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Banned AFL players return to clubs

AAP logoAAP 14/09/2016 Steve Larkin and Roger Vaughan

Two minutes and 35 weeks after their devastating verdict, Paddy Ryder led the way as the AFL's banned players started returning.

The Port Adelaide ruckman posted a Twitter photo of himself outside their Alberton Oval headquarters at 12.02am Wednesday - just two minutes after his suspension lifted.

"I'M BACK," Ryder tweeted.

Ryder is among 34 current and past players who were banned in January after a successful CAS appeal in relation to the Essendon supplements debacle.

Of those banned players, 17 remain on AFL lists, with 12 of them still at Essendon.

Bombers vice-captain Dyson Heppell returned to their club headquarters with a thumbs-up, a footy under his arm and a broad grin.

"It's certainly a step towards that closure and a very big step at that," Heppell said.

"So it's fantastic that we are able to come back around the football club, get around the boys again, use the facilities and it makes it a lot easier on us for sure.

"I haven't been here for a while so I'm interested to see what it looks like now and if my locker's still clean."

Of the returning players, Jobe Watson is the only one with an unclear future and whose ban has not ended.

Watson's suspension continues until September 21 because he played in last year's International Rules Series against Ireland.

The former Bombers captain and 2012 Brownlow Medallist is also yet to announce whether he wants to stay at the club or even remain an AFL player.

He will meet the club later this week.

Further complicating Watson's situation, his doping ban could yet cost him the Brownlow from 2012.

If, as expected, a Swiss court rules against a last-ditch appeal by the 34 banned players, the AFL Commission will then rule on whether Watson should be stripped of the honour.

Under the terms of their suspension, the players are permitted to return to their clubs two months before their playing bans expire.

Most, like Ryder and Heppell, were able to return from midnight.

Ryder and teammate Angus Monfries were Port players suspended for the entire 2016 season - they were recruited by the Power after stints at Essendon.

Western Bulldogs forward Stewart Crameri, another banned former Bomber, returned to the Dogs about 8.45am on Wednesday.

St Kilda's ex-Essendon recruit Jake Carlisle came back to an added bonus.

The club handed him a separate two-game ban last year, shortly after he joined the Saints, because he had accepted a strike under the AFL illicit drugs code.

A social media post had showed Carlisle snorting a white substance.

But as he returned to St Kilda's Seaford training base on Wednesday, the club announced the extra ban no longer applied.

"Carlisle's St Kilda-imposed two-game sanction has been served concurrently as part of his anti-doping suspension, allowing him to be eligible for selection for 2017 pre-season games," the club said.

It means Carlisle will be able to make his St Kilda debut in round one next season.

The returning players are able to return to training and use club facilities but cannot be used for media, marketing or promotional activities for another two months.

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