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Magpies, Lions hit by Whitfield fallout after AFL bans

Football

Perversely, it is Collingwood that is perhaps the big loser out of the AFL’s dramatic crackdown on Greater Western Sydney star Lachie Whitfield and two of the club’s former administrators – with the Magpies on the lookout for a new football chief after the resignation of Graeme Allan.

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Allan fell on his sword shortly after he accepted a 12-month AFL ban for his part in the Lachie Whitfield affair.

The former GWS football boss was banned after Whitfield stayed at then welfare manager Craig Lambert’s house for three days with Allen’s knowledge in May last year, allegedly to avoid a potential drug test.

However, in a move ticked off by ASADA, the AFL instead handed bans down for a breach of its own rule 2.3 concerning conduct unbecoming.

Allan maintains he was just trying to help Whitfield through a messy break-up.

“But I do accept that regardless of my good intentions, I should have handled the issues differently and ensured Lachie continued to meet his off-field ‘whereabouts’ obligations at all times,” Allan said in a statement.

“I also accept that the club I served then, and the club I serve now, are dealing with the consequences of this matter.

“For this, I am sorry.

“This is why I have agreed to accept the suspension handed to me today. The legal fight could have gone on, but that is not in the best interests of the game, the AFL, or my family.”

Former No.1 draft pick Whitfield will miss seven games of the 2017 season after accepting a six-month ban and Lambert has copped a 12-month suspension.

Allan’s departure continues the instability in top football department positions at the club, with Geoff Walsh, Rodney Eade and Neil Balme also leaving the Pies in recent seasons.

He will be replaced on an interim basis by football operations manager Marcus Wagner.

Allan only replaced Balme in August after initially joining the club in a more development-based role in May, with the Pies aware he was under investigation when they hired him.

But in accepting his resignation, the club revealed they were not made fully aware of all facets of the investigation.

“Collingwood received from Allan, in the form of a statutory declaration, a satisfactory account of the events in question,” a club statement read.

“Collingwood was not aware or informed of the fact the matter was with the Australian Sports Anti-Doping Authority at the time of Allan’s appointment.

“Regrettably, a completely unforeseen scenario has since emerged from the AFL investigation into what took place at GWS in 2015.”

Balme has since been appointed football chief at Richmond, with Allan’s absence leaving Collingwood’s football department in a parlous state heading into a make-or-break year for coach Nathan Buckley, who has publicly stated he would not survive another season of his team failing to make finals.

AFL chief executive Gillon McLachlan has defended the severity of the bans.

“I think when you get a six-month suspension that’s acknowledgement that you have transgressed and you have behaved in a way that wasn’t right,” McLachlan said.

“I think six months is a reasonably significant suspension.

“He’s a … kid who took advice from his supervisors, the people who were looking after him, so there’s a different allocation of responsibility.”

Whitfield will be barred from using GWS facilities for four months before returning to train for the final two months of his ban while not being allowed to play.

He will be cleared to return in the Giants’ round eight clash – ironically against Collingwood – at Spotless Stadium.

Lambert has since moved on to a similar post with Brisbane and will miss the entire 2017 season.

In a damning assessment, the AFL investigation found Whitfield sent incriminating text messages to a third party, the contents of which he subsequently denied.

In those texts he stated he had taken illicit drugs, was staying at Lambert’s house to avoid ASADA drug testers and was doing so under instruction from Allan and Lambert, who feared the drugs may have been laced with performance-enhancing substances.

Much harsher bans could have been brought into play if ASADA had pursued the trio for a breach of the anti-doping code.

McLachlan said there was no evidence or even allegations Whitfield had anything to do with performance-enhancing drugs, with the league taking into account that all three men had elected to plead guilty and not contest the charges.

The league is yet to decide whether GWS will be penalised with a loss of draft picks, with AFL general counsel Andrew Dillon to consider that possibility in the coming days.

The Giants, however, believe their club is not at fault over the issue.

“It has been established that former senior staff acted outside of their authority in managing circumstances and taking matters into their own hands,” a club statement read.

“Their handling of the matter was independent of the club and did not conform with the clearly established club protocols, thus in no way relating to a governance failure on behalf of the club.”

-AAP

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