AFL GM of Football Steve Hocking has responded to last nights landmark Tribunal hearing declaring he "will not hesitate" to make changes to protect players

AFL GM of Football Steve Hocking has today clarified the League’s stance on head-high contact moving forward as the fallout and discussion from the David Mackay tribunal decision continue.

The Tribunal last night cleared Mackay of any wrongdoing following his collision with St Kilda youngster Hunter Clark last Saturday night in Cairns. Mackay was referred directly to the tribunal by Match Review Officer Michael Christian and General Manager of Football Steve Hocking.

It was initially referred to ungraded before a follow-up statement with a grading of High Contact” and the impact was “Severe” triggering a 3 game suspension which the AFL prosecutor Jeff Gleeson QC would be pushing for.

Hocking told media this afternoon that he stands by his decision to send Mackay to the Tribunal and that the AFL accepted the Tribunal’s decision and will not be appealing the matter but said the AFL would not hesitate in putting additional cases like the Mackay one up to the Tribunal should they occur in the round ahead or the rest of the season.

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Hocking forecasted a potential re-jig of the rules at seasons end to protect players.

“The AFL respects the decision of the Tribunal jury following last night’s hearing. We never assumed that David Mackay sent out to hurt Hunter Clark, but we did consider that he acted carelessly and unreasonably in the circumstances,” Hocking said.

“The Tribunal did not agree with this and we accept the decision with the Tribunal. The health and safety of players at all levels of the game remains paramount and the AFL will not hesitate to take action where the health and safety of players is impacted or at risk.”

Hocking said in his statement and through questions posed to him that rules will not be changed mid-season and maintained a belief in all players being smart and have an awareness of how to tackle fairly and within the rules and guidelines provided by the MRO to protect both the ball carrier and themselves from getting hurt.

“The rules have not changed – players must take reasonable care at all times, including how they approach a contest and how they bump an opponent and they need to continue to do so in the future. There is an ongoing process and review of the rules to protect the health and safety of all players in the game.

“The outcome of the Tribunal will be considered in that review. If necessary, rules will be adjusted at the end of the season. We make no apologies for taking action to make the game safer for participants at all levels of the game.”

When asked about how he would instruct the players tonight and this round, about how to attack the football, Hocking borrowed a phrase from revered football figure Neale Daniher AO as a response.

“Play on… And start round 14 in a strong way.”

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