Banned Bombers aren’t ‘victims’: Sam Mitchell
FOUR-time Hawthorn premiership player Sam Mitchell was "p---ed off" that the Essendon sports supplements scandal tarnished the reputation of the AFL, revealing he took his frustration to the AFL Players' Association at the time.
As fierce rivals Hawthorn and Essendon prepare to square off on Saturday, with a finals spot potentially on the line, Mitchell said while he had some sympathy for the Essendon players banned for a season over the saga, he was "surprised" the senior players didn't oppose the program.
Part of that frustration boiled over when he made an "injections gibe" to then Bomber Michael Hibberd in a heated Hawthorn-Essendon clash in 2015.
"I'll be honest - as an AFL player the Essendon scandal pissed me off," Mitchell revealed in his new autobiography, Relentless.
"What happened cast an unfair stain over the overwhelming majority of players who had never taken part in any injection program and I took my frustration to the AFL Players' Association.
"I have no inside information about the situation at the time and understand the Essendon players were poorly managed and governed, but I have always found myself falling short of calling them the victims."
Calling it a "messy affair", Mitchell said he believed the Essendon players "were at the lower end of the blame game, but they weren't entirely blameless for what happened at Windy Hill during 2012".
"I felt sorrier for the first and second-year players who were involved in it. They probably didn't know any better," he said.
"While I have some sympathy for the way it turned out for the players, who were ultimately suspended for a season, I am still surprised they didn't oppose the program, especially the senior players who had been around a long time."
Mitchell ended up winning the 2012 Brownlow Medal, along with Richmond's Trent Cotchin, after Essendon's Jobe Watson made the decision to hand the medal back after the appeal over the players' year-long bans in 2016 was denied.
The new medals were presented at a special ceremony for Mitchell and Cotchin in December 2016, and the then-West Coast player received some criticism for saying he hadn't contacted Watson prior to the day.
He said he wouldn't have felt "genuine" if he had done so, saying: "What was I going to say to him … if I was going to ring him it would have only been to say that I'd done it and that's not how I choose to live my life."
He has since spoken to Watson at a function and admitted to feeling empathy for the former Bomber and his family, including his father, Tim.
Relentless by Sam Mitchell. Available now, Macmillan Australia, RRP $32.99.
Watch every match of every round of the 2018 Toyota AFL Premiership Season. SIGN UP NOW >