ESSENDON midfielder David Zaharakis has lamented that a third of his football career will have gone "down the drain" as a result of the club's damaging supplements saga.
In new book We Are Essendon, a supporter's account of the past four years written by journalist Rick Edwards, Zaharakis recounted his emotions when 34 of his past and present teammates were hit with WADA bans ahead of the 2016 season.
Zaharakis was not a part of the club's injecting program due to an aversion to needles, but watched as the club was enveloped in controversy throughout the process.
The 27-year-old said when his teammates were hit with bans in January last year, and another season was ruined for the club, he couldn't help but think about the lost years for the Bombers.
"From a selfish point of view you're like 'it's f****** another wasted year at the footy club'. Four years of your career down the drain where you haven't had a realistic chance of winning a premiership," he said.
"Possibly a third of my career once I'm all done will be a waste, never actually being able to compete for a premiership. My peak years – 23 to 26 – to have that happen in those four years; you feel a bit selfish in that regard.
"But I'm not the only one in that situation, I know 40 other blokes thinking 'this is annoying me'; who think 'my teammates have done nothing wrong and I'm being affected here as well by them being suspended and they don't deserve to be'.
"You feel sorry for the guys suspended too, it's the same thing – they are missing their peak years."
Part of Zaharakis' frustration stems back to the 2013 season, when Essendon was kicked out of the finals for governance failures as part of the AFL's penalties against the club.
The Bombers played Hawthorn in round 18, with the winner to take top spot on the ladder, but six weeks later limped to the end of the year after being ruled out of September action.
Zaharakis said the punishment was hard to take and at odds with what the players were being told through the season.
"The whole year we are getting told we won't be kicked out of finals. But all of a sudden you get that deflating blow, that punch to the stomach, you are not going to play finals that year. The whole club fell apart," he said.
"It sort of seemed like they punished us early. The other guys (the 34 served with infraction notices) didn't get punished till years later. That was very frustrating. They went very early on that, but you can't dispute it too much."
Zaharakis also said he was "shattered" for former coach James Hird that his tenure at the club had been full of such controversy.
"It's a very sad thing," Zaharakis said. "He wanted to be coach of a club he played for, to try and be a successful coach and now it's all come to this. It's a shattering end for what could have been something great for the footy club."
We Are Essendon by Rick Edwards (The Slattery Media Group, 2017) RRP: $26.95. Available through the book trade, the Essendon Football Club, or via books.slatterymedia.com.