A GLOWING character reference from dual Brownlow medallist Robert Harvey may have helped Albury star Dean Polo escape with a one-match suspension for headbutting.
Polo is free to play in the Tigers’ first final, despite being found guilty of misconduct at the Ovens and Murray tribunal last night.
The former AFL utility copped a two-match ban, with one of those suspended, following a hearing that lasted more than four hours.
His Morris Medal hopes are over.
St Kilda champion Harvey, who was a midfield coach when Polo was at the Saints, told the tribunal in a written statement he was shocked to hear Polo had been reported because it was completely out of character.
Polo, who pleaded not guilty to the charge, was reported by umpire Darren Askew during Saturday’s 132-point demolition of Wodonga.
Askew struggled to recall what else was happening in the area at the time of the incident but was “100 per cent sure” he saw Polo headbutt Bulldog Dylan Beattie with a short jab of the head during a scuffle involving multiple players in the second quarter.
“I was very surprised it happened,” Askew said by phone.
Polo said there was absolutely no intended headbutt and that he had no idea he’d been sent off until he was on the bench.
Beattie told the tribunal he left the ground with a “cut nose” and “watery eyes” shortly after, but could not recall how it happened.
“There was so much pushing and shoving,” Beattie said.
“I can’t say 100 per cent where it came from, there were almost 10 players in the scuffle.”
High-profile player advocate Iain Findlay, who was representing Polo, lodged a submission regarding the legality of the report, which was denied.
The Tigers said they weren’t aware Polo had been reported until 30 minutes after the game.
Albury co-coach Chris Hyde gave evidence, telling the tribunal he “had no idea” what was going on at the time and asked the umpire to stop the game.
Albury is all but certain to finish the season on top of the ladder and earn the first week off in finals, meaning Polo is likely to return for the second semi-final.
The Tigers take on Wangaratta at Norm Minns Oval on Saturday.