Gold Coast captain Gary Ablett admits there have been “inconsistencies” in how off-field standards have been enforced at the Suns and that changes need to be made.
The AFL club’s culture has again come into question after Charlie Dixon and Jack Martin became the latest players to fall foul of a team-enforced ban on alcohol.
Dixon and Martin have each been suspended for one match after it emerged they had shared “one or two” glasses of red wine in their hotel room before their clash with Hawthorn in Launceston on Saturday.
It comes less than a month after Danny Stanley, Harley Bennell, Trent McKenzie and Brandon Matera were issued with one-game suspensions for breaking an earlier booze ban.
Ablett conceded that the issue of off-field discipline has been bubbling away in the background since the club’s inception.
“In the past there’s been a little bit of inconsistency with how we’ve handled things,” Ablett said.
“That’s part of the reason why we’re here today – we’re really putting our foot down.
“Change needs to happen, sometimes sacrifices need to be made.”
Coach Rodney Eade revealed players met on the Tuesday before the game and decided to take a “black and white” stance against drinking until after Gold Coast’s bye in round 12.
Eade said it was a sign the club’s leadership group has “grown” that the players were prepared to suspend Dixon and Martin for what may be seen as a very minor infringement.
“Charlie, in his pre-game routine apparently, it’s come to light he likes to have a glass or two of wine the night before a game,” Eade said.
“He probably thought maybe that was okay, and we can debate the validity of that argument – whether that’s the best way for an AFL player to prepare himself.
“But it’s on the back of the players making this commitment that they weren’t going to drink, so we’re taking the action we’ve done.”
The first round of alcohol-related punishments came after celebratory drinks that followed the Suns’ first and only win of the season, against Brisbane in round five.
Tom Nicholls and Dixon also admitted to a tipple on that occasion, but both players were excused as they were drinking at dinner with their families.
Martin will serve his suspension when he returns from the hamstring injury he suffered against the Hawks, which will keep him out for a month.
Ablett said it was “unacceptable” that Dixon and Martin disobeyed a team-wide order.
“We talked about the areas that need to improve to give ourselves the opportunity to win football games, and that was one of them – to stay off the alcohol for three weeks,” he said.
“I think that’s what’s disappointing, the trust thing that comes with that.”
Ablett, whose own leadership was criticised after a perceived lack of involvement in the suspensions handed out after the Brisbane win, said the experience has been a learning curve for him.
“I’m always open to accept feedback from the boys to improve my leadership,” he said.
“I need to keep driving the standards as a captain and I’m going to do that.”