Two-week ban could end Tiger's finals

A MERRIVALE teenager could miss the rest of the Warrnambool and District league under 17½ finals series after receiving a two-match suspension last night.

The junior copped the ban after pleading guilty to a charge of unbecoming conduct stemming from the Merrivale-Old Collegians round 18 match on August 9.

The Standard has chosen not to name the player or the Old Collegians victim because both are under 18 years of age.

Merrivale plays South Rovers in the second semi-final on Saturday. Should the Tigers win, they will earn the first berth in the grand final on September 6.

The incident was captured on video, with the footage shown to the parties — but not Merrivale witnesses Luke McInerney and Stephen Gurry — before the hearing.

The tribunal heard the two players were on the ground fighting for the ball on a half-forward flank late in the first quarter at Merrivale.

The ball spilled free about five to 10 metres away and the pair got up from the ground, the Warrior first then the Tiger seconds later.

The Warrior was making his way to the next contest when the Tiger struck him from behind with his left forearm, causing him to fall to the ground.

McInerney, the non-controlling umpire, saw the incident. He awarded the Warrior a free kick and sent off the Tiger. The siren sounded seconds later.

The Warrior said he had headaches, which he rated as four out of 10, but he played out the match and was among the best players. McInerney, the next to give evidence, said he was forward of the centre of the ground when the incident occurred. He believed the Tiger engaged in “rough play”, but the conduct did not warrant him placing the teenager on report.

“I just thought it was rough and unnecessary contact. I thought it was more of an intimidation-type thing, a show of strength,” he said.

But spectator John Dodoro, the third witness to give evidence, had a much different opinion. Dodoro, who was watching from his car near where the play unfolded, believed the Tiger “punched (the Warrior) in the back of the head”.

“In 15 years of junior football I’ve never got out of my car. I was concerned for (the Warrior). It looked like he went straight to the ground,” he said.

The hearing took a slight turn when Merrivale assistant coach Stephen Gurry gave his evidence, saying he thought the Tiger was provoked.

Gurry said two things reinforced his view. Firstly, the Warrior got up from the initial contest before the Tiger and secondly, the Tiger reacted “straight away”. He said he was disappointed in the Tiger’s action, particularly with finals only a week away. The Tiger, giving evidence last, also said he felt contact when he was on the ground, which sparked his reply.

“I was angry. I got up and chased him and hit him with a forearm. I wouldn’t say it was soft but it wasn’t hard.”

The Tiger said he regretted his actions and had written a letter of apology. He described the week that followed as “pretty stressful” as the footage spread across Warrnambool, something his advocate Wayne Ryan also highlighted.

afawkes@fairfaxmedia.com.au

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