HOBART, AUSTRALIA – AUGUST 06: Tarryn Thomas of the Kangaroos runs the ball during the round 21 AFL match between North Melbourne Kangaroos and Melbourne Demons at Blundstone Arena, on August 06, 2023, in Hobart, Australia. (Photo by Steve Bell/Getty Images)

The AFL’s Statement

The AFL wishes to advise that North Melbourne player Tarryn Thomas has been found guilty of several breaches of the AFL Rule 2.3(a) (Conduct Unbecoming).

Thomas has been suspended for 18 AFL matches and has been suspended from participating in any other football competition at any level until 22 July 2024.

As a result of this finding, Thomas will no longer be a North Melbourne player and will not be eligible to play at all in the 2024 Toyota AFL Premiership Season.

Before returning to football at any level Thomas must have undertaken and/or be satisfactorily progressing with a behavioural change program. 

In respect of the behavioural change program: 

  • The behavioural change program needs to be approved in advance by the AFL;
  • Thomas and / or the provider of the behavioural change program will need to report to the AFL on the adherence and progress with the program.
  • Thomas will personally bear the cost of the behavioural change program.

After being alerted by a complaint through the AFL portal in late January, Thomas was interviewed by AFLIU investigators on 29 January 2024. It was ultimately determined by the AFL that Thomas had engaged in multiple acts of misconduct including threatening a woman via direct messages multiple times.

In determining the sanction, the AFL took into account the evidence over a period of time which included Thomas engaging in misconduct while he was undertaking education in 2023 to deal with similar behaviours from earlier that year.

AFL General Counsel Stephen Meade said, “Tarryn’s conduct does not represent behaviours acceptable to anyone in our game or our community and his actions were not of a standard that the game or the public expect.

“While we understand and are empathetic to the challenges Tarryn was facing in his personal life, there is no excuse for the behaviour or the hurt he caused a young woman, this is never okay.

“The fact that Tarryn chose to engage in behaviour over direct messages that was, and is, clearly inappropriate, even while he was undertaking education and being counselled for previous breaches contributed to the length of suspension imposed.”

The matter was triaged through the AFL’s Respect and Responsibility policy and the AFL continues to provide wellbeing support for those involved.

North Melbourne’s Response

North Melbourne has received notification from the AFL that Tarryn Thomas has been found guilty of inappropriate behaviour towards a female.
The club accepts the AFL’s findings and endorses their sanction, which will see Thomas suspended from AFL football for 18 matches.
As a result of that finding, and in light of previous indiscretions, the club has informed Thomas that he will no longer be a North Melbourne player.
North Melbourne chief executive Jennifer Watt said Thomas had received strong support from the club to change his behaviour and he was aware that any new indiscretion would threaten his playing future at North Melbourne. 
“The club has provided Tarryn with significant time, resources and support but we’ve now arrived at a point where the individual’s needs don’t match those of the club,” Watt said.
“We know Tarryn needs help – for himself and for the women in his life – but it’s clear the path we’ve taken over the past 12 months hasn’t had the desired impact. 
“To that end, we have made the decision to end Tarryn’s time at North Melbourne.  
“This decision doesn’t come lightly or easily. We brought Tarryn to the club as a teenager and we acknowledge that he has faced complex and challenging circumstances over his life. 
“We hope Tarryn will find the support that is right for him and that he does the work required to be the best version of himself.”
North Melbourne general manager of football Todd Viney said that the club had worked hard to support Thomas but he has now run out of chances.
“Tarryn’s ongoing behaviour was not compatible with the club’s or the team’s values,” Viney said.
“We’ve channelled many hours into helping Tarryn and seeking to rehabilitate him – for his sake and for the sake of those his behaviour has impacted.
“Ultimately, though, it’s our responsibility to put time and effort into the people who are committed to taking the club forward.”
Although Thomas will no longer be a North Melbourne player, the club will continue to make available medical and mental health support to him as he transitions into life away from Arden St.

Dr Sonja Hood’s Letter To North Melbourne Members

North Melbourne president Dr Sonja Hood has shared the following letter with members today:

To our members and supporters,

Today we made the decision to cut playing ties with Tarryn Thomas.

Right now, like many of our North Melbourne people, I’m feeling a range of emotions – frustration, anger, disappointment but overall, sadness.

This wasn’t a decision based on emotion – it was driven by incontrovertible, uncontested facts – but I want to be clear it wasn’t, and isn’t, easy. 

At North Melbourne we have a proud and long history of supporting our people, even in the face of external criticism.

As you know, Tarryn’s behaviour has been a concern for some time. Our duty of care to Tarryn and to the wider community meant we chose to work with him to address his behaviours, particularly in regard to his treatment of women.

It’s why we accepted our responsibility to seek help for him. It was a complex and difficult situation but we were all united in our determination to get the best outcomes for Tarryn and those around him. 

Tarryn came back to the club midway through last year pledging to be better. 

We are all bitterly disappointed that he has relapsed. And he is now out of chances. 

Last year he was afforded the privilege of doing his intensive education and rehabilitation programs within the structure of our footy club. From here he’ll have to find that structure elsewhere. 

We’ll continue working with the AFL, the Players Association and Tarryn’s manager and his support network to ensure that he gets the help he needs to be better. 

But he won’t play for the North Melbourne Football Club again.

Out of respect for her privacy I won’t say anything about the woman who brought these allegations to the AFL other than to commend her bravery and the dignity with which she has handled herself throughout this process. She deserved better.

AFLPA’s Response

The AFL Players’ Association has issued the following statement to be attributed to AFLPA CEO Paul Marsh.

The AFLPA notes the outcome of the AFL Integrity Unit’s investigation and North Melbourne’s decision that Tarryn Thomas will no longer be a North Melbourne player.

We would like to reiterate that disrespectful behaviour towards women, in any form, is unacceptable.

Tarryn has some challenges that he needs to address, and the AFLPA will provide him with access to tools that will assist him, while continuing to focus on his wellbeing.

Tarryn, like any playing member, has full access to our programs and services.