Champion players will always make clubs do bad things. Faced with the prospect of gaining one, or having one walk away, clubs lose all sense of morality.
Contrite immediately after their punishment, they are soon back demeaning themselves, hankering after the next wunderkind.
Breaching the salary cap by a million dollars in 1987 didn’t prevent Sydney from trying to woo Greg Williams with illicit payments in 1990. Nor did it dissuade them from “losing” star full forward Tony Lockett’s contract documents five years later.
Twelve months after discovering that Carlton’s creative accountancy hadn’t accounted for some hefty payments to Craig Bradley, the AFL realised the club had also been rorting the salary cap over four years to the tune of 1.3 million dollars. The resultant fine and removal of future draft picks helped usher in the club’s worst era.
In Adelaide’s case it’s even more humiliating.
Desperate to hang onto someone clearly not in love with them, and knowing Glenelg beach, the Tour Down Under and premium chardonnay from the Adelaide HIlls would not be inducement enough, they allegedly agreed to two illegal deals – the worst of which was to underwrite undisclosed third-party payments.
Then with the club seemingly on the verge of a dynasty the kid still didn’t want to stay. And instead of opting to go home to the Gold Coast and a couple of seasons of bottom two finishes, he chooses the reigning Premier for a million a season.
“That little sh**te!” I think was the immediate response from the Crow’s list manager David Noble as he realised Tippett’s “club of choice” didn’t mean a side with no premiership credentials, as they had been led to believe.
Then from the City of Churches we hear the whining confession of the club’s former football operations manager John Reid who brokered the Tippett deal with current chief executive Steven Trigg: “We sold our soul when we did that deal!” moaned Reid.
It is refreshing to hear a football executive being honest about his murky dealings but he isn’t the only guilty one.
Trigg, who was performing penance in Paris and Croatia, returned home to “invite” AFL investigators into Football Park but only after Tippett’s lawyers threatened to publicise the deal (who clearly wouldn’t have as that would have doomed their client) and following discussions with club chairman Rob Chapman who didn’t want the club or himself to be sullied by the whole affair.
It must be noted of course that Sydney and Gold Coast also knew of the arrangement without informing the AFL. On learning that Tippett wouldn’t be coming their way the Suns gave the copy of an email letter detailing the Crows’ offer, to their lawyers.
The role of agents in fomenting fear among clubs about player departures, and their involvement in illicit deals has been a major concern in the NRL. Two of them recently lost an appeal against their suspensions for involvement in the Melbourne Storm salary cap scandal. If the AFL finds what we expect it to find then Tippett’s agent Peter Blucher must also be held accountable.
Former agent Ricky Nixon – and he would know – has been warning of a growth in “underground third-party deals”. Last year the AFL promised to be more stringent with deals that include “people linked to a club, deals that help keep stars at their clubs and arrangements that could ensure they are prised loose from their club.”
More importantly if Kurt Tippett is found to have knowingly received illicit third-party payments the AFL should de register him as they did Greg Williams.
Despite everyone losing out in the Tippett affair, one thing is certain – clubs will never accept that if you can’t hold succulent morsels without illicit offers, you should let them go.