Adam Cooney’s outstanding record undoubtedly saved the Brownlow Medallist an extra game’s suspension at the AFL tribunal.
The Essendon veteran was suspended for one match – the first ban of his 230-game career.
Under tribunal guidelines, Cooney was facing a two-game penalty for rough conduct once he was found guilty at Tuesday’s hearing.
But his advocate, former AFL operations manager Adrian Anderson, argued that Cooney’s good record should reduce the suspension.
Cooney admitted to relief afterwards.
“I felt I didn’t have a realistic alternative to make that contact and they (the tribunal) saw otherwise,” Cooney said.
“But in terms of missing one week, it could have been a lot worse – I’m happy with that.”
Anderson’s submission on penalty also featured character evidence from Gold Coast coach Rodney Eade, who Cooney played under for seven years at the Western Bulldogs.
Eade spoke via telephone and said Cooney had never lost his temper on the field despite being tagged regularly.
Essendon play Gold Coast in two weeks’ time and Eade joked during his submission that perhaps he should not be speaking so highly of Cooney.
But the Suns coach added the fact he was prepared to give character evidence showed the regard he held for Cooney.
The onballer said afterwards that he would buy Eade a beer at the end of the season.
Cooney was referred straight to the tribunal, with no option of an early plea, after he cannoned into Stephen Coniglio and concussed the GWS midfielder.
He pleaded not guilty, arguing there was no choice but to bump Coniglio once the ball bounced away from Cooney after a centre bounce.
After deliberating for 10 minutes, the tribunal jury ruled that the bump was careless, high contact and medium impact.
Under normal tribunal guidelines, those factors would equal a two-game ban and tribunal advocate Jeff Gleeson QC said that should be his penalty.
“He’s an ornament to the game … but you can only take his record so far,” Gleeson said.
Anderson said Cooney “agonised” over his plea before deciding to challenge the charge.
The 2008 Brownlow Medallist came off the square at a centre bounce late in Sunday’s match and accelerated, thinking the ball was rolling towards him.
But the ball bounced back in Coniglio’s direction and Cooney smashed into him.
“I don’t see how all of a sudden I can get myself in a safe position to tackle him,” Cooney said.
It was an ugly incident and Gleeson told the tribunal panel that their first response to the vision was probably more significant than any argument he could make.
Gleeson argued that at the very least, it was careless conduct.
“He (Cooney) plays the ball, but sometimes ball players have a brain fade,” Gleeson said.
The ban means Cooney will miss Saturday’s home game against Adelaide.