11 Controversial AFL Suspensions


Debate about different rule interpretations has dominated the AFL this season and this past weekend the AFL decided that it was time to crack down on jumper punches.

Jumper punches have been part and parcel of the game for years, but Tom Hawkins picked the worst possible time to thrown one of his own and he will now miss Geelong’s clash with the West Coast Eagles next Thursday night.

This is not the first time that the AFL have made a controversial decision and we have put together this list of 11 Controversial AFL Suspensions.

Tom Hawkins

Tom Hawkins really has Trent Cotchin to blame for his one week suspension.

The AFL ruled a fortnight ago that it would crackdown on jumper punches after Cotchin got in a shot at Fremantle’s Lachie Neale and Hawkins became the test case after he caught Matt Crouch with a jumper punch last Friday night.

While Hawkins may be unlucky, this is definitely not the first time that he has been in trouble with the umpires.

Chris Grant

A lazy strike to Hawthorn’s Nick Holland cost Chris Grant the Brownlow Medal in 1997.

Grant was a consistent vote puller throughout his career with the Bulldogs and he finished on top of the Brownlow Medal count in 1997 – one vote ahead of Robert Harvey – but due to this unfortunate suspension he was never able to take Charlie home.

Corey McKernan

Grant was not the first player to miss out on winning the Brownlow Medal due to suspension.

McKernan finished equal on votes with Michael Voss and James Hird in the 1996 Brownlow Medal count, but a fairly soft suspension for kneeing Geelong’s John Barnes ruled him ineligible.

This was a particularly cruel blow for McKernan as he had previously missed out on the Rising Star award in 1994 – also due to suspension.

John Coleman

John Coleman is considered one of the greatest full-forwards in Australian Rules history, but his career was not without controversy.

Essendon looked set to win the VFL in 1951, but disaster struck when Coleman was suspended for four weeks after striking Harry Caspar in the final game of the regular season.

Caspar had been all-over Coleman throughout the game and punched him on a number of occasions, but the tribunal refused to accept Coleman’s argument that he had simple retaliated to two unprovoked punches.

Greg Williams

Greg Williams was involved in a number of controversial moments during his football career and his suspension for pushing umpire Andrew Coates is right up there.

At the conclusion of a round 1 game between Carlton and Essendon in 1997, Coates stepped in to break up a heated argument between Williams and Essendon’s Sean Denham, which led to Williams pushing Coates.

There was no malice in the push, but the tribunal still came down on Williams harshly and he was suspended for nine games.

Carlton challenged the decision in the Supreme Court of Victoria and at first William’s suspension was overturned, but a later appeal saw the punishment reinstated.

Neville Crowe

Of all the suspensions on this list, Neville Crowe’s ban in 1967 may be the greatest injustice of the lot.

Crowe had never been suspended during his VFL career, but during Richmond’s semi-final win over Carlton was sighted for striking rival John Nicholls.

The problem was that Crowe never touched Nicholls – his attempted slap completely missed, but Nicholls was able to con the umpires in what may have been the first dive in Australian Rules history.

This suspension cost Crowe a maiden premiership and he never played professional football again.

Nat Fyfe

Ex-players have been accusing the AFL of going soft for many years and these calls reached a fever pitch when Nat Fyfe was suspended for a bump on Michael Rischitelli back in 2014.

The majority of onlookers could see nothing wrong with the bump, but that did not stop Fyfe copping a two week suspension that could have cost him a Brownlow Medal – he finished the count only one vote behind winner Matt Priddis.

Bombers Drug Suspensions

This ruling did not come from the AFL itself, but it still ranks as one of the most controversial suspensions in the history of the competition.

In 2015, 34 past and present Essendon players were found not guilty of taking the banned supplement Thymosin beta-4, but this ruling was challenged by WADA and in 2016 the Court of Arbitration for Sport overturned the not-guilty verdict and the 34 players were banned for a year.

Steven Barker

A 2010 clash between St Kilda and Geelong basically turned into a boxing bout between Geelong’s Steve Johnson and St Kilda’s Steven Baker, which saw Baker suspended for nine matches.

Baker was charged with three separate counts of striking and one for misconduct for making reasonable and unnecessary contact with an injured player.

Baker did not last much longer in the AFL, but trouble still found him and in 2013 he was automatically deregistered from playing football for life as a six week suspension took his total career suspensions beyond the accepted threshold.

He appealed the decision and was able to continue to play and we assume has been suspended several times since.

Andrew Dunkley

Andrew Dunkley was lucky on a couple of occasions during the 1996 AFL Finals series.

Not only did he get to strike James Hird during the Preliminary Final in 1996, but the Sydney Swans were able to obtain a Supreme Court injunction that prevented the tribunal ruling on the case until after the 1996 Grand Final.

This meant that Dunkley got to play in the Grand Final, but it did not help the Swans as they went down to North Melbourne in the Centenary Grand Final.

Dunkley eventually faced the tribunal and was suspended for three weeks for his shot on Hird.

Kurt Tippett

Kurt Tippett is the only player in AFL history to ever be suspended due to salary cap violations.

At the end of 2010 after Tippett requested a trade to Sydney, it was revealed that the Adelaide Crows had breached AFL rules by offering Tippett money outside of the salary cap.

The Crows were fined and lost its first two draft picks in 2012 and 2013, while Tippett was suspended for 11 matches.

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