As rumours break regarding ASADA investigations into NRL club the Cronulla Sharks, it’s sorely tempting to take a look back at what might be the AFL distancing itself from both the NRL and attempting to get on the front foot regarding drug scandals.
In March of 2012, AFL CEO Andrew Demetriou expressed his concern at the power that “phys-edders” in his words, or the sports science and fitness personnel at AFL clubs, were beginning to wield.
Whilst this declaration was more in relation to the idea that sports science personnel could potentially overrule a club’s medical doctor regarding the fitness of a player to partake in games, the comment becomes eerily similar to the predicament that the AFL currently finds itself in.
Demetriou’s comments were followed in June 2012 by the termination of NRL CEO David Gallop’s contract. Originally, the contract was extended in February 2012 for four years, only to come to an abrupt end four months later when the Independent Commission announced that rugby league in Australia was going in “a different direction.”
Gallop would become the CEO of Football Federation Australia in August of the same year. Whilst that job has been far from roses – one must be reminded of the shambolic nature of the supposed match-fixing scandal, which turned out to be a storm in a teacup – it looks positively glorious compared to the NRL position now.
Finally, AFL chief operating officer Gillon McLachlan was courted by the NRL, along with the man who stood in for David Gallop in Shane Mattiske, to become the new CEO of the NRL.
McLachlan withdrew himself from the race for the position on the fourth of September 2012, stating that there was “Still much to achieve at the AFL as we continue to strategically position the code for ongoing growth in popularity and participation.”
Now that almost six months later, ASADA is rumoured to be investigating the Cronulla Sharks for breaches of the code – and potentially suspending 14 players for six months – some serious questions must be asked.
Following the chain of events, you have to wonder just how much the AFL head honchos and David Gallop know about the situation, whether Gallop’s departure was the act of a man leaving before things got out of hand and whether Gillion McLachlan rejected the offer of becoming NRL CEO, a position reported to be worth in excess of $1 million per year, because the tempest of drugs in sport was approaching the horizon.
Regardless of the answers to these questions, the news of the ASADA investigations should not fill those AFL fans who sneer at the NRL with glee. Rather, it should be the complete opposite.
It is likely this is the tip of the iceberg. Where Stephen Dank goes, trouble appears to follow.