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Dockers went into Hogan deal with eyes wide open

Jesse Hogan has shown he's an A-grader.

Jesse Hogan has shown he’s an A-grader.

And then there were the personal issues that Hogan carried that had been evident for some time and which made him a medium-to-long-term risk. Some of Hogan’s issues were of his own making – as with this recent drinking incident – and some were just terrible misfortune.

In a short time frame, Hogan lost his father to cancer, was diagnosed with testicular cancer and had his brother, too, stricken with that disease. All this was taking place while he was living across the Nullarbor and freighted with the crushing expectations of being the saviour of a club that had not played finals since 2006.

Melbourne have shown a ruthless streak in offloading first Jack Watts, whose issues were largely about commitment and on-field performance, and then Hogan, who demonstrated he was an A-grader.

The Fremantle leadership group spoke to Hogan over summer about a mishap. All the facts have not yet emerged from this most recent incident, which arose after a drinking session on Saturday.

If he does not deserve to be smashed for his mistake, the Dockers must tread the delicate line between protecting the player’s wellbeing and holding him accountable.

Melbourne will be feeling a sense of relief today, knowing that these risks have been picked up by Fremantle. People with an affection for Hogan will be further concerned for his welfare too. But the Demons should not be too self-congratulatory, for one could argue if their environment didn’t cause Hogan’s issues, it didn’t shrink them much either.

For the Dockers, Hogan is a high-stakes purchase, even though he’s arrived on a three-year deal that will pay him significantly fewer dollars (per annum) than the close to $900,000 he was due from the Demons this year.


For the Dockers, Harley Bennell, another gifted recruit whose warts were on public display, was the first strike. He has hardly played in three seasons.

Cam McCarthy, risky proposition number two, was the second strike. He has not developed into the key forward that Fremantle hoped he’d become and, like Jesse, he arrived with behavioural baggage.

If Hogan doesn’t work out for them, that will be a third strike against the club and this particular administration. No matter who is deemed responsible for each trade – and really, it must be shared between chief executive Steve Rosich, Ross Lyon and the list and football managers of the time – there surely will be consequences if Hogan fails.

The Hogan camp say that he’s been praised by the Dockers for his application up until this week’s misstep, for which he immediately took responsibility.

Fremantle’s willingness to take the punt on Hogan, on the heels of Bennell and McCarthy, is symptomatic of a club that has lacked the cattle to play finals for some time. Melbourne’s preparedness to let the key forward leave bespeaks a club that has garnered enough quality players to make culture-focused calls.

Jake Niall is a Walkley award-winning sports journalist and chief AFL writer for The Age. He writes news, commentary and analysis on a variety of other sports.

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