- Secrets from 'the vault'
- Three losses that raised eyebrows
- Why the Dees alone are facing probe
- A timeline on tanking in the AFL
- What they said about tanking
THE AFL has uncovered a secret meeting involving at least 15 members of the Melbourne football department in which coaches were reminded of the importance of forfeiting matches in order to gain early draft picks.
Former Melbourne football boss Chris Connolly addressed the 2009 meeting, which it is believed was code-named ''the vault''.
The term vault relates to where the meeting took place - in the tin shed that runs between the two stands at Melbourne's old training ground at the Junction Oval. It is understood 15 people attended what began as a match committee meeting after the club's round 15 win over Port Adelaide, which was its second win in succession and lifted its tally for the year perilously close to its planned limit of four wins.
Connolly is understood to have urged those at the meeting to ''stay the course'', warning that Melbourne supporters and other stakeholders would come down on it should it fail to secure a prized priority pick, which the club would receive if it won just four games.
The club is now receiving legal advice after at least four witnesses were recalled by the AFL and admitted the club planned to deliberately lose games of football. Among those to have confessed the meeting took place upon being re-interviewed are former coach Dean Bailey and his then assistant Josh Mahoney. The AFL investigation continued today with those witnesses recalled, including Demons' former recruiting manager Barry Prendergast, now at Carlton.
It is not known whether the meeting referred to a specific game or cluster of matches. Melbourne had several suspicious losses in 2009 including successive defeats over rounds 17 and 18 respectively to Sydney (18 points) and Richmond (four points). The Demons won just four games in 2009, and were
rewarded with the first two picks in the national draft, collecting Tom Scully (a priority choice) and Jack Trengove.
It is understood Melbourne remains determined to fight any sanction and is looking at the legal definition of ''tanking'' in a bid to redefine their actions and those of other clubs over the past decade. The club is expected to come before the AFL Commission as early as next month.
As many as 10 witnesses are understood to have rolled over under pressure from AFL investigators Brett Clothier and Abraham Haddad, the league's intelligence co-ordinator.
Mahoney, who is now in charge of the Melbourne football department, did not attend Monday's first official pre-season training session. Bailey, who has not returned calls from Fairfax, fears he could be suspended by the AFL for his role in the affair.
Now a senior assistant with the Adelaide Crows, Bailey came close to blowing the whistle on Melbourne last year at his final press conference, after he was sacked, but failed to reveal the meeting in a subsequent AFL investigation. Bailey has told colleagues he regrets following the club line, which the AFL could establish was driven from the top.
It is not clear whether Jim Stynes' legacy will be tarnished by the investigation. Stynes, who was club chairman from 2008 to 2012, only partially addressed the tanking issue in his 2012 book before he died. The AFL recently named a community scholarship in his honour.
Chief executive Cameron Schwab, who was not present at the Connolly meeting in question, is also being investigated for alleged incriminating conversations with coaches. Schwab, who almost lost his job last year before Bailey was sacked, recently signed a new three-year agreement with the club. Connolly was removed from the football department at the end of 2011 but still works at the club.
The AFL has also interviewed former Demon assistants Mark Williams, Scott West, Kelly O'Donnell and Sean Wellman. Club president Don McLardy said he would make no comment until the investigation was completed.
AFL chief Andrew Demetriou, who constantly defended the club, counselled Schwab at the time and repeatedly denied tanking was taking place, said he was remaining at arm's length from the inquiry given his role as an AFL commissioner.
In August this year Demetriou again said he did not believe tanking existed in football but described it as one of the game's worst crimes.
The investigation was sparked by former Demon Brock McLean after he spoke of his misgivings about the club's manipulation of games on Fox Footy in July.
At least one other former player, Melbourne's then captain James McDonald, has also been interviewed although it is not known whether he has been recalled.