A report has emerged that four Port Adelaide players – Zak Butters, Mitch Georgiades, Ollie Lord and Dylan Williams – were photographed without their masks at the trials for the Olympic swimming team in South Australia.
This is against the rules imposed for attending that event, one of which states that all attendees must wear masks at all times, unless they are eating or drinking, which the Port players were not.
This is not the first breach of its kind – Western Bulldogs players Lachie Hunter and Bailey Smith were fined for breaching Melbourne’s stay at home restrictions in April of last year.
Later that month, Fremantle players Luke Ryan and Jason Carter were fined for attending a party in Perth. In May last year, 16 Crows were handed suspended one-match bans for training in a larger group than allowed.
In June, seven players from four separate clubs were banned for one or multiple matches as a result of breaching restrictions.
In July, Richmond, Carlton and North Melbourne were fined $45,000 for restriction breaches. Hawthorn were fined $50,000.
In August, Collingwood and Sydney were each fined $50,000 for breaches. In September, Melbourne were fined $50,000 for a breach, and Richmond were fined $75,000 for a second breach.
I think you get the picture – this issue has been around for a while, and it doesn’t look like it will stop occurring. The Port breach is the second this month.
Multiple clubs have copped big financial whacks for their respective breaches, and multiple players have been suspended.
But for some reason, it’s not enough to stop players and officials breaching government-imposed restrictions and putting members of the public at risk through irresponsible and stupid actions.
AFL players are no better than the rest of us, and the AFL needs to go a step further with punishment of these players and their clubs.
It appears to me that the best way to prevent further incidences occurring is to add, in addition to the current fines and player suspensions, a deduction of premiership points from the club involved.
Four points, or one win’s worth, for a minor first offence, eight for a second offence, and so on.
For major offences, eight for a first offence and 16 for a second.
If a breach occurs during finals, the team is eliminated from them. If it occurs during the off-season, the team begins the next season on negative points.
It’s as simple as that.
This should work because clubs appear to view their ladder position as more important than almost anything else – the players devote their lives to training so that their club can rise up the ranks and hopefully hold up the premiership cup on grand final day.
The potential wrath of supporters if their team misses out on finals because of a COVID breach and punishment should not stop the AFL from imposing greater restrictions to stop its players, who are some of the most widely looked up to people in Australia, from setting a terrible example and breaking rules that everyone else is expected to follow.
The restrictions I have suggested seem the most logical course, and should be implemented as soon as possible.
While none of the breaches so far have led to outbreaks, the risk that one could is too great for the AFL to just let these breaches continue to occur.
It is the responsibility of the league, the clubs, the coaches and the players to do better.