Richmond coach Damian Hardwick cut short a press conference on Friday afternoon after he was asked about a bizarre incident in the club’s locker room last weekend.
Hardwick was asked about footage, which shows Richmond players Nick Vlaustin and Jayden Short grabbing the genitals of teammate Mabior Chol, by veteran journalist Hugh Riminton.
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The clips appear to show Vlaustin grabbing at Chol’s crotch and anus after the win over the Western Bulldogs on July 29, and Short groping Chol after defeating Brisbane on August 4.
When asked by Riminton if he was aware of the incidents, Hardwick replied: “No mate”.
Riminton was persistent in his line of questioning, repeatedly asking for clarification on whether or not Hardwick or anyone else from the club was aware of what had gone on.
“Are you aware of what appears to be an indecent assault against one of your players by another one of your players in the rooms, in fact there were two incidents, after the game against Brisbane and the other the week before against the Western Bulldogs, do you have any knowledge of these things?” Riminton asked.
When Hardwick said he didn’t, and a club spokesman joined the call to add that the club had no knowledge of it either, Riminton continued, going so far in his questioning as to raise the possibility of legal implications.
“I’m going to put these questions to you, because I have two criminal lawyers who have said they have looked at this vision and they say there has clearly been a sexual assault taking place,” he said.
“It’s a breach of the AFL code of conduct, the player’s code of conduct, of the member’s protection policy statement, it is on camera, we have received no complaint from any player, but it’s clearly on camera, it has been discussed on social media, and I want to know are you going to take it upon yourself if you haven’t already to investigate what appears to be a crime between two of your players?”
Hardwick was keen to move on from the topic during the press conference, repeatedly asking Riminton to move on to “football questions”.
Riminton then posed such a question, asking Hardwick if Vlaustin, Short and Chol would all play this weekend.
“I’ve been very patient,” Hardwick replied, before ending the press conference.
Richmond players apologise for actions
Richmond released a statement on Friday evening, with Short and Vlaustin apologising for their actions.
“It was a stupid action and I am deeply embarrassed. I’ve apologised to Mabior,” Vlastuin said.
Short added: “It was unacceptable behaviour and a poor example.”
Chol said he was unfazed by what went on but conceded it didn’t look good.
“I have no issue whatsoever with those players, or any of my teammates,” he said.
“But (I) understand that is not the sort of example we should be setting.”
The footage attracted some criticism on social media.
Geez the Richmond boys were looking a bit toey during the song then. Vlastuin couldn’t keep his hands off Chol’s privates and there was a lot of heavy petting when they came together after the song #HubLife— Cameron Colvin (@casserdaly) August 4, 2020
Why do Richmond players keep trying to grab Mabior Chol's cock when they sing the theme song? It's the second time I've noticed it#AFLTigersLions— Owen Carter (@OwenJCarter) August 4, 2020
A bit happening here with Jayden Short and Mabior Chol pic.twitter.com/02UMMz0325— Daniel Cherny 📰 (@DanielCherny) July 29, 2020
You can see how uncomfortable Chol is with Vlastuin’s incredibly childish behaviour here.— Mark Gottlieb (@MarkGottlieb) August 7, 2020
It’s not only directed at Chol though. Jack Riewoldt does similar to another teammate a few seconds later #AFL #Richmond pic.twitter.com/s52n0V5Vnx