Sport

Tallygaroopna product faces suspension for breaching AFL protocols

By Aydin Payne

Tallygaroopna export and Collingwood star Steele Sidebottom will spend the next month on the sidelines.

Sidebottom has been slapped with a four-week suspension for breaching strict AFL COVID-19 protocols and will miss Friday night's blockbuster against Essendon.

Teammate Lynden Dunn received a one-match ban for his involvement in Saturday night's events.

The pair shared an Uber together and travelled to injured teammate Jeremy Howe's house for drinks, before Sidebottom left to visit former teammate Daniel Wells.

Sidebottom was then found by police in Williamstown on Sunday morning attempting to get home in an intoxicated state.

In a statement, Collingwood said the club and Sidebottom deemed the four-match ban "excessive, inconsistent with recent protocol breaches and contestable".

However, the club and Sidebottom confirmed they would not appeal the decision.

“To his credit, Steele considered what was in the best interests of the code and Collingwood,” Magpies football boss Geoff Walsh said of a potential appeal.

“Firstly, he accepts that he made some poor decisions, but he also feels it is the right thing to accept the punishment, a greater punishment than most believe is fair, to avoid a distraction that could create difficulties for the competition and his teammates.

“That’s the sort of person Steele is.

“As a club, we considered all options, but our disappointment over Steele’s suspension is no greater than it is over the fact that two senior players breached the return to play protocols.

“Everyone knows Steele and Lynden started out with the best of intentions, to console an injured teammate, but our players and staff have been well educated on the protocols and we take our social responsibilities seriously."

Collingwood confirmed the breaches were reported to the AFL on Sunday and the pair was interviewed about the matter.

Both players have been tested for COVID-19 and the results have come back negative.

Speaking at a press conference yesterday, Collingwood coach Nathan Buckley said Sidebottom felt embarrassed and remorseful for breaching the protocols.

“Steele's a bit flummoxed by the events of the evening,” Buckley said.

“He's very embarrassed and contrite about the situation.

“He understands that he's made some poor decisions, in terms of his alcohol intake and then also with the COVID restrictions.”

Buckley said the event that led to Sidebottom's breach of protocols was out of care for his injured teammate.

Howe suffered a potential season-ending injury to his knee in Collingwood's loss to GWS.

“What we need to remember is that the initial idea to go around to ‘Howie's’ on the Saturday afternoon was in terms of love and care for his teammate,” Buckley said.

“A couple of poor decisions were made and we ended up being in this position as a result.”