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DEMON SELECTION CONTROVERSY ADDS TO AFL WOES

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The AFL is confronting yet another crisis at the weekend in the wake of its endorsement of decisions by both Fremantle and North Melbourne to "rest" players for its final round leading to allegations that the moves might alter the course of the finals series and seriously compromise the integrity of the competition.

The new controversy came to light when the Melbourne Football Club mysteriously omitted fan favourite Jack Watts from its line up to play the GWS Giants at Etihad Stadium on Sunday raising allegations on national television by a Fox Football panelist that the Demons were not taking their final round match seriously in the hope of falling to 15th place to improve their draft position and their chances of selecting a highly fancied midfielder in this year's AFL National Draft.

A Melbourne Football Club spokesman told reporters that his club was angry at the claim and said that Watts would be of more value to the club and to the AFL's cause sitting in the stands at Etihad because this game was in desperate need of having as many "bums on seats" at the ground as possible in light of fears that the final round fixture had the potential to highly embarrass the competition with a record low crowd.

The official added that Watts was face of a club promotion to help make the ground look at least half full by giving away life size cardboard cut outs of human figures to be strategically placed on seats around the stadium. A local business has also joined in on the promotion by providing 500 plastic inflatable ladies which can later be used for other purposes.

"The AFL allowed Port Adelaide to do the same thing for years, so I don't see what their problem is," said the club official who preferred to remain anonymous.

He also said the club will be pumping crowd noise recorded in last year's AFL grand final through the ground's PA system to add atmosphere to the occasion although there was some concern after a rehearsal yesterday failed to co-ordinate the crowd's roar with several Jeremy Howe screamers.

Meanwhile the AFL's Integrity Office is poised to launch a tanking investigation into the Gold Coast Suns who are likely to finish the season in 16th place if they lose tonight's game at the SCG against the Swans. Allegations of bringing the game into disrepute arose against the northern franchise team which is likely to have third or fourth selection at this season's AFL national draft after critics cited this 2013 article in which their captain Gary Ablett claimed the club was "on track to win a premiership by 2015" - Suns on track for 2015 flag, says Ablett.

When questioned by Brett Clothier of the AFL Integrity Unit on Friday afternoon about his club's failure to live up to his prediction, Ablett is reported to have told him that he was "joking at the time". Clothier immediately contacted the Gold Coast Suns to inform them that he expected charges to be laid against the club early next week.

Eric Blair, the AFL spokesperson on these matters said the leagues policy was not to comment on integrity-related issues but in this case he was able to say that the AFL was gravely concerned that a senior player had the temerity to take these things lightly.

"There's too much of this hilarity going on and people need to realise that football's a serious business," he said.

Former Purana Taskforce detective superintendent Gerry Ryan who joined the AFL last year as part of its beefed up integrity unit is likely to head the investigation and also report on the cardboard cut out situation to his boss Gillon McLachlan before the next AFL board meeting due in October.

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