Dangerfield – Stewart’s teammate – was banned for three weeks for that hit, but the AFL said the tribunal needed to consider that Stewart’s actions had the potential to cause significant injury.
Pane said Stewart delivered the bump “at speed, after he had gone past the ball” and “with player Prestia unexpecting and vulnerable”.
He said the difference with the Dangerfield and Kelly case was that they were expecting contact, as Kelly had just disposed of the ball.
But Ben Ihle QC, representing Stewart, said the Cats defender had just 0.39 seconds to make a decision after Prestia tapped the ball, rather than taking possession.
“Not a second, not half a second, but less than that; that’s the amount of time in which Stewart had to make a decision, and he made the wrong decision,” he said.
“But it’s a wrong decision made in less than half a second.
“That’s not at all to say what he did is excusable, it’s plainly not, he comes before this tribunal accepting that the level of care that he demonstrated in this instance was not reasonable in the circumstances and not reasonable for an elite athlete. But on any interpretation that’s an incredibly tight time frame.”
He said Stewart was preparing to tackle Prestia, did not leave the ground, had his elbow tucked in and had been extremely remorseful immediately after the incident.
Ihle also argued the rules only allowed the tribunal to consider the potential to cause significant injury for the purposes of increasing the level of impact, not for increasing the penalty.
“One only needs to pause and consider Stewart’s own body language in the quarter-time huddle to see how disappointed he was with himself and how worried he was with Prestia in the immediate aftermath of the event,” Ihle said.
The other incident the tribunal watched from 2021 was a bump by former GWS Giants’ Sam Reid on Fremantle star Nathan Fyfe.
Reid was handed a two-week ban, with his bump classified as high – not severe – impact.
But Ihle, while not seeking to downgrade Stewart’s bump from severe to high impact, said Stewart’s bump better resembled Reid’s than it did Dangerfield’s, which left Kelly with concussion and a broken nose.
A medical report from the Tigers indicated Prestia had not suffered any fractures in the bump.
But Gleeson said the tribunal did not find the two precedents as comparable.
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