Greater Western Sydney’s Irish recruit Brid Stack has described breaking down in tears upon learning that Crow Ebony Marinoff had been cleared of forceful front-on contact by the AFL Appeals Board for the collision that left Stack with a broken neck.
Writing for the Irish Examiner, Stack said: “My heart just sank. I broke down in tears” when she heard the news on Thursday night that Marinoff had had her three-match suspension overturned and quashed on appeal.
“Within minutes, my teammate Cora Staunton, Alicia (Eva), the team captain, and our head coach Alan McConnell, were in the apartment, trying to console me,” Stack, 34, wrote.
“I was beside myself with anger. Disillusionment. I felt so totally disheartened by the outcome.
“My emotions almost felt trapped in this vortex of disbelief because I suddenly felt like a scapegoat.
“The emotional trauma of dealing with such a serious injury was exacerbated when the blame for what had happened suddenly seemed to be sitting at my door.”
Stack, an 11-time All-Ireland retired Gaelic footballer, and Marinoff, a two-time All-Australian, collided in the final minute of their AFLW practice game on January 17.
Stack suffered a stable fracture of her C7 vertebrae and Marinoff was suspended for three games — the harshest penalty ever handed down in AFLW history — after being found guilty by the AFL Tribunal of forceful front-on contact.
The Crows appealed and successfully had the charge quashed after arguing their star midfielder had no other reasonable alternative in the contest.
The two-time AFLW premiership player was free to play in her side’s Round 1 38-point thrashing of West Coast in Perth, with Marinoff among their best, picking up 21 touches.
Stack described Marinoff’s “tackle” as “much more than a footy collision”.
“I wanted the tribunal’s decision to at least reflect that she didn’t show any duty of care to me,” she wrote.
Stack was playing her first game of AFLW after signing with the Giants for the 2021 season and she described the surge of excruciating pain down her neck and right arm when the collision occurred.
“I actually thought I might have broken my arm. I never experienced pain like it,” she wrote.
“The first scan was very scary because the doctors initially feared that more damage may have been done.
“But thankfully as the night went on and the results came back, that chronic worry and fear gradually eased … at the moment, the nerve damage in my right arm is more of a concern than my neck. Trying to get my arm firing again is my biggest priority.”
Stack said what had upset her most was the “lack of empathy shown by others involved on the day”.
“The trial by social media over here has still left a really bitter taste in my mouth,” she said.
“The Crows had every right to appeal the original three-match ban but some of the evidence in their argument was laughable — they tried to suggest that I got injured in the first quarter.
“To me, it was too easy to blame a ‘rookie’. It may be a different game, but I have played football all my life.”
Stack, who is expected to be in a neck brace for at least six weeks, is due for a follow-up X-ray on Tuesday.
“It’s a very cold and very sobering experience to hear that not being paralysed came down to a matter of millimetres,” she wrote.
WHY MARINOFF BAN WAS OVERTURNED
The AFL Appeals Board, on Thursday night, agreed with Crows counsel that the tribunal’s guilty verdict on Marinoff’s forceful front-on contact charge was unreasonable and overturned the ban.
Marinoff was charged for a collision that left Greater Western Sydney’s Brid Stack with a fractured vertebrae.
Adelaide’s two-time premiership-winner and dual All-Australian will be free to play on Saturday in the Crows Round 1 game against West Coast in Perth.
On January 19, the AFL Tribunal slapped Marinoff with the three-week suspension – one third of the nine-round AFLW season – after it found her guilty.
But, in a marathon appeal hearing lasting more than three hours, Crows’ counsel Sam Abbott QC presented a series of 12 time-stamped stills of the collision, which he said showed that, from the moment Marinoff first put eyes on Stack to the point of their contact, was 31-hundreths of one second and, in that time, Marinoff had no other realistic alternative in the contest.
Mr Abbott withdrew the video evidence that Adelaide had sensationally brought to the Appeal Board last week of an earlier clash that the club claimed may have contributed to Stack’s neck fracture.
He presented a character statement written by Melbourne’s AFLW captain Daisy Pearce and made mention of Marinoff’s “exemplary record” across her four-season, 30-game career.
He spoke of the “inherent unfairness” of the three-game ban in that it is the statutory minimum in the men’s competition for the same charge.
Appeals Board chairman David Jones declared Marinoff not guilty of the charge.
Crows head of women’s football Phil Harper said he believed the correct decision had been made.
“It was the long way round to get to this decision but, in the end, common sense prevailed,” Harper said.
“A person who’d shown a great amount of duty of care for the opposition player in this incident has rightly been found not guilty.
“We’re really pleased for Ebony and can’t wait to see her on the field on Saturday.
“While we agree with this outcome, Ebony and the Club feel for Brid Stack in this situation and wish her all the best.”
Stack, 34, was injured in the final minute of the January 17 practice match between the two sides played at Norwood Oval after she collided with Marinoff as they went for a ground-ball contest in the GWS forward-50.
The Crow’s original three-game suspension caused an uproar, with many on social media leaping to her defence and the club calling it “grossly disproportionate for the action”.
Before the hearing Harper said the club was compelled to appeal not only the guilty verdict, but the length of the suspension.
“As a club, we feel an overwhelming obligation to defend our player,” Harper said.
“We believe that (Marinoff) has done everything humanely possible not to breach her duty of care for the opposition player in this incident and people who have seen the incident tend to agree with that.”
Harper said the Crows’ 23-year-old ball magnet had been upset throughout the process.
“She hasn’t slept for a couple of nights and she’s quite upset about the whole thing, which is quite understandable,” he said.