The AFL and Tanking

As you may be aware, Melbourne are currently under investigation for tanking, after several years of repeated denials by the AFL Chief Executive, Andrew Demetriou.

The Background

On August 6, 2007, The Age (Carltons not tanking, says Lions coach) reported that Lions coach Leigh Matthews didnt believe Carlton were tanking. Allegations were thick and fast after Brendon Fevola left the field after kicking 6 goals. Matthews said he didnt believe coaches and players would willing lose a game if they had a choice.

“It’s totally foreign for coaches and players to go to the footy without being  prepared to die for the win – I believe that to be the case. The tanking concept are by people who don’t understand the competitive urges  that participants feel.” – Leigh Matthews

On March 13th, 2008 on the Footy Show, Tony Liberatore alleged that Carlton had tanked in 2007. The Heraldsun (“AFL to interview Liberatore over tanking claims“) and the ABC (“Liberatore to meet with AFL over tanking claim“) reported that Libba had already admitted that the coaching staff never discussed throwing matches and no directives were ever received from Carlton officials.

“I never heard (a directive to lose), but I could feel it, if that makes sense. Nobody ever said we’re not going to win today but the feeling in the group was that it was a bit of a laugh” – Tony Liberatore

The Age (“No AFL action of Libba tanking claim“) later reported that the AFL found insufficient evidence.

“During the meeting, Mr Liberatore confirmed it was his view that at all times Carlton’s players played to win matches and also confirmed that at no stage was anything said to him, or did he hear anything, to the effect that Carlton should not try to win matches”

In August 2009, Associated Press (“Roos sick of tanking debate“) reported that Paul Roos was sick of the tanking debate, but said that it would continue until the AFL made changes to the way draft picks were awarded.

“There’s nothing that coaches can do, it’s really an AFL issue. It’s disappointing, everyone talks about it and it’s probably  time to do something about it. It’s up to the administration to change  the system and then if you change the system then there’s no discussion.” – Paul Roos

In November 2009, the Age (“AFL gets tank free mark from watchdog“) reported that much to everyones surprise, the Victorian Gambling watchdog had decided that the AFL was free of tanking.

In August 2011, former Melbourne coach Dean Bailey came very close to admitting to tanking when he was fired from Melbourne. The coach was quoted as saying he “coached for draft picks”. This was reported on the AFL website (“Bailey coached for picks“). The Australian quoted Dean Bailey –

“I had no hesitation at all in the first two years in ensuring the club was well placed for draft picks. I was asked to do the best thing by the Melbourne Football Club and I did it. I put players in different positions.” – Dean Bailey

On August 2nd, 2011, The Age (“AFL admits tanking concern“) reported that Adrian Anderson was concerned about the public perception of tanking for draft picks.

“That’s not a good thing. We don’t like to hear that. And I think what’s happened  during the expansion period (is) that this speculation about this sort of  conduct has diminished substantially and that’s partly because priority picks  are later on in the draft.” – Adrian Anderson

On August 3rd, 2011, WA Today in apparent response to comments from Grant Thomas, questioned whether the Eagles had tanked at all. (Thomas’s tank engine runs out of steam). The article quotes Grant Thomas taking about the Eagles in 2010.

What were West Coast doing last year? Did [coach] Johnny Worsfold just have a revelation one night and bolt upright, and say, ‘Now I know, it’s about defence as well’,”

– Grant Thomas

Thomas later backed down from the comment.

On August 4th, WA Today ran an article where Worsfold denied tanking. (Worsfold denies Eagles tanked), quoting the former Eagles skipper

“My opinion (last year) was … we already had good enough talent on our list  (to ensure) that it was going to progress forward and it was about progressing  that talent without worrying about future talent at that time, other than  obviously knowing that with the way our season was panning out we were going to  have an early pick … in a diluted draft.

“I don’t think (my focus on development cost us any wins), no.”

On August 4th, 2011. The Age (“Experts urge AFl enquiry on tanking“) cited former umpire and lawyer, Derek Humphrey-Smith, as encouraging the AFL to look deeper into tanking.

 “I would have thought as the keeper of the code the AFL would be  furious about  that perception and would be wanting to do everything in  its power to change  that perception because it’s gathering some  momentum, which is very concerning” – Derek Humphrey Smith

The Age also claimed that a number of experts were bemused at the lack of an AFL response claiming clarifying Baileys comments was not enough. The article quoted Adrian Andersons explanation.

‘These things are  never completely closed … if more information came to hand  that did give  us the basis to investigate further we would. But on the basis of what Dean said, and his clarification of what he  meant by  what he said, there’s not really the basis for taking it  further at the present  time. But we wouldn’t rule that out if further  information became available.”

On August 5th, 2011, The Age (“Strugglers tanking is part and parcel“) alleged Collingwood tanked in a game against Carlton in 2005, reportedly saying that a loss that day would mean victory for the next 10 years. The Heraldsun would revisit this in 2012. (Did Collingwood tank its way to a flag?)

On August 6th, 2011, The Age (Club Chiefs happy to tank) cited ex Melbourne and ex Carlton players as agreeing that club adminstrators would have been happy to tank quoting former Blue Nick Stevens.

”Behind closed doors they would have been happy, no doubt. There’s no doubt that board  members would have been [happy] because that’s their job … they look at it as a  business where players look at it as their life. But never did they once, and this is the honest truth, never did they once  show it in front of everyone” – Nick Stevens

On February 22, 2012, The Australian (‘Tanking fear sees priority pick removed’)reported that the AFL changed the way priority picks would be awarded with them only being awarded by the Commission in exceptional circumstances.

On June 16th, 2012, Brendon fevola told the Heraldsun (“Carlton made it hard to win“) that Carlton didnt necessarily tank, but they did make it harder to win playing players out of position and sending others off for surgeries. The article quotes Fevola

“It is absolutely true that we never sat around as a playing or coaching group and worked out a way to lose any of our matches after Brett Ratten took over as coach. None of us ever deliberately gave the ball away or kicked a point instead of a goal or pulled out of a contest.”

The Current Situation

This current investigation (2012) was brought to a head by comments made by former Melbourne player Brock Mclean when a guest on Foxfootys “On the Couch” program, on July 20th, 2012.

From there Ill be using this page to track developments in the media as they arise.

Mcleans tanking comments were repeated in numerous outlets the next day including the AFL website (“Mcleans tanking bombshell“)

On August 1st, Terry Wallace was quoted on the Foxsports site (“Wallace slams AFL for tanking inaction“) after appearing on AFL 360.

“What happens if we get a kid, who comes through the under-18 championships  next year and he kicks 14 goals in every single game he plays, he’s  six-foot-seven and he’s the greatest thing we’ve ever seen arrive in the  land? At the moment we have a situation where teams can actually work themselves  into that situation to pick up that player. Why don’t we just take it out of the equation? Why don’t we put in a lottery  system where you don’t know so it’s not even a question”

– Former Richmond coach, Terry Wallace

On August 1st, the Heraldsun (“AFL may look beyond Brock Mclean in tanking probe“) reported that the AFL had put its integrity people on the case and quoted former Melbourne President, Paul Gardner as being in no doubt that Melbourne tanked in 2008 and 2009.

“They were clearly tanking. There is no doubt that they were trying very hard not to win games – or not to lose what they perceived as valuable draft picks.”

– Paul Gardner

The AFL website quoted Brett Ratten as saying he’d been interviewed twice by the AFL in regard to tanking (Rattens tank inquisitions).

“Personally as a coach, I got investigated twice in regards to this, so I’ve gone through that procedure and the AFL have ticked it off. They’ve done their findings behind the scenes and everything’s clear.” – Brett Ratten

On August 2nd, the Heraldsun (Did Collingwood tank its way to a flag?) pointedly questioned whether Collingwood had tanked in 2005 without using the word “tank”. The article says that as a result of the Pies qualifying for priority picks – two years after making a grand final mind – they were able to take Pendlebury and Thomas as priority selections at the draft.

On August 3rd, The AFL (Its development not tanking: Ratten) website quoted Brett Ratten as saying he didnt believe it was tanking, but development saying coaches should be able to experiement when the season was gone.

On August 9th, The Age (“Tanking probe widens“) reported that the league had authorised Brett Clothier to take it beyond Brock Mclean.

On August 17th, The AFL website (“Tanking investigation timeless“) said that the investigation could take weeks, with the AFL CEO saying it was better to do it right than to do it fast.

Anything that affects the integrity of the competition, we put in that basket things like the salary cap, we put in that basket performance-enhancing drugs, we put in that basket things that relate to betting scandals, information sharing and of course tanking if that exists

– AFL CEO, Andrew Demetriou

On October 17th, The Heraldsun (“The Phoney War“) reported that the investigation into tanking showed no signs of resolution.

On October 30th, AFL.com.au (“Demons tank investigation twist“) reported that Melbourne were seeking legal advice after AFL investigators allegedly found evidence of a secret meeting where losing matches was emphasized by club officials. This was also reported on Wide World of Sport (“Demons held tanking meeting“).

The Heraldsun (“Tanking returns to bite Dees”) reported that up to ten witnesses had come forward to AFL investigators, including former coach Dean Bailey, Baileys former assistant Josh Mahoney and former recruiting manager Barry Prendergast.

The Age (“Tanking affair darkens for Dees“) quoted from Jim Stynes book in regard to former coach Dean Bailey and tanking.

”Melbourne never sat down our coach, Dean Bailey, and instructed him not to win  games. But he, I and everybody at the club knew what an important bearing on the  club’s future that extra draft pick might have.”

– Jim Stynes

On October 31st, the Age (Why the Dees alone are facing probe) wrote at length on why the Demons were facing more scrutiny than appeared leveld at other clubs. Specifically citing West Coast, Fremantle, Collingwood and Carlton and noting some critical differences.

  • Carlton – lack of evidence and simple explanations that satisifed Brett Clothier. Only other club to be investigated. The non tag of Travis Johnstone specifically looked at – Carlton pointed out heath Scotland was also left alone and had nearly as many possessions.
  • West Coast – no specific match to investigate or highlighted by media
  • Fremantle – not really looked into, was before tanking was really relevant
  • Collingwood – no specific match to investigage or highlighted by media

On October 31st, Associated Press (“Demons shouldnt be punished: Ed“) reported that Collingwood President Eddie McGuire believed that Melbourne should not be punished even if found guilty.

“You can’t blame the cat for swallowing the cream if you put the cream out in  front of it”

– Eddie McGuire on Triple M

Former Melbourne President, Paul Gardner doesnt see why the club should be collectively punished for the actions of a few individuals and was quoted in the article.

“I don’t see why the club should be fined for what individuals have  committed. I can’t see the Tour de France throwing out the US Postal team. If people have chosen to go down a certain path, if people in a position of  power have chosen that path, I would have thought they’re the ones that need to  be brought to account.”

– Former Melbourne President Paul Gardner

The Heraldsun reported a second, un-named player had come forward (“Demons urged to tank for the kids“) and quoted them as saying.

“You’d work your butt off in the pre-season and hang up all these words in the  gym and the change rooms or whatever and what did it all mean? Nothing. Players were never told to lose. They were just rested and played out of  position. (Backman) Matthew Warnock would play full-forward and (forward) Paul  Johnson would play full-back.”

– Anonymous Melbourne Player

The article also notes that the issue had attracted the attention of the Victorian Gaming Minister.

“Any action which brings into question the integrity of sports and sports betting  in Victoria is unacceptable”

– Victorian Gaming Minister Michael Obrien

The Heraldsun (“AFL boss says there will be no whitewash“) also cited Andrew Demetriou as saying that the league treated the games integrity as having the highest importance.

The Age (“Meeting has demons in the frame for tanking“) reported that Dean Bailey was in fear of being suspended from his job at the Adelaide Crows, and that the AFL had already spoken to former Melbourne assistants Mark Williams, Sean Wellman, Scott West and Kelly O’Donnell.

On November 1, the Heraldsun (“Dees staff told: Tank or be sacked“) reported that several Melbourne staff members had come forward to the AFL stating that they were told to Tank or risk their jobs. A separate article in the same paper (“Tanking evidence mounts against Dees“) claims evidence of a secret meeting at the Junction Oval where the emphasis was allegedly place on losing matches.

The Age (“We tried to stop tanking“) reported that senior Demons had tried to stop tanking in a meeting with officials only to be told that they would stick with the plan. The same article reports that the Demons board is concerned that some testimony to the AFL investigators may have been co-erced.

Patrick Smith, writing in The Australian (“Demetrious stance protecting tankers“) said that Demetrious comments would offer some comfort to those who tanked, despite the article alleging that clubs have been tanking since the 90’s.

“I don’t believe teams go on to the ground to lose matches. I simply don’t” – Andrew Demetriou, October 31, 2012

Never one to be shy, former Hawthorn president, Jeff Kennett weighed in quoted  in the Heraldsun (“Kennett calls for tough tanking penalty“) and The Age (“Hit Demons hard for tanking: Kennett“)

“The AFL, if both these clubs’ cases are proved to  be correct, are going to have to sanction the clubs severely. For all those Melbourne supporters out there, it  is probably going to condemn Melbourne to the back blocks of the AFL for perhaps  another decade and that is a tragedy given the brand that Melbourne is.” – Jeff Kennett on 3AW

Brendon Fevola appeared on November 1 in the Heraldsun (“Fev says Blues did not try to win in 2007“) specifically citing the “Kreuzer Cup” match against Melbourne. An AFL investigation has already cleared the Blues of tanking, partly due to the Blues hitting the post 7 times in the match and being able to justify their reasons for not tagging Travis Johnstone. Fevola admitted there had been no directive to players.

Caroline Wilson opined in The Age on November 2 (“Demons: Shock and Awful“) that the positions of Chris Connally and Cameron Schwab were untenable, at the same time The Age and The West Australian (“Demons call for Justice in AFL Investigation“) reported that the Demons were demanding the AFL ensure that natural justice was done.

The West Australian and the AFL website (“Treat us fairly: Demons“) quoted the Melbourne Chairman –

“”The Board has sought an assurance from the AFL that natural justice will be afforded to the MFC, its players, employees and staff through the investigation.”

– Demons Chairman Don Mclardy

The Heraldsun (“Bailey encouraged new stategy“) reported that players were told they would be played out of position and were individually told why quoting a Melbourne player on condition of anonymity.

“It was pretty much along the lines of, ‘This is where we are going, the future  is obviously getting these draft picks and it’s going to go a long way to  helping us next year and the year after that’- Anonymous Melbourne Player

This takes the number of players coming forward to three.

On November 2, Carlton president Stephen Kernahan and Collingwood President Eddie McGuire were both quoted as saying they wouldnt mind an AFL investigation into tanking at their clubs (“Blues have nothing to hide“) after Carlton and Collingwood were named as clubs who had “list managed” in recent years (along with West Coast, Fremantle and the Bulldogs).

On November 3rd, The Australian (“Demetrious state of denial scrapes the bottom of the tanking barrel“) through Patrick Smith expressed the view that the AFL CEO had too narrow a definition of tanking evidently based solely on directing a player to miss a goal and that the definition needed urgent broadening.

The Heraldsun (“Former Melbourne Sponsor says Demons official boasted about securing draft picks“) reported that a former sponsor was the latest to come forward with evidence that Melbourne had tanked, and quoted him as saying that an official had boasted about getting the number 1 pick.

‘We made sure that happened’. He had a smile on his face at the time. I mean everyone knew that it (tanking) happened, but I was just surprised that he actually came out and said it. He was trying to relay that they made sure they got the No.1 draft pick and the priority pick. Even though it was plainly obvious to everyone, you still don’t expect to hear it being said.” – former Melbourne Sponsor

On November 13, The Age (“Demons and League on collision course“) reported that Melbourne and the AFL could be headed to court amidst allegations that past and present Melbourne people were intimidated into giving evidence, claiming that staff were told they would be thrown out of the industry if they failed to be open and honest.

On February 15th, The Age (No Draft Penalties Likely for Melbourne) revealed that Melbourne would be fined $500,000, and Chris Connolly would be suspended as a resultof the AFL Investigation.

On February 20th, it was announced that the League had fine Melbourne $500,000, Connolly had been suspended for 12 months and former coach Dean Bailey had been suspended for 6 months following the investigation into Melbourne which found the Demons not guilty of tanking, but rather guilty of doing things in a manner prejudicial to the workings of the AFL. (Demons cleared, guilty, fined)

On the February episode of Footy Classified, Anthony Hutchinson played clips comparing the Carlton tanking allegations made by Tony Liberatore with Brock Mcleans Melbourne revelations, causing Jeff Kennett to remark that the Carlton revelations were worse, and given the investigation into Melbourne over a 2009 incident. surely one should be launched into Carlton.

Media and References

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