Uproar after Sam Powell-Pepper handed 'excessive' suspension at AFL tribunal

AFL fans have been left debating whether the Port Adelaide star deserves the ban.

Port Adelaide ace Sam Powell-Pepper has been hit with a four-game suspension for rough conduct on Mark Keane. (Images: Channel7/Getty Images)
Port Adelaide ace Sam Powell-Pepper has been hit with a four-game suspension for rough conduct on Mark Keane. (Images: Channel7/Getty Images)

The AFL has sent a clear message to players ahead of the season after Port Adelaide ace Sam Powell-Pepper was slapped with a four-game suspension for 'reckless' high-contact on Mark Keane. Powell-Pepper left Adelaide defender Keane concussed during the first quarter of last Friday's Showdown match simulation in a brutal moment.

The collision was deemed a high bump and Powell-Pepper was sent to the tribunal, which saw the 26-year-old immediately plead guilty to the rough conduct charge. The four-game suspension has caused division between AFL fans and Port's lawyer Ben Krupka argued Powell-Pepper should miss three matches instead of the four-game sanction sought by the AFL.

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During the hearing, Krupka wanted the panel to treat the case as if the player was a "Brownlow Medal favourite" or "someone about to play in a grand final". "What is not legitimate is to make a scapegoat of Mr Powell-Pepper in this instance," Krupka said.

"The appropriate penalty is three games, and in our submission anything further would be manifestly excessive. This case will then serve as the base point for the others that come before you throughout the course of the year.

"A four-game penalty in a case of minimal culpability ties the hands in terms of consistency in future cases." AFL representative, Lisa Hannon, disagreed and said in 2024 contact to the head in that manner was worthy of four games. "In 2024 it is something deserving of a four-match suspension," she said.

"The sanction that is imposed is something that in part serves as a function of general deterrence and sends a message to the playing community." The suspension comes only days after Angus Brayshaw was forced to retire from the AFL due to repeated concussions.

The decision has prompted a debate amongst fans. Speaking before the tribunal decision, on SEN Radio, Kane Cornes said he understood both sides to the argument, but admitted he wouldn't be surprised if a four-game suspension was handed out.

"I didn't like what Sam Powell-Pepper did, equally, I have sympathy for him," Cornes said. "Others don't and I understand the reasons for that." Cornes compared the incident to a number of incidents last year, but admitted he could get four-games if the AFL wants to make a statement. Others felt the collision was reckless.

AFL make statement after Angus Brayshaw retirement

The incident comes only days after Brayshaw made his sad announcement. Brayshaw was knocked unconscious by Brayden Maynard in Melbourne's clash with Collingwood in the first week of the finals last year, after Maynard jumped to smother the ball and came down with his shoulder to Brayshaw's head. Maynard escaped a ban, despite huge criticism levelled at the Collingwood star.

Unfortunately, after professional advice, Brayshaw stunned the AFL fans and announced his sudden retirement from the game. Brayshaw as historically had issues with concussion, but hadn't had an incident until his collision with Maynard in last year's clash in finals footy. And using his announcement to shine light on the issue, Brayshaw called for the AFL to do more t prevent players ending up like him.

"We have made great strides in this space, but there is more that needs to be done to safeguard the brains of players not only in the AFL ranks, but from grassroots all the way up," he wrote in an open letter published on Melbourne's website on Wednesday.

"I believe the future of our game will be strongly impacted by how we deal with this element of player safety as more information comes to light. I hope the AFL will be proactive in the future when it comes to the safety of its players as opposed to reactive, so we can continue to enjoy this amazing game and protect the brains of the players. They must be sacrosanct."

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