BREAKING NEWS: The match review panel has reported Sydney captain Barry
Hall and offered him a one week suspension if he accepts an early plea. The
Swans will obviously take the case to the tribunal and then to the
AFL appeals board if necessary. And if those measures both fail to clear Hall, the club
may yet
decide to take it a step further and seek a court injunction which
couldn’t possibly be heard until Thursday – further disrupting
Sydney’s grand final build-up. Any way you look at this, it’s a disaster for
Sydney.

This story was filed before the match review panel made its decision:

As the Sydney Swans
swept away from St Kilda in that rousing final quarter demolition in their
Friday night preliminary final victory at the MCG, nobody in the 2 million
live national TV audience could possibly escape reflecting on Barry Hall’s earlier
stupidity that may now cost him and the Swans his imposing presence in next week’s
Grand Final.

While the football
world outside of Western Australia will be rooting for the Swans to win their first
flag since 1933, all the talk over the weekend was dominated not by the mouth-watering
West vs East match up after Adelaide and St Kilda fell away, but Hall’s folly.

Later this afternoon
the AFL’s match review committee will decide whether Hall
has a case to answer for striking Matt Maguire in the solar plexus. So
much is
riding on this nightmare scenario, not just for Hall, but for his club
and its fans,. And it again brings into question the uncertainty of the
new judicial system,
where nobody can say whether Hall will be reported or the severity of
the terms
under which he would be cited.

But there’s no getting
around the fact that Hall not only lost his cool but you can bet he
knew exactly what he was doing in
terms of inflicting some collateral damage. It was an act of
reckless ill-discipline that could conceivably cost his team the flag,
and at
best create an incredible distraction the Swans could do without. And
given how
much of a fillip a Swans premiership would be to the code in NSW – Hall
has
put the independence of the match review panel under the pump.
Questions certainly could be raised about its chairman Peter Schwab
being part of
the process, when in the past he has gone into bat against the
suspension of a
player from a Grand Final – and also
went through the grief of being denied one himself as a suspended
player. Surely
this disqualifies him as independently minded on the issue.

Also, as anyone
watching Saturday’s West Coast vs Adelaide game in Perth would have noted, the paucity of
camera angles and instant replays of game-worthy incidents was diabolical for such
a major national sporting event. Ten’s
broadcast obviously cut corners to the point of distraction and frustration
from where I was sitting.

So it’s hardly surprising
then that even Friday night’s superior production could only produce the one
camera angle showing the Hall off-the ball punch. If you believe many football
experts including Collingwood coach Mick Malthouse, there’s an argument to
suggest it happened in play. But such are the multitudinous consequences of the
Hall punch – no one can say whether this is a help or hindrance. If Hall is
offered a suspension this afternoon, the next 24 hours is going to be bedlam,
with still no guarantee that Sydney won’t go to court if it doesn’t like the
outcome – something the AFL
needs like a punch to the guts!

Peter Fray

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