AFL chief executive Gillon McLachlan has defended the refusal to adopt a policy of zero tolerance towards illicit drug use among players by arguing that it would severely harm the code’s chances of winning the 2016 Frownlow Medal.
McLachlan claimed that a zero tolerance policy would force the AFL to expel players whose illicit drug use leads to headline grabbing off-field behaviour.
The Frownlow Medal (nee Downlow Medal) is awarded to the player whose off field demeanour epitomises the values of the modern day footballer and draws attention to the status of footballers as role models to young Australians. It covers Australia’s four major football codes; the National Rugby League (NRL), Australian Football League (AFL), the A League (Football) and Rugby Union’s Super Rugby competition. The first medal was awarded to Sydney Roosters and New Zealand representative Shaun Kenny-Dowall in 2015.
The chief executive called for critics of the policy to consider the wider implications of illicit drug use among players, including the welfare of the individual players, the clubs and the code itself.
“This policy will protect the reputation of the AFL” he stated.
“We operate in a very competitive sporting marketplace in a country with four major football codes. The threat from Rugby League is real. Even in our heartland of Victoria the Melbourne Storm Rugby League franchise enjoys success and attracts a regular band of loyal followers.
A player from the NRL won the first Frownlow Medal and we want to take it from them.”
McLachlan explained that winning the highly sought after Frownlow Medal would strengthen the code’s presence in Rugby dominated NSW and QLD. He then cited the specific example of the eleven Collingwood players who were recently nominated for the award after testing positive for illicit drugs during the off season, but whose efforts were virtually nullified by the eight young Queensland League players who were previously nominated for breaking curfew at an emerging State of Origin camp.
“Put simply, the Frownlow Medal is very difficult to win and a zero tolerance policy would strip us of players who are performing the most memorable actions off the field.”