Grounded... North Melboure's Drew Petrie (pictured) and Geelong's James Kelly have been asked to explain their criticisms. Photo: Sebastian Costanzo
THE AFL has ordered North Melbourne vice-captain Drew Petrie and triple Geelong premiership player James Kelly to explain why they publicly criticised the AFL Tribunal's four-match ban on young Kangaroo Jack Ziebell.
The demand came as North coach Brad Scott described the suspension as a ''really sad day'' for football.
Scott said he had lost sleep over Ziebell's ban for rough conduct against Carlton's Aaron Joseph.
''It was a bitterly disappointing day and a really sad day in my mind for AFL football,'' he said.
''It is something that strikes at the heart of what this game is about. Since I have been involved in footy, my whole life, I have have never, ever seen a player get suspended for making the ball his sole objective, attacking the ball with ferocity, but being punished for the incidental contact that occurred because of that attitude in going for the ball.
''It's been a core fundamental of our game since the game was invented that you can attack the ball with ferocity, provided you keep your eyes on the ball the whole time and you make the ball your sole intention.''
Petrie vented his disappointment on Twitter soon after the tribunal's decision on Tuesday night, writing: ''advice for @jackziebell. Stop being so courageous and playing footy hard that way it's meant to be played. Please turn into a softy!'' And in another post: ''shaking my head''.
But it was not just the Kangaroos who jumped to Ziebell's defence. Kelly tweeted: ''I was going to tweet how Ziebell getting four weeks was a mare of a decision but decided not to so I don't get in trouble #smartkell … smart''.
The AFL said yesterday it had sent ''please explain'' letters to Petrie and Kelly.
Asked if he would be disappointed if the league sanctioned Petrie, Scott said he needed to be careful what he said because he didn't want ''lawyers sending me a letter of demand wanting me to apologise''. (Leading player manager Paul Connors was forced to publicly apologise after his strident criticism of the AFL interfering with the tribunal in the Chris Judd ''chicken wing'' tackle case.)
But Scott was keen to get his point across. ''The tribunal agreed he was contesting the ball, the match review panel agreed, the umpire officiating at the time agreed, so what they are saying now is: yep, we acknowledged he was contesting it, but did he have a reasonable alternative?
''Well, yes, he did he have reasonable alternative - he could have stopped, waited for Joseph to get the ball and tackled him.''
Asked if he thought the rules should be changed, Scott said it depended on public support.
''Perhaps we better rewrite the coaching manual. Tell players: no it's not about keeping your eyes on the ball and attacking it with ferocity, it's about making sure you don't hurt your opponent.''
Ziebell will spend the next four weeks in Utah, but Scott said it would be far from a holiday.
''Trust me, he's not going to be sunbaking by the pool all day. He's going to be training really hard.''