Gaps in information regarding Adelaide’s recent disruption to training and the willingness of AFL players to adhere to physical distancing have sparked heated debate among many of the AFL’s top players.
Adelaide’s assistant coach Ben Hart was sacked for six weeks and 16 Crows players were suspended from a game on Monday. They have been found to have violated AFL coronavirus training protocols when players, in larger groups, near the end of a two-hour session at a golf course in the Barossa Valley.
The group had been authorized to train in pairs, as stipulated in the AFL coronavirus protocols, but players were found formed in two groups of eight.
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An AFL investigation found that the breach was accidental and that the Crows were not looking for a competitive advantage when they trained together. But the Crows seem lucky because the sanctions were imposed before the AFL tightened its training rules, as restrictions on coronaviruses were relaxed in Australia.
The training session provoked several tense discussions during the Monday evening edition of Fox Footy Live. Here are the full transcripts.
“THEY ALL GOT BRAINS”
St Kilda legend Nick Riewoldt said the Crows session could have been “completely inadvertent”, hence the “light punishment” inflicted on the players.
But former Melbourne captain Garry Lyon questioned Riewoldt’s position, considering how much the biosecurity measures have been discussed and covered.
Nick Riewoldt: How could it have happened? We are more recently out of the game – it could have been completely inadvertent and it would have to be assumed that this is how they ended up on what is considered a “light punishment” …
Gerard Healy: But that’s why you’d like to see the evidence.
NR: It’s true, but …
Garry Lyon: Explain this to me, “Roo”. I am fully aware of how this is “inadvertently”.
NR: Well because when you get a group of players – well, suppose …
GL: They all have their brains, read the newspapers and understand the debate that has been going on for 45 days.
NR: Oh, you really think every player understands the debate, don’t you?
GL: Well, it’s up to them, right? Isn’t this the world we live in today? It is up to the players to understand the rules that govern us.
NR: Yes, but we know it’s realistic for some people, not for everyone.
GL: No! It depends on your responsibility as a player. Understand the rules.
NR: But you know that this is not how soccer clubs work.
GL: He’s not one of those little obscures…
NR: I understand that, I understand that …
GL:… It’s on the front page of the newspaper and at the top of the news for 45 days.
NR: But there are 16 players who are in a training session, you come to the end of the session, someone kicks through then you end up with a kick kick with eight guys …
GL: You think it was like that, don’t you?
NR: That’s how we were told it was. This is exactly how we were told it was.
“NO, WE DO NOT DO THIS”
Fox Footy Live panelist Jonathan Brown said that if the Crows were serious about gaining a competitive advantage, they would have gathered more senior players and trained further than Barossa Valley.
“The Adelaide Crows certainly wouldn’t be so stupid trying to send 16 players away and get away with training sessions at the sight of players playing golf on an adjacent golf course who can actually see them “said triple Prime Minister Lion.
“If they try to gain a competitive advantage, they would send their senior guys … I know they weren’t locked out, but that’s it. I think if they tried to do something deliberately against the rules, you would send them to the middle of nowhere, where no one can see you. ”
This prompted Riewoldt to ask Lyon if it was “deliberate and systematic cheating”.
GL: Well, I don’t think it was that they did it all in a pound in two, and then in the end they sat there and kicked. No, I don’t think it’s true.
NR: You didn’t think it was more sinister than that?
GL: Well, it was an exercise at the end of the training that involved more than two people – that everyone in Australia, 90-year-old women call and say “I know the rules” on the number of people supposed to be together.
NR: It is a big risk to take for a doubtful rise.
GL: Hey, and Kyle Hartigan… OK so we are told that they are all young children, so it’s fair enough that I understand. (But) Kyle Hartigan, Tom Doedee – he’s in the management group – Elliott Himmelberg has been there for a while and has played senior football, Lachie Murphy has played senior football enough. Hell, they would watch Ben Hart say “I’m really sorry buddy, give me two of your weeks”. It’s leadership, standing up and going “hey”. Whether it’s a kick or a kick – “No, we don’t do that”.
“DO NOT INTERRUPT, MATE!”
Brown and Lyon then clashed insolently on the specifics of the sanctions.
JB: I am not surprised that they did not impose a fine on the clubs. In these difficult financial times that we are going through right now, I am not surprised that they did not impose fines on them. The players? I’m glad they let go. What did you want Gas? You seem excited about it … you are not satisfied with the sanctions.
NR: You think they cheated, that it was deliberate …
GL: Hey, don’t put words in my mouth, you two guys who have been out of the game for three minutes who only tick the players and think they just made a mistake. They should have looked at a draft – that’s what they should have done.
JB: For reckless recklessness? We have seen in society …
GL: For breaking a rule that put the competition in doubt, Jonathan – questioned the restarting of the competition, the very thing in which we will cap…
JB: I think …
GL:… Ah ah ah, don’t interrupt me, man…
JB: You interrupted me at the start!
GL:… cap in hand to the government for the past two weeks saying: “We are great citizens, you can trust our players, we need exemptions that I know to fly, but please, our AFL boys will do the right thing. you know what? Ninety-eight percent, 95% of them did – or did – with the exception of these knuckles which …
NR: And we don’t tolerate it. I agree with you that it is stupid, but all I am saying is that this is how it would have transpired in my mind. I don’t think it was deliberate cheating. I think you are entering the session, the boys are standing, they have not seen anyone for a while, they are excited, they get carried away and suddenly it turns into something that shouldn’t. “
“YOU CONFIGURE YOURSELF FOR FAILURE”
Brownlow medalist Gerard Healy said AFL boss Gillon McLachlan could have had an incoming and outgoing flight model on the line for the start of the season in Adelaide on the same day as the Crows violation occurred, suggesting that there could be “broad-reaching ramifications”.
But Riewoldt said it could be just “an excuse”, which led to this conversation …
NR: If you are looking for absolute confidence in all areas, the competitors and the footballers, you are not hiding anything, because you will never get it, because it is almost impossible. We have seen it time and time again in all sports, all codes. Something will happen, players …
GL: So how much are you allowed to contravene? What would be your …
NR: Well, that’s what I’m saying. If you are looking for absolute confidence and almost a guarantee, this is not feasible.
GL: So we can’t trust the players to do the right thing?
NR: Ultimately, if you want a full buy-in and zero tolerance, you are preparing for failure.
GH: Do you think that the game group as a whole would understand the importance of absolute adherence to what are going to be really strict parameters on which they will play?
NR: I think there is absolutely a level of naivety. We are talking about a wide range of demographics, we are talking about 18 to 30 years old, so you have a variable level of maturity, you have a variable level of understanding of the gravity of the situation. So of course, some players will be more naive than others.
GL: These are full time professional footballers who are paid very dearly and you tell us that they will not inform themselves since they cannot put a competition like this at risk?
NR: I say that you absolutely have a variable level of professionalism, with a certain naivety, through the play group.
GL: I agree with that…
NR:… that’s exactly what I’m saying.
GL: But it’s not like a rule that the club has established. It was an Australian-wide pandemic that dominated …
NR: I understand that … I say that not everyone understands it.
GL: OK, I accept, I’m a little stunned by this … I agree with you in general, but in this situation, I’m a bit stunned. What about their managers? They are removing a clip from these players, they should be in constant touch with their playgroup and say, “Okay, are you really sure about that?” And make sure they are opposite. I’m sure the clubs did it – I know the AFL did it – so they have personal responsibility and part of this group around them is their manager, so what did they do?
NR: It sounds good in theory, but I don’t think it’s realistic.
JB: I guarantee you, Gaz, that there would be enough players out of the 800, who would have trained in more than two. I absolutely guarantee it…
GL: What do you say then? Are they trying to cheat?
JB: They’re not deliberately trying to cheat. They would have gone out, it would have been a reckless thing and it turns into …
GL: OK, so they are a law for themselves?
JB: They are not. They left and made a mistake, I don’t think they would have started at the start of the session and said, “Okay, what we’re going to do at the end of the session is that we let’s go to enter a group of eight … “
GL: Wait, did you say there were others who did?
JB: Absolutely, man.