Three losses that raised eyebrows
Stunning defeat: Richmond beat the Dees in 2009. Photo: Sebastian Costanzo
AS THE AFL continues its investigation of allegations Melbourne tanked, three matches from the 2009 season under coach Dean Bailey remain under scrutiny.
They are successive defeats over rounds 17 and 18, by 18 points to Sydney and four to Richmond, the latter thanks to Jordan McMahon's post-siren goal, and a 47-point loss to St Kilda in round 22.
The Demons had appeared almost certain to claim a priority pick after winning just one of their opening 13 matches but successive wins over the West Coast Eagles and Port Adelaide at the MCG in rounds 14 and 15 jeopardised this.
They were thumped by Geelong a week later but then faced a potentially awkward clash against the rebuilding Swans in Canberra.
By the time the ball was bounced at Manuka, the Demons had made seven changes to the team beaten by the Cats. Brad Green, Jack Grimes, Mark Jamar, James Frawley and Brock McLean were out injured, Neville Jetta was sick while Russell Robertson had been axed.
The decision to start Cale Morton as a defender on Adam Goodes was one of a handful of moves that appeared odd to onlookers.
The Demons would also make only 67 interchanges, well below their season average of 85, in what was to prove an ugly contest with only a combined 16 goals kicked.
Bailey lamented his side's inability to capitalise on their chances in the second half. ''We did miss some opportunities, goalkicking probably let us down, but I thought the effort was still there,'' Bailey said.
Against the Tigers, some odd moves included defenders James Frawley and Matthew Warnock playing forward, key forward Brad Miller thrown into the centre bounces, ruckman Paul Johnson used at full-back on Jack Riewoldt, and on occasions small forward Nathan Brown and midfielder James McDonald sent deep into defence, while a centre-bounce set-up featuring flankers Ricky Petterd and Matthew Bate also raised eyebrows.
The Demons made just 47 interchanges, an extremely low figure even though they had three players who were unable to take the field by the final siren. The tally was a record low for the season and nearly half the league's 2009 average of 92.
The Demons had also left their best player, Colin Sylvia, in the VFL in a decision Bailey cited at the time as punishment.
McMahon last year said he had no memory of any questionable moves by the Demons. ''The only recollection I have from that game is kicking that goal … I will probably keep it that way too, because it's a pretty good feeling,'' he said.
''The only question I used to get [about the match] was if [the mark] was taken before or after the siren. It was definitely before the siren.''
As controversy raged after the loss, Bailey defended the club.
''People are going to make their own opinions about what happened but I think the feeling among the players was that they accepted the flexibility that we are trying to get into them,'' he said.
''They were certainly understanding of it when they hit the front. What is said about myself and my football club, well, we are not going to let that distract us from what we … are trying to achieve.''
By defeating Fremantle in round 20, the Demons again jeopardised their hold on a priority pick and would have lost this had they defeated either Carlton or St Kilda in the final two rounds.
They were smashed by the Blues and would make some controversial moves against the Saints.
This clash remains notable for Frawley being taken off Nick Riewoldt in the second term when he had kept the Saints' skipper to just one touch. Riewoldt responded with three quick goals on new opponent Lynden Dunn. While Frawley returned to Riewoldt later in the game, the damage had been done.
Liam Jurrah, dangerous early as a key forward, was shifted to a flank and wing. He kicked two quick goals in the third term when the Demons closed to within 16 points but was benched and did not return to the field until late in the final quarter.
The loss ensured the Demons would have picks one and two in the national draft to secure Tom Scully and Jack Trengove.