WEST Coast ruckman Nic Naitanui has pledged to keep playing the same way, despite his controversial one-game AFL suspension.
The AFL tribunal upheld Naitanui’s rough conduct ban on Wednesday night in a marathon two-hour hearing.
The Eagles and their counsel David Grace QC will review the hearing and have until late Thursday morning to decide on an appeal.
The ban means Naitanui will miss Saturday’s away game against GWS, with the Eagles on a six-game winning streak.
Naitanui, who appeared at the hearing via a video link from Perth, said there was no malice in his fierce tackle on Port Adelaide midfielder Karl Amon.
His defence suffered a blow when veteran Port doctor Mark Fisher said that he believed Amon suffered delayed concussion as a direct result of Naitanui’s tackle.
Fisher stuck to his guns under sustained cross-examination from Grace.
It is unclear whether Amon will be available for Saturday’s Showdown against Adelaide.
“I don’t think I feel like I need to change anything,” Naitanui said.
“There was no malice in it, there was no aggression.
“If I was seeking to go out and hurt someone, then I’d cop what I needed to and I wouldn’t be as disappointed.
“But because it was just an act that I’ve done for the last 10 years of my career, I was left a little bit dumbfounded to a degree.”
Naitanui also tweeted that he obviously was disappointed, but there was no point complaining.
It was a controversial case, with tribunal chairman David Jones reminding the jury during the hearing that they were not to consider the widespread commentary surrounding Naitanui’s charge.
AFL advocate Jeff Gleeson sparked further debate when he argued that Naitanui had a duty of care to consider the disparity in size between himself and Amon.
Naitanui is 110 kg and Amon is around 80kg, a point that Gleeson asked the Eagles star about in his testimony.
AFL great baffled by decision
Meanwhile an AFL great has been left baffled by the ruling.
Frustrated St Kilda legend Nick Riewoldt admitted to growing unease over decisions made by the league’s newly-installed disciplinary chief Michael Christian over recent weeks.
But it was the decision to ban Naitanui for one game for his tackle on Port Adelaide’s Karl Amon held up against his decision to clear Hawthorn youngster Ryan Burton for his devastating bump that put North Melbourne’s Shaun Higgins in hospital with a concussion that has pushed Riewoldt over the edge.
“This has sort of been the tipping point for me,” Riewoldt told Fox Footy’s AFL360
“I’m confused … I don’t like it.
“The Nic Naitanui-Ryan Burton scenario is where it gets really confusing.
“Burton comes in and bumps, his alternative is to tackle, he doesn’t tackle … and it was assessed that he couldn’t reasonably foresee that (Higgins injury) happening.
“Well, how is Naitanui in his instance any different?
“Either Michael Christian is having an absolute ‘mare – he’s having a nightmare, he’s having an absolute shocker – or the rules are wrong.
“So (Christian’s) interpretations are ok but the rules are just fundamentally wrong because we can’t end up with those two separate results.”
AFL football chief Steve Hocking brought Christian in to replace the match review panel in the off-season in a bid to streamline the league’s disciplinary process.
Amon was also concussed but Riewoldt described Naitanui’s action as “a good football tackle” that was a free kick in the back at worst.
In explaining why he felt Burton had no case to answer, Christian was at pains to point out that the bump is still alive and well – and legal – in the AFL.
But players must execute them correctly.
If they do so and an accidental injury occurs that a player couldn’t reasonably foresee then most of the time they won’t have a case to answer.
But that doesn’t wash with Riewoldt.
“We were told that accidents happen after (Burton) then Naitanui lays a tackle, but now we’re not allowed accidents?” an incredulous Riewoldt asked.
“I think what we’ve seen this year, the body of work from the MRO and the results that have gone certain ways, I’m just confused.
“We went to a one-man panel to have more consistency … but what happens if the one man actually just gets a bit confused himself?”