Collingwood’s footy boss has denied the club has a drug problem in the wake of Jack Ginnivan’s ban and a number of instances with players taking illicit substances over the years.
Graham Wright, a legend of the club turned football boss who has been standing in as the club’s interim CEO until recently, spoke to reporters on Sunday morning after news broke of Ginnivan’s indiscretion on the night prior.
The polarising forward, who is seemingly both a fan favourite and villain at the same time, has been banned for two games after a video emerged of him alongside another man in a toilet cubicle on Australia Day with a white illicit substance on a key.
The incident happened while Ginnivan was in Torquay with friends and teammates in January, following the Magpies’ pre-season training camp, when a member of the public filmed him in a pub toilet.
Wright believes Ginnivan’s drug use is an ‘isolated incident’ and denies the AFL club has a major issue with illicit substances.
Collingwood star Jack Ginnivan has been suspended for two games after he was filmed with an illicit white substance – but the club’s football boss insists it does not have a drug problem despite Ginnivan being the fourth Magpies player to be banned over drug use in the past few years
Ginnivan has rarely been out of the headlines over the past 12 months for off and on-field incidents, including dressing up as serial killer Jeffrey Dahmer (left) and rating women with teammate Isaac Quaynor
That’s despite fellow Magpies Sam Murray, Lachie Keeffe and Josh Thomas all going through long suspension as a result of drug use, alongside a raft of other unsavoury off-field incidents in recent seasons, several of which involve either Ginnivan or fellow bad-boy Jordan de Goey.
Former CEO Gary Pert once said he felt drugs and the ‘volcanic’ off-season behaviour of some players was the club and league’s biggest problem, and was part of a big push for clubs and the league to address the issue.
For his part, Wright would not confirm media reports the substance was ketamine but said he believes the Magpies are in a good place when it comes to drug use, and said the club doesn’t believe ‘it is a big issue’.
‘Absolutely we feel like we are (in a good place),’ Wright told reporters on Sunday.
‘I think this is an isolated incident and that’s the way we’re treating it. It’s not a pattern of behaviour at all for him or anyone else at the club.’
Jack Ginnivan, pictured trying to show off his biceps at Magpies training last year, said he was ‘truly sorry’ for doing the wrong thing
Asked if drug use is a problem for the AFL as a whole, Wright deflected, preferring to insist on the fact it wasn’t a problem at Collingwood.
‘I hope that it wasn’t a major issue but players are part of society and drugs are part of society,’ he said.
‘We certainly hope our players don’t partake in illicit drugs, but I don’t think it’s a big issue in the competition and we certainly don’t think it is here.’
Video of Ginnivan with the illicit drug – taken at a Torquay hotel on a players’ day off after a pre-season training camp on Victoria’s Surf Coast – emerged when it was offered to a media outlet.
Wright said Collingwood then became aware of the incident on Thursday night and informed the AFL integrity Unit, which interviewed Ginnivan and found the player guilty of conduct unbecoming.
Ginnivan was hit with a strike under the league’s illicit drugs policy and has also been suspended for two matches.
It will cost the 20-year-old his match payments, while he also has a $5000 suspended fine hanging over his head. Wright said Ginnivan’s contract relies heavily on match payments, so it is a more significant hit for him than it would be for other players.
Jack Ginnivan tries to silence the crowd after scoring a goal in the side’s ANZAC blockbuster against Essendon, for which he won the man of the match award
Ginnivan has been pictured getting out and about with friends, and posting on social media, throughout the offseason, including travelling to Europe with teammates
‘He obviously forfeits his spot in the first few rounds and we’re not quite sure when he’ll get in, so it’s a significant cost for him,’ he said.
‘Jack’s money isn’t guaranteed, he actually has to play, so it is a big fine (believed to be around $15,000) for him overall. We’ll miss him but obviously someone else will have to step up.’
He is not eligible to play in Collingwood’s pre-season practice matches or at VFL level during his suspension.
Ginnivan confessed to his drug use when fronting Collingwood’s leaders and the AFL, and later apologised for his ‘poor decision-making’ through a club statement; and took aim at the person who videoed him.
‘I went into the cubicle and obviously taken an illicit substance … I’m truly sorry,’ he said.
‘Obviously a few drinks, a lack of judgement at the time. I can’t really speak on why I did it. When I walked into the bathroom I didn’t think someone would be videoing me.’
AFL’s three-strike illicit drug policy
The league’s illicit drug policy has a three-strike system which was overhauled in 2015.
The three-strikes policy is:
- The first positive test results in a suspended $5000 fine
- The second positive test results in a four-match ban and $5000 fine, and outed publicly
- The third positive test results in a 12-month suspension and a $10,000 fine
- Strikes must be given within four years of each other
The incident sees Ginnivan take his first strike under the AFL’s illicit drug policy. It means he will be target-tested this year, accept a $5000 suspending fine and a two game ban.
A second strike results in a four-match suspension ($5000 fine) and the player’s name being made public, with the third incurring a long 12-game ban and $10,000 fine.
Interestingly, a player can self-report drug use, and avoid a strike by undergoing a medical program. Club management and coaches are also not told of a first strike, with only the player’s club doctor and AFL medical directors being aware.
After Bulldog Bailey Smith’s high-profile white powder incident last year, coach Luke Beveridge said the controversial policy should ‘disappear’ because ‘none of us really feels it works’.
On Sunday, former Victorian premier and Hawks present, Jeff Kennett, echoed those sentiments in the wake of Ginnivan’s ban.
‘I’ve always thought the AFL drugs policy is inappropriate and insufficient,’ he told 7News.
‘The club should properly be informed – not just the doctor – the president as well so the club and doctor can put care around him and hopefully ensure it doesn’t happen again.
‘There’s no point waiting until the player is named to the club as strike three … the club has a responsibility from strike one,’ said Kennett.
Ex-Victorian premier and Hawthorn president Jeff Kennett said the league’s drug policy is ‘insufficient’ in the wake of Ginnivan’s incident
Ginnivan has often found himself in the spotlight since his debut in 2021 and won the Anzac Day Medal for a stunning five-goal performance against Essendon last year.
He booted 40 goals in a breakout second season in 2022, playing a key role in Collingwood’s sharp rise to a preliminary final.
But the livewire forward has also come under fire for ducking his head to draw free kicks and admitted last year the fierce scrutiny on his approach to the game had taken a toll on his mental health.
‘They’re Jack’s private issues around his mental health … but in this case he said that had nothing to do with any of his actions in this regard,’ Wright said when asked about the reasoning behind the incident.
‘He’s owned it from that point of view but that’s ongoing, dealing with our psychologist and our other medical people. But in this case it wasn’t an issue.’
Ginnivan will miss at least the opening two games of season – tough fixtures against Geelong and Port Adelaide – and faces a fight for his spot in the team alongside the likes of new recruit Bobby Hill.
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