Friends, family and former teammates have reacted to Dean Laidley’s arrest, with a number of former North Melbourne players said to be rallying around his family.
Photos of the 53-year-old in a police station interview room as well as his mug shot were disseminated on social media on Sunday.
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Laidley was photographed wearing a long blonde wig and a dress after his arrest outside a home in St Kilda on Saturday night.
A Victorian police officer has since been stood down over the leaked photos and could face maximum penalties of two years in prison or $40,000 in fines.
Discussing Laidley’s arrest on Monday night, Herald Sun reporter Jon Ralph said drug use has been an issue for the former player and coach and those close to him had tried to get him professional help.
“Some of his lifestyle choices have been known, they’ve been an open secret in the AFL for quite some time, potentially up to decades as well,” Ralph said on AFL Tonight.
“But those who knew him well knew about his drug use and they despaired against their inability to try and get him into a rehab facility.
“He was still functioning. He was working as the Maribyrnong football club coach, had done it for two years in a row.
“He was heading to prisons, talking to prison wardens as a councillor there. He was trying to talk to the Coburg football club about an alignment, so he could get some of his players drafted into the VFL, but no-one expected this.”
Friends and family react to Laidley’s arrest
Laidley’s mother Carmel Friburg said she was “gobsmacked” over his arrest.
“It’s just hard for me to believe - he’s always been level-headed, he’s never been in any trouble or anything like that,” she told the West Australian.
“He was here at Christmas time — he wasn’t well but he was OK and I spoke to him on Wednesday and he seemed to be OK.
“I’m just absolutely devastated because it’s just not him, it’s not him at all.”
Former North Melbourne teammate David King expressed his “overwhelming sadness” at Laidley’s plight.
“He’s done some things outside the law, and the processes will kick in from there, so you’ve got to put that to the front of the conversation. That’ll play itself out,” King said on Fox Footy Live.
“The second part is just overwhelming sadness, really, that he’s in this situation. That the family has to go through this situation. It’s a hard one.
“I didn’t have any idea that he was at this stage, but you send the text, you know he’s going to get better eventually, you tell him you love him and you want to help him whenever he’s ready.
“I don’t want to get involved in where he’s been and this historical stuff. It’s just overwhelming sadness at this whole situation.”
North Melbourne great Brent Harvey, who was coached by Laidley, said he hoped everyone involved well.
“It’s obviously a really, really sensitive situation that we find ourselves in right now,” Harvey told Fox Sports News on Monday.
“I think all I can say on it is I hope everybody involved in the whole situation, wellbeing is the number one thing.
“I don’t know the ins and outs of anything else and it’d be unjust of me to make any further comment.”
Ralph also said a number of former North Melbourne players have reached out to support Laidley’s famly.
“The North Melbourne tight-knit community is rallying around the Laidley family tonight, as it is simultaneously reeling from this situation,” Ralph said on AFL Tonight.
“A group led by Anthony Stevens … is trying to band together and work on some support mechanisms potentially to help the family.”
Laidley facing stalking and other charges
Laidley faced Melbourne Magistrates Court on Sunday and will remain in custody until May 11 after not applying for bail.
He is facing stalking and other charges.
Laidley played 151 AFL games from 1987-97 and was an inaugural player at West Coast before joining North in 1993.
He played 99 games at Arden St, including their 1996 premiership before he succeeded Denis Pagan as North Melbourne coach in 2003.
In 149 games, he led them to the finals three times before resigning during the 2009 season.
He then had assistant coaching roles at three AFL clubs until 2015 and is currently coach of Melbourne suburban club Maribyrnong Park.