Ed Curnow places his hand on the chest of an umpire. Picture: Screen shot
Ed Curnow places his hand on the chest of an umpire. Picture: Screen shot

AFL split in ‘rubbish’ Curnow call

CHARLIE Curnow has been cleared to play for Carlton this weekend - but his brother has been found guilty of deliberately making contact with an AFL umpire last Saturday.

The extraordinary decision came on Thursday, after Geelong's Tom Hawkins was rubbed out for one week for making contact with an AFL umpire but Gold Coast star Steven May was given a fine for similar contact.

The appeals board ruled Charlie Curnow had not made deliberate contact with the whistleblower - instead allowing him to play this weekend against Melbourne on Sunday after finding him guilty of the less serious charge of careless contact with the match official.

The AFL's appeal into the ruling of the judiciary was upheld in Ed Curnow's case, with the board finding he made deliberate contact with the umpire.

AFL legal counsel Jeff Gleeson said after the verdicts that Ed Curnow's contact was on the lower end of the deliberate range and a one-match suspension was then announced after just 15 minutes of deliberation.

Charlie Curnow's $1000 fine remains in place, but he will line up against the Demons.

AFL football operations boss Steve Hocking decided to appeal the judiciary's decision to allow the brothers to play against Melbourne, on the grounds no tribunal acting reasonably could have come to that decision having regard to the evidence before it.

The bar for intentionally touching a whistleblower seemed to have been set at a one-game ban when Geelong's Tom Hawkins accepted his punishment just over a week ago.

Confidence that the message was being upheld by the tribunal wavered when Gold Coast's Steven May was fined rather than suspended on Monday night. And when both Charlie and Ed were each fined $1000 by the tribunal, the league deemed it had no choice but to act.

The AFL appealed the verdicts on two key grounds.

The first is that no tribunal acting reasonably could have come to those decisions having regard to the evidence before it.

Secondly, that the sanctions imposed were manifestly inadequate.

Charlie and Ed Curnow speak to media after their AFL Tribunal Hearing into intentional contact with an umpire. Picture: Michael Dodge/Getty Images
Charlie and Ed Curnow speak to media after their AFL Tribunal Hearing into intentional contact with an umpire. Picture: Michael Dodge/Getty Images

It is just the second occasion in history that the AFL has appealed a tribunal verdict.

The first came last year when then football boss Simon Lethlean appealed a two-game ban handed to Richmond's Bachar Houli for striking Carlton's Jed Lamb. That penalty was increased to four matches on appeal.

Hawkins took a one-game ban in a plea bargain-style deal after he was threatened with a two-match suspension for touching an umpire during the Cats' round-seven win over GWS.

Geelong coach Chris Scott said that no matter which way the appeals board ruled on Thursday, there would be more clarity surrounding the contentious issue of umpire contact.

"Maybe the mistake was made with Tom and they all should have got fines," Scott told reporters on Thursday.

"But unfortunately what we see right at the moment is that we had a situation where we were very, very comfortable as a club and Tom was comfortable as an individual to take one for the team in some respects, for the greater good of the game, to send a clear message that touching umpires, even if it's inadvertent, shouldn't be permissible.

"The problem we've got in the game now is that if it was right message to send down to lower levels for Tom, it should have been for the others as well."

- AAP


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