JOEL Mackie’s Morris Medal hopes are in tatters after the Albury ace was suspended for one match last night.
Mackie was found guilty of striking Yarrawonga star Kayne Pettifer by the Ovens and Murray’s independent tribunal and will sit out Saturday’s crunch clash with Wangaratta Rovers.
Both players admitted engaging in a “heated” argument before the incident.
“We weren’t happy with each other,” Mackie told the tribunal.
Mackie, who won the league’s highest individual honour in 2012, asked for the case to head to the tribunal after knocking back the set penalty offered after the round 1 blockbuster against the Pigeons.
High-profile player advocate Iain Findlay represented Mackie, who pleaded not guilty.
Findlay said while contact was not in doubt, he questioned whether there was enough force to constitute a strike.
There was no conclusive video of the incident.
Pettifer, who gave evidence by phone, said while he had little memory of the clash, he had felt contact to his face.
Mackie denied punching the former Richmond player.
He said he had pushed Pettifer to the ground with force after the pair had exchanged jumper punches.
The incident occurred before the second quarter had started — there were still at least 100 spectators milling on the Albury Sportsground.
The first-round blockbuster was called off seven minutes later after Albury youngster James McQuillan suffered a severe neck injury.
McQuillan, 20, remains in Melbourne’s Austin Hospital with suspected spinal damage.
The Tigers sought a reprimand after Mackie was found guilty, citing the fact he had no tribunal history and was one of the league’s most decorated players.
Tribunal chairman Wayne Taylor described the sentencing process as “difficult” but opted to out the star Tiger for one game.
The night’s other case dragged well into the evening.
Wodonga Raiders midfielder Brad Hibberson was suspended for two weeks after being cited for striking Myrtleford young gun Christian Burgess under the league’s new video review policy.
Hibberson, who pleaded guilty under provocation, had one week of the penalty suspended, meaning he will only miss Saturday’s crucial game against Corowa-Rutherglen.