Hawthorn coach Alastair Clarkson has strongly backed captain Luke Hodge, saying the moral and social police should cut the AFL star some slack.
Hodge will make a $5000 donation, most likely to a charity related to road trauma, after he was caught drink-driving.
Hawthorn’s player leadership group made the decision about Hodge after Saturday night’s 57-point win over Carlton at the MCG.
Hodge was serving the second week of a two-game suspension and watched the game from the Hawks coaches’ box.
He blew .068 on Thursday night after a poker night.
Hodge was fined $450 and lost 10 demerit points.
Asked for his immediate reaction, Clarkson said: “disappointed first and foremost, but then wrap my arms around this lad.
“He’s been a ripper for our footy club.
“If there’s a bloke who I will have his back and he’ll have mine, it’s Luke Hodge.”
Clarkson was asked if the Hawks considered a club suspension for Hodge.
He is one of their most important players and they are about to go into the finals, chasing a third-straight premiership.
“Our leadership group and certainly the executive of our footy club didn’t think it was at the level to warrant a suspension in this case,” Clarkson said.
The coach was also asked about his thoughts on how the AFL and the wider community would react to Hawthorn’s handling of the matter.
“All I will say is there’s protocols according to Victorian Police and they’ve been imposed,” he said.
“There are protocols according to our footy club – the Hawthorn footy club police – and that’s been imposed.
“Then there’s the social and moral police out there and they’re the ones we’ll tend not to listen to, too much.
“Everyone will have a say on this.”
Clarkson said he loved the rogue element of Hawks players such as Hodge, Jordan Lewis and Jarryd Roughead, who are from the country and are “of real solid stuff”.
“But that doesn’t make it any easier when he’s the captain of our footy club, it’s a Thursday night,” Clarkson added.
“Even though he’s not playing, we have some protocols in place in terms of our playing group.
“(We) would expect he’d be home earlier than what he was and he wouldn’t take that risk of driving when he’d had a drink.”
Clarkson conceded that the penalty may well have been more harsh if Hodge was not such a star.
“When Hodgey was a second- or third-year player, I threw everything at him because he missed a training session after a 21st,” he said.
“That was nearly the last time he had any trouble with our footy club.
“You need to ask yourselves the same question – if this was just a No.44 on the list, is he on the front page of the Herald Sun yesterday? Probably not.
“Give a bit both ways here – this is a bloke who’s given a lot to our footy club and he’s very, very remorseful.”
Clarkson also pointed out that plenty of people had driven home after a few drinks, thinking they were not over the limit.