The bump is alive … at least until the next high-profile AFL tribunal case where a player is reported for head-high contact.
Top AFL officials Andrew Demetriou and Mark Evans admitted to relief on Friday after the appeals board threw out Jack Viney’s two-match suspension for rough conduct.
They also remain unapologetic for the league’s tough stance that any player who chooses to bump and hits an opponent high is in trouble.
Evans also strongly backed the original jury members who found Viney guilty of rough conduct – a decision that sparked widespread debate in the AFL about whether the bump was dead.
He and Demetriou said the tribunal system had worked properly in sorting out the Viney case.
The Melbourne midfielder became only the second player in 15 cases to successfully appeal against his tribunal verdict.
The appeals panel is preparing detailed reasons for its decision and will hand these to the AFL.
While Evans said the Viney case meant the AFL was better informed on issues surrounding bumping cases, their philosophy on head-high contact had not changed.
“The simple message to players and coaches is exactly the same as it was last Friday,” Evans said.
“That is, if you have another option you should choose that other option.
“If you choose to bump, the onus of responsibility for you is to make sure you don’t cause forceful head-high contact.”
Evans and Demetriou are pleased that Viney was cleared to play in Saturday night’s Field Of Women match against the Western Bulldogs at the MCG.
“The outcome from the appeals board was the correct one – it’s a relief, to be honest,” Demetriou told 3AW.
“I’m just pleased that the process worked.”
Viney’s guilty verdict prompted criticism of jury members Wayne Schimmelbusch, Wayne Henwood and Emmett Dunne – all former AFL players who have served on the tribunal for several years.
“Their job is to make an assessment of the evidence that is presented and the way that it’s shaped towards them and come up with a decision,” Evans said.
“I have great confidence in those men.”
Demetriou also urged Viney not to change the hard way he plays the game.
“There are a lot of other Jack Vineys around and there are lot of bumps on a weekend,” he said.
“What can’t happen are bumps to the head that cause damage.
“The bump is alive.”
Demetriou admitted that the Viney case caused plenty of confusion and concern, but thought the debate it generated was very mature.
Meanwhile, the architect of the current tribunal system said he was surprised the appeals board overturned the Viney verdict and would be interested to read their reasons.
Evans’ predecessor Adrian Anderson noted on SEN that there are very strict conditions under which the appeals board can go against a tribunal decision.
Melbourne’s appeal was based on the argument that no jury acting reasonably could have found Viney guilty.