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Doubt over racial abuse allegations

A respected sporting administrator who was the closest spectator at the Avenel-Longwood game where an alleged incident occured says 'nothing' was said.

CHALPAT SONTI May 14, 2014 3:57am

EXCLUSIVE

The credibility of a racial abuse allegation levelled at an Avenel footballer has been thrown into serious doubt.

A respected sports administrator who was the closest witness to where the incident is claimed to have occurred has told the Telegraph that nothing was said in a tackle the Swans player laid on his Longwood opponent, Tiwi Islander Cosmos Munkara.

Craig Hockley, Basketball Victoria Country’s participation co-ordinator and a respected figure of long standing in that game, had just watched his daughter Paige play for Avenel’s A-grade netball side when he wandered over to the football with his son.

He told the Telegraph that he was about 2m from where the tackle took place, a claim backed by video footage of the game.

The footage seen by the Telegraph also shows quite clearly there were no Longwood supporters remotely in the vicinity and only one Redlegs player, William Murray, who scuffled with the Avenel player after the tackle.

He arrived from a position closer to the centre of the field several seconds after the original tackle and his actions appear to be a result of the tackle. The Longwood club has claimed to have about 10 witnesses who heard what was allegedly said in the incident and would provide statements to the investigator.

Hockley said the Avenel player held Munkara in the tackle ‘‘a bit too long’’ and there was the beginnings of a scuffle.

‘‘Nothing was said then,’’ he said.

‘‘(The Avenel player) said (after Murray joined in) ‘it was only a tackle, only a tackle’. (Murray) was just remonstrating by pushing and shoving and (Munkara) had bolted out of there. It then moved away from us towards the dugout. A lot more people got involved over there.’’

Hockley’s version of events concur with others the Telegraph has heard from people who were nearby.

It also concurs with what the Avenel player is understood to have told the club he said, and that an apology he made to former AFL star Byron Pickett referred to the nature of the tackle.

Hockley was unaware of any of those statements when he spoke to the Telegraph.

And Hockley is the closest thing to a ‘‘neutral’’ in the whole affair. While his daughter has started playing netball at the Swans this season, he has no other links with it, and none at all with the football side.

‘‘It was the first Avenel game I’ve been to in I don’t know how many years,’’ he said.

‘‘I don’t know (the Avenel player) personally, I only know of him from when he was playing juniors, but I’ve got nothing to hide here. I just don’t want to see people knocked out for the wrong reasons, especially something serious like this.’’

Avenel officials have been gobsmacked by the Longwood claims. As the Telegraph reported following the game, they were not aware of them until reading them in the media two days later. Neither player-coach Cameron Gillett nor president Bill O’Connor were approached about the claims on the day by Redlegs officials, despite staying for some time after the game, and on-field Swans players do not appear to have been made aware of it by their rivals. The allegations first surfaced on social media later on Saturday night.

The Kyabram District Football League has started an investigation into the incident, with the investigator to decide if a vilification charge should be referred to the KDFL tribunal. Hockley - whose presence at the game and vicinity to the incident was not known of by Avenel officials until after he spoke to the Telegraph - said he was willing to give a witness statement to the investigator.

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