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AFL journalist reinstated after being stood down over COVID-19 tweet

AFL journalist Mitch Cleary was stood down on Friday night over his tweet which identified Brooke Cotchin, the wife of Richmond captain Trent Cotchin, as the person in the middle of a COVID-19 breach.

But now the sporting body has had a change of heart, reinstating Cleary and calling the events of the last couple of days a ‘mistake’.

In a release, the AFL stated that a decision had been made editorially to not name Brooke Cotchin, or any family members ‘relating to the recent club breaches of the Return to Play protocols’.

Cleary’s tweet followed an Instagram post from Brooke Cotchin which resulted in a $45,000 fine for the Richmond Tigers, although $25,000 of that was suspended. The post showed Cotchin at a day spa, which goes against the hub restrictions the AFL is currently following to be allowed to continue to play the season.

Cleary’s tweet, which identified Cotchin as the reason behind the breach, followed a reported outing of her on 3AW earlier that day. Despite the knowledge being widespread by the time of the tweet, Cleary was stood down by the AFL.

A media storm followed with a number of sports reportings and sporting figures throwing their support behind Cleary. Cotchin herself posted on Instagram that she backed the reporter.

View this post on Instagram

I know I am opening myself up by sharing this post, but I am hoping this helps answer a few questions for people. I wish to apologise for the mistake I have made and I am deeply sorry for any angst that I have created for anyone. It was an honest mistake and one that I am incredibly remorseful for. I am the first to admit I am not perfect, and I do make mistakes, this being one that I need to own and learn from. Yes, we are currently living by AFL protocols whilst being tested twice a week. I had well and truly completed my 2 weeks quarantine when I attended a licensed medical facility for a treatment. I would never have attended nor posted on my social media if I was clear this was not abiding by AFL protocol. We decided as a family to move into the hub so we could help the AFL push through with the remainder of the season. We are incredibly grateful to have this opportunity to be together through this time as I know many people do not have that choice. I don’t know Mitch Cleary, but I do not agree with him being stood down and I have voiced that to the AFL. It is his job and it does not help anyone’s situation especially in current circumstances. Unfortunately, I had no input and it is something that is out of my control. I thank you all for your comments and private messages, good and bad. I have read every single one of them. We have not publicised that we are paying the fine, as we did not think it was necessary. I am hoping that this post helps explain things and puts a few minds at peace knowing that this was my mistake, which I accept total responsibility for. I send all my love and strength to everyone back at home. We can only imagine the challenges that everybody is facing right now ♥️

A post shared by BROOKE. (@blkcotchin) on

“I don’t know Mitch Cleary, but I do not agree with him being stood down and I have voiced that to the AFL,” she said.

“It is his job and it does not help anyone’s situation especially in current circumstances. Unfortunately, I had no input and it is something that is out of my control.”

Collingwood president Eddie McGuire also took Cotchin’s side, using his platform on Triple M to sledge the AFL for picking and choosing when it wanted to be impartial.

“They have no problem telling us they’re independent when they’re shredding players, clubs and officials,” he said.

“This is going to have some ramifications down the track on what the AFL Media department is all about.”

The AFL release sent last night confirmed Cleary had acknowledged ‘his mistake’ in the tweet and willingly taken it down. Cleary said on the ABC he ‘wasn’t aware’ of the protocols around naming family.

According to the AFL, the decision to not name family members involved in breaches is to protect their wellbeing.

“Last week, AFL Media (afl.com.au) made an editorial decision to not name any family members relating to the recent club breaches of the Return to Play protocols,” it said.

“The reasoning behind this decision was to protect the wellbeing of all individuals involved, a message that was reiterated in the official AFL Media Statement on Friday afternoon (31 July).”

“The matter has now been resolved internally with Mitch today co-hosting the weekly show AFL Exchange on afl.com.au.”

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