The AFL’s visit to Queensland continues to be a public relations disaster with the league coming under renewed attacks this week.
A day after Victorians were told their lockdown was being extended for at least another two weeks, the 400-strong party of AFL officials, families and media members has been described by Nine reporter Tony Jones as “out of control”.
“I don’t agree with some of the people that have gone up there. You’re talking about grandparents, babysitters, the girlfriend of a reporter, there’s even suggestions a swimming coach has gone up there for the kids — this is out of control,” Jones told Footy Classified.
“Do you really need babysitters? Do you really need grandparents up there?”
Former Cricket Australia boss James Sutherland also landed a golden ticket out of Victoria in a move that’s been seen as another example of royal treatment.
Sutherland, 55, who spent 17 years as CEO of CA, is now a board member at Geelong and has taken his son with him to the Gold Coast.
But an AFL spokesman defended the move. “Geelong are about to embark on a finals series campaign and James’ years of experience with touring parties in elite sporting environments is providing assistance and leadership to their group,” the spokesman said. “He is travelling with his school-aged son.”
The behaviour of those staying at the Mercure Resort on the Gold Coast has also reportedly left league CEO Gillon McLachlan fuming.
Already red-hot with anger after two Richmond players broke COVID protocols by attending a strip club on the Glitter Strip before getting in a brawl, McLachlan was tipped over the edge by the sight of an overflowing swimming pool and bar area at the Mercure.
“At a meeting with hub leaders — each club has a representative — Gill launched and made it crystal clear the rules he wanted enforced and that he wouldn‘t think twice about sending more people home,” the Herald Sun reports.
“As part of the deal with the Queensland government the AFL had agreed to social distancing which clearly wasn’t happening to the chief’s satisfaction.”
There are two swimming pools at the resort and a bar that opens from 5-8pm.
“While you’re only allowed to purchase two drinks at a time we hear this rule hasn’t slowed down some of the thirsty punters,” the Herald Sun reports.
Making matters worse, Tigers duo Sydney Stack and Callum Coleman-Jones left the league with egg on its face after their embarrassing late-night excursion.
Stack and Coleman-Jones were drinking at an AFL-sanctioned hub event before continuing the party in their room before taking an Uber to town.
It prompted a severe reaction from McLachlan, who sent both players home to Victoria with 10-game bans — and brought out a prop to ram home the importance of social distancing at the resort.
“Gil and even myself and club officials sat around and we actually spoke to all the people that were up here, the journalists, the wives, the girlfriends, the kids and everybody,” Collingwood president Eddie McGuire revealed.
“We said right, here’s what we need to do. We actually brought out a pole that was 1.5 metres and put it by the pool to make sure everybody has an understanding. Everyone’s on tenterhooks about getting this right.”