Tigers break silence after Gold Coast brawl
Suspended Tiger Sydney Stack has broken his silence after been booted out of Queensland in disgrace.
Stack and teammate Callum Coleman-Jones were each handed 10 match bans on Friday and the club whacked with a $100,000 fine after the duo's brazen night out at a Gold Coast strip club.
Stack posted the following statement on Instagram on Saturday afternoon.
"Hello everyone. I just want to take the opportunity to apologise for the mistake I made. I'm very sorry, understand the seriousness of it and can do nothing now but own the consequences.
"I've let down the AFL, the club I love, my teammates, coaches and staff, (its) members, and the Tiger Army. I also have let down my family, my friends, and all of those who have helped me along the way. To those who are supporting me at the moment, a huge thanks. I only hope going forward I can rebuild trust in me again."
The Tigers are now only one more COVID breach away from losing premiership points and draft picks.
In a similar statement, Coleman-Jones said he wanted to win back the respect of "everyone".
"I would like to take the opportunity to apologise to everyone that I have affected with my actions," he posted on Instagram.
"I take full responsibility for what I have done and am extremely remorseful.
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"I've let a lot of people down including the football club, the AFL, the Queensland Government, my friends and family and all the supporters/Tiger Army and the wider community.
"I realise what I did was selfish and had the potential to jeopardise the continuation of the competition being played in Queensland.
"I fully accept the consequences that have been handed to me. I'm not going to let this incident define me and will work towards earning the trust and respect of everyone back, however long it takes."
Richmond chief executive Brendon Gale admitted to the club's failings in the Gold Coast hub.
"These players made very poor decisions after consuming too much alcohol, choosing to leave the club's hub in the early hours of Friday morning, and in doing so potentially putting themselves, their teammates and the AFL season at risk," Gale said.
Stack and Coleman-Jones broke strict AFL COVID protocols by venturing out in an Uber to the notorious Cavill Ave nightclub strip in search of food.
The Tigers are set to be forced into an embarrassing backflip when the AFLPA said they could not fine the players because they had already been punished by the AFL.
Richmond CEO Brendon Gale said the club wanted to fine the players $37,500 each, given the blatant nature of the penalty.
But the AFLPA made clear it was not only above the maximum fine of $5000, it was illegal under the AFL's code of conduct because they had already been handed a set penalty of 10 weeks suspension.
Gale admitted they Tigers might not be able to enforce the fines.
"Look, I'm not sure, the (AFLPA) might (oppose it)," he said.
"We'll cross that bridge if we come to it."
AFLPA Legal and Player Affairs general manager James Gallagher said: "Under the code of conduct agreed between the AFL and the AFLPA, when the AFL sanctions a player for a breach of AFL rules, a club cannot also impose a sanction on the player".
The Tigers had a nine-day break and had been celebrating the birthdays of teammates Jack Ross (20) and Ben Miller (21) birthdays inside the Richmond hub.
The use of an Uber was the pair's first breach of the AFL's rules.
The second breach was spending time in a strip club - a non-approved venue in Queensland under AFL COVID protocols.
CCTV vision showed Stack and Coleman-Jones sitting on a bench outside a kebab shop, near the Hollywood Showgirls strip joint, when Coleman-Jones was accosted by a drunken bystander, starting an altercation.
The incident happened just metres from a police station.
Stack was detained briefly at 3.30am on Friday. This was the third rule breach.
A Richmond statement said Coleman-Jones had been taken to hospital with a facial injury, while Stack also suffered a facial injury.
The pair will pay $75,000 of the $100,000 fine, while Richmond will pay $25,000 - a figure that had been suspended from Brooke Cotchin's COVID breach last month.
The $100,000 figure will also be forced into the club's 2021 football department cap, meaning the club will have less money to pay its off-field staff such as assistant coaches.
Essendon champion Matthew Lloyd said on Friday it was unfair that the penalty hurt staff under the 2021 football department cap when it was the players' fault.
Gale admitted the Tigers had to be better after again putting the competition at risk.
"Richmond - like all clubs - has a responsibility to the game, and the broader AFL community, to observe the COVID-19 protocols that the AFL has put in place," Gale said.
"Clearly Callum and Sydney did not meet that responsibility this week, and we are incredibly disappointed.
"The club can't ignore the fact that off-field we have got some things wrong in recent months. We need to own that as a club and get better.
"We all accept that this has been a difficult year, but it is no excuse for some of the mistakes we have made."
It is the second offence involving the premiership favourites after skipper Trent Cotchin's wife left the hub to visit a day spa last month.
Coleman-Jones and Stack are in isolation and expected to be flown out of Queensland on Saturday.
The kebab shop catastrophe comes amid a storm of criticism over the special treatment and "double standards" given to AFL clubs and officials by the Queensland Government over border security.
About 400 AFL officials and industry stakeholders are serving a 14-day quarantine stint at the 4.5 star Mercure Gold Coast Resort in Carrara ahead of next month's finals series.
AFL General Counsel Andrew Dillon said the AFL's protocols were "the competition's license to play and any breach would be held into account".
"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." Dillon said.
"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."
AFL integrity unit officials interviewed the players on Friday afternoon before Dillon imposed the sanctions.
Gold Coast Chief Superintendent Mark Wheeler said the players had been fined $800 each.
"We took action at the time because of a physical altercation outside Hollywood Showgirls," he said.
"The matter is still under investigation."
The Tigers have the bye this weekend and are able to COVID-test any players before they train and play again against Geelong on Friday.
STACK SHATTERED: MANAGER
Sydney Stack's manager Paul Peos has told the Herald Sun his client was shattered by his strip club transgression after putting the entire competition at risk.
Stack has been told he will be thrown out of Queensland on Saturday and will be unable to get a flight back to his home state of Western Australia given its hard-line border stance.
Peos said Stack, who missed last year's premiership after a late-season ankle injury, would do it hard given he at times lacked direction without football in his life.
But he said he would need to stand on his own two feet with Richmond's entire football staff in Queensland.
"He is shattered. I think they are both suffering pretty heavily but there are no mitigating circumstances. They have to cop the consequences.
"Clearly he understands the risk he put on the club and everyone else and that's not good.
"He has put more than (a premiership in jeopardy, it's the competition). He will be missing the balance of the year of footy and that's about the only thing that keeps him going.
"We can't get him (to Perth), they want him out of there straight away. He hasn't got that option, it takes a few weeks processing to get into WA. It's going to be pretty difficult for people to put their arms around him. It's just not the environment to be able to do that. He is going to have to stand on his own two feet and wear the consequences."
Stack is contracted for the 2021 season and could return as early as Round 5 if Richmond plays four finals this season.
Originally published as Tigers break silence after Gold Coast brawl