Charlie Cameron.
Brisbane Lions star Charlie Cameron had his rough conduct ban downgraded to a fine. Image by Darren England/AAP PHOTOS
  • Australian rules football

AFL won’t appeal tribunal call on Charlie Cameron

Anna Harrington April 17, 2024

The AFL won’t appeal the tribunal’s decision to downgrade Charlie Cameron’s rough conduct suspension to a fine despite considering a one-match ban the appropriate sanction.

On Tuesday night, the Brisbane Lions star challenged his one-match suspension for a dumping tackle on Melbourne’s Jake Lever at the MCG last Thursday.

The tribunal dismissed Cameron’s argument that the impact of the incident should have been graded as “low” rather than “medium”.

But the tribunal – led by chairman Jeff Gleeson – found exceptional and compelling circumstances to use its discretion to turn the ban into a fine, citing Cameron’s clean record throughout his 207-game career.

It frees the gun forward to play in Brisbane’s huge clash with Geelong on Saturday night.

Chief executive Andrew Dillon said on Wednesday the league considered the one-game ban the correct sanction – but wouldn’t challenge the tribunal’s ruling.

“No, we won’t appeal,” Dillon said in an interview on the AFL’s website.

“We’ve had a look at that and we think the discretion was there for the tribunal to use. 

“But … the MRO graded it a one-match suspension. That’s where we thought the right result would have been.”

Steven May and Charlie Cameron.
 Steven May and Charlie Cameron watch the ball over the boundary line during the Demons-Lions clash. Image by James Ross/AAP PHOTOS 

Match review officer Michael Christian had graded the tackle careless conduct, medium impact and high contact – which draws a one-match ban.

“What I will say from an AFL point of view is I was really happy with the way the MRO graded it with a one-match suspension and that was what we were hoping the outcome would be,” Dillon said.

Character references for Cameron from Adelaide and Carlton champion Eddie Betts and an Indigenous elder also helped sway the tribunal, but they were most taken by his previous disciplinary record.

Cameron has never been suspended, but had been fined five times prior to the tribunal case – including for three rough conduct charges.

The case could potentially be used as a precedent, with clubs attempting to draw upon character references or disciplinary records in other hearings.

In the short interview, Dillon didn’t address whether the case could set a precedent.

Dillon also indicated the AFL would assess whether character references should be a factor in tribunal guidelines in the future, when it reviewed them at season’s end.

“I think that’s one of the things we would look at towards the end of the year,” he said.

The tribunal’s decision to give Cameron special consideration was intriguing, given the AFL has focused heavily on suspending actions that could cause head knocks or concussion.

While Lever was uninjured and able to continue playing, his head bounced on the MCG turf due to the tackle.

The AFL notably appealed the tribunal’s decision in 2017, when now-retired Richmond gun Bachar Houli was initially only handed a two-match ban for knocking out former Carlton player Jed Lamb.

The tribunal had reduced Houli’s ban to only two matches on account of his character – the AFL counsel had wanted four – and the lighter penalty sparked uproar.

Houli had received character references from the likes of then-Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and media commentator and academic Waleed Aly.

The AFL appealed the sanction on the grounds it was “manifestly inadequate” and the appeals board agreed, taking just 10 minutes to uphold it and giving Houli a four-game ban.