Carlton coach Mick Malthouse has launched a scathing attack on Essendon as the club continues to baulk at fielding a team in the pre-season NAB Challenge.
The Bombers are desperate to protect the anonymity of up to 18 players provisionally suspended awaiting the AFL anti-doping tribunal’s findings, with one option reported that all players at the club in 2012 be withdrawn from the pre-season competition.
In that scenario, Essendon football manager Rob Kerr estimated Essendon would need up to 20 top-up players if it were to participate in the pre-season competition – a situation that the club feels is clearly not ideal and could even pose a risk to the health of those players.
The Blues do not play the Bombers in this year’s NAB Challenge, but Malthouse had clearly had enough of the ongoing instability when he spoke to reporters on Thursday.
“This is a national competition and it can’t be hijacked by one football club,” Malthouse said from Visy Park.
“This is a great test for the AFL and its administrators to be very, very firm and strong.
“The tail cannot wag the dog.”
The Bombers are slated to kick off their pre-season campaign against St Kilda in Morwell on March 7, with games against GWS and Melbourne to follow.
Negotiations between Essendon and the AFL over the issue are ongoing, but Malthouse feels the Bombers are in no position to even sit at the negotiating table as controversy over the club’s 2012 supplements program drags into its third year.
“I don’t think under the circumstances with what’s happened over the last two years that people can start dictating whether they’re going to play or whether they’re not,” he said.
“The rules are in place. There’s a competition at stake and I would personally expect that there would be nine games in the first round contested by 18 teams.”