There are constantly questions in football about whether teams are tanking or not. There is quite a lot of evidence that it does occur. Carlton was almost certainly tanking in the last game of the year in 2007; against Melbourne. The Blues were dragging players who kicked goals and played some shocking football on that day. Their defence was almost non-existent letting the deplorable Demons score 139.
Was this the right thing to do? Morally it probably isn’t but practically the loss got Carlton the priority pick; Matthew Kreuzer. Had Melbourne lost that game, they could have picked up Nick Naitanui as well as Jack Watts in the 2008 draft because they would have qualified by having fewer than 16.5 premiership points in two consecutive seasons.
It seems inescapable for a supporter not to think of the first pick of the draft rather than winning one game extra. It was clearly worthwhile to Carlton getting Kreuzer into their ranks, as he is proving to be a very good player for them. If a team has in the previous year finished with four losses or less it must look pretty appealing to stay down next year, especially when you don’t show form early in the year.
There are many ways of managing the tank’; the most widely used method is the selection table. They select a team that will clearly not give them the best chance of winning the game. This is commonly known as ‘list-management’ which makes it sound less dodgy. This process often involves playing first gamers and out of form players. You can also ‘rest’ players and pretend players are injured. The advantage of this method is that the team can still have the appearance of trying hard on the field and still try to win, but they just do not have the talent to win the game.
Another way is to tell all or some key-players not to try so hard for certain games when they are in front. This has the advantage of being very effective for them losing the game but will probably get the players and the club harshly treated by the AFL.
There is always the old rest the good players on the bench routine which works quite well but is obvious and looks really dodgy. The coach could also make poor match-ups on purpose to limit the team’s effectiveness. There are clearly heaps of ways a team can tank’.
Melbourne find themselves in a difficult position with two very winnable games left in the season (Richmond, MCG; Fremantle, MCG) and they can only win one of them if they are going to try and take the priority pick. They are in the strange situation where they might not finish bottom because of Fremantle’s awfulness and possible tanking. If Fremantle finish on the bottom, which looks likely, Melbourne will probably only get pick number two if they don’t tank’ , however they will get picks one and three if they do.
There is also a very high probability that Melbourne can’t win 5 games even if they tried. Interestingly Melbourne plays Fremantle at the MCG in round 20, which could be the battle of the tanking, akin to that of Carlton vs. Melbourne in 2007. The problem is that Melbourne will probably beat the Tigers in round 18 as they did in round 4 and then have 4 wins for the season. Fremantle are not playing well at the moment and Melbourne, who is playing alright, beat them at the MCG last time in an inspirational match for Demons supporters.
Is it worth the priority pick to having a losing or cheating culture at the club? Surely one game does not make a whole club’s culture. I would not be surprised if Davey was suddenly under an injury cloud and that there was suddenly a youth focus at the Demons come round 20. They may even tank’ for round 18 to avoid the Fremantle match danger and 19 in preparation for the round 20 match if they win a game against Richmond.
Draft picks are very valuable in this year’s draft as Gold Coast are coming into the frame next year and will have most of the high selections. This year becomes the most valuable draft for a few years at least; until the uncomprimised drafts finish, which probably will not be until Western Sydney is all set up.
Tom Scully, John Butcher and Jack Trengove are likely prospects in this coming draft and many expect one of them to join whichever team recieves the number one pick this year. Scully is an inside midfielder that goes without alcohol (a testimant to his professionalism) and Scully is also capable of winning the ball outside largely due to his ability to read the play well. Butcher is a 197cm key position player who can play both forward and back, he is seen as a natural footballer. Trengove is a workaholic good sized midfielder from South Australia. Importantly for Demon fans two of these could potentially be picked up if they win 4 or less games.
As a Melbourne supporter I am fundamentally torn between seeing my team win now and win in the future. Morally I am against tanking. I’m not sure on how much it affects club culture but it can’t be good for it. Losing one match is not the end of the world, but losing the will or the intensity to win doesn’t come and go week in week out.
The AFL have made it so appealing for clubs to tank’, they have created this environment for supporters, which is clearly not optimal. Fans should not be going for the opposition team, it’s just not cricket… I mean football.
The tanking methodology seems to be working well for Carlton; they are coming, or so I hear.