Bump OK if ball the sole goal
Anthony Morabito. Pic: WA News

WAFL Tribunal chairman Paul Heaney's judgment on the Anthony Morabito rough conduct report this week upheld the principle that the game's most basic concept - to win the ball - overruled all other considerations.

And while Morabito's exoneration has created considerable confusion in WAFL ranks, with club officials saying they thought the league mirrored the AFL by banning most forms of head contact, Heaney found there were significant shades of grey in an area considered black and white.

The crux of Heaney's ruling was that the conduct gradings of offences - intentional, reckless and negligent - were irrelevant if a player could show his actions were designed to win the ball.

He found it identical in football law to a player kneeing an opponent in the head while engaged in a legitimate marking attempt.

Morabito was playing for Peel last Saturday when he was reported over his collision with Claremont's Tom Ledger.

He pleaded not guilty to rough conduct over the bump that collected Ledger in the head and claimed his only focus was on the football.

"My intention was to get the football," Morabito told the WAFL Tribunal.

"I was watching the football, I made a beeline for the football and had my eyes on the football."

Heaney was persuaded by Morabito's argument and reinforced the idea that ball players would be protected at the tribunal. Heaney made a distinction between the Morabito case and the Nat Fyfe example this season when the Fremantle player was suspended over a head clash with Gold Coast's Michael Rischitelli.

Heaney found the critical difference between the two came from Fyfe's decision to bump his opponent while Morabito was attempting to gather the ball.

"If a player is going for the ball and he makes contact with another player's head, then it is an accident," Heaney said. "That happens all day every day wherever … football is played.

"But if a player decides to bump and then makes contact with an opponent's head, he is in trouble. We saw that with Mr Fyfe."

The West Australian

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