If the appeal is successful, Brent Harvey will only miss the first four matches of 2013. Photo: Getty Images
BRENT Harvey this week joined Nick Maxwell in feeling the wrath of the match review panel. Next week, he is aiming to join Maxwell in one of the AFL's most exclusive groups - players who successfully appeal a tribunal ban.
North Melbourne yesterday lodged an appeal against the second of two striking charges, both upheld by the tribunal on Tuesday night, that banned Harvey for a total of six matches.
If the Kangaroos succeed, their former captain will miss only the first four matches of 2013.
Harvey received a two-match ban for striking West Coast's Adam Selwood as the pair were grappling well off the play at the weekend. In the aftermath, Selwood left the ground with cuts to his nose and forehead that required stitches.
The only available footage of the incident, taken from long range, does not reveal what caused the cuts, although it does show both players grappling while facing each other and both keeping their feet throughout.
Selwood gave evidence he did feel ''forceful contact'' to his head but was unsure what caused it, except that it was not a headbutt. Harvey, in evidence, agreed he had been grappling with Selwood but said he had not struck him in any way. When asked what caused Selwood's cuts, he replied: ''I don't know.''
Tribunal counsel Jeff Gleeson, SC, said the lack of footage made the matter comparable to an ''old-fashioned case'' where the jury was entitled to make ''sensible inferences'' about what had occurred.
Defence counsel Will Houghton, QC, who unsuccessfully tried to have the hearing cancelled before it began due to lack of evidence, decried the case against Harvey as ''flimsy''. He also said there was a plausible explanation of how Selwood's cuts occurred, but insisted it was not his nor Harvey's responsibility to provide such an explanation.
''There's no evidence he [Harvey] is not telling the truth,'' Houghton said.
Nevertheless, the tribunal jury of Wayne Schimmelbusch, Stewart Loewe and Emmett Dunne upheld the ban.
In choosing to appeal, Harvey will become the 15th player to challenge a tribunal ruling in front of the AFL appeals board since its formation in 2005, when the match review panel-based disciplinary system was introduced.
Of his 14 predecessors, only Maxwell has succeeded, in the 2009 pre-season over a four-match rough-conduct ban for a bump that broke the jaw of West Coast's Patrick McGinnity. Within a week of that ruling the AFL toughened its rules to prevent subsequent incidents like Maxwell's from going unpunished.
The three-member panel that will hear Harvey's appeal next week will be drawn from a six-member pool - Peter O'Callaghan, QC (chairman), former tribunal chairman Brian Collis, QC, Brian Bourke, John Schultz, Michael Green and John Winneke - that has been unchanged since 2005.
Tribunal rules dictate that the only grounds for clubs to refer a tribunal decision to the appeals board are ''an error of law, a grossly unreasonable decision, a manifestly excessive classification or a manifestly excessive sanction''.
New evidence is only allowed if appeals-board members are convinced that evidence could not have been produced for the preceding tribunal hearing, and was significant enough to prompt the tribunal to overturn.
The last player to challenge a tribunal decision at the appeals board was Melbourne's Jack Trengove last year, for a highly contentious three-match rough conduct ban for a tackle on Adelaide's Patrick Dangerfield.
Irrespective of next week's decision, Kangaroos fitness staff will create a new pre-season fitness program for Harvey, whose workload was already to be amended due to his veteran status.
The likely aim will be to delay the 34-year-old's workload so he is at his best just as he is eligible to return, in either round five or round seven, rather than the start of the 2013 home-and-away season.