AFL great Sam Newman says there’s been an over-reaction to the “groping” scandal that rocked footy during the week, suggesting the players involved were all OK with the behaviour.
The former Footy Show panellist voiced his opinion as ex-Australian netball captain turned Channel 9 TV personality Liz Ellis raised her issues with the matter.
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Richmond coach Damien Hardwick also addressed the incidents before and after his side’s 21-point loss to Port Adelaide on Saturday night.
The pair have apologised after the vision allegedly showed Vlaustin putting his finger up the anus of Chol on the outside of his shorts. It was alleged the footage also showed Vlaustin grabbing the genitals of Chol three times.
The AFL was furious with the behaviour, releasing a statement on Saturday condemning the players’ “inappropriate, unacceptable and juvenile” actions.
But Geelong legend Newman doesn’t see the problem.
“Grabbing someone on the crotch in the rooms after a victory, is hardly being ‘groped’,” Newman wrote on Twitter. “Just means the lads in question get on extremely well with one another — or they wouldn’t have done it. Stop with the cow-eyes.”
Replying to other tweets, Newman added: “Don’t think anyone was offended here.
“The players involved were obviously relaxed about the stupidity. RFC are just window dressing.
“Don’t think anyone was ‘harassed’, except by the fawning media.”
When a social media user suggested Chol was “protecting his manhood” while singing the team song, Newman replied: “Mr Chol was obviously wary of the playful antics he was about to receive. Does it warrant such vacuous comment. Give me a break.”
Chol said he has “no issue whatsoever with those players, or any of my teammates” but understands “that is not the sort of example we should be setting”.
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ELLIS: BEHAVIOUR RAISES DEEPER QUESTIONS
Speaking on Channel 9’s Sports Sunday program, Ellis said there are deeper issues at play other than a simple “boys will be boys” mentality.
“I’m pleased to hear that the leadership team has got on top of this but the thing that bothers me about this is these sorts of situations … they’re not about sex, they’re often about power,” Ellis said.
“You look at Mabior Chol, he’s a junior player in that team. What is it saying about the power balance within that team?
“You can’t get away from the fact that in this case it’s a couple of white men doing something to a black man. So it brings in that racial aspect of things.
“There’s a racial element to this and I don’t know if that has been appropriately addressed.”
Former AFL player Tony Armstrong said he sympathised with the players because they weren’t trying to do the wrong thing, but was strong in saying that type of behaviour needs to be stamped out.
“Obviously it’s such a bad look and it’s juvenile, it sets the wrong example,” Armstrong said on ABC’s Offsiders. “It’s not good and we need to get rid of it out of the game.
“They (the players) would just be trying to make their teammate feel awkward in front of the camera. They are just trying to, I think, have a laugh.”
TIGERS COACH SPEAKS OUT
Richmond cut Damien Hardwick’s press conference short during the week when Channel 10 journalist Hugh Riminton questioned him about the changeroom incidents, but the coach was more open about his club’s issue before and after the game against Port Adelaide.
Speaking to Fox Footy ahead of the opening bounce, Hardwick said the club had actually addressed the matter internally before it was raised publicly.
“We admit it’s not a great look for the game. We were disappointed, and the fact of the matter is we spoke about it two days earlier, so we thought we’d nipped it in the bud,” Hardwick said.
“We condemn the behaviour obviously but support the individual — it’s all about education from our point of view and it’s in the eye of the beholder. We’ll continue to educate our players and continue to learn from it.
“We don’t think it’s overblown. The reality is, it’s a situation that doesn’t look great, we understand it.
“We’re here to set an example and we dealt with it a couple of days ago as we spoke about. Our players fully understand it shouldn’t happen and it won’t happen again.
“It’s all an educational piece now, it’s something that’s prevalent in society and we need to make sure we set a really good example.”
The Tigers coach was asked about it again in his post-match press conference, and said he never contemplated standing down the players involved.
“We’ve dealt with that, we’ve moved on,” Hardwick said. “It’s more about education. At the end of the day the guys made a mistake. They’re incredibly apologetic about it.
“Mabior took no offence to it. It doesn’t make the action right, we understand that. Our players won’t do it again.
“We had some conversations about it. The look for people is really poor, the action is poor and we’ll learn from it.
“Most importantly, hopefully others learn from it too.”
AFL’S FULL STATEMENT
“The actions of players touching several teammates inappropriately during post game celebrations and/or during club theme songs is not in keeping with either club, community or AFL expectations.
“The behaviour is inappropriate, unacceptable and juvenile. AFL players are professional athletes and set the example for the hundreds of thousands of kids playing football across the country.
“It is the responsibility of each club and the players themselves to ensure this inappropriate behaviour is not repeated.”