Some speculated the AFL was stepping on the NRL’s turf by announcing a Queensland grand final but nobody in footy expected the code to go full rugby league.
The AFL copped a major black eye in its most serious COVID-19 breach to date when it was revealed two Richmond stars were involved in a brawl outside a Gold Coast strip club on Friday morning.
T he Courier Mail exclusively revealed Sydney Stack and Callum Coleman-Jones were allegedly evicted from the Hollywood Showgirls gentleman’s club before engaging in a fight just metres from a police station that left them both injured, in an incident that saw the cops fine them $800 each.
It didn’t take long for gags to follow the initial shock, as punters on social media suggested getting in a fight outside a strip club was no longer only the NRL’s domain.
Titus O’Reilly tweeted: “Richmond’s Sydney Stack and Callum Coleman-Jones got in a fight after being evicted from ‘Hollywood Showgirls’. AFL really keen to take on the NRL on and off the field in Queensland.”
Emily Benammar added: “And (NRL boss Peter) V’landys reckons the AFL can’t take on the NRL.”
Plenty of others were quick to jump in with jokes of their own. Australian comedian Anthony Lehmann said on Twitter: “Can’t believe there are strip clubs inside the bubble!!! The AFL have thought of everything.”
Tennis star Sam Groth wrote: “Surely a headline of ‘Richmond players in trouble after dropping Stacks’ is coming.”
Ben Birchall chimed in too, writing: “Victorians need a clear road map for when AFL players will be able to get kicked out of strip clubs.”
Queensland senator Matthew Canavan also stuck the boot in. “Why couldn’t these AFL players just stay inside the Playboy Mansion that QLD taxpayers have reserved for them?” he wrote.
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But there was also a serious side to the reaction. As Victorians endure the harshest lockdown in the country because of coronavirus, there was anger that entitled AFL stars — given the chance to relocate to Queensland so they could continue playing — had insulted everyone else forced to follow strict rules.
Queensland opposition leader Deb Frecklington was seething, and took the chance to score some political points over Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk.
“This is yet another slap in the face for the everyday Australians that have been overlooked by @AnnastaciaMP,” Frecklington wrote on Twitter.
“The Premier rolled out the red carpet for AFL players & their families — we need consistency and compassion, not special deals for sporting stars and celebrities.”
Australian Paralympian Richard Colman tweeted: “When is the @AFL going to get tough on players and teams. Far too many breaches this year when they are crazy lucky to be playing. Time to be sent home!”
Dan Nolan, a reporter for Channel 9’s A Current Affair, added: “Two Richmond players arrested for fighting outside a strip club on the Gold Coast. While their fellow Victorians live under curfew!”
Nine sports reporter Corey Norris wrote: “As it stands, AFL players are allowed to leave their hub to grab a coffee, something to eat, catch a few waves etc.
“But has it got to a stage where they should be contained in their resort unless training or (undergoing) scans. School camp rules, for adults acting like kids.”
Channel 10’s Annie Kearney said: “So many people are making so many sacrifices so the AFL season can go ahead. This idiotic breach of the rules feels like a kick in the guts.”
Stack, from Western Australia, has played nine games for Richmond this season but hasn’t featured since a round 13 clash against Essendon in Darwin on August 22.
Coleman-Jones, a South Australian product, hasn’t played a senior game this season.
Their indiscretion is the last thing the AFL needs after coming in for heavy criticism as league executives, WAGs and media flew from Victoria to Queensland to spend their quarantine period at a luxury Gold Coast resort.
The Queensland government’s decision to welcome the 400 Melbourne-based AFL bigwigs across the border has been met with fury as Premier Palaszczuk is accused of double standards.
The strip club scandal is more awful news for Richmond, who have been dogged by off-field distractions this season. Captain Trent Cotchin’s wife Brooke was caught breaking COVID-19 protocols, then explosive allegations of inappropriate touching between teammates blew up as vision showed unsavoury scenes inside the Tigers’ changeroom.
This latest incident comes after young Sydney Swans star Elijah Taylor was suspended for the season after sneaking his girlfriend into the hub last month.
Richmond responded to the scandalous development involving its players.
“Richmond has become aware of a breach of AFL COVID-19 protocol by two of its players, in the early hours of Friday morning,” the club said in a statement.
“The Club immediately reported the breach of protocols to the AFL, and is working with the League to investigate the matter.
“The players have been based inside the Club’s player hub on the Gold Coast having already undertaken a 14-day quarantine in July. They are not part of the current quarantine hub where AFL officials, players and family members are undertaking the required 14-day quarantine period.
“The Club is not in a position to comment further until the investigation is complete.”