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AFL Tribunal hits Demon with huge ban

WATCH: Bugg banned for six matches Nathan Schmook updates you on Tuesday night's Tribunal hearing
I'm feeling very embarrassed and going forward I've got a lot of work to do to earn back the respect of my captains, my fellow players and my coaches.
Banned Demon Tom Bugg

TOM BUGG has been suspended for six matches for his strike on Sydney's Callum Mills after the "severely embarrassed" Demon pleaded guilty at the Tribunal on Tuesday night. 

Bugg did not address the jury after his case was referred directly from the Match Review Panel, but his representative Iain Findlay said he was aware it was an offence that would follow him for his entire career. 

The Demon, who will not be eligible for selection until round 22, had since apologised to his teammates and Mills, with coach Simon Goodwin also apologising to his Sydney counterpart John Longmire for Bugg's actions. 

"I want to apologise to Callum Mills, his family, the Sydney Swans, the AFL and the wider community," Bugg said after the hearing at AFL House, which lasted just over an hour.  

"I'm standing here tonight very embarrassed by my actions. I fully accept the sanction that's been served.

"I'm feeling very embarrassed and going forward I've got a lot of work to do to earn back the respect of my captains, my fellow players and my coaches." 

 

Bugg's punch in the opening minutes of Friday night's clash at the MCG was graded intentional conduct with high impact to the head, resulting in a direct referral.

His six-match penalty equals the ban served by Port Adelaide's Tom Jonas in 2016 and is one-match shy of the seven-match ban imposed on Sydney forward Barry Hall for his violent strike on Brent Staker in 2008.

Bugg said Mills had accepted his apology in the days that followed Friday night's clash and he was now intent on earning back respect.

"My call to Callum was very genuine and to see if he was OK and if his family was travelling OK," Bugg said.   

"I'm really embarrassed by what I did on Friday night and I accept full responsibility for my actions. 

"I'm looking forward to just working over the next six weeks to earn back respect from my club, players and everyone in the wider community."

Bugg pleaded guilty at the first opportunity on Tuesday night and chose not to challenge any aspect of the MRP's gradings, with Findlay saying his client "looks upon this quite seriously … he is severely embarrassed he is here tonight".

"You could not have a player in front of you more embarrassed," he said.

The jury was presented with two medical reports from Sydney, which stated Mills had been diagnosed with concussion and was recovering well, with his playing status this week to be decided on Thursday. 

Findlay asked the jury of Wayne Henwood, Paul Williams and David Pittman to consider the four-match penalty handed to Richmond defender Bachar Houli, given it was graded the same as Bugg's by the MRP.

The player advocate argued for a ban of five matches, suggesting a range of four to six would be appropriate when Bugg's remorse, apology and guilty plea were considered.  

AFL legal counsel Nick Pane QC argued for a ban of six matches, within a range of four to seven, with chairman David Jones telling the jury that was appropriate and they would need a "good reason" not to apply a one-match discount for Bugg's guilty plea.

Jones also took the opportunity before the start of Tuesday night's hearing to express his frustration at ill-informed criticism of the Tribunal and its jury. 

The chairman, who has served on the Tribunal for 13 years, underlined the Tribunal's independence following criticism of Houli's original two-week suspension, which was doubled after an AFL appeal.

"I don't think it's unreasonable to expect that where there is criticism it is informed and balanced and not personal," Jones said. 

"Have no doubt that this Tribunal is independent. There has never been any attempt by the AFL to interfere with the functioning of this Tribunal. 

"If there was any attempt, it wouldn't get very far with me."

Jones added he would welcome the public release of the AFL Anti-Doping Tribunal's verdict that in 2015 cleared 34 past and present Essendon players of taking a banned substance.  

That verdict was subsequently overturned following a World Anti-Doping Agency appeal at the Court of Arbitration for Sport.