Wayne Carey turns his back on AFL as Peter Wright hit with suspension at tribunal

Peter Wright has copped a big suspension for a brutal hit on Sydney Swans star Harry Cunningham.

Peter Wright has been hit with a four-game suspension at the AFL tribunal, meaning North Melbourne great Wayne Carey will stop watching the sport during that time. Wright will spend the next four matches on the sidelines after a brutal hit on Swans star Harry Cunningham during Essendon's 30-point defeat to Sydney on Saturday night.

Wright and Cunningham were both contesting a mark but the Bombers star mis-timed his run, turning to brace for contact at the last second - resulting in his shoulder thudding into Cunningham's face, leaving the Swans star unconscious. Cunningham was taken off the ground on a stretcher and substituted out with a concussion and reported memory loss following the collision.

Wayne Carey and Peter Wright.
Wayne Carey won't watch the AFL for as long as Peter Wright is suspended. Image: Getty

Wright was referred directly to the tribunal by the AFL, with the rough conduct charge classified as careless conduct, severe impact and high contact - all elements Wright accepted on Tuesday night. Essendon's lawyer Ben Ihle argued Wright should receive the minimum three-match ban, given the 27-year-old took actions to avoid an even more serious injury to Cunningham and was also quick to apologise after the match.

But AFL counsel Nick Pane said the ban should be at least four matches, and the tribunal agreed. "This is one of those examples where it was possible for Wright to avoid forceful high contact and prevent injury," Pane said.

"Wright clearly leaves the ground, turns his body and tucks his shoulder to bump Cunningham. That is an inherently dangerous action that had the potential to cause a serious injury."

The three-person panel of David Neitz, Shane Wakelin and Jeff Gleeson rubbed Wright out of matches against St Kilda, Port Adelaide, Western Bulldogs and Adelaide. "The contact was directly to the head. The extent of force fell into the severe category by a fair margin," Gleeson said.

"Wright leapt into the contest yet did not attempt to mark or spoil. It appears there was an element of bracing for contact, but he had other alternatives."

Peter Wright.
Peter Wright looks on after Essendon's loss to Sydney. (Matt King/AFL Photos via Getty Images)

Wayne Carey won't watch AFL during Peter Wright's suspension

Debate had raged around Wright's possible penalty since the incident occurred, with Carey believing he shouldn't be suspended at all. On Monday, Carey stated the Bomber had eyes for the footy and only turned at the last second to brace for contact when he realised he wasn't getting to the ball first. The North champion said the crackdown on head knocks has "gone too far" and vowed that he won't watch a minute of footy for as long as Wright is suspended.

"Weak as piss straight away to the AFL. Whoever decided that was sent straight to the tribunal; that was absolute crap and wrong," Carey said. "I’m prepared to say if Peter Wright gets suspended, whatever weeks he gets, I will not watch a game of AFL footy. I’m done.

"I’m jumping ship, and I would say to anyone out there if we want this game to look anything like it should look, he’s allowed to attack that footy and he’s allowed to protect himself. They got to the footy simultaneously; he turned his body to protect himself.

"If he doesn’t turn his body, they’re both hurt. This is what our game is about. It’s just gone too far now. I will not watch footy for as long as he gets weeks. It's a waste of time, a waste of his money, and I could not be more disappointed." Cunningham will miss at least one week under the AFL's 12-day concussion protocols.

Adam Simpson says Peter Wright incident is unavoidable

West Coast coach Adam Simpson had also said it is "really difficult" to coach players around such high-speed collisions, stating that they are just part of the game. "Some players have (awareness), some don't. A lot of these incidents are guys protecting themselves at the last minute, and it's hard to stop that," Simpson told Fox Footy on Monday night.

"I sort of get why and how, but these things are always going to be there when it's just that split-second decision where you need to take your eye off the ball when you feel contact coming and it looks like it's a deliberate act. I'm not quite sure what the answer to this is, but it's going to happen."

SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - MARCH 23: Harry Cunningham of the Swans is attended by physios after a challenge by Peter Wright of the Bombers during the round two AFL match between Sydney Swans and Essendon Bombers at SCG, on March 23, 2024, in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Mark Metcalfe/AFL Photos/via Getty Images )
After a horror bump in round two, Harry Cunningham was taken off the ground on a stretcher and substituted out with a concussion, reporting memory loss following the collision. (Mark Metcalfe/AFL Photos via Getty Images)

Ken Hinkley says onus is on the players to play the ball, not the man

But Port Adelaide coach Ken Hinkley believes it is imperative players only have eyes for the ball as the AFL cracks down on high contact. Power forward Sam Powell-Pepper is still serving out his four-match ban for the bump that concussed Adelaide's Mark Keane during the pre-season, in what was the first test case after the AFL's latest crackdown on head contact. Hinkley warned players that if they play the man and get it wrong, they will pay "a really big price".


"We've had a player go through it at the start of this year in slightly different circumstances, but you've just got to go at the ball at all costs," Hinkley said on Fox Footy on Monday night. "You've got to compete in the air for the ball, and if you're not competing for the ball and you get it wrong, you're going to pay a really big price - and I get why.

"I 100 per cent get why. The injuries that are coming about because of concussion, we've got to be doing everything we can to stop."

with AAP