No Essendon Saga in 2017? Guess Again!

Lisa Albergo's picture

by Lisa Albergo reporting for AFANA from Chicago

Just when everyone thought the Essendon supplements saga was done and dusted, it has reared its dubious head once again. Ironically, it has been just about exactly four years since the Bombers came out and "self-reported" with a request that the AFL investigate the 2012 supplements program. Now, Melbourne's Herald Sun newspaper has obtained audio recordings of a crisis meeting which was held in August of 2013. Present at that meeting were chairman Paul Little (chairman), Jame Hird (coach), Mark Thompson (asst coach) and Danny Corcoran (football manager). The meeting was held to discuss the charges laid against the 34 players. The quartet are furious, believing the AFL had betrayed them and gone back on their word that the players would not be charged. In expletive-riddled conversations, all four express their anger at the league.

At a press conference shortly after that meeting, Little explains that he called then Deputy CEO Gil McLachlan and the conversation was in part:

Little: "... you know you've e really upset me here because you've gone back on your word, Gil."

McL: "No, no, I haven't. I haven't."

Little: "You have.you told me one thing and now you're doing something else. I've told you how important this as a first step is to get the players cleared?"

McL: "What do you want me to do?"

At the meeting, Little is heard to tell the others of a meeting with McLachlan the night before. He pretty much recapped the above conversation but goes further at the recorded meeting. He tells Hird, Corcoran and Thompson that every issue he had previously discussed with McLachlan and had been agreed upon had been reversed, ""We spoke about getting the players cleared. 'Unconditionally' was the word I used. "He then said to me, 'there is a 99 per cent chance that the players won't be charged." And I said, "well, I'd like to believe you but are you happy for me to use that language in front of the players?" And he said, "oh no, you can't do that." It was at this point that Little accused McLachlan of going back on his word.

More excerpts from that meeting:

Hird: "... if they are going to come out and say the players are totally cleared of the evidence in front of us and they're not just going to charge us, get on with it. I'd rather they just charge me straight away and get on with it ... because ... let's just get on fighting this thing ... it's this big fog over our head and we can't fight."

Thompson: "This is the first tool of negotiation for them ... this is like the biggest stick they can bang. So they're going to get us scared and hope that we compromise. We shouldn't compromise."

Hird: :"They're a pack of f-k-g lying p-cks."

Little had no idea that the recording existed and that it was done without his or the club's consent.. Who did the recording and how the Herald Sun obtained it is unknown at this time.

McLachlan has hit back, saying there is nothing new in the recording and that the only public interest is in the yelling which takes place at the meeting. The next day, Mclachlan was interviewed on SEN"S breakfast show and said that at the timr the league believed no charges would be laid against thr players, but insisted there were never any guarantees. He mentioned a report the AFL received from ASADA in which ASADA declared there was not enough evidence to charge the players but reiterated the uncertainty of the players being in the clear since it was an ongoing and open investigation. He went on to explain that in the agreements with the club and players, it was "... explicit that it didn't mean that the players wouldn't be charged." After that, McLachlan said more evidence came to light which gave ASADA what they needed to build a case against the players. 

He reminded everyone of how the AFL got an agreement that potentially all the available discounts would be available to the players if ultimately they were served infraction notices, an agreement Essendon did not want to accept as evidenced by the recorded conversation above. He said he found it "bizarre" that Little was unaware of the meeting being recorded and that while he understands Essendon's agrievement and anger, he does not feel the club, officials or players were mistreated.

He also reminded everyone that Essendon did admit to the supplements program which ran the risk of performance-enhancing drugs being administered and admitted that no one knows what the players were given but that there still "... has to be accountability." He conceded that the AFL could have handled things better but is, like Fitzpatrick, comfortable with how the league dealt with the saga. He concluded by saying, "It was an incredibly tumultuous period, but ... in the end I think that the AFL's action and decisiveness ended up being justified."

Just days before the recordings were made public, there was a report that newly installed Minister for Sport Greg Hunt is considering a federal inquiry into the scandal and subsequent investigations. The push for the inquiry was initiated by the leader of another political party, the Greens. However, Hunt apparently has been given new"Just information by a group called "Justice For The 34". Their purpose is to get the CAS verdicts overturned. Hunt said he is reviewing the information he has received but said he would need to seek advice as to whether or not the material he has contains any "...new or significant material not previously considered" before calling for a full-scale inquiry. Should a new investigation into the saga be launched, it could reveal new information about the 2012 supplements program.

Essendon great, current SEN personality and the father of Bomber Jobe Watson, Tim Watson believes it is time for everyone to move on and that the recording being made public was disappointing. He did concede that many people are still disgruntled and not completely satisfied that the full story of the behind the scenes politics has never been told. He said said while some people may not have moved on, he believes the players and the club have moved forward and and not worry about the story nor does he believe that the players would be involved or have to be involved in a Senate hearing as such a hearing would only be interested in how the investigations were conducted as opposed to the evidence of the case. Nor was he surprised that information would come to light which would be an attempt to make the authorities accountable, “I believed at some stage they would produce something that was going to bring the story back to light and people would have to answer for what took place."


To hear a portion of the tape, go to https://au.sports.yahoo.com/afl/a/34485240/essendon-bombers-secret-tape-recording-betrayed-by-afl-drugs-scandal/#page1

To hear more of the tape, go to http://wwos.nine.com.au/2017/02/24/07/28/secret-essendon-crisis-meeting-revealed

To hear McLachlan's interview and Tim Watson's comments, go to sen.com.au, click on Audio at the top of the home page. A secondary window will appear listing all the programs so just scroll to the related programs and click on them to listen. It may not work with Internet Explorer but it does with Google Chrome. Not sure about Firefox.

Source: theage.com.au, afl.com.au, 9Newscom.au, sen.com.au (audio and print), ausports.yahoo.com

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