AFL chief executive Gillon McLachlan says embattled Gold Coast player Harley Bennell needs the support of the industry, not shaming.
A photo of Bennell, taken in March 2013, with potentially illicit drugs was published in News Corp newspapers on Thursday, deepening the expansion club’s woes.
But McLachlan said the welfare of Bennell was paramount.
“The welfare of the player today is our major concern and this is our priority,” he said.
“We can’t say we care about making a difference in players’ lives and turn away when there is pressure.”
McLachlan suggested the star forward would be rested from this weekend’s match with North Melbourne.
The AFL will not bring forward its review of the code’s “three strikes” illicit-drugs policy, committing to making changes in the off-season.
McLachlan said the club, which sits bottom of the ladder, retained his confidence and was only enduring the same issues faced by foundation AFL sides.
“They are facing big challenges, I know it and they know it,” he said.
“They are challenges that many of our most successful and oldest clubs faced.
“This club will get through the challenges and be stronger for it.”