Blues star, big Dee free to play after Tribunal wins

BOTH Carlton star forward Tayla Harris and Melbourne counterpart Tegan Cunningham are free to play this weekend after successfully challenging their cases at the AFLW Tribunal.

Harris' rough conduct charge was downgraded from a one-match suspension to a reprimand, meaning she is free to face Geelong, while Cunningham can play against North Melbourne after her two-match ban was thrown out completely in an at-times confusing case.

The Blue was charged with rough conduct for a bump on Giant Pepa Randall, which was assessed as careless conduct with medium impact to the head.

The AFL's representative, Renee Enbom, said significant force was used and consideration needed to be given to the potential for injury.

Randall missed training on Monday night with bruising to her jaw and mild whiplash and is now on a modified training plan. She was monitored for but not diagnosed with concussion.

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Blue Tayla Harris could face MRO scrutiny after this solid hit on Pepa Randall

Carlton's representative, Marcus Clarke QC, argued Harris lowered her shoulder in an attempt to avoid head contact and bent her knees to reduce the force.

He presented a Champion Data spreadsheet which showed Randall did not leave the ground for treatment.

The Tribunal panel of Jason Johnson, David Neitz and Stephen Jurica took around 20 minutes to decide the contact was of low impact rather than medium, which lowered the penalty from a one-match suspension to a reprimand.

Tribunal chairman Ross Howie addressed Harris, saying he believed he had never delivered a reprimand before.

"It's a serious matter. It has its effects on the other player. You admit it's careless, you need to be more careful," Howie said. 

"Yep, thank you," Harris said in response.

"I am pleased with the decision, thankful to the AFL for hearing it and looking forward to running out with my team [this week]," Harris later said in a brief statement after the finding.

In the case following, Cunningham had been charged with intentionally striking Lion Shannon Campbell, with the act rated as medium impact to the head.

Melbourne's representative, Peter O'Farrell, initially submitted the case should be thrown out completely, that the incident was not a strike and impact was "lower than low".

After evidence given by Cunningham and footage shown from two angles – the standard match footage and a somewhat unclear behind-the-goals vision – O'Farrell presented the case was a forward pushing off her opponent and going for a mark, with eyes only for the ball. 

He also argued that the act was done in play, with the wind affecting the drop of the ball. 

By contrast, the AFL's representative Renee Enbom said the act was intentional and done considerably before Cunningham leapt to mark the ball. She said Cunningham wanted to get rid of her opponent, threw her right arm back, collecting Campbell in the neck and there was real potential to cause injury. 

A medical report tabled by Enbom said Campbell had neck pain consistent with a strike by arm, and suffered nausea, had difficulty swallowing and shortness of breath. She left the field for around five minutes following the incident.

Enbom also cited another medical report from an incident involving both players in the second quarter (for which Cunningham had already accepted a reprimand), which mentioned Campbell had brought neck pain into the match from the previous round. 

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Tegan Cunningham bumps Brisbane opponent Shannon Campbell from behind

The Tribunal took around 15 minutes to conclude they weren't satisfied  Cunningham had struck Campbell intentionally or carelessly, and the charge was dropped. 

If either challenge failed, the suspension would have stood and the club in question fined $5000, $2500 of which would come under the AFLW football department soft cap.

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