North Melbourne coach Brad Scott says the AFL Tribunal's decision to suspend Jack Ziebell despite ruling he was going for the ball is a sad day for football.
The star midfielder was controversially slapped with a four-game ban at Tuesday's hearing after being charged with rough conduct for a head-high clash with Carlton's Aaron Joseph.
"He's devastated. It was a bitterly disappointing day and a really sad day in my mind for AFL football," Scott told reporters on Thursday.
"I've never ever seen a player get suspended for making the ball his sole objective, attacking the ball with ferocity, but being punished for the incidental contact that occurred because of that attitude in going for the ball.
"I lost sleep over the Ziebell decision, not only for Jack Ziebell and North Melbourne, but for the game."
Scott said the AFL had rightly stamped out behind-the-play incidents and also when a player makes hurting his opponent his main focus.
"But when a player's making the ball his sole objective, that's a key component in our game and I thought in my lifetime it would always be," he said.
North's Drew Petrie and Geelong's James Kelly have been sent please-explain letters by the AFL after making comments on Twitter that were critical of the Ziebell decision.
"You can't say much. You can't tweet anything," Scott said.
"I better be careful what I say because I don't want lawyers sending me a letter of demand making me apologise either."
Chris Judd's manager Paul Connors apologised on Wednesday after claiming AFL football operations manager Adrian Anderson had interfered in the process which led to Judd's four-match suspension for misconduct.
Asked if a rule change was necessary following the Ziebell case, Scott said: "That depends on the groundswell of public opinion as to the way they want the game played."
Scott said the tribunal had ruled Ziebell was contesting the ball.
Ziebell's alternative was to wait for Joseph to grab the ball and then tackle him, Scott added.
"To suggest that there's a reasonable alternative is to suggest that those sort of players shouldn't be ... so ferocious in their attack on the ball," Scott said.
"Perhaps we need to re-write the coaching manual. Go back and tell players 'no, it's not about keeping your eyes on the ball and attacking it with ferocity - it's about making sure you don't hurt your opponent'."
Scott said the Kangaroos had counselled Ziebell after his suspension in 2011 for a high bump on St Kilda's Nick Riewoldt.
"He is now saying to me 'I did what you said, I made the ball my sole focus, I attacked it and now I'm not allowed to play for four weeks'," Scott said.
"That's an indictment, in my view. We're concerned there is a grey area there now (in the rules)."
Ziebell will be sent to Utah for a training camp during his suspension.