Sam Powell-Pepper has been suspended for four matches after being found guilty of rough conduct, with the AFL successful at the AFL Tribunal.

Port Adelaide had pushed for a ban of three matches after pleading guilty to the charge, however the Tribunal found Powell-Pepper's actions to be "very careles".

The suspension will mean Powell-Pepper is unavailable for the opening month of the home and away season, and will miss games against West Coast, Richmond, Melbourne and Essendon.

He will next be free to play against Fremantle come Round 5.

The Power have confirmed they won't appeal the decision and that Powell-Pepper won't feature in Friday's practice match against Fremantle, deciding against lodging a request with the AFL.

"It's clear that the AFL wants to set a precedent regarding head high contact ahead of the 2024 season," Port Adelaide football boss Chris Davies said in a statement.

"We accept that position and as a result will not contest the tribunal's decision to suspend Sam for four matches.

"Further, we will not apply to the AFL for Sam to play in this Friday night's AAMI Community Series match against Fremantle at Alberton."

 

“It's clear that the AFL wants to set a precedent regarding head high contact ahead of the 2024 season.

“We accept that position and as a result will not contest the tribunal's decision to suspend Sam for four matches.

“Further, we will not apply to the AFL for Sam to play in this Friday night's AAMI Community Series match against Fremantle at Alberton.”

Here is the Tribunal's summation:

We have carefully considered all the evidence and considered the incident as a whole. We do not accept that the conduct involved minimal culpability. Mr. Powell-Pepper ran to Mr. Keane, who was in the process of being tackled.

We accept that he was seeking to assist with the tackle. We don't accept that Mr. Keane moved in such a way when being tackled by Mr. Rioli that Mr. Powell-Pepper could not have reasonably anticipated the movement. As contact was about to occur. Mr. Powell-Pepper altered the position of his right shoulder and with his right arm tucked made heavy and high contact with Mr. Keane.

Even if the shoulder movement was a reflex action, that fact does not mean that the conduct as a whole involved minimal culpability. We consider Mr. Powell-Pepper's conduct to have been very careless. He ran at speed towards a tackle that was occurring. If he didn't anticipate that the tackled player would be moving in the tackle, he should have reasonably anticipated that.

He had a duty to take reasonable care to avoid head-high contact when seeking to assist in a tackle. He did not take any steps to avoid the contact that ultimately occurred. Even if we accept the shoulder movement was a reflex action. that occurred because he ran at speed at a player who was already being tackled, and Mr. Powell-Pepper took no steps to avoid high contact with the player being tackled.

All of those circumstances we consider four weeks to be an appropriate sanction.

Here is how the hearing unfolded...

11:56: After almost two hours, the Tribunal is off to deliberate.

11:53: Hannon: The AFL seeks in no way to make a scapegoat of Mr. Powell-Pepper.

11:45: Krupka: "Everything you see before the point of contact is consistent with an intention to tackle. There was no intention other than to tackle. It was a legitimate football act to approach the contest in the matter he did.

"That is the lowest level of culpability you're likely to see throughout the season."

"Anything further than three games would be manifestly excessive."

11:42: Krupka (Power): [Powell-Pepper] has given frank, sensible, believable evidence without any embellishment.

11:38: The AFL is looking to have a strong stance on these types of incidents early into the year.

Hannon: "It sends a message to the playing community."

11:37: Hannon: A four-game suspension doesn't suggest Powell-Pepper ran in with a deliberate intention to make contact with Keane's head. The AFL argues this is an "entirely predictable" outcome and that the responsibility lies with the player to avoid contact with the head.

11:33: Hannon (AFL) notes Tribunal regulations that a pre-season suspension will be served in the first round of the home and away season competition, and that if suspended a player will miss any further pre-season games, unless otherwise directed by the AFL's GM of Football.

11:32: Dr. Shorter's evidence has concluded.

11:28: Shorter: "It would be anticipated that as a protective mechanism, no different to if we're going into any type of collision with any context, your natural reaction is to have that element of ensuring that you're protecting yourself with any engagement."

Shorter agrees Powell-Pepper altered the position of his shoulder because he expected there to be contact.

11:21: Shorter admits Powell-Pepper's right arm is being used "very minimally" in an attempt to tackle.

11:15: Hannon (AFL) is questioning Shorter in regards to the vision, asking if it's an offensive movement rather than a defensive one.

Shorter says there is no indication of a change in action from when Powell-Pepper opts to engage.

"There's no indication of trying to aggressively go in at that instant."

11:06: Shorter says Rioli's tackle on Keane rotates the Crows player towards Powell-Pepper and "increases the complexity to the dynamics in terms of the speed of the interaction" and also adjusts the height of Keane's head. 

Shorter adds there would've been "limited scope" and "insufficient time" for Powell-Pepper to react.

11:02: Shorter: "There is no obvious indication of a rapid alteration in terms of his body positioning that is inconsistent with the previous frames in this instance."

10:56: Shorter says Powell-Pepper's stance in the second before contact is consistent with a tackle position and not a 'bump' position. A frame later (0.9 of a second or under from contact), Shorter says Powell-Pepper "maintains" a similar position.

Shorter: "You're not in a position to aggressively transfer momentum."

10:54: Port Adelaide are breaking down the incident frame-by-frame, with Shorter providing evidence of the timing of Powell-Pepper's actions.

10:47: Shorter: "In terms of a typical human reflex, in a sporting context, a defensive manoeuvre takes between 0.267 of a second to 0.308 of a second.

"A 'knee-jerk' reaction, where there's no conscious response, takes 0.05 of a second."

10:41: Powell-Pepper accepts that it 'looks like' his right arm is in what Hannon (AFL) referred to as a 'classic bump position'.

Powell-Pepper's evidence period has now concluded. The biomechanist, Dr. Kath Shorter, has been brought into the hearing.

10:35: Powell-Pepper doubles down that his sole intention was to tackle Keane. Powell-Pepper accepts that there can be a need to brace or bump in the final split-second moment before contact.

10:29: Powell-Pepper: "My role requires a lot of repeat efforts and applying pressure. [The incident] all happened fairly quickly.

"My sole intention was to tackle and help Willie Rioli in the tackle. I got my feet set and got to a low point in order to tackle. I was getting my (left) arm ready to wrap around for the tackle.

"For me, I don't really remember what happened in that split second it went so quick. I have no recollection."

Powell-Pepper says he made no decision in his mind to bump.

Powell-Pepper reveals he sent Keane a message post-game.

10:27: An Adelaide medical report states the club has confidence Keane will be available to play come Round 1.

10:23: Krupka (Port) argues the culpability of Powell-Pepper is at the "very low end" and justifies the club's submission of a three-game ban.

The Tribunal has approved Port Adelaide using the biomechanist's evidence.

10:21: A slow start after Port Adelaide's mic didn't work earlier in the hearing, with the club's counsel needing to address the AFL's concerns as to why a biomechanist is/isn't needed for the case, as well as the timing of the club's submission of evidence.

10:08: Port Adelaide are pleading guilty, agreeing to the classification, of the Rough Conduct charge. They are pushing for a three-game suspension. AFL arguing for a four-game ban.

Powell-Pepper will speak, while a biomechanist will also look to help the Power's case. The AFL has reservations of the biomechanist's evidence, due to late notice and that the proposed evidence has little value to the proceedings.

Tribunal: Renee Enbom (chair), Jordan Bannister, Paul Williams
AFL Counsel: Lisa Hannon
Port Adelaide Counsel: Ben Krupka