Sparking comment: Jack Ziebell. Photo: Michael Clayton-Jones
NORTH Melbourne vice-captain Drew Petrie is facing an AFL sanction over public criticism of the AFL tribunal, but the Kangaroos have accepted they can go no further in defending midfielder Jack Ziebell.
The AFL is investigating comments by Petrie posted on his Twitter account on Tuesday night after Ziebell was suspended for four matches for rough conduct. The case has caused a degree of outrage on talkback radio and in social media, but North announced yesterday it would not appeal.
AFL football operations manager Adrian Anderson backed the tribunal's decision and said league official Rod Austin was investigating whether Petrie would be sanctioned. Petrie posted on Twitter on Tuesday: ''Advice for @jackziebell. Stop being so courageous and playing footy hard the way it's meant to be played. Please turn into a softy!''
He had earlier posted a line about ''shaking my head'' at the tribunal's decision.
The AFL has fined Carlton players Jarrad Waite, Jeremy Laidler and Marc Murphy for umpire criticism on Twitter this year, and Geelong captain Joel Selwood was asked to apologise for a comment he posted about the match review panel.
Anderson said the AFL was more stringent in its application of penalties for umpire criticism than other areas. ''The tribunal is less so. We look at the nature of those comments. Are they excessive, unreasonable? That sort of thing.''
The Ziebell case attracted huge levels of negative commentary yesterday, including from former Geelong forward Cameron Mooney, who posted: ''We need to start teaching our kids when the ball is there to be won stop first make sure you don't hurt anyone than try and get it#afljoke'' Geelong midfielder James Kelly also may face a sanction over a cryptic post.
The fallout from the case caused friction between the clubs yesterday, with North unhappy at the level of detail in the Carlton doctor's report read to the tribunal and describing the injuries to Aaron Joseph, Ziebell's ''victim'' on the night.
The doctor's report referred to Joseph being diagnosed with concussion at half-time and mentioned bruising to the face, but the Kangaroos, who believed they had been generous in their public comments about the Chris Judd case, contacted the Blues to raise the issue.
North felt the doctor's comments did not help Ziebell's cause on the night. Ziebell had been offered a three-match suspension by the match review panel, but North chose to contest the case at the tribunal.
Anderson said the Ziebell decision fitted with the AFL's desire to reduce head injuries. ''We've got a firm line. If a player's got a realistic alternative to protect his opponent he should do that and that's the basis for the tribunal's decision in that case,'' he said. ''The tribunal jury's view was that he [Ziebell] could have contested it in a way that didn't cause the injury and the concussion that resulted from it.''
North Melbourne said yesterday it was ''obviously disappointed'' but added it was moving on. ''It's now important that we support Jack and reiterate we are extremely proud of the way he plays,'' said Roos' head of football, Donald McDonald.