'$500m season in jeopardy': Disbelief over AFL virus breaches

Sam Goodwin
Sports Editor
Steele Sidebottom in action for Collingwood in Round 2 of the AFL season. (Photo by Robert Cianflone/Getty Images)

The AFL world is in disbelief after Collingwood star Steele Sidebottom was caught in multiple breaches of the league’s strict coronavirus protocols.

The All-Australian midfielder and teammate Lynden Dunn shared an Uber ride on Saturday evening and Sidebottom later visited a member of the club's staff who is not living under the competition's protocols.

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Both players have been interviewed by the AFL's integrity unit, which is expected to complete its investigation on Wednesday, and are facing likely suspension.

“The breaches were reported to the AFL on Sunday afternoon,” the Magpies said in a statement released on Tuesday evening.

“The players were interviewed by the AFL yesterday (Monday). Sidebottom and Dunn will not be permitted to return to the Holden Centre until cleared to do so by COVID-19 testing.”

In a further twist, 7News is reporting Sidebottom was actually driven home by police on Sunday morning, however he wasn’t charged with an offence.

Mark Robinson slams Sidebottom’s ‘$500m’ threat

Veteran journo Mark Robinson has led the condemnation, saying Sidebottom had put the AFL’s $500 million season at risk “for a few beers.”

“Steele Sidebottom potentially put in jeopardy this $500 million season that we’re having,” Robinson said on AFL 360 on Tuesday night.

“They’ve been lectured and lectured and lectured the players, there’s no point in me sitting here and lecturing.

“Steele Sidebottom has put at threat this game, he’s put at threat people’s livelihoods because he wanted to have a few beers, it looks like, with Daniel Wells.

“I really hope Steele Sidebottom tells his side of the story and we have got some sympathy, I want to have sympathy for him right now.

“But my gut feel is I’ve got no sympathy if he’s gone to have beers with Daniel Wells which he’s not allowed to do.”

Robinson said league officials would be furious given the work they’ve put in to get the season back underway amid the coronavirus pandemic.

“We are talking about flying clubs to interstate hubs... we’ve got to look after the community and we’ve got a player, this one from Collingwood and we’ve had previous players break protocols and have been suspended and then we have Steele Sidebottom, a senior person, an adult doing something that I can’t believe he would possibly say I didn't know I couldn’t do,” Robinson said.

“I can’t accept that.”

Steele Sidebottom and Lynden Dunn at Collingwood training. (Photo by Quinn Rooney/Getty Images)

Details of Collingwood pair’s breaches emerge

If Sidebottom is banned, it would be a massive blow for Collingwood ahead of their clash with Essendon at the MCG on Friday night.

The 29-year-old Magpies vice-captain has played in each of the club's four games this season.

Dunn, 33, has struggled with injuries and has not played at senior level since 2018.

The pair reportedly spent part of Saturday night drinking with teammate Jeremy Howe, who sustained a serious knee injury during the previous night's loss to Greater Western Sydney.

Sidebottom then reportedly visited former teammate Wells, who works for Collingwood but is not part of the club's approved list of 25 staff members.

Sidebottom's three alleged breaches are spending more than two hours with Howe, catching an Uber ride and visiting Wells.

Dunn’s only alleged breach is the Uber ride.

The latest transgressions follow suspensions being handed to five players for breaches since the AFL return-to-play protocols were implemented.

Essendon's Conor McKenna and Brandon Zerk-Thatcher, Melbourne's Charlie Spargo and Kysaiah Pickett, and Port Adelaide's Ollie Wines have all been suspended for breaches.

with AAP