Riewoldt rips into AFL over ‘cheat scandal’
St Kilda great Nick Riewoldt has accused the AFL of sweeping the 'Whispers in the Sky' controversy "under the rug", saying the Saints players felt at the time coach Grant Thomas' relationship breakdown with league chief executive Andrew Demetriou was being used against them.
Riewoldt was responding to the explosive allegations made by Thomas in the Herald Sun's new 'Sacked' podcast that an AFL umpire tried to influence the dramatic 2005 game against Fremantle at Subiaco.
Thomas was in the process of being fined by the AFL for making negative comments about AFL umpiring when the Saints lost narrowly to the Dockers. The then Saints coach felt his team did not get the rub of the green in that game.
On the flight home from Perth, television journalist Tony Jones reported overhearing umpire Matthew Head saying: "Now I know what it feels like to have a victory."
Head denied the comments, and was cleared of any wrongdoing in an AFL investigation - a probe that Thomas believed was a cover-up.
Thomas said one of his match day officials 'Gus' Parker, who had been seated near the umpires, rang him after getting off the plane to tell him what he had heard.
Asked about the match on SEN this morning, Riewoldt said: "They (the AFL) had the little broom out, they lifted it under the rug and they just swept it under the rug.
"We just felt like ... 'what was going on here?' 'Why are we at war with everyone?'."
Asked by Garry Lyon if he felt the AFL had a set against St Kilda because of Thomas' constant battle with Demetriou, Riewoldt said: "Yeah, particularly around that time. We knew that Thommo and Andrew Demetriou were going at really hard, and that was OK."
"I was only a kid. I was a young player. Thommo was a great mentor to us all.
"He even says (on the podcast) that it probably cost us ... his relationship with the AFL."
"The stories from Thommo that have spun off it (the podcast) ... there was obviously when he was sacked by Rod Butterss and the board at the time after he was only the second coach in St Kilda's history to take the club to three consecutive finals appearances.
"That was a massive story and really surprising to the playing group at the time.
"He sheds a bit more light on that.
"(Then there is) the sacking of Malcolm Blight which he was seen to be a part of, which he has cleared the air on that in his role as football director.
"There is the SEN (sacking) and Channel 9 stuff, then there's 'Whispers in the Sky'.
"That's a big story, and that speaks to the integrity if the AFL at the time.
"There was a lot going on behind the scenes."