Is the AFL desperate for some football to happen? You bet, and here’s why. Australian football’s summer rap sheet shows substance abuse is only one social problem facing the AFL community. Violence and gambling area also in the starting line-up.
3 December 2006. Ben Cousins is found asleep outside Melbourne’s Crown Casino at 4.30am. He’s arrested and locked up without charge. The club doesn’t discipline or fine the star midfielder, claiming the publicity surrounding the event is punishment enough.
3 December. Fremantle pair Jeff Farmer and Steve Dodd are involved in an “incident” at the Club Bayview Hotel in Claremont. The Age reports: “A patron had complained he was struck but later withdrew the complaint and denied knowing who struck him.”
4 December. Hawthorn midfielder Sam Mitchell is assaulted at a Hawthorn pub. The Age reports: “The Hawks said the incident happened at 11.30 after a man abused and then struck a female member of Mitchell’s party.”
9 December. Dockers player Heath Black is seen relieving himself outside the Little Creatures Brewery in Fremantle. A month later, he pleads guilty to a charge of disorderly behaviour, is fined $150 and ordered to pay $105 in court costs.
13 December. Lara Bingle denies she is having an affair with Carlton full forward Brendan Fevola. The story comes at a bad time for Fevola, who six weeks earlier had been sent home from the International Rules tour of Ireland after attacking a barman.
22 December. With accomplices, Richmond crumber Andrew Krakouer allegedly assaults a man near a Fremantle hotel. The case goes to court in March 2007, where Krakouer defends charges of assault causing grievous bodily harm.
24 December. Geelong player Steve Johnson disturbs a Wangaratta family when he staggers into their front yard obviously drunk. Johnson is arrested by police and suspended by his club.
13 January 2007. Essendon speedster Andrew Lovett appears in court after taking his ex-girlfriend hostage and assaulting her. The abduction is in breach of an intervention order granted a year earlier. His victim/ex-girlfriend says she feared for her life.
11 February. Lance Whitnall and Heath Scotland, out at the Bended Elbow in Ballarat, have a moment with local resident Matthew Keech. Keech told Channel Nine: “I don’t know if they’d been drinking or what, but (Scotland) was just mad. He was crazy … like a wild animal.” Lance Whitnall is announced Carlton captain a week later.
18 February. Four players are named in an AFL gambling probe. Two weeks later, the AFL fines Crows vice-captain Simon Goodwin $40,000 dollars ($20,000 suspended), with three others fined or reprimanded.
24 February & 25 February. West Coast star Daniel Kerr is arrested twice in two days. The first is for an incident in the carpark of Sir Charles Gairdner Hospital, the second for two charges of assault following a scuffle at a party in Attadale. Kerr’s co-arrestee on the second charge is his father.
2 March. Lance Whitnall and wife Rhiannon leave the Melbourne Magistrates Court after being granted an intervention order against his brother and sister-in-law. Threats of violence following a bungled family trip to the zoo led to the court appearance. The case drags on for weeks.
14 March. AFL legend Michael Voss embarrasses the AFL with his thoughts on drugs in the sport: “Where there is smoke, there is fire, there are just so many stories about now for it to be wrong … Yeah, I believe (the drug problem) is much worse than I thought it was 18 months ago when it was first touted.”
15 March. News surfaces that West Coast eagles player Chad Fletcher was revived three times after choking on his vomit on his team’s end of year trip to Las Vegas. Speculation of a drug overdose and heavy drinking dominate the debate over what caused Fletcher’s three near-death experiences.
19 March. Port Adelaide ruckman Dean Brogan fronts a court after losing patience with a disappointed teenage fan, who said: “You’re playing for the wrong team, d-ckhead.” Brogan knocked his cap off and punched him in the face, breaking his nose. Brogan was fined $750.
19 March. Brownlow medallist, former Eagles captain, and premiership player Ben Cousins is suspended indefinitely by the Eagles after details of his drug abuse problem surface, sparking fears of an epidemic of drug abuse among players.
23 March. Daniel Kerr is implicated in another drug controversy, as taped phone calls with a known drug dealer come to light. The conversation suggests Kerr bought the drug ketamine in 2004. Ben Cousins is implicated.
25 March. Collingwood player Brodie Holland is fined $2500 without conviction by a Melbourne magistrate for punching a woman during a roadside fight over a taxi. Collingwood describe it as “a kick in the guts for the club”.
28 March. Geelong hero Matthew Scarlett is not sanctioned after headbutting and breaking the nose of a former business colleague outside a Geelong nightspot.
29 March, the eve of season 2007. De-listed depression sufferer Jonathan Hay tells The Footy Show: “In my younger days I had my fair share (of illicit drugs) but I got over that pretty quickly. I think most young people do experiment with drugs … There’s no doubt, no doubt there’s a problem.” Hay also reveals the club pressured him to go public about his mental illness.
30 March, game day. Ben Cousins heads overseas to a secret location to begin rehabilitation. The AFL wishes it could pack its reputation off for similar treatment.