Statement to be attributed to AFLPA GM of Legal and Player Affairs, James Gallagher:
The AFL Players’ Association is satisfied with the final outcome in this matter under the relevant AFL Anti-Doping Code and is delighted for Willie that he will have the opportunity to resume his AFL career in 2021.
Despite this, the AFLPA is compelled to express its concern at the length of time it took for an outcome to be reached and implores Sports Integrity Australia (SIA) to conduct a review of its processes with a focus on removing unnecessary delays.
The time it takes for an athlete to progress through this system places significant strain on their mental health and wellbeing, as well as that of their family. Identifying ways to expedite the process and taking a more reasoned approach will also help to avoid the potential situation where an athlete is forced to serve a provisional suspension that is greater than that of the final decision of the tribunal. With recent reductions to some penalties under the anti-doping rules, this is now even more paramount.
We wish to acknowledge the outstanding support given to Willie by the West Coast Eagles, AFLPA Accredited Agent John Meesen and David Grace QC, in collaboration with the AFLPA in order to achieve the best result possible for Willie.
We will continue to work together to ensure Willie can make a successful transition back into the AFL environment once he can return to training in June.