Chairman in waiting, Jim Stynes, carrying son Tiernan, at the MCG..
Photo: Vince Caligiuri
Dees face day of reckoning
JIM Stynes' plans for a bloodless coup of the Melbourne board hinges on persuading one, as yet, unconvinced director that he should join eight of his colleagues in stepping aside.
Deputy chairman John Phillips is believed to be reluctant to follow chairman Paul Gardner in leaving. Gardner announced at his pre-match lunch yesterday that he would retire from the chairmanship at Thursday's board meeting.
If Phillips resists, Stynes might get the job he covets but not the board he wants unless he takes the matter to a general meeting a course seen as potentially damaging.
The former Brownlow medallist has declared he wants to retain three of the existing board members and bring in up to eight new people. Ultimately, he wants the board cut to eight.
Stynes would not name those he plans to bring onto the board nor his business plans for change to lift Melbourne from its current dire financial situation.
Former teammate and current board member Andrew Leoncelli will remain under Stynes' proposal, while Anthony Ingerson could join the board. Stynes retains the vital support of former players and powerbrokers Garry Lyon and Greg Healy.
Many consider that Stynes is the leader the club needs to galvanise it at a time when it must confront a debt of about $4 million, an operating loss of $1.5 million, criticism from the AFL and a team at the bottom of the ladder.
The club was also warned by the AFL it faced losing the annual Queen's Birthday fixture against Collingwood unless it was well supported with an attendance of at least 60,000. A crowd of 59,548 attended yesterday's game.
"I do not believe that people not intending to be here in the future should burden those who will be, with any locked-in, long-term plans," Gardner said.
The club has begun repositioning itself with a new summer base at Casey Fields, affiliation with the VFL team there and probable relocation to the new rectangular stadium being built at Olympic Park. The debt remains large but has been reduced from $7 million.
"Now that many of those building blocks are in place, I believe it is time for another small change and that is for somebody else to take over the reins of our club to bring some new thinking and energy to the board table," Gardner said.
Stynes said he was confident of achieving the change in board positions he wanted.
"It is up to them to agree to step off and we replace people as a changing of the guard. Obviously, if they don't agree to it, we have to wait until the end of the year unless we call a general meeting," he said.
"It's a big board and long term, we want to reduce it. It is probably too big to work successfully. Probably around eight (would be ideal), but it will take time to do that.
"They have been really good about it, the current members, and there is a lot of support to do what we do, but we haven't really taken them through the change we are going to create and some of the ideas because it has all happened very fast.
"It is not radical but it is going to create momentum. The big challenge for us will be sustaining it. We will take it up a cog and then we have to maintain it. The real focus is going to be on membership base, supporters."
Stynes declared that interstate relocation or mergers with other clubs were not part of the equation.
Two of the club's past three Brownlow medallists, Peter Moore and Shane Woewodin, both endorsed Stynes as the man to lead the Demons. "What the club needs now is a leader, someone who can lead them in this next period, it is pretty difficult right now," Moore said.
A positive for the Demons yesterday was that Collingwood president Eddie McGuire said he was happy with Melbourne's participation in the Queen's Birthday clash. He said the Magpies supported the right for Melbourne to retain the match as a Melbourne home game so the struggling club could enjoy a major payday.
"Collingwood have supported this all the way, it has always been a Melbourne home game, we forfeited any right to home-and-away on that," McGuire said on 3AW before the Pies' 21-point win. "We continue to support Melbourne. They are a very important club in the AFL.
"Next year, we want it to be Collingwood-Melbourne, but today people will march with their feet."
■ Age: 42
■ Recruited from: Dublin, Ireland
■ Games: 264 for Melbourne between 1987-1998, including a league record 244 consecutively
■ Four-times Melbourne club champion
■ 1991 Brownlow medallist
■ Since retirement, has worked for his charity, the Reach Foundation, which assists teenagers, and sat on various government advisory boards
■ 2003 Victorian of the year