AFL News: Bomber defends Sicily as Hawks challenge ‘kicking’ ban, Round 1 sets new attendance record


Essendon’s medical report will be ‘Exhibit A’ for Hawthorn should the Hawks take the kicking charge against captain James Sicily to the AFL tribunal.

The players’ code was invoked on Monday morning when Essendon star Andrew McGrath said he barely felt the contact from Sicily in the opening minutes of their match on Saturday at the MCG.

Sicily was offered a one-game ban for the incident, which happened after he gave away a free to opponent Matt Guelfi.

After Guelfi kicked the first goal of the game, Sicily scuffled with several Essendon players and his foot made contact with McGrath.

But the Bombers defender said it barely registered.

James Sicily has been handed a one-match suspension for this incident with Andrew McGrath.

Full Saturday MRO findings:

— AFL (@AFL) March 17, 2024

“After every incident our club doctor calls us to see if there are any medical ramifications or any soreness, my report to him was that there’s nothing – I’ve got no bruise, no nothing,” McGrath told SEN on Monday.

“Hopefully that stands up in the appeal, if there is one.

“It was pretty innocuous … I didn’t even really realise that he put his foot into the back of me, which suggests how severe the kick was. Not very at all.

“But they’re stamping that out of the game and we’ll see where that lands.”

The Hawks’ captain, who was last year banned for three games for rough conduct, has been charged with kicking McGrath with intentional conduct, medium impact and body contact.

James Sicily was handed a one-match suspension for kicking Andrew McGrath. (Photo by Quinn Rooney/Getty Images)

Essendon’s Mason Redman also faces a one-game ban after being charged with striking Hawk Jai Newcombe in an off-the-ball incident. 

The contact has been deemed as intentional, high contact with low impact.

The Suns’ Malcolm Rosas Jr has been cited for headbutting Adelaide’s Max Michalanney in Gold’s Coast’s six-point win on Saturday night.

Rosas can accept a one-match suspension, with his contact ruled intentional and high, with low impact.

Six other players were charged and offered fines from Saturday’s fixtures.

With early pleas, Hawthorn’s Newcombe (forceful front-on contact, $3750),  Essendon’s Todd Goldstein (striking, $2500), Greater Western Sydney’s Jack Buckley (tripping, $1250), Giant Harry Perryman (striking, $1875), Geelong’s Jhye Clark (dangerous tackle, $2500) and the Suns’ Connor Budarick (melee, $1250) can accept financial sanctions.


AFL sets new single-round attendance record

The AFL is boasting a crowds record, with more than 413,000 fans going to round-one matches.

Fuelled by three MCG blockbusters and the opening of the Joel Selwood Stand at the GMHBA Stadium in Geelong, the 413,405 total easily beat the old mark of 400,401 – set seven years ago, also in round one.

It follows the new ’round zero’ season opener two weekends ago, when the four games in NSW and Queensland also attracted healthy crowds.

Thursday night’s attendance of 83,881 at the MCG – the third-highest for a Carlton-Richmond match – set the tone.

Sydney’s win over premiers Collingwood the following night attracted 78,933 fans – the highest Magpies crowd against a non-Victorian team and also a record for matches between the two sides.

Essendon and Hawthorn completed the MCG trifecta on Saturday when the two fierce rivals attracted their third-biggest crowd of 73,805.

Saturday night’s 39,352 was the highest attendance at GMHBA Stadium since the 1981 record of 41,395.

Crowds at the MCG. (Photo by Quinn Rooney/Getty Images)

The crowd figures follow the so-called opening round in Sydney and Brisbane, which AFL chief executive Andrew Dillon is lauding as a success.

“For us to then go into round one and get four really big crowds at the MCG, nearly 40,000 people at Geelong and then a great crowd (in Adelaide) yesterday and also over 40,000 in WA, we’re really happy,” Dillon told reporters in Adelaide.

“It worked really well being able to have our season launch in Sydney and get a real focus on the game in New South Wales and Queensland.

“We had the four sell-out crowds but also pleasingly our membership for the Swans and the Giants and the Suns and the Lions are all double-digit percentages ahead year-on-year, including the Giants over 30 per cent ahead, so it has been really successful.”

Dillon said all games in Adelaide and surrounds for Gather Round, which this year runs from April 4-7, were now officially sell-outs – although more than 1000 tickets across the nine games will be re-released on Thursday.

“The reason for the tickets coming back is some members who had taken them up weren’t going to be here, and then some corporate tickets (were) been returned,” Dillon said.


1. Round 1 2024 – 413,405
2. Round 1 2017 – 400,401
3. Round 3 2018 – 393,537
4. Round 1 2023 – 392,248
5. Round 5 2017 – 391,980


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