Collingwood coach Nathan Buckley is determined to support banned players Lachie Keefe and Josh Thomas, saying he hopes they play in the AFL again.
Buckley added their anti-doping cases again showed that there has been too much carrot and not enough stick with the AFL’s controversial three-strikes illicit drugs policy.
Keefe and Thomas announced earlier on Monday that they would accept two-year bans after testing positive to the banned substance clenbuterol.
The pair think the clenbuterol was in illicit substances they had taken during a night out.
Collingwood have given the pair an assurance they will re-draft them as rookies at the end of the year should they wish to play on.
Their bans end in March 2017.
“From day dot, half of me has been angry with the decision that they made,” Buckley told Fox Footy’s AFL 360 program.
“Half of me has been shattered for the situation they find themselves in.”
Buckley said Keefe and Thomas are two great characters who had made a bad decision.
“I will be steadfast in supporting Lachie and Josh until the cows come home, because I believe it’s an isolated event,” he said.
“It’s not a pattern of behaviour.
“If it was, we wouldn’t be doing the right thing by every other person in the environment to maintain connection with these boys.”
But Buckley added it was now up to the two players whether their bans would define them.
“We’d love to see this story end on a positive note,” he said.
Buckley also took aim at the three-strikes policy, which is under review and will be changed.
Currently, clubs are only told if a player tests positive to an illicit drug for a third time.
“It can’t be all carrot – you can’t be saying that everything is rosy,” Buckley said.
“The stick is what we’re talking about.
“There need to be some ramifications for poor decisions.
“It’s absolutely showing care if you say `this is not acceptable and this will be the penalty if you make these choices’.
“You can’t molly-coddle them.”