TREVOR PRICE DIDN'T NEED DRUGS
The Age Opinion Page, 1997
Trevor Price was a legend at the Coburg Football
Club in the `70s. Thin waist, massive shoulders, gargantuan hands
that occasionally inflicted harm in a manner some of us found hard
to defend, he could be one of the scariest players.
Back Row - Price, Herbert, Cleary
Middle - Nimmo, Smith, Laidler
Bottom - Hodgetts, Burt, Parkes
as they appeared in the 1979 Coburg premiership photo.
Price didn't pump iron, run the tan, or seek an
appointment with a psychologist to overcome a form slump or find
solitude from a barrage of bad press. The game was pretty straightforward then. By day he worked for a soft drink company and drove
a truck around the northern suburbs. From early morning till he
knocked off soon after midday, he lifted crates with such rapidity
his biceps swelled, his shoulders expanded and his stomach muscles
became as hard as the bluestone walls up the road from the Coburg
Sometimes it was impossible for him to avoid a few pots
at De Marco's pub in Essendon before heading for training. A layer
of Vicks Vaporub on the tongue and not even our coach, Colin Kinnear,
could detect any wrongdoing.
Price belonged to a different time. When we won
the 1979 VFA Premiership at the Junction Oval there was hardly a
bloke in the side who earned his daily bread from manual labour.
He was the exception. Overnight, dumbbells, medicine balls and relentless
running replaced drink trucks, ditch digging and brick-laying as
the source of one man's physical fitness. Soon the gyms were full
of young men intent on bench-pressing their way to stardom.
It's kind of ironic that Justin Charles, the fall-guy
in the AFL's steroid revelation, was once a plumber. I've never
imagined a plumber on steroids. Plumbers work hard and always, especially
the young ones, look pretty physical in a set of overalls. Charles
of course is the epitome of the gym culture and the new football
order, not the old world of manual labour and physical work.
His is a football world where the demands often
exceed the worldly knowledge and wisdom of the average young bloke.
I've only met him once and then couldn't help but notice what a
cheery, good-natured, intelligent sort of bloke he was. I'm not
however surprised that he's resorted to steroids. He's an athlete.
To see him described as `more a cretin than a cheat` is another
The old game was fundamentally collectivist. Although
most players wanted to be known as the best player and the star
of the side, and there wasn't a soul who didn't secretly desire
adulation, the individualism was essentially subsumed within the
Club culture. Premierships, not medals and individual acclaim, were
the source of a footballer's status.
Now the individual has a life
and identity independent and separate of the fortunes and parameters
of the Club. Players now dream of becoming saleable commodities,
fashioned and paraded by whiz-kid promoters in a glittering market.
Now the pressure is well and truly on the individual player, for
his achievements rather than those of his football club determine
his identity and marketability.
Whether or not a player becomes a marketable commodity
depends on success on the football field. It stands to reason therefore
that if steroids can enhance the performance then the only reason,
testicle shrinkage aside, for a player not using them is fear of
detection. I find it surprising that Charles` detection has been
met with such angst and breast-beating. The claim that the `Charles
affair` marks Aussie Rules` loss of innocence tends to ignore the
massive changes that have occurred over the past 15 years.
of territorialism, the dilution of Club culture in the interest
of a national game, and the transformation of the game and its players
into commodities for a predominantly TV audience has totally changed
This is borne out by the suggestion that the Richmond
Football Club is now under pressure to sack Justin Charles on the
grounds that his testing positive to steroids might damage the Club's
marketability and offend its sponsors. Given that footballers in
recent times have been known to commit all types of misdemeanours
- some of them violent, some of them demeaning of women, some of
them racist - it's staggering that there should be any suggestion
that a Club should disown an acknowledged good bloke for an indiscretion
of this kind. Does it mean a Club has no responsibility for or obligation
to its players? Are we seriously to believe that Charles is the
first AFL footballer to use steroids?
The physical demand on players as a consequence of decreasing lists,
extended travel, and reduced rehabilitation time, coupled with the
intensity of the competition and the size of the stakes, will inevitably
cause some players to consider the use of performance-enhancing
drugs. Some, as was the case with Justin Charles, will succumb.
Whether the use of steroids is as widespread as some people claim
or is likely to intensify as Clubs become more akin to a collection
of elite athletes than `a bunch of footballers`, who can be sure.
It's no secret that young, elite footballers are acutely aware of
the need to achieve rapid muscle development if they're to make
a successful transition from the under 18s to the world of AFL football.
The gymnasium and the attendant culture is a far cry from the days
of Trevor Price and, long before that, the sinewy bodies in the
old black and white photographs.
The Age Opinion Page, 1997
DEPRESSION BOYS OF 1933
4th from the left, middle row - Jack Jenkins-next
to him-captain-coach Greg Stockdale.
Front row left- Coburg legend Jack Harris (191 games)-alongside
him Clarrie Mears (174 games).
The boys lost the grand final to Northcote by 16
points. Stockdale was one of eight reported players.