AFL fails test of character

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Former Crows forward Kurt Tippett leads the club's exodus list (Slattery Images)

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The AFL Commission took longer to conclude the Kurt Tippett affair than to decide on Carlton’s serious punishment for systematic salary cap rorting in 2002. It must have been all the back slapping that absorbed their time.

Steven Trigg, a major instigator of the affair, was given several glowing character references at Friday’s hearing. His response – bristling and insincerely apologetic – to his subsequent mild punishment proves he didn’t deserve such tributes.

Many people connected to the club, including former champion Andrew Jarman, have called for Trigg’s sacking however the chief executive, clearly upset that he has been targeted, had the gall to describe his six month ban as “unprecedented” and “extraordinarily tough” rather than paltry, which is what it is.

It was unprecedented because usually it’s the club that is punished, and not the individuals. However seeing that he helped orchestrate the deal without the knowledge of the Crows board, it’s appropriate he was the one sanctioned.

The club was still fined $300,000 and stripped of first and second round selections in next year’s national draft.

This is a man who lied to his own chairman Rob Chapman when allegations of illicit dealings were raised last year.

This a man who forced Matt Rendell to resign in March over his comments about the recruitment of indigenous players, denying Rendell an opportunity to give his version of events at a press conference because “the mud would stick”. Rendell would later state that he was pushing for the establishment of an indigenous scholarship during the conversation with AFL community engagement manager Jason Mifsud in which the thoughtless comments were made.

When quizzed over the matter by Andrew Demetriou, Trigg allegedly told the AFL boss that he gave Rendell an opportunity to retract his comments but Rendell refused. Rendell has denied this ever occurred.

The thought that Trigg may be a liar has obviously not occured to Demetriou or AFL chairman Mike Fitzpatrick. Revealing a dreadfully low level of objectivity, they sang his praises while dispensing their meek justice.

“It’s fundamentally the one transaction … in other ways, Steven Trigg has been an exemplary chief executive”, chirped Demetriou. Well it was three “mistakes”, actually: the Tippett offers, the authorisation of a second secret letter removing the reference to illicit third party deals, and “misleading” (ie lying to) the club’s board.

It was also noted that Trigg is a CEO of “immense ability” as if that has anything to do with character and integrity. Perhaps the AFL shares the philosophy of those clubs who give star players numerous second chances for off field indiscretions but sanctimoniously announce the sacking of a fringe player after a single incident.

The statement: “He [Trigg] will learn from this and will be welcomed back into he industry”, from the competition’s CEO is unbelievable. What, a middle-aged man with ten years experience as a club chief executive has to be taught not to tamper with the draft or attempt to breach the salary cap?

And what is it with the suspended sentence for an “exemplary record”? Firstly, which current club bosses don’t have an exemplary record and what have they done? Secondly, if Trigg is later found rorting the salary cap or placing illegal bets does he get to serve the suspended six months instead of being banished from the AFL forever?

There is the possibility, of course, that the club did know more than the almost overly apologetic Chapman is letting on. This would explain Trigg expressing a fall guy’s lack of contrition.

Or Trigg may just be peeved that no other club has been caught arranging the many “underground third party deals” that disgraced former agent Ricky Nixon alleges are taking place.

There were no apologies from Kurt Tippett either who, after complaining of a few sleepless nights, disappeared out the AFL headquarters’ back door with his father and QC, and later issued an ALPA authored statement blaming Adelaide for his current predicament.

His agent Peter Blucher who brokered the deals appears to have escaped sanction.

And less than twenty four hours after stating that the penalties handed down to his club and personnel were important for the integrity of the game Rob Chapman has announced he will be retaining Trigg as chief executive because “good chief executives don’t grow on trees”.

Goodbye integrity.

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