AFL News: ‘Incredibly uncomfortable’ – Great’s concern with Thomas lifeline ahead of league’s anti-DV tribute


Former great Jimmy Bartel is ‘incredibly uncomfortable’ at the prospect of Tarryn Thomas being given a second chance at an AFL career, as the league prepares to hold pre-match tributes in Round 8 for women who have lost their lives to gendered violence.

Players, coaches and umpires will link arms around the centre circle before all matches this weekend and pay silent tribute to the lives lost, as part of the league’s push to reduce Australia’s shocking domestic violence numbers, with 29 women killed already in 2024.

However, just hours after the AFL and CEO Andrew Dillon announced the tribute, the gesture began to ring hollow when Essendon coach Brad Scott threw his support behind disgraced ex-North Melbourne player Thomas being allowed to resume an AFL career in 2025.

“As an industry, do we just wash our hands and say we’re done with him, or do we help him? I’d prefer to sit in the help camp,” Scott said.

“I’ve known Tarryn since he was 14 and my view is he’s a good person. Has he made some terrible mistakes? Yes, he has, and he’s the first to admit that.”

Speaking on Nine’s Footy Classified, Geelong great Jimmy Bartel, who was a victim of domestic violence as a child and famously grew a beard during his last AFL season in 2016 to raise awareness for the cause, said the ‘forgiveness angle hasn’t worked’.

“I feel very uncomfortable with it [a second chance for Thomas],” Bartel said.

“I get the whole premise of forgiveness and chances, [but] he’s had a number of chances with his alleged behaviour.

“At some stage, there’s got to be a fork in the road, because the forgiveness angle hasn’t worked. Because the numbers are actually getting worse.

“I was part of a campaign that was seven years ago, trying to very visually put the AFL as a leader in saying ‘no’ to domestic violence, starting conversations, parents with children – and we’re getting worse.

“At some stage there’s got to be a fork in the road.”

Jimmy Bartel says he is ‘incredibly uncomfortable’ with the prospect of Tarryn Thomas re-entering the comp next year, as clubs plan to take a stand against domestic violence this weekend.#9FootyClassified | Live on 9Now ????️

— Footy on Nine (@FootyonNine) May 1, 2024

“The AFL can lead the charge, we can rehabilitate, we can be a leader in this space, but that whole forgiveness, try again, try again, is not working.

“I lean towards a bit more zero tolerance than others, because that’s personal to me… I feel incredibly uncomfortable that we’re going to have players arm in arm, another woman dies… I just find it very hard.

“At some stage, the privilege has got to run out. It’s a privilege to play AFL, it was a privilege to get multiple opportunities, and now you’re getting the privilege of being spoken about and getting another lifeline.

“Yeah, throw your arms around him, support him, educate him – but you don’t have to do that at AFL level.”

Bartel’s comments were echoed by Herald Sun chief football writer Mark Robinson on Fox Footy’s AFL 360, who said the league has to ‘walk the walk’ if they commit to taking a stand against gendered violence.

“Terrific gesture, the AFL, whether you like it or not they’ve taken some significant positions on the big issues,” he said.

“But I fear, though, this is going to present the AFL with a very confronting and difficult decision to make in about 14 weeks’ time – and that is whether to allow Tarryn Thomas, formerly of North Melbourne, back into the AFL system, when he’s been suspended for 18 weeks for inappropriate behaviour towards women.

“I think it was his third set of allegations against him – now we do note that there’s been no criminal charges. But the AFL and the players, congratulations, standing up… it’ll be a very powerful photo, it’ll be a national photo.

“Then you’ve got to walk the walk, and you’ve got to act.”

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