Domestic violence: AFL clubs rally around West Coast Eagles CEO Don Pyke’s call to arms

Chris Robinson
The Nightly
3 Min Read
West Coast Eagles 2024 AFL Season Launch: Don Pyke addresses the room.
West Coast Eagles 2024 AFL Season Launch: Don Pyke addresses the room. Credit: Michael Wilson/The West Australian

AFL clubs have thrown their “unanimous support” behind a push from West Coast chief executive Don Pyke to make a powerful stand against domestic violence during this week’s round of matches.

Players and coaches from all 18 clubs are set to make a pre-game gesture - linking up with one another, arm in arm - to condemn violence against women before each game in round eight, which includes the Eagles’ home clash against Essendon at Optus Stadium on Saturday night.

It comes amid the growing domestic violence crisis across Australia, with rallies held nationwide last weekend ahead of Wednesday’s snap national cabinet meeting on the issue.

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Pyke said he had been compelled to have his club take a leadership position on the crisis, with the AFL finalising plans for a league-wide gesture after the Eagles boss reached out to league CEO Andrew Dillon and executive general manager of football Laura Kane.

“It was more on reflection after the weekend, seeing the rallies around Australia and the impact that domestic violence is having and the level that it’s reached,” Pyke told ABC.

“Initially, I thought I’d contact the head of Essendon, who we play this week, and see if there’s something we should do for this weekend’s game in terms of trying to raise the awareness.

“Then I thought ‘let’s go one more level’, so I sent it off to the AFL.

“This is an issue, and we’re the game for all Australians. We’re the biggest game in the country, and there’s an opportunity, I believe, to make a stand and put our position on the agenda for Australia to see and make sure we do something about it.”

Pyke said he had been heartened by the response from fellow AFL clubs.

“We’ve had pretty much unanimous support,” Pyke said.

“The AFL is active in this space... we’re working in this space, all of our clubs. But this was more of a call to arms for all 18 clubs.”

And the AFL listened announcing on Wednesday Round 8, commencing on Thursday night in Adelaide, would be dedicated taking a stand and raising awareness of gender-based violence.

AFL CEO Andrew Dillon confirmed ahead of the start of each match, players, senior coaches and umpires would come together in the centre of the ground to form a linked circle and pay a silent tribute to those women who have lost their lives.

“When it comes to violence against women, the only acceptable figure is zero,” he said.

“This weekend we will unite and remember all the women who have been killed as a result of gender-based violence and stand in solidarity in committing to do more to stop this community-wide problem.

“We also understand our industry still has work to do, but we are committed to continuing to educate, to take action and even more conscious of that we must work harder than ever. All men are responsible for doing better.

AFL CEO Andrew Dillon.
AFL CEO Andrew Dillon. Credit: Mark Brake/AFL Photos/via Getty Images

“I want thank our clubs, players, umpires and the wider industry for coming together to highlight an issue that needs serious attention.”

Collingwood coach Craig McRae said Pyke had shown “great leadership” in bringing the issue to prominence ahead of this round of AFL games.

“We’re here to represent our broader community and I’d like to think that we can role-model behaviour,” McRae said.

“Inside our four walls, we talk all the time about being a great dad, or being a great husband, or whatever it looks like for the community.”

This week’s round of matches includes a string of blockbuster games that will attract plenty of attention, including Thursday night’s SA Showdown between Adelaide and Port Adelaide, a Friday night bumper clash between Carlton and Collingwood, and local rivalry fixtures between clubs in NSW and Queensland.

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