Once the police ceased investigating Nathan Broad and he returned from Bali to face the music there was little doubt in the minds of the AFL and Richmond what had to be done as a result.
The 24-year-old defender did not deny claims from a woman he photographed topless wearing his premiership medal that he had passed around the photograph to a social media group without her consent. Nor did Broad deny that the woman in question had every right to believe the photograph had been deleted at her request.
Involving other Richmond players or other individuals in the investigation proved messy and complex and given the original transgression by Broad and its significant reach also largely irrelevant. Broad in fact had admitted very early in the piece to the club – in the week that followed the Grand Final – that he was guilty as accused and according to the Tigers remorseful.
But they knew he had to be suspended, not anonymously fined, and the game had to take a stand on his horrific breach of trust which saw the woman’s shattered Richmond-supporting father approach Brendon Gale shortly after the Grand Final and demand the photograph be taken down from all social media.
Of course it was all too late by then. The AFL and Richmond say the only obstacle in punishing Broad was revealing his identity because he and the woman already had a relationship of some form and she was alarmed that naming him would identify her.
Fairfax Media was warned by her legal team Maurice Blackburn against naming Broad when the story first broke and again last week, saying they feared for her well being. They still do. That changed over the weekend and although all parties on Monday insisted the punishment and its announcement – coming at the end of what has been a most unusual and highly sensitive investigation – was mutually agreed to; heavy-handed media management certainly played its role.
So the investigation into Broad and his subsequent three-week suspension was relatively simple.
Tougher was the negotiation between three sets of legal teams – the one representing Broad, the woman’s and Richmond’s. She was desperate to keep his name out of it and therefore did not want him punished. The AFL judged there was a bigger issue at play. That negotiation saw the woman come to understand that a public apology from Broad and a Richmond-instigated penalty would hopefully put a full stop on the speculation and – again hopefully – help her start to return to her normal life.
Neither the player nor president Peggy O’Neil took questions at the woman’s request. Personally I think the suspension – ultimately ratified by Gillon McLachlan and Andrew Dillon at the AFL after being put forward by Richmond’s Gale with Neil Balme and Daniel Richardson – could have been longer.
Having predicted two to four weeks for Broad my view is four to six would have been more fitting. But in football terms this punishment could prove more devastating for him than it first appears. Not only does he miss the flag unfurling in round-one, the round-two grand final rematch along with round-three but – given his performance-related contract – he is stripped of the associated match payments as well.
And then comes the battle to regain his spot given the list of challengers led by Oleg Markov and Ryan Garthwaite. Broad was a great contributor to the premiership – only his 12th game for the Tigers – but he will have to fight to return to the side now.
Richmond bosses are privately insisting they will not make that return hard for him. Broad played his best game for the club on the last day of September. Devastatingly for him but significantly more so the woman concerned he followed up with a dreadfully misjudged act. He has spoken with individual on field leaders but will not face them as a group until the more senior players return to pre-season training on December 4.
Broad, who shares a house with team mate Brandon Ellis, is expected to now return home to his parents in Perth before returning to the club with the first-to-fourth-year players on November 27. And he has to live with the disgraceful deed he committed by violating the woman’s trust.
And then thrusting scandal on the entire club at a time it could have hoped for some unfettered access to scrutiny-free celebration. Quite apart from the trauma he inflicted on an innocent woman Broad has created some murkiness around the premiership.
In the end Broad had to be named because he had to be punished and you can’t anonymously suspend a player. Also not naming him was casting suspicion on undeserving team mates. Whether, as Peggy O’Neal stated with as much hope as conviction, whether there will be lessons learned from this damaging cautionary tale remains to be seen.
As she spoke along with Broad at Monday’s televised media announcement, Channel Seven’s almost live report used half its screen to feature the topless photograph – albeit censored – in question. This as Broad urged people to stop sending around the photograph.
The Seven decision demonstrated yet again that he acted so irresponsibly in unleashing a monster which fell out of his control weeks ago. The insidious nature of social media and the profound and crippling effect it has had on young people’s lives and lifestyles is explored in a disturbing new film starring Elizabeth Olsen: ‘Ingrid Goes West’.
Closer to home delisted Bulldog Travis Cloke, driven to distraction and a mental health breakdown due to hateful anonymous attacks, suggested in a radio interview on Saturday that he may have become addicted to social media and that ignoring Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat and so forth was not as simple as it sounded.
He likened the addiction to alcohol and gambling related illnesses. Photo theft is not new to the AFL.
Brendan Fevola did it to Lara Bingle and Nick Riewoldt deals with his own horrendous invasion of privacy in his new autobiography – when an end-of-season photograph showing a part of his anatomy along with two team mates was downloaded and sent around without his knowledge or consent by the so-called ‘Schoolgirl’.
Trust has been an issue in relationships for an eternity but the stakes are so much higher now as the woman who probably thought she was sharing an intimate funny moment with a friend has found out.
And despite some irrelevant and inaccurate finger-pointing this has occurred through no fault of her own.
This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.