YOUNG Collingwood star Jaidyn Stephenson choked back tears while attempting to explain the circumstances behind his “incredibly stupid” breach of AFL gambling rules.
Stephenson, Magpies chief executive Mark Anderson and football boss Geoff Walsh fronted a media conference at the club on Wednesday afternoon shortly after he was slapped with a 22-game ban and a $20,000 fine for placing three bets on games he was playing in.
But the 20-year-old is still a chance to play this season if the Pies make the finals after the league suspended 12 matches of the sentence, which will apply for the remainder of his career.
Stephenson placed three multi-bets on three separate games involving his team, with the wager totalling $36.
He gave cash to a friend on two occasions for him to place the bet using a betting app and on the other used his friend’s online betting account himself.
“I’m fully aware that as an AFL footballer I’m not allowed to bet on AFL matches but I justified my behaviour …” Stephenson began before stopping to compose himself.
“It was an incredibly stupid thing to do and I now realise the seriousness of what I’ve done.
“I’m very embarrassed that I’ve let myself, my family, my teammates and our loyal fans down.
“I’m devastated that I won’t be able to pull on a Collingwood jumper for the next 10 weeks.
“I obviously cannot change what I’ve done in the past but what’s most important is what I do next.
“I’m committed to spending my time on the sidelines reflecting on how I can make better decisions in the future.
“I want to issue an unreserved apology to those who I have let down and hope that, in time, I can earn back any trust that I have lost.”
Stephenson struggled to explain why it took three bets for him to realise his error and speak to Walsh.
“I think the first two times I was just a bit oblivious to it,” he said.
“In the moment I was a little bit ignorant and I thought it might just be harmless, but after the third time it was just weighing on me. It was starting to build up.
“I was just feeling way too guilty.”
While still allowed to train with the club, Stephenson will miss the rest of the home and away season but will be able to return in the first week of the finals should Collingwood advance.
He will still receive his base wage but will forego lucrative match payments.
“This is the toughest penalty imposed under our wagering rules,” said AFL general counsel Andrew Dillon.
“There is no clearer instruction – AFL players, club and league officials are banned from betting on Australian Rules Football in any form.
“The rules are very clear and if you breach them you will be penalised.
“Jaidyn’s actions have compromised the integrity of the game.”
The last bet was on the Magpies’ round nine match against St Kilda on May 18, with Stephenson self-reporting a day later.
Walsh advised the AFL’s integrity unit the same day, which opened an investigation.
Stephenson said that he didn’t think about the bets during the games in question or modify his behaviour on the field in any way, a conclusion which Dillon said the AFL had come to after reviewing those matches.
He added Stephenson’s self-reporting, remorse and co-operation with the investigation had contributed to the suspended portion of the match ban.
Dillon said when deciding on the sanction the AFL considered factors such precedent, the age of the player, the number and value of the bets and the fact that he was playing in the games.
© AAP 2019