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Debate will continue to rage after the AFL confirmed it won’t appeal against the tribunal decision that cleared Collingwood defender Brayden Maynard of any wrongdoing for the collision that knocked out Melbourne midfielder Angus Brayshaw.
Maynard was deemed not guilty of rough conduct during a marathon four-hour hearing at the AFL Tribunal on Tuesday night, freeing him to play in Collingwood’s preliminary final next week.
The AFL decided not to appeal against the decision after “careful consideration and review of the Tribunal’s decision and reasons following last night’s hearing”.
The league says it will list its reasoning in more detail later on Wednesday.
The incident has divided the football world.
Before Tuesday night’s hearing, Hamish Brayshaw — the brother of Angus — said it would be an “injustice” if Maynard was able to dodge suspension.
Angus Brayshaw will miss Melbourne’s semi-final against Carlton – and may not play again under a worst-case scenario – after being clattered into by the airborne Maynard.
Maynard had leapt into the air in an attempt to smother the ball and turned his body at the last moment in a movement that resulted in his shoulder making contact with Brayshaw’s head.
Melbourne coach Simon Goodwin said the tribunal case would define what players’ duty of care looked like in such “football acts”.
AFL counsel Andrew Woods argued Maynard had breached his duty of care by deciding to smother in such a dangerous way.
He also argued Maynard had made a conscious decision to bump after realising contact would be made.
But the AFL Tribunal of chairman Jeff Gleeson, Scott Stevens and Darren Gaspar found Maynard’s actions were “reasonable”.
“He committed to the act of smothering when he was … several metres from Brayshaw,” Gleeson said in his findings.
“We are not at all satisfied that a reasonable player would have foreseen that violent impact, or impact of the type suffered by Brayshaw, was inevitable or even likely.”
Maynard claimed he never made a conscious decision to bump.
Instead, he said it was simply him flinching and seizing up.
Collingwood called upon a biomechanics and neuroscience expert to give evidence that Maynard was highly unlikely to have had enough time to make a decision to bump.
Woods maintained instead of turning his body, Maynard should have either put his hands out to cushion the blow or opened up his arms to collect Brayshaw.
But even if Maynard had done either of those things, Woods conceded it might have still resulted in a reportable offence.
Gleeson said players simply couldn’t assess all the different options available to them in such a short period of time.
“It’s asking a lot of a player to decide in a fraction of a second which of various ways to land in a high-speed collision, and which of those ways of landing might result in which type of reportable offence,” Gleeson said.
“We find he was not careless in either his decision to smother, or the way in which his body formed after his smother.”
Former Richmond captain Trent Cotchin, who was freed to play in the 2017 grand final after escaping suspension for his high hit on then-GWS star Dylan Shiel, said it was hard to judge players for split-second decisions.
“The challenge is that when you slow any vision down to microseconds, that’s a big difference to what actually happens in the moment,” he said.
“The 2017 situation for me, I was unaware until after the game of how close I probably was to maybe missing the biggest game in my career to (that point).
“I’m very fortunate that wasn’t the case.”