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Character references from Aboriginal Elder, icon play their part in Cameron's tribunal downgrade

Andrew Mathieson -

A retired former teammate and an Aboriginal Elder played their part in ensuring that Charlie Cameron turned around a certain suspension that has left much of the public opinion still debating the verdict.

The Brisbane forward had been initially banned for a dangerous tackle on Melbourne defender Jake Lever and for all intents and purposes the week sanction handed out by the AFL tribunal appeared to be in line with past suspensions for similar actions.

But Brisbane confidently backed in Cameron’s intent in the tackle, as the club sought to downgrade the rough conduct charge.

While the tribunal could not find sufficient evidence to downgrade the severity of the tackle, upholding the match review officer Michael Christian’s gradings, they did clear the Lardil and Waanyi man to play next match against Geelong after offering a fine.

Character references from once Adelaide forward Eddie Betts and from Elder Gregory Egert played its part after the tribunal cleared Cameron under what was described as “exceptional and compelling” circumstances.

The unexpected outcome to clear Cameron to play was met with backlash, but Lions coach Chris Fagan defended Brisbane not accepting the initial suspension.

“There’s always debate isn’t there about what the tribunal decide and what they don’t decide,” Fagan told the waiting media on Friday.

“If you ask me if I was surprised – no, I wasn’t that it was debated.

“When you go to the tribunal you use everything at your disposal to free up your player – every club does.

“If a bloke has a good record, you’d at least give that a mention, I think.

“Otherwise you'd be remiss in your duty to that player.”

While Betts’ firm standing in the game as an advocate for Indigenous players and his people is unchallenged, the Jagera, Gonepul and Gubbi Gubbi man, also known as Uncle Cheg, has been held in high esteem as Queensland University of Technology’s first Elder-in residence for years.

Brisbane has constantly checked in with Cameron throughout the tribunal process after TV, radio and social media tended to mock the scrapping of the suspension and Fagan at the press conference was quick to ensure that the 29-year-old’s wellbeing was good.

“He's used to the commentary, the vitriolic stuff on social media, and whatever else people want to throw at him,” Fagan said.

“He's a tough guy – he's happy he’s playing and is looking forward to the game.”

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