Coach: Ron Barassi
Captain: Robert Flower
Finishing Position: 11th
Best and Fairest: Danny Hughes
Leading Goalkicker: Brian Wilson (40)
Best First Year Player: Rod Grinter
Major Sponsor: Drake
|Matches||Ladder||Playing List||Best and Fairest||Reserves||Under 19s|
The club suffered twin blows before the season when first joint major sponsors Mayne Nickless and Hertz cut their financial commitments in half, then the MCC threw the club off the MCG and forced them to use the Junction Oval as a training base. North Melbourne's increased use of the MCG for home games prompted the MCC to protect their ground by having less training on it. Access to a newly renovated venue with lush turf was initially seen as a bonus, before the oval’s cricket commitments began to infringe on pre-season training. The MCC paying for the move was a bonus considering the club was so desperate for funds that Barassi and Slug Jordon had set walked Toorak Road soliciting $2000 in membership sales from shopkeepers before the season. It was later revealed that the club spent $39,000 on taxis to ferry young players to and from training during the year.
Writing in the club's annual report Barassi said that 1985 may be his last if the club was not successful. He said "looking forward to 1985, it's clear that we've come to the end of the line as far as excuses are concerned. Explanations - whether it be lack of experience or strength or pace - just won't be tolerated".
The club had made a left field selection for a Chief Executive to replace the retiring Richard Seddon when they hired former Department of Housing supremo Roy Gilbert. Struggling with the culture of the club and without a footballing background Gilbert resigned in 1986 and Ray Manley was elevated to the role to replace him.
Gilbert had sat on a committee during the season which mooted scrapping the Reserves and Under 19s and replacing them with an Under 21s competition which would allow clubs to save money by having smaller squads. The report proposed that clubs would be able to farm players out to VFA sides. The idea was rejected.
A lack of funding hampered recruiting efforts and despite a Round 1 victory Melbourne were soon down the bottom of the ladder again. Once again the club were comfortably clear of the wooden spoon contenders but not good enough to seriously challenge for the finals. The loss of Robert Flower for most of the season with a broken collarbone didn't help. Neither did a drop in form by reigning Brownlow Medallist Peter Moore and Kelvin Templeton succumbing to his injuries more often.
Injuries hit the entire squad hard. When Steven Icke went down with an injury in the Round 16 match against Carlton he became the fifth captain or stand-in to be hurt that year. Flower, Healy, Smith and Giles had all been hurt while captaining the side. Healy and Giles had been promoted to acting captain and vice-captain respectively in Flower's absence.
The end of the season was played out against the backdrop of turmoil with members attempting to force an extraordinary AGM to oust the Billy Snedden board. The chairman attacked the rivals during an interview on the live telecast of the Round 21 game against Sydney, saying that the takeover effort was "without merit, without ability and without capacity to run a club". He denied the club was a million dollars in debt and suggested that the club might end up being sold if the new board took over. Snedden referred to the plotters as “serving their own egotistical ambitions”.
The first rumblings of revolution came in late July, with a supporter placing newspaper ads asking for interest in a challenge. Only a sitting committeeman could call an Extraordinary General Meeting, and plotter Ron Prendergast was quickly contacted by one of the men in Snedden’s cabinet. Prendergast said, “the club has been negative for far too long. If you can’t think like a winner how can you be a winner?” and organised for anti-Snedden pamphlets to be handed out at games.
The warring camps met in early September, with coup leaders Geoff Slade and Terry Gleeson forced to admit the club's financial position wasn't as bad as they'd originally thought. There was agreement to increase the number of positions available for Melbourne FC members on the board (as opposed to MCC Members) from two to four. In addition to Slade and Gleeson the group included former players Robert B Johnson, John Lord, Barrie Vagg, Peter Keenan and Peter Sinclair.
Snedden announced his resignation but suggested he'd carry on in the job until the December AGM. The reform group called for him to go immediately as the club was in the middle of appointing a new CEO and coach. Board member Rueben Benkel joined the rebels, convening an EGM to try and change the club's articles of association and change membership rules so four members of the prospective rebel board could become directors. The incumbent board refused an ultimatum for Snedden to resign immediately and appoint six reform group candidates to the 12 man board.
The rebels announced that they would sack any coach hired by the existing board who they didn't endorse. Snedden's appointed successor Stuart Spencer was on the committee interviewing coaching candidates. The reformers were involved in some coaching interviews, with two members sitting in for Tom Hafey's interview but none present for eventual winner John Northey.
In early October a mailout to 2500 members from the reform group challenged the administration to answer a number of questions, including:
- Whether $230,000 was spent on coaches in 1985 even though the club was near the bottom of the ladder
- Whether $147,000 was spent on motor vehicles in 1984, and if so by who?
- If the former match committee chairman was paid for his service
- How much was paid to other consultants over the previous five years
- Did the board consider real estate dealings in Queensland to be for the benefit of the club, and did it cause any financial losses
- Questions regarding land brought in Jolimont for a social club, and whether it had been sold for $80,000 less than the current valuation to try and balance the books.
- Were Les Bamblett, Michael Byrne, Tony Elshaug and Alan Ezard sold for the same reason?
- Whether it was true that the club would show a large operating loss for the year
- If it was true that a director had written to the reform group admitting the club had failed in recruiting, administration and coaching. Also whether a current director had pledged his support to the group and resigned from the board only to return.
Snedden's response was that the club would post a cash result showing a capital deficit but ultimately balanced due to the way player transfer fees were amortised. He stated the Jolimont land was sold for more than the club paid, that social clubs weren't as profitable as they used to be, Barry Richardson hadn't been paid as Chairman of Selectors, and that the board acted on the advice of match committee regarding transfers. He said the rebel letter contained "some of the best pieces of arrant nonsense I've ever read".
The chairman’s side also claimed that four of the reform group bought memberships after the June 1 deadline for voting at AGMs and were now trying to change the rules so that memberships purchased to the end of October were valid. Slade was one of the names given, along with a reminder that his company was a sponsor of Carlton. Slade argued that his company couldn't be involved with the Demons because they were a direct competitor of major sponsor Drake.
Regardless of the instability, and the plotters not being involved in his interview, John Northey was still appointed coach in early October and retained the job for 1986.
On 15 October a fiery meeting was held at the Camberwell Civic Centre. A resolution was passed replacing Snedden with Jim Cardwell but the sitting board declared the vote unconstitutional. After the meeting both camps claimed control of the club. The meeting had originally been referred to as an EGM, but the reform group convened it as an ordinary meeting instead, claiming the Melbourne Cricket Club had threatened legal action. MCC members would not have been allowed to vote at the EGM. The football club's lawyers also suggested the key motion to be debated at the meeting was unconstitutional due to the absence of a statement that it required a 75% majority to pass.
The reform group suggested they'd nominate 10 candidates, but when board elections were held at the end of the year none of the "Reform Group" candidates nominated and the incumbent board was elected unopposed. Snedden still resigned as chairman against the backdrop of Gerard Healy walking out to join Sydney in a big money deal. Healy had finished a narrow second in that year's best and fairest.
In his address to a boisterous AGM crowd of 600 fans, Snedden admitted the club had purchased real estate in Queensland with the goal of paying Peter Moore and Kelvin Templeton from the profits, but that the land hadn't appreciated as expected. Gerard Healy didn't attend the meeting to accept his second best and fairest trophy. Snedden said he still hoped to re-sign Healy if Sydney couldn't fit him under the salary cap. Geoff Slade didn't rule out another EGM in January but it never eventuated.
The club made a trading loss of $473,000, not including $225,000 received as a dividend from the league after the sale of the Sydney Swans.
Ray Jordon was coach of both the Reserves and Under 19s, and the Under 19s were given special dispensation to play at 2pm instead of a new time for other teams of 10:30 to allow him to continue in both roles.
|Round 1||Peter Moore||Striking||Guilty|
|Round 1||Peter Giles||Striking||1 Match|
|Round 15||Danny Hughes||Knocking to ground after marking||Not Guilty|
|Round 22||David Cordner||Striking||2 matches|
|Round 22||Chris Connolly||Striking||3 matches|
Age 05/12/1985 suggests $255,000 for the sale of Healy was not included in the financial figures - while other sources show it as a dividend from the league on the sale of the Swans.
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