All eyes will centre on the AFL Tribunal on Tuesday night, with Brayden Maynard and Jack Martin to make their cases for reduced or discarded suspensions.
Maynard’s is clearly the more contentious of the two and has stormed into contention for the most divisive match review call this season.
That division was evident even inside AFL House, with Match Review Officer Michael Christian effectively overruled by some of the game’s top brass.
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For the league, the thinking is that a case this divisive should at least go before the Tribunal in order have it hashed out and set a precedent either way.
Such is the conviction of those on both sides – that it should or shouldn’t be a ban – that there was enough grey area in the eyes of key league figures to warrant a Tribunal trip.
“The devil is in the detail” on Maynard | 00:50
There is scope to refer incidents ungraded directly to the Tribunal, but it would be relatively unprecedented, so the league thought it would grade Maynard’s actions as rough conduct and let the match review matrix send it there directly anyway.
From the league’s point of view, Maynard elected to bump by turning his body while airborne, which will be part of the case put forward when the Tribunal sits on Tuesday night.
From Collingwood’s standpoint, let alone Maynard’s, this was an incident that took place within less than half a second and could only be described as a footy act.
‘You never played at the highest level’ is an old and tired adage, but it is worth noting many of those who have played the game at the elite level appear to be on the side of Maynard.
One of those is former Port Adelaide midfielder Kane Cornes, who was pointed in his comments on Saturday night’s The Round So Far via AFL Media.
“There’s nothing else he could’ve done there. I get people suggesting he should be suspended but that’s coming from people who don’t understand and probably haven’t played the game,” he said.
“It is a LEGAL action” – pros on Maynar | 00:47
“He’s running flat out, he jumps before the ball is kicked. What do you want him to do? He can’t disappear in mid-air. He moves ever so slightly just to protect himself as we’re always taught to do.
“You can slow that down and play it frame-by-frame or you can play it in real-time and tell me what other option Brayden Maynard had there.
“Anyone suggesting he should be suspended, I question whether you’ve been in that position yourself, how much footy you have played.
“He does not deserve to miss a premiership for an action like that.”
Tom Lynch managed to have a ban overturned at the Tribunal earlier this season for an incident that left Alex Keath concussed, with parts of the reasons provided there likely to be relied upon by the Pies.
While there are marked differences between that case and this one, key lines that would jump out to the Pies are these from Tribunal chairperson Jeff Gleeson: “All flight can be misjudged and leaps mistimed.”
“It is not careless for a player to do no more than brace for contact in those circumstances.”
Maynard’s contrition and relationship with Brayshaw will no doubt be mentioned, but those factors usually aid only in reducing penalty rather than throwing out a ban altogether.
Ultimately, the Tribunal will ask itself simple questions: Was Maynard’s act ‘in the bumping of an opponent’? Was Maynard contesting the ball and was it reasonable for him to do so in that way? Was contact caused by circumstances outside of Maynard’s control that couldn’t be reasonably foreseen?
The answers to these questions will determine Maynard’s season and set a precedent for the weeks and seasons ahead.