Hawthorn coach Sam Mitchell speaks to the media on March 28, 2024. Picture: AFL Photos

HAWTHORN coach Sam Mitchell believes senior AFL coaches should be made aware if one of their players tests positive to an illegal substance as respected figures in the game weighed in on the League's Illicit Drugs Policy.

AFL CEO Andrew Dillon on Wednesday defended the League's "clinical intervention model", in which players are tested for illicit drugs under the supervision of club doctors, after the practice was made public under parliamentary privilege on Tuesday night by federal MP Andrew Wilkie.

Under the League's policy, any positive result from a club-administered test is kept between the player and the club doctor, with senior coaches not informed.


Dillon said the League was "unapologetic" about giving club doctors powers to withdraw players from games if they risked testing positive on match day and said doctor-patient confidentiality is a key part of the policy.

Hawthorn coach Mitchell said on Thursday he was surprised to learn of the practice and that coaches should be made aware of any positive test.

"The people that are in charge of your wellbeing and your welfare, they should know about your wellbeing and your welfare," Mitchell said.

"You're really trying to make the best chances for your players to be the best that they can be.

"If you have the information that you think will help you make the best for them, that is really a big part of your job as a senior coach.

"We need to make the players the best they can be – not just as players, but as people. That's pretty important."

Adelaide coach Matthew Nicks stopped short of supporting Mitchell's sentiment.

"I understand where Sam's coming from when you're working with a player," Nicks said.

"Not being an expert in that space, I don't actually know what's best for our players ... this is private medical information that we're talking about.

Matthew Nicks looks on during Adelaide's clash against Gold Coast in round one, 2024. Picture: AFL Photos

"You have to talk to our doctors about that and what's best ... and I think that's what the AFL has done."

Carlton coach Michael Voss said he was "disappointed" at the furore.

"I sit well and truly in the same basket: we're all really surprised and somewhat disappointed with where it currently lies," Voss said.

"Now it's up to the AFL and the AFLPA to review what that looks like and what the best steps are ... it has been a little surprising how it's all unfolded."

Like Mitchell, Voss had never considered some players could have faked an injury and avoid a potential match-day positive test.

STATEMENT AFL statement on Illicit Drug Policy

"In terms of any doubt (over) player availability, I have never had that," he said.

AFL Players Association chief executive Paul Marsh backed Dillon's comments on Wednesday that only a small handful of players had fallen into this category, insisting only an "incredibly small number" of players have been protected in such a way.

"The commentary around this is that it's happening every week," Marsh told SEN Radio on Thursday.

"I've been doing this job for nearly 10 years and there would be less than a handful of players that this has been an example for."

St Kilda coach Ross Lyon said while the current policy isn’t perfect, it has player welfare at the heart of it.

Ross Lyon after returning at St Kilda coach on October 24, 2022. Picture: AFL Photos

"I like that the AFL didn't come out and apologise for supporting players. Let's be clear, the AFLPA and the players voluntarily sign up to a policy that can help identify players and help them. They can easily walk away. If you want to make it punitive, they just walk away,” he said.

"My view is, it's a model with the right intentions, trying to get the right outcomes. It doesn't seem to be perfect and there is some conundrums with that.

"I've got absolute faith in the capability and the ethics of each club doctor to do the right thing by the player and the club and the AFL."

Melbourne premiership captain Max Gawn, meanwhile, called for harsher penalties for a first offence, saying the deterrent for a 'first-strike' positive test is diminishing.

"The deterrent is not there, or it's fading. There needs to be something bigger on the first strike," Gawn told Triple M radio on Thursday.

The Illicit Drugs Policy – created in conjunction by the AFL and AFL Players Association – is currently under review, and Dillon said he is hoping to have an updated version at some point this year.