Chiefs break ranks on drugs
Geelong CEO Brian Cook. Photo: John Woudstra
THE AFL's two most experienced club bosses have broken ranks with the majority and confessed they would feel uncomfortable in learning the identity of two-strike drug offenders within their clubs.
West Coast boss Trevor Nisbett and Geelong's Brian Cook have told the AFL they do not believe club chief executives should necessarily be informed if their players were drug offenders. Nisbett is understood to have told last week's gathering of CEOs he would rather not be given details of his two-strike players.
''Telling us is not going to solve the issue,'' said Nisbett, whose club was forced to rebuild its off-field culture after the Ben Cousins era at West Coast. ''If I'm told, I do have a duty to tell my board as I am a member of that board and this issue is far better handled with confidentiality.
''I'd want someone far more qualified than me to handle the situation because I believe firmly this remains a medical and educational issue. People say, 'We've got to punish these guys'. Well let's all go down to the pub tomorrow night and arrest 40 people.''
While most club chiefs have pushed to be the first point of contact after a second illicit drug strike, Cook backed Nisbett's belief that each club would be better to nominate a more qualified official.
''After two strikes I agree the club should know, but unless there is a player blatantly flaunting his drug use and thumbing his nose at the system, then I'm not sure I'm the person to handle the issue,'' Cook said. ''Players should perhaps nominate a welfare officer or the football manager. It may or may not stand up legally, but it could work.''
Collingwood is one of two AFL clubs to have been placed on red alert by the AFL and warned that several players on its list have positive drug strikes or have self-reported illegal drug use - a loophole certain to be removed this season.
Collingwood chiefs Eddie McGuire and Gary Pert reportedly publicly warned their players late last year of dire consequences should they continue to indulge in illegal drugs.
Pert is one member of the newly formed working party looking at a number of reforms after having alerted the competition to his fears - fears that several clubs believe remain largely, although not exclusively, a Collingwood problem.
With AFL boss Andrew Demetriou predicting more positive test results from the 2012 season - most clubs believe the increase could amount to four times as many players testing positive to illicit substances compared with the previous year - last week's summit also showed strong support for club profiling to start from 2013.
The profiling would see every club given details of its proven drug offenders at the end of each season. While no names would be revealed, a club such as Collingwood would be told how many players had tested positive, how many two-strike players were at the club and how many players had recorded positive hair tests over the holiday period. The move was cautiously supported by the AFL's doctors and the league executive and was not ruled out by the players themselves.
Nisbett has counselled Pert on illicit drugs among senior players - an issue that led to his club being investigated by the AFL and a West Australian government commission.
While most club CEOs have continued to push to learn the identity of their two-strike players, some have received assurance from their boards that those identities need not be revealed to club directors.