Melbourne players, including Jeremy Howe, Nathan Jones, Daniel Nicholson, David Rodan and James Frawley, during training on Wednesday. Photo: Sebastian Costanzo
AS MELBOURNE vowed to fight any charges of tanking, the role former president Jim Stynes had in the controversy remains a delicate issue for the AFL.
Chief executive Cameron Schwab, former football manager Chris Connolly, former coach Dean Bailey and the Melbourne Football Club board have until the end of the month to show reason to the AFL why they should not be charged.
While Stynes, who died last year, appears to have escaped individual censure to this point, he was president at the time of the tanking allegations in 2009, while current president Don McLardy was his deputy.
Stynes does not figure prominently in the 800-page document complete with interviews of those associated with the Demons at the time and conducted by AFL investigators. However, if action is taken against against the board, it would appear Stynes would naturally be implicated. Lawyers involved in the case are confident of challenging any possible charges.
''The interesting thing … is if Don McLardy is called … to give a witness statement and is charged as one of the board, well, at the time, Jimmy was president and McLardy was vice-president,'' a source close to the Demons said. ''But the brief of evidence is deafening by its silence in relation to him [Stynes].''
Stynes played a key role in the financial rebuilding of his beloved club before his long battle with cancer ended in March last year. The tanking investigation began in August.
The respected Stynes helped disadvantaged young people through The Reach Foundation and has a medal named in his honour given to an AFL player who has demonstrated community leadership.
Lawyers for the club and Bailey maintain there is not enough hard evidence for the AFL to press charges. The AFL Commission is expected to discuss the Demons' response at next month's opening meeting of the year. McLardy has already vowed to fight any charges, while director of sports performance Neil Craig echoed this declaration on Wednesday: ''I would think they [club bosses] would fight charges which they think are inappropriate. That would be everyone's right … I think that would unfold in the next two or three weeks.''
As revealed by Fairfax Media on Tuesday, the round-21 loss to Carlton has also emerged as a focus of investigators, plus losses against Richmond, Sydney and St Kilda and a win over Port Adelaide.
It's understood questions have been asked over why they fielded three ruckmen, with Mark Jamar, Paul Johnson and Jake Spencer all playing. Jamar and Spencer were two of four inclusions.
Craig, who joined the Demons last season, insisted the saga had not become a distraction for the team ahead of its 2013 campaign.
''If you go back to the death of Jim Stynes and what that meant to Melbourne, if you go back to the Liam Jurrah situation that this football club had to manage and had given great support to Liam,'' Craig said. ''If you go back to the situation where the senior coach was accused of being racist in the public arena.
''You've got an AFL club that made a strong decision to disassociate itself with a major sponsor, that's a significant decision for any AFL club. And I have no doubt, I have no doubt, that the Melbourne Football Club will conduct its business, in terms of the tanking situation, with the same skill set that we've seen with those other issues.''
In his autobiography published in August, Stynes spoke of the enormous pressure the Demons were under in 2009.
''At that stage we had won three … I was sitting in Thailand hoping to have my spirits boosted by the team performing well, but at the same time hoping we would hang on to that extra draft pick,'' he wrote.