AFL great cancels Tasmanian visit over ‘consistent harassment’ of manager

AFL great Nicky Winmar has cancelled his NAIDOC week visit to Tasmania’s north-west after “consistent harassment” of his controversial manager, Ricky Nixon.

Winmar was set to hold a football clinic in Smithton on Friday and present Indigenous-designed football jumpers to the Circular Head Saints ahead of its NAIDOC Round clash on Saturday.

But the visit was called off late on Thursday, with the Circular Head Aboriginal Corporation blaming it on a “factually incorrect and misguided diatribe” targeted at Mr Nixon.

Mr Nixon said “the actions of an individual in Smithton” meant authorities had advised the pair not to travel.

“Nicky Winmar and I have decided that the priority has to be, and will always be, the community’s safety, hence we will not be coming to Tasmania this weekend on the advice of authorities,” he posted on Facebook.

“We will, however, be assisting the community in other ways in the next few months which we will announce soon.”

A campaign had been waged against Mr Nixon appearing at the events, highlighting his dealings with a 17-year-old girl that led to his AFL player agent accreditation being suspended.

The local club president said it was a “great disappointment” Winmar (right) was no longer attending.(LinkedIn: Ricky Nixon)

The AFL Players’ Association Accreditation Board found he had breached its code of conduct in 2011 after the girl released footage of a man she claimed was Mr Nixon, pictured semi-naked on a Melbourne hotel bed.

Mr Nixon admitted inappropriate dealings with the teen at the hotel but denied having sex with her or supplying her with drugs and alcohol.

In 2015, he was reportedly arrested over alleged offensive social media posts where he threatened to assault a two-year-old child.

Mr Nixon declined to comment further.

Circular Head Aboriginal Corporation chair Selina Maguire-Colgrave said the campaign against Mr Nixon was waged by a community member who “actively and deliberately undermined this opportunity for the community on the basis of misinformation”.

She said Mr Nixon held the Victorian equivalent of a Working with Vulnerable People card, and the positivity of Winmar’s visit should not have been clouded by Mr Nixon accompanying him.

But Smithton resident Melissa Wells said she publicly aired concerns about Mr Nixon’s “highly questionable” prior behaviour, and was simply seeking assurances he had a valid Working with Vulnerable People card.

“We personally went in and privately spoke with the manager at CHAC and tried to keep this all private, and our main concern was: did he have a Working with Vulnerable People card? So why [wasn’t] I told a few weeks ago when I asked that he did have a card,” she said.

“I’d still be concerned about the prospect of him coming but I’d feel that I wouldn’t be able to have a vocal and outright opinion about it because he does have a card.”

Ricky Nixon and Nicky Winmar.
Nicky Winmar (left) played a total of 341 games and was inducted into the AFL Hall of Fame in 2022.(LinkedIn: Ricky Nixon)

Circular Head Saints president Keith Billing said it was a “great disappointment” to the club and the wider community that Winmar was no longer attending.

“That disappointment is going to be spread across individuals like school students and elderly residents of [Emerton Park nursing home], and then of course the football [community] and our club that were going to get the opportunity to meet him and perhaps get their Indigenous jumpers signed by him,” he said.

Mr Billing said his view was that Mr Nixon was a “colourful character” who had “taken his penalties on the chin” for his past wrongdoing.

“I had no problem with them being a package deal, obviously. Nicky Winmar trusts his agent and the agent carries the Victorian equivalent of a Working with Vulnerable People card, so the man should be free to walk around like everybody else does,” he said.

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