AFL decision the right outcome for Bombers players



Regardless of whether or not the AFL made the correct decision today, I am glad that the 34 current and former Essendon players were found not-guilty.

Everyone always says that professional athletes should be 100% liable for what goes into their body. While there is an element of truth in that, surely you have to feel a sense of sympathy and understanding for the Bombers players that were caught up in this scandal.

AFL chief medical officer Dr Peter Harcourt said he was shocked that the players let this happen.

“Athletes passively accepted the use (of the supplements) – this shocked us. Players did not jack up and say ‘what the hell is going on’”.

Football clubs, let alone professional AFL clubs, can be intimidating places and the old notion of staying quiet and working hard certainly rings true.

There was also an element of ‘fan syndrome’ at the Bombers. The leadership within the club were respected ex-players who have achieved plenty in the game, making the task of raising concerns even more daunting.

AFL players are there simply to play football and they are not going to risk their reputation at the club by speaking out against high figures by questioning the supplements regime.

Their performances, both on and off the field, dictate how long they will be able to make a career out of football. It is their main priority and they should be able to have the full trust in authority figures at the club.

Former Melbourne footballer Aaron Davey weighed in on the conversation emphasising the trust players have in staff members at clubs.

“We as players past and present put that much trust in our sports medicos and staff and would never try and question them on their professions.” Said the former Demon.

Players from other AFL clubs have confessed to taking substances or being involved in practices unknown to them, such is their faith to those distributing them at the club.

Former Hawthorn star Brent Guerra admitted in late 2012 that he was unsure of what was being injected into his injured hamstring.

“I’m not too sure to be honest. I just lay on the table and I say, ‘you do what you’ve got to do and I’ll be quite happy to just lay there’”.

There was nothing improper about Guerra’s treatment but it is in indication into the mindset of players when under the care of professionals.

Perhaps the Essendon players were naïve and certainly very trusting, but they were not drug cheats and therefore I believe it justice has prevailed.


About Jackson Clark

Born and bred in Darwin, Northern Territory, I am a young, aspiring football writer that lives and breathes the game of Australian Football. I'm also a keen player and coach.


  1. I somewhat sympathize with the author’s point of view and definitely understand how the players could trust the club and be betrayed by it, thus negating any real kind of guilt for them. That said, the fact that the players remained united and stood by the club and James Hird throughout the process is inexplicable, for me. That they will seemingly be happy to play for Hird this season is a farce and runs totally counter to their protestations that they had no clue what was being done to them and were just following orders and advice from their trusted superiors.

  2. This saga went as along as Blue Hills, with a result that seens to leave more Q’s than answers to many. I’m glad the players appear to be exonertaed by the findings. One key point however , that is pivotal, pertain sto Essendon Football Clubs role as an employer. We hear there is uncertainty re what some players were injected with. If there are any health problems in the fuure, which can be linked to this regime the Club is responsible. As an employer, Essendon Football Club has duties as per S21of the Victorian OH&S Act. If it has brecahed these by putting in place an injection regime which may cause harm to its players it must take full responsibility.


  3. Jackson, you suggest the players deserve exoneration because they lacked the power to refuse being injected.
    Yet Zaharakis reportedly refused injection.
    As they say about testing hypotheses, one falsification is enough to reject it.

  4. The players go off site, by-pass the club doctor, get injections in the stomach (some of them up to 40 injections!), apparently don’t ask what it is (see no evil, hear no evil) and we’re supposed to feel sorry for them? Not sure how that works.

  5. Dips, with all respect good sir, I think the ‘why didn’t the players ask any questions about this’ angle has been dealt with long ago. The level of trust players at EVERY club place in the coaching staff and admin runs pretty deep. If a club says to its players we’re doing X,Y and Z, players go along with it on the basis of trust and a fear of not adhering to the one-in-all-in culture that permeates a club (thanks Leading Teams!). That’s why I’m in the camp of feeling great for the players: Essendon staff betrayed and then manipulated this implied trust, putting the players who weren’t as critical as DZ of needles, or as clever as Jobe to have a serious sit-down with third parties, in a horrendous situation. The Essendon Head-Office-led mantra of backing the boys, supporting the boys has made me want to vomit in its hypocrisy. Th players have been let off the hook. The club? That’s another matter all together.

  6. Steve – I would agree entirely if the players were getting the injections in the normal course of training and their fitness program. But these injections were not. They were outside the club and outside the club doctor! And no questions asked! Remarkable. In any event, even my (then) 15 year old daughter was told (repeatedly) that she was entirely responsible for what went into her body when she was engaged in high level sport. She was 15! She knew. But footy players don’t? Its illogical. And a lame excuse. I hold the club almost completely responsible, but the players hold some culpability.

  7. Rabid Dog says

    Can’t agree with the article. The players knowingly went along with the plan. Anytime there is ‘off site’ injection of ‘substances unknown’, undertaken by staff other than the Club MO looks immediately suspicious. The suggestion that the players couldn’t say NO is laughable – what about Zacharias (Spelling?)? I understand there were one or two others also.
    And BTW – the players WERE not found not guilty. There was a lack of sufficient evidence to result in conviction – an ENTIRELY different result.
    On a personal level, I am glad for the players, but sad for the game. The ring leaders MUST be made to be accountable – at a minimum, they have brought the game into disrepute (or does that only apply if you have a few bevvies/spliffs, drink and drive, or slap someone around?

  8. Malcolm Ashwood says

    Totally agree with Dips and Rabs . Players are lectured re drugs , betting etc
    yet stupidity still reigns supreme . Players are totally responsible re what goes in to there body , disgusted re the decision personally

  9. Brad Carr says

    I make a distinction between the senior and junior players. I can completely understand an 18 year-old draftee going along with everything the coach/management tells them, starry-eyed and desperate to impress. However, the senior players (eg. Leadership Group) should be able to take responsibility, not only for themselves but for the younger players who might be too intimidated to ask the question themselves – that’s what being a Leadership Group is about.

    Agree with Jesse’s point too. Whilst I had initially tended to see the players as victims and the club as the perpetrator, their continued blind loyalty to Hird makes it difficult to empathise with them.

    And well said, Rabid (about the ring-leaders). This is the worst event that’s hit the game; no-one has been held accountable, and the AFL appears to have no desire to hold anyone accountable. It’s sad to get to the point where the only way someone MIGHT get called to account is if WADA take this whole thing offshore and through the Court of Arbitration for Sport – but that’s where we now appear to be.

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