Roger Vaughan, Sam Lienert April 04, 2012
The AFL's race-related fiasco took another twist when Melbourne indigenous player Aaron Davey denied any involvement in the controversy.
The Demons released a statement last night, quoting Davey, after AFL official Mifsud had publicly apologised to Melbourne coach Mark Neeld.
The AFL's reputation has taken a hammering after it emerged Mifsud, its national community engagement manager and most senior indigenous employee, had helped spread the false rumour about Neeld.
The AFL is refusing to reveal the original source of the allegation, but comments by Mifsud indicate he claims to have heard it from a Melbourne indigenous player.
''I strongly deny any involvement in the matters discussed at today's press conference,'' Davey said in the statement. ''I am proud of Melbourne's support network for our indigenous players, which I believe is the best in the AFL.
''I'm pleased that the AFL has come out strongly in support of Mark and that Jason has apologised to Mark and the club.''
Mifsud offered his resignation after admitting his role in the matter.
AFL chief executive Andrew Demetriou did not accept the offer, but said Mifsud had been ''dressed down'' and warned.
Neeld was furious over the rumour, in which he allegedly spoke with the Demons' non-indigenous players individually over the pre-season, but only addressed indigenous players as a group.
Ex-St Kilda coach Grant Thomas made the allegation public in an online column on Monday, although Thomas later withdrew it after a phone call from Neeld.
Mifsud revealed yesterday he was the one who had given Thomas the information.
''There's absolutely no truth - not one scintilla of truth - to this story,'' Demetriou said of the claim.
Mifsud was asked why the person's identity remained a secret.
''It's widely acknowledged by the clubs themselves that senior indigenous players and indigenous players carry a significant pastoral care role within the clubs and they're a great source of insight and cultural leadership across the whole organisation,'' Mifsud said.
''Equally, indigenous players carry a significant social burden as well.''
This controversy follows on from Matthew Rendell resigning last month as Adelaide's recruiting manager.
Rendell was effectively forced to quit after it emerged he had told Mifsud of his concern that clubs might only recruit indigenous players if they had one white parent.
Mifsud and Thomas were talking about Rendell's resignation when Mifsud mentioned the Melbourne rumour.
Rendell and Mifsud worked under Thomas when he coached the Saints.
This latest saga also highlighted the long-standing ill-feeling between Thomas and the league, especially Demetriou.
Sitting next to Mifsud at an afternoon media conference, Demetriou slammed Thomas over making the allegation public.
Demetriou appeared to imply Neeld should take legal action against Thomas.
''That article had only one purpose … to inflict hurt on another person,'' Demetriou said.
Demetriou said Mifsud's comment to Thomas was ''inadvertent''.
Mifsud added: ''I would like to offer my full and unreserved apology to Mark Neeld and Melbourne.''