AFL makes major change after Patrick Cripps Brownlow Medal controversy

The AFL Tribunal has sought to eliminate 'technicalities' ahead of the 2023 season.

Patrick Cripps is kissed on the cheek by his partner has he clutches the AFL's 2022 Brownlow Medal.
The AFL has made technical changes to the Tribunal after bizarre circumstances saw Patrick Cripps' suspension overturned, allowing him to win the Brownlow Medal. (Photo by Michael Willson/AFL Photos via Getty Images) (AFL Photos via Getty Images)

The AFL has made a suite of changes to the Tribunal process to eliminate 'technicalities' of the sort which allowed Carlton's Patrick Cripps to win last year's Brownlow Medal. The Blues were able top successfully overturn a two-match ban issued over a rough conduct charge over what essentially was an error of law.

Cripps, who had fronted the Tribunal on a rough conduct charge over a round 21 incident involving Brisbane's Callum Ah Chee, was initially handed a two-match ban before it was subsequently overturned following a marathon hearing at the Appeals Board. Cripps was ultimately let off the hook when the Appeals Board ruled the findings of the jury were unreasonable, due to the term 'bump' being referenced in the verdict, but not when Cripps or his counsel were addressed.

TOUGH: John Longmire's worrying admission about Buddy Franklin

HUGE: Essendon's secret James Hird move comes to light in new doco

His availability and subsequent eligibility for the Brownlow Medal was a source of major controversy last season, and AFL legal counsel Andrew Dillon has moved to ensure the Tribunal is equipped to deal with matters occurring on a football field, rather than something resembling court proceedings. In addition to a raft of technical changes, the league has also adjusted rules regarding contact with umpires and forceful front-on contact.

In a statement, Dillon said it was crucial that Tribunal proceedings are undertaken in a way that reflects the fact they are adjudicating incidents from a sporting contest. He said it was crucial for them to have 'minimal formality' in line with the Tribunal's overall goals.

"Further amendments made to the tribunal process make it clear that, while the tribunal must accord with natural justice in its operation, the tribunal's processes should be fair and efficient with minimal formality, acknowledging that the Tribunal is not conducting court proceedings," Dillon said in a statement.

In addition to changes to the Tribunal process, updated guidelines also crack down on players attempting to push an opponent into an umpire. The crackdown was prompted in part due to a controversial incident last season, in which Brisbane's Eric Hipwood appeared to push Western Bulldogs opponent Ryan Gardner into the path of field umpire Jacob Mollison.

AFL cracks down on umpire contact after controversy

Hipwood escaped suspension and was handed a fine after being referred directly to the Tribunal as a result, with his actions being ruled 'careless' rather than deliberate. This decision sparked some degree of outrage in the AFL world, with commentator Mark Robinson labelling it 'crap'.

A player may now be found guilty of intentional conduct with an umpire if they push or hold a rival in such a way that it causes contact with an umpire. The new rule likely would have resulted in a sterner sanction against Hipwood.

Eric Hipwood celebrates by pumping his fist.
Eric Hipwood has caused the AFL to clarify rules surrounding a player shoving another player into an umpire. (Photo by Quinn Rooney/Getty Images) (Getty Images)

Additionally, a charge of forceful head-on contact will now include situations where a player has their head over the ball while looking up. Previously, the charge could only be applied if the player was looking down.

The guidelines have also been updated to specify a strike can occur with an open hand as opposed to solely a closed fist. Charges relating to the eye region have been amended to define the eye region as being in the vicinity of the eye socket.

with AAP

Click here to sign up to our newsletter for all the latest and breaking stories from Australia and around the world.