But the clubs aren’t facing the same situations legally. Differences in the circumstances of each case have shaped their responses. The AFL, which can intervene and force a stand-down (as the NRL does in certain circumstances), has chosen to let the clubs make the calls, providing some guidance and support, including to the women concerned.
The short summary of the difference is that the Swans know more or less what they are dealing with, but Collingwood do not know.
If the Magpies stand to lose more than the Swans, their position – as stated when De Goey was charged – is that they went immediately to the police and the AFL integrity unit in 2018 when they received the allegation about De Goey’s behaviour towards a woman in 2015. They say if protection of a star was paramount, then why did they go to the police pronto in 2018?
Sydney have solid knowledge of the charges, laid out in the charge of aggravated assault occasioning bodily harm. The club had given Taylor a series of directives before the alleged incident in Western Australia that led the charge.
The Swans have been clear that the failure to follow those directives – which followed allegations aired on social media – was a factor in the stand-down, not just the criminal charge.
Collingwood, on the other hand, do not know the detail of the allegations against their player. De Goey and his lawyer Tony Hargreaves have not yet received the brief for the charge, despite several requests.
Collingwood’s position is that they cannot stand down De Goey when the club does not know the nature of the allegations. De Goey has told the club he does not know what happened to bring the charges.
Importantly, the Magpies have reserved the right to change their position once they have seen the brief. So it is conceivable that they could still stand down De Goey once they’ve seen what’s alleged by the woman, to whom De Goey apologised for inappropriate language back in 2018 (De Goey was then managed by my brother, but is without an agent now).
The Magpies have been advised, too, that De Goey’s case is unlikely to be resolved until 2022. He is due in court for a mention hearing on October 30 this year – just after the season ends – but there’s a distinct possibility the case will not get to a contested hearing until after the 2021 season, due to a backlog in the legal system.
Thus, if Collingwood had stood down De Goey pending the outcome of the case, he would have waiting potentially for two years or thereabouts before the outcome was settled. The long wait – and damage to a footballer’s career, who might yet be found not guilty – is clearly an issue. But crucially the league policy – reflecting community mores – on such matters is heavily based on the victim’s wishes.
Many, especially Collingwood and De Goey supporters, will cite the presumption of innocence as the bedrock legal principle. Clubs, though, haven’t always given players the benefit of the doubt and the NRL doesn’t, depending on the severity of the charge.
That the police have not yet detailed the charges against De Goey has taken the decision on his immediate playing future out of Collingwood’s, and the AFL’s, hands.
Once the Magpies know what’s been alleged against their star, they will have to make a call. It’s easy to let him play when there’s nothing specific to defend.
Jake Niall is a Walkley award-winning sports journalist and chief AFL writer for The Age.