Essendon has defended its contrasting treatment of Dean Robinson and James Hird, declaring responsibility for the club's supplements program lay chiefly with high performance boss Robinson rather than the coach.
The Bombers have claimed Hird and his fellow coaches did not have the necessary expertise to ensure the supplements provided to the players complied with the AFL's anti-doping code and were safe, in documents lodged with the Supreme Court.
The club is defending a breach of contract claim by Robinson, who was suspended on the day Essendon self-reported to the AFL and the Australian Sports Anti-Doping Authority last February.
Robinson, who believes he was made a scapegoat for the supplements program and suspended without a valid reason, is seeking financial compensation that could exceed $2 million, with a directions hearing to take place on Monday.
In response to a writ filed by lawyers for Robinson in October, Essendon has claimed its former conditioning coach failed to put in place an ''adequate process'' to ensure substances administered to players in 2011 and 2012 did not contravene the anti-doping code, were approved by the World Anti-Doping Agency and would not harm the health and safety of its players.
The club also argues Robinson failed to control the spending of his department, that the coaches had lost confidence in him by the end of the 2012 season and that he oversaw a spectacular rise in soft tissue injuries in 2012.
It says that as leader of the club's physical preparation unit Robinson had ''direct responsibility'' for the conduct of biochemist Stephen Dank, and that as the ''primary source'' of supplements knowledge at the club it was his job to ensure the program was safe and legal.
Essendon claims Robinson's chances of being recontracted - either with the Bombers or with another club - were ''non-existent,'' that his position would have been terminated had he not chosen to resign in July and that it did not breach any term of his employment contract.
While Robinson, known as the Weapon, was paid in full while suspended, his lawyers are expected to argue that the damage to his reputation made it impossible for him to be recontracted at the club, or to be employed at the level his experience and abilities would otherwise have allowed.
Claims Robinson failed to control his department's budget are accompanied in Essendon's defence by a list of invoices received by the club between November 2011 and October 2012, from Como Compounding Pharmacy and the Hypermed and Skinovate clinics, where players were treated.
The 27-page document also details the club's enormous injury toll in 2012, stating Robinson's performance as high performance coach was based on both the team's success and its rate of soft tissue injuries. The club claims players missed a total of 258 games due to soft tissue injuries throughout the 2012 season, compared to a 10-year average of 191, with players suffering 30 hamstring injuries (compared to a 10-year average of 9.2), eight calf injuries (1.6) and eight quad injuries (2.9).
Essendon claims Robinson was given a written warning in August 2012, following a counselling session with suspended football boss Danny Corcoran and former chief executive Ian Robson. The document says Corcoran told Robinson that the club was concerned about the high rate of injuries, that the coaches had lost confidence in him and that he had displayed an ''unwillingness to abide by directions'' and would likely be demoted. Robinson's writ states that Corcoran had commented to another club staff member at the start of 2012 that Robinson's contract would ''highly likely'' be rolled over into 2014, and argues that the team's strong performance in the first half of 2013 can in part be attributed to his pre-season program.
Essendon also claims Robinson was bound by the club's code of conduct and it was made clear in his employment contract that his position could be terminated if he was found guilty of misconduct or behaved in a manner that ''will or is likely to adversely affect the reputation or public image'' of the club.
Robinson was obliged, according to his contract, to ''exercise reasonable care and diligence in the performance of his duties and comply with all reasonable instructions to protect … the health and safety of others'' and to not be involved with anything that would bring the reputation of the club into disrepute.
While Robinson has argued he was not invited to participate in the club's internal review - the Ziggy Switkowski report - Essendon claims an invitation to meet with Switkowski on May 3 was not taken.