‘Sly, calculated’ Stratton banned for pinching
Hawthorn captain Ben Stratton has been banned for two games after he pleaded guilty to pinching Essendon forward Orazio Fantasia multiple times and stomping on Shaun McKernan.
Stratton was referred directly to Tuesday's tribunal for serious misconduct over the incidents and although the Hawks argued for fines as penalties, the jury took 10 minutes to decide on one-game bans for the two offences.
The footage of him repeatedly pinching Fantasia at the weekend made headlines all over for the embarrassed Hawk and AFL Counsel Jeff Gleeson QC used the argument that he brought the league into disrepute in his case against the Hawks' star.
Gleeson said the acts were "unreasonable and unsportsmanlike" and caused harm to the game, given the focus directed on the incident.
He further described the pinching of Fantasia as "deliberate, calculated, considered and sly" and added that Stratton intended to repeatedly hurt and distract his opponent.
Peter O'Farrell, who represented Stratton said the Hawks skipper was "remorseful and embarrassed" and tried to argue the AFL down to a fine for both the pinching and the stomping on McKernan.
Having heard both cases concurrently throughout the evening, the Tribunal deliberated for just 10 minutes before handing Stratton a one-match sanction for each charge.
"As captain of the footy club and as a player of the AFL, I understand it's not a good look for the game," Stratton said after the hearing.
"Especially for the kids who watch at home - I'm extremely remorseful for my actions.
"I never meant to go out there and hurt my opponent. I just want to play in the hardest manner possible.
"I accept the two weeks that the Tribunal has come up with. I'll just be head down, bum up - there's no point complaining about it because we've got a match on Friday night to win."
Gleeson later agreed that Stratton's stomp on McKernan was a "spur of the moment" decision, saying that it was in retaliation to contact made by his opponent.
But he again argued that Stratton should serve a one-match ban for his actions, suggesting the stomp had the potential of causing the Essendon ruckman a serious injury.
Hawthorn coach Alastair Clarkson had commented earlier in the week that he felt the reaction to Stratton's actions were overblown and invoked the Australian cricket team being put under the microscope for ball-tampering in South Africa.
"It's a little bit like Sandpaper-gate though, in a sense," Clarkson said.
"This sort of stuff, although we don't like it, has been going on in the game for a long, long period of time. And there's all sorts of tactics that players use to put their opponents off.
"Was this outside the rules of the game and untoward? Of course it was. Ben put his hand up and acknowledged that.
"The Tribunal will now make its recommendation on what should transpire from that, and he throws himself to the mercy of that system. I don't know there's anything more that he can say or I can add to it, other than just let justice run its course."
Clarkson said Stratton has not been treated fairly by the attention the incident has received, calling it "trial by media".