show me:

Oliver, Smith put on notice as Demons defend culture

3 minute read

Clayton Oliver's long-term future at Melbourne remains on shaky ground following a tough year on and off the field for the star midfielder.

CLAYTON OLIVER. Picture: Quinn Rooney/Getty Images

Melbourne chief executive Gary Pert is adamant the AFL club doesn't have a culture problem, but he's put star midfielder Clayton Oliver and suspended utility Joel Smith on notice.

Smith is provisionally suspended after he recorded a positive in-season drugs test to cocaine.

The future of Oliver has also been up in the air after worrying rumours emerged about his off-field behaviour.

Oliver, who is contracted until 2030, was also taken to hospital earlier this month following what the club deemed was a "medical episode".

In an extraordinary open letter to Demons fans on Monday, Pert put Oliver and Smith on notice, and also addressed the ongoing rumours surrounding coach Simon Goodwin.

Pert said Oliver must meet the club's off-field standards and discipline if he is to remain as part of the program long term.

"The club is aware of the personal challenges that Clayton has outside of football and key club experts will remain part of his daily support team," Pert wrote.

"Club leaders have very clearly outlined to Clayton the behavioural expectations that we have of him, and these behaviours will be reviewed on a regular basis.

"It is the player leadership group, as well as Alan Richardson, Simon Goodwin and myself, who will decide if Clayton is meeting minimum behavioural expectations.

"In some ways, AFL football programs are akin to a large family.

"While honest feedback is often difficult, this approach will give Clayton the best chance to thrive within our high-performance environment, and the best chance for him to have a long career at the Melbourne Football Club."

Smith is facing a maximum four-year ban after his positive drug test following the Demons' win over Hawthorn in round 23.

Even if he gets off lightly, Smith will face the wrath of Melbourne's leadership group.

"Joel is aware that once club leaders receive the results of the investigation, they will then determine if any further action is appropriate based on cultural standards and expectations," Pert said.

Unspecified rumours about Goodwin's off-field behaviour have been swirling for years.

Pert said the rumours were simply fake.

"I wish to address the three years of allegations and innuendo suffered by Simon Goodwin, which are completely without basis or truth," Pert wrote.

"I personally investigated the matter and did so by methodically interviewing every person that I was aware of who had spread the initial rumours.

"All admitted there was no basis to the claims but were simply passing on what they had heard from others.

"The only valid information was that Simon was seen having a drink with some of our player leaders at the Sorrento Hotel which was hardly surprising, given his strong relationship with the players who were holidaying in the area over the summer break.

"The ongoing embellishment and spreading of untrue rumours have placed an enormous stress and mental toll on Simon and his family over the last three years."

The talk surrounding Goodwin, Oliver and Smith have led many to question Melbourne's culture.

Pert insists the culture is strong, saying isolated incidents don't reflect the culture as a whole.

"Unfortunately, a strong culture does not guarantee that we will not have isolated behaviour issues from time to time in the future," Pert said.

"This is not a sign of a fractured culture, but an opportunity for our club leaders, including myself, to take responsibility and reaffirm our expectations of individuals in a high-performance environment.

"It is also important that the players who live our standards and disciplines every day see that those who fail to do so are held to account.

"I am very aware that the recent player controversies surrounding our AFL program have in some cases damaged the trust between the club and you, our supporters.

"Please know that our leaders in myself, the board, general manager football Alan Richardson, coach Simon Goodwin, captain Max Gawn, vice-captain Jack Viney and so many others are committed as ever to making you feel proud to belong."