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Demons cleared, guilty, fined

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'It's not tanking': Demetriou

AFL CEO Andrew Demetriou denies that the $500,000 fine imposed on the Demons is for tanking.

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In the end it all came down to one meeting in July 2009 in an old tin shed at the Junction Oval known as ''the vault''.

It was there that Melbourne's then football boss, Chris Connolly, is alleged to have warned an estimated 15 officials against the perils of winning more than four games that year.


It was there that jobs were allegedly threatened and that two teenagers by the names of Tom Scully and Jack Trengove were mentioned. The Demons had just emerged from back-to-back victories and were perilously poised with three wins for the season.

It was that meeting which appears to have provided the best and most damaging evidence of what former Demon Brock McLean declared last year ''Blind Freddie'' could see. That Melbourne had deliberately lost games of football.

Not that the AFL announced as much when it revealed on Tuesday what it had told Melbourne four days earlier. The club was found guilty of little it seemed except that it was forced to take responsibility for the behaviour of Connolly and the club's former coach, Dean Bailey.

The AFL has achieved some expedient backroom deals in its time but this one will compete for the most pragmatic, political decisions in the game's history. To his credit Andrew Demetriou's most likely successor, Gillon McLachlan, made a good fist of justifying the inexplicable.

Both Connolly and Bailey are the scapegoats of something the AFL privately believes was sanctioned by others. According to McLachlan, Connolly ''made a terrible and stupid decision in the context of an AFL rule which has since changed. I know he now regrets that comment''.

They were found guilty of breaching AFL rule 1.6: That they had acted in a manner prejudicial to the interests of the competition.

If the Demons' board knew nothing then it is paying a heavy fine for what Connolly and Bailey did. The club has been fined $500,000 - almost double Adelaide's fine for draft and salary cap tampering. Only Carlton and the Demons themselves have ever been fined more in the past and both those were for salary cap cheating.

Intriguingly the club did not lose draft picks and McLachlan himself admitted the punishment was made in the context of a priority pick rule that had put clubs under pressure and has now been removed.

Melbourne reluctantly accepted the deal McLachlan crunched on the basis it did not lose draft picks. And on the basis that the investigation concluded that the club, coach and team had not set out to lose matches. It fought to have the $500,000 fine cut in half to the end but failed.

The AFL Commission talks on Monday were robust to say the least and there was a view that the club had escaped lightly. Again this was a messy, confusing political decision but at least there was a decision.

The board and Connolly's legal team fought not to have him carry the can for the entire affair but there had to be a scapegoat. Connolly himself denied for six months at least that he had been serious in his address to his staff in ''the vault'' that fateful winter's day back in 2009 but in the end he could not fight against the weight of evidence.

Or the political context in which this whole saga has been played out. The Demons also fought for Cameron Schwab not to be charged and in the end McLachlan admitted there was not sufficient evidence to do so despite some strong opinion to the contrary.

Significantly had the club, its board or chief executive had its integrity put in question then its Bentleigh Club pokies' licence could have been threatened.

Melbourne claims its integrity is intact and Jim Stynes' legacy has been preserved. Don McLardy, who was the ailing Stynes' deputy that year but pretty much in charge, slammed the media dialogue that has surrounded this whole unhappy episode.

He said he was entirely comfortable with the manner in which both he and his board conducted themselves in 2009.

McLardy said he was happy in terms of integrity that the club's name had been cleared but accepted that in the current sporting climate of match-fixing and drug allegations the AFL had to take a stand.

Demetriou will not be forced to explain his promise that any coach found guilty of deliberately losing games would never work again in football. That's because Bailey was found guilty of acting in a manner prejudicial to the AFL, but not trying to lose. Interestingly he was the only coach at Melbourne that year to have done so.

Demetriou defended his late withdrawal from Tuesday's public announcement saying it had been McLachlan's investigation, not his.

He said the evidence and findings had been put before an independent Queen's Counsel who had agreed the investigation had no sufficient evidence against any other officials or board members.

So the Demons won the legal argument that they did not tank. McLachlan admitted he wasn't even sure what tanking meant. Nor could the AFL prove, despite significant evidence played out before its very eyes in games such as rounds 17 and 18 against Sydney and Richmond respectively, that any on-field moves made in 2009 constituted deliberate attempts to lose. And yet the club, which scraped together a $19,000 profit last season, has been slapped with the third-largest fine in AFL history.

A club official, Chris Connolly, boasting a 40-year history with the sport has been banned from all football clubs and arenas for a year and yet Melbourne will still somehow manage to unofficially pay him.

A coach, Dean Bailey, who - under pressure from that official - acted before games in a manner prejudicial to victory but not during games, cannot coach for 16 weeks but can remain at his club and still get paid.

That's it in a nutshell. Messy? No messier than Melbourne's football operations in 2009. Confusing? No more confused than the Melbourne players were when they were victim to some very strange team selections and on-field moves that season.


  • I know you wanted more blood Caroline, but if a independent Queen's Counsel found that there was no sufficient evidence, they're wasn't. Playing players out of position is not uncommon Caroline. If you watched footy, you would realise that. In the end it was a rubbish result for a rubbish charge

    Date and time
    February 20, 2013, 7:16AM
    • Micko, that's what pre-seasons are for - playing players out of position to see if they adapt. NOT during the home and away season. Would you see it happen in a final where players are played "out of position"? I think not.

      As for Melbourne - well they're irrelevant now. The ONLY time in history its own members voted to merge with another Club. All those years of mediocrity - gleefully accepted by the Board, coaching staff, players and idiot supporters.

      Date and time
      February 20, 2013, 9:00AM
    • Micko, Trying players out of regular position is normal. Playing an average ruckman on a quality small forward is trying to lose. No one who saw the Richmond game can say it was experimentation. It was obvious and comical the lengths the coaches were going to in order to lose. It almost didn't work given the pitiful quality of the opposition

      Date and time
      February 20, 2013, 9:14AM
    • Playing players out of position is for the pre season, really?
      Alastair Lynch was a full back at Fitzroy but they once put him forward and kicked 7 against North, he then went on to play in flags with Brisbane as a full forward. WOuld never have happened using your logic.
      Swan starting in the forward line not centre (out of position).

      Clubs trying new things like giving young players a chance when not going to make the finals, sending players off for surgery so they are right for next year etc are all part of good list management unless it is Melbourne then it is tanking

      Think about it
      Date and time
      February 20, 2013, 9:15AM
    • @BoDiddley

      Check out the 1984 grand final. I know it was some time ago but Sheedy essentially moved his best backmen into the forward line and vice versa. Was he tanking?

      Date and time
      February 20, 2013, 9:20AM
    • @BoDiddley In pre-season you have a fixed squad of players getting ready for the year ahead. If that year has been a disaster and you are no chance of making finals, you look ahead and manage your list to see who stays, who goes and who you can get, which includes playing players out of position and dropping the tired/injured. Happens in every sport at every level. This wouldn't be as much of a Caro beat up if the suggestion was a team playing a final did this, but that probably wouldn't happen unless the AFL provided an extra incentive as they did with the bottom teams.

      F. Poss
      Date and time
      February 20, 2013, 9:26AM
    • @BoDiddley, you're another ill-informed spud that believes the urban myth that Melbourne supporters voted to merge - the facts are that nearly 1000 people couldn't get into the Dallas Brooks Hall that night meaning that they weren't able to vote. The overall counted vote was 51%-49%; if you attended the DBH that night as I did, you were almost certainly attending to save the club and vote "no merger". The supporters who missed out on voting didn't bother with another vote because Hawthorn had voted against it already meaning that it the merger couldn't go ahead anyway.
      And frankly, anyone who thinks that the Demons were the only club to "play players out of position" for draft picks have got their head in their sand - there are countless clubs who've done the same thing but for whatever reason were never investigated.

      Date and time
      February 20, 2013, 9:59AM
    • @Micko are you serious? Do you think your club is vindicated? They were fined $500k and 2 officials are now suspended for actions contrary to the spirit of AFL. But you think this is all ok because a QC refused to use the term “tanking” in his verdict?? Carro was spot on and has been proven right – you need to suck it up and stop hiding behind a dictionary.

      Too Funny
      Date and time
      February 20, 2013, 9:59AM
    • Oh please, another AFL whitewash designed to protect the AFL image.

      The Dee's are not the only team to take a dive to the bottom for draft picks. And to suggest that Jim and the board never knew is just plain insulting to Aussie rules fans as everyone else could see what was happening.
      In fact to suggest otherwise is so naive that I would like to meet them as I have a bridge for sale, it looks like a coat hanger and it is in sydney.

      Classic Boy
      Life boat earth
      Date and time
      February 20, 2013, 10:02AM
    • You're wrong Micko.

      Caro is correct on this one.

      The AFL says there isn't enough evidence, yet their own statements provide ample evidence that Melbourne planned to lose games to gain draft picks. The AFL said too much, which is unusual for them. Normally they just shut up shop.

      Again the crappy argument that 'the players were trying'. This is probably true, but totally irrelevant. The puppet is only as good as the puppeteer. And the puppeteer wanted to lose.

      Date and time
      February 20, 2013, 11:05AM

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