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Indigenous AFL star Ronnie Burns condemns alleged racism at country football game

Date

Tammy Mills

It was supposed to be a celebrated moment for country footy, but a game in northern Victoria has ended in an AFL probe after a new recruit was allegedly called a "dirty black witchetty grub".

Four recruits from a remote part of the Northern Territory played their first game for Longwood Football Club in the Kyabram District Football League match against Avenel on Saturday in front of a crowd including indigenous greats Byron Pickett and Ronnie Burns.

The four players aged in their late teens were flown in from their Tiwi Islands home only the night before as part of coach Matthew Chilcott's plan to develop indigenous players from the most remote parts of the country.

Chilcott said during the third quarter, an Avenel player called Cosmo Munkara, 18, a "dirty black witchetty grub".

"I just can't believe someone would say that and what an easy target in a white man's world. If it was Mike Tyson standing there, he wouldn't have said that would he?" Chilcott said.

"Some people think the footy ground is a forum where they can say and do whatever they like. That type of behaviour doesn't go on down the street.

''People are protected in the football environment for doing wrong things. There is enough education out there for this not to happen and it was unprovoked, totally unprovoked."

Munkara's teammate, Perth-based Leigh Hughes, said he confronted the Avenel player after he heard.

"That's when I confronted him and we got into a bit of an argument, a push-and-shove type thing and he straight away realised what he had done was inappropriate," Hughes said.

"I played footy at state level and now country level and I've never experienced anything like that in footy before. I told them if they didn't do anything about it, I couldn't stay in the comp."

AFL Goulburn Murray general manager Martin Gleeson said on Wednesday an investigation into the incident had been launched.

Avenel Football Club president Bill O'Connor welcomed an investigation and denied the comments were made.

"I completely agree that racial vilification needs to be stamped out, but I also believe it didn't happen ... I believe that boy is completely innocent," O'Connor said.

Burns, a friend of Chilcott who is also from the Tiwi Islands, was watching the game while Pickett, a Norm Smith medallist and Indigenous Team of the Century inclusion, was playing for Longwood in a one-off game.

Burns said racist comments could not be tolerated and he praised Longwood's response.

"It doesn't matter what level it is, you see it at the highest level with Adam Goodes and it's happening in rugby league and the NRL, so whether it's suburban footy or country footy, it's got to be stamped out," Burns said.

"It's not just about the game on the weekend, it's about educating people and awareness."

Chilcott said the club was supporting all four Tiwi Island recruits.

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