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‘It’s embarrassing for Geraldton’: Off-field alleged assault mars first round of football

Headshot of Jake Santa Maria
Jake Santa MariaMidwest Times
Brigades won their grand final rematch over Rovers. An alleged off-field assault took place after the game.
Camera IconBrigades won their grand final rematch over Rovers. An alleged off-field assault took place after the game. Credit: Jake Santa Maria

An off-field fight has marred the first round of the Great Northern Football League’s season, which comes after a lengthy review into the league’s culture over summer following a series of violent incidents last year.

The review has not managed to hold off the headlines for long as another off-field incident takes the shine off what was a terrific round of football.

Following the conclusion of the league game between Brigades and Rovers at Greenough Oval on Saturday, a Brigades committee member, who is also the colts coach, was allegedly assaulted by a spectator.

According to witnesses, the coach and a Rovers spectator exchanged words before the coach was punched in the face as the pair traded blows resulting in bruising and scratches before the pair was separated by bystanders.

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Brigades club president Dean Pascoe said the coach was not seriously injured and was more concerned with the safety of his partner, who was next to him.

“He’s a big guy so he’s OK, but he was a bit shaken mainly for the safety of his wife who was next to him at the time,” he said.

“I and a vice president jumped in to help break up the tussle along with members of the Rovers public and we are currently submitting evidence to the league.”

Brigades won their grand final rematch over Rovers
Camera IconBrigades won their grand final rematch over Rovers Credit: Jake Santa Maria

Geraldton Police acting officer-in-charge Sen. Sgt Andrew Ramsden said police were aware of the incident but no formal reports had been made.

“There was unrest which included a small fight that concluded before police arrival, no injuries were reported to police at the time of attendance,” he said.

The alleged assault comes just after a review into the league was completed over the summer following several high-profile incidents last year, including a mass brawl in July 2022 between Brigades and Mullewa colts sides.

Brigades’ then-colts coach and ex-AFL player Jayden Schofield was banned for eight matches, while a father of a Brigades player received an 12-month suspension. Thirteen players were suspended for between one and four matches.

Then two months later, former AFL player Shannon Cox, who was playing for Rovers, became involved in a punch-up in the carpark at the Recreation Ground during a preliminary final.

Pascoe said Saturday’s incident took away what was otherwise an almost perfect day for the Hawks.

“We had great weather, played some really good footy and won all four of our games that should be what we’re talking about but unfortunately this overshadows it,” he said.

“It’s a bad look for football in general and it’s definitely frustrating these incidents keep happening.”

Rovers club president Daniel Starling was not involved directly but was aware of the interaction at his club’s home venue.

“I’ve left it with the GNFL to investigate,” he said, “I couldn’t believe it when I heard it, it’s extremely disappointing and frankly embarrassing for Geraldton.”

Required workshops were held for all those involved in the GNFL as part of a review into the league.
Camera IconRequired workshops were held for all those involved in the GNFL as part of a review into the league. Credit: Facebook

It is alleged the spectator may have already been banned from attending GNFL fixtures.

“We can only police the area we’re in charge of, we can’t be going around to every car checking for alcohol and the league should be the one responsible for handling banned persons,” Starling said.

GNFL president Carrissa Bellottie said it was disappointing, but the league had processes in place to deal with these matters.

“The league is currently gathering evidence and will release its findings in due course,” she said.

“It’s definitely disappointing but we have a clear process to follow and it should provide us with the right outcome.”

The alleged victim declined to comment, saying he wanted to let the GNFL come to their findings and trusted they would reach the right decision going forward.

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