No tanks, says defiant Demetriou

Written By Unknown on Rabu, 20 Februari 2013 | 14.43

AFL boss Andrew Demetriou is sticking to his guns . Source: Herald Sun

'You're right! It says Range Rover, not tank' - David McArthur cartoon Source: Herald Sun

A DEFIANT Andrew Demetriou last night declared tanking had never taken place in the AFL.

The AFL boss told the Herald Sun teams had never set out to deliberately lose games and secure draft picks.

"I have no evidence to support the view that tanking exists," Demetriou said.

"If you are asking me the question that has been asked before: 'Do I think players purposely go out to lose games?'

"I've said in my heart of hearts I don't believe that ever to be the case."

Asked if coaches could orchestrate tanking, Demetriou said: "Well, we've got no evidence to support otherwise...and we have got very, very good investigators."

Melbourne was yesterday fined $500,000 - the third largest financial sanction in AFL history - but found not guilty of tanking after a seven-month investigation.

Instead, former football boss Chris Connolly and former coach Dean Bailey were slapped with lengthy suspensions for "acting in a manner prejudicial to the interests of the AFL".

The resolution to the tanking saga was seen as a major victory for Melbourne, who had threatened Supreme Court action if heavily punished.

Demetriou was a surprise no show at yesterday's announcement, leaving his deputy Gillon McLachlan to explain the penalties.

"The Melbourne Football Club did not set out to deliberately lose matches in any game in 2009," McLachlan said.

"All I can say is on the evidence that I was presented...there is no allegation that is able to be sustained that Dean Bailey didn't coach on his merits or the players didn't play to their up most ability."

Connolly was suspended for 12 months, while Bailey, now an assistant at Adelaide, was banned from coaching for the first 16 rounds of the season.

McLachlan said there was no evidence to suggest the Melbourne board, led in 2009 by the late Jim Stynes, or chief executive Cameron Schwab had given directives for the team to lose.

He said the club was fined for being the employers of Connolly and Bailey.

At the centre of the investigation were comments made by Connolly at a football department meeting in mid 2009, where he warned officials about the importance of losing matches to improve the club's draft position.

"Connolly has accepted he went into a football department meeting and he made a terrible and stupid decision in the context of an AFL rule that has now changed (priority draft picks) and in the context of pressure and expectation of success," McLachlan said.

"He made a comment regarding the performance of the team, a desire to secure a priority pick, and I know he now regrets that comment.

"I think he has accepted - and the evidence accepts it - that the people in that room took him seriously and acted in a way that they thought he meant.

"The AFL concluded Bailey acted upon Connolly's warning by making decisions about selection, player management and match-day positioning because of the pressure applied by Connolly."

But McLachlan said Bailey had always set out to win on match day.

"What I am saying is that he (Bailey) made decisions in response to the pressure of that meeting - that he had to appease Chris Connolly - and may have had an impact that goes to success, but he made no conscious decision on match day to lose games," McLachlan said.

"He made decisions in response to that which meant that he was resting players and playing players out of position in the context of pressure not to win."

Connolly, who no longer works in the Melbourne football department, has been guaranteed future employment at the club once his suspension is served.

Melbourne president Don McLardy said yesterday: "The findings...state clearly there was no directive from the club board or executive management to deliberately lose matches, and the Melbourne Football Club never set out to deliberately lose matches in any game during the 2009 season."

An Adelaide spokesman said last night: "We are extremely disappointed at the significant suspension which Dean has incurred following the AFL's investigation.

"The Adelaide Football Club will continue to provide its full support to Dean during this time and is totally committed to retaining him as a valued employee of the Football Club."

McLachlan said the tanking investigation involved interviews with 58 players, former players, coaches and club officials.

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