In a club statement, Pert said: “He has made a poor decision which is incredibly disappointing. He has not only put himself, his team mates and the competition at risk, but he has failed to live up to the values of the Melbourne Football Club. On behalf of the Melbourne Football Club, I sincerely apologise to the AFL and the Queensland government for the embarassment and harm that this incident has caused.
“Harley knew the rules. He understands the extent of his actions and is incredibly remorseful for his behaviour.
Sources said Bennell had not been arrested by police nor charged. The penalty for a first AFL COVID-19 offence is a $50,000 fine to the club, with $25,000 suspended but the Demons have copped the full $50,000 without a suspended component. This is the Demons’ first breach since Kysaiah Pickett and Charlie Spargo ran foul of AFL protocols early in the season, before the hubs were established and a new fines system introduced.
Bennell was not part of the Dees’ squad for Saturday’s match against Essendon on the Gold Coast, and as a precautionary measure has not returned to their hub.
“Whilst the club and the AFL are in the process of establishing the facts, Harley will remain in an off-site isolation location, to remove any possibility of contaminating the Twin Waters high performance hub,” Melbourne said earlier on Sunday.
Bennell’s former coach at Fremantle, Ross Lyon, said he had recently been in touch with the 27-year-old.
“It’s very concerning. I spoke to Harley on Friday, we had a conversation about not being picked and what the future looks like,” Lyon told Triple M.
“He was really committed to Melbourne, it seemed like they’d committed to him. I think if he’s been out … the concern for him is the exit interviews … that’s disappointing, he’s up there with [partner] Amy and [child] Carter.
“I hope he’s OK because a lot of pressure is going to come but he’d been perfect.
“Yeah, concerning. On the surface he seems to have maybe made an error.”
The breach comes at a time when the AFL and the Queensland government are under pressure regarding their arrangement to play out the season up north.
Many regular Queensland residents and family of Queenslanders are unable to get back into the state, while the AFL has been allowed to move virtually its entire operation to the state.
Jake Niall is a Walkley award-winning sports journalist and chief AFL writer for The Age.
Anthony is a sports reporter at The Age.
Daniel is an Age sports reporter