‘Garbage’ whispers emerge after AFL star defends girlfriend

Richmond boss Brendon Gale has declared stars Shai Bolton and Daniel Rioli will not be punished for their involvement in a nightclub brawl on Saturday night.

His statement comes amid the burning furore surrounding his club after another off-field misbehaviour incident.

The Tigers have confirmed Bolton and Rioli were embroiled in a nightclub fight over the weekend, claimed to have been the result of “inappropriate” behaviour towards Rioli’s Melbourne socialite girlfriend Paris Lawrence.

Rioli required stitches to his face after the altercation, while Bolton is expected to be sidelined for several weeks after fracturing his wrist in the incident.

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Richmond coach Damien Hardwick later confirmed Bolton would undergo surgery, while Rioli was seen during a training session on Tuesday with a swollen right eye after stepping into an altercation involving his partner, a DJ and Instagram influencer.

According to reports, Rioli stepped in to protect his girlfriend, and was punched in the face. Then Bolton intervened to defend his teammate.

Rioli stepped in to protect his partner.Source:Instagram

DJ Paris Lawrence and Rioli went public as an item this year.Source:Instagram

The incident is another unwanted addition to the Tigers’ reputation of being a club with cultural issues following a turbulent COVID-19-plagued 2020 AFL season inside the Queensland bubble.

The conversation surrounding the club has quickly whipped up into a frenzy as debate rages about whether the club is falling from its place as the premier club in Australian football on the back of three premierships in the past four years and record memberships.

According to football journalist Damian Barrett there have been whispers across the league that rival clubs have been “rolling their eyes” at Richmond’s recent off-field scandals, including captain Trent Cotchin’s wife Brooke’s day spa quarantine breach and the ugly Gold Coast strip club brawl involving Sydney Stack and Callum Coleman-Jones, which resulted in 10-game bans for both players.

With those incidents added together and combined with the club’s slow start to the year at 4-4, commentators are questioning if we’re seeing the beginning of the end of the club’s era of dominance.

Footy legend Nick Riewoldt on Monday night said it was absolute baloney for commentators to try to connect all the club’s off-field misdemeanours to suggest there is a serious issue at the heart of the club or its playing group.

“There will be some people out there who want to make a link between what happened on Saturday night with Bolton and Rioli and … a crumbling of culture, of hunger of humbleness and all those sorts of things — which is complete garbage.” Riewoldt told Fox Footy’s On The Couch.

“I think it’s completely unrelated.”

Daniel Rioli was protecting his girlfriend.Source:Supplied

The brother of star Richmond forward Jack Riewoldt said it is only on-field behaviours that have begun to suggest Richmond is beatable this year.

It was the same view held by many footy fans after the club started the 2020 season with one win from its first four games — before the Tigers stormed home to beat the Cats in the grand final.

Riewoldt said the bigger issue is the club’s injury list, which includes Bolton’s hand, Cotchin’s hamstring, and calf injuries to star midfielders Dion Prestia and Kane Lambert.

The series of issues were enough evidence for footy great Gerard Healy to suggest on the Fox Footy show last night that some believe there is a “crumble” happening at Richmond.

Demons legend Garry Lyon said that view was “ignorant”.

“Given what we’ve seen here with Richmond I think it’s reasonable to ponder that the era may be coming to an end,” he said.

“And it’s just as reasonable to know that you’re going to be horribly embarrassed by them when it’s not.”

Gale appeared anything but the leader of a leaking ship when he told reporters on Tuesday the club will not take any disciplinary action against the pair.

Barrett told the AFL Daily podcast on Tuesday the AFL is also satisfied with the explanations given by Bolton and Rioli and will not hand out any form of reprimand.

He said the off-field incidents have not been a concern at all for the Tigers — or their playing group.

Daniel Rioli and Shai Bolton of the Tigers.Source:Getty Images

“There was a strong feeling from other footy clubs and from people around the AFL who were just rolling their eyes, saying ‘here we go again with Richmond’,” Barrett said of the club’s troubled 2020 campaign.

“Unfortunately, for those people who had those views of Richmond, the behaviours were almost validated in galvanising themselves on the back of everything that went wrong for them last year all the way to winning a third premiership in four seasons.

“That was the reaction at the time … yet again it’s Richmond.”

Gale defended the club’s reputation on Tuesday.

“We’ve got a pretty strong culture here based on care and connection and looking after each other,” he said.

“We’d prefer they (Bolton and Rioli) didn’t (intervene in an altercation), but that’s sometimes easier said than done.

“That required responding to conduct which they thought was absolutely inappropriate.

“They took the steps to address that.”

The club had earlier released a statement to claim Rioli was punched and suffered a cut under his eye that required two stitches.

Bolton is reported to have taken himself to hospital on Saturday night before telling his club about the incident on Sunday.

Bolton has been one of Richmond’s standout performers this season — mustering a contender for Mark of the Year against Geelong on Friday night.

Bolton (left) has been one of Richmond’s best this season.Source:Getty Images

Speaking on Fox Footy’s AFL 360, coach Hardwick defended his players’ behaviour but conceded the timing of the incident “wasn’t ideal”.

“A player’s partner was put in an inappropriate situation that she didn’t feel comfortable with, and Daniel (Rioli) stood up and tried to eradicate the situation (and) was punched in the eye,” Hardwick said on Monday evening.

“Once again I don’t condone violence, but the reality is, put anyone in that situation, they’re going to stand up for their partner and their mates. Shai was the same.

“It was a difficult situation, it’s not one ideally we want to be in, but the reality is we are where we are.

“We don’t condone violence, but we understand these situations happen from time to time. Doesn’t make it right.”

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