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Demons exorcised in MCG 'overkill'

Date: December 28 2012


Alana Schetzer

A witness to the fracas that ended with a group of Melbourne Football Club players being kicked out of the Boxing Day Test at the MCG has said that the actions of security staff on the day were "overkill".

The crowd member was sitting two rows behind footballers Jeremy Howe, James Frawley and Lynden Dunn and a group of friends on December 26 and witnessed a verbal altercation between Howe and an unknown man, which resulted in both men being escorted from the ground.

The club has since issued a "please explain" to the players, who are expected to speak to to either the player leadership group or management early next year.

The witness, who asked not to be named, told Fairfax Media that the group was "very vocal" and boisterous but trouble-free before Howe and the unknown man exchanged heated words for about five minutes. Four security guards then told both men to leave.

"It was an unnecessary show of security guards and police when, really, nothing actually happened. That was the most disappointing thing for me," the witness said.

"I was at the Boxing Day Test four years ago and there wasn't the presence of security that there was this year. It's been over-regulated."

He said the remainder of the group were then forced by security to leave, contradicting earlier reports that the remainder of the group left on their own terms following Howe's departure.

"There were four security that stood in front of the rest of the guys and told them to leave. They [the rest of the group] just sat there for a little bit, bemused, and asked why. They were told if you don't leave, we'll get the cops.

"Apart from the two that were yelling, everybody else had their hands up and were separating them and calming the situation down."

The witness said the players had been drinking during the match and took part in handling a giant "cup snake", made up of hundreds of empty beer cups that went around the crowd.

Former Melbourne players Ricky Petterd and Jared Rivers were also part of the group and are understood to have left when Howe was asked to leave by security staff.

Rivers was traded to Geelong in October and Petterd was recruited by Richmond in this month's rookie draft.

Petterd reportedly could be investigated by police over footage of him allegedly making inappropriate comments about women.

A Richmond spokesman has rebutted the allegation.

"Ricky Petterd emphatically denies allegations that he made inappropriate comments about women at the Boxing Day Test," he said.

"He will fully cooperate should police choose to investigate the allegations."

Melbourne Cricket Club communications manager Shane Brown said management supported security staff and their decision to eject the players.

"We support the actions taken thus far by our security personnel, and Victoria Police, to ensure patrons have a comfortable and enjoyable day at the cricket."

He declined the reveal how many security staff were working on the day but added there had not been an increase compared to previous years.

David Nadel, a lecturer at Monash University's National Centre for Australian Studies, said the intense scrutiny of AFL players' behaviour, particularly during the off-season, was unwarranted. He said the increasing micromanagement of players, many of them still teenagers, was getting "silly".

"This is a period of about eight weeks where the players are not on duty for their clubs. That doesn't mean they should be drink-driving or taking drugs, but it can be argued they are not being allowed to behave like young men, which is what they are," he said.

"Players getting drunk at the cricket would not have been remotely surprising 50 years ago."

Dr Nadel said the use and access to social media and cameras meant players were being monitored more than ever before.

"There is an assumption that if you sign up to be a footballer, you sign up to be a celebrity and be watched. There's a small amount, yes, that like that, but most just want to play football and they don't want to be treated any differently," he said.

Police and security staff ejected 73 people from the MCG on Boxing Day, and nine were fined. None of the Melbourne footballers were fined.

The Melbourne players are currently on leave, with the first due to return on Wednesday and the rest back by January 7. An AFL spokesman said the league would not take any action against the players.

Comment was being sought from the AFL Players Association.

With Adam Cooper

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