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Sloane, Rioli escape AFL bans at tribunal

Rory Sloane’s testimony and his extensive history of eye and facial injuries have helped save the Adelaide captain from a one-week AFL suspension.

West Coast forward Willie Rioli was also found not guilty of rough conduct at Tuesday’s marathon tribunal hearing, with Brisbane tough nut Mitch Robinson the last to appear as he challenged a front-on contact charge.

Sloane successfully argued his charge of making contact to the eye region of Fremantle utility Blake Acres should be downgraded from intentional to careless.

That meant his penalty went from a one-game ban to a $2,000 fine, meaning he will play against Collingwood on Saturday at the MCG.

Tribunal chairman Jeff Gleeson QC referred directly to Sloane’s evidence when explaining the jury’s verdict.

He added while the vision suggested Sloane’s contact to Acres’ eye area was intentional, several factors also went in favour of the Adelaide player, including his awkward position after tackling the Dockers player.

Acres also suffered no injury in the incident.

“He was clear, forthright and adamant that he did not intend to contact the eye region,” Gleeson said.

“Having listened carefully to his evidence, we believe him.”

The Crows acknowledged the incident was low impact and high contact, but were adamant it was not intentional.

In his evidence, Sloane detailed his own history of facial and eye injuries because of football, including a detached retina last year that had the potential to end his career.

“I’m very aware of what even just a little scratch in the eye can do, even just a poke,” he said.

“There’s no way I’d go after anyone’s eye because I’m very aware of the damage it can cause.

“I was super close to being finished in football and close to losing my eyesight so there’s no way I’d go near anyone’s eye.”

Sloane added he was “genuinely shocked” when made aware of the charge.

Rioli made his comeback in Sunday’s loss to Gold Coast after serving a two-year ban for doping violations, but his bump on Suns young gun Matt Rowell earned him a one-game ban.

The Eagles successfully argued Rioli was going for the mark before bracing for contact at the last moment.

While the tribunal disagreed with West Coast and found it was high contact, it sided with Rioli after deliberating for half an hour.

“Incidents such as this, where the question revolves whether and how the player is contesting the ball, are not easy,” Gleeson said.

“This tribunal will be astute to uphold any charge where a player was initially intending to contest the ball, but changed that intention and in doing so, breached his duty of care.

“That is not this case.”

Brisbane are contesting Robinson’s one-game ban for forceful front-on contact against Port Adelaide’s Xavier Duursma.

Duursma suffered a collarbone injury and is no certainty to play in round two.

St Kilda defender Dougal Howard is challenging his $3,000 fine for rough conduct against Collingwood ruck-forward Mason Cox with a written submission to the tribunal.

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