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From priority picks to claims of 'tanking', how it got to this

Ashley Browne  February 19, 2013 4:33 PM

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Dean Bailey with Melbourne's No.1 draft pick of 2009, Tom Scully


1993
The AFL introduces concessionary draft selections to assist teams that consistently perform poorly. Teams that finished the year with fewer than five wins were eligible.

2006
Concerns that clubs with relatively good lists were receiving priority selections after just one poor season were addressed by the AFL. Teams could qualify for the extra selection if they finished the season with four-and-a-half wins (16.5 premiership points) or fewer, but only would receive that selection at the start of the first round if they finished the previous season before that with 16.5 points or fewer. Teams coming off just one bad season would now receive the priority selection at the end of the first round.

2007
Carlton loses the last 11 games of the season. The round 22 loss to Melbourne meant the Blues finished the year with a 4-18 record and just seven-and-a-half wins over two seasons. Despite finishing second bottom of the ladder (ahead of only Richmond), the Blues moved ahead of Richmond in the draft order and used their priority selection – the first overall - to grab prized big man Matthew Kreuzer. The 31-point win over Melbourne in the last game was a tepid affair and became known as 'The Kreuzer Cup' because of the reward at the end for the Blues. Melbourne won five games for the year.

2008
Melbourne wins just three games for the year in Dean Bailey's first season as coach.

2009
Another poor season for Melbourne. But consecutive wins over West Coast and Port Adelaide in rounds 14 and 15 leave the Demons with a 3-12 record. Two more wins and they would not be eligible for a priority selection.

Round 17: Melbourne makes seven changes for the clash against Sydney at Manuka Oval, which it loses 6.14 (50) to 10.8 (68). Two of the changes are made on the day of the game. Melbourne's rotations for the game are a season low 67 compared to an average of 85. Keen Melbourne supporters and football observers subsequently raised their eyebrows at some of the club's positional changes that day.

Round 18: Even more puzzling moves from the Melbourne coaches box in an MCG clash against fellow struggler Richmond. Ruckman Paul Johnson plays full-back, regular defenders James Frawley and Matthew Warnock play forward, premier midfielder James McDonald plays in the back pocket, while established forwards Russell Robertson and Colin Sylvia do not play at all. Still, it takes a 50-metre goal from Richmond's Jordan McMahon after the final siren to give the Tigers a four-point win.

November: Melbourne wins just once more for the year, therefore qualifying for a priority draft selection. The Demons select Dandenong Stingrays midfielder Tom Scully with their priority pick and rugged Sturt on-baller Jack Trengove with the next selection. The pair is awarded the coveted no.31 and no.9 jumpers.

2010
Amid general disquiet about Melbourne's late season performances in 2009, AFL chief executive Andrew Demetriou consistently and vehemently denies suggestions of tanking in the AFL.

2011
August: Dean Bailey is sacked as Melbourne coach after a 186-point mauling from Geelong. In his farewell media conference, Bailey implies that acquiring prized early draft picks played a part in his coaching, saying: "I was asked to do the best thing by the Melbourne Football Club and I did it. I put players in different positions to enable them (to develop) ... I think the whole football club agreed we wanted to develop our players, so we did."

Andrew Demetriou continues to insist that tanking does not take place in the AFL, but qualifies it by adding that anyone with evidence to the contrary was invited to come forward. "He would never work in football again," he says of anyone who might be found guilty of tanking. "There would be an investigation into the club and there would be severe sanctions," he says.

October: Scully walks out on the Demons after two years to join the start-up Greater Western Sydney.

2012
February: The AFL announces the most sweeping overhaul of draft concessions yet by scrapping the provision for season results to determine the eligibility for priority selections. In future, they would be awarded only at the discretion of the AFL Commission using a formula that looks at wins and losses, percentage, finals played, premierships won and injury rates.

March 20: Melbourne president Jim Stynes passes away after a long battle with cancer.

July: When asked about whether Melbourne had tanked games in his time as a player and whether it was a reason why he left the club, Carlton midfielder Brock McLean told Fox Footy's On The Couch: "Definitely, and I think you would have to be 'Blind Freddy' to not figure that one out."

July 31: AFL Integrity Officer Brett Clothier commences a full investigation into Melbourne's 2009 season, based largely on McLean's remarks. He starts with McLean and is given full authority to interview Melbourne players and officials from that season.

August: Melbourne chairman Don McLardy defends the club, saying the development strategies the club was using in 2012 were the same as in 2008 and 2009.

Stynes' autobiography is released. In it, he writes of his feelings in 2009: "I was sitting in Thailand, hoping to have my spirits boosted by the team performing well but at the same time hoping we would hang on to that extra draft pick. Melbourne never sat down our coach, Dean Bailey, and instructed him not to win games. But he, I and everybody at the club knew what an important bearing on the club's future that extra draft pick might have."

October: Details of the 2009 meeting convened by Connolly at the Junction Oval in a training room known as "The Vault" emerge in the media. For the first time, it appears there might be substance to the long-held suspicions that the Demons might not have been going all out to win in the last few weeks of that season.

2013
After an investigation that lasted 203 days, the AFL finds that there was no directive from the board and executive of the Melbourne Football Club to deliberately lose matches and that the club, coach and players did not deliberately set out to lose matches. However, it did find that Connolly "had acted in a manner concerning pre-game planning, comprising comments to a football department meeting, which was prejudicial to the interests of the AFL."

In addition, Bailey "having regard to Mr Connolly’s comments, during the 2009 premiership season had acted in a manner which was prejudicial to the interests of the AFL."

Connolly was suspended from occupying any position or performing any match day or training function until 1 February next year. Bailey, now an assistant coach at Adelaide, was suspended from coaching for the first 16 matches of 2013.

The Demons were fined $500,000. Melbourne, Connolly and Bailey said afterwards that they would not contest the sanctions handed down.

AFL Media senior writer Ashley Browne in on Twitter @afl_hashbrowne