Overheard at Essendon: a conversation between a worried player and an official: “Trust me”

Conversation overheard at Essendon Football Club, Tullamarine, Friday 13/6/14

EFC Player: Hey, have you got a sec to talk about these ASADA notices, confidentially. These ‘Show Cause’ letters?

EFC Official: Sure, come in and shut the door.

Player: Look, I’m really worried about this.

Official: So are we, last time this happened, we missed out on the finals and Hirdy got stood down. How he’s surviving in France with just that $1 million lump sum and a guaranteed job in August I can’t imagine.

Player: No, I was talking more about me.

Official: Oh you’ve got nothing to worry about, it’s all a joke, we’ll look after you.

Player: Well, that’s just the thing, I’m not sure and I’m worried.

Official: Why, haven’t we always arranged free shoes, hoodies and drink cards?

Player: The thing is, what if I have to prove I didn’t take drugs, I don’t know what to do.

Official: No worries, that’s where you’re in good hands. We’ll make sure it never gets to that.

Player: But I was injected with something. What was it?

Official: Excuse me?

Player: Can you tell me what Dr Dank injected me with?

Official: Well, we know it was nothing illegal

Player: How are you sure?

Official: Because you signed a stat dec saying it was fine to be injected and you wouldn’t have done that if it was illegal, would you.

Player: But I wasn’t sure what I was being given. And, now I’m worried that Dr Dank didn’t know what he was giving me.

Official: He wouldn’t have given you anything dodgy.

Player: How can you be sure?

Official: Because he was a good bloke, who wouldn’t do anything wrong. We rang up a few people who worked with him, they all said he was a good bloke and wouldn’t do anything wrong, so that’s how we know.

Player: But he was at Cronulla and they seem in trouble.

Official: I must admit, we didn’t call them.

Player: Can we just ask him?

Official: He isn’t talking to us anymore. Since we sacked him.

Player: So what was I injected with?

Official: Definitely nothing illegal.

Player: So what was it called?

Official: Not absolutely sure I can answer that correctly and accurately right here and now.

Player: Why not

Official: Because we aren’t completely sure

Player: So how do you know it was safe?

Official: Because we wouldn’t do anything to harm you.

Player: What if you did, by accident

Official: How could that happen?

Player: Maybe Dank was doing whatever he wanted; running a private unchecked program that flouted the law and now won’t simply come out and tell the drug people what he did? Or maybe the club asked him to do something that was skating close to the edge, because we committed to do “Whatever it takes?”

Official: Small point, we don’t use that slogan anymore, it’s now all about the sash, that’s the campaign

Player: But this was in 2012. Look, I’m really worried I could be seen as a drug cheat?

Official: Never. Drug cheats are Chinese swimmers, or Tour de France cyclists, the ones that beat Cadel. And any Aussie that took stuff was pressured by Lance Armstrong. Jeez, I hate that bloody Lance Armstrong.

Player: What if we simply asked Doc Reid, he’ll know? Can’t he clear our names?

Official: Ah, no, Doc wasn’t involved.

Player: So we injected players, off-site, as part of a club arranged medical process, but didn’t include the Doc, who has been here forever.

Official: That’s right.

Player: So, how will you look after me then?

Official: We’ll hit them with everything we have legally. We will go to court saying that the investigation is wrong. That the AFL was involved. That ASADA has taken too long. That this is unfair on you. That we are good blokes who would never hurt our boys. We’ll get injunctions that mean we’ll still play finals. We get the Pres out there on radio. We’ll get money from sponsors, we’ll get that Sideburns refugee advocate bloke who did well with Hirdy. We get Tania back on the 7.30 Report. We’ll blame The Weapon. We’ll threaten to haul Andy D into court. We’ll say it was a political show. We’ll tie it up in court for ages. We’ll get stories to Robbo, talk to Sam Newman, get the public on our side.

Player: Why don’t you just simply tell them that what I was injected with was legal?

Official: Because we don’t know what we injected you with. But we are sure it was legal.

Player: Listen, I may be just 21 years old and I’d do anything to realise my dream of playing AFL at the highest level. And I love being paid to do what I enjoy. But I have the potential stigma of being a drug cheat hanging over me, of being suspended, my career being over, losing my income, allegations tainting me, all my friends here at the club being affected to. All because you let a bloke who you didn’t know enough about, run a program that looks dodgy, that the club either didn’t know about it or if you did, you allowed to happen, but didn’t involve the doctor. I was pressured into being injected and I’ve been let down by people I trusted. You guys know how far I have run in a game, or at training, you know my daily mood and feelings as I fill in a form each morning when I get here, you track my diet, tell me who I can be friends with, make me watch countless video reviews, fine me if I am late to a meeting, and tell me what I can say to the media. But you can’t tell me what you repeatedly injected into my arm?

Official: Whatever it was, it wouldn’t have been illegal. Trust me.

Player: (slams the door as he leaves)

Official: Hang on, you haven’t given $10 to Hirdy’s benefit fund, have you seen how expensive living in France is these days? Come back, sign the card!

I don’t know, kids these days. Whatever happened to trust.

See the Bombers fly up, up…..




Read The people’s Elbow on the Essendon saga

About Sean Curtain

"He was born with a gift of laughter, and a sense that the world was mad". First line of 'Scaramouche' by Sabatini, always liked that.


  1. For Christ’s sake stop laughing. This is serious.
    Brilliant Sean.

  2. Great piece and sadly probably not too far off from the truth.

  3. Callum O'Connor says

    These are the issues. Very good piece.

  4. Bob Speechley says

    Seems to me to be a sad case of abuse of power which has been ignored by those in authority.

    I cannot accept the extent of the issue and the calamitous impact on the young members of Essendon.

    People continue to wade around the periphery as if nothing serious has happened.

  5. Bob Morrow says

    Were you at the door listening ?

  6. Rod Oaten says

    I fear you have hit the nail on the head Sean. What concerns me is the effect it will have on the players not only today but in the future, and I’ll bet the Essendon Officials drag this out as long as they can through the courts. It’s been a very long eighteen months for those of us who support the club and I suspect it will go on a lot longer.

  7. John Butler says

    Great stuff Sean.

    Much clearer thinking than most of the participants seem capable of. And much funnier.

  8. This is the greatest thing to ever happen to football.
    Sir Frank Downright QC
    Downright, Lye and Soo
    Barristers & Solicitors

  9. nice to see Essendon’s humility

  10. National Nine News says

    Great article Sean funny and so true hearing , Little tonight he is living in a state of delusional stupidity , the damage to the game and industry is massive and growing
    The worst case of poor leadership in aust sporting history

  11. Bob Speechley says

    Good overview of the situation by Patrick Smith in “The Australian” Saturday June 14.

  12. Dave Brown says

    Top work. You would hope the players have been initiating such conversations and have been ensuring that any counsel they get recognises their interests are different to the club’s

  13. Nice summary

  14. Perfect

  15. The clearest thing I’ve read on this in recent times and the perfect companion piece for Liza’s earlier recognition of obfuscation: http://www.footyalmanac.com.au/has-anyone-heard-from-stephen-dank/

  16. DanBIllin says

    Is WorkCover looking into this? Seems an unsafe workplace, management potentially harming employees. Haven’t Hird much.

  17. Luke Reynolds says

    Brilliant Sean.

  18. Rick Kane says

    Very Clarke and Dawe SC. That’s an unveiled compliment.

    And DanBillins, well spotted. If OHS isn’t the next looming issue, subject to what is finally brought to light with the saga, then I’ll go he for chasey.


  19. Justice. And more to come.

  20. Rod Oaten says

    Yesterday I emailed the CEO of Essendon Football Club saying that I will not be rejoining the Dons in 2015. I made a tough decision this year to rejoin as a member, but they have well and truly lost me with all these proposed future court actions.

  21. Mark 'Swish' Schwerdt says

    More power to you Rod, Sparks pun intended.

  22. Rod – if this was about justice rather than legalities – which is never the case – the real issue would be how to excuse the duped players and supporters while harshly punishing the Essendon club and its senior managers and officials. The lack of duty of care is truly breathtaking.
    But what is a footy club other than the players who take the field in its name? Sell the players from under them and give them contracts with the other 17 clubs so their career and finances are not damaged? Make Essendon play with kids and unwanted trades for the next decade? Creates a deterrent for greedy clubs, but unfair to the many honest and passionate fans?
    The answer is a pineapple, but I’d settle for Hird and Thompson’s head on a platter – never to coach again – for wilful blindness and negligence. Low draft picks for 5 years. Then let the current group get on with it – minus Thompson.
    Justice – but impossible to orchestrate now Little has chosen the low road of Elliott-like legal technicalities.

  23. Sean,
    Excellent…I laughed but then realised that the plight of those players is no laughing matter. And still the delusion continues.

  24. This deserves a place in a script for a play or a musical, yes, a musical.
    Thanks Sean for telling a scary story.

    I get the feeling as I hear more and more about this sorry mess that Essendon is going hell for leather to clear the players cos if they don’t, the players are coming after them!

    And that will get interesting. The offering of Lord Jim’s and Bomber’s heads on platters will never be enough for a large group of angry players and hungry lawyers seeking justice. They may get more, lots more.

  25. E.regnans says

    A truly grand article and a truly grand thread of comments.
    Very well enunciated, Sean.
    How do you see the future, I wonder?
    The entire episode is quite astounding in its negligence.
    And on it goes…

  26. Thanks all, appreciate the kind words.

    Rod, did you get a reply from EFC on your 2-15 membership decision?

    MikeD, Dank the musical? They did it with Warne, could Hird be a musical target for Eddie Perfect? It has all the elements of Lear and Macbeth as well.

    E Regnans, I fear the process will be too much ill-informed commentary about the issue, a desire for the AFL to negotiate something that suits their image but they have no right to be involved in, and lawyers getting rich in the process.

    Expect lots of indignation too.

    EFC is doing what we see in American legal shows, claim that the search warrant was invalid or Miranda rights weren’t read, so anything found is inadmissable, normally the approach of the guilty.

    Yes, EFC doing whatever they can to protect the players but only to save themselves.

    Interesting approach could be, whilst there’s solidarity, (forced or voluntary) amongst EFC players in the 34, what of players who have got show-cause notices who either aren’t at the Dons anymore or may have left AFL altogether. What if they take a 6 month ban? What if Gumbleton takes it as he is injured again, what if Crameri takes it as the Dogs won’t play finals?


  27. Hey Sean

    Love the Clarke and Dawe rhythm to this one. It also harked Joseph Heller: ‘We don’t know what you’ve been injected with, but we know it’s legal.” That line would fit snugly on any page in Catch 22.

    I reckon you’ve nailed how a great many of the younger players are feeling right now. They must be bewildered over the situation they’ve found themselves in. On the senior group, though, I’m not so sympathetic. David Zaharakis’s circumspection is what you would have expected from them. Unfortunately, it wasn’t the case.

  28. T Bone, bizarre that Zaharakis is in the clear due to an aversion to needles, not any concern about what may have been in them!

    You can imagine a player like Fletcher, having spent his adult life there, his only ever job, placing his trust in an organisation that was so much a part of his family.

    As another writer spelt out on these pages recently, Leadership takes different forms. Where was the Leadership group in challenging this whilst it occurred?

  29. Hey Sean

    On Zaharakis, maybe it was an aversion to needles and not circumspection about something unorthodox. But if was just the later, why didn’t he ask for the “supplements’ in a pill form or something? I reckon there’s a little spin in all that.

    Yes, Fletcher, Watson and co had spent a great many years at Essendon and learnt to trust the org, but unfortunately, that’s no excuse. For me, the individual has a responsibility to question something unorthodox like this. Their failure to has got to attract some sort of penalty. If it didn’t, then what’s gonna stop this happening again?

  30. Rod Oaten says

    Sean, Surprise, surprise I haven’t heard from the Essendon Football Club on my 2015 decision.

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