What was the WAFL Tribunal thinking?
To suspend West Perth reserves player Mitchell Antonio for 10 weeks for his sling tackle on East Perth youngster Beau Chatley is baffling, idiotic and nonsensical.
Let’s make one thing abundantly clear: the horrific injuries sustained by Chatley, 21, are tragic.
None of us armchair experts can fathom for one nanosecond the profound sadness engulfing family and friends of Chatley as he grapples with the real prospect of life in a wheelchair.
And it is almost impossible to comprehend how Antonio is feeling.
But from all reports, Chatley’s family don’t lay any blame on him.
So why has the tribunal poured more misery onto the young West Perth player?
The tribunal has given no rational for the hefty suspension because it was held behind closed doors.
“Based on the evidence before it, the WAFL Tribunal determined that Antonio was guilty of rough conduct and he received a 10-match suspension,” it said in a statement.
So has the tribunal rubbed out Antonio for his actions or the consequences of those actions?
Antonio’s tackle was an accident. It was reckless and sloppy, but not deliberate.
Yet the WAFL handed the 19-year-old the competition’s heaviest penalty in 30 years.
How many deliberate acts of thuggery have occurred on the field in the WAFL during the last three decades?
There have been many, yet none received anywhere near Antonio’s suspension.
Earlier this year East Perth forward Agid Gardoud was suspended for two weeks for a crude, off-the-ball hit on East Fremantle ruckman James Bristow.
What did he get? Two weeks, for one of the ugliest incidents in football this year.
The WAFL has a duty of care to protect players when they put their head under the ball. But where is its duty of care towards Antonio?
Curtin University academic and WAFL football historian Sean Cowan said the 10-week suspension was “massively over-the-top”.
“Was the suspension because of the injury or the conduct that caused the injury?,” he told WAtoday.
“Under the current rules you can say it was a breach of duty of care, so maybe a two-week suspension.
“But a 10-week suspension is just a knee-jerk reaction.”
Cowan said the news coming out of West Perth was Antonio was “devastated” by Chatley’s injuries.
“I don’t know the player, but I understand he was so devastated by the outcome of his tackle that he wasn’t going to play this weekend,” he said.
“So what does throwing a 10-week suspension at him achieve?”
It is still unknown how severe the injuries to Chatley are, but East Perth club director David Christison said the long-term prognosis would not be known for a while.
“It is a really tough time for Beau’s family and the football club as we simply don’t know what the outcome is going to be for Beau and there is nothing we can do to speed up the process to find out,” he said.
Everyone in the football and wider community is hoping the East Perth youngster recovers from his devastating injuries.
There are no winners or losers in this, but the tribunal’s imbecilic act has done very little to ease the suffering and burden for all parties concerned.