St Kilda's bid to free Ben Long for Friday night's semi-final has failed with the AFL appeals board dismissing the Saints' challenge to the half-back flanker's one-match suspension for rough conduct.
After half an hour of deliberation on Wednesday night, the board upheld the findings of match review officer Michael Christian and the AFL tribunal that Long's high bump on Western Bulldogs star Jack Macrae was careless with medium impact to the head and therefore led to a one-match ban.
It means the Saints will need to make three forced changes for their date with Richmond, following the injury to Paddy Ryder and Jake Carlisle's departure from St Kilda's hub.
The Saints' appeal was based on two grounds: That an error of law occurred and that the classification of the offence by the tribunal was manifestly excessive.
The Saints sought to tender evidence from a biomechanical expert, however the board comprised of chairman the Hon. Murray Kellam, Stephen Jurica and Wayne Henwood denied St Kilda's request as the evidence had not been tendered in the initial hearing on Monday night.
The crux of St Kilda's case, one put forward by Saints director and Long's player advocate Jack Rush QC, was that the jury on Monday night had given undue weight to the potential to cause serious injury, rather than the fact that Macrae had not actually been injured in the incident. Rush suggested that looking into the potential for serious injury was overly speculative.
"This is a glancing blow, and before we recharacterise the extent of this glancing contact, extreme care should be given, and it hasn't here," Rush said.
"We maintain very strongly that all they have looked at is the potential for injury and have not weighed up and taken into consideration … that there was no injury."
Rush also noted that Long's approach to the contest had actually reduced the potential for serious injury, a factor which he said the tribunal had not taken into account.
Rush described Long "as like a tennis player coming up to the net" in the build-up to contact with Macrae.
"They are both running to the contest, they are both preparing to engage with each other," Rush said.
However Jeff Gleeson QC, acting as counsel for the AFL, argued that the classification of the impact to Macrae as "medium" rather than "low" was the right one.
"It's not outside the permissible range because of the potential for injury … the potential for injury was apparent," Gleeson said.
"A few millimetres either way, a few milliseconds either way and the outcome is different."
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