Exposed: How Melbourne played to lose
EXCLUSIVE: Secret documents reveal multiple senior Melbourne Football Club staff blew the whistle on a conspiracy to lose games during its controversial 2009 season.
The detail is revealed in more than 80 pages of transcripts, hidden until Thursday.
They expose interviews conducted between AFL investigators and Demons players, coaches and officials in 2012 as part of a league probe into allegations of "tanking" at the club that season.
The files include a stunning confession from the Demons' 2009 coach Dean Bailey.
"What was said to me was, if I win games I would get sacked," he told the AFL investigators.
"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."
Interviews conducted with 58 current and former Demons staff in 2012 reveal:
EIGHT senior officials admitted the football department had been directed not to win more than four games;
PLAYERS not seriously injured were kept off the ground during matches to stymie interchange rotations, according to Bailey.
INVESTIGATORS were provided reports detailing "fake injuries" which ruled players out of selection.
SEVERAL staff confirmed players were sent for operations, in a ruse some accepted was designed to weaken the team;
BAILEY said he was repeatedly threatened and pressured to ensure the team kept losing, despite the AFL concluding there was only one "terrible" and "stupid" comment - made by football general manager Chris Connolly at a match committee meeting in 2009;
CONNOLLY accused Bailey of lying and trying to get him sacked.
After winning just four games in 2009, the Demons were rewarded with the first two picks in that year's national draft. They selected Tom Scully and Jack Trengove.
The AFL announced the findings of its probe in February 2013, declaring Melbourne did not deliberately set out to lose games.
Then-AFL deputy chief executive Gillon McLachlan stated: "I actually don't know what the definition of tanking is. In the AFL rules it talks to performing on merits and the best of their ability. In my view, there was no tanking on match day."
But the emergence of the secret files prompts fresh questions about the findings and what really happened at Melbourne in 2009.
The AFL reaps millions of dollars a year from betting licences, with then-Gaming Minister Michael O'Brien declaring in 2012 that "any action which brings into question the integrity of sports and sports betting in Victoria is unacceptable".
The probe had been launched after ex-Demon Brock McLean told Fox Footy in July 2012 of his misgivings about the manipulation of games.
Connolly and Bailey were suspended as a result of the investigation, which found they "acted in a manner prejudicial to the interests of the AFL".
Connolly was found to have made a comment "regarding the performance of the team, a desire to secure a priority pick".
Bailey, who was sacked by the Demons in 2011 and died after a battle with cancer in March 2014, was concluded to have consequently felt "pressure" to rest players and make positional changes to appease his superiors.
The interview files now reveal that senior staff who opened up during the explosive probe included assistant coaches Sean Wellman and Mark Williams, football operations manager Craig Notman, midfield coach Scott West, recruiting manager Barry Prendergast, high performance manager Joel Hocking and personal development coach Ian Flack.
After Melbourne defeated Port Adelaide in 2009's Round 15 - its second win in a row and third of the season - Bailey told investigators that chief executive Cameron Schwab entered the changing rooms at the MCG with his head bowed.
Schwab said words to the effect of "F---ing Jesus, gee", Bailey claimed, before Connolly said something like: "F---ing Jimmy had just fallen out of his bloody hospital bed".
(Club chairman Jim Stynes was undergoing treatment for the cancer that would kill him three years later.)
Bailey's version was backed up by Flack, who described Schwab's body language as "very negative" after the game.
Several present at a meeting of senior staff the following Monday - in a shed at the Demons' Junction Oval training ground dubbed The Vault - confirmed to investigators that Connolly launched into a rant, threatening Bailey and his coaching team with the sack.
"Chris is good with colour texta, he loves writing things on boards. He wrote up Scully and I think he wrote Scully and Trengove's names up on the board," Bailey said.
"Sometimes Chris has a joke and a laugh, but he was not in a joking mood that day. We just sat back and thought, 'F---ing hell, is he serious?' "
Williams said: "We were p---ed off, we were really p---ed off."
Asked whether Connolly was "giving a direction that the club wasn't to win more than four games for the year", Flack answered: "Yes, absolutely."
It was this meeting for which Connolly was charged by the AFL.
McLachlan said at the conclusion of the tanking probe that Connolly had "made a comment regarding the performance of the team, a desire to secure a priority pick, and I know he now regrets that comment".
But the interview files reveal the pressure on the coaches to lose did not just come in that one meeting.
"Cameron (Schwab) mentioned to me a couple of times that 'The future of the Melbourne footy club is in your hands'," Bailey told investigators.
Notman added: "They (Schwab and Connolly) were pushing people into some situations that I don't think they were completely comfortable with."
Hocking further claimed: "I can't remember specifically who, but there is no doubt that some players were put in operations."
Flack agreed, saying: "There seemed to be, there was definitely pressure on to get end-of-year surgery going quicker."
Asked whether he regretted not alerting the Melbourne board, Bailey said: "Hindsight is a wonder.
"I felt threatened at the time … telling (director) Andrew Leoncelli, or a board member. I do think about that … But 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."
Connolly flatly denied ordering his colleagues to conspire to lose.
He told AFL investigators: "I think there's a big difference between orders and comments and obviously if I'm pushing development, develop a list, it's going to mean reducing the chances of winning."