Eddie McGuire and Caroline Wilson has clashed on-air over whether Lachie Hunter should have faced the media to answer questions about his drink-driving charge.
The Western Bulldogs on Tuesday announced punishments for the premiership midfielder's actions, with Hunter suspended for four games and fined $5000.
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The 25-year-old also relinquished the vice-captaincy, but he almost certainly would have been stripped of the leadership role even if he didn't do so voluntarily.
Bulldogs chief executive Ameet Bains said the club contemplated putting Hunter in front of the media, but decided against it because of COVID-19 restrictions and legal matters surrounding the incident.
Hunter instead issued a statement via a pre-recorded video.
“I'd like to express my deepest apologies and regret for my actions last Thursday night,” Hunter said on Tuesday.
“I'm here to take full responsibility for what I did and the damages that I caused.”
Eddie McGuire and Caroline Wilson clash
Discussing the scandal on Footy Classified on Wednesday night, veteran journalist Wilson said Hunter should have fronted up and been made to answer questions from the media.
However McGuire strongly disagreed, saying the media only wanted to see Hunter in tears.
Former Fremantle and St Kilda coach Ross Lyon also disagreed, pointing to the potential impacts on Hunter’s mental health that facing the media would have brought.
Here’s how the discussion went down:
Wilson: In America this has been going for 20 years, putting players up with big stories. Clubs have made players come up when they are in trouble with the police, it’s completely different.
Lyon: We talk about mental health enough, what he’s been through and what he’s dealing with as a young man is not insignificant, so I think for him to get up, the stress and the pressure and the embarrassment, it’s huge. To then submit him to a media pack who comes in, I think beyond.
Wilson: I understand that, but too often clubs hide behind...
McGuire: Caro, you’ve made your point. My point is this, in that situation with Lachie Hunter. People who have not been on the front page of the paper under enormous attack don’t understand what it means to you and his family. His sisters were being door stopped coming out of the house, all that sort of stuff. The media want him to do a press conference so they can browbeat him and he cries. That’s what they want.
Wilson: Your modus operandi is to make them cry? Mine isn’t.
McGuire: You don’t watch A Current Affair? All these stories. That’s exactly what it is. Caro, c'mon. You kick people to death when you get the chance.
Wilson: No, we do some wonderful things and sit down interviews with people.
McGuire: He’s a kid who is under enormous pressure, he has done everything right at this stage. It’s like when you apologies, ‘oh he didn’t apologise enough, he didn’t apologise the day before’ and this and that, You’re on a hiding to nothing. He gave his grab, that’s all he needed to say, move on.
Wilson: You’re arguing against yourself, I’m not saying they did the wrong thing in that instance, I’m saying it’s a classic example.
McGuire: It’s a big different to an after match. The media should be able to.
Wilson: Players will be more resilient when it becomes the normal to speak to media.
McGuire: You and I had a breakfast at Collingwood one year when I first came back from Channel 9 and I said to you at the time ‘Caro, If the media doesn’t get a better balance on this sort of stuff, there will be no media because football clubs will do their own media and have their own media departments’.
Wilson: And I left the breakfast and was so disgusted.
McGuire: I was right, because every football club has a bigger media department now than just any other thing.
Wilson: We’re still breaking stories in newspapers and Footy Classified.
McGuire: I’m not worried about that, but the point is clubs have now realised we can do it ourselves and talk to our own members without having to go through media.
Wilson: That is completely wrong.
Lyon: Caroline, this isn’t a classic case of hiding him from the media. I think this is a real welfare and wellbeing moment for Lachie Hunter.
Wilson: That was me just showing an example. I’m not bagging the Bulldogs on that instance, but I am saying that this happens all the time and it’s not always a mental health and police situation.
Lyon: But this is.
McGuire: I’m saying it works both ways and I've been on both sides of the fence, so I can tell you it worked both ways.
Bulldogs defend handling of Hunter incident
Bains said the investigation by the board and club management, which took more than four days, was appropriate.
“I think we needed to make certain that we had all of the correct information - they were a complex set of circumstances involving three of our players,” he told SEN.
“We bristle at suggestions that it took too long and we dragged our feet.
“There was clearly a lot of media interest in wanting a resolution.
“There's nothing else (with the AFL season suspended) to talk about in a meaningful way so that heightens (the story).
“It was critical to work through the situation thoroughly, establish all of the facts and take our time in determining what the appropriate response was.”
Hunter allegedly crashed into four parked cars in Middle Park at about 8.45pm on Thursday.
Fellow Bulldog Bailey Smith - whose girlfriend's family owned two of the damaged vehicles - then drove Hunter to teammate Billy Gowers' apartment in South Yarra, where police located him.
Hunter recorded a blood alcohol reading of 0.123 and will be charged on summons with drink driving and other traffic matters.
He and Smith received fines from police for breaching COVID-19 restrictions, while Gowers was given a warning.
"You're on a hiding to nothing"
Eddie and Caro have gone head-to-head over Lachie Hunter's video message, and whether the lack of openness to the media was appropriate.#9FootyClassified | Watch @channel9 pic.twitter.com/4DB5Eb8neq
— Footy on Nine (@FootyonNine) April 22, 2020