On Friday November 22, 2002, the AFL announced that the Carlton Football Club had been found guilty of ‘deliberate, elaborate and sophisticated’ breaches of the Salary Cap, a key equalisation policy of the national code. A series of fines and draft restrictions were imposed on the Club, including but not limited to the loss of the first 2 picks in the 2002 National Draft which had been viewed by suffering Carlton fans as some form of silver lining to our first ever Wooden Spoon. Understandably, the day would come to be known by some Carlton fans as ‘Black Friday’.

But first, a little history. Excluding 'administration' type penalties which seem to have been incurred by all Clubs, a number of AFL Clubs, including Carlton, had been caught breaking the Salary Cap in seasons prior to 2002. As a result, Carlton, Fremantle and Melbourne each entered Season 2002 with suspended penalties hanging over their heads from past indiscretions. A summary of the Clubs and their respective penalties, in both draft picks and cash penalties, is found below:

Years of Penalty Year Determined Club Draft Penalties Fines
1993 1994 Carlton Nil $50,000
1998 1998 Carlton Disqualified from the 1999 PSD $43,820
1992; 1994 - 1996 1999 Essendon 1999 National Draft: 1st and 2nd Round Picks $276,274
1993 - 1998 1999 Melbourne 1999 National Draft: 1st Round Pick; 2000 National Draft: 2nd and 3rd Round Picks $350,000
N/A N/A Suspended for 5 years: National Draft: 1st Round Pick $250,000
1998 1998 West Coast 1998 National Draft: 3rd Round Pick $5,307
1998 - 1999 2000 Carlton Disqualified from the 2001 PSD $115,153
N/A N/A Suspended until 2003: National Draft: 2nd and 3rd Round Picks $57,576
2001 2001 Fremantle 2002 National Draft: 3rd Round Pick $54,415
N/A N/A Suspended: National Draft: 1st and 2nd Round Picks N/A

NB - Carlton's 1999 Penalty is listed as being due to 'incorrect estimates relating to incentive payments'.

Melbourne, in particular, entered the year with substantial suspended penalties relating to cap breaches throughout the 1990’s. Carlton, on the other hand, although penalised twice in the same period, entered Season 2002 with a small carry-forward fine of $57,576 and the burden of potentially losing our 2nd and 3rd Round draft picks should we breach the rules again prior to Season 2003.

History will show that this is indeed what was uncovered. The AFL investigated contracts and payments to 4 players; Stephen O'Reilly, Stephen Silvagni, Craig Bradley and Fraser Brown, and although published details are not entirely clear as to what was found, the AFL considered charges of rorting the cap as proved. As per the 2002 AFL Annual Report, the Commission ruled that 'the nature of one breach revealed a deliberate and complex scheme designed and implemented to hide payments and deceive the AFL via the use of trusts, confidentiality agreements and payments to third parties'. As a result, and with our 2 previous penalties in mind, the AFL announced earth-shattering and ground-breaking penalties against the Blues:

Type of Penalty Draft Penalties Fines
New Penalty 2002 National Draft: First 2 Picks (#1 and #2) $872,424
New Penalty 2003 National Draft: 1st and 2nd Round Picks N/A
New Penalty Disqualified from 2003 Pre-Season Draft N/A
Activation of Suspended Penalty National Draft: 2nd and 3rd Round (Effective 2002 Year) $57,576

In total, the Blues were penalised $930,000, 6 early National Draft selections and disqualified from the-then upcoming Pre-Season Draft. Although most of the penalty could be viewed as a 'new' penalty relating to the recent charges, 2 of the 6 lost early picks indeed related to prior breaches of the salary cap rules. There was to be no part-suspension of this penalty; a mechanism that the AFL had used up until this point in time.

Effectively, the Blues were wiped from the early rounds of the 2002 National Draft. To this day Carlton fans, and indeed football fans in general, debate the severity of the penalties but one thing is for sure - the timing of the penalties when considered against Carlton's first wooden spoon performance ensures that they were felt hard by the Club.

Overall, 4 selections in the 2002 National Draft were lost to the Blues including our Priority Pick for winning less than 5 1/2 games in 2002. Our first selection would come in at Pick #45. Further, Carlton were banned from the 2003 Pre Season Draft, although in the ensuing drama from Black Friday it was clear that Carlton would not have been able to participate in any case. Furthermore, our first and second round Picks for the 2003 National Draft were also lost. Interestingly, Carlton would earn a Priority Pick in Season 2003 but this was able to be retained; logically it would have been difficult to remove a selection we had not yet 'earned'.

The lost selections benefitted the following Clubs in the following ways:

Relevant Draft Pick Lost Effective Pick Result Player Taken
2002 National Draft 1 1 Pick taken by St Kilda instead Brendon Goddard
2002 National Draft 2 2 Pick taken by the Kangaroos instead Daniel Wells
2002 National Draft 31 29 (2 picks cancelled - #1, #2) Earned through trade with Port Adelaide, taken by Collingwood Luke Shackleton
2002 National Draft 34 31 (3 picks cancelled - #1, #2 and #31 ) Pick taken by the Kangaroos Joel Perry
2003 Pre Season Draft N/A N/A Not able to participate at any rate N/A
2003 National Draft 5 5 Pick taken by Melbourne Brock McLean
2003 National Draft 21 20 (1 pick cancelled - #5) Traded; Pick taken by the Eagles Sam Butler

In terms of the 2002 National Draft, Carlton's first selection despite coming last in that season was Kade Simpson with Pick 45. Our first two selections (#1 and #2) were ultimately taken by St Kilda and the 'Roos to pick up Goddard and Wells; our third, a swap of second round picks associated with the Port trade for Barnaby French was also lost, plus our last pick #34 effectively taken by the 'Roos.

In terms of the 2003 National Draft, the Blues would retain our Priority Pick in Pick #2 which would nab young gun Andrew Walker. But the loss of our first round selection would ultimately deliver Brock McLean to Melbourne. Our third round selection, practically our next after Walker, was traded to Collingwood for Heath Scotland as the Blues started the slow rebuild after 2 years on the bottom.

This article is not intended to take any view whatsoever on the penalties; this was Carlton's third proven breach of the rules and the AFL chose to act on our continued breaches. The article, is, however, intended to provide some background and facts on one of the most pivotal events in Carlton's first decade in the 21st century; an event likely to impact on team performance for some years to come.

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