Melbourne coach Simon Goodwin has made the shock revelation that he has been too “angry and frustrated” to speak to provisionally suspended player Joel Smith.
Smith recorded a positive test for cocaine during the AFL season and is facing an anti-doping ban.
Even if he takes advantage of a recent rule change to cut his time out to as little as one month, the 27-year-old is facing further punishment from the club itself.
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But in a sign of how much still has to play out, Goodwin unexpectedly declared he is not currently speaking to Smith.
“I can only go by how I feel,” the coach told SEN.
“When I first heard, I was incredibly angry and frustrated to think that potentially we’ve got a player in Round 23, on the eve of a finals series, not doing everything possible to help the success of our footy team.
“I can only imagine that same feeling would be permeating through our supporter base.
“I haven’t spoken to Joel, I’m going to let the process play out.”
Asked why, Goodwin only said: “Because I’ve got a level of anger and frustration towards it.”
Joel Smith is not in contact with his coach. Credit: JAMES ROSS/AAPIMAGE
Goodwin said he had not received any contact from Smith, either, and added that “the right people” are taking care of the player.
Melbourne chief executive Gary Pert confirmed he had spoken with Smith, having been the first person at the club to learn about the positive test.
But Goodwin’s admission that he has not spoken with his own player, leaving others to clean up the mess, raises new questions at a time when he and Pert are on the offensive about the club’s culture.
Smith’s partner Elise was heavily pregnant at the time of the footballer’s doping test and gave birth to their first child two-and-a-half weeks later.
News of the positive result emerged just weeks after the Demons threw a cloud over Clayton Oliver’s future due to his professionalism and off-field conduct.
Both developments renewed the focus on Goodwin himself, too, with unfounded allegations of drug use again criticised by the coach and his club.
But internal frustrations with his players left him reeling.
“Where I sit right now I’ve got a little bit of frustration because of everything we’ve just been speaking about – the behaviours and the culture of our footy club, what we were embarking on into this season – to potentially being in this situation,” he said.
“I’ve got a bit of anger towards it.”
Melbourne coach Simon Goodwin is still frustrated by Smith’s positive test. Credit: Getty
Goodwin said his leaders, including captain Max Gawn, were also “really upset” by Smith’s positive test.
“They’re disappointed, they’re angry, and we’ll just work our way through it slowly as a footy club,” he said.
Oliver was staying with Gawn, his pregnant wife Jessica and their young son through what Melbourne have termed his “personal challenges”.
The midfielder, who is contracted until 2030, was also taken to hospital earlier this month following a head knock brought on by a seizure.
“The club is aware of the personal challenges that Clayton has outside of football and key club experts will remain part of his daily support team,” chief executive Gary Pert said in a statement.
“Club leaders have very clearly outlined to Clayton the behavioural expectations that we have of him, and these behaviours will be reviewed on a regular basis.
“It is the player leadership group, as well as Alan Richardson, Simon Goodwin and myself, who will decide if Clayton is meeting minimum behavioural expectations.
“In some ways, AFL football programs are akin to a large family.
“While honest feedback is often difficult, this approach will give Clayton the best chance to thrive within our high-performance environment, and the best chance for him to have a long career at the Melbourne Football Club.”
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