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Trigg gets off lightly for his part in scandal

Adelaide chairman Rob Chapman addressing the media after yesterday's hearing.

Adelaide chairman Rob Chapman addressing the media after yesterday's hearing. Photo: Mal Fairclough

IT IS extraordinary that a 25-year-old footballer who signed a dodgy deal after receiving some very bad advice when he was just 22 should be handed the almost identical punishment to an 11-year club chief executive with 15 years of AFL experience behind him.

But that's how the AFL Commission saw it when its sat in judgment of Kurt Tippett, Steven Trigg and the Adelaide Crows in a hearing that lasted most of Friday and ended with Tippett banned from playing and Trigg banned from working in the competition each for six months.

Both men were also fined $50,000 with chairman Mike Fitzpatrick, AFL chief Andrew Demetriou and their board adding $25,000 to Tippett's original recommended penalty because he attempted to portray himself as an innocent young footballer who had unwittingly found himself in a dreadful situation not of his own making.

Adelaide chief executive Steven Trigg speaks to the media.

Adelaide chief executive Steven Trigg speaks to the media. Photo: Mal Fairclough

Tippett, who told the commission of the sleeplessness and great personal toll this saga has taken, left the hearing through the back door of AFL headquarters. Later he released a statement which indicated he still blames Adelaide for all that has taken place. Half-a-season for an AFL playing career seems an eternity and in comparison a far harsher penalty to that of a CEO.

Trigg, whose job admittedly could not be guaranteed by his chairman Rob Chapman once his suspension from all forms of AFL activity ranging from training sessions to official functions was completed, also refused to face the music. But the disgraced CEO's behaviour was much worse.

After Fitzpatrick, Demetriou and football boss Adrian Anderson had explained themselves, Trigg delivered a statement that indicated just how little responsibility he truly felt for the rule breaches, draft tampering and illegal third-party payments which he authorised and hid for three years. And never admitted until he was sprung.

He refused to answer any questions claiming ''legal constraints''. No one from the AFL knew what he was talking about. Despite the fact Trigg misled his board when it questioned him back in 2011 about the secret draft agreement first revealed by Fairfax Media and despite the fact he never came clean until his football manager Phil Harper was backed into a corner when the Tippett trade turned sour; both the AFL and Crows chairman Rob Chapman were lavish in their praise of Trigg's exemplary record.

But then the AFL at times is nothing if not an old boys' club. Tippett had his Gold Coast-based father Tony and his Queen's Counsel David Galbally in his corner, both of whom have rubbed the industry up the wrong way of late. Trigg had his ''exemplary'' and ''previously unblemished'' record on his side along with the highly respected and recently retired AFL commissioner Bob Hammond in his as a character witness. If the commission believed Tippett lacked contrition, you would have to wonder what it made of Trigg's statement. The CEO, who will be removed from his job on the first day of 2013, delivered a ''Wayne Carey'' apology. He blamed the unique situation he found himself in at the end of 2009 when all of South Australia believed Tippett was Adelaide's saviour.

He spoke of the pressure the Tippett camp had put on him and said he had paid ''a very high price for an error of judgment''. He said the commission had regarded his actions as serious breaches but clearly did not believe they were quite that bad. ''It's impossible to sit here and not feel it (Trigg's punishment) is extraordinarily tough.''

At that moment you couldn't help but wonder how Matt Rendell would have felt listening to the man who forcibly removed him from his job back in March for engaging in an allegedly racist conversation - key elements of which remain in dispute. Rendell had a ''exemplary record'' as a recruiter at Adelaide and a three-year contract which was not paid out because Trigg forced Rendell to resign.

Trigg would not stay to explain why he had hidden the Tippett deal, why he had miseld his board, why he had authorised a second secret letter from his former football manager John Reid to cover up the illegalities. The AFL's Anderson admitted on Friday that it was only after strong prompting from the league that the Crows withdrew from the 2012 draft. It is understood Adelaide resisted for several days before being pressured on the basis it would help its case. Trigg, who has vowed for six weeks that he would explain everything once this hearing was finished, explained nothing.

John Reid departed the hearing shattered. Although retired, he has a one-year ban - six months of it suspended - to his name. Demetriou praised him for turning up, which seemed a bit rich given the trouble he helped deliver to his club. Reid's replacement Phil Harper, who blew the whistle on the Tippett deal while Trigg was holidaying overseas, has effectively been banned for two months.

Given how Trigg misled chairman Rob Chapman and his directors, the AFL seemed satisifed the Crows board was innocent but still fined the club $300,000 and banned it from taking early picks in next year's draft unless they traded their way into it.

Chapman performed far more impressively than his suspended chief executive. He apologised unconditionally to everyone associated with the Adelaide Football Club. Unlike Trigg he avoided excuses and accepted the penalty as harsh as he believed it was. He said he has learned a lot over the past six weeks. The former bank chief admitted he had placed a ''risk lens'' over the entire affair and chosen in the best interests of the club to plead guilty. Tippett, frightened and sleep-deprived, did the same.

It seemed strange that, despite everything, Chapman supported Trigg while not guaranteeing his job. Unless the board did know more than it claims and Trigg has taken one for the team. In either case you would hope another risk lens is available when the board decides whether or not to re-employ the distinctly non-contrite and incompetent Steven Trigg.

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