Hurley's fumble made Hannebery blow fair: MRP

Hannebery and Hurley immediately after the incident in question Photo: Pat Scala
Hannebery and Hurley immediately after the incident in question Photo: Pat Scala

Michael Hurley's inability to cleanly gather possession on Friday night was the key reason the match review panel spared Dan Hannebery for high contact to the Essendon defender immediately afterwards.

Match review panel member Joel Bowden said Swans midfielder Hannebery "didn't have a realistic opportunity to do something else" when he clattered into Hurley as his opponent had his head over the ball, and was fully entitled to have attacked the contest in the side-on manner that he did.

Bowden also insisted the overturning of the recent suspension of Jack Viney had negligible impact on the panel's decision on Hannebery, on the basis it saw few similarities between the incidents.

"It would have helped if Hurley did gather the ball cleanly initially, however he doesn't. He fumbles and it becomes a loose ball . . . Dan Hannebery had every right to contest the ball," Bowden told the AFL website on Tuesday.

"The players have both got their eyes on the ball, they're contesting the ball and there's no realistic alternative for either player."

Bowden conceded Hannebery had caused forceful front-on contact to Hurley, but said the merits of charging him for that were trumped by the fact the ball was in dispute between those two players and that there was "no realistic alternative" for Hannebery that could have prevented the collision.

Collingwood coach Nathan Buckley endorsed the panel's decision on Hannebery.

Buckley argued that coaching players to attack low, disputed balls in the correct way would do more to protect them against head-high hits than creating legislation that took "footballers away from playing football" by forcing them to step away from contests.

The Magpies coach said he believed Hannebery had approached the split-second contest in the best possible way and that Hurley had left himself vulnerable by leading with his head when searching for the fumbled ball.

He said Hurley, not Hannebery, should have approached the contest in a different way, and that ground-ball drills at Collingwood always reinforced the importance of entering contests low, with split legs, heads tucked behind shoulders and eyes for the ball.

"I thought Daniel Hannebery attacked the contest with a really good technique and with the right technique to protect himself and give himself the best chance of winning the ball and driving out of the contest," Buckley said on Tuesday.

"I just hope at junior levels that coaches are still coaching their players to turn their body and take the ball rather than leading with their heads, because if we have too many leading with their heads as Michael did, it's probably going to result in greater injuries.

"You've got to teach the players to protect themselves and I thought Michael left himself open. Daniel attacked the contest in the right manner and there was some contact that stemmed from it.

"I'm glad the decision went the way it did, but for me it highlights that you've got to coach people to protect themselves. When you go into the footy arena you're going to receive contact in some shape or form and some manner, so you need to look after yourself.

"Hurley should have expected contact and should have approached the contest in a different manner."

Bowden said he and his fellow panel members were comfortable about their decision not to charge Hannebery.

"There's some flow-on effects from the Viney decision . . . that does play on your mind when you go into the weeks afterwards," he said.

"I'd be lying if I said we don't have a memory bank and use some of the things that've gone before . . . but these were two different charges and we were looking at them in isolation. Hopefully we've come to the right decision. I think . . . we have this week."

Bowden said he had been told the appeals board was on the cusp of delivering its formal explanation of why it overturned the two-match Viney suspension, for a collision that broken the jaw of Adelaide's Tom Lynch, almost a fortnight ago.

He said the panellists were eager to read the appeals board's rationale, in case it had implications for the operation of the match review panel.

The former Richmond player also said he and his fellow panellists were oblivious to whether a player was subject to a loading for a bad record or carry-over points when judging the severity of incidents, and that such factors were only included, by the panel's non-officiating secretary, once they had made their judgement.

"For us, we're not looking at what we think it should be as a suspension," he said.

"It can be convoluted but that's the system we've got and that's how we work. We certainly work [start] to end, to back to front."

Bowden acknowledged the current disciplinary structure, which AFL operations chief Mark Evans wants to simplify, resulted in penalties he did not expect, owing to a player's good or bad record.

"I'd be lying if I said at times I'd looked at an incident and didn't think 'Oh, he'll get a week for that', but sometimes it doesn't work that way," he said.

This story Hurley's fumble made Hannebery blow fair: MRP first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.