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The shattered 34 past and present Essendon players at the centre of a drugs saga have met together for the first time since they were banned for a year and have vowed to continue their fight.
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Banned AFL players attend crisis meeting
A secret crisis meeting is being held with the 34 banned current and former Essendon players as they attempt to work out their futures.
The players gathered in person at the AFL Players Association headquarters or via phone hook-up on Friday, and discussed their options with their legal team.
It is now almost certain they will seek financial compensation against the Bombers, while an appeal against the suspension imposed by the Court of Arbitration for Sport is being investigated.
AFLPA chief executive Paul Marsh said a case against the Bombers was "absolutely" on the cards.
"That's where part of this is at at the moment. We are working through compensation. We will continue to have those conversations, not only with the players but with the AFL," Marsh said after the meeting on Friday.
Asked if there would be a group action, rather than each player lodging papers, Marsh said: "We are certainly working through that at the moment. That's part of the conversation. We have met with the agents, we are meeting with the players - that's where we are at the moment."
Marsh reiterated his desire to have any legal action against the Bombers settled outside of court.
"I said the other day, and I stand by it, we would prefer to settle this thing if we can but it's got to be on the right terms for each individual player. If that's not achievable, all of our options are still open," he said.
One player agent has estimated the Bombers could face a pay out of more than $30 million, while there could be grounds to include the AFL in that case, for the league is the ultimate employer of the players.
Bombers chief executive Xavier Campbell and head of football Rob Kerr were seen leaving the PA headquarters while Marsh spoke publicly, while Dustin Fletcher had left earlier.
Marsh said the players were still coming to terms with the CAS ruling.
"As you would expect, it's a couple of days since the decision, they are pretty down, as you would expect, and are looking for answers," he said.
"That's part of our job - to give them the answers."
Some legal experts believe it would be almost impossible to lodge a successful appeal against the CAS decision, but players are desperate to at least have the severity of the penalty reduced, allowing them to return to the field or have any role in the game.
They still believe they did nothing wrong, and were duped as part of the supplements program run by Stephen Dank - a program coach James Hird has again attempted to distance himself from.
The players could appeal the CAS finding via a Swiss tribunal, but this is allowed only on limited grounds.
The CAS website says this would include "a lack of jurisdiction, violation of elementary procedural rules [e.g. violation of the right to a fair hearing] or incompatibility with public policy".
"We are certainly looking into every option at the moment. We have our lawyers working on that. We certainly haven't got a position on that but we are looking into it," Marsh said.
There have been suggestions the players have split into three groups, with one agent seeking outside legal opinion for a group of players.
Marsh said the playing group remained united - as had been the case for the past three years.
"They have certainly been united the whole way through this process. I don't see that changing now. But there are individual circumstances here that every player has," he said.
"We need to respect those. Our job is to give them the information and support them the best we can.
"We are going to sit down with the players individually and help them from a well-being perspective and work out what they might do for the next 10 months. There are a number of those sorts of things [we have to do]."
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