Hawthorn’s James Sicily will fight for his availability at the tribunal on Tuesday night, but three retired AFL players believe there has been an ‘overreaction’ to his stomp on North Melbourne’s Shaun Atley.
Match review officer Michael Christian charged Sicily with ‘serious misconduct’ after he was captured stepping on Atley’s right ankle during Sunday’s loss to the Kangaroos.
“This is unacceptable in terms of what we want to see in the game,” Christian said.
“(We) thought the best action for this was to send it to the tribunal to let the tribunal decide the fate of James.”
Players sent to the tribunal on charges of careless or intentional conduct are in line for bans of three weeks or more, but Sicily’s serious misconduct charge leaves the sanction in the hands of the panel.
In 2012, under the match review rules of the time, then Western Bulldogs ruckman Will Minson was charged with intentional misconduct and faced a one-match ban for stomping on the leg of Sydney’s Kieren Jack.
He challenged the decision at the tribunal and was successful, free to play the following week after the three-man panel lowered the charge to reckless and applied a discount based on Minson’s clean record.
The AFL has since removed discounts or penalties for clean or poor records, but Sicily’s reputation – he was suspended for round three after kneeing Geelong’s Joel Selwood in the head – earned the 23-year-old much condemnation on Monday.
Rival fans were quick to lay into the Hawks player, while Carlton great Robert Walls said opposition players and even teammates “lose respect” for players who resort to “unnecessary” acts.
Yet there is a feeling among some former players that a multi-week suspension would be a step too far.
“I would have called it minor misconduct, because that’s all it was,” Brian Taylor said on Channel 7’s Talking Footy.
Campbell Brown agreed, saying it was “certainly not serious” misconduct, while Wayne Carey called for a more balanced reaction.
“I think it’s an overreaction, that one,” Carey said.
“Don’t get me wrong, he’s going to get a fine or a week for that. But I don’t think there was too much force in it. For stupidity, a week.”
The AFL tribunal has already sat once this year to hear a serious misconduct charge.
Essendon defender Conor McKenna was banned for three weeks for biting Western Bulldogs forward Tory Dickson in the aftermath of a chase-down tackle.