Hawkins cops AFL ban for umpire contact

Geelong forward Tom Hawkins will miss one AFL game for intentional contact with an umpire.Geelong forward Tom Hawkins has copped a one-game AFL ban after pleading guilty to making intentional contact with an umpire.
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Hawkins made contact with the arm of field umpire Dean Margetts in Geelong’s big win over Greater Western Sydney.

The case was sent straight to the tribunal by match review officer Michael Christian and the three-member panel on Tuesday night took just three minutes to agree upon a one-game suspension.

Hawkins, who has booted 10 goals from six games this season, will miss Sunday’s clash with Collingwood at the MCG.

The 29-year-old insisted the contact was accidental, saying he thought it was a GWS opponent when he pushed Margetts’ hand away.

But he opted not to contest the charge, instead pleading guilty at the first available opportunity and arguing through advocate Ben Ihle that a one-game ban would be an appropriate sanction – a position also held by AFL counsel Jeff Gleeson QC.

“I absolutely respect the umpires and their importance to the game at all levels,” Hawkins said in a brief statement after the hearing.

“The tribunal came up with a decision today that was in the best interests of the game and I totally respect that.”

Margetts had approached Hawkins to explain a 50m penalty paid against him immediately before the contact was made.

Gleeson said the “hostile environment” in which the act occurred was sufficiently serious to warrant a suspension rather than a heavy fine.

“(It was) an angry, frustrated movement of the arm, pushing the umpire’s hand … it’s a remonstration with physical contact,” Gleeson said.

“That’s why it’s more than a fine.”

Ihle disputed that Hawkins was angry but described the incident as a split-second decision made in an “emotionally charged environment”, also noting that Hawkins had never been charged with such an offence in his 217-game career.

The tribunal will return on Wednesday evening to hear West Coast ruckman Nic Naitanui’s challenge to his one-match ban for rough conduct.

Naitanui was initially scheduled to front the tribunal on Tuesday night after being booked for a heavy tackle on Saturday which concussed Port Adelaide’s Karl Amon.

But the hearing was pushed backed 24 hours at the request of the Eagles, allowing the club’s regular legal counsel to represent Naitanui.