Nathan Buckley and Kane Cornes have both called for Brayden Maynard to avoid suspension and questioned what precedent it would set for the AFL moving forward. The Collingwood vice-captain has been referred directly to the AFL tribunal after knocking out Angus Brayshaw in the Pies' qualifying final win over Melbourne.
Maynard leapt into the air in an attempt to smother a kick from Brayshaw, before taking his arm in and bracing for contact. Maynard's shoulder collected Brayshaw straight in the head and left the Demons player unconscious on the MCG turf.
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Maynard has been referred directly to the AFL tribunal, with match review officer Michael Christian grading the incident as careless conduct, severe impact and high contact. The Collingwood player is facing a ban of at least three matches unless lawyers can successfully downgrade one of the classifications, meaning he would miss the preliminary final and grand final (if the Pies make it).
“I think we’ve got to understand that there have been players that have been suspended this year for acts that I don’t think are outside what you would expect a footballer to do,” Buckley said on SEN radio on Monday. “This idea of duty of care and this idea of protecting the head has had this groundswell of focus around it. We’ve seen players, in my view, that have been penalised and suspended for acts that I think that others have been let go of.
“Tom McCartin got off what looked like it was a bump and Shane McAdam was somewhat concussed and had a depressed cheekbone. There were another couple that have taken place recently.
“Yes, we do get head contact that’s not penalised. We get some that is. There’s a lot of grey area here for me. Because if you went all-in on this duty of care and this medico legal issue around concussion and head knocks, you’d be rubbing out five or six players on potential damage to the head every week.”
Cornes questioned what Maynard could have done to avoid the contact. “You watch it frame-by-frame, he is running flat out and he’s jumping in the air. He cannot disappear," he said.
“I haven’t seen any past player of note come out and say he should be suspended because you are understanding in that moment that this is finals football and if you’re not going flat out you’re going to be criticised. When you do go flat out you can’t just disappear. You actually have to brace and half protect yourself otherwise you both get knocked out.
“There’s always going to be accidents. We see knee to the head in marking contests all the time and no one cares about it. The AFL doesn’t care about that from a legal perspective.
“You can jump up, drive your knee into someone’s head running back with the flight of the ball, and as long as you’re looking to take a mark you’re fine. But you can’t jump and try to smother the football. I’m really fired up about it. It’s unfair to think he could have done anything else in that circumstance.”
Steele Sidebottom defends Brayden Maynard
Speaking on Monday afternoon, Collingwood veteran Steele Sidebottom described Maynard as a "hard and fair" player. "He was making a play at the footy and it was a footy play," Sidebottom told reporters.
"There was no malice in it. Bruz (Maynard) is a fair player and it's just unfortunate the way it ended. You've watched how he plays - he hasn't really ever stepped over the line. When he goes out there to play, he plays hard and fair. That's what I see from Brayden."
Sidebottom echoed Cornes' comments that some accidents are unavoidable. "The game happens so fast and there's times when things happen that almost you can't control," he said.
"It's a 360-degree game, there's guys coming from everywhere and sometimes it's unfortunate that things like that happen. That's the game that we play and accidents are going to happen."
AFL Week 2 Finals schedule:
Melbourne v Carlton - Friday 7.50pm, MCG
Port Adelaide v GWS - Saturday 7.40pm, Adelaide Oval
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