AFL great Nicky Winmar has canceled his NAIDOC week visit to northwestern Tasmania after “consistent harassment” from his controversial manager, Ricky Nixon.
Most important points:
- A campaign had been launched against Nixon’s appearance, highlighting his dealings with a 17-year-old girl in 2010, which cost him the AFL players’ agent accreditation.
- The local club president said Nixon was a “colorful character” who “had taken his punishments on the chin” for his past misconduct
- Mr Nixon has the Victorian equivalent of a Working with Vulnerable People card
Winmar was due to hold a soccer clinic in Smithton on Friday and present native-design soccer jumpers to the Circular Head Saints on Saturday ahead of the NAIDOC Round clash.
But the visit was called off late Thursday, with the Circular Head Aboriginal Corporation blaming it for a “factually incorrect and misleading diatribe” directed against Mr Nixon.
Nixon said “one person’s actions in Smithton” meant authorities had advised the couple not to travel.
“Nicky Winmar and I have decided that community safety must and always will be the priority, so we will not be coming to Tasmania this weekend on the advice of the authorities,” he posted on Facebook.
“However, we will be helping the community in other ways in the coming months, which we will be announcing shortly.”
There had been a campaign against Mr Nixon appearing at the events, highlighting his dealings with a 17-year-old girl, which resulted in his AFL players’ agent accreditation being suspended.
The Accreditation Board of the AFL Players’ Association found that he had violated its code of conduct in 2011 after the girl released images of a man it believed to be Mr Nixon, depicted half-naked on a hotel bed in Melbourne.
Nixon admitted inappropriately interacting with the teen at the hotel but denied having sex with her or giving her drugs and alcohol.
In 2015, he was reportedly arrested for allegedly abusive social media posts threatening to assault a two-year-old child.
Nixon declined to comment further.
Selina Maguire-Colgrave, president of the Aboriginal Corporation, said the campaign against Nixon was waged by a community member who “actively and deliberately undermined this opportunity for the community on the basis of misinformation.”
She said Mr Nixon had the Victorian equivalent of a “Working with Vulnerable People” card, and that the positivity of Winmar’s visit should not be clouded by Mr Nixon accompanying him.
But Smithton resident Melissa Wells said she publicly expressed concern about Mr Nixon’s “highly questionable” past behavior, simply seeking assurances that he had a valid Working with Vulnerable People card.
“We went in in person and spoke privately with the CHAC manager and tried to keep all this private, and our main concern was: did he have a Working with Vulnerable People card? So why [wasn’t] I told them a few weeks ago when I asked that he had a card,” she said.
“I would still be concerned about the prospect of him coming, but I would feel like I couldn’t have a strong and open mind about it because he does have a card.”
Keith Billing, president of Circular Head Saints, said it was a “big disappointment” for the club and the wider community that Winmar was no longer present.
“That disappointment will be spread among individuals such as students and elderly residents of [Emerton Park nursing home]and of course football [community] and our club who would have the chance to meet him and maybe get their native jumpers signed by him,” he said.
Mr Billing said his view was that Mr Nixon was a “colorful character” who “had taken his punishments on the chin” for his past misconduct.
“I had no problem with them being a package deal, of course. Nicky Winmar trusts his agent and the agent has the Victorian equivalent of a Working with Vulnerable People card, so the guy should be free to walk around like everyone else does, he said.
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