Picture this: a middle-aged man sitting behind the reception desk of a massage shop in a busy street. It’s a cool day with sunshine breaking through the clouds. Inside the shop anodyne massage style music plays as if on a loop. No-one comes in. The phone rings twice, but one of the calls was from a recorded message. I sit here squinting at the screen of the shop laptop. As per everyday I am here I spend much of my time surfing the net looking for a diversion from the monotony of the day. Today though, is slightly different.
I’ve only posted occasionally about the ongoing drama about ASADA, the AFL, and my football club, Essendon. I have strong views on this, as do most loyal Essendon supporters. It’s fair to say this is a topic that has captivated the sporting, media and legal aficionado’s for Melbourne. For most it is a topic of fascination, and occasional ridicule. For the likes of me it’s just about life or death.
Though it’s not reflected in my posts here, or even in my social media utterances, I’m fully across this saga and follow it with rapt interest from day-to-day, minute to minute. If I were not a supporter I would still find it absolutely fascinating. As a supporter I’ve felt aggrieved for over a year now at what I felt to be a perversion of the process of justice. In essence that the club was rail-roaded by the AFL to protect its interests (and select arses), and that James Hird was made a scapegoat of.
For much of the wider sporting community this line of thinking has been treated with scorn. People like me have been called ‘Essendon ‘truthers’; and much worse. We’ve been seen as deluded, blinded by our love for the club and faith in our toppled coach. The funny thing is though that in the face of pretty damning accusations the faithful have rallied to the club. This episode has galvanised the support base and made them ask of themselves what they believe. For the majority they have felt their love for all things Essendon to be affirmed with a fervour perhaps not felt for some years. A situation like this divides the world into ‘us’ and ‘them’. We have resoundingly found ourselves to be in the ‘us’ camp.
On Friday there was some vindication of that faith when documents were published revealing the level of corruption in the process. In short a (potentially illegal) joint investigation between ASADA and the AFL used powers they were not entitled to coerce testimony from players and club officials. They contrived a verdict and an outcome and doctored up the report to achieve that end – all this is revealed in direct quotes from the participants. They were at pains to leave out what did not suit their narrative, and to sex up some of the results – for example the scary concept of injections was beefed up when they found the actual number of supplement injections was disappointingly low. They decided to add in multi-vitamin injections to make it appear much more sinister. A level of political interference was also revealed.
It has to be said that the whole investigation has been farcical and seemingly incompetent virtually from the get go. Even the most critical of Essendon seem to have come to that view. It’s actually embarrassing that a federal agency would be so incompetent in pursuit of their essential purpose. Unfortunately the political angle on this clouded their way forward – joining with the AFL, whilst trying to serve their political masters. Somewhere along the line due process and basic justice was lost.
It’s now at the stage where what so many of us Essendon ‘truthers’ claimed now seems to be true. That will never be accepted by many, but the moderate, reasonable majority have been exposed to the flaws and manipulation within the investigation. Both the AFL and ASADA come out of this looking very bad; and there is now some level of understanding of our position.
Starting this morning was the case between the EFC and ASADA to rule whether the joint investigation with the AFL was legal or not. If it is ruled illegal then everything is off the table, and the investigation basically invalidated. If it is allowed then the show cause notices remain in place. My suspicion is that the judge will rule against ASADA, but allow them to pick up the pieces. I think that will be moot regardless. It seems that ASADA have no evidence of note and have been attempting to bully the players into making admissions. That hasn’t happened, and in the absence of real evidence, and in consideration of time spent and additional expense required, it’s my guess this whole thing will peter out.
That’s not yet the case, however, which brings me to this morning, sitting here behind the reception desk of a massage shop surfing the net. I went from site to site, hitting refresh every so often to get commentary on the court proceedings.
On one page I watched the live feed from the courtroom. QC’s in their formal regalia stood and presented their opening arguments. On the Essendon side there were three, one each for the club, the players, and the coach, James Hird. For ASADA there was just one.
I watched and listened as they made their statements, fascinated and bemused all at the same time. To make some sense of it I would check and refresh my twitter feed every few minutes. And for uneducated barracking I would visit the fan forum I am part of and occasional contributor to. As it could be expected that was rife with comment and speculation, both positive and doom and gloom. Truly, such sites are a fascinating insight into human nature.
You could call my morning unproductive, except even without this diversion there would have been nothing to do. More accurately my morning was precisely distracting. I was happy there was nothing else to do.
So where is it at? In the vernacular of the sport, I’d say we went into the quarter time break with a 2 goal lead. As always though, there’s a lot of game to go, and a lot can happen.