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AFL tribunal architect Anderson backs current system


The architect of the AFL's current tribunal system, lawyer Adrian Anderson, believes the set-up continues to serve the league well despite calls for a revamp following a string of contentious rulings in 2017.

Anderson said while the league's new footy operations boss, Steven Hocking, might want to tweak aspects of the system next season, it essentially remained the best available.

"I don't think it'll ever be perfect," Anderson told ESPN. "There will always be lineball decisions that divide opinion but that's the beauty of the game.

"I don't agree with every decision they make - there were one or two this season that surprised me - but they are judgments made by humans and from time to time there will be errors."

Former Geelong great Jimmy Bartel was one who expressed unhappiness at the Match Review Panel in 2017 - and he was actually a serving panel member for much of the season. Bartel delivered a stinging critique of the MRP's guidelines just hours after he officially stepped down from the panel in August. Others felt it delivered inconsistent and erratic rulings through the year.

In 2005, not long after his appointment as Andrew Demetriou's football operations chief, Anderson completed a major review of the AFL Tribunal. Among the important reforms were the establishment of a Match Review Panel and introduction of a table of offences with set penalties, allowing players to accept sanctions without appearing before the tribunal.

What Anderson wasn't in favour of was the mid-season decision by the AFL this year to change the MRP rules regarding jumper and stomach punches, following separate incidents involving Richmond captain Trent Cotchin and North Melbourne's Ben Cunnington.

"The AFL came out during the year and said they'd change their stance about these kind of punches, which changed the MRP parameters during the course of the season," Anderson told ESPN.

He said he wasn't in favour of such a knee-jerk reaction because, in the interests of fairness, explanations and examples of any rule change needed to be given to players and coaches before each season started.

But one contentious MRP decision Anderson did agree with was the clearing of Richmond captain Trent Cotchin after the preliminary final.

Early in that game, Cotchin barrelled into GWS's Dylan Shiel who was bent over the ball and attempting to pick it up. Contact made solid contact with Shiel's head and the collision forced the Giants' midfielder on to his back; at quarter-time, he was taken from the field with concussion and took no further part in the game.

"My view on that one was that Cotchin was contesting the ball and, in that split second, didn't have a realistic alternative," Anderson told ESPN.

Anderson, who left the AFL in 2012, is now at the Victorian Bar practicing in media/defamation and sports law.

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