Essendon utility Courtenay Dempsey has been suspended for four matches by the AFL tribunal for his dangerous tackle on Richmond star Brett Deledio.
Former AFL general manager of football Adrian Anderson represented Dempsey and launched an impassioned plea in his sentencing submission to the tribunal jury, which included a character reference from Bombers legend Kevin Sheedy, on the phone from Hawaii where he is on holiday.
Dempsey was the target of a vile racist attack on social media in the aftermath of the incident that occurred during Saturday night’s clash, with Anderson also calling AFL multicultural and indigenous advisor Jason Mifsud, who spoke of the pain and suffering that the player had likely already felt over the incident.
Dempsey was charged with rough conduct over the tackle and referred directly to the tribunal by the AFL match review panel, who assessed the incident as careless conduct, severe impact and high contact.
Anderson entered a plea of guilty but argued that the impact was high, not severe, and called for a two-match suspension.
However, he failed to convince tribunal jury members Shane Wakelin, Richard Loveridge and Paul Williams, who delivered their finding of a four-match ban after 15 minutes of deliberation.
“In relation to this matter I think it’s really important to recognise that Courtenay expressed remorse right at the start of the incident and has been remorseful all the way through,” Essendon football manager Rob Kerr said as Dempsey left the hearing.
“Tonight he pleaded guilty to the charge and I think it’s important that people understand that the matter in dispute in front of the tribunal was whether the impact was severe or high.
“The tribunal has made their determination and they’ve probably sent a message to the playing group, so we accept that and move forward from here.”
Dempsey has spent time in the VFL this season and is in the final year of his contract but Kerr would not be drawn on whether the 28-year-old would remain at the club in 2016.
“That’s all part of the normal list management process – this will have next to no impact on that,” he said.
“Courtenay’s a fairly talented footballer and we’ll address that when the time comes.”