Why the WAFL Tribunal got it wrong on the Mitchell Antonio suspension

Jordan McLean received a seven-game ban for his tackle on Alex McKinnon in the NRL.
Jordan McLean received a seven-game ban for his tackle on Alex McKinnon in the NRL.

OPINION

THE WAFL tribunal has got it so wrong, you have to wonder about the judgement of those who sit in judgement.

In handing down a 10-week penalty to West Perth’s Mitchell Antonio, they’ve made it look as though Antonio meant to cause a significant spinal injury when he tackled Beau Chatley late in the second term of a WAFL Reserves game against East Perth on Saturday morning.

MORE: Beau Chatley shows signs of improvement after spinal injury

Antonio was playing hard, and in his determination to win the ball back for his side, he grabbed Chatley’s guernsey and slung him to the ground.

It was the sort of incident that happens 100 times in leagues across the country every Saturday.

What was different was the outcome, a dreadful injury, the result of a freak accident of physics, force and positioning.

But to throw the book at Antonio is miles off the mark.

His penalty was more severe than that which Barry Hall received (seven games) for his king-hit on Brent Staker in 2008, and more severe than the seven games the Melbourne Storm’s Jordan McLean received for his part in the tackle that left Newcastle’s Alex McKinnon with a severe spinal injury in the NRL.

Most people at the time felt McLean was hard done by.

One can only ponder about the pain in the Chatley family just now, but Mitchell Antonio must be in incredible pain as well.

This ban smacks of an organisation keen to make a stand with the eyes of the country on it.

One wonders if WAFL bosses consulted the AFL for guidance on the case.

What Antonio needed was support, an ear, help.

Not to be made to feel like he’s a criminal.

Antonio’s actions were, to my eye, within the laws of the game. If they were outside, it was only just.

Chatley’s injury was as unlucky and unfortunate as the bouncer that struck Phillip Hughes in November 2014.

In more than 25 years of watching VFL/AFL football, I’m amazed I haven’t witnessed more catastrophic injuries or even deaths, given the speed and force at which the players collide.

Late on Monday, West Perth announced they would not be appealing the decision out of respect for Chatley’s plight.

It’s an admirable stance to take. But it’s a position the club, and Antonio, should never have been put in in the first place.