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Clubs against more restrictions on players' down time

IMPOSING further restrictions on players in the limited down time they have would be an unwise, knee-jerk reaction to the tragic death of John McCarthy in Las Vegas, football authorities have said.

Geelong and Collingwood presidents Colin Carter and Eddie McGuire, and Essendon coach James Hird, said clubs could only educate their players about enjoying holidays safely, but they ultimately had to trust that they would. Education and encouraging life balance was helpful, they agreed, but unrealistic attempts to control young men was not.

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The group of players who had been on holiday with John McCarthy are flying home from Las Vegas after the death of their teammate.

A group of senior Western Bulldogs players returning to Melbourne this morning from their post-season holiday in Las Vegas travelled with Victoria Police detective Stuart Bailey, who is also a runner for the team. The players paid for him to chaperone them on their trip.

At Geelong, Carter, a former AFL commissioner, said players tended to travel in small groups after the season and were encouraged to live balanced lives during the season.

''I think it's dangerous to jump to any conclusions because we don't know all the facts here,'' he said yesterday.

''I've never been a great fan of footy trips where people go off to cause trouble, but I think they're largely a thing of the past. I am absolutely positive about our players heading off overseas, and they tend to go off in small groups, as I think this group did. I think once we start saying that players shouldn't do that we're on dangerous ground.


''The lesson here for me is encouraging people to see that high-risk situations are things to carefully avoid … but I'd be disappointed if it led to any knee-jerk reaction about players and travel. I don't think that's the way to deal with this.''

McGuire admitted that while ''every football administrator holds his breath'' during the off-season, worrying about potential for misadventure, he said players travelling after a high-pressure and highly scrutinised year's work were no more at risk than graduating high school students who ventured abroad.

''Schoolies, O-week, staff Christmas parties, there's not much difference between all of them and footballers going on holidays at the end of a season,'' he said.

''You don't want to get to the stage where a footballer can't be trusted to go on holiday. ''What we do need to do is make sure we give people as much advice as we possibly can, and alert them to the possibilities.''

A group of Essendon players, already in the US on an end-of-season trip, were due to meet in Las Vegas in coming days but have cancelled, feeling it was now inappropriate.

Hird yesterday likened the sensation of being a coach in the off-season to that of being a parent: ''You have to give them some sort of amount of freedom and trust that they'll do the right thing and … we can't stop them from going on a trip,'' he told SEN.

"It's always a worry, and having been a player four or five years ago you probably don't see the club's point of view, but it's a concern when you've got so many players in the same spot that something can go wrong. Yesterday's tragedy just shows how careful young men probably need to be."