AFL 2022: Patrick Cripps free to play after Carlton’s appeal against two-match ban succeeds

The AFL has released a statement accepting the decision by the Appeals board but will find themselves in murky ground if faced with another high bump incident in the future.

The AFL has forecast potential change to its match review guidelines but will not appeal the Patrick Cripps decision that has freed him to play against Melbourne on Saturday night.

The league on Friday said it “acknowledges and accepts” the AFL Appeals board decision that overturned Cripps’ two-week ban for a high bump on Brisbane’s Cal Ah Chee.

The right to appeal has been exhausted at AFL level, with the league not contemplating a further appeal to a court of law.

So Cripps can take on Melbourne and Collingwood as the Blues seek a victory that would seal their finals spot, with the Carlton captain again eligible for the Brownlow Medal.

The AFL said it was too early to decide if it would harden its rules around collisions that caused head contact at the end of the year but would not rule it out.

General manager of football Andrew Dillon said health and safety of players was of “paramount” importance and would continue to inform the AFL’s ongoing work.

“The health and safety of our players is of paramount importance to the AFL and we will continue to evaluate and, where necessary, act to prioritise that objective in relation to the occurrence of concussion and other injuries in the playing of our game.” Dillon said.

The Appeals Board decision throws into turmoil the AFL’s desire to protect the heads of players given Ah Chee was concussed and will miss this week.

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Callum Ah Chee was concussed after the high bump from Patrick Cripps and will miss a week. Picture: Getty Images
Callum Ah Chee was concussed after the high bump from Patrick Cripps and will miss a week. Picture: Getty Images

The appeals board decision won on two counts - that Cripps should have been asked about a bump before the tribunal decided he bumped Ah Chee instead of contesting the ball.

But more worrying than that technicality was the Appeals Board decision about the vision that “the video did not reveal a bump. Rather it set out a contest for the ball that resulted in a collision”.

It means the AFL will be in murky ground for similar incidents that it would quickly have penalised with suspension through the last two home-and-away rounds and the finals.

The AFL would not make available its football bosses Dillon or Brad Scott available to clarify what the decision meant for the rest of the season.

The league’s issue is that it already has strong rules in place to suspend players involved in bumping rivals if they cause head contact.

But the league’s own judicial system and appeals board did not uphold those rules so it will be challenging to create a more appropriate rule to safeguard players.

Cripps’ eyes were on the ball but he had also turned his shoulders to bump Ah Chee, which in almost every MRO or tribunal decision would constitute a bumping action.

The case, as noted by appeals chairman Murray Kellam, “was not without its complexities”, but he said the evidence combined with repeated viewings of three variations of vision of the incident had warranted the ban being overturned on the basis of an error of law and that the findings of the original jury had been unreasonable.

“We are unable to conclude on the basis of the vision of these videos that he did turn his body into a classic bumping position,” Kellam said.

“The video confirmed the statement expressed in the ruling that both players had eyes for the ball and both players contested the ball.

“The video did not reveal a bump. Rather, it set out a contest for the ball that resulted in a collision.”

The Blues argued that Cripps’ posture in the jump was a further indicating factor of his “genuine contest for the ball” – an action that it claimed had been confused with an election to bump.

League counsel Nicholas Pane remained adamant that a player could contest the ball with their eyes on the ball and still maintain the action of bumping an opponent.

Free to play: Appeal bombshell as Blues win desperate Cripps bid

Carlton captain Patrick Cripps has sensationally had his two-match ban overturned at a last-ditch AFL Appeals Board hearing, with the skipper now free to take on reigning premier Melbourne on Saturday night.

As the Blues fight to keep their finals hopes alive, Cripps – who had been cited for rough conduct – had one last shot to play the final two rounds of the season in the wake of a tribunal hearing earlier this week that the Blues argued had been “infected with error”.

As the hearing began, the star skipper was named on the ground in the Blues’ team that will take on the Demons in hope of what the hearing would determine.

But while the midfielder was made to sit in wait for more than four and a half hours as Carlton’s counsel went toe-to-toe with the findings in the lengthy online hearing, the verdict went in Cripps’ favour just after 10.30pm.

The Blues’ counsel argued for almost two hours that Cripps had been denied “natural justice” in the initial hearing into his bump that left Lion Callum Ah Chee concussed, and that the original tribunal jury had not been adequately directed before it reached its finding.

Carlton’s bid for finals has been boosted with Patrick Cripps free to play after his two-match ban was thrown out by the AFL Appeals Board. Picture: Michael Klein
Carlton’s bid for finals has been boosted with Patrick Cripps free to play after his two-match ban was thrown out by the AFL Appeals Board. Picture: Michael Klein

It was claimed that a “wholesale failure” in the lead-up to that decision should determine it void, and also presented further vision of the incident obtained via Fox Footy, along with a full recap of Tuesday night’s evidence that was presented by Cripps.

Tribunal panel members Richard Loveridge and Stephen Jurica re-examined a range of evidence, before determining that he can play less than 48 hours after their final ruling.

They deliberated for more than 90 minutes before reaching their verdict.

The case, as noted by chairman Murray Kellam, “was not without its complexities”, but he said the evidence combined with repeated viewings of three variations of vision of the incident had warranted the ban being overturned on the basis of an error of law and that the findings of the original jury had been unreasonable.

It took two appeals — and a four-and-a-half hour hearing to free Cripps. Picture: Michael Klein
It took two appeals — and a four-and-a-half hour hearing to free Cripps. Picture: Michael Klein

“We are unable to conclude on the basis of the vision of these videos that he did turn his body into a classic bumping position,” Kellam said.

“The video confirmed the statement expressed in the ruling that both players had eyes for the ball and both players contested the ball.

“The video did not reveal a bump. Rather, it set out a contest for the ball that resulted in a collision.”

The Blues argued that Cripps’ posture in the jump was a further indicating factor of his “genuine contest for the ball” – an action that it claimed had been confused with an election to bump.

League counsel Nicholas Pane remained adamant that a player could contest the ball with their eyes on the ball and still maintain the action of bumping an opponent.

Carlton must win both of its remaining games against Melbourne and Collingwood to keep its hopes of a finals berth alive.

EARLIER: Blues roll dice on Cripps appeal

—Jay Clark

Carlton will fight Patrick Cripps’ two-game suspension at the AFL’s appeals tribunal in a desperate attempt to free the inspirational captain for a crucial final fortnight of the season.

The Blues confirmed on Wednesday night they would challenge Cripps’ two-game ban at the appeals board in a hearing set for 6pm Thursday.

It is a roll of the dice for the Blues who will attempt to clear Cripps to play against Melbourne and Collingwood, needing to win one of the two games to lock-in their first finals berth since 2013.

But to clear Cripps Carlton must either prove an error of law has occurred, the decision was unreasonable or the classification or sanction was manifestly excessive or inadequate.

There is also the option to produce fresh evidence which was otherwise unavailable.

Cripps was handed the two-match ban for his heavy bump which concussed Brisbane’s Callum Ah Chee in the second quarter of the Blues’ loss to the Lions on Sunday at the Gabba.

The Blues are rolling the dice on another appeal against Patrick Cripps’ two-match ban. Picture: Getty Images
The Blues are rolling the dice on another appeal against Patrick Cripps’ two-match ban. Picture: Getty Images

It is a high-stakes move for coach Michael Voss who is at risk of being without three of his best on-ballers for the last two games, with gun ball winners George Hewett (back) and Matthew Kennedy (jaw) already sidelined.

Richmond great Matthew Richardson on Wednesday night said the appeal was worth a shot, albeit unlikely to succeed.

“Why wouldn’t you have a crack at this? It’s season on the line stuff,” Richardson said on 3AW.

“They have been in the eight all year and were 8-2 after 10 games and want to play finals, but their midfield is decimated and they need Patrick Cripps for at least one of those games (in the run home) so why wouldn’t they have a crack?

“I can’t see how they get off it. I just don’t see it happening to be honest.

“I don’t think he can misjudge that contest as he has, he is just a ball winner and he reads the flight of the ball so well.

“He (Cripps) didn’t mean to knock him out … but the consequences are he (Ah Chee) left the ground with concussion.”

Sydney great Gerard Healy also said the Blues’ appeal was a long shot.

Cripps was banned for this hit on Lion Callum Ah Chee.
Cripps was banned for this hit on Lion Callum Ah Chee.

Cripps’ Brownlow Medal hopes are also at risk, as one of the favourites to win the prestigious honour.

“I can’t see it (appeal) getting up. It is a rarity they overturn it,” Healy said.

Missing Cripps would leave the Blues significantly undermanned in the centre square against arguably the most talented midfield outfit in the competition, and heavily reliant on Sam Walsh, Adam Cerra, Paddy Dow and Zak Fisher to perform a miracle against the Demons.

The Blues fought the suspension on Tuesday night and lost in a failed attempt to prove that it was a genuine attempt to contest the ball in a similar manner to West Coast’s Willie Rioli who was cleared at the tribunal for his bump on Gold Coast’s Matt Rowell.

The Blues argued Cripps only had eyes and arms outstretched for the ball, however the AFL has ruled any player which elects to bump will run a risk of suspension if contact has been made to the opponent’s head.

Ah Chee was sent straight to the bench and was ruled out with concussion, as the league attempts to try and limit the number and damage caused by head knocks in the game.

Carlton will on Thursday continue discussions with its legal team in a bid to ramp up Cripps’ defence.

Tribunal’s crushing Cripps blow for Blues’ finals hopes

—Nick Smart

Carlton’s finals hopes have taken a huge hit with skipper Patrick Cripps to miss the remainder of the home-and-away season through suspension.

The Blues star appeared via video link at the AFL tribunal on Tuesday night in a bid to overturn his two-match ban for a high-impact, high-contact careless rough conduct charge against Brisbane’s Cal Ah Chee at the Gabba last Sunday.

Carlton relied on additional footage via a handheld camera that the MRO did not have access to when reviewing the incident.

The jury deliberated for almost 40 minutes before upholding the charge.

“He entered the contest at speed, he saw a player at least in his peripheral vision and he leapt into the contest,” said tribunal chairman Jeff Gleeson of the jury’s findings

“With both feet off the ground, he bumped Mr Ah Chee at high speed.

“Mr Cripps could and should have contested the ball differently and in a way that did not present such a high and serious risk of a head injury to his fellow player.”

Patrick Cripps crashes into Callum Ah Chee. Picture: Channel 7
Patrick Cripps crashes into Callum Ah Chee. Picture: Channel 7
Callum Ah Chee was subbed off after the heavy knock. Picture: Channel 7
Callum Ah Chee was subbed off after the heavy knock. Picture: Channel 7

Cripps, who stood up to demonstrate his approach to the contest earlier during the 64-minute hearing, said repeatedly he had eyes only for the football and he was trying to check the drop zone of the ball the entire time.

“When I jump, my eyes are purely fixated on the ball, both arms are out and extended to try and take that ball on my chest in the contest,” Cripps told the tribunal.

Peter O’Farrell, who represented Cripps, labelled it as a “football incident” and “not two weeks.”

“There was no bump ….Cripps was contesting the ball at all times,” he said.

Callum Ah Chee in the hands of trainers after copping a big bump from Patrick Cripps. Picture: Getty Images
Callum Ah Chee in the hands of trainers after copping a big bump from Patrick Cripps. Picture: Getty Images

The AFL, represented by Nicholas Pane QC, argued Cripps was “not contesting the ball” and that the contact was “late.”

“It was unreasonable for Cripps to leave the ground,” Pane said.

The Blues’ defence put into evidence the transcript from the Willie Rioli tribunal case, which saw Rioli successfully overturn his ban regarding an incident involving Gold Coast’s Matt Rowell in round one.

The AFL’s advocate argued that example was different because “that’s an example where the collision occurs in the marking contest, which is different to this situation here.”

The Blues must win one of its final two games against top-four clubs Melbourne and Collingwood to book a finals spot with a now decimated midfield.

Eagle Tim Kelly gets hold of Crow Sam Berry. Picture: Getty Images
Eagle Tim Kelly gets hold of Crow Sam Berry. Picture: Getty Images

Kelly’s bid for freedom fails

—Nick Smart

West Coast star Tim Kelly will miss Saturday’s western derby on Saturday after losing his bid for his one-match ban for a dangerous tackle to be downgraded at the AFL tribunal.

Kelly, who appeared via video link on Tuesday night to contest the charge, had been pinged for a tackle on Adelaide’s Sam Berry last Sunday.

It was assessed as careless conduct, medium impact and high contact by AFL match review officer Michael Christian.

At the tribunal, the Eagles tried to argue for the impact to be classified as ‘low’ rather than ‘medium,’ but the tribunal disagreed.

Kelly was slapped with a one-match ban. Picture: AFL Photos/Getty Images
Kelly was slapped with a one-match ban. Picture: AFL Photos/Getty Images

In his findings, tribunal chairman Jeff Gleeson accepted Berry was not injured but said he was ‘momentarily stunned’ and that the Crow was slung ’360 degrees’ and Kelly’s tackle had the potential to ‘cause injury’.

Kelly said on the stand he was “trying to complete the tackle” and did not see Berry’s head hit the ground.

“My intentions were not to cause any harm to my opponent, my intentions were to stop him disposing of the ball … to be brutally honest it didn’t look like there was much impact at all,” Kelly said.

Andrew Woods, who was representing the AFL, argued there was “clearly a risk of concussion or serious neck injury or something of that nature in an action of this kind.”

Berry’s head a split second before it crashes into the Optus Stadium turf. Picture: AFL Photos/Getty Images
Berry’s head a split second before it crashes into the Optus Stadium turf. Picture: AFL Photos/Getty Images

Blues’ season on life support, Voss defends Cripps hit

— Greg Davis

Carlton coach Michael Voss has mounted a spirited defence of captain Patrick Cripps for his “microsecond” decision to bump Brisbane wingman Cal Ah Chee in the Blues’ 33-point loss to the Lions at the Gabba on Sunday.

Cripps left his feet in the second term and appeared to make heavy and high contact with Ah Chee, who played no further part in the game after sustaining a concussion.

A suspension to Cripps would be a brutal blow to Carlton’s finals hopes after the loss to Brisbane left the Blues exposed at the bottom of the top eight.

They probably need to win one of their last two matches – against Melbourne and Collingwood – to lock in a return to finals for the first time since 2013.

The Blues can miss the finals if they lose their remaining games, Richmond wins at least one more match and either St Kilda or the Western Bulldogs win their last two. Both the Tigers and Dogs have two winnable games to come against bottom-six teams.

Cripps is certain to come under scrutiny of the match review officer while the hit also puts his Brownlow Medal hopes in jeopardy.

But Voss said it would be wrong to persecute Cripps based on a split-second call in the heat of battle and said his skipper was contesting the ball.

“Clearly, when you have not a lot of time to adjust in those circumstances, that made

for a difficult contest. I’m sure one that will get looked at, but from what I’ve seen the arms were outstretched and it was a pretty even contest and there’s microseconds in it,’’ Voss said.

“So, if we are asking players to make microsecond decisions, I didn’t know whether the game enables that, I really don’t.

“I thought it was a good contest. I mean, the umpire probably told the story, didn’t he? He didn’t pay a free kick, did he? Clearly, he felt that the arms were out and it was both evenly contested.”

A grading of high force, high impact and careless would see Cripps miss the final two matches of the home and away season.

Voss hopes the process with Cripps is not “outcome based” given Ah Chee was assisted from the ground and subbed out of the game.

“I don’t think he (Cripps) is there to cradle the person to the ground, is he?’’ Voss said.

“It was unfortunate, we hope he (Ah Chee) is OK. Clearly, we have empathy in terms of that side of things, but we’ve also got to respect that the game is going to be evenly contested and that looked like an even contest to me.

“Unfortunately, one player had to come off.”

Meanwhile, Voss said an eight-goal burst in the final quarter was important.

“To see the response is pleasing. When the game was on the line, clearly, we weren’t up for that little battle. But from a bigger picture point of view, it was important to close out that game the way that we did,’’ he said.

“I think we’ve got to embrace where we are at. We are all about what’s in front of us. They are games to look forward to. We are playing in games that matter. This is an important phase in the development of our group.

Michael Voss tries to get his message across. Picture: Russell Freeman/AFL Photos via Getty Images
Michael Voss tries to get his message across. Picture: Russell Freeman/AFL Photos via Getty Images

“We need that exposure. We are going to the MCG next week against Melbourne, it will be a big game. The Collingwood game is being spoken about already, so we are getting exposure to these games and there can only be growth off the back of it.

“Tonight is a bit of a tough one (lesson) but we’ve got to bring that fresh energy and we’ve got to correct ourselves pretty quick and we’ve got to get on with it.”

Blues forward Jack Martin (calf) will be assessed later in the week after being subbed out of the game.

Blues’ season hanging by a thread after Gabba loss

– Greg Davis

Brisbane remains in the hunt for a top four spot while Carlton’s finals hopes are on life support after the Lions’ wild 33-point win over the Blues at the Gabba on Sunday.

The Blues’ finals aspirations are balancing on a knife’s edge with a 12-8 record, likely needing to win at least one of their final two matches, against Melbourne and Collingwood, to seal their first September action since 2013.

After three quarters of Lions dominance, Carlton kicked eight goals in the final term to reduce the margin to 15 points with three minutes left on the clock but it was ultimately too little, too late as Brisbane steadied to leave the Blues’ 2022 campaign on tenuous ground.

The Lions have no such worries after extending their record to 14-6, with Zac Bailey and Dan McStay booting four goals each and the Lions midfield land backline controlling the first three quarters.

Brisbane appeared to have put the Blues to the sword with five goals to one in the third

term, with Bailey booting two of them to help the Lions roar to a 57-point advantage at the

last change.

Dayne Zorko and Zac Bailey celebrate after a late goal saw off Carlton’s comeback. Picture: Bradley Kanaris/Getty Images
Dayne Zorko and Zac Bailey celebrate after a late goal saw off Carlton’s comeback. Picture: Bradley Kanaris/Getty Images

Brisbane coach Chris Fagan is taking the glass half-full approach after a second big fade out in as many weeks.

“There was a lot of doom and gloom about our second half (against Richmond) but I

thought our first half was the best we played, and I thought our first three quarters

tonight was even better than last week, to be honest with you,’’ Fagan said.

“So, it feels like we’re building. Hopefully that’s the case. Hopefully we can go to a

half, three quarters and then get to four next week and just stay at four for the rest of

the year. That’s the idea, isn’t it?

“There’d be some confidence out of that performance.

“I thought in the first three quarters we just played a magnificent brand of footy. Offensively. Defensively. In the contest. We just did everything right. It was sort of disappointing to have that last quarter, but I guess it’s a good reminder of what can happen if you perhaps get a little bit too adventurous with your ball movement and maybe just drop off a little bit defensively.”

CRIPPS PUBLIC ENEMY No. 1

The sold-out Gabba crowd was baying for blood in the second term when Patrick Cripps made high contact with Callum Ah Chee. Brisbane players remonstrated with Cripps, who was booed every time he touched the ball for the rest of the match. The incident genuinely threw Brisbane for a few minutes while Carlton got a spark from it. But normal transmission resumed soon enough with the Lions getting back on top. The TV replays were damning for Cripps and in the current climate of the head being sacrosanct, how can he escape suspension for that?

NERVOUS FINISH FOR BLUES

The Western Bulldogs and St Kilda losing this round did Carlton some favours in its bid

for a first finals appearance since 2013, but the Blues did not help themselves with a sluggish

start that put them behind the Eight ball. With Melbourne and Collingwood waiting in the final home-and-away rounds, there are no guarantees that Carlton will add to its 12 wins for 2022. Carlton is a game and some healthy percentage ahead of St Kilda with the Dogs a game further back. Richmond’s draw with Fremantle has it just two premiership points behind the Blues. The Saints have Brisbane and Sydney in their last two matches and may be stuck on 11 wins.

Charlie Cameron and Adam Saad battle for a loose ball. Picture: Russell Freeman/AFL Photos via Getty Images
Charlie Cameron and Adam Saad battle for a loose ball. Picture: Russell Freeman/AFL Photos via Getty Images

LIONS MAKE EARLY STATEMENT

It was an old-fashioned Gabba ambush in the first quarter – much like the first-term blitzes that Brisbane used to destroy teams when Michael Voss was captain in the premiership era. Brisbane was ferocious from the opening siren as it raced to the unusual score line of 30-1 at the first break. The Lions led inside 50s (21-8), clearances (17-6), centre clearances (5-0), marks inside 50 (4-0) and tackles (20-14) as they blew the Blues off the park. After the demoralising loss to Richmond last Sunday, the Lions looked intent to make statement.

HEAD-TO-HEAD POINTS

It was a day for defenders in the heavyweight match-ups. Jacob Weitering had the better of Brisbane’s Joe Daniher while Lions Harris Andrews and Marcus Adams kept the potent Blues duo of Harry McKay and Charlie Curnow to three goals between them. They are not in the heavyweight division, but the match-up between speed demons Charlie Cameron and Adam Saad was more enticing, with Saad getting plenty of the footy while Cameron kicked two goals. His second major was a clever soccer-style kick on a tight angle in the third quarter that all but sealed the four points for Brisbane.

Jesse Motlop snaps a goal for the Blues. Picture: Russell Freeman/AFL Photos via Getty Images
Jesse Motlop snaps a goal for the Blues. Picture: Russell Freeman/AFL Photos via Getty Images

Scoreboard

LIONS: 4.6, 8.9, 13.11, 17.12 (114)

BLUES: 0.1, 3.4, 4.8, 12.9 (81)

GOALS

LIONS: Bailey 4, McStay 4, Cameron 2, Neale, Berry, Zorko, McCarthy, Robinson, Hipwood,

Mathieson

BLUES: Curnow 2, Motlop 2, Fisher 2, Cripps, Newnes, Martin, McKay, Durdin, Owies

BEST:

LIONS: Neale, McInerney, Zorko, McCluggage, Bailey, Mathieson

BLUES: Weitering, Saad, Docherty, Cripps, McGovern, Walsh

INJURIES

LIONS: Ah Chee (concussion), Marcus Adams (ribs)

BLUES: Jack Martin (calf)

Greg Davis’s votes

3. Lachie Neale

2. Oscar McInerney

1. Jacob Weitering

Originally published as AFL 2022: Patrick Cripps free to play after Carlton’s appeal against two-match ban succeeds

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