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Hipwood free to play despite guilty tribunal verdict

Brisbane star Eric Hipwood has avoided suspension for pushing Western Bulldogs opponent Ryan Gardner into the path of umpire Jacob Mollison.

Sent straight to the tribunal after Gardner and Mollison made heavy contact in Brisbane’s win against the Bulldogs, the jury found Hipwood guilty of careless contact with an umpire but only imposed a $2,500 fine.

The AFL had pushed for a two-game ban, arguing he’d intentionally pushed Gardner into the path of the umpire.

But Tribunal chairman Jeff Gleeson, who said the incident was “quite troubling” when viewed from certain angles, said Hipwood’s carelessness was not high.

Gleeson said the behind-goals camera view showed Gardner had “deviated and all but stopped” as both players ran towards the Lions’ attacking 50m.

He found while Hipwood breached his duty of care to the umpire, his action alone had not caused the incident.

Brisbane’s defence centred around their belief Gardner initiated the contact by running to block the Lion, with Hipwood bracing for the impact.

Hipwood, who’s never been suspended in his AFL career, argued he wasn’t aware the umpire was nearby until the contact was made.

“I would never do that … I’d never do that in any sport at all,” he said.

“I’ve played sport since I was six years old and never had conflict or contact with an umpire throughout my career.”

AFL lawyer Nick Pane paused vision of the incident where Hipwood was looking at Bailey where umpire Mollison was directly behind him, and suggested he must have known he was there.

“Whilst he denies having vision of the umpire the footage suggests he must have had vision and been aware of the position of the umpire,” he said.

“A fine is far from adequate when an umpire has been subjected to the level of carelessness … and degree of force in the collision,” he said. 

Hipwood’s lawyer Adrian Anderson said Gardner running across his opponent was prohibited contact and against the laws of the game.

He also referred to an incident from earlier this year where Fremantle’s Michael Walters pushed a GWS player into the path of an umpire and noted it was ruled careless contact despite seeing the umpire was present.

It leaves Hipwood free to play against Essendon this weekend.

Earlier on Tuesday, Nick Vlastuin accepted a one-game ban for striking West Coast’s Connor West, and Hawthorn’s Will Day took a week ban for forceful front-on contact against GWS star Josh Kelly.

Some 10 other players accepted fines.


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