Sam Powell-Pepper and Mark Keane during the practice match between Port Adelaide and Adelaide at Alberton Oval on February 23, 2024. Picture: Getty Images

PORT Adelaide will be without Sam Powell-Pepper for the first four games of the AFL premiership season after he was suspended by the AFL Tribunal on Wednesday.

The forward was charged with rough conduct for his bump on Adelaide's Mark Keane during Friday's match simulation and was sent straight to the Tribunal.

Powell-Pepper pled guilty to the charge, with the Power asking for a three-game suspension and the AFL four matches.

After a hearing lasting three and a half hours, Powell-Pepper was banned for four games, with his conduct considered "very reckless".

The ban applies to the premiership season, meaning Powell-Pepper will miss Port Adelaide's games against West Coast, Richmond, Melbourne and Essendon.

His participation in the Power's AAMI Community Series clash against Fremantle on Friday is now at the discretion of the AFL, after a change to the League's regulations that allows the AFL to apply a suspension differently in exceptional circumstances, such as those that apply across two seasons. It's yet to be determined if the Power will apply for Powell-Pepper to be able to play the Dockers.

Speaking on AFL Daily before the verdict was handed down,'s chief football reporter Damian Barrett said the AFL would look to make a clear statement about where it sits on head-high contact ahead of the 2024 season.


"We'll know [today] what the AFL stands for in this space with these matters this year," Barrett said.

"It's a different situation now. The previous decisions on these matters by the Tribunal and even the views of the Match Review Office, they're different as of the start of 2024 and they just have to be.

"It's confusing enough, there's ambiguity already embedded in the system and at least now with this fresh outlook on these matters, it's not as if we need to adhere to the past with certain incidents and I think that's a good thing. 

"I expect Sam Powell-Pepper is going to be the one to cop the brunt of that. In some weird way, having a situation like this coming before the opening round of matches for the 2024 season, as weird as it sounds and as bad as it is for Mark Keane and Sam Powell-Pepper who's going to cop the penalty, it's not the worst thing for the game for this to be out there before the real stuff starts.

"In that regard, the events that have unfolded, hopefully in the big picture, it's going to make things clearer."

In his closing remarks before the Tribunal deliberated for more than 90 minutes, Port's lawyer Ben Krupka warned the panel it had to treat this case the same as if it was a "Brownlow Medal favourite" or "someone about to play in a Grand Final".

"What is not legitimate is to make a scapegoat of Mr. Powell-Pepper in this instance," Krupka said.

"The appropriate penalty is three games, and in our submission anything further would be manifestly excessive.

"This case will then serve as the base point for the others that come before you throughout the course of the year.

"A four-game penalty in a case of minimal culpability ties the hands in terms of consistency in future cases."

Sam Powell-Pepper and Mark Keane during the practice match between Port Adelaide and Adelaide at Alberton Oval on February 23, 2024. Picture: Getty Images

The AFL's representative, Lisa Hannon, disagreed with Krupka's assessment.

"What the AFL does say is this was an entirely predictable outcome," Hannon said. 

"The responsibility lies with the player to avoid contact with the head. 

"In 2024 it is something deserving of a four-match suspension. 

"The sanction that is imposed is something that in part serves as a function of general deterrence and sends a message to the playing community."

Powell-Pepper's bump on Keane took place just a day after Melbourne premiership hero Angus Brayshaw was forced to retire on medical advice to protect his long-term health and wellbeing.

Angus Brayshaw and Ed Langdon with the 2021 premiership cup after Melbourne's win over the Western Bulldogs in the 2021 Grand Final. Picture: AFL Photos

Brayshaw, 28, was concussed multiple times throughout his career, most recently in a collision with Collingwood's Brayden Maynard during last year's finals.

In an attempt to clear Powell-Pepper, Krupka called biomechanics expert Kath Shorter to give evidence.

Shorter was questioned about the incident by Krupka, Hannon and Tribunal chair Renee Enbom for about an hour.

Keane will miss the mandatory 12 days after having a concussion, but Adelaide is hopeful he will be able to play in the Crows' round one game against Gold Coast on March 16.