Gary Ablett arrives for Tuesday night's tribunal hearing.
Gary Ablett arrives for Tuesday night's tribunal hearing.

Ablett free to play after tribunal win

Gary Ablett is a free man but is $2000 lighter in the hip pocket after successfully having his striking charge downgraded.  

The dual Brownlow medallist - who has never been suspended in 328 games - gave almost 30 minutes of evidence as he fought to have his one-match ban reduced, arguing that his strike on Bomber Dylan Shiel was careless rather than intentional and that he was simply attempting to minimise what he believed could have been heavy front-on contact.

The tribunal took just three minutes to deliberate, with Cats officials and Ablett sharing a round of high-fives when the news was delivered.

"Obviously (I'm) very happy with the outcome," a relieved Ablett said after the hearing.

"I've never intentionally struck anyone in my career, and I'm just really happy. It's a good result."

The Geelong counsel had attempted to employ Ablett's exemplary record - which included a blemish-free junior career - in an effort to have the financial sanction waived, but the $2000 penalty for a careless, low impact and high contact stood.

He had argued that he had attempted to minimise contact with Shiel and had spun in an attempt to avoid heavy front-on contact.

"It was basically just trying to minimise the impact," Ablett said.

"We were both running at pretty quick speeds and I had to make a decision in that split second, and I tried to jump out of the way and unfortunately got him in the back of the neck and believed a free kick should have been given."

Gary Ablett speaks to the media after his win.
Gary Ablett speaks to the media after his win.

AFL counsel Jeff Gleeson had argued that Ablett could have attempted to side-step Shiel and avoid the contact.

"You might question whether a player of (Ablett's) nimble feet and dexterity couldn't avoid this happening," he said.

But the two-time premiership player - who said he was "pretty close to top speed" at the time - maintained that the contact to "the back of (Shiel's) neck" was a result of a spin that he said "was the only way that I was going to be able to miss him".

If they'd hit, he says, "then we both would have got hurt".

"My intention was to tackle him," Ablett said.

"I wanted to close down space … the game moves very quickly at times. I felt I had a split second to make a decision. My intent was never to hurt him. My intent was to get away from the contest as best as possible while making sure neither of us got hurt. I felt at the time I did a pretty good job, which I partly why I was surprised when the umpire told me I was reported."

He was adamant that his intention was never to strike Shiel and that his right forearm had been raised as a balancing mechanism.

"I didn't intentionally go to strike and I'm glad it all panned out the way it did," he said.

Betting on the star Cat for this year's Brownlow medal had been suspended in anticipation of the hearing, with the 34-year-old currently a $41 chance with TAB of winning a third award.