RICHMOND players Sydney Stack and Callum Coleman-Jones will be banished from Queensland and suspended for 10 matches after being caught in an incident near a Surfers Paradise strip club in the early hours of Friday.
Their indiscretion also cost the Tigers a fine of $100,000 - $75,000 of which the club has asked Stack and Coleman-Jones to pay.
However, the AFL Players Association has said the club can't penalise the duo beyond the League's 10-game ban, under the terms agreed between the AFL and the players' union.
Should anyone officially connected to Richmond again breach the AFL’s COVID-19 protocols, the club would face a loss of premiership points and national draft selections.
After an AFL investigation launched just hours after the incident, it was revealed Stack was initially detained by Queensland police before both players were fined and issued notices of public nuisance.
The two were involved in a fight about 3.30am Friday near a strip club in Surfers Paradise.
Stack and Coleman-Jones officially breached the AFL's COVID-19 protocols in taking an Uber, visiting a non-approved Gold Coast venue and becoming involved in an incident that involved Queensland Police. Stack was detained by police and released a short time after.
The suspensions will begin in round 17, as the Tigers have a bye in round 16.
Richmond was fined $100,000 for the breach - $75,000 for this breach and an additional $25,000, which was suspended from a previous COVID-19 protocols infringement.
Richmond chief executive Brendon Gale was scathing in his criticism of the two players on Friday evening.
"We own the mistakes and we take responsibility, it was extremely disappointing and disrespectful to the entire AFL community, to the Queensland government and to our fans and members," Gale said.
Gale admitted to feeling anger when alerted to the problem early Friday.
"It was disbelief, it was anger, it was bewilderment, it was deep embarrassment," he said.
When asked to add the Stack and Coleman-Jones incident to the previous COVID-19 protocols breach and other behavioural issues which have played out publicly in 2020, Gale defended his club but conceded its "brand" had been damaged.
"I accept the conclusions people want to draw … we will lose respect for that, and I understand that," he said.
The fines given to the club for the COVID-19 breaches will be felt even harder, as those amounts will be deducted from their soft cap in 2021, which will ultimately cost off-field employment opportunities.
However, AFLPA CEO Paul Marsh told 3AW radio on Saturday that the club's request for the players to pay $75,000 of the fine was not possible, adding that he did not condone Stack and Coleman's behaviour.
He said the financial impact of potentially lost match payments needed to be factored into the 10-game bans handed to the pair.
The AFL's general manager of football operations, Steve Hocking said suggestions that the fine be included in the players' salary cap rather than the football department soft cap were off the mark.
"It's intended to be a club fine... everybody's got ownership of this," Hocking told AFL Nation radio on Saturday.
"It's a club-wide leadership piece and we've all got responsibility and that's been included within my role. I'm expected to live to a standard and everybody right across the whole competition understands that and has signed up to it."
Stack, who unluckily was left out of the Richmond premiership team last year when injury curtailed an extraordinary debut season, has not played since round 13 on August 22.
Coleman-Jones, who played one match last year, had served alongside Stack a required 14 days of quarantine as per Queensland government rules relating to state entry, so their breaches of COVID-19 protocols relate to AFL rules only.
Queensland premier Annastacia Palaszczuk, whose government has single-handedly kept alive the 2020 AFL season in allowing teams to hub in the state and for matches to be played at the Gabba and Metricon Stadium, had demanded they be sent home when told of the breaches.
Both players have been isolated since returning to the Richmond hub this morning.
AFL General Counsel Andrew Dillon said the AFL’s protocols are the competition’s license to play and any breach would be held into account.
"It is a privilege to be able to continue our competition, and with that privilege comes responsibility. The actions of the players are not only irresponsible but disrespectful to the competition and everyone associated with it," Dillon said.
"There is simply no excuse for this breach. The two players knew the rules and chose to ignore them, putting the safety of everyone at risk.
"The behaviour of the players is not what we expect, regardless of whether any protocols are in place or not.”
Queensland police had earlier Friday released a statement regarding the Surfers Paradise incident.
"Police arrested two men following a disturbance in Surfers Paradise early this morning.
"Around 3.30am, officers responded to reports of two men, aged 20 and 21, involved in a physical altercation on Orchid Avenue.
"Both men sustained facial injuries as a result of the incident.
"The men were both issued with a Police Banning Notice, excluding them from Gold Coast Safe Night Precincts and a Penalty Infringement Notice (PIN) for Public Nuisance (Violent Behaviour). Further investigations are continuing into the matter."