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Melbourne and Clayton Oliver are at the crossroads.
The pair have endured a tumultuous relationship since the midway point of the season, which coincided with the star midfielder’s hamstring injury that led to him missing a crucial chunk of the season.
Speaking to Melbourne officials and people close to Oliver at the time, it seemed the relationship was destined for disaster, but his return to playing on the eve of the finals was seen by both parties as an opportunity to start afresh.
Clayton Oliver showed his frustration at training in July.Credit: AFL Photos, Nine
However, in the days following the Demons’ semi-final loss to Carlton, things fell apart again.
Two senior club sources, who would not speak publicly because of the delicate nature of the issue, confirmed to this column that Oliver turned up to his personal exit meeting over an hour late.
Because of that, he was told by the club not to attend the group exit review with the rest of his teammates. Instead, he was addressed individually by coach Simon Goodwin, who has been one of Oliver’s closest confidants and biggest supporters.
It is incredible, however, that Oliver, in the prime of his career at 26 and with six years left on a mega contract, could be a chance to leave the club.
Oliver told at least two players from other clubs at the Brownlow Medal that he was unhappy at Melbourne because of recent events. This column confirmed it with the two players, who spoke on the condition of anonymity.
Club officials are adamant the club wants to keep Oliver and continue to support him.
Following Melbourne’s clash with Port Adelaide in round 10, Oliver reported soreness in his hamstring. He was sent for scans, which revealed a minor strain. The club said it was anticipating Oliver wouldn’t be “available in the short term”.
For several weeks, Goodwin reiterated in media conference after media conference that Oliver would return to senior football in the near future.
He didn’t play again for three months.
There was the infected blister that put him in hospital for four days. There were recurrences with the hamstring injury. There were failed fitness tests.
The club even got on the front foot when rumours emerged relating to his absence from the team.
“The other suggested reasons for him not playing are ridiculous and disappointing and bloody hard for Clayton and his family and friends to deal with,” Melbourne football boss Alan Richardson said on 3AW at the time.
And yet all parties have remained tight-lipped publicly since news of his potential availability on the trade table became public.
Melbourne declined to comment in response to specific questions put to it by The Scoop, while Oliver’s manager Nick Gieschen did not return calls.
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