Wangaratta Rovers forward Alex Marklew has paid the price for an explosive social media tirade after he was banned for two matches by the Ovens and Murray tribunal on Wednesday night.
Marklew was handed a four-match ban, two of which were suspended until the end of the 2023 season, after he was found guilty of unbecoming conduct for a breach of the AFL Victoria Country Cybersafety Policy (2019), for an expletive-ridden 50-second social media rant about an Ovens and Murray Football League umpire.
The video was posted to Marklew's Instagram story on Friday, July 2, less than 48 hours after he had a rough conduct charge dismissed by the league's tribunal on Wednesday, June 30.
Marklew pleaded guilty to the charge, which was issued following an investigation conducted by Rick Del Monte, with the hearing lasting around 90 minutes.
He said he was unaware the cybersafety policy existed and didn't think any more of the video which he posted on the Friday afternoon and removed later that night after a call from a close contact who suggested it wasn't appropriate.
"I received a call when I got home from picking my cousin up from the train station and I thought after that I should take it down," Marklew said.
"I had a few messages about it on the Saturday night and we played Wangaratta Magpies on Sunday the trainer came up to me and said 'nice video, idiot'.
"I was getting sledged a bit about it on the field during the game and I couldn't stop thinking about it."
Player advocate Paul Squires argued Marklew's post was intended to be humorous and was part of a weekly series of videos labelled 'F**k off Fridays'.
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Marklew's video was posted on his Instagram account, Almafud23, a spin-off of cartoon character Elmer Fudd, where he adopted an alter ego and would rant about various topics each week.
He has 1300 followers on the social media platform, with this particular video receiving "about 50 replies" from the 400-plus viewers.
Squires told the tribunal Marklew had started the video series, which he stated "has a cult following", as a way to vent about being stuck in Melbourne's lengthy COVID-19 lockdown last year and not being able to play football.
"He adopted an online persona or alter ego, the same way comedians have an alter ego. It's a whole new age," Squires said.
"It's literally acting and is by no means appropriate, but it's used as comedy.
"Whilst it's very confronting, it's in character and carries a different connotation when you see 12 months' worth of it."
He also argued there needed to be more education around cybersafety from the league and the club.
Squires, who is also the Wangaratta Rovers' treasurer, told the tribunal Marklew would face a club-imposed sanction following the result of the tribunal hearing and had committed to umpiring women's matches for the club in future.
"There's an impact on us as a club and we're responding," he said.
"We believe education is more important than a severe penalty."
Tribunal chairman Wayne Taylor regarded Marklew's video as a "serious breach" as it was posted to the public.
"It was clearly directed at the umpire who made the report," Taylor said.
Any proven charges regarding cybersafety carry a minimum two-match suspension.
Players charged with these types of offences for a second or subsequent time and where a suspension has been previously imposed will face deregistration.
With the Ovens and Murray season on hold due to Victoria's lockdown and a maximum of four home and away rounds remaining, Marklew faces the possibility of missing finals matches for the Hawks if the delay continues deep into August.
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