Kennelly says drug scandal may hit AFL’s Irish trawl

Tadhg Kennelly has admitted the Australian drugs scandal rocking the country could affect the AFL’s recruitment of Irish players.

The Kerryman and former Sydney Swans player is in Dublin this week heading up a two-day trial of rising GAA stars for potential Aussie Rules duty.

The testing session is being conducted at Dublin City University by AFL Europe on behalf of the Australian Football League.

The rule is being run over the very best of Irish talent at DCU, including five of Dublin’s All-Ireland winning minor team from 2012, Kildare seniors Paddy Brophy and Daniel Flynn and exciting Cork defender Damien Cahalane.

However, with serious question marks hanging over Australian sport following allegations of widespread drug use, the eventual fallout could turn players off travelling Down Under.

Asked specifically if the scandal could affect the recruitment drive, Kennelly said: “Of course. It can damage anything to do with Australian sport. This is as big and as bad a thing that can happen to any sport, if you have people talking about performance-enhancing drugs. We can’t say a lot at the minute because it’s under investigation. I can’t say, ‘he did this, and this and that’. But it’s something that needs to be fixed ASAP to try and clear up all sports in Australia, not just AFL.”

Kennelly enjoyed more than a decade as a professional player with the Swans, claiming a Premiership winners’ medal in 2005. A report by the Australian Crime Commission claims the use of prohibited substances was common across several sporting codes, though Kennelly said he never had any suspicions.

“I couldn’t believe it, I have been here 12 years and not once saw or heard anything to do with performance-enhancing drugs,” he said.

“It’s a huge shock to a lot of people, not just AFL but a lot of sports in Australia have been investigated.

“The Australian Crime Commission says there’s a problem in Australian sport. That needs to be fixed straight away because the integrity of the AFL and all sports in Australia is at stake.

“I think what’s happening in Australia is that sports scientists have got very, very powerful, very, very quickly. If you’re a coach or a manager of a team, and you say, ‘well, I need to get him fit,’ they have got a lot of say in that, and that probably needs to come back a small bit.

“They are stepping the boundary of it and getting very close to the line. That sports scientist is obviously under performance reviews and what not. That’s a situation that needs to be rectified not just in AFL but in all sports.”

As for drug use in the Aussie Rules game, Kennelly believes it is ‘unlikely that it’s a big issue in AFL’.

Interestingly, Kennelly admitted he wouldn’t be surprised if he’s asked to represent the AFL in this year’s International Rules series.

Despite being in retirement, the Listowel man also left the door open for a call up to new manager Paul Earley’s Ireland team.

“If he said, ‘Tadhg, put the boots on’, I’d put them on and if he said, ‘Tadhg, stand on the sideline’, I’d stand on the side line,” said Kennelly.

“The problem I’m probably going to have is that Australia are probably going to ask me to do it.”

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