NICK O’Brien never thought anything illegal was happening at Essendon.
Having taken part in the controversial supplements program at the club, the former Carngham-Linton and North Ballarat Rebels footballer said he never thought twice about receiving injections.
Speaking to The Courier, O’Brien said inaccurate information had been circulating that he wished to clarify.
The 20-year-old said he always had faith everything the club did was in his best interests, and he did not feel his long-term health was at any risk.
Bombers coach James Hird has been suspended for 12 months by the AFL for bringing the game into disrepute, the club has been fined $2 million, banned from the 2013 finals race and stripped of its first two draft picks for the 2013 draft and its second-round pick in 2014.
There has been no finding as to whether the supplements program was actually illegal at this point.
“Not for one minute did I hear, think or feel I was part of a program that was going to be seen as illegal,” O’Brien said yesterday.
“I just assumed that’s what happens at AFL footy clubs. I just couldn’t wait to get into it (training), you just want to be a part of it when you’re new.”
O’Brien has just completed his second season at the club, where he has played five AFL games.
He hopes to put pen to paper next week in a deal that would see him remain at the Essendon Football Club.
The AFL Players Association last week told league chief Andrew Demetriou there were a number of Bombers players that wanted to void their contracts and leave the club in the wake of the saga.
However, O’Brien remains committed to the red and black.
“I’m really keen to help the club wherever I can,” he said.
“They gave me the opportunity by drafting me and giving me an opportunity in football.
“I’m not naive to the fact that everything I put in my body has some sort of effect, but I’m not overly concerned about my long-term health at the moment.
“I trust Dr Bruce Reid with my life and I’ve sat down with him and talked about everything.
“My family has been great as well. Mum and Dad have supported me the whole way.
“It’s not easy for them when their son is in Melbourne and part of one of the biggest-ever sport stories in Australia.”
Essendon sat second on the ladder after round 17, before losing six out of its past seven games to finish off the season.
O’Brien admitted the constant scrutiny around the saga had an obvious effect on the club, which simply became too much to bear towards the end of the season.
“We stayed as resilient as we could, but eventually it became too much,” he said.
“James (Hird) was unbelievable in the way he handled it.
“I’m not putting him up on a pedestal and saying everything he did was the right thing, but the way he supported and defended us as players was fantastic.”
The former North Ballarat Rebels and St Patrick’s College first XVIII captain also expressed his gratitude towards Bombers supporters and urged them to remain loyal to the club.
“The support the fans showed us this year was amazing, the players are extremely appreciative of the supporters,” O’Brien said.
“It’s going to be tough, but we really need them to stand by us if we are going to get through this.”
Essendon is scheduled to begin pre-season training in November.