The confirmed today the emerging stars were under investigation over a breach of the league’s COVID-19 protocols, which the league determined had been broken “after Houston and a group of friends attended Ladhams’ home”.
“The AFL confirms [the] players will be suspended for breaching the AFL’s return to play protocols,” the league said in a statement released late today.
“The AFL, in conjunction with the club, investigated the matter and has determined Ladhams will be suspended for the next three matches, while Houston will be unavailable for the next two matches.”
Port currently sits on top of the AFL ladder with nine wins and three losses, and will face bottom-four placed Hawthorn, Sydney and North Melbourne in its next three outings.
The AFL said it “was also discovered in the investigation that Adelaide Crows player Billy Frampton lives with Port Adelaide’s Peter Ladhams, however it was determined he had no involvement or contact with the group of people on the night, who attended the residence post a Port Adelaide match”, reportedly the Power’s Round 10 win over the Western Bulldogs on August 3.
The club has also been sanctioned $50,000 for the breach, with $25,000 of that fine suspended and the remaining $25,000 to be deducted from Port’s ‘Soft Cap’ for football department expenditure in 2021.
Port’s General Manager of Football Chris Davies said the club was “disappointed” with the players’ actions.
“We respect the privilege we have to play and the conditions under which we must live in order to play… we have provided our players, coaches and staff with regular updates and education on the AFL return to play protocols, so to find ourselves in this position is disappointing,” he said in a statement.
“Port Adelaide has taken our responsibilities toward the global pandemic seriously since the outset, but ultimately everyone has a responsibility… Pete and Dan knew the rules and will now have to work hard to earn back the respect of their teammates and coaching staff.”
He said Ladhams’ breach was judged “to be worth extra on the basis that he was the instigator of the gathering”.
The ruckman said in a club statement he was “very embarrassed to put the club and my teammates in this position”.
“There was no excuse for my complacency and I fully accept the sanction handed down by the AFL,” he said.
“The club has gone out of their way to brief us on all processes related to the AFL return to play protocols. I now have to work my backside off to win back the respect of my teammates.”
Houston said via the club: “Our entire club has worked so hard this season with all the challenges that have come our way and I feel like I have let the boys down with this breach… I take responsibility for my own actions so I fully accept the sanctions handed down by the AFL.”
AFL General Counsel Andrew Dillon said in a statement the AFL’s protocols “are the competition’s license to play and any clear breach will not be tolerated”.
“Peter and Dan know the rules and it is disappointing that they chose not to follow them,” he said.
“The protocols are in place for a reason, to protect the players and the wider community. If you make the decision to breach them, then you will be held accountable.”
The controversy follows an earlier one-match ban to former Port captain Ollie Wines in June after he conducted a TV interview outside his home, in breach of the league’s protocols, and sanctions to the Adelaide Crows after a training breach during the AFL’s season suspension.
It also comes as the Marshall Government pushes for Adelaide Oval to host finals fixtures, including the Grand Final.
Sydney Swans youngster Elijah Taylor was last week banned for the rest of the season after his partner entered the team’s hub accommodation in Perth without authorisation.
The club was also fined over the breach.
Collingwood has also been sanctioned for separate protocol breaches, with vice-captain Steele Sidebottom banned for four weeks and coach Nathan Buckley and assistant coach Brenton Sanderson fined for playing tennis with people outside their hub group, including former world number eight Alicia Molik.
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