Collingwood’s Jaidyn Stephenson copped a 22-week penalty, 12 of those suspended, as well as a $20,000 fine for self-reporting that he bet on Magpies games.
As a result, he will miss the rest of the home and away season.
The 2018 Rising Star winner placed three bets in his side’s clashes against the Western Bulldogs in round four, Essendon in round six and St Kilda in round nine, as part of a multi-bet totalling $36.
The multi-leg bets included legs on Collingwood to win, Collingwood’s winning margin, himself to kick a goal, himself to kick three or more goals, Collingwood teammates to kick a goal, Collingwood teammates to kick two or more goals and Collingwood teammates to have in excess of a number of disposals.
There is no denying that what Stephenson did was straight-up idiotic and he deserved his right whack. Just betting on one match would be dumb, therefore three is nearly unforgivable. This is not to defend what he did.
But a 10-match ban is up there with one of the biggest penalties ever handed out by the AFL. His only mistake was infringing the rules, as he wasn’t found guilty of match fixing.
Remember, this investigation has been ongoing. The AFL did their due diligence, went back and watched the games involved in the bets, breaking down every clip of Stephenson. They concluded that the bets did not affect way he played.
He was found not guilty of, for example, missing an easy shot at goal to chase a 1-39 margin or passing to a teammate he wanted to get a disposal or score. The AFL cleared Stephenson of influencing in any way the outcome or course of a game as that is a whole separate issue.
There were no irregularities found on his bets. The footage would have showed, if say, Jack Crisp, was coincidentally playing on a wing in one of the games involved where Stephenson needed him to get over 25 disposals.
Therefore, the AFL cleared him of bringing the game into disrepute. Had that been the case, then yes, throw the book at him – one year, two years, gone.
The only thing this kid was found guilty of was being plain stupid and threatening to cost a sports betting company a few dollars.
So where does this magic number 10 come from?
The last player to be found guilty of such an infringement was Heath Shaw in 2011. The former Magpies defender was banned for eight matches for illegally betting on teammate Nick Maxwell to kick the first goal during a game. Shaw had intel that Maxwell, a defender, would be starting forward that week.
The difference between the cases is that Shaw was found guilty of learning about Maxwell’s role change and got caught in the act by the AFL. And yet he only copped eight games.
Meanwhile, Stephenson was suspended for 10 for a stupid mistake, which he fessed up to. You would have thought that he and the club’s open honesty would have bought him some extra tickets, but clearly not.
To the claims that Stephenson was handed 10 matches to conveniently allow him to return for finals – why should he cop additional games for the club featuring in September? If a player from the Gold Coast or Carlton got done for the same crime, they would have to receive the same fine. If a Pies player got done next week, he would miss the first week of the finals. Plain and simple.
The AFL were made to hand out a set amount, not quantify suspensions based on a team’s performance.
There is a much bigger issue here and it’s players gambling on the AFL in general. Stephenson isn’t the first and he won’t be the last player caught up in such a scandal. Pardon the pun, but you could bet on the fact that several players have had a punt on AFL matches this year.
Hopefully Stephenson’s ban sends a clear ‘zero tolerance’ message to the rest of the league and reduces players betting on sports no matter how big or small, because it has clearly become an issue. Even $36 can land you in serious strife.