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Senior Demons drove tanking

Key members of Melbourne's football department meet in 2009.

Key members of Melbourne's football department meet in 2009. Photo: Ken Irwin

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.

194 comments so far

  • If this is the case the penalties should be massive. Tanking is far more serious in my view than Salary Cap breaches. I would say anything short of extinction would be too soft.

    Commenter
    Toovey
    Date and time
    October 30, 2012, 3:18PM
    • No it's not.

      Commenter
      Knee
      Location
      Jerk
      Date and time
      October 30, 2012, 3:42PM
    • What was that groan I heard from down Docklands way - was it Vlad or just a passing barge?

      Commenter
      Gaz
      Location
      Yarrawonga
      Date and time
      October 30, 2012, 3:52PM
    • Never bet on something that can talk. Will the betting agencies be providing refunds?

      Commenter
      Marc
      Location
      Disappointed
      Date and time
      October 30, 2012, 4:05PM
    • I agree, they should have to forfeit draft picks if found guilty of this

      Commenter
      Mick
      Location
      Melb
      Date and time
      October 30, 2012, 4:12PM
    • Disagree with this. Tanking is the realm of the desperate loooking for hope, salary cap breaches are usually insidous attempts to load up and steal a premiership. Tanking for picks that give you a 'chance' at a better future (any draftee is still a lottery ticket after all) is common in sports across the world. Breaching caps in a capped sport is always unacceptable.

      Really, if you want to do this, good luck to you and your club, it's rarely a fast track to success.

      Commenter
      Davis
      Date and time
      October 30, 2012, 4:19PM
    • Impact on culture, loss of players = already paid/ still paying a high price. New coach and new players is changing the culture at that level so I think ban all the Coaches and Managers involved for two years and maybe suspend any players for eleven games. They'll lose some drafting as well but maybe this should just be in the National Draft.

      Commenter
      MG
      Date and time
      October 30, 2012, 4:38PM
    • Just like Collingwood tanked in 2005 to get the likes of Pendlebury and Thomas, in that infamous match against Carlton, hey Toovey!!!

      Commenter
      Tom
      Location
      Melbourne
      Date and time
      October 30, 2012, 4:56PM
    • What's the big deal? This happens in every sports league that has a draft, and it's no bad thing. It's not like the teams involved wouldnt rather be on top. Playing the rookies over the back half of the year both furthers their development, and makes it more likely the team will lose, improving the draft position. Both good things from any team near the bottom. Any team that didnt do this would be idiots.

      Commenter
      Mike G
      Location
      Sydney
      Date and time
      October 30, 2012, 7:29PM
    • I'm with @Davis and @Mike G. This is the AFL's fault, and their new-found vigour is more about their own embarrassment than anything else. Every club has done this or something equivalent. Why wouldn't they? The system devised by the AFL encourages it. Melbourne seem to have been particularly obvious about their efforts - which is embarrassing for the AFL. But how do you define the offence? And how is it different from resting your best players pre-finals? Or playing young players to give them experience? Or not going pedal-to-the-metal when you're 5 goals up with 10 mins to go? It's a ridiculous precedent to set, and the AFL are in a noose of their own making here. It's going to be an uncomfortable period for them, and rightly so. They will rightly be acccused of hypocrisy and double-standards. There will be calls for investigations into other clubs. However when faced with going after powerful, cashed-up Collingwood, for example, they will balk and either ignore it or declare some kind of 'amnesty'. Melbourne may seem like an easy target now, but the AFL will ultimately pay for this. Hopefully it will at least kick-start some kind of meaningful discussion about how the rules might need to change. The witch-hunting is ridiculous.

      Commenter
      alan
      Location
      melton
      Date and time
      October 31, 2012, 11:17AM

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