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Stratton 'let himself and the club down': Hawks CEO

The stomp that sent Hawk skipper straight to the Tribunal Hawthorn captain Ben Stratton stomps on Essendon forward Shaun McKernan's foot

HAWTHORN CEO Justin Reeves has given Ben Stratton a rare public dressing down after the Hawks skipper was sent directly to the AFL Tribunal on charges relating to pinching and stomping.

Stratton was also fined $1000 for making an obscene gesture to the crowd – he raised his middle finger – during the Hawks' 19-point loss to Essendon at Marvel Stadium on Friday night.

Reeves declared on Sunday that Stratton's actions against the Bombers would not be tolerated, and the skipper was aware he needed to change his behaviour. 

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On Saturday afternoon, the Match Review Officer, Michael Christian, referred the pinching and stomping cases directly to the Tribunal.

In relation to the pinching case, the miserly defender was charged with serious misconduct against Essendon speedster Orazio Fantasia in the first quarter.

 

He was charged with stomping on Bomber big man Shaun McKernan in the last quarter. Footage shows Stratton using his left foot to stomp on McKernan's right foot, after which the Don pursued Stratton.

A repentant Stratton admitted on reflection that he had blundered.

"My actions probably weren't a great look for the game and it's probably not something you want to be known for. As captain I've got to be better and setting the example for not only the Hawthorn club but also any kids out there," he told Channel Seven on Saturday.

Reeves echoed Stratton's sentiment on Sunday, assuring members and the broader football public that the captain's actions did not align with the club's values.

"Ben is a very respected figure at our football club, but his actions on Friday night let himself and the club down," said Reeves.

"His behaviour was certainly not reflective of how Hawthorn play and as our captain we expect more from him.

"We have spoken with Ben following the game and he is incredibly remorseful. We will work with Ben to ensure that this sort of behaviour is not repeated.

"This is not the sort of thing he or we want to be known for and he understands the need to adjust his behaviour moving forward."

The development raises the prospect of the 11th-placed Hawks being without their skipper for their must-win clash with Sydney at the SCG on Friday, and perhaps other fixtures beyond that.

Meanwhile, Stratton's teammate Jarman Impey can also accept a $2000 fine for striking Bomber midfielder Zach Merrett in the first quarter.

Port Adelaide great Kane Cornes slammed Stratton's pinching antics as "cowardly" and "disgraceful", while AFL commission chairman Richard Goyder was even moved to tell ABC radio: "It's a bad look ... I'm going to go and watch some amateur footy later today. You don't want to see it there and you don't want to see it in under 10s. You don't want to see it anywhere, so hopefully it will get dealt with properly."

Ben Stratton was all smiles with Orazio Fantasia after the match. Picture: AFL Photos

Fantasia was clearly annoyed by the tactics and remonstrated with the three-time premiership player, but laughed off the controversy during a post-match interview.

"I've got a couple of bruises on the arm. 'Stratts' loves to pinch and he's a really good defender, so to come back to play on him I knew I was in for a tough night," Fantasia told Channel 7.

"You can't do anything about it ... He's got all the tricks in the book. He's done it for years and every time I play on him I know it's a tough one."

Fantasia's teammates stood up for him, with midfielder Zach Merrett telling Melbourne radio station 3AW that Stratton's behaviour had been "a bit disappointing", while big man Cale Hooker suggested that such "good players" usually don't resort to such measures.

Stratton's teammate Tom Scully, on SEN radio, defended his skipper's character but conceded pinching was "probably not a great look".

Stratton, 30, has never been suspended in his 180-game career. He has, however, received fines for striking Adelaide sharpshooter Eddie Betts on two occasions: in both round 12, 2015, and in round two, 2017.

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Just four other players have been reported for pinching – and each has been found guilty.

- West Coast's Chris Lewis was suspended for an incident involving North Melbourne defender David King during the 1997 first semi-final at the MCG.
- Geelong star Steve Johnson was fined after an altercation with Collingwood defender Heritier Lumumba in 2009.
- Fremantle forward Hayden Ballantyne was fined after becoming entangled with Cats champion Gary Ablett in 2010.
- Dockers tagger Ryan Crowley was fined for the same act on North Melbourne veteran Brent Harvey in a fiery duel in Perth in 2013. 

And then of course was the infamous case of Collingwood's hard-man defender Craig Kelly, who frustrated a succession of key forwards by waging a pinching offensive, most prominently on Hawthorn's superstar spearhead Jason Dunstall under the Friday night spotlight in round 20, 1995, at the MCG. Despite Dunstall's obvious discomfort, Kelly went unpunished.

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Five players have been found guilty of stomping:

- Carlton great Craig Bradley received a one-game suspension for stomping on North Melbourne's Jose Romero in 1993.
- Kangaroo Wayne Schwass copped a four-match ban for stomping on Carl Steinfort in a 1997 qualifying final against Geelong.
- Western Bulldogs champion Brad Johnson was outed for one game for stomping on Adelaide's Brett Burton in 2000.
- Fremantle's Steven Dodd received a one-game suspension for stomping on Port Adelaide's Damon White in 2007.
- Bulldogs ruckman Will Minson was reprimanded for stomping on Sydney little man Kieren Jack in 2012. 

James Sicily was also suspended for serious misconduct after stomping on Shaun Atley in round five last year.