Melbourne’s Harley Bennell has been hit with a four match suspension and kicked out of Queensland for breaching AFL COVD protocols.
The league confirmed on Sunday night Bennell was found to have breached the league’s strict rules following an investigation into his boozy trip outside of his club’s isolation bubble on Saturday.
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The AFL said in a statement on Sunday Bennell must leave Queensland as soon as possible.
The league also confirmed the Demons have been hit with a $50,000 fine.
None of the fine has been suspended by the AFL, meaning the club will have to pay the full amount because of a breach by two Melbourne players earlier this season.
“This is a selfish act by Harley, and a clear breach of the AFL’s protocols,” Melbourne CEO Gary Pert said.
“He has made a very poor decision, which is incredibly disappointing. He has not only put himself, his teammates and the competition at risk, but he has failed to live up to the values of the Melbourne Football Club.
“On behalf of the Melbourne Football Club, I sincerely apologise to the AFL and the Queensland Government for the embarrassment and harm that this incident has caused.
“Harley knew the rules. He understands the extent of his actions and is incredibly remorseful for his behaviour. He has made a terrible mistake and has been punished accordingly.
“As a club, we accept the punishment and fines handed down as a result of this breach.
“Our responsibility now is to ensure we support Harley and his family, during what is a very challenging period for them.”
AFL general counsel Andrew Dillon said: “Harley knew the rules and could have put his club and the competition at risk on the eve of a finals campaign”.
“The Melbourne Football Club is aware of a potential breach of the AFL’s COVID-19 protocols involving player Harley Bennell,” the statement read.
“The club has notified the AFL, who are investigating the matter.
“Whilst the club and the AFL are in the process of establishing the facts, Harley will remain in an off-site isolation location, to remove any possibility of contaminating the Twin Waters high performance hub.
“As the matter is being investigated, the club is not in a position to comment further.”
Former Fremantle Dockers coach Ross Lyon reacted to the news on Triple M.
“Very concerning. I spoke to Harley on Friday, we had a conversation about not being picked and what the future looks like,” Lyon said on Sunday.
“He was really committed to Melbourne, it seemed like they’d committed to him. I think if he’s been out … the concern for him is the exit interviews … that’s disappointing, he’s up there with (partner) Amy and (child) Carter.
“I hope he’s OK because a lot of pressure is going to come but he’d been perfect.
“Yeah, concerning. On the surface he seems to have maybe made an error.”
Bennell has played five AFL matches and kicked three goals for the Demons since he joined the club earlier this year.
After winning Saturday afternoon’s match against the Essendon Bombers, Melbourne has a chance of qualifying for the AFL finals, but need the Fremantle Dockers to defeat the Western Bulldogs on Sunday evening to stay in the top eight.