The AFL has suspended Melbourne’s Harley Bennell for four matches and fined the Demons $50,000 after he breached the league’s COVID-19 protocols.
- Harley Bennell was found to have breached the protocols by leaving the Demons’ high-performance centre on the Sunshine Coast
- The Demons have been fined $50,000 following Bennell’s breach
- The club described Bennell’s behaviour as “selfish”
Bennell was found to have breached the protocols after leaving the Demons’ high-performance centre in Twin Waters on the Sunshine Coast.
The AFL, who investigated the matter, said he “attempted to visit another residence without approval and visiting an unapproved premises”.
The league said Bennell would leave the Demons’ base in Queensland “as soon as possible”.
Bennell’s suspension means he will miss the first four matches of the 2021 season.
The AFL did not suspend any part of the Demons’ fine, as two of the club’s players had committed protocol breaches earlier in the season.
The $50,000 amount will be included in Melbourne’s 2021 soft cap.
“This is a selfish act by Harley, and a clear breach of the AFL’s protocols,” Demons chief executive Gary Pert said in a statement.
“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.”
AFL general counsel Andrew Dillon said there was no excuse for Bennell breaching the league’s protocols.
“Harley knew the rules and could have put his club and the competition at risk on the eve of a finals campaign,” he said.
The AFL’s punishment of Bennell comes just over two weeks after Richmond’s Sydney Stack and Callum Coleman-Jones were sent home from Queensland and suspended for a protocol breach on the Gold Coast.
The league’s Victorian teams are based in Queensland hubs to enable the competition to continue during the pandemic, but they must abide by a set of COVID-19 protocols to reduce the risk of virus transmission.
Bennell, who previously played for Fremantle, appeared in five matches for the Demons this season.
He was not part of the club’s travelling squad that beat Essendon in Carrara on the Gold Coast on Saturday.
The Demons’ season is now over after they slipped out of the top eight following the Western Bulldogs’ win over the Dockers in Cairns on Sunday night.
The Bulldogs replaced the Demons in the top eight as a result of their victory.