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The Secret, Sinister Side of the Stephenson Saga

The cloak of darkness was lifted by the football media on the AFL’s month long cover-up of Jaiydn Stephenson’s betting misconduct last week.

On May 19, Stephenson self-reported his gambling breaches on three separate Collingwood games, which he played in, yet was allowed to continue playing for an entire month, including two Magpie victories. A penalty was sensationally handed down the following day after media reports exposed Stephenson’s breaches.

However, even after the league was backed into a corner, the specifics of the Stephenson matter were scarce. We now know them to be sinister. The Mongrel Punt highlighted last week the lack of details surrounding the most troubling of Stephenson’s flutters – Collingwood’s winning margin. AFL general counsel Andrew Dillon did not elaborate on whether Stephenson’s wager on the margin was a “line” bet. Most critically, it was not divulged whether Stephenson bet was above or below the line.

Collingwood CEO Mark Anderson and football manager Geoff Walsh also refused to answer questions surrounding the “specifics” of the margin bet. We now know why.

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Jaidyn Stephenson, in the match against St Kilda in Round 9, bet BELOW the 39.5 point line on Collingwood’s winning margin, as revealed by The Age. This means that Stephenson’s wager relied on Collingwood not winning by 40 points or more. The result of the Round 9 St Kilda clash was a 41-point Magpie triumph. This is an extremely concerning bet and files in the face of the entire narrative presented to the public, particularly by Collingwood.

While Stephenson did bet on Collingwood winning the game, in regards to the margin, he was practically and for all intents and purposes bet against Collingwood. Put simply, in the final 90 seconds of the Round 9 clash when the Magpies led by 40 points, it was in Stephenson’s best financial interests for St Kilda to score. 

Whether Stephenson consciously sought to manipulate the result to decrease Collingwood’s winning margin is another matter. Certainly, his kick from thirty-five metres out, with 45 seconds to go in the final quarter, which fell short and was marked on the line by St Kilda’s Daniel McKenzie, should be put under the microscope. At the time of the kick, the Pies led by just 40 points. However, the AFL Integrity Unit cleared Stephenson of influencing the result for the sake of his bets, after reviewing the footage.

Although, it is impossible for them to be definitive in saying this. Stephenson does not deserve the benefit of the doubt. Regardless of the AFL Integrity Unit’s findings, this particular bet on the winning margin is the equivalent to someone betting against their own team and should have been treated – and presented – as such.

This did not happen, as Stephenson told the media conference that his bets were “dependent on Collingwood and Collingwood players performing at their best.” Clearly, this is completely false.

Stephenson’s winning margin wager was actually dependent on St Kilda doing their best to keep their losing margin under 40 points. It does not matter how you shake and bake it – it is match-fixing.

If the AFL was not successfully able to cover-up this critical detail surrounding Stephenson’s bet until a week after the sanctions were handed down, would the suspension have been larger?

I’d bet on that.

Perhaps it was Jaiydn Stephenson who said it best; “I suppose just it’s always how I’ve been as a person, Mum and Dad have always been big on make sure you tell the truth and anything you are hiding only hurts you in the long run.”

Indeed.

Stephenson’s bets undoubtedly damaged the integrity of the game, but the way justice is handed down in the land of the AFL – is killing it to the core.

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