Walters cleared, McGovern ban stands
Eagles superstar Jeremy McGovern will miss a week of footy after he failed at the AFL tribunal to have his one-match ban overturned, but it's better news for Docker Michael Walters.
Despite strong evidence from umpire Curtis Deboy that it was a deliberate headbutt, the panel was not satisfied it was an intentional act from the Dockers' superstar.
Walters argued he leaned his head in in an attempt to "draw a free kick", while Lockhart also gave evidence saying he felt no pain and threw his head back in shock at the slight contact.
But West Coast's Jeremy McGovern will be sidelined for Saturday's clash against Hawthorn after he failed to successfully argue a plastic chair contributed to Matt Guelfi's hard contact with the fence.
Walters' availability is a huge boost for the Dockers as the club tries to shore-up its position in the eight against the bottom-placed Blues in Perth.
Umpire Deboy, who was 15m away from the third-term incident on Saturday, was adamant it was a clear headbutt from Walters.
"He pulled Lockhart in by the guernsey, making contact with his head, headbutting with his forehead to Lockhart's forehead," Deboy said.
But Walters' player advocate Nick Tweedie QC used the vision to highlight the "complete absence or any real impact or consequences" when the pair tangled.
"We say the evidence of the umpire, while well-intentioned, is not consistent with what happened and what you saw on the video," Tweedie said.
Walters said he played for a free kick. The panel took less than five minutes to overturn the match review decision to suspend Walters for one match.
"I could see his shoulder coming towards me, and I thought I could get a free kick by lowering my head into his shoulder," Walters said.
Meanwhile, the positioning of a plastic chair used by a security guard failed to save West Coast star McGovern.
In a major blow for the Eagles, the premiership hero will be missing from the trip to the MCG for bumping Bomber Guelfi hard into the boundary fence on Thursday night in Perth.
Guelfi, who suffered bruised ribs and concussion in the incident and was taken to the hospital in a taxi, is in doubt for tomorrow night's clash against GWS Giants.
The tribunal took 11 minutes to decide McGovern's one-match suspension for rough conduct would stand, sidelining one of West Coast's most important players.
AFL legal counsel Andrew Woods said it was the "forcible push" from McGovern over the boundary line which was largely responsible for the incident.
"It was not just a bump, it was a significant push directly into the direction of the boundary fence," Woods said.
"It was an unsafe thing to do."
McGovern tried to argue that he bumped Guelfi in the same way he normally would just inside the boundary line.
But it was the presence of the security guard sitting on a plastic chair that briefly provided the superstar centre half back with a potential lifeline in his appeal last night.
McGovern's advocate David Grace QC said Guelfi first made contact with the chair, leaving the Bombers' defender defenceless, as he slid head-first into the fence.
Grace said it was unclear if Guelfi would have hurt himself if the security guard was not present inside the fence.
"Whenever someone is falling to the ground and in a straight line they put their hands up or out to break their fall," Grace said.
"He (Guelfi) was attempting to do that and what stopped him from effectively doing that was the leg of the chair on which the security guard was sitting on."
Grace questioned whether the AFL should remove all plastic chairs from inside the playing arena as they posed an unnecessary risk to players such as Guelfi.
"The reason he hit the fence in that position was because he hit the chair," Grace said.
"He cannot be expected to have a duty of care in relation to the chair.
"Maybe it's a situation for the AFL itself as to examine whether persons should be on the playing area, or just outside, because of the danger of a person in that situation."
But the four-man tribunal panel decided McGovern' acted unreasonably in the circumstances.
McGovern's absence is a boost for the Hawks as they try to snap a three-game losing streak.
The match-winning defender said he never intended to plough Guelfi into the fence. He said his arms not I attempt to push, but rather in a way to block his run.
"I didn't connect with a bump like I would have wanted, so I tried to get my arms in his way to stop his overlap run," McGovern said.
"I would have done the exact same thing if I was anywhere else on the ground.
"As a backman in our team, we do it a fair bit.
"I wanted to get some body on him so he didn't run around me.
"I was just trying to push him out of bounds. I didn't mean for him to hit the fence."