Banned AFL players consider options

The 34 banned AFL players have met with their players association as they consider their next steps.

They are looking at the possibility of an appeal against their anti-doping suspensions and also legal action against Essendon, where they all played in 2012.

Friday’s meeting in Melbourne came three days after the Court of Arbitration for Sport upheld a WADA appeal, meaning they received two-year anti-doping suspensions.

Under the terms of the ban, the 12 current Essendon players and their five former teammates now at other clubs cannot play this season.

A group of players including captain Jobe Watson attended the meeting at the players association headquarters in person, while others took part via a telephone hookup.

Also on Friday, the AFL officially outlined how Essendon and the four other affected clubs can top up their playing lists for this season as a result of the bans.

The Bombers can sign 10 players on short-term contracts for this season.

Those players must either have been on an AFL list in the last two years or are on the Bombers’ VFL list.

Essendon can also upgrade their rookie-listed players, provided they have a maximum of 40 players available for selection.

Port Adelaide, Melbourne, the Western Bulldogs and St Kilda can also upgrade rookies to replace the banned players.

Meanwhile, former Essendon coach James Hird has again insisted in a newspaper column that the club’s disastrous 2012 supplements program was not part of his responsibility.

He said Stephen Dank, who ran the program, reported to fitness boss Dean Robinson, who in turn reported to football department manager Paul Hamilton.

“I was responsible for the coaches and the players’ football performance,” he said in the Herald Sun.

“These were essentially discrete units where Hamilton and I were on the same level and reported independently and directly to the chief executive, Ian Robson.

“This often surprises people, but it was how Robson wanted it and so how we ran it.”

Hird added there was a sliding doors moment when their preferred candidate for head of high performance was unavailable.

Instead they recruited Robinson, who brought in Dank.

Hird said he was “eternally sorry” to the banned players, adding they “absolutely do not deserve this fate”.

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