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Thomas’ AFL future complicated further as league takes stance against gender-based violence

Jarred Cross -

Tarryn Thomas' future in footy has dividing opinions in AFL circles after the league announced all clubs will "unite together against gender-based violence" during round eight.

On Thursday, Essendon coach Brad Scott - who had coached Thomas at North Melbourne - gave some support to the 24-year-old's reported bid to return to AFL football in 2024.

Thomas was sacked by North Melbourne in February after the league found he was guilty of several breaches of conduct unbecoming rules.

It came after a string of serious allegations of his behaviour towards women, including threats of violence.

Thomas was handed an 18-match suspension and banned from competing at the top level in 2024, with requirements to complete or show he is 'satisfactorily progressing' through a behavioural change program before returning to football at any level.

In April, Geelong coach Chris Scott said the Cats were "open-minded" and "believe in second changes" amid reports of clubs growing interest in Thomas.

His brother Brad expressed a similar sentiment on Wednesday.

"I've known Tarryn since he was 14, and in my view he's a good person. But has he made some terrible mistakes? Yes he has and he's the first to admit that. So as an industry do we just wash our hands and say we're done with him, or do we help him?" the Bombers coach said.

Later on Wednesday, three-time premiership Cat Jimmy Bartel had a different view.

"Personally I feel very uncomfortable with it...I get the whole premise of forgiveness and chances he's had a number of chances with his alleged behaviour...but at some stage, there's got to be a fork in the road because the forgiveness angle hasn't worked, because the numbers are actually getting worse," Bartel told Footy Classified.

Bartel said while he understands the premise of the AFL of being a leader for addressing domestic violence, "that whole forgiveness, try again try again (approach) is not working".

"At some stage the privilege has got to run out. We're playing AFL football...It's a privilege play AFL, it was privileged (for Thomas) to get multiple opportunities. And now you're getting the privilege of being spoken about getting another lifeline...Yeah, throw your arms around him, support him, educate him, but you don't have to do that at AFL level," he said.

Before the start of all nine AFL matches this weekend, players, coaches and umpires will join in a circle on the ground and pay a silent tribute to all women who have lost their lives.

"When it comes to violence against women, the only acceptable figure is zero," AFL chief executive Andrew Dillon said.

"This weekend we will unite and remember all the women who have been killed as a result of gender-based violence and stand in solidarity in committing to do more to stop this community-wide problem.

"We also understand our industry still has work to do, but we are committed to continuing to educate, to take action and even more conscious of that we must work harder than ever. All men are responsible for doing better."

Former AFL coach and current West Coast chief executive Don Pyke is said to have led the initiative.

It comes as rallies and public displays against domestic violence and significant government funding announcements to address the issue this week.

AFL executive general manager social policy and inclusion Tanya Hosch said "we have a collective responsibility" to call-out gender-based violence.

"One woman is killed every nine days by a current or former partner. One in four women has experienced physical violence at the hands of a current and former partner and this does not include all the other physical and emotional abuse that is happening," she said.

"Everyone needs to be a part of the change, we all have a role to play, change is not going to happen overnight but it is time for us to all be part of the solution."

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