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Rookie AFL star’s girlfriend crossed a golf course and jumped two fences to reach WA quarantine hub

Sydney Swans young gun Elijah Taylor went to extraordinary lengths to smuggle his teenage girlfriend into the AFL’s quarantine hub in Western Australia.  

Taylor, 19, has been suspended for the rest of the season over the coronavirus biosecurity breach after he was busted by teammates in the early hours of last Friday.  

His girlfriend Lekahni Pearce, 18, reportedly crossed a golf course and jumped two fences to be reunited with her boyfriend as he was holed up in quarantine at Perth’s Joondalup Resort just hours after the Swans’ big win against GWS Giants last Thursday night. 

Ms Pearce had just completed her own mandatory self-quarantine period after flying in from Sydney a fortnight ago.

Senior teammates caught Ms Pearce in Taylor’s room and brought the situation to the attention of Swans head of football Charlie Gardiner, according to Footy Classified panellist Caroline Wilson. 

‘Fascinating what happened behind the scenes,’ Wilson told the Channel Nine program.

‘They’re in apartments, so there’s no hotel lobby you’ve got to get through.

‘Two senior Swans players became aware of what was happening and reported the younger teammate and that’s how the story came out.’

Former Fremantle coach Ross Lyon added: ‘So it wasn’t a naive or ignorant mistake. It was premeditated, considered and executed so that’s really disappointing.’

Wilson replied: ‘$25,000 out of your soft cap in this current environment is not good.’ 

Swans coach John Longmire said the Western Australian-raised AFL talent had been specifically reminded about the strict protocols before he travelled to Perth.

‘We talked to Elijah specifically before we left and made sure that we all understand what environment we’re going into,’ Longmire told Fox Sports AFL 360.

‘He still made a very poor choice, he still made a decision to deliberately breach the quarantine and it’s unacceptable, and the ramifications are very much suited to what he did.’

‘It was a decision that put so much at risk. He’s only a young player, he’s in his first year of AFL footy, but it was still a terrible decision that has big ramifications.’

WA Police allege Ms Pearce entered Taylor’s room during the early hours of Friday morning. 

‘The AFL directions specify that only authorised persons are permitted to enter the Joondalup Resort during the quarantine period,’ a police statement read.

‘The player’s partner is not an authorised person.’  

Taylor, who is the nephew of former AFL star turned Channel Seven commentator Brian Taylor, has played four games for the Swans since being drafted from Western Australia.

He made his AFL debut just four weeks ago in the Swans’ loss again the Gold Coast Suns at the SCG and was dropped from the line-up ahead of Thursday night’s local derby against the Giants.

He began isolating with the Swans on August 7. He has been allowed to remain in the quarantine hub.  

Ms Pearce was issued a further temporary quarantine direction which will be subject to ongoing review.

She, like her boyfriend is also originally from Western Australia, according to her social media accounts. 

Taylor has been suspended from playing for the rest of the season.

The AFL has also issued a sanction of $50,000, with $25,000 of that suspended. The $25,000 will be included in the Swans’ 2021 soft cap. 

Sydney Swans CEO Tom Harley said the club is incredibly disappointed by the breach but accepts the penalties.

‘We’re extremely disappointed to be in this position as our staff and players are all well aware of both the AFL protocols and the restrictions we are required to adhere to while in quarantine,’ Harley said. 

‘We have spoken to Elijah at length and he understands the seriousness of this situation, which has also been reiterated to the entire team.

‘We also appreciate that the circumstances of this year are unique and challenging for everyone, and we will continue to provide support to Elijah, as well as our other staff and players who are away from their families.’

Mr Harley also apologised to the WA community.

‘Clearly the restrictions we are adhering to are designed to protect the community and any breach is unacceptable,’ he said.

WA Premier Mark McGowan was furious over the breach.

‘It’s very disappointing,’ McGowan told reporters on Sunday. 

‘The AFL gave us every assurance this wouldn’t happen. The Swans have let us down, the AFL has let us down. We’re disappointed in both organisations.

‘I received an apology from the AFL this morning. I appreciate that but … they promised us this wouldn’t happen and they let us down.’

Mr McGowan warned in July interstate players would be kicked out of Western Australia if they breach quarantine conditions while participating in the AFL hub.

WA health minister Roger Cook hopes the breach hasn’t cost Perth’s chances of hosting the AFL grand final.

‘It’s bitterly disappointing that one of the players thought that they could usurp those rules and really spoil the experience for everyone. The AFL has to step up here. We have comprehensive and extensive guidelines for all the AFL teams,’ he said.

‘Footy is really important to Western Australians, that’s why everyone wants to have the AFL grand final here, but we need to make sure that we do… see football played in the State in a way that doesn’t threaten the public health risk of the community.

WA Police investigations into the breach are continuing.

‘WA Police Force will continue to work with the Department of Health and the AFL in relation to the ongoing management and assessment of the required quarantine arrangements for the Sydney Swans group,’ a police statement read.

The Sydney Swans are the 12th AFL club to be sanctioned over quarantine breaches.

The latest AFL quarantine breach comes after Brooke Cotchin, the wife of Richmond Tigers skipper Trent Cotchin breached biosecurity protocols by visiting a day spa on the Gold Coast almost three weeks ago.

The Carlton Blues copped a $45,000 fine after players’ children recently visited Dreamworld.

Collingwood was fined $50,000 after senior coach Nathan Buckley and forwards coach Brenton Sanderson played tennis with two people from outside the team’s hub in Perth.

North Melbourne and Hawthorn have also been fined over various hub rule breaches.

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