Gold Coast midfielder Harley Bennell will miss Saturday’s AFL clash against North Melbourne after photos were published of him allegedly using drugs.
The 22-year-old trained with his teammates at Metricon Stadium on Thursday but coach Rodney Eade said it was in Bennell’s best interests to miss the home game against the Kangaroos.
News Corp Australia splashed photos of Bennell with a rolled-up $20 note and lines of white powder, believed to be speed, at a Launceston hotel before the start of the 2013 season.
The club is holding fire on any disciplinary action against the 2010 No.2 draft pick amid fears for his welfare but Eade said it wouldn’t be sensible for Bennell to play on Saturday.
“With it happening so close to the game, we’re obviously worried about the headspace that Harley’s in,” Eade said.
“We’re obviously worried about his welfare and, also from a club point of view and a player’s point of view, we think it’s appropriate that he doesn’t play this weekend.”
The scandal didn’t prevent the Suns welcoming fans to Thursday’s training run, with dozens of families showing their support for the embattled club.
“He was keen to train and we were keen as well from our point of view, rather than just staying at home by himself, we thought it was best for him,” Eade said.
“I think he’s masking a bit at the moment. He seems to be holding up okay but certainly longer term we’re going to have to some talks to him about that.”
Thursday’s revelations come less than a week after it was reported former Suns star Karmichael Hunt had named several of his ex-AFL teammates in a statement to police following his own conviction on cocaine possession charges in March.
In the wake of those reports Suns chief executive Andrew Travis initiated an investigation into the claims, urging any players involved to speak to him privately.
The Queensland Crime and Corruption Commission released a statement on Wednesday afternoon saying they lacked evidence to charge any other sporting professionals as part of the same investigation which nabbed Hunt.
Travis said the release of photos over two years old was disappointing, but said the club wasn’t retreating from the challenges it faces.
“We have been making a number of changes, we’ve been demanding a much higher standard from our group and that work has been ongoing, progress has been made,” Travis said.
“We’ve got challenges. We’re certainly owning those challenges and we’re going to deal with them.”
Travis said he welcomed a decision to review the AFL’s Illicit Drugs Policy and would be keen to provide any assistance in that matter.