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'Players don't take drugs mid-week': Cornes slams Gawn's 'happens at most clubs' defence of Dees' off-field dramas

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22nd October, 2023
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Kane Cornes has issued a scathing response to Melbourne captain Max Gawn’s defence of his club’s turbulent recent history of off-field incidents.

After bowing out of the finals in straight sets for the second consecutive season, the Demons have been at the centre of a number of scandals in a dramatic few weeks, with concerns over star midfielder Clayton Oliver’s mental health amid shock trade rumours before forward Joel Smith’s positive drug test following a home-and-away match was publicly revealed last week.

The incident follows several others in recent years, most notably the fight between Steven May and Jake Melksham in mid-2022 that saw the star defender cop a one-match club-imposed suspension while Melksham sustained a hand injury.

However, speaking to Seven News, Gawn, who led the Dees to a drought-breaking premiership in 2021, staunchly defended the club’s culture, saying incidents of this nature ‘happen at most clubs’.

“There has been some stuff over the last few weeks but I feel like this happens at most clubs,” Gawn said.

“There’s adversity here, adversity there. Obviously our adversity has all come at once.”

“I’m certainly very bullish on the culture we’ve built over the last three or four years, that it can withstand adversity like this, and we’re able to get in the top four again like we have in the last three years.”


However, in his hosting role on SEN Breakfast, Cornes couldn’t have disagreed more with Gawn’s assessment of the Dees’ off-field troubles.

“Can I tell you that players don’t take drugs mid-week… this does not happen at most clubs,” Cornes said.

“The thought is that, okay, all these players get up to this. That may be true – if I had to guess, and I’d be just guessing… four out of 10 players perhaps indulge in this. Some would say more, but that would be in the off-season.

“Maybe I am naive with this, but I would be astounded if there are many players doing this a couple of days before a game. Max Gawn says this happens at most clubs. Well, no, it doesn‘t.”

Max Gawn leads the Melbourne Demons out

(Photo by Daniel Pockett/Getty Images)

Oliver’s list of off-field indiscretions includes a bizarre report the star on-baller bent a series of windscreen wipers near Yarra Park following a light training session late last year.

“At most clubs, your best players don‘t have significant issues like Clayton Oliver has… your best player doesn’t walk down the street, bending the windscreens of cars. This doesn’t happen,” was Cornes’ assessment.


Gawn hasn’t been the only key Demon to defend the club and its culture in recent times, with coach Simon Goodwin just as positive at the Dees’ best and fairest evening earlier in the month.

For Cornes, the denial is nearly as bad as the issues themselves.

“Max Gawn’s sitting here telling us the culture’s good and Simon Goodwin is doing the same – I think they need to be a bit more honest about where their football club is at,” he said.

“This isn’t an isolated event, and it’s certainly, I think, incredibly serious. Something drastically wrong is going on with one of your players’ lives if he’s sitting at home or if he’s at a seedy nightclub on a Friday before a Sunday game doing this.”

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Smith isn’t expected to miss any matches in the 2024 season despite the positive test, with reports suggesting he will be hit with a three-month suspension to be served over the summer.