Back on the attack: Sydney Swans chairman Richard Colless. Photo: Steve Christo
The simmering feud between the Sydney and Melbourne AFL clubs has shown no signs of abating, with Swans chairman Richard Colless back in attack mode over a call for an AFL investigation into his club's total player payments.
And Colless has disputed the version of events put forward by Carlton president Stephen Kernahan, stating that Colless had apologised following his stinging attack on the Blues.
With the AFL presidents' meeting on March 20 looming as a potentially politically divisive affair, Colless - the longest-serving club chairman in the AFL - said he remained ''bitterly disappointed'' at the lack of ''esprit de corps'' among club chiefs.
Turning his attention to former AFL commissioner and now Geelong president Colin Carter, Colless said: ''Never in the history of the game has a premiership club retained so many great players as Geelong.
''I'd love Colin to tell me how it's done. Probably the best person to ask about how you keep a squad together is Colin Carter. To use terms like 'looking at the books' implies something sinister and coming from a man of Colin's standing … well it's more than mischievous.
''And, as for Stephen Kernahan, who I dearly admire and have always got on well with, he is only telling half the story. My apology came as a result of his abject apology to me. He was very disappointed in Greg Swann's comments about our club, had made that clear to Greg and told me he regretted them. In that spirit, I was happy to apologise as well.''
Greater Western Sydney chairman Tony Shepherd, who also reportedly apologised for his subtle swipe at Carlton's history with salary cap issues, was also a little perplexed at Kernahan's version of their conversation.
With AFL boss Andrew Demetriou acutely aware of the bad blood flowing between various club blocs as the equalisation debate continues to divide them, Colless said the public swipes directed at Sydney, linking the Kurt Tippett recruitment with the club's 9.8 per cent cost-of-living allowance, had him lamenting the current culture among clubs.
''We will abide by the umpire's decision where the allowance is concerned,'' Colless said. ''We welcome the review but it's just so disappointing - staggering - that no one has bothered to pick up the phone and talk to their counterparts.
''Never in the history of the game have I seen a time where people have been so public in questioning other clubs' affairs. I could point out to them that our club in recent years has lost Michael O'Loughlin and Barry Hall and Darren Jolly and we have been very strategic in the players we have recruited.''
Sydney chief executive Andrew Ireland has remained adamant that every player on Sydney's list receives the additional 9.8 per cent and that all the club's player contracts were closely audited by the AFL.
Carter said on Tuesday: ''The Kurt Tippett thing bothers me. If they had $800,000 there for Kurt Tippett because they managed their salary cap well and had one, two or three highly paid players leave, then that is good management. But if they had $800,000 there because they have not been paying their other players that allowance, then that is wrong.
''I think [Colless] is wrong to say clubs are not entitled to ask the question or for the books to be looked at by the AFL.''