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SANFL Tribunal rules on 19th man controversy

Action from Sunday's SANFL clash. Picture: @SANFL_official Instagram - AFL,SANFL
Action from Sunday's SANFL clash. Picture: @SANFL_official Instagram

NORTH Adelaide will retain its place in the SANFL Grand Final despite being found to be "grossly negligent" in fielding 19 players in a controversial preliminary final victory against Woodville-West Torrens.

The Roosters were fined the maximum amount of $10,000 and docked four premiership points for next season after a marathon five-hour judiciary hearing at Adelaide Oval on Monday night.

Retired Supreme Court judge, the Hon. Michael David QC, said "the most appropriate penalty" would be to replay the game, but he did not have the power to sanction a replay.

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He also came to the conclusion the Roosters didn't deliberately have an extra player on the ground and believed reversing the result – giving the Eagles the victory and putting them into Sunday's Grand Final against Norwood – was not the right option.

"To me, a rematch would seem to be the most appropriate penalty, but I have no power to do so," he said.

"I'm of the view that as this was not deliberate, a reversal of the result is too savage a penalty and the matter should be dealt with by matter of fine and loss of premiership points for next year.

"Sadly, this is of little consolation to the Woodville-West Torrens Football Club.

"I fine the North Adelaide Football Club the maximum amount of $10,000 because this was grossly negligent and by way of deterrents, and I dock them the loss of four premiership points for next season."

North Adelaide defeated the Eagles by five points at Adelaide Oval in last Sunday's preliminary final, but it kicked 1.2 while having an extra player on the ground for just over four minutes in the last quarter.

The extra player was on the field during an extraordinary North comeback after it trailed by 47 points in the third quarter.

David heard arguments from both clubs and examined vision of the incident when the Roosters had an extra player on the ground.

"I'm of the view that it would be unrealistic to expect the Woodville-West Torrens Football Club through their captain to ask for a count on the day," he said.

"My decision should not factor in the fact that was not done.

"That is a very (outdated) law that doesn't apply today and has been overtaken by technology, because there was no doubt there was 19 men on the field, and a count would not be necessary."

SANFL chief executive Jake Parkinson said he had great empathy for the Eagles, but didn't believe they would take the matter further with a legal challenge.

He said the SANFL would consider making changes to the rules and regulations around calling for a head count in games.

"This has been unprecedented," Parkinson said.

"When you do you have situations like this, I think it's very important to reflect on what's happened and learn from that.

"We'll definitely do that in the off-season and we'll go through a review of the process."

Eagles chief executive Luke Powell was the team's runner and noticed the Roosters had an extra player on the field.

"I was the runner on the day, I looked over to their bench and only (saw) two players on their bench," Powell told Adelaide radio station FIVEaa.

"We knew that (Aidan) Tropiano was the one who was hurt and went down injured, but he was actually on the ground, so that's when probably my ears pricked up and from then on, I had a look and I could only see two and that's the time I went to the fourth umpire and official.

"At that time, there was a North Adelaide player running off the ground."

Powell said he didn't "get the response we wanted to hear" when he informed the umpire the Roosters may have had an extra player on the ground.

He also said there wasn't time to get the message out to either co-captain, Luke Thompson or Patrick Giuffreda, to ask one of the field umpires to conduct a head count, which has to be done under the Laws of the Game.

"Not from the time we picked it up, there was no way from when I (saw) it, the first time I was going to be able to get back there and see Luke or Patrick in time," Powell said.

"It's unfortunate that's one of the rules, there are some other regulations and laws of the game that conflict that rule."