Fremantle captain Matthew Pavlich is eligible to win this year’s Brownlow Medal again after successfully having his striking charge downgraded at the AFL tribunal on Tuesday night.

Pavlich’s strike on North Melbourne’s Liam Anthony on Sunday had been assessed by the match review panel as a level two offence in that it was ‘reckless’, ‘high contact’ and ‘low impact’.

While a discount to the charge for his previous good record meant Pavlich was not at risk of suspension, it carried enough demerit points to rule him out of contention for the Brownlow.

Addressing the tribunal via video link from Perth, the Fremantle skipper pleaded guilty to the charge of striking, but contested the call that it was ‘reckless’.

In doing so, he argued that the incident should have been assessed as ‘negligent’, thereby downgrading it to a level one offence.

Pavlich said that with a clean record over 240 games as an AFL player and as a member of the AFL’s laws of the game committee, he had a complete understanding of the rules of football and would be “offended” to have the word ‘reckless’ on his record.

John Gleeson SC for the AFL argued that in approaching the contest at speed and raising a forearm, Pavlich must have had some idea that he might commit a reportable offence, which would justify the ‘reckless’ assessment.

But Pavlich said his intention had been only to punch the ball out of bounds.

He apologised to Anthony for the strike that resulted, but reiterated that it was not his intention to make head-high contact with his opponent.

Tribunal chairman John Hassett said Pavlich’s perfect record over 12 years gave him “great credibility”.

The panel accepted Pavlich’s argument and downgraded the charge.

Due to his previous good record and his guilty plea, Pavlich receives a reprimand and only 45 points on his record – not enough to rule him out of Brownlow eligibility.

Pavlich said after the hearing it was important to protect his reputation as a fair footballer.

“I think I’m a relatively fair player and it was important tonight for that to remain the case,” he said.

“I don’t think anyone that’s seen me play would think that I’m a reckless player or I’ve ever had reckless intent.

“On the basis of my 12-year, 240-game career, I’m certainly apologetic to Liam Anthony and the fact that I struck the back of his head, but I took offence to the fact that they saw that as reckless.”

Pavlich said remaining eligible for the Brownlow had not been a consideration in his challenge, with the primary aim to have his carryover points reduced to protect from any future suspensions.

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