AFL Tribunal live blog, news, results 2023

Another busy night at the AFL Tribunal has arrived, with three players to front the panel: One a direct referral from the Match Review Officer, while two others will challenge. Follow live!

St Kilda’s Anthony Caminiti (striking), and Collingwood’s Taylor Adams and Essendon’s Zach Merrett (dangerous tackles), were all charged by the MRO for their respective Gather Round incidents.

Merrett’s case was heard first (beginning 4pm AEST), followed by Caminiti (5.30pm or after Merrett) and Adams (7pm or after Caminiti).

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To open the evening, Merrett’s ban was upheld.

Essendon challenged the charge of rough conduct given to Merrett while if that failed, they argued the impact should be graded low instead of medium.

The AFL argued he placed Tom Sparrow in a vulnerable position and either slung, drove or rotated him into the ground with excessive force, fulfilling two of the four dot points that can encompass a dangerous tackle.

Merrett explained he attempted a normal tackle, but Tom Sparrow’s “sidestep” threw Merrett off-balance and he couldn’t set his feet. He said he felt he didn’t have Sparrow “in any bit of a vulnerable position”.

League representative Nick Pane argued: “At all times your right arm was pulling Sparrow down towards the ground.”

Merrett responded: “I respectfully disagree. I wasn’t pulling him directly towards the ground. I’m doing everything to pull him onto me. It feels like his body connects with mine as I hit the ground as well.

“You react on habits and instinct and we’re certainly coached and educated massively around the safety element. I’m hoping my habit or instinct was to do that (pull him onto me).

“Players with the ball are going to try and fight tackles, I felt Tom used his right arm to semi-push my chest, so I’m trying to pull him closer to me to not allow any space for him to get the ball out.”

Merrett fails to beat suspension | 01:46

Bombers representative Ben Ihle went as far to suggest Sparrow was the “prime mover” that saw him tip forward in the tackle.

“Just as Merrett gets hold of Sparrow, his feet go out underneath him and Sparrow. It’s also clear Sparrow is pulled down onto Merrett. It’s demonstrated plainly by the footage,” Ihle said.

“Merrett’s right arm is fully cocked. He’s not pulling Sparrow down with the right arm, rather he is holding on.

“Sparrow is trying to burst through the front-on tackle. The Tribunal should ask: Who is the prime mover in the direction of Sparrow tipping forward? In my submission, it is Sparrow trying to free himself of Merrett’s grip.

“We’re not disputing Sparrow’s head made contact with the turf … what we’re saying is that this was not a dangerous tackle because it was not unreasonable in the circumstances.”

AFL Tribunal chairman Jeff Gleeson found: “Zach Merrett’s explanation of the tackle he applied to Tom Sparrow was honest and forthright.

“The difficulty for Merrett, however, is that by holding onto Sparrow’s jumper – and in our view pulling him to the ground – combined with the force applied by Merrett around Sparrow’s body with his left arm, there was a real risk of Sparrow’s head colliding forcefully with the ground.

“A reasonable player in Merrett’s position would have realised there was some vulnerability for Sparrow because his right arm was pinned, would’ve realised the tackle was both pulling and pushing in such a way that Sparrows head was driving towards the ground with force and that there was a real risk Sparrow wouldn’t land entirely on Merrett.

“For those reasons, we find this was a dangerous tackle.

“As to impact, while there was no injury to Sparrow, the force with which Sparrow’s head hit the ground was plain to see.

“The potential for injury arose and the appropriate classification of impact is medium.”

Dangerous tackle state of play breakdown | 01:34

In the second case of the night, St Kilda’s Anthony Caminiti copped a three-week ban for striking and concussing Collingwood’s Nathan Murphy.

The Tribunal agreed with the Saints that the incident was careless rather than intentional.

The AFL requested a five-match ban if the strike was deemed intentional, and a four-match ban if it was deemed careless, while the Saints argued four or three depending on the grading.

The Tribunal did not permit a victim statement from Murphy into evidence. It centered around Murphy slipping slightly which the Tribunal said was already apparent from the vision of the incident.

“As part of his way to defend me, he would instigate contact first … as a forward, as part of my craft, I’m trying to get away from him and create space … putting my forearm in his chest and therefore creating space between him and me,” Caminiti said.

“I was anticipating the ball to get launched into the forward line. I momentarily looked at Murphy, attempted to put my forearm into his chest, anticipating a marking contest that didn’t happen.

“At the time, I was completely unaware I’d hit him anywhere near the head or chin, I thought it was just a normal hit to the chest. Now looking at the vision, it’s clear I must’ve accidentally clipped him in the chin.”

Caminiti rejected the suggestion he was retaliating for Murphy hitting him first, arguing he was repeating a pushing action he had used multiple times throughout the contest, and reached out to the Pies defender after the game.

“I was very remorseful and wanted to say how sorry I was for the action. I felt quite bad at the outcome. I just wanted to see if he was ok and just wanted to apologise,” he said.

“I don’t think I had time to process that he’d dropped so much, especially in the heat of the game in that last quarter.”

He added: “It was never my intention to swing, my whole intention was to push.

“At other times during the game, the force (of that action) would’ve been the exact same … I’d describe it as an attempted push to the chest with my forearm.”

Adams suspended for ANZAC Day clash | 00:52

To conclude the night Collingwood tried to downgrade the grading of Taylor Adams’ dangerous tackle on Seb Ross from medium to low impact, which would result in a fine.

Adams said there was force generated by both Tom Mitchell and Beau McCreery during the tackle, with both losing balance.

“I’m doing everything I can to minimise impact. I know he’s in a vulnerable position and it’s my duty of care to make sure the impact he experiences isn’t severe and thinking about myself as well so that I don’t get injured,” Adams explained.

“I’ve tried to slow down the fall by moving my centre of gravity outwards. I’m putting my arm down to brace for both of our falls.

“Tom’s got half a foot on the ground, he’s got his whole weight falling onto us. Beau, he likes tackling that much that he’s tackling Tom to try and tackle Ross. There’s almost 180 kilos of weight going through them.

“I tried to protect both Seb and myself. It’s lucky I did, otherwise he would’ve hit the ground harder.

“Seb actually mentioned to me after this that he was able to get a handball away.”

Adams became agitated at some of the questions with Jeff Gleeson having to tell the Magpie he was not getting criticised, just being asked questions.

“If you were to look at Adams’ actions alone, not taking into account Mitchell or McCreery, in my submission this would be a dangerous tackle. The fact there are two other players in the tackle doesn’t lessen impact, if anything it might magnify it,” Nick Pane said for the AFL.

– with Max Laughton

Scroll down to the bottom of the article for the live blog with David Zita’s updates from inside the hearings.


Anthony Caminiti’s off-ball hit to Magpies defender Nathan Murphy was referred directly to the tribunal. The striking charge received the highest possible gradings: Intentional conduct, severe impact and high contact, with at least a four-match ban recommended.

But that wasn’t the only incident to emerge from Sunday’s Magpies-Saints clash, with Magpies veteran Taylor Adams offered a one-game suspension for his tackle on Saint Seb Ross. The rough conduct charge was graded as careless conduct, medium impact and high contact.

The Magpies on Tuesday confirmed they’d challenge the ban.

Caminiti and Adams will join Merrett at the tribunal after Essendon on Monday confirmed it would challenge the one-match suspension handed to its skipper for his dump tackle on Melbourne’s Tom Sparrow at Adelaide Oval on Saturday.

Merrett’s rough conduct charge was graded as careless conduct, medium impact and high contact, equating to a one-game ban.

Caminiti’s hit was a source of angst on the field and in the coaches’ press conference – and now a significant sequel at the tribunal is anticipated.

Collingwood coach Craig McRae confirmed post-game Murphy had been ruled out of the rest of Sunday’s match – and the club’s next game against Essendon on Anzac Day – due to concussion.

But eight-time All-Australian said he believed the Saints could argue Caminiti’s incident should’ve been graded as careless conduct and high impact, which would equal a two-week ban.

“I don‘t see it as a deliberate act,” Buckley told Fox Footy’s On The Couch.

“I think that Nathan drops his knees a little bit and I just reckon that Caminiti is not expecting to collect him in the head. So I think it‘s careless.

“I‘m really interested to see where the tribunal goes with this … In some way (Murphy contributed).

“I don‘t think it’s an intentional act. I think Caminiti’s played the game in great spirit and I think he’s gone about it really well – I don’t know the kid at all. There was a bit of reciprocation going on, but I don’t know whether that’s one you want to make a big example of.”

Triple Coleman Medallist Jason Dunstall said he could see Buckley’s argument, but declared once a player responds like Caminiti did, they’re at risk.

“The unfortunate thing is if you get sucked in and you do something overaggressively or you hit the wrong part of the body – and now there‘s all the equation of did he slip a little bit, which brought his head down a little bit lower and made him a target – it doesn’t matter. As soon as you get involved in that sort of thing, if the player suffers concussion, you’re gone,” Dunstall told Fox Footy’s AFL 360.

“You take suspension basically into your own hands if you‘re going to engage in something like that.”

AFL 360 co-host Gerard Whateley added: “The really interesting around this is I feel like the action was careless but the way it‘s prescribed within the guidelines, being that far off the ball, that sort of strike is going to be intentional. There is room to argue it, but the gravity of it sits with the fact that Murphy has had repeat concussions and he’s had one inflicted by an opponent in a moment that really shouldn’t have happened.”

Giants star Tom Green also copped the same gradings and suspension length as Merrett and Adams for his tackle on Hawthorn’s Josh Ward on Saturday, with the Giants confirming they’d accepted the ban.

“I feel like that was the worst action of the three of them: Stand still and then go ‘right, we’re going to ground’. So whatever happens at the tribunal needs to reinforce the overall principle of ‘don‘t do that’,” Whateley said of Green’s tackle.

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