It used to be that you were a bloody idiot if you were caught drink driving, and for the record – you still are, but it turns out bloody idiots don’t just make mistakes when they get behind the wheel after too many beers.

Take, for example, the high-profile case of Collingwood star Jaidyn Stephenson, who was this week booted from the game he loves for 10 weeks, after being found guilty of placing bets on the game he is paid to play, and on games he was playing in.

The AFL has an integrity unit – and in an industry where so much could go wrong and no one can afford to leave anything to chance, but maybe it needs an intelligence unit as well.

On the one hand, it’s difficult to understand how a well-paid professional footballer, nurtured by Australia’s self-professed greatest sporting club, could be even remotely attracted to the punt, when he would have had it drummed into him that any such behaviour is against the rules and a breach would result in an extremely harsh penalty.

No matter how much Stephenson stood to gain from his idiotic wagers, he stood to lose a lot more, and that has now been very publicly demonstrated to the 2018 Rising Star winner.    

Professional athletes who indulge in gambling risk everything.

A string of Victorian jockeys were recently fined and banned after being found guilty of placing bets back in March, but none of the bets related to races they were involved in.

Stephenson, on the other hand, did cross this line, and he can consider himself lucky not to face an even longer stint on the sidelines for his reckless stupidity and short-sightedness.

His contrite appearance at a hastily convened press conference on Wednesday after his penalty was revealed showed a young man who acknowledged his wrongdoings, and who had just become fully aware of the implications.

His comment that this was enough to ‘almost’ make himself give up gambling was ‘almost’ a good one, save for the ‘almost’.


Stephenson’s reputation is in tatters.

His team (and the team I am proud to follow) faces 10 weeks without one of its most important small forwards.

He has been heavily sanctioned, and embarrassed.

Supporters have been let down. So too the game.

And that’s only ‘almost’ enough to make the player give up gambling?

Herein lies an even bigger problem, not just for Jaidyn Stephenson, and not just for his club.

The AFL has a relationship with the betting industry that makes many in our community uneasy, and this week’s stunning revelations would only add more fuel to that gambling fire.

It’s too easy to gamble, it’s too accessible and it’s pushed by commentators, media, flashy advertising and gambling companies themselves.

It’s become much more widely accepted and crept into the game in a way that belies its potential harm and risks to anyone and everyone who gets involved.

Integrity lies at the heart of all of us, and the things we do. That includes the work we do and the sport we play.

Integrity cannot be bought or sold; it has to be earned.

It’s easy to lose, but so much harder to earn.