West Coast drug saga: bitterness behind Daniel Chick's revelations
Having achieved his drug-free first anniversary, West Coast's turbulent and troubled premiership hero Daniel Chick chose the eve of his former club's next tilt at a flag to revisit one of the AFL's most inglorious club scandals.
The timing of Chick's shocking revelations, many of which were being privately denied by the Eagles on Thursday, has clearly dismayed the club and the AFL, neither of which knew the story was coming nor were contacted before publication for a response.
Ditto the AFL Players Association, which has been working to help Chick resurrect his life and remain concerned for his mental wellbeing.
Those who have remained in touch with the worst offenders from that group of West Coast players believe their bitterness lies at least in part with their former coach John Worsfold, who is now in the box seat to take over from James Hird at Essendon.
Worsfold is one who did not do enough early enough to reshape the Eagles' culture, which was led by a group of players with rock star mentalities who cavorted with underworld faux celebrities, took drugs, flouted club rules and in general gave one giant collective finger to the AFL competition.
Certainly Worsfold asked questions and was constantly lied to. And he stayed to help clean up the mess. It would seem a strange move by the Bombers to change course now on the allegations of Chick, whose credibility is not high and who remains the author of his own tragedy.
His revelations published by News Corp smacked of finger pointing without any real sense of self-blame. That Chick would provide such a distraction for the current Eagles players during grand final week cannot be swept aside. Chick is damaged goods and was so when he arrived at West Coast but his troubles and the West Coast players' culture at the time proved an insidious mix.
His revelations have clearly hurt the club. Debate continues to rage about the tainted nature of the 2006 premiership but at the heart of Chick's claims lies the unthinkable suggestion that it was more than tarnished. Certainly it seems difficult to envisage now the prospect next season of a full-scale 10-year premiership reunion.
The AFL will hope this story goes away, swept up by the grand final and its accoutrements but in the cold light of next week cannot ignore it. If Chick's allegations regarding some of the drugs he took on match-days during West Coast's journey to the 2006 flag can be corroborated then the competition should act.
Seriously at odds with the AFL Commission for a brief time during 2007, the Eagles were threatened with the loss of draft picks and premiership points and underwent two post-scandal investigations.
The inevitable comparisons with Essendon and the Bombers' more recent drug scandal will come and even Chick spoke bitterly about the men in power at his club at the time who remain in power now as distinct from the Bombers. But those comparisons are odious.
The West Coast drug culture was player-led whereas Essendon's welfare failings stemmed from a club-engineered program to gain an edge on competitors. The apologies that came afterwards from Trevor Nisbett and his board were never – unlike the Bombers – conditional, but unequivocal. Some laid the blame on Ben Cousins alone but not the executives and directors above.
It is true the testing regimes for both illicit and performance enhancing drugs were less stringent then but it seems odd that a player could have been hidden from drug testers as Chick has alleged when surely that would have seen a positive registered against the player whether or not he was unwell.
But when Chick himself, along with Ben Cousins, failed to turn up at the club for a drug test following the infamous Chick and Andrew Embley punch-up the previous day on the eve of the 2007 season, both had positive strikes registered against them and Cousins was suspended by the club.
Chief executive Nisbett would not have been surprised at Chick's ongoing bitterness towards both him and the club. The long-serving chief, who put his hand up and worked with his board alongside the AFL when the penny finally dropped, has said many times how the Eagles attempted to help their drug addicted and mentally unwell former stars.
That Nisbett led the rebuilding of the club's culture is borne out by the admiration in which he is held at head office. A lone voice of caution against the zero-tolerance push in the illicit drugs policy debate, his club registered no positive hair tests on the eve of the 2015 season.
Nisbett oversaw the recruiting of new key personnel as part of a completely restructured welfare system including a full-time player minder/carer, the AFL's first full-time club Indigenous welfare officer and the appointment of Neale Daniher as the Eagles football boss. Nisbett refused to be drawn on the Chick allegations. The Eagles coach Adam Simpson and his team awoke to the news on Thursday and were addressed by the chief executive before their flight to Melbourne.