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AFL legends Eddie Betts and Damien Hardwick on Geelong star Tyson Stengle’s rise from drug bust hell

AFL greats have highlighted Cats star Tyson Stengle’s meteoric rise from falling over two drug busts to being named an All Australian as he played a major role in helping Geelong reach this year’s grand final.

The former Crow and Tiger was delisted by Adelaide in 2021 after a series of serious off-field incidents in the space of a few months, including drink-driving and twice being caught with an illegal drug.

Adelaide had little choice but to release the incredibly talented forward, but based on the recommendation of assistant coach Eddie Betts, Geelong eagerly added him to their already powerful forward line in the preseaosn.

As one of Stengle’s closest friends – and an apparent father figure to the native striker – Betts knew his distant relative had ‘the potential to be a great man’.

Eddie Betts (left) and wife Anna are very close with Cats star Tyson Stengle (right), with Betts revealing how devastated he was by the All Australian's off-field issues in 2020
Eddie Betts (left) and wife Anna are very close with Cats star Tyson Stengle (right), with Betts revealing how devastated he was by the All Australian's off-field issues in 2020

Eddie Betts (left) and wife Anna are very close with Cats star Tyson Stengle (right), with Betts revealing how devastated he was by the All Australian’s off-field issues in 2020

Tyson Stengle (right, pictured with Cats teammate Tom Hawkins) is the first ever delisted free agent to be announced as an All Australian next year
Tyson Stengle (right, pictured with Cats teammate Tom Hawkins) is the first ever delisted free agent to be announced as an All Australian next year

Tyson Stengle (right, pictured with Cats teammate Tom Hawkins) is the first ever delisted free agent to be announced as an All Australian next year

Betts has now revealed his devastated reaction when he discovered Stengle was caught with an illegal drug.

“It was tough when these incidents started happening,” Betts said Herald Sun over the series of events that led to Stengle’s firing from the Crows.

‘I was looking at my phone one day and there was a story about an Adelaide player who had been exposed to drugs.

“It didn’t say who it was and as I was waiting for it to load I was like, ‘Please don’t be Tyson, please don’t be Tyson’. And then it came up as Tyson Stengle. F***,” Betts said of the 2020 incident.

Close friends Tyson Stengle (left) and Eddie Betts celebrate a goal for the Crows in 2019
Close friends Tyson Stengle (left) and Eddie Betts celebrate a goal for the Crows in 2019

Close friends Tyson Stengle (left) and Eddie Betts celebrate a goal for the Crows in 2019

Stengle and teammate Brad Crouch were caught by police with an illegal drug in the Adelaide CBD on an evening in September 2020.

He was then seen in front of a plate with an alleged illegal drug three months later after he was arrested on several driving charges in April of that year.

The early striker had been stopped by police for driving an unregistered car and was subsequently found to have a blood alcohol level of 0.125 – but it seems those days are finally behind him.

Former Crows teammates Hugh Greenwood (far left) and Tyson Stengle (far right) are so close to Eddie Betts (centre) that they turned up to support his son Lewie in his basketball grand final on September 10
Former Crows teammates Hugh Greenwood (far left) and Tyson Stengle (far right) are so close to Eddie Betts (centre) that they turned up to support his son Lewie in his basketball grand final on September 10

Former Crows teammates Hugh Greenwood (far left) and Tyson Stengle (far right) are so close to Eddie Betts (centre) that they turned up to support his son Lewie in his basketball grand final on September 10

As the 23-year-old prepares to play in the AFL grand final on Saturday, Betts said it has been a phenomenal comeback.

‘He has made history as the first delisted free agent to be an All Australian. He can go back-to-back premierships from SANFL to AFL … It’s just a great story,’ said the 350-game Indigenous legend.

In his just-published autobiography, ‘The Boy from Boomerang Crescent’, Betts explains that Stengle came to live with him, his wife Anna and their five children.

“He is a fun and caring fula and my kids just absolutely loved him,” he wrote.

“Sometimes Tyson can be a shy, misunderstood lad, but he has overcome serious adversity to be where he is today. He is a leader, and both footy-smart and street-smart.’

Richmond coach Damien Hardwick has recalled the time a 'much-loved' Stengle drunkenly called him at 2am after a few too many beers
Richmond coach Damien Hardwick has recalled the time a 'much-loved' Stengle drunkenly called him at 2am after a few too many beers

Richmond coach Damien Hardwick has recalled the time a ‘much-loved’ Stengle drunkenly called him at 2am after a few too many beers

These adversities, aside from the off-field issues, refer to his upbringing. With one parent absent and another dying young, Stengle and his siblings were often in foster care early in their lives.

But the funny side of Stengle was on full display in his early years at the Tigers, with coach Damien Hardwick recalling the time the man affectionately known as ‘Wombat’ called him when he was a little worse for wear.

‘We played the Bulldogs at Marvel Stadium on a Sunday and he called my phone at 2 in the morning [after playing VFL] and I didn’t answer it. Fair to say he had a few beers, “Wombo,” Hardwick said Herald Sun.

‘We called him on Facetime before the game and he answered and the boys had a good laugh. He’s a great boy, we wish him all the best and hopefully he runs away with a premiership winner.’

Tyson Stengle has turned his career around since a series of off-field indiscretions marred his time at the Crows
Tyson Stengle has turned his career around since a series of off-field indiscretions marred his time at the Crows

Tyson Stengle has turned his career around since a series of off-field indiscretions marred his time at the Crows

Stengle celebrates a goal for the Cats in the side's win over the Demons in week one of this season's finals series
Stengle celebrates a goal for the Cats in the side's win over the Demons in week one of this season's finals series

Stengle celebrates a goal for the Cats in the side’s win over the Demons in week one of this season’s finals series

Hardwick said the forward pocket is still ‘well-loved at the club’, where he won the VFL premiership in 2017 as an 18-year-old.

On Sunday, he might just be an AFL premiership player – football’s holy grail.

Stengle’s talent has never been in doubt throughout his 40-game career – and with his off-field life settled, he is clearly thriving at Geelong.

His remarkable 2022 season has featured 49 goals from 24 games – an incredible return from a pocket in a forward line that already boasts Tom Hawkins and Jeremy Cameron.

The heartwarming story of redemption will be an adventure if Stengle can play his part and lift the AFL Premiership Cup with a win over Sydney at 2.30pm on Saturday at the MCG.

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