Richmond forward Jack Riewoldt has revealed players at the club were privately worried about getting busted over a COVID-19 protocol breach that went unreported last year.
Riewoldt and teammate Dylan Grimes have spoken of the situation publicly for the first time in a video series on YouTube where it was revealed Richmond’s Adelaide hotel may have exposed the entire team to a biosecurity protocol breach before the team’s loss to Port Adelaide at the Adelaide Oval in Round 11.
Richmond experienced one of the most turbulent seasons in recent memory with a series of off-field scandals, but it did nothing to stop the club powering to another premiership.
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Richmond was last year issued with a series of wrist-slaps by the AFL, including a $100,000 fine for the Gold Coast strip club protocol breaches by Sydney Stack and Callum Coleman-Jones.
Richmond were also busted when the wife of Trent Cotchin, Brooke Cotchin, broke the strict COVID-19 protocols by attending a beauty spa on the Gold Coast.
The list of breaches may have been even longer than first thought after Riewoldt’s surprising YouTube admission — which suggested the Tigers may have unwittingly broke the rules again just two weeks later when their hotel welcomed homeless visitors to stay at the same accommodation as part of the South Australian government’s emergency accommodation COVID-19 program.
“It (hotel) felt like a hospital which had been abandoned. It was really old and it was like, ‘This is weird’,” Grimes said.
“We came down from a meeting or a team walk or something and the hotel lobby was filled with homeless people.
“In Adelaide, if it gets above or below a certain temperature the hotel opens up as a homeless shelter.
“I don’t know how this never got out and the AFL have done an amazing job of covering this up (because) at this stage we were wearing masks coming out of the airport, to the airport, to the bus.
“We weren’t allowed to come into contact with anyone, but next thing you know we were crammed like sardines into a lift.
“We were like ‘How does this happen?’.
“We were so sterile for so long and now we are staying in a homeless shelter right before a game.”
He said the club was expecting the situation to play out as another headline-making drama – but nothing eventuated.
“We had just been done for the Brooke Cotchin thing, there was something else, and they (AFL) were all over us,” Grimes said.
“I was like ‘The AFL are going to cop it for this. Sit back and wait and watch the media roll in (because) Richmond was staying in a homeless shelter’ but crickets, (there was) nothing (about it).”
However, the AFL clarified on Sunday that they were aware of the matter and explained no breach had occurred.
“The AFL moved and accommodated hundreds of players and officials across the country throughout season 2020,” the spokesman told theHerald Sun.
“When any issues arose we acted accordingly, and in this particular instance having members of the general public staying in the same hotel, we put on extra security and hotel staff to ensure the protocols were abided by.
“All players had the necessary protocols and information for when engaging with the general public across the year.”
The Tigers have continued to make headlines off the field during their summer break with coach Damien Hardwick’s separation from his wife, Danielle.
Hardwick’s new relationship with an employee of the club was confirmed last month after reports the marriage breakdown “rocked staff within the club”.
– with Staff Writers
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