Let them tank

We’ve heard of tanking over recent years and started to hear a lot more of it lately as it’s started to be raised again as a big problem and everyone’s been saying their bit trying to come up with a solution. The AFL has come out trying to be all flair and nostrils by ‘launching an investigation’ into the issue after Brock Mclean’s latest claims.

The most common solution I’ve heard amongst the football community and media is to bring in an NBA style lottery draft order system. While I actually think this is a good idea and would make a difference towards evening the competition and dispelling doubts over clubs tanking, I think there is a far simpler solution. Instead of a knee-jerk reaction from the AFL or changing anything after already seeing so many (mostly detrimental) changes to our great game, mainly around rules and intepretations, I say do nothing and let them tank. I know it probably sounds outrageous and can see a lot of people disagreeing, but I think there should be a thought put to it.

Let’s look at the three premiers of the last six years in Geelong, Collingwood and Hawthorn. Although in the five years previous to each of those clubs winning the premiership they may have had years where they finished in the bottom half of the ladder, if my memory is sound I don’t remember any of these clubs winning a wooden spoon or gaining early draft picks to the extent Melbourne and Carlton have in recent years. Yes these clubs did gain some early draft picks in leaner years previous to winning their premierships but they won the ultimate prize through having good coaches who implemented an innovative and successful game plans adhered to by the players and most importantly a strong culture and system on and off the field built on ruthlessness and success.

Then take a look at the clubs which have been under the tanking microscope the most in recent years, Melbourne and Carlton. Now I know Carlton have had some success and have got some worth out of early draft picks (Gibbs, Kruezer, Yarran), but really last year they were a team that had the potential and probably should ‘ve finished in the top four, but finished fifth and lost a semi-final, and this year although it is still possible they’re highly unlikely to finish in the top eight. I acknowledge they’ve had a cruel run with injuries and the Judd suspension this year, but so have Colllingwood, Eagles, Essendon and in the last couple of weeks Geelong yet all those teams are currently above them on the ladder. But most importantly, they don’t have a strong, winning culture that is well run and ruthless on and off the field the likes of Geelong, the Eagles, Collingwood, Hawthorn and Sydney. They’ve got the talent of those teams but that’s the problem, they rely on pure talent and Chris Judd ( and Marc Murphy to a lesser extent).

The other one is Melbourne and not only have they relied heavily on talent from gaining early draft picks, those early draft picks ( Watts, Trengove, Sylvia) have mostly failed to deliver on their talent and the result has been, unlike Carlton not even finishing just outside the eight or in the bottom half of the eight, finishing at the foot of the ladder.

If clubs, not players, are tanking, then I think this just sets them up for failure because it breeds a culture which lacks that ruthlessness and will to win and the habit of winning, both on and off the field, from players to the board, which is so crucial to success and winning premierships in the cut-throat environment of the AFL. The heavy reliance on talent and early draft picks alone is never going to be enough to beat a strong, confident club with a well-run system and powerful culture.

You also only have to look at the Sydney Swans, currently sitting top of the ladder, to see that you can be highly successful without having to bottom out and rely on early draft picks. Since 2000, they’ve only missed three finals series’ and never consecutively missed finals’, with a large part of their success built around recycling players from other clubs in the likes of Mumford (#1 ruckman), Kennedy (possible B&F, All-Australian & in Brownlow contention), Richards (probable AA), Shaw, Mcglynn and Mattner. The success is also built on a strong winning culture, which we’ve all come to know as the ‘Blood’s culture’. This culture is so strong it keeps players at the club which we saw in O’Keefe thinking seriously about heading back to Victoria before ultimately staying at the club, with one of the main reasons I believe being the strong culture at the club.

Just one more thing, and the great man Brock Mclean even stated it himself, is that when a club may have the intent of tanking or run a weak culture/system, no matter the talent at the club, players will leave. Mclean has left and so has Tom Scully, one of the players Melbourne picked up at number one in the draft as a result of their so called tanking. Yes Scully is on big money at GWS and that was a big factor in his decision, but I bet if he was in the same scenario at Sydney, Geelong, Collingwood or Hawthorn, there’s a very good chance  he would have stayed at the clubs as each of them has a strong culture which breeds success and has put them in a strong position to challenge for and win premierships.

I’m an Eagles’ supporter and I’m a lot happier with my club and they’re a lot better off with their system and culture on and off the field which drives the club towards success than what Melbourne and Carlton are with their respective cultures/systems. I’m sure supporters from Sydney, Collingwood, Geelong and Hawthorn would say the same. Just imagine being a Melbourne supporter or player, wondering where success is going to come from.

I’d take a srong, successful culture over a weak one taking the easy option and relying solely on talent any day. So although it might sound outrageous, let ’em tank.


  1. You raise an angle I had never thought of Brandon. Its like the welfare dependency problem in broader society. It breeds a learned helplessness that ‘daddy’ or ‘mummy’ will look after you, and you don’t have to do the hard things to create a worthwhile life for yourself.
    Its why I’m more optimistic for the Bulldogs long term. They have built a successful culture over recent decades. The problem seems to be their poor choice of talls and key position players. If they can rectify that I am sure McCartney is the man to build on the foundations they already have.
    Loved the “our great game” reference in the second para. Made you sound like a genuine Ancient Almanacker.

  2. I keep telling you Mr B, Life Imitates Football.

    I too loved the take on the tanking culture Brandon. I can quite proudly say we’ve never tanked at Punt Road. We’ve never had the luxury.

  3. Some points for consideration Brandon

    1) Eagles 2010. (Good draft picks)

    2) Collingwood 2004 (Good draft picks)

    3) If we substitute the more benign word ‘tanking’ with what it really is, ‘match fixing’ for a predetermined benefit, then the seriousness of the issue becomes more apparent.

    4) With betting on football in Australia push sold now the issue of match fixing is a major problem.

    5) All the average mum and dad punters are being scammed while the illegal practice is allowed to continue – and it is, no matter how much unconvincing sabre rattling is going on from Demetriou.

    ‘If it looks like a duck, waddles like a duck, quacks like a duck then it will swim in the tank’
    (Old Jungle Saying)

  4. Mr Wrap, I had high hopes for the Aussie Olympic team. I predicted an honourable Tiger 9th from day 2, but those pesky Hungarians dudded us (the Shinboners of world sport). Tenth just doesn’t have the same ring to it.
    Do you reckon we tanked???

  5. We didn’t do well enough in the tank Peter.

    We usually have half our medals after the immersion in water bit.

    (But we will be alright. Apparently the ‘torpedo’ is all inspired for a come back, again.)

  6. nathan jarvis says

    If you take a trawl through the last 12 or so premiers, the one thing that stands out is that they have all had access to “extra” players outside the confines of the draft. Be it priority picks (West Coast, Hawthorn, Collingwood), father/son (Geelong), zone/start-up concessions (Sydney, Brisbane, Port Adelaide) we are looking at one or two players in each circumstance that these clubs have had access to that the others haven’t. The necessary percentages required to rise above the pack.

    It helps that these “gifts” have been used wisely – I’m looking at you Melbourne and Richmond – but they are gifts.

    The priority picks didn’t just go to the leper clubs. All we are seeing is that the leper clubs didn’t use theirs as well or theirs didn’t ice the cake, instead just being chucked into the mixing bowl. Or dropped on the floor, left for the dog to clean up.

    Yours is a skewed perspective. In arguing backwards from the success of certain clubs (it’s their winning culture – yeah, right) you are overlooking the reality of how they acquired that winning culture. In West Coast’s case, the cue was put back in the rack quite early in 2001 and 2010. Tanking? Well, one man’s tank is another man’s astute forward planning.

    I say disincentivise tanking because of its abuse by clubs like West Coast and Collingwood.

  7. Neil Anderson says

    Like your lateral thinking Brandon, particularly the bit about clubs with strong cultures not having to rely on tanking. Also liked Peter B’s comment about being optimistic re the Bulldogs. I’ve been so busy being disappointed with them this year it was good to get a reminder that they do have a good culture and are being coached by a man who wants to recruit good ‘citizens’ first and foremost. God I hope there is a lot of good citizens who can play good football in the top ten draft picks! A couple of years ago we cracked it for the double when Bazza joined the club. Choir-boy behaviour and the joy of watching a key forward actually kick goals.

  8. Brandon Erceg says

    Nathan. I agree that clubs such as the hawks, magpies, eagles etc. did get early picks as I stated and swans did get Jack from a zone selection but if you compare the picks and priority picks and father/son Carlton and Melbourne got, it’s more than those other clubs and if you look at how players have developed at those clubs compared to Carlton and Melbourne, it is more rapid and you are seeing more potential being fulfiled from players at those clubs and I believe it’s because of the culture. At Collingwood you’ve got Maxwell, who’s the captain, Toovey and O’Brien all off the rookie list, who are now successful and established players. Compare the development of players such as Thomas, sidebottom, beams, swan, pendlebury compared to that of watts, trengove, sylvia, dunn, bate. It’s clear the clubs with a stronger culture who have ingrained success and winning as a habit are better off and stronger on and off field than these clubs who are ‘softer’ with cultures I’d consider not as strong or well-run. And clubs such as the Eagles have built back up and become successful again whereas Melbourne, despite getting so many draft picks and priority picks, have failed to climb back up the ladder over the same period of time

  9. Basso Divor says

    Let them Tank. (To the tune of Let it Snow – apologies to The Chairman of the Board)

    Oh the AFL’s management’s frightful
    The little chance of prosecution’s delightful
    And with no future prospects to bank
    Let them Tank! Let them Tank! Let them Tank!

    It doesn’t show signs of stopping
    But we’ve no real prospects for swapping
    We could make our Admin walk the plank or
    Let them Tank! Let them Tank! Let them Tank!

    If we actually get caught out
    How we’ll hate going out in the storm!
    But if we claim to be developing players
    We’ll confuse the media swarm

    The membership base is dying
    And for ‘specific initiatives’ we’re applying
    Our credit sheet’s decidedly blank
    Let them Tank! Let them Tank! Let them Tank!

    It doesn’t show signs of stopping
    But we’ve no dead wood for chopping
    Ethical solutions are a-blank
    Let them Tank! Let them Tank! Let them Tank!

    We’ll confuse the media swarm!
    We’ll appease the media swarm!

    The club is slowly dying
    We’ve no players for trading or buying
    If this comes off you’ll have me to thank
    Let them Tank! Let them Tank! Let them Tank!

    Let them Tank! Let them Tank! Let them Tank!

  10. Mark Doyle says

    The tanking debate is a media beat-up. It will be difficult for the AFL to prove that clubs contrived to lose matches. Clubs generally finish near the bottom of the ladder because they do not have good players and good coaches. Melbourne are a bottom team because they do not have any A grade players. There is also very little difference in the culture and objectives of all AFL clubs. The distinguishing factor for successful clubs is better management at Board and CEO level. This better management will generally result in better appointments for key football positions such as the senior coach and recruiting manager plus support staff for development coaches and recruiting. Clubs do not need top 5 draft picks to be successful; Geelong have not had a top five draft pick in the past 12-15 years. Geelong have also recruited very players by the trade system; I think that Brad Ottens and Cameron Mooney are the only Geelong players to be recruited from other AFL clubs in the last 12-13 years. Sydney are also a club that has had very few top 5 draft picks; I think their last top 5 draft picks were Jude Bolton, Nick Fosdike and Ryan Fitzgerald about 15 years ago. Sydney have been very successful and played finals for most of the past 15 years because of good recruiting of players from other AFL clubs and good coaching.

  11. DBalassone says

    That might be true for Geelong and Sydney re top 5 picks but there is no doubt Hawthorn benefited enormously from their poor season in 2004, by being able to pick up Franklin and Roughead. Also Collingwood’s poor finish to 2005 allowed them to get Thomas and Pendlebury. Although, I don’t think Hawthorn and Collingwood tanked, these high drafts picks certainly helped them to go on and win flags a few years later. Also, don’t forget Carlton went within an inch of a Preliminary Final last year: would they have been able to do so without Murphy, Gibbs, Judd and Kreuzer?

  12. Just been following the thread and picked up the Mum & Dad Punters? Not too sure about the M&D bit. There’s plenty of Mug Punters, but I wouldn’t say there are Mum & Dad Punters. Maybe a few Footy Fans have a flutter, but that’s not punting, surely. Of you’re on the punt you have to take in everything: the weather, the injuries, the likely soreness of those playing, the recent form, the harmony within the club and/or the playing group, and let it be said, the likelihood of one of the teams tanking. If you’re not comfortable with all the variables giving a clear cut result, you wait until they do. A wise old kelpie once told me; you don’t have to chase every ute that comes down the lane. So, to be honest, tanking shouldn’t be a reason to get excited about the chance,of tanking.

    On the other hand, it does impact on the rate of upward mobility of the opponent of the tanker: the tankee. But can we put that down to the luck of the Fixture and move on? What goes around comes around – or is that the problem?

    From the above examples it would appear tanking doesn’t advantage anyone, in fact quite the opposite. But thanks to the noble Brock, all that’s academic now. His righteousness – and you’d be excused for wondering why he felt impelled to voice his take on the events at this point in time – has stirred the Ayatollahs at Harrison House into a response. Playing god in relation to which of the leper clubs gets what from the drafting pool, they and they alone will decide who, if anybody, gets the next Trent Cotchin.

  13. So match fixing is OK then Wrapster and all the Mums and Dads deserve it?

    Can I have my Mopsy picture back?

  14. Come on Phanto; we’re talking about a two horse race here. And one of the horses is lame, and badly needs a shot of vitamins to boost its performance. Hugh Wirth and the whole weight of the RSVPA and Animal Liberation would be on your case if you didn’t take every step to to make sure that The Gimp got his shots. So why not, and why wouldn’t everyone expect it, including those who just don’t watch, but bet responsibly on the net.

    But I’m against match fixing of the kind that was suspected of Carlton back in Black Jack Elliot’s time, when they were running hot and dropped a couple of unexpected games to lowly clubs. i know I should research the season & the matches, and I will when I get a break in the traffic. (Anyone able to help me out here – save me a lot of time surfing the net?) It was in all the papers at the time but the matter was let slide. I suspect they paid for it when they lost their draft picks a few season’s later. What goes around comes around, eh?

    And no, you can’t have your Mopsy Fraser photo back. I’ve sent it on to Rhett Bartlett to store in the Punt Road Archives.

  15. That didn’t take as long as I thought it would. The year 1995 – Carlton finished on top of the ladder with 20 wins and 2 losses. Those two losses were in Rounds 8 & 9.

    Round 8 was against Sydney, who went on the win eight matches for the season that included the moribund Fitzroy and the swaddling Fremantle. When they met Carlton they’d notched two wins. The scores? Sydney 132 Caaarlton 60.

    There was quite a bit of talk about betting coups after that. But when nothing stirred at Harrison House or Russell Street they decided to rolled the dice again.

    Round 9, St Kilda v Carlton. St Kilda went on to win eight for the season, but at that stage had only won one match. Even Fitzroy had beaten them. The scores from this match? St Kilda 80 Caaarlton 24.

    Of course, there was an outcry this time. But still nothing happened.

    You can call Melbourne’s perfectly transparent attempt to improve themselves match fixing. For me, I’ll go for the blatant raid on those pillars of society at the Tattersalls Club.

    BTW, Caaarlton went on to win the flag that year.

  16. Sorry Wrapster. I didn’t mean to stir you up. Please forgive me. I won’t do it again. Am I still your friend?

    With that sort of dramatic rebuff I reckon you would be a dead cert starter for Moses in the next version of ‘Sermon on the Mount’

  17. Andrew Starkie says

    The AFL isn’t serious about investigating tanking. If it was action would’ve been taken years ago. Past and present players and coaches, the media, the public have been speaking up for for some time but headquarters continues to do nothing. It even went the deflection tactic and waffled on about ‘the perception of tanking’, whatever that meant.

    The AFL has gone with the age old tactic of large organizations, governments and police forces when corruption is too big to tackle and potentially damaging to the brand (yuck!), it has shoved its head in the sand.

    Do you really expect anything to come of the inquiry into race fixing? The Church? What happened to the AWB investigation?

    The AFL knows what it will find but doesn’t know what it will do when it does (if that makes sense). So it does nothing.

  18. Andrew Starkie says

    I’ve just confused myself. Must remember to proof read.

  19. Now don’t go talking conspiracies Andrew.

    Sensible knackers will come at you with all sorts of jibe.

    Read my ‘soon’ article on conspiracies.

  20. Jeff Dowsing says

    I’m hearing ya Andrew. Along these lines, here’s a hypothetical poser; what would the IOC have the testing agency lab geek do with the incriminating test tube containing a positive Usain Bolt blood sample?

    That’s assuming he was tested.

  21. Lock it up and bolt.

  22. Andrew Starkie says

    Phanto, love a good conspiracy. Don’t get me talking about AFL fixturing an tv scheduling. Where can i find your article?

    JD, as the saying goes: ‘The US doesn’t have a doping control program, it has a controlled doping program’. Marion Jones was a scapegoat and Carl Lewis tested positive three times before the ’88 Games.

    And of course, there’s Linford ‘I don’t give a shit’ Christie. Did you see Karl Stef’s interview with Linford et al? he asked Linford about doping without obviously knowing Linford was busted years ago.

  23. Andrew Starkie says

    everyone knows carlton tanked in ’95. Come on.

  24. I’ve just come back in. Spot on Starkers, nothing’s going to come of it. Maybe the Great Helmsman will give Angry Adrian a kick in the pants for letting it happen while he was away, but I can’t see how he could have stopped it. And while I’ve got you there, if Carlton’s losses back then were engineered, I feel the correct wording is threw, not tanked. Tanking is when you play to improve your position in the scheme of things. As the Chinese et al badminton teams did in London – and the Russian basketballers. Losing for financial gain is called match fixing. And it’s illegal. The next question should be – is not thoroughly investigating the matter the same as conspiracy to commit an illegal act? Anyone got any legal training? The moral question is not at issue here. And you’d have to say it’s never been one at Carlton either.

    But what I really wanted to say relates to those Dreamteam players. Now I don’t know if any money rides on these comps, but there’s certainly a heap of prestige from the earfuls I get from around the place. How does resting players against the Cellar Dwellers fit with tanking? Sure the powerhouse teams shouldn’t lose, but it’s the star players that get rested. What happens to the dreamers’ lists?

    And BTW Phanto; I asked Rhett if I could have that Mopsy Fraser photo back and he told me to get stuffed.

  25. They did change the rule.
    Priority picks are after first round now.

    So instead of getting a Franklin or Pendles (two lucky selections if ever they existed) you now get someone like Darling or Blease.

    They also changed father son to stop Ablett, Cloke, Shaw, Hawkins, Scarlett with a third rounder if they are clear first round.

    Because of these rule changes, I agree now with the op, let them tank.

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