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Bombers turmoil deepens with CEO quitting, Rayner banned for rough conduct

Essendon CEO Xavier Campbell has quit as the club lurches from one disaster to the next.

Campbell is bringing to an end a nine-year stint at the Bombers and reportedly informed new president David Barham of his decision on Sunday night.

The AFL official website has reported that Campbell attended Sunday’s board meeting which ended in the sacking of coach Ben Rutten after weeks of speculation about his position.

Campbell had been recently re-signed until the end of 2024. There is talk that board members Simon Madden and Sean Wellman will also be gone as part of the overhaul.

After Rutten was given his marching orders, David Barham said Essendon would finalise their recruitment process, to be run by internal and external figures, in the coming days and “have a new coach in place as soon as possible”.

That means the recruitment process will start before the club receives the findings of its impending review. “We can do both things at the same time. We can effectively manage both processes at the same time,” Barham told reporters.

“So we need to get on with it because this is where we are. We also need to do a thorough review of the football club, so we can do both those things successfully at the same time.

“We think we’re after a more experienced coach. We think a more experienced coach might be able to get more out of this list and we really want to give our list the best chance.”

MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - AUGUST 15: Essendon CEO Xavier Campbell is door stopped by the media as he walks into the clubs training base The Hangar on August 15, 2022 in Melbourne, Australia. (Photo by Darrian Traynor/Getty Images)

Essendon CEO Xavier Campbell. (Photo by Darrian Traynor/Getty Images)

Rayner out of first final due to ban

Even the famously hard cricket pitch area at the Gabba wasn’t enough to save Brisbane dynamo Cam Rayner from escaping his one-game AFL ban.

In a massive blow for the Lions’ chances in their elimination final against Richmond on September 1, the rough conduct charge against Rayner was upheld following a marathon tribunal hearing on Tuesday night.

The tribunal panel deliberated for 35 minutes after lengthy debate between the AFL’s counsel Andrew Woods and Lions lawyer Adrian Anderson.

Rayner answered a barrage of questions, first from Anderson, before Woods, tribunal chairman Jeff Gleeson and tribunal panel member Stephen Jurica all had further queries.

The 2017 No.1 draft pick was reported for a strong tackle on Melbourne spearhead Ben Brown during the first quarter of Friday night’s game at the Gabba.

When reading out the verdict, Gleeson said it was an “inherently dangerous” tackle and upheld the match review officer’s assessment of the incident as careless, medium impact and high contact.

Rayner said he did his best in trying to wrap up Brown, who is more than 10cm and 10kgs heavier than him.

Brown was assessed by medical staff off the ground after suffering abrasions to his face during the incident, but was able to come back and play a starring role in Melbourne’s thumping victory. 

Anderson said Rayner did “nothing unreasonable” in tackling a player with Brown’s momentum, arguing the Demons full-forward tried to spin away from the Lions forward-midfielder.

“Because it’s a cricket wicket it’s very hard in there,” Rayner told the tribunal.

“If the tackle had happened anywhere else on the ground I’m not sure the abrasions would have happened.”

Debate raged about the match review officer’s grading of the impact as medium, with the Lions arguing it should have been low.

The AFL’s lawyer suggested to Rayner he should have given more consideration to how hard the cricket pitch area is at the Gabba when tackling Brown.

“In a split second during a game of footy I’m not thinking about what the surface is like,” Rayner replied.

The Gabba is one of the only remaining AFL grounds not to use a drop-in cricket wicket.

The Lions will also be without defender Noah Answerth after he accepted a one-game suspension for striking Melbourne’s Alex Neal-Bullen.

Brisbane are desperate to avoid another painful exit from finals after bowing out in straight sets during two of the last three seasons.

The Tigers, who have won three of the last five premierships, will regain superstar Dustin Martin for the trip to the Gabba after he missed the last seven games of the home-and-away season.

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