Melbourne a 'soft target' in tanking saga

Mark Stevens February 20, 2013, 12:12 pm

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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2 Comments

  1. Jeff11:00am Thursday 21st February 2013 ESTReport Abuse

    I agree that the punishment for Melbourne was too tough. How can the inquiry decide thee was no tanking and then punish the coaches - is it clear what they are being punished for? The AFL needs a competition with a semblance of equity - unlike the English Premier League - if we lose equity in the long run we will be doomed!!!!!. So why punish a club with a hefty fine they can ill afford - I'm still not clear WHY they were fined - maybe its because they are struggling and came last in the standings!!!

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  2. peter09:27pm Wednesday 27th February 2013 ESTReport Abuse

    Theyll get a hand out at the end of the year that will more than pay that fine , look Melb have had it time to merge them with Rich and the bulldogs with nth melb , in 5 yrs theyll be gone id say no one supports them , Nathan Jones is the only player any good

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