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AFL wrong to force fine on Dustin Martin, says O'Neal

Nathan Schmook  March 22, 2016 7:27 PM

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AFL 2015 Portraits - Peggy O'Neal

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RICHMOND president Peggy O'Neal says the AFL was wrong to force the club to hand Dustin Martin a $5000 suspended fine after last year's controversial restaurant incident.

Martin was cleared of any wrongdoing after Victoria Police, the AFL and the Tigers investigated an allegation he had threatened a women with a chopstick in a Melbourne restaurant.

But despite the AFL finding there was no evidence to support the allegation, O'Neal said the League pressured the Tigers to punish Martin, who had been intoxicated at the restaurant.

O'Neal said the fine was simply a way for the AFL to "make a point" and the Tigers had requested to handle any punishment internally.

Martin 'distressed' by investigation into drunken incident: Gale

"I didn't think it was necessary," O'Neal told The Age.

"If it was Trent Cotchin how would we have handled that? He would have been given a warning. 

"The way Dustin looks attracts attention and it was said that he was a recidivist, but Dustin has not been a repeat offender. He is not a violent person, quite the opposite.

"I suppose the question is, 'Are you going to fine every player who is drunk in public?'."

Richmond said in January it had issued the fine because it was "disappointed that Dustin was intoxicated on the night" and "he was argumentative and used obscene language" when challenged by the complainant.

His subsequent apology was accepted by the woman and the AFL said it was satisfied with Richmond's response after Martin "breached the player code of conduct".   

O'Neal said she had been disappointed Martin was drunk, but the Tigers, who were criticised for not acting sooner, had a responsibility to find out the facts before punishing one of their employees.

"Both parties I guess were unreliable witnesses, but we did get to the truth of the matter once others were given the chance to come forward," she said.

"I just wish Dustin had been given more space to get to the truth of what really happened."

O'Neal says Dustin Martin is not a violent man, but 'quite the opposite'. Picture: AFL Media