AFTER days of outrage, comment and attention from politicians and national media outlets, the south-west footballer on parole for violent crimes who broke the jaw of a 17-year-old during a senior match last weekend has been charged by police.
Heathmere’s Will Pickett, 28, was charged late Friday with recklessly causing injury, recklessly causing serious injury and breaching parole. He was bailed to appear at Portland Magistrates' Court on 16 October.
Pickett, who was on parole for armed robbery and assault, decked 17-year-old Branxholme-Wallacedale’s Sam Lambevski and left him with a jaw broken in two places and concussion.
Pickett was given a three-match ban by the South West District Football League independent tribunal for the off-the-ball attack, a decision described by Victoria’s highest profile commentator, 3AW’s Neil Mitchell, "an insult to sport".
“The man has a history of assault and armed robbery,” Mitchell said.
“It was (a) brutal attack, a sickening and unnecessary attack.
“This is an insult to sport. Three weeks is absurd. If he’d done this in the street the bloke would be back in jail.”
AFL boss Gillon McLachlan, who spoke on Mitchell's program, shared his views on the three-game ban.
“It seems an inadequate sanction,” he said.
“It shouldn’t have happened, we need to work out why three weeks when there’s a concussion and broken jaw behind play.”
Sam’s father Tony Lambevski told Mitchell he would continue to pursue justice, including a planned meeting with a Melbourne solicitor on Monday.
He questioned comments by AFL Victoria chief executive officer Steven Reaper to The Standard on Thursday.
Reaper said the responsibility of player registrations sat with clubs and that leagues would not accept registrations if a player had been de-registered or there was some other reason.
"I am all for people getting a second chance in life, but some people shouldn't be allowed to play AFL,” Tony said.
"If the AFL doesn't make a stand on this then they are putting people in a position on-field where they have the opportunity to exert violence on people.
“How does that work? Maybe the AFL and leagues should look at this and introduce something because I think the AFL owes a duty of care to the players."
Football chief defends process
AFL Western District region general manager Kate Williamson is standing by the South West District Football League independent tribunal’s decision.
Williamson said she believed the correct process had been followed, despite outrage over the three-match suspension given to Heathmere’s Will Pickett after he broke the jaw of Braxnholme-Wallacedale Sam Lambevski. Pickett has since been charged by police over the incident.
“Regardless of whether you agree with the match ban, the process has been followed and the offending player penalised,” she said.
“The incident was reported at the time by the officiating umpire.
“The incident was filmed by the league and the footage utilised at tribunal.
“The matter then went before the independent tribunal where the offending player was found guilty and given a penalty.”
The AFL Western District boss said the father of Sam Lambevski, Tony, had not contacted her or her staff about appealing the penalty.
“As is regular process AFL Western District and Regional Administration Center staff have spoken to Sam's club regarding the process and have provided advice to the club,” she said.
“Though the window for appeal has now closed, Sam's club has been fully informed of the process.”
Williamson highlighted that a “number of measures” had been put in place in the South West District league this year in a bid to prevent incidents like this.
“An experienced umpire coach was appointed earlier in the year with regular coaching sessions in Portland as well as working with umpire observers to provide feedback,” she said.
“Cameras were purchased earlier in the season and every senior game in the SWDFNL is filmed.”