Mistakes: Jake Carlisle has work to do to repair his reputation. Photo: Wayne TaylorJake Carlisle’s decision to take illegal drugs and simultaneously film himself was the first in a series of unfortunate events in which few of the parties involved acted appropriately or with appropriate integrity.
The unknown individual, one of several who found themselves in possession of the damning vision, who chose to put Carlisle on the market, ultimately selling the story for some thousands of dollars to Channel Nine, is one of those unspeakable characters more enabled than ever before by the nuances of social media.
That reputable organisations deal with these people and reward them still feels grubby despite the practice having gone on for decades and being widely accepted. Even the Gold Coast Suns, who claimed they were disgusted at News Limited’s treatment of Harley Bennell, did not deny that organisation one of the first interviews with the player when Bennell went public.
Player agent Alex McConville said nothing to St Kilda for more than 24 hours after a staffer from A Current Affair contacted him. He later claimed the details he had received were sketchy and allegations only.
McConville said a still shot provided to him did not identify the player and seemed to be dated from 2010.
But it still seems a breach of trust for the manager, who had been in regular contact with the Saints’ list manager Ameet Bains for weeks and often on an hourly basis to go quiet at such a crucial time. The allegations, after all, came from the Nine Network and not some unidentified troll.
And, of course, in Carlisle’s second serious error, the player lied to McConville when the agent first contacted him. It was on that crucial Tuesday that the trade with Essendon was being finalised with the papers lodged at AFL headquarters on Tuesday night.
Still they had not been ratified early on Wednesday when McConville was worried enough to take his concerns to Ian Prendergast and Brett Murphy from the AFL Players Association.
Prendergast and Murphy are respected and diligent as well as popular individuals among the industry. Prendergast’s achievement alongside the AFL’s Mark Evans in negotiating the new significantly improved illicit drugs policy deserves more commendation than it has received.
But he and his colleague were wrong to keep the allegations from St Kilda. That decision has deeply offended the Saints and hurt the relationship with club chief Matt Finnis and his former players union colleagues.
That they advised McConville to say nothing to the Saints at such a crucial time has been regarded by other clubs as a breach of trust despite the AFLPA’s insistence that the manager’s priority had to remain his client. Sometimes when it feels wrong it is wrong.
And the timing was more than unfortunate. It was catastrophic for St Kilda. Finnis had arrived at AFL headquarters on the Wednesday believing he had a good news story to tell as the Carlisle trade was made official only to walk out to A Current Affair doorstop. All this before McConville or Prendergast had had the chance to contact him, having realised the vision was genuine and due to run publicly that night.
It is the widespread view of the AFL community that St Kilda should not have been kept in the dark, even for a day, regarding Carlisle. That the players’ association overstepped the mark in their zeal to protect the footballer.
Prendergast on Friday described the confluence of events as a perfect storm. He insisted he slept soundly with his decision to stay silent until more information came forward. The AFLPA pointed to the fact that St Kilda has indicated it would have called off the deal had it known.
Whether or not this is true, it should have been the Saints’ right. The multi-million-dollar investment from a cash-strapped club, not to mention the sacrifice it had elected to make in terms of young talent along with the accompanying damage to its only recently repairing reputation, made the suppression of information completely unreasonable. As it would have been for any club. They deserved to have all the information available.
Several clubs on Friday held the view that the league’s integrity bosses should have questioned the AFLPA for its role in the saga, however that will not happen and would not be appropriate. But the union should analyse its handling of such cases. Clearly the Player Agents Accreditation Board will not penalise McConville given he was acting on that body’s guidance.
Carlisle still faces a penalty from the competition but the punishment is expected to come from St Kilda with some behind-the-scenes negotiating with head office. He has indicated that he will accept a drug strike and could also be suspended from playing at the start of the 2016 season.
And with the removal of the marketing money and some other key clauses from his contract, Carlisle will finish up losing a six-figure sum, making him the most heavily penalised player in AFL history for having taken illicit drugs on one known occasion.
The AFLPA has lost the upper hand in the bitter bargaining over the contract revisions through its poor advice to McConville but tensions between club and union have risen further with the Saints playing hardball.
And yet, despite all of the above, StKilda must work to make a success of Carlisle who, after all, comes to the club as a highly talented key-position player. He, above all the individuals, has significant work to do to repair his reputation. And the Saints could not be blamed should they refuse to deal with McConville in the future.
This is not to say anyone in football is naive enough to believe that Carlisle’s behaviour in taking illegal drugs during his holidays makes him unusual. But he handled it all so embarrassingly badly. And the aftershock of Prendergast’s so-called perfect storm has continued to reverberate.
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