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For Tom Hawkins, one match is just fine

There was the match review panel way. The MRP had had a messy few weeks when contemplating a series of jumper punches, moving their cursors this way and that around their matrix and coming up with only paltry fines. It made them technically right, but it jarred with the idea that a punch is not acceptable on the football ground except at the ball or into the air to celebrate a goal.
The MRP had complained that its hands were tied, but this week found a way to loosen the bonds, grading Hawkins' thrust at Matt Crouch on Friday night as "intentional" rather than "careless". That made it two matches, with one on the bottom.
If you wanted to quibble, you could argue from the fine print that the impact should have been judged as something greater than "low", making it three-matches-down-to-two. But no one is.
Then there was the family-and-friends-and-coaches' way. In the crowd, Channel 7 captured Hawkins' wife Emma letting out an involuntary exclamation of shock, then covering her mouth in a gesture that said: "Well, at least Tom will get a bit of extra father-daughter time next week."
Post-match, Geelong coach Chris Scott mounted a spirited defence of Hawkins, saying what he did was "insignificant". We'll give him points for not hiding behind the old "I didn't see it, I can't comment" defence. We'll take points away for the fact that this isn't Brisbane and it is no longer 2001. You could say Scott was launching, on Hawkins' behalf, a pre-emptive strike. As protesteths go, it  was just a little too much.
There is one other way to calculate the degree of Hawkins' offence. You could mill it through all the mitigation until there was nothing left, not even a fine. Then you could factor in that jumper punches have been pretty much the only subject of conversation for a month now, and fines weren't cutting it as a deterrent, and the AFL had announced a crackdown, and MRP member Jimmy Bartel had foreshadowed that the dial would be turned away from leniency and towards duty-of-care henceforth – and you would add one match for plain old not thinking.
Which makes a total of one match.
The bottom line is that although the MRP system generally has done a good job of codifying all the transgressions that might occur on a football ground, sometimes it just doesn't quite add up. Sometimes, no matter how finely you split the hairs, one match looks like and is one match, and everyone knows it.
Which is why Hawkins next week will be as he is on the cover of the tribunal guidelines for 2017, a spectator.


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