Western Bulldogs midfielder Josh Dunkley has said AFL players are routinely subjected to public aggression while enjoying a night out with friends or teammates.
Speaking on the ESPN Footy Podcast, the injured Dunkley said it was all too common to be harassed by members of the public trying to 'provoke' a reaction, following revelations of a nightclub incident which left Richmond's Shai Bolton with a broken wrist, and teammate Daniel Rioli with two stitches below his eye.
Dunkley said football players should be able to go out without being baited or abused, citing an incident in Queensland in which he and a number of Bulldogs players out at dinner had items thrown at them by patrons.
"I was in Noosa with [Mitch Wallis] and [Marcus Bontempelli] and a couple of other boys, and we were just sitting there on a table over the bye weekend having dinner and a couple of drinks, and then all of a sudden people start coming around you and misbehaving. We were getting stuff thrown at us from a distance," Dunkley said on the podcast.
"They just want to stir you up and get into trouble. It's hard going out. That's probably why I don't do it as much in season because it's such a big focus, especially in Melbourne, people who probably just want to get you in trouble and make you make a fool of yourself."
He said restrictions shouldn't be put on players' whereabouts during the season, and that players needed to "be able to live a life" and enjoy their youth.
"I don't tend to go out too much. If I tend to do anything it's just at my house or at a low-key bar. I don't tend to go out heaps during the season because I don't think it helps me, but everyone's different," he said.
"Player have got to be able to live a life. I don't know if they shouldn't be told not to go out, or 'not do this', or not do that, because you've got to be able to relax and keep your mind busy out of footy."
According to Richmond, a fight broke out at the nightclub when Rioli's girlfriend was "subjected to inappropriate behaviour" from a fellow patron. Rioli attempted to diffuse the situation but was punched, and then Bolton stepped in, breaking his wrist in the ensuing altercation.
Bolton, who is having a career-best year, underwent surgery on Monday and will miss up to a month, but Dunkley said the details of the night shouldn't reflect poorly on the players' choices.
"Rioli and Bolton were both out with their girlfriends, it was Shai's girlfriend's birthday, I don't see any issues with it, they were in the wrong place at the wrong time and had to stand up for themselves," he said.
"For me, I don't think it's a bad look on the players. At the end of the day, everyone's human, every AFL player is a human being just like the next person in the general public."