“I’ve said all along that I don’t believe tanking exists… I’ve said already that if I’m proven wrong, then so be it.” Andrew Demetriou must be fielding phone calls at the moment, swallowing those precious and naïve words he’s uttered on many occasions on the issue of tanking.
Caroline Wilson’s piece in The Age, which brings to light the secret meetings in which senior Melbourne football department staff sought to throw games of football in order to get priority picks, has rocked the football world. After the length of time those at the AFL spent denying the existence of the priority pick system being rorted, they are left to look foolish.
It seems that the evidence that tanking exists has been hiding in plain sight, which in retrospect looks damning. Reading between the lines at Dean Bailey’s final press conference, the evidence may be a little clearer than we think.
“I had no hesitation at all in the first two years of ensuring this club was well-placed for draft picks. I have no hesitation in what we’ve done. 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.”
The Kruezer and Scully ‘Cup’ games, mixed with the hinting of former Carlton assistant Tony Liberatore and former Richmond coach Terry Wallace of similar happenings at those two clubs, will now alert the AFL to look and see if the problem is widespread.
If you add the timing of the revelations to the alleged draft tampering and salary cap breaches of the Adelaide Crows, the game’s image has been smeared in recent weeks. The integrity of the game has been brought into disrepute, and there’s no doubt that stricter investigation will occur as of now on all cases to do with untoward behaviour with intent to rort the system.
The great distrust the public holds towards football clubs exists because the system is not transparent. What goes on behind closed doors at football clubs is private business, and a lack of a competent watchdog fuels the unease many hold. A system without transparency and regulation is a system that can and is being rorted with ease.
All eyes now turn to the findings, and what the AFL’s initial response will be to the mud that has been slung at its often self-promoted impeccable sheen as a competition operator. The Demons, and to an extent the Crows, will now brunt the full force of the storm for stamping on the officials’ credibility as acting as a functioning regulatory system against corruption.
The AFL has had this coming. With the two saga’s playing out at the same time, with tanking being thoroughly investigated beforehand, it seems that the AFL was either naïve to believe that clubs were playing by the rules, or its investigations and watchdog tactics have just failed in such a spectacular fashion.
The only way the AFL can be seen to save face is by punishing the offenders with the full brunt of the law. It in no way condemns their haphazard approach to preventing and curbing such untoward behaviour, but making an example of the ring leaders is the only way out from just point of view.
Club insiders and the main instigators need to be punished for this tanking debacle and should not be allowed to participate in footballs inner sanctum ever again. Dean Bailey, Josh Mahoney, Cameron Schwab and whoever else was in on that meeting and knew should all be biting their fingernails.
There is no coincidence that both these sagas are playing out on the media stage at the same time, highlighting the seedy underbelly that exists in football. Deny it all you want, but a culture of cutting corners and exploiting the rules exists in club boardrooms all over the country.
In a world of thieves, Melbourne and Adelaide seem to be the only two committing the final sin; getting caught.