After the initial story about Essendon using controversial practices came to the fore in early February, details began to resurface this week of a new twist to the drugs scandal, one which involved head coach James Hird.
Much respected Fairfax sources broke the news that Stephen Dank, former Essendon sports scientist, had alleged Hird was injected with Hexarelin, a drug that was banned by the World Anti-Doping Agency in 2004. Others coaches were also revealed to be allegedly taking Melanotan II, another drug that has a tanning effect.
As was the case a few months ago, the media swarmed on Hird and tracked his every move.
“I just can’t wait to get in and talk to ASADA and the AFL…I can’t wait to clear my name,” Hird later said to the waiting media.
Channel 9 later obtained text messages that were sent between Dank and Hird, somewhat confirming the close working relationship that they shared.
The coaching staff are now further embroiled in a controversy that was strongly linked with the players beforehand.
While Essendon fans were quick to deny any wrongdoing, this is quite simply an extremely serious situation. The ASADA code specifically stipulates that certain drugs are banned for players, but don’t currently have any sort of code relating to coaches.
Essendon won’t find themselves in trouble with ASADA officials, but rather will have to face intense scrutiny from the AFL if these alleged incidents did in fact occur.
It has been well documented that the AFL can heavily fine or even suspend players or officials if they are charged with bringing the sport into disrepute. This should sent shivers through every Essendon fan’s spine as the details of what really happened in 2012 begin to be fully exposed.
What has been seemingly forgotten is that the Bombers are in the midst of the season. While the coaches and players are strictly banned from going into detail about this saga, it is imperative that the 22 men out of the field each weekend try and focus on playing footy.
Reports emerged out of Perth, where Essendon were preparing to face Fremantle, that Hird had instructed players to remain in the hotel until game time. This further fuels the suspicion that the club is trying to normalise the game day routine and attempting to block out any unwelcome distractions.
For a club that many media outlets have called “in crisis”’, the Bombers have started the season off better than expected. We only have to look at the stats of the opening few rounds to catch a glimpse of a more disciplined and solid Bombers unit in 2013.
As the drama of this seemingly never ending soap opera plays out in the country’s major news outlets, it is the Essendon players who must attempt to block out the distractions and continue to excel on the field.
The natural leaders of Essendon such as Jobe Watson and Dustin Fletcher have so far been able to galvanise the playing group and make a successful start to 2013 while this saga plays out around them.
The Essendon Football Club will be put under the spotlight in the weeks and months to come for the actions that were alleged to have gone on at Windy Hill in 2012. Until the investigation is complete and the sanctions are handed down by the AFL and ASADA, the club will remain under the spotlight.
This is going to be a test of character from an Essendon side that many have tipped to stagnate outside the finals positions in 2012.
If they are to rise above the drama that is unfolding day by day and focus solely on their football, we will have learnt that the strength of character displayed from the players is greater than we thought.
The players simply cannot control what is happening and thus must simply go about their day to day job of playing footy. In the end, that is all they can do.