Melbourne Demons a 'soft target' in tanking saga: Stevens

Mark Stevens, Yahoo!7 Updated February 20, 2013, 6:33 am

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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  1. Charmaine04:29pm Sunday 24th February 2013 ESTReport Abuse

    it is the first time ive read something about the other clubs that have done the same thing like melbourne has. thank you stevens for putting it out there and maybe the can of worms will be opened up in this situation and to you brock , you did burn outs at melbourne i say you will burn out at carlton this year. Go Dees for a successful year and put this behind us and the opposition teams wont be looking forward to next year with big hoges in toe. from dave

  2. andrew07:13pm Wednesday 20th February 2013 ESTReport Abuse

    Adm, you're spot on. You can't seriously imagine the MFC Board sitting in their boxes in latter-round 2009 and saying, "Gees the Dees are having a rough trot, but I can quite see how Davey and Sylvia slayed the Saints in Qs 1 & 2, but are now playing in defence in the 2nd half ..." If the Board couldn't see what Blind Freddy could, they ain't worth the price of an apres-ski cocktail at Falls Creek. And if Dean Bailey hadn't the stones to say, "Listen lads - I didn't come here to lose games; you and your draft picks can take a running jump", he's not worth much on anyone's Football Staff ... and yet the Crows are wanting to keep paying him!

  3. Jazzer02:50pm Wednesday 20th February 2013 ESTReport Abuse

    After we get rid of demetriou and co can we then get rid of the ridiculous rule committee

  4. Adm01:46pm Wednesday 20th February 2013 ESTReport Abuse

    This penalty is a bit of a joke. No doubt blamming the coach and head of football operations is simplistic and I can only say they are indeed sacrifical lambs. Are we really meant to believe these two men orchestrated 'tanking' themselves alone? Seriously if I were a coach and I knew the board wanted to win as many games as possible - I would never tank. DB felt the pressure from above (not just from CC) The idea the MFC had no knowledge what CC and DB is ridiculous. If AFL is serious go after MFC - then Richmond - then Carlton - but as the author says - the AFL set up this system in the first place.

  5. Alan12:59pm Wednesday 20th February 2013 ESTReport Abuse

    The AFL are not blameless in this matter, Anderson & Demetrio have put All clubs under duress, bringing about and uneven playing field where clubs with a distinct disadvantage to the "Money" clubs & clubs bolstered by "HELP" from the AFL have found it hard to stay in the race. Clubs like the "Dees" have had players they have matured over three years taken off them by the AFL's NEW babies. The playing list No,s are stretched to the limit, they have to play where the AFL sends them & the only rewards they get are the distribution of the MEDIA's handouts. The AFL needs to even the draw (Playing in 2 leagues) so these struggling clubs get a better chance against each other. No wonder there are ongoing enquiries into the AFL clubs. Thanks to the AFL's handling of looking after privileged clubs with their draw etc. their is no wonder clubs are resorting to what means they can too stay competitive.

  6. John12:33pm Wednesday 20th February 2013 ESTReport Abuse

    andrew you say mclean is courageous for coming forwardi i say he is a gutless creep who was seeking attention .like all squealrs do.this will come back to bite him on the bum

  7. Chapelli11:11am Wednesday 20th February 2013 ESTReport Abuse

    Punish the blokes who did the tanking but not the clubs they are now at. I wouldn't want a doctor to operate on me like the way the AFL fixes things up!

  8. Daggers11:04am Wednesday 20th February 2013 ESTReport Abuse

    Melbourne's insipid defence of these claims is puzzling. To cop a $500k fine & have two senior (ex) club officials suspended even though the AFL didnt prove their tanking charge is absurd. The AFL CEO & top people should be replaced. Demetriou been there too long & noticably absent yesterday, and their CEO is a little weasel.

  9. stormrider9811:00am Wednesday 20th February 2013 ESTReport Abuse

    The whole sorry saga smacks of under the table deals by the legal eagles to avoid Supreme Court action and finding some patsy to wear the can while "natural justice" is swept under the carpet. The integrity of the AFL and its hierarchy lacks any moral fibre or lack of any real will to get to the truth.

  10. andrew09:58am Wednesday 20th February 2013 ESTReport Abuse

    Chris Connolly - "a jokester with the throwaway lines"? Get real, Stevo! I followed the Dees for 40-odd years, and I can still remember the rage of watching them thrashed by the 'Roos by 10 goals in Rd 19 2009; the 'Roos who'd lost 10 games straight! Watching rookie Tom McNamara manning Hamish McIntosh in the goalsquare. That's Coaching to lose, no mistake. Brock McLean had the courage to call it for what it was, David; the only irony is that he moved to a Club that set the bar for Tanking, but obviously no-one had the guts to call it at Carlton.