Sunday 4 November 2012

Tankquiry Update (Day 963 - Law And Order: AFL Integrity Unit)

Well that was a shit week. A time of the year that should feature nothing more than looking for amusingly named players to draft or mocking at the concept of players 'training the house down' was hijacked by footy's trial by media event of the year.

I've had worse time following this club (186 anybody?), but at least all the others have involved short, sharp, brutal shocks rather than drawn out sadistic torture from the confirmed bitter and twisted, influencing public opinion by shouting the same thing over and over again until it catches on amongst the public.

The good news is that by the weekend the story has run out of steam (or the leaks have been plugged) so spectacularly that the Herald Sun has practically given up and the Smiling Assassin at The Age had to resort to an Andrew Bolt style hatchet job after she ran out of actual 'evidence'.  Even her chums have gingerly stepped out of the AFL Media Association Hot Tub and started asking if she wasn't perhaps going a bit over the top by resorting to world class shock jockery. Somebody feed her another bite sized piece of the investigation quickly, because otherwise on Wednesday she'll have gone full Alan Jones and started blaming Cameron Schwab for his dad's death.

No doubt I'm still deeply concerned about the result of all this, but my fears have little to do with the wafer thin, flimsy evidence which has been presented so far. It's more to do with her fantatical belief that we'll be found guilty and royally fucked up. No doubt there's more coming sooner rather than later, but crossing the line from reporting the 'facts' to just openly slaughtering everyone in a thinly veiled opinion piece is the sort of move that will either end in her winning awards and being chaired around the offices of The Age like the little girl in the Old El Paso ad or expose a journalist hiding behind journalism to deliver a few stealthy knives to the back of people she hates.

Fact of the matter is this, the AFL have twice investigated our activities at the end of that season and have given it the all clear. Obviously there's no double jeopardy laws in the league's investigations, but without legitimate new evidence and/or documentation that there was some shenanigans planned by the administrators and executed by coaches or players then this can't go anywhere. Matthew Warnock at full-forward? It's been dealt with and approved, the right of the coach to play anyone in any position he likes has been twice given the green light.

List management and draft meetings can't be called into question, because obviously clubs have the right to examine what they're going to do at the end of the year based on the position they're in during it and everything else is just idle speculation about experimentation and future planning. So assuming no bastard was stupid enough to make a Powerpoint presentation about how if we lose ABC we'll get XYZ and nobody is willing to come out and say "I was directly involved in the fixing of a football match" then what have they got?

But even if an email is plucked out from the trash can which involves person A saying to person B "if we finish last and only win four games we'll get a priority pick" can that be held up as firm evidence of a conspiracy? It's more a statement of fact, because yes indeed if we finished last under the system of the day and won four games or less we would (and indeed did) get a priority pick. It's like the difference between saying "if you jump off Eureka Tower you'll die" and "you should jump off Eureka Tower so that you'll die". No bloody wonder the club was talking up 'natural justice' in its statement.

What I find odd is that on August 2 2011 Caroline Wilson wrote an article in The Age deconstructing the end of Bailey, with plenty of reference to Connolly and Schwab being involved and the supposed open warfare they were having with the players but in the list of alleged grievances there's not one mention of the now supposedly well known 'player revolt' about the tactics during 2009, even though our shithouse performances late that year were hardly a secret and anyone could have blabbed in the last three years.

The only possible allusion to the antics of 2009 in the article is bit where it says player were having a sook due to "the Ongoing uncertainty among the senior line-up that they too will fall victim to the Schwab-Connolly ''premiership model'' of list management.". Which MIGHT mean they were terrified of being squeezed out for high draft picks, or that they were concerned about being forced out the door when they hit a certain age a'la Junior McDonald. Either way, there's no mention at all of players hating on the incumbent administration because of what happened during second half of 2009. If she knew something then she wasn't game to break the story until more than a year later after Brock McLean of all people had led her almost directly to it.

Now suddenly, clearly aided by somebody blabbing about what's been discussed since the Tankquiry began in earnest this August, she's an expert on everything that went on at the club after the Richmond game and has total knowledge of secret meetings and outraged players forming delegations to protest to the coach and administrators.

I'll give the benefit of the doubt that, as you'd say if you were a journalist, 'new evidence has come to light' but fanciful, hopeful talk about 'crisis meetings' in the rooms immediately after a win doesn't do much to convince me that they've got an enormous amount on us but either she's slipped her moorings in spectacular fashion or is going for the Pulitizer Prize for journalism to go to print with final, definitive statements like "Melbourne will be harshly punished. Cameron Schwab and Chris Connolly will be finished at the club" because if that doesn't happen, if the matter is found to have not been reasonably proven, she'll look quite the tit. In the event of a finding against us and an appeal it would certainly be interesting to ask how she could be so certain more than 20 days before the findings are revealed to the Commission.

What I really want now, apart from being let off all charges and being given more picks as compensation for this terrible time that we've been through, is for these charges to be completely thrown out just so the comments above can be dangled over her head every time she opens her mouth for the next 20 years. If you think I've had fun at the expense of Damien Barrett for announcing Scott Burns was about to be named MFC coach then you've seen nothing yet if she's got this one wrong.

At least the Herald Sun (allegedly) managed to find two ex-players to lag on us. I said I'd start to get worried when they got involved, so I must admit their mystery players made me sweat a bit because with all due respect to the Age's Chief Football Writer (off-field scandals department) if you want a populist stitch up against easy targets like immigrants, minority groups or footy clubs with no fans then you turn to the Herald first and let them do their worst.

The hot exclusive - obviously dug up after the editor got the entire sports department in a room and screamed at them for being scooped to buggery by the opposition - involves a 'Melbourne player' boldly (and anonymously) declaring that Bailey had rolled in to the Junction Oval in its dying days and told the playing group that they had to accept a new 'strategy' without question in the 'second half' of 2009. Which sounds to me to be a lot like.. coaching. I doubt Mick Malthouse or Alastair Clarkson are holding focus groups with their players to see if the group are ok with making changes to the playing style or tactics.

So far so all over the bloody shop, but I'm sure you all remember at least some of 2009. Maybe it was a shock second half of the year switch in tactics that really stuffed it all up for us. Let's see if that's the case with a recap it in two easy parts:

First half ('normal' tactics, nothing suss)

Result - 1 win, 10 losses for 70.4%

Second half ('altered' tactics, mystery meetings, three investigations and counting)

Result - 3 wins, 8 losses and a 4.3% increase (admittedly four percent of which came from waffling Freo)

My point is that it's hard to argue that there were some wacky moves going on towards the end of the season, and if you asked me I'd say that pretty much everyone involved (including players) had lost any interest in winning by the end of it, but that's already been investigated. I'm just saying that the 'dramatic evidence' of a player saying they were forced to change tactics halfway through a season where they were either 1-10, 1-11 or 1-12 (because 3-12 and fifteen games into a season is NOT midway no matter how you spin it) means absolutely nothing if the performance of the side actually improved after that point.

Of course you can see why certain players wouldn't want the club to get two picks at the top of the draft. If you were a fringe midfielder and saw all signs pointing to two midfielders being picked first then of course you're going to think "if they get these picks I'm going to get sacked". But here's the solution, don't be so shit in the first place. I respect the players that went through that terrible year, many getting games they in no way deserved due to circumstances, but the fact of the matter is that the players of any team which started the year 1-12 have no right to come out and complain about what they were told to do after that point. If they want to come out and say that we were chucking it from Round 1 then ok, but the theory that the club was turned on its head deliberately in the second half of 2009 is absolute bollocks.

Mr. X is apparently the second anonymous player to come out and go for us on his topic (in addition to McLean, who let's be fair didn't come out aiming for us he was just too dopey to properly deflect a tough question and walked right into a trap), so assuming that this person exists outside of the imagination of the Herald Sun and that it's not one of the handful of survivors from that season (because why would you lag on yourself?) your informers would have to be two of (in no particular order) Simon Buckley, Matthew Bate, Brad Miller, Paul Johnson, Ricky Petterd, Brad Green, Addam Maric, Daniel Bell, Brent Moloney, James McDonald, Russell Robertson, Kyle Cheney, John Meesen, Jared Rivers, Michael Newton, Tom McNamara, Paul Wheatley, Cameron Bruce, Austin Wonaeamirri, Stefan Martin, Matthew Warnock, Jamie Bennell, Matthew Whelan, Liam Jurrah, Trent Zomer, Danny Hughes, Shane Valenti or Rhys Healey.

I'm not getting into a debate about who it may or may not have been when they haven't been identified, mainly because I don't actually fancy getting sued but that's your field to choose from if you believe there really are two others who are singing like canaries to the Herald Sun. If you go for guesses in the comments I will have to delete them, but collar me in the street sometime and we'll talk about my theories about who the two are.

The theories being pushed about players being depressed about the events of that year all this time later seem pretty flimsy to me. Everyone knows that sacking Junior McDonald was a huge mistake, and I wouldn't blame the players for cracking the shits about that but it seems the media has decided to wind the clock back and decide that the distress and disquiet started in late 2009 rather than the end of 2010 after Junior went.

I certainly couldn't tell any difference in the demeanour of players who were getting thrashed late in that year to their behaviour when getting thrashed at the end of it - and I had the misfortune of seeing almost every minute of every game that year. In fact the players were so remarkably disheartened and hating life that they came out in 2010, played some bloody good football, and with three weeks left in the season could have made the finals if they had been lucky (and hadn't lost the last three games, but work with me here). Frawley and Jamar were so depressed and disheartened that they went and had All-Australian seasons. Brad Green went close.

Then just when you thought everything was going to be alright the miscalcuations and dodgy deals really started. We get rid of McDonald and $cully makes everyone start looking over their shoulder, the club falls apart, we cop the near mother of all beatings from Geelong and writing now the journalists suddenly decide - even though Caro made no allusion to this in her 'award winning' article at the time - it's got something to do with what happened in late 2009. Bollocks it does, and if the only 'evidence' you've got is players or coaches who were sacked or moved on for not being good enough then you've got nothing.

Assuming we're guilty surely the gravity of the penalty depends on the evidence provided. Based on what they've got now, if you believe The Age, you couldn't with any conscience provide anything more than a slap on the wrist or a dinky fine. You can't legislate against shit coaching, you can't tell people they can't look at their draft position halfway through the year and you can't go around using every off-handed comment in 'private' meetings as evidence of a major, calculated conspiracy.

Unfortunately though I don't think the league will go halfway on this. Either we're proven guilty and cop the red hot poker in the clacker or they decide that whatever happened was all done in the best possible taste and that all charges are dismissed. I can't imagine them delivering some frankenverdict where we're only sort of guilty and cop a fine or lose some pissweak draft picks (save pick 88!). 

The good news it that Tankquiry D-Day has been announced as Monday November 19, which still allows them the possibility of snatching our picks this year but also doesn't leave much time to deal with any challenges (to the league or otherwise) which might affect the draft three days later. I don't rule anything out but surely you can't take away picks and then let teams draft on the altered order a few days later with appeals (to the league or otherwise) still pending. So my gut feeling is that this year we're safe but that if they want to hurt us they'll more than make up for it at the end of 2014 and 2015.

The only way they can fast forward to vengeance and get us this year is to take pick four and nothing else. Doesn't mean there won't be follow ons at the end of next year, and I'm sure we'll fight it if they do try (come on injunction against the draft, let's go down being total crunts) but it's the only clean way to hurt us immediately. As I've said before they can't spend a month sitting on their investigation while they encourage everyone to trade picks with each other and then take away picks which have already been traded. Well, they could but it would get very ugly. They could swipe the Viney pick, but if we've got any picks left (even #124) we should still be able to pick him with it. Unless they take every single pick to force him into the draft, and then all hell will break loose - especially given that by then he'll be almost a month into his first pre-season with us.

If it goes badly it'll probably be a slaughter but either way we'll go on. Losing one first round pick isn't going to be fatal (especially if we get away with keeping P4 this year), losing a couple over two years will hurt but realistically we'll be pretty much equal considering the $cully compensation. None of it's positive, especially if there's a large fine attached (and if you, like I reluctantly did, cheered home those last few losses in 2009 and would have rioted if we didn't get them then you owe it to the club to put your hand in your pocket for a few bucks to help pay it), but we're not in the same position that Carlton were - copping the draft penalties at exactly the same time as their list which hadn't been propped up with draft picks went south after years at the top of the ladder.

The rebuild of the rebuild might have to wait a bit longer but we're not getting relegated to the VFL any time soon. Shed blood wherever you must amongst the administration and get on with supporting the club itself.

Now, over to Age HQ where Caro is just finalising her latest masterpiece:

"You lose Melbourne"


  1. Adam, Adam, Adam... you know that Caro will never admit to being a tit. If nothing happens to Melbourne Caro will merely say "Ohh, come on - we all know what really went on."

    1. Yes Tony, and she'll be right.
      She'll be right because she says she is, and her opinion is the one printed on jebus knows how many newspapers. Since it's all the AFL cares about, her abilitiy to influence popular opinion makes her right in spite of little things like 'facts'.


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