Thomas, Johnson gamble pays off

The risky decisions of North Melbourne's Lindsay Thomas and Geelong's Steve Johnson to challenge rough-conduct suspensions from the match review panel were vindicated last night when the tribunal deemed neither player should be banned.

Each player faced an additional one-match ban - Thomas two up to three, Johnson one up to two - if they had lost the case.

Thomas's immediate reaction at escaping a rough-conduct suspension was to sympathise with the player whose leg he broke in a ''freak accident'', Sydney's Gary Rohan.

North Melbourne's decision to dispute the match review panel verdict was risky, because Sydney lost a similar case last week involving a player who slid into a contest, Adam Goodes, even though his opponent not being injured because of it.

Despite the prosecutor declaring Thomas had opened himself to potential punishment once he decided to slide into the contest rather than keep his feet, the tribunal jury of David Pittman, Wayne Henwood and Wayne Schimmelbusch determined the Kangaroos player had not engaged in rough conduct that was unreasonable.

Asked if he was relieved at being exonerated, Thomas replied: ''Yeah, I am. But firstly I just want to apologise to Gary and wish him all the best in his recovery. It wasn't intentional, it was just a freak accident.''

Geelong's Johnson was cited twice in the Cats' match last Sunday against Richmond. While he accepted a minor tripping charge against Daniel Jackson, which saw him accrue 78 carry-over points, he challenged the charge he had engaged in rough conduct against Chris Newman.

While that latter charge would have only brought him a 162.50-point penalty, in isolation a one-match ban, the addition of the carry-over points for the tripping would have resulted in him being sidelined for two matches.

After the hearing, the dangerous Cats forward expressed relief at being cleared to retain his spot for Geelong's trip this weekend to Brisbane.