Tribunal clears Lions' Berry for prelim

·2-min read

Luke Hodge and a neurosurgeon have combined to free Brisbane's Jarrod Berry to play in Friday's AFL preliminary final against Geelong.

The talented Lion's one-match suspension was dismissed in Tuesday night's tribunal hearing, Berry's team successfully arguing his hand contact with Melbourne's Clayton Oliver's face during their heated scuffle was justifiable and not intentional.

Berry's availability is a huge boost for the Lions, who are aiming for their first final in 18 years, given the 24-year-old's starring role in their win over the Demons.

Brisbane called on triple-premiership Hawthorn captain Hodge and traumatic brain injury specialist Damian Amato as witnesses during a hearing that stretched three hours.

Hodge, who played with Berry during a two-season stint in Brisbane, vouched for his character while Amato argued he had been placed in a "very vulnerable" position by Oliver.

The doctor believed, contrary to AFL counsel Nick Pane's assertions, Berry's actions weren't a deliberate rake of Oliver's face and rather "instinctual, flailing movements" to protect himself.

Tribunal chair Jeff Gleeson and the panel agreed, Gleeson summarising Berry "was under threat" and it was "a natural human reaction".

He said the tribunal weren't satisfied Berry knew or could feel where Oliver's face and eyes were.

He also said Oliver's arm position meant Berry's arm movement was restricted and "limited the ability to do much more".

Berry was grilled by Pane, standing firm when it was put to him that he had dragged Oliver to the ground, had a clear view of his opponent's face and had targeted his eyes.

Asked why he didn't protest against Oliver's rough treatment to the umpires, Berry said he "wasn't trying to get a free kick".

There were some awkward moments in the online hearing, Lions' counsel Adrian Anderson referring to Berry as 'Jacob' multiple times.

Anderson also argued Berry was acting in self defence to avoid possible pressure on his airway and restriction of oxygen, while at the same time attempting not to call Oliver's conduct into question.

Berry, who said he had never been reported or suspended at any level of football, also showed the tribunal his "battered" ring finger he said he'd dislocated more than 100 times in an attempt to show his hand movements weren't targeting Oliver's eyes.

Anderson closed by comparing the incident to Adelaide veteran Rory Sloane's successful downgrade of a similar incident earlier in the year.

He said unlike Sloane, Berry's arm movement was restricted and his ability to see his opponent's face severely impaired.