SOUTH Rovers utility Dominic Bushell will miss the first three matches of the 2015 Warrnambool and District league football season.
An independent tribunal last night found Bushell guilty of unbecoming conduct after an 80-minute hearing at the A. L. Lane Community Centre.
The charge stemmed from an incident during the South Rovers-Deakin University clash in round 16 which left Shark Aiden Bourke with a fractured jaw.
The tribunal heard Shark Joe Higgins had collected a loose ball in the back pocket late in the first term of the match at Walter Oval.
Bourke attempted to help his teammate by laying a shepherd but copped contact to the left side of his face, which he described as a raised elbow.
The contact knocked him to the ground. He took about 20 seconds to get up, then made his way to the Sharks’ bench.
“I had two trainers look at me multiple times to check the area. They both recommended I go to the hospital,” he said.
“There was immediately swelling in the area. I couldn’t say if it was red or not but I couldn’t move it at all.”
X-rays revealed a hairline fracture in his jaw. Bourke missed the last two matches of the season but did not require surgery.
“I thought it was a bit silly because he could’ve hit me with his shoulder as I did,” Bourke said, describing the action as “deliberate”.
Investigations officer Roy Baker produced Deakin University coach Matt Lenehan and spectator Kathryn Wooles as witnesses.
Lenehan, who was watching from the bench, was the only witness who identified Bushell as the offending player.
He said Bushell used a raised forearm which was away from his body. “Nine times out of 10 you see the same sort of contest and it will be body on body,” he said.
Wooles, who saw the incident from behind the fence about five to 10 metres away, provided the most damning version of events.
She said the play had moved on when the alleged elbow happened, although she was unable to identify Bushell as the offender.
“In my opinion I believe Aiden was assaulted. It had nothing to do with the game, there was no football being played there,” she said.
Bushell, who pleaded not guilty, had a starkly-different opinion of what unfolded. He recalled spotting the loose ball and sprinting towards it, thinking he was a chance to win possession.
He did not notice Bourke until the last second — so late that he only had time to brace himself, rather than raise an elbow. Bushell said he felt contact to the back of his shoulder and back of his head as a result of the incident, but was able to play on.
“It was contested footy. You cop knocks virtually every time you contest the footy,” he said.