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Avenel to defend racial vilification claim

Avenel president Bill O'Connor says his club will stand by its man and deny Longwood player Richard Puruntatameri was racially vilified during their Kyabram District Football League clash on Saturday.

OLIVER CAFFREY April 30, 2014 3:05am

Avenel president Bill O’Connor says his club will vigorously deny a racial vilification claim.

Longwood’s Northern Territory recruit Richard Puruntatameri was allegedly called a ‘‘dirty black witchetty grub’’ by an Avenel opponent during the Redlegs’ 50-point loss at Longwood Recreation Reserve on Saturday.

Longwood has sent a request to Kyabram District Football League for a formal investigation into the incident.

Former AFL player Byron Pickett, who was making a one-off appearance for Longwood, said the offending player offered an apology to him.

‘‘He apologised for what he said (to Puruntatameri), I didn’t know what he had said at the time, so I was a bit lost for words,’’ Pickett said.

‘‘I didn’t hear what he had said (to Puruntatameri), but in hindsight I’m not the one he should’ve been apologising to.

‘‘He (Avenel player) was shattered by what he said and it’s really unfortunate something like that happened because all the locals were awesome to me.’’

Pickett reiterated fellow former AFL player Ronnie Burns’ sentiments, who was also at the game, that there needed to be greater education about racial vilification, rather than severely punishing the alleged offender.

O’Connor said the club would defend the player in question and denied the allegations.

‘‘We will be vigorously denying it,’’ O’Connor said.

‘‘That story (Pickett’s) is not consistent with what our player told us.

‘‘We will stand by our man, he’s not the sort of guy that would say something like that.

‘‘I can tell you this, at the end of the day I thanked the president and the secretary and none of them said anything about any of this to me.’’

Longwood president Justin Fry said the club needed to push for an investigation after being unsatisfied with Avenel’s response.

‘‘The letter has been sent to the KDFNL to get some action on the issue because something like this can’t go unattended,’’ Fry said.

‘‘We weren’t impressed with the club’s (Avenel) stance and trying to sweep it under the carpet — it didn’t sit well with any of us.

‘‘All their (Avenel’s) players stuck around after the game, which was great, and we look forward to challenging them again next time for the Max Cox-Bluey Shelton trophy.’’

Puruntatameri, along with Rodney Moreen, Hector Tipungwuti and Cosmos Munkara were playing their first game for Longwood.

All players intend to live and work in the area while playing for Longwood this season.

Longwood coach Matthew Chilcott said despite initial fears they would go home, the players were keen to continue in Victoria.

‘‘If Ronnie and Byron weren’t there on the day, they wouldn’t be here anymore and would’ve gone back to the NT,’’ Chilcott said.

‘‘They want something done about it, and rightly so, they’re really good guys and something like this shouldn’t happen to anyone.

‘‘They want to live here and to work and earn some money as well as playing footy.’’

AFL Goulburn Murray operations officer Bree Boyle said the KDFNL was unable to comment until the request for an investigation was made official.

The KDFNL received the application, but the request can not be made official until $500 is lodged at AFL GM headquarters.

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