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Steve Johnson cleared by AFL tribunal for kneeing Scott Thompson

Date

Jesse Hogan and Liam Mannix

The Johnson-Thompson incident.

The Johnson-Thompson incident. Photo: Channel Seven

Steve Johnson's on-field foe from last weekend, Scott Thompson, became his greatest ally at the tribunal on Tuesday evening when his favourable evidence about carrying a broken rib into the match helped Johnson overturn his two-match ban for kneeing.

The crafty Geelong midfielder-forward had been offered the opportunity to miss just this weekend's match against Fremantle but risked also missing the round-21 match against Carlton by challenging the match review panel's misconduct penalty at the tribunal.

Steve Johnson arrives at the tribunal.

Steve Johnson arrives at the tribunal. Photo: Getty Images

Geelong's poor recent record at the tribunal – since the start of 2009 only two of its eight challenges had been successful – was not repeated on this occasion, with the tribunal deciding that while Johnson deliberately dropped his knee into Thompson the level of impact was inadequate to sustain the charge against him.

A key factor in the verdict was Geelong's decision to call North Melbourne defender Thompson as a witness, for which it had to seek the permission of tribunal chairman David Jones. The Cats' rationale was their discovery Thompson had broken his rib in the Kangaroos' preceding match against Carlton and was wearing a guard specially approved by the AFL to protect his ribs in last Saturday night's match.

Thompson's pre-existing injury was not part of North's medical report submitted as part of the charge. It said only that Thompson had not been treated for injury.

Steve Johnson arrives at the tribunal.

Steve Johnson arrives at the tribunal. Photo: Getty Images

After the decision, which was reached after 10 minutes of deliberation between the jury of Wayne Schimmelbusch, David Neitz and Wayne Henwood, Johnson declined to reveal how the Cats had become aware of Thompson's injury. ''We found out later,'' he said. ''But I'm glad he [Thompson] came in ... it helped my case, no doubt.''

Johnson expressed pleasure at being cleared to face Fremantle, a recent arch-rival of Geelong. ''I got a fair hearing. I think the correct decision was made,'' he said.

Thompson gave evidence that after he fell to the turf on his back he dragged Johnson down with him, to deny him the opportunity to win the ball. Johnson himself admitted that after the Cats won possession he was happy to temporarily continue grappling with Thompson.

Johnson denied he had dropped his knee into Thompson and instead said he had placed it into his opponent's midriff. Defence counsel Peter Murdoch, QC, said this was solely as a means of gaining leverage to stand up.

Presiding umpire Brett Rosebury, who is in his 15th season and was officiating in his 300th match, was called by the Cats to give evidence. He said at one stage he had been about three or four metres away from the incident and declined to punish either player, on the basis he thought it was not even serious enough to be a scuffle. After viewing footage of the incident, he said he was comfortable with his decision not to report Johnson.

The Cats player said he had been aware Rosebury was closely watching he and Thompson, and as such had been careful not to transgress. ''I was pretty aware he was watching ... and I obviously did not want to give away a free-kick,'' he said.

After Thompson significantly winced following contact to his ribs, Johnson chided him for exaggerating the level of impact. ''I told him I thought he was faking it,'' Johnson said.

Thompson confirmed Johnson had done so – albeit without quoting the raw language he had used – but defended his decision to not explain why he had reacted so significantly to pressure on his ribs. ''He mentioned that [I was faking it]. I didn't want to say why because I had that pain because I might get targeted for the rest of the game,'' he said.

Thompson confirmed the necessity for him to wear a guard proved his broken rib was ''pretty sensitive''. Asked how much force Johnson had used, the Kangaroo replied: ''I didn't think there was much force. It obviously just got the right spot.''

Having got Johnson to concede he was aware dropping his knee into Thompson could be a reportable offence, tribunal counsel Nick Pane, QC, argued Thompson's evidence about the lack of force from Johnson was ''really not particularly relevant'', nor was the disclosure he had gone into the match with a broken rib.

The third question eventually was rendered moot after the tribunal found that while Johnston’s conduct had been unsportsmanlike, the force was negligible.

Video footage – played in slow motion for the tribunal judges – showed Johnson’s knee making contact with Thompson’s ribs, after which Thompson can be seen grimacing in pain.

Johnson said he initially thought Thompson was faking because of the low strength of the contact, which he described as ''minor''.

''I was quite surprised by his reaction. I told him that I thought he was faking it,'' he said.

48 comments so far

  • Poor Stevie J, just can't pull a trick.

    Commenter
    Trashman
    Date and time
    August 05, 2014, 6:04PM
    • Yes, he can. He's free to play. Presumably evidence from Scott Thomson and the umpire both contributed. But please, please, can he not get up to his silly antics against Fremantle?

      Commenter
      M
      Location
      Melbourne
      Date and time
      August 05, 2014, 6:18PM
    • Perhaps I should have saved my comment for Andrew Bolt, oh well.

      Commenter
      Trashman
      Date and time
      August 05, 2014, 6:46PM
  • A tough AWAY match at Simonds. So, so funny.

    Commenter
    Peter
    Date and time
    August 05, 2014, 6:22PM
    • Yet another disgraceful act that will go virtually unpunished by the AFL. Don't do anything really serious, like call someone a politically incorrect name, because then you'll really feel the wrath of the AFL. Stick to maiming, diving and doping.

      Commenter
      Adam
      Date and time
      August 05, 2014, 6:33PM
      • Calm down dear. The umpire said that he 'might' have paid a free kick, having seen the footage. The North player said that his reaction was from a previously broken rib, and that Johnson's contact was negligible.

        On 'the look' of the game, I couldn't agree more, and wish they'd change the rules so that this niggling, bully boy antics is illegal. Is it really, REALLY necessary to push and shove when the game hasn't even started? Great example to the ten year olds out there.

        As for maiming, though, I think you might read my first para. I've no doubt there are plenty of politically incorrect conversations out there.

        Making derogatory comments about someone's race, religion etc, though, is something society considers unacceptable, and fortunately that's one area that seems to be worked on.

        Commenter
        M
        Location
        Melbourne
        Date and time
        August 05, 2014, 6:54PM
    • It was plainly obvious from the replay what happened - nothing! Johnson was clearly trying to lift himself up off the other player who was not letting Johnson get to his feet. How come the umpire didn't see that? How come the MRP didn't see that? I believe that they saw Johnson appearing to knee the player in the just and made a negative call because it was Steve Johnson. Hardly impartial or professional. This sort of thing has been done to Geelong before. By comparison, a Richmond player deliberately infringes and gets only two weeks? Umpire and the MRP need to lift their games!

      Commenter
      John
      Location
      Adelaide
      Date and time
      August 05, 2014, 6:44PM
      • Don't hold your breath, the MRP is the Russian Roulette of footy. There is no logic to their process, precedent means nothing and nobody can predict the outcome of any incident. I bet Schimma et al. are praying Matt Fyfe doesn't "Win" the Brownlow this year and show them up for the complete geese they are.
        I wonder if anybody apologised to Stevie J for wasting his time and interrupting his preparation, and for rubbing him out last time for bumping heads with Crowley, who should be ashamed of himself for taking such a dive.

        Commenter
        Corbachov
        Date and time
        August 05, 2014, 11:06PM
      • That stupid bumped head with Crowley could cost Johnson a Brownlow. Crowley is the one running so close to others - Crowly should get the blame for all contacts. Crowley should have the blocking rule applied to him at all stoppages.

        Commenter
        Jack66
        Date and time
        August 06, 2014, 9:16AM
    • The right decision ultimately. Now let's focus on the Freo Way To Go team.

      Commenter
      Sean
      Date and time
      August 05, 2014, 6:49PM

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