You have to wonder if the AFL has set a dangerous precedent last night in clearing both Adam Selwood and Des Headland. You also have to wonder, when it comes to these matters, whether a panel of three ex-players is the right forum to deal with sensitive issues — in this case an allegedly s-xually specific slur against a player’s sub-teen daughter — that so outrage broader community standards.
Of course, the AFL could have avoided all this by taking it to mediation and trying to resolve the issue there. For whatever reason, they chose to ignore this option and appointed a special investigator who recommended a tribunal hearing.
The tribunal last night took an each-way bet, clearing both players, which was basically saying ”we believe both of you and neither of you”. But under the circumstances, what were they to do? And were they equipped to handle it?
No-one besides the two players knows what was actually said, but it took sledging to another level. The real question is the outcome and the future of the tribunal in cases like these.
How long before the next player reported for striking blames extreme provocation and under what circumstances do the tribunal allow him to walk free? Will the term ”exceptional and compelling circumstances” become a standard defence for the player’s QC at every tribunal punch-up case? How will the tribunal assess such cases on a weekly basis and what will warrant one-two-or three-week suspensions?
And are circumstances that involve a whole range of emotional, personal and s-xual issues on the football field best dealt with by a players’ tribunal? With ticklish community issues maybe the AFL needs to go down the road of its racial vilification process.
At the end of the day no-one won from last night’s strange and drawn out tribunal. Adam Selwood’s name has been sullied all across Australia; Des Headland has been shown to have a short fuse and confusion reigns supreme as to what is going to happen in future tribunal hearings. They might be both free to play this weekend but they will be both haunted for some time over the past few days’ events. So no winners – least of all the AFL.