The AFL players’ association says those investigating the Essendon supplements saga have recognised that while players were caught up in the situation, those guiding them are culpable.
AFLPA chief executive Matt Finnis says while he can’t guarantee players won’t be sanctioned, he has heard nothing to suggest they will be and players can take encouragement from the ASADA interim report.
“There’s been a recognition amongst the people involved in the investigation that the players, through their own testimony, have indicated how they were caught up in something where they placed enormous trust and faith in those around them,” Finnis told reporters on Thursday, before meeting with Bombers players.
“Players come out of high school into footy clubs and it’s their job to put enormous trust and faith into those who have got a responsibility and an expertise to get these things right.
“There’s a recognition that culpability must lie with those that are most responsible.”
Finnis’ confidence on the players’ behalf echoes that of the Bombers, whose president Paul Little said on Wednesday night that Essendon believed players would be cleared and were urgently seeking AFL confirmation on that point.
“We’re working very hard to make sure that that confirmation – one way or the other, we believe positive confirmation – will be received,” Little said.
Port Adelaide coach Ken Hinkley expressed similar confidence on Thursday that the Power’s ex-Essendon forward Angus Monfries would escape penalty.
There remains strong speculation the Bombers will be heavily penalised, including being stripped of premiership points, which would cost them their finals berth.
The Bombers would reportedly challenge such a sanction.
Finnis said that would still amount to a punishment for the players, as it would effectively wipe out a season’s worth of effort.
Coach James Hird, who is yet to learn whether he faces sanction for his role in the saga, remains adamant it won’t cause him to resign.
But he also said the players were the top concern.
“Our priority has always been in clearing the players. When they’re cleared we’ll go to the rest of it,” Hird told reporters.
Despite being the remaining figurehead at the Bombers following the resignations of chief executive Ian Robson and chairman David Evans, Hird said he is yet to view a copy of the ASADA report although has been briefed on its contents.
“I don’t have a copy of the report,” he said.
“That would be a stretch to say I’ve seen it. I’ve heard what’s in it but haven’t seen it.”