Will Minson clashes with Danyle Pearce (No.6) at Etihad Stadium.

Will Minson clashes with Danyle Pearce (No.6) at Etihad Stadium. Photo: Fox Footy

THE quaint but neanderthal tradition that left all football's dirtier verbal laundry on the playing arena has well and truly departed the AFL game. The players themselves have increasingly demanded it and, two days ago, Danyle Pearce became the latest to take a stand.

During the third quarter of Port Adelaide's miserable loss to the Western Bulldogs at Etihad Stadium on Sunday, Bulldog ruckman Will Minson made derogatory comments of a sexual nature about Pearce's mother. According to Pearce, comments implied a forced sexual assault, including a line about pinning down her arms.

According to Minson, the comment was sexual and offensive but with no forceful assault implied in the conversation. His teammate, Liam Picken, strongly backed Minson yesterday.

Minson's case has not been helped by the fact that he does not have a clean record but an admitted prior involving another Port player, Kane Cornes. Equally unhelpful yesterday was that his story - while not exactly changing - deviated after his first version of events.

All of the above led the AFL's football operations chief, Adrian Anderson, to refer the case to the league's investigator, Allan Roberts - a former Queensland and Victorian assistant commissioner of police. Roberts is expected to complete his investigation today.

The Age understands Minson's actions will not go unpunished and he faces a penalty involving suspension of up to several games. He has been given until today to deliver his final version of events. Should Roberts' findings correspond with Pearce's story, he may refer the matter to the AFL tribunal or refer it back to the Bulldogs, as the AFL did last year when West Coast's Patrick McGinnity became the first player suspended by his own club for a sledge of a sexual nature.

McGinnity's verbal attack involved comments involving sexual force upon the mother of opponent Ricky Petterd.

The AFL also has the authority to charge Minson for bringing the game into disrepute, as it did with Ben Cousins. That charge, however, looks unlikely. AFL Players Association executive Ian Prendergast said last night he was disappointed that the allegations had become public.

"We would want all the facts known before people start jumping to conclusions," he said, adding: "We encourage all of our players to come from a position of mutual respect when they are competing and talking on the footy field."

Western Bulldog sources were standing by their man last night - a player often referred to in football circles as "the dumbest smart man in the AFL". Minson is multilingual, musical, and boasts a much-talked-of intellect but that reputation was not helping him, where Port was concerned, last night.

According to Minson, he sledged 26-year-old Pearce who responded by asking what the ruckman had ever done. Minson, who added some comments to his original interview about the incident, has now conceded that his response involved Pearce's mother.

Pearce responded angrily at the time and made a nearby umpire aware of his fury. The umpire agreed that the incident required investigation. The two players continued to attack each other, with Pearce claiming several further sledges were made. A brawl threatened to break out involving them in the final term and Pearce reported what he believed Minson had said to Port officials and coaches after the game.

Four years ago Minson was moved to make a public apology to Cornes after making comments about the player's son and wife.

Cornes' son, Eddy, had been born with heart defects. Now six, the boy could still require open-heart surgery, and Minson made a disgraceful comment. To be generous, he wondered why Cornes was not at home with his wife Lucy, given she had just given birth to a second child.

Back then, Minson told Fox Sports: ''On the weekend, I said something which I am deeply sorry for and I apologise wholeheartedly for.''

The AFL took no further action after the two clubs spoke and Minson apologised.

Lucy Cornes last night tweeted of Minson: "U r an oxygen thief." She also referred to Sunday's incident on her Facebook page and Pearce's outraged father, Joffre, joined in the conversation. Pearce's parents are separated, a fact that made Minson's alleged comments even more insensitive.

The game's tolerance towards the sledging culture - it once saw it purely as an onfield issue - changed forever when Essendon's Michael Long refused to accept a racial slur delivered by Collingwood's Damian Monkhorst during the mid-90s. In recent years, the AFL has become significantly less tolerant of on-field slurs.

In 2010, Collingwood coach Mick Malthouse was fined $7500 after he verbally attacked Stephen Milne during a quarter-time break calling him a ''f---ing rapist''.

In 2007, Adam Selwood faced the AFL tribunal in relation to sexual comments he was alleged to have made towards Des Headland's six-year-old daughter. Selwood emphatically denied making the comments and the tribunal ruled in his favour.

In 2004, Port's Brent Montgomery was fined and forced to apologise by the club after asking cancer sufferer Adam Ramanauskas whether the "chemo had fried his brain".