Isaac Heeney
Sydney star Isaac Heeney checks on St Kilda opponent Jimmy Webster after their incident on Sunday. Image by Joel Carrett/AAP PHOTOS
  • Australian rules football

Brownlow contender Heeney fails to overturn ban

Oliver Caffrey July 9, 2024

Sydney superstar Isaac Heeney’s Brownlow Medal hopes appear dead in the water after he was unsuccessful in overturning a one-game suspension at the AFL Tribunal.

And Adelaide’s Izak Rankine also endured disappointment on Tuesday night after failing to reduce his four-match ban for a dangerous bump.

Heeney will miss the Swans’ clash with North Melbourne on Saturday and is out of the running for the AFL’s highest individual honour unless the club goes to the appeals board and is successful.

Sydney acknowledged the tribunal verdict but did not rule in, or out, an appeal hearing.

The 28-year-old was banned by the match review officer for striking St Kilda defender Jimmy Webster during the Swans’ upset loss against the Saints on Sunday.

The forward-turned-midfielder was one of the favourites for the Brownlow until the sanction.

Heeney was taken out of Brownlow betting minutes after the incident, with Carlton captain Patrick Cripps installed as favourite, ahead of Collingwood superstar Nick Daicos.

The tribunal deliberated for about 40 minutes before agreeing the incident warranted a one-game suspension.

“The swing of Heeney’s arm was forceful and it was more than a swatting motion,” AFL tribunal chair Jeff Gleeson said.

“We are not satisfied that he intended only to make contact with Webster’s hands.

“This was an intentional strike resulting in injury.”

Heeney went to break away from Webster and caught him across the face.

Webster was treated for a bloody nose on the field, but wasn’t required to leave the ground and didn’t need any ongoing medical attention.

Heeney told the tribunal the incident happened “extremely quickly” and he was intending to “swat” Webster’s hand away so he could run towards the ball.

“It probably happens 50-100 times in some games,” he said.

“I wanted to swat his hands away, I didn’t want to hit him (high).

“I don’t recall seeing his head in my peripheral vision.”

Heeney immediately realised what he had done and after he had marked and goaled, went to check on Webster.

St Kilda coach Ross Lyon also said post-match the incident was an accident, with no intent.

Sydney’s legal representative Duncan Miller argued Heeney’s conduct was not unreasonable.

“He would not be expecting in those circumstances that someone taller than him would be at chest height,” Miller said.

“It’s a courageous submission (from the AFL) to say Heeney should’ve seen him in his peripheral vision.”

Miller cited the infamous case involving Charlie Cameron when the Brisbane Lions star’s ban was overturned because of good character.

But Miller refused to tender any character references, simply saying Heeney had only been fined twice before during his 193-game career.

“It’s not appropriate to give evidence on how much Heeney drives the church bus on Sunday,” Miller said.

If Heeney polls the most votes on Brownlow night, he would join unlucky pair Corey McKernan (North Melbourne, 1996) and Chris Grant (Western Bulldogs, 1997) as players to miss out on the award because they are ineligible.

Rankine was slapped with a four-match ban for off-the-ball bump on Brandon Starcevich that concussed the Lions defender.

The Crows argued the incident should be graded as careless rather than intentional, which would have resulted in a three-match ban instead of four matches.

“The clash of heads was accidental. You cannot be satisfied that Rankine intended high contact,” Adelaide’s lawyer Andrew Culshaw said.

But the three-person tribunal panel needed just 14 minutes to deliberate and find Rankine guilty as originally charged.

It means Rankine will miss games against St Kilda, Essendon, Hawthorn and Geelong.

Following Rankine’s bump on the weekend, a Brisbane fan racially abused the star Crow online and has since apologised publicly.

The Lions have cancelled his club membership and the AFL integrity department is investigating.