TWO junior footballers have been suspended for a combined 12 weeks after independent tribunal hearings in Warrnambool this week.
A Terang Mortlake under 16 player was suspended for eight matches during a hearing at the Archie Graham Centre after pleading guilty to an unbecoming conduct charge.
Across town at the Alan Lane Pavilion, an East Warrnambool under 17 player was suspended for four games after pleading guilty to a charge of verbal abuse towards an umpire.
The Hampden Juniors hearing was the result of an investigation following an incident in an under 16 football match between Emmanuel Hawks and Terang Mortlake at Deakin University on May 13, in which a Hawks player suffered a broken jaw and teeth damage.
Tribunal members Terry O’Keefe (chairman), Robert Wade and Robert Anderson heard the case in a packed room on Wednesday night.
The Bloods junior was accused of recklessly striking his opponent during a head-high tackle action in the final term.
But the Emmanuel Hawks camp argued the facial injuries were a result of a clenched-fist punch to the jaw soon after the “crude” tackle.
The injured Hawk recalled being tackled from behind and going to ground, losing his mouthguard, and was subsequently awarded a free kick by umpire Paul Farley.
He tucked his mouthguard into his shorts, handballed off before shepherding the Terang Mortlake player involved in the tackle. The young Hawk then pushed the junior Blood to the chest in retaliation for the dangerous tackle.
“I pushed him to get him back,” the Hawk said.
“Then he turned around and punched me in the face. It wasn’t a jumper punch. His knuckles hit my top teeth.”
Field umpire Paul McLaren, who is affiliated with the Hawks, described the initial tackle as “crude” but the punch as intentional and unwarranted.
McLaren, who was not equipped with red or yellow cards or a paper and pen, sent the Terang Mortlake player off the field. McLaren was later approached by an Emmanuel Hawks parent, wondering if a report was going to be made.
The fill-in umpire told the tribunal he was incorrectly informed by Farley that it was “too late”.
The Terang Mortlake junior said he tackled the Hawk “fairly hard”, as he was running towards him as quick as he could, during which his wrist made contact with the Hawk’s face.
“It took him a while to get up,” the Bloods junior said.
“He (later) came at me with blood in his mouth.”
The accused said the injured Hawk started to throw haymakers at his ribs, at which he grabbed a fist full of his jumper and shoved his chest.
“It was nowhere near as hard as the tackle,” the young Blood said.
Terang Mortlake advocate Colleen O’Connor questioned investigation officer Chris Asenjo’s reasoning for not contacting Farley, who witnessed the tackle.
After three-and-a-quarter hours, O’Keefe told the exhausted room that the bulk of the Hawk’s injuries must have occurred in the second part of the incident, the punch, and suspended the Terang Mortlake junior for eight matches.
Meanwhile, the East Warrnambool junior faced a charge of using insulting language towards an umpire during Saturday’s match against Kolora-Noorat.