Burnt Blue: Heath Scotland received a suspended sentence for assault in NSW. Photo: Paul Rovere
THE inevitable collision course being confronted by the AFL and the Carlton Football Club is as disappointing as it is predictable.
Disappointing because the AFL, despite the power it has to overrule clubs that fail to adequately sanction players, should not have to intervene in the case of Heath Scotland. Surely by now the Blues should know better.
Predictable because the indications yesterday were that Carlton - a club with a poor track record in suspending players with off-field behavioural issues - has learnt little from the past. It hasn't helped the club before and in the long term it won't now.
Under AFL rules, revised back in 2006, Scotland potentially faces a heavy fine and lengthy suspension after another drunken and violent off-field incident. The court that did not convict him did so because he was an AFL footballer who faced a three-match suspension, according to his defence. But the Blues yesterday suggested their club champion could miss NAB Cup games only.
Surely the AFL will challenge that. Incredibly the Blues believe that less than 30 hours serving the community - the penalty Scotland was handed for being out late and drunk and placing himself in danger - was enough of a punishment at the time and should be taken into account now.
It is not Carlton's fault that a magistrate in New South Wales gave Scotland special treatment by placing him on a two-year good-behaviour bond after he was found guilty of assault. But it is true the Blues supplied the player with a legal team not available to the three other men involved - all of whom were convicted.
The community has every right to feel aggrieved by the leniency received by Scotland. Offenders escape lightly in the legal system every day but how galling for the public and embarrassing for the AFL that Scotland was treated like a protected tenant because he is a footballer who would lose money and miss training in Arizona.
Carlton has indicated it is in no hurry to reach a conclusion regarding further punishment to Scotland, who in 2006 slapped a woman at Crown and was charged and fined. He used the same lame fireman ambition defence back then. Scotland is a very talented and popular footballer but he has a problem when he drinks and these two incidents are by no means isolated.
In truth the AFL has told the club to wait. League investigator Brett Clothier has already stepped in and demanded all police evidence and court documents related to the incident. There is every indication that the AFL believes that if a player defends himself by saying his club will sanction him, then sanction him it should. In matches that count.
Given that the AFL wanted Brock McLean suspended for his insulting AIDS tweet during the season it seems hard to believe Scotland will not get weeks.
To date Scotland's punishment - in club terms - has been 28 hours of community service under the watch of Les Twentyman. If Carlton truly thinks that is enough then it has learnt nothing from the Brendan Fevola saga and leadership will again become an issue at Visy Park.
In the wider context of the game, the personal conduct rule every player signs onto when he joins the AFL might as well be torn up.