Peter FitzSimons has blasted two AFL stars after footage emerged of them appearing to grope a teammate’s genitals in the locker room after a match.
The former Wallaby, 59, appeared on Sports Sunday with panelists Liz Ellis and Mark Taylor to discuss Richmond Tigers’ defenders Nick Vlaustin and Jayden Short’s odd celebrations with South Sudanese-born forward Mabior Chol.
Vlaustin and Short were captured repeatedly grabbing at Chol’s crotch and backside on two separate occasions in the last two weeks as the Tigers sang the team’s victory song after a match.
FitzSimons took aim at Tigers coach Damien Hardwick and claimed he should have stepped up to stop the behaviour from being in the culture of the club.
Peter FitzSimons (pictured) has slammed the culture of the Richmond Tigers after the change room groping scandal
‘The other thing, Mr Hardwick, is you’re in that dressing room, you’re around that, that appears to be part of the ongoing culture. It was your job as the adult in the room to say, “Stop. Seriously, stop, that’s the end of it”,’ he said.
‘It needed one person in authority to say we’re not doing this kind of nonsense. In any other workplace in Australia, you’d be before the HR department.
‘In sport, people go, “Ah well, it’s just sport”. No, actually. Guys, seriously, this is the 21st century. We don’t do this anymore.
‘I think everybody in Australia looks at that and says, “What? Seriously? Grow up”.’
Retired Australian netball star Ellis believed the groping incident had deeper connotations.
‘I’m pleased to hear that the leadership team has got on top of this but the thing that bothers me about this is that these sort of situations of indecent assault, they’re not about sex; they’re often about power,’ she said.
‘You look at Mabior Chol, he’s a junior player in that team. What is it saying about the power balance within that team?’
Mabior Chol (pictured) was drafted by the Richmond Tigers in the 2018 rookie draft
Two-time premiership winner Nick Vlaustin can be seen touching Mabior Chol’s backside (pictured) as the Tigers sing their victory song after defeating the Brisbane Lions on Tuesday
FitzSimons slammed Tigers coach Damien Hardwick (pictured) for allowing the player’s behaviour
Ellis’ sentiment was backed by former Australian cricket captain Mark Taylor, who noted odd dressing room antics are common in traveling sporting teams.
‘Things happen when you travel around in a bubble. You’re looking to fill in time and do silly things to pass the time away. This is one of them, there’s no doubt about that,’ Taylor said.
Taylor believed Chol’s position as a rookie in the Tigers squad was a factor in Vlaustin and Short’s actions.
‘The player who’s affected by it, he’s obviously going to say, “Oh, I’m not that worried about it”. He’s only played three games [this season], he wants to get on with the team,’ he said.
‘But if he’s that uncomfortable, which I think he probably is but not saying it, then that needs to be nipped in the bud.’
While leading sports voices condemned the act, controversial AFL personality Sam Newman said Vlaustin and Short’s moves were simply from mates in jest.
Jayden Short can be seen groping Mabior Chol’s crotch (pictured) as the player’s celebrate victory over the Western bulldogs last Wednesday
‘Grabbing someone on the crotch in the rooms after a victory, is hardly being “groped”,’ Newman tweeted on Sunday.
‘Just means the lads in question get on extremely well with one and other – or they wouldn’t have done it. Stop with the cow-eyes.’
Chol’s own father ‘John’ also appeared to side with Newman, saying the celebration was ‘all good’.
Mr Mabior said he had spoken with his son after the incident, who said he was fine with the horseplay in the sheds.
‘I spoke to Mabior, and Mabior is good,’ Mr Mabior told the Sunday Herald Sun. ‘Mabior and the players and the team are good.’
Chol’s sister said the family had been in contact with Tigers management over the incident.
Nick Vlastuin (pictured with his partner Georgia Kelly at the 2019 Melbourne Cup Carnival) issued an apology to Chol after the incident
Tigers defender Jayden Short said his actions were ‘unacceptable behaviour’ and set a ‘poor example’
‘We already spoke to Richmond Football Club and basically the club has already put a statement out there, and I believe everything is under control,’ she said.
‘(The club) become aware of some player behaviour during post-match team songs recently that is unacceptable and not in line with the club or community expectations,’ the Richmond statement reads.
‘The entire playing group have made clear this behaviour will cease. Richmond is committed to providing a safe workplace environment and will continue to work to ensure that is the case.’
Vlastuin and Short have both apologised to Chol.
‘It was a stupid action and I am deeply embarrassed. I’ve apologised to Mabior,’ Vlastuin said.
‘It was unacceptable behaviour and a poor example,’ Short said.
Chol said he took no offence and had ‘no issue whatsoever with those players, or any of my teammates, but understand that is not the sort of example we should be setting.’
Mabior Chol (pictured) running the ball in the Tigers Round 7 clash against the North Melbourne Kangaroos at Metricon Stadium on the Gold Coast