Staff drug-testing bombshell hits AFL club after news 'party animal' coach had to be chaperoned on trip to Vegas

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Melbourne Demons considered drug testing all staff at the club - not just playersThe club's CEO shot down the idea fearing it would trigger a 'mass exodus'  It comes amid revelations club were concerned about coach Simon GoodwinThe premiership-winning hero was allegedly seen drinking, gambling with team  

A proposal to drug test the staff of AFL club Melbourne was blocked by the chief executive, who feared many workers would quit because of the new rule, triggering a ‘mass exodus’.

The revelation comes on top of news that senior coach Simon Goodwin had to be chaperoned during an end-of-season trip to Las Vegas for fears he would get himself into trouble in Sin City.

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The Herald Sun reported on Tuesday that Demons officials had been so worried about the behaviour of Goodwin that they sent the club’s director of coaching Alan Richardson on the 2019 end-of-season trip to keep an eye on him.

Management’s fears were heightened after Goodwin had allegedly been seen drinking and gambling with his own players. 

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The report said Melbourne were concerned about Goodwin’s allegedly erratic behaviour towards the end of 2020, leading to the board considering dumping him as senior coach.

However he was retained for 2021 and ended up guiding Melbourne to a drought-breaking premiership; the club’s first since 1964. 

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Melbourne had been so worried about Goodwin's allegedly erratic behaviour towards the end of 2020 that the board considered dumping him on the eve of what would turn out to be the club's first flag since 1964

Melbourne had been so worried about Goodwin’s allegedly erratic behaviour towards the end of 2020 that the board considered dumping him on the eve of what would turn out to be the club’s first flag since 1964

The Demons celebrates after the 2021 Toyota AFL Grand Final match between the Melbourne Demons and the Western Bulldogs at Optus Stadium on September 25, 2021 in Perth

The Demons celebrates after the 2021 Toyota AFL Grand Final match between the Melbourne Demons and the Western Bulldogs at Optus Stadium on September 25, 2021 in Perth

Amid the concerns about coach and player behaviour, the club president Glen Bartlett wrote an email suggesting the club should become a leader in Australian sport by drug testing all staff members, not just players.

He called for management to adopt a strict policy that would involve sensitive hair follicle testing.

However chief executive Gary Pert shot the ambitious idea down immediately.

‘If that is the case, we will have staff at every level of the organisation wanting to leave, rather than risk being caught and sacked,’ he reportedly said in an email on March 11.

‘The reason for this, broad community statistics indicate that if you have a young workforce like us, if you were (to) hair test them, 50 per cent or more would test positive and if this is the case, what will we do regarding penalties and terminations?’

Mr Pert said he agreed that members of the board, the CEO, and all coaching staff should be open to random drug testing if there is a ‘specific concern by the board or CEO’ that they may be affected by illegal drugs or alcohol.

Former Melbourne Demons President Glen Bartlett floated the idea of drug testing the club's entire staff

Former Melbourne Demons President Glen Bartlett floated the idea of drug testing the club’s entire staff

Melbourne Demon's chief executive Gary Pert (pictured with Eddie McGuir) blocked the move, with leaked emails showing he was concerned such a policy would trigger a 'mass exodus'

Melbourne Demon’s chief executive Gary Pert (pictured with Eddie McGuir) blocked the move, with leaked emails showing he was concerned such a policy would trigger a ‘mass exodus’

But he argued the club did not have a mandate to implement such a policy that would impact on the private lives of staff when they’re away from their jobs.

The CEO said such a testing policy would not only risk losing staff but make it more difficult to recruit new ones, as they would find it ‘intrusive’.

He also had practical concerns about how much the testing would cost, who would run an appeals program if an employee felt they were unjustly treated, and that simply enacting a policy would create an impression the club had a drug issue.

‘We would be the only club with a policy like this in Australian sport, which means we will come under scrutiny as to why we are going to such extreme lengths,’ he wrote.

‘I have no doubt some supporters and members of the media will directly tie this back to the fact the club must have a problem and the club is trying to stamp out illicit drug behaviour.’

Bartlett fired back by arguing that random drug testing has been in place across industries like the mining sector for years and is widely accepted.

Simon Goodwin and ex-wife Maggie in August 2019. They had been childhood sweet hearts, but sadly split in April last year

Simon Goodwin and ex-wife Maggie in August 2019. They had been childhood sweet hearts, but sadly split in April last year 

‘If we are the first sporting club in Australia to take a stronger stance I actually think overall that is consistent with our values of trust, respect, unity and excellence, but I agree we need to take a cautious and well thought out approach with this,’ he said.

The suggestion was never adopted despite internal panic at the club around Goodwin.

The former Adelaide Crows dual premiership player reportedly separated from his teenage sweetheart Maggie, ending their 15 years of marriage in 2020.

The two have three teenage children and got hitched in 2005, but the former couple had been living apart for months.

Word of Goodwin’s supposed conduct at that time made it all the way to AFL boss Gillon McLachlan, who described the coach’s behaviour as ‘crazy’ during a crisis meeting with Demons hierarchy.

By then, AFL big wigs had been fed-up with tales of Goodwin’s exploits appearing on their desks. 



An emotional Goodwin (right) celebrates his premiership win with Melbourne legend Garry Lyon

An emotional Goodwin (right) celebrates his premiership win with Melbourne legend Garry Lyon 

McLachlan dobbed-in Goodwin to Demons chief executive Gary Pert in late 2020 after learning his coach had been spotted drinking and gambling at the Sorrento Hotel.

‘I know for a fact your coach is out drinking with players at the Sorrento pub – are you crazy? That doesn’t work,’ McLachlan said in leaked documents.

‘Hanging out with his players, drinking and betting – just the wrong behaviour. There has to be enough distance. You need to respect him and like him, don’t have to love him, but respect him. You can’t be doing that s**t. You have to make tough decisions. It doesn’t work.’ 

When confronted by the club, Goodwin fobbed off any assertion that he had any sort of ‘significant behavioural problems’.  

Former Collingwood great and Melbourne director of coaching Alan Richardson had to chaperone Goodwin on a trip to Las Vegas

Former Collingwood great and Melbourne director of coaching Alan Richardson had to chaperone Goodwin on a trip to Las Vegas 

Alan Richardson reportedly had to travel to Las Vegas with Simon Goodwin to make sure he behaved himself

Alan Richardson reportedly had to travel to Las Vegas with Simon Goodwin to make sure he behaved himself  

AFL boss Gillon McLachlan (pictured) had been told about Goodwin's alleged boozing with players

AFL boss Gillon McLachlan (pictured) had been told about Goodwin’s alleged boozing with players

Still, the club took the precaution of sending Richardson on the Las Vegas trip with a brief of keeping an eye on Goodwin.

Richardson, a former Collingwood premiership player and St Kilda senior coach, was regarded as ‘a straight down the line family man’, who it believed could keep Goodwin on the straight and narrow in the party capital. 

While the plan seemed to work, Goodwin would continue to cause the club headaches throughout the following season after he butted heads with the club doctor. 

Former club doctor Zeeshan Arain was sacked in October 2020 just days after going to Pert with a series of damning allegations about Goodwin. 

The board crisis unravelled after Dr Arain hit the club with an unlawful dismissal claim on October 15, 2020. 

The doctor claimed he ‘encountered unreasonable and repeated behaviour by Mr Goodwin’ and the coach used ­’aggressive language and tone’ in relation to the management of ­injuries involving senior players.

The Demons had been riddled with injuries during the 2020 season, in which it ended the year in ninth position. 

Dr Zeeshan Arain was reportedly paid out by the Demons amid claims he was bullied by the head coach

Dr Zeeshan Arain was reportedly paid out by the Demons amid claims he was bullied by the head coach 

Goodwin was allegedly seen boozing with his players at the Sorrento Hotel

Goodwin was allegedly seen boozing with his players at the Sorrento Hotel 

‘He (Dr Arain) informed you (Pert) among other matters that the culture within the club was a risk to the health and safety of everyone involved,’ a legal letter seen by the Herald Sun allegedly stated.

The board immediately engaged lawyers, which would culminate in Dr Arain receiving a six-figure payout as part of a settlement in late November 2020. 

Before he was shown the door, the doctor had claimed Goodwin’s supposed behavioural problems were well known within club circles. 

Discussions about standing Goodwin down pending a full investigation – and whether the club was obligated to report his alleged behavioural issues to the AFL integrity department – were held at an emergency board meeting just days before Christmas 2020. 

Bartlett – himself a workplace lawyer – was reportedly furious with the looming scandal. 

Accompanied by Mr Pert, he confronted Goodwin on February 10 last year about his behaviour, but the coach did not ­accept there was a problem. 

Bartlett was forced out in a board coup just a month later. 

Neither the AFL nor Melbourne responded to detailed questions from the Melbourne newspaper. 

Melbourne captain Max Gawn and Demons head coach Simon Goodwin lift the premiership cup after defeating the Bulldogs last year

Melbourne captain Max Gawn and Demons head coach Simon Goodwin lift the premiership cup after defeating the Bulldogs last year

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