Sydney Swans launch appeal of Isaac Heeney decision as Patrick Cripps calls for AFL change

The Sydney Swans gun is currently ineligible to win the Brownlow Medal, unless the club is successful at the appeals board.

The Sydney Swans have appealed the AFL tribunal's decision to uphold a one-game suspension for Isaac Heeney, giving him hope of being eligible for the Brownlow Medal after all. Heeney is currently ineligible to win the Brownlow after he was unsuccessful in overturning a ban for striking St Kilda defender Jimmy Webster during the Swans' upset loss against the Saints on Sunday.

The Sydney Swans gun was one of the favourites for the Brownlow until the sanction, which was upheld by the tribunal on Tuesday night. Heeney will miss the Swans' clash with North Melbourne on Saturday, unless the club is successful in getting the ban thrown out by the appeals board.

Patrick Cripps and Isaac Heeney.
Patrick Cripps won the Brownlow in 2022 after having a suspension overturned (L), but Isaac Heeney (R) hasn't been so lucky. Image: Getty

It was revealed on Wednesday that the Swans they will appeal the tribunal's decision. Heeney will be free to play if the Swans cab prove an error of law, the decision was unreasonable, the classification of the offence was excessive or the sanction was excessive.

The tribunal deliberated for about 40 minutes on Tuesday night before agreeing the incident warranted a one-game suspension. "The swing of Heeney's arm was forceful and it was more than a swatting motion," AFL tribunal chair Jeff Gleeson said.

"We are not satisfied that he intended only to make contact with Webster's hands. This was an intentional strike resulting in injury."

Webster was treated for a bloody nose on the field, but wasn't required to leave the ground and didn't need any ongoing medical attention. Heeney argued the incident happened "extremely quickly" and he was intending to "swat" Webster's hand away so he could run towards the ball.

"It probably happens 50-100 times in some games," he said. "I wanted to swat his hands away, I didn't want to hit him (high). I don't recall seeing his head in my peripheral vision."

Isaac Heeney, pictured here in action for the Sydney Swans against St Kilda.
Isaac Heeney in action for the Sydney Swans against St Kilda. (Photo by Morgan Hancock/AFL Photos/via Getty Images)

Carlton gun Cripps is now the favourite to win the Brownlow this year, which would be his second after snaring the prestigious gong in 2022. But Cripps has called for the AFL to change the Brownlow rules in light of the Heeney situation.

Cripps famously had a suspension overturned in 2022 when he went on to win the Brownlow. And the Carlton star reckons it's time the AFL reviewed the rules and made suspended players still eligible to win the game's highest honour.

Patrick Cripps, pictured here with the Brownlow Medal in 2022.
Patrick Cripps won the Brownlow Medal amid huge controversy in 2022. (Photo by Quinn Rooney/Getty Images)

“It’s a tough question, it’s obviously a rule that’s been around since the start," he said on Tuesday. "I feel like with not how the rules have changed, but how we’re protecting the head and little incidents, I feel like it’s definitely a thing that needs to be reviewed at the end of the year.

“You’d hate to see someone like Isaac, if he did win (the count), miss out on the chance. He’s had a great year, he’s a great player and I feel like he plays the game the right way … that’s all I’d say about that.”

If Heeney polls the most votes on Brownlow night, he would join Corey McKernan (North Melbourne, 1996) and Chris Grant (Western Bulldogs, 1997) as players to miss out on the gong because they were ineligible. Melbourne captain Max Gawn wants to see eligibility rules remain the same and said it would add suspense on the night if Heeney was ineligible.

“I think I’m a bit of a traditionalist with a lot of things – I like the idea of the best and fairest missing the Brownlow,” he said. “That’s over 25 years ago (McKernan and Grant winning the count), so it doesn’t happen that often. I mean it will make an interesting Brownlow count. I do love Brownlow night, so if Heeney is up there winning, the room will be talking.”


AFL fans and commentators were left fuming on Tuesday night when Heeney's ban was upheld. Some described the decision as 'shameful' and 'laughable' considering some other incidents that haven't drawn suspensions in recent times.

with agencies