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SA Country footy hit by Bomber bans

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The fallout from the Essendon supplements scandal has hit community football in South Australia, with the Nuriootpa Football Club facing the prospect of a season without its new coach, former Bomber Henry Slattery.

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Football in crisis

The former Essendon defender – who left the club at the end of the controversy-mired 2012 season and played with the Port Magpies in the SANFL – was appointed in November as head coach of the Nuriootpa Tigers in the Barossa, Light and Gawler league.

Nuriootpa president Chris Linke told InDaily the club had sought a ruling through the Community Football Board, “but we think it looks fairly grim for us, as far as having him as our coach”.

“It seems to me from what I’ve been told, if he wanted to play bowls for Nuriootpa Bowling Club this Saturday, he wouldn’t be able to – that’s the understanding we have of it at this point,” he said.

He said Slattery, who was also seeking advice through his membership of the AFL Players’ Association, had not intended to take the field, with his role focused solely on coaching, “but it’s our understanding he can’t even do that”.

“He’s gutted, it’s fair to say he’s gutted about the whole thing,” Linke said.

 If he wanted to play bowls for Nuriootpa Bowling Club this Saturday, he wouldn’t be able to

“[The Essendon players] didn’t see it coming… he wasn’t particularly worried about it, because he knew he wasn’t playing anyway, and if there was a suspension he didn’t think it was going to apply to coaching.

“So he really hadn’t given it any other thought… and then all hell broke loose!”

Nuriootpa Rover won the league premiership last year before former head coach Darren Reeves was poached to mentor the Central Districts Under 18s.

Linke said Slattery was contracted for 2017 and was “still keen to be involved in footy after his suspension”.

“He could have just said ‘bugger this, I’ll just get on with my career’ – he’s now a winemaker – but he’s still keen,” he said.

The club held an emergency committee meeting last night to ponder the ramifications, with the most likely scenario elevating an assistant coach in the interim, “and then [Henry] will step back into the breach”.

They’re not going to take any notice of a small country club are they?

In the meantime it is awaiting advice from higher authorities, with the World Anti-Doping Agency’s successful appeal to the Court of Arbitration for Sport having a ripple effect across Australian football.

Several former Bombers play and coach in various leagues, with Mark McVeigh banned from his role as an assistant at GWS and Slattery’s good mate Sam Lonergan’s head coaching role at the Launceston Football Club in doubt.

“The ramifications will be fairly wide-reaching,” said Linke.

“We’ll wait and see [but] they’re not going to take any notice of a small country club are they?”

The Tigers pre-season training was already well advanced, and “the boys came back last night from their Christmas break to that news”.

“They’re all a bit disappointed, but what can we do? Just get behind Henry… at this point it’s not about Nuriootpa Football Club, it’s about Henry and how he’s going, and all his mates.

“Somebody’s let ‘em down somewhere… a group of lads chasing their dream, they trust the people who are looking after them, and they don’t look after them.

“But that’s a whole other argument.”

Slattery played with Nuriootpa last season and was a key part of its premiership-winning team.

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