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Eagles denials look mighty silly

To understand the potency of William Gillard’s report, you need to travel back to 2002.

Stories of drug use were swirling around the West Coast Eagles and the club was in damage control.

But there’s one story I’ll never forget because I knew it was 100 per cent true when I wrote it.

A senior police officer had told Eagles coach Ken Judge in mid-2001 that Ben Cousins and another senior player were coming and going from a drug dealer’s home.

The house was under surveillance and if the pair weren’t careful they’d be scooped up in the operation.

The front-page story, which withheld Judge’s name and referred to him only as a senior Eagles official, was too strong for the club to ignore.

No sooner was the story printed and Eagles heavy-hitters were trying to shoot it down.

“Just a lot of rumour and innuendo and no substance,” said then coach John Worsfold.

“It’s very, very dangerous comment because it’s not true,” said official Tim Gepp.

Nevertheless, chairman Michael Smith vowed to have a “thorough” inquiry.

Top-secret AFL report details drug use by West Coast Eagles players

What resulted formed part of the culture of inaction and cover-up referred to in the Gillard report.

The club said none of its officials had been tipped off by police and then admitted it had not bothered to ask the previous coach Ken Judge.

Instead of grabbing an opportunity to smother a growing drug and misconduct culture at the club, the Eagles wanted to suffocate the truth.

Chief executive Trevor Nisbett said the story was “hurtful speculation”.

It may have taken years to fall off the back of a truck, but the Gillard report vindicates every journalist who dared to ask the Eagles about a drug culture inside the club.

“A culture did develop at the club,” Mr Gillard concluded. “The club failed to take a firm stand on the burgeoning drug problem.”

The club can never escape that finding.

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