AFL stars Shai Bolton and Daniel Rioli should have walked away before they got into a nightclub fracas that injured both of them, their team says.
Rioli, 24, was punched in the face and Bolton, 22, suffered a broken wrist following the brawl at Club YoYo in Melbourne’s CBD on Saturday.
The scuffle was sparked after Rioli’s girlfriend Paris Lawrence was subjected to ‘inappropriate behaviour’ by another club-goer.
Richmond Tigers chief executive Brendon Gale on Tuesday morning said the incident was something he wished the club did not have to deal with.
The scuffle was sparked after Rioli’s girlfriend Paris Lawrence was subject to the inappropriate behaviour of an unknown man. The couple are pictured together
Richmond Tigers chief executive Brendon Gale on Tuesday morning said the incident was something he wished the club did not have to deal with
‘At the end of the day, Daniel and Shai responded to what they deemed to be inappropriate conduct,’ Gale told SEN’s Breakfast program.
‘They took what steps were necessary, we’d rather they didn’t, we’d prefer they didn’t but they did.
‘They’re young men and sometimes you can’t put old heads on young shoulders.
‘They took steps for what they deemed to be (appropriate) when you want to look after your partner, you want to look after your friends, but as hard as it is… we’d prefer them [to] just walk away.’
Mr Gale said he understood why the pair acted the way they did, but the club did not condone their behaviour or any form of violence.
‘I’m encouraged by the fact they’re looking after each other, they’re looking after their partners, they’re looking after their friends and I’m encouraged by that and of course we understand that,’ he said.
‘But I guess it’s regrettable that they found themselves in that position and I reckon the appropriate step, but the very difficult step, would be to simply turn a blind eye and walk away.’
Rioli confronted the stranger on Saturday night and copped a fist to the face, which required two stitches under the eye.
Bolton’s wrist was injured in the melee after he stepped in to back-up Rioli. He is pictured with his girlfriend Hasina
Rioli (left) was punched in the face and Bolton (right) suffered a broken wrist following the physical altercation at Club YoYo in Melbourne’s CBD on Saturday. The pair are pictured together in August 2020
He was seen at training on Tuesday with bruising to his right eye.
Bolton’s wrist was fractured in the melee after he stepped in to back-up Rioli. He will need surgery and be sidelined for the next two to three weeks.
Richmond coach Damien Hardwick defended the two star players on Monday night.
‘A player’s partner was put in an inappropriate situation that she didn’t feel comfortable with and Daniel stood up and tried to eradicate the situation and was punched in the eye,’ he told Fox Footy.
‘I don’t condone violence but the reality is, you put anyone in that situation, they’re going to stand up for their partner and their mates and Shai was the same.
‘So, look, it was a difficult situation. It’s not one ideally we want to be in but the reality is we are where we are.’
Rioli (pictured with Ms Lawrence) was seen at training on Tuesday with bruising to his right eye
Hardwick said football bosses Tim Livingstone and Blair Hartley spoke at length with Bolton and Rioli and the Tigers were ‘absolutely’ confident there was no wrongdoing on their behalf.
‘We’ve got to the bottom of it – the evidence we’ve got and the story we have. So from our point of view, we back in the players,’ he said.
‘We’re disappointed it came to that situation, we don’t condone violence, but we understand these situations happen from time to time – though it doesn’t make it right.’
Hardwick said though the duo were entitled to ‘live a life’, the incident was a reminder to AFL players they had to be careful.
Bolton’s injury comes at a terrible time for the Tigers, with key running players Trent Cotchin, Shane Edwards, Dion Prestia and Kane Lambert all on the sidelines, with Hardwick describing Richmond’s midfield as ‘obliterated’.
Two-time premiership player Bolton has averaged 21.8 disposals and more than a goal a game this season, including six goals across his past two outings, and had just taken an early contender for Mark of the Year the previous night.
Richmond coach Damien Hardwick (pictured) defended the two star players on Monday night
Bolton is out of contract at season’s end and was expected to command a new contract north of $700,000 per season as other clubs circle, but the nightclub incident may cool the interest of potential suitors.
Rioli started dating Lawrence, a DJ and TikTok sensation, earlier this year following his split from Mia Fevola.
Lawrence has more than 28,000 Instagram followers, and is managed by the same team as DJ Havana Brown.
Fevola, the stepdaughter of AFL legend Brendan Fevola, previously said she is still ‘really good friends’ with Rioli.
The 21-year-old confirmed her split from Rioli in February 2020 after two years of dating.
‘Daniel and I are no longer together; however, we still love and care for each other very much and remain the best of friends,’ she wrote on Instagram at the time.
Rioli started dating Lawrence, a DJ and TikTok sensation, earlier this year following his split from Mia Fevola
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