Monday 23 October 2017 / 03:25 PM

ASADA Saga At The Essendon FC

The ASADA investigation into the Essendon Football Club is reportedly going to be released next week with the contents crucial to the future of many people at the Bombers.

Thank God this day is coming!

Without answers, the football community has relied on innuendo, speculation and leaks from differing camps each with their own agenda.

Opinions are polarised, relationships between factions are poisonous and probably beyond repair in some instances.

The situation has become so tense that even within organisations that are known for united fronts, cracks are appearing.

Although tensions have been bubbling for months, the depth of stress and fracture within the football community that exists at Essendon, within the media and the general football public is becoming increasingly noticeable.

At Essendon, not only are relationships under scrutiny, the health of key figures have been compromised.

David Evans resigned as Chairman after he suffered a physical collapse in the change rooms prior to the Essendon-Hawthorn clash last weekend.

Evans was released from his business commitments in February so he could devote his time to the Essendon saga.

His devotion came at a cost with the workload and stress having a detrimental impact on his health.

While the club will miss his 24/7-work rate, Evans’ wellbeing comes first and his decision was noble.

James Hird has noticeably lost weight since the scandal broke and looks haggard every time he faces the media while Mark Thompson’s performance on AFL 360 last Monday showed the depth of his anxiety.

While the players remain stoic, there can be no doubt that the players are suffering under the burden and strain such an intrusive investigation brings.

Whatever you think of the Essendon Football Club, it is tragic to watch respectable people who seemed to have been defrauded suffer so greatly.

However if Essendon resembles a Shakespearean tragedy, the splinter in the print media resembles a plotline of a good episode of Melrose Place.

 

 

In an era of declining sales, increasing irrelevance and lack of facts, those who have shouted the loudest have got the most attention and faced the biggest criticism.

Prior to last week, the media division with exceptions was generally along company lines.

News Limited papers were generally supportive of Essendon while the Fairfax hacks have generally been critical of the Bombers and the attitude of Rugby League media in Sydney.

But in recent weeks, the internal conflicts have become prevalent as Caroline Wilson alluded to in The Australian on Monday.

“It’s got very political, very dirty and very ugly,” The Age Chief Football Writer told the paper.

This can be best exemplified by the stoush between News Limited stable mates Patrick Smith of The Australian and Rebecca Wilson of the Daily Telegraph.

 

After Patrick Smith branded certain journalists “sympathisers and sycophants”, Rebecca Wilson hit back in her own column calling her colleague amongst other things “deluded”.

“Melbourne sports columnist Patrick Smith is not widely known by the readers of this newspaper but his comments in yesterday’s Australian newspaper deserve a response because they were gobsmacking in their petulance and ignorance of the current doping investigations,” Wilson wrote.

“Throughout our investigations on the Essendon and Cronulla cases, we have encountered hostility from many of our colleagues that I have rarely seen in my 32 years as a journalist.”

The commentary has become boorish, incessant and frustrating as the divide emerges between those who give favourable coverage towards Essendon and the establishment (‘Apologists’ as Rebecca Wilson describes them) and those who adopt a more critical tone.

The fans of this great game also need answers quickly.

Much like the press, they have been reliant on insinuation and gossip.

The consequences are that fans of both Essendon and their opponents are wracked with uncertainty when they watch football.

For Essendon fans, they’ve wondered whether this season will have been in vain, while opposing fans have queried whether Essendon this season and last, played within the rules.

The continued support of fans is the reason football is such a big business and if they do not have confidence in equality of the game, the AFL HQ has an image problem.

The investigation into Essendon has been intense, brutish and elongated since the scandal came to light in February.

While it has not been a war, the people involved are beginning to show signs of battle fatigue as the communities stress and frustration at the process reaches breaking point.

Let’s hope that ASADA’s investigation gives everyone definitive answers rather than providing more questions.

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John Hunt

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