North Melbourne’s Luke McDonald seemingly mocked Essendon ace Conor McKenna over his COVID-19 drama during Saturday’s AFL match.
Amid a half-time scuffle in the heated game, McDonald covered his face with his hands in front of McKenna in an apparent taunt of the Irishman.
McKenna, 24, was making his AFL return after a massive furore in which he tested positive for coronavirus last month; only to test negative soon after, leading the Bombers to suspect that it was a false positive.
A pair of AFL greats slammed McDonald for the gesture.
“Is he trying to sledge a bloke for potentially testing positive for a virus?” Brendon Goddard, an ex-teammate of McKenna’s, said on ABC Grandstand.
“It’s a bit of a dig at Luke and questioning his intelligence but it’s kind of stupid, in my opinion.
“I always thought good sledge was one with a little bit of wit, but to pot a bloke about potentially having a virus … in today’s climate?”
Essendon great Matthew Lloyd likened the incident to Hawthorn legend Sam Mitchell’s infamous ‘jab’ gesture at Bombers players.
“I sort of don’t see them as that much different,” Lloyd said on The Sunday Footy Show.
“I’d love to know what McKenna did to him first, because it seems like McKenna has said something that triggered that off.”
Port Adelaide great Kane Cornes said that McDonald had embarrassed himself and he’d felt “uneasy” watching the incident.
“I don’t expect a sanction, but I’d be a little bit embarrassed if I was Luke McDonald watching that vision back,” Cornes told AFL Media.
“I think just a ‘please explain’ [to the AFL is required]. I don’t think it’s worthy of a sanction, but it’s more the embarrassment of that being shown on shows like ours and across the weekend through no fault of Conor McKenna’s, really, that he’s contracted one of the most contagious viruses the world’s ever seen.”
Geelong great Billy Brownless saw the incident differently, saying he “laughed out loud” and “had a little chuckle”.
McKenna had already been through the wringer before McDonald’s gesture thanks to his brush with COVID-19.
“It has been a tough couple of months for him, he has been in three lots of quarantine and all he wants to do is play footy,” Essendon coach John Worsfold said post-match on Saturday.
“It was good just to get him out there and he’s only going to continue to improve.”
McKenna made a decent contribution with 18 disposals as the Bombers beat North by 14 points at Metricon Stadium – 9.13 (67) to 7.11 (53) – to move into the top four.
McDonald also gave a good performance, tagging Essendon star Dylan Shiel and holding him to just 12 touches.
David Zaharakis starred for the Bombers, who face the Western Bulldogs on Friday.