GISBORNE’S Bendigo Football League finals campaign has suffered a bitter blow following a two-match suspension to captain Casey Summerfield.
Summerfield was Wednesday night found guilty of striking Sandhurst’s Nick Stagg during last Saturday’s elimination final at the QEO.
The suspension means Summerfield will miss this Saturday night’s first semi-final against Eaglehawk, as well as the preliminary final should the Bulldogs advance. But he would be available for the grand final.
Summerfield – making his first appearance before a tribunal – didn’t dispute making high contact with Stagg.
However, he refused to take a one-match set penalty because he was determined to clear his name of striking.
The case included video evidence of the incident, which occurred in the centre square following a ball-up and as Stagg jumped to punch the ball clear.
Central umpire Dean Goodridge said he laid the report after he saw Stagg “struck with an elbow to the face” by Summerfield.
Goodridge described the incident as “reckless and negligent” and considered the contact “forceful”.
In his evidence, Summerfield, who has played 135 senior games for the Bulldogs, said he only had eyes for the ball and the contact with Stagg was accidental.
“I had my eyes for the ball the whole time,” Summerfield said.
“I saw a blur... flinched, braced myself and accidentally made contact.”
Summerfield – who had well-known AFL tribunal advocate Iain Findlay defending him – said the contact was with his lower arm and the impact was medium.
“I pride myself as captain of the club,” Summerfield said.
“I don’t deny the contact and I could have taken a week, but I want to clear my name of striking.”
Stagg said he had eyes for the ball and that he “didn’t know what was coming or where it was coming from”.
He said he felt contact to the side of his head with a “forearm or maybe an elbow”.
Stagg left the field following the incident, but returned soon after.
In handing down the guilty verdict and two-match suspension, tribunal chairman John Chapman said the act was deemed reckless.
Summerfield was one of the Bulldogs’ best players in last Saturday night’s win over Sandhurst. He was joint runner-up in the Bendigo Advertiser Player of the Year.