Toby Bedford has beaten a one-match ban at his appeals board hearing and can play against St Kilda. Image by Bianca De Marchi/AAP PHOTOS
  • Australian rules football

Giants forward Toby Bedford overturns one-match ban

September 7, 2023

GWS forward Toby Bedford is free to play in Saturday’s elimination final against St Kilda after overturning his one-match ban at the AFL Appeals Board. 

Bedford was suspended for an off-the-ball bump, deemed as medium impact and high contact, on Carlton’s Zac Fisher in the final round of the home-and-away season.

GWS failed to overturn or downgrade the suspension at the AFL Tribunal on Monday night, but they came up trumps in an appeal on Thursday afternoon.

Giants counsel Ben Ihle successfully argued it was not reasonable for the AFL Tribunal to conclude the high contact was forceful.

“The evidence that was before the tribunal would not permit that finding to be logically or reasonably made,” Ihle said.

“Fisher gave evidence of not recalling high contact, let alone recalling any high contact that was forceful.

“Dr Middleton (the biochemist expert) said it was not capable of determining the level of force – it is impossible based on the video to determine the level of force.

“A tribunal acting reasonably doesn’t act on guess work.”

AFL Counsel Lisa Hannon said the AFL Tribunal panel that comprised of Jeff Gleeson, Darren Gaspar and Scott Stevens were well placed to assess the evidence.

Sports law is one of Gleeson’s specialties, while Darren Gasper (228 AFL games) and Stevens (144 AFL games) have extensive playing experience.

“(They are an) expert sporting panel,” Hannon said.

“The vision shows the whole of the incident.

“This was not a matter of accepting or rejecting the truthfulness of Fisher’s evidence.”

But the Appeals Board, led by chairman Murray Kellam, believed the AFL Tribunal got it wrong, with the decision freeing Bedford to face St Kilda at the MCG.

“We accept it was open to the Tribunal who found that there was contact by the body to player Fisher’s head,” Kellam said.

“But in our view, neither the evidence or the reasons expressed by the Tribunal in respect of such evidence is sufficient to establish that such contact was forceful as required by the AFL regulations.”

Bedford beamed a big smile once the decision was handed down.

Earlier in the day, Giants coach Adam Kingsley expressed confidence  Bedford would win the case.

The best forward in the league for pressure acts, Bedford has become an essential cog in the Giants’ forward line.

The first-year Giant has kicked 10 goals and averaged five tackles in 16 games this season.

“(Bedford) is unbelievably important for us,” Kingsley said.

“He’s right at the top for forward-half pressure and tackles. That’s incredibly important to the way that we play.

“He can play a variety of roles. He can be a swingman if we need him to go into the midfield, if we need to spark.”