The footy world has reacted with stunned rage after the AFL found Richmond strip club brawlers Sydney Stack and Callum Coleman-Jones breached the league’s biosecurity rules.
In the biggest COVID protocol breach for the AFL, the league announced after a lightning investigation on Friday the pair broke league rules by travelling in an Uber to notorious Gold Coast nightspot Cavill Ave.
Stack, 20, and Coleman-Jones, 21, were allegedly evicted from the Hollywood Showgirls gentleman’s club on the Glitter Strip’s Orchard Ave before engaging in a fight just metres from a police station that left them both injured.
Coleman-Jones sustained minor facial injuries and was treated in hospital.
Police were called to the incident and fined both players $800.
Stack was taken into custody by Queensland Police, but no charges were laid.
The AFL needed only hours to conclude the pair’s “intoxicated” night out warranted a 10-game suspension that ends their season and will carry over into the 2021 season.
It got worse for the pair when Richmond responded to the punishment to confirm Stack and Coleman-Jones will be paying the entire $75,000 fine the AFL handed the club on Friday.
Fox Footy reporter Tom Morris first revealed the two players will be paying $37,500 each.
The AFL hit the Tigers with a $100,000 penalty after $25,000 was still hanging over the club as a suspended fine from Brooke Cotchin’s day spa protocol breach last month.
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The Tigers confirmed in a statement that both players will be sent home to Victoria on the first flight out of Queensland.
The club insists the players have been separated from the rest of the players and staff in Queensland since their COVID breach. The club is confident its playing group has not been compromised for the rest of the season.
Here is how the footy world reacted to the incredibly dramatic day.
RICHMOND PLAYER’S STUNNING SOCIAL MEDIA POST
Tigers star Stack appeared to have boasted about his alleged punch-on out the front of a Gold Coast strip club in an extraordinary first message about the scandal.
Stack took to Facebook on Friday afternoon, posting a single-worded message of “whoops”.
In the comments of the post he also appears to have laughed off the controversy, writing: “Should see the other guy”.
The tasteless message comes after furious Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk leaned on the league to send Stack and Coleman-Jones home. That’s exactly what happened.
“AFL players caught breaking COVID rules should be sent home,” she said in a tweet.
“Queensland won’t tolerate it.
“I know the AFL takes these issues seriously and will take appropriate action.”
RICHMOND BOSS ‘DEEPLY ASHAMED’
Richmond has revealed it knew Stack and Coleman-Jones were drinking on Thursday night before they took flight from the club’s Gold Coast isolation hub.
The Tigers said in a statement the two players had been drinking alcohol at a club and AFL-sanctioned event inside the hub before they continued drinking inside their rooms and eventually took off to the notorious nightspot.
Richmond CEO Brendon Gale appeared a broken man when he fronted the media on Friday night.
“Disbelief, anger, bewilderment, all those responses,” he said when asked how he feels about the breaches.
“The players knew the protocols, they’ve been drummed into players consistently, there’s been a number of high profile examples that reinforce the standards that are expected.
“That notwithstanding that they’d choose to act and breach the protocols, I think it’s fair to say probably anger and deep embarrassment to be honest.
“At the end of the day we can’t forget these are young men, young people make mistakes. These are very, very serious mistakes … they’ll learn from it and we’ll need to put our arm around them and help them regain the trust and respect of our football club and the community.”
Herald Sun reporter Sam Landsberger posted on Twitter: “Tigers are deeply ashamed and embarrassed at this year’s incidents and Gale says these two have “disrespected” the AFL community and leadership”.
Gale said in an earlier statement he was incredibly disappointed.
“Richmond – like all Clubs — has a responsibility to the game, and the broader AFL community, to observe the COVID-19 protocols that the AFL has put in place. Clearly Callum and Sydney did not meet that responsibility this week, and we are incredibly disappointed,” Gale said.
“The club can’t ignore the fact that off-field we have got some things wrong in recent months. We need to own that as a club and get better. We all accept that this has been a difficult year, but it is no excuse for some of the mistakes we have made.
“These players made very poor decisions after consuming too much alcohol, choosing to leave the club’s hub in the early hours of Friday morning, and in doing so potentially putting themselves, their teammates and the AFL season at risk.
“Their decision to attend a venue while outside the hub was also completely unacceptable, and in no way aligns with what we stand for as a club. They have let down themselves, teammates, our members and supporters, our partners and the entire AFL industry.
“Yes, young people can make mistakes, but we expect better. There is absolutely no excuse for what took place. We do however recognise we need to support and educate them. They have learned a very hard lesson and we need to help them earn back the trust and respect of the club.
“Both players are extremely remorseful and apologise for their actions. That apology extends to the Queensland Government and Police who have far more significant matters to attend to in these difficult times.
“We are a strong, successful Club and we will work hard to deliver a club that meets community expectations and makes our members and supporters proud.”
AFL General Counsel Andrew Dillon earlier said in a statement: “It is a privilege to be able to continue our competition, and with that privilege comes responsibility. The actions of the players are not only irresponsible but disrespectful to the competition and everyone associated with it.
“There is simply no excuse for this breach. The two players knew the rules and chose to ignore them, putting the safety of everyone at risk.”
“The behaviour of the players is not what we expect, regardless of whether any protocols are in place or not.”
FOOTY WORLD REACTS TO BREACH
Former Collingwood star Dane Swan was among the high profile footy commentators to react to the dramatic news on Friday.
He suggested the biggest hit to Stack and Coleman-Jones will be that they now have to return to Victoria where they will enter Stage 4 lockdown under the state’s coronavirus restrictions.
“The worst part of the punishment is that they have to come home to Dan’s prison. I’d flee if I were them,” he posted on Twitter.
Former Herald Sun footy columnist Ron Reed posted on Twitter that Richmond should have torn up their contracts.
“Fined and suspended? If, in all the circumstances, recent history across the afl, and what’s at stake, this richmond disgrace isn’t a sacking offence, what is,” he wrote.
Sports journalist Adam Curley wrote: “Don’t care about the 10-game suspension, more the 100k fine Richmond cops. How many jobs will that erase in 2021? So many job already gone, 100s more to come. Disgusting behaviour”.
ABC sports presenter Quentin Hull wrote on Twitter: “Dumbfounded by Richmond’s breach of hub protocols. Fines seem insignificant in face of social opinions surrounding the luxuries afforded the AFL. The league should not only send the guilty parties home, but seriously consider stripping premiership points from the guilty club”.
Radio presenter Shane McInnes wrote Richmond should take even further action against the two players.
“10 matches for Stack and Coleman- Jones and sent packing from Queensland. Richmond fined $100,000. Tigers should impose further sanctions to cover the fine. That’s if they even remain at Richmond”.