Kane Cornes has delivered the Melbourne Demons a savage truth bomb after questioning the AFL club's insistence there is not a cultural problem at the footy club. The Demons - dogged by a number of off-field incidents in recent weeks - delivered an extraordinary open letter to fans on Monday, to address controversies surrounding star players Clayton Oliver and Joel Smith, as well as coach Simon Goodwin.
Smith is provisionally suspended after recording a positive in-season drugs test to cocaine, while Oliver's future remains under a cloud after worrying rumours emerged about his off-field behaviour. The midfielder, who is contracted until 2030, was also taken to hospital earlier this month following what the club deemed a "medical episode".
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Goodwin has also been forced to deny persistent rumours that he used illicit drugs. The Melbourne coach insists the club does not have a culture problem and brushed aside some of the recent drama as "isolated incidents" - a claim Cornes has seriously questioned.
The Port Adelaide great says while he understands the Demons' are reluctant to go into the nature of Oliver's off-field issues due to privacy reasons and an attempt to protect the player, he questioned why they would reward the 26-year-old with such a large contract. Cornes' comments come after the Demons revealed that Oliver has had "his own challenges for the entire time he's been at the club", sparking a swift rebuke from the AFL pundit.
"You don’t give eight-year, multimillion-dollar deals to players, and then ask them to only meet the minimum standards," Cornes wrote for SEN. "They aren’t the first and they certainly won’t be the last club to butcher a long-term contract, but this could be catastrophic.
"Marquee players, on contracts like that, need to go completely above and beyond minimum standards and be leading the way. First in, last to leave, full professionals."
— Kane Cornes (@kanecornes) October 30, 2023
Melbourne Demons culture under the microscope
Cornes also echoed the thoughts of Melbourne legend Garry Lyon, who poured cold water on suggestions from the club's CEO Gary Pert that the culture at the footy club is "the best I’ve seen in 40 years". Pert also insisted Oliver would be held to account just like every other player at the club.
“I’m not buying it, I’m sorry,” Lyon told SEN. “You’re telling me the culture is the best you’ve seen in 40 years of footy – you’ve been in a lot of good footy clubs over the journey...
"It doesn’t play out that way when I’m seeing incidents here, incidents there, the way that they played in the back half of the year, the discipline – all of these add up to me as not a 40-year-best standard culture... you can try and convince me otherwise, but I’m not having it.”
In regards to Smith's positive drug test, Cornes said he understood why Goodwin was so angry with the player but insisted the coach should have spoken to him immediately to find out all the details. "I would have liked to have spoken to him, mainly to find out who he was with on the night and whether any of the other Melbourne players were present... That would be very important information the club needs to find out," he said.
Cornes pointed to Melbourne's lack of discipline in big games - with the club's 0-4 record in its last four finals games - as on-field evidence that things are not right at the club. Since winning the AFL premiership in 2021, the Demons have twice been bundled out of the AFL finals in straight sets, despite going into the season as one of the heavy favourites.
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