The AFL Tribunal has rarely had a bigger week than the one that lies ahead.
Plus St Kilda is set for some tough list calls after its finals exit.
The big issues from week one of the 2023 AFL finals analysed in Talking Points!
Watch every match of the 2023 Toyota AFL Finals Series before the Grand Final Live & Ad-Break Free During Play on Kayo Sports. Join now and start streaming instantly >
‘Get them out & start again’ | 01:08
LANDMARK TRIBUNAL CASE LOOMS
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.
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.
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.
Lions dismantle Power to book prelim | 03:54
LIONS ‘CHEERY RIPE’ FOR BREAKTHROUGH FAGAN FLAG
They’re yet to make the big dance under Chris Fagan, but the Lions will never be more perfectly poised to change that than they are right now.
Brisbane’s 48-point demolition of Port Adelaide was decisive, further cementing the side’s nigh-on unbeatable status at the Gabba.
Their home-ground advantage could well prove vital given they will have to host either Melbourne or Carlton, but the way in which they’re playing suggests no challenge is too great.
Much of the doubt around the Lions centred on whether their key forward combo of Joe Daniher and Eric Hipwood would fire in September, but those concerns were put to bed relatively early on Saturday night.
The Lions played with a ferocity and grit that made Chris Fagan’s comments on AFL 360 – that this was the side’s best shot at a flag during his tenure – resonate all the more.
That view was also held by Leigh Montagna on Fox Footy’s The First Crack.
“This is it for the Brisbane Lions – they are absolutely cherry ripe. There is no more excuses. There’s no more question marks. They are being gifted the perfect opportunity to win this premiership this year,” he said.
“For me what I loved about the performance (against Port Adelaide) was that it wasn’t the same names – Lachie Neale, Harris Andrews, Dayne Zorko, Charlie Cameron was pretty quiet.
“It was the players we’ve been waiting for to step up. Hugh McCluggage was enormous – he took the lead as the main man. He was brilliant. Cam Rayner who’s had some question marks in finals – he stepped up and was enormous in the first half with three big goals.”
McCluggage had three goal assists and 12 score involvements to go with a goal of his own from 26 disposals, putting in a phenomenal performance in front of a raucous home crowd.
That Neale was held to 19 disposals by Willem Drew made McCluggage’s impact all the more necessary and impactful, along with other key contributors.
Up forward, Montagna labelled Daniher’s performance “sensational” as the Lions dominated the forward half and beat the Power at their own game.
“At the Gabba, I don’t think those teams are going to get past the Brisbane Lions,” Montagna said.
“The Gabba is such an advantage that that is why they are in the box seat.”
Ironically, David King added, the side’s forward line had “never been more settled and reliable than what it is right now”, despite the concerns over that area of the ground heading into 2023.
The Lions are perfectly poised to make the most of their chance, with two wins separating them from premiership glory.
‘I thought we had more in us than that’ | 08:16
KEY OFF-SEASON LOOMS FOR SAINTS AFTER FINALS LESSON
St Kilda is now out of the finals and Ross Lyon will get to work with his team on figuring out who to cull and who to target in his first full off-season at the helm.
Lyon has spoken of a year of exploration in the opening season of his second stint as Saints coach and at times has hinted some tough calls loom on the list.
There are discussions about the side’s midfield depth that continue to echo through the rooms at Moorabbin, but it is far from the only area in need of bolstering.
Whether it was a personnel issue or planning issue, Toby Greene was allowed to run amok on Saturday, with not even All-Australian fullback Callum Wilkie able to quell his influence.
Greene’s 19 disposals resulted in a goal, two behinds, one goal assist and nine score involvements.
“I thought it was played in the wrong way by Wilkie. He just rolled off him too often,” David King observed on The First Crack.
“I know he’s the All-Australian fullback and he’s up against the All-Australian captain, but he left at the wrong times.”
King showed several pieces of vision where Wilkie allowed far too much space to his star opponent, with the Saints made to pay dearly as a result.
“Plays like this, if you give the best small forward in the comp a metre or two in these situations they hit the scoreboard,” he said.
“He was caught betwixt and between. He was neither locking away Toby Greene because he had eight score involvements at halftime.
Bedford and GWS too good for Saints | 00:27
“He’s had an unbelievable year, I’m not slighting him at all, but it was a poor manner in which he played Toby Greene and he gave him luxuries that he just ate up.
“Maybe they didn’t have a better option, maybe that’s a factor as well. They’ve got to go shopping in the off-season, there’s a lot of list work to be done there.”
Leigh Montagna agreed, adding: “They (Saints) wanted to just stick to their system and play their system but I think there are just some players you’ve got to change your system a little bit for. I thought Toby Greene had to be almost more of a tag.”
The Saints entered the finals with the future of several players clouded.
Hunter Clark tried to join North Melbourne at the end of last season but was held to the final year of his deal by the Saints, while Dougal Howard’s name continues to be brought up by rival clubs despite Howard having no intention of moving.
Nick Coffield hasn’t played this season, while Jimmy Webster is among those without a deal for 2024.
That list is headlined by Jade Gresham, whose future remains unclear as he weighs up rival interest.
There are decisions galore ahead for Lyon and his football department that will give the footy world more clarity on just where he thinks the side’s profile is at.