Richmond players Sydney Stack and Callum Coleman-Jones have issued apologies after being sent home from Queensland and banned for 10 AFL matches for breaching the league’s COVID-19 protocols.
- Sydney Stack and Callum Coleman-Jones breached COVID rules in QLD
- The pair was later involved in a fight, and suspended from the AFL
- Richmond was fined $100,000, with the two players responsible for a portion
The apologies came after Stack’s manager declared his client should not have to pay a portion of the fine handed to Richmond by the AFL for the protocol breach on the Gold Coast.
The AFL handed down the sanctions to Stack and Coleman-Jones, and fined Richmond $100,000 on Friday after the players breached the protocols by taking an Uber to Surfers Paradise, and attending a strip club.
The pair were then involved in a fight, and were detained and later released by police.
Stack took to Instagram on Saturday afternoon to apologise for his behaviour.
“I’m very sorry, understand the seriousness of it and can do nothing now but own the consequences,” Stack wrote on Instagram.
“I’ve let down the afl (sic), the club I love, my team mates, coaches and staff, it’s (sic) members and the tiger army.
“To those who are supporting me at the moment, a huge thanks. I only hope going forward I can rebuild trust in me again.”
Coleman-Jones also apologised via social media, expressing his remorse for his involvement in the incident and saying he took “full responsibility” for his actions.
“I fully accept the consequences that have been handed to me,” he wrote on Instagram.
“I’m not going to let the incident define me and will work towards earning the trust and respect of everyone back, however long it takes.”
Stack’s manager, former West Coast and Brisbane Bears player Paul Peos, said his client should not be responsible for paying the massive fine handed to the club.
On Friday, Richmond announced the two players would be responsible for paying their portion of the fine, which is $75,000.
The club said it would pay the other $25,000, which stemmed from a previous breach by the wife of captain Trent Cotchin when she attended a day spa.
“It is our intention that the players will pay the fine,” Tigers CEO Brendan Gale told ABC Grandstand on Friday.
“From my point of view it’s been a mixture of anger, embarrassment, bewilderment. I know these actions are inconsistent with that we stand for as a club and the culture we’ve built on and off the field. We’ve lost a bit of respect and that hurts.
“The actions over the past 24 hours have been inconsistent with that culture.
“We knew and understood (the protocols), we’ve had them reinforced. And yet, these guys acted in a way that’s so disrespectful.”
Peos said the protocols agreed to during the COVID shutdown were clear in not making the player responsible for fines levied due to breaches.
“It’s pretty clear the player is not responsible in relation for the fines part of it, on the basis they accept whatever sanctions are set down to them,” he told ABC Radio Perth’s Sports Talk program.
“I’m sure the Player’s Association, Richmond and the AFL will be able to work through that part of it.
Fear for player’s future
Stack has returned to Melbourne, but work is under way to get the Perth Demons product back to Western Australia.
Peos said Stack had little support in Victoria.
“Victoria’s restricted and locked down anyway, so no-one really is on hand to receive or support Syd at all, which is why we had a fair bit to do to try and get him close to a family member when he landed,” Peos said.
“Our immediate concern is the lack of structure and support.
“Sydney’s had a history of when he’s been in a football environment he’s been pretty committed to doing all that’s required.
“He himself admitted the lockdown period was very difficult for him to maintain that level of diligence in terms of preparation.”
Peos admitted his client’s future at Richmond was unclear, with list sizes to be reduced for next season.
Penalties could increase, AFL says
Speaking on ABC Grandstand, the AFL’s football operations boss, Steve Hocking, said clubs had to be aware of the consequences of their actions and that the deduction of competition points was a possibility in the future.
“There’s escalation points, it’s quite clear [the sanctions] have landed where they have landed over the last 24 hours after we established what had gone on, and all of those things are potential escalation points in the future,” he said.
“For us to deliver the competition, we’ve been very lucky to have a strong relationship with the Queensland Government.
“We’ve signed up to a standard, across the whole comp, every club has been involved in the design and creation of those protocols and club-wide it’s up to all of us to live to those standards,
“And you’ll always have a percentage … who make a mistake, a slip up, or make a decision where they step outside those restrictions.”