If you’re feeling uneasy about the AFL’s
unusual decision to support the Victorian Supreme Court ruling preventing media
from publishing the names of three footballers who tested
positive for illicit drugs, imagine how Crikey’s old friend, and the AFL’s current football operations manager, Adrian Anderson
must feel.

In his past life as a lawyer at Corrs Chambers Westgarth, Anderson was
a well known, and lauded, champion of press freedom. With his longtime
friend Will Houghton QC – another Crikey favourite who,
coincidentally, is now counsel for the AFL
Tribunal – he valiantly served the Herald
Sun
on matters libel, while also defending the likes of Steve Price (once against
Crikey
) and Andrew Bolt.

Indeed, his work was so valued by the Hun that senior editorial staff gathered proxies to keep Anderson
on the Melbourne Press Club committee and, in 2002, he was feted with the Grant
Hattam Award at the Quills
for supposedly campaigning on press freedom issues.

But reunited at the AFL, team Anderson-Houghton is obviously fighting a different battle – backing
the injunction on media organisations, including the Herald Sun, which prohibits publication of the names of the three players. The matter has
been set down for trial starting 22 May.

And while the two former libel lawyers seem to have
forgotten their roots, AFL boss Andrew
Demetriou looks to be having the opposite problem – reverting back to his previous
incarnation as CEO of the AFLPA in his
decision to go to the wall to protect the players’ names.

Demetriou has told the press
that he and the AFL “are
committed to the fight against illicit drugs”, but by protecting three
top level players known to have taken illegal drugs – a potentially
criminal offence as possession of illicit substances – it certainly
doesn’t
look that way.

Peter Fray

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