Isaac Heeney's Brownlow Medal fate takes huge twist after shock AFL punishment for Swans star

Heeney has been arguably the best player in the AFL this season.

Sydney Swans superstar Isaac Heeney has been handed a one-match ban from the MRO, but could save his Brownlow Medal chances if he successfully challenges the charge at the AFL Tribunal. Heeney found himself in trouble after a third quarter incident against St Kilda on Sunday.

His off-the-ball hit on Saints defender Jimmy Webster during Sunday's shock two-point defeat at Marvel Stadium has seen him slapped with a one-match ban. Heeney was expected to be handed a ban - essentially ruling him out of the Brownlow Medal race - after he bloodied Webster's nose having fended the St Kilda defender in the face in the third quarter.

Seen here, Sydney Swans  star Isaac Heeney in an incident with St Kilda defender Jimmy Webster.
Sydney Swans star Isaac Heeney has been hit with a one-match ban for his challenge on St Kilda defender Jimmy Webster. Pic: Getty/Fox Footy

Betting markets for the Brownlow Medal were subsequently suspended in the wake of the incident. However, Heeney was only handed a one-match suspension on Monday afternoon from the MRO and is eligible to fight the punishment. If Heeney and the Swans were to win, he would still be in the race for the Brownlow Medal.

On the weekend, reporter Jon Ralph claimed the MRO would likely take a dim view of Heeney's actions after the AFL vowed to crack down on intentional fend-offs in 2024. “There is a big development - it looks almost certain that Isaac Heeney is out of the Brownlow race,” Ralph said.

“Last year, this would very much have been a careless impact hit. It drew blood, it was clearly high. This summer, the AFL changed their rules about high fends behind play - for instance, like this. As it says in the rules, players trying to gain separation for the purpose of contesting the ball, even if it results in a strike - that’s exactly what Heeney was trying to do... That rule change is so significant.”

Heeney was considered by many to be the favourite to win the Brownlow Medal this season, with his incredible form in 2024 a huge factor behind the Swans' ladder-leading form. But any suspension leaves him ineligible to be in the running to win the game's best-and-fairest award at the end of the season, leaving a successful appeal at the AFL Tribunal as Heeney's last hope.

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High fends this season are deemed intentional, rather than careless, and AFL Hall of Famer Leigh Matthews says he has little sympathy for Heeney after telling Channel Nine that "you do the crime, you do the time". Heeney's fend to the face left Webster on his haunches for a few seconds, while the Swans star was able to run clear, mark and goal before checking on his opponent.

Saints coach Ross Lyon described it as an unfortunate incident after going into bat for the Sydney player. "He certainly didn't mean to clock Webster, but he accidentally clips him in the head," Lyon said. He's a great player and certainly there was no intention."

The MRO also made another big call on Monday after handing Adelaide Crows superstar Izak Rankine a four-game ban for a bump on Brandon Starcevich that resulted in the Lions defender being subbed out of the game with concussion. Starcevich seemed unaware the contact was coming, with the AFL clamping down hard on such bumps in a bid to protect players from concussion. The incident was assessed as intentional conduct, severe impact and high contact.

Sen here, Izak Rankine celebrating a goal during Adelaide's match against Brisbane in the AFL.
Izak Rankine is seen here celebrating a goal during Adelaide's match against Brisbane in the AFL. Pic: Getty

Adelaide coach Matthew Nicks said before the MRO's call on Monday that his side would certainly miss the goal-kicking Crows midfielder for however long he was suspended for. "That'll (a suspension) challenge us, if that's the case, but that disappointment will be an opportunity for whoever steps up and deserves it," Nicks said. "We've got a few there putting their hand up saying, 'I'm ready to play'."

with AAP