“[Bailey] was saying it was all in the category of development etc. – his players were always trying and [there was] never any intent to lose.”
– Adrian Anderson, August 2011, following comments by former Melbourne coach Dean Bailey.
Next minute, Melbourne charged with tanking because of Brock McLean’s comments? Possible, but highly unlikely.
The AFL has put itself in a bind regarding tanking. Anderson’s statements in the middle of last year meant that tanking would not be looked at in cases up to and including the 2009 debacle.
If the AFL was to investigate the allegations against Melbourne, they would have to investigate other clubs. There’s the 2007 ‘Kreuzer Cup’ in Round 22 between Carlton and Melbourne. Terry Wallace ‘doing nothing’ in 2007. Efforts by Hawthorn and Collingwood in early 2000s and West Coast putting players in for early surgeries when it was clear the season was shot are all other examples of tanking.
The Collingwood example saw them gain Scott Pendlebury and Dale Thomas, cornerstones of their current side. Reports were made at the time of many of these allegations and even Brendan Fevola’s new book makes mention of the tanking at Carlton. Yet the AFL have only investigated one case of the offence.
If it is a crime, then Melbourne have to be punished. Since the tanking year in 2009, Melbourne have not made the finals. The club has gone backwards in a year of both on-field and off-field hell.
The supporter base is completely demoralised; one look at the comments on the official Melbourne Facebook page after yet another loss shows that. Recent history has compounded into a season of hell. The two Melbourne jumper sponsors are short-term after the EnergyWatch scandal. For the AFL to add to this might even put the club’s existence at risk.
Many supporters seeing, say, a loss of draft picks on top of five years of terrible performances might give up on the club for the time being. Memberships and merchandise sales would surely suffer.
Finally, what’s to be gained from such a punishment? The coach of 2009 has been sacked. The then-president of Melbourne is a legend among the eyes of many Melbournians and not just supporters of the Demons, and dragging his name through the mud since his passing is a sure-fire way to come under attack from the mainstream media.
It’s too much of a risk to the AFL for them to go after Melbourne. A quiet word to clubs, saying that the party is over and if you’ve got people who come out and say this again, we will punish you, will be the way to go.
Otherwise the last decade of AFL football will forever be tarnished by the actions of various clubs over the years.