Richmond star Shai Bolton has been handed a $20,000 fine for his part in a nightclub fight earlier this month, despite originally being cleared off any wrongdoing by his club.
Bolton required surgery after he fractured his wrist in the incident earlier this month - which the Tigers claimed started when teammate Daniel Rioli's girlfriend was "subjected to inappropriate behaviour" from a fellow nightclub patron.
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Richmond boss Brendon Gale declared after an initial investigation into the incident that neither player would be sanctioned because they were not at fault.
Following a joint investigation from the AFL, however, it's been found that Bolton "exacerbated the situation" when he stepped in to defend his teammate.
The AFL said Rioli - who was left with a black eye but didn't miss any games - had "been cleared of any misconduct" after the incident that happened during celebrations for Bolton's partner's birthday.
Bolton and Richmond are subsequently set to donate $20,000 to Tomorrow Man, an organisation that works with boys and men to develop healthy masculinity, while the midfielder apologised for getting involved in the altercation.
"I've thought about what happened recently and what could have happened as a result of my actions," Bolton said.
"When I saw what happened to Daniel I acted on instinct. I now know that my instincts were wrong and that my actions could have led to a far more serious outcome.
"I want to say publicly that I made the wrong choice, and I am sorry for getting involved in the manner that I did.
"The right choice is to walk away from trouble or for me to do whatever I could to stop what was happening and not do something that could make it worse.
"Violence is never OK no matter the circumstances, and I want to share that message with everyone. The right choice is to walk away."
The AFL integrity unit reportedly became skeptical of the version of events told by the Richmond players after an eyewitness claimed seeing them acting in an anti-social manner.
Bolton remorseful for his actions
Following the investigation, the AFL said Bolton acknowledged he should have "chosen to de-escalate the situation rather than become involved."
"The investigation concluded that Shai's actions on the night had the potential to cause a much worse situation for all involved," AFL general counsel Andrew Dillon said.
"Shai understands the choice he made was the wrong one, he has acknowledged his mistake and is now accountable for his actions."
Richmond chief executive Brendon Gale said the Tigers encouraged their players to "de-escalate these situations and to walk away" and they needed to learn from Bolton's mistake.
"Getting involved in any altercation is not OK and that is a message we will reiterate to our players," Gale said.
Richmond coach Damien Hardwick initially defended both players and said he believed many people would have reacted the same way.
"A player's partner was put in an inappropriate situation that she didn't feel comfortable with and Daniel stood up and tried to eradicate the situation and was punched in the eye," Hardwick told Fox Footy.
"I don't condone violence but the reality is, you put anyone in that situation, they're going to stand up for their partner and their mates and Shai was the same.
"So, look, it was a difficult situation. It's not one ideally we want to be in but the reality is we are where we are."
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