Suns focused on Bennell’s welfare

Gold Coast say their immediate concern is ensuring the welfare of player Harley Bennell after pictures of the young gun apparently taking illicit drugs were displayed across the media.

Images taken at a Launceston Hotel before the start of the 2013 season show Bennell with lines of white powder, allegedly speed.

The publication of the photos comes just a day after Queensland’s Crime and Corruption Commission (QCCC) announced it didn’t have sufficient evidence to warrant further arrests of any professional sportsmen in relation to the investigation of a cocaine trafficking syndicate in south-east Queensland.

Former Sun Karmichael Hunt has reportedly named up to 12 of his ex-AFL teammates for allegedly taking cocaine during various end-of-season functions as part of a statement given to police following his own conviction on cocaine possession charges.

In a statement, the QCCC said it remained possible further charges could be laid if new evidence comes to hand.

Bennell, the No.2 pick in the 2010 draft, is a former flatmate of Hunt’s and the Suns praised the ex-rugby league star’s influence over his younger teammate last year when Hunt’s time at the Suns came to an end.

In a brief statement, a spokesman for the Suns says the club’s main priority is the player’s welfare.

“We can’t underestimate the toll this could have and has had on his wellbeing,” the spokesman said.

“That remains our absolute focus at this time.”

The AFL Players’ Association (AFLPA) says it is addressing the matter along with the Suns and the AFL.

“With respect to the current issue, we have been working closely with the player involved to provide him with as much support as possible,” AFLPA chief executive Paul Marsh said.

“Our absolute priority is the health and wellbeing of our players and we have been working hard to ensure appropriate support and wellbeing networks are in place for all players who require them.”

Marsh also defended the code’s illicit-drug policy, saying it had done more good for players than harm.

“Illicit-drug usage amongst AFL players is not a new issue,” he said.

“We know through testing that it exists at a level, albeit much lower than that of those in society of the same age group as AFL players.

“The AFL’s Illicit-Drug Policy was introduced to educate, deter but also support any players using illicit drugs. The facts are that this policy has worked over its 10-year history with a significant decrease in the percentage of players testing positive to illicit drug usage.”

AFL head of corporate affairs Elizabeth Lurkin told Newscorp Australia both the league and the players’ association were working with clubs to review and strengthen the illicit-drugs policy.

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