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The Other Premiership Drug Scandal

Incoming, and former Greater Western Sydney ruckman, Shane Mumford’s penalties pertaining to the leaked video which recently circulated on social media have been handed down this week.

“Sausage” was snorting a white substance – no prizes for guessing what – and has been punished by the Giants. This is despite Shane Mumford not currently being a listed Giants player. The penalties, endorsed by the AFL’s PR department far more than their own illicit drugs policy (or lack thereof), are a $25,000 fine, a two-match suspension, and the usual dose of counselling to prove he’s learnt from his “mistake”. Mumford must voluntarily accept a meaningless strike. Not sure what is voluntary about the compulsory strike but nevertheless...

While the video has done considerable damage to Mumford’s reputation, it also shines a spotlight on the league as a whole, and the missteps players have taken in the not-so distant past. One of these instances was one of the AFL’s most widespread illicit drug taking affair in history.

And it was by a premiership team. Despite this, it has long been hidden from the public view.

Six years ago, the Sydney Swans took on a red-hot Hawthorn team that were en route to a premiership dynasty. That dynasty would have to wait a year, however as the Swans pulled off a huge upset and snared the second flag of the Sydney era.

The game was a modern day Grand Final classic, pitting two powerhouse football clubs against each other, and was decided at the death by a high Nick Malceski snap that sailed through and sent the Swans fans into raptures, and broke the hearts of Hawk fans. The Swans of Sydney would claim the AFL premiership as celebrations raged in their home state of New South Wales.

Well, that’s one way of putting it at least.

As reported by Michaelangelo Rucci back in March 2017, 12 Swans players self-reported illicit drug violations following their 2012 triumph, claiming they were unaware of how they behaved in the wake of winning the flag. Perhaps the Swans’ “no dickheads” policy started in 2013?

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Six years before the Swans illicit drug celebration, the West Coast Eagles won the flag at the height of the drug crisis that engulfed the competition, the football club and the lives of many of the key players involved to this day. Eleven players from the 2006 premiership side were implicated in illicit drug controversies, headlined by star players Daniel Kerr, Daniel Chick, Chad Fletcher, Adam Hunter and most infamously, Ben Cousins.

Yet, this was a different era, right? At lot has changed since the bad ol’ days, hasn’t it? A crisis of this proportion would never happen in more recent times? And not to a premiership outfit? Never again would legends such as Kevin Bartlett call for a “black line” to be put through a premiership team, or former Sydney Swans Captain Barry Hall label the flag as “tainted”.

Or maybe it just wouldn’t be as widely publicized and criticized.

In 2006, nine players across the AFL competition tested positive for an illicit substance. This number was nearly tripled in 2012 when twenty-six players were detected in the largest number ever recorded.

Interesting that a year after this alarming figure was disclosed, the AFL decided to no longer release these results to the general public. Although, this decision to withhold information pertaining to drug use in AFL circles is not necessarily a great loss as many have long suspected these figures have been manipulated to begin with.

What is very concerning is that the 2012 number of 26 positive tests does not even include the stunning number of Sydney players who self-reported illicit drug taking in the wake of their colourful Grand Final celebrations. This number of 12 Sydney players supersedes that of the ’06 Eagles and was recently labelled as “extraordinary” by author Elliott Cartledge in his recent book, Footy’s Revolution. With 12 players self-reporting, it accounts for more than half of the premiership team that still has seven players remaining at the club, and three at other clubs.

The situation at the Eagles may have been dire in 2006, but 2012 in Sydney was just as bad.

The Shane Mumford penalties have been the first form of repercussions a member of Sydney’s premiership team from 2012 has received. Amazingly, it was from a different club at a time he wasn’t part of their team, but nonetheless, one has finally had a penalty imposed.

It is by no means anywhere near enough punishment for that group, with many appearing to get off without any ramifications. The loophole that self-reporting doesn’t result in a strike is one they exploited well.

This has also been the case in the wake of the West Coast 2006 saga, with evidence of the most destructive scandal in the history of football continuing to emerge to this day.

The year after retiring from AFL football, Daniel Kerr spent four nights in prison after being arrested and charged with endangering the lives of two people. He reportedly threatened to set two of his friends on fire. Daniel Chick blasted the Eagles for creating a drug culture which he claimed to suffer from, as well as claiming club staffers hid players from drug testers in the week before West Coast’s 2015 Grand Final loss against Hawthorn. Chad Fletcher was nearly killed in Las Vegas a month after the 2006 Grand Final, allegedly overdosing from ice. Adam Hunter has also faced drug charges post-career. Whereas, Ben Cousins last week appeared in court via link from prison following allegations he threatened to bury his ex-partner alive and take their two children to play on the site.

Premierships are hard to come by and players let their hair down when they win one. Let us hope that the culture clearly existent within the Sydney Swans in 2012 is well and truly a thing of the past today.

This simply cannot happen again.

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