Aussie Rules: Season of scandal ends with player setting a dwarf on fire

League apologises after chief executive burst out laughing at cruel year-end prank

Sydney

After enduring charges of racism, drug use and match fixing, the Australian Football League (AFL) was forced to apologise today for a bizarre prank in which a dwarf entertainer was set alight during annual end-of-season festivities.

Blake Johnston, a professional entertainer with the company Dwarf My Party, was hired by the St Kilda AFL team for its celebration at a Melbourne pub. During the evening – traditionally an alcohol-fuelled occasion known as “Mad Monday” – one player, Clinton Jones, crept up behind Mr Johnston and set fire to his trousers and shirt, using a gas lighter.

The flames were quickly doused, and Mr Johnston received only minor injuries, but he felt “absolutely humiliated” and “very, very shaken”, according to a colleague. To make matters worse, the AFL’s chief executive, Andrew Demetriou, burst out laughing on national television when informed about the incident.

Mr Demetriou, who usually shows little patience towards errant players, subsequently apologised, saying he initially thought a fellow panellist on Channel Seven’s Talking Footy show – who told him about it on air – was having him on.

“I thought it was a joke… After I found out that it was true, it’s just reprehensible,” he said. “I was flabbergasted. That would have been one thing I could never have predicted that we would deal with.”

Several AFL teams have been embroiled in damaging scandals during the 2013 season, with the Melbourne side Essendon disqualified from competition and fined A$2m (£1.1m) – the largest penalty ever imposed – for the suspected use of banned supplements.

That affair followed an investigation into allegations that Melbourne Football Club deliberately lost matches in 2009 in order to secure an advantage – given to poorly performing teams – in signing new players during the annual draft. Although the club was formally cleared in February, its football manager and coach were suspended for their role in fielding players in unfamiliar positions.

Then there was the “King Kong” scandal in May, after a 13-year-old girl racially abused Adam Goodes, an Aboriginal player with the Sydney Swans, calling him an “ape” during a match against Collingwood.

Collingwood’s president, Eddie McGuire, apologised to Goodes – then, just days later, while presenting his regular radio show, he suggested that the footballer could help promote the new King Kong musical. The club stood by Mr McGuire, who was sent for “tolerance” counselling.

Now the Mad Monday incident – which is being investigated by police – has once again highlighted the ugly side of the sport. Mr Johnston – who also wrestles, under the name Mr Big – was reportedly targeted during horseplay with the lighter, which the players were using to set fire to each other’s shoelaces and fancy dress costumes.

His colleague, Arthur Serevetas, told Channel Nine television: “A player went behind my friend with one of those gas lighters that you light up a stove and basically lit him up. Part of his shirt and pants [trousers] caught on fire.”

Jones, who has been fined $3,000 by the AFL, apologised, saying he and his teammates “were engaged in end-of-season activities which in hindsight were quite childish” and he “made an error of judgement in including Mr Johnston in the activity”.

Mad Monday – observed by all the football codes – has created lurid headlines in recent years, with a rugby league player, Joel Monaghan, sacked by the Canberra Raiders in 2010 after being photographed simulating a sex act with a dog. In 2008, a soccer player, Andre Gumprecht, attended his team’s festivities dressed as Adolf Hitler.

Arts and Entertainment
Joel Edgerton, John Turturro and Christian Bale in Exodus: Gods and Kings
filmDirector said film would 'never have been financed' with ethnic minority actors in key roles
Life and Style
View of champagne glasses at a beach bar set up along the Croisette during the 66th edition of the Cannes Film Festival in Cannes on May 17, 2013
food + drink(and for now, there's a clear winner)
News
people
News
people
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksNow available in paperback
News
Irradiated turkey and freeze dried mash potato will be on the menu this thanksgiving
video
News
Andy Murray with his girlfriend of nine years, Kim Sears who he has got engaged to
peopleWimbledon champion announces engagement to girlfriend Kim Sears
Arts and Entertainment
George Mpanga has been shortlisted for the Critics’ Choice prize
music
Arts and Entertainment
Roisin, James and Sanjay in the boardroom
tvReview: This week's failing project manager had to go
News
Ed Miliband visiting the Holocaust museum in Jerusalem. The Labour leader has spoken more openly of his heritage recently
newsAttacks on the Labour leader have coalesced around a sense that he is different, weird, a man apart. But are the barbs more sinister?
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

SThree: Associate Recruitment Consultant

£18000 - £23000 per annum + OTE: SThree: SThree are seeking Associate Recruitm...

SThree: Associate Recruitment Consultant

£18000 - £23000 per annum + OTE: SThree: SThree are seeking Associate Recruitm...

Citifocus Ltd: ACA - Financial Reporting

£Attractive Package: Citifocus Ltd: Chartered accountant (ACA or CPA), must be...

Langley James : Senior Infrastructure Engineer; VMWare, Windows; Disley; £40k

£40000 per annum + benefits: Langley James : Senior Infrastructure Engineer; V...

Day In a Page

Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

It's in all our interests to look after servicemen and women who fall on hard times, say party leaders
Millionaire Sol Campbell wades into wealthy backlash against Labour's mansion tax

Sol Campbell cries foul at Labour's mansion tax

The former England defender joins Myleene Klass, Griff Rhys Jones and Melvyn Bragg in criticising proposals
Nicolas Sarkozy returns: The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?

Sarkozy returns

The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?
Is the criticism of Ed Miliband a coded form of anti-Semitism?

Is the criticism of Miliband anti-Semitic?

Attacks on the Labour leader have coalesced around a sense that he is different, weird, a man apart. But is the criticism more sinister?
Ouija boards are the must-have gift this Christmas, fuelled by a schlock horror film

Ouija boards are the must-have festive gift

Simon Usborne explores the appeal - and mysteries - of a century-old parlour game
There's a Good Girl exhibition: How female creatives are changing the way women are portrayed in advertising

In pictures: There's a Good Girl exhibition

The new exhibition reveals how female creatives are changing the way women are portrayed in advertising
UK firm Biscuiteers is giving cookies a makeover - from advent calendars to doll's houses

UK firm Biscuiteers is giving cookies a makeover

It worked with cupcakes, doughnuts and macarons so no wonder someone decided to revamp the humble biscuit
Can SkySaga capture the Minecraft magic?

Can SkySaga capture the Minecraft magic?

It's no surprise that the building game born in Sweden in 2009 and now played by millions, has imitators keen to construct their own mega money-spinner
The King's School is way ahead of the pack when it comes to using the latest classroom technology

Staying connected: The King's School

The school in Cambridgeshire is ahead of the pack when it comes to using the latest classroom technology. Richard Garner discovers how teachers and pupils stay connected
Christmas 2014: 23 best women's perfumes

Festively fragrant: the best women's perfumes

Give a loved one a luxe fragrance this year or treat yourself to a sensual pick-me-up
Arsenal vs Borussia Dortmund: Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain celebrates century with trademark display of speed and intuition

Arsenal vs Borussia Dortmund

The Ox celebrates century with trademark display of speed and intuition
Billy Joe Saunders vs Chris Eubank Jnr: When two worlds collide

When two worlds collide

Traveller Billy Joe Saunders did not have a pampered public-school upbringing - unlike Saturday’s opponent Chris Eubank Jnr
Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: Drifting and forgotten - turning lives around for ex-soldiers

Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: Turning lives around for ex-soldiers

Our partner charities help veterans on the brink – and get them back on their feet
Putin’s far-right ambition: Think-tank reveals how Russian President is wooing – and funding – populist parties across Europe to gain influence in the EU

Putin’s far-right ambition

Think-tank reveals how Russian President is wooing – and funding – populist parties across Europe to gain influence in the EU
Tove Jansson's Moominland: What was the inspiration for Finland's most famous family?

Escape to Moominland

What was the inspiration for Finland's most famous family?