Melbourne Demons AFL player Kysaiah Pickett.
Kysaiah Pickett has failed to have his one-match ban overturned at the AFL Tribunal. Image by Matt Turner/AAP PHOTOS
  • Australian rules football

‘Potential to cause injury’: AFL stands by Pickett ban

Joanna Guelas April 9, 2024

Melbourne will be without livewire forward Kysaiah Pickett for their bumper clash with the Brisbane Lions after failing to overturn a one-match suspension.

The Demons fronted the AFL Tribunal on Tuesday night in a bid to reduce Pickett’s rough conduct charge for his challenge on Adelaide’s Jake Soligo from medium contact to low.

Pickett jumped off the ground and made glancing contact with his opponent’s head during Melbourne’s 15-point win at Adelaide Oval on Thursday.

Though Soligo finished the game and subsequently played down the incident, Pickett was handed his third ban since the start of last season – this time for careless conduct, medium impact and high contact.

The club argued Pickett did not intend to bump Soligo but instead was bracing for impact, but tribunal chairman Jeff Gleeson upheld the medium contact charge after less than half an hour of deliberation.

“The contact had the potential to cause injury. A concussion or facial injury was a realistically possible outcome,” Gleeson said on Tuesday.

“The impact to Soligo’s head was plain to see. He was knocked off his feet and immediately held his face in obvious pain or discomfort.”

Pickett did not face the tribunal, but submitted a written statement. 

“I was tracking the ball after the centre bounce and was moving towards it when Jake Soligo took possession,” the 22-year-old said in the statement.

“When I got close, I raised both of my arms in the air and reached to intercept the ball after Soligo handballed.

“My intention was to catch the ball. I collided with Soligo and then followed the ball to make the next contest until the umpire blew the whistle.

“I had no intention of bumping Jake Soligo. I was trying to intercept the ball in the air.”

The decision comes after the AFL recently amended its smother rule.

Pickett’s former teammate Angus Brayshaw was knocked out with a concussion during last year’s finals when he collided with an airborne Collingwood vice-captain Brayden Maynard, who was attempting to smother the ball.

Brayshaw, 28, was forced into premature retirement on medical advice this year because of multiple concussions suffered throughout his career.

The rule has now been tweaked so that when a player elects to leave the ground in an attempt to smother, any high contact with an opponent that is graded as low impact will be deemed to be careless.

It comes as the AFL deals with an ongoing class action from dozens of former players against the league relating to concussion.

Last week, Richmond star Liam Baker unsuccessfully went to the tribunal to challenge his one-week rough conduct ban, also for high contact.