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Demons unleashed over tanking

ANGRY Melbourne footballers formed a deputation and met club officials in a bid to overturn the tanking policy of 2009 only to be told the club was ''staying the course'' in order to gain early draft picks.

As the depth of despair and division at the club in the second half of that season continues to come to light, it is believed that humiliated senior players fearing for their playing futures and disgusted at being coached to lose confronted football bosses.

Those bosses reportedly included football chief Chris Connolly and coach Dean Bailey. While senior players two years later were called before president Jim Stynes and his deputy Don McLardy to officially protest about the performances of Connolly and club chief executive Cameron Schwab, it is not known whether board members were involved in the tanking meeting.

As the explosive AFL investigation has continued to identify and recall witnesses verifying Connolly's ''vault'' address that followed the Demons' 11-point win over Port Adelaide in round 15, it has also emerged:

❏ Connolly's future at the club is now in doubt and even Schwab may not survive if his role in the tanking - if any - is established. Schwab's new three-year deal is said to have a six-month payout clause;

❏ The Demons could be forced to front the AFL Commission before this year's draft either at a specially convened hearing or at the next scheduled meeting on November 19;

❏ The club is still no certainty to secure Todd Viney's son Jack as, if it is stripped of early picks in the draft, it will lose its second-round pick No.26;

❏ The Melbourne board has continued to mount a defence that is being led at board level by director and respected lawyer Guy Jalland and could claim past and present staff, who have given evidence to the AFL's investigators, were unfairly coerced.

Former coach Dean Bailey said via a text message yesterday he would make no comment on his role in the losses until the investigation was complete, while Connolly has not responded to calls. McLardy, now the club president, has also refused to comment on the crisis; key witnesses were warned by the AFL not to make any public statements.

AFL rules make it clear that any current employee within the club or league system is bound to respond to questioning from the AFL. All those witnesses recalled have been reminded that further penalties could be inflicted should they fail to tell the truth.

North Melbourne witnesses to the Lachlan Hansen concussion inquiry are already in trouble for inconsistent evidence, including Hansen and potentially key football staffers, including Donald McDonald and Steve Saunders. The AFL is still awaiting an explanation from North's acting chief Cameron Vale regarding the club's lack of co-operation.

It has been established that an estimated 15 people attended the Connolly address at the Junction Oval vault, in which he reminded assistant coaches and other football staffers, including two recruiters, that the club would suffer dire consequences should it continue its then winning streak of two games.

No player was at the meeting. Former captain James McDonald was interviewed by the AFL but has not been recalled. Although only Brock McLean has put his name to the belief that the club deliberately lost games, it seems the bitter divisions between players and Connolly and Schwab continued to fester from that time.

Although the players also had grave reservations about the club's development and training and Connolly's attention to detail, the deliberate losses proved soul destroying in a sporting sense. Melbourne lost six of its last seven games, players were moved when playing well or dragged and, according to the families of at least two senior footballers, some never recovered in a playing sense.

McDonald and Brad Miller were forcibly retired the following year and made their misgivings about the club known to the board at the end of last year. Brad Green, who replaced McDonald as captain, left the game somewhat disillusioned this year, McLean was traded to Carlton for an early draft pick in Jordan Gysberts, who was recently delisted.

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