Scott issues ‘unreserved apology’

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AFL: North Melbourne coach Brad Scott is expected to issue a public apology to the AFL tomorrow and cop a hefty fine.

James Sicily drew two free kicks for head-high tackles on Friday night. Picture: Colleen Petch

AN embarrassed Brad Scott has issued an “unreserved apology” after he incorrectly accused the umpires of bias based on false information.

The North Melbourne coach took full responsibility for the gaffe today, saying he had acted on information that he received from a “trusted source” that he believed to be “matter-of-fact”.

It was discovered some 12 hours later to be anything but, with Scott forced to answer a please explain from the AFL today.

His sanction is expected to be announced in the next 24 hours.

“I was given information on the way in to the post-game press conference that I believed to be matter-of-fact, not rumour or innuendo,” Scott said today.

“It came from a trusted source and I believed those comments to be matter-of-fact. I was then asked a direct question in the press conference to which I answered openly and honestly. Clearly, 12 hours later, after an investigation by the club, that statement of fact had in fact turned out to be completely incorrect and lacked factual basis.

“The club then issued the immediate apology to those involved and I’m here today to offer my apology.

“I also made another second mistake in airing those comments publicly, when the correct channels would have been to speak to the AFL privately and not air those in the public domain.”

Scott said he was relayed the apparent claims a few minutes before the post-match press conference, which he said should have been more than enough to process them.

But he should have checked their validity before teeing off in such a manner.

“I made a really terrible mistake by not fact-checking. I assumed those comments to be matter of fact and I assumed them to be right, but ultimately it’s my responsibility to check those facts and I didn’t,” he admitted.

“And I chose to make the statements that I did. The apportion of blame falls squarely on my shoulders and I accept that responsibility and this is not about anyone else – it’s purely about me and the decision I made in the post-match press conference.”

He said he is embarrassed to have taken the spotlight away from what he described as a great effort by the players against Hawthorn and said that is “unacceptable”.

Veteran Roo Brent Harvey said it was frustrating for Thomas that he became the subject of another head-high tackling debate.

“I think when we talk about the head-high stuff Lindsay’s name gets brought up a lot,” he said on the Sunday Footy Show.

Brad Scott is facing sanction over his extraordinary comments accusing umpires of bias on Friday night.

Brad Scott is facing sanction over his extraordinary comments accusing umpires of bias on Friday night.Source:AAP

“That is just reality now. We can’t get away from that.

“We just want consistency. If Lindsay gets tackled too high and another player gets tackled too high, it is the same free kick. That is the only thing we are looking for.

“That is the message and the same conversation I had with the umpire on Friday night.”

The AFL says it is drawing closer to a crackdown on the ducking tactics that sparked Scott’s dramatic accusations of umpiring bias.

The league believes it can still reward ball players while making it tougher for players to successfully draw free kicks with persistent tactics.

On Friday night James Sicily drew two crucial free kicks by lifting his arm to accentuate contact, while Thomas ducked into a Grant Birchall tackle.

The AFL’s Laws of the Game committee spent half of its most recent meeting last week discussing a rewording of the high tackle rules.

“We had a review of the season and how it was going and there was discussion around high tackles under the current interpretation and framing,’’ AFL football operations boss Mark Evans told the Herald Sun.

“We looked at whether there could be other things to look at that would be easier to umpire.

“We still want to protect players but we want to dis-incentivise players drawing high contact in some ways.

Both sides were laid out but we all want to come up with the right definitions to give to the umpires.”

James Sicily drew two free kicks for head-high tackles on Friday night. Picture: Colleen Petch

James Sicily drew two free kicks for head-high tackles on Friday night. Picture: Colleen PetchSource:News Corp Australia

Under the current coaching notes handed to umpires, a player’s arm shrug to lift an opponent’s tackle higher must be a free kick every time.

So must the much-maligned drop of a player’s knees to see a fair tackle suddenly slip higher to the shoulders and head.

Hawthorn premiership champion Dermott Brereton condemned Sicily’s actions on Friday night, saying it must be eradicated from the game.

Sicily has drawn the fourth-most head-high free kicks this year, kicking 5.0 straight against North Melbourne in a match-winning performance.

Former Adelaide midfielder Brent Reilly, who had his career ended by a fractured skull, pleaded with the AFL to change its rules on Friday night.

He tweeted: “That shouldn’t be a free kick to Sicily. Someone will get seriously hurt if they keep paying that.”

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