Melbourne football operations manager Chris Connolly with coach Dean Bailey.
Melbourne football operations manager Chris Connolly with coach Dean Bailey.

Bombshell claim: tanking order came from high up

DEMONS footy staff claimed Chris Connolly and Dean ­Bailey, the two men ­suspended over the tanking scandal, were acting on ­orders from above.

Melbourne chief executive Cameron Schwab and board members escaped sanctions over the club's 2009 season but transcripts of the AFL tanking probe reveal officials claimed the directive to lose games came from the top.

More than 80 pages of ­secret transcipts from the league's interviews with Dees staff, obtained by the Herald Sun, lift the lid on how Melbourne conspired to win fewer than five games to secure a priority pick in the national draft.

State Opposition Leader Michael O'Brien declared on Friday: "Victorians deserve an independent investigation into these allegations because anything which calls into question the integrity of AFL matches must be taken seriously."

AFL chief Gillon McLachlan conceded on the same day: "There were decisions made that may have been for the objective of finishing lower down the ladder."

McLachlan insisted "the charge of not performing on merits on match day couldn't be sustained", adding "the players went out to win and they were coached to win".

But asked by 3AW's Neil Mitchell why Bailey had told ­investigators players were forced off early during games to reduce rotations, McLachlan said: "I don't know who's saying that, I don't have the transcripts in front of me."

AFL chief executive Gillon McLachlan. Picture: AAP
AFL chief executive Gillon McLachlan. Picture: AAP

Geelong great Jimmy ­Bartel said: "Let's call it what it really is. Tanking is a nice word (but) it's match fixing - I don't get why we dance around it."

The AFL did not respond to formal questions on Friday from the Herald Sun on a range of issues relating to the league's handling of the scandal.

Melbourne’s 2009 coaching staff.
Melbourne’s 2009 coaching staff.

Interview transcripts reveal several staff recounted how, days after Melbourne's round-15 win over Port Adelaide, football general manager Connolly launched into a rant, threatening senior coach Bailey and his assistants with the sack.

Bailey told investigators: "Sometimes Chris has a joke and a laugh, but he was not in a joking mood that day.

Melbourne football operations manager Chris Connolly with coach Dean Bailey.
Melbourne football operations manager Chris Connolly with coach Dean Bailey.

"We just sat back and I thought f---ing hell, is he serious? And everybody just sat in their chairs."

The Herald Sun can now reveal that personal development coach Ian Flack added: "We … all … assumed it had come from him (CEO Schwab) and thought he should be ­delivering the message.

"He had his red and blueprint, it was called … he took a week off work to come up with a strategy for the future of the club. Yeah, Schwaby was the strategist," Flack said at another point.

Both Bailey, who died from cancer in 2014, and Flack told how Schwab had been downcast immediately after the victory over Port.

"I can't remember exactly what he said but it was something like, 'f---ing Jesus, gee,''' Bailey said.

Flack said: "I had seen Schwaby's body language in the room immediately after the game and the coaches' room was very negative about the win."

Bailey further stated: "Cameron mentioned to me a couple of times that 'The ­future of the Melbourne Footy Club is in your hands.'"

Macca’s perspective.
Macca’s perspective.

The Melbourne board was also aware of the tanking plan, according to the late coach.

Asked why he did not raise concerns over being threatened with the board, Bailey said: "What Chris was saying was basically what Cameron wanted him to say, and therefore it was not a directive from the board, but the board had allowed it to happen, and wanted it to happen without them having to tell me.

"The board were at arm's length of it. 'You do it, we know what we want and that is success. We are sick of where we are. Cameron doing it, good. Chris doing it, good. We think if it costs us a coach or a few coaches then it doesn't matter. The end result is what we are after.' So that's what I reckon, trying to answer your question."

In the AFL probe interviews, Connolly and Schwab denied ordering staff to lose games. Schwab said claims he was upset after the win over Port were "crap" and adding: "I'm hurt and offended."

Connolly did not wish to comment on Thursday night. Schwab could not be reached.