Geelong coach Chris Scott claims Jack Steven was the “victim of something serious” but expects the midfielder back at the AFL club within days.
The Cats’ off-season recruit was discharged from hospital on Tuesday, having been admitted with a stab wound over the weekend.
Details are still unclear as to how the 30-year-old ended up with the injury and a police investigation is ongoing.
Detectives spoke with him on Sunday but Steven was unable to shed any light on what led to being admitted to hospital in the early hours of that morning.
Scott addressed the situation at Geelong training on Thursday, but the club remains none the wiser on what actually happened.
“I think it’s wrong that some people have jumped the gun and said that this is an AFL integrity matter, and somehow Jack has a case to answer before he plays footy again – that’s assuming the worst in people,” he told reporters.
“We’d like to know the circumstances (surrounding the incident) only so we can help him, so he can help us; those things go together.
“It’s clear he was the victim of something quite serious that required hospitalisation but I think the priority should be his wellbeing.
“We’re trying to protect his privacy as much as possible as well. We want to care for him and help as much as we possibly can.”
Scott is unsure when Steven will rejoin Cats training ahead of the AFL season resumption on June 11, but believes it’s “more like days than weeks”.
Steven came close to AFL retirement last year as he dealt with mental health issues, playing just seven games in 2019.
At the end of last season, he was granted his wish to be traded to Geelong to be closer to his family and friends, following four best-and-fairest awards in 11 seasons with St Kilda.
Scott Watters, St Kilda’s coach in 2012 and 2013, claimed this week Steven had “really challenging, negative influences” early in his time at the Saints and the club attempted to “separate him from some of that”.
But Scott criticised people who have linked Steven’s mental health battles with this unexplained situation.
“(Steven’s) very much in our thoughts when it comes to the possible composition of our team in 2020,” Scott said.
“I get the feeling that some people want to roll some of the previous problems that Jack has had into this current situation and I would caution against that; they are two separate issues.
“He’s certainly not your cookie-cutter AFL type, he’s a little different, but I could speak about 30 of our players in a similar manner.”
Steven missed Geelong’s round-one loss to GWS in March before the season was halted, but he was one of the Cats’ best with 26 possessions in their final practice match against Essendon.
“I’ve read some commentary that he’s been really impressive through the preseason and I’ll verify that,” Scott said.