'Scarred for life': Grim reality of infamous AFL scandal exposed

Andrew Reid
·3-min read
Pictured here, former Essendon coach James Hird.
Former Essendon coach James Hird was deeply affected by the supplements scandal. Pic: Getty

Former Essendon star Brendon Goddard has opened up on the devastating impact the infamous supplements scandal had on the club's players and coaches.

Some 34 Bombers players were banned for 12 months in 2016 after the Court of Arbitration for Sport ruled the players were injected with a banned substance dating back to their supplements program in 2012.

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Former Bombers coach James Hird has spoken out previously about the devastating toll the ugly saga took on him.

Goddard - who played 129 games for the Bombers between 2013 and 2018 - said Hird's story was a familiar one with many of the Essendon players embroiled in the controversy.

Speaking on SEN’s This Is Your Sporting Life, Goddard revealed that the ugly saga had left some players broken and "scarred for life", adding that the damage done was "irreversible" for many.

“It’s staggering when you go back and think about what happened at the time and how long it dragged out ... when I look back on it, it destroyed a number of men,” he said.

“We know about Hirdy (then-coach James Hird) and his struggles, but there’s some guys out there that were fighting at the time and it probably had a long term effect on them mentally that we probably didn’t know about, because they were hiding it and didn’t want to talk about it.

“It had a huge impact on them. Don’t worry about the footy club, it’ll bounce back because of the supporters and its rich history of success, but a lot of the individuals that were involved, some of them have been scarred for life.”

Brendon Goddard is seen here leading out Essendon during his time as club captain.
Brendon Goddard says people have been scarred for life because of the Essendon supplements scandal. Pic: Getty

Hird was left in dark place after scandal

Hird's struggles after the controversy have been well documented, with the Bombers legend making a heartbreaking mental health revelation to Shane Crawford earlier this year.

The 253-game Essendon great admitted that he struggled with life after footy, but particularly with the fallout from the supplements scandal that saw him suspended down from his coaching role.

“Literally, it was far and away the worst time in my life, but by far and away the worst time – more importantly – in 34 players' lives and a lot of good people in football," Hird told Crawford.

Hird admitted that his axing as Bombers coach filled him with a sense of helplessness that took quite some time to overcome and the toll it had on his family was massive.

James Hird is seen here choking back tears while talking to media about the Essendon saga.
James Hird chokes back tears addressing the Essendon supplements scandal with media. Pic: Getty

He said there was a point where he felt like he couldn't go on anymore, but a call to a mental health hotline changed everything.

"I remembered Beyond Blue was the number the club, that the AFL had always talked about... Within 30 seconds a guy was on the other end of the phone. I still don’t know who the guy is.

"I said, 'Mate, this is how I feel. I feel like I can't go on. I've brought shame to my family, shame on my football club, my profession. I've lost my identity’.

"He just started talking to me and said, 'Where do you live?'

"I said, "I live about 15 or 20 minutes from here.

"He said, "You think you can drive yourself home? I'll talk to you, but just drive home'."

"This is an hour I was talking to him. I started the car and was talking to him. By the time I got home, there's a special unit from the Alfred Hospital waiting outside my front door. He didn't know my name. It wasn't about me or football."

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