AN AFL star found guilty of a chilling intentional hit has had his verdict blasted as "ridiculous" and a "disgrace" after Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and Waleed Aly intervened to help him.
Fans jumped off their seats in disgust as Richmond defender Bachar Houli sent Carlton's Jed Lamb to the deck with a chilling blow in their round 14 clash on Sunday.
The 29-year-old appeared to intentionally elbow the Blues star while being tagged, forcing the young gun to instantly fall to the ground. Medical staff rushed to tend to the motionless 24-year-old before he was ruled out of the game with concussion.
"I've never hit anyone in my life. Never at all," Houli told Fox Sports after the game. "Obviously it's something that's out of my nature. It was purely unintentional.
"I was trying to knock his arm away so I could get a run to the ball. Something that happens nearly every week as a running half-back."
The Richmond star admitted he was "absolutely shocked" at the situation as he was sent directly to the AFL tribunal.
Houli cited character references from Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and media personality Waleed Aly, which appeared to help him escape a severe penalty.
The Tigers defender pleaded guilty to the lesser charge of careless conduct with high impact to the head but the jury took five minutes to find him guilty of the more severe charge. He was given a two-match suspension.
The decision was blasted by a number of big footy names calling out the decision as "pathetic".
Former Hawthorn star Campbell Brown was up in arms at the lenient suspension, attacking the tribunal in a rant on SEN Evenings.
"Richmond should be doing cartwheels out of the tribunal," he said.
"No one knows more about the tribunal, MRP and incidents than I do. I think the footy world will be gobsmacked."
The 33-year-old referenced North Melbourne star Ben Cunnington's one week suspension for a slap as an example of the tribunal getting their sums wrong.
"You saw Ben Cunnington get a week for slapping someone in the neck. To turn around and throw a back handed elbow that knocks someone out cold, and to only get an extra week, is unbelievably soft and quite pathetic," he said.
Brown also had a dig at the 29-year-old's star-studded character references, claiming the incident's severity should speak for itself.
"I don't care who the character references are. We all understand he is an outstanding citizen and has been a fair player," he said.
"But the incident speaks for itself. I thought three-to-four weeks was appropriate. To get two weeks is quite staggering.
"The AFL goes along and pretends to talk about image for the game and they'll slap blokes hard when they need to. I think this is a case of preferential treatment. I'm not having a go at Houli, but gee whiz, they'll be a lot of shocked people out there and rightfully so."
Fans agreed with Brown's stance, slamming the tribunal for their light-handed approach to the blow.
This makes "intentional" call by tribunal irrelevant
Houli was on the back foot during the trial, claiming he felt "really bad" about the incident before saying he immediately apologised to Lamb after the match.
"I felt really bad, obviously, seeing him on the floor. I was shocked to be quite honest. And I felt really bad. Right away," Houli said.
"Post-game without celebrating ... I went straight to Marc Murphy and Bryce Gibbs and said 'guys you know the person I am - I would never in my life do anything to hurt anyone'.
"They said 'we know who you are - it's all good'."
"After the game, I was leaving the rooms and I found Tim Clark who coached us at Richmond a few years back and I went straight to him and said please text me Jed's number as soon as you can. I thought texting - because I didn't know his response.
"I basically said "Hey Jed, Bachar here mate ... I want you to know that today was not intentional'.
"(And) an apology of course, from the bottom of my heart."
The 29-year-old's only prior disciplinary hiccup was a fine for an altercation with Rhys Palmer against GWS in 2014.
He will miss Richmond's next two games against Port Adelaide and St Kilda unless he pulls off a successful appeal against the tribunal's verdict.
SCHOFIELD DODGES BULLET
Eagles defender Will Schofield escaped punishment for his forearm strike at Demons young gun Clayton Oliver.
The West Coast star lashed out at the 19-year-old midway through their round 14 clash over the weekend, catching him on the chin and forcing him to the ground.
Oliver was scolded by fans for his "gold medal dive" after appearing to exaggerate the severity of the blow.
Schofield successfully argued that while he indeed did intent to hit the Melbourne star, the contact was not worth a report.