Geelong star Tom Hawkins will almost certainly fight a one-match striking ban at the AFL tribunal in a bid to play in Friday night’s blockbuster preliminary final against Richmond.
The Cats were still digesting the implications of the suspension late on Saturday but indications are that Hawkins will appear at a tribunal hearing on Monday or Tuesday evening.
On the face of it, it’s hard to see how he emerges from a hearing at AFL House having been cleared to play against the Tigers.
Hawkins was running alongside Will Schofield in the third quarter of the Cats’ semi-final win over West Coast at the MCG on Friday night when he swung at the defender and caught him in the side of the head.
The force of the round-arm blow stunned Schofield, who crashed to the turf and and was still prone when a sheepish Hawkins went back to check on him.
Match review officer Michael Christian assessed the incident as intentional conduct, high contact and low impact, which draws a one-match suspension.
Given the high stakes, Geelong will at least attempt to lower the penalty to a fine at the tribunal given they don’t risk adding another game to the suspension if they fail.
Superstar teammate Patrick Dangerfield did his best to play down the likelihood of an adverse finding by the MRO in an interview on 3AW on Saturday.
“I’ve seen the (Hawkins) incident. What I will say is what I think in recent weeks in the AFL is moving away from suspensions,” Dangerfield said.
I agree with the AFL’s approach. You want the best players out there playing so I’d hope there’s consistency in that.”
No players were suspended after the first week of finals, with GWS forward Toby Greene and West Coast ruckman Nic Naitanui among those to receive fines rather than bans.
If Hawkins’ ban isn’t overturned, the burly full-forward will leave a huge hole in Geelong’s attack, where he’s booted 56 goals this season, which is 23 more the Gary Ablett, who’s second on the club’s goal-kicking list.
Hawkins had enjoyed an exemplary disciplinary record for most of his 256-game career, but the two-time premiership star has now run foul of the match review process nine times since the 2016 season.
He’s been charged with striking six times and been suspended for a total of six matches, including his latest ban.
Geelong coach Chris Scott said that he deliberately avoided watching a replay of the clash.
“In part because I didn’t want to talk about it tonight,” Scott told reporters.
“So I’ve just got nothing to add, unfortunately.”
The incident overshadowed a match-winning performance from Hawkins, who booted four goals and took four contested marks in a dominant display.