Melbourne livewire Kysaiah Pickett has copped a two-match ban for his bump on Western Bulldog Bailey Smith, one of three high hits in round one as the AFL grapples with the long-term effects of concussion.
The verdict came as concussion campaigner Peter Jess said he was talking to ex-Geelong champion Gary Ablett about whether the 61-year-old would join the concussion class action that was launched by lawyer Greg Griffin last week.
Ablett revealed on Saturday that scans had shown he had suffered structural damage to his brain and claimed it was a result of his AFL career.
“I am working through it with [Gary],” Jess said when asked whether he would join the class action that involves past players including Shaun Smith, Darren Jarman, John Platten and John Barnes. “He is no different to some of the other individuals involved.”
Adelaide’s Shane McAdam will learn his own match review fate on Monday for his bump on Giant Jacob Wehr during their Sunday clash, while Swans superstar Lance Franklin was offered a one-match ban for a bump on Gold Coast’s Sam Collins.
Pickett was brilliant in the Demons’ 50-point demolition of the Bulldogs, but will have to watch when they meet the Brisbane Lions and Sydney Swans – the two sides that eliminated them from last year’s finals – in the next fortnight.
The Demons have the option of challenging the ruling but run the risk of Pickett receiving an even lengthier ban in an AFL climate where such hits are frowned upon.
Lance Franklin’s bump on Sam Collins.Credit:Fox Footy
Joining the 21-year-old on the sidelines is Franklin, whose own bump on Collins cost him a one-match suspension.
Match review officer Michael Christian classified Pickett’s rough conduct charge as careless conduct, high impact and high contact.
Christian’s high-impact call was critical to the finding, given Smith quickly bounced to his feet, avoided an injury and played the match out.
Pickett could have escaped with even a fine in the scenario the impact was judged to be low, and typically cases where a bump does not cause injury are graded no worse than medium impact.
Adelaide’s Shane McAdam makes contact with GWS wingman Jacob Wehr.Credit:Fox Footy
But the “potential to cause serious injury” clause enabled Christian to grade the second quarter incident as high impact, with Pickett leaving the ground to deliver a massive hit at high speed. Bulldogs fans showered Pickett with boos for the rest of the night.
It was always unlikely that Pickett and Franklin would avoid a ban as the AFL faces a series of concussion class actions, and while the topic of brain injuries becomes increasingly prominent.
However, Jimmy Bartel, who was previously on the match review panel, had warned earlier on 3AW that Pickett’s sanction, and other incidents like it, could be “something we don’t want” due to the AFL’s rigid table of offences.
“I think the issue we’ve got for Michael Christian, being the match review officer, is he has a table of offences he has to plug it into,” Bartel said.
“There are some people in the media who don’t actually take the two minutes to understand the table of offences, so they yell and scream to be heard, ‘That should be four weeks, that should be three weeks’.
“Michael Christian can’t work backwards. He can only work from left to right, so when we plug it in, sometimes the result spits out something we don’t want.
“These two instances [Pickett and Franklin], in particular; you could make arguments for a fine, [even though] the temperature at the moment is we have to protect the head.”
Concussion is the biggest issue in the game as a growing number of players reveal the post-football struggles they are dealing with, and is set to be debated in court.
North Melbourne ruckman Todd Goldstein said players were aware of the risks they faced in a non-contact sport but also had a greater understanding of the potential future problems.
“I think playing a contact sport; you’re moments away from something happening to end your career, so you do understand that risk,” Goldstein said.
“Players are getting better at being honest about what happened – that’s why it was so muddy in the past – because you’re almost lauded for lying about what symptoms you’re experiencing, and playing down how you felt.
“Whereas now, I reckon, there’s a much more honest conversation about how you’re actually feeling, and I’m seeing players put their hand up, and saying, ‘I have a headache’ or ‘I’m feeling fuzzy’ and that ruling them out.”
West Coast’s Tom Barrass and Port Adelaide’s Darcy Byrne-Jones can accept a $2000 and $1000 fine, respectively, with an early guilty plea for striking Kangaroo Charlie Comben and tripping Lion Zac Bailey.
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