AFL 3 years ago

Not Everybody Wants To Defend Harley Bennell

  • Not Everybody Wants To Defend Harley Bennell

This photo appeared on the front page of Queensland's Courier Mail and Victoria's Herald Sun last week, and despite the Courier Mail's tasteless headline, the papers got the splash they wanted.

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The picture, allegedly taken during the 2013 off-season, seems to show Gold Coast star Harley Bennell with several lines of cocaine.

Gold Coast coach Rodney Eade and AFL CEO Gill McLachlan were quick to defend Bennell. The head of the Players' Association, Paul Marsh, said Bennell was "going through hell." 

Neutral observers on Twitter were less sympathetic: 

One immediate outcome of the scandal was McLachlan's promise to revamp the AFL's controversial "three strikes" illicit substance policy before the end of the season.

The policy is controversial because it gives players extra institutional protections not afforded to ordinary Australians.

But it apparently worked for at least six years:

Image: Nathan Schmook /

Between 2005 and 2011, the failed test rate fell by more than 90 per cent.

Yet in the two year period of 2012 to 2013, the number of failed tests was higher than in the whole four year period of 2008 to 2011.

Was this linked to introduction of the Gold Coast Suns and the Greater Western Sydney Giants, who entered the league in 2011 and 2012? 

Gold Coast chief executive Andrew Travis claims that his club returns a below-average number of failed drug tests, but nobody outside of the AFL can confirm that.

According to former Sun Karmichael Hunt, who recently pleaded guilty to buying cocaine, about a dozen Gold Coast players may have used drugs during the club's 2014 Mad Monday celebrations.

Check out this analysis of the Karmichael Hunt scandal.

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