Chief AFL reporter and football writer for 20 years Mark Stevens gives his views on the biggest issues facing the sport.

Melbourne have been a soft target from the moment Brock McLean took tanking talk to a new level in a TV interview last year.

The downtrodden Dees, who lack the clout of a super power like Collingwood on the presidential and coaching front, have been badgered and even allegedly bullied by investigators for months.

We have barely heard a complaint, for they have had no choice but to cop it as a club that not afford to rock the boat.

Would Eddie McGuire had been so silent if the integrity cops had been pounding “Bucks” or the footy boss, Geoff Walsh? Surely not.

It has been unfair. The Dees’ selection policy and positional moves certainly raised eyebrows, but they are not on their own.

The AFL dangled a giant carrot with priority picks, and to a lesser extent a guaranteed pick No.1 for finishing last. Melbourne was only doing what others had done before - put older players in for required surgery, try kids and plan for the future with shrewd list management.

The Demons had no other choice. The chance to snare Tom Scully and Jack Trengove in the same draft was simply too good to turn up, and the AFL made it possible.

Chris Connolly is a genuinely good football person. Colourful, passionate and old-fashioned. A treasure in an era of robots and political correctness. The bloke helped save the footy club, paving a way for Jim Stynes to return and add some much needed hope.

Connolly is a jokester. Why such heat for a couple of throw away lines? He’s the fall guy.
Someone had to pay the price and help the whole issue which threatened to engulf the AFL, go away.

Dean Bailey may have felt pressure, but he can consider himself lucky to be able to turn up to work at all given that Connolly was hit with such a sledgehammer.

Connolly, out of the game for a year, will be backed by the Demons to return in a key role. The break actually might be good for him. Maybe a European summer and a study tour of some sort will do him good. But it must hurt to be booted out of your job so publicly.

And it also seems tough that Melbourne copped a $500,000 fine when they found not guilty of tanking.

The AFL said the Dees were responsible for the actions of staff, Connolly and Bailey, in the 2009 season when tanking became such a hot topic.

Where does such a stance leave Essendon on the drugs front then? If they were deemed to be responsible for staff on their watch, what will the fine be? $1 million?

The AFL created a monster when Adrian Anderson, the former football manager, and his team started digging.

It was left to Gill McLachlan to yesterday clean up the mess. Andrew Demetriou’s right hand man was impressive under the heat, but it was a sloppy conclusion to a sorry saga.

Melbourne have every right to feel victimised.

Rival clubs, including Carlton and others suspected of tanking, have every reason to be relieved.

Follow Mark on Twitter, @Stevo7AFL

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