Melbourne CEO Gary Pert has addressed several matters that have caused the club to be viewed in a light that has left the Demons' culture to be significantly questioned and criticised, with the Demons chief speaking on Clayton Oliver's situation, Joel Smith's suspension and rumours surrounding Simon Goodwin.
In a letter to members and supporters on Monday, Pert wrote on the number of "unsettling" rumours and the vast media coverage that has focused on behavioural issues at the club and its high-performance culture.
The letter first addressed Oliver's wellbeing at the club, with the Demons star recently hospitalised after a medical episode. The concerns surrounding the four-time best and fairest winner's health came just a week after Oliver's name was reportedly raised as a trade target for clubs amid concerns for the midfielder's standards and behaviour from Melbourne powerbrokers.
Pert said the club is taking the needed measures to make sure Oliver has the help he requires to overcome certain "personal challenges" that he has faced away from the field.
"On the 6th October, we advised supporters that while we will continue to support Clayton with his complex personal challenges, he like every player, must meet our off-field Club standards and disciplines if he is to remain as part of the program long term," Pert wrote.
"The Club is aware of the personal challenges that Clayton has outside of football and key Club experts will remain part of his daily support team. I want to be clear that the current conversations we are having with Clayton are not related to these challenges, but rather his ability to make disciplined life decisions, reflective of what is expected of all our professional athletes.
"Club leaders have very clearly outlined to Clayton the behavioural expectations that we have of him, and these behaviours will be reviewed on a regular basis. It is the player leadership group, as well as Alan Richardson, Simon Goodwin and myself, who will decide if Clayton is meeting minimum behavioural expectations.
"In some ways, AFL football programs are akin to a large family. While honest feedback is often difficult, this approach will give Clayton the best chance to thrive within our high-performance environment, and the best chance for him to have a long career at the Melbourne Football Club."
Smith is currently under a provisional suspension by the league after an in-season drug test returned a positive sample for cocaine. Sport Integrity Australia is investigating the matter, with Smith having since been removed from the Demons' football program.
Pert said club leaders will determine if further action is needed once the result of the investigation is reached, with the club wanting to hold the utility player to "cultural standards and expectations".
Pert added that while the recent alleged behaviour of Melbourne players is of a serious nature, they are not related.
"Supporters are aware that Joel is currently under investigation by Sport Integrity Australia and the AFL. During this time, he is provisionally suspended from any involvement with the Club. The Club is not privy to any specific information relating to the process, and is not authorised to give any updates to supporters until a final outcome is decided," the Demons CEO said.
"Joel is aware that once Club leaders receive the results of the investigation, they will then determine if any further action is appropriate based on cultural standards and expectations.
"As supporters can see that while both the alleged behaviours of the players are serious in nature, they are unrelated. It would be totally inappropriate to take the accountability away from the players and the decisions they are alleged to have made by blaming either our cultural programs or cultural leaders."
Pert reaffirmed the club's stance against the ongoing reporting surrounding senior coach Simon Goodwin, with media reports claiming the premiership coach had taken illicit substances during his time at the helm of the Demons.
Pert moved to "put to an end, once and for all," to "false rumours", hitting out at the "embellishment" the claims have had on the club.
"I wish to address the three years of allegations and innuendo suffered by Simon Goodwin, which are completely without basis or truth," Pert said.
"I personally investigated the matter and did so by methodically interviewing every person that I was aware of who had spread the initial rumours. All admitted there was no basis to the claims but were simply passing on what they had heard from others.
"The only valid information was that Simon was seen having a drink with some of our player leaders at the Sorrento Hotel which was hardly surprising, given his strong relationship with the players who were holidaying in the area over the summer break.
"The ongoing embellishment and spreading of untrue rumours have placed an enormous stress and mental toll on Simon and his family over the last three years.
"It is totally unacceptable, and it must stop."
Pert said the club's football department and high-performance culture is set on committing to "value-based behaviours and standards" and "performance excellence".
The Melbourne CEO said football boss Alan Richardson, coach Goodwin and the club's leadership group help "drive our culture every single day".
"There has been a lot of talk about our high-performance culture from people external to the Club," Pert added. "I would like to now spend some time outlining how important our cultural programs and our cultural leaders are to our on-field performance.
"Our AFL program has a very clear and strong high-performance culture, built on two fundamental elements.
"The first is a commitment to value-based behaviours and standards that apply to everyone.
"The second is a commitment to performance excellence. Everyone in our program is clear on the expectations of both elements, and they fully understand the accountability that is required to build a program to compete in the elite AFL competition.
"Overseeing the high-performance program are two of the most impressive culture-based leaders in the AFL in Alan Richardson and Simon Goodwin. Aligned to Alan and Simon are our senior player leaders Max Gawn, Jack Viney, Christian Petracca, Angus Brayshaw, Jake Lever, Alex Neal-Bullen and Christian Salem. They are driven and bolstered by our emerging leaders in Tom Sparrow, Kade Chandler and Charlie Spargo.
"Collectively, this leadership group has rebuilt the high-performance culture that directly led to our 2021 AFL premiership, a three-time consecutive top four finish and a permanent fixture in the top eight for the past three AFL seasons.
"When you think about the Melbourne Football Club's AFL program and assess our culture, these are the individuals who you should think of. These leaders obsessively drive our culture every single day, and are the group committed to delivering future success.
"Unfortunately, a strong culture does not guarantee that we will not have isolated behaviour issues from time to time in the future. This is not a sign of a fractured culture, but an opportunity for our Club leaders, including myself, to take responsibility and reaffirm our expectations of individuals in a high-performance environment. It is also important that the players who live our standards and disciplines every day see that those who fail to do so are held to account.
"In no way am I saying our programs are perfect, in fact there is no such thing. We continually review our cultural programs throughout the year and post season. We will continue to evolve and move with the changing dynamics of our Club and the broader industry.
"I am very aware that the recent player controversies surrounding our AFL program have in some cases damaged the trust between the Club and you, our supporters.
"Please know that our leaders in myself, the Board, General Manager Football Alan Richardson, Senior Coach Simon Goodwin, Captain Max Gawn, Vice-Captain Jack Viney and so many others are committed as ever to making you feel proud to belong. I have full faith in our ability to do so."