GWS forward Toby Bedford is free to play in Saturday’s elimination final against St Kilda after overturning his one-match ban at the AFL Appeals Board.
Bedford was suspended for an off-the-ball bump, deemed as medium impact and high contact, on Carlton’s Zac Fisher in the final round of the home-and-away season.
GWS failed to overturn or downgrade the suspension at the AFL Tribunal on Monday night, but they came up trumps in an appeal on Thursday afternoon.
Giants counsel Ben Ihle successfully argued it was not reasonable for the AFL Tribunal to conclude the high contact was forceful.
“The evidence that was before the tribunal would not permit that finding to be logically or reasonably made,” Ihle said.
“Fisher gave evidence of not recalling high contact, let alone recalling any high contact that was forceful.
“Dr Middleton (the biochemist expert) said it was not capable of determining the level of force – it is impossible based on the video to determine the level of force.
“A tribunal acting reasonably doesn’t act on guess work.”
AFL Counsel Lisa Hannon said the AFL Tribunal panel that comprised of Jeff Gleeson, Darren Gaspar and Scott Stevens were well placed to assess the evidence.
Sports law is one of Gleeson’s specialties, while Darren Gasper (228 AFL games) and Stevens (144 AFL games) have extensive playing experience.
“(They are an) expert sporting panel,” Hannon said.
“The vision shows the whole of the incident.
“This was not a matter of accepting or rejecting the truthfulness of Fisher’s evidence.”
But the Appeals Board, led by chairman Murray Kellam, believed the AFL Tribunal got it wrong, with the decision freeing Bedford to face St Kilda at the MCG.
“We accept it was open to the Tribunal who found that there was contact by the body to player Fisher’s head,” Kellam said.
“But in our view, neither the evidence or the reasons expressed by the Tribunal in respect of such evidence is sufficient to establish that such contact was forceful as required by the AFL regulations.”
Bedford beamed a big smile once the decision was handed down.
Earlier in the day, Giants coach Adam Kingsley expressed confidence Bedford would win the case.
The best forward in the league for pressure acts, Bedford has become an essential cog in the Giants’ forward line.
The first-year Giant has kicked 10 goals and averaged five tackles in 16 games this season.
“(Bedford) is unbelievably important for us,” Kingsley said.
“He’s right at the top for forward-half pressure and tackles. That’s incredibly important to the way that we play.
“He can play a variety of roles. He can be a swingman if we need him to go into the midfield, if we need to spark.”
Pies’ heartbreaking omission breaks 83-match unbroken run
Collingwood have made the difficult call to drop John Noble for their qualifying final clash with Melbourne, after the running defender played in all 23 games during the home-and-away campaign.
Noble had played 83 consecutive matches for the Magpies dating back to 2020, the seventh-longest streak by a current player in the AFL.
His omission led to emotional scenes at Pies training, with a group of players embracing both Noble and defender Billy Frampton, who made way for returning defenders Darcy Moore and Nathan Murphy.
Crafty small forward Jack Ginnivan has been included in the emergencies, preferring to recall Beau McCreery after he served his one-game suspension, despite kicking three goals in the smashing of Essendon two weeks ago.
Wet and cold weather is expected for the 1 v 4 battle, but Collingwood have chose to name both of their ruckmen in Darcy Cameron and Mason Cox.
Meanwhile, Melbourne premiership forward Tom McDonald is locked in to play his first game since May in a major boost for the Demons.
The 30-year-old has been restricted to six games this season after battling with an ankle injury.
But McDonald, who missed Melbourne’s straight-sets exit from the finals last year, has got himself fit for Thursday night’s clash with the Magpies in front of more than 90,000 fans at the MCG.
Veteran defender Michael Hibberd has also earned a recall.
“He’s got his timing right, Tommy, hasn’t he,” Demons coach Simon Goodwin said on Wednesday.
“He’s played the last three games really well at VFL; now he’s kicking goals, he’s moving better, he’s got his body 100 per cent fit and healthy.
“He’s a really important player for us. He’s a leader and he’s proven that he can play well in finals footy.”
McDonald booted 33 goals during Melbourne’s 2021 premiership campaign, combining well with lethal left-footer Bayley Fristch.
The Demons will be without Jake Melksham, who performed admirably in the back-half of this season before rupturing his ACL in the final round clash with Sydney.
That win at the SCG was Fritsch’s first appearance in two months due to being sidelined with a foot injury.
Fritsch starred with five goals in his return against the Swans but did send a scare through the Melbourne camp when he hobbled off with a sore foot.
“He’s trained fully the last week so he’s ready to go,” Goodwin said.
“He did a fairly big running session on Saturday… there’s no questions about Bayley, he’s a class player.”
Up to 29 players took part in Melbourne’s training run at Gosch’s Paddock in front of a large contingent of Demons supporters.
Melbourne will go with captain Max Gawn as their sole ruckman and again leave Grundy on the sidelines as an emergency.
Grundy trained with the main group on Wednesday, but so did fringe players Adam Tomlinson and Josh Schache.
Joel Smith missed training after his partner gave birth to the couple’s first child but the versatile tall has still been named on the bench.
Goodwin believed the pain of last year’s abrupt exit from the finals during a mammoth upset by the Brisbane Lions will help drive the Demons this September.
“It’s a big stage to play on … we think we are well-prepared, we think we are ready,” he said.
“We can’t wait to get out there and execute what we have been doing for the last eight weeks.”
Tom McDonald (Photo by Michael Dodge/AFL Media/Getty Images)
Reports of bombshell Hawks offer for Bailey Smith as Dogs stand firm
The Western Bulldogs remain adamant contracted gun Bailey Smith will remain at the club in 2024, as rumours swirl of serious interest in the midfielder from rival clubs.
Smith has long been linked with Geelong due to both the club’s urgent need for midfield talent and his partnership with clothing brand and key Cats sponsor Cotton On, but Hawthorn reportedly have joined the hunt for the 22-year old’s services.
According to Nine reporter Sam McClure, the Hawks would even be willing to give up their prize first-round draft pick, currently sitting at 3, for Smith.
“Hawthorn would give their left arm for him right now. Hawthorn would give Pick 3 for him tomorrow,” McClure said on Footy Classified on Wednesday night.
Fellow panellist and former great Matthew Lloyd urged the Dogs to trade Smith for that level of return, saying the potential return is too tantalising to turn down.
“If Hawthorn are giving Pick 3, the Bulldogs just say: ‘How quick can we do the deal?'” Lloyd said.
“I’d be backing in that Pick 3 would be a better player over the next 250 games than Bailey Smith.
“He’s no Christian Petracca or Marcus Bontempelli, and that’s who you’d hope Pick 3 would be.”
Bailey Smith. (Photo by Dylan Burns/AFL Photos via Getty Images)
However, Bulldogs list manager Sam Power remains adamant the club will be holding Smith to his contract, which runs until the end of 2024.
“Long-term, we talked about our midfield profile, there’s some guys getting a little bit older and Bailey’s that one that we really want to be that inside midfielder for us for a long, long time,” Power said on AFL Media’s Gettable.
“He’s a fantastic player, his best football we’ve seen is really good and we know he’s going to have a good career ahead of him and improve from what he’s already produced.”
Further muddying the waters of a potential trade is the Hawks’ interest in North Melbourne restricted free agent Ben McKay, who is set to trigger a top-three compensation pick for the Kangaroos to bump the Hawks down the draft order, as well as a likely early bid on Dogs father-son prospect Jordan Croft.