Connors returns after eight-week ban - Sports News - Fanatics - the world's biggest events

Connors returns after eight-week ban

10/06/2010 02:55:44 PM Comments (0)

Richmond's Daniel Connors has revealed that reformed AFL bad boy Steve Johnson played a key role in his comeback from an alcohol-fuelled incident which the Tigers defender feared would cost him his job.

Connors has been welcomed straight back into the Tigers team to face West Coast on Sunday after serving a club-imposed eight-week ban following his drunken antics in a hotel following Richmond's loss to Sydney in round three.

The 21-year-old defender thought he would be sacked once he realised what he had done, but the lengthy sanction gave him a chance to work through his issues.

And coach Damien Hardwick on Thursday described Connors' response as "terrific" saying he had put in place safeguards to ensure he did not relapse.

Connors sought advice during his suspension from several people including Geelong forward Johnson.

The Cats star was handed a long suspension for an alcohol-related incident in 2007 but rebounded that year to win the Norm Smith Medal as best on ground in the Cats' premiership triumph.

He also earned a berth in the All-Australian team despite missing the first five games of the season and is now one of Geelong's most important players.

Connors said he received a lot of support from his teammates and parents as he worked to re-establish himself but feared the worst in the beginning.

"It was actually pretty scary," Connors said.

"At first I thought I was going to get the sack, so it was a massive wake-up call to know that my football career can be taken away like that.

"I have seen a counsellor about my alcohol issues. The bottom line is I can't get away with what I tried to get away with, so I have to cut that out and that means no drinking during the season."

Connors then decided on the way forward.

"I sat down with a few guys, including Steve Johnson (who also cut out drinking for the rest of the season) to see what he went through," he told richmondfc.com.au.

"We set a few goals about what I wanted to do, and I decided to play high-intensity AFL football at VFL level, and just to try and play the best footy I can."

The 21-year-old was banished from playing at AFL level for eight weeks and was also unable to train with the senior squad for the first six weeks of his suspension.

Teammates Ben Cousins, Luke McGuane and Dean Polo also received one-week bans after the club deemed they had not done enough to prevent the situation from escalating.

Hardwick said Connors' teammates had been impressed with the way he had responded to the challenge of resurrecting his career at Richmond.

"He has been terrific," Hardwick told reporters on Thursday.

"Once he got over the initial shock of it all he put some measures in place, a couple of safety nets, to make sure none of that action happens again.

"He's handled it tremendously well and we just hope for - not so much his footy point of view, but for his personal life - that it actually sets him about on the straight and narrow because underneath it all he's a terrific kid.

"He's a very good player and one we feel has got an enormous future at this footy club.

"So he'll come straight back in this week, there's no doubt about that, and we just hope he performs to the standard he has been in the VFL over the last four to five weeks."

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