Demons shine spotlight off the field

While the tanking investigation dominates headlines, Melbourne has another issue to discuss this week.

That ever-delicate balance between leading the life of a “normal” citizen and what is expected of a professional footballer was again raised when James Frawley, part of the club’s leadership group, Jeremy Howe and Lynden Dunn were seen drinking in the notorious Bay 13 area at the MCG on Boxing Day, watching the Test between Australia and Sri Lanka.

The trio was spoken to by security staff and then left. The Demons’ Neil Craig said on Wednesday they had not been evicted and had left voluntarily.

Dunn, Frawley and Howe have escaped penalty but their actions have prompted the Demons to organise a player debrief to discuss club expectations.

It’s a battle all clubs face, and some players rebel from, and was a general issue discussed with the league’s new crop of talent as part of their AFL Players Association induction process this week.

The Demons, under coach Mark Neeld and Craig, are determined to raise expectations on and off the field.

“We will have this out in the next day or so with the whole squad – that situation [on Boxing Day] has opened a whole range of topics which once again we use from a strong education and learning aspect about the life of an AFL player, the life of an elite sportsperson,” Craig said.

“Then you start to discuss topics of responsibility, accountability, perception, ripple effect in the footy club, fairness versus unfair, is it a normal lifestyle, is it an abnormal lifestyle.

“They are all great topics to discuss and they will be discussed because the worst thing that came out of it was probably a perception that people get initially when they open the paper and see that sort of thing.”

However, Craig understands the importance of players having down time from what he described as, at times, the “abnormal” life of a professional footballer.

“We certainly don’t want to make our playing group isolated from the general public. We want to be an inclusive football club, so we want them to go out and have a social life and communicate with members and the general public and to be seen as normal,” Craig said.

“But, clearly, there are some situations you need to think through and make good choices.”

The Demons hope their players will make better choices on the field this season, and there are indications this will happen.

The playing list appears to have improved, training has been of great intensity, with disciplined end-to-end work a feature even in December, and leadership standards have risen.

The full squad will resume training next week, although skipper Jack Trengove, Max Gawn and Mitch Clark, all recovering from injuries, won’t join in full work.

The original release of this article first appeared on the website of Hangzhou Night Net.

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