THE Ballarat Football League’s eastern clubs still feel they are being repeatedly victimised at the tribunal.
Almost a year to the day since data emerged that showed their players received more suspensions than those at other clubs, the clubs situated down the Western Highway still say they are copping a rough deal.
The suspension of Melton South’s Doug Thomas during the week brought the issue to a head for the Panthers, who believed they had been treated unfairly a number of times this year.
However Ballarat Football League operations manager Aaron Nunn said the Goldfields Region Independent Tribunal was a fair body that treated every case on its merits.
Nunn also said there had been an invitation for greater eastern representation on the tribunal, but it was never taken up.
Thomas, arguably Melton South’s best player and 2013 BFL interleague representative, was handed a three-match suspension for an act of misconduct against Ballarat’s Damian Larkin last week.
He was also red carded after the second-quarter incident –forced to sit out the remainder of the match.
Panthers coach Mathew Sutton said the suspension highlighted the bias against clubs from the eastern bloc.
He also said the one week suspension of Anthony Christofaro in the same game for umpire abuse was unfair, given there were similar comments from opposition players from Ballarat.
“In my 11 years in the league, it’s the worst the competition has been for inconsistency,” he said.
“The worst case scenario is that it should have been one week. It’s a kangaroo court, as soon as you get in there, you know you’re gone.”
Sutton said the club was also aggrieved when reserves player Justin Buttigieg received a three match suspension earlier in the year for urinating on the field, claiming players with higher profiles in the BFL would not have received the same punishment.
Bacchus Marsh coach Doug Hawkins also made no secrets of his opinion of the tribunal earlier in the year when Abraham Kur was suspended for four weeks for striking.
Hawkins labelled the tribunal “embarrassing” in July, claiming it had no evidence to convict Kur.
Darley coach Rod MacPherson said he had issued a strict directive to players to be especially clean on the field in his time at the helm, claiming it was almost impossible to get let off the hook if fronting the tribunal.
He said the Devils had not had a player front the tribunal all season.
At Melton, coach Bob Heaney said he had not noticed a specific bias against eastern teams, but said there were obvious inconsistencies when it came to tribunal decisions.
BFL operations manager Aaron Nunn said although the tribunal was run independently to the league, there had been an open invitation for people from eastern areas to contribute to the panel.
“The invitation is still open but we have never received any expressions of interest,” he said.