A bizarre night at the AFL tribunal that included a robust debate about a plastic chair and a long delay due to technical issues has ended with West Coast’s Jeremy McGovern found guilty and Fremantle’s Michael Walters cleared.
McGovern will miss the Eagles’ clash with Hawthorn after the tribunal upheld a one-game ban for rough conduct arising from his bump on Essendon’s Matt Guelfi.
Walters is free to play against Carlton after successfully challenging a headbutting charge.
A chair used by an Optus Stadium security guard was a key point of contention in McGovern’s case, which was the first heard at AFL House in Melbourne on Tuesday night.
Guelfi suffered rib damage and was concussed in a collision with the chair and the boundary fence that occurred during the first quarter of Thursday night’s round-14 match.
AFL match review officer Michael Christian assessed the incident as careless conduct, medium impact and high contact resulting in a one-match suspension.
McGovern, appearing via video-link from Perth, argued he tried to put a bump on Guelfi as he attempted a handball close to the boundary line and didn’t know exactly when they had crossed the line during the incident.
Eagles legal counsel David Grace QC argued the chair had impeded Guelfi’s attempts to brace himself for impact with the advertising display on the fence and questioned why it was allowed to be there in the first place.
After an hour-long hearing, the jury of Jason Johnson, Shane Wakelin and Paul Williams took 10 minutes to find McGovern guilty.
The three-time All-Australian defender did not risk extending his ban with an unsuccessful challenge.
Walters was reported by umpire Curtis Deboy and slapped with a one-game ban by Christian for allegedly headbutting Jay Lockhart during the third quarter of Melbourne’s upset win at the MCG.
The incident was assessed as intentional conduct with low impact and high contact.
Walters, who was set to give evidence from Fremantle’s headquarters, had to wait 30 minutes for his hearing to start as AFL officials grappled with a lack of appropriate video-link facilities at the Dockers’ end.
The hearing finally went ahead with an AFL staffer’s mobile on speakerphone balanced in the middle of the tribunal room.
With telecast vision of the incident inconclusive, the reporting umpire and Lockhart, who said he was shocked but unhurt, were called to give evidence.
Walters said that the contact between their foreheads occurred accidentally as he pulled Lokhart toward him by the jumper.
Fremantle legal counsel Nick Tweedie QC argued the incident was neither intentional nor a headbutt, during the hearing that lasted just more than an hour and the jury took three minutes to find in Walters’ favour.