Giants firm drug mess won't spoil party plans

GREATER WESTERN SYDNEY remain confident the turmoil surrounding the Essendon Football Club won't spoil the start to the big birthday bash they have planned for the nation's capital this year.

As part of Canberra's centenary, the Giants will launch their year in the ACT with what was meant to be a promoter's dream against the Bombers - the club at which GWS coach Kevin Sheedy spent 27 years, winning four premierships - under lights in the third round of the NAB Cup at Manuka Oval on March 8.

It will not only be the first time an AFL game, albeit a pre-season one, has been played under lights on the historic ground, but the first time the AFL's youngest team has hosted one of the big Victorian clubs in the nation's capital.

Sheedy's favourite son, James Hird, now holds the reins with the Bombers, setting up a Stars Wars-esque plot in the city where Hird was born - metaphorical father and son returning home to do battle on the field Hird used to grace while playing for Ainslie.

But the Bombers' revelations they were unsure of what supplements their players took last season have thrown the club into the middle of the maelstrom that is now engulfing Australian sport.

The Australian Sports Anti-Doping Authority has launched an investigation into clubs and players from both the AFL and NRL. Two-year bans can be handed out to anyone found guilty of taking performance-enhancing drugs.


It leaves a shroud of mystery around Essendon, despite a lack of evidence to suggest the club has done anything wrong.

The lack of information and a probable drawn-out investigation have the Giants confident their blockbuster game against the Bombers will go ahead as planned.

''There's nothing on the table accusing player Smith or Harris or Brown or a club outright at this point in time,'' Sheedy said after an internal trial held by the club on Saturday. ''Investigations are still going on and that will be an amount of time before people do or don't get wrapped over the knuckles on that stuff.''

The Bombers were able to put the turmoil behind them and finally play footy on Friday night in the first round of the NAB Cup, and Hird was happy with the way his troops were able to focus.

While he described the performance as OK, not outstanding, he was delighted with the effort.

''I've been so proud of the players at Essendon for the last 10 days,'' Hird said. ''They have just shown a strength of character that not many people have and they have been resilient.

''They've been focused on their footy when I can imagine they would have liked to just been focused on themselves. Tonight's performance, with everything that's going on in the background, I thought was terrific.''

Giants corporate affairs manager Nick Johnston reiterated the club have no concerns that the Essendon game wouldn't go ahead. ''I think it would be premature to be talking about anything else but a fully fledged NAB Cup game between the Giants and Essendon,'' Johnston said.

''The AFL is going to be talking to all the clubs in regards to what they're doing in the sports science areas … and we'll fully co-operate with that. I think it's fair to say the AFL's been a leader in the integrity area and we support the measures they recently announced to strengthen this area of the game, because the integrity of the game is paramount.''

NAB CUP: GWS v Essendon at Manuka Oval on March 8, 6.10pm. Tickets at the gate.