SYDNEY'S Zak Jones has escaped suspension for an intentional strike just one week after AFL CEO Gillon McLachlan pressed the Match Review Panel to clamp down on on-field punches.
After a flurry of recent gut and jumper punches were not met with suspensions, the League directed the MRP to stop giving players the benefit of the doubt when they intentionally struck an opponent.
The League did not implement rule changes or tweak the MRP's guidelines, however, and the Panel highlighted its independence on Monday by grading Jones's strike as low impact to the body.
The grading resulted in a $1500 fine, given it was the Swan's second low-level charge this season, and the 22-year-old will be free to face the Western Bulldogs after his team's round 11 bye after accepting the sanction.
To suspend Jones the MRP needed to either grade the punch as low impact to the head or medium impact to the body.
Speaking before the decision on Monday morning, Panel member Jimmy Bartel said the MRP would not be able to guarantee players would be suspended for intentional punches unless there were changes to their guidelines.
"If you don't change the parameters I'm not sure what we're supposed to do," Bartel told RSN.
"To get it up to weeks well then you've got to manufacture something on the table … which makes it really open to challenge."
The AFL ran out of patience last week after Trent Cotchin and Ben Cunnington were fined in consecutive rounds for jumper and gut punches, with McLachlan declaring the League would consider rule changes to stamp out the practice.
Football operations manager Simon Lethlean said players and clubs were on notice that "we will not accept on-field punches", but no rule changes were needed for the MRP to implement the League's views.
Jones was cleared for a separate incident on Hawthorn captain Jarryd Roughead that did not contain enough force to constitute a charge.
A total of six players were offered financial sanctions out of round 10, with no players suspended.
Jones' teammate Heath Grundy accepted a $1000 fine for striking Luke Hodge, with the MRP grading the hit as intentional conduct with low impact to the body.
Veteran Hawk Shaun Burgoyne was in the clear for his tackle that left Swan Sam Reid concussed.
The MRP said Burgoyne lost his feet in the tackle and "used Reid's momentum to take him to ground" with no sling motion or double-action in his tackle.
"Reid was not rotated or driven with excessive force into the ground and it was the view of the Panel no further action was required," the Panel said in its findings.
North Melbourne midfielder Ryan Clarke accepted a $1000 fine for a late bump on Matthew Wright, with the hit graded as careless conduct with low impact to the head.
St Kilda midfielder Jack Steven accepted a $1000 fine for striking Western Bulldogs superstar Marcus Bontempelli off the ball, with the hit graded as intentional conduct with low impact to the body.