Former AFL great and polarising media pundit Kane Cornes has issued a stinging criticism of Melbourne’s culture in the wake of the club’s reported ultimatum to star midfielder Clayton Oliver.
With Oliver the centre of bombshell trade rumours leading into the 2023 Trade Period due to a series of off-field issues, including over his recovery from hamstring and foot injuries that derailed his season, club and player reaffirmed their commitment to one another.
But both Demons CEO Gary Pert and coach Simon Goodwin have since maintained their desire to strengthen the club’s culture in strong public statements.
“One thing that has enabled us to keep showing up is our culture; a culture that has been built over a period of time and is the piece that we will be uncompromising in maintaining and building further to achieve the ultimate success,” Goodwin said at the Dees’ best and fairest function on Friday night.
“One thing that has enabled us to keep showing up is our culture; a culture that has been built over a period of time and is the piece that we will be uncompromising in maintaining and building further to achieve the ultimate success,” Goodwin said.
“Everyone needs to be heading in the same direction, and as we head into the off-season, I’ve never been more confident that we can achieve this as a club.
“Its up to everyone to keep driving standards.”
However, speaking on SEN, Cornes took issue with the Dees’ claim to a strong culture, saying Goodwin’s comments are just empty words in light of both the Oliver situation and the club’s consecutive straight-sets finals exits since their 2021 premiership.
“It is a stretch for the club to get up there and tell us they have a strong culture,” Cornes said.
“Melbourne players, supporters and the media should see straight through that: Melbourne is a good team, but they do not have a strong culture.”
Cornes took a pointed jab at Goodwin’s own off-field behaviour, with the Demons coach having been accused by former president Glenn Bartlett of drug and gambling problems – claims the club and Goodwin dismissed as ‘unsubstantiated, historical and outrageous’ earlier this year.
For Cornes, who played 300 games with Port Adelaide including the Power’s 2004 premiership win, calling for strong off-season standards from Oliver and the rest of the team was a touch hypocritical of Goodwin.
“The message from Goodwin to Clayton Oliver was pointed, but Goodwin himself needs to reflect on his own behaviour over the last three seasons, which has been concerning and well documented and it is on the public record,” he said.
“Has he lived to the same standards he asked of his marquee player?”
Cornes was scathing of the rest of the Demons’ list as well, citing a string of off-field incidents since the 2021 flag, most notably Steven May’s club-imposed suspension for a fight with teammate Jake Melksham in 2022, as well as their ‘shocking discipline’ on the field and the ‘bizarre’ recruitment of Brodie Grundy from Collingwood at the end of last season, as proof of the club’s falling standards in all departments.
“There’s been constant speculation about off-field lifestyles with some of their players since the 2021 premiership which culminated in the Oliver drama that escalated last week,” Cornes said.
“It’s a major story for the club’s best player, who is now living with Max Gawn, and there is a long seven years left on that contract.
“There’s the bizarre pitch and recruitment of Brodie Grundy, who they somehow thought they would turn into Wayne Carey. They went out of their way all year to tell us that he was at a club that now values him, but a few months later he’s gone – shipped off to Sydney.
“On the field, their shocking discipline cost them a spot in this year’s prelim final after several players imploded in that semi final against Carlton.
“Since the 2021 premiership, Melbourne has had anything but a strong culture. Goodwin’s words on Friday were just that – words.
“And everyone, including Oliver, and the rest of the players, may have been scratching their head [over] just what direction this club is going.”
The Demons finished in the top four for the third consecutive season in 2023, but were wasteful in their consecutive finals losses, falling to eventual premiers Collingwood by seven points in the preliminary final despite a 69-37 inside 50 dominance, and throwing away a late lead in their semi final loss to the Blues.
Star defender Steven May attracted criticism after footage off his speech after placing fifth in the Demons’ best and fairest spread on social media, in which he claimed the Dees were ‘so much better’ than the Magpies.
“We lose to Collingwood, and they go on to win the flag, and it f–king hurts,” May said.
“We’re a better team than them, we should have smoked them… and to sit there on grand final day and watch them hoist the cup, and get the medals, I’m sitting there going ‘Jeez, our team’s so much better than these guys’.
“We should’ve been out there, but we weren’t.”