THE letter that has haunted Adelaide chief Steven Trigg and could end his AFL career has now been exposed as secretive, expensive and clearly in breach of the rules of the game.
Trigg finally told his chairman Rob Chapman about the club's three-year-old side deal with Kurt Tippett a week ago. Chapman finally saw the dreaded piece of damaging evidence two days ago courtesy of AFL investigator Brett Clothier.
According to directors on the Adelaide board, none had possessed any knowledge of the deal until Trigg admitted its existence to Chapman immediately after returning home from an overseas holiday.
The AFL asked questions of Adelaide in August 2011 after The Age reported a ''highly unusual'' agreement between Tippett and the Crows. The league was satisfied there was nothing to investigate, but the board knew nothing of the AFL's questions.
As soon as Chapman learnt that the Crows had offered Tippett third-party inducements - inducements it has now been revealed the club promised to underwrite - not to mention trade Tippett to the club of his choice at the end of three years, the senior Westpac adviser insisted they contact AFL chief Andrew Demetriou.
It is not known whether Trigg revealed last Friday to Chapman that the explosive document included a direction not to mention any of this to the AFL.
''What are they doing?'' Demetriou is said to have originally demanded of the Crows. ''How can they have been so stupid?''
Demetriou would have changed his tune as the truth continued to unfold. If the Crows planned to claim ignorance of the AFL rules, as Tippett's manager Peter Blucher has reportedly done, or stupidity, they should think again.
Trigg has not offered to resign, nor has his resignation been sought - yet. But it seems difficult to envisage how he can survive this.
The AFL's auditors will move into the club as early as today, but certainly by Monday. It seems beyond doubt the club will be hurt in the long term by this deal, not only with a fine which should prove at least six figures, but also with draft penalties.
It has not been lost on anyone at either head office or AAMI Stadium that the Crows could simply have paid Tippett the extra $200,000 reportedly mentioned upfront. Staggeringly, they had the room in their salary cap.
Different versions of what took place have also emerged, with Tippett's management insisting Trigg and his former lieutenant John Reid flew to the Gold Coast at the end of 2009 to make the extra offer as a last-ditch attempt to prevent the forward joining the Suns. But Reid has long claimed the letter had been instigated by Blucher and Tippett's father, Tony.
Tony Tippett launched legal proceedings against Adelaide early this week in a bid to move his son to Sydney, while Blucher has received legal advice not to make any comment. He said enough early this month when he admitted to a ''gentleman's agreement'' between Adelaide and the player.
Blucher also oversaw the Scully deal, which young Tom denied for much of the 2011 season but most now believe had already taken place.
Chapman too was refusing to comment yesterday after contacting Adelaide's radio 5AA on Wednesday night in a bid to assure the Crows' members and fans that the club was doing all it could to clear its name.
Chapman reportedly contacted the AFL yesterday and invited or, perhaps more accurately, urged the league's investigators to come to Adelaide and check every file and email in a bid to demonstrate the club's openness and compliance.
Incredibly, it was the unfortunate Swan, Jesse White, who seems to have provoked the final stalemate between the Crows and Sydney. Adelaide did not want White but Sydney seemed determined to offload him.
What is known is that the Crows would have been happy with pick 23 and had the trade taken place on that basis no one would have been any the wiser. Whatever the other legal ramifications, Tippett faces possible deregistration.
The Sydney board met early yesterday and is understood to be satisfied that no one at the Swans was aware of the deal, although the Brisbane Lions and Gold Coast certainly were more than aware of its existence, or at least the draft tampering part.
While several clubs have been advised that any trade involving Tippett before today's deadline is unlikely to be approved, Brisbane remains interested in securing his services. That would now almost certainly only happen in the draft, but Gold Coast too could take him with little interest from the Giants.
How ironic it would be if the forward ended up with the Lions, the club which attempted to secure him in the trade period last year and the year before. How much better that result would have been for Adelaide and its long-serving chief executive.
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