IMAGINE yourself right now as the parent of a young Essendon footballer. Not so long ago, James Hird had looked you in the eye, shook your hand and assured you that your son was joining a great football club and that he, too, would be given every chance of greatness both on and off the field.
Or maybe it was the recently removed football boss Paul Hamilton who made those assurances, or perhaps chief executive Ian Robson. Clearly, your son is one of the chosen few. He is in good hands.
Then, after a very strange season in which the team starts with a muscled-up bang but finishes with a sloppy, injury-depleted yelp, you learn that your boy is the subject of an investigation by ASADA and the AFL. You hear the beloved Hird tell the public he cannot quite say that everything that took place with his team was above board.
You learn that your son was taken to a botox clinic and administered with supplements from someone who was not a registered doctor. That your son's part in all of this is minuscule and part of a much wider investigation involving Australian customs officers and the police. And that one of the experts entrusted with your son's young body was let go for undertaking highly unusual practices and another has been stood down. If your worst fears are realised, your son could be rubbed out of football.
Even if the supplements were legal, you must be wondering why your club employed these people and seemed so vague about it.
And why he was asked to sign a secrecy document regarding his medical treatment when his standard playing contract surely covered all that. In fact, you must be starting to wonder whether Essendon is such a great club after all.
Or maybe your son played for Melbourne in 2009. At first you thought it a little strange when, despite showing good form in the midfield or up forward, he was moved to the back pocket.
Perhaps he told you what the club was trying to do. That the club could not afford to win any more games because they needed to secure Tom Scully and Jack Trengove in the draft. Or perhaps you simply saw it with your own eyes and then heard the coach virtually confirm it.
In the coming days you will learn that your son's club - or former club - has been charged with attempting to manipulate the draft and perhaps even perverting match results. The coach, footy boss and maybe even the CEO could also be charged.
Then again maybe your son was lucky enough to join the great Collingwood Football Club at the same time Nathan Buckley had been appointed to the coaching position.
Once again the coach, the CEO and almost certainly the president shook your hand and spoke of the proud association you were about to enter. Of course they all meant it.
Except then, after a time, your boy started to notice a division among the senior players. Between those who did and those who didn't. Maybe he mentioned it to you although probably he didn't. Except that then you read that the chief executive had spoken out about a volcanic illegal drug problem within the competition and - it seemed - Collingwood.
Or maybe your son is called Kurt Tippett, the 25-year-old who was probably overpaid and tried to be shrewd but signed a dodgy deal as a 22-year-old after receiving some very bad advice. You probably have some regrets there.
Shocked to find himself in such a position your son stood before the AFL Commission to be judged and found himself handed the almost identical punishment to the club chief executive with 15 years of AFL experience behind him. The man who promised to do the right thing by your son. And now your son has been suspended for half an AFL season - a relative eternity for a man of his profession.
That's AFL for you. Surely it's every parent's dream. Except when your son finds himself at a football club that puts success before everything and tries to take short cuts to beat the system - or simply thumbs its nose at it. That's when it becomes a mother's - or father's - living nightmare.