MELBOURNE, June 19 (Reuters) - An Australian Football League player is “devastated” after being slapped with a record 10-week ban for making A$36 ($25) worth of bets on matches involving his team.
Jaidyn Stephenson, a 20-year-old forward for Melbourne-based Collingwood Magpies, admitted to the club’s football manager a month ago that he had wagered on matches against the Western Bulldogs, Essendon Bombers and St Kilda Saints this season.
They included bets on a Collingwood winning margin, on himself and team mates kicking goals, and other statistics, AFL general counsel Andrew Dillon said on Wednesday.
“All bets were unsuccessful,” Dillon added.
Dillon said the fact Stephenson “self-reported”, along with his age, cooperation in the investigation and remorse, saw them arrive at the record 10-game ban and a A$20,000 fine.
Had he not come forward and been caught, Stephenson would have had to serve a 22-game ban.
While the AFL’s integrity department said there was no evidence to suggest any “intent to influence the outcomes” of the matches Stephenson’s punishment is the stiffest handed down by the Australian Rules top flight for a gambling offence.
Former Collingwood player Heath Shaw was the last player suspended for betting-related offences when he missed eight matches in 2011.
In 2015, current Magpies defender Jack Crisp was fined A$5,000 for a A$129 bet placed the previous season.
Melbourne Demons forward Jake Melksham was fined A$10,000 in 2017 for misleading AFL investigators during a probe into activity on his betting account.
Stephenson acknowledged that he had let people down and would work to earn back the lost trust.
“It was an incredibly stupid thing to do and I now realise the seriousness of what I’ve done,” he told reporters at the club’s headquarters on Wednesday.
“I’m very embarrassed that I’ve let myself, my family, my team mates and our loyal fans down, and I’m devastated that I won’t be able to pull on a Collingwood jumper for the next 10 weeks.
“I want to issue an unreserved apology to those who I have let down and hope that in time I can earn back any trust that I have lost.”
Stephenson’s ban will see him miss the rest of the regular season but he will be eligible to return if Collingwood, runners-up last year, make the playoffs. ($1 = 1.4541 Australian dollars) (Reporting by Ian Ransom; Editing by Peter Rutherford )