East Perth's Sam Van Diemen was suspended for three weeks after calling an opponent a homophobic slur during a match. | Twitter: @EastPerthFC

To the untrained eye, Australian rules football can sometimes appear to be organized chaos where seemingly anything goes.

But for the second time in a month, a player directed a homophobic slur at an opponent in the middle of a match and found out that there were serious consequences for doing so.

During an April 25 contest in the West Australian Football League, East Perth’s Sam Van Diemen unloaded an anti-gay slur at Perth’s Jack Cooley late in the game.

After an umpire heard the slur and reported it, the league planned to suspend Van Diemen for four games. Once Van Diemen pleaded guilty, the WAFL reduced his suspension to three.

Even with that reduction, it is the largest penalty for a homophobic slur in the history of the league. The WAFL is overseen by the state-run West Australian Football Commission and has been in existence since 1885.

As recently as 2022, Van Diemen and Cooley were teammates on East Perth. But now that they were playing on opposite sides, whatever rapport they had was clearly out the window during the match.

According to a report from Sport FM writer John Townsend, however, once the game ended, Cooley had requested that the league not pursue Van Diemen. But because an umpire heard the slur on the field, the league required him to report it so that they could investigate.

Van Diemen’s suspension came on the heels of Port Adelaide’s Jeremy Finlayson being suspended for three games by the AFL after unleashing a homophobic slur on the field.

Finlayson was deeply contrite after receiving his suspension, telling The Age, “Every day I wish I could take it all back. It’s hard to talk about even now, and I don’t know who I’ve hurt or how many people.”

In Van Diemen’s case, former footballer and current East Perth CEO Dean Turner spoke on behalf of the club.

“Sam’s actions were inappropriate, he’s pled guilty, apologized to the player, and will now undergo further education,” Turner told The West Australian’s Mitchell Woodcock, “From a club point of view, we are now working with the leadership group to ensure this doesn’t happen again.”

During a preseason match, Harry Quartermaine of Perth was also suspended one week for an on-field homophobic slur.

Meanwhile, the WAFL season continues through late August. No doubt all of Australian Rules Football is crossing its fingers that they can go the rest of the year without another such incident.