Collingwood defender Heritier “Harry” O’Brien took a short hiatus from training with the club last week after reportedly having a disagreement with coach Nathan Buckley over the practice of referring to teammate Paul Seedsman as ‘Lez,’ apparently in reference to Seedsman’s haircut.
AFL writer Mark Robinson recounted the incident in a column for the Herald Sun, writing that Buckley used Seedsman’s nickname before jokingly asking O’Brien, “You OK with that, Harry?”. Robinson then defended the club’s actions and told O’Brien to “harden up” and “pull his head in” before accusing him of abusing Buckley and other senior Collingwood figures Geoff Walsh and David Buttifant.
“Paul Seedsman’s nickname sometimes is ‘Lez’, short for lesbian, because someone at Collingwood thought he looked like a woman who had a sex change. Boom. Boom. It’s not really funny in print, but this is a footy club,” Robinson wrote in the column, which has since been taken down from the Herald Sun website.
Sporting site Sportal writer Bren O’Brien also questioned the suitability of Harry O’Brien’s speaking out, saying in an online column that “being an AFL footballer and being a crusader for social change aren’t always compatible”.
“You cannot doubt that the AFL has the right intentions in pursuing these social issues, but as O’Brien has found out, competitive sport and promotion of social harmony do not always work together,” Bren O’Brien wrote.
Harry O’Brien made headlines in May after openly criticising Collingwood club President Eddie McGuire when McGuire jokingly compared Aboriginal AFL player Adam Goodes to a monkey on Melbourne radio station Triple M. O’Brien has also spoken out recently on his mental health issues, including what he described as “a very complicated history of sexual abuse, suicide, depression,” and witnessing a murder.
In several statements released on Facebook, official LGBTI Collingwood supporters club the Pink Magpies commended O’Brien “for his honesty and courage facing difficult personal challenges”.
“The Pink Magpies do not condone discriminatory language in any form; heckling, name-calling or in jest,” the group said in another statement. Pink Magpies Secretary Ian Bell did not comment further other than to say the group “could not speak on behalf of all its members”.