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by Lisa Albergo reporting for AFANA from Chicago

Preliminary Final weekend was not only about the four teams vying for a chance to play in the Grand Final. Justice Middleton, who has been overseeing the Essendon-ASADA court case, handed down his decision after reviewing all the testimony presented in August. He ruled in favor of ASADA, saying all parts of the ASADA investigation had been lawful, including the provision of the interim report to the AFL. He also noted that neither Essendon, James Hird nor the players brought legal proceedings to challenge the provision of the interim report at the time.

The original "show cause" notices will now stand and it is believed the 34 players involved will have two weeks to respond. Essendon has three weeks to decide if the club will appeal to a full federal court with a panel of three judges.

Both ASADA and the AFL released statements welcoming the decision, with ASADA saying it vindicated the belief that "the Act always contemplated ASADA working with sports to uphold clean competition ... The only way to stay ahead ... is to partner with sports, not exclude them." The AFL was in agreement regarding the legality of the process and interim report and said it was all now in the hands of ASADA. While James Hird refused to comment, Essendon chairman Paul Little expressed disappointment, mainly for the players. The man at the center of it all, Stephen Dank, was also present but he left without comment.

In further fallout as a result of the saga, key Essendon player Paddy Ryder has told the club he wants out with two years remaining on his contract. Both Port Adelaide and Brisbane have expressed interest. While Ryder could exercise a little-known clause in his contract which would allow him to walk away as a free agent for the club's duty of care breach, he would prefer to be traded so the club could receive some sort of compensation. However Ryder is still under a cloud and could face a lengthy suspension if he is one of the 34 players who might be found to have taken a banned substance under the supplements program run by Dank.

Ryder, 26, has been with the Bombers for nine seasons but had a breakout year in 2014 as an athletic ruckman and forward. Teammates would love to see Ryder stay and vice-captain Brendon Goddard believes Ryder is crucial to the team's success. Ryder has played 170 games with the club.


Article last changed on Wednesday, September 19, 2018 - 3:53 PM EDT

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