AFL lets off Mitchell for needle taunt

The AFL is likely to punish any player who copies Sam Mitchell’s injection taunt to Essendon players.

The league let the Hawthorn star off with a stern warning for his gesture during Saturday’s win over the Bombers at the MCG.

AFL operations manager Mark Evans said on Monday that Essendon were comfortable with how the controversy had played out.

Mitchell expressed regret in a post-game television interview and also did so privately.

“I would … put out a caution that I don’t think this is the best look for the game,” Evans said.

“I would expect that in the heat of the moment, that could happen once and we’d like that to cease from there.

“In two and a half years, we’ve seen it happen once and I would suspect … it won’t happen again.”

Evans said Mitchell’s immediate backdown from the gesture was taken into account.

“You have to accept he did that very quickly and he expressed that it was in the heat of the moment – and he wasn’t proud of that action,” he said.

Essendon players have been under extreme pressure since early 2013 over the supplements saga and are now awaiting the outcome of a WADA appeal to the international Court of Arbitration for Sport.

“People need to respect the position of the Essendon players,” Evans said.

“They’ve been under incredible duress now for two and a half years and there’s still some more to play out.

“I just think any person, any individual has to accept that they are displaying themselves publicly.

“There’s the sledging and banter that might occur and then there’s the line you might cross.

“People need to be a little more thoughtful as to where that line is.”

Evans said he had spoken to Hawthorn and would talk to Mitchell about the incident.

“My message to Sam is pretty clear,” he said.

“He has a great amount of respect in this game for what he’s done over a number of years and to ask him, how does he wish to be viewed.”

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