Boxer Danny Green has blasted the AFL for failing to take a stand against "cheap shots and coward punches" after Richmond's Reece Conca got a two-week ban for striking an opponent from behind.
Green, a vocal campaigner against senseless violence, said the AFL set a bad example to the wider community in its handling of Conca's "disgusting" hit on Greater Western Sydney's Devon Smith last weekend.
Conca was handed a two-match ban by the match review panel for elbowing Smith to the back of the head.
Green said that although Conca no doubt regretted the "brain explosion", it was a missed opportunity for the AFL to send a strong anti- violence message, especially to children.
"Those kind of hits can kill people and leave them brain damaged," Green said yesterday. "The AFL has tried to sanitise the game for mums who send their kids to Auskick, then when they have a chance to stand up to what society is trying to abolish, they fail.
"I'm all for a tough, physical game, whether it's a hard bump or a shirtfront, but when someone assaults someone from behind, with the ball nowhere to be seen, the AFL fails to take a stand."
AFL chief executive Gillon McLachlan said he understood Green's outrage and admitted the "appalling" incident should have been referred to the AFL tribunal, which would have allowed for a tougher punishment.
"I think probably the right outcome here was to put this straight to the tribunal because if you look at the rules, the application in this case was right of the MRP," he told radio station 3AW.
"But when you've got a guy, out of anger, running after a guy and hitting him from behind, I just think it's a terrible, terrible act and I understand Danny Green's comments."
Mr McLachlan said he had spoken to the MRP and AFL football operations boss Mark Evans, who was reviewing the citing process.
Green's Facebook post on Thursday about the incident received more than 26,000 "likes".
The boxer relaunched an advertising campaign in January in which he condemned the phrase "king hit", saying it should be rebranded a "coward's punch".
Richmond coach Damien Hardwick said on Thursday that Conca was disappointed with his actions and said the 21-year-old was a quality kid.
"He stepped outside the bounds of acceptable conduct," he said. "He knows that, we know that and we're really disappointed he decided to do that."