The *other* Essendon 12

34 players who were at Essendon in 2012 have been suspended for a doping offence. On Monday we looked at what the suspensions of Essendon’s remaining 12 players from that group do in terms of Essendon’s expected output in 2016.

Today, we’re going to look at another group of 12 Essendon players – those who were at the club in 2012 and yet have escaped the consequences of the club’s doping program. The club had 40 senior players and 6 rookies in 2012, meaning 12 were not suspended as a result of the injection program.

These players are:

  • David Zaharakis
  • Courtenay Dempsey
  • Mark Baguley
  • Nick O’Brien
  • Elliott Kavanagh
  • Jackson Merrett
  • Jason Winderlich
  • Kyle Reimers
  • Anthony Long
  • Hal Hunter
  • Lauchlan Dalgleish
  • Michael Ross

The largest group of these are Essendon’s first year players. Eight of the twelve were in their first year at the Bombers, either as senior listed draftees or as rookies. It seems likely that most of these fringe rookies may have been on different programs than the main group, perhaps with closer attention from trainers and medical staff as they adjusted to life on an AFL list. Of the players suspended, only Cory Dell’Olio and Brendan Lee were in their first years at the club and both were relatively mature recruits rather than raw teenagers. However, Baguely was also a mature recruit, played  and has also escaped suspension, so this explanation couldn’t be the whole case.

The second group consists of senior players who were recovering from long term injuries. Winderlich and Dempsey both injured their ACLs in the 2011 season. At the time the Essendon doping program began, it would be likely that they were in recovery from those injuries. This may have taken them away from the main group and left them firmly in the hands of medical staff, or it may have meant Dank saw no reason to give them the problem substance.

David Zaharakis, it is well documented, did not have injections because he “doesn’t like needles”. Whether that was a genuine issue he had, or a convenient excuse to avoid something he suspected was dodgy, it’s clear why he has avoided sanction.

Kyle Reimers is an intriguing case. He has been publicly quoted saying “after a couple of months away from it, it does seem very odd the type of stuff we were taking”. Reimers was interviewed extensively by Damien Barrett to the extent that he was described as a “blowing the whistle”. After being delisted, Reimers also rejected continuing his league football career at Carlton at the end of 2012. He was also attacked by Mark McVeigh for being a disgruntled ex player who “said some things that aren’t true”. McVeigh, incidentally, received a doping suspension while Reimers did not.

The suggestion from McVeigh and Reimers’ comments is that Reimers was subject to the program. In his interview with Barrett, Reimers does say that he “didn’t take too much of it” and that he “didn’t see the point.” That may mean he wasn’t placed in contact with the problem substances during the investigation. However this also raises the interesting question of whether he alone may have provided substantial assistance to the investigation, escaped suspension, and earned some confidentiality protection for his efforts. If so, Reimers has earned himself the right to continue playing for Wanderers in the NTFL.

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