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Demons' lame-duck excuses

DESPITE the regular protestations of the AFL chief executive Andrew Demetriou and his commission, when the blowtorch was placed on the integrity of certain home-and-away matches in 2009, there appears no doubt in anyone's mind any more that Melbourne worked to lose games of football that year.

The response to that allegation from Melbourne staff and board members since the murky evidence gleaned in the AFL's tanking investigation was first revealed has been uniform and unconvincing.

The Demons' unofficial defence since it became clear they had a very serious case to answer has been run along several lines. The first is the schoolyard excuse: that everybody else was doing it - or at least a sufficient number of clubs, meaning that their club should not be singled out. Further, if the club is punished, then it will drag down others along with it.

Another excuse by Melbourne is that staff and former staff were ''verballed'' or harassed by AFL investigators.

This is not a defence against the charge itself but a complaint in the manner by which the AFL gathered its information from those men who attended a meeting addressed by Chris Connolly at the Junction Oval ''vault''.

Then there is the Connolly role in all of this. Connolly has vigorously defended himself, claimed himself to have been singled out as part of a conspiracy - the club was bitterly divided in his last year as football boss - and claimed that he was being light-hearted if he said anything at all about losing games. So that, in essence, is what Melbourne is unofficially saying in its defence. That it wasn't the only ''tanker''; that witnesses were bullied and that Connolly was only joking. Oh, and that the AFL knew what was going on and tacitly allowed it.

And that Melbourne is too weak to be punished. And - finally - that the AFL has no proof. Certainly the whistleblower Brock McLean provided no evidence. It is understood that Melbourne will be charged in the coming days and almost certainly by Friday. One expected charge is bringing the game into disrepute. Connolly will be charged as will former coach Dean Bailey, but Fairfax Media could not confirm whether CEO Cameron Schwab would also be charged.

Acting AFL football boss Gillon McLachlan is running the affair, having taken it over from the departed Adrian Anderson and has refused to discuss what has reportedly been constant dialogue with all parties. At the height of the Australian Crime Commission sport scandal late last week Connolly was being interviewed at AFL headquarters.

While club president Don McLardy missed the point entirely at last week's Melbourne annual general meeting when he suggested that his players had wrongly been accused of not trying, McLardy remains steadfast in his view that he would fight the AFL's charges all the way to the highest court in the land.

This is unlikely to happen. Neither Melbourne nor the AFL can afford a costly and protracted legal battle and it is clear now that not everyone at the club is behind that fight-at-all-costs mentality.

Another view is that the Demons would be wiser to push for a negotiated outcome. Certainly the view at the game's headquarters is that the charges will be laid and that Melbourne and its officials - and Bailey - will face the AFL Commission in the manner that Adelaide did late last year.

Charges of draft tampering and - for Bailey - not coaching to his utmost have also been looked at.

The Demons have engaged former Federal Court judge Ray Finkelstein to lead their defence and their view is that they have a very good case. Perhaps in legal terms they are correct even though their stated excuses are so so flimsy, irrelevant and in some cases childish.

Perhaps, in the name of political expediency, their punishment will be mitigated. But it shouldn't be. What Melbourne did to its players in 2009 was unacceptable.

It is true the AFL can hold its head far higher than at least two other football codes in Australia where match-fixing allegations are concerned, but everybody involved in this case knows that the game's integrity is paramount.

Melbourne manipulated football results in 2009. Bailey knew it, McLean and several teammates knew it and resented it and a disturbing number of witnesses have attested to it. To let the club off the hook now would be as damaging to the game's image as Melbourne was back in that clumsy, divided and unhappy time four seasons ago.

70 comments

  • "Everyone tanked" that is simply not true, my club (Hawthorn) has never tanked, find me a win-loss record that indicates otherwise.

    Whatever happens, Melbourne are in a hole now and they have themselves to blame. They told their players that they're a loser club and if you do that, chances are you'll keep losing. The players that they tanked to draft have mostly left the club now anyway, they realised they'd never be part of a premiership at a club that didn't believe in a winning culture.

    I hope they get punished but not too fussed if they don't, because they've punished themselves so much already that it's outweighed any benefits they might've got by tankingl

    Commenter
    andyl12
    Date and time
    February 13, 2013, 7:13AM
    • Your right andyl12, the mighty hawks have never tanked. They did something much much worse and choked.

      Commenter
      micko
      Date and time
      February 13, 2013, 8:38AM
    • Um general consensus in the football world is the Hawks did tank and that was in 2004.

      Commenter
      CarolineWatson
      Date and time
      February 13, 2013, 8:59AM
    • Hawthorn didn't tank? Give me a break.

      Have a look at your seasons in the early 2000's. You must either be too young to remember those days or just blindly turning away from the truth.

      Commenter
      Proud Victorian
      Date and time
      February 13, 2013, 9:20AM
    • 2004 season. Hawthorn finish with a win loss record of 4-18 to finish 15th. This nets them Buddy and Roughy (priority pick). The year before they also traded away a host of older players for draft picks as they went after a complete rebuild.

      I dont care that they did it. In fact it worked and netted them a premiership. But the Hawks traded away a host of senior players, put others into post season surgery (during the season) and played players out of position for parts of the year.

      I think it was smart. They got rid of players who were older, who would win them games short term and used those draft picks to get kids. They also knew that this would mean they would finish down the bottom and they ensured they got 2 top 5 picks and away they went.

      I am convinced that Caro hates footy. So negative!

      Commenter
      Scotty
      Location
      Hawthorn
      Date and time
      February 13, 2013, 9:37AM
    • Yes, I've had a look at our first two seasons in the 2000's, we made the finals in both of them.

      And I've had a look at our 2004 season, we won two of our last four games to save ourselves the embarrassment of a wooden spoon (we haven't had one since 1965).

      Commenter
      andyl12
      Date and time
      February 13, 2013, 9:51AM
    • You'd think if we were tanking in 2004 we would've made sure we finished bottom, instead of beating Richmond to move ahead of them, wouldn't you? Take a look at the facts.

      Commenter
      andyl12
      Date and time
      February 13, 2013, 9:58AM
    • So Scotty, you think trading for draft picks is tanking? Even when blokes like Rawlings and Thompson were leaving anyway? And who were these players we played out of position?

      Commenter
      andyl12
      Date and time
      February 13, 2013, 10:38AM
    • Hawthorn supporters are never blindly arrogant are they. You're probably one of those fans who also thinks Buddy gives 100% and screams yourself hoarse, demanding frees when the big guy 'falls over' in marking contests (before he gets the chance to duck around the back for the cherry picking handpass receive in the goal square....which is Cyril's job). Dees tanked. We all know it. Hawkers tanked in 2004...and are now known chokers too. We also all know that. Window...shutting...

      Commenter
      Terry
      Location
      Mooroopna
      Date and time
      February 13, 2013, 11:24AM
  • Why is this not called match fixing? Melbourne clearly derive an unfair advantage over other clubs and it impacts on the position of others. And what about those who have bet on the game thinking it was an honest competition? What would we be calling this if it were happening in other countries?

    Commenter
    Andy
    Location
    Melbourne
    Date and time
    February 13, 2013, 7:29AM

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