It’s taken six suspensions and some unwelcome public scrutiny but the message is finally getting through at the Gold Coast Suns.
That’s the view of key forward Tom Lynch, who believes the fallout from the struggling AFL club’s player-enforced booze ban will make them a better side in the long run.
The Suns face ladder-leaders Fremantle at Metricon Stadium on Saturday and will regain the services of Charlie Dixon, who was suspended for last week’s clash against Hawthorn.
Dixon and injured rookie Jack Martin admitted to drinking the night before a match, despite an agreement within the playing group that no player would touch alcohol until after their mid-season bye.
Lynch said it was a painful lesson for the Suns and Dixon, his usual forward-50 partner, but one that will be worth it.
“I think all along this year we’ve talked about wanting to affect change and change standards and grow as a group,” Lynch said.
“You’ve got to expect to have a few speed humps along the way.
“We’ve seen massive growth in that area during the year.
“We’d be disappointed if it happened again but we know we’ve started to affect it (change) and it’s been a strong message.
“There’s been plenty that have jumped on board, there’s just been a couple of slip-ups and they may happen from time to time.
“We know we’re heading in the right direction.”
Dixon had claimed that drinking a glass of red wine the night before a match was part of his routine and helped him sleep better.
He was ultimately undone when he failed to settle the room service bill in the team’s hotel, but will reportedly consult team leaders to see if he will be able to maintain that habit in future.
Dixon admitted he should have raised his habit at a team meeting three days earlier when the zero-tolerance alcohol ban was introduced.
“I was definitely not trying to hide it, if I was I would have paid my room bill,” he told AFL.com.au.
“It really hurt me to be up in the stands and to let my teammates down.”
Lynch said Dixon had a “spring in his step” at training on Tuesday morning and is ready to regain the faith of his teammates.
“He was obviously disappointed, along with Jack – as we all were with him,” he said.
“He handled it well, he admitted that he made a mistake and we welcome him back this week.”