Zach Tuohy has called the Australian media's treatment of Conor McKenna "disgraceful".
Last month, Tyrone man McKenna, who plays in the AFL for Essendon, tested positive for Covid-19 but then negative on several occasions days later.
The 24-year-old was accused of putting the restarted AFL season in jeopardy and found himself at the centre of a media storm.
"It was outrageous, absolutely outrageous, a total farce," Laoisman Tuohy, one of the Irish veterans of the AFL, told the GPA's 'The Players' Voice' podcast.
"He was guilty by media, he did nothing wrong and was painted as some kind of idiot who didn’t care about the AFL, and was going to jeopardise the game.
“There are 800 players in the league, however many staff in each of those clubs as well, so you have way over 1,000 people. You can’t keep tabs on them all, it’s only a matter of time before a player returns a positive test, and when it happens, you don’t just get to go and call them whatever you want.
“As it happened, it was a clerical error, a breakdown in communications somewhere, which is very little consolation to a bloke who has just had his name dragged through the mud."
.@zach2e of the @GeelongCats talks to The Players’ Voice about returning to play during the pandemic, his Irish teammates Down Under, and the way Conor McKenna was treated.
Spotify: https://t.co/UCKhbvVFTu pic.twitter.com/PJSnxzkkGm
— GPA (@gaelicplayers) July 21, 2020
McKenna served a ban for breaching Covid-19 protocols and returned to action for Essendon earlier this month.
"I saw some tweets that were sent to him and it's nonsense, it's ridiculous," Tuohy, who plays for Geelong, continued.
"To be fair, some media have apologised, some doubled down. It was handled terribly, absolutely terribly.
"Not all of them, a little caveat there, [but] so much of the media are just vultures, absolute vultures, and all they want is a bad news story. They’d rather be first than right, and there's too many of those. I'd bloody love to give you names but it probably wouldn’t be a good career move.
"Nobody cared to make sure what the results actually said. Even if he had been positive, that doesn't mean that he didn't care. It certainly wouldn't mean he did it on purpose. There are so many legitimate ways to catch this bloody disease. They just jumped the gun and it was absolutely disgraceful how he was treated."
Picture credit: Brendan Moran/Sportsfile