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War brewing over AFL penalty fine print

The AFL has announced Richmond strip club brawlers Sydney Stack and Callum Coleman-Jones have been banned for 10 matches — ending their season. The AFL announced after a lightning investigation on Friday the pair had been found to have breached the league’s strict biosecurity rules in the league’s worst COVID breach to date.The punishment means…

The AFL has announced Richmond strip club brawlers Sydney Stack and Callum Coleman-Jones have been banned for 10 matches — ending their season.

The AFL announced after a lightning investigation on Friday the pair had been found to have breached the league’s strict biosecurity rules in the league’s worst COVID breach to date.

The punishment means Stack and Coleman-Jones have been sent home and will also miss up to five matches at the start of the 2021 season — if Richmond is eliminated early from the 2020 AFL Finals Series.

Both players have been booked on the next flight out of Queensland with Stack returning to Melbourne on Saturday after being kicked out of the state.

The AFL confirmed the punishment in a statement on Friday where the league also announced Richmond has been fined $100,000.

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.

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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Fox Footy reporter Tom Morris first revealed the two players will be paying $37,500 each.

The report identifies that Stack is earning a salary of $110,000 this year after his $158,000 yearly wages as a second-year rookie draft selection were drastically reduced in the COVID agreement between the league and the AFL Players’ Assocation.

It means he will walk away with a salary of $72,500 before tax as a result of the fine.

The significant punishment means the Players’ Association could step in to fight the penalty, according to footy legend Garry Lyon.

“I can’t see any way those players will be paying $37,500,” Lyon told SEN Radio.

“I just can’t see it at all. For them, that’s nearly 70 per cent of their wage.”

Richmond CEO Brendon Gale said the club would address Players’ Association concerns if they eventuate.

“At the end of the day these are mistakes and very serious mistakes, but these are young men and young men mistakes and they aren’t feeling good about themselves right now so we need to put our arm around them and support them and we will,” Gale said.

Morris reported late on Friday Richmond’s move for Stack and Coleman-Jones to pay the fine is not allowed as part of the code of conduct agreement reached between league officials and the AFLPA.

The code reportedly prevents clubs from taking further action against players after the league has already handed down punishments.

The Tigers will rely on having Stack and Coleman-Jones volunteer to pay the fine — but the fine print in the code could see the matter headed for a dispute between the club and AFLPA.

Reporter Jon Ralph told Fox Footy on Friday night the Tigers may be forced to pay the fine out of their own pocket.

“You would have to think a war is going to brew or the Tigers will just have to cop that fine,” Ralph said.

The AFL’s general counsel Andrew Dillon said in an earlier the 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.”

It comes after AFL CEO Gillon McLachlan was forced to fend off attacks about why 400 executives, families and media were allowed to fly from Victoria to Queensland this week, two Richmond players have created headlines the AFL can ill afford.

The Courier Mail exclusively revealed earlier on Friday Stack and Coleman-Jones were involved in a brawl outside a strip club on the Gold Coast on Friday morning around 3.30am.

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.

Police were called to the incident and released the following statement after fining both players $800.

“Police arrested two men following a disturbance in Surfers Paradise early this morning,” the statement said.

“Around 3.30am, officers responded to reports of two men, aged 20 and 21, involved in a physical altercation on Orchid Avenue.

“Both men sustained facial injuries as a result of the incident.

“The men were both issued with a Police Banning Notice, excluding them from Gold Coast Safe Night Precincts and a Penalty Infringement Notice (PIN) for Public Nuisance (Violent Behaviour). Further investigations are continuing into the matter.”

Richmond said it was aware of the breach of AFL COVID-19 protocols by two of its players and immediately reported it to the AFL, which has launched an investigation. Tigers CEO Brendon Gale is reported to be facing the media on Friday evening.

Reports later emerged the brawl erupted after Stack visited a kebab shop near the strip club.

Channel 7’s Tom Browne said on Twitter: “Stack ordered two lots of two kebabs. His card declined and he was quite aware according to the shop owner. Certainly not necessarily drunk according to shop owner.

“It appears from vision a drunk bloke repeatedly sets upon Jones. Stack diffuses and attempts to contain the fight. Tigers pair didn’t physically start it.

“According to the shop owner, Stack asked ‘for one of his famous kebabs’. His eftpos didn’t work. So transferred the money. The two kebabs were ruined in the scuffle. So the Tigers pair ordered two more post the fight.”

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.

The Tigers last played against Fremantle on Wednesday night, winning by 27 points to move into the top four.

Despite not playing, both Stack and Coleman-Jones are required to remain inside their team’s isolation bubble.

Players and coaches are forbidden from attending bars and restaurants under strict COVID-19 protocols.

The Herald Sun reports the $100,000 penalty will have to be included in Richmond’s football department cap for the 2021 season. It has led to speculation the club may be forced to terminate the employment of one of its employees as a result of the expected fine.

Veteran AFL assistant coach and scout Rob Harding posted on Twitter: “Feel for the Richmond football staff members who are about to lose their jobs because the covid rules breach fine comes out of the soft cap”.

Stack missed last year’s successful finals campaign after injuring his ankle late in the season. Coleman-Jones played the one and only game of his AFL career to date in round 10 last year.

Sydney youngster Elijah Taylor was rubbed out for the rest of 2020 after sneaking his girlfriend into the Swans hub in Perth earlier this month.

Most of the AFL’s 18 clubs have broken COVID rules at least once this season.

It comes after the Queensland government’s decision to welcome 400 Melbourne-based AFL bigwigs across the border was met with fury.

Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk was accused of double standards after a brain tumour patient’s application for quarantine exemption was rejected twice by the government, despite it welcoming the sporting officials to cross the border.

But McLachlan said footy executives, WAGs and media who flew from Victoria to Queensland are “doing this quarantine the same as everyone else”.

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