NORTH Melbourne refused to properly co-operate with AFL investigators but there was insufficient evidence to conclude it mishandled its player Lachlan Hansen after a thundering hit to the head.
North was fined $20,000 for the tardy way it responded to the AFL investigation into the treatment of Hansen and failed to promptly pass on all relevant information and documentation to the league's investigators. Half of the fine was suspended for three years.
The AFL found there was ''insufficient evidence to substantiate a breach of the rules in regards to the treatment of Hansen'', who went back onto the ground after the heavy hit in the round-20 game against Essendon.
''It is extremely concerning that North Melbourne failed to fully co-operate at all times with this investigation into a serious matter involving the welfare of one of its players,'' football operations boss Adrian Anderson said. ''Whilst there was no finding that there was any attempt to deliberately mislead investigators, North Melbourne now accepts that its conduct at times was not at a standard acceptable to an AFL investigation.''
North has said in future, the chief executive, with the supervision of the club's board, will manage responses to AFL investigations.
While the AFL could find insufficient evidence of wrongdoing from North in the treatment of Hansen, it uncovered a need for a more prescriptive approach to handling concussion cases. Clubs are expected to now be required to more widely use video footage of incidents when assessing players and have doctors oversee the self-assessment tests by players in the days after an incident.
''The Hansen investigation has resulted in some key learnings for both the AFL and North Melbourne,'' Anderson said. ''The experts tell us that concussion is often a difficult condition to diagnose and manage due to the complexity of brain dysfunction, the subtle clinical signs and the pressure of game circumstances.
''Our investigation did not substantiate any breach of the rules governing injured players, but it did highlight an opportunity to make the AFL's concussion assessment guidelines more prescriptive around the assessment and treatment regime that should be applied.''
North Melbourne acting chief executive Cameron Vale said the club accepted the fine and admitted it should have acted better in responding to the investigation.
''We are satisfied no one involved in the investigation deliberately misled, lied or influenced any witnesses to be untruthful in the statements, evidence or correspondence,'' he said.
■The AFL is set to reshape its guidelines for treating head injuries after it participated in a concussion conference in Zurich.
As revealed by Fairfax Media, the league's concussion advisory group is considering allowing club medical staff to have greater access to video footage of incidents to help in diagnosis of potential injuries. Another proposed change involves making it mandatory for medical supervision of any follow-up self-assessment tests conducted by players.
The conference has also ensured there will be a major revamp of concussion guidelines in junior competitions. The guidelines will be released in March.
With JON PIERIK