Dean Bailey with then chairman Paul Gardiner.
Dean Bailey with then chairman Paul Gardiner.

Bombshell 'tanking' report rocks AFL legends

MELBOURNE greats Garry Lyon and David Schwarz have reacted with dismay to the Herald Sun's bombshell report about their club's tanking saga.

The Herald Sun's expose revealed former coach Dean Bailey felt pressured not to win games as the Demons aimed to secure priority draft picks in the 2009 season.

Leaked documents featuring interviews conducted between AFL investigators and Melbourne staff, coaches, players and officials in 2012 have been uncovered by the newspaper and include eight figures reportedly admitting the football department had been directed not to win more than four games.

Players who were not seriously injured were also reportedly kept off the ground to limit interchange rotations, and  the report also referred to "fake injuries" that had ruled certain players out of selection.

Read the full report including top-secret documents at the Herald Sun

Demons great Garry Lyon described the revelations as "lamentable" on Fox Footy on Thursday night.

"That's Dean Bailey as senior coach suggesting there were people in Melbourne footy club at the senior level who were saying he needed to lose games, essentially," Lyon said.

"That's a horrible thing to read."

Former spearhead David Schwarz said the report confirmed everyone's worst suspicions.

"It's the world's worst-kept secret," Schwarz said on Macquarie Sports Radio.

"And I just feel sorry for the players who were missing out on games because they were trying to protect not winning four games so they could get either a priority pick or better draft picks."

Brock McLean, who played 94 games for the Demons but left after 2009 because of what he saw as a losing culture, also weighed in.

"From a player's perspective, there was no tanking, no deliberately going out there to lose games," McLean told SEN.

"From a coach's perspective, and I wasn't privy to the conversations, the positions that players were played in didn't give us the best opportunity to win games of footy."


Dean Bailey.
Dean Bailey.

Melbourne infamously lost a game to Richmond off the back of a Jordan McMahon goal after the siren in that season - and won just four games for the year.

That ensured they qualified for a priority pick, allowing the Demons to select Tom Scully and Jack Trengove with the first two picks in that year's draft.

"What was said to me was, if I win games I would get sacked," Bailey told the AFL investigators, according to the report.

"I was threatened. Yeah, I didn't like it. I think it was a terrible thing to be bullying and harassing not only me but the rest of the staff.

"Absolutely, I knew if we won those games, I felt that I would get sacked."

Bailey said then-football general manager Chris Connolly made it clear his job was on the line - something the latter denied.

Bailey was sacked by the Demons in 2011 and died after a battle with cancer in 2014.

"No one actually said to me: 'Dean, if you don't win … we will not pay out your contract,'" he said, according to the report.

"No one said to me: 'We will sack you and pay out your contract.' No one ever said that to me. What was said to me was if I win games I would get sacked.

"If I don't win games at the end of the year, we'll probably roll on to next year, and everybody will try and forget about it."


Garry Lyon Picture:Wayne Ludbey
Garry Lyon Picture:Wayne Ludbey

According to the interviews, Bailey said he did not deliberately throw or tank games, or instruct players to lose.

Rather, he said he experimented with player positions - to try to develop players.

"I knew Dean Bailey really well and he was a great person for the footy club," Schwarz said on Macquarie Sports Radio.

"He was highly respected but he wasn't given the opportunity to deliver to the fans of the Melbourne Football Club because if he did, his job and the jobs of his subordinates and everybody working there was under threat.

"So it was a disgraceful period in the footy club. From 2009 to basically 2017, they'd been a basket case.

"Tanking doesn't get you anywhere and in fact it set the club back and it's been almost an epidemic at the club since, that it's been really hard to wash away what they did in that period."

Melbourne was found not guilty of tanking in February 2013, and was fined $500,000 by the AFL.

Bailey - who was working at Adelaide at the time - was suspended for 16 rounds, with Connolly suspended until February 1, 2014.

Lyon said he'd wait for an AFL response. "The AFL - in the end you read the record book, and there's no sign of tanking," he said.

"That's one side of things," said Lyon, referring to the new reports. "I'd like to hear the other version of events. That was a lamentable time."

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David Schwarz. Picture: NIGEL HALLETT
David Schwarz. Picture: NIGEL HALLETT