In an irreverent aside, the league CEO addressed the AFL’s decision to snub Port Adelaide’s request for top-up players to replace the banned Paddy Ryder and Angus Monfries – despite Essendon being allowed to recruit ten players to help cover the loss of a dozen members of its senior list who were banned for doping offences by the Court of Arbitration for Sport.
The Power were left fuming, with chief David Koch dubbing the decision “wrong” and his club “innocent victims going into the season two [players] short”.
But McLachlan cheekily stoked the flames last night, as he mused about the season ahead, saying: “Kochie thought Port could win it last year, and he is confident again – despite having one less on his list than Essendon!”
In a sometimes loaded speech, McLachlan also addressed the departure of former Crows ace – and Brownlow fancy – Patrick Dangerfield to Geelong.
“We have been talking all summer long about trades – especially the big trades,” he said.
“In Geelong there is Danger Mania, the raging bull from Adelaide returning to have Geelong supporters talking about flags again… and while the Crows were sad for a while, they got Wayne Milera [with a first-round draft pick] from the Danger trade and now it seems the Adelaide fans are smiling again, now they have the next Andrew McLeod.
“No pressure at all Wayne.”
The likes of Scott Thompson and Eddie Betts have previously commented on the new recruit displaying shades of the former Crows star and dual Norm Smith medalist.
While he made light of Port’s loss of two of its key players, McLachlan was somber in addressing the Essendon crisis more generally, saying the saga “has tested our community, our football family, more than anything we’ve faced before – ever”.
“The resilience of the 34 players [and former players] involved will be tested severely this year, as at times will that of the Essendon supporters, but I have great faith in the conviction, strength and loyalty of both groups, that they will get through this year,” he said.
“Because that loyalty, that conviction, that passion is at the core of our game… we are the most tribal and passionate supporters of any game in the world.”
With a looming off-field stoush over player payments as the league divides the spoils of its record broadcast rights deal, McLachlan warned negotiations would not always be smooth.
“It may also be our biggest challenge, as we are now a bit like a family that won the lottery,” he said.
“There will be a lot of views about how to invest, shy and retiring family that we are… it will be like an episode of Here Come the Habibs.
“Investing the fruits of our landmark broadcast deal will be the story off-field for the first half of 2016, but it will be the right debate as it will govern our future.”
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