An AFL star is staring down the barrel of an extended time out of the game after leaving an opponent facedown in the turf on Saturday.
Geelong and Richmond may well have played out the game of the year on Saturday at the MCG, but the biggest talking point came in the opening quarter.
Tigers midfielder Dion Prestia was left facedown in the turf after Cats defender Tom Stewart bypassed the footy and collected his opponent high with his left arm.
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After an unkind bounce, Prestia leapt into the air and tapped a highball into the path of a teammate before being smashed and left out like a light just inside the boundary line. A free kick was awarded to the Tigers as medical staff rushed onto the field to help Prestia, in truly bizarre scenes however the game continued on around him as the medics tried getting him back to his feet.
Fox Footy’s Garry Lyon couldn’t believe the game carried on as Prestia was on the turf clearly not knowing where he was.
“This is a big story unfolding here. You’d think they’d stop the game,” Lyon said.
Anthony Hudson was equally bemused: “The footy is in the area so you’d think there’d be some care and common sense.”
“Why haven’t they stopped the game, surely one of these umpires takes control,” Lyon said.
Prestia was eventually helped up and taken from the ground where he was subbed out. Stewart was instantly put on report and could be looking at a substantial stint on the sidelines.
Stewart played a crucial role in the final outcome of the game as Geelong toppled Richmond in the game of the year.
Geelong coach Chris Scott opened up on the incident during his post-game press conference and shared details of the conversation he’d had with Stewart in the rooms.
“I’ve known Tom for a long time and he is a scrupulously fair player and just a fantastic, strong character – fundamental to what we do at Geelong. When my time’s come and gone, I’ll look back and say I was honoured to have known and coach Tom Stewart
“That’s partly because when I spoke to him post-game, he just said: ‘I’ve just made a horrible error and I feel terrible about it … I ran past the ball and I chose to bump. I didn’t mean to do it, but gee it was terrible execution and I’m going to pay the price for it.’
“I wouldn’t usually be this expansive, but I think it speaks to the man. He knows he’s done the wrong thing. Was it deliberate? Of course it wasn’t. He’s made an error and, as people do that I admire, he’s prepared to stand up and say ‘I was wrong’.
“It doesn’t help then the idea of restorative justice still exists. Like they (the Tigers) lose one of their best players, but we don’t run away from that fact. But he should have some comfort in the fact that it’ not him and it was an error of execution and nothing more.”
Asked if Stewart’s character should come into account when the incident is assessed, Scott said: “I’m not going to make comment on that. I’m a little bit confused by it all. As an individual, I don’t really believe in punitive actions almost full stop, but at some point there’s got to be a line then how you get to those positions.”
The footy world didn’t hold back immediately after the incident with the hit sure to be in the spotlight over the coming days.
“Absolutely disgusting headhigh hit on Dion Prestia,” Peter Brown tweeted.
Jon Ralph said the hit could see Stewart sent straight to the tribunal and facing three plus weeks.
“Intentional and high impact is three matches. Intentional and severe is straight to the tribunal. Tom Stewart has already been reported,” Ralph tweeted.
David King applied the heat to the MRO who have failed to make a statement regarding headhigh contact.
“He is definitely coming under MRO scrutiny, and let’s be honest, the MRO have tiptoed around this situation for 12-18 months and we haven’t changed player behaviour,” King said.
“That will be the biggest story of the weekend.”
Garry Lyon said the All Australian defender will be disappointed at his actions: “He goes past the footy, makes headhigh contact and that’s as clear cut as we have seen for a while. Not a good look at all. He will be disappointed, Tommy Stewart, when he sees that.”
The hit once against sparked the conversation surrounding the AFL introducing a send-off rule with many in favour of one being brought in.
“Huge Tom Stewart fan but my god this is atrocious. It’s a real good example of why we need a send-off rule because that’s a straight red,” Steve Smith tweeted.
Triple M’s Rudi Edsall agreed: “That Stewart hit is why footy needs a send off rule. If he goes on to star in a big Cats win it sits awfully in your stomach,” he wrote.
SEN’s Nic Negrepontis said: “Hard to disagree. You’d only need it 4 times a year max. Today would be one of them. Tigers absolutely crippled by losing Prestia.”
Originally published as Tom Stewart’s admission after leaving Dion Prestia knocked out cold