COLLINGWOOD coach Nathan Buckley says the club is yet to decide whether it will punish "an embarrassed" Steele Sidebottom's alleged COVID-19 breaches with a consideration of his position in the leadership group.
Sidebottom is facing AFL penalties for multiple breaches of the League's strict COVID-19 protocols, having been found by police in Williamstown on Sunday morning attempting to find his way home from former teammate Daniel Wells' house.
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Sidebottom and veteran Pies defender Lynden Dunn were drinking at the house of injured star Jeremy Howe on Saturday afternoon, before Dunn caught an Uber home and Sidebottom – the club's vice-captain – went to Wells' residence.
Both Sidebottom and Dunn are subsequently being investigated by the AFL for COVID-19 breaches, with each player facing suspensions ahead of Friday night's crucial encounter with Essendon.
Both players have been tested for COVID-19 remotely, returning negative results. Dunn has since passed a second test, enabling him to train at the club on Wednesday morning, with Sidebottom yet to be cleared to return to Collingwood's headquarters.
Speaking with reporters on Wednesday afternoon, Buckley touched on the five major talking points stemming from Sidebottom's multiple COVID-19 breaches.
Buckley on ... whether Sidebottom's position in the club's leadership group would be reviewed:
"The club will go through its own processes and have its own conversations. Steele's a bit flummoxed by the events of the evening. He's very embarrassed and very contrite. He's been really forward with giving us any information that he has. He understands that he's made some poor decisions, in terms of his alcohol intake and then also with the COVID-19 restrictions as they sit. He understands that it's penalised his teammates in some shape or form. We'll have those conversations. Obviously the penalty that's handed down by the AFL for the COVID-19 breach will be a consideration in that. We will go through our processes when we get that opportunity to speak to Steele directly."
On whether Sidebottom's previous exemplary record will come into consideration in regard to his punishment:
"I don't think any experience or time in the game should impact on whatever penalty is handed down. We've seen precedents in recent weeks and we know that it's very unlikely that Steele will escape a penalty or a suspension. We're not expecting to see him this week and nor Lynden, for that matter. The consistency would be at least one week. For Steele, it's probably closer to what we saw with Charlie Spargo two or three weeks ago (two-match suspension). He was heading out to see a group of people. What weight the AFL puts on the fact that Steele went and saw a friend in Daniel Wells, who is outside of our bubble … that is up for them to decide. But I think it seems to be that there's a precedent with the Spargo penalty and that's about what we're expecting."
On Sidebottom's alcohol intake on Saturday night:
"In speaking with Steele, he's quite embarrassed about the situation. He's obviously remorseful about the decisions that were made, but he is also in some way confused about what has taken place. At some point, obviously with his drinking, he's made some poor decisions. (But) his recollection isn't that great. He hasn't been drinking as regularly. In conversations with him, he probably hasn't been consuming as much alcohol. One of the theories is that he wasn't able to handle what he consumed at 'Howie's' place. In the end, they're all details that will try to explain in some way what has happened in the evening or Steele's understanding of it. He's suitably embarrassed and very contrite, as you would understand."
On the exact events of the evening:
"Both boys headed over to see 'Howie' in the afternoon. They ended up catching an Uber back around midnight. Lynden went straight back home, Steele made the decision to head around to Daniel Wells' house. He obviously has a strong relationship with him. That was probably the next bad decision. Obviously, things have headed a little bit off the track at that point. Steele obviously needed help to get home. In his recollection, he can't remember a lot around what happened that evening. He ended up finding himself home early the next morning."
On the events that resulted in Saturday night's incident:
"What we need to remember is that the initial idea to go around to 'Howie's' on the Saturday afternoon was in terms of love and care for his teammate. These circumstances are very different and you do feel isolated when we remove ourselves from the football club. For the large part, in lockdown at home, we understand the sacrifices that we make to be able to partake in the game and to continue working. Steele's intent was pure and based on support of his teammate, so we also see that part of it as well. He's been a great support and he's obviously been playing great footy. He had a quiet one on Friday night and potentially all of those things laid on top of one another. A couple of poor decisions were made and we ended up being in this position as a result."