AFL tribunal suspends Essendon’s Peter Wright after huge hit on Sydney Swan Harry Cunningham

Essendon forward Peter Wright has been punished by the AFL tribunal for his crunching come-from-behind knock on Sydney veteran Harry Cunningham on Saturday night.

Wright KO’d Cunningham in the collision which was graded by the match review officer as careless conduct with severe impact and high contact.

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He faced the tribunal on Tuesday night and pleaded guilty to all aspects of the charges. The tribunal handed him a four-game ban after the AFL pushed for a suspension of “not less than four matches”.

He will now miss crucial matches against St Kilda, Port Adelaide, the Western Bulldogs and Adelaide.

Essendon lawyer Ben Ihle KC admitted that the 203cm Wright did not completely attempt to avoid contact but did try to lessen the impact.

Sydney players were unhappy after Wright KO’d Cunningham. Credit: Channel 7 / Getty Images

Essendon also submitted a shoulder injury report for Wright from 2023 and suggested Wright was protective of his shoulder during the collision with Cunningham.

The Bombers said a three-match ban was appropriate and that Wright’s acceptance of the charge and willingness to be “part of the cultural change” that was happening in the game should be taken into account.

Ihle KC said Wright’s guilty plea was proof that he was embracing the shift in community standards on acceptable on-field behaviour and duty of care to other players.

Before handing down the verdict, tribunal chair Jeff Gleeson noted that both parties accepted that taking the mark was not an option for Wright in the collision.

Essendon coach Brad Scott said before the clash with Sydney that he wanted his team to play with an “edge”.

Not only did Wright flatten Cunningham, but Bombers ruck, Sam Draper, was fined for rough conduct after he also came from behind to dump Jake Lloyd following a Lloyd mark.

A flying elbow — that missed Sydney star Chad Warner — from dashing Essendon defender Nick Hind was also a talking point in the aftermath.

Sydney were unimpressed with the tactics during the spiteful game and the players spoke about it publicly.

Dynamic Sydney forward Tom Papley told Seven immediately after the siren that Wright “took (the edge strategy) a bit too far”.

He also said at half-time that Essendon players were “trying to get after us” and that it was “all off the ball”.

“We’re just worried about the ball,” he said in a scorching mid-game admission.

The AFL made it clear at the start of the year that it would be coming down hard on collisions that result in concussion.

The AFL was unhappy with an incident in last year’s finals when Collingwood’s Brayden Maynard concussed Melbourne’s Angus Brayshaw which ultimately led to Brayshaw — who suffered a number of head knocks early in his career — retiring.

However, not everyone thought Wright deserved a ban.

AFL great Wayne Carey believed Wright and Cunningham got to the ball at the same time and the collision could not be avoided.

“I would say to anyone out there: if we want this game to look anything like it should look, he’s allowed to attack that footy and he’s allowed to protect himself,” Carey said on his podcast.

“They got to the footy simultaneously. He turned his body to protect himself. If he doesn’t turn his body, they’re both hurt. This is what our game is about. You’re allowed to attack the footy like he did.

“It’s just gone too far now for me. I will not watch footy for as long, if he gets weeks. I’m not going to watch it for as long as he’s out of the game.”

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