Avenel footballer Kasey Duncan is copping a backlash for something he didn't do.CHALPAT SONTI August 6, 2014 3:58am
First of all, let us get to the heart of the incident that has changed Kasey Duncan’s life. What exactly happened when he tackled Cosmos Munkara when Avenel played Longwood on April 26?
‘‘I went to a normal contest on the wing, laid a tackle and it was pretty hard,’’ Duncan said.
‘‘I got a bit of weight on him I suppose and he probably wasn’t used to that kind of contact. He got up and didn’t like it and he hit me.
‘‘I just said to him ‘you can p..s off back to Darwin if you’re going to be doing that s..t’. While I was on top of him, he was called (by the umpire) holding the ball and I just got dragged off him.’’
That was by Longwood’s Will Murray, to whom Duncan said ‘‘it was only a tackle mate’’. Duncan’s version is corroborated by the two closest witnesses to the sequence of events, spectators to whom the Telegraph spoke during our own investigation and who were the only two people who could possibly have heard anything.
But it was only the start.
‘‘It all went off from there,’’ Duncan said.
‘‘I had my (guernsey) ripped off, I got abused and I was sent off for fighting. When I came back on I was targeted the whole last quarter. I was getting cleaned up, abused and hit.’’
Duncan then apologised ‘‘for what I did say to the kid’’ and thought that was the end of the matter.
When he read in the Shepparton News what he was alleged to have done — call Munkara, a Tiwi Islander, a ‘‘dirty black witchetty grub’’ — he couldn’t believe it, most of all because he is of Indigenous descent himself.
Then there was the abuse through social media and on the phone.
‘‘I didn’t want to play the next week, but I rocked up against (Murchison) and they were really good about it. I went to interleague training as well and there were no words spoken.’’
But it wasn’t getting better.
‘‘It was the little things, people coming up to me and asking why I would say something like that and reading my name in the paper and hearing it on the radio at work.’’
Duncan, 20, is an apprentice plumber and while working at Dhurringile prison even had people there ask him. It spilled over into games, where he said he was targeted by opposition players rough-housing him.
He then took a break from football for a few weeks, due to injury but also needing to work through some disciplinary issues.
‘‘I hadn’t had the best year for whatever reasons but that has all been sorted out,’’ Duncan said.
The KDFL investigation wrapped up and the matter went to the tribunal. And so did various statements, including one by Munkara where the ‘‘witchetty grub’’ remark is nowhere to be seen.
‘‘He said I said the words I’ve told you I said in his statement,’’ Duncan said.
After what was described by some others present as a ‘‘shambles’’ of a hearing, the matter was sent back to mediation. Munkara decided not to go through with that, and there it should have ended.
However the outcome hasn’t been widely reported, the Telegraph apart, and certainly not in the likes of the Age or Northern Territory News who gave the claims prominence to a wider audience over the internet.
And so Duncan is still copping abuse. There was some from spectators when Avenel and Longwood met again on Saturday. The mud sticks. He’s been spat at and abused and he’s had enough.
‘‘People ask you about it, they say that was you, and it’s not a good thing to be stuck with,’’ he said.
‘‘I’ve got friends and family that have to put up with it too.’’ So why were so many so quick to believe he was guilty?
‘‘I’m one of those guys you either love me or hate me,’’ he said.
‘‘I was playing pretty well that day on one of their mids and had been giving him a bit of stick all day. He just decided he’d had enough and it didn’t take much.’’
The player concerned was among the most vocal with his criticism of what Duncan was supposed to have said, but in a film of the incident cannot be seen anywhere near it.
Despite what he’s had to put up with, Duncan doesn’t hold any grudges against Munkara or the Redlegs.
‘‘It felt like he was being pushed into it,’’ he said.
‘‘I spoke to him at the tribunal and he’s a good kid. I’ve got a lot of mates who play at Longwood and I’ve got no problem with (the club) at all. They’re just going from what their team-mates have said and when you’re at a footy club you want to back your club in.’’ As Duncan does for Avenel, where he returned this year.
‘‘I’m completely grateful for everyone who did stick by me, and put their hand up and said their part,’’ he said.
‘‘This is my home-town club. They were great for me as a kid, for my development not just as a footballer but as a person as well, and I couldn’t be more thankful.’’
By Chalpat Sonti, Telegraph editor
The warning signs should have been up early when Kasey Duncan was accused of uttering those now infamous four words to Longwood’s Cosmos Munkara.
That was the first sign. For all the people who claimed they heard the words, they initially said they were said to another player. Munkara was only identified a few days later. Why the error if the ‘‘witnesses’’ were so sure?
The second was that night. Given the anger this generated later, why wasn’t anyone at Avenel told about it when the Swans hung around for about an hour socialising after the game? The first many heard of it was reading about it two days later.
The third, and most damning, is the film of the incident. Clearly there were only the two players in shot (covering at least 20
The Telegraph asked both of them independently of each other what they heard and we got the same answer.
One, Craig Hockley, had only just arrived to see what was going on and his presence was actually unknown by many of the Avenel people nearby, including the other witness.
There were claims many Longwood people heard the words in that tackle — that was only possible through having bionic hearing.
And finally Munkara’s statement was the most obvious reason to believe Duncan’s version — he doesn’t mention those four words at all, only what Duncan and the two witnesses heard.
Whether those words, ‘‘you can p..s off back to Darwin’’, can be construed as racial abuse is probably a matter for a mediator and the two players to work out. However, that won’t happen because Munkara decided not to go through with it. That is his choice, and we do not attach any blame to him.
But somehow the ‘‘dirty black witchetty grub’’ phrase entered the picture. We might never know where it came from — it is possible someone heard it being uttered by spectators.
What we do know is that Duncan didn’t use it. That deduction is drawn from the available evidence, including from him but more importantly from Munkara and the spectators.
And he shouldn’t have to suffer for what he didn’t do. It’s time those people who still believe he was guilty took a deep breath, assessed the situation calmly, and come to that realisation.
We have a duty of care to every resident in our region if we are truly to act as a community, and what Duncan has had to put up with is unacceptable.
Much of the damage has also been done via the internet, with various media organisations quick to report the allegations but not the actual outcome. With the information super highway, ‘‘news’’ travels fast, but it is rarely corrected when the facts corroborate something else. There aren’t many ‘‘clicks’’ in that, more’s the shame.
And one final word. The Telegraph, until now, has refrained from repeating the original allegation or naming Duncan.
There were good reasons for that — we don’t believe abusive phrases of that kind warrant repeating, a stand we also took in the blow-up over the abuse Saad Saad copped, and Duncan denied it from the start so unless he was found guilty by the tribunal he deserved to have his name kept out of it (even if many people knew who it referred to).
But now he has come forward of his own accord and wants his name cleared, we will do so. And without using the ‘‘witchetty grub’’ phrase we can’t adequately convey what he was accused of.
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