ESSENDON midfielder Adam Cooney has escaped with a one-match ban at the Tribunal on Tuesday night, using last-minute evidence from Gold Coast coach Rodney Eade to soften his penalty.
Cooney, who was found guilty of rough conduct for his high bump on Stephen Coniglio, received a glowing character reference from Eade, potentially reducing the sanction.
The Brownlow medallist, who played under Eade at the Western Bulldogs between 2005 and 2011, will now be available to return against Eade's Suns in round 22.
"We play Essendon in two weeks and I probably should be giving evidence against him … (but) I'm happy to give a character reference for him," Eade told the jury.
"He was always a ball player and I find what has happened out of character for him.
"He focused on the ball and focused on playing to the best of his ability ... there are very few like that."
Cooney's case was referred direct to the Tribunal by the Match Review Panel on Monday after they decided they could not reach an adequate penalty on their table of offences.
In finding him guilty on Tuesday night, the jury deemed Cooney's bump was careless conduct, medium impact and high contact, which would normally carry a base penalty of two matches.
However, Eade's evidence, which was presented after the guilty verdict, could have played a role in reducing the penalty handed down by the jury of Stewart Loewe, Wayne Henwood and Wayne Schimmelbusch.
Represented by former AFL football operations manager Adrian Anderson, Cooney pleaded not guilty from the outset and argued he had no intent of 'picking off' a GWS player when he ran off the line at a centre bounce.
He said he had no choice but to brace for contact and bump after the ball "bobbled" unexpectedly towards his opponent.
Coniglio could miss the Giants' clash against Port Adelaide on Saturday as he recovers from concussion resulting from the hit, which occurred with four minutes remaining at Spotless Stadium.
"It was a split second where I really believe I couldn't do anything else," Cooney told the Tribunal.
"If I had tried to avoid all contact, like a pirouette, I would have been in trouble with the coaching staff."
Coniglio spent significant time on the ground being assisted by GWS physio and medical staff after the heavy hit before being helped from the ground, taking no further part in the match.
AFL prosecutor Jeff Gleeson argued Cooney did nothing to minimise the impact of the hit once he realised he couldn't win the ball, and he should have faced more than two matches on the sidelines.
"It's open to you to conclude that this was a bump that was executed in his mind some significant time before he applied it," Gleeson told the jury.
"He knows he's coming in off the square and he knows it's very unlikely, unless things go very nicely for him, that he'll be first to the ball.
"Coniglio had eyes only for the ball and had no opportunity to protect himself."
Leaving AFL House on Tuesday night, Cooney thanked the tribunal for hearing his case and said he was grateful for "a fair result".
"I felt that I didn't have a realistic alternative but to make that contact, and they saw otherwise," he said.
"But in terms of missing one week, it could have been a lot worse.
"We play Gold Coast in two weeks, so it was good of (Eade) to say a few kind words. I'll buy him a beer at the end of the season."