SCOTT Thompson was innocent and rightly was cleared by the AFL's match review panel yesterday.
Thompson, Adelaide's top-shelf midfielder, ran into Steve Johnson at Geelong on Saturday and Johnson suffered concussion. But it was an accident caused as much by Johnson running quickly away from the football in that idiosyncratic ''Stevie J'' way, and Thompson not expecting him to be there in his path.
The Crows' player was watching the football and merely braced at the instant he realised the pair were about to collide, saving himself from a broken face. Johnson was not so lucky; not seeing Thompson, he did not protect himself. His injury was unfortunate, but nobody's fault.
In reprieving Thompson, the match review panel at least will assuage the public in their view that virtually all head-high contact seems to be punished; that no accidents are allowed any more.
Plainly, after this incident and the Beau Waters-Kurt Tippett collision the week before when Waters was cleared, the panel has acknowledged that blame does not need to be apportioned whenever a player is hurt, even in an era when the AFL is hellbent on reducing head injuries.
But the sticking point is the Jack Ziebell case a fortnight ago. In the moments after the Thompson verdict became public, fans began bombarding social media websites making the comparison - Thompson cleared, Ziebell four matches.
It is becoming a Monday ritual. The panel brings down its findings, based on the ticking of boxes under Adrian Anderson's system of sanctioning players; the fan forums and twitter.com begin whirring.
Many of the people who weigh into the debate have only seen the television news grabs of incidents that never reveal more than a second or so of a clash, often from the most sensational angle. Hardly any of them understand Anderson's set-penalty system. The combination of those two things is a firestorm.
In jest, I recently suggested to an AFL official that the league sell tickets to the panel's findings on Mondays and open the MCG for the job. It would be a sell-out, I said. But in truth it gets a little wearing.
For what it's worth, Ziebell was a bit unlucky. He was going for the football and took another player out; the panel decided he had other options. It is the options that are most important with this system and, in leaping at a ball he could not mark (it was handballed in his direction), Ziebell put himself at risk.
Thompson's is a different case. His options were zero. He did not choose to bump Johnson. They ran into each other. Pretty simple if you put it that way. So let's get on with the game.