North Melbourne’s Luke McDonald has caused controversy in the AFL after appearing to mock Conor McKenna over his coronavirus scare.
On Saturday night, Essendon star McKenna was playing his first game since contracting the virus last month.
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He was forced to sit out two games despite returning a negative test just two days after testing positive.
In his first appearance since the scare, the dashing halfback picking up 18 touches as Essendon recorded a scrappy 9.13 (67) to 7.11 (53) win over the Kangaroos.
However he was also at the centre of controversial scenes at the quarter-time break when he was involved in a scuffle with McDonald.
Numerous players came together in a massive shoving match after the siren, with McKenna and McDonald exchanging words.
However McDonald was also caught on camera appearing to make fun of McKenna’s coronavirus scare, covering his mouth and nose and turning away as his opponent got close to his face.
Luke McDonald covered his face in front of Conor McKenna 😷 pic.twitter.com/6oZvvHZDbB
— 7AFL (@7AFL) July 11, 2020
Uproar over Luke McDonald’s ‘virus sledge’
McKenna’s former teammate Brendon Goddard was less than impressed with McDonald’s actions.
“Is he trying to sledge a bloke for potentially testing positive for a virus?” Goddard said on ABC Grandstand.
“It’s a bit of a dig at Luke and questioning his intelligence, but it’s kind of stupid in my opinion.
“I always thought good sledge was one with a little bit of wit, but to pot a bloke about potentially having a virus … in today’s climate?”
Former Port Adelaide star Kane Cornes said McDonald’s actions were “not a good look” and said he felt “uneasy” watching it.
“I don’t expect a sanction, but I’d be a little bit embarrassed if I was Luke McDonald watching that vision back,” Cornes told AFL Media’s The Round So Far.
“I think just a ‘please explain’ (to the AFL is needed). I don’t think it’s worthy of a sanction, but it’s more the embarrassment of that being shown on shows like ours and across the weekend through no fault of Conor McKenna’s, really, that he’s contracted one of the most contagious viruses the world’s ever seen.”
Fans on social media were also fuming.
Probably poor areas to sledge someone about a virus that’s killed half a million people.
— Luke D'Anello (@LukeDAnello) July 11, 2020
— John Curtin (@johncurtin) July 11, 2020
Pathetic. Too bad you lost McDonald. Weak.
— Vince Taskunas (@VinceTaskunas) July 11, 2020
Absolute dog act. Half a million people dead. Your home state is suffering.
Luke McDonald: https://t.co/ZLraBltxGP
— Bad MOTIV-19 (@Bad_motivator) July 11, 2020
— Supercoach (YEAH NA CHEERS) (@NaCheers) July 11, 2020
Not great to see Luke McDonald's treatment of Conor McKenna at half time. Covering his face. Should apologise not only to Conor, but to anyone who has/ had Coronavirus themselves or has lost someone to it!
— HC (@heyuovathere) July 11, 2020
McKenna and Essendon get the last laugh
Essendon moved into the AFL's top four after the hard-fought 14-point win on the Gold Coast.
The Bombers, who were guilty of blowing several scoring opportunities throughout the match, kicked clear in the second half to move to 4-1.
It means John Worsfold's team are fourth on the ladder with a game in hand.
“We knew it was gonna be contested game,” Worsfold said.
“It's a big part of the way North Melbourne play and in the end we matched them in that area.
“Probably weren't as clean as we would have liked to have been outside ... we left a few opportunities out there, but really pleased to come away with a solid win.”
The Kangaroos, who started the year 2-0, are now 2-4 after four straight defeats and in desperate need of a win.
David Zaharakis kicked three goals for the Bombers and picked up 19 disposals in an all-action display while Kyle Langford had two majors including an important effort after the first quarter siren.
Andrew McGrath had a game-high 25 disposals while Devon Smith (23 possessions) was also heavily involved.
The Kangaroos have now lost their past five against Essendon and also have injury worries with Jed Anderson (quad) joining Ben Cunnington (back) and Jack Ziebell (hamstring) on the sidelines after being ruled out pre-game.