Richmond star Tom Lynch is free to play in Thursday’s blockbuster clash with West Coast.
Lynch was charged with striking Essendon’s Michael Hurley and sent directly to the tribunal for his fourth offence in a matter of weeks.
At Monday’s hearing, Lynch argued he struck Hurley with a “push to the chest” rather than a strike to the neck when he made contact with the Bombers defender.
And the argument proved successful as the jury of Paul Williams, Shane Wakelin and Wayne Henwood found Lynch not guilty.
Lynch told the hearing he was trying to get past Hurley and used an “open hand … to the sternum” to evade the defender – something he says happens “20 times” a game.
But AFL QC Jeff Gleeson disputed Lynch’s version of events and argued the strike happened 50 metres off the ball.
“If you’re gonna push, you push at the largest available surface,” Gleeson said.
“And the largest available surface is not his neck, it’s his chest. Mr Lynch missed by a wide margin … either he’s a terrible aim or he landed about where he wanted to.
“The motion was an upwards striking motion not a pushing motion.
“You might conclude there’s a point in that exchange Tom Lynch became frustrated with the attention he was getting and threw a punch … you might conclude he was sending a message to Hurley.”
Gleeson conceded while Hurley “quickly looks for the umpire”, the initial response to grab at his throat was evidence contact was made.
The man representing Lynch, Sam Tovey, said the strike did not look like a punch and disputed Hurley’s immediate reaction.
“That reaction is indicative of a level of exaggeration of any contact that was made, and it’s telling that Hurley turns and looks straight at the umpire, as opposed to remonstrating,” he said.
“He continues on with the play immediately and shows no other sign of discomfort or worry about that region (the neck).”
A medical report supplied by Essendon confirmed no treatment was sought by Hurley.
“The bottom line is what Tom Lynch says he wanted to do was shove him away so he can get field position. All of his actions are consistent with someone who was trying to do just that,” Tovey submitted.
Lynch’s action was graded as intentional, high and low impact, which could have resulted in a one-match ban.
Instead he escaped a sanction for the act.
Speaking at the hearing, Lynch gave his own defence in a play-by-play rundown.
“I’ve got my hands in the air to try and get past him and he’s got both hands around my waist,” he said.
“I look back at the ball expecting (Tigers teammate) Markov to have it, as soon as my attention goes to the ball, Hurley whacks my hands, and him doing that I realise he wants to come forward and tackle me again.
“It’s a technique by the defenders to stop me from pushing my arms out to keep them away from me.
“I want to keep separation from him so I lean in and push on his chest.”