Adelaide midfielder Ebony Marinoff's appeal against the three-match suspension she received on Tuesday for forceful front-on contact was sensationally adjourned until next Thursday after the Crows' counsel made a shock request for permission to introduce fresh evidence to the hearing.
He argued new video evidence, if accepted, would indicate that Giants' defender Brid Stack – who suffered a C7 vertebra fracture in Sunday's game – could have injured her neck in an incident that occurred in the first quarter raising doubt on whether the collision with Marinoff, which led to the charge, should have been graded as severe.
The Crows said the evidence only came to light 15 minutes before the hearing, hence the surprise request not being included in the club's pre-hearing submission, when Marinoff reviewed the game and saw footage of Stack being bumped into the hoarding near the boundary line by three Crows teammates who tackled her as she kicked.
The footage, which was shown to the AFL Appeals Board, did not show Stack making contact with the fence or hoarding around the ground as the bench obscured the camera's view.
Marinoff's counsel Sam Abbott also asked for a video from a biomechanics expert to be shown to the appeals board as part of his request for fresh evidence.
Chairman David Jones decided that because of the nature of the application, particularly in relation to the suggestion that Stack's injury may have been caused by an incident earlier in the game, time was needed to assess whether the fresh evidence would be considered.
Jones said although the board had provisions in place to ensure the process ran smoothly he said "the last thing I want to do is deny any player the opportunity to put together [a case] in accordance with those provisions".
With the first game not scheduled until next weekend the adjournment was possible after Adelaide appealed the three-match suspension.
They were expected to argue the verdict was so unreasonable that no tribunal acting reasonably could have come to that decision, having regard to the evidence before it, and that the sanction imposed was manifestly excessive however the new approach opened up a new potential avenue for the appeal.
Crows AFLW coach Matthew Clarke said they felt it was not only important to support the player but "to question an outcome, which we see as placing an unreasonable expectation on all players to avoid contact in circumstances where the ball is in dispute".
Ebony Marinoff.Credit:Getty Images
If the appeal is unsuccessful the Crows will be liable to a financial penalty but Marinoff's suspension cannot be increased.
Tribunal makes a statement
The Crows' decision came after the AFL tribunal made its intent clear in relation to head-high contact in 2021, when they suspended Marinoff after Sunday's AFLW practice match that left Stack with a fractured vertebra.
The 23-year-old dual All-Australian, who has never been suspended in 30 AFLW matches, was emotional when the verdict was delivered as it meant she would miss a third of the nine-match home and away season that begins next weekend.
The final quarter incident led to the game being abandoned as an ambulance was brought onto the field where paramedics treated Stack – an Irish recruit playing her first AFLW game – for a potential spinal injury.
Marinoff argued that she had no alternative but to contest the ball, which tumbled across the ground after a ruck contest, and that she stopped in her tracks as soon as she realised that Stack was in a vulnerable position with her head over the loose ball.
When AFL counsel Andrew Woods asked if she realised that Stack was in a vulnerable position when she approached the contest Marinoff said: "That's why I stopped."
The star also said circumstances outside her control led to the incident as her Giants opponent Alyce Parker had made contact with her as she stopped and that Stack's head had therefore hit the side of her body rather than front-on.
However, the tribunal did not accept Marinoff's evidence that refuted the suggestion she had made front-on contact and upheld the charge of front-on contact that was careless, high and severe. The tribunal also decided Marinoff had a realistic alternative.
The AFL argued that the tribunal should impose a minimum suspension of three games while Marinoff's counsel argued that would be excessive given the AFLW season runs for nine home and away matches.
The decision was a blow for Adelaide, who have won two of the three premierships decided, with Marinoff a key player throughout the team's history.
Adelaide are scheduled to play Melbourne in the opening round of the season with games against Gold Coast and the Western Bulldogs scheduled for rounds two and three, although there is a chance the fixture could be amended due to border restrictions imposed to contain the spread of COVID-19.
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