The AFL has cleared former Western Bulldogs defender Michael Talia of any wrongdoing after a two-month investigation into alleged leaking of sensitive gameplan information.
The Bulldogs asked the league’s integrity unit to investigate after they were made aware of allegations that Talia had leaked information to his brother Daniel, who plays for Adelaide, ahead of this year’s elimination final won by the Crows.
The AFL found no evidence to support those claims but did issue a formal warning to Adelaide defender Kyle Cheney, who said his comments – alleging the exchange of information between the brothers that sparked the investigation – were made in jest.
Despite the lengthy probe turning up nothing more than misguided banter between Cheney and a former teammate, AFL general counsel Andrew Dillon said the Dogs had followed the correct protocol.
“The club was under a duty to report the matter to the AFL and acted entirely properly in doing so,” Dillon said in a statement released on Wednesday.
“However, the AFL is satisfied that the evidence does not support any finding that the rules have been contravened.”
Michael Talia was traded to Sydney by the Bulldogs in an acrimonious split while the investigation was still under way.
In giving evidence to investigators, Michael confirmed he had a phone conversation with his brother and also exchanged several texts in the week leading up to the elimination final, with a potential match-up between Daniel and Dogs forward Jake Stringer discussed.
While Daniel deleted the texts and Michael subsequently lost his phone in Bali – a loss he provided evidence of to the AFL – investigators were satisfied there was nothing untoward in the exchanges.
“The evidence does not support a conclusion that the conversation and messages between the two brothers involved intentional or improper leaking of sensitive information that was expected or intended to give anyone an unfair advantage,” a league statement read.
“The evidence does not support a conclusion that Daniel Talia, other members of the Adelaide Crows’ backline group, or any coach associated with the Adelaide Crows had any such information disclosed to them.”
The AFL interviewed 16 witnesses during the course of the investigation.
While it found the Talia brothers had “unadvisedly talked about matters which might give rise to suspicions of leaking”, it was only Cheney’s conduct it had any real issue with.
For his part, Cheney told investigators he was too embarrassed to clarify his comments when questioned by Bulldogs coach Luke Beveridge, which ultimately led to the issue being reported to the AFL.
“Kyle Cheney is regretful that banter among friends escalated into a situation which the AFL deemed worthy of an investigation,” a club statement from Adelaide read.
“The Adelaide Football Club has always maintained there was no substance to any allegations stemming from player conversations leading up to the elimination final against the Western Bulldogs.
“With this in mind, we welcome the league’s findings which emphatically clear defender Daniel Talia and the club of any wrongdoing.”