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Demetriou: Overturned suspension 'a relief'

Outgoing AFL CEO Andrew Demetriou believes the final outcome from the AFL Appeals Board over Jack Viney's bump is "the correct one" and "a relief".

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The process of achieving clarity around what exactly constitutes a bump remains an ongoing one, but the final decision of the AFL appeals board to overturn Jack Viney's two-match suspension was "probably correct", according to AFL football operations manager Mark Evans.

Speaking on Friday morning,  a day after the appeals board ended a week of emotional debate about the state of football by freeing the young Melbourne midfielder to play on Saturday night against the Western Bulldogs, Evans conceded that the league still had a role to play in making it easier for players to know what they are allowed to do.

Andrew Demetriou's comments on the Viney decision did not undermine the process according to Mark Evans

Andrew Demetriou's comments on the Viney decision did not undermine the process according to Mark Evans Photo: Joe Armao

"We need to provide some guidelines or to reinforce our guidelines around this decision to bump or just a collision where there is an element that looks like a bumping action towards the end of it, and we need to work out what's the right fit for our game there," Evans said.

He also suggested that the AFL had to "provide some direction or guidelines to the MRP (Match Review Panel) and tribunal as to what is a realistic alternative for a player in any given circumstance," and that player safety had to remain at the forefront of any verdict reached.

Evans flagged that the appeals board would at some stage be releasing the reasons for its decision, but that there was no timeframe yet for when that would occur.

While generally pleased with how the system had held up during a trying week, Evans indicated that in the future, the MRP and tribunal would be best served by "judging a player's intent at normal speed" when trying to determine whether a bump had actually occurred.

Despite hinting that the best outcome had eventually been reached, Evans defended the tribunal's handling of the case.

"On rare occasions the appeals board will disagree with the tribunal, and that's perfectly OK," he said.

Evans indicated that outgoing AFL CEO Andrew Demetriou's commentary on the decision prior to the appeal did not not undermine the process, as the tribunal and appeals board remain bodies independent of the AFL.

Demetriou had earlier in the week described Viney as "very unlucky".

Overall though, Evans believed that the situation remained largely the same for players now as it had been prior to the controversial incident.

"The instructions to players are no different than they were this time last week, and that is, if you elect to bump, if you choose to bump, you must not cause forceful head-high contact," Evans said.

"And there are a couple of exceptions to that, where you will escape a sanction. And that is if you don't have a realistic alternative, or if there are circumstances that occur that are outside your control that you couldn't reasonably foresee happening. 

"The simple message to players and coaches is exactly the same as it was last Friday and that is if you've got another option, you should choose that other option. If you choose to bump, the onus of responsibility for you is to make sure that you don't cause forceful head-high contact.

"That has not changed and won't change."

However speaking earlier on Friday morning to SEN, Evans' immediate predecessor Adrian Anderson questioned the grounds upon which the appeals board reached its decision.

“They can’t just substitute what they think is the right decision, they actually have to believe it was so unreasonable that no tribunal acting reasonably could have come to that decision,” Anderson said.

“It’s a big call for the appeals board to overturn what that tribunal and the former players who are on that tribunal, how they saw that situation.”

It was only the second time in the past 15 appeals that a tribunal verdict had been quashed.

For his part, Demetriou expressed relief about the ultimate outcome for Viney, and for football as a whole.

“The bump is alive, we’re not going to instruct players and I don’t think coaches should instruct players not to go into bumping contests but they just have to be very wary around (contests) that affect the head," he told 3AW on Friday morning.

Twitter- @danielcherny