AFL apologises for blunder in spiteful Buddy hearing

The AFL has apologised to Lance Franklin after the Swans champion’s actions were described as “cowardly” when he was slapped with a one-match suspension at a tribunal hearing on Wednesday night.

The league on Wednesday afternoon sent out a statement slamming the “rhetorical flushes” used by legal counsel assisting the tribunal, Andrew Woods, and distancing itself from the language he used.

The statement said the league office had contacted Franklin and the Swans to apologise, stating: “There are no cowardly players in the AFL, let alone Lance Franklin.”

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The statement came after widespread condemnation of the legal counsel from the AFL community, led by former Collingwood president Eddie McGuire.

Speaking on Nine’s Footy Classified on Wednesday night, McGuire blasted the unprofessional conduct of the legal counsels representing both the AFL and Franklin.

Attempting to appeal Franklin’s one-match ban for striking former Richmond captain Trent Cotchin at the SCG last Friday night, the penalty was ultimately upheld, meaning the key forward will miss his side’s blockbuster match-up with reigning premiers Melbourne on Saturday night.

McGuire was furious with the language used by Franklin’s representative, Duncan Miller as well as Woods, labeling comments directed at Franklin as “almost defamatory”.

Miller argued that Franklin pushed Cotchin instead of striking him, that the contact was not intentional, and that any impact was negligible instead of low.

The Swans’ case rested on accusing Cotchin of acting, with Miller imprudently suggesting that the joint 2012 Brownlow Medal recipient should win an award for his theatrics.

“I’m tempted to say he might be invited to the Logies and not the Brownlow this year,” Miller said during proceedings.

“The head movement back was somewhat exaggerated and it had an effect in that a free-kick was reversed.”

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But AFL counsel Woods claimed Franklin’s actions were “brazen” and “cowardly” – an assessment which McGuire rejected.

Woods then fired an entertaining line of his own, saying: “It’s AFL, not Fight Club or a combat sport”.

The AFL’s statement was effusive in its defense of Franklin.

“Lance Franklin is a champion of our game.

“In the making of submissions, legal counsel assisting the tribunal used his own words to describe the circumstances of the strike on Trent Cotchin, namely that Mr Cotchin was reasonably not expecting to be struck by Mr Franklin.

“Trent Cotchin is a premiership captain and one of the most respected leaders in the competition.

“It is the AFL’s view that rhetorical flourishes of the nature used by both counsel last night should not be part of the AFL tribunal process and they do not reflect the views of the AFL.”

Former St Kilda and Fremantle coach Ross Lyon agreed with McGuire’s assessment that both counsel had acted unprofessionally.

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“Can I say to the AFL counsel Andrew Woods, mate, pull up, that is way out of odds,” Lyon said on Footy Classified.

“To call a player a coward and a cowardly act is almost defamatory.”

McGuire insisted there was no need for tribunal proceedings to be facetious.

“(Cotchin and Franklin) are two of the best people in football as far as their reputations,” he said.

“An allegation from a QC of a cowardly act and another (for staging), please. QCs, enough.”

Lyon agreed, saying the overstatement set a poor example.

“They may feel good about that but I think it’s out of line,” he said.

“Trent Cotchin, he threw himself in front of a raging freight train in Lance Franklin.

“I think it’s creepy, I think it’s unnecessary.”

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