Dean Bailey addresses players during a controversial clash with Richmond in 2009. Photo: Sebastian Costanzo
GRANT Thomas has called for the AFL to open an amnesty on tanking, and believes the league is in danger of becoming an ''orchestrated theatre company'' because of its rulings.
Thomas has appeared to re-open his feud with AFL chief executive Andrew Demetriou, declaring the AFL boss would not want to appear in court to justify claims that Melbourne had tanked in 2009.
The former St Kilda coach suggested late last year he would no longer participate in media debate after stepping down from his role on Channel Nine's Footy Classified.
But Thomas was prompted to turn his focus on the AFL after Fairfax Media revealed details of an 800-page report by league investigators into claims the Demons had worked to lose matches.
The club has until the end of January to respond.
Lawyers for Melbourne argue there is no clear definition of tanking, and believe the club would win any court case if the league confirms charges against former coach Dean Bailey, now an assistant coach at Adelaide, former football manager Chris Connolly and chief executive Cameron Schwab.
The lawyers argue that other clubs should also be targeted.
Thomas told Fairfax Media the AFL would be wise to avoid possible legal action and said priority draft picks in their former guise were no longer needed.
''The AFL should just call an amnesty and say, 'OK, we recognise it's probably past its use-by date, it served a purpose, it then became exploited by teams and clubs, not just one, and given the exploitation and pushing the spirit of the strategy, it probably warrants that we take it off the table and move on','' he said.
''That's all they need to do. They don't need to make this mountain out of a molehill and grandstand.
''I see Andrew Demetriou has said things like, 'If he finds anyone tampering with the game results, they won't have a job in the AFL'. I find that a very interesting comment given the lengths the AFL go to to manipulate results, directly and indirectly.
''If we are not careful we will go from being a competition to a manipulated, orchestrated theatre production. That's what my concern is.
''For them to grandstand now and beat the desk and say, 'If there are any integrity issues we will take them to task', if I was Melbourne I would say, 'Whistle Dixie AFL, we will see you in court'.''
Thomas had earlier tweeted that the AFL would not want to head to court. ''AFL is putting themselves into a corner with tanking saga that will eventually expose their own behavior & test their strategies legally,'' he tweeted. ''Any decent senior counsel would be able to rip the AFL apart in a witness box. Honorable Andy won't want to get in the box - GUARANTEED!''
Thomas said players were determined to win but club officials could affect the outcome of games. He also said the lure of priority picks was to blame for tanking.
Under AFL rules at the time, the Demons received draft picks one and two after two successive seasons of managing no more than 16 premiership points. They used these selections on Tom Scully, now with Greater Western Sydney, and Jack Trengove.
''It's impractical for them [AFL] to level that accusation [tanking] against someone or an organisation when you have a scenario that when you are on four [winning] games and you win another one, you don't get the draft pick,'' Thomas said.
That method of securing priority picks has been abolished. It is now up to the AFL Commission to decide on a case-by-case basis.
The AFL's head office is closed until next week.