AFL operations manager Simon Lethlean made a point of praising Houli as he commented on the historic appeal that doubled the Richmond defender’s suspension.
Lethlean launched the appeal, the first time the AFL has challenged a tribunal verdict, after Houli received a two-game ban for striking Carlton opponent Jed Lamb.
Last night the appeals board made that a four-game ban, meaning Houli now misses the big round-18 clash against top side GWS.
No-one disagreed with Richmond’s assertion that Houli is a man of fine character.
But very few people outside Richmond agreed with the original tribunal penalty.
The AFL successfully challenged the tribunal’s original decision that Houli’s much-lauded character should influence the length of his suspension.
Character references from the likes of Waleed Aly and Mark Williams, plus a reference to comments from the Prime Minister earlier this week about Houli, originally helped the backman’s cause.
But last night the so-called “good bloke defence’ was ruled irrelevant.
“He’s a leader in our game, a player and a person of great integrity,” Lethlean said after the hearing.
“His remorse for his actions were clear after the completion of the match.
“Our actions in appealing the tribunal decision were about protecting players from injury to the head and this is very important to us.”
This is the first suspension for Houli in his 162-game AFL career.
Appeals board chairman Peter O’Callaghan QC joined in the praise of Houli, saying he deserved the highest praise.
But the board agreed with Lethlean’s argument that two games was manifestly inadequate.
“A blow from a person of exemplary character has the same effect as a blow from a person of bad character,” O’Callaghan said.
As Houli’s marathon two-hour appeal hearing unfolded, Carlton announced that Lamb would miss Saturday’s match against Adelaide because of concussion.
“The decision has been made and I accept it,” Houli said after the hearing.
“My concern is and always has been for Jed and I hope he recovers really quick.
“The other thing is we move on with life and I will do my best to help the team prepare for the next few games.”
Meanwhile, the controversial “play-on” call that sparked a major serve from Leigh Matthews has prompted an AFL backflip.
A year after the shot clock was taken off the scoreboard for the last two minutes of each quarter, it will be shown again for the whole match.
North Melbourne star Shaun Higgins was having a set shot at goal late in the third quarter of Saturday night’s match against the Western Bulldogs when play on was called.
Jake Stringer quickly mowed Higgins down in a tackle, denying him the scoring chance.
The Western Bulldogs won by one point.
Matthews said the scenario was deplorable and stupid, while Higgins said he simply did not hear the umpire call play on.
The issue was raised at Wednesday’s annual get together of senior coaches with AFL chief executive Gillon McLachlan and football operations manager Simon Lethlean.
The AFL said it reverted to showing the shot clock for the whole match to make it as clear and consistent as possible for players and umpires.
Ironically, North were also responsible for the AFL’s original decision to take the shot clock off the scoreboard for the last two minutes.
Kangaroos forward Mason Wood kept an eye on the clock last season as he successfully iced the end of a tight match.
If players are deemed to be deliberately running down the clock, umpires will have the power to call play on.
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