DENNINGTON utility Matt Van Kempen felt the full force of the Warrnambool and District league independent tribunal last night when he pleaded guilty to rough conduct and was subsequently suspended for four matches.
The hefty penalty means the 21-year-old key playmaker will miss this weekend’s crucial game against Merrivale and the following three games after the Queen’s Birthday long weekend bye round.
Van Kempen was reported in the second term of Saturday’s match against Old Collegians for engaging in rough conduct against an opponent which in the circumstances was unreasonable.
The report was made by an under-age boundary umpire after a knock that left Warrior Joe Toleman unconscious.
Van Kempen was originally offered a one-week set penalty but Old Collegians requested the matter go to the tribunal due to the serious nature of the incident.
The tribunal, chaired by Terry O’Keefe, first heard from the young umpire who recalled seeing two players “pushing and shoving” in the middle of the ground.
He said Toleman walked away from the scuffle before a Dennington player, identified as Van Kempen, elbowed Toleman to the back of the head.
The force was rated a “nine to nine-and-a-half” out of 10 and Toleman fell to the ground immediately after impact.
The umpire said he chose to offer a one-week set penalty rather than directing the matter to tribunal as he “wasn’t sure” of the process.
Sharing his version of events, Toleman said he saw two Dennington players and one Old Collegians player in a scuffle.
“I came in, grabbed a Dennington player by the shirt and moved him out of the way,” he said.
“Then I jogged off towards centre-half-forward.
“There was no player in front me and I couldn’t see anyone coming towards me.
“That’s all I remember. That’s when it goes black.
“I don’t remember how I got off the ground.
“The next thing I remember is being wheeled into emergency.”
Toleman spent four hours in hospital under observation, diagnosed with concussion, two chipped teeth and a possible hairline fracture to the jaw that was later cleared.
He also had headaches.
Van Kempen was last to present his account of the incident. He said Dennington’s Jordan Greene and Collegians’ Nathan Forth were scuffling in the middle of the ground.
Toleman came in and grabbed Greene to which Van Kempen pushed Toleman away.
The pair broke away from the scuffle but continued to hip and shoulder each other.
“We were both going at each other,” Van Kempen said.
“We would have made contact three times during the centre.”
Van Kempen said as the pair came together for what was the final hip and shoulder, he followed through with an open-handed push to the chest area.
“The push was definitely forceful,” he said.
“My intention was to get him out of the road.
“I didn’t run up from behind and king-hit him.
“I can’t believe he was knocked out by the incident.”
After some pressure from the panel and umpire advocate Daryl Davey, Van Kempen agreed that his hands or arms might have made contact with Toleman’s face.
The tribunal heard Van Kempen was a respected part of Dennington’s leadership group, having already played 95 senior games for the club.
However, after a 10-minute deliberation, O’Keefe delivered the penalty.
“We take a very dim view of head injuries,” he said.