Melbourne Football Club tanking scandal
The Melbourne Football Club tanking scandal refers to issues involving the Melbourne Football Club and allegations that it had tanked towards the latter part of the 2009 season – that is, that it had intentionally lost matches near the end of the season so that it would receive a priority draft pick in the upcoming draft. The club was found not guilty of charges related to tanking, but senior coach Dean Bailey and general manager of football operations Chris Connolly were both found guilty of related charges.
In August 2012, AFL Integrity Officer Brett Clothier announced a full investigation into Melbourne's 2009 season, regarding allegations that the Demons had tanked games during the season in order to secure a priority draft pick that year, available to clubs winning fewer than five games. The press had published such allegations previously, but the investigation was prompted most specifically by statements from former Melbourne player Brock McLean during a television interview in July 2012, when he revealed that he requested to be traded from the club at the end of 2009 because he was dissatisfied with its match strategies during that time. Melbourne club officials, led by board chairman Don McLardy, denied the tanking allegations.
Then-coach Dean Bailey had previously made statements, interpreted by some as an admission of tanking, at the press conference which followed his sacking as coach in August 2011. Bailey was quoted as saying:
|“||I had no hesitation at all in the first two years of ensuring this club was well placed for draft picks. I think what we've done is the right thing by the club, and if it cost me my job, so be it. But the club is always bigger than the individual. I was asked to do the best thing by the Melbourne Football Club and I did it. I did the right thing by the Melbourne Football Club.
I put players in different positions to enable them [to develop] … I think the whole football club agreed we wanted to develop our players so we did.
Notable matches in question
Throughout the AFL's investigation into Melbourne's 2009 season, three matches in particular were investigated:
- Round 17, 2009 vs Sydney Swans: Coach Dean Bailey made seven changes to the team that was defeated by Geelong by 46 points the previous week. In the match, Melbourne made 67 interchange rotations, down from its season average of 85.
- Round 18, 2009 vs Richmond: Richmond came from three goals behind to win a very close match by four points after Jordan McMahon kicked the match winning goal after the final siren. During the match, coach Dean Bailey placed several players in unusual positions. These included placing ruckman Paul Johnson and midfielder James McDonald in the backline; playing forward Brad Miller in the ruck; placing defenders James Frawley and Matthew Warnock in the forward line, as well as leaving Russell Robertson and Colin Sylvia out of the game for Michael Newton and rookie Jake Spencer. The Herald Sun later accused Bailey of making these changes during the match in an attempt to throw the match.
- Round 22, 2009 vs St Kilda: Dean Bailey moved James Frawley off St Kilda forward Nick Riewoldt, despite Frawley having limited Riewoldt's effect on the game; he shifted Lynden Dunn onto Riewoldt, and Riewoldt kicked three goals before Frawley was reassigned to him; by that time, Melbourne was in a position where it was unable to win the match. Additionally, Liam Jurrah was benched in the third quarter despite kicking two goals; he did not return to the field until late in the final quarter.
The investigation lasted 203 days and Clothier interviewed over 50 people associated with the club. The league released its findings in February 2013, and found the club not guilty of tanking.
However, it did find Dean Bailey and then-general manager of football operations Chris Connolly guilty of "acting in a manner prejudicial to the interests of the competition". This related most specifically to a meeting in July 2009, which became known colloquially as "the vault", in which Connolly allegedly openly discussed the potential benefits to the club of tanking. The guilty parties received the following penalties:
- Connolly, who was still at the club in 2013 but serving in a role outside the football department, was suspended outright from serving in any position at any club until 1 February 2014; he was subsequently sacked by the club in October 2013 though this was not directly linked to the tanking scandal.
- Bailey, serving in 2013 as an assistant coach at the Adelaide Crows, was suspended from his position for the first sixteen weeks of the 2013 season, preventing him from having any contact with the Crows' playing group during that time.
- The Melbourne Football Club, which was complicit to the infraction in its capacity as Connolly's and Bailey's employer, was fined $500,000.
None of Melbourne, Connolly or Bailey contested these penalties.
- Ralph, Jon (3 August 2011), "How Melbourne tanked in 2009", Herald Sun, Melbourne, VIC, retrieved 10 November 2011
- Carlton midfielder Brock McLean reveals he left Melbourne Demons because the club was tanking, July 30, 2012, retrieved February 20, 2013
- "Demons tanked: McLean". The Age. Retrieved 16 August 2015.
- Hayes, Mark; Timms, Daryl (31 July 2012). "AFL to interview Brock McLean over tanking claims". Herald Sun. Retrieved 31 July 2012.
- Demons sack Dean Bailey | AFL | Fox Sports
- "Sacked Demons coach cops rap, but hints at tanking for draft picks". The Age. Retrieved 16 August 2015.
- "New game under scrutiny in Melbourne tanking probe". NewsComAu. Retrieved 16 August 2015.
- Ralph, Jon (3 Aug 2011), "How Melbourne tanked in 2009", Herald Sun, Melbourne, VIC, retrieved 10 Nov 2011
- "Melbourne defeats in 2009: two case studies". The Age. Retrieved 16 August 2015.
- Cooper, Adam (20 February 2013). "Integrity intact: Demons". The Age. Retrieved 20 February 2013.
- Gough, Deborah (20 February 2013). "'Nothing to substantiate' tank claims: Demetriou". The Age. Retrieved 20 February 2013.
- Wilson, Caroline (20 February 2013). "Demons cleared, guilty fined". The Age. Retrieved 20 February 2013.
- Connolly sacked by Melbourne, The Age, 11 October 2013
- Browne, Ashley (February 19, 2013), "From priority picks to claims of 'tanking', how it got to this", www.afl.com.au, retrieved February 20, 2013