Ovens and Murray needed to take stronger action over incident at Albury-Myrtleford match

Freeze frame: A still of the videoed incident between Albury footballer Chris Hyde and Myrtleford spectator Pat Sullivan
Freeze frame: A still of the videoed incident between Albury footballer Chris Hyde and Myrtleford spectator Pat Sullivan

A HEATED exchange between a spectator and footy player would normally raise concerns. 

When that clash involves the parties lashing out physically at each other and sharing words the tension is raised further.

Extra spice is added when you realise the spectator is an injured player for the visiting team and the whole affair has been caught on camera.

That was the scenario that unfolded at Albury Sportsground on May 27 in the first half of the Ovens and Murray football league’s clash between Albury and Myrtleford.

Tiger on-baller Chris Hyde found himself coming into conflict with Pat Sullivan, an injured Saints player, who was sitting on the boundary fence.

The argy-bargy was caught on video by an operator hired by the Ovens and Murray to record matches, so the league had little option but to launch an investigation.

Yet remarkably the probing officer told the league there was “insufficient evidence” to result in a charge of unbecoming conduct being laid against either Hyde or Sullivan.

The response of a reasonably-minded observer – you can’t be serious.

The evidence is there in black and yellow as well as black, white and red.

There is no doubt the men were involved in a scuffle, it was beyond the boundary line and words were exchanged.

With that circumstantial evidence how could there not be charges laid and cases to answer?

If a similar incident happened in the AFL you can imagine it would not be swept away in the same fashion.

The Ovens and Murray’s statement that it is “comfortable with the decision” is a head-shaker.

How can it be at ease when so many questions remain unresolved and the league’s image is left tarnished.

The laying of no charges invites innuendo.

The major one is that because Albury is involved the matter has been treated differently than it would have been otherwise.

Social media comments to The Border Mail following the decision reflect this suspicion.

“Exactly what happens when Albury owns the O&M, video evidence and still gets off,” one wrote, while another posted “Ovens & Albury”.

An outsider to the competition reflects: “I'm from the Hampden League district and this does look like ‘unbecoming conduct’ by both parties. Who were the investigators. Mmm.”

The well-funded Tigers have won the premiership for the past three years and have had a retinue of star players so naturally they invoke some envy and draw detractors.

Holding a hearing would have put all the details of the incident out in public.

Hyde would have been given the opportunity to explain his actions and Sullivan similarly would have been invited to answer for his behaviour.

Instead it appears as though a precedent has been set where an altercation between a player and spectator can be dismissed in the face of stark evidence.

At the very least it would have been fairer to all parties if the Ovens and Murray, in its media release announcing the investigation outcome, had proffered some reasoning behind its decision.

To merely state it is “comfortable” with the upshot suggests there is a degree of tolerance for player-spectator run-ins and not a line befitting the region’s top football league.

  • Anthony Bunn is a Border Mail journalist