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Date

Matthew Lloyd

Jobe Watson leads the Essendon team off after the loss to Carlton in round 21 last year.

Jobe Watson leads the Essendon team off after the loss to Carlton in round 21 last year. Photo: Sebastian Costanzo

I WAS always told that if I stood still for too long in the game of AFL football that it would eventually pass me by. With every training session that I put my body through, I pushed myself to the limits knowing that I had to stay ahead of the pack to maintain my standing in the game. I've now been retired for three years and this last week has left me angry at the thought of what going the extra mile has suddenly become.

I've often said that I was glad that I started my career in 1995 and not in 2009, the year that I retired, because of how the game had changed over the 15 years that I played. At the end of my career I grew frustrated by the amount of dead time spent at the football club waiting for the next session to begin, which was often something I got nothing out of due to the fact that there were so many staff at the club who were wanting their pound of flesh, pardon the pun, of the players' time to justify their position there.

Sports science is obviously the biggest growth area, with science teams looking to gain the advantage through player rotations on game day and oral supplements and, as I only discovered in the last week, injections. By no means am I suggesting anything illegal has taken place at Essendon or any other club with what was given, but I find it outrageous that players are subjecting their bodies to these injections like they are a science experiment.

I don't care how fast the game moves, there is no way that I would ever have agreed to a stomach injection to aid my recovery from a training session or match.

I believe that supplement injections should be banned to protect not only the current player but also the image of the game.

The modern day footballer holds so much weight in the community and the AFL should take a stand for the betterment of junior footballers who mimic everything an AFL hero does.

Some players and sports scientists would say that if it isn't illegal, then that is a restraint of trade, but it is vital for the good of the game when there are so many kids who would be heavily influenced by their AFL idol. The other simple fact is that it isn't necessary. There are many more traditional and healthier ways to assist a player's recovery. The game doesn't need to be this complex.

I took supplements over the middle to latter part of my career and could never tell of any benefit that they gave me. The ocean, hot and cold baths, massage, physio, eating and sleeping well, off the back of a strong summer on the track and in the gym and getting the adrenaline pumping on match days was of far greater importance to me than any supplement I would spend gagging on due to the vulgar taste after training and matches.

I had a weekly ritual that I swore by and that I was comfortable with and the current players have to be very careful that they don't put their careers and bodies in other people's hands. Most people in a football club are of the highest quality, but a small minority are driven by their own agendas and egos.

In the Essendon players' case, being asked or having it recommended that the supplements will assist you in your performance and that you'll be injected by vitamins must have been a very difficult decision for them to make due to the peer pressure and having the expectation of the club to do everything in your power to maximise performance.

Essendon did the right thing by giving the players the choice, but as Tim Watson said during the week on morning radio, players are like sheep, and he is spot on. Let's hope for not only Essendon's sake but the game's sake that all was above board with the supplements and vitamins that were given because players at all clubs put total faith and trust in the sport science staff as you would expect. In saying that, it is a huge wake-up call for the players to be stronger in their convictions and gut feelings to ask more questions if they don't understand what they are being administered.

Kyle Reimers spoke of being confused by it all and not knowing exactly what he was taking. The onus was on Kyle to follow up and be more inquisitive, but not enough players are. Let's just hope they are now. At the end of the day, no one cares what legal methods you use to prepare for a season, as long as you are performing on match days.

Andrew Demetriou and Mike Fitzpatrick couldn't have been more alarmed by what information has been given to them through the Australian Crime Commission report. The Essendon brand and culture which has been built over more than a century has taken a hammering this week like no other club in the history of the game has ever had to endure. I still have full faith in the integrity of the Essendon players and coaching staff that there is nothing illegal or sinister in what they were doing. What they are guilty of is letting sports science get totally out of hand. Only time will tell whether the damage is irreparable and what the total fallout will be.

Everyone's always looking for the edge to get them to the top; some will do anything to get it.

Watching Daniel Hannebery's courageous mark turn the game in last year's grand final and then Adam Goodes' heroics on one leg in the last quarter is the only edge that counts to me.

It is acts like that that take you to the top, and that is what I call going the extra mile.

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