Fremantle coach Ross Lyon has defended controversial forward Hayden Ballantyne's niggling tactics in the wake of widespread criticism following Saturday night's win over Geelong.
Ballantyne is facing a two-match ban for elbowing Cats star Paul Chapman in the stomach behind play during the first term, one less than the three-match suspension Geelong's Matthew Scarlett was offered yesterday for punching the Docker in the face.
Ballantyne repeatedly clashed with Cats players after niggling them throughout the game.
Lyon said he was disappointed that Ballantyne would miss games because of suspension but, after reviewing the match, felt the 24-year-old played a significant role in the victory.
"You never want your players sitting in the grandstand through injury or suspension if they're avoidable," Lyon told 6PR last night.
"At the end of the day I thought Hayden was really good for us.
"He was probably a bit better than I thought post-game watching it back a couple of times. I thought he was a real significant catalyst for the way we went.
"He was a real team leader and I love the way he goes about it.
"There's been a lot of hyperbole about it. A lot of ra-ra.
"At the end of the day you win them and wear them.
"He copped his fair share and sometimes you dish a bit out.
"At the end of the day, Geelong have won three premierships for a reason.
"As they would describe themselves - they're ruthless. They take no prisoners.
"At the end of the day you've got to stand your ground. We certainly respect Geelong but we won't be intimidated by anyone.
"We want to be an uncompromising team ourselves and I thought we were that on Saturday night."
Dual Geelong premiership coach Mark Thompson, now an assistant coach at Essendon, took a swipe at Ballantyne's annoying tactics.
"In all the years I've been involved in footy, I don't promote that sort of behaviour by a bloke like Ballantyne," Thompson told Fox Footy's AFL 360.
"I'd just like them to get on and play footy.
"Play it fair, play it tough, shake hands at the end of the game.
"To stir people up is not my way of playing football."
Ballantyne's former coach at Peel, Chris Waterman, said the Sandover medallist had always niggled the opposition and believed it had become one of his strengths.
"When he kicked 80 goals in 2008, I reckon he picked up 10 or 15 after the event because he got into them, they reacted and he got another kick," Waterman said. "He's done that with Fremantle and if he can pick up a goal or two from getting under their skin, in a close game, they come in pretty handy.
"His job is to try to gain an advantage for his team.
"If the opposition fall for it and he gets a free kick or someone gets suspended, that's their fault."
AFL chief executive Andrew Demetriou said the league would not take action against Port Adelaide defender Alipate Carlile and Gold Coast youngster Trent McKenzie, who tweeted their support for Scarlett for punching Ballantyne.
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