Veteran AFL columnist Caroline Wilson has questioned the desire and mindset of reigning premiers Richmond after comments made by captain Trent Cotchin and fellow veteran Jack Riewoldt about players attending hubs.
With the prospect of Victorian sides having to base themselves interstate for extended periods becoming increasingly likely amid the state’s rising COVID-19 numbers, Cotchin and Riewoldt said the club would understand if certain players opted out.
“No doubt our footy club will be there and want to partake and do what we need to do to continue the season, but there’s going to be a number of different individual cases or scenarios,” Cotchin said.
“We’ve got guys with pending babies and other challenges or things going on in their life that we’ll just have to manage accordingly.”
“Every case has got to be judged on its merit. The club is not going to hold a gun to any player’s head to say you have to play if there is a personal reason,” Riewoldt added.
“For us, family comes first, players’ welfare comes first and then football is after that.”
However, Wilson, a Richmond Football Club member, said she was “disappointed” by the attitude of the reigning premiers.
“There are some clubs who have been outliers in this and it saddens me to say that Richmond has been an outlier in terms of attitude going forward,” she told Footy Classified.
“Richmond have probably been the most disappointing in terms of their attitude.
“Richmond is a club that went into this season believing they were every chance of winning another premiership.
“I get the feeling they feel they’ve lost their competitive advantage. They’ve been really disappointed about the potential cuts to the football department soft cap, the players have come back in the wrong mindset.
“I watch those comments and it pains me to say this because Trent Cotchin and Jack Riewoldt have been champions at that football club for many years, I’m a Richmond member who’s stuck around despite financial hardship, and I hear my captain say look I’m not sure everyone wants to go, that makes me worry about my football club.”
Wilson also raised the question as to whether the playing group had been given too much autonomy in the absence of club CEO Brendon Gale and GM Neil Balme in the Tigers’ COVID-19 approved “bubble”.
“I don’t think that sends a great message to the entire competition and I just wonder, is the tail wagging the dog a bit there?” she asked.
“The players seem to have been so empowered. I know Damien Hardwick is involved, but there’s no Brendan Gale, no Neil Balme in their bubble at the moment.”
Wilson’s view on the comments made by Cotchin and Riewoldt were backed up by former Fremantle and St Kilda coach Ross Lyon.
While he believed that staying back for a childbirth was a valid reason, Lyon suggested other more vague reasons would raise questions in his eyes.
“The problem with that is they’re the leaders of the football club,” he told Footy Classified.
“They’re the absolute pinnacle of their team and I think the birth (of a child) is okay, but when you say other challenges, it’s a stark difference in the languages (between Richmond and younger rivals).
“Two teams that are dog-hungry, haven’t got a premiership in the back pocket, they’ve got two, you’d like to see some different language publicly.
“Support the partner’s baby, that’s no problem, but when you throw it wider than that (it’s a problem).
“At the end of the day, they’re young men and this is an incredibly unique situation.”