Collingwood vice-captain Brayden Maynard has sensationally been cleared at the AFL tribunal over his hit that left Angus Brayshaw unconscious. Maynard was found not guilty after a marathon four-hour hearing on Tuesday night, in which Collingwood called upon a biomechanics and neuroscience expert in a bid to clear him.
Maynard was facing a ban of at least three weeks if he had been found guilty of the rough conduct charge, which was classified as careless conduct, severe impact and high contact. But he is now free to play in Collingwood's preliminary final in two weeks' time after being cleared of wrongdoing.
Collingwood's counsel Ben Ihle said there was only about 120 to 150 milliseconds between Maynard looking down at Brayshaw from mid-air and contact being made with Brayshaw. Associate Professor Michael Cole said the average time to make a decision was between 200-250 milliseconds, but in a sporting environment it might be closer to 500 milliseconds.
"My assessment of the footage was his primary focus was on the ball, his vertical leap was greater than his horizontal leap, but because of his speed and his opponent's speed they collided," Cole said. "Once he's in flight, he's essentially a projectile. Like a frisbee with arms and legs."
AFL match review officer didn't want Maynard charged
On Monday night it was revealed that AFL match review officer Michael Christian didn't initially want to charge Maynard, and reportedly threatened to quit his post after being overruled by AFL bosses. According to veteran journalist Caroline Wilson, Christian decided not to charge Maynard for his smother-gone-wrong, but was overruled by the league's new executive general manager Laura Kane, incoming CEO Dillon and outgoing CEO Gillon McLachlan.
Maynard was instead referred straight to the tribunal, which saw Christian reportedly threatened to walk away. “By Friday morning, the view of the match review officer Michael Christian was there was going to be no case to answer for Brayden Maynard," Wilson revealed on Footy Classified on Channel 9 on Monday night.
“Laura Kane disagreed, Andrew Dillon disagreed and Gillon McLachlan disagreed. Those bosses insisted on sending this one straight to the tribunal.
“The AFL know that had nothing happened here, it would’ve been a disaster PR-wise for them. More disputes occurred when the AFL insisted on grading the charge.
“At this point, my understanding is the match review officer said he would have to consider his future at the AFL if this recommendation went through to the tribunal. Whatever happened after that, whether a bluff was called, but Michael Christian is still there and the recommendation still went through to the tribunal.”
Wilson said Christian might not last much longer in the role, which was created in 2018 to replace the previous match review panel. “I also understand that initially Michael Christian’s name was going to be on the press release, and that it was Michael Christian himself who insisted on an AFL boss’ name being on the press release,” Wilson added. “I think it makes it difficult for Michal Christian (going forward).”
Brayden Maynard tribunal hearing looked at duty of care
Maynard's tribunal hearing put players' duty of care under the microscope. The Collingwood player leapt in the air in an attempt to smother a kick from Brayshaw, but came down and made forceful contact to his opponent's head with his shoulder.
Maynard appeared to be bracing himself for contact, but others have suggested he knew exactly what he was doing. Demons coach Simon Goodwin said the case would define what players' duty of care looked like in such "football acts".
"Ultimately, we're looking at what a duty of care looks like in this space," Goodwin said on Tuesday. "To have a player concussed (unconscious) for two minutes, I think we're all looking at the different types of footy acts that are out there and the space that we've come to in this area.
"We've come a long way as an industry about how we protect the head - whether that be within tackles, within bumps, with a whole range of different football acts. This is another example of what does a duty of care look like in a football act and the whole footy world will be looking at what the outcome of this result is and we'll certainly be one of those clubs."
Brayshaw will miss Melbourne's semi-final against Carlton this weekend under concussion protocols. He is no certainty to return the following week if the Demons advance, and there are fears he could be forced into retirement due to a number of head knocks in his career.
Maynard argued that contact with his opponent was accidental, not malicious. "I don't want to say too much, but it's a footy act," he told Channel 7 after the final siren last Thursday night. "I came forward, I jumped to smother the ball and yeah, unfortunately I just got him on the way down."
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