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Hipwood free to play despite guilty tribunal verdict

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Brisbane star Eric Hipwood has avoided suspension for pushing Western Bulldogs opponent Ryan Gardner into umpire Jacob Mollison’s path.

Sent directly to the tribunal after Gardner and Mollison made heavy contact in Brisbane’s win against the Bulldogs, the jury found Hipwood guilty of careless contact with an umpire, but fined only $2,500.

The AFL had pushed for a two-game suspension, arguing that he deliberately pushed Gardner into the referee’s path.

But tribunal chairman Jeff Gleeson, who said the incident was “pretty disturbing” from certain quarters, said Hipwood’s carelessness was not high.

Gleeson said the CCTV view behind the goals showed Gardner “turned away and almost stopped” as both players ran to the Lions’ attacking 50 yards.

He found that while Hipwood violated his duty of care to the referee, his action alone did not cause the incident.

The Brisbane defense centered around their belief that Gardner initiated the contact by running to block the Lion, while Hipwood braced for the impact.

Hipwood, who has never been suspended in his AFL career, claimed he did not know the umpire was nearby until contact was made.

“I would never do that… I wouldn’t do that in any sport,” he said.

“I’ve been playing sports since I was six years old and I’ve never had any conflict or contact with a referee in my entire career.”

AFL attorney Nick Pane paused the view of the incident with Hipwood looking at Bailey where umpire Mollison was standing directly behind him, suggesting he must have known he was there.

“While he denies seeing the referee, the footage suggests he must have had vision and was aware of the referee’s position,” he said.

“A fine is far from adequate when a referee is subject to the level of carelessness … and the degree of violence involved in the collision,” he said.

Hipwood’s attorney Adrian Anderson said Gardner running his opponent over was prohibited contact and against the rules of the game.

He also referred to an incident earlier this year where Fremantle’s Michael Walters pushed a GWS player in the path of an umpire and noted that there had been careless contact despite seeing the umpire present.

It leaves Hipwood free to play against Essendon this weekend.

Earlier on Tuesday, Nick Vlastuin accepted a one-game suspension for punching Connor West from the West Coast, and Hawthorn’s Will Day was given a week-long suspension for forceful front-on contact with GWS star Josh Kelly.

About 10 other players accepted fines.

© AAP

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