NORTH Melbourne has unreservedly apologised for coach Brad Scott's claim that umpires told North players that Lindsay Thomas was umpired differently because he was a "ducker".
Both Scott and the club face the prospect of further penalties during the week after AFL general manager of football operations Mark Evans made his displeasure crystal clear.
"Prior to making such a serious claim, the club and Brad Scott should have done a much more thorough investigation," Evans told ABC Radio.
"It's such a strong claim to make that you would want to be right.
"I have informed the club today that we'll be asking them to explain their actions, in particular to find out why Brad would make such a statement before doing a proper investigation and checks from their end."
Scott's comments on Friday night prompted the AFL to review all umpire audio from North Melbourne's nine-point loss to Hawthorn at Etihad Stadium.
"The only things we found were exemplary comments, such as being questioned by a player and answering it exactly as we would it answered. I'm pleased that they've (the umpires) been vindicated," Evans said.
The Kangaroos were also asked to provide the AFL with further detail about Scott's allegations.
After the investigation was completed on Saturday morning, North Melbourne released a statement backtracking on the club's stance.
"The North Melbourne Football Club wishes to withdraw statements made in last night's post match media conference regarding the umpiring," the club's statement read.
"After discussions with its players and the AFL, it has been established conversations between players and staff in-game, were misconstrued at the time and consequently, relayed incorrectly post-game.
"We understand and accept these alleged comments did not come from any umpire.
"The club is embarrassed by, and accepts full responsibility for, the situation that has unfolded and unreservedly apologises to the umpires for any distress it may have caused them.
"The club accepts its players are not umpired differently and the umpires do not have "pre-conceived ideas" going into games."
The AFL confirmed in its own statement that it would determine from Monday what further action would be taken against one of both of the club and Scott.
In his post-match media conference on Friday night, Scott said umpires had told his players they wouldn't pay free kicks to Thomas because he was "a ducker".
"I know he is (unfairly treated), because the umpires told our players that, (saying) 'Well, he's a ducker, so we don't pay high free kicks to Lindsay'," he said.
"They told our guys that, so that's clearly a preconceived idea.
"You just want the umpires to umpire what they see, not their preconceived ideas.
"That's for (umpires boss) Hayden Kennedy to deal with, not for me, I'm just telling you what happened because they won't tell you, that's for sure."
One standout incident occurred with three minutes remaining in the second quarter, when Thomas appeared to be caught high by Hawk defender Grant Birchall.
From the replay, the contact on Thomas appeared to slip above the shoulder as he took possession and looked to break Birchall's tackle.
No free kick was paid, with the adjudicating umpire immediately calling play on.