Adelaide saga recalls Blues horror of 2002
The big stick ... Then AFL chairman Ron Evans, Wayne Jackson and Andrew Demetriou reveal the penalties 10 years ago. Photo: Ken Irwin
It was simply one of the most theatrical nights in footy and there wasn't a Sherrin in sight.
And the dramatic climax to the evening's proceedings came after 2am – well after most people's bedtime, even for a Friday night – instead of approaching time-on in the final quarter of a gripping night match.
The night we're referring to was nearly 10 years ago to the day and it remains one of the most tumultuous evenings in footy history – in modern times, at least.
The brutal reality ... Carlton's contingent reacts to the penalties after they were announced in 2002. Photo: Ken Irwin
It was the night the AFL Commission wielded the biggest possible stick on Carlton, slapping the repeat offender of salary cap breaches with severe draft penalties and a massive fine that many thought would threaten the very existence of one of the foundation clubs of the AFL.
When then AFL chairman, Ron Evans, and then chief executive, Wayne Jackson, flanked by then football operations chief, Andrew Demetriou, announced at an early morning media conference that the Blues were to be fined almost $1 million lose the first two picks for the national draft less than 48 hours later, everyone was gobsmacked.
The fine was unprecedented and aside from dealing with the financial implications, Carlton also had to come to terms with the painful reality that the best two young footballers in the land, namely Brendon Goddard and Daniel Wells, had just slipped from their grasp. For days and months to come Blues supporters would react with venom.
After a commission hearing that lasted more than seven hours, Jackson said the Blues had been found guilty of "a complex and deliberate scheme designed and implemented to hide payments and deceive the AFL". That fact was already known but few observers genuinely thought the league would come down so heavily on the team.
The media conference was held after 2am and the mood was patently hostile. There was clear and open animosity between the AFL and Carlton's representatives to the point where the Blues were so angered by the outcome they refused to let AFL officials attend their own media conference, where they responded to the league's penalties.
The Ian Collins-led administration had only recently taken over the club's leadership and the penalty quickly hit home.
"I think it is the lowest point in Carlton's history," the new Carlton president said on that night.
The events of Friday November 22, 2002, have loomed fresh in the memory of this correspondent because of this week's AFL Commission hearing where the Adelaide Football Club – and several related parties – will answer charges of draft tampering and other related offences.
There's no suggestion the Crows have gone anywhere near orchestrating the same sophisticated process of breaching the salary cap as the John Elliott administration at Carlton, but the league is not happy that draft tampering and salary cap breaches have again reared their head in the AFL.
It has already been derided as the Kurt Tippett Saga. Ten years ago the Carlton affair had several different monikers and implicated some big names at the famous club in Stephen Silvagni and Craig Bradley.
No one expects the Crows will be hit to anywhere near the same extent as the Blues were 10 years ago, but the league has a history of coming down hard on individuals and groups who threaten the "key planks" of the competition's equalisation strategies – the salary cap and the draft.
Truth be told, Carlton was not a first-time offender so they could have expected a right whack. They were fined $872,424 (plus a suspended fine of $57,576) and their first draft pick in 2002 suddenly became No.45 overall. They used it wisely, picking up the club favourite Kade Simpson.
The impact on Carlton was expected to be profound in the short and medium term. But it took years for the Blues to rebuild. Winning the pre-season competition, the AFL's Wizard Cup, in 2005 was seen by some as the end to the club's ills. But it was nothing more than a false dawn.
With the Crows preparing for their day of judgment on Friday, it is hard to accurately predict the outcome that awaits the club. But we can at least speculate on their motives after their gesture to "withdraw" their first two selections in last week's AFL draft.
The scenario is different. Adelaide comes to the league with its tail between its legs after confessing to the AFL late in last month's trade period that it had come to a secret arrangement with Tippett to trade him to the club of his choice for a minimum second round draft choice when his contract expired this year. The Crows also agreed to underwrite $200,000 worth of third party payments when it re-signed Tippett at the end of 2009.
Ten years ago the commission dropped something of a bombshell on the competition and the Blues. Now it seems the Crows are doing everything possible to mitigate against their past wrongdoings.
We'll find out soon enough if another fateful Friday awaits a big AFL club.