Country Football Club Left Without Coach Following Essendon Doping Scandal

13/02/2016 9:32 AM AEDT | Updated 15/07/2016 12:51 PM AEST
Morne de Klerk via Getty Images
ADELAIDE, AUSTRALIA - SEPTEMBER 01: (EDITORS NOTE: A polarising filter was used for this image.) The goal umpire indicates a goal to the Magpies during the round 22 SANFL match between the Port Adelaide Magpies and the West Adelaide Bloods at Alberton Oval on September 1, 2013 in Adelaide, Australia. (Photo by Morne de Klerk/Getty Images)

While Essendon appoint new names to the club’s leadership team and training recommences with a new, younger side, another football club 800 kilometres away is also dealing with the fallout of the Bombers doping scandal.

The Nuriootpa Rover Football Club, based in country South Australia lost its head coach, Henry Slattery, after the WADA ruling charged 34 past and present players with doping offences and a 12-month suspension.

The country club only received official confirmation from the South Australian National Football League last Friday, despite the WADA ruling being announced in early January.

“What staggers me is how weak the AFL have been throughout this whole thing in general," Nuriootpa Football Club President Chris Linke told The Huffington Post Australia.

"We only knew what we knew through media reports... I know Henry is in contact with the AFL Players Association but he hasn't heard much, although I haven't spoke to him for about ten days because he's working. Vintage is on."

After moving on from professional football and completing a course in winemaking with a Nuriootpa local, Slattery moved to the small town of 5000 people -- 80 kilometres north of Adelaide -- only one year ago to work in the Barossa Valley wine region.

Joining the football club almost as soon as he stepped foot onto the country soil, Slattery was “a natural fit” according to Linke.

“Everyone was so excited to have him here,” Linke told HuffPost Australia.

“We had a great season, won the premiership and when the opportunity for the coaching role came up, he jumped at it.”

Slattery had played for the Bombers for eight years but left the club in 2012, the year he and other players signed documents of consent for the supplements program led by sports scientist Stephen Dank.

The new Nuriootpa local is now banned from playing, coaching or having any involvement in the club.

henry slattery

Henry Slattery playing for Nuriootpa in 2015.

Attending fundraising events for the club could also breach Slattery’s suspension, with the latest letter from the SANFL advising banned players who want to attend “industry activities” should contact the AFL beforehand who will assess the risk of being involved.

Slattery will also face further punishment if he joins the local tennis club or competes in any other competitive sport during his suspension.

And as for the club, Linke says the loss of their captain for a year “certainly has had an effect on the playing group”.

“How deeply that is felt through the club it is difficult to know, but they’re all aware of it from the junior leagues up,” Linke told HuffPost Australia.

“I’ve got a 16-year-old son who loved watching Henry play. They look up to these guys, especially the ones from the AFL."

nuriootpa football club

The Nuriootpa Rovers winning the premiership in 2015.

A senior player at the club has filled the coaching role, but Linke says it is a challenge persuading good footballers and coaches to move to the club when it’s so far from the city, with South Australian country football clubs often paying big money for talent.

The Nuriootpa Football Club hadn’t won the premiership for 14 years before they took home the trophy in 2015, the year Slattery joined the club. Whether they win it without him, only time will tell.

But Linke told The Huffington Post Australia there’s one silver lining in the Essendon saga.

“Slattery and his wife bought a renovator when they arrived in town and they have been in the process of fixing it up, so he’ll have heaps of spare time to finish the job.”

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