Whatever
minimal shreds of credibility Adrian Anderson’s tribunal system had have now
been well and truly decimated by the result in the Barry Hall case. While it is
arguably great for the game that Sydney’s marquee
player is available to play in the grand final the decision makes of a mockery
of the notion of a fair and consistent process. A couple of particularly
staggering elements of the tribunal’s decision were:

1. Deeming that the strike was reckless (as opposed to
intentional);
and
2. Deeming that the strike occurred “in-play.”

Intentionally
reckless

Several
times on radio, in response to questions from baffled football fans, Adrian
Anderson, the architect of the AFL’s new tribunal system, has stressed that a
legal definition needs to be attributed to the words “reckless” and “intentional.” As a former lawyer, Anderson could
have at least looked up their meanings. Looking up a legal dictionary, Anderson could
have learned that an intentional act involves “a mental attitude that involves
purpose, aim, or design.” By contrast, recklessness means “conduct where the person can foresee some probable or
possible harmful consequence.”

For
recklessness to be made out, Hall would have needed to provide that he didn’t
intend to punch Maguire but that
it was probable or possible that the injury would result from his action. One
would ask, if Hall didn’t intend to punch Maguire – what exactly was he
intending to do when he swung his arm with tremendous force into Maguire’s chest? If Hall was, for example,
trying to punch the football or even another player, perhaps the act may have
been deemed negligent or reckless – but that was not his aim. In fact, both the
ball and every other player were
more than 40 meters away. Further, if Hall’s act was merely reckless – what
would someone actually need to do to be guilty of an “intentional”
strike?

In
play?

The media has focused on the decision by the
tribunal to deem that Hall’s action was “in play.” Based on the
guidelines the AFL released, the tribunal’s verdict seemed correct. The
same cannot be said however for the guidelines, which seem to contradict
basic common sense.

The
entire reason for enforcing a stiffer penalty for “behind the play” incidents is
because of the public’s distaste for someone harming another player when it has
nothing to do with the football. When Hall struck Maguire the ball was more than
40 meters away. No spectator was even looking in the Hall/Maguire direction.
Hall was not about to take a mark or pick up the ball. Whatever the guidelines
say, on a common sense measure, the incident took place behind the
play.

One
would wonder whether the infamous Leigh Matthews strike on Neville Bruns (which
incidentally was only 15-20 meters from where the ball was) would have been
deemed to be “in play” under the AFL’s guidelines.