Senior journalist Mitch Cleary has been reinstated by AFL Media and has spoken publicly for the first time over being stood down for his report on Richmond’s COVID-19 breach.
Cleary was stood down for naming Brooke Cotchin, wife of Tigers captain Trent, as the person responsible for the COVID-19 breach.
Brooke Cotchin posed an Instagram story from a Gold Coast spa, as reported by the Herald Sun on Sunday.
Cotchin’s spa visit violated the protocols in place for players, club officials and family members currently based in the hub on the Gold Coast.
Speaking on the AFL Exchange podcast he co-hosts, Cleary said he regrets sharing the Instagram post on Twitter but thought he was just adding more clarity to the story at the time.
“Clearly I wasn’t aware about the protection of the names we had in place and I concede I should’ve been across that really,” Cleary said.
“We made a call as a website not to name the individuals involved and once I was made aware of that and asked to take the post down, I did so.
“The last thing I wanted to do is cause extra angst to the Cotchin family but I just felt at the time that I was adding a layer to something that was already out there.
“The support has been overwhelming really, not only our team at AFL Media who have all been fantastic but also the wider industry. The amount of calls and texts (of support) I’ve received has been great.”
The AFL released a statement clarifying that the situation had been resolved internally and Cleary has returned to work.
“Last week, AFL Media made an editorial decision to not name any family members relating to the recent club breaches of the Return to Play protocols,” the statement read.
“The reasoning behind this decision was to protect the well-being of all individual’s involved, a message that was reiterated in the official AFL Media Statement on Friday afternoon.
“Mitch mistakenly did not follow his department’s editorial decision and named a family member on his own personal twitter channel on Friday evening.
“Upon speaking to his Editor and then realising his tweet was at odds with AFL Media’s editorial decision, Mitch immediately removed his tweet and has acknowledged it was a mistake on his behalf.
“The matter has now been resolved internally with Mitch today co-hosting the weekly show AFL Exchange on afl.com.au.”