Steven May has paid a high price for the bump that knocked out Stefan Martin, with the Gold Coast defender banned for five games.
The AFL tribunal jury took 10 minutes on Tuesday night to decide the punishment.
May pleaded guilty and tribunal advocate Jeff Gleeson acknowledged the Suns’ backman was genuinely remorseful.
But what appeared to be an open-and-shut hearing turned testy, with Gleeson and May’s advocate Tony Burns frequently clashing when they were giving submissions on what the penalty should be.
In particular, Burns objected to Gleeson’s claim that the Brisbane ruckman could have suffered a serious injury if he had lowered his head when May bumped him.
Burns said the submission was “just nonsense”.
Gleeson said the penalty should be no less than five games and Burns had argued it should be four.
After the hearing, May was again contrite.
“I got a fair hearing – I got my five weeks,” he said.
“Obviously, I’m really disappointed with my actions.
“I’m happy Stef’s okay and he looks like playing this week, but I’ve let down my teammates, the members, supporters.
“Over the next five weeks, I will do everything I can to help out around the club and get myself right to play.”
May was referred directly to the tribunal, with no chance of an early plea, and he flew to Melbourne for the hearing.
The Suns did not challenge any details of the rough conduct charge, acknowledging that it was careless conduct, severe impact and high contact.
A medical report from the Lions confirmed Martin might not miss any games, despite suffering concussion when May ironed him out with a front-on bump.
Martin was running for the ball at top speed when May collected him.
May said he was trying to lay a block for his captain Gary Ablett, who pushed Martin immediately before the impact.
“I made the wrong decision,” May said.
Immediately after the bump, Brisbane players converged on May and he quickly realised how badly he had miscued the bump.
“I stuck my hand up and said ‘I’ve stuffed up’ … I told them ‘boys, do what you need to do’,” May said.
May apologised publicly the next day and said Martin had also replied to a text he had sent.
While no one had any issue with May’s evidence, there was plenty of to-and-fro between Gleeson and Burns.
Gleeson promoted an objection from Burns when he noted it was in the jury’s power to rule the bump was intentional, instead of careless.
That would mean a higher penalty.
“It’s at the very upper end of carelessness,” Gleeson said.
He added there was the “frightening prospect” of Martin suffering a severe spinal injury if his head had been down when the two players collided.
“There’s a point of no return reached by this player and that’s what makes this so risky,” Gleeson said.