Western Bulldogs CEO Ameet Bains has delivered the below statement in relation to the incident involving Lachie Hunter last week.
I LET DOWN A LOT OF PEOPLE Remorseful Bulldog slapped with big ban
I want to address on behalf of the Western Bulldogs, the events involving Lachie Hunter last Thursday night, and the involvement of Bailey Smith and Billy Gowers.
Based on our own investigation, we understand that:
- Lachie was involved in an accident close to his home in Middle Park, involving four parked cars;
- Lachie consumed alcohol before driving his vehicle and his driving was adversely affected by his alcohol consumption;
- At the scene of the accident, Lachie provided his contact details to some, but not all of the owners of the damaged vehicles;
- Two of the damaged vehicles belonged to the family of Bailey Smith’s girlfriend, whose house Bailey was staying at the time. The location of the accident outside the house where Bailey and his girlfriend were was, we are satisfied, entirely coincidental.
- Bailey went outside in response to the crash and found his teammate in an understandably distressed state immediately after the collision. In response to a request from Lachie, Bailey drove Lachie to Billy Gowers’ apartment. Bailey did not exit his vehicle at Gowers’ apartment, and he then immediately returned to his girlfriend’s house.
- Police ascertained from Bailey that he had taken Lachie to Billy Gowers’ apartment and they followed up and located Lachie there. Following a preliminary breath test and a subsequent evidentiary breath test, Lachie returned a blood alcohol reading of 0.123
Both Lachie and Bailey have been issued fines for being found to be in breach of the travel and social distancing directions issued by the Chief Health Officer.
The Club is extremely disappointed by a number of elements of Lachie’s conduct both in his choice to drink alcohol, choice to drink and drive, choice to ignore social distancing laws and a series of other choices he made in the aftermath of the crash. We are extremely disappointed that, when the accident occurred, he did not choose to avail himself of the support and advice services the club provides to our players for just such situations and we believe a number of his subsequent poor choices flowed directly from that error.
While there are clearly pressures that many people face given the current circumstances, including Lachie, that is no excuse for his behaviour. Lachie’s behaviour put himself and others at risk and is not acceptable. I want to again make it clear that there is no excuse for the choices he made. We are very thankful that nobody was physically harmed in the incident. Lachie has failed to live up to his responsibilities as a member of the community and from what we expect from a leader of our football club.
The Club has resolved to impose the following sanctions:
Lachie has taken the proactive step of volunteering to immediately stand down from the position of vice captain of the club, as well as relinquishing his position in the player leadership group, which the Club has accepted. In doing so, the Club has not been required to strip him of those positions.
A fine of $5000 for drink driving and suspended fines totalling a further $15,000 for multiple other breaches.
Lachie will be suspended by the Club for four AFL matches upon the season resuming.
Lachie will be required to undertake mandatory alcohol education and counselling and a form of community service.
In addition, the club has determined to impose a $5,000 fine (wholly suspended) on Billy Gowers for conduct after Lachie arrived at his apartment which in a number of ways fell short of Club expectations and in our view constituted breaches of his contractual obligations to abide by the AFL Player Code of Conduct.
In our consideration of these matters, we also reviewed the position and conduct of Bailey Smith. We have concluded to make no criticism and invoke no sanction in respect of Bailey’s conduct beyond the fine imposed by Victoria Police for Bailey being found to be in breach of the travel and social distancing directions issued by the Chief Health Officer
Lachie has told us that he is extremely remorseful for his actions and has been wanting to publicly apologise for his behaviour.
Lachie knows he made a series of poor choices which put himself and others at risk. He has accepted full responsibility for the accident and will compensate each of the vehicle owners affected, a hefty financial outlay in and of itself.
He regrets that his actions unnecessarily drew in his teammates.
Lachie also understands the seriousness of breaching current social distancing laws, especially when we’ve seen the vast majority of Victorians doing the right thing by staying at home where possible.
The Club has been extremely active in encouraging our fans and the wider football community to listen to advice from the Victorian Government about the importance of social distancing measures, and this incident has served as a reminder to everyone that we need to continue to be vigilant.
Despite the actions of Lachie our club and our players will continue to push the message to our supporters and to the wider public of the importance of continuing to obey the social distancing measures.
The last few days have been extremely difficult for Lachie and his family, and as a club we will continue to support him through this period to make sure he emerges stronger for the experience.
Lachie was regarded highly enough to become vice captain of the Western Bulldogs and we will support him as he earns back the respect of the Club and its fans.