his chicks outside Hawks' nest
Chip Le Grand
Monday, December 12, 2005
JEFF KENNETT is walking as he
talks. Up from the table, across the room, and to a whiteboard where he begins to diagram
what he sees as one of the biggest problems confronting professional footballers.
Kennett calls it the cocoon his word for the cloistered, highly paid and unreal
world that young footballers enter the moment they are drafted by an AFL club. His plan,
one of several he has in mind for Hawthorn ahead of his unopposed election as president at
Wednesday night's AGM, is to reconnect Hawthorn players with life beyond the football
The Hawthorn players will today be addressed for the first time by their
famously direct president elect. Most likely, they will be drawn the same graphic Kennett
outlined in his Richmond office for the benefit of The Australian. What it
demonstrates, Kennett explains, is the way young players enter the game and then become
increasingly cut off from life experiences as their AFL careers grow, their incomes
balloon and they are feted as sporting celebrities.
"It often worries me that a player, once they are selected by a club, enter a
cocoon of unreality in terms of life's circumstances and passage," Kennett says.
"The outside world is locked out and because they are full-time footballers and
don't have jobs, they live in this cocoon and the longer they play, not only do they get
more money, but they get more adulation and attention and they are further divorced from
"If you are totally cocooned in an environment where you walk down the street and
everybody wants to shake your hand and get a signature, and you are well paid and have got
a fast car and lovely flat, you can very quickly lose sight of reality."
It is here that two of Kennett's post-political passions neatly intersect. Within six
months of losing government in 1999, Kennett became the chairman of Beyond Blue, a
national depression initiative aimed at raising awareness about mental health. What he has
since discovered is that elite athletes are particularly susceptible to depression at the
end of their careers. In the case of AFL football, he believes this is in part because of
their sheltered club existences.
The AFL, clubs and the AFL Players Association all recognise the need for footballers
to be educated and trained for life after their last game. Kennett hopes to take the idea
a little further by using his and the club's business network to encourage players to form
links with community organisations, acquire education and financial training and develop
an interest in the arts.
"I want to make sure that when they finish playing football, they are as complete
citizens as they would have been had they not gone into football," Kennett said.
"That might sound silly, because they are going to have more money. But I often
question whether they are as complete citizens as the individual who wasn't captured in
this cocoon and had to keep growing and fighting."
In true Liberal Party fashion, there is a mutual obligation involved. In an industry
where the size of television contracts has begun to rival playing contracts, Kennett will
today tell his players in no uncertain terms where their loyalties must lie.
"I think a lot of footballers forget that the people who pay them are not the
board and they are really not the sponsors; they are the members. And the members are
often pensioners who have very little wealth yet who every year pay their subs. That is
what underlines the payments to the players. That is what provides the television product
which earns the rights which comes back to the club.
"We all need to understand that this isn't about an individual player, it is not
about a board or a board member. It is about the value we give back to the rank and file
The caveat Kennett places on all this is that the players will be answerable to the
coach and chief executive; not the president. In this sense, they will be free to accept
or disregard whatever advice he gives. But as much as the former Victorian can-do premier
has no intention of micromanaging club affairs, there are early signs of a Kennett
revolution taking place at Glenferrie Oval.
Under a plan endorsed by Kennett and club chief executive Ian Robson, the contract of
senior coach Alastair Clarkson will be formally reviewed midway through next season and a
decision made on his future tenure.
At this point, Kennett has been impressed with his dealings with the young, ambitious
Clarkson, who has diligently stuck to a long-term youth policy in team selection and
recruitment despite receiving no promises beyond his own two-year contract.
This was reinforced at last month's national draft, where Hawthorn used three of its
first six selections on players unlikely to play senior football next season because of
injury and school commitments.
"For a coach with a year to go, that is a terribly courageous thing to do, knowing
that those three are probably not going to play many games for us at all next year,"
"I am greatly impressed by his character and his priorities. I like people who
establish a strategy and fundamentally stick to it. You live or die by that and he
understands that as much as anyone else."
However, the realist in Kennett knows that Hawthorn must improve its on-field
performance from last year for Clarkson to keep his job. "We have got to see growth,
we don't have to see a premiership," he says.
Kennett has personally written to all living Hawthorn past players inviting them to
become involved with the club. At the top of his list is premiership captain Don Scott, a
vocal critic of the outgoing president Ian Dicker.
"I like Don," Kennett says. "Don is an individual and the club will and
should never forget that without him and his passion, Hawthorn wouldn't exist today as an
In the meantime, Kennett has an ambitious plan to expand Hawthorn's territory from the
inner eastern suburb of Glenferrie out to its new training and administrative headquarters
at Waverley and beyond to regional Victoria in Gippsland and the Latrobe Valley.
Seen on a map, this would give Hawthorn a massive brown and gold wedge stretching east
from the Melbourne CBD from which to draw new supporters, members and sponsors, in
addition to its Tasmanian stronghold.
Seen in Kennett's terms, it is the difference between Hawthorn being able to compete
with Melbourne market heavyweights Collingwood and Essendon or fighting for survival in a
national competition he expects to shed Victorian teams.
"If in 10 years' time there is going to be 10 Victorian clubs which I doubt
and Hawthorn is going to be a Melbourne team, then we are going to have to start
thinking outside the square.
"The best brands in Melbourne are Collingwood and Essendon, in terms of their
professionalism and financial base, and Geelong because of its location. The other clubs
all have a brand but it is subservient to the others and the struggle for us to gain
attention is much higher. So we have got to do things differently if we are going to
create a brand that people will want to be associated with."
Kennett will reveal the details of his plan when he chairs his first post-election
board meeting on Friday.
Internally, other changes will be felt at Hawthorn under Kennett.
Under Dicker, a businessman who has invested enormous time and a substantial personal
fortune to keep Hawthorn afloat since the failed merger in 1996, the board operates a
system of sub-committees with overlapping responsibilities. Kennett will strip these back,
introduce a genuine board of governance and defer the running of the club to Robson.
Strict cabinet confidentiality will be imposed on board meetings, and leaks by
directors will be punished with removal from the board. Kennett will limit his own term to
between three and five years. He will commit to being present at most but not all Hawthorn
games and club functions.
"I am very acutely aware of the amount of time Ian Dicker spent at the job,"
Kennett says. "He fell in love with the club and the players in a way that I find
absolutely extraordinary. It is his great passion and his wife's. They have given their
lives to the club over the last nine years.
"I have been through politics for the last 23 years and I gave my life to
politics. If I ever went back to politics I wouldn't give my life to it again. If I take
on anything new, whether it is Beyond Blue or football, I will never give my life to it.
It is a matter of making sure you are professional but you don't allow it to become overly
"You have got to be able to stand back and look at it critically. That is the
whole role of governance. That is why you are on the board. You are not there to be in
love with the players or in love with the CEO. It matters not whether you are there for
every game. What matters is what you deliver to the club."
Whether Kennett can deliver in three years or five is no easy question. Financially,
the club has tough times ahead, with an $800,000 bill for its Waverley fit-out due early
in the season. On the field, Clarkson and his recruitment manager Chris Pelchen are
heading into the second season of a long-term plan geared to achieve premiership success
But wherever Hawthorn ends up under Kennett, it is well and truly on the move.
Back to the Diary
|Draft's air of
Sunday, December 11, 2005
TUESDAY'S pre-season draft, the first to be conducted in cyberspace, should take no longer
than three or four Matthew Lloyd set shots on goal.
No more than 10 names will be recorded, via the click of a mouse.
Carlton will type Dylan McLaren's name first, Collingwood is expected to
plump for a kid Tasmanian Sam "Apple" Iles perhaps
before Hawthorn grabs Brent Guerra with the third pick.
The media won't be there because, as the writer Gertrude
Stein said of sprawling, decentralised Los Angeles: "There's no there
there." With no place to assemble or gathering to intrude on, the fourth estate will
be prepared to descend on Windy Hill to get some vision of Scott Camporeale
in red and black and the mandatory soundbite from coach Kevin Sheedy.
Camporeale remains the story, months after the trading
period ended, due to the sad fact that he is the only brand-name player certain to be
picked among those in this shallow pre-season draft. Even for the footy junkie, this draft
dose will be a downer a short, uneventful trip.
"Campo" aside, the draft will be more notable for
those who aren't selected the 40 or so AFL footballers discarded in 2005
than for the survivors. Shane Woewodin, spurned at the national draft,
heads the desperate throng hoping for a last-minute act of clemency.
The pre-season draft, the vehicle that delivered Paul Roos to Sydney for
the 1995 season and yielded Adelaide gems in Tyson Edwards (1995) and
Simon Goodwin (1996), has been downsized, almost to the point of irrelevance.
The pre-season draft mattered when two or three dozen
players were selected, when there was often a quality player out of contract, when there
was no rookie draft. While bargains abounded in the mid '90s, these days, it is merely an
appetiser sandwiched between the main events the national and rookie drafts. It
exists largely for legal reasons to ensure that uncontracted players have a
mechanism to change clubs; otherwise, their trade would be restrained and they'd have
compelling reasons to challenge the AFL's rules in court.
The uncontracted can request a trade and, failing that, end
up in the pre-season draft as Nick Stevens and Jade Rawlings
did when Collingwood and the Kangaroos were unable to consummate deals with Port and the
Hawks back in 2003.
Historically, the pre-season draft also has been the H-bomb
that forces clubs to negotiate deals. Dozens of players have played the traditional
October game of "trade me to this club or I'll go into the (pre-season) draft".
For the player manager, the pre-season draft gives his
client leverage. Confronted with losing a player without compensation, clubs nearly always
make a deal.
But precious few A-graders are leaving their club these
days. Sticking with one's mates and knocking back an extra $100,000 a year is in vogue.
Most of the better players who shift clubs do so only to return to their home state.
Meanwhile, the 25-year-old who resides on the fringe of AFL
lists has never been so dispensable, or his livelihood so marginal. Clubs increasingly
would rather take a chance on a teenager they haven't road-tested than employ the retread.
Discards can nominate for the national draft and, unless
they have an iron-clad guarantee a club will pick them, most seek to maximise their draft
opportunities by plunging into the deeper November pool. This trend has further diminished
the quality of this draft.
Furthermore, recycled players are available in the rookie
draft, where you can pay a pittance and keep a player on standby until injuries strike.
The only qualifier is that the player must be aged 23 or under. Thus, Steven
Armstrong, a Melbourne discard, is certain to be a rookie selection, while
unlucky former Bombers Damian Cupido and Marc Bullen,
both of whom turn 24 next year, are ineligible. For them, it's pre-season draft or bust.
Many have noted the discriminatory, ageist nature of the
rookie rules and there is talk that the system of pre-season and rookie drafting will be
reformed. The AFL is understood to be weighing up holding the rookie draft immediately
after the national draft, with the pre-season draft becoming a lifeline for players older
than 19 or 20.
It will probably remain in its reduced, second-rate state
until the rules are changed. Free agency, the players' perpetual pipe dream, would render
it all but obsolete.
With several picks already locked in, the odds aren't much
better than one in 10 for the remaining rejects. Campo's defection and "Woey's"
fate excepted, the first online draft will be as quiet as a mouse.
AFL pre-season draft
1. Carlton: Dylan McLaren
2. Collingwood: Sam Iles
3. Hawthorn: Brent Guerra
4. Essendon: Scott Camporeale
5. Richmond: pass
6. Brisbane Lions: David Haynes
7. Kangaroos: Cameron Thurley
8. Port Adelaide: Tom Logan
9. Adelaide: Jason Porplyzia
10. Essendon: Chris Heffernan
Expected picks at Tuesday's draft.
Back to the Diary
stand by its history
Saturday, December 10, 2005
What fans of Australian football call their game is very much their business.
THE football naming-rights argument is a small matter of large
consequence. Politics is largely decided by headlines that transfer the meaning of a mere
handful of words. In sport, in this part of the world, one of those words is football.
Whoever owns that word to some extent owns the future.
What devotees of the round-ball game call their sport is
their business. What we call our game is very much our business. Our game was always seen
as football, or a version thereof.
The earliest match reports are unambiguous about that. It
is perhaps worth noting that the first games were also played with a round ball.
I also would argue that it is not correct to imply that
there always has been one intrinsic form of football that is, the round-ball game
known in this country until recently as soccer.
My impression is that up until the 1850s, football was
pretty much a case of anything goes and strictly local. One reason football was codified
in the colony of Victoria was that attempts to play a version of the game resulted in
chaos because many of the young English gentlemen playing had gone to different schools,
which had different rules.
And that is one reason we should not change any of our
names or titles. We were codified first. Our oldest club is the Melbourne Football Club.
It has a claim to being the oldest football club in the world. That was in 1858; the
round-ball game was codified in the 1860s.
It now bills itself as the beautiful game. Back then, it
sold itself with the title the Simple Game.
Soccer is the global game. This is the era of
globalisation. This challenge was always coming and, as a letter to this newspaper pointed
out, the issue twists multiculturalism around.
For years, soccer was seen as the game of multicultural
Australia and the word football meant things like Victoria Park on a Thursday night,
watching training in the rain. Now the situation is reversed. We are the minority culture.
Globally, we are overwhelmingly so. Locally, it is a close-run thing.
The middle-class invented team sports as we know them in
the middle years of the 19th century. They saw games as a way of teaching values, in part
because they saw new values were required by the new age they were then entering.
In Melbourne, Tom Wills advanced the notion of establishing
a code of football as an alternative to military service, noting the threat of the Russian
navy to the wealthy young colony.
Tom was not long home from Rugby, where football was,
frankly and obviously, a war game. The boys' jerseys were marked with the insignia of the
various royal houses of Europe. What in rugby are now called the backs was then called the
light brigade, the forwards the heavy brigade.
Tom was captain of the Rugby XI the year after the Charge
of the Light Brigade occurred, four Rugby old boys taking part. He was not captain of the
Rugby XV because it didn't exist. Rugby had no one to play football against because nobody
but itself then played that way.
Our increasingly feminised middle class looks to games such
as ours and rugby and sees games that are too rough, in which injuries are likely. The
middle class is said to be where all revolutions begin.
At the moment, locally, it still watches our game but
increasingly its children play soccer. The irony is that, historically, there is much more
violence at soccer matches than all the other codes combined.
The Socceroos have injected something new into the national
sporting scene and deserve all the support they get. But the naming-rights issue goes
beyond that. At present, people tell you they follow, for example, Collingwood and
Liverpool. That's fine but both call themselves football clubs.
I'm not saying one is better than the other but I am saying
one has an extra importance to me because Collingwood is part of the place I'm from. It
opens doors on to all sort of aspects of history that matter to me because they are, in
some part, mine.
Earlier this year, I thought Collingwood was right,
refusing to invent a second jumper to please the game's marketing gurus. Collingwood plays
in the guernsey it has always played in. Equally, I don't think it should be known as the
Collingwood Aussie Rules Club.
At some point, globalisation will ebb and there will be a
re-awakening to local excellence. Australian football is an example of local sporting
excellence. Visitors from other countries have long remarked upon it. Sir Arthur Conan
Doyle, the creator of Sherlock Holmes, thought it the best code of football he had seen.
He had played both soccer and rugby, and was an enthusiast
C.B. Fry, who represented England at three sports,
including soccer, concurred. He said of the various football codes, the Australian was the
Australian football should stand by its history; as I write
this, I'm about to drive to Darwin with Michael Long and am hoping to see more of the
other side of it.
Back to the Diary
|The changing pace
of the game
Sunday Herald Sun
December 4, 2005
The rule changes
AFL operations manager Adrian Anderson says fans like the free-flowing,
open nature of the game.
"We surveyed a lot of fans in terms of what they like and
don't like about the game and it is clear one of the things supporters like most about the
game is its free-flowing, open nature," he says.
1 Remove requirement to wait for flags to be waved before bringing the ball
back into play after a point
AFL Rationale: More continuous play, reduced capacity to set up
zones, improve flow of game, fewer chips to static players
Adrian Anderson on its impact: "This rule came about in 1942 when some goal umpires
were getting caught out of position after a quick rebound kick, so it wasn't ever part of
the game other than a practical thing for umpires. The original rationale for the rule is
no longer valid."We will monitor it closely ... and look at any potential affect on
rushed behinds and any other aspects of the game."
Allow shot on goals from directly in front if mark taken or free kick awarded in
Rationale: Reduce time taken to line up for goal, rewards mark/free kick in goalsquare.
Anderson: "Allowing a shot in goal from directly in front is partly practical. It
also reduces the time taken and it's a reward for a mark or free kick in the
Automatic restart of "time on" from the time umpire crosses arms to when
the ball is bounced/ thrown up
rationale: Increase accuracy of time on, decrease margin for human error.
Anderson: "This one is more about making sure we accurately and consistently measure
time on. There were some problems this year. We want to make it easier for timekeepers to
accurately measure the time the ball is not in play."
1 Limit time for players to line up for set shot
Anderson: "We looked at a number of examples and the vast majority of
players would easily be able to shoot for goal within 30 seconds, so we don't expect
players to have too much difficulty."
2 Reduced tolerance for holding players up after mark of free kick (50m
Anderson: "Last year the focus was on the third man in. If you weren't
involved in the marking contest and you came in and held up a player that would be paid.
This year we will continue but even if you are involved in the marking contest it will be
reduced tolerance for unnecessarily retarding your opponent and preventing the play from
3 Stricter interpretation for deliberate kick out of bounds
Anderson: "The laws committee felt that often players weren't being
penalised, simply because they kicked it out of bounds rather than handballed it or
thumped it out. The players are very adept at kicking the ball in a way that will
deliberately take it out of bounds. So simply to kick the ball 30m forward to touch, no
matter where you are on the field, if the intention was to take it out of bounds, the
umpire will interpret that as deliberate.
4 Stricter policing of holding and blocking in marking contests
Anderson: "This is something the umpires will attempt to clarify. They will
be releasing a DVD before the season and they will set their standards for the year. It is
an area where it was felt they, on occasions, had neglected to pick up
5 Less time taken to award a 50m penalty
Anderson: "If you are holding up your opponent (delaying the player getting
to the new mark), it makes it easier and gives more time for your teammates to flood
6 Focus on detection of infringements by taggers
Anderson: "I don't think tagging will ever die because there will always be
star players who will have players paying them close attention. What has to happen is that
they should only be able to do that with legitimate tactics. "The rules committee was
of the view that there were occasions when the umpires hadn't been detecting illegitimate
tactics by players. There's nothing wrong with good, close checking. But when it involves
infringing the rules of the game then it should be penalised."
Back to the Diary
|Haste for change
could devalue the game
Wednesday, November 30, 2005
AUSTRALIAN football is mostly the product of evolution. The quick, skilful, athletic game
seen today might not be instantly recognisable as the one played by portly gentlemen
cricketers during their winter break 150 years ago. But the many changes have occurred
mostly at a gentle pace and reflected a gradual shift in the demands of the fans, the
nature of the participants or even the mores of the time rather than any single person's
view about how it should be played.
So when the AFL
makes wholesale changes to the rules without apparent consultation with the clubs and
coaches, you must wonder if, just like in some American schools, Darwinian theory has been
replaced by some cockeyed version of creationism.
When those changes smack of a knee-jerk reaction to the
success of one team, Sydney and AFL chief executive Andrew Demetriou's
well-known personal opinion about how the Swans play you certainly have to fear the
league is playing God with the rules; that an attempt is being made to pull the tail from
the monkey before it is ready to drop off.
The common theme of the grab bag of rule changes and new
interpretations announced by the AFL last week was that they will "speed up the
game", as well as reduce the capacity for teams to control the tempo of a game.
It seems no coincidence that the changes have come within
six months of Demetriou's unprecedented attack on the Swans. As misguided as his prophecy
that the team "north of the border" would never succeed playing its supposedly
ugly style of football proved to be, the measures look like a calculated response to the
tactics employed by coach Paul Roos and his team.
The changes will strike a chord with some. Two months after
Leo Barry soared in front of the pack to complete the final breathtaking act of one of the
most compelling grand finals in living memory, there are still those who bemoan the fact
the Swans and Eagles kicked just 15 goals between them, rather than racking up the types
of cricket scores common in the often lopsided deciders played over the past 20 years.
Forgotten in the haste to create a free-flowing,
uncontested, high-scoring version of the game by removing packs and stoppages and making
life more difficult for defenders is that goals scored without physical pressure are
instantly devalued. Witness basketball, where the ball goes from hoop to hoop with such
ease that only the most spectacular score breaks the monotony.
One aspect that set this year's grand final apart was the
premium on every goal. At the same time, the self-sacrificial acts that stopped opposition
thrusts, with players hurling themselves recklessly at opponents or into packs, were far
more memorable than the cheap scoring in lesser contests. Remove the packs and you also
remove these acts of heroism.
By putting too much emphasis on speed, the AFL is also in
danger of dulling an edge it has on other codes the fact that the game has a place
for players of varying shapes and sizes.
Relative plodders such as Brett Kirk, Jude
Bolton and Amon Buchanan might not have been in the top 5 per
cent at the AFL draft camp, but their big-hearted efforts in the grand final demonstrated
that the old-school footballer retains a starring role in the modern game.
Back to the Diary
challenge AFL's sex rules
Tuesday, November 29, 2005
AFL footballers are considering challenging the competition's radical new rules relating
to sexual assault, claiming they could erode their fundamental rights.
AFL Players Association chief executive Brendon Gale confirmed last
night that players would take their concerns about the "Conduct Unbecoming" rule
to a criminal law expert before deciding on a court challenge.
Under its "Respect and Responsibility" policy
released this month, the AFL can impose a range of punishments, including suspension and
delisting, to players accused of sexual assault even before their cases have been
heard in court.
While Gale said that the players association supported
reform of the game's culture regarding treatment of women, players believed a fair trial
in sexual assault cases might be prejudiced by the new rules.
"This new rule has the potential to take away the
fundamental rights of a citizen," he said.
Gale said the move to test the new policy before a criminal
lawyer emerged three days ago at the players association's 2005 Executives and Delegates
AFL chief executive Andrew Demetriou and football
operations general manager Adrian Anderson addressed the weekend conference and Demetriou
is understood to have been made aware of the challenge.
The conference unofficially resolved that the players
70 per cent of whom have volunteered to become delegates for new programs to
improve the game's treatment of women had not been made fully aware of the
The rules, which could also see a player punished for
making an inappropriate payment to an alleged victim of sexual assault or for responding
to a sexual assault allegation in an inappropriate manner, have been passed by the AFL
The move to challenge the new rules was supported by the
players association's 11-man executive. Of the 16 clubs, all were represented by two or
three delegates apart from St Kilda and Brisbane both of whose playing lists were
involved in pre-season training in China and New Guinea, respectively.
"This is not like the WADA (World Anti-Doping
Authority) situation where we were dealing with an international sporting drug code,"
Gale said. "This is criminal law and incarceration we're talking about."
The players' objections relate to three major areas of the
new rules; the power to suspend a player being investigated or having been committed for
trial over an alleged sexual assault.
The two other concerns were the newly regulated compulsion
to notify the league of any investigation which the players believed eroded a
footballer's basic privacy rights and the ban on making payments to alleged sexual
assault victims which could be seen as "hush money" when in fact such an
exchange of money could be an out-of-court settlement or victim's compensation.
The AFL formulated the new policy in the wake of a series
of sexual assault allegations that smeared football codes early last year, including St
Kilda players Stephen Milne and Leigh Montagna being investigated over sexual assault
allegations. The two were never charged.
In 2001, Adam Heuskes (formerly of Sydney, Port Adelaide
and Brisbane), Peter Burgoyne (Port Adelaide) and Michael O'Loughlin (Sydney) paid an
Adelaide woman $200,000 after rape allegations. It was that payment which the AFL took
into account while formulating its "Respect and Responsibility" policy.
Back to the Diary
|AFL moves to
speed up the game
Chip Le Grand
Saturday, November 26, 2005
Full-forwards have been given the
hurry-up, kick-in players the green light and scragging taggers formal notice under rule
changes and new interpretations designed to keep the game flowing and the ball in play.
In the face of a revived threat from soccer for the hearts and feet of future players and
concerns that Australia's national code has become too stop-start in its modern guise, the
AFL is hoping its new rules will reduce the number of players around the ball and improve
the spectacle of matches.
"The core objective is to maintain the appeal of the
game and arrest the slide towards a more stop-start game," AFL football operations
manager Adrian Anderson said yesterday.
The three rule changes and seven altered interpretations, outlined to club coaches
yesterday, will come into effect for next year's pre-season competition and carry through
to the 2006 premiership.
Anderson said the new rules were in response to long-term trends in the game and denied
that either Sydney's tempo-controlling game style or the nature of this year's grand final
had influenced the rule makers.
"We are looking here at long-term trends over a 40-year period," he said.
"If anything, last year came back slightly towards a more continuous style. We
don't look at individual clubs or games."
Of the changes, the most dramatic is the decision to allow teams to kick in from a
behind before the goal umpire waves his flags.
While the change removes an officiating anachronism - the delay was introduced in 1942
to give goal umpires time to keep score - its effect will be to give the team kicking in
the option of an immediate restart. This will make it more difficult for the other team to
establish a defensive zone and increase the likelihood of more "end-to-end"
Anderson said a second ball would be stationed next to the goal post, as was done in
this year's International Rules series against Ireland. When the rule was trialled during
this year's pre-season competition, it halved the average time taken to restart play.
The other two changes - allowing players to kick from directly in front of goal from
set shots in the goal square and the introduction of automatic time-on at bounces around
the ground - address technical anomalies. The AFL estimates the new time-on provisions
will add between two and three minutes playing time to a game.
The more contentious changes are those to rule interpretations.
Under the so-called Matthew Lloyd rule, umpires will call play on against players who
take more than 30 seconds to have a set shot at goal. This will rely on umpire
subjectivity and a degree of common sense, with Anderson conceding it was possible that a
player who took too long to have a shot after the siren could be stripped of the ball.
The flipside for Lloyd and all marking forwards is that the umpires will be asked to
show less leniency toward defenders who hold and scrag during a marking contest. The
prohibition on defenders "chopping the arms" of forwards, the subject of
conjecture last season, will continue.
Another change guaranteed to occasionally frustrate supporters, players and coaches is
the decision to give players who deliberately kick the ball out of bounds no more latitude
than those who handball it over the line. This new interpretation, if consistently
applied, will herald an end to the "educated kick" along the boundary, where
defenders left with no other option kick for touch 20 or 30metres upfield.
After another heated mid-season debate on the conduct of tagging players, field umpires
not in charge of play will be responsible for protecting the competition's elite
midfielders from holding and illegal tactics at the scrimmages. This is the Chris Judd
rule, if you like, and should go some way to cleaning up the tagging technique of players
such as Kangaroos stopper Brady Rawlings.
The AFL has also signalled a further crackdown on players who retard their opponents
after a mark or free-kick has been paid.
The last two changed interpretations are targeted at the umpires themselves. The
boundary officials will be instructed to throw the ball in with less ceremony and delay,
in a move designed to give the teams less time to organise at the stoppages and improve
the flow of play. Field umpires have also been told to be quicker in pacing out 50-metre
penalties so as to reduce the disruption to play.
The assumption that the football is less free-flowing now than it was 40 years ago is
based on an analysis of grand finals by Adelaide researcher Ken Norton and statistics
compiled over the past six seasons by Champion Data.
According to Norton, a comparison of grand finals since the 1960s shows that, although
match durations have not changed, total stoppage times have more than doubled since 1961.
Over the same period, the speed of ball movement has increased considerably, creating a
game played in shorter, faster bursts.
The Champion Data statistics, taken since 2000, underline the shift away from long
kicking towards short kicking, the increased emphasis on possession, reduction in
contested marks, the use of zone defences and a falling clearance rate from stoppages.
This in turn creates more ball-ups and more time in which the ball is not in play.
Back to the Diary
|Roos rails off
against 'one size fits all' changes
Melbourne, Saturday, November 26, 2005
AFL rule changes designed to halt a trend towards a staccato rugby-style game and open up
play will kill the careers of some players and allow only a single homogenised game plan
among all teams, according to Sydney coach Paul Roos.
The rules changes and crackdown on the policing of existing
rules announced by the AFL yesterday will target defensive tactics and encourage the game
to be more open.
Coaches briefed on the changes were surprised and
disappointed they had not been consulted earlier, and queried who was driving the need for
change when match attendances and television audiences were at record levels.
"I think it is clear that they are going for a generic
game of football and they are trying to have one style of play for everyone. And there are
some players who are playing AFL football now who will no longer be able to play AFL
football and we will all only go for guys who can run a 15 beep and are six foot three
(190 centimetres)," Roos said.
The changes follow the Swans' premiership success in
playing a lock-down style of game. While the league had been thrilled with the club
winning, it has been less than pleased with the style of play adopted by Sydney and
other teams in recent years. AFL chief executive Andrew Demetriou
controversially condemned the Swans' "ugly" game plan early this year.
The most radical change sanctioned by the AFL Commission
will mean players are encouraged to play on immediately after a behind is scored without
waiting for the goal umpires to wave the flags. Spare balls will be positioned behind the
goals. When this change was trialled in the Wizard Cup, the time taken to kick in after a
point was nearly halved.
The president of the AFL Players Association, Brendon
Gale, said he was initially concerned that waiting for the flags would affect the
longevity of players' careers. "But there's been some expensive research done that
suggests by keeping the game flowing, players get more fatigued and the intensity of games
drops. As a result, there's a reduced chance of injury," he said.
The signalling of time-on will be changed, as revealed in The
Age, at around-the-ground bounces. Time will automatically stop when the umpire
crosses his arms for a bounce and resume only when the ball is bounced or thrown up.
It should deliver greater consistency between quarters and
reduce confusion for timekeepers. There is no change to when time is blown for a free
kick, the blood rule or other occasions.
Players who take a mark in the goal square, or are awarded
free kicks in the goal square, will no longer be put on severe angles, but will take their
kick from directly in front of goal. A player who marks the ball but lands outside the
goal square is considered to have completed the mark outside the square, so would be put
on an angle. It is up to the umpire to determine where the mark was completed.
The AFL also flagged a broader range of changes in
interpretation designed to crack down on negative defensive tactics.
The coaches were warned there would be a tough new stance
on deliberately kicking the ball out of bounds. Players who kick the ball out of bounds
deliberately will be penalised, whether or not they gain ground further afield by
"kicking to touch".
A "Matthew Lloyd rule" has been
introduced, capping the time a player takes for a set shot on goal at about 30
seconds before being called to play on.
There will be renewed vigilance on taggers who
"scrag" ball players and impede them at contests.
Umpires also will no longer wait for players to make
position at boundary throw-ins.
"It will never be how it was but ... the focus is to
keep the ball in play and make it more continuous," AFL football operations manager Adrian
"This will have two clear effects - there will be
fewer players around the ball because you are less able to make the same number of
contests, so it is less stop-start, and there will be fewer collision injuries.
"Our focus has been to bear in mind the traditional
highlights of the game such as one-on-one contests, contested marks and positional
Back to the Diary
|Fans rate men in
Melbourne, November 12, 2005
As bizarre as it may sound, football supporters were more satisfied with umpires this year
than their own team.
The standard of umpiring was rated "good to very good" by
74 per cent fans. Only 11 per cent rated the umpires "poor to very poor".
The corresponding figure for clubs was 73 per cent positive, with 15
per cent in the negative.
The figures are contained in an AFL brand tracking survey
headed "Ratings of AFL Values, The Game and AFL Administration", conducted by
national research company Colmar Brunton.
AFL chief executive officer Andrew Demetriou's rating
climbed into positive territory.
More than one in two of the 1187 respondents 53 per
cent said they agreed with the statement: "The game is in good hands with
Andrew Demetriou as CEO".
The figure was up from 46 per cent in 2004. The negative
factor remained at 7 per cent.
The AFL's "strong leadership" was endorsed by 62
per cent of respondents, up by 7 per cent.
One of the most interesting results was the 60 per cent
positive answer to the statement: "The AFL is doing all it can to make sure all 16
The figure was up 7 per cent in 12 months, with just 9 per
cent answering in the negative.
The response was reinforced by the 60 per cent positive
response to the statement: "The AFL manages the competition in a fair-handed
More than eight in 10 (83 per cent) supported the notion of
teams playing finals in their home state if they earned the right, regardless of any
agreements on venues.
The figure was up 5 per cent in 12 months.
Almost eight in 10 (77 per cent) said it was better to
watch a game live rather than on television.
Despite frequent negative publicity about the behaviour of
players, 65 per cent rated them good role models, up by 9 per cent.
One of the concerns for the AFL will be the attitude to the
costs associated with the game.
Only 50 per cent agreed to the proposition: "The cost
of going to the football offers better value for money than other sports".
While the figure is up from 44 per cent, 17 per cent of
respondents disagreed, with 33 per cent undecided.
What will please the AFL is the strong positive response to
questions about venues and crowd behaviour.
More than nine out of 10 (94 per cent) approved the quality
of stadium facilities, while 90 per cent said they were happy with crowd behaviour.
The response to the crowd behaviour question is surprising.
Perhaps it was relative to crowd behaviour at the racetrack in spring.
Back to the Diary
|AFL to alter
priority pick order
Melbourne, November 11, 2005
THE contentious issue of priority picks in the AFL draft will soon become a thing of the
past in a matter of days with the commission now certain to remove the rule in its present
The AFL commissioners and their executive team
will this weekend spend two days at Moonah Links on the Mornington Peninsula deliberating
over a long list of on and off-field issues, but most have already privately resolved to
accept the recommendation from Adrian Anderson's football department to rid the game of
the extra first-round draft pick.
Carlton, Collingwood and Hawthorn which all won the
right to a priority pick this season will be the last three teams to be given the
chance to draft two elite young footballers before higher-placed teams have taken a choice
AFL chief executive Andrew Demetriou is also expected to
address the commission on behalf of his sub-committee, which has been negotiating the next
round of AFL broadcasting rights.
The rights are expected to run from 2007 until 2011, but
could be extended until 2012 should channels Seven and Ten win the rights and agree to
alternate the broadcast of the six grand finals to be contested in those years.
It is understood that Seven and Ten and the AFL are now
engaged in serious and practical talksthat would result in the networks televising five
free-to-air games each week during the home-and-away season and all AFL finals, with the
legal problems surrounding the AFL's opening offer apparently resolved.
Other key issues to be raised by the commission over the
two day meeting include:
u Reforms to the new AFL reporting and judicial system;
u Extra funding towards game development particular in NSW and
Queensland and strategies to expand the Sydney market following the Swans premiership;
u The Sydney player apprenticeship scheme, which will be launched
next year and have every AFL club take charge of at least one Sydney teenager
The AFL executives had planned to scrap priority picks
earlier this year but their proposal was rejected by the commission, which insisted that
further research on the issue was required.
The feelings from the commission was that it was unwilling
to eradicate any rule that had generated such positive publicity and hope for supporters.
Richmond, Hawthorn and the Bulldogs all benefited last year when those clubs were able to
bolster their lists significantly.
Richmond's priority choice, Brett Deledio, won the Rising
Star award. But as several clubs have argued, successful teams such as West Coast have
been able to recruit future champions such as Chris Judd following one poor season.
Judd won the Brownlow Medal in his third AFL season.
As a result of the AFL's ongoing consultation with clubs,
it appears likely the priority picks will be retained for clubs winning five games or
fewer, but the priority choice will not be taken until after every club has taken a player
in the national draft.
A second option to be considered would result in a rolling
three-year system under which unsuccessful clubs would need to demonstrate three poor
years in succession before being entitled to a priority pick.
The commission will also debate the option of creating a
system in which clubs could make one-off submissions in a bid to recruit extra talent by
demonstrating consistent poor performances.
Back to the Diary
Ireland's outrage intensifies
Melbourne, November 10, 2005
THE controversial international rules series provoked more anger and resentment towards
Australia than any other recent issue in Ireland, according to a cable sent by the
Australian Embassy in Dublin.
In the cable, sent last
week to the Foreign Affairs department in Canberra, the embassy said it had been besieged
with angry calls as well as threats of violence from Irish fans incensed
about Australia's heavy-handed tactics in the series.
As the acrimonious fallout from the series extended to
diplomatic level, the cable said the phone calls, which ranged from "moderate to
abusive and threatening", were unanimous in condemning the physical punishment meted
out by the Australians.
Of concern to the AFL, the cable also referred to some
callers "threatening violence" against the Australian team the next time it
toured Ireland, scheduled for late next year.
It also noted that no other issue in Ireland in recent
years had "generated this level of negative feeling" towards Australia,
mentioning in particular the level of anger on talkback radio.
The chief culprit in the second-quarter melee, Brisbane
Lion Chris Johnson, will face the tribunal via videolink tonight.
It is the severe way in which Johnson dealt with Philip
Jordan, then Mattie Forde, that has sparked much of the outrage, not just in Ireland but
Other Australian players, including Darren Milburn, Luke
Hodge and Trent Croad, have also been criticised for their overly physical approach in the
second Test. Letters to newspaper editors, and talkback calls to radio, have almost
unanimously decried the tactics.
But it is only Johnson, the Australian co-captain, who will
face the tribunal after being reported by Irish referee Michael Collins for striking
Jordan and Forde at Telstra Dome last Friday week.
Tribunal member Richard Loveridge will chair the panel,
while Kevin Sheehan will represent the AFL and Pat Daly the Gaelic Athletic Association.
The AFL has downplayed the significance of the violence but
the league has changed the competition's rules so that players sent off in future will not
be allowed back on the ground, nor will they be replaced. A penalty shot from close range
is likely to be implemented in the hope that a certain six-point goal will act as a
While not discounting the threat of retribution on
Australia's next tour, it is believed the Foreign Affairs department is not overly
concerned by the threats of violence .
AFL football operations manager Adrian Anderson said last
night he was unaware of any increased security risk in Ireland. "I had hoped the
government would let us know if they think there's an issue there," he said.
Locally, the treasurer of the Gaelic Athletic Association
in Melbourne, Dermott Lamb, said his club was disappointed by the actions of some of the
Australian players and called for a review of the competition's rules.
"I think they need to sit down and work out the rules
again," he said. "The roughness needs to be taken out of the game, the tackling
needs to be refined and players need to be penalised with suspensions in their own
Back to the Diary
|AFL releases new social policy
Sportal for afl.com.au
Tuesday, November 8, 2005
The AFL has released a policy that it hopes will create a better environment for women
across all levels of Australian football.
The policy, titled Respect and Responsibility Creating a safe and inclusive
environment for women at all levels of Australian football was drafted by the
league, as well as policy experts from area including womens policy, policing, the
law, discrimination, equal opportunity and public health.
The new policy was unveiled by the AFL at Telstra Dome on Tuesday and comes after a range
of allegations made about the treatment of women made by past and present AFL players in
the last few years.
The key points of the policy are:
u Introduction of model anti-sexual harassment and anti-sexual
discrimination procedures across the AFL and its 16 clubs.
u Development of organisational policies and procedures to ensure a
safe, supportive and inclusive environment for women.
u Changes to AFL rules relating to conduct unbecoming which cover the
specific context of allegations of sexual assault.
u Education of AFL players and other club officials with avenues for
dissemination of the program to the community level being explored.
u The dissemination of model policies and procedures at the community
u Development of a public education campaign.
In announcing the policy, AFL chief executive Andrew
Demetriou said it was no longer the sole responsibility of governments and their criminal
justice and social agencies.
The position of the AFL and our clubs is quite clear we find any form of
violence towards women abhorrent and we support moves by government and other
community-based organisations to eliminate violence or the potential for violence,
The AFL will partner with VicHealth to implement the policy.
The announcement comes one day after Jane Hollman was appointed by the AFL to the new
position of Manager, People and Culture.
Ms. Hollman will be responsible for developing and implementing a human resource strategy
for the AFL and the clubs, designed to recruit, develop and retain people who work in the
She is currently Director of Human Resources, Asia Pacific, for Citigroup Asset Management
after being Vice-President, Human Resources, Asia Pacific for Citigroup from 2002 to 2004.
Back to the Diary
|Second team for Sydney still a long way off
Saturday, November 5, 2005
A second AFL team in New South Wales was inevitable
but would not occur during his tenure, chief executive Andrew Demetriou
told CPS Australia's Business of Sport function in Sydney yesterday.
Demetriou said that, as it had taken the Sydney Swans 20 years to develop into a
premiership outfit, a second team was a long way off.
The AFL wants to eventually establish a second side in the western suburbs of Sydney.
And Demetriou said that the AFL would significantly increase its stake in the Sydney
market, above the $8 million allocated this year.
A primary objective is to win over grassroots fans, starting with school children.
"We've just got to get our code into schools," Demetriou said. "We're doing
a lot of work with schools and we need to spend more money on more programs in schools.
It's a very difficult market in Sydney, but the Swans winning (the premiership) has
certainly helped us. We spent $8 million on AFL-NSW and we're going to increase that
substantially next year."
Demetriou touched briefly on the TV rights issue, saying that one of the key objectives
was to gain better Friday night coverage in Sydney.
The AFL reportedly wants $135 million for the TV rights and Demetriou said he hoped to
seal the 2007-11 deal before Christmas.
Demetriou also spoke about the league's deal with controversial betting exchange Betfair.
"We've got no issue about the integrity of our game and never have," he said.
On a second team being established in Sydney, Swans chief executive Myles Byron Hay said
he would like to see his club well and truly established on a profitable basis before a
second team was introduced.
Back to the Diary
|AFL man 'paid bribe for Cooper'
The Weekend Australian
Saturday, November 5, 2005
A FORMER football manager of the Brisbane Lions AFL
team was the middleman for a $9000 bribe offered by convicted fraudster Brad Cooper, a
court has heard.
Graeme "Gubby" Allan gave evidence against the former burglar alarm salesman at
his trial on bribery and document-forging charges.
Mr Allan met Cooper through the Collingwood Football Club in Melbourne, where he was a
player between 1981 and 1984 and manager until 1998. He played 141 games for Collingwood
and Fitzroy between 1975 and 1984.
Cooper is a former director of Collingwood, sponsored the team in the 1990s through his
company the Goodwill Group and arranged for HIH to sponsor the club before the giant
insurer's $5.3billion collapse in 2001.
Mr Allan was one of several big names mentioned in the nine-week trial of Cooper, who
was convicted of 13 charges on Monday. Former Olympian Dawn Fraser, veteran rocker Jimmy
Barnes and Kerry Packer's poker-playing mate Ben Tilley also featured.
Cooper let the swimming legend live in his Sydney home, and paid bills and lent his car
to Barnes. And Cooper did a property deal with Mr Tilley, sharing $1.965million from HIH
for arranging the transaction - with the money paid just one day before HIH collapsed.
Mr Allan told the court he paid HIH chief investment officer Bill Howard the $9000 in
January 2001, when Howard was staying at the French Quarter luxury resort in Noosa,
It was the smallest of six bribes paid by Cooper in late 2000 and early 2001.
Howard, the key witness in the trial against Cooper, had his three-year jail term
suspended for testifying against his former mate and other HIH executives.
Howard admitted accepting $124,000 in bribes. He rolled over to the Australian
Securities and Investments Commission after he was threatened with criminal and civil
charges in April 2003, following a royal commission inquiry into the collapse of HIH.
The court was told Cooper had transferred the funds into Mr Allan's bank account, which
he withdrew and paid to Howard.
Howard approached Mr Allan, whom he had never met, in the reception area of the French
Quarter resort. "I believe you're a mate of Brad's," Howard said.
The pair then walked out of the foyer and Mr Allan said: "I've been asked to give
this to you," handing over an envelope containing $9000 in $50 notes.
Howard said he counted the money on the way back to his room. He testified that he used
the money for expenses, including his accommodation at the five-star resort.
Howard was given the other five payments by Cooper in various luxury hotels in Sydney's
central business district, and at Cooper's harbourside home on the city's north shore.
Cooper is in jail awaiting sentencing by judge Bruce James next month.
Mr Allan did not return The Weekend Australian's calls.
Back to the Diary
|Hybrid game changing two codes
Chip Le Grand
Friday, October 21, 2005
THE value of International Rules has long been in the
eye of the beholder.
While some see the annual series as little more than a curiosity, others consider it a
genuine and worthy form of national representation. But one thing beyond argument is the
influence hybrid rules has had on the indigenous football codes of both countries.
When the first Australian team arrived in Dublin in 1967, tour organiser Harry Beitzel
warned Irish reporters: "We will change the way you play your game."
As Australia and Ireland prepare for tonight's latest rematch at Subiaco Oval, it is
doubtful that even Beitzel would have envisaged the way both codes have been shaped by
this unlikely sporting exchange.
If you visited Ireland and watched a Gaelic county match 20 years ago, you would have
seen players taking free-kicks off the ground, a general fitness and conditioning level no
better than amateur, suburban football and an antiquated system of referees keeping time,
coaches being unable to bring substituted players back on and almost no examples of the
overhead mark or "high fielding" as it is known locally.
Go to an Irish county match in another five years and you could see Gaelic players
flying for marks and taking set shots for goal out of their hands. The players will be
highly conditioned endurance and power athletes; faster and stronger than ever before. A
runner will relay messages from the coach and a time clock will trigger the final siren.
If a player is reported, he will be referred to a disciplinary tribunal.
Sound familiar? Some of it has already happened and some of it is being considered by
the GAA, the governing body for Gaelic football and hurling. They are radical changes and
the GAA is conservative by nature. But as Irish coach Pete McGrath said yesterday,
sporting codes must evolve or stagnate.
"When people ask me what could Gaelic football take out of the International
Rules, what I would say and what most people would say is the mark," McGrath said.
"Even if it was just in the middle third of the field, it would encourage high
catching and reward the man who has made the clear catch."
Pat Daly, the head of games for the GAA, said the 1990 rule change allowing free-kicks
to be taken from the hands rather than off the ground is the most significant change of
the past 20 years.
Having worked closely with the AFL's Kevin Sheehan to revise the hybrid rules, Daly
confirmed that other AFL-influenced reforms were being considered. These include the
introduction of team runners, an interchange bench and a time clock, and further changes
to the tribunal system, which was modelled on the old AFL system two years ago.
At the same time, International Rules has influenced the rule-makers of Australian
football, though more by interpretation than reform. Sheehan believes reduced tolerance
towards players diving on the ball can be traced to Gaelic football, in which players are
prohibited from picking the ball up once they have lost their feet. Such a rule was
trialled in last year's pre-season competition, along with a continuation in play after
the ball hits the post.
In the past five years, the charging rule has led to the virtual eradication of the
traditional "shirt-front" and greater limits on the use of the hip and shoulder
bump generally. In Gaelic football, only "shoulder-to-shoulder" side-on contact
The contemporary style of both games is also converging, with a shared emphasis on
retaining possession, running the lines and finding smaller, mobile forwards in space
rather than hulking key forwards in a crowd of players.
"Some of our coaches have looked at basketball and how they put numbers back and
now that we have got respect for the Gaelic Athletic Association and their coaches, people
like Sheedy and others will be moved to look at some of their strategies in terms of ball
movement and deep defence," Sheehan said.
McGrath said the most direct influence of International Rules on Ireland's players and
coaches was the recent improvements in conditioning, weight training and use of sports
science. When the International Rules concept was reintroduced in 1998 after an eight-year
hiatus, the relative size, strength and speed of the Australian players made a lasting
impact on the Irish amateurs.
Back to the Diary
|Time called on measuring time-on
Melbourne, Friday, October 21, 2005 A RADICAL
overhaul of timekeeping being considered by the AFL could lead to timekeepers
automatically stopping the clock whenever a bounce is called without umpires needing to
separately blow the whistle to signal time-on and off.
Such a change would likely add minutes to quarters, meaning
the AFL could also look at cutting the length of quarters from 20 minutes before time-on
The proposals stem from a broad-ranging review by the
umpiring department and has included a study of the time lost in two games during the
recent finals series.
A separate timekeeper sat with the official timekeepers
during the matches and measured the amount of time the clock was ticking but no play was
It was found that about three minutes of playing time a
game was lost just in the period between an umpire calling for a bounce and actually
bouncing the ball.
One option considered was to automatically stop the clock
whenever an umpire crossed his arms to signal a ball-up and then only restart the clock
when the ball left the umpire's hand for a bounce or when thrown up.
The umpire would not need to separately signal or blow his
whistle for the timekeepers.
At present, time is lost at ball-ups when umpires wait for
packs to clear, then signal their exit path to players before bouncing the ball.
A change such as that being considered would likely lead to
greater consistency when time-on is applied.
A decision on when to blow the whistle to stop the clock is
now arbitrary and generally influenced by the stage of the game and the amount of
congestion around the ball and how long it would likely take to clear.
The AFL will examine more matches by video over the summer
and if further reviews reveal large chunks of time several minutes were lost
in the average game then there would be a push for change, possibly as soon as next year.
If only minimal time was lost there would be no case for change.
AFL football operations manager Adrian Anderson confirmed
the review yesterday. "We have had a look at two games and compared the amount of
time lost at bounces compared with the total amount of time-on called and we are reviewing
that information to see how we measure time-on to see if there might be a better
way," Anderson said.
"We will continue to review it and make a decision
when we have a clearer view of how much time is lost in games. No change is planned at the
moment for next season. It is too early to say (if there will be a change for next year).
We just want to know what is the clearest, most consistent way of measuring time-on. Can
we do it better?"
The issue of time-keeping became topical several times this
In the Collingwood-Sydney round-13 game, 19 seconds were
seemingly lost, and, after the Sydney-Geelong preliminary final, Cats fans were perturbed
that umpires blew time-on in the close final quarter which they felt was not the case in
the first three quarters.
A change such as the one suggested would eliminate this
complaint as the decision on whether to blow time-on at a field bounce would be out of the
Back to the Diary
|Aylett passes on the baton
Melbourne, Thursday, October 20, 2005 IF
ALLEN Aylett was true to form this morning, he woke before dawn, headed towards his
treadmill and, while exercising, read the papers for this morning's board meeting for his
beloved North Melbourne football club.
Early morning starts are essential for the sprightly
71-year-old, who must tend to football business before heading to his South Melbourne
dental practice for a day tending to cavities. But while the routine is familiar, today
will be like no other because at 7am, when the board of the Kangaroos meets, Aylett will
officially resign as chairman and hand over the role to his successor, Graham Duff.
Although he will hand over the reins to the current
chairman of Racing Victoria, Aylett is not exactly saying goodbye to Arden Street. He has
promised to stay on for a year or two so the transition can go smoothly, but his
retirement as chairman brings to an end a unique period in the history of the club and the
A talented rover who was never dropped from the North
Melbourne line-up throughout his illustrious 12-year career, his feats on the football
field have been somewhat overshadowed by his lifetime as one of the most influential
administrators in the game.
Whether it was with the likes of Ron Joseph
and Barry Cheatley at Arden Street, or with Jack Hamilton
and Alan Schwab in the offices of the VFL, Aylett never meant to be a
football revolutionary. "I didn't go out to do it that way," he said. "The
real thing is, I am a believer and I am determined and I have been able to have a vision,
and I think that is born in people.
"I believe in something enough to be a driver and
(then) drive, drive, drive. I have got on well enough with people to band people together,
so it's just not me on the journey, it's a group of people on the journey. I never set out
to do it, everything has just evolved. We were all young and gung-ho, not just about the
North Melbourne football club but where football was going generally."
Although Aylett has never strayed far from Arden Street, he
has worn many caps throughout his career. But there has been one constant during the
journey; his wife Marj. When the then Marjorie Wapet transferred from
Camberwell High School to University High in 1951, she could not have known that her fate
would be sealed when a young boy walked late into chemistry class and stole her heart.
Until then football had never been part of her life.
But while she continues to be amazed by the journey, Marj
Aylett says she has loved every minute of the adventure.
"It was all very exciting and I don't think we were
thinking long-term. It just snowballed and kept going. When you look back it has been just
fantastic. We have met such fantastic people from all walks of life," she said.
She has been there for all the ups and downs. The
premierships, the boardroom battles and even death threats when as president of the VFL,
Aylett oversaw the relocation of South Melbourne to Sydney, a move that became deeply
His achievements at VFL level were yesterday lauded by
Geelong president Frank Costa. "He's responsible, really, for the
VFL coming of age as a national competition," Costa said of his long-time friend.
"He really pushed our competition outside Victorian borders.
"He's a fellow with great vision and with the courage
of his own convictions. He made something happen that most felt were impossible. What
we're seeing at the moment is absolutely Australia's premier sporting competition ...
Allen Aylett has to take an enormous amount of credit for being one of the key architects
if not the key architect in putting AFL football together. I think football
owes him an enormous debt."
Aylett's former general manager Ron Joseph was more
effusive. "Even though (influential AFL administrators) Graeme Samuel
and Ross Oakley would never acknowledge it ... the reason we've got a
national football league today is because of Allen Aylett," he said. "He was the
one who put himself at risk, he was the one who lost the presidency in the fight to go
national. He orchestrated Sunday football and Friday night football and the
rationalisation of grounds, and he's never really been acknowledged for it because
football's not an industry that has grace.
"His contribution to the AFL has been incalculable ...
Allen never gets any credit and if he does, it's fleeting."
Marj Aylett said the different stages of her husband's
career had all been enjoyable. "I was very proud of him, watching him play
football," she said. "It was great him being president of North because that was
such an exciting time, and then it was interesting being chairman of the league because
you were divorced from the clubs aspect. I used to miss that closeness of watching my team
every Saturday but I did adjust to that."
In the early 1970s her Moonee Ponds house was once
mortgaged along with the homes of all the other board members to secure the
Kangaroos' future. Allen Aylett was determined to provide the club with the premiership
that had alluded it.
"All of us mortgaged our houses with the bank and so
the money came forward," he said. "That was the enthusiasm that was rampant. And
everyone around just got hold of it."
Tired of listening to cries of "Poor old North"
from the other clubs, Aylett and his board set about changing the balance. Ron Barassi was
secured as coach, and some of the money secured from the houses was used to lure players
like Doug Wade, Stan Alves and Barry Davies.
Marj Aylett did not know her house helped build the club's
first premiership but both agree that that September night in 1975, as the celebrations
continued at the old Southern Cross ballroom, was the highlight of their time in football.
"The minute the siren went there were just tears and
tears and I think you just sort of exploded and I don't think I will ever forget that
feeling," she said.
Although he was named in the forward pocket of North
Melbourne's team of the century and earlier this year announced as the player of the 1950s
at the Shinboners gala tribute night, Joseph said Aylett should have been the first legend
of the club. "From the Kangaroos point of view, he was the first player to play 200
games, he was the first premiership president, and whilst I've always been a great admirer
of Wayne Schimmelbusch and what he achieved, it was laughable and almost destroyed the
credibility of North's hall of fame in that Wayne Schimmelbusch was given the honour of
being the first (legend), because clearly Allen Aylett should be the first by that far in
his contribution to North Melbourne."
Costa described Aylett as "an absolute champion".
"He led from the front, got the hard ball and he was a
committed team player as well," Costa said.
When Aylett returned to Arden Street in 2001 after the
death of the club's former chairman and his great friend Ron Casey, the man who had put
business into football was surprised to see how much things really had changed.
"It was totally different from what I was used to. The
professionalism was much more increased, of course," he said.
The days of players celebrating a win well into the night
and the chairman's wife cooking them all bacon and eggs on the Sunday has been replaced by
dietitians, ice baths and recovery sessions, and although the Ayletts continue to love the
game, the romance of the 1970s is still fondly remembered. "We were all growing up
together and we the board, from me, the chairman to all the board down, we weren't much
older than the senior players," Aylett said.
After 53 years, Aylett says he will miss little.
He and Marj intend to be in the grandstands, sharing the
matches with at least some of their four children and eight grandchildren. He might be
walking away from the responsibility but not the game.
"I don't think I will miss anything because I really
think it is time and I still have something to add in this transitional period," he
with MELISSA RYAN
Grand final win shows a mission accomplished
Melbourne, Thursday, October 20, 2005
Sydney's thrilling premiership victory fulfilled a
long-held dream for Allen Aylett.
"He always said he wanted to see a flag flying
over the Sydney town hall," his wife Marjorie said this week. "Well, they were
certainly flying it high over the harbour bridge."
Aylett and his family endured much in the emotional battle
of 1981, when the then-VFL was instrumental in persuading the South Melbourne Football
Club its future belonged in the Harbour City.
To see Sydney, after all the battles and missed
opportunities, finally realise the dream and win a flag was an important moment for the
national competition and Aylett.
"I remember when we played our first game in Sydney in
1979 and the Kangaroos played Hawthorn, after the 1978 grand final and it was so a huge
thing," he said.
"I remember at the press conference after the match
(veteran Age journalist) Ron Carter said what a fantastic success it has been, and I said:
'Yes, it has been a success but it is the first of 1000 steps.'
"Well I reckon the 1000th step took place on grand
final day because there is now a premiership flag flying in every capital city."
Aylett said the VFL always believed Sydney would be a
He said with the decision-makers of business and corporate
chiefs well based in the city, the competition always needed a presence.
After three years of games in the city between 1979 and
1981, Aylett and his general manager Jack Hamilton knew the time was right for a
"It was a gut decision," he said this week.
Current commissioner Graeme John, who was the South
Melbourne president at the time, and that board conceded that the time was up for the
Lakeside Oval based club.
When they agreed to play home games in Sydney, the board
was thrown out by the "Keep South at South" group. It led to a bitter fight.
A special Christmas Eve meeting of the VFL was called and
it was decided that if South Melbourne was not based in Sydney by January 31 then it would
not be playing anywhere.
"It created a lot of ill-feeling, so much so that we
were under police guard and bomb threats and our kids were seeing these reports coming
through on the television news," Aylett said.
There were concerns over bomb threats and even that one of
their four children could have been kidnapped.
"It was a stressful time," remembered Marjorie
"After a day or two, we thought 'we will be careful'
but it's the old story, life has to go on. So it did" she said.
"It still kept going because at (son) Rick's party,
and his birthday was in June, we had to have security guards.
"We went to Geelong at the end of the season and the
police were in the car and following us down."
Despite the problems the Swans have endured, Aylett said he
had taken great delight in both of their grand final appearances since the club shifted
"In 1996 when we played Sydney, I thought, 'Gee, you
can't get any better than this.' The Kangaroos were playing Sydney, and I was standing at
the MCG while they were playing the national anthem and I was crying."
Back to the Diary
|Money hunger puts fans on the outer
by Graham Cornes
Adelaide, Saturday, October 8, 2005
WHEN did football cease to be a game of the
Eddie McGuire received a standing ovation for a speech he delivered two weeks ago, at the
Carbine Club luncheon here in Adelaide. He struck the right chord when he spoke about our
great game, its history and traditions; how important it had been in times of war to help
maintain morale; how "up there Cazaly", a football exhortation, became a battle
cry and then an anthem. He told of the Saturday afternoon rituals in Melbourne and in
Adelaide, when the urban tribes gathered to watch their heroes at the local footy ground.
He reminisced about the great names of football, mainly Victorian, but he threw a few
South Australian legends in as well. He proposed a toast to football, and the assembled
masses, seduced by his impressive oratory, stayed on their feet and applauded. But he was
peddling them a dream; a dream that has long been shattered. The game is no longer
accessible to everyone.
The AFL's powerbrokers, Andrew Demetriou and Ben Buckley sat down this week to
negotiate the next raft of television rights for the game. With that comes the frustrating
inevitability that Crows and Power fans, and by that we mean the majority of our state,
will have to subscribe to Foxtel if they want to see all of their teams' games. There is
no maybe or perhaps at this stage, simply an acceptance that it will happen. How on earth
have we allowed this to happen? Still, the AFL wouldn't be the first organisation or group
to sell its soul. For if you remove the game further from the reach of the average
football supporter, you are surely removing its soul.
The AFL will be awash with more money than it could ever have believed. Of course money
allows you to do many constructive things for your corporation. Conversely, it allows you
to waste more of it on ill-fated projects - like converting recalcitrant league and union
die-hards in NSW and Queesland. And isn't that the greatest irony? The AFL will insist its
broadcast partners televise their games live into the Sydney and Brisbane markets, but
expect the fans in the traditional states to fork out for pay-TV subscriptions.
How much money is enough? The average wage of the AFL footballer is now over $200,000
per annum. Yes, the players do deserve to be paid in proportion to the revenue their
efforts generate, but how much money does the game need to generate? Does the salary cap
have to be close to $7 million? Does every football club need a coaching team to rival the
White House's war cabinet? (and we know how reliable that is.) Do Port or the Crows really
need to spend any more money on major upgrades to their training facilities? If preserving
the rights of the average football supporter means a little less than the $130 million per
annum the AFL is expecting to get, it surely is money well spent (or saved).
We have anti-siphoning laws in our country to prevent the sporting organisations from
selling out and removing the popular sports to pay-TV, as has happened overseas. However
there are always loopholes. There's no point we, in Adelaide, being able to watch
Victorian teams on free-to-air television if our beloved Crows and Port Adelaide are on
Realistically, there is not much the football public can do about it. The clubs have
the greatest clout. Port has declared publicly it will vigorously resist moves to have its
games moved to pay-TV. The Crows, with their sold-out games and waiting lists, are
publicly silent, although they assure us privately that they are consulting strongly with
the AFL. We'd feel a lot more confident if their position was stated publicly and
I received a letter last week signed simply: "Damien Elliot, son of a truck
driver". It railed against the increasing corporatisation of football and how the AFL
was losing touch with grass-roots supporters. But the most significant point he made was
that football was once the one activity in which a battler could take on the rich guys and
win. No longer is that possible, he lamented. Of course his football is simply a metaphor
for modern society, but he is right.
I ask simply: is the game better for all its contemporary riches? I don't think so, but
how will we know if we can't see it?
Graham Cornes can be heard on 5AA.
Back to the Diary
|Trading, the AFL's dark side
by Greg Baum
Saturday, October 8, 2005
MOST in football accept
trade week now for what it is, a necessary evil. But that does not mean that there will
not be many sore hearts around Australia this morning, and elsewhere in the world, too,
where players are sojourning in the off-season. The mixed blessing of telecommunication
means that the dotted line can just as easily be in Mexico City as Melbourne, Ankara as
Some will have been moved on despite their wills, others
kept despite a longing to leave, yet others left to wonder if they are still needed.
Friendships will have been strained, some never to repair.
"Its a difficult time for everyone: players,
managers and clubs," said former Hawthorn football manager John Hook.
"But we all know its part of the system now."
Some fans will be aggrieved, too, for fans can afford to be
choosy and sentimental in a way players and clubs cannot. This is a game of hard ball, and
both sides play it.
For some, it will all work out. Darren Jolly,
12 months ago trade bait for Melbourne, now a Sydney premiership player, is one. But for
others, it will be the beginning of the end. When Rick Olarenshaw left
Essendon by mutual agreement in 1998, his preference was to go to the Kangaroos. Instead,
after a long and demoralising wait, he was traded at the 11th hour to Collingwood. He was
in Bali at the time.
At Collingwood, he was immediately uncomfortable. "As
soon as I walked into the place, it was just a different vibe to Essendon. Different
culture," he said. "Id been at Essendon since I was a teenager. I had a
lot of friends there. I got to Collingwood and it just had a different feel. That made it
hard right from the start."
Then injury struck. "I walked out of Essendon fully
fit, and I left Collingwood a cripple," he said.
Olarenshaw was disillusioned by the system. "I was
prepared to be traded, so that was a good thing. But a lot of bullshit gets talked,"
"You dont know who to trust. You dont know
whos telling you the truth. Im not a person to hold a grudge, but there were
certain things that were done during that time that put me off a few people."
He could not help but reflect. If he had stayed at
Essendon, he would have won a premiership within two years. If he had gone to the
Kangaroos, he would have won a premiership the next year. If he had entered the pre-season
draft, he would have gone to Brisbane, which was on the threshold of a trio of
"Its a life-changing thing, the decision you
make," he said. "In the end, I went to Collingwood and it was probably the worst
experience of my life."
Justin Blumfield, another Bomber, was
reassured by the club before leaving for a holiday in the Cook Islands in 2002 that all
was well. While he was snorkelling one day, the club called to say that it was in salary
cap strife and would trade him.
Blumfield was shocked. He was a premiership player, had
many mates at the club and had just signed a new two-year contract. "I said:
Ive got a contract. I dont want to leave. Why does it have to be
me?" he said. "But you also know in the back of your mind, its a
Minutes before deadline, Blumfield was sold to Richmond, to
whom he had never spoken. He decided to make the most of it.
"I gave it 100 per cent. But in the fifth game I
ruptured my quad muscle to the bone, and was out for 14 weeks. Then I had a knee injury
the next year," he said.
"Then the new coach comes and all of a sudden your
Olarenshaw felt that Blumfield had acceded to a trade more
out of duty to Essendon than regard for himself. When Blumfield returned to Melbourne, he
was met by a quizzical Michael Long. "He said: You had a
contract for two years. Why did you leave? You could have stayed."
Blumfield says now he should have bided his time. From
afar, he had believed the clubs line that he might become frustrated in the
reserves, which he now recognises as a standard pitch.
"I thought maybe a change of clubs might be good for
my footy career," he said. "But its easy to think that at a time when
youre so far away from your manager, your parents. It was a hard decision. I
probably shouldnt have made a decision then and there."
He was bitter that management could have been so wrong in
its sums, and sad to be leaving everyday friendships. Fortunately, he rekindled some when
he returned to the club this year to play for the Bendigo Bombers.
Olarenshaw and Blumfield now run Athletes 1, managing other
footballers, for which job they say their own experiences are invaluable. Six are at
Brisbane, four of them out of contract.
Only this week, Olarenshaw has had to help one weigh up
between a trade and a new contract.
Olarenshaw said players now were wiser and worldlier about
draft week. "I explain to the kids: Dont take it personally.
The majority of the list is tradeable," he said.
"I had one club say about one of my players: This kid is untradeable. I
said: Really? What if I gave you Cooney for him? They said: Oh,
"I tell that to the kids. I say before they go on
their footy trip or their overseas holiday, not many people are safe. You might get
brought up. Its nothing personal. It might mean the club requires something, and
theyve got to give something. It probably means in a way that they rate you. A lot
of people dont understand that."
Besides, players are no longer all pawns; more aggressive
management means that rejection can cut both ways. "It's a difficult time, and not
the most loved by recruiting managers," Blumfield said.
"You try to build a good relationship with your
players for the entire year, and then one week of the year a deal might come up and end
the relationship. But players are getting more thick-skinned. They understand it's a
business. At the same time, I was very, very disappointed."
Clubs and officials are natural anti-heroes in the
trade-week cut and thrust, but they have feelings, too. Danny Corcoran,
while football manager at Essendon and Melbourne, was the man in the front line of the
phone calls. It could hurt in many ways, he said. It hurt to think of the injury a trade
might do to the morale of the player and the club.
"Once you uproot them out of their support system, you
can damage them as players," he said. "If you get the heave-ho, you've got to
fight your way through it. But when you don't want to go and are forced to go, that makes
it really tough."
It hurt to hear from Gavin Wanganeen that
he wanted to leave. It hurt to have to tell Scott Cummings that he had to
go; Matthew Lloyd was coming. "If you've got three of X, and you
only need one, someone becomes vulnerable," he said. "Often, they're people you
really like. They've been terrific servants of the club. It's really tough."
Both Bombers and Demons came under salary-cap pressure in
Corcoran's time, which he said made it more of a strain. "All of a sudden, the older
contracts started to bite. That was a really tough period.
"That was when pay cuts started to appear for the
first time. It was also when clubs were first forced to off-load players they didn't want
to off-load." Two at Melbourne were Stephen Powell and Shane
Corcoran said he gulped sometimes before picking up the
phone. "But clubs have got very much better now at managing their caps and their
forecasting," he said. "They're looking further ahead now."
Hook, who brokered many deals in a long career at Hawthorn,
also proceeded sometimes with a heavy heart. "You're dealing with different
individuals. If they're sensitive people, you know you might get the wrong reaction,"
The fall-out can last. When Port Adelaide was formed in
1996, it offered the Hawks a deal they could not refuse for Nick Holland.
"That deal was all in place. It would have been the deal of the century," Hook
"But Nick was the one that didn't want to go in the
end. They'd shown an interest and we had to explore it, and we told him that. But when it
got to when the deal was do-able, he didn't want to go, and then was upset that we'd even
"But a lot of water has gone under the bridge since
then, and I think there's a better understanding and acceptance of the system now. In
saying that, it still can be a very difficult and traumatic time . . . I don't miss it. I
really don't. I've been involved in a lot of big trades over the years. It's a very
stressful time for all involved in it."
Two years ago, Jade Rawlings demanded to
be traded to join his brother at the Kangaroos. Hook said Hawthorn was happy to oblige
him, but by the second-last day of trading, it was clear that no deal could be struck.
"At the end of the day, the club had to come
first," he said. "Schwabby wanted a player to replace him, and they couldn't
deliver that. Our first obligation was to the Hawthorn footy club. That had to be
Hook said he tried that night to convince Rawlings to stay,
but he would not be budged, and the next day the infamous Veale deal was done, sending
Rawlings to the Bulldogs.
"It wasn't that we were trying to be vindictive. We
were doing what we felt was the best deal for the footy club at that time," Hook
said. "That causes angst. It causes relationships to fracture. It fractured mine with
Jade for a while. I like Jade. I knew him as a 17-year-old. Time heals the fractures
again. But it's not pleasant. It does fracture good relationships."
Hook said, and Corcoran affirmed, that the key to surviving
draft week for everyone was honesty. Corcoran said Melbourne coach Neale Daniher
insisted on telling any and every player whose name bobbed up.
"When you know you're going to put someone out there,
you're better off telling them," said Hook. "It minimises the heartburn that
goes on with some. If you tell porky pies and tell them you're not doing it when you are
doing it, it's a fatal mistake."
Back to the Diary
|Sydney rapt in red, white and lyrical
by Neil McMahon
Sydney Morning Herald (also The Age)
Saturday, October 1, 2005
It took this to really
know what they'd done: a city conquered end to end, and of all the things Paul
Roos has found hard to believe in the past week, this seemed the most fantastic.
The scenes in Sydney yesterday made Leo Barry's
mark on the siren last Saturday seem commonplace. That was easy. This was ludicrous: in
the heart of rugby league country and two days before that code's grand final, the streets
were a sea of red and white, with tens of thousands celebrating that other game from the
Thirty-thousand, they said. That, and maybe more. Lots. It
seemed the Victorian capital had finally won an age-old battle, the invaders coming up
George Street on foot, armed with flags and small children and singing that infernal
battle song: " Cheer, cheer, the red and the white
". Over and
In speeches, the Lord Mayor and the Premier and the NSW Governor acknowledged the national
game, a grand grand final in that other city, and a team that used to bear the name South
Melbourne. They had won the greatest trophy, said Morris Iemma, and
brought it here.
Was this Sydney, at lunchtime, on a Friday, in September? It was, and if the crowd was
racking its brains to remember the last time the city rocked like this "It was
the Olympics," said one with certainty that was nothing compared with the
disbelief on the faces of the Swans.
Did this embrace seal the meaning? "I think it
does," Roos told the Herald, calm as ever but betraying the slightest hint
this had jolted even him. "We had the parade in Melbourne and the parties and then
the SCG, but this is just amazing."
He signed autographs, shook hands, posed for pictures and
then, when officials tried to usher him inside, he turned and waved again. He was moved;
another man was forlorn. The lone West Tigers fan looked scared. Two days before his own
big day, this surely wasn't right, but having taken temporary ownership of the CBD the
Swans were generous. "It's your week next week, mate," he was told. "This
is ours." Had the Tiger had some mates, they might have been incited to fight back,
given the rhetoric from the podium. Mr Iemma was so roused that Roos suggested he give
motivational talks to his players. Clover Moore was beaming, happy her
constituents were grinning like pianos on a perfect Sydney day.
But as she often does, the Governor, Marie Bashir,
quietly stole the show, knowing just what to say and how to say it. For starters, it
sounded like she'd written the words herself, and unlike the other two leaders she had
attended the game. She heaped praise on the southern capital and spoke lyrically of the
game. " Australian rules," she said, noting the beauty of the name.
Nick Davis, goal-kicking hero, worked his
way down a line of fans, reflecting that this would surely help the team and the code.
"It's great for the game," he said. Great indeed, and while no one would pretend
that one day, one week and one parade constitute a war won, in combination they suggest a
major battle over. Yesterday the Swans were the city; that won't last, but they can
retreat to their corner of it knowing it's secure.
A little after 1 o'clock it was over. Barry Hall
disappeared inside relieved, you suspect, because partying like that for a week
takes its toll even on the big and the bad. But Brett Kirk
Buddhist, tough guy - lingered. He looked like he'd sign his name and smile all day if
they wanted him to. "It's a dream," he said.
After 72 years of nightmares, they'd surely earned that.
In a lavish event later (at the Hilton Hotel), Kirk finally
shook off his bridesmaid tag, having finished runner-up in 2003 to Adam Goodes,
and again finishing second to Barry Hall in 2004.
Kirk polled 575 votes to beat Hall, last year's Skilton
medallist, by 74 votes. Defender Craig Bolton, a quiet achiever on the
Swans list, was third, with the man who snapped the winning goal in the grand final, Amon
Buchanan, finishing fourth on 442 votes.
Kirk, who along with Hall is considered one of the two
leading candidates for the captaincy of the club in 2006, had yet another spectacular
season. He led the entire AFL in tackles with 136, and was sixth in the competition in
disposals (leading the Swans) with 570.
Jared Crouch was last night voted as the
inaugural winner of the Paul Roos Best Finals Player Award finishing with 119 votes over
the four weeks of the finals.
Swans Life Membership was awarded to Roos, 150-game players
Adam Goodes and Ben Mathews, director John Gerahty and
long-time reserves team manager Graeme Cox.
with MICHAEL COWLEY
Back to the Diary
|Swans still swimming against the tide
by Jenny McAsey and Nicole Jeffery
Saturday, October 1, 2005
ANOTHER grand final played 1000km from the MCG said volumes about how far Australian
football has come in Sydney and how far it has to go.
It was three weeks ago, at Henson Park in the inner-western suburb of Marrickville, the
venue for the Sydney AFL's under-18, reserve and first-grade grand finals.
under-age premiership was fought out between the Sydney Redbacks and St Ignatius College,
Riverview, the only GPS school in Sydney which offers the code as part of its regular
sports program and the alma mater of Swans premiership hero Leo Barry,
who boarded there during his secondary schooling (but before the code was on the school
Because there are no other private school teams to compete against, Riverview plays on
Saturdays in the NSW AFL's community-based club competition, and on September 10 it
reached the pinnacle.
While the code takes a back seat to rugby union at the school, several hundred students
came in a convoy of buses to support their mates in the big match.
At half-time, with their team well in front, dozens of boys jumped the fence with a
ball. But it wasn't a Sherrin. The kids had a rugby ball and began a game that ran the
length of the ground, throwing it back and forward in front of the AFL fans.
"It was symbolic," said Dale Holmes, general manager of the
AFL NSW-ACT and the man who will have hands-on responsibility for overseeing the code's
development in the wake of the Swans' breath-taking victory.
"What it said is, 'yes, we've got them to our game, it is great to see St Ignatius
College involved in our community club football environment, but here are the hurdles and
challenges that we still have because there is a strong rugby culture'.
"That was a nice juxtaposition of where we are at."
Riverview is a beacon of hope for the AFL in NSW, and Sydney in particular, where the
game has not yet fully penetrated the school system, either private or public.
In NSW and the ACT in 2004, there were only 64 primary school teams and 99 secondary
school teams, according to the AFL's annual report.
By contrast, even in Queensland there were 751 primary and 453 secondary school teams.
The number of children getting a taste of the sport in NSW through the AFL's junior
development program, Auskick, has expanded dramatically in recent years, but only a small
percentage are converted to play in community-based sides.
And the ones who do often fall by the wayside in their teenage years. One of the major
obstacles is that schools especially the private schools which are bastions of
rugby union have until now resisted adding Australian football to their
already-crowded programs even if some kids want it.
Take Will Langford, the son of Hawthorn champion and NSW-based AFL
commissioner, Chris Langford. Will is a talented Australian footy player
but plays compulsory sport rugby for his private school on Saturdays in
winter, then rushes off to play his game of choice for his local club, often not making it
It is a difficult trail blazed previously by Lewis Roberts-Thomson,
who was a member of the first XV at Sydney private school, Shore, before he converted to
AFL as a teenager and starred in the Swans' grand final win last Saturday.
But Roberts-Thomson's story is rare. In 2004, not one boy from NSW was taken by an AFL
club in the national draft. Holmes, who took up the NSW post last year, is working to
change that and feels as if some ground is finally being made.
This winter, for the first time, eight Sydney private schools St Ignatius,
Newington, Kings, Scots, St Aloysius, Knox, Trinity and Cranbrook fielded 16 teams
in a five-week program that ran during July and August and included a game at Telstra
Stadium before the Swans played Brisbane.
The round-robin competition was a small step, but Holmes is in discussions with the
private schools to expand the program next year. It could be scheduled at times, such as
Friday nights, that didn't interfere with their existing sports. Australian football, so
dominant elsewhere, still has to tread carefully in Sydney.
The private schools are the toughest nut to crack because of the history and the
culture. In effect AFL has been a no-go zone.
"These schools recognise there is a growing demand for the game and kids should
have the opportunity to play the game they love," Holmes said.
"In the school system, there is significant interest in AFL, and now with the
Swans winning the premiership it will be at the highest point ever. Our job is to take
that from being passive to active interest in the game.
"We won't get people who are entrenched in their existing sport. What we will get
is the swinging voter, where people are interested in looking at other sports."
Sydney Swans chairman Richard Colless harbours no illusions about the
fact that even after winning the premiership, the Swans played second fiddle in the news
in Sydney this week to tomorrow's rugby league grand final between Wests Tigers and North
"I get horrified when I hear people in Melbourne say the game is going to explode
here, because they don't understand," Colless said. "We are a minority sport
here a significant minority sport but we are not the main event in
Colless warned that the hardest work was still to be done if the Sydney Swans' success
was to convert to wider support for Australian football in NSW.
Even the pre-eminent code of rugby league doesn't take its support for granted.
"In a record-breaking year for our game, it's a nice reminder of how competitive
the Sydney market is," National Rugby League chief executive David Gallop
said of the threat posed by the Swans' grand final success. "I don't think we have
ever been complacent about the Swans or the rugby union or the A-League, and that's why we
continue to dominate."
Those who have spent years trying to preach the AFL religion in the league heartland
know better than to expect that one premiership will lead to a mass conversion. It has
taken 23 years of painstaking work for the Swans to reach this point and they still have
virtually no grassroots base to build on.
The AFL's national census shows that less than 3 per cent of people in New South Wales
aged between five and 39 play the game and the penetration is even lower in Sydney (1.6
Not even AFL rights-holder Network Ten is making bullish predictions about future
ratings despite attracting almost one million viewers in Sydney for the grand final.
"I think there will be a heightened awareness of the Swans next year," Ten's
general manager, sport, David White said. "But anyone who thinks
when they run on to the ground on the first Saturday next year that they will replicate
the ratings they had last weekend is living in la-la land. Our Saturday night ratings for
the Swans have been small."
The Swans were famously beaten up by SBS cooking show, The Iron Chef, in
prime-time ratings in June.
"It was only when they became grand final contenders that the audience started to
clamber on board," White said. "I think the biggest winner will be the Sydney
Swans, rather than AFL."
Sydney AFL officials are not even aiming to replicate the success of the Brisbane Lions
in establishing an AFL place in Queensland, because of the ferocious competitiveness of
the local market.
Colless regards himself as an optimist but 12 years pushing uphill in NSW has also made
him a realist.
"The Lions compete against one rugby league club; we compete against 12," he
"Winning the premiership is not a panacea. It's raised the profile and
strengthened the platform. Doors that were closed to us will open, which is a much better
position than we were in a few years ago, but that's not a guarantee of anything."
However, Colless believes that if the Swans and the AFL "work like never
before" in the next 12 months they can make inroads.
Mike Bushell, of Sports Marketing and Management, believes the Swans
have found a niche as Sydneysiders' "second favourite team".
"I think it has become an exclusive ticket, and it's the only unifying sporting
product that represents Sydney alone," he said.
"My gut tells me the supporter base will grow dramatically next year but success
will be needed to maintain it.
However, he warns that the Swans will have to keep winning, as the Brisbane Lions did,
to cement their place.
"Sydney likes winners," he said. "So it could come off that high if they
don't perform adequately. If they go down like Collingwood did, I don't think the Sydney
supporters will be as loyal as the Collingwood supporters."
If the champagne goes flat, the party could be over very quickly.
Back to the Diary
|Three days of tropical toil honours Broadbridge
by Dan Oakes
Phi Phi Island
Melbourne, Saturday, October 1, 2005 IT WAS when Trisha Broadbridge dedicated Phi Phi
Island's new education centre to "my late husband" that eyes began to mist up.
He was not just Troy Broadbridge, footballer, but also Troy James
Broadbridge, son, friend, soulmate and victim of the Boxing Day tsunami.
And few people could ever have had their lives so
You could have been excused for dismissing the trip to
Thailand by 34 Melbourne Football Club players as a gimmick, a contrived public relations
exercise to portray footballers, a breed not normally noted for civic-mindedness, as good
But what the Demons have achieved in the three days in
building a schoolhouse, teachers' quarters, toilet block and playground and landscaping a
dusty patch of land, has surprised many, including, you suspect, themselves.
In conditions combining 38-degree heat and strength-sapping
humidity, they have hammered, sawed, painted and lugged, more often than not in good
humour unless you count Brad Miller swearing at a hammer drill.
These Demons are no saints. They have whistled loudly and
appreciatively at bikini-clad women by the pool, told off-colour jokes and played hip-hop
at high volume. But it is unlikely that the village children, who now have access to the
sort of facilities they could only have dreamed about, would be too perturbed by that.
"I guess for us the season started on that Boxing Day
when we found out that Troy was missing, and then on the 28th we found out that he was
dead," Melbourne president Paul Gardner said yesterday at the education centre's
"That's a long time for young guys, and they are young
you forget how young they are really until you see them here and they do
what young guys do: do bombs in swimming pools and run around and take the mickey out of
each other. I think they'll be better people for it, although it's a hard way to learn
The Thai ambassador to Australia, Suchitra
Hiranprueck, described the building of the education centre as "humanity at
its best" as she sat watching children stream into the schoolhouse. Inside, on the
walls above the new computers, were letters from students at St Finbar's primary school in
East Brighton to the children of Phi Phi.
"Dear children from Phi Phi Island, we hope you like
your new things like pencils and other stuff," read one of the letters.
The education centre's newly installed teacher said it was
difficult for visitors to understand how important the centre was for local people, whose
livelihoods were seriously affected by the tsunami. "It's very overwhelming, what
Trisha has done for the school and the kids, because I think the kids around here are very
poor and have nothing at all," Pattara Naksalab said.
"For the kids, one, two or three years old, to be able
to come to the nursery and get looked after and learn English makes me happy. I want to
teach the kids to be good people."
Last night Trisha and the players held a private memorial
service on the spot Troy was dragged from Trisha's arms by a nine-metre wave.
But yesterday afternoon was a moment of celebration.
"Today is the happiest I've been since I lost
Troy," Trisha said.
"When the school was officially opened it felt like
when Troy said yes when we were exchanging our wedding vows. It does match up to that
Back to the Diary
|Swans get Kid gloves treatment
by Mike Sheahan
Melbourne, Monday, September 26, 2005
IN THE end, it was the most improbable result of all: Sydney and Andrew
Demetriou shared the last laugh.
The Swans won the flag with the lowest winning score since
1968, yet Demetriou tipped them in the AFL Record to win by four points. Spot on.
It may have been a grinding win, a
tribute more to commitment and self-belief than skill and flair, but beauty is in the eye
of the beholder.
The Grand Final and its climax was a magic moment in the
history of sport in Victoria, make that Australia, given where the premiership cup has
gone for the first time.
It wasn't an exhibition, yet it was a classic contest.
Gripping theatre that held more than 90,000 people at the MCG spellbound for the best part
of three hours.
The Paul Roos theme is simple: you play
one on one and aim to beat the other bloke more often than he beats you. Sydney has won
the flag kicking 40 goals in four matches.
The way the game is evolving is a cause for concern, but
that's a topic for another day.
The Sundance Kid, as Kevin Sheedy
christened Roos, is an extraordinary success story. So cool, so measured, so positive, so
assured, so smart, so mature.
Michael Willesee asked him about 2006 at
the club's premiership dinner on Saturday night. Sundance said it would be a disservice to
the huge achievements of 2005 to move on so quickly to next year.
He was, of course, absolutely right. The sense of
achievement, of joy and relief, of history, was palpable on Saturday night.
Sydney finally had an AFL flag, South Melbourne finally
shed the millstone of the longest wait in football history for a fourth flag.
The relocation from Lakeside Oval all the way to
Australia's biggest city, so emotional, so chaotic during the early 1980s, has had a
Skilton, Round, John, Goldsmith and Rantall, some of the
most famous names in South Melbourne's history, embraced the moment with all the emotion
and pride they would have shown had the Swans still been based in Melbourne.
Amazing to think the battling old Swans, who had played
(and lost) only two finals in 35 years in the VFL before moving to Sydney, have blossomed
into the champion team of the national competition.
Despite criticism from Demetriou and others from early in
the season, Roos held his nerve.
He set a structure and imposed a style that he, his support
team and, most important, his players adopted.
After starting the season with two wins from the first six
rounds, the Swans finished with 13 from 16 from Round 10.
Remarkably, after four hours' combat with West Coast in two
cities 22 days apart, the Swans and the Eagles finished dead-square with 123 points each.
Sadly for the Eagles, they won a qualifying final by four
points, the Swans the Grand Final by the same margin.
Both teams wasted chances to take a stranglehold on the
game, but the end result was the most enthralling playoff in years, perhaps ever.
West Coast kept coming and might have pinched it but for
the reckless abandon of Deniliquin's favourite son, Leo Barry.
Not for the first time, let me remind you Barry stands
185cm, yet he took a mark in a pack of eight in the dying seconds to save the Swans.
While Sydney's success is predicated on defence and minimal
risk, it is the audacious style of defenders Barry and Tadhg Kennelly
that is so vital to the success.
Michael Gardiner had a shocker for West
Coast, yet Gardiner had a 14cm and 15kg advantage on Barry and was seen pre-match as a
Roosy told 3AW 90 minutes before the game Barry was his
full-back and would go to the goalsquare for the opening bounce, standing whoever ended up
The coach also gave Lewis Roberts-Thomson
the task of playing centre half-back after a couple of shaky performances. LRT marked in
the hot spot early on and never looked back. He won't ever get to represent the Wallabies,
but he has lived a dream: the kid from one of Sydney's most exclusive schools who helped
win an AFL premiership.
In the end, it came down to the last play of the day. Barry
takes a mark most boys wouldn't even dare to dream, centimetres in front of 200cm Eagle Mark
Seaby, who found nothing but fresh air when his hands came together.
Seaby did nothing wrong in that contest, but close Grand
Finals are decided on heroics, and Barry did something that will be admired for as long as
football is played.
Back to the Diary
|Football's future defended
in a tight contest
by Tim Lane
Monday, September 26, 2005
The Swans' style
of play has its detractors, but it also has reaped rewards.
So Andrew Demetriou, like Allan Scott, was wrong. The
premiership coach inevitably has the last word. The Swans' method won them their
long-awaited premiership and only the worst curmudgeon would begrudge Paul Roos' team its
Over three seasons, they have been diligent, committed,
courageous and almost always admirable. This was a flag as well earned as any in living
If Demetriou was right in that it wasn't pretty, the
message from the grand final is that it's not Roos' problem. If there is an issue, it's
for Demetriou and his football brains-trust to work on.
What we got on Saturday was a modern-day classic. In fact,
we've been getting them right through this September, the month of the great goal famine.
The finals, the grand final in particular, inevitably provide a distillation of the modern
football product. On Saturday, we got a total of 15 goals. Not since a wet day in 1960 has
the season's climax yielded fewer.
The message of this month couldn't have been more emphatic.
Winning football is now first and foremost about defence. It's a game of defence all over
the ground. Twenty-two players rotating, working constantly, key forwards regularly
pushing up to the centre line and beyond, never giving an inch.
The Swans lost a final when they conceded 69 points on the
first weekend of the series and that was the highest score kicked against them in four
games. They themselves averaged only 10 goals per match on their way to a premiership.
While there has been much discussion about West Coast's lack of target forwards, the Swans
slowly strangled everyone in their path in this extraordinary four-week performance.
The season's best two teams kicked a total of 35 goals in
two matches. Not that they were alone in their frugality. Third-placed St Kilda, the
highest scoring team across the whole season, kicked only 19 goals in two finals.
This is the modern game and it has plenty of upside. Four
of the nine finals were decided by slim margins and others were gripping struggles. Most
importantly, this new game delivered the closest finale in nearly 30 years. After two
decades of regular anti-climactic blowouts on the big day, this was a relief almost as
joyful for the non-committed as was the outcome for supporters of the Bloods.
Cliffhanging finishes, such as the Swans' hair-raising
semi-final win over Geelong, compensate for a multitude of sins. No one talks of the fact
that St Kilda's win in 1966 was a game of many errors. It is remembered for its thrilling
Neither should Saturday's clash be remembered for its
errors. Mistakes were made and scoring opportunities lost by both teams, but that fact
spoke more of the unrelenting nature of the contest than of poor skills. The traffic was
at peak-hour volume all day, with little intervention from the policemen, and only the
best navigated and most technologically advanced machines could find a way through it.
Chris Judd's performance stood out because of the game's nature.
It is reasonable to ask, though, whether the Australian
game was intended to be about defence. Once, not long ago, we took pride in the fact that
ours was a game indicative of the national personality in that it was not restricted by an
offside rule and was based largely on attack. We usually refer to our goal as the one
we're attacking, not the one we're defending.
Saturday's game stands as a landmark of change. Fifteen
goals were scored in two hours in perfect conditions. While that still represents about
four times the scoring rate of an average soccer match, and at the last reports the
round-ball code was managing to survive, I suspect the public would become impatient were
this to be the norm across whole seasons.
A captivating triumph by the team from the nation's most
populous city is a triumph for the code. The manner of the victory is thought-provoking
for those who ponder the game's future.
Ultimately, Andrew Demetriou was wrong, but he is entitled
to go on believing that he was at least partly right. And that gives him something to
THE STRUGGLING EAGLES
West Coast's struggles to convert since round 14 this year:
Entries into forward 50: Average 51
a game (ranked 5th)
Marks in forward 50: Average 10.5 (15th)
Marks in forward 50 during three finals: 20
Goals from inside forward 50: 132 (15th)
Goals inside forward 50 during finals: 27
(Source: Prowess Sports)
Back to the Diary
|Brownlow night helps Swans see past Sydney
by Mark Fuller
Thursday, September 22, 2005
IT WAS not so much a
historic night as the night that Sydney re-acquainted itself with history.
The symbolism was powerful. For more than a decade after
the Swans had been transported from Lake Oval to the Sydney Cricket Ground, Sydney had
operated like a team without a past.
That changed in 1993, when the AFL puts its full weight
behind an enterprise that had foundered under private ownership.
Football legend Ron Barassi, a man whose name resonated
north of the Victorian border, agreed to coach the Swans, and Ron Joseph, a respected
administrator who oversaw the rise of North Melbourne in the 1970s, became chief
executive. Richard Colless, a former president of West Coast, replaced former AFL
administrator Alan Schwab as chairman after Schwab had died suddenly.
Joseph came to see that there was little sense of
connection between the Swans of Sydney and the Swans and Bloods of the old South Melbourne
that had spawned the new entity. What's more, he sensed that there was a passionate
groundswell of Swans supporters who were crying out for that connection to be made.
The breakthrough came at the end of a 1994 season in which
the Swans finished last with only four wins. Joseph had arranged the club's first Brownlow
Medal event, arranging for a television feed from Melbourne into the function at Randwick
The concept for the evening was "The night I won the
Brownlow", and Joseph had arranged for North's dual Brownlow medallist, Keith Greig,
to speak, among others.
More significantly, he had invited Bob Skilton, South
Melbourne's three-time Brownlow Medal winner and the club's enduring champion, to attend
"I rang Skilts and said if you could come it would be
fantastic," Joseph recalled yesterday. "He rang me back and said, 'Look, I
really love my Brownlow Medal night in Melbourne, and Marion and I like that and, look, I
won't come.' I said, 'It'd just be fantastic to have you.'
"Anyway, he rang me back in a couple of days and he
said, 'Look, I'll come up'."
Skilton was the special guest, but just as memorable for
Joseph was the roll-up of 600 Swans supporters.
"I marvelled at the crowd first, the crowd that
Australian football pulled to a Brownlow Medal night in Sydney. That was the first thing
that staggered me," he said. "No one had done it before and so we run this
Brownlow Medal night and the next thing we're packed to the rafters."
The Brownlow Medal function gave the Sydney faithful
most of whom Joseph believes were expats from Australian football states a
connection to the culture of the game. Skilton's appearance gave them a chance to express
their need for a connection with Swan history.
For Joseph, who had been a Bloods fan as a boy and had
idolised Skilton, the occasion was overwhelming.
"Skilts came up and when he was introduced to this
they just stood and cheered and clapped and clapped and clapped," Joseph
said. "I had tears in my eyes."
Joseph cannot recall the much of what Skilton said that
"I think I was wiping tears away from eyes all
night," he said. "As I remember it, I think he was stunned by the reception he
"It was almost like the count that was going on
Melbourne paled into insignificance when this triple Brownlow medallist from South
Melbourne got up at this function in Sydney."
It was night that still resonates with Skilton. For him, it
was confirmation at last that Sydney football people had a strong desire to feel a part of
the South Melbourne legacy.
"I don't think the Swans had ever just wanted to be
Sydney. I think they've wanted that history. I know at one stage there we felt it wasn't
so, but that was a misunderstanding, and I think that misunderstanding made the bonding
stronger," Skilton said.
He said he had always kept in contact with the new entity,
but said the involvement of South Melbourne people had improved with the influence of
"These days I know there's a more concerted effort to
make South Melbourne people realise that that's where the Swans started."
Back to the Diary
|Technical argument - quick decision
by Nikki Tugwell
The Daily Telegraph
Wednesday, September 21, 2005
BARRY Hall, dressed in a dark suit and club tie, arrived for the
tribunal hearing 45 minutes early flanked by his defence team headed by Melbourne criminal
lawyer Terry Forrest, QC, Swans general manager of football Andrew Ireland, the club's
information technology manager Anthony Cahill and player welfare manager Phil Mullins.
Hall was greeted by fans carrying "Free Barry, Let Him Play" signs outside the
The 6pm hearing started 10 minutes late and despite naming
the victim, St Kilda's Matt Maguire as a witness, Sydney informed the
tribunal that no witnesses would be called.
Representing the prosecution case against Hall was Will
Houghton, QC, who made it clear that the only issue in dispute was whether the
incident was behind play as the match review panel deemed or in play as the defence
Houghton showed television coverage of the incident first
and contended that Hall's action constituted behind play.
Hall's team showed two angles on the incident recorded by
two "iso-cameras" simultaneously by splitting the television screen and pointed
out that the whole drama took place over six to eight seconds.
Forrest argued that Hall was not off the ball, but trying
to put himself in play according to the AFL's own rules. He then demonstrated this by
tending into evidence the league's own Laws Of The Game Interpretations DVD.
Forrest argued that what Hall did to Maguire was the same
as the AFL's own example of what constituted "in play", namely, an incident
involving Essendon's Dean Rioli and Kangaroo Adam Simpson.
The example the AFL uses to demonstrate behind-play was the
incident in which
Collingwood's Brodie Holland king-hit
Sydney's Paul Williams at Telstra Stadium in 2003 in back play.
Forrest told the tribunal: "What he [Hall] did was
stupid but it was not Brodie Holland."
Sydney decided against challenging the charge that Hall's
conduct was reckless because if they failed on that point they would not have been able to
claim the 25 per cent penalty reduction for the early plea and, therefore, the key forward
would have still missed the Grand Final.
Following tribunal chairman David Jones'
summations and directions to the jury they retired and within four minutes they
unanimously agreed that Hall's offence occurred in play.
Back to the Diary
|Sydney's beginnings were boom and crash
by Steve Strevens
Friday, September 16, 2005
journey began long before the Swans. Steve Strevens remembers.
SYDNEY in the 1970s was a wonderful city in which to live.
I shared a house in Paddington, which in those days was home to gatherings of hippies,
where kaftans, beads and illegal substances were the norm.
It was a heady time the sun, the beaches, the pubs,
Then there was football.
I played for South Sydney. Although nowhere near as
successful as our rugby league counterparts, we were still the Rabbitohs, nonetheless.
An eclectic bunch, we attracted players who had stopped off
on the then traditional journey around Australia. A couple came from South Australia, a
few from the West and some from Tasmania. Most were from Victoria.
There was Peter Marks, who played for
Fitzroy reserves and whose other claim to fame was to be beaten at the post by Jean Louis
Ravelomanantsoa in the 1975 Stawell Gift.
Wayne Bruce, who we named Batman,
obviously, had played with South Melbourne reserves while Bob Hankinson,
our coach, had been at Collingwood.
As most games were played on Sundays, we would get together
on Saturday afternoons and watch the live telecast of the VFL match of the day from
The standard of Sydney footy was pretty good in those days.
Each club had VFL reserves players or some from the VFA. Indeed, the NSW team that was
made up predominantly of players from the Sydney league, beat the VFL seconds by 77 points
NSW was coached by former Richmond legend John
"Swooper" Northey, who had been recruited by Western Suburbs, a club
with the luxury of poker machines. Northey was a revelation, although a target for many
unscrupulous opponents, who pounded him at every opportunity.
Former Carlton star Mark Maclure was a
youngster at the time, having moved to Sydney with his father who was in the navy. Maclure
played at Eastern Suburbs, and remembers receiving a good grounding in the rugged football
environment. "They reckon it was as tough as the old VFA," he said this week.
There were many other identities. Sam Kekovich
coached Newtown in his inimitable style, as did Alan Joyce before taking
Hawthorn to a flag. Steve Rixon played for St George before saving his
hands for wicketkeeping.
Our games were played on grounds surrounded by proper
fences; with gates and turnstiles and old brick grandstands. Not that we had a huge
following, although grand finals were played in front of 12,000-strong crowds.
Maclure was right. Some games were brutal, especially those
against Balmain at Leichardt Oval. On one occasion, I was decked behind the play,
whereupon Mick Lumsden came rushing towards the culprit, dived over my
prostrate body and delivered his form of retribution.
An all-in brawl ensued, which included our president, the
one-legged Jack Armstrong, who hopped over the fence and charged as fast as he could
towards the fight, waving his crutches to anyone within range.
We reached the finals in 1974 and Inside Football
called us the Foreign Legion. One of our less well-credentialled recruits, football wise,
was Marty Rhone, who, after recording Denim and Lace, decided to
top off his career by playing with us. Marty played only seconds, but he certainly
attracted the women.
Then in the next few years, things began to change. South
Sydney folded, as did a few other clubs. The TV broadcasts moved to the middle of the
The Swans came in 1982 and we thought that with them would
come a renewal of the competition. Nothing much happened. Clubs still folded or
amalgamated and many of the grounds were rationalised. Trumper Park, home
to Easts, became inner-city parkland. West's ground, Picken Oval, had the
fences and changing rooms demolished. And Paddington changed dramatically. too.
The locals stayed but the rest of us moved back home to
states where footy was appreciated more.
But we never forgot those years; everyone's second team is
the Swans. Each time they play, we remember what it was like before them. We still hope
that Sydney will embrace football in general not only the Swans and that it
gains rather than loses more local following.
And in far-flung corners of the country tonight, no matter
who we barrack for, we will be urging the Swans to victory and smiling at our memories.
Back to the Diary
|TV blunders of our time
by Caroline Wilson
Sunday, September 11, 2005
Channel Nine no doubt will win the ratings in Melbourne this week, a victory it will
rightly use to justify the following, but for those of us who see that network and cricket
as inexorably entwined, it seems that these are strange times for television sport.
As Nine ploughs through another September with no AFL finals, it
must be relishing the approaching summer now that Test cricket seems to have been well and
truly resurrected by the best Ashes series in decades.
Certainly it was Channel Seven that owned the rights to
overseas Test cricket and it surprised no one that both networks turned their back on this
wonderful series, given that Foxtel already had the rights and neither was prepared to
take a risk on prime-time first sessions.
Nor could Nine have known when it dumped Shane Warne that
the leg spinner would cement his reputation as one of Australia's greatest sporting
leaders, as well as sportsmen - probably now second only to Don Bradman in terms of
Instead, this English summer of drama and intrigue and a
new sporting hero named Andrew Flintoff has belonged - in free-to-air terms - to SBS and a
coverage that has increased in both stature and lucrative commercial breaks as it
progressed. Fresh from its not-so-distant World Cup soccer coverage and Tour de France
triumphs, as great as the cricket has been for SBS, imagine how much better it would have
rated on Channel Nine.
Hard heads will argue convincingly that while free-to-air
networks might upset sports lovers and hurt their own production teams by
treating big live telecasts with contempt, the fact remains that it is only by ratings
they are judged. But the truth is that the Nine production teams that have lived Test
cricket for years will be gutted by not showing the 2005 Ashes.
Realists will also point to pay television. It is Foxtel's
role now to show English cricket's first sessions or British Open golf from the earliest
stages. But is it simply too romantic to yearn for the days when we watched the best
international and local sport for free and not $50 a month?
Television can do wonderful and dreadful things but where
sport is concerned, it is the blunders and contemptuous treatment by networks that anger
us like no others.
And we're not talking about the likes of Lou Richards
mocking the Collingwood theme song on World of Sport three decades ago.
Nor Channel Ten throwing in a commercial break two
Australian Grands Prix ago just as Mark Webber crashed his formula one car. Nor, as
tasteless and childish as it was, do we include Russell Robertson's Matthew Head joke on The
Footy Show last month.
We are talking about great TV sporting blunders of our
time. Here is a random top-10 selection in no particular order. Correspondence welcome.
1. The pronouncement in the early '90s to Sam Newman by his
former employer, then Channel Seven sporting chief Gary Fenton, that a prime-time football
program not televising a game of football would not work.
2. The Seven Network's annual $3.3 million offer to the VFL
at the end of 1986 the same amount as the previous year despite the introduction of
West Coast and Brisbane and, therefore, the true birth of the national competition in
Channels Nine and Ten as part of a "keep off
the grass" agreement refused to better that bid and the rights were sold to
Broadcom and onsold to the ABC. Seven, with new owner Christopher Skase, bought back the
rights after just one season.
3. Channel Two's rigged VFL barrel draw of 1987. Then
league chief executive Ross Oakley, encouraged by the ABC's Friday night football host
Drew Morphett, threw back the first two winning entries for an all-expenses-paid family
trip to the US and Canada because they were not Victorians and wedged a third envelope
into the side of the barrel to deliberately allow a Victorian to win.
Morphett, his producer and the VFL as a corporation were
all found guilty of rigging a raffle and placed on 12-month good behaviour bonds. Three
families were sent to the US by the league.
4. The National Basketball League seeking better
quality live prime-time coverage ends its agreement with Channel Seven in the early
'90s and moves to Channel Ten.
5. Channel Nine departs its cricket coverage for The
Price Is Right in July 2004, and misses Warne's equalling of the world wicket-taking
6. Several days later, Nine's British Open coverage of the
final day's play at Troon does not begin, as expected, at 10.45pm, with the network
instead scheduling an old Clint Eastwood movie. By the time the golf began after midnight,
the tournament leaders had played six holes. The programming decision was attacked in
Federal Parliament the following week.
7. Channel Seven, realising that AFL football shows can
work in prime time, poaches The Footy Show's executive producer Harvey Silver
along with former footballers Jason Dunstall and Doug Hawkins but not Eddie McGuire
or Sam Newman or Trevor Marmalade and launches the ill-fated Live And Kicking
8. Channel Nine and Channel Ten each pledge an annual $23
million an amount that rises incrementally each year to the AFL as part of a
five-year broadcasting agreement but the Nine deal leaves it without one match in
9. Cathy Freeman wins Olympic gold in Sydney and,
afterwards, makes an affectionate comment about her family and how happy they are despite
not being drunk and Channel Seven edits Freeman's words from the interview.
10. Ron Walker squeezes $60 million from the Nine Network
for the exclusive rights to the Melbourne 2006 Commonwealth Games, a move that infuriates
Nine's new boss Sam Chisholm.
Back to the Diary
|Prime time paybackby Elisabeth Sexton
Sydney Morning Herald
Saturday, September 10, 2005
WE ALL know a good courtroom stoush makes great
television drama. Sydney is about to discover whether a barney over television can make a
decent legal case.
The biggest names in media and telecommunications are
primed to begin airing grievances they have been nursing for years over football and
So much is at stake that the case, starting on Monday,
promises to be one of the most expensive in Australian history. Dozens of top barristers
and scores of solicitors are involved, a star of the London bar has moved to Sydney for
the duration, and heavyweight international academics, including a Nobel Prize-winning
economist, will be flown in to give expert evidence.
The largest hearing room in the Federal Court has been
remodelled and a super-size table has been installed. Retired judges who have made quiet
inquiries about reserving a seat to watch the circus have been told they will have to join
the hoi polloi in the upstairs public gallery.
When it's all over, control of the pay television industry
could change hands or the court could set new rules on how Australian football and rugby
league games are televised.
Then again, the case could turn out to be a record-breaking pursuit of a hopeless cause.
The West Australian entrepreneur Kerry Stokes has spent
almost five years and more than $50 million developing a lawsuit against many of his
traditional rivals in the media.
Stokes claims his Seven Network is the victim of collusion
to kill its pay television business, C7. He's just a sore loser, reply those on the
receiving end, which include News Corporation, Telstra, the Nine and Ten networks, Foxtel
But they are taking the case seriously. They have been
working for years to develop defences that their conduct was a legitimate pursuit of their
own commercial interests.
The lawsuit creates a new division in the ever-shifting
allegiances among Australia's media empires. It pits Stokes against Rupert Murdoch (whose
News Corp was a 15 per cent owner of Seven alongside Stokes until 1997) and Kerry Packer
(whose Publishing and Broadcasting backed Optus Vision, a staunch competitor of the
News-backed Foxtel in the early days of pay television).
The timing is significant, given that the Communications
Minister, Helen Coonan, is embarking on media industry reform which could lead to new
The case could directly influence that process, because
Coonan is insisting the industry present a unified view on what changes the Government
should make, which could be a stretch while the case is running.
On the other hand, political developments which put the
ownership of media empires in play could suddenly make it worth Seven's while to settle.
But many predictions that Stokes was just angling to be
paid to go away, or positioning Seven for future commercial deals, have been confounded so
The most recent speculation about an impending settlement
came in March when Seven teamed up with Ten - one of the parties it is suing - to bid for
the free-to-air Australian Football League rights from 2007-2011.
The case has a lot to do with football, because so much
money can be made by televising it in Australia.
Two pivotal events are negotiations held five years ago
over the rights to broadcast AFL from 2002 to 2006 and rugby league from 2001 to 2006.
Free-to-air AFL coverage switched from Seven (after 44
years) to Nine and Ten, while C7 lost the pay TV rights to Foxtel, which is jointly owned
by Telstra, News and Nine's parent, Publishing and Broadcasting. C7, which sold programs
to Optus and Austar, also failed to win the National Rugby League pay TV rights. It shut
down in March 2002.
The football organisations which sell the rights have been
dragged into the dispute, prompting the AFL chief executive, Andrew Demetriou, to warn his
16 clubs that the expected $7 million legal bill could affect spending on grassroots
The NRL chief executive, David Gallop, says it is
frustrating to be spending money on legal fees that could be directed to supporting the
While football fans might be interested in what Demetriou
and Gallop and their respective predecessors, Wayne Jackson and David Moffett, have to say
in the witness box, the case will also have something to offer those of a more
intellectual bent. At a preliminary hearing in July, the barrister John Sheahan, SC, for
Seven, said the expert evidence already exchanged between the parties raised conceptual
issues "at the very highest level of sophistication".
American academics retained by the two sides "raise
issues between themselves that have never been considered by an Australian court",
Sheahan said. He also mentioned that a single expert report filed by News Corp weighed 14
Seven's key expert witness will be Daniel McFadden, a
Californian professor who won the Nobel Prize for economics in 2000. He will be pitted
against the head of the economics department at Massachusetts Institute of Technology,
Professor S.P. Kothari.
McFadden's award (for his work on
"microeconomics", or the use of computer power to analyse economic decisions
made by individuals, households or firms) rated a mention in the football pages of the San
Francisco Chronicle. This might endear him to the judge hearing the Seven case, Ron
Sackville, who has already warned the parties he is "a devotee of AFL and have been
for all but the first five years of my life".
The legal fraternity will have its own version of a Nobel
laureate in the person of the London silk Jonathan Sumption, QC, who was hired to head
Seven's legal team in June when a leader of the Melbourne bar, Allan Myers, QC, fell ill.
Last seen defending the British Government in a shareholder
class action involving a failed rail privatisation, Sumption is regularly described in the
British press as one of the top two or three commercial barristers.
News of his retainer has been greeted in Australia by a
mixture of scepticism that no local could handle the case, anticipation of an impressive
performance and intense speculation about his fee scale, sign-on bonus and accommodation
Sumption's record suggests he will give as good as he gets.
After Britain's Guardian newspaper calculated that his 2001 income was equivalent
to that of "eight High Court judges and 69 refuse workers put together",
Sumption, who writes books on medieval history in his spare time, wrote a spirited
response in a letter to the editor.
Admitting to the "horrid crime" as accused, he
wrote that his clients were "hard-nosed professionals spending their own money, with
plenty of cheaper alternatives to choose from".
Stokes is not exactly spending his own money. He owns 43
per cent of the shares in Seven and the network is the litigant. But the single-mindedness
which has brought the unusual case to trial is widely attributed to his personal
doggedness. That could make him a hero to Seven's shareholders if he wins.
While detailed arguments are yet to come on how the alleged
damage to Seven should be calculated, figures of $600 million to $1.1 billion have been
mentioned in preliminary hearings. This could be a windfall equivalent to up to half the
current share price.
Seven's future earning power could also be enhanced if
Sackville not only agrees with its allegations, but grants the remedies it is seeking.
Seven is asking the court to give it more negotiating power
in future sport rights deals. More drastically, it also wants orders forcing News Corp and
Publishing and Broadcasting to sell out of Foxtel, giving C7 guaranteed access to Foxtel's
cable and banning Foxtel and Telstra from involvement in television programming.
The potential downside for Stokes is equally dramatic.
Seven spent $27 million on the case in the year to June, and has told shareholders to
expect a similar bill this financial year.
If Sackville decides that the loss of the football rights
was the result of robust corporate rivalry rather than commercial thuggery, Seven will not
only lose this $54 million but will have to pay its opponents' legal bills.
Stokes is expected to be the first witness, likely to be
called on Monday fortnight after opening addresses and preliminary skirmishes about
admissibility of evidence. Much will be riding on his performance.
AFL spends millions on its defence
Monday, September 12, 2005
The AFL finds itself in the bizarre situation of being
simultaneously wooed and sued by Channel Seven.
The network, with which the AFL had a cuddly relationship
for decades, has included the sport's governing body in its legal action, forcing it to
spend $7.5 million defending itself. These are millions that would otherwise go to clubs,
equal to $450,000 for each of the 16 clubs.
For a richer club a Collingwood, West Coast or
Adelaide - this money might be found on a president's car dashboard. For a struggler
a Carlton, Western Bulldogs or Kangaroos it is a lot of chook raffles.
For Seven, to be seen to be costing the game so much at a
time when it is trying to climb back into bed with the AFL is extraordinary. Seven is
about to make an offer, in concert with Channel Ten, to buy the rights to broadcast AFL
from 2007 to 2011. The last deal netted the AFL $450 million.
Seven holds the advantage of bidding last for the next
round of free-to-air broadcast rights although not the pay TV rights which
are up for renewal at the end of the 2006 season.
When Seven announced it would join Ten to jointly bid for
the rights, it was assumed within football circles that the network would drop the AFL
from the legal action. As both sides agree, the AFL was only incidental to the case. It
was the meat in the News Ltd-Channel Seven sandwich.
In essence, the case as it pertains to the AFL is this:
when the league awarded the last broadcast rights contract to a News Ltd-led consortium,
the effect was to reduce competition in the market and kill C7, Seven's pay TV business.
Channel Seven has not accused the AFL of acting improperly
in awarding the contract. It has not accused it of a lack of transparency; it is simply
alleging that the effect of awarding the contract was to reduce competition.
If, in the worst case for football, the court found
completely in Seven's favour, the AFL could find itself jointly liable for the $1100
million damages sought by Seven as compensation. Even a small contribution by the AFL to
such a payout could be catastrophic for some football clubs dependent on league largesse
What is of equal concern to sports administrators is not
only the immediate impost of lawyers' fees, or the threat of compensation, but the longer
term impact on their rights to negotiate.
Seven is seeking a court ruling about the way rights
negotiations are handled by sporting bodies in future. It wants an order requiring
sporting bodies such as the AFL to deal equally with all parties and forbid exclusivity.
Sports administrators fear that this could reduce their
bargaining position and the price.
Back to the Diary
|'Heading' for trouble in Showdown cityby Geoff McClure
Sporting Life, The Age
Tuesday, September 6, 2005
Malcolm Blight said on television on Sunday he
couldn't think of a bigger sports event to be staged in Adelaide, such is the anticipation
of a "showdown" final between the city's two AFL teams. Which is a scary enough
prospect for the fans of the clubs, Adelaide and Port Adelaide, but even more so if you're
caught in the middle of it all. People such as the football scribes, the most notable
being Michelangelo Rucci, the chief football writer at Adelaide's only daily newspaper, The
Rucci's problem, you see, is that well before his thoughts turned to journalism, he was a
diehard Port fan, a scar he has carried since the Power joined the league back in 1997,
even though he insists he has always tried to be equally as critical of Port as he is of
Adelaide, when and if they deserve it.
A scar? Well, consider the fact that when the two teams clashed in April, his car was
smashed by fans wielding steel bars outside AAMI Stadium, and that his parents also have
been subject to death threats. And then there was the campaign conducted on one of the big
footy websites, in which the paper's advertisers were urged to withdraw their support
until Rucci was sacked.
Rucci has remained stoic through it all, sometimes even giving as good as he gets, like
last Saturday night after the Crows had lost to St Kilda (meaning that a Crows-Port
semi-final was imminent). "We're coming to get you," bellowed a Crows fan, who
spotted him strolling across the ground. "Is that right?" replied the Tiser's
chief footy man. "Well, you had better be quick."
The papers themselves (and we're including the weekend rag, The Sunday Mail) are
generally much more circumspect in their treatment of their readers. Yesterday's Advertiser
front page carried a very unbiased "Ultimate Showdown" headline, complete with
equal-sized photographs of two of the teams' stars, Adelaide's Andrew McLeod and Port's
Brendon Lade, while the previous day, The Sunday Mail managed to find a way of
not upsetting its Crows readers even though they had just lost a final that most people
thought they should have won. After an early edition that forecast "civil war"
was looming, its main edition diverted to the much more trusted Adelaide axiom of
"never trash your own teams".
Under a strap heading of "Adelaide falls short - just", the banner headline
read: "A Hiccup."
Back to the Diary
|'Star' dogfight KB returns fireby Geoff McClure
Sporting Life, The Age
Friday, September 2, 2005
AND we thought that football award voting disputes
were limited only to the Brownlow Medal. What about the stoush that erupted yesterday
between Western Bulldogs coach Rodney Eade and former star Kevin Bartlett over the former
Richmond champion's assessment in the AFL Rising Star award of Doggie teenager Ryan
The 19-year-old South Australian finished second in the
award with 34 votes, nine behind the eventual winner Brett Deledio, but no thanks to
Bartlett, one of the nine judges, who was the only one not to have him in his top five, a
decision Eade said he was "amazed and gobsmacked" by.
"Here's a bloke who's meant to know a bit about
footy," thundered Eade. "Everyone said it was too close to call between the two
of them (Deledio and Griffen). I have no idea how Bartlett came to his decision to leave
Well, here's how, Bartlett hitting back at Eade yesterday,
and doing so with the help of a set of charts that not only appear to support his argument
but depending on how much importance you place on statistics, of course even
indicate that the other eight judges may have got their voting wrong.
The stats we speak of are respected stats firm ProWess'
personal Rising Star rankings, based on 17 different categories, from possessions, to
contested and uncontested kicks, right down to the "one percenters". The bottom
line is that not only did Griffen not finish in ProWess' top five, but he only narrowly
made the top 10, finishing ninth, with 652 points, 296 behind the top-placed Deledio.
"I think Griffen will be one day an outstanding
player, but in the context of this year I rated him sixth in the Rising Star," said
For the record, ProWess placed Griffen 13th in kicks,
eighth in handballs, 14th in contested-ball gets, 11th in uncontested-ball gets, 16th in
marks and 10th in tackles.
PROWESS' RISING STAR (rankings)
1. Brett Deledio (Rch) 948
2. Jed Adcock (Bri) 842
3. Brock McLean (Mel) 836
4. Kepler Bradley (Ess) 729
5. Justin Sherman (Bri) 688
6. David Mundy (Fre) 662, Jordan Lewis (Haw) 662
8. Anthony Corrie (Bri) 658
9. Ryan Griffen (WB) 652
10. Adam Selwood (WC) 647
Back to the Diary
|Ben Graham: Kickin' backby Mark Cannizzaro
New York Post
Monday, August 29, 2005
Ben Graham was taking in the
popular movie, "The Wedding Crashers," on Saturday night when he
noticed eight messages on his cell phone.
The news was good.
Graham's brave journey, uprooting his wife
and kids from Australia to come to America while attempting to make it in a foreign
professional sport was a success.
Graham, the 31-year-old former Australian
Football League player, is the Jets' punter, having beaten out NFL journeyman Micah Knorr
for the job with his strong left leg.
"I guess at this point now it's up to
me to do the job," Graham said. "(The preseason competition) was a lot different
from what I expected. Not knowing anything about it, once we got into a groove and the
first week was through, I realized the nature of it and how cut-throat it is."
One of the most critical parts to Graham's
development as an NFL punter has been learning how to hold on field goals and PATs.
"I learned early on how important
that was to earning the job and I decided I wasn't going to let that prevent me from
winning the job," Graham said. "The punting is something I've done for a while
now, but the holding is the thing that probably means the most to me ... It's an important
job and I've worked really hard on that aspect."
Asked what he feels the challenges for a rookie his age will be, Graham said:
"Whether you are a 23-year-old rookie or a 31-year-old rookie, I think It's the same.
I'm just trying to cut my teeth in this game.
"I was up against it in the
beginning. I had never produced any numbers in college. I had to make sure everything I
did from the minute I got off the plane was all the right things to be able to have them
put their trust in me to be able to do the job."
What the Jets did in choosing Graham for
the job is take a chance on a player with a lot of potential upside because of his
extraordinary strong leg. Graham is the seventh punter in coach Herman Edwards' five
years, so the Jets have never settled on a punter they were comfortable with.
Graham could become a true weapon.
"The thing we liked about (Graham) is
that he hasn't punted in a game yet where guys have handled his ball very well,"
Edwards said. "For some reason, every time he punts, guys drop the ball. We kind of
laugh at our guys and they see it every day. Our guys can't catch it. Our guys are tickled
to death on the sideline when he starts punting in a game. They say 'Watch.' They're
almost betting money that those guys aren't going to be able to handle it because it's a
tough punt, especially when ... it starts curving away from them."
Graham said he was close to finishing his
career in Australia anyway, which made this challenge so intriguing.
"My body was probably only one year
away from giving it up down there anyway," he said. "(Being a punter) is easier
on your body and you still feel a part of the team. You're coming on to help them out, try
to put the opponent's offense back as far as they can go."
Asked if he'll mix it up a little bit
physically in the punt coverage game, Graham said: "Absolutely. Every chance I get
during practice I jump in. I'm sure there'll be times I'll get an opportunity to get
amongst it. I've watched a lot of tape and I'll just keep my wits about me. Hopefully I
don't have to make a tackle. That's the key isn't it? You want them to make a fair
Asked what the biggest adjustment is from
his previous sport to the NFL, Graham said: "We play 120 minutes of non-stop
football. Here it's 60 minutes of stop and start football and it takes twice as long ...
You have to concentrate on your job and don't worry about anyone else here."
Back to the Diary
|Inquiry clears umpire Headby Matt Burgan
Sportal for afl.com.au
Friday, August 26, 2005
AFL field umpire Matthew Head has
been exonerated of any wrongdoing in the 'whispers in the sky' incident, which was alleged
to have occurred on a flight from Perth to Melbourne immediately following last Friday
night's Fremantle and St Kilda clash.
Channel Nine reporter Tony Jones had alleged that Head said,
"now we know what it feels like to have a win" after the match in which St Kilda
lost to Fremantle with a kick after the siren.
The match came in the wake of public comments earlier in the week by St Kilda coach Grant
Thomas critical of AFL umpires. The comments attracted a fine of $15,000 for
Thomas from the AFL.
An inquiry has found that Head did not make the comments alleged, but the investigator Allan
Roberts was also satisfied that Jones had "definitely not" lied.
The AFL commissioned the investigation on Monday night, and AFL football operations
manager Adrian Anderson said on Friday that he was satisfied the
investigation had been "thorough and comprehensive".
"I'm confident that every issue has been dealt with in depth and with a great deal of
professionalism and expertise," Anderson said.
Roberts, a former assistant commissioner of the Victoria Police, was assisted by Bill
Kneebone, a former Victoria Police detective senior sergeant and senior steward
of the greyhound racing control board.
"Where we have not been able to interview any persons, due to their identities not
being known or not being available, we have noted the transcripts from media monitoring
and taken those into account," Roberts said.
Roberts agreed that Head was cleared on the balance of probabilities, along with fellow
field umpires Brett Allan and Derek Woodcock.
Roberts made several findings as part of his investigation, including that
u The allegation that umpire Matthew Head stated "now we know
what it feels like to have a win" is not substantiated.
u In respect to an allegation or inference that umpires Brett Allen,
Matthew Head and Derek Woodcock acted inappropriately in either the St Kilda or Fremantle
dressing rooms prior to the match, has not been the subject of any complaint by the St.
Kilda Football Club and no further action has been taken.
u The allegation that all umpires were celebrating the win by the
Fremantle Football team after the game in the umpire's rooms is not supported by any
evidence. Our finding regarding this allegation is that all umpires are exonerated.
u The allegation that umpires Brett Allen and Matthew Head behaved
inappropriately in the Qantas Club Lounge Room at the Perth airport is not substantiated.
Based on all the available evidence both umpires are exonerated.
u The allegation that an umpire made reference to "20,000 and
four points" to (Channel Nine commentator) Eddie McGuire whilst
waiting in the line at the boarding gate of the Perth Airport is not substantiated. Umpire
Brett Allen corroborated the version given by McGuire that words to the effect, as
alleged, were said by some person. The evidence of a St. Kilda Football Club official that
Brett Allen made the comment directly to McGuire is not supported by any other person. As
umpire Matthew Head was delayed at the toilet, and later joined fellow umpire Brett Allen
in the line at the boarding gate it is possible, if not probable, that he was not in the
line when the comment 20,000 and four points was made. He did not hear any such comments.
Roberts also said that the investigation found that
'Jonathan from Brighton', who telephoned Triple M last Saturday supporting Jones'
account, had given a false identity and was in fact a Triple M and Channel
When asked in Friday's media conference whether Tony Jones had lied, Roberts said:
"My job is not to investigate Jones," Roberts said.
Head said he was disappointed with Jones' comments, because "it's my name that's up
"It's been an incredibly difficult week, being unable to defend myself against such
serious allegations. At no point, did I have any conversation with Tony Jones and the
comment that is now well known in the media was definitely not made by me. This is why
Brett Allan and I asked for this investigation," Head said.
"My biggest concern is the irreversible damage done to my reputation and the umpiring
fraternity in general. As has always been the case, the focus should only be on the game
and not umpires."
Anderson said Head had demonstrated "maturity" after being placed "under an
enormous amount of pressure".
"If there was ever a message we want to send to kids who want to be umpires, I don't
think we could find a better role model on professionalism and keeping your cool under
pressure than Matthew has this week," Anderson said.
Anderson said the attack on Head and Allan this week had been "unjustified and
"It has reinforced to the AFL that we must not tolerate officials of our game
denigrating our umpires," Anderson said.
Back to the Diary
|Open field in battle for the eightby Rohan Connolly
Monday, August 22, 2005
ONE week of the AFL home-and-away season left, three
spots in the final eight still up for grabs, and as many as a dozen teams left with some
chance of seeing September action.
That's the fascinating scenario as 22 rounds of AFL
football culminate this weekend in a thrilling climax that could have supporters all over
the country reach for their calculators as eagerly as their Footy Record.
In fact, with just eight of 176 scheduled games to go,
there are three races of sorts going on.
West Coast, on top of the AFL ladder since round four, is
starting to get the wobbles, having lost three of its past five games. It will lose the
minor premiership if it is beaten by second-placed Adelaide in Perth on Saturday.
The composition of the top four is settled, but positions
six, seven and eight are still very much undecided, with seven teams still scrapping it
out for them. Even 12th-placed Richmond is still a tiny chance after pinching victory in
the last minute yesterday over Hawthorn.
There's even a battle happening at the bottom of the ladder. Hawthorn, Collingwood and
Carlton can all still end up with the wooden spoon. But what normally would be a motivator
isn't the case this time. That's because if any of the Hawks, Magpies and Blues win, they
will forfeit a priority draft pick, granted for having won less than 25 per cent of their
The action starts on Friday night when the Western Bulldogs
attempt to pick up the percentage deficit on their rivals for a place in the eight with a
big win over Collingwood.
A truly "Super Saturday" will determine top spot,
between the Eagles and Crows, while the winner of the Port Adelaide-Fremantle clash will
make the eight, and the loser almost certainly miss out. And, unless Brisbane defeats St
Kilda at Telstra Dome, the Lions will miss an AFL finals series for the first time since
1998. The unknowns continue right up until 5 o'clock on Sunday afternoon, as all three of
the last scheduled home-and-away games this year have some sort of impact on the final
Five weeks ago West Coast was an unbackable premiership
favourite, sitting four games clear on top of the ladder. Three weeks ago a resurgent St
Kilda took over that mantle. But the Saints, having lost last Friday night after the siren
to Fremantle and devastated by injury they are without at least five key-position
players, have blown-out in the market, last night drifting from $3 to $5.25 to win the
Adelaide and West Coast are now joint premiership
favourites at $3.15, while Sydney's odds shortened significantly after its win over the
Kangaroos, coming in from $7 to $4.50.
Back to the Diary
|Memo coaches: you're out of boundsby Peter Schwab
Friday, August 18, 2005
HERE'S a suggestion for AFL coaches thinking of
commenting on umpires: don't.
What's to be gained other than the immediate satisfaction
of releasing some pent-up frustration that might or might not be warranted?
As a coach, I never made too many comments to players about
how they performed straight after a game in case my assessment was not accurate.
Same with trying to pass judgement on umpires in the
aftermath of the game. How would coaches really know how the umpires performed in a match
without a full review?
Besides, why waste your energy and focus on a factor in a
game that is beyond your control. The best approach to umpiring and one that seems
to have been adopted by Denis Pagan is to accept they will interpret the laws a
particular way and adapt to those interpretations.
Even if the umpires' performances are ordinary, all coaches
really do in publicly bagging them is give the game a negative focus and on a personal
level make themselves lighter in the pocket.
That's not to mention the impact AFL coaches' statements
have on the wider football community. Most AFL umpires could cope with increased scrutiny
and comment, but that's not the issue. The issue is this: if we allow open criticism and
demeaning views of the umpires, then it becomes open slather at every other level.
If being an umpire is seen as a position where no respect
for the role is given, then who would want to take it on? Games need to be officiated and
if we can't recruit people of ability to fulfil such a critical role, then the code will
I am not a subscriber to the view that because you have to
attend a news conference, you are compelled to answer every question put to you.
Coaches would be wise to direct questions about umpiring
back to the media. The media has a role to play in observing and analysing umpiring
standards and can do so free of any AFL sanctions. Nobody is saying such an integral part
of our game should be immune from criticism.
If coaches wish to be critical of AFL umpiring standards,
they should direct their concerns where it has the best chance of being acted upon and
that is to the AFL and its umpiring department.
Umpires, like players, should be held accountable for poor
performances and from my observations at AFL level they are. Performances below a standard
means they can be and are omitted for matches by the AFL umpiring department.
In my role as a radio commentator, my comments on umpiring
are quite simple: if they make a mistake I say so, but I have no desire to analyse them as
I do football players and teams. For the simple reason the game is about the participants
and that's where I prefer to maintain my focus.
Peter Schwab was the AFL's director of umpiring in
Back to the Diary
|Should coaches be able to criticise umpires?by Michael Gleeson and Greg Baum
Thursday, August 17, 2005
Umpires' decisions are as important in a game of football
as any player's kick, mark or handball. They, like those players' kicks, marks and
handballs, deserve open and honest scrutiny.
For a player or coach not to be able to talk about
something fundamental to what is occurring on the field is absurd.
To condemn those who dare critique umpires is as farcical
and pathetic as blaming umpires whenever your side loses
or as tiresome as the AFL
fining coaches for doing so.
Despite appearances at certain matches, football fans are
not stupid and deserve to be treated, like the umpires, with a degree of respect.
In the recent Collingwood-Fremantle game, which prompted Michael Malthouse's outburst on
umpiring, the role of the umpires and their adjudications were as much a factor in the
game as any of Matthew Pavlich's possessions.
This was not a media-contrived story. Fans gave a standing
ovation in the last quarter when a free kick was finally awarded to the Collingwood
full-forward. Admittedly it would be fraught to consider a Collingwood fan the arbiter of
permissible behaviour but it is equally inadvisable to ignore the obvious. Impartial
observers of that game from the TV commentary to the press box to the AFL umpiring
department's own review of the match felt the umpiring was poor and a significant
factor in the match.
The same fans are smart enough to know when coaches are
merely deflecting and when they have legitimate ground for grievance if they whine about
It is reasonable to argue that the threat of the fine that
hung over Malthouse for commenting on the umpires only incited the prickly coach to
embellish after the Fremantle game. In for a penny
in for $5000.
Is the answer to make all penalties so prohibitive? No one
is calling for open-slather weekly attacks on umpires or personal abuse but surely there
is a balance to be reached.
The breathless desperation to issue fines with parking
inspector officiousness only reinforces the perception of the homogenised football world
where the AFL is in authoritarian control.
In an ideal world, coaches would criticise umpires
from time to time in the media. In this ideal world, their criticisms would be infrequent,
temperate, coolly reasoned and impersonal, would prompt unhysterical debate about rules
and interpretations, and would be balanced periodically by praise for the umpires'
In this ideal world, the umpires would accept the
occasional criticism that came their way, knowing it was born of the passions of the game
and not meant to cause personal anguish. They would even sometimes admit that they had
In this perfect world, coaches would criticise umpires
without risk of inflaming the tempers of fans, who would see that venting their wrath at
umpires was part of the theatre, but nothing more. No prospective umpire would be
But football is not an ideal world. Coaches could not be
trusted always to be restrained and considered in their critiques, nor the rest of the
football community to react soberly. Soon, it would become a free-for-all in which blame
for every defeat would be laid at the feet of officials. Think of the Premier League.
Manchester United has not suffered a defeat in the past decade that in the view of
ever-sour Alex Ferguson was not down to incompetent or even biased refereeing.
In this real world, umpires would get their backs up,
naturally. In this real world, maddened fans would see a coach's barbs as strength to
their arm. In this real world, players, parents and watchers at all levels would see
umpires as fair game. In this real world, a siege mentality would exist that did nobody
I have been as frustrated by umpires and their decisions as
any other fan. But I still think it best for people in powerful places to say what they
must when the door is closed.
Or at least they should exercise the kangaroo diplomacy
that John Kennedy did one day while coaching North Melbourne. "Normally when I'm
asked about the umpires, I say: 'No comment'," he said. "Today, I say:
'Absolutely no comment whatsoever'."
Back to the Diary
|AFL v CEOsby Caroline Wilson
Sunday, August 7, 2005
The 16 men who run the AFL clubs are well aware of their
position in the pecking order each time they convene at the league's instigation at chief
Information is divulged but rarely debated to any
significant effect. Decisions are handed down, occasionally disputed but rarely changed.
At Thursday's meeting of the 16 clubs at Lancefield, it was reported that the club chief
executives voted to make alternative strips compulsory.
Hardly. There was no vote. Simply those rebel clubs
sticking to their traditional jumpers were told to comply. End of story.
Still the debates are lively enough and the AFL's
relatively new chief executive Andrew Demetriou has spiced things up a little, too. At one
recent club retreat, the 16 chief executives were asked to write down three little-known
facts about themselves, place them in a hat and get everyone guessing which fact belonged
to which chief executive.
Who would have guessed, for example, that Geelong boss
Brian Cook was a one-time Golden Gloves boxing contender? Or that Kangaroos chief Geoff
Walsh had played on the MCG on the last Saturday in September although not in the
But no degree of convivial post-meeting entertainment has
diluted the fact that the clubs fear that while they have lost much of their power, others
are gaining it. Three days ago, the increasing influence of player managers was raised
again as a topic of discussion.
Not only have the players and their association become
increasingly well-paid stakeholders of the professional game, but player agents, some
clubs fear, are forging stronger relationships with their players than the clubs
According to Thursday's debate, while most player managers
charge between three and five per cent of their clients' contracts, a handful of agents
are taking as much as 20 per cent of their star footballers' marketing money.
But while that issue provoked some emotion, as did the
funding of the AFL's planned apprenticeship scheme involving Sydney teenagers and
youngsters from overseas, the most heated debate centred around football's hottest
on-field topic the protection, or lack thereof, of ball players.
No sooner had the league's football operations manager
Adrian Anderson completed his report regarding umpiring performances in 2005 and the work
of the new reporting and tribunal system, than he was challenged.
When Anderson, who had already confirmed that the tribunal
system would be reviewed and fine-tuned at the end of the season, provided positive
statistics regarding the umpires' performance this year, they were immediately disputed by
Adelaide chief executive Steven Trigg.
Trigg, we are told, delivered a passionate and articulate
attack on the umpiring interpretations that have also been analysed and found wanting this
week by Age columnists Tim Watson and Tim Lane and, more controversially, seized
by Mick Malthouse in a post-match interview last Sunday.
Malthouse put the spotlight on Shane Parker's close but
unpoliced attention on Chris Tarrant. The coach did the cause of umpiring no favours and
was fined $5000. Malthouse claimed he had become the victim of a police state while the
umpiring fraternity felt he escaped lightly. Collingwood and Malthouse critics branded him
The Magpies' fraternity is understood to have become
equally agitated early in the game when James Clement rendered Matthew Pavlich's shoulders
out of action. Believing Clement had given away a certain free and goal, they could not
believe their eyes when the vice-captain got away with chopping the Docker's arms.
As a result of Trigg's refusal to accept the AFL's
statistics, a dramatic debate ensued regarding the umpires' increasing trend to award free
kicks against ball carriers disturbingly when they were prone or kneeling. Trigg
said it would turn people off the game, that the entertainment value was being closed down
by the tacklers and the AFL umpiring department's determination to favour them.
Significantly, three of the AFL's most experienced chief
executives chimed in supporting Trigg Cook, Greg Swann (Collingwood) and Peter
Jackson (Essendon). And at least two club chief executives spoke privately to Anderson
last week urging him to instruct umpires director Jeff Gieschen to move in favour of the
Demetriou himself even raised the possibility on Thursday
of a fourth umpire something the AFL trialled over the pre-season placed on
the ground specifically to keep an eye on off-the-ball incidents.
If Malthouse was applauded for providing food for thought
after the Fremantle loss seven days ago, then Adelaide's Trigg whose club has no
reason to whinge at present has done his bit as well. The chorus directed towards
the AFL has become deafening.
Back to the Diary
|AFL pay packets revealedby George Lekakis
Herald Sun, Business Daily
Friday, July 29, 2005
AFL supremo Andrew Demetriou was paid
$560,000 in his first full year at the helm of the country's biggest sporting competition,
slightly less than the reported package of $600,000 on his appointment in 2003.
Details of Mr Demetriou's pay were disclosed in notes to the AFL's 2004 financial accounts
lodged with financial regulators this month.
While the National Rugby League and National Basketball League have not disclosed
directors' salaries, Mr Demetriou's pay compares favourably with the boss of the
Australian Rugby Union, Gary Flowers.
Mr Flowers earned about $310,000 in calendar 2004.
The AFL accounts also reveal that former chief executive Wayne Jackson walked away with
at least $800,000 in 2003.
Also buried in the notes is a disclosure on the value of business between the AFL and a
company associated with its chairman, Ron Evans.
According to the disclosure, the AFL paid $663,575 to Spotless Group, a company in
which Mr Evans is a shareholder and director.
The AFL directors stated in the accounts that the payments were made to Spotless for
providing catering services at several venues.
"All dealings with the firm are in the ordinary course of business and on normal
commercial terms and conditions," the AFL stated.
While AFL directors are among the highest-profile business people in the country, their
average annual fees are not that hefty at about $20,000.
They appear to be in line with most ASX-listed companies that generate annual revenue
of $200 million.
Non-executive directors at similar-sized companies receive fees of up to $40,000.
At Cricket Australia, not all directors are paid, but those who are receive up to
The AFL passed the $200 million revenue milestone for the first time in the 12 months
to October 2004, but its net earnings dipped by more than 20 per cent to $3.36 million.
In 2003 it posted a profit of $4.95 million.
The recent growth of the AFL in terms of revenue has established it as a top-500
company in Australia.
But unlike most corporates, its net profit is exempt from tax, because much of its
revenue is distributed to the 16 AFL clubs and state football associations in the form of
Partly as a result of this relief from a nominal company tax rate of 30 per cent, the
AFL balance sheet is very healthy, boasting accumulated profits of more than $45 million.
Speculation that the AFL may seek a share market listing by 2010 continues to simmer,
despite comments by Mr Demetriou that the board would not embrace such a proposal.
Back to the Diary
|MCC targets Anzac Dayby Caroline Wilson
Friday, July 29, 2005
Having achieved a historic agreement
with the AFL, the MCG has also revealed that the stadium is working towards hosting the
2006 Anzac Day clash between Collingwood and Essendon.
MCC general manager Stephen Gough is understood to have
told both clubs that the ground could be ready for the round-four April 25 clash, contrary
to conventional wisdom that the game would be played at Telstra Dome because of
Commonwealth Games issues.
While the AFL had believed that it could not schedule
football games at the ground until round seven because of the refurbishment of the MCG and
the removal of the running track after the Games, Gough and his deputy Trevor Dohnt now
believe the work could be hastened to allow the re-opening of the football venue for the
traditional blockbuster that falls on a Tuesday next year.
The AFL is understood to have put its 2006 draw on hold,
awaiting confirmation from the MCG. While the issue was not raised during the peace talks
two days ago, AFL chief executive Andrew Demetriou and his deputy in charge of next year's
draw, Ben Buckley, have indicated they would happily switch the Collingwood-Essendon game
back to the MCG should the issue be clarified by early next month.
In the meantime, it appeared last night that the feud
between the AFL and its traditional football home that has lingered for half-a-century has
moved towards a genuine resolution.
Having relinquished its contractual right to a preliminary final every year in the
interest of fairness to all 16 clubs and the spirit of the national game, the MCG has
received in return:
u minimum 45 home-and-away games each season - four more than Telstra
Dome's guaranteed 41;
u ten of the best 12 home-and-away games;
u 14 Collingwood games a year;
u the capacity to host blockbusters from other football codes such as
the Bledisloe Cup;
u an average minimum of 10 finals in five years over weeks one and
two of September;
u the guaranteed right to every preliminary final played in Victoria
as well as the grand final every year until 2032.
Having initially requested eight of the 22 Friday night
games and a virtual guarantee that the MCG would get bigger annual home-and-away
attendances than Telstra Dome, the MCC and MCG Trust gave ground on both requests, instead
demanding a five-year review of the deal achieved yesterday.
Remarkably, the sticking point centred upon the wording of
the MCG's guaranteed crowd figure in the deal signed again in 2001, which stated that the
AFL would use its "best endeavours" to achieve an annual attendance of 1.7
million and "reasonable endeavours" to lift that minimum to 2.1 million.
MCG Trust chairman John Wylie wanted the AFL to change the
wording from "reasonable" to "best". The AFL said no and on Wednesday
night Wylie is understood to have eventually backed down.
The AFL reasoned and the stadium accepted that with 10 of
the best 12 home-and-away games and a minimum 45 matches along with the grand final and a
minimum average two finals over weeks one and two each September, that the 2.1 million
figure should be achieved anyway.
Certainly, if the 2005 season is anything to go by, there
will be no worries with crowds. The MCG still has a reduced capacity and was hampered by a
punishing AFL draw and yet, even if it misses out on hosting preliminary finals, the
stadium should still come close to achieving a total attendance of about 2 million.
Back to the Diary
|Negotiations back on trackby Chip Le Grand
Thursday, July 28, 2005
attempts to remove its preliminary-final impasse before this year's finals series appear
back on track after AFL commission chairman Ron Evans and MCC Trust chairman John Wylie
last night declared they had reached the "semblance of an agreement".
No deal has been done and as the AFL's long-term contract with the MCC stands, at least
one preliminary final will have to be played at the MCG this year.
But in a significant turnaround from 12 days ago, when
negotiations dissolved into acrimony, Evans predicted a new agreement could be finalised
as early as next week.
Wylie confirmed that the parties were "close to an
Wylie's conciliatory remark was in stark contrast to his
comments before a two-hour meeting with Evans and AFL chief executive Andrew Demetriou,
when he said "substantive" issues remained in the way of a new agreement between
the league and its premier venue.
Heading into the meeting at Evans' Queen Street office,
Wylie confirmed reports in Tuesday's The Australian which revealed a breakdown in
negotiations between the parties at their previous meeting.
Although Wylie insisted the MCC was re-entering
negotiations with an "open mind", he said "new issues" introduced by
the AFL at its last meeting had derailed the prospect of imminent agreement.
"I think there are a number of substantive issues that
we need to address head-on," Wylie said.
"We do understand if clubs earn the right to host a
home preliminary final they have a legitimate expectation there that in the context of a
national competition (that) needs to be dealt with.
"But we have got a contract and contracts can't just
be ignored, so we are trying to find a fair resolution for everybody."
Pointedly, Wylie said the MCC would only negotiate issues
which "relate purely to the preliminary final".
It is understood the previous negotiations broke down over
an ambit claim by the AFL for a share of ticketing and advertising revenues from the
ground throughout the season.
That claim was last night withdrawn by the AFL.
Asked whether the parties were closer to a resolution than
at the start of the year, Wylie said: "We have still got some significant issues to
knock over but the MCC Trust and the MCC are going into this on the basis that we are
trying to find a resolution."
The requirement that at least one preliminary final is
played every year at the MCG has again reared as the most contentious issue facing the AFL
as the finals approach.
For the first time, however, public pressure has fallen on
the AFL, rather than the MCC, to find a way around the contract.
Last year Brisbane was forced to play Geelong in a
preliminary final at the MCG despite the Lions having earned the right to a home final.
This year, it is Adelaide, Sydney and potentially Brisbane again who stand to be
disadvantaged by the contractual requirement, which was originally agreed to as part of
the financing arrangements for the MCG's Great Southern Stand.
This week, Adelaide chairman Bill Sanders, Crows chief
executive Steven Trigg, Sydney coach Paul Roos and Brisbane chairman Graeme Downie all
urged the AFL to fix the problem.
Adelaide refused to rule out future legal action if it was
denied the right to host a preliminary final at AAMI Stadium.
The 11 Victorian clubs benefit from the present arrangement
but are also pushing for uncompromised preliminary final scheduling.
Richmond coach Terry Wallace yesterday described the
contractual anomaly as "ludicrous".
"They just should be entitled to home finals, that is
it," Wallace said. "I just think the whole thing is ludicrous. To think that we
play a 22-round season and you finish in an entitled position, and to then have that
entitled position taken off you, I find that really ludicrous and the sooner it gets fixed
The Australian reported last month that the AFL and
MCC were close to settlement.
The parties had agreed in general terms to a new agreement
in which the MCC would give up its right to a preliminary final in exchange for more
regular-season games and a better mix of high-drawing matches at the ground.
"We are in a position where we want it fixed and it
should be early next week," MCC chairman David Jones said at the time.
"Resolution is in the air."
Any such feelings of goodwill evaporated when the AFL
approached the MCC with its new claim on MCG cash streams. A sense of resolution now
appears to have been restored, with the respective boards due to consider the proposed new
terms before next week's meeting.
Back to the Diary
|Clubs in line for hand-outsby Greg Denham
Wednesday, July 20, 2005
THE AFL commission has endorsed a
change next year in special assistance to financially disadvantaged clubs, which could
lead to an increase in base revenues for more Melbourne-based clubs.
The competitive balance fund - which this year funded the Western Bulldogs, Melbourne and
the Kangaroos with a combined $4million - ends this year.
It will be replaced by an on-going annual special distribution, which will start with a
$5.4m pool next year to be distributed to clubs eligible under a new formula.
This system will be reviewed after three years.
The funds will be given to eligible clubs monthly from next year, on top of the 2006
annual AFL dividend to clubs of about $4.33m each.
In changing the way special financial assistance is allocated, the AFL has tried not
only to implement a fairer equalisation program, but will eliminate the associated stigma
directed at the clubs that have been historically disadvantaged.
Criteria for eligibility is similar to the equalisation system, and clubs still will be
subject to competent management requirements.
The Bulldogs, Demons and Kangaroos will be first to benefit but other clubs, including
Richmond, could qualify.
Under the special distribution, it is understood the Bulldogs will receive not less
than their present $1.5m annual funding, while the Demons and the Kangaroos could received
on-going benefits of up to $1m each.
The formula is based on general guidelines of historical handicaps, especially to
Melbourne-based clubs, in a bid to stem the widening gap between the revenues generated by
the rich and poorer clubs.
Back to the Diary
|Australian pro makes change
from AFL to NFLby Meghan Gilmore
New York Jets
New York, Monday, June 27, 2005
At age 31, Ben Graham is
not your average rookie NFL football player. His age however, is only the beginning
of what makes him different. He is used to kicking a different textured ball on an
oval shaped field, wearing shorts and a sleeveless shirt in competition, and has the
ability to play any position on the field, the Australian football field that is.
Although this is the first time the Melbourne native will be playing NFL ball he is no
stranger to the game. Eight years ago, Graham got his first chance with the Jets and
decided to let it go.
In 1997 Eric Mangini, who was an assistant coach with the Jets and is now with the
Patriots, came to Australia to scout the AFL and showed interest in me, Graham said.
He basically said, We think youve got what it takes and we
would like you to come to come work out with us in July. But at that time I
had a contract and it was a timing issue.
Since 1997 I have shown a keen interest in the NFL and in the off-season I got used
to the different balls, learned the rules, and watched as many games as I could,
Graham continued. I even came over to the states and went to games, so its
been an eight year process.
Grahams continental relocation would not have been possible if he did not have a
strong background to build from. The 11-year professional football veteran started
his career early and continued playing well past the normal retirement age.
I got drafted at eighteen and I started my professional career straight out of
school, Graham said. The average AFL career ends by the age of 26, but I
played until I was 30. So, I had two options, take one more year in the AFL or
embark on a career in the NFL. My football career can take me from when Im 18
until who knows when
when Im in my forties. Its a risk I took, but
it was a journey I started in 1997 and I always knew I was going to do it.
Ending one career to begin a new one is always a risk, but the differences in these two
games make the transition an even bigger gamble. If anyone has seen an Aussie
football game they can understand the differences in the two styles. To the
unknowing, it is nothing like rugby, it is nothing like soccer and it is nothing like the
NFL. It is a combination of all three.
In Australian rules football every player has to do everything, Graham
explained. They have to run, they have to mark and they have to tackle. Here it is
The biggest adjustment I have had to make is not being able to do everything,
Graham continued. I want to go out there behind Chad Pennington and
learn how to throw the ball and I want to be beside Justin McCareins when
they are doing the wide receiver drills. I dont like just standing on the sidelines
watching, I want to be involved so I can learn and be challenged.
Even though Graham has not been able to learn much about other positions, he has
definitely had the chance to learn about his own. Changing from an AFL fullback to a
New York Jets punter has been a welcomed challenge.
When it comes to punting I had to learn the technique a little bit and refine it
from what I was used to, but its what I have been doing all my life, Graham said.
I get to catch a football and kick it. Thats what I love doing.
Evolving his raw kicking talent into something that can be used on the field may take some
time, but Graham already has the ability to punt the AFL ball known as a Sherrin for
more than 90 meters.
Having an understanding of what he is capable of is something that has helped Graham
become so successful. This understanding is also what has helped him make the
transition from AFL football fame to a fairly unknown NFL rookie.
You succeed in a football club when you know your place, Graham said. If
you come in with a big ego and a big attitude you wont make it, or you will get
knocked down so hard you wont be able to recover. If youre a humble guy,
you know your ability, and you are working with your strengths and you can identify your
weaknesses, you are much better off.
Despite his attempts to remain humble, Grahams obvious differences draw attention
wherever he goes. When a 64man with an Australian accent leaves
his home and travels thousands of miles in an attempt to fulfill an eight-year old NFL
dream, it is impossible to avoid inquisitive teammates.
They have been great, Graham said. Everyone is interested in Australia.
They all want to visit because they have heard so much about the beaches, the women and
the weather. They have shown so much interest in it and the accent, they like the accent.
When we talk they ask me, What do u call this? What do you call that?
The longer Graham is around the more he educates his fellow teammates on his home and his
culture. There is however, a slight confusion on some things.
In the weight room I hear good-day mate and Ill turn around thinking someone
is talking to me, but they are actually talking to another player. The funny thing is
people think I know everyone who is Australian. Kevin Mawae's little boy
thinks that Im best mates with Steve Irwin, Crocodile Hunter."
Back to the Diary
|Saints, Eddie make upby Mark Robinson
Melbourne, Tuesday, July 12, 2005
ST KILDA president Rod Butterss yesterday said he
regretted calling Channel 9, Eddie McGuire and Sam Newman terrorists after both parties
went some way to burying the hatchet at a meeting.
The 90-minute talk yesterday at Nine's headquarters in Richmond were held between
Butterss, Saints coach Grant Thomas, McGuire and Nine heavyweight Paul Waldron.
The meeting began 20 minutes late because Waldron, Nine's
managing director, was finishing a telephone conversation with the network's Sydney-based
boss, Sam Chisholm.
Despite a fiery start and handshakes at the end, it's not
known if Thomas will appear on The Footy Show.
The talks, initiated by Waldron on McGuire's request, were
hardly friendly from the outset.
Butterss and McGuire, who termed the talks "open and
frank", expressed their anger about the recent events between the club and the TV
Butterss last night called the talks "feisty".
However, both McGuire and Butterss said they ended peacefully.
"We had a very open and frank discussion. We were all
conscious of where everyone was coming from and we decided there was two things that could
happen here," McGuire said last night.
"St Kilda could go to war with Channel 9 or we work
out a way of going forward that is conducive to everyone's needs and that was the option
everyone has taken.
"In some areas we've agreed and in others we've agreed
to disagree, but we've all moved on."
Butterss said: "The hatchet has been buried. It
started out a bit feisty, mellowed in the middle, we went through the Valley of Death, we
came out the other side and we spent the last 40 minutes hugging."
The drama began a fortnight ago when Newman attended a
Thomas press conference and posed a range of questions, including some about Thomas's
Butterss responded on Sunday by accusing Nine and Newman of
ambushing the coach, calling them hijackers and terrorists.
He also likened Channel 9 owner Kerry Packer to the 20th
century Melbourne businessman John Wren, a well-known and colourful benefactor to the
Collingwood Football Club.
McGuire last night described Butterss' comments as
"more than slightly extreme" and was reluctant to comment about the Wren
"I think the reference was to a fictional character
called John West and that fictional character is not one I would draw comparison to,"
Butterss also apologised to McGuire and Waldron for his use
of the word terrorist.
"I regret that. That was a lack of judgment on my
part," Butterss said.
In the end, the Saints have agreed to make players, above
the contracted stars Aaron Hamill and Nick Riewoldt, available to appear on the show.
Thomas, who is yet to appear on The Footy Show, will
now speak directly with McGuire over issues.
Butterss said he didn't expect Thomas on the show in the
"That remains to be seen," he said.
"One of the things we agreed on was to see how it
goes. We've agreed to have a dance, but let's take it a step at a time.
"If things are going along in the right spirit then,
who knows, he might even go on.
"But that would take a little bit of time I would
Back to the Diary
|AFL to meet doping bodyby Jake Niall
Tuesday, July 5, 2005
The AFL will send a special delegation to the World
Anti-Doping Agency in a bid to find a way to come into line with the drug-testing body's
tough rules on illicit drugs.
AFL chief executive Andrew Demetriou said the AFL wanted to
become "WADA-compliant", and overcome the differences on marijuana sanctions
that will cost the AFL millions in Federal Government funding through the Australian
Demetriou yesterday told The Age the league was
trying to arrange a meeting with WADA, probably at its Montreal headquarters, in a bid to
outline its position and try and reach some accommodation. He said the AFL wanted to meet
WADA before the end of this football season.
The AFL has deprived itself of federal funding because it
cannot sign on to WADA's drug code. The AFL's only substantial difference with WADA is on
the issue of cannabis (marijuana), with the league opting for confidential counselling for
those who test positive rather than WADA's hefty suspensions for positive tests (in
The AFL has come under sustained attack for not adopting
the WADA drug code, with criticism from politicians and other sports and from some league
clubs, which believe the refusal to adopt WADA's rules has hurt football's image in the
community. The AFL's drug code was formed in a negotiation with the AFL Players
Association, which favours counselling rather than punitive action for cannabis.
Demetriou said the AFL intended to send a senior delegation that would include medical
commissioners Peter Harcourt and Harry Unglik - who framed the league's drugs policy - as
well as the AFL's legal counsel and probably football operations manager Adrian Anderson.
"We're trying to have a dialogue with them so they can
understand our position, hopefully in that we can try and become WADA-compliant. Our
objective is to become WADA-compliant," Demetriou said. "We want to become
WADA-compliant, but we certainly want to have constructive dialogue and get them to
understand our position."
The AFL would argue to WADA that it was compliant "in
nearly every aspect of what they're trying to do", with cannabis sanctions the only
"We want to give them an understanding of our illicit
drug policy and how we test for 44 weeks of the year, and how we go about the treatment of
the policy," said Demetriou, who expressed disappointment that the AFL had been
portrayed as soft on illicit drugs, given that it introduced a policy that had players
tested out of season, for 44 weeks.
The AFL also was in the process of arranging an
"imminent" meeting with the Federal Government. Demetriou said the Government
had "left the door open for continued dialogue" on the issue of the WADA code.
The AFL's drug code, however, cannot be changed in the
course of 2005, so if the league managed to adhere to WADA, this would not take effect
Demetriou said the AFL's recent 31 positive tests for
illicit drugs by players - of which 26 were for cannabis - were all found in
out-of-competition testing. The positive tests occurred as part of the AFL's
"monitoring" of illicit drugs, before it had established its present illicit
drugs regime. "The fact of the matter on the WADA, who don't test for out of
competition for illicit drugs, not one of those people would have been picked up."
Melbourne chairman Paul Gardner called the AFL's marijuana
stance "a PR disaster" that made it appear "elitist and above the
Back to the Diary
|Drugs impasse costs AFL $1.5m
AFL: "most vigilant of any sport"by Len Johnson
Friday, July 1, 2005
The AFL will not sign on to the World Anti-Doping Agency
accord as demanded by the Federal Government, meaning it will lose $570,000 in direct
federal funding and stands to lose another $1 million or more in other grants.
With Cricket Australia and the Australian Rugby League
signing on yesterday, the AFL is the only one of the country's three major professional
codes not adopting the WADA code. The league's position puts it at odds with several AFL
coaches and clubs.
"Unfortunately, this means that, as of tomorrow, the
Australian Government cannot provide funding (for the AFL)," the federal Sports
Minister, Senator Rod Kemp, said in a statement yesterday.
AFL chief executive Andrew Demetriou said
yesterday that the AFL believed it was "99 per cent WADA-compliant" now and that
its drug-testing regime was "probably the most vigilant of any sport in the world and
easily the most vigilant in this country".
Differences in the way the AFL believed testing for illicit
drugs, such as marijuana, should be conducted and positive tests dealt with, meant that
the league could not sign the agreement as demanded by the Government.
Demetriou said talks between the AFL, the Government and
the Australian Sports Commission had failed to resolve the differences. He said the AFL
could not agree with WADA's approach on illicit drugs which emphasised in-competition more
than out-of-competition testing, nor with its sanctions.
At a joint media conference yesterday also attended by AFL
football operations general manager Adrian Anderson and AFL medical commissioner Dr
Peter Harcourt, the differences appeared a matter of degree rather than of a more
fundamental nature. It would be fair to say, judging by the reaction at the conference,
they are difficult to explain.
Harcourt said the differences were "all about illicit
drugs". He said that in terms of performance-enhancing drugs, the AFL and WADA codes
were "exactly the same".
Back to the Diary
|Connolly faces Perth blowtorchby Collingwood coach
Friday, June 24, 2005
YOU never become entirely immune from the constant scrutiny
modern coaches attract, but stick around long enough and you get a bit of perspective.
There are high times and tough patches. Excessive praise and over-the-top criticism.
Things are never either as good or as terrible as the pundits claim.
All new coaches begin their careers starry-eyed. You've
just got the big job, you're young, enthusiastic and the possibilities seem endless.
Then, one day, it hits you. Things don't go well and you're
suddenly under pressure. You've never felt anything like it before. Everyone's on your
back and you begin to doubt whether you're up to the task.
Worse still, the trauma of your day job permeates your
whole life. The pressure doesn't end when you return home. Your wife and children often
feel even more aggrieved than you do.
In the past, these cycles seemed to spin a little slower.
Now you can find yourself in and out of the gun over a matter of weeks. Six games ago,
Collingwood travelled to Perth to play Fremantle and we were belted by almost 20 goals.
The Magpies came under enormous scrutiny and, while I generally try to avoid negative
stories, you know what's being said.
Back then Sydney was being lambasted for playing dull and
ineffective football. AFL chief Andrew Demetriou felt compelled to warn the Swans about
their responsibilities to the NSW market and coach Paul Roos was copping it.
As we've entered the break, the circle of life has turned.
Roos held his nerve, the Swans have started winning and, if they beat Collingwood tomorrow
night, Sydney will be fifth and a game from second.
Meanwhile, Dockers coach Chris Connolly has had the kind of
week most of us have nightmares about. When Fremantle belted Collingwood after just
beating Melbourne at the MCG, it seemed the Dockers were set to play finals.
Connolly was being praised for turning the side around by
playing positive, entertaining football. Since then, he's gone from Swiss chocolates to
half-sucked boiled lollies.
I won't offer advice to Fremantle about its recent slump,
but let me restate the golden rule of modern AFL football: A healthy side is a successful
side. Fremantle has lost several top players over the past month. As the competition
evens, no side can soak up this sort of pain without suffering consequences.
What many readers - and most coaches - won't understand is
the extraordinary amount of extra pressure that comes from coaching in Perth and Adelaide.
These are by far the most parochial markets in Australia. Coaches not regarded as part of
the furniture are treated much more harshly than local heroes.
I spent 10 years at West Coast but felt a section of the
public regarded me as "that Victorian". We made the finals each year, but that
didn't stop local pundits offering free and regular character assessments.
I'm sure Robert Shaw and Gary Ayres felt the same shifting
from Melbourne to coach Adelaide. Neil Craig is obviously an excellent appointment for the
Crows, but being a South Australian gives him an enormous advantage.
Connolly and his young family will be wondering what's hit
them. The row over Freo's form is overshadowing everything else in town, including the
Eagles' outstanding run of form.
That West Coast is so successful and its coach John
Worsfold is a football icon in the west only exacerbates Connolly's problems.
All 16 coaches are under intense pressure and you could
argue being responsible for a giant like Collingwood can be an added burden.
In my opinion, there's no comparison to the scrutiny you
endure in Perth and Adelaide.
I'm not grizzling about it. I had a wonderful decade in
Perth, made many friends and thoroughly enjoyed my job. I'd do it all again, despite those
pressures. I have no regrets at all about my time in Perth.
And I can assure Chris Connolly that you learn to live with
the pressure. It never goes away, but you eventually prioritise your life and shield your
family from the worst of it. Ultimately, your footy side has got to start winning - that's
just a given.
And when the wheel eventually turns, Connolly will be a
tougher, better coach for his recent experience.
Back to the Diary
|Australia rules in the battle of Britainby Adam McNicol
Sunday, June 19, 2005
Country Victorians are puzzling the locals in west
London by booting the Sherrin around the local grounds.
Many Melbourne-based football clubs have benefited from the
drain of young people out of rural Victoria. Amateur clubs such as University Blues and
Blacks have consistently built strong teams around boys from the bush, most of whom have
moved to the city for education or better employment prospects.
In recent weeks, the flood of talented players to Western
Australia has also come to prominence. However, Victorian country boys are now powering
clubs to premierships in some even more unlikely places.
Last year, the West London Wildcats won the British
Australian Rules Football League premiership, with a 10-goal thrashing of the Wimbledon
Hawks in the grand final.
Among the Wildcats' best players were centre half-back
Chris Schleter, who was a star for Hamilton Imperials before heading overseas, centre
half-forward Simon Dean, who started his career at Wangaratta Rovers, and Damien Stewart,
who coached Newlyn to the 2003 Central Highlands league premiership.
Continuing the trend, West London has started the new BARFL
season, which began in early May, with more than 20 country Victorians on its list.
They include onballer Sam Heffernan, who grew up in Terang
and last year coached Central Murray League club Lalbert, and defender Bernie Pedlow, who
played in Meeniyan-Dumbalk United's grand final loss to Tarwin in the Alberton league last
"I didn't even know anyone played footy over
here," said Pedlow. "I went for a run one day and saw some blokes kicking a red
ball. I thought, 'Is that rugby?' But then I realised they were kicking it properly."
Pedlow has been a regular at Wildcats training ever since.
Also playing his first season in Britain is Justin
McCallion, who won a premiership with Leongatha as a teenager, before being selected to
play for Channel Seven's reality TV club, the Hammerheads, where he won the best and
Even one of regional NSW's most famous names is represented
at West London, with Joel Daniher, whose father Mick is a first cousin of the famous
Essendon quartet, playing his second season at the club.
Continuing the country theme, club president Matt Glynn
hails from Benalla, while joint vice-president Ben Tatterson grew up in Mount Eliza on the
"Everyone goes home and talks about their experiences
in London and that's how people get to know about us," said joint vice-president Bob
Appleton, who has been in London since 2001. "Boys seem to come over with their boots
"I came over to get away from footy, but I got the
taste again and couldn't resist. So the gear was sent over and I'm still here."
West London was a foundation club of the BARFL when the
competition began in 1990. Renowned from the start for having a rough and ready band of
players, the Wildcats took little time to establish themselves as a force, making their
first grand final in 1992. But the two-point loss to the Wandsworth Demons began an ugly
trend. The Wildcats lost three grand finals in a row - one to Wandsworth and two to the
London Hawks - from 1994-96, then fell at the final hurdle again in 1999, when a goal just
before the final siren enabled Wandsworth to prevail by an agonising five points.
West London's reputation for choking in grand finals failed
to deter a record number of players signing up for the 2000 season. Subsequently, the
Wildcats formed a reserves team but as they had to play in the same division as the
seniors, the new side was branded the Shepherd's Bush Raiders.
The influx of talent had the desired on-field effect and
the Wildcats reached yet another grand final, after losing just one home-and-away match.
So seriously did they take their quest for an elusive flag,
star onballer Tim Ockleshaw, who had kicked eight goals in the second semi-final but was
now on holiday in Spain, was flown back to London for the grand final after a supporter
offered to pay for his ticket.
The victory over Wandsworth sparked weeks of celebration,
which included a trip to the Greek island of Corfu.
"We sank the cup in the Mediterranean a few
times," said Schleter, who is now a permanent resident of Britain.
In 2001, the BARFL introduced a reserves competition,
allowing the Raiders to flex their muscles against similar opposition.
With players continuing to sign up in droves, West London
formed a second reserves team, the Ealing Emus. The Emus have yet to make the finals but
such has been the Raiders' dominance that last year, they won their fourth premiership in
Things haven't gone quite as smoothly for the Wildcats.
They slipped down the ladder in 2001, then got another dose
of the Colliwobbles when they were thumped by North London in the 2002 grand final. In
2003, West London was undefeated going into the grand final but lost to Wandsworth by 15
points, taking its record to seven losses from eight grand finals.
Last year, the Wildcats regrouped and again marched through
the home-and-away season undefeated before thumping Wimbledon in the grand final.
The club's second premiership was celebrated with another
trip to Corfu. Such is the yearly turnover of players that Schleter was the only member of
the 2000 team to feature in the second flag. West London started this season with more
than 70 players on its list, allowing it to proudly proclaim the title of the biggest
Australian football club outside Australia. But why travel halfway around the world to
play footy and drink VB?
"The footy club becomes your community when you're
living in such a big city so far from home," said Tatterson. "A lot of people
think, 'Aren't you meant to be over here getting cultured and broadening your horizons?',
but everyone gets involved in the footy club for different reasons. You can use it as a
way to meet people or just to keep fit. Some blokes take the footy quite seriously and
others just come down for a social kick around.
"How many other footy clubs do you know that go on a
yearly trip to the running with the bulls in Pamplona or on an end-of-season trip to the
Greek Isles? And our pre-season trips are to Sweden and Denmark. Although you're playing
Aussie Rules, it is a lot different to home."
To boost their already growing membership, the Wildcats
also recently added six netball teams to their line-up. The girls chose to be known as the
Tatterson said finding facilities for the netballers had
been one of the club's easiest tasks when compared to the task of securing sports grounds
big enough to accommodate a game of Australian football during the English cricket season.
After tiring of the hefty fees charged by their former
landlord, Trailfinders Rugby Club in Ealing, the Wildcats have found a new home at
Chiswick Park, just a drop punt from the Thames.
"This is our fourth home ground and most of them have
been parks where we've just drawn some lines on the ground and put up goals,"
Chiswick Park's undulating turf sits directly under the
flight path to Heathrow Airport, where one plane lands every minute from early morning to
late night. The aircraft noise is almost constant during training and matches.
The rugby club that shares the park has proved most
hospitable, allowing the Wildcats to use its social facilities and profit from takings at
the bar. A West London Football Club honour board has also been constructed and will soon
hang proudly behind the beer fridge, which is always stocked with green cans.
Recruiting non-Australian players is another big challenge
for BARFL clubs. Current rules stipulate that for matches in the premiership division,
each team must have at least nine European Union players on the field at all times. The
rule is part of the BARFL's stated aim to one day have an Englishman playing in the AFL.
Schleter said the battle to find EU players and the rising
standard of the competition were the main reasons the team opened the new season with two
Now back on track after solid wins over the Sussex Swans
and Reading Kangaroos, the Wildcats have their eyes on another flag.
But first they have to overcome six other more than capable
football teams, some angry bulls in Spain and the festivities that go along with an Ashes
Such is the life of footballers on the other side of the
WEST LONDON FC
Competition British Australian Rules Football League
Home Ground Chiswick Rugby Football Club, Duke's Meadow
Guernsey Navy blue and white horizontal stripes with black stylised cat
Nickname The Wildcats
Premiership 2 - 2000, 2004
Sister Club Geelong FC
No.1 member Geelong footballer Cameron Ling
BARFL PREMIERSHIP DIVISION IN 2005
North London Lions
West London Wildcats
RECENT BARFL PREMIERSHIP DIVISION PREMIERS
2004 West London Wildcats
2003 Wandsworth Demons
2002 North London Lions
2001 North London Lions
2000 West London Wildcats
1999 Wandsworth Demons
1998 Wimbledon Hawks
1997 Wandsworth Demons
1996 London Hawks
1995 Wandsworth Demons
THE WHO'S WHO OF THE WEST LONDON WILDCATS
Matt "Mattress" Glynn (president)
An accountant who grew up in Benalla, Glynn has been a Wildcats devotee since arriving in
London in the mid-1990s. Now married to an Englishwoman, he has been a fixture on the
club's executive for some years and this season took over as president. Glynn is also such
a passionate cricket fan he spent his honeymoon watching the Australian tour of the West
Ross Giardina (coach)
Giardina arrived in London five days before the 2002 BARFL grand final. After watching the
Wildcats go down to North London, he soon found himself on the club's end of season trip
to Greece. While enjoying a few ales he was appointed coach and has remained in the
position ever since.
Back to the Diary
|Class-act Hall offloads captaincyby Jenny McAsey
Thursday, June 16, 2005
IF you play Australian football at St Ignatius College
Riverview, a bastion of rugby union, you risk being teased about being part of the
But that is not what the students of the prestigious Sydney college were yelling out to
Barry Hall yesterday as the burly Swans forward trained on their school oval.
They wouldn't dare.
Instead there were chants of "Bazza, Bazza,
Bazza" as Hall, the grizzly poster boy for the Swans who grew up in Broadford, a
blue-collar satellite suburb of Melbourne, went about his business with his more anonymous
Riverview is one of only an estimated two (yes two) private
schools in Sydney that even has Australian football goalposts, though to kick a goal
yesterday you first had to get the ball through the union posts also erected on the field.
Football might not take priority but Hall's popularity
transcends the overall standing of the code in Sydney.
So it was a little ironic that yesterday's one-off training
session before hundreds of Riverview students was also the setting for the announcement of
the next Swan to take the captaincy reins from Hall, who has been in charge for the past
Ben Mathews is as respected and admired within the Sydney
Swans as Hall is, but his public profile is at the opposite end of the spectrum.
That may change during the next few weeks as he gets his
turn as captain and leads the side for the showcase game against Collingwood at Telstra
Stadium on Saturday week and then against Richmond at the MCG the next round.
Coach Paul Roos said Mathews had been in good form,
evidenced last Sunday by his stopping job on Fremantle captain Peter Bell.
It was typical of the unselfish role Mathews so often
plays, either in defence or in the midfield.
He has been one of the Swans' most reliable players and
while, he has good foot and hand skills and can run and carry the ball, he most often
plays as a midfield tagger.
Roos said Mathews was one of the team's most important
"Benny has been in the top six in our best and fairest
for five or six seasons. He has been one of the most consistent Swans players over that
period," Roos said.
"He is not a flashy player but his standing within the
group is very high and his standing within the match committee is very high because we
often give him hard roles whether he plays on the quick small forward, or like he did on
Bell for the whole game last weekend. The players certainly appreciate his value to the
Mathews follows Brett Kirk, Leo Barry and Hall as captains
under the six-man rotational system, during which Sydney has won five of its six games.
Jude Bolton and Adam Goodes are next in line after Mathews.
Like Kirk and Barry, Mathews is a proud NSW boy, hailing
from a farm outside Corowa near the Victorian border.
He came to Sydney in the 1995 draft under the now defunct
zone selection system and made his debut in 1997.
Aged 26, he has played 145 games. He laughed yesterday when
asked by reporters whether he was a defender or midfielder. However, the question was a
reflection of the fact he always plays a role for the team, rather than a position.
Mathews said the captaincy was an honour and said he would
not be changing his low-profile ways.
"I don't think I'm going to be taking 14 marks and
kicking five goals," Mathews said. "But if I can continue doing whatever job it
is I need to do, whether it is a role on a player down back or in the midfield, I don't
really mind, whatever Roosy requires for the team.
"But hopefully I will bring the commitment and passion
that I show week to week ... playing 100per cent which I try to do every week and every
other guy does as well, and Leo and Barry and Kirky have done. So if I can follow in their
footsteps I will be happy."
Mathews said the main difference as captain was that he
would have to be first man on the field before the game. "I usually run out last
through the banner so that will change," he said.
Back to the Diary
|Ablett fame and painby Karen Lyon
Melbourne, Tuesday, June 7, 2005
Geelong's flawed superstar Gary Ablett said last night
that his continuing battle with depression was the reason he did not attend the gala AFL
Hall of Fame dinner. Ablett said, via a statement read out by his manager Michael Baker,
that he had stayed away on medical advice.
Baker said he had discussed the prepared speech on three
separate occasions yesterday with the champion footballer, who is in the Victorian town of
Kyabram, where he has been undergoing rehabilitation.
"It is with great regret and humble apology that I am
unable to attend this wonderful occasion," Ablett said in the statement.
"However, due to my current battle with depression, I am not in a position to be able
to accept this award in person.
"I did not make this decision lightly, but due to
medical advice it was deemed to be best for my health that I did not attend tonight."
It is believed the AFL is trying to convince the reclusive
superstar to be involved in a lap of honour before the start of the grand final.
Last year, it was reported that Ablett had asked to no
longer be considered for membership of the hall of fame, but Baker said he was "most
definitely" delighted to be part of the hall of fame.
In the statement, Ablett thanked the selection panel for deeming him worthy of the honour.
"It's a great honour and privilege to be inducted into the AFL Hall of Fame - I feel
blessed to have had the opportunity to play this great game and also to have played at the
elite level alongside so many celebrated champions.
"Being chosen to be inducted into the hall of fame is
one of the highest honours a player can dream of," Ablett said.
AFL chairman Ron Evans said last night the time was right
for the troubled figure to join football's pantheon of greats.
Eligible for entry into the hall of fame for the past four
years, Ablett has been overlooked by the selection committee - which Evans chairs
because of his part in the drug overdose death of Alisha Horan in 2000. Ablett was finally
nominated this year.
In his forthright opening speech, Evans said Ablett had
always been a "football genius, who has always been a troubled soul". While he
said the time was right, he did not say why, only that he hoped the honour would bring
Ablett back into the "football family".
"The best outcome to tonight's induction would be so
that it encourages Gary to reclaim his place in the football world and, in doing so,
confront and deal with some of the issues in his life. Gary Ablett, in doing so, would put
his demons to rest," Evans said.
Yesterday, Leigh Matthews, an original hall of fame legend
in 1996, threw his support behind Ablett's induction and used the biggest blot on his own
career to support the argument.
"On a personal note, there's one bloke in the hall of
fame who's been in the court on an assault charge . . . things happen, so I can't be a
hypocrite here," said Matthews in reference to his on-field clash with Geelong's
Neville Bruns in 1985, which left the Cat with a
Broken jaw and Matthews the centre of an off-field
"The criteria sounds good when you talk about
integrity and character, but you can be the best bloke in the world and if you don't play
footy really well, you're not going into the hall of fame - and I don't think you can
Ablett was joined by seven others in the hall of fame
Ian Nankervis, Paul Roos, Peter Moore, Kelvin Moore, Stuart Spencer, Stephen
Silvagni and South Australian administrator Max Basheer - while Collingwood's most famous
coach, Jock McHale, became the 19th legend of the game.
Evans said Ablett had deserved to be a member of the hall
of fame because of his brilliance as a player. "Over the years, we have overlooked
Gary for several years, despite the fact his playing record is an overwhelming endorsement
of his right to belong in this group," Evans said. "The reasons we did that are
to do with the off-field events that took place some years after Gary's playing career
Evans said he was delighted the selection of Ablett had won
widespread community support, although he accepted that people continued to disagree with
the former star's elevation into the group.
"We decided as a committee, and this has been broadly
supported by the responses I have read in the press, seen on television, and heard on the
radio, that the time was now right for Gary Ablett to be part of the hall of fame."
Evans was adamant last night that the AFL Commission would
not change its criteria. "I think the 'integrity' and 'character' criteria should
stay," he said. "We've applied that to the other inductees and other legends and
I think the results speak for themselves."
Matthews took a contrary view and said the hall of fame was
about on-field performance.
"When the hall of fame selection committee get
nominations, I bet what they get is information on the player's playing ability. I don't
think a private eye has done a personal dossier investigation of the guy's personal life
and his standing and his character."
with Peter Blucher
Back to the Diary
|McGuire: Swans on their ownby Tim Morrissey
Sydney, Friday, June 3, 2005
THE Sydney Swans are going to have to crash to the bottom
of the AFL ladder or pull off a couple of trades of the century if they want to build a
playing list capable of winning the flag.
Influential Collingwood president Eddie McGuire told The Daily
Telegraph yesterday that there was no way the other clubs would allow the AFL to give
the Swans priority picks and other unique concessions to ensure they remained competitive.
Sydney believe it could be suicidal for them to bottom out
for a few seasons, like St Kilda did, to secure some of the best young talent in the
national draft and rebuild their list.
"This is a football competition not a marketing
exercise and that's just bad luck," McGuire said. "And who says they can't
bottom out? They did in the late 1980s and went from wooden spoon to the  grand
"Collingwood went from the wooden spoon to the grand
final in two or three years. No one wants to bottom out. It's tough; just ask me about it.
We were on the bottom of the ladder for the first six weeks of the year; it's not
The Swans chief executive Myles Baron-Hay
and coach Paul Roos addressed AFL boss Andrew Demetriou
and his entire executive in Sydney on Tuesday during a day-long forum about the
difficulties the club faces in this market.
Roos believes it is vital that the Swans don't bottom out
and Demetriou has mentioned that there needs to be a radical change in philosophies and
structures including the national draft.
"Maybe we could finish on the bottom for one year but
if you do finish one year on the bottom it doesn't really guarantee you anything unless
you win less than five games and get an extra priority pick," Roos said.
"To finish bottom two or three years in a row ... it
would probably wipe the Swans off the sporting map in Sydney."
However, McGuire believes the Swans overestimate their
importance to AFL in the Sydney market.
"This stuff about Sydney being more important than
everyone else ... come on, that sounds like [George Orwell's] Animal Farm: some pigs are
more equal than others.
"'No' is the answer to that.
"We are a competition. I would suggest there wouldn't
be a great deal of support for [priority draft picks and other concessions].
"But I believe as much as possible Sydney and Brisbane
should keep Sydney and Brisbane players.
"Last year Sydney didn't draft anyone [out of Sydney]
and in the past years the Swans have cleared Sydney-based players like Greg Stafford and
passed on Lenny Hayes in the draft.
"You can't have it both ways. There is a wonderful
thing in football where everyone pushes up things based on morality and the good of the
code but self interest is never far from the thinking."
Back to the Diary
|AFL wants second Sydney sideby Michael Cowley
Melbourne, Wednesday, June 1, 2005
A second team in Sydney's western
suburbs and a premiership for the Swans were targets for the AFL as it tried to develop
the code in the rugby league-dominated market, league chief executive Andrew Demetriou
Demetriou was in Sydney after a difficult week for the
Swans in which they were again severely criticised for their "ugly" style of
play and after The Age revealed their game last Saturday night was out-rated at
times by a Japanese cooking program on SBS, The Iron Chef.
"We are in for the long haul and sometimes those
things can happen," said Demetriou before a day-long meeting with 35 AFL management
staff to discuss strategies for developing the NSW and Sydney markets over the next 10
"We've been very pleased overall with the sorts of
numbers we've been getting in crowds in Sydney and in particular with our television
"Probably not in my lifetime at the AFL but I'm sure
down the track I would be extremely surprised if there wasn't a presence in the western
suburbs of Sydney.
"It's a long-term plan. We want to get the Sydney Swans firing and maybe even winning
Despite the recent criticisms, Demetriou praised the Swans
for what they have achieved in the past 20 years.
"I think you are really being unfair to the
Swans," he said. "They are one of the biggest brands in this country, one of the
first-rate football clubs, turnover between $25 and $30 million, and this team has
achieved enormous things in 20 years and I wouldn't underestimate the impact the Swans
have had in this market.
"Back in 1998, when we had not one child participating
in Auskick (the AFL's school's program), to have 30-odd thousand now, in the space of
seven years, we are pretty proud of that, and to get more and more football grounds
popping up, to get average crowds coming to the SCG of nearly 30,000, to have games being
played out at Telstra Stadium, I don't reckon we've done too badly either."
Demetriou heavily criticised Sydney's style of play last
month, calling it "ugly". It caused friction with Swans' coach Paul Roos, but
the pair both said yesterday that the hatchet had been well and truly buried.
"We've spoken on the phone before today, and he
(Demetriou) and I got together for about half an hour before I spoke (at the
conference)," Roos said.
Ratings figures show that The Iron Chef peaked
with around 50,000 more viewers than the Swans' game in a 15-minute period between 8.45pm
and 9pm, which was during the half-time break in the game. Overall, the Swans game
averaged 133,000 viewers, compared with SBS averaging 86,000 for the same time period.
The ratings figures for Swans games this season show that
the Saturday night games on Channel 10 average 137,501, compared with 133,629 last season.
The one Saturday day game averaged 95,012, significantly down on previous seasons. Sunday
games on Channel Nine are averaging 121,500 and it has won the timeslot in each of the
four weeks the Swans have been shown live.
Back to the Diary
Time to examine bouncingby Jennifer Witham
Melbourne, Tuesday, May 24, 2005
Former AFL umpire Peter Cameron has echoed
the sentiments of Collingwood coach Mick Malthouse and Brisbane Lions coach Leigh Matthews
and says the rulings surrounding the bounce should be examined.
Cameron is in a strong position to pass judgement on the bounce, being a well-esteemed
member of the 200 game club, having officiated 306 games including three Grand Finals.
While Cameron is not a definite advocate for the complete abolishment of the bounce, he
would like to see a 'set bouncer' take to the field, to keep one of the few remaining
traditional aspects of the game intact.
But, using Magpie Chris Egan's goal on Saturday that stemmed from an
insufficient bounce as an example, Cameron does admit there is a problem with all umpires
being expected to slam the ball into the dirt adequately each week - and believes the
furore will keep potentially good umpires out of the game.
"When you look at a young guy like Mark Fraser who is possibly going
to be one of the better umpires around, the only thing that is holding him back is his
bouncing, that's all people remember about him from the weekend," Cameron said.
"I'm starting umpiring in the Yarra Ranges again this week, but I can't bounce,
simply because I'm past that. So if I have to bounce, I wouldn't be able to umpire. Why
take me away from giving something back to country football if I have to bounce?"
Cameron put forward the idea of having one umpire with the duty of bouncing in each game,
as a way of shifting pressure from umpires who struggle to launch the ball, enabling them
to concentrate more on decision making.
"I would like to see one designated bouncer, have one guy who bounces in the centre
at the start of every quarter, after every goal if you like, it doesnt matter,"
"The guys that worry about it because they know there is pressure on them to get it
right, nine times out of ten they will screw it up."
But, the former Grand Final umpire said the complete removal of the bounce would be
abolishing a traditional aspect that comes with a great deal of spectacular at the first
siren in each game.
"It can't go totally. I think that's tradition, on the basis that we have very little
left, the rules change all the time," he said.
"You go out and stand in front of 90,000 people, 14 million watching, and you're one
person with 18 blokes on both sides and you're in a Grand Final. I've been lucky enough to
do it a few times, and you put that ball up.
"I'm getting tingles now just thinking about it."
Peter Cameron will be umpiring in the E.J Whitten Legends Game, along with special-guest
umpire and former champion Phil Carman, to be played on Wednesday June 15, 2005, at
Back to the Diary
|Time to blow whistle on tagging cheats; Umpires are
making champions out of mediocre playersby WALLY FOREMAN
The Sunday Times
Perth, Sunday, May 22, 2005
TAGGING is not something with which
I've had a great deal of personal experience.
Opposition teams didn't see a need to attach a player to me during my illustrious career
with Collegians "F Troop". In fact, I remember one day when the opposition,
rather than tag me, allowed me to play as a spare man in attack. And I still didn't
trouble the scorers.
It was at this time that my mates gave me the nickname "The Judge", because I
spent most of the game on the bench.
But a lack of playing ability never diminished my love of the game that I consider to
be one of the most exhilarating and demanding sports of all. And a lifetime of watching
sport worldwide has left me in awe of the skill, courage and fitness displayed by current
AFL players in what is arguably the longest game in the world, played on the biggest field
in the world, at non-stop speed with a temperamental ball that has to be managed by hand
Whether it's Akermanis's ambidexterity, Judd's eel-like elusiveness, Robertson's aerial
awareness, Tredrea's dexterity at ground level or the wizardry of a host of Aboriginal
players, Australian football is, to me, just about the complete entertainment package.
But if there's one thing that I can't cope with in the game any longer it's umpires who
week in and week out allow players who aren't capable of winning the ball
fairly, on merit and within the rules, to cheat.
Umpires, who by their refusal to pay obvious free kicks, are making champions out of
mediocre players and reducing some of the most gifted players in the game to mediocrity.
Worse still, they're forcing the real champions to take matters into their own hands
with the dire consequences that we saw this week in the Judd case.
This is not just a West Australian thing. This time it was Judd; previously it's been
Akermanis, Kelly and Cousins. As soon as their teams become serious premiership threats it
will be Hodge, Ball and Ablett.
The methods and tactics employed by the likes of Steven Baker, and Anthony Franchina
and Tony Liberatore before them, are a blight on the game.
Standing face to face with your opponent, your back to the ball, is not an offence in
itself. But it's hardly the position to assume if you're going to attempt the most
important and basic fundamental of the game winning possession of the ball for your
Shepherding when the ball is more than 5m away is an offence, as are holding the man
when he doesn't have the ball and striking with the elbow.
The bottom line is players like Baker, Franchina and Liberatore aren't good enough to
be on the same ground as the champions that I've mentioned. Inept and incompetent umpiring
has legitimised a role for them.
I don't have a problem with players being used in a defensive role, as long as they
play within the rules and the spirit of the game.
Kirk, Ling and Licuria are outstanding players who not only reduce an opponent's
effectiveness but win the ball themselves. Lamb, Pyke, Anthony Stevens and Shaun Hart did
the same thing.
It's ironic that Kirk and Ling have been so good in both curbing and collecting that
they are now tagged themselves.
I don't know another game in which such flagrant abuse of the rules is tolerated.
Rugby, soccer, basketball, netball, hockey it just doesn't happen in such a blatant
manner as it does in Australian football.
Is that because the games are played on smaller grounds and the umpires are in closer
proximity? Or is it because specific rules such as offside and the forward pass make it
more difficult to hold and block? Or is it because coaches, players and umpires in other
sports take greater responsibility for upholding the spirit and image of their game? I
What I do know is that the rules are there in Australian football and the umpires could
do something about it if they wanted too. So why don't they?
I suspect they're too scared to because of directions they've been given in regard to
the style and flow of the game. If that's the case, they're not protecting the good
players the ball players and as a result, they're not protecting the game.
(I think my suspicion is supported by an aggregate of just 14 free kicks being paid in the
Essendon/Fremantle game last Sunday. There's never been a game of Australian football
played in which there were only 14 infringements.)
I've heard people say this week that Baker's tactics are "all part of the
game" and the treatment Judd received "goes with the territory of being a good
That's absurd. There's one set of rules under which all participants play. It's pretty
basic stuff. But at the moment we have one player permitted to play outside those rules
while his opponent is expected to operate within them. And if the latter goes outside the
rules out of frustration and inaction on the part of the umpire, he's the one who's deemed
to be the offender.
Since sport was first played, people have shown they'll go to extreme lengths to
destroy an outstanding opponent. Bodyline was an example of that. Perhaps Phar Lap's
demise was another. They had to go to the length of legislating against Bodyline to
protect the batsman and the game of cricket.
They don't need to do that in football. The legislation is there. They just need
umpires with the direction, the ability and the courage to pay free kicks. The Bakers of
this game would then very quickly become redundant.
Baker's contribution to the game and the code last weekend can only be measured in
negatives. His team was soundly beaten and his opponent, the best-and-fairest player in
the competition last season, has now been suspended for a week and disqualified from the
game's most prestigious award.
All because three umpires weren't prepared to apply the rules.
I've heard more than enough in the past two weeks about upholding the image of the
game. Whether it's about pill popping or selecting your friends more carefully, everyone
is concerned about the impact they might have on young players.
Well, this in-your-face tagging is another issue that could damage the game's image.
Junior coaches and young players are already adopting such tactics. I saw it last year in
a 12-year-olds' competition.
Wally Foreman is an ABC commentator and former director of the WA
Institute of Sport.
Back to the Diary
|The truth about drug use
in the AFL?Crikey
Melbourne, Friday, May 20, 2005
As debate rages about whether AFL players take
illegal drugs such as ecstasy and cocaine, an anonymous correspondent has his say:
I don't think the general public, let alone the AFL have any idea of how rife drug use is
in our society today. And add Caroline Wilson to that list. Carro is normally right on the
money, but her article in yesterday's Age was so far off the mark it made me want
to double-drop some disco biscuits and head down to the seediest club in town just to
clear my head. Clearly she and most other people in this debate have no idea what is
actually going on in our suburban bars and clubs. In fact the only bloke who would appear
to have half an idea (for a change) is Eddie.
I regularly head out to bars and clubs around the inner city and I don't mind having the
occasional dabble in some recreational drugs, namely cocaine and ecstasy. I'm certainly no
party animal but I'm not averse to a bender from time to time either, as are most of my
mates. So having used drugs a number of times, it's easy for one to spot others who are
also on drugs and also to sometimes cross paths within these bars and clubs with others
that want to buy or sell drugs. Therefore some of the things I am about to say might
surprise a few... while for those who socialise in similar circles to me, it will probably
come as no surprise.
1) Over the past three years, I have spent countless nights at a club in South Yarra
which, to be blunt, is a haven for pill-popping. I've lost count of how many times I saw
one senior Carlton player at this venue in the early hours of the morning, looking a
little worse for wear... and not as a result of alcohol. Now when you start to see this
same player at this venue time and time again, with pupils severely dilated, you have to
start asking questions. More often than not he was accompanied by a few of his team-mates
who were equally wired. Little surprise then, when Lawrence Angwin makes his accusation
about a couple of senior Carlton players "getting anything you want." Is it
really that far fetched? I don't think so. But then again, I am an occasional drug user
which probably deems my opinion and observations severely clouded and unreliable, just
2) I have a few mates who are current and past AFL players. Now as an example after
the grand final in 2002, I found myself sitting on a couch at a club in South Melbourne
with two current Crows players, a current Power player and a former Crows player. What did
we all have in common? We were all on ecstasy. Now personally I don't really see the
problem with this, because effectively it was the off-season for these guys. But it proves
the point that AFL players are just like anyone else in a bar and club and moreover, they
have the income to support the hobby!
3) This one was the biggest eye-opener for me: at that same South Yarra club two weekends
ago, a mate and I got chatting to two current AFL players around 3am. One of them is a
former captain and knows my mate quite well. The boys were out celebrating a big win the
previous day and were quite jovial. But you can imagine our surprise when the former
captain enquired as to whether we could get him "four or five pills?" Sounds
crazy? Well, I wouldn't have believed it myself unless I'd been standing there to hear it.
I have to say, I was quite shocked. Here were two of the club's best players looking to
buy drugs at 3am, seven rounds into the season proper!
I have a list the length of my arm of similar accounts that I've heard around the traps,
but at the end of the day I wasn't there on those occasions and so I am not going to
speculate as to the legitimacy of those stories. But I will say this Caroline
Wilson and the AFL can talk all they want about the stringent drug testing which is taking
place, but clearly something's amiss. Why would a respected AFL player with over 200 games
under his belt risk using drugs if there were such a strict drug-testing policy in place?
It certainly didn't deter him that night I met him. And if this extensive testing really
is happening, then surely there have been players caught out? So, Adrian Anderson, who are
these players? Why isn't the AFL naming names? Perhaps a little petrified at the damage
which it could cause to our great game?
Dale Lewis was shot down in flames when he estimated that 75% of AFL players have tried
recreational drugs. Sure, during the season proper the majority of players probably behave
themselves. But come the off-season, I'd say that 75% is being conservative. And for a
real eye-opener, tag along with one of the teams during the annual exhibition match in old
London town. It would appear that even the most disciplined players just cannot resist the
London clubbing scene and all it has to offer. They're all over it like seagulls at the
Back to the Diary
|Kids climb Peckers orderAAP, Fox Sports
by ASHLEY PORTER
Melbourne, Thursday, May 19, 2005
The Mallee Park football
club on Eyre Peninsula has done a little better than merely survive in its 25 years; it
has supplied the AFL with much talent. Ashley Porter reports.
Every night after school as many as 60 kids play what Jack
Johncock calls rough and ready on the Mallee Park Oval. There is one football, no teams,
no rules and the objective for the five-year-olds is not to get bashed.
So they learn how to dodge their 59 opponents. The
eight-year-olds work on quick disposals before they're tackled, and the 12-year-olds do
all of the above, plus kick the goals. But then they, too, get bruised when they train
with the A-grade side twice a week.
Then on Saturdays those five-year-olds play against kids
twice their age, and by the time they turn 12 they have played 100 games.
According to Johncock, it is why this amazing club at Port
Lincoln on South Australia's Eyre Peninsula has produced so many champions.
There are currently eight AFL-listed players from the Mallee Park Peckers - Jack's son,
Graham (Adelaide), Byron Pickett, Peter and Shaun Burgoyne, Elijah Ware (Port Adelaide),
Harry Miller (Hawthorn), Eddie Betts (Carlton) and Daniel Wells (Kangaroos).
Kevin Sheedy is celebrating his silver jubilee as a coach,
and it is 25 years since Mark Williams first played in the VFL/AFL, for Collingwood.
Coincidentally, Essendon and Port clash in this weekend's
AFL's community round at AAMI Stadium.
It is therefore fitting that Mallee Park, which has the
biggest AFL representation of any grassroots club in Australia, also celebrates its 25th
The Peckers have played in 18 of a possible 24 A-grade
grand finals for 11 premierships, missed the finals only once, and this year are top in
five of their six senior and junior grades. The under-11s have been top for the past 24
years, and have lost a total of five games in that time.
Johncock, the indigenous sports development officer for the
SA Department of Sport and Recreation on Eyre Peninsula, played a key role in Mallee
Park's development, was named its first life member, and, after being a former champion
A-grade player and coach, is still getting plenty of kicks in B-grade at the age of 45.
Yet, for all of Mallee Park's success, its swarm of kids
who all want to be the next Choppy Pickett or Graham Johncock, Jack says the club is not
just about winning trophies.
The kids can see that by being disciplined, working hard
and doing the right things in life, they can go on to be stars in the AFL, he said.
Every night, buses pick up kids as young as five from the
schools and bring them to the Gidja (kids) Club on the outer wing of Mallee Park Oval.
Volunteers make them sandwiches before they charge into rough and ready, where they are
taught finer skills by junior coaches such as Antonio Highfold and Devlin Walsh. Nobody
can go home until they have done their homework.
On this night, Graham Johncock, who is out of action for
six weeks with a broken leg, was among the observers. "This is where it all started
for me," he said. "We just wanted to play footy every day and night - that's all
we ever wanted to do."
Peter Burgoyne snr, executive officer at the Port Lincoln
Aboriginal Community Council, and father of Peter and Shaun, said Mallee Park had always
encouraged a true community environment, with whites and blacks joining together to play
football for the Peckers.
"Football is our life," Burgoyne said. "We
have a summer so we can look forward to football.
"The after-school program brings the kids together and
playing rough and ready every night prepares them for later . . . By the time they get to
the under 17s they are able to handle the intensity and they know what is required to be
successful. When they get to Adelaide, and play for the Port Adelaide Magpies, which have
been great to us, it's not a hard cultural shock.
"We have a good support base here. Everyone helps and
chips in for a common cause. We are like every other community whereby we focus on drug
and alcohol issues, and we see football and other sports as a way of keeping our kids on
the right track."
Jack Johncock said some players escape the AFL net.
"The greatest player this club has ever produced was Fabian Davey, who on one day in
the '80s kicked 11 goals from centre in a second semi-final," he added.
"Fabian had a good offer from Essendon, but didn't
take it. Now he's settled down and playing for South Augusta in the twilight of his
"He's happy. Byron's brother, Marcus, is another who
let his chance go, because after having a trial game with Essendon, he felt he couldn't
hack the city.
"As good as they may be, some players just aren't
destined for the AFL. A lot depends on whether their family structure is strong. If there
is no support, they struggle. The community as a whole can only do so much - a kid's life
starts at home.
"Our kids look forward to their footy because they
know they have somewhere to go, and they can mix with their family and friends. They see
the photos of the AFL boys on the wall, and they know they can do something with their
Back to the Diary
|Footy risks rise: studyAAP, Fox
Thursday, May 19, 2005
AFL players face an increasing risk of serious
collisions, according to the latest research.
Conducted by the University of South Australia, the six-year study found that player speed
has increased by 1.5 per cent each year since 1998 and players are also taller and
As a result, an average player can now expect more than 600
serious collisions throughout a four-year career.
"Six years ago, when we first started tracking key
midfield players, more than two-thirds stayed on the ground for the whole game and when
they fatigued they were moved to full or back pocket positions to catch their
breath," said Kevin Norton, Professor of Exercise Science at the university's School
of Health Sciences.
"Now more than two-thirds come off the ground
"Because of that strategy, the average speed of the
game in the midfield stays high.
"That is problematic because the high speeds, while
they look great, can lead to high-impact collisions and high injury rates."
Dr Norton said his research also revealed a significantly
lower rate of serious collisions in Wizard Cup games because rules changes provide for
more free-flowing play.
"We found that the number of serious collisions across
the Wizard series was well below what we predicted, based on results for home and away AFL
games," he said.
"In fact, it was only half of the number expected.
"The Wizard rules have resulted in longer play periods
when compared with AFL games.
"Because umpires restart faster, players have shorter
"This means that their average running speed drops and
there are fewer very intense two-second sprints per minute.
"The reduction in top end high speeds is almost
certainly related to the lower incidence of serious collisions."
The study also found AFL players trained just as hard as
elite athletes in other sports and had probably reached a peak in terms of their
It said the players train for about 1000 to 1200 hours
annually, attending 100 training sessions in the 10 weeks before the official season
starts and then 10 to 12 each week once the season is underway. "I think we've
reached a stage now where it is very difficult to increase the physical workload that
athletes are doing across all sports," said Dr Norton.
"We've saturated their physiological capabilities.
"Many of them sit on the edge of peak performance
versus over training and immune suppression and illness, so we've got to get that balance
"We can't force the players to do more training but we
can train them smarter."
Back to the Diary
|Pies' $6m bid to Brown riles Lionsby Caroline Wilson
Melbourne, Friday, May 6, 2005
The Brisbane Lions will ask the AFL to review its rules
regarding off-field payments to players following the revelation that Collingwood
guaranteed Jonathan Brown $6 million over five years.
The Lions, still seething at the Magpies'
multimillion-dollar attempt to entice their star player to Melbourne through media
inducements, believe non-Victorian clubs risk losing champions through big-money offers
linked to broadcasting outlets such as Channel Nine.
On Tuesday, Brown committed himself to Brisbane until 2008
following revelations in The Age that Magpies president Eddie McGuire and chief executive
Greg Swann had flown to Sydney last Friday in a last-ditch attempt to woo him.
After the 23-year-old centre half-forward, who enthralled
the competition with his stunning eight-goal return against Essendon, and his advisory
team agreed to an in-principle deal with the Lions this week, the club was told that the
Collingwood offer involved $700,000 a year until 2010, along with the promise of $500,000
a year in off-field money - largely from television performances.
Brown has instead accepted a three-year deal with Brisbane,
estimated at a total $1.9 million.
Sydney chairman Graeme Downie said last night: "My problem with the AFL is that it
allows clubs to approach players while they are still contracted to other clubs. I'm not
saying Collingwood broke the rules, I'm saying I don't like the rules."
AFL chief executive Andrew Demetriou said he was unaware of
the details of the Collingwood offer, adding he had not yet received any official
complaint from Brisbane. Said Collingwood CEO Swann: "We do not comment on contracts
regarding any players, be it our own or other clubs."
While Brisbane had spoken to Brown of the emotional and
financial significance of remaining a one-club player, McGuire and Swann attempted to
persuade Brown's adviser Glen Warry of the post-football opportunities on offer in
Melbourne, not to mention those involving such a popular club as the Magpies. Warry is
understood to have told Brisbane of the Collingwood offer late on Monday.
What has reportedly fuelled the Lions' anger at Collingwood
has been the AFL's recent refusal to allow Brown a $20,000 endorsement deal with a
sporting apparel firm.
The Lions believe that Collingwood, which for several years
has led the charge against Brisbane's extra salary cap allowance, now boasts even more
scope to pay big money to footballers through its Channel Nine connection.
The Magpies have also reportedly approached soon to be
out-of-contract Saint Nick Dal Santo.
Back to the Diary
|Cousins' on last chance over
underworld linksby Mark Duffield, Luke Morfesse and Steve Butler
Sunday Herald Sun
May 1, 2005
Ben Cousins was hanging on to his role as Eagles captain last night
as the club's hierarchy warned the controversial 26-year-old that another
"misdemeanour" could see him removed from the team.
Speaking from Italy, chairman Dalton Gooding told The West Australian that Cousins
and his vice-captain Michael Gardiner would not be spared in the event of another
controversy involving high-profile Northbridge identities.
"People are entitled to make a mistake however this is probably the last time they
can make that mistake," Mr Gooding said. "They have made an error of judgement.
We are prepared to support them, but there can't be another mistake by them."
Mr Gooding was supported by West Coast chief executive Trevor Nisbett who said they risked
their future with the club if they did not end their associations with the people
And Premier Geoff Gallop added to pressure on the pair, saying he believed Cousins and
Gardiner should co-operate with police.
"I think all West Australians whether they're major football personalities or not
should co-operate with the police and all Western Australians whether they're major
football personalities or not should be very, very careful in terms of the associations
they enter into," he said.
"All of us have a responsibility in terms of the associations we enter into and I
think that's the nub of the matter."
On Monday, Cousins and Gardiner went to Curtin House to answer police questions about
telephone conversations they are believed to have had with one of two men charged with
disposing of a gun used at Metro City nightclub in January.
During the incident police allege Coffin Cheater strongman Troy Mercanti shot Scorpion Boy
Nabil Dabag after Mr Dabag stabbed Mr Mercanti. Businessman John Kizon and Coffin Cheaters
associate David Morris are also facing charges.
Police believe the Eagles stars phoned Mr Morris shortly before and immediately after the
Cousins and Gardiner yesterday attempted to distance themselves from the incident at Metro
But after making brief and somewhat confusing statements at a press conference they
refused to answer questions.
Apart from Cousins apologising for the "public perception of my continued association
with people who are regarded by others as underworld figures", both players where
more intent on saying they weren't there on the night.
But that has never been the issue.
What has been at stake is the depth of their association with so-called Northbridge
identities and what was said in phone calls Cousins and Gardiner are believed to have had
with a bikie gang associate facing charges stemming from the shooting.
In his statement, Cousins admitted to letting down "a lot of people". "I
apologise to my family, friends and the football club, in particular my team mates, and
the public of Western Australia," he said.
Cousins said he was co-operating with police and was in Melbourne for an AFL launch on the
weekend of the incident.
"I do not condone criminal activity and will not be associated with it," he
said. "I am committed to fulfilling my obligation as a West Coast Eagles player and
assisting the team with its continuing success."
Gardiner said he was aware of the publicity that "some of my actions and associations
"Like anyone else, I have been distressed and upset by the reporting. My family and
football club have been upset too," he said.
Lawyer Peter Momber claimed both players were co-operating with the police inquiry, saying
that on Wednesday he had provided information requested by detectives on Monday.
But yesterday Commissioner Karl O'Callaghan said Cousins and Gardiner were not
co-operating with the inquiry. While he acknowledged their right to remain silent, Mr
O'Callaghan said: "It doesn't assist us with the issues that we are trying to
But former West Coast Eagles premiership player Karl Langdon yesterday said there was
nothing wrong with footballers associating with alleged crime figures and admitted he had
had relationships with them during his football career.
Back to the Diary
|Live TV threat fuels concernby Jon Ralph
Sunday Herald Sun
May 1, 2005
FOOTBALL Victoria says grass-roots
football will be seriously jeopardised if the AFL allows Channel 10 to screen three games
live on Saturdays under a new television rights deal.
Channel 10 hopes to show three games back-to-back, which would require the Saturday
afternoon game to be screened live against the MCG gate and in conflict with hundreds of
country and local football games.
Under the network's proposal, a likely Saturday schedule
could involve a live Melbourne or Adelaide game about 2pm, followed by an interstate match
at 5pm, with a night game shown with a minor delay at or about 8pm.
The proposal has also come under fire from SANFL chief
executive Leigh Whicker, who said AFL club memberships and attendance figures could
plummet if fans were given no incentive to attend games.
Football Victoria chief executive Ken Gannon said any live
football would significantly hamper attempts to develop community football and keep
country football alive.
"Everyone on one hand says country football is dying.
While we don't support that, it seems to be inconsistent that we do something more to kill
it," he said.
With channels 7 and 10 having joined forces for the rights
deal from 2007 on, Ten is keen to take an extra game from Fox Footy to create an day of
Current AFL regulations allow Channel 10 to show Saturday
afternoon football on a 90-minute delay, which maximises game attendances and broadcast
rights as well as encouraging fans to watch local and country football.
Whicker said any games shown live against the gate in
Melbourne or Adelaide could cause plummeting membership figures for reigning premier Port
Adelaide and struggling Victorian clubs.
A South Australian joint working party consisting of
the Crows, Power and the SANFL will lodge its television rights submission to the
AFL next week.
"Our (Adelaide v Port Adelaide) Showdown here has a
nearly 15 per cent no-show rate and it is a sold-out venue," Whicker said of the
match, broadcast live on television in Adelaide.
"They are the things that would concern us if there
would be live against the gate. That would erode loyalty of club members and we don't want
to see vast stadiums half empty for a television production."
Back to the Diary
|Essendon CEO: Local links sufferingby Melissa Ryan
Sunday, May 1, 2005
The evolution of the AFL over the
past 15 years has had the worrying side-effect of distancing Victorian clubs from the
community, according to Essendon chief executive Peter Jackson.
Jackson, speaking about the expansion of Essendon's On the
Ball program for teenagers at last night's pre-match dinner, said the league's
transformation had damaged the grass-roots connections between clubs and the people who
"Our game exists, and we exist as a football club,
only through the support of the community . . . The way the AFL competition has evolved
over the last 10 to 15 years has actually distanced Victorian clubs in particular from the
community," Jackson said.
"We've seen the demise of the under-17s, the
under-19s, and then the reserves. We don't play games at local grounds any more, and
that's eliminated the direct connection the community has with AFL clubs."
Essendon established On the Ball in 2003 with the
Australian Drug Foundation and VicHealth to promote sport in regional areas as a
stabilising influence for teenagers dealing with the traumas associated with adolescence.
The club is expanding the program - 10 classes came through
the club last year to take part - and the Bill Hutchison Foundation has been set up by
"people arms-length from the football club" to help raise extra funding to that
provided by Essendon.
The AFL has designated round nine as its Community Weekend.
Back to the Diary
STEVE PERKIN, Herald Sun, April 27, 2005
YOU may have missed
the news last week, but NBC has paid $770 million to regain the broadcasting rights to the
National Football League on Sunday nights for the next eight years.
NBC returns to broadcasting NFL after being out of the action since 1997.
Monday-night football went to the cable network ESPN for $1.4 billion.
The NFL's Thursday-to-Saturday package is still up for grabs.
The ESPN payout is a huge $705 million more than the ABC previously paid for Monday night
The Sunday deal is worth about the same.
The success of this bidding system will not have escaped the AFL, so be prepared to see,
at some stage, our local game packaged into separate Friday, Saturday and Sunday parcels.
Back to the Diary
|Big spend, big reward for clubsby Greg Denham
Thursday, April 21, 2005
THE correlation between the AFL's
biggest-spending clubs and success again proved a fairly accurate guide last year.
According to figures obtained by The Australian, five of the six clubs that spent
the most on their football departments in 2004 played in finals.
In 2003, the three biggest football department spenders were Brisbane, Collingwood and
Sydney who finished in that order.
Last year's runner-up, Brisbane, outlaid $12.525 million on its football department,
more than any other club.
That figure, almost $1.5m above the average and more than $800,000 up on 2003, includes
total player payments, payments to non-playing staff and coaches as well as fitness and
medical costs and recruiting.
At the bottom end of the scale were the cash-strapped Kangaroos, who spent $9.15
Last year's four highest- spending clubs - Brisbane, Collingwood, West Coast and
Essendon which spent an average of $12.2m - won 49 home-and-away games.
The four lowest-spending clubs - Melbourne, Fremantle, the Western Bulldogs and the
Kangaroos, with average spending of $9.8m - won 40 home-and-away matches.
Port Adelaide won its first premiership after spending $11.504m on its football
department, the sixth highest figure in the competition. In 2002 the Power was one of the
lowest and spent $9.5m, which increased to $10.6m in 2003.
Other significant increases in expenditure last year compared to 2003 were made by the
Western Bulldogs (up $1.6m), West Coast (up $1.2m), St Kilda (up more than $1m) and
Sydney, which increased its outlay by more than $800,000.
But the worrying trend for the league is the widening gap between the richest and
poorest clubs - despite several years of special financial assistance via the competitive
As the gap continues to grow between the revenue generated by the clubs with the
biggest incomes to those with the lowest, so does the gap in spending on football
The uneven playing field is being addressed by the AFL Commission in a revamp of
special assistance packages to financially struggling clubs with traditionally lower
supporter bases. Permanent corrective measures are being established by the creation of a
new formula for assistance eligibility which is currently forwarded to the Roos, the
Western Bulldogs and Melbourne.
Eligibility for the reworked fund, probably from next year, will be determined by
several factors including memberships, attendances and stadium revenue.
Kangaroos chief executive Geoff Walsh yesterday expressed his concern at the widening
gaps between clubs, but welcomed the moves to combat the inequalities.
The Roos have increased spending this year by about $500,000, including an increase in
player payments from 94 per cent of the salary cap in 2004 up to 97.5 per cent.
To have won 25 and drawn one of their past 48 games is a remarkable achievement from
such a low financial base over the past 25 months.
"Given the enormous financial restrictions, especially on the footy department, to
not slide into the dark abyss of 15th or 16th and be anchored there, it's been wonderful
testimony to (coach) Dean Laidley and to the discipline this club has had to apply to
itself," Walsh said.
The Roos generated almost $3m in membership revenue last year, but is a long way from
membership income leader West Coast, which reaped more than $8.5m from its rank-and-file
supporters last year.
In 2002, the football department spending gap between top (Sydney, which spent $12.46m)
and bottom (Western Bulldogs, $9.31m) was $3.15m.
Last year the divide between Brisbane and the Kangaroos stretched to $3.375m.
The average gap between the top four spending clubs and the bottom four was $2.05m in
2002. Last year that figure was extended to $2.4m.
Brisbane last year paid its players a record $8.543m while the Kangaroos distributed
player payments of $6.848m.
The average total player payments per club was $7.596m, from an average total football
department spend over the 16 clubs of $11.007m.
Medical and fitness costs shot up last year, with the biggest spenders being the top
three clubs Brisbane, St Kilda and Port Adelaide.
Coaching payments increased by 15 per cent to almost $17m, but the rise was slightly
inflated by payouts to sacked coaches Peter Schwab and Peter Rohde.
Back to the Diary
|The game is not the same when business rules sportby Patrick Smith
The Weekend Australian
Saturday, March 26, 2005
THE first mistake is to think that it is a game. It is hardly that. Football at AFL level
is a business. Depending on the size of the club, a $17 million business or a $30 million
business. But the game of AFL football is a business nonetheless.
When Eddie McGuire frothed on The Footy Show about the health of AFL football if
Channel Nine was not in the mix in the next broadcast discussions he was actually talking
about Channel Nine's business plan come 2007 and onwards. It was all about the bottom
So when we assess incidents and accidents, patterns and rhythms, we must do so with
that as our backdrop. Football is a game but when played by the AFL it is a business.
Football is played by men who devote their youth and a significant part of their adult
lives to the game. Some do nothing else. It is their profession. At least four AFL players
earned more than $800,000 last season. Each club is allowed $6.3 million a season to pay
its players. That is more than $100 million for the competition. It is a sport but not a
Football is played within extraordinary parameters. It is illegal to push a man in the
back, no matter how lightly. Yet it is legal to knock him stupid in a contest for the
ball. You may not hold your opponents jumper with thumb and forefinger but you can shatter
his ribs in a tackle.
Within those laws is an unwritten code which the players observe. The code has been
moulded over time. In a game where violence is applauded and considered a virtue, players
invoke their own set of rules. They know the inherent dangers in football better than
anyone. The knowledge of the mayhem that is possible is the bond between the player and
St Kilda believes that Mal Michael and Chris Scott broke that code when they made
contact with St Kilda skipper Nick Riewoldt on Thursday night. They bumped the 22-year-old
on his right shoulder which they knew was tender but they had no idea of the specific
injury. However, it is fair to say that both players had seen and suffered enough shoulder
injuries to know that Riewoldt was in a spot of bother.
Brisbane would argue that Riewoldt was moving back to his position on the ground, was
not in the hands of a trainer or medical staff, and so was fair game. And the Lions would
Once Riewoldt began to move into a position to play on he was signalling that he
remained part of the game. The bumping might have been an unsettling image but in a
volatile and brutal business, it was acceptable.
If Riewoldt had been injured before the game and carried a tender shoulder on to the
field he would have been bumped and crunched well before the first bounce. As it was the
contact made by Scott and Michael on Thursday night was nothing more than the bumping that
goes on before a game begins or during a match as players try to establish and maintain a
Riewoldt was shocked. It was his first game as skipper and as he sat on the boundary he
knew he was looking at as many as six weeks on the sidelines. Riewoldt is a young man who
lives only to play football. He was also shocked by the Brisbane players' lack of
sympathy. He cried.
He is in good company. When James Hird's foot once more gave way on him, the Essendon
skipper sat on the bench and cried. A passionate business.
St Kilda set the tone for the match. All week coach and players stated that they would
not be intimidated by the Lions' physicality. The club practised its tackling in special
padded training gear.
Such public declarations demanded a response from the Lions. It was duly delivered and
St Kilda was overwhelmed brutally and mentally. By the end of the match St Kilda was
neither skilled nor ruthless. Just exposed.
The incidents between Michael, Scott and Riewoldt leave the AFL with a problem. While
football is played as a business at league level it is not around the suburbs, in local
under age competitions or in the schools. There it can only survive as a game. But these
clubs and players take their lead from the AFL competition.
It hardly wants under-12 players being as calculating and ruthless as Scott and
Michael. In 1997, when the Bulldogs' defence turned on rookie West Coast ruckman Michael
Gardiner en masse, the commission found three Bulldog defenders guilty of conduct
And they were. The image of the Bulldog defenders gang tackling the rookie Gardiner
before the ball had been bounced was sinister. It was unprecedented bullying and violent.
And it was premeditated, fuelling an already volatile environment.
On Thursday night at the Gabba Scott and Michael were uncompromising. That is neither a
breach of law nor code.
Back to the Diary
|TV's big men fly in contest for footballEditorial
Melbourne, Friday, March 18, 2005
The news that it's open season in the contest for
television rights lent spice to last night's AFL season launch. Intensive pre-season
activity has resulted in Channel Ten, which shares current rights with Nine, changing
sides to make a joint bid with Seven for the 2007-11 contract. In some quarters of the
broadcast world, one can hear loud noises of the sort that greeted Ron Barassi's
earth-shaking defection from Melbourne to Carlton in 1965. Forty years on, much bigger
money is at stake in the battle between the big men of television, who have the egos and
the will to win of elite footballers. It's not just business, it's personal - the key
deal-makers, Seven's David Leckie and Ten's Nick Falloon, both fell out with Nine's owner,
Kerry Packer. To add to the intrigue, Ten is one of 20 companies sued by Seven for alleged
collusion in the lead-up to the last rights deal. The prospect of new media ownership laws
lends urgency to the networks' fight for market share and revenue - Nine relied on
pre-season football coverage to counter Seven's surge in the ratings. As Seven broadcaster
and former footballer Tim Watson observes, the networks are as fierce in their rivalry as
Carlton, Collingwood and Essendon. While one might idly speculate which channel best
matches each club Channel Eddie seems obvious the networks are acutely aware
that viewers won't match fans for loyalty.
Among the public, there may be some sentimental support for Seven as the home of football
for more than 40 years, but there are questions about the future that supporters of
football and of individual clubs will want answered before the AFL signs any deal. The AFL
may have to rethink assumptions about what kind of deal is likely to replace its current
contract. The $450 million question is whether the transformed negotiating landscape
has it become a buyers' market? will affect the size of football's financial
pie. It is reasonable to suppose that the current deal was the basis of AFL chief Andrew
Demetriou's guarantee that all 16 clubs would survive. Although this was welcome, clubs
would have known they could not rely forever on exponential growth in broadcast revenue to
cover their own failures. Deals aside, a slowing economy has its own big impact.
The AFL must also be concerned about national coverage, because the conflict with Nine's
rugby league commitments in NSW and Queensland means some unfortunate souls have to wait
up until the early hours to get their Aussie rules fix. Those who prefer football in the
daytime will note, too, that a night grand final isn't on the Seven-Ten agenda. Their
plans to screen more matches free to air should similarly please fans who long to see more
of teams outside the heavily supported few. Nine, though, has made a success of big
matches on Friday nights and its commitment to innovation and technical excellence can be
seen with every game it does screen. The AFL has a lot to weigh up including money,
obviously to ensure it secures a deal that, as Demetriou says, "benefits our
16 clubs and the supporters of our game". That must be the bottom line.
Football TV rights ambush
by Caroline Wilson
Chief football writer
March 17, 2005
Channel Seven has stunned the football world with a
bold bid to regain TV rights from 2007.
Channel Seven has made a bold pitch to regain a slice of
the lucrative AFL television rights, forming an alliance with Channel Ten in a
multimillion-dollar deal that threatens to sideline bitter rival Channel Nine.
Channel Ten shocked the Packer-owned Nine and pay TV group
Foxtel, its partners in the current $450 million television rights deal, by announcing
yesterday that it had broken ranks.
The corporate manoeuvre - designed to win the free-to-air
rights from 2007 until 2011 - has also frustrated the AFL, which learned of the new
partnership only two days ago.
The Seven-Ten alliance involves a deal for the broadcasters
to annually alternate live coverage of the grand final - which neither network would push
to televise at night - and the Brownlow Medal count.
Kerry Stokes' Channel Seven would take over Friday night football from Channel Nine and
Ten would push for its long-held ambition to televise three Saturday games back to back.
The remaining AFL finals would be carved up by the two networks.
AFL executives, who had been hoping to better the league's
current broadcasting deal worth $450 million over five years - and were largely satisfied
with their current media partnerships - seemed stunned by the move and particularly
concerned at Ten's part in the deal. The new agreement looks to have limited Nine's
bargaining position and shifted the power in the crucial multimillion-dollar negotiations,
creating a buyers' market. The key facets of a new deal could be resolved as early as next
Although Nine could bid alone or join forces with Foxtel,
the free-to-air network would also be curtailed by its Friday night and Sunday afternoon
allegiance to rugby league in NSW and Queensland.
Seven and Ten - which this year will show AFL games for the
first time in prime time in Brisbane on Saturday nights - are thought to have agreed to
increase free-to-air football coverage in NSW and Queensland.
The Seven-Ten partnership is unusual also because the Seven
Network is embroiled in a landmark legal battle with its new negotiating partner,
scheduled to open in court on July 18. While Seven indicated yesterday it planned to go
ahead with the case, media experts were tipping it could loom as an intriguing negotiating
Seven is suing the AFL, the National Rugby League, Nine and
Ten, Foxtel and the AFL's internet provider Telstra, accusing them of colluding in the
lead-up to the last round of football broadcast rights.
Should the two networks win the rights, their carve-up
scheme would also prove a fillip for free-to-air football fans. While the Fox Football
network has indicated it would push for four of the AFL's eight weekly home-and-away
fixtures, Seven and Ten want six games between them, with Seven's remaining two matches
coming on Sunday.
Foxtel could be compensated by a better-quality game -
currently it holds exclusive weekly rights to the nominal worst three games of each round
- to be televised as a live twilight game each Sunday.
Neither Channel Nine sports chief Gary Fenton nor the
network's face of football, Eddie McGuire, would comment on the bombshell public
announcement yesterday, which came in the form of a carefully worded statement from Seven
to the stock exchange.
Nine is believed to have fired off a series of angry
letters to the rival networks questioning Seven's right to strike a deal with Ten.
AFL chief executive Andrew Demetriou would communicate only
by a public statement: "The AFL is confident of securing an outcome which benefits
our 16 clubs and the supporters of our game and will be exploring all options for our
future broadcasting arrangements."
The deal has come after months of negotiations between
Channel Ten and the other free-to-air networks. It is believed that Ten chose to join
forces with Seven, which pioneered TV football coverage, due to Seven's trump card in
holding the right to bid both first and last for the football rights.
Seven paid $20 million in 1997 for the right to bid first
and last over the following two rounds of media negotiations. It is thought that Ten
relinquished its exclusive role as AFL finals broadcaster as part of the potential deal to
be included in that last bid for the next rights round.
The Age on March 18 summarised
Football's great TV heist
The deal between Seven and Ten for AFL television rights for five years from 2007
Back in the game
CHANNEL SEVEN Once synonymous with football in Victoria, would regain the
rights after five years on the sidelines.
The deal maker
CHANNEL TEN Television's one-time minnow has negotiated itself into a
position of strength, sharing last right of refusal for football rights. Football-led
revival likely to continue.
Out of bounds?
CHANNEL NINE Stands to lose football just when it is being challenged for
supremacy in the ratings.
How it would work
GRAND FINAL To alternate between Seven
and Ten. Other finals to be shared.
BROWNLOW MEDAL To alternate between Seven and Ten.
FRIDAY NIGHTS Channel Seven
SATURDAYS Channel Ten hoping to show three games, back-to-back.
Foxtel to show one or two games.
SUNDAYS Channel Seven to televise two games, Foxtel one.
FREE-TO-AIR Could show six games per weekend, up from five.
FOXTEL Now shows three games per weekend. Wants four, but could
end up with only two.
NIGHT GRAND FINAL Likely to fall off the agenda.
TWILIGHT GAMES Could become regular part of fixture, possibly
shown live on Foxtel on Sundays.
Back to the Diary
|Fong in call to arms for footy's futureby Mark Duffield
The West Australian
Perth, Thursday, March 10, 2005
rivalry between football codes in Perth escalated last night after a passionate call to
arms from WA Football Commission chairman Neale Fong.
Fong used his speech at WA's gala Hall of Fame induction dinner to announce the
establishment of a Hall of Fame photographic display at Subiaco Oval and to congratulate
10 new inductees and legends Jack Sheedy and Steve Marsh, but also to warn of the threat
to football posed by rugby union and soccer.
Fong refused to mention the rival codes by name but he spoke of "great
challenges" facing football in 2005, posed in part by the "growth of other
codes". He went on to add more spice to the simmering debate over the use of Subiaco
Oval by WA's new Super 14s rugby team, and the rivalry with soccer, which is now marketing
itself head-to-head with football by re-naming its peak body the Football Federation of
Fong took a veiled swipe at both rivals, while stressing that football was the only code
made in Australia for Australians.
"It has been said that another ball game is the game they play in heaven," he
"Let me say this, and say it very clearly, Australian football is the game made and
played in Australia.
"It is our game. It grew up here. It is part of our heritage. Its roots are with our
people. It has embraced people from many overseas lands.
"Other codes can use our name, they can use our ground. They can try to take our
sponsors, even our kids. But they can never take our past. It is ours and it is ours to
keep. Together let's continue to grow and build our great game."
A truce had existed between rival football codes in WA. The WAFC has rented Subiaco Oval
to both soccer (for NSL finals involving Perth Glory) and rugby union (for Test matches
and preliminary matches of the 2003 World Cup).
But with the Super 14s team due to kick off in Perth in 2006, and soccer's new A-League
marketed more aggressively against football, that truce is shaky and Fong's words last
night are another indication football is preparing for battle.
The WAFC faces ticklish negotiations with its own parent body the AFL, rugby and the State
Government over the Super 14 team's use of Subiaco Oval while Members Equity Stadium
undergoes a $25 million revamp. The WA Government is placing mounting pressure on the WAFC
for a reasonable deal to use Subiaco.
Sydney Swans chairman Richard Colless has warned that the success of a Super 14s team in
Perth would inevitably lead to the establishment of a rugby union team in Melbourne and a
Super 16s competition to rival the AFL.
Back to the Diary
|A new base for Demons?by Caroline Wilson
Melbourne, Wednesday, March 2, 2005
The Melbourne Football Club's dream
of celebrating its 150th birthday at a permanent home near the MCG has moved closer to
reality with the revelation that the Demons have found a landlord in a planned
$100-million, 20,000-seat stadium and training facility at Olympic Park.
The stadium seemingly abandoned by the Victorian
Government following the loss of the rugby Super 14 licence to Perth last year
could be resurrected within three months by Sports Minister Justin Madden.
The State Government looks set to announce by May that it
will relaunch the major project. The move, a fillip for the Olympic Park precinct, would
resolve the Demons' search for a permanent home and see Melbourne and Collingwood share a
new training ground a first for the AFL.
In a series of ramifications for sport and major events
around the city the new stadium would also see
Collingwood's training ground moved along Swan Street, potentially to the Olympic Park
athletic track site.
The Magpies and the Demons to share the AFL-sized training facility.
Melbourne Storm, Melbourne Victory and the Melbourne Football Club to open for business as
early as November 2007 with commercial premises and merchandising stores fronting Swan
Those offices linked to the new stadium, which would initially boast a seating capacity of
20,000 with Melbourne Victory to play 14 games there each season and Melbourne Storm 12
matches a year.
The Demons sharing indoor training facilities such as a gymnasium and swimming pool with
the rugby league and soccer clubs, while having separate rooms for its players ideally
linked to the training ground.
Melbourne, which in 2000 took over part of the AFL's lease at the MCG, released as a
sub-tenant but insisting on a more permanent ground agreement with the stadium part
of wider and renewed fixturing talks with the MCC and MCG Trust.
The Melbourne Tigers basketball team offered administrative and training headquarters at
the new Swan Street stadium.
The government is understood to have warmed to the prospect
of the stadium, despite losing the rugby licence, largely due to the prospect of
attracting major soccer, rugby and rugby league support along with other major events to
the precinct. It sees a 20,000-seat facility as more economic for certain events than the
significantly larger Telstra Dome.
While construction could not start on the stadium
likely to be situated in the vicinity of the Olympic Park Sports Medicine Centre
until after the 2006 Commonwealth Games, the indications are that the Demons' new home
could be completed in time for the 2008 pre-season.
"We have made it clear we want to have new
headquarters in place by November 2007," said Melbourne chief executive Steve Harris.
"That is the official start of our 150th year and a key pillar in our business and
Collingwood chief executive Greg Swann said the Magpies
would not object to a new outdoor facility on the proviso it remained in the vicinity of
the Lexus Centre. He said the club had no significant issue with sharing a major ground
Melbourne Storm chief executive Brian Waldron said:
"One of Melbourne's major icons is sport and the prospect of three clubs from three
different codes, all named Melbourne, is obviously exciting.
"There's enormous cost savings as well as synergies we
can work on if we shared commercial facilities along Swan Street."
The Demons have heads of agreement in place with the
Melbourne Olympic Park Trust to investigate the possibility of both shared and individual
facilities but the trust's interim chief executive Sue Nattrass confirmed that both
Melbourne and Collingwood had indicated a willingness to share an outdoor AFL-sized
training ground, likely to be situated between the Lexus Centre and the new stadium.
"There is no precinct like this in the world,"
said Nattrass, "when you consider the Arts Centre, the Botanical Gardens, the Music
Bowl, Olympic Park, the tennis centre leading to the MCG it is clear this is a
wonderful place for a new stadium and we've still got Melbourne Storm and Melbourne
Victory to look after."
Nattrass said she was "hopeful" the government
would re-launch the project and that it would certainly be situated on the south side of
Back to the Diary
|Blues lose $11 millionby Karen Lyon
Melbourne, Tuesday, March 1, 2005
Carlton's massive financial
loss of more than $11 million will not affect the club's ability to re-sign dual
premiership coach Denis Pagan or force the Blues into cutting into their salary cap,
according to club president Ian Collins.
Yesterday, the Blues announced a financial loss of $11.146
million, outstripping the AFL's then record loss of $7.5 million posted by the club two
years ago. The vast majority of yesterday's huge figure comes after the club devalued the
grandstands at Optus Oval.
Pagan's three-year contract is up at the end of this year,
but Collins said the financial plight of the club would not hamper the Blues' efforts to
"I think we have got scope within what we are doing to
make sure that our coach will continue to be coach of the Carlton Football Club going
forward," Collins said.
However, the president said the club would continue to look
at all football costs at the end of the year.
"Your core business is football. We are governed by a salary cap and we will make
sure that we operate within the salary cap and we will play our players as prudently as
the system allows within those lines," he said.
While Collins continues to suggest the club could seek
assistance from the AFL's competitive balance fund although stresses it will not do
so this year - the Blues have no desire to pay less than 100 per cent of the salary cap.
"We are not at that stage. We are working through with a redirection order,"
Collins said. "But the real issue is that we have no qualms if we do need the
assistance, we will apply for it."
The financial result announced for the Carlton Group
the Carlton Football Club and the Carlton Cricket Club and Football Social Club
was, in fact, a profit of $229,978.
But with the Blues set to play their last match at Optus
Oval in round nine this season, when they take on Melbourne, the club has significantly
devalued the financial value of the ground, to the point where the stands are worth only
$3 million. The club still owes about $2.7 million on the stands. It also had to take into
consideration interest payments of $219,000 in the total loss figure.
It is a big turnaround from the end of the 2003 season,
when the club posted an overall profit of $200,000. However, the club continues to falter
under the weight of its debt and continues to be cash-starved.
"We have liabilities of $15.1 million and assets which
don't match that, so it is not a pretty picture when you look at the balance sheet
itself," Collins said.
"It is fair to say that we are in a position where we
are relying on the AFL and its redirection order, we are in a position where we are
relying on our bankers. But we have consulted and have approached the people concerned to
advise them of our current situation and based on our projections ... they are
Collins said the club would need to be "very
prudent" with its costs and needed to increase revenue.
The Blues are hoping the move away from Optus Oval to
Telstra Dome and the MCG will result in a growth of revenue, through sponsorship,
membership and attendance. Collins believes Carlton's membership could grow to as much as
50,000 over the next two to three years.
It already has improved its sponsorship revenue and hopes
with more free-to-air coverage in 2005, more sponsors will be attracted.
"There is no doubt we recognise we have a long, long
way to go. However, we believe the right decisions ... to grow and reach the goals we have
set," Collins said.
The Blues hope to redevelop Optus Oval as an elite training
facility and are still keen for another AFL club, most likely the Kangaroos or Melbourne,
to join them at the venue.
The club will hold its annual meeting on March 23.
BLUES IN THE RED
CARLTON'S FINANCIAL HEADACHES
Devaluing assets that force an ugly bottom line and poor cash flow because
of a lack of sponsors and free-to-air television spots.
Expensive contracts, such as that of Anthony Koutoufides, which
continue into 2006.
Contract negotiations with coach Denis Pagan, who is out of contract at the
end of 2005.
Lack of major sponsors. The Blues could not attract a full complement of
sponsors in 2004 and have lost the opportunity to sell a naming-rights sponsors to
their home ground from 2005.
Membership numbers. Ian Collins wants 50,000 members in the next two years,
but will there be a backlash from supporters who wanted to stay at Optus Oval?
Back to the Diary
|AFL looks to NZ for expansionby David Reed
Melbourne, February 25, 2005
The league hopes New Zealand can become a land of
the long, white Australian football goal posts.
The AFL's focus on expansion has shifted to New Zealand,
with community camps to be held there next year, as well as a Wizard Cup game, probably
between Geelong and Melbourne.
The two clubs have been sounded out about the idea, with
the Cats particularly keen as the club is popular among the burgeoning Auskick centres in
Positive strides have been made in converting predominantly
expatriate playing stocks to a 50-50 split with local players.
Last year, the AFL appointed former St Kilda player Rob
Malone as general manager of the NZAFL, one of five full-time staff, including three
Malone found a market, if not quite ripe, certainly revealing buds of fruit. For instance,
Friday night football is somewhat of a hit, albeit on Saturday mornings when it appears on
NZ television screens.
The main success has been exposing 15,000 Kiwi
schoolchildren to the game in the past year. Auskick centres and structured competitions
for 13 to 18-year-olds are in place in four regions - Waikato, Auckland, Wellington and
Canterbury - aided by $150,000 of AFL funds.
"We need to be realistic and understand that Kiwis
have not grown up with the game and it will take time," Malone said. "(But) for
AFL to be considered the No. 1 alternative winter sport in NZ outside of rugby and netball
in the future is not out of the question."
Malone is putting the finishing touches on his proposal to
get the camps and pre-season match and while the top brass at the AFL will have the final
say, Malone says it could be the first step towards playing a home-and-away match
"(A pre-season match) is quite realistic as it is only
a three-and-a-half hour trip from Melbourne to Auckland or Wellington - AFL teams are
currently travelling from Melbourne to Darwin and so on," he said. "Regarding
future official matches, I would think the AFL would like to see more growth in the game,
raw numbers. However, I think it certainly could work."
The raw numbers of players Malone refers to are stark -
there are only 800 registered senior players - but he said moves to convert school players
into weekend participants in a rugby union stronghold was where the battle was being
"It is certainly a different environment than growing
up with the code in Australia," Malone said. "The Kiwis love any type of ball
sports and as there are certain similarities with rugby, they enjoy it. They certainly
enjoy the physical side of the game, particularly the Samoan and Maori players.
"The 360-degree-nature of AFL also appeals to the
Kiwis, with no knock-on or forward pass rules as such."
AFL football has strong historical links with NZ dating
back to the 1890s, when former VFA and VFL players headed across the Tasman in search of
A local league boomed so much that in 1901, there were 115
teams and NZ competed in the 1908 Jubilee Australasian Carnival at the MCG, beating NSW
and Queensland. But the interest all but disappeared until it was revived in the 1970s.
The AFL then got involved, scheduling an Ansett Cup match
between Melbourne and Sydney at the Basin Reserve in 1998 followed by two more games in
Wellington in 2000 and 2001.
Despite last week's glowing annual report, AFL Commission
chairman Ron Evans said he wanted the game to grow faster. He cited south-east Queensland
and western Sydney as the boom areas but the shift further east won't be easily dismissed.
The NZ investment is due to be reviewed next year.
Back to the Diary
|Welcome to a brutal new world
The conclusion was definitive. On night
one of the revamped judicial system the lesson was simple; the last place a player wants
to be from here on is the AFL tribunal.
If you walk the corridors of this
tribunal the process is likely to be brutal and the consequences more severe than most
have come to expect.
Byron Pickett's hip and shoulder to the
head of Adelaide opponent James Begley won't be the most violent incident of the year, yet
in any season a six-week ban would have been in the very top range.
There was once a rule of thumb that a
decent whack deserved a couple of matches. Now there's a mathematical system and when the
sums reach seven points and beyond you're in diabolical trouble.
To recap the events of the past 12
months, the clubs launched a series of scathing attacks on the conduct of the panel. It
was labelled pathetic among many other colourful descriptions.
In each case, the jibes were fired by
the disgruntled; an official who'd witnessed one of his club's players slapped with a
A great many commentators were
hoodwinked into joining this side of the debate. The unimaginative and ill-informed catch
cry - from those who rarely, if ever, attended the actual hearings became:
"The tribunal is inconsistent".
And football fans, a group that had
never, ever witnessed a tribunal hearing, declared they had lost faith in the system.
With this as the backdrop, the serious
folk at headquarters radically revamped the system in the off-season.
Largely based on the fixed penalties
structure employed by the NRL, the AFL aimed for greater certainty, increased
professionalism and, thus, less flexibility.
Those who will sit in judgement will
now have all played the game with distinction. Both the prosecution and defence council
can be drawn from the legal fraternity. And a former county court judge will always
The demands of the clubs and the wider
football community have been met.
And it all falls under the heading; be
careful what you wish for.
The lies that became the staple of
these hearings just won't wash anymore.
Will Houghton QC is the prosecutor and
in the first case was the star. He cut through the vague utterings of Pickett, leading the
Norm Smith Medallist to discredit his own testimony.
His final stroke was straight from the
"When you saw Begley fumbling you
decided to line him up," the prosecutor chided the witness. "You decided to lay
Such pointed questioning is rare in
this forum but is going to become the norm.
Right now the QC versus the footballer
is a lopsided fight.
The case was lengthy, almost two hours,
which will annoy some, but no time was wasted.
Deputy chairman John Hassett, a retired
county court judge, expertly guided the jury through the areas of dispute.
And it was a surprise to no one present
when the jury returned a points value of 660 for the offence. That translated to a
The grading of the offence by Peter
Schwab's match review committee was vindicated. Schwab and his colleagues had a solid
opening weekend. The three "plea bargains" they offered were accepted.
Pickett was referred directly to front
the panel, such was the seriousness of the charge.
At its conclusion Port Adelaide lashed
out at the "tribunal". In truth, it was taking aim at the jury, the only three
men who sat in judgement on this case.
On Tuesday night they were: Stewart
Loewe, 321 games with St Kilda; Wayne Schimmelbusch, 306 games with North Melbourne; and
Emmett Dunne, 129 games with Richmond and Footscray and a long serving member of the
Port Adelaide's assertion is that these
three men don't know what they are doing.
In truth, these three men knew exactly
what Byron Pickett was doing.
If you thought the ex-players might
find some bond with the current day accused and go easy, you were wrong.
The Power's criticism is as predictable
as it is small minded.
It brings to mind Paul Keating's quote:
"In the race of life I'll always back self-interest, because at least you know it's
The old tribunal had its quirks but it
wasn't fatally flawed.
The new tribunal is a well-thought out
process with a couple of anomalies during the teething stage. Its professionalism and
formality reflects the seriousness football now treats itself with.
The clubs will always complain about a
system that suspends one of its important players.
And that sort of nonsense is becoming
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|Happy constant in a changing gameEditorial
Melbourne, Friday, February 18, 2005
The hope each new season brings is a happy constant in a changing game.
Kevin Sheedy is entertaining us with
divertingly offbeat ideas, so it must only be February, but tonight football resumes as
the main entertainment. It is not only the Essendon coach who has offered up a talking
point by suggesting umpires could end repeated ball-ups by kicking or throwing the ball
into open space. (Heaven help the umpire who carelessly delivers the ball to a free player
in a scoring position!) The AFL, which held its annual general meeting yesterday, has
thrown up other points of contention: expanding the commission to open the way for adding
a woman and, as an unforeseen consequence of a reformed tribunal process, raising
questions about how the system of penalty points might impinge on the venerable
"fairest and best" criteria for the Brownlow Medal. (We certainly support the
former; on the latter, we maintain that the AFL must closely heed the football community's
feelings about any move that might diminish the medal's lustre.) But the clubs, too, have
started the season on a controversial note with a majority of presidents now willing to
explore a night grand final.
This pre-season has been largely scandal-free, but there has been tragedy. When the Demons
take the field tomorrow, everyone will feel for the teammates, friends and family of
tsunami victim Troy Broadbridge. In the circumstances, yesterday's decision to let the
club add a player to its list is compassionate and correct - although Sheedy was entitled
to argue for a restricted choice of replacement. For all his flamboyance, his success is
founded on shrewd good sense, a trait he shares with Collingwood president Eddie McGuire.
Both men support the addition of a female commissioner because they see that, on balance,
the benefits of going beyond an all-male pool of talent and keeping AFL administration in
touch with the whole community outweigh concerns about a less-than-ideal process. We note
the rule change enabled a commission of "up to nine", meaning it can readily be
trimmed if it proves unwieldy.
When this weekend's games begin, attention will of course shift to the players and what
their performances tell us about their teams' prospects this season. Hope springs eternal,
nurtured by new players and, this season, by new coaches at a quarter of the clubs. For
some, grim reality will already have begun to intrude by autumn, but now is still the time
for everyone to enjoy the late summer indulgence of a football fan's dreams.
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|New rules speed up the gameby Jon Pierik
Melbourne, Friday, February 11, 2005
ON-FIELD action is set to become quicker than ever
this season after the AFL umpiring department revealed it would clamp down on
Umpires have been told to immediately penalise any player who is tackled and attempts to
hold the ball in when it is not pinned to him.
hoped the crackdown will cut the number of stoppages, and already seems to have had the
There were just eight field bounces in last weekend's match
between the Western Bulldogs and Indigenous All-Stars in Darwin.
Another rule change will be to allow players who have taken
a mark or won a free kick, and are not shooting for goal, only 10 seconds down from
15 to dispose of the ball before the umpire calls play-on.
AFL director of umpiring Jeff Gieschen and umpires coach
Rowan Sawers revealed the changes to the Herald Sun yesterday.
"It's to improve the pace and the look of the
game," Gieschen said.
"We don't want it to be stop start, stop start, like
But the likes of Essendon full-forward Matthew Lloyd can
maintain their extended preparation lining up for goal.
Sawers said umpires had been lenient in recent seasons on
players who tried to force a stoppage rather than move the ball on. This would now change.
"We don't want field bounces, we want to move the ball
on," he said.
"We feel it's a better spectacle if the ball is moved
Umpires will also keep a vigilant eye on:
THE new ruck rules, ensuring the game's big men have
eyes only on the ball and not their opponents at centre bounces. Any
unnecessary bumping, blocking and pushing at throw-ins will be penalised. Anyone who steps
out of the new 10m centre circle in his run-up will be free-kicked.
HEAD-HIGH tackles. Players with their heads over the ball will be protected.
DEFENDERS attempting to spoil an opponent by
chopping at his arms will be penalised. It's always been an unwritten law that defenders
were allowed to do this, but that has changed. To reinforce the move, the law has been
documented in the rule book.
PLAYERS putting their hands on the back of an opponent to get balance. This will be
allowed but the player is not allowed to push off.
THE blocking of opposition players at stoppages.
Gieschen said his 33-man field umpiring squad would make
mistakes this season because they were "only human" but said they were under far
more scrutiny than their cricket and tennis counterparts.
Sawers said policing the new ruck rules remained an
umpire's toughest challenge.
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|AFL to rethink TV dealby Jim Wilson
Melbourne, Saturday, February 5, 2005
THE battle for control of TV rights in football beyond the end of next season has
intensified with two of the AFL's senior management team flying to the US for talks with
sporting and television executives.
Ben Buckley, general manager of broadcasting and major projects,
and commercial operations boss Gil McLachlan will attend Monday morning's NFL Super Bowl
but it's a series of meetings over the next few days that will go a long way to helping
the AFL in its strategy for negotiations in coming months.
is a major fact-finding mission and will revolve around the biggest day on the American
football calendar," AFL chief Andrew Demetriou said.
But it's more than that with Demetriou keen to see how
American football and its army of fans cope with having the sport split among four
Fox Sports, ESPN, ABC and CBS all have a slice of the NFL
pie and there's no doubt the AFL is looking at how that dynamic works and whether it's
viable to contemplate football across three free-to-air networks and a pay-TV outfit.
Sources, though, have indicated that while the league wants
as much money from this next round of rights, which should be finalised by the end of this
season, coverage on Seven, Nine, Ten and Fox Footy may be simply too much.
Like American football, where the NBC network is a
non-rights holder, it's considered attractive to have a non-rights holder "on
ice" to push up the asking price next time around.
In this market, Channel 7 fills that role and will have
first and last bid come crunch time. It's no surprise the network invited Demetriou and
Buckley to its private box for last Sunday night's Australian Open final.
Seven slashed its coverage of golf and the Athens Olympics
last year hoping to get as much cash in the coffers for a full-scale assault on regaining
the jewel in the crown.
Nine has turned Friday night football into the best
coverage across the board but its problem is rugby league and not being able to show AFL
at a reasonable time in the crucial Sydney and Brisbane markets.
This time around the AFL wants the game on in those markets
much earlier, and Nine must find a solution.
Ten and Fox Footy, who will also want a better deal,
complete the fascinating picture.
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|Lawyers hold Elliott's family silverby David Elias
Melbourne, Friday, February 4, 2005
If sold at estimated value, the silverware, antiques
and artefacts would leave John Elliott with $1.
The lawyers of former business leader John Elliott
are holding some of the family silverware as security against fees.
Mr Elliott filed for bankruptcy yesterday as he promised,
after a creditors' meeting last week refused his five cents in the dollar offer to settle
And with his petition he filed a new statement of affairs
that shows he owes $109,292 to law firm Middletons.
The firm has accepted silverware, antiques and artefacts
that would leave Mr Elliott with just $1 if Middletons sold the goods at their $109,293
estimated resale value.
South Yarra auction house Christie's is holding more
antiques and artefacts worth $135,000 that Mr Elliott, 63, claims to own.
His estranged wife, Amanda, has valuables worth $68,000
that she insists are hers.
Middletons, which has acted for Mr Elliott in matters other
than the Water Wheel civil penalties case that became his final undoing, is his only
The other 16 parties, owed a total of $9.038 million, are
The papers filed with insolvency trustee service ITSA show
Mr Elliott has $232 in the bank and a $483 overdraft.
Meanwhile, he and the National Australia Bank are
squabbling over $130,000 the bank says he owes.
The former Liberal Party and Carlton Football Club
president, who gave his occupation as a consultant and public speaker, claims his family
company Ebek owes him $621,000, but he is likely to receive no more than $100,000 from it.
This leads to the possibility that his trustee in
bankruptcy, Sterling Horne, might take wind-up action against Ebek.
Failing that, a creditor might take action against the
trustee to ensure Ebek is wound up. The most likely such creditor would be the
administrator of failed flour and rice miller Water Wheel, who is owed $1.66 million.
This is the result of penalties imposed after the Supreme
Court found Mr Elliott had allowed the company to trade while insolvent. Others who might
take this action are the four government creditors, owed a total of $1.72 million, who
block voted against Mr Elliott's Part X settlement offer and forced him into bankruptcy.
Mr Elliott later accused the four - the Australian
Securities and Investments Commission that launched the Water Wheel action against him,
the Tax Office, the Australian Crime Commission and the Victorian Government solicitor -
of vindictiveness and said the authorities had been out to get him for years.
Mr Elliott's debts yesterday stood at $9.038 million, which
included a new amount of $110,000 owed to Mr Horne's company Bentleys MRI for work done as
his controlling trustee in the run-up to last week's meeting of creditors.
His assets amounted to $850,000 and included $5687 in a
superannuation fund, $52,170 in two insurance policies, $1786 worth of Haoma gold mining
shares, and a $69,603 shareholding in the NSW Ricegrowers Co-operative.
He also had $3114 held in trust by lawyers Tress Cox, a
$50,000 interest in the ownership of the racehorse Primrose Penny and $19,000 of household
furniture and effects.
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|AFL boss wary of prejudiceby Matt Cunningham
Melbourne, Saturday, January 22, 2005
AUSTRALIA had become a
conservative country, less welcoming to newcomers than it was 50 years ago, AFL chief
executive Andrew Demetriou said yesterday.
Speaking at the Australia Day lunch at the Melbourne Exhibition and Convention Centre, Mr
Demetriou said Australians were more inclined to self-interest than sharing and more
interested in the stock market than education.
In a veiled dig at Prime Minister John Howard, Mr Demetriou said he wanted Australia's
boundaries to be open, and our welcome without prejudice.
"The next decade is a watershed for us as a country," he said.
"It will see the transition from the Howard era to another era.
"What will come after John Howard?
"Who can know?
"All I can do is hope that the next generation of our leaders -- whether Liberal
or Labor -- will think broadly and challenge their values and our values, rather than
building barriers between us and a world we need."
Mr Demetriou said in the John Batman Oration that when his parents arrived in Australia
from Cyprus in 1951, newcomers were treated with respect and allowed to do their own
"The beauty of the time was that although they weren't overtly embraced, they were
allowed to be whatever they wanted to be, without prejudice, without any sense of
superiority," he said.
"The Australians of the '50s wondered aloud about the strange habits of all these
newcomers from Europe, but they let them be themselves, and this is a wonderful
But Mr Demetriou said Australians today had become wary of newcomers.
"I can't quite work out why this is, but I suspect it's an indication that the
whole world is less trusting of the unknown than it has been in its modern history,"
"Terrorism has played a huge part in this lack of trust, but so too has localised
violence and predatory behaviour."
Mr Demetriou said Australia's reaction to the tsunami disaster had brought out the best
in the nation.
But he questioned whether the outpouring of compassion was a true reflection of the
nation we had become.
"Despite our response to the tsunami, we remain the conservative country we have
become in recent years," he said.
"When we, as a country, reflect on where we came from we look narrowly, inwardly,
rather than considering all the influences that have made us the country we are."
Mr Demetriou said he hoped the Australia of the future would react differently to an
event such as the Tampa incident, than it had in 2001.
"I'd like to think we might ask how do we embrace the people on board rather than
how to rid ourselves of the problem," he said.
"I'd like to think we'd respond as we did when the tsunami struck, rather than how
we did when the Tampa arrived, uninvited, on our shores."
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|Tears as Broadbridge laid to rest
by Paul Anderson
Melbourne, Friday, January 21, 2005
TWO grieving families, former football champions and opposing players united to
farewell Demons backman Troy Broadbridge yesterday.
Broadbridge, a 24-year-old newlywed, was killed by a tsunami on Phi Phi Island off
Thailand on Boxing Day.
His wife, Trisha, survived. The couple were on their honeymoon
and had been married just eight days.
About 600 mourners some who cried and others who stood in stoic respect
gathered at St James Catholic Church in Gardenvale to say goodbye to the quiet achiever
known as "Broady."
Football legend Ron Barassi; Richmond coach Terry Wallace; and Bali bombing survivor
and former AFL player Jason McCartney were among the mourners.
Melbourne and Sandringham football club members sat as one.
Former Melbourne players Troy Simmonds and Brownlow medallist Shane Woewodin were also
there with Hawthorn players including Richie Vandenberg and Joel Smith.
Wearing her wedding dress, widow Trisha kissed her late husband's coffin after
repeating the vows she declared on their wedding day.
"Troy, you are my best friend. I promise I'm going to love you no matter what
happens," Trisha recited.
"I will always stand by you like you have stood by me. I love you so much because
of everything you've done for me, for the person that you are, for the heart that you
"For the unconditional love, for your caring nature, for your determination. I
love you so much Troy."
On the coffin were Broadbridge's Melbourne Football Club jumper and Sandringham
guernsey, in which he won two grand finals.
Melbourne Football Club drafted Broadbridge from Adelaide as a rookie in 2000.
Brownlow medallist and former Melbourne ruckman Jim Stynes, a mentor at AFL level,
spoke of Broadbridge's impact.
"He kicked a goal with his first kick in AFL football. He kicked his second a week
later," Stynes remembered with a smile.
"He was getting excited by the fact he was becoming a midfield goal-kicking
"However, coach Neale Daniher had other ideas for the big redhead, moving him to
the backline as third tall, which put an abrupt end to his goal-kicking talents."
Injuries interrupted Broadbridge's next two seasons before he consolidated his spot in
the side last year.
"Giving up was not an option for Troy Broadbridge," Stynes said.
"Troy had a huge leap. Could take a great mark. Ran like a greyhound. Could catch
up and match up on talls and quick smalls.
"He was quietly confident with a wicked sense of humour, but above all was the
most selfless footballer to play at Melbourne that I can remember."
The service heard Broadbridge was not one to be swayed by peer group pressure, even
when it came to putting blond rinse through his red hair like his teammates. And he always
tried to include Trisha, even at times when girlfriends and wives were not considered part
of the football inner sanctum.
"During half-time at a Sandy game ... Troy invited Trisha to have a kick-to-kick,
to the astonishment of Neale Daniher who remarked in the coach's box, `That kid Broady
must be in love'," Stynes recalled.
"Troy cared and loved Trish, no matter what. It was love demonstrated in its
purest form innocent and untainted, intense and sensitive, youthful and promising.
"Some will remember the way Troy died, but I will remember the way he lived and
the way he played."
Broadbridge's uncle, John Evans, paid respect to Trisha's family, the Silvers, when he
told the service: "Troy would expect nothing but the best for his team and everyone
who relied on him.
"Trisha, the Broadbridge and Silvers families, and the Melbourne Football Club has
the challenge ahead, particularly this year.
"Troy's spirit will beam brightly as their guiding light. Happy, handsome and
humble, Troy James Broadbridge rest in peace."
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