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AFL News: ‘Embarrassing that he is still captain’ – Former Lion savages Zorko amid claims ‘he was provoked’ into sledge

The Dayne Zorko sledging saga has seen a fresh twist, with allegations the Lions captain was provoked into making the comment that left Melbourne defender Harrison Petty close to tears.

After Zorko offered only a qualified apology in an interview on SEN, saying the sledge to Petty ‘wasn’t unprovoked’, AFL journalist Caroline Wilson has claimed the 33-year old was on the receiving end of even more abhorrent verbal taunts from Demons players during last Friday night’s match.

“I’m told that some of the stuff being said to Zorko – and Zorko gives as good as he gets, and is a famous sledger – was pretty disgusting,” Wilson said on Nine’s Footy Classified on Wednesday night.

“If you were going to investigate what was said, you’d be more investigating what was said to Zorko about women in his life – far worse than what was said to Petty.”

Wilson also argued the AFL were far too quick to end their investigation into the incident, saying the league ‘dropped this case like a hot potato’, but said the matter should now be closed for good.

“Melbourne were very, very keen for it to go away as well… both clubs said they were happy with the way it was handled within the clubs,” Wilson said.

“Brisbane have not wanted to talk about this, but I think when Max Gawn came out and had another crack, there was a view – and I was told things earlier in the week that I didn’t think were necessary to bring up – it’s going beyond the power to bring it up again.

“The AFL is very happy for this to go away, and Melbourne should stop talking about it… Max was right, he [Zorko] did cross a line, but the Melbourne players crossed a line too.

“What was said was pretty disgusting, and let’s not just think Dayne Zorko’s one out on this.”

Zorko had taken to SEN to offer his side of proceedings on Wednesday afternoon, saying his interaction with Petty ‘wasn’t just an unprovoked sledge’.

“I apologised to Harrison on the final siren and that apology still stands, my remorse still stands,” he said.

“If I could take it back there’s no doubt I would… I just want to get across that it was an intense game. Honestly, from the first bounce there was to-ing and fro-ing from both sides of the fence.

“Players across the field probably stepped up to the line all game. And I acknowledge that I certainly crossed that.

“I just reckon it’s really important that Lions fans and fans in general know that it wasn’t just an unprovoked sledge and it wasn’t said in isolation.

“It was to-ing and fro-ing for the majority of the game, and remorsefully I accept that I’ve overstepped the mark.”

Zorko has been praised for his candid interview, with Footy Classified panellist and former coach Ross Lyon praising his conduct.

“He looked agitated [on Friday night], and now I begin to understand the nuance and why. Because he was provoked,” Lyon said.

“It was [of] a deeply personal nature, and maybe he actually controlled himself reasonably well in context.”

Lyon’s comments were echoed on AFL 360 by Herald Sun chief AFL writer Mark Robinson, who said Zorko had ‘handled himself with class’.

“He was responding to some verbal jibes from the Melbourne Football Club,” Robinson said.

“Now I’m not going to repeat them here either… [they were] about his personal life, about his family. About his wife.

“So he responds as he did. Dayne Zorko could’ve easily have said today ‘this is what was said to me’, but he didn’t. He took it on the chin, he said ‘Hey, I was responding, but I admit that I went over the line’.

“I think that was a pretty good response. It’s a very ugly episode, I think now certainly for Zorko, there’s a little bit of understanding there was a bit coming the other way from the Demons.”

However, Zorko’s predecessor as Lions captain Dayne Beams has blasted the veteran’s reaction, taking to Instagram to take his former club to task.

“Embarrassing that he is still captain. Worst thing is I’m not even surprised,” Beams wrote.

Dayne Zorko of the Lions looks dejected after his team's defeat against Melbourne.

(Photo by Albert Perez/AFL Photos via Getty Images)

‘Don’t really care’: Cornes’ brutal response to All-Australian critics

Former great and All-Australian selector Kane Cornes has hit back at critics of the team selected on Wednesday night.

Among the most controversial calls was the choice to name Port Adelaide star Connor Rozee in the 22-man side, with Cornes, who played a club record 300 AFL games for the Power, a long-time advocate for the 22-year old.

However, Cornes has dismissed any accusations of undue favouritism, saying Rozee was a ‘unanimous’ decision to be named in the team by the 11-person panel.

“Rozee picked himself… unanimous really in the end,” Cornes said on SEN.

“Top five in the coaches’ award, more votes than anyone since he moved on-ball against Carlton in round five in that second half.

“I was thrilled for him honestly. He was challenged by his own teammates at the start of the year to be tougher and more resilient, to be better in the contest.

“He did that and to finish top five in the coaches award – he essentially picked himself.”

While critics have also pointed to the snubbing of Hawthorn star James Sicily and the contentious inclusion of Collingwood’s Brayden Maynard, Cornes said he was ‘really happy’ with the eventual team.

“I’m happy to take your calls and feedback on it. I don’t really care,” he said.

“I thought it was an amazing team, I thought it was a brilliant team and I’m really happy with how it landed.”

‘Highly unlikely’… but Lyon won’t rule out play at Essendon coaching job

Former coach Ross Lyon has said he’ll learn from his experience last year while vying for the vacant Carlton coaching position, in his approach to the Essendon top job.

Lyon has already been linked to the senior position at the Bombers, with president David Barham claiming the club will be looking for ‘a more experienced coach’ to replace the sacked Ben Rutten.

Speaking on Nine’s Footy Classified, Lyon, who has worked in the media since being axed by Fremantle in late 2019, said he ‘didn’t enjoy’ the speculation over his eventually severed connection to the Blues, and would approach the Bombers position far differently.

While saying he is ‘highly unlikely’ again to coach at senior level in 2023, Lyon also pointedly suggested it wasn’t set in stone just yet.

“I am very wary and I am very cautious of anything to do with AFL senior coaching,” he said.

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if he [Barham] heard me last night and goes ‘I can mitigate your wariness and being cautious’ [I might consider coaching.”

Lyon praised the Bombers as an ‘incredible club historically’ and said the club’s recent off-field strife wasn’t a dealbreaker, but stressed he would be reluctant to be ‘a slave to AFL football’.

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