AFL news, as it happens.
COVID has completely derailed the West Coast Eagles season, so why would players defy a club directive to go clubbing, where they would have a good chance of contracting the virus?
The Eagles put out a statement on Friday, saying the club was “devastated” after players Jackson Nelson and Josh Rotham were caught drinking at the Hip-E Club in Leederville, a few hours after West Coast were demoralised by the Tigers.
Simpson, currently in quarantine under AFL health and safety protocols, then fired both barrels at the Eagles duo: “I am furious and disappointed with the actions of these players,” he said in a club statement.
Overreaction or not, he was keen to make a point.
Simpson’s fury is understandable given West Coast’s season has been disrupted by COVID. The club’s staggering injury count hasn’t helped the Eagles either. West Coast barely had enough fit players to take on Brisbane on Saturday night.
Simpson’s venomous statement was borne out of frustration and he clearly wanted to send a message to the playing group still left standing.
Then late on Saturday night there were reports that Rotham and Nelson weren’t the only Eagles partying at the club. Jake Waterman and first-year players Campbell Chesser and Rhett Bazzo were also believed to be at the Hip-E Club.
For the players to show such disregard towards the club and their fellow teammates must be baffling and of serious concern to West Coast.
The Eagles are planning to investigate the players’ early-morning shenanigans.
West Coast CEO Trevor Nisbett said he was “disgusted” by reports more players could’ve been at the Hip-E Club.
“It is something you just don’t think is going to happen with all the education and the things we’ve been doing in the last two and a half years, really,” he told Sportsday Radio.
But how could the West Coast players not read the room? Getting snapped swilling a few bourbon and cokes is one thing. Doing it while your club is rooted at the bottom of the table and besieged by COVID and injuries is a more compelling matter. Some West Coast players’ priorities appear scattered.
I just couldn’t picture Shannon Hurn on the dance floor, fist-pumping to Bon Jovi’s ‘Livin’ on a Prayer’.
I’m all for AFL players having a few jars after a game. They are only human and need to let off some steam like the rest of us. And the AFL environment can be brutal and unforgiving.
Many AFL players come into the system at around 18 and start earning a wage that most university graduates would struggle to make in their first five years. And not forgetting how many young AFL players are treated like a side character in a Marvel movie.
Ego is a very powerful drug.
I’m not for one second suggesting that he did this, but imagine the gladiatorial reception Collingwood’s new wiz kid, Jack Ginnivan, would’ve embraced if he waltzed into a boozer after winning the Anzac Day medal? He would’ve felt invincible.
That has to do strange things to a young man’s ego and sense of reality. The Stone Roses’ song ‘I Wanna be Adored’ comes to mind.
Nelson and Rotham were captured on camera looking like they were having a wild time. For those outside of Perth, the Hip-E club is a cross between a boozer in Ibiza and an Aussies pub in Bali. Toss in ’90s rock anthems on high rotation and you have an epicurean delight in the offering.
Hell, I’ve had a rollicking great time at the place. But football clubs don’t want their players caught partying for a number of obvious reasons.
It damages the club’s brand. When something shockingly bad goes down at a club, the sponsors are the first to pull out.
Players having a few jars after a game is always going to be divisive. Old-school players will defend their modern counterparts as nothing more than teetotallers.
There isn’t a lot known about the first game of footy back in 1858 but it’s highly unlikely both coaches told their players to stay off the turps after the game.
But West Coast are a team in disarray. The Eagles are getting hit from every angle and the weight of that would be having a toll on the players and staff.
The penalties dished out to the Eagles’ players are likely to be harsh. If it wasn’t for the lack of available players, Rotham would’ve even been considered for the club’s clash with the Lions.
At the end of the day, the players stuffed up. But sometimes football is about timing. With the Eagles barely able to patch a team together most weeks and Simpson in lockdown with COVID, their timing couldn’t have been worse.