I was in a state of shock when the news broke that the Essendon players had received such heavy suspensions from the Court of Arbitration for Sport on Tuesday.
I was a teammate to many of those players – two of my closest mates are Angus Monfries and Mark McVeigh who have been affected by this.
Players Assoc stands by banned players
The AFL Players Association says the 34 current and former Essendon players, involved in the supplements saga, have done nothing wrong.
McVeigh is an assistant coach at Greater Western Sydney, but won't be able to fulfil that role this year, and Gus is in the last year of a playing contract at Port Adelaide.
I just couldn't stop thinking about them and what it means for their careers, their livelihoods.
And there's also Brent Stanton. We're all hearing about Jobe Watson and whether he will keep his 2012 Brownlow Medal, but Stanton only got a one-year contract last year and he probably had clauses in there to trigger off another year. Now he doesn't get that opportunity. One minute you're training and as fit as can possibly be for a 30-year-old, the next minute your career is possibly over.
The Essendon players have been sensational, staying united and supporting the club when they could have been bitter and angry and feeling let down. But you wonder whether that good faith will be there from now on.
There could be huge ramifications from losing 12 months of your sporting peak and working life in the game.
I believe the club is strong enough to withstand the potential lawsuits coming its way but seeing players who have bled red and black on the field going to court against the football club and AFL will be a really sad time. Yet it's something I expect will happen.
People say the Essendon players should have followed the Cronulla Sharks' suit and just made deals in exchange for lighter penalties even though they believed they weren't guilty. But those people haven't been in the situation and won't be labelled a drug cheat even though they genuinely believe they're innocent. I can fully understand why the Essendon players went down that track.
I also can't help but think about how badly these players and their families have been let down by people who were in positions of charge at the club throughout that period.
It's been 1071 days since this saga started and I've seen these players ride a massive wave of emotion, so much so that Watson, one of the strongest individuals in the game, was ready to hang up his boots at end of last season.
It was probably the shoulder injury last season that actually gave him the break that revitalised him to go again this year. I'd just like to know the state of mind he is in at the moment. They're all the questions running through my head – the human side of the game.
I think of the football club I walked into as a 16-year-old in 1995 that was just a powerhouse and I learnt after two weeks at the club that nothing but winning finals was acceptable.
For them not have won a final for 11 years, and then to be on the verge of another season in which they will be non-competitive is mind-boggling.
You just hope that the 120-year history and the great support of the fan base and sponsors will prevent it from being crippled like Carlton has been for so many years after their salary cap scandal.
Clubs always have players who come and go, but my biggest fear, and the saddest part for me, is that this is the fourth year the players will have lost in the prime of their careers.
Many of those players have left the game but now they're no longer even able to play at local levels and be remunerated.
I feel for guys such as Sam Lonergan, who is coaching Launceston, but wonder when he will get the chance to coach again, and Dustin Fletcher, who didn't have a gig locked in at AFL level but was looking to play local footy.
Ricky Dyson and Kyle Hardingham wanted to play local footy, too – they are also the forgotten names of the Essendon 34, footballers who are heavily affected and didn't have long AFL careers.
|Player||Expiry of ineligibility||Current status/club|
|Thomas Bellchambers||13 November 2016||Essendon|
|Alex Browne||13 November 2016||Northern Blues|
|Jake Carlisle||13 November 2016||St Kilda|
|Travis Colyer||13 November 2016||Essendon|
|Stewart Crameri||13 November 2016||Western Bulldogs|
|Alwyn Davey||15 February 2017||Palmerston Magpies|
|Luke Davis||13 November 2016||Aberfeldie|
|Cory Dell'Olio||14 November 2016||South Fremantle|
|Ricky Dyson||13 November 2016||Bundoora|
|Dustin Fletcher||21 November 2016||Retired|
|Scott Gumbleton||13 November 2016||Banyule|
|Kyle Hardingham||13 November 2016||Pascoe Vale|
|Dyson Heppell||13 November 2016||Essendon|
|Michael Hibberd||13 November 2016||Essendon|
|David Hille||13 November 2016||Retired|
|Heath Hocking||13 November 2016||Essendon|
|Cale Hooker||13 November 2016||Essendon|
|Ben Howlett||13 November 2016||Essendon|
|Michael Hurley||13 November 2016||Essendon|
|Leroy Jetta||15 February 2017||Peel Thunder|
|Brendan Lee||13 November 2016||East Perth|
|Sam Lonergan||13 November 2016||Launceston coach|
|Nathan Lovett-Murray||15 December 2016||Rumbalara|
|Mark McVeigh||13 November 2016||GWS assistant coach|
|Jake Melksham||13 November 2016||Melbourne|
|Angus Monfries||13 November 2016||Port Adelaide|
|David Myers||13 November 2016||Essendon|
|Tayte Pears||13 November 2016||Essendon|
|Brent Prismall||13 November 2016||Footscray|
|Patrick Ryder||13 November 2016||Port Adelaide|
|Henry Slattery||13 November 2016||Retired|
|Brent Stanton||13 November 2016||Essendon|
|Ariel Steinberg||13 November 2016||Williamstown|
|Jobe Watson||21 November 2016||Essendon|
Should Jobe Watson be stripped of his 2012 Brownlow Medal?
Poll closed 5 Apr, 2016
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