The Demons were flirting with their fourth win of the season when they arrived in Canberra to meet the Swans in round 17 at Manuka Oval.
They already had three victories to their name, and another with five rounds remaining would have left their audacious bid to claim a priority draft pick in dire straits.
An ACT government spokesperson says their contract – with the AFL, not an individual club – to host the game was worth $366,000, with the parliamentary powerbrokers investing $276,000. The additional $90,000 was sourced via separate agreements with a number of community partners.
Already with three wins to their name with six games remaining, Melbourne were ultimately beaten by three goals against a struggling Swans outfit in front of 7311.
Three years later, the league’s investigation into tanking allegations would lead to suspensions for Bailey and football boss Chris Connolly, and a $500,000 fine for the club.
ACT Chief Minister Andrew Barr and Sport and Recreation Minister Yvette Berry were both unavailable for comment on Friday.
AFL chief executive Gillon McLachlan has shut down claims of a cover-up, telling 3AW penalties were related not to allegations made during the interviews but solely on evidence.
“You have to be able to prove and sustain a breach of the rules,” McLachlan said.
“It’s not fair or reasonable to say things were whitewashed here.”
But the stain of what occurred that season in Melbourne’s inner sanctum looms as a serious stain on the game.
Ex-Geelong Cats great and GWS Giants board member Jimmy Bartel went as far as describing tanking as match fixing on Macquarie Sports Radio.
“Let’s call it what it really is. Tanking is a nice word (but) it’s match fixing — I don’t get why we dance around it,” Bartel said.
“You can’t go out and deliberately stack a game so your side doesn’t win for a future draft pick, that is match fixing at its finest.”
The rules of the time allowed clubs that won four games or fewer in a season to receive a priority draft pick at the top of the draft.
Melbourne would go on to win a fourth game in 2009 but dropped their final two matches, which saw the Demons finish last on the table.
A wooden spoon finish allowed the club to use the No.1 and 2 draft picks on Tom Scully – now playing with Hawthorn after a stint at Greater Western Sydney – and Jack Trengove.
Former Demon Brock McLean says Melbourne coach Bailey told concerned players to toe the line during their tumultuous campaign.
It was McLean’s allegations in a TV interview that year that led to the scrutiny, and he said on Friday the players performed on their merits in 2009 but were uneasy about what the club was doing around selection and game tactics.
“I’m not sure if conspiring is the right word, I just think we weren’t given the best opportunity to develop a winning attitude or winning habits,” McLean told SEN.
Caden Helmers is a sports reporter for The Canberra Times