The new changes to the AFL’s Illicit Drugs Policy have become a divisive topic of conversation.
Some believe the changes, which will see players suspended and named publicly after a second detection – rather than a third detection, as was previously the case – are a step too far, while others suggest the changes haven’t been drastic enough.
Though comments expressed by former North Melbourne defender Nathan Grima on 1116 SEN’s Morning Glory program on Wednesday certainly couldn’t be viewed as being representative of the wider AFL playing group or of the AFL Players’ Association, his thoughts – having experienced the Illicit Drugs Policy first-hand across eight seasons with the Kangaroos – provide a valuable perspective on a complex issue.
This is what Grima had to say on…
if a teammate were to use illicit drugs
“If I played with a guy that, once every three or four months, sat in his lounge room with a friend from home or whatever and had a couple of lines of coke and I didn’t know about it – and then he fronted up at training, was still professional, still visited the Children’s Hospital on Good Friday, did all his appearances and presented himself as a great human being – would I play with him? Of course I would.
“I’d rather do that than [spend time with] a bloke who goes out and gets pissed every weekend and carries on, abusing women verbally or whatever.
“[This idea that] he had a bit of coke, what a loser, or what a hero… Who knows he’s doing it, for a start? He’s still presenting well 99 percent of the time.”
The possibility of footballers losing their jobs due to illicit drug use
“I’m not condoning it – it’s still illegal. But I drove past three people talking on their phone on the way here. Did they lose their job for doing something illegal?
“What happens to those guys if they do lose their career? What are they going to be like then? At least AFL gives them a chance to still straighten out, get married and get back on track.”
the players most likely to be at risk
“[The idea that] after three or four years, you should know better… I think it’d nearly be the other way. You come into the game as a fresh-faced 18-year-old and you’re so happy. You’re getting paid well to live your dream.
“It’s four or five years in that you start getting injuries, setbacks, form issues, relationship breakdowns, what’s happening in your personal life – they’re the guys that are more at risk.”
“Does it need to be harder? Of course it does. Do guys probably abuse the system? Of course they do. And they probably get off on the fact that people know they’re out having a good time and think they’re pretty cool.”
The ‘role model’ factor
“At the end of the day, it’s not great and you don’t want kids knowing that you’re doing it.
“The [players] that annoy me are almost the ones who do it in the public manner and think, ‘look at me, I’m on Instagram, I’m off my head and playing AFL, I’m a legend.”
Illicit drugs vs prescription drugs
“It’s not until you start going through some hard times – I know I make a big deal of it, but like the back operation and the stuff that comes with that – If you don’t have these outlets which some guys use, the other alternative is prescription drugs.
“Not that I know much about recreational drugs, but if you get someone addicted to prescription drugs, which are legal… That’s going to be the problem when you have an operation and you start getting on endone and have stillnox. That puts you in a lot worse headspace than anything else.”
Recent Changes to the illicit drugs policy
“I’m not condoning anything – don’t worry about that. I’m out of the game now so i’m looking at it from an impartial point of view.
“Two strikes, I think, is great. You get your first strike if that’s the case, you learn, educate and might be able to tell them what your problem is. But [the idea of] zero strikes… For me, I just think that’s absolutely ludicrous.”