AFL chief Gillon McLachlan insists there is no inconsistency in allowing banned Collingwood player Jaidyn Stephenson to resume in the VFL this weekend.
Stephenson will make a surprise appearance in the reserves on Saturday after being cleared to resume from a 10-match gambling ban.
The 20-year-old was banned for 22 games - 12 suspended - and fined $20,000 in June for placing three bets on games he was playing in.
It had been expected Stephenson's ban, which also kept him from playing in the VFL, would sideline him until the Pies' first match of the AFL finals series.
But the AFL has confirmed Stephenson's ban ends after Friday night's clash at the MCG, allowing him to get crucial match practice against Box Hill on Saturday.
Hawthorn president Jeff Kennett labelled the ruling "disturbing", telling the Herald Sun the AFL had shown it was not fully committed to good governance.
Players suspended by the AFL tribunal are not permitted to play at any level until the round that follows the conclusion of their ban.
McLachlan said Stephenson's case was different because he had been suspended by the AFL's integrity department.
"They've always had bespoke penalties," McLachlan told 3AW radio on Friday.
"Some have been fines, some have been suspensions and they've always been different."
McLachlan noted that there was similar leniency in integrity bans handed to Richmond's Nathan Broad and Port Adelaide's Sam Powell-Pepper.
"Both of those guys actually played VFL and SANFL during their AFL suspensions," McLachlan said.
"I actually think it's very logical."
Coach Nathan Buckley described the ruling as a "small win" for the Pies as they prepared for the AFL finals.
Australian Associated Press