THE system worked, but the system is flawed.
Justice prevailed on Saturday morning when East Point’s Liam Rigby was rightly cleared by the AFL Victoria Country Appeal Board to play football, just four days after he received a three-match suspension for a tackle that left Redan’s Leigh Ryall with concussion after he hit his head on the ground.
The fact Rigby was initially suspended for such a stint shocked many in the Ballarat Football League, including this reporter, and East Point was right to challenge what it felt was a severe injustice. But the fact it cost the club $5500, only half of which it could redeem despite having the result overturned, is excessive.
Kangaroos president Maurice O’Keefe is right to feel his club has been hard done by, even though it achieved the desired result of having Rigby’s suspension overturned.
Had the AFL Goldfields Region Independent Tribunal dismissed the case from the outset, which many believed it should have, there would have been no need for the appeal process. And therefore, East Point would not find itself $2500 out of pocket.
Yes, there needs to be some sort of fee incurred by clubs that wish to challenge tribunal decisions – we do not want to see appeals being sought at will.
But, if a club is successful in the appeal and the tribunal decision is overturned, it seems unfair to sting the club such an amount; $2500 is a big deal to country football clubs.
Perhaps the issue seems magnified in the Rigby case because it seemed such a clear-cut decision to have his appeal upheld.
East Point knew the ramifications before the appeal but should not have to pay such an exorbitant cost in the pursuit of justice.
A positive note however is the fact Rigby was free to play.
If he was to be rubbed out, it would have gone against everything football is about.
Nobody wants to see injuries on the field and the footage of Ryall lying unmoving on the ground after the tackle is difficult to watch. But his injury was not only an accident, it came within the rules of the game. The umpire who was only metres away did not even feel a free kick was warranted.
Anybody who has paid attention to Australian rules this year would know the traditional bump might be heading the way of the dodo.
But Rigby did not bump Ryall, he did not hit Ryall, he did not even sling Ryall.
He grabbed his opponent when he had the ball and took him to ground in a strong but fair tackle.
It is what all players are taught to do and would occur countless times each game.
The fact Ryall suffered the injury should not necessarily mean somebody has to be held accountable. It was unfortunate and it is part of our great game.
Rigby deserved to play on Saturday and East Point should feel comfortable it made the right call in challenging the original decision, despite putting quite a dent in its finances.
So, next time you are at Eastern Oval, do not hesitate to buy an extra pie or hot dog.