Verdict: Jack Higgins has seen his suspension for rough conduct upheld. He will miss matches against the Kangaroos, Hawks and Dockers, and will next be available in Round 11.


We consider this to be a clear case of rough conduct.

Higgins used a poor and dangerous technique in tackling Mr Aliir to the ground. He grabbed hold of Aliir's left arm and forcefully rotated him to the ground.

Mr. Higgins supplied excessive force through a combination of dragging Mr. Aliir down by his left arm, while also using his body weight and right arm to help bring a bigger player to ground.

Importantly, at no stage did Mr. Higgins release Mr. Aliir's left arm as he was coming to ground, so that Mr. Aliir had control of his arm to try to use it to protect himself.

Mr. Higgins had hold of Mr. Aliir's arm in such a way that Mr. Aliir had no or little ability to use it to try to protect himself.

A player exercising reasonable care would have released control of Mr. Aliir's left arm to give him some opportunity to try to protect himself.

We agree that Mr. Aliir's movement in attempting to kick the ball attributed to his momentum in coming to ground, that is apparent from the vision and we also had regard to the evidence of Dr. Bane.

However, Mr. Higgins' tackle was unreasonable for all the reasons we've stated, irrespective of Mr. Aliir's movement in attempting to kick the ball.

Even when Mr. Aliir was hurtling to the ground to try to kick the ball, Mr. Higgins did not release his left arm.

The tackle was unreasonable in the circumstances and therefore constituted rough conduct.

We do not consider there to be any merit in the alternative submission that there are exceptional and compelling circumstances which make them inappropriate or unreasonable to imply a sanction of three matches. We consider a three match sanction to be proportionate in all the circumstances. The tackle was unreasonable and dangerous, irrespective of Mr. Aliir's actions.

Tribunal Process: 

6:47: The Tribunal is now deliberating.

6:43: Pane: This is a long way from the type of rare case which would convince the Tribunal that it demonstrates 'exceptional and compelling circumstances'.

6:36: Pane (AFL), in response to claims Aliir's left arm was not pinned: How Higgins holds Aliir's arm is still important, with Aliir placed in a vulnerable position given the way his left arm was "restricted".

6:28: For the Saints' argument that there were exceptional and compelling circumstances, Anderson submits the fact that the impact and consequence, which was severe, were affected by Aliir's actions in his attempt to kick the ball.

Anderson seeks a two-match sanction instead of a three-game suspension.

6:19: The Saints are utilising Toby Greene's Round 4 tackle on Gold Coast's Mac Andrew to help their case. That tackle did not warrant a charge by the MRO.

Anderson: Higgins had little alternative and his opponent had the ball, he also did not pin his opponent's arm, while Greene's circumstances did not follow suit

6:10: St Kilda counsel Adrian Anderson asks the Tribunal to bear in mind the height and weight discrepancies between Aliir and Higgins.

Anderson shows slow-motion footage of the incident where Higgins' left arm attempts to tackle Aliir's waist before Aliir's left arm pushes Higgins' arm away.

In Anderson's submission, he also argues:

  • Neither of Aliir's arms were pinned
  • Higgins expected Aliir would land more to his front and that he would be able to use his free arm to protect himself
  • Port Adelaide players did not remonstrate
  • There needs to be a realistic alternative available to the tackling player for their actions to be unreasonable
  • The primary force at play was the force created by Aliir's kicking motion

5:58: Pane: Higgins should have expected a player he is tackling might try and attempt to dispose of the ball.

5:54: The AFL submits Higgins' rotating of Aliir, which had excessive force while Aliir's left arm was pinned and placed in a vulnerable position, caused Aliir to forcefully hit his head on the ground.

Pane (AFL): The onus is on Higgins

5:50: Miss Bayne's evidence period has concluded.

5:40: Bayne: Aliir's movement was "in part" instigated by the tackle. Notes both players were off balance.

Bayne agrees Higgins is "rotating back', which could be a combination of Higgins moving back and Aliir falling back.

Bayne: I would be of the opinion that had [Aliir] not followed through with the kicking motion he wouldn't have had such a major forceful impact in that vulnerable position.

5:28: Biomechanist Helen Bayne has joined the Tribunal. Bayne is a 'movement specialist' and has a PhD in sports biomechanics. Bayne's expertise will help describe Aliir's motion and its causes and effects.

Aliir's attempted kick increases his 'angular momentum', which "means that he is rotating faster sideways towards his left", says Bayne. 

Bayne: It makes it more difficult to create other motions to achieve safer landing positions, given he is focused on that sideways rotation.

Bayne agrees that Aliir rotating significantly impacted the amount of force when his head hits the ground, "because he's rotating at high velocity". 

5:24: Amid being cross-examined by AFL counsel Nick Pane, Higgins denies he used all of his weight to pull Aliir to the ground.

5:12: Jack Higgins is providing evidence:

Higgins: Tim Membrey tackled Aliir and then his tackle was broken. I then came over to help.

I attempted to tackle him around the upper-body region. My right arm was around his body, my left arm was around his arm, and then Aliir pushed my left arm down. I then tried to grab whatever I could. I grabbed his hand.

My balance was then off, I was on my back foot. Aliir's body weight and momentum in the tackle contributed to this. I thought [Aliir] would land on his front. I saw Aliir's right arm was free.

His movement had a lot of effects in the tackle. I can't tackle a 95kg player, and he had his leg up in the air kicking the ball.

I didn't have much momentum as I was getting pushed back. It didn't feel like I had much control of his body weight.

No Port Adelaide players remonstrated. Dylan Williams said it was a good tackle and that I was stiff.

5:07: St Kilda have requested to rely on evidence by a biomechanist.

The AFL is pushing back on the request.

5:03pm: St Kilda has pled not guilty to the charge, arguing that Higgins' actions were not unreasonable in the circumstances.

The Saints will also argue that exceptional and compelling circumstances were present if the above argument is unsuccessful.