Melbourne is set to head to the AFL appeals board in an attempt to have the two-match ban imposed on Jacob van Rooyen overturned, after it was upheld at the Tribunal on Tuesday. The AFL world reacted with shock after the second-year forward's Tribunal challenge was unsuccessful - however the Demons are planning on basing their appeal on the specific wording used by tribunal chair Jeff Gleeson.
Van Rooyen was handed a two match ban by match review officer Michael Christian, after his attempt to track the ball back with the flight to spoil it away from Gold Coast's Charlie Ballard resulted in him collecting the Suns defender high. Ballard was stretchered off the ground and complained of neck pain, but has since been cleared to play this weekend.
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Melbourne initial Tribunal appeal failed, with Gleeson saying it wasn't unreasonable for Van Rooyen to attempt the spoil, but that 'a reasonable player would have foreseen that in spoiling the way he did, it would have almost inevitably resulted in a forceful blow to Ballard’s head'. Demons coach Simon Goodwin said the decision 'challenged the fabric of the game'.
Referencing the 'outrage' among not just Melbourne supporters but the wider AFL world, Goodwin said the decision to uphold the ban was 'disappointing and frustrating'. Van Rooyen's teammate, defender Jake Lever, also said the decision was 'confusing'.
“Clearly, it’s disappointing and frustrating. There’s no doubt about that,” Goodwin said. “And I think when you see the outrage in our supporter base, you see the outrage of the footy community, clearly you look at that and it’s either unjust or the fabric of the game is getting challenged.
“And, you know, for us, it’s important that we probably go down that path of looking at why that’s the case and take (it) a little bit further and we’ll look at all avenues about how we go about doing that and get all the information that we can.
“But clearly there’s a level of frustration, level of disappointment for a whole range of different reasons. Clearly, the laws state that you can contest the ball, and Jacob’s only thing that he was looking at was contesting the ball."
Teammate defends Jacob van Rooyen over spoil suspension
In a seperate interview for SEN, Lever said he was concerned it could ultimately affect the way players right across the ground contest the ball. Acknowledging the AFL's efforts to reduce serious head injuries, Lever said there still needed to be room for players making reasonable attempts to play the ball to get some leniency when things went wrong.
“It did look like a bit of a football accident and as much as he got him in the head, I think Charlie Ballard was fine,” he said. “But I think (I am) a little bit confused, absolutely, because I am probably caught in that situation three or four times throughout every game where you are in front, the ball is kicked over your head and you are going to have to go and try and make a contest otherwise your opponent is just going to stand there and take a mark and kick a goal.
“You never want (Van Rooyen) to change the way that he’s played because that’s why we love him and I hope that he is not as confused as a lot of people out there would be.”
Van Rooyen twice looked up at the ball on his way to making the spoil and he knocked back the suggestion from AFL counsel Andrew Woods that he should have slowed up to protect his opponent. "I don't think I would have been near the spoil if I had slowed up," van Rooyen said during his evidence.
"I didn't think I was going to make contact with Ballard's head. I was just trying to go for the ball and I think I did a good job at that. I'm either touching the ball, or within millimetres of it. It wasn't my intention to hurt anyone."
The explanation, particularly the use of the term "reasonable player", left the footy world incensed, with AFL 360 co-host Mark Robinson labelling it "absolute rubbish" in a fiery on-air rant. “You’ve got to be kidding,” Robinson said.
“So we’re gonna get back to that stupid bloody comment saying ‘oh what happens if you knee someone in the head going for a mark?’ That’s what people say, it’s an inane comment – he went to spoil and not hurt the bloke. It’s absolute rubbish, mate.”
On a night of drama at the Tribunal, Lachie Neale helped Carlton's Nic Newman escape suspension for a strike on the Lions ace that was classified as intentional conduct, low impact and high contact. Neale submitted a letter saying his attempt to push Newman away was effectively the main reason why Newman's left elbow made contact with his chin.
Geelong forward Brad Close also failed to overturn his one-match ban for a dangerous tackle on Adelaide's Jordan Dawson. He will miss Friday night's blockbuster clash against Richmond at the MCG.
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