The 18 AFL captains have hit out at a media report that named past and present Essendon players involved in the club’s supplements scandal.
Flanked by the other captains, Fremantle’s Matthew Pavlich read out the statement at the start of Wednesday’s annual media session for the club skippers.
“It is (our) view … that the decision to name and publish photos of current and former Essendon players in the press on Sunday falls short of the standards of respect and decency which we hope would characterise the relationship between players and the media,” Pavlich said.
“Regardless of what you think about what happened at Essendon in 2012, there is no doubt that these players are in an unenviable and vulnerable position.
“As leaders of the playing group, we think it’s appropriate to stand up, lend our voice and influence in condemning the mistreatment of vulnerable players – that’s our responsibility.
“So, without labouring the point, taking any further unnecessary action or holding grudges, let’s all take stock, reflect on how we would like to be treated both individually and collectively, and work together to continue to showcase the game, its players and its stories in a fair and respectable manner.”
Essendon captain Jobe Watson later confirmed the players could take legal action over the News Corp report.
“We haven’t got to that stage yet,” he said.
“We’ll seek the advice of the players association on that.”
The AFL punished Essendon on the eve of last year’s finals series for their 2012 supplements program, kicking them out of the finals and suspending coach James Hird for 12 months among other penalties.
But the Bombers remain under ASADA investigation, with no confirmation on when the national anti-doping body will decide whether to issue infraction notices.
Sunday’s News Corp story named 14 Essendon players who had given evidence last year to anti-doping investigators.
“We want a good relationship with the media … we want you guys to cover the game,” Watson said.
“In particular, what occurred in the Herald Sun on Sunday was disappointing for the players.
“For an ongoing investigation, for them to pre-empt by naming and showing photographs of players, for a Commonwealth investigation, that was very disappointing.
“It was an unnecessary element.”
Watson admitted the ongoing saga had affected the players, but they were in strong shape for the start of this season.
“We’ll walk out in front of 50-60,000 Essendon members with our heads held high and we’ll attack this 2014 season the way we’ve prepared,” he said.
“We’re really excited about that.
“There have been times where it’s been disillusioning, but we’ve maintained strength as a group.”