“Let’s not forget that we’re dealing with a human being’s life here. We’ve got a player now – for an action that he took two-and-a-half years ago – who’s going through hell.”– AFL Players Association boss Paul Marsh on Harley Bennell
“Let’s not forget that we’re dealing with a human being’s life here. We’ve got a player now – for an action that he took two-and-a-half years ago – who’s going through hell.”– AFL Players Association boss Paul Marsh on Harley Bennell Photos Getty Images

Special K leaves a sour taste in mouth for AFL

THERE was a time when AFL officials would've been high-fiving one another after the Gold Coast Suns achieved the rare distinction of appearing on the front pages of major metropolitan newspapers.

Like back in 2009 when the league secured the services of Karmichael Hunt as the face of the Suns … or, more significantly, the new pin-up boy for Aussie rules in Queensland.

While the AFL was planning to mine the riches of the massive growth area, the former rugby league star was more than willing to tap into a gold mine of his own, pocketing more than $1million a year to help it do so.

And for a while there, both parties were basking in each other's glory.

Far from just a promotional gimmick, Hunt actually earned his spot in the team. Even won a game off his own boot in Cairns.

Would you believe 'Special K' became only the 33rd player in the history of the competition to secure a win for his team by kicking a goal after the siren?

Teammates got around him that night.

It appeared as though his biggest success though was being able to take disgruntled West Australian youngster Harley Bennell, suffering from homesickness, under his wing and set him on the path to righteousness.

Hunt seemed that sort of guy - a role model, a leader.

His lasting legacy will though be leading impressionable young teammates up the garden path, and ultimately throwing them under the bus.

The Suns are the AFL's baby, but it has clearly had some questionable nurturing under the likes of Hunt.

They certainly wouldn't be alone in dabbling in illicit drugs. There's been roughly 120 positive tests over the past decade. But, right now, they're the only ones to have it blown up in their faces.

They are the only ones whose players are being splashed across front pages 'in the act', rightly or wrongly - and for the sake of that argument, clearly wrongly. Talk about being named and shamed.

It's the last thing the league and club would have wanted. They could have dealt with the odd humiliating defeat, but the odd drug scandal?

The conspiracy theorists were even suggesting during the week Hunt was a rugby league plant, but not even the NRL would have dreamed of destroying the fabric of a fledgling AFL club in such fashion.

Whether it was the actions of just one or two or 11 or 12, the Suns are now not only the laughing stock of the competition, worse, they have destroyed the reputation they were still trying to build. Mud sticks.

Suns chief executive Andrew Travis said during the week Hunt had "started conversations for us" among the Gold Coast community.

Well, now he's starting investigations, fortunately for them, not ones launched by the police.

While this whole sorry saga will mean a long overdue change to the AFL's three strikes illicit drugs policy, hopefully it will also end up scaring a few into changing their 'wicked ways'. For the sake of the game, their club and themselves.


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