AFL CEO Gillon McLachlan will be expected to respond to the decision to stand down Mitch Cleary. (Photo by Robert Cianflone/Getty Images)
AFL CEO Gillon McLachlan will be expected to respond to the decision to stand down Mitch Cleary. (Photo by Robert Cianflone/Getty Images)

‘AFL just slaughtered their own brand’

Footy journalist Mitch Cleary has reportedly been stood down by AFL Media after he tweeted an Instagram post which resulted in Richmond receiving a $45,000 fine.

The Tigers were one of the clubs recently punished by the league for breaching COVID-19 restrictions. Brooke Cotchin, the wife of Richmond captain Trent, broke the rules by attending a day spa - a trip that was uncovered when she posted an image of the beauty parlour to social media.

It was first reported the wife of a prominent Tigers player had breached the rules, but Brooke Cotchin was soon named on radio by Nine journalist Caroline Wilson as the person in question.

Cleary shared Cotchin's public post on Twitter before later deleting the image. Despite many other outlets including naming Cotchin, he appears to have been punished.

It's understood the decision was made because the AFL believes Cleary's obligations are as an AFL employee before his obligations as a journalist.

The Herald Sun's Jon Ralph first tweeted the news on Sunday night. "I understand the AFL has stood down journalist Mitch Cleary after he posted the deleted Brooke Cotchin Insta post that led to the $45,000 COVID breach fine," Ralph wrote. "She had already been named on radio. It was of public interest. What a strange decision by the AFL."

It sparked a deluge of anger - and support for Cleary.

"The AFL have just slaughtered their own media brand, a brand that so many good people worked so hard to build,"The Age's Daniel Cherny said.

"Correct me if I'm wrong, but wasn't Mitch Cleary reporting on something that had been self-published on Instagram?" SEN's Andy Maher said.

"Unless there's more to the story, I am very surprised and disappointed the AFL has stood down Mitch Cleary, one of the best and journos and best blokes in the industry," Seven's Nathan Templeton said.

Mitch Cleary (left).
Mitch Cleary (left).

"Last I checked the AFL Media journos weren't working in PR," Channel 10's Caty Price said. "They are great at what they do - let them do it. Very very poor call by the AFL."

"If the AFL want any credibility back, they'd stand up for Mitch Cleary, not stand him down for doing his job," the ABC's Damien Peck said. "The AFL dictatorship strikes again."

Peter Ryan, who helped build AFL Media, said: The AFL should reverse the decision to stand down Mitch Cleary for posting information that was already in the public domain. I get it, tough year, working tirelessly, decisions on run at 1000 miles an hour, mistakes made. It's a poor decision."

Brooke Cotchin, who travelled to Queensland with the couple's three children to support her husband, was busted by the AFL breaching the league's strict biosecurity protocols after posting an image of her visit to a day spa on the Gold Coast.

Brooke Cotchin’s Instagram post .
Brooke Cotchin’s Instagram post .

The visit was in breach of the isolation hub that players and clubs have agreed to as part of the agreement with the Queensland Government that has seen Victorian clubs relocate to Queensland.

It was one of several breaches over the weekend with four revealed on Friday with $185,000 fines being handed out to the Tigers, Kangaroos, Blues and Hawks.

It was revealed that Tigers captain Trent Cotchin had offered to pay the fine.

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Originally published as 'AFL just slaughtered their own brand'