/AFL Photos/via Getty Images)
The AFL has issued an apology to Lance Franklin, saying the language used during his tribunal hearing has no place in the future. (Photo by Cameron Spencer/AFL Photos/via Getty Images)

The AFL has taken the extraordinary step of publicly apologising to Sydney Swans forward Buddy Franklin after the league's counsel labelled him 'cowardly' at the Tribunal earlier this week.

Fans were less than impressed and former Collingwood president Eddie McGuire furious over the extravagant language used by both AFL counsel Andrew Woods and Duncan Miller, who was representing Franklin.

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Franklin's appeal against his one match ban for striking Cotchin was ultimately unsuccessful, but not before both Franklin and Cotchin were subjected to language from both legal representatives that many felt crossed a line.

Woods described Franklin's hit on Cotchin as 'brazen' and 'cowardly', and suggesting Franklin had reduced the game to a 'fight club', while Miller suggested Cotchin ought to be invited to the Logies instead of the Brownlow count this year because he had 'exaggerated' the contact.

McGuire said the comments were 'almost defamatory' and had agreement from former AFL coach Ross Lyon, who described them as 'out of line'.

On Friday morning, the AFL issued a statement apologising and admitting the languge was not up to scratch.

“There are no cowardly players in the AFL, let alone Lance Franklin,” the AFL statement said.

“In the making of submissions, legal counsel assisting the tribunal used his own words to describe the circumstances of the strike on Trent Cotchin, namely that Mr Cotchin was reasonably not expecting to be struck by Mr Franklin.

“Trent Cotchin is a premiership captain and one of the most respected leaders in the competition.

“It is the AFL’s view that rhetorical flourishes of the nature used by both counsel last night should not be part of the AFL tribunal process and they do not reflect the views of the AFL.”

Swans not happy with AFL Tribunal's language

The apology comes after Sydney Swans boss Andrew Pridham made it known the club 'wasn't happy' about the language used, saying it was 'very unfair'.

“They knew the whole thing overstepped the mark and I think they did the right thing,” Pridham told the Herald Sun.

“It was a very unfortunate choice of words and I don’t think it’s reflective of Lance – or fair. I think it was very unfair to him and it’s important that when that happens, we do call it out."

McGuire said there was no need for Tribunal proceedings to become spiteful.

“(Cotchin and Franklin) are two of the best people in football as far as their reputations," he said.

“An allegation from a QC of a cowardly act and another (for staging), please. QCs, enough.”

Lyon agreed with McGuire, saying the tone of Wednesday's hearing set an incredibly poor example to follow.

“They may feel good about that but I think it’s out of line,” he said.

“Trent Cotchin, he threw himself in front of a raging freight train in Lance Franklin.

“I think it’s flippant, I think it’s unnecessary.”

After deliberating for 30 minutes, the tribunal jury upheld the charge, which was graded by the AFL's match review officer as intentional, low impact and high contact.

"This was a strike, swift and direct and noticeably more aggressive and forceful than the first act," tribunal chairman Jeff Gleeson said.

"Cotchin's head jerks back in a natural response to contact to the jaw.

"His response was spontaneous and intentional."

With AAP

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