Hawthorn coach Alastair Clarkson feared for his safety when he pushed a fan forcefully after Saturday night’s AFL match in Adelaide.
The ugly incident was caught on video and quickly found its way to the media.
While Clarkson has a long history of trouble because of his temper, he appeared to act this time only after some strong provocation.
Senior Hawthorn and Port Adelaide also vigorously supported him.
The AFL is investigating, but appears unlikely to take action at this stage.
Rather than ride back to their hotel in the team bus after Saturday night’s loss to Port Adelaide, Clarkson and Hawks football manager Chris Fagan decided to walk.
The Hawks coach said about 40m from a side entrance to the hotel, a small group of men recognised them and asked three or four times for a photo.
The video footage, which is 29 seconds long, shows one of the men moving close to Clarkson and shouting “Go the Power” before the coach forcefully pushes him away.
A voice is then heard: “I got that on film, brother” before the footage ends.
Clarkson told Channel Seven he had done nothing wrong and added the men appeared to have been drinking.
“Hindsight is a great thing – ‘let’s just keep walking’ – well for 40m I did do that,” he said.
“On three separate occasions (I) asked the three gentlemen to refrain.
“But when he actually stepped in front of me and made body contact with me, then I just didn’t know where it was going to go unless I actually put a bit of space between me and him with a push that allowed me to get in the door.”
Clarkson added it was clear that the men were determined not to let himself and Fagan enter the hotel.
“We just didn’t know where it was going to go,” he said.
“We were deeply concerned, particularly as we neared the entrance to the building, that they were going to do everything they possibly could to make sure we were stopped.
“These guys, they’d been drinking, we didn’t know what they were going to do.
“It was a very, very forceful push – ‘just get away from me’.”
Port Adelaide chief executive Keith Thomas promised the club would act “pretty aggressively” if it turned out the man was a Power fan.
“You can see he (Clarkson) is being really heavily provoked,” Thomas told Fox Sports.
“I am more concerned about the incident and I don’t think there was adequate protection in place for Clarko.
“I think that is something the industry will need to look at.”
Fagan said on Twitter that Clarkson is innocent and added the coach politely declined a photo with three rowdy drunks who would not take no for an answer.
“They were out of control and unpredictable young men,” Fagan said.
Hawks chief executive Stuart Fox likewise backed his coach.
“We’ve spoken to the AFL and one of the issues is obviously getting back to the hotel safely,” he said.
“I think this one is extreme provocation.
“He’s been provoked, they were heavily intoxicated and these guys had altercations with a number of guests at the hotel.”