THE latest legal shot in what has become something of an off-season battlefield for the AFL over the past month came from Kurt Tippett late on Monday when he pushed to be immediately delisted by Adelaide to become a free agent.
The request came from Tippett's lawyer David Galbally, QC, and was sent to the AFL. The view from head office was that Tippett would stay an unhappy Crow at least until Friday, November 30, which is when Adelaide and its various officials and their thicket of lawyers front the AFL Commission.
In the meantime, the AFL's football boss Adrian Anderson spoke publicly and at length for the first time about his decision to ban Chris Judd's new employment agreement with Visy. That decision, too, has taken on a legal life of its own, with Judd's manager Paul Connors and the AFL Players Association looking to fight the decision at the AFL Grievance Tribunal.
Anderson insisted to Fairfax Media that the timing of the Tippett scandal had nothing to do with the termination of the Judd-Visy agreement – an agreement in which the Carlton captain has been paid about $200,000 a year outside the salary cap for the past four years.
Anderson's case has not been helped by the fact that Carlton's sworn enemy, Collingwood president Eddie McGuire, has continued to compare Adelaide's alleged rule breaches in setting up third-party deals for Tippett with the Judd arrangement.
There has been no suggestion that Carlton wrote to Visy to set up the deal. The Blues had the original agreement approved by the league's investigation boss Ken Wood, but four years later the rules changed.
It has been reported that the AFL had the new Judd proposal on the table for months when, in fact, the drafted agreement has been rewritten several times and was only submitted in its final version with the timing of the deal changed to two years on October 1.
Judd's previous deal expired on June 30, 2012. Anderson officially knocked back the new agreement on October 22 – three days after Adelaide chairman Rob Chapman and his perilously placed CEO Steven Trigg came forward with the damning written evidence of a hidden deal with Tippett dating back three years.
"They've got nothing to do with each other," Anderson told Fairfax Media.
The AFL has also claimed that Carlton has an extra $250,000 in its additional services allowance next year and that it would do all it could to help the Blues deal with the new burden of Judd's Visy money.
Still, the AFLPA believes Judd has a genuine grievance. "I'm confident Chris has a strong case to present to the grievance tribunal," said players boss Matt Finnis on Monday night.
The Adelaide hearing was rescheduled after Trigg and his football lieutenant Phil Harper engaged independent legal representation on Friday when it became apparent the Crows board could not fully support either man.
The AFL appeared unsympathetic to Tippett's attempt to extract himself from Adelaide given that he would then be allowed to adhere to a transfer to another club under an agreement which breached the rules in the first place. There is no guarantee that Tippett's legal fight will end there, given that his only remaining option as it stands is to place himself in the pre-season draft in December.
In the meantime, the AFL Commission ended day one of a two-day strategy meeting in which Adelaide barely rated a mention.
The commission was told that the Melbourne investigation was ongoing and that no definite completion date had been set.
That, too, looms as a legal battlefield with Melbourne threatening to challenge the AFL in the highest court in the land should it find itself heavily sanctioned for deliberately losing games.
But, as it stands, both Melbourne and Adelaide will head to the Gold Coast to take its picks in the 2012 national draft before the battlelines are redrawn.
Suddenly, the thrilling Sydney-Hawthorn grand final seems but a nostalgic memory and the simplicity of the home-and-away season a romantic dream.