The parents of former Essendon player Hal Hunter are "appalled" that the AFL and Essendon are pursuing court costs against their son after he took legal action arising from the disastrous 2012 injection program.
James Hunter and Dr Melita Stevens say that the AFL and Essendon's "combative" approach to their son's situation contradicts the statements this week from AFL chairman Mike Fitzpatrick and Essendon's new chairman Lindsay Tanner about the importance of player welfare in the Essendon scandal.
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A secret crisis meeting is being held with the 34 banned current and former Essendon players as they attempt to work out their futures.
Hunter and Dr Stevens are "deeply disappointed and upset" that the AFL and the club "chose to resist Hal's efforts to find out what he was injected with" in 2012 after 15 months of requests. The parents of the player — who has taken court action in an attempt to discover what he was injected with — say the situation has taken a toll on their son and that they have "real concerns for his ongoing physical and mental well-being" not only because of what happened in his time at Essendon, but due to the obstructive stance the AFL and the club have taken in his case more recently.
Hunter and Dr Stevens noted that their son Hal was the youngest player at Essendon in 2012 — he was 18 when he arrived as a rookie-list player late in 2011. "Hal was part of the injection program from early 2012 and he received injections both at the club and offsite," the parents told Fairfax Media, in a joint statement.
"Since leaving the club at the end of 2013 and after 15 months of requests, Hal still does not know what the injections contained. Melita and I are appalled that not only are the club and AFL now pursuing costs against Hal but that he is having to go back to court again simply to get documents from the AFL." The Supreme Court ordered the AFL to hand Hal Hunter further documents from the supplements program, while the court accepted the Essendon lawyers' explanation that the records the club had given Hunter were the only ones available.
The lawyers acting for the AFL requested that Hunter pay the AFL's and Essendon's court costs — a stance that Essendon's lawyers have since supported.
Hunter did not receive an infraction notice — likely because he did not sign a consent form for the relevant substance — and thus avoided the year-long suspensions, but he is no longer playing football. Thirty-four current and ex-Essendon players received season bans for doping offences on Tuesday.
His court action was based upon the uncertainty about what he might have been injected with and the repercussions for his health.
Hunter is waiting on the arrival of AFL documents, as ordered by Justice Mukhtar, before considering his next move. Hunter and his parents urged the AFL and the club to meet with them and bring the matter to a conclusion.
Hunter and Dr Stevens said the approach by the club and the AFL was "totally at odds" with Tuesday's statements by Tanner and Fitzpatrick.
"Instead what we have seen from the club and AFL has been a combative stance resisting Hal at every turn. Documents have been released in dribs and drabs and at the very last moment, there have been ongoing delays, argument and of course mounting costs ...
"While we as a family and those close to him have tried to support Hal in this process, it has taken a huge toll on him. We have real concerns for his ongoing physical and mental well-being as a result of not only what happened at the club but the approach the club and AFL have taken to Hal's case since ...
"Hal should be given as much detail as possible in order for him to address the implications of the injection program at the club and, to allow him to get on with his life."
The Supreme Court is yet to make a ruling on costs.
The AFL would not comment on its decision to seek legal costs, but a spokesperson said: "The AFL has done whatever in our power to find out what the players were given in 2012. We have seized documents and hard drives, we have interviewed all relevant people who were willing to cooperate, we have analysed phone messages, and sought assistance from the anti-doping authorities.
"We are in the same position as the players that we are unable to identify many of the substances used in the program in 2012, or determine which player received which substance. We are concerned for the players and are talking with the players' association about welfare and support going forward."
Essendon declined to comment.
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