AFL 2016: Eagles’ drug problems not to blame for Swans’ 2006 grand-final loss, says Richard Colless

Andrew Embley, Ben Cousins, Daniel Chick and Chris Judd in 2006. Photo: Vince CaligiuriFormer Sydney Swans chairman Richard Colless insists it would be “quite cancerous” to blame the 2006 premiership loss to West Coast on the Eagles’ drug issues and says this was never discussed by Paul Roos or the Swans’ board.
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Colless, who held the top role from 1994 until the end of 2013, said the thoughts of coach Roos and the Swans after that one-point loss had been only on “how can we do better next year”.

“I can tell you from 2006 until the end of 2013, it (Eagles’ drug issues) was actually never discussed at a board meeting, was never discussed in my presence by the coach, or by the head of football, who was Andrew Ireland for most of that time. It was for others to speculate on,” Colless said on Thursday.

“I think Paul’s view after the grand final was – two incredibly tight games (2005 and ’06), we could have been 2-0, we could have been 0-2. 1-1 is probably a pretty fair result. End of story.

“It might sound overly simplistic – it’s for other people to opine upon. I think it is actually quite cancerous if you start blaming your defeat on those sorts of factors.

“We all kind of looked to Paul – that (how can Swans get better) was his position and we all said: ‘Yeah, that was the right way’.

“I think that we have played virtually in every finals series since then is an indication that that was the right thing to do, rather than wallow in self pity – gotta get on with it.”

The question of whether that Eagles’ flag was tainted has been raised again, this time in a series of interviews on The Footy Show with several figures from that time.

In the decade since, the drug issues of several players have been well documented, with Ben Cousins, Daniel Chick, Daniel Kerr, Adam Hunter and Chad Fletcher among those who battled problems.

Chris Judd, who captained the Eagles that year, denied the flag was tainted because of drugs.

“It’s something I’m immensely proud of…I feel genuine sympathy for the players and their families who’ve had some battles since,” he told The Footy Show.

“But the overriding emotion is of pride of what that group was able to achieve.”

In his autobiography, Judd had detailed how Cousins’ problems that year had impacted on his teammates.

“But by 2006, Cuz and his off-field battles were becoming problematic for the entire playing group. The impact of his addiction was beginning to show, changing him, but he had little awareness of the debilitating impact it was having on the club as a whole,” he said.

Former Eagles chairman Dalton Gooding said the club at the time was of the view that only a few players were taking drugs.

“Initially we thought there was only a minority. But what came out … it was a lot more people than we thought.”

Colless, who had been the Eagles’ inaugural chairman in 1987, said his thoughts about 2006 had not changed.

“I have read that some of the Eagles’ guys, their lifestyle had impacted on where they are today, but I don’t know whether that is related at all to the 2006 grand final,” he said.

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