BEING an AFL fan is embarrassing to admit right now.
It only takes a few players doing the wrong thing to show just how much of an isolated bubble many AFL footballers live in.
End-of-season or hiatus parties after one week of AFL games were far from inappropriate.
These were plain stupid.
North Melbourne duo Nick Larkey and Cameron Zurhaar held a party at their Kensington with reports of about 10 guests. They were approached by neighbour, was was an anaesthetist, and asked to keep social distancing in mind - only to keep partying until the early hours of the next morning.
Geelong vice-captain Mark Blicavs - a club leader - had police called to his Geelong West home for a similar scenario.
This comes as prominent professional athletes about the world, including Rafael Nadal, Roger Federer, Le Bron James, Steph Curry, Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo are putting up their own money and spearheading campaigns to fund medical supplies and food in their home towns amid the coronavirus pandemic.
Where we live, AFL players are kings.
Rightly or wrongly deserved, AFL players are prominent role models in our communities. AFL players have the chance to use their profile for good - and many do, often with little fanfare.
The fact AFL opening round went ahead, even without fans, was surprising but a move AFL boss Gillon McLachan was quick to shut down as the league realised the fast-evolving implications and environment this pandemic we are living in.
For players to plead ignorance is inexcusable.
Blicavs and the Kangaroos each offered reasoning along the lines of having played with their teammates earlier in the day and not realising social distancing would be an immediate problem.
This was after Bondi Beach and other Sydney beaches were closed after an onslaught of selfish defiance. (And the Cats were even playing in Sydney that day).
While both club issued a statement players involved had been spoken to for "inappropriate behaviour", what these incidents highlighted was how far removed from reality most AFL footballers are. These are the only incidents we know about, made public, too.
These are grown men who are told what to eat, how to exercise and when to exercise, where to best invest their money. So much of their time is spent in the club with the same group of players and a whole staffing team effectively pandering to their needs.
As someone who grew up in Geelong, this columnist can verify hype and adulation follows Cats about the streets. And this is not about knocking Cats - this happens in other AFL cities.
Pubs are closed, clubs are closed, restaurants are closed to diners and now even wedding and funerals have tight restrictions.
We cannot be having backyard parties or dinner parties with friends and extended family, no matter how invincible or ignorant we are feeling. These are clear, strong messages coming to us from our government and health leaders multiple times every day.
Surely this would have been spelt out in clear terms to AFL players by club officials.
This time is undoubtedly challenging and tough for everyone the world over.
This time away from club lands will test AFL players in discipline but hopefully offer players a greater perspective on life outside their bubble.
This is a great chance to really step up as role models and leaders.
We are seeing this already in our community football and netball clubs. Albeit not professional, Ballarat coaches and club leaders have been working hard on physical training plans, adapted to different age groups, that players can do solo.
North Ballarat triple Victorian Football League premiership captain Shaune Moloney headlines a new farm fit video series for his Rokewood-Corindhap players - at the very least to get them laughing and inspired to find ways to stay fit.
There are some great videos and photos of professional athletes, including ballerinas, adapting workouts to their home space.
AFL footballers do not have to do this but what they all must keep in mind is fans are still watching. This is a time to set a good example by doing the right thing.
There are no excuses for what could effectively be grave mistakes.
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