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Six week ban could Bugg Demon for life

Football

Nine minutes was all it took to effectively end Tom Bugg’s AFL season.

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What effect it will have on the rest of the Melbourne forward’s career is yet to play out.

The AFL tribunal last night slapped Bugg with a six-game ban for knocking out Sydney’s Callum Mills with an ugly, behind-play strike in Friday night’s clash at the MCG.

Jury members Wayne Henwood, Paul Williams and David Pittman took nine minutes to determine the penalty after Bugg pleaded guilty to the charge of intentional conduct with high impact to the head.

Bugg will be ineligible to play again until round 22.

Whether he can fight his way back into the Demons side this season or beyond is far from certain.

The 24-year-old Bugg was overlooked for the Demons’ first three games, came into the side against Fremantle in round four and was dropped a week later.

He returned in round six and has lined up in all 10 games since but has booted just seven goals and averaged 14 disposals per game.

The Demons clearly value Bugg’s ability to niggle opponents and get under their skin but it’s unclear whether that will be enough to justify his selection at the pointy end of the season.

The Mills incident came a fortnight after Bugg taunted Western Bulldogs defender Jason Johnannisen on Instagram, prompting coach Simon Goodwin to address the importance of his players being “humble and respectful”.

Bugg did not give evidence at the hearing but spoke briefly afterwards saying he fully accepted his sanction.

“I’m standing here tonight very embarrassed with my actions,” Bugg told reporters.

“I accept full responsibility for my actions.

“I’m looking forward to just working over the next six weeks and earning back respect from my club, my teammates and everyone in the wider community.”

Bugg’s representative Iain Findlay, who unsuccessfully argued for a five-game suspension, conceded the incident would follow Bugg “for the rest of his career”.

Bugg’s six-game ban is the longest handed down in more than a year, equalling the penalty given to Port Adelaide’s Tom Jonas for striking West Coast’s Andrew Gaff in round nine last season.

But his ugly behind-play hit on Sydney’s Callum Mills was the worst of the Demons’ misdemeanours in 2017, joining a host of first-team players who have been banned for lashing out at the opposition.

Sam Naismith of the Swans remonstrates with Bugg after his hit on Callum Mills (second from right). Photo: Julian Smith / AAP

Jordan Lewis (three weeks), Jesse Hogan (two), Bernie Vince (one) and Christian Salem (one) have all served suspensions for striking this season.

Despite admitting their record is getting harder to defend, veteran Melbourne recruit Lewis doesn’t believe the Demons are an undisciplined team.

“I know people will have opinions and that’s fine. They dress it up nicely and they try and create a massive story about the club,” Lewis told Fox Sports’ AFL 360.

“It doesn’t help when it keeps happening.”

Lewis said many sides which played on the edge gave away free kicks for high contact, but that wasn’t the case with Melbourne.

“I think we’ve been OK in terms of free kicks, that has been a positive this year,” Lewis said.

“It is the incidents of myself and back to round two (when Hogan was also suspended). They do add up.

“There’s something there that we’ve addressed and we understand that we don’t want anyone else to do again.”

Aside from the Demons’ on-field issues, four players won’t be considered for AFL selection for Sunday’s clash with Carlton due to a drinking session after playing for Casey in the VFL last week.

Lewis said on-field improvement had forced the club to lift its off-field standards.

“Melbourne for a long time have been irrelevant in the competition so they probably could have got away with especially the off-field stuff,” Lewis said.

“But now Melbourne are on the rise and starting to play some good football and show a lot of potential.

“We all want to make a stance.

“We know we’ve got the talent here. We need to make a few changes around our off-field stuff and then we’ll get the benefits.”

-AAP 

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