FROM THE PRESS BOX: Pain not over yet for Essendon fans

From the Press Box with Melanie Whelan

From the Press Box with Melanie Whelan

LOOKING from the outside, there is no way you would want to be a person who bleeds black and red.

Essendon fans have been through a lot in the past year but they need to buckle up because there will be more pain, the longer the supplements saga plays out.

Essendon fans have been through a lot in the past year but they need to buckle up because there will be more pain, the longer the supplements saga plays out.

They are the ones forced into a passionate defence of their club, yet again, around office watercoolers about the state.

Or, they are the ones starting to disassociate themselves entirely from the game, citing a busy personal schedule or lack of interest in following each and every move unfolding at their club. Or, they are just plain bewildered.

Either way, Bomber fans are hurting so much.

The Essendon supplements saga took another lurch this week with 34 players issued with “show cause” notices from the Australian Sports Anti-Doping Authority.

Then new ASADA chief Ben McDevitt took to Melbourne radio on Friday morning to make clear that should ASADA’s case be proven, there would be no escaping suspension. Those who co-operated and unknowingly took banned drugs could receive reduced sentences.

Suddenly, for players, their families and one-eyed supporters, this is all very much too real now.

It is even more tolerable to be a frustrated Richmond supporter, especially one born into an era of post-premiership dominance with only folklore to rely on when it comes to glory days.

Our years of turmoil at least start with a renewed top-four optimism or coach’s five-year plan to sucker us in at the start of every season.

Our lunchtimes can be spent furiously debating whether our sports science team has duped us in a very different manner to our rivals. 

In bad times, we microwave our membership cards or cheer on the fan who empties a truck full of manure at our club headquarters.

Then we rock up to the next game, confident and cocky once more – it is a rollercoaster routine we have got down pat.

Bombers fans face a daunting unknown.

Their saga has been messy, incredibly drawn-out on a number of fronts, and is likely to continue taking its emotional toll for a couple of years to come.

The propaganda spewing out from that club alone must be hard to digest.

Or is it?

When favoured son James Hird is at the centre of the scandal and blaming others while the club holds on to him, paying for his gap year and extending his contract.

You trust him, right?

He was the guy that courageously led incredible on-field battles in his playing career. He was such a nice guy. He may have been your childhood hero.

He would never hurt the club that made him. Would he?

It is easy, looking from the outside, to simply call for Hird’s head. Completely excommunicate him.

If this had been Hird’s predecessor, Matthews Knights, he would have been sent packing from Windy Hill before you could finish saying “whatever it takes”.

But Hird? I guess giving Hird the chop would have destroyed the Bombers’ faith and branding completely.

We grow up passionately supporting our teams through thick and thin, from premierships to crippling defeats.

How could you stick with a club, should it be proven to have played so recklessly with the health of its players basically to cheat?

It’s like family, one Essendon supporter tells me, forgive and move on.

Another questions how much worse can it get, even if the Bombers may only be left with Brendan Goddard, Paul Chapman and a heap of rookies running about on the park each week – Bombers fans declare they will only barrack harder because such players will be working extra hard to compensate.

Buckle-up Bombers’ faithful, we’re telling you there is only going to be more unimaginable pain, the longer this plays out.

This Richmond supporter can sympathise.

melanie.whelan@fairfaxmedia.com.au

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