AFL world blows up over 'absolute joke' after Charlie Cameron cleared at tribunal

The Brisbane Lions player is free to take on Geelong this week.

AFL fans and pundits are questioning whether the tribunal has opened up a 'pandora's box' by downgrading a charge for Charlie Cameron on character grounds. Cameron is free to take on Geelong this Saturday after the tribunal used discretionary powers to turn his one-game suspension into a fine.

Cameron was facing a ban for a dumping tackle on Melbourne player Jake Lever, and on Tuesday night the tribunal dismissed the argument the impact should have been graded as "low'' rather than "medium''. But in a staggering decision the panel - led by chairman Jeff Gleeson - found "exceptional and compelling circumstances" to use discretion and turn the ban into a fine because of Cameron's clean record.

Charlie Cameron, pictured here dumping Jake Lever.
Charlie Cameron has escaped suspension for his tackle on Jake Lever on character grounds. Image: Fox Footy/Getty

The Lions veteran has never been banned in his 207-game career, and received character references from Adelaide and Carlton champion Eddie Betts and an Indigenous elder. The tribunal also noted that Lever wasn't injured in the incident, leaving Cameron free to face the Cats at the Gabba this weekend.

"His 207 games suspension-free puts him in a very small minority," Gleeson said. "Only 668 players of the 13,125 who have played the game at the elite level have played 200 games. Almost half of those have been suspended for one match or more. Mr Cameron is clearly in the unusual category in this regard."

Charlie Cameron and Jake Lever.
Charlie Cameron got off for his slinging tackle on Jake Lever.


AFL world in disbelief over 'ludicrous' Charlie Cameron decision

But the extraordinary decision hasn't gone down well in the AFL world and led to questions about whether the discretionary power will continue to be used in the future. Speaking on Fox Footy just after the verdict was delivered, leading journalist Jon Ralph was gobsmacked.

“Unbelievable, absolutely unbelievable…” Ralph said. “I just need to reinforce it – medium impact (the tackle grading), it wasn’t downgraded to a fine, it was upheld as a suspension. Yet because of the good bloke tax, he (Cameron) gets off, and is free to play Geelong - what would Chris Scott be thinking here?

“This is absolutely ludicrous - we’ve spent 10 years with the AFL saying ‘There’s no Toby (Greene) Tax, we don’t give one player a different ruling just because they have a certain perception about them'. This is the reverse Toby (Greene) tax, this is unbelievable.

“Does this mean that Scott Pendlebury, in a preliminary final now, because he’s got 390 games without a suspension – does he get a free hit? We need consistency here. I’m sure Charlie does exceptional things in the community, and in the Indigenous community as well - he is much beloved - but this is not a reason to all of a sudden throw out so much precedent, just because Charlie’s a good bloke."

Timing of tribunal's Charlie Cameron decision called into question

Speaking on SEN radio on Wednesday morning, former Adelaide Crows player Mark Bickley pointed out how poor the decision looks considering the current climate and emphasis on protecting the head. “There’s a couple of things here to unpack here," he said. "Firstly, on the day a bloke retires with a brain injury (Nathan Murphy), a bloke who does a dump tackle and puts Jake Lever’s head into the turf is given ‘special circumstances’ because he does community work - that just doesn’t make any sense to me at all.

“The second one is, they brought up his record - his 207-game AFL career where he’s never been suspended - but he’s been fined five times, so he’s been reported five times… it is inconceivable now that they’ve opened this can of worms.”

with AAP