Sidebottom handed monster ban for COVID-19 breaches

Collingwood will not strip Steele Sidebottom of his vice-captaincy despite multiple COVID-19 breaches, with club president Eddie McGuire saying he is "proud" of the midfielder's response to the incident.

McGuire's comments came after Sidebottom was handed a four-match ban by the AFL for multiple breaches of the its COVID-19 return to play protocols.

Speaking on Nine News, McGuire said the 29-year-old had simply "had a bad night" and did all the right things in the wake of breaking the AFL's strict regulations.

"He did the right thing in every situation as far as going out to see his teammate who's knee had just been blown out and unfortunately drank too much of a liquor that he wasn't used to and became disorientated and from there a few things went wrong along the journey," he said.

Eddie McGuire

"To his credit, he reported to the club first thing in the morning, reported to the AFL, and when given the option today to appeal the decision, he said he wanted to take the four weeks, which is a pretty hard suspension, because he wanted to support the AFL and also support his teammates and get it out of the way.

"From a situation where there was no malice, no intent, but a bad result, he's made the most of it and we're proud of him tonight."

Sidebottom's teammate, veteran defender Lynden Dunn, has been handed a one-match ban for his involvement in the sequence of events last Saturday which saw the pair catch an Uber together following a visit to teammate Jeremy Howe's home.

The joint Uber ride was Sidebottom's first breach of the AFL's coronavirus rules, before the star midfielder committed a further breach by visiting Collingwood staff member Daniel Wells, who is not among the team's COVID-19 approved staff who can be in contact with players.

While accepting the ban, Collingwood was less than impressed with the length of the sanction handed down to Sidebottom, calling the four-match ban "excessive, inconsistent with recent protocol breaches and contestable".

Steele Sidebottom

"To his credit, Steele considered what was in the best interests of the code and Collingwood," Collingwood GM of Football, Geoff Walsh, said in a statement regarding the length of Sidebottom's ban.

"Firstly, he accepts that he made some poor decisions but he also feels it is the right thing to accept the punishment, a greater punishment than most believe is fair, to avoid a distraction that could create difficulties for the competition and his team-mates. That's the sort of person Steele is.

"As a club, we considered all options but our disappointment over Steele's suspension is no greater than it is over the fact that two senior players breached the return to play protocols.

"Everyone knows Steele and Lynden started out with the best of intentions, to console an injured team-mate, but our players and staff have been well educated on the protocols and we take our social responsibilities seriously.

"We respect the privilege we have to play and the conditions under which we must live in order to play.

Lynden Dunn

"As a code and as a community we have to remain vigilant and disciplined. This episode and the circumstances out in the wider community reinforce the need to minimise the risk of transmission."

The length of Sidebottom's ban has been influenced by "his conduct following his departure from a Collingwood staff member's home in an intoxicated state that resulted in him being picked up by police and delivered home," the AFL said in a statement.

Despite being handed a one-match ban for his part in the incident, Dunn has returned to the Holden Centre and will be available to play in Collingwood's scratch match against Essendon on Saturday if he is cleared by a second COVID-19 test which was conducted on Wednesday.

Sidebottom will be permitted to return to the Magpies' program next week if he is cleared by COVID-19 testing.

The sanctions handed down by the AFL means that Sidebottom, a two-time club best-and-fairest winner, will miss Collingwood's matches against Essendon, Brisbane, Geelong and either West Coast or Fremantle.

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