The AFL has come down hard on a fan who tossed a beer at brawling Essendon and West Coast players during this year’s Elimination Final, handing old mate a ban that will see him unable to attend AFL games for a whopping three years.
The incident occurred during a boundary-line scuffle between Essendon and West Coast players in the third quarter of the Elimination Final, which was sparked by Dons midfielder Zach Merrett pulling the hair of Eagles ruckman Nic Naitanui.
Eagles fan/businessman Noel Bridge was watching the game from an exclusive area of Perth’s new Optus Stadium called the Locker Room, a VIP area that has a private bar and an area that allows fans to stand directly at the boundary line fence.
The on-field scuffle broke out right at the Locker Room’s fence line, sending snacks fans had resting on top of the fence flying.
Channel Seven cameras captured Bridge hurling the contents of his beer towards players, chiefly Essendon’s Andrew McGrath and Tom Bellchambers, with the beer landing on camera crews as well.
— AFL (@AFL) September 5, 2019
Old mate @WestCoastEagles supporter getting involved in the action by spraying his drink all over Merrett after he pulled Nic Naitanui's hair. Let the players/umps deal with it. They don't need you getting involved #AFLEaglesDons pic.twitter.com/78umZq3f48
— Brayden Cocks (@brayden_cocks) September 5, 2019
This morning, the league announced Bridge would be banned from attending any AFL game at any stadium – be it in Australia or abroad – for three years over the incident, continuing a hard-line stance against unruly fan behaviour that has permeated throughout this year.
The ban is backdated, meaning Bridge will not be able to attend an AFL game until September 12, 2022.
It’s understood Bridge left the stadium minutes after the beer throwing incident and almost immediately flew to South Australia, where he resides.
Naitanui and Merrett were both fined $1,000 by the league for their role in the brawl.