AFL coach takes savage swipe at reporter with ‘black soul’
WESTERN Bulldogs coach Luke Beveridge has taken a hostile swipe at a "nasty" footy figure he says is responsible for pushing Tom Boyd into retirement at the age of 23.
Beveridge fought through tears during an emotional Friday morning press conference at Whitten Oval as he spoke of Boyd's impact on the club.
The premiership coach needed a moment to compose himself as he spoke about the battles Boyd had fought since joining the Dogs from the Giants on a blockbuster seven-year deal reportedly worth $7 million.
However, Beveridge then turned on those he said were responsible for pushing Boyd out the door as he battled private mental health issues and personal demons.
Beveridge singled out one reporter, who he claimed had a "black soul".
The 48-year-old didn't name names but has clashed repeatedly with former Footy Show panellist and AFL.com.au reporter Damian Barrett, most notably during a public war of words last year.
Beveridge said public scrutiny from media commentators in the game had played a role in Boyd deciding to walk away from the game.
"There is no doubt that that was part of it," the coach said.
"It gave nasty individuals leverage to go down that track. I think it compounded because of the scrutiny around it whether or not the worth reconciled to his output and the period of time.
"There is no doubt that I thought there was people too hard and too keen to scrutinise and drag him down. They know who they are - one in particular.
"That just shows a sheer lack of conscience and drive to be nasty and that will never be forgiven by anyone at our football club.
"That's a real shame because that's a choice that a certain journalist might make. It's just a window into that person's soul and how black that soul is. That's always been really, really disappointing.
"I've continually defended him and stood up for him and supported him and even when we knew internally that things weren't right there was no way we were going to let anyone know the struggles that he was going through.
"He was doing everything that he could to play footy for our football club."
The Dogs' mentor attacked Barrett's morals last year after the veteran reporter suggested in an article the club had made up a back injury to the star tall as he battled his ongoing issues with mental health.
"With mental health such a significantly sensitive issue in our game, for him (Barrett) to infer we were making up (Boyd's) injury and that there is something else wrong, and why (he) would even go there, just shows what we're dealing with," Beveridge said at the time.
"Whoever contracts and employs (Barrett), I'm inquisitive to know what the driver is from a moralistic point of view, and a contentious point of view - there's not much there."
Barrett responded to the attack by saying he hadn't inferred anything about Boyd's mental health and it was in fact Beveridge who had made it an issue.
"What Luke Beveridge said is wrong and inaccurate," Barrett wrote on Twitter.
"My reference to Tom Boyd had nothing to do with what Luke has claimed. I would never reference such a matter in such a way. It is unfortunate that Luke has chosen to go down this path."
Boyd, 23, announced his bombshell decision on Thursday after negotiating a release with the Bulldogs.
"My decision to retire now is a reflection of issues I've had over the past five years, both with physical injury and with mental health," Boyd said via a Bulldogs statement.
"They have now accumulated to a point where I just don't have the desire to play or the enjoyment of the game I used to have.
"I am satisfied that this is the right decision for my future.
"I approached the club about my desire to retire and be released from my contract this week and we have worked out a mutually agreeable position."
Boyd was signed by the Giants as the No.1 draft pick in 2013, and he played one season with the expansion side before heading back to his hometown in a blockbuster trade with the Bulldogs.
Boyd landed at Whitten Oval in exchange for the Giants getting then Bulldogs captain Ryan Griffen and the No.6 draft.
An accounting arrangement meant he was reported to have been paid around $1.7 million in 2016, which if true is likely to be the biggest single-season salary to an AFL player.
Given Boyd's status as an unproven teenager, the deal was considered high risk for the club.
After his brawl with teammate Zaine Cordy in mid-2016, the deal looked a lemon. But it would pay off most handsomely in September when Boyd starred in the Bulldogs team that roared through the finals series to win the club's first premiership in 62 years.
He was one of the best afield in the grand final win over Sydney, kicking three goals and taking six contested marks.
Boyd never reached those heights again.
In 2017, he took a prolonged leave as he dealt with clinical depression. A back injury curtailed his 2018 season and he did not take the field in 2019.
The mid-season retirement comes two months after fellow 2016 flag-winner Liam Picken decided to step away due to ongoing concussion issues. It also allows the Bulldogs another pick in this month's mid-season rookie draft.
- with AAP