AFL tribunal under fire over 'absolute joke' decision on Charlie Ballard

Daniel Harford has lashed out over the call to allow the Gold Coast Suns star to play in round three.

Charlie Ballard, pictured here striking Matt Guelfi in the AFL.
Charlie Ballard had his AFL striking charge downgraded from a suspension to a fine. Image: Fox Footy

Former Hawthorn player Daniel Harford has lashed out at the AFL tribunal after Charlie Ballard's suspension for striking Matt Guelfi was downgraded to a fine. The Gold Coast player was initially hit with a one-match ban for the incident against Essendon last weekend, before it was downgraded by the tribunal on Tuesday night.

Ballard is now free to line up for the Suns against Geelong in round three after the tribunal ruled that he had intended to fend off Guelfi, rather than strike him to head. Ballard had challenged the grading of 'intentional', arguing he was instead 'careless' in trying to fend his way past Essendon opponents that were blocking him.

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"My intent was just to not get blocked really ... I was just trying to avoid that in the most efficient way," he said.

AFL tribunal chair Jeff Gleeson agreed, changing the intentional conduct grading to careless, which results in a small fine rather than one-match ban. "Put simply, some blows would be a strike if intended to land on the head, that would not be a strike if intended to land on the arm or chest," he said.

But the downgrade has angered Harford, who believes the game “has been done a disservice" as a result. Harford said on RSN radio on Wednesday: “In this current environment, let alone the fact that the standards and the expectations of the game and fans have changed significantly in the last 10 years, that is an absolute joke. The game has been let down by that outcome.

“We saw a player, who was clearly frustrated and chose to strike an opponent in the neck, which was judged the head, with his forearm – and they were able to get that downgraded from intentional to careless. In any system, let alone my football and non-football act system, that’s as intentional as you’ll come across.

"If you choose to raise your arm and strike someone in the neck/head region, you should be suspended before you even get in the tribunal doors. That is a joke. I’m so disappointed, so angry about that … I could not believe that got downgraded.”

Harford said the AFL needs to crack down on actions like Ballard's. “Even if they have to go and do the whole ‘potential for injury’ stuff again or make a bit of a stand on it, stop whacking blokes in the head. Elbow, forearm, fist – whatever it is, stop it,” Harford said.

“We heard Chris Scott the other day talking about the ruck situation and just tell the players what they can’t do and they’ll do it – well, if there’s no deterrent, they won’t because they keep doing stupid stuff like this and getting away with it.”

Nathan Broad, pictured here after a dangerous sling tackle on Patrick Parnell.
Nathan Broad was hit with a four-game ban for his dangerous sling tackle. Image: Getty

Nathan Broad slapped with four-game suspension

Elsewhere on Tuesday night, Richmond star Nathan Broad was slapped with a four-game ban over a sling tackle that left Adelaide's Patrick Parnell concussed. Richmond had been seeking a downgrade to a three-game ban for Broad, but the tribunal rejected their argument that his clean record (no previous suspensions) was a compelling reason to go down from four matches.

Gleeson accepted that Broad was genuinely remorseful, but said his actions were "unquestionably dangerous". He added: "Players must do all they reasonably can not to cause avoidable head injuries to their fellow players. Every player is now taken to be aware of the damaging and sometimes long-term consequences of concussion."

with AAP

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