Collingwood coach Nathan Buckley says he “doesn’t have a leg to stand on” with his quarantine breach and understands it would be a source of angst for locked-down Victorians.
The Pies copped a $50,000 fine (half suspended) after Buckley and assistant coach Brenton Sanderson played a doubles tennis match involving Australian Fed Cup captain Alicia Molik, while under hub protocols in Perth.
Buckley admitted that the breach and subsequent uproar was unhelpful in the lead-up to a shock 12-point loss against Fremantle on Sunday night, which has the Pies sitting 10th.
“It can’t help. You don’t need the extra attention, especially when it’s away from your primary endeavour, which is to be as good a football team as you possibly can be,” Buckley said post-match.
“We let the club down in that regard by a miscommunication and not being diligent enough by our understanding of what we could and couldn’t do.
“As soon as we came back into the team environment, we had a few conversations and realised we needed to put our hand up and address is, so we’ve forwarded that on to the AFL and we’ve come to the end point of that.”
Buckley said that the current hub restrictions were clear; yet suggested that the constant shift of rules amid the COVID-19 pandemic had made compliance difficult.
“It was crystal clear, when you look back at it. There have been four or five different iterations of what is allowed in hubs and the hotel we’re in at the moment is not technically a hub, it’s a hotel,” Buckley said.
“There’s state government situations, then there’s what the AFL is trying to achieve, which is to keep a consistent and level playing field.
“It has changed and evolved and there has been almost weekly updates or changes to what has occurred. I’m not making an excuse but that is a reality that clubs are facing and there’s probably some of the slip-ups that have stemmed from that.
“But I need to be better. We need to be better.
“We believed that it had been covered off, we thought it’d been ticked off [for the tennis match].
“There are some situations of the week where it’s OK and some where it’s not, with different people at different times, so it still is a little bit … it’s really clear but it has shifted and changed over time.
“I think the AFL are doing the best job that they can because the situations in states change consistently.”
Buckley’s breach, which sparked calls for him to be stood down for the Fremantle match, was among a raft of indiscretions from AFL teams last week. The Pies coach admitted that the breaches would be tough to cop for Victorian footy fans who are now subject to an extreme lock-down escalation.
“I was listening with the Victorian [rules] shifts and we don’t have any clubs in Victoria at the moment but there was a lot of Victorian people, a lot of Collingwood supporters, who were looking out and seeing what’s going on and making judgments on what is happening around the place in clubland and in the hubs,” Buckley said.
“I’d be frustrated if I was locked down and then something like this happened. I’ve got an understanding of that. I don’t have a leg to stand on.
“It was a lack of due diligence by me and follow-up. I should have known better, really, should have checked again before we’d gone.”
Brayden Sier scores for Collingwood
Buckley said losing to the Dockers had made a tough week far worse.
“If we won a game of footy tonight, it would have been a lot better. That’s what we’re here to do,” Buckley said.
“I just had a real expensive game of tennis during the week and I suppose we all understand that there was only a handful of COVID cases that are currently in place in WA, so the actual health risk is not a concern, but I have a responsibility to adhere to the rules and regulations of the AFL.
“Which, in 2020, hub protocols are part of our rules and regulations. Sando and I have copped a fair fine for that.
“We moved quickly back to this [game] but we didn’t perform tonight. As a group, we’ve got work to do.”
Collingwood will now travel to Brisbane to play Sydney on Thursday night.