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Davey at centre of storm

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Mifsud comments 'irrefutable': Demetriou

AFL chief Andrew Demetriou says it's "absolutely irrefutable" that Jason Mifsud made comments he shouldn't have about Demons coach Mark Neeld.

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MELBOURNE'S most senior indigenous footballer, Aaron Davey, has emerged at the centre of the discredited allegations regarding his new coach, Mark Neeld.

While Davey has repeatedly denied he alleged that Neeld had offended his Aboriginal players by interviewing them as a group, the AFL remains firm in its belief that Davey was the source of the story.

In the hot seat: Melbourne's Aaron Davey has denied he was the source of allegations against his coach.

In the hot seat: Melbourne's Aaron Davey has denied he was the source of allegations against his coach. Photo: Getty Images

Davey's role in the drama came after AFL chief executive Andrew Demetriou revealed late yesterday that the league's community engagement officer, Jason Mifsud, had offered his resignation after admitting he had passed on the allegations regarding Neeld to his friend and Channel Nine commentator Grant Thomas.

While Mifsud has apologised to Neeld and been placed on notice by the AFL, and Thomas remains under threat of legal action from Melbourne, Davey's role in the drama remained unclear last night as he tried to contact Mifsud and repeatedly denied to his club that he had changed his story.

Davey, in turn, was being contacted for counselling by AFL Players Association staffer Cory McGrath. He was also being counselled by AFLPA indigenous programs manager Nadia Taib.

Apology: Jason Mifsud has apologised to Mark Neeld and offered to resign.

Apology: Jason Mifsud has apologised to Mark Neeld and offered to resign. Photo: Michael Clayton-Jones

The Age understands that the AFL has urged a mediation session take place between Neeld, Mifsud and Davey. Melbourne chief executive Cameron Schwab last night stressed that his club was standing by its player and believed his denials that he was the source of the story, which Neeld emotionally denied on Fox Footy's On the Couch on Monday night.

In a statement released by Melbourne last night, Davey said: "I strongly deny any involvement in the matters discussed at today's press conference.

"I am proud of the Melbourne Football Club's support network for our indigenous players, which I believe is the best in the AFL. I'm pleased that the AFL has come out strongly in support of Mark and that Jason has apologised to Mark and the club."

Rumours: Demons coach Mark Neeld.

Rumours: Demons coach Mark Neeld. Photo: Getty Images

Mifsud also remained under fire, despite receiving strong backing from Demetriou.

While Adelaide football fans were last night bombarding social media, insisting Matt Rendell be reinstated at the Crows and claiming double standards, the indigenous football community remained divided over Mifsud, whom the AFL regards as a future leader.

While retired Crows champion Andrew McLeod has been raising concerns about Mifsud's performance for some weeks, former Essendon footballer Dean Rioli tweeted: ''How can anybody in footy trust this man?''

It also emerged yesterday that the Neeld allegations were raised at the same AFL executive meeting in which Mifsud reported - although did not name him until later - that Rendell had made his ''one white parent'' comment. While Demetriou followed up the Rendell allegations with Adelaide, football operations boss Adrian Anderson contacted Schwab and advised he contact Mifsud.

The Demons, whose 2012 season began on a tragic note with the death of Jim Stynes, followed by the round-one humiliation against Brisbane Lions, remained mystified last night as to why Mifsud had not briefed the club earlier. Schwab is understood to have attempted to speak to the AFL official regarding the allegations but was unable to contact him.

The Age contacted Neeld three weeks ago after allegations surfaced that Neeld and his coaching team may have offended Melbourne's indigenous players by interviewing them as a group while interviewing other players alone. Davey was alleged to have taken the coach to task on the issue. Neeld emphatically denied the suggestion that any such group interview had taken place. Davey then spoke to The Age and repeated those denials, which were accepted by The Age.

Yesterday, when Demetriou and Mifsud fronted the media, Mifsud would not reveal the source of his allegation but was vague when asked whether he had been lied to, adding that such a description would be ''splitting hairs''. He suggested the source of the story had been undergoing some issues in his life. Demetriou then jumped in and emphasised that the allegations on Neeld were completely untrue.

The AFL boss also suggested Neeld would be within his rights to sue Thomas for reporting the allegations before removing them from his ninemsn blog.

Mifsud was first employed in the AFL by Thomas when the latter was coaching St Kilda, and they remain close. Rendell also worked under Thomas at St Kilda and while Mifsud justified his decision to disclose Rendell's comments to the AFL as being for the greater good, this latest scandal has further damaged his reputation.

But if Mifsud was hurt by Rendell's words - and vice versa - then Mifsud has been inadvertently let down by Thomas. Clearly Mifsud believed he was having a private conversation but it was a sensitive allegation he was conveying and Thomas reported it without Mifsud's knowledge.

That it was Thomas who conveyed that allegation would have been a red rag to a bull for Demetriou. Thomas - and many others in the football media - believes it was AFL pressure that caused his removal from SEN in 2009. He and Demetriou have been constant critics of each other and Thomas was also forced to back down on claims the AFL had forced Rendell's removal from the Crows.

Davey is one of a group of senior Melbourne players who previously held leadership roles at the club and have lost those positions. His struggle for form last season and difficult pre-season was underlined by last Saturday's poor performance. Davey is also a close confidant of young Demon Liam Jurrah, who is facing assault charges.

His meetings with Mifsud over the summer are reported to have conveyed some disenchantment with the new coaching and training regime. Whether Davey made the allegations against his coach, the fact remains that Mifsud spoke about them out of school.

While Demetriou accepted that Mifsud's intentions were honourable and he had no reason to believe they would be made public, Mifsud's reputation as an indigenous leader was damaged yesterday. Which was not lost on Demetriou at a time when the game's work in that area remains a priority.

20 comments

  • So, it is OK for Mifsud to divulge the content of a private discussion with his "friend" Matt Rendell but is is not OK for Grant Thomas to divulge the content of his discussion with Mifsud.

    Two points - (1) Another example of double standards by the AFL and especially Andrew Demetriou (2) How could anyone trust Mifsud .... especially his friends.

    Commenter
    Beasley
    Location
    Launceston
    Date and time
    April 04, 2012, 10:08AM
    • demetriou MUST resign NOW!!!!

      Commenter
      STOAT666
      Location
      Richmond
      Date and time
      April 04, 2012, 10:22AM
      • There is little doubt that the Dees did not need this distraction after the abysmal performance last weekend. Also Aaron Davey didn't need this to start 2012 after a pretty ordinary 2011. I would suggest that our coach let this slide as soon as possible and concentrate on winning games. To sue people only draws it out longer. It is on the field we want to win and not in the courts.

        Commenter
        Haydn
        Location
        Bangkok, Thailand
        Date and time
        April 04, 2012, 10:22AM
        • "the AFL remains firm in its belief that Davey was the source of the story"
          I cant for the life of me see anywhere in this story that backs this claim. I say story rather than article, as that's what fantasy is.

          further in "Davey's role in the drama remained unclear last night as he tried to contact Mifsud and repeatedly denied to his club that he had changed his story."

          "Davey was alleged to have taken the coach to task on the issue. Neeld emphatically denied the suggestion that any such group interview had taken place. Davey then spoke to The Age and repeated those denials, which were accepted by The Age."

          No wonder we supporters get sanitised and cliché ridden comments from players and coaching staff when this is the treatment they get from members of the media whose daily job relies on them.

          Commenter
          peggsy
          Location
          Perth
          Date and time
          April 04, 2012, 10:24AM
          • See this is what happens when people are given jobs that in no way relate to their skill sets. In the AFL this was normally confined to footballers being given media roles where they can be kept out of harms way. No the AFL seem to be keen to keep to a closed shop approach, nothing but failure in the future for this

            Commenter
            Greg
            Location
            Perth
            Date and time
            April 04, 2012, 10:28AM
            • Neeld is "accused" of treating indigenous players differently? Are you kidding? What does the AFL do?, we have indigenous round, we have indigenous liasion officers, we have indigenous under age teams and tours, yet Neeld is "accused" of treating them differently as if it were a crime.
              This is insane, how about the AFL and the media stop referring to players as indigenous or non-indigenous. Even if well intentioned, apartheid is still apartheid!

              Commenter
              Batta
              Location
              Brisbane
              Date and time
              April 04, 2012, 10:33AM
              • Surely Jason Mifsud must be sacked by the AFL. Along with Grant Thomas, this bloke has become the biggest trouble maker in AFL history. Dean Rioli spoke very well regards Mifsud and all the harm this bloke is doing to the wonderful efforts in recent times concerning the AFL's attitude towards a better understanding of Indegenous welfare. Jason Mifsud has become a misfit....

                Commenter
                Manny
                Location
                willowgrove sth
                Date and time
                April 04, 2012, 10:38AM
                • Mifsud's AFL position description: Chief Dobber?

                  Commenter
                  Goonersainter
                  Location
                  The 4th Dimension
                  Date and time
                  April 04, 2012, 10:52AM
                  • That is the last time I will listen to, or read an article by, Grant Thomas. I hope the Demons sue, I really do.

                    Commenter
                    Bruiser
                    Location
                    Australia
                    Date and time
                    April 04, 2012, 11:19AM
                    • I hope they sue Misford and get him in court to divulge the source.

                      Commenter
                      Woz
                      Location
                      Albury
                      Date and time
                      April 04, 2012, 12:12PM

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