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The tamper affair: how Pies lost a young star


This article appears in SEN Inside Football's January Issue...on sale now. It is jampacked with all your off-season footy yarns. Subscribe today!

When then-Richmond recruiting boss Doug Vickers selected a 16-year-old South Australian named Brett Chalmers at the 1989 national draft, using pick 103, he soon sensed that something was up.

Chalmers was coming through the Port Adelaide system in the SANFL and had a number of AFL clubs keeping tabs on his progress through the juniors.

When the Tigers made him their last pick in the ’89 draft, they set off a chain of events that would change the football landscape, and consign the 196cm ruckman/key position player to three years in limbo.

“When we drafted him in 1989 (then-Collingwood recruiting manager) ‘Gubby’ Allan said, ‘Why did you draft him?’” Vickers told Inside Football.

According to Vickers, this was the first indication that the Magpies, too, had their sharp eyes on the promising tall.

As it turned out, Vickers’ gut feel was right. Chalmers was keen to play for Collingwood and the Pies were desperate to have him.

“We flew him over in 1990 or ’91 and he kept on developing and kept on getting better,” Vickers said.

“Through that period of three years that we had him we knew that Collingwood was blowing wind up his backside, which wasn’t in accordance of the rules.”

Just as Richmond was set to lose its hold on him — it lapsed after three years — it considered offloading him to the Pies, but the return offer was underwhelming and the miffed Tigers let him go into the national draft.

“Collingwood was just thinking that we would take anything because we weren’t going to get Brett Chalmers, but then we said we’re not going to be your doormat,” Vickers said.

“They didn’t play in the spirit of the rules.”

In the days before the draft Chalmers contacted each club picking ahead of Collingwood (who held pick 10) indicating that he would be staying with Port Adelaide for the coming season, but then would play only for the Pies.

Suitably spooked, clubs passed on Chalmers until Collingwood duly named him at pick 10.

Six months later, however, the AFL found him guilty of draft tampering, fined him a hefty $30,000 and banned him from playing for the Magpies for three years.

Forecasting a legal challenge to the draft system, sports law expert Greg Griffin said at the time: “The AFL is basically waving a red flag at anyone who has considered mounting a challenge to the draft.

“All he [Chalmers] seemed to be doing was exercising his most basic right of choosing his employer and I’m very surprised the AFL has proceeded the way it has.”

However, proceed it did. Chalmers never played for Collingwood — or indeed Richmond — yet eventually managed 75 games for Adelaide and Port Adelaide.

Chalmers is one of a number of promising players that clubs recruited who, for one reason or another, never appeared in those colours – then went on to glorious careers elsewhere. January's issue of SEN Inside Football lists all you club's "zeroes to heroes"...


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