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AFL to consider change to criteria for Brownlow eligibility

Date

Jesse Hogan

Gold Coast captain Gary Ablett could be scrutinised by the match review panel for this off-the-ball blow to Western Bulldogs' Liam Picken.

Gold Coast captain Gary Ablett (on the ground) was scrutinised by the match review panel for this off-the-ball blow to Western Bulldogs' Liam Picken. Photo: Channel Seven

The AFL will consider a change to the criteria for Brownlow medal eligibility as part of football boss Mark Evans' review of the tribunal points system.

Evans said he would make "no promises" but that the current system, whereby a player can be ruled ineligible to win the Brownlow even if he doesn't miss a game, would be looked at.

"I am prepared to look at it. What we will do is collect some vision of all of the minor incidents and see whether we are comfortable, but certainly no promises," he told 3AW.

Favourable evidence from Liam Picken, the Western Bulldogs player struck by Gary Ablett's elbow at the weekend, was crucial in the Brownlow Medal favourite escaping a penalty over the incident.

The panel also rejected accusations the Gold Coast champion had received preferential treatment because of his lofty standing in the game.

Match review panel member Joel Bowden confirmed on Tuesday that the "somewhat inconclusive" video footage of the incident meant the evidence given by Picken, and also a medical report from the Bulldogs, helped the panel decide Ablett had not struck Picken in the head. From there, it decided the blow to the body was too trifling to warrant a sanction.

"It was an interesting case, obviously a lot of interest around it considering it's Gary," Bowden told the AFL website.

"We conducted an investigation. We obviously get a medical report ... and when we got that back [and] we spoke to Liam Picken we decided it was an impact to the body and not the head, and that the force was below what would constitute a report."

Bowden said the absence of evidence in the medical report of high contact to Picken "helps Ablett in some respects".

He did, however, acknowledged the panel members' general view on players elbowing opponents was "we don't want to see that".

"You do have to be mindful that if you're throwing your elbow back you can hurt someone. The action's not one we look favourably upon, but due to the fact it did get him [Picken] in the body we were able to let him [Ablett] off on this occasion," he said.

Bowden rejected accusations from many fans and some pundits that Ablett received preferential treatment, but conceded he could "understand why people ... would have that view, to some extent".

"We take it case by case," he said. "Because he's got a really good record doesn't come into play until after he gets cited."

Bowden also said the panel was comfortable with its decision to throw out a match-day report against the Bulldogs' Adam Cooney for clattering into Ablett as the Suns captain had his head down to pick up the ball just ahead of Cooney. He said it was similar to the recent incident involving Sydney's Dan Hannebery and Essendon's Michael Hurley, for which the latter was exonerated, and conveyed the panel's belief the ball was loose at the time of the collision.

Bowden said he hoped those two decisions would offer players, pundits and fans more clarity on the type of incidents involving forceful high contact that will attract punishment and the type that will not.

"If both players are contesting the ball and don't have a realistic alternative, then the match review panel will not be citing them," he said.

"There'll always be difficulties with the system because it's an ambiguous sport. Players come from all different sides, all different angles, the ball bobbles around. We never can predict exactly what's going to happen.

"There'll always be little nuances in our game and it will be difficult for us week on week - and sometimes difficult for me ... to explain it - but we're trying to deliver a little bit more clarity, and hopefully over the journey we'll be able to enunciate that clearly and get it out to the public." 

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