‘Scapegoat’ Powell-Pepper suspended for four AFL games

Oliver Caffrey |

Port Adelaide forward Sam Powell-Pepper has received a four-game AFL suspension for a high bump.
Port Adelaide forward Sam Powell-Pepper has received a four-game AFL suspension for a high bump.

Port Adelaide’s Sam Powell-Pepper will miss the first four games of the season after his lawyer accused the AFL of making a “scapegoat” of the Power forward.

Powell-Pepper was referred to appear before the tribunal after his high bump concussed Adelaide defender Mark Keane during the first quarter of last Friday’s Showdown match simulation.

The 26-year-old immediately pleaded guilty to the rough conduct charge, but Port’s lawyer Ben Krupka argued Powell-Pepper should miss three matches instead of the four-game sanction sought by the AFL.

The tribunal deliberated for more than 90 minutes before considering Powell-Pepper’s conduct “very reckless”, completing a marathon three-and-a-half-hour hearing.

In his closing remarks before the tribunal deliberated, Krupka warned the panel it had to treat this case the same as if it was a “Brownlow Medal favourite” or “someone about to play in a grand final”.

“What is not legitimate is to make a scapegoat of Mr Powell-Pepper in this instance,” Krupka said.

“The appropriate penalty is three games, and in our submission anything further would be manifestly excessive.

“This case will then serve as the base point for the others that come before you throughout the course of the year.

“A four-game penalty in a case of minimal culpability ties the hands in terms of consistency in future cases.”

The AFL’s representative, Lisa Hannon, disagreed with Krupka’s assessment.

The match review officer graded the incident as careless, severe impact and high contact.

“What the AFL does say is this was an entirely predictable outcome,” Hannon said. 

“The responsibility lies with the player to avoid contact with the head. 

“In 2024 it is something deserving of a four-match suspension. 

“The sanction that is imposed is something that in part serves as a function of general deterrence and sends a message to the playing community.”

Powell-Pepper’s bump on Keane took place just a day after Melbourne premiership hero Angus Brayshaw was forced to retire on medical advice to protect his long-term health and wellbeing.

Brayshaw, 28, was concussed multiple times throughout his career, most recently in a collision with Collingwood’s Brayden Maynard during last year’s finals.

In an attempt to clear Powell-Pepper, Krupka called biomechanics expert Kath Shorter to give evidence.

Shorter was questioned about the incident by Krupka, Hannon and tribunal chair Renee Enbom for about an hour.

Powell-Pepper, who is part of Port’s leadership group, will be unavailable for home-and-away matches against West Coast, Richmond, Melbourne and Essendon, as well as a community series clash with Fremantle on Friday.

Keane will miss the mandatory 12 days after having a concussion, but Adelaide are hopeful he will be able to play in the Crows’ round-one game against Gold Coast on March 16.