It seems whatever the West Coast Eagles do these days, they are guilty until proven innocent. Media from all around Australia have been happy to print verbatim the alleged conversation between Des Headland and Adam Selwood from one point of view. Not Selwood’s, I might add. Not to mention that no one else was privy to the conversation; even the nearest umpire isn’t sure what he heard.

This just the latest instance of freely condemning the Eagles without trial.

Last week, they were criticised for saying a player was a certainty to play on the Friday only for him to be withdrawn on the Saturday — the day of the match. I didn’t see the same journalist mentioning that Geelong did the same on the weekend nor the other 14 clubs who have done that at some stage in the past season or two. I can remember Kevin Sheedy dressing up one of his trainers in footy gear and running out on the ground before a final in Sydney to try and confuse the opposition. It is standard football practice.

Of course, it all started with the Ben Cousins drug drama. That old dinosaur Robert Walls had the naivety to write a column in The Age saying that when Sydney played West Coast in round one that it was ”good versus evil”. Robert, cast your mind back to when ex-Swans player Dale Lewis, who retired in 2001, stated that drugs were rife in football. Which club did he play for again, Robert? It should be noted that Dale Lewis was ridiculed for his statements. It was only three years ago that ex-Carlton players Lawrence Angwin and Karl Norman were caught appearing at training on banned and illegal substances and sacked. They made allegations that several other senior Carlton players were at the same party taking the same substances. Angwin was recently quoted in The Age as saying:

There would have been eight blokes (Carlton players) there that day who wouldn’t have passed a test. Five out of the nine in the leadership group couldn’t make eye contact with us when they called us in because they’d been out with us.

This was swept under the carpet.

Ex-rugby league Brandon Costin (formerly Pearson), who admitted to using ecstasy in 1999, has stated on more than one occasion that drugs are rife in rugby league.

Drugs are a problem in sport on every level not just with the West Coast Eagles.

One particular journalist even said that Cousins should be investigated for playing on the drug ‘ice’ in the second half of last season as his performances had improved. All you need to do is take a look at people addicted to ‘ice’ ‘and you will see that they are incapable of focusing on much other than their next hit, let alone play competitive sport for 120 minutes. The journalist forgot to mention that Cousins played with a back injury for most of the first half of the season and was given one week off to recover in round 16 and a week less air travel. That makes a difference. To average an extra five possessions, a match isn’t that big a deal when you are injury-free and a six-time All Australian, four-time club fairest and best, plus a Brownlow Medallist.

Michael Braun was loudly condemned for saying the word ‘f-ck’ after receiving the Ross Glendinng award for the best player on the ground in the local derby. Celebrity TV chef Gordon Ramsey can’t say a sentence without using the word. I personally don’t know anyone who doesn’t use that word on a regular basis and I live in one of the richest suburbs in Australia. Braun’s comment wasn’t appropriate in the circumstances, but it really wasn’t that big a deal.

Sure, the Eagles have made some mistakes, but they certainly aren’t alone. I have yet to see a sporting club around the world deal properly when it comes to sex, drugs or abuse issues involving their players.

Last time I checked there were 16 sides in the AFL, not one, and we lived in a country where people were innocent until proven guilty.

Get more Crikey, for less

It’s more than a newsletter. It’s where readers expect more – fearless journalism from a truly independent perspective. We don’t pander to anyone’s party biases. We question everything, explore the uncomfortable and dig deeper.

Join us this week for 50% off a year of Crikey.

Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
50% off