Western Bulldogs rising star Tom Liberatore has been suspended for the rest of the season after being found unconscious by police early on Sunday morning in Melbourne.
Liberatore, 20, who has played 33 games since making his debut last season, was found with a small amount of what the club calls a recreational, illicit substance.
A police spokesman said officers had attended outside a King Street nightclub at 3.30am on Sunday and found a 20-year-old man lying on a footpath, allegedly dropping in and out of consciousness. He was placed in a diversion program.
The Bulldogs released a statement this morning detailing the punishment handed down by the leadership group. As well as being suspended, Liberatore has been fined $5000 and forced to find full-time employment for the next six weeks while undergoing drug counselling.
He will not be allowed to train with the playing group while suspended.
“There is absolutely no place for this behaviour at our football club,” Bulldogs chief executive Simon Garlick said.
“To say we are all completely disappointed in Tom, is an absolute understatement.
“We expect Tom to take this time to reflect on his behaviour and the impact it has had on those around him, especially his family, teammates, coaches and all those associated with the Club.
“Despite this grave error of judgement we continue to believe that Tom is a young man that has the brightest of futures and we are one hundred per cent behind him during this time.
“Tom has made a mistake - but as one of ours we will help him to learn from this experience and become a better person, and player, for it”.
Liberatore said he was devastated by his mistake.
“I am deeply sorry for my actions and want to sincerely apologise to everyone, especially my family, teammates, coaches, supporters and all those connected with the Club, for my stupidity,” he said.
“I recognise the huge opportunity I have been given - and feel devastated that I have let my team mates and the Club down.
“I will be doing everything in my power to learn from this and to earn back the trust and respect of those around me.”
No charges will be laid over the incident.
Liberatore is the son of Bulldogs great Tony Liberatore, who won the 1990 Brownlow Medal.
Drafted under the father-son rule, he won the Chris Grant Medal as the Dogs’ best first-year player last year.
This season, he has played 17 of a possible 18 games and picked up 24 touches in Saturday’s loss to North Melbourne.