The Blues boss says the game “cannot be hijacked” by the Bombers.
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Carlton coach Mick Malthouse has launched a scathing attack on Essendon, saying they would “hijack” the competition by refusing to play in the NAB Challenge.
Essendon’s participation in the pre-season competition is under a cloud due to 18 of its players being provisionally suspended due to an ongoing doping investigation.
All players who were on their list in 2012 are likely to sit out the NAB Challenge to protect the anonymity of the players currently facing charges.
Carlton do not play the Bombers in the pre-season competition, but it did not stop Malthouse from accusing the Bombers of attempting to “hijack” the AFL.
“This is a national competition, it can’t be hijacked by one football club,” Malthouse is quoted as saying by AFL.com.au.
“This is a great test for the AFL and its administrators to be very firm and strong – and I know it’s a loose term and it’s been used a lot – but the tail cannot wag the dog.
“I don’t think under the circumstances of what’s happened over the last two years that people can start dictating whether they’re going to play or whether they’re not going to play.
“The rules are in place that there’s a competition at stake and I would personally expect that there will be nine games in the first round contested by 18 teams.”
Essendon is scheduled to play St Kilda in its opening game on March 7, before facing the Greater Western Sydney Giants on March 13.
The Bombers end its NAB Challenge campaign against Melbourne at Etihad Stadium on March 20.