LIKE most football followers, Channel Ten senior sports reporter Rob Waters has had enough of the Essendon supplements saga and is looking forward to the AFL focus shifting to the upcoming finals series.
Waters – who is also the chairman of the Kyneton Football-Netball Club – has had his worklife at Channel 10 dominated by the Essendon supplements story since it broke on February 5.
“It has been a gruelling and complicated story for all the media covering it over the past six months,” Waters said on Wednesday.
“For the participants involved there has been a hell of a lot at stake and for the football club it has been enormous.
“It doesn’t get any more serious than if ASADA and WADA are interviewing football club officials for potential drug-taking activities.
“The AFL had a job to do to the protect the integrity of the competition, Essendon had to try to protect itself as best it could, and then James Hird, Danny Corcoran, Mark Thompson and Dr Bruce Reid had to look after themselves.
“We as journalists had been really impatient for an outcome sitting out the front of AFL House for a couple of days this week, but looking back on it, it’s understandable that the correct decision and best possible outcome for everyone had to be made.
“You’d have to say on balance there has been a pretty good result in the end.
“Thankfully, Hird has dropped his legal action (against the AFL), and in doing that can save a bit of face and have a re-entry strategy in a year’s time.
“Once Hird realised that perhaps he needed to make a sacrifice that would allow Essendon and his players some clean air, and the competition to start concentrating on the finals, the end was in sight.
“We’ll have another day or two of it, but then we can move on with other stuff, because it has cast a massive shadow on the competition this year.”
The AFL handed down its sanctions on Essendon on Tuesday night, but Waters is wary that the story isn’t complete yet as ASADA continues its investigations.
“ASADA now has the new powers in which it can force Stephen Dank (former Essendon sports scientist) to talk to them,” Waters said.
“Whatever those extra powers come up with, we don’t know, but I suppose there is still something hanging over the Essendon players heads.
“But it has been pointed out that ASADA has done 130-odd interviews and has 13,000 pages of documents and hasn't yet been able to ascertain that the Bombers took anything banned.
“You’d have to be reasonably confident that’s not going to happen, and let’s hope it doesn’t because if they do, it could be shut the door time.”
In what has been a long-running story of more than six months that has at times been difficult to determine what is fact and fiction, Waters said he aimed to present a balanced coverage.
“We’ve tried to keep a level of balance in fairness to all the parties and not try to buy into the rhetoric,” Waters said.
“There was a lot of chest thumping and things going on that was a bit tactical, but a lot of that was played out in the press, rather than what we do on the TV.
“The investigators are really the only ones who knew all the information, and even the club and participants were waiting on the report.
“The big thing was when the AFL dropped the 34 pages of charges last week with all the alleged evidence... there was some horrendous reading and that was a real game-changer.
“And the mum who rang in Triple M also had a big impact last week.”
Waters, who has been working in the Melbourne media for 20 years, described Tuesday night’s press conference at AFL Headquaters when the Essendon sanctions were handed down as one he’ll never forget.
“It’s always good to be at these historic moments like last night,” Waters said.
“But now it will be good to get the focus onto the finals, which are going to be really interesting.
“I don’t think there’s any clear-cut favourite at this stage.
“The past few finals series have shown it’s the team going best in the finals that wins the flag, rather than the best team over the course of the home and away season.
“I don’t know what’s going to happen over the finals, which is really exciting. If I had to pick a team to win it, I’d say Geelong... but I’m not overly confident.”