Kennett criticises World Cup planning
December 15, 2009
Jeff Kennett says he 'backed off' a World Cup bid after receiving
entreaties from the Sydney Olympic bid campaign.
Hawthorn president Jeff Kennett says "no-one has done the work" on the
Australian World Cup bid, and the disruption caused by a successful bid to
Australia's other football codes could have a heavy "emotional cost".
Speaking on radio station SEN's Hungry for Sport program this
morning, the former Victorian premier said that he supported the "concept
and principle" of the 2018 or 2022 bids, but that "emotion", rather than
good planning, was ruling the application.
"I have yet to see any evidence ... any detailed work ... on the cost and
ramifications of the bid" Kennett said .
"... For us in Australia it would mean that those codes which occupy 95% of
the football activity and 95 per cent of the public's involvement, emotional
and attendance (sic) ... has to step aside for a period of time sufficient
to wreck the year to allow the code that only represents five per cent of
Kennett said that hosting the World Cup would be "wonderful", but then
expressed reservations about the impact the world's biggest sporting event
would have, not just on the local codes, but on the emotional well-being of
"It really worries me that this bid, when you put in security etc, is not
only going to cost a lot of money, it is going to disrupt the majority of
Australians for the best part of the year. And that's serious, because
wearing my hat as the chairman of Beyond Blue, I have come to realise that
after family and our employment, which provides us all with stresses and
anxieties from time to time, we turn to our sport to put a balance in our
"And if we don't have the opportunity to provide our public with a balance
for a year forget the financial cost, the emotional cost will also, I think,
be a very heavy price to pay."
Kennett, who once himself led a nascent bid to host the World Cup, said that
the Australian bid "just doesn't equate with countries that play soccer as
their winter sport".
"I have yet to see any evidence that anyone, be it the Federal Government
who is backing the bid, or Soccer Australia has actually done the detailed
work as to both the cost of staging the World Cup and then the ramifications
"For instance, if we win the World Cup and it goes ahead, AFL, league, rugby
union are all going to have to continue to pay their staff, pay their
players for that year.
"But of course there won't be grounds to attract crowds that will attract
revenue. No-one is offering compensation. No-one has done the work.
"And I don't know how NSW right now can justify a new stadium (a $150
million upgrade of the Homebush Stadium is being mooted) when the state is
"So I'm in favour of the concept and the principle. But before you build a
house, before you build a company, you have got to actually have done the
work to work out what it is going to cost and how you are going to deliver
it. I haven't seen any evidence of that."
Upwards of $100 million could be required to bring Australian stadia up to
World Cup capacity requirements.
In 2008, Kennett called on Prime Minister Kevin Rudd to utilise the
skills of Victorian major events specialist Ron Walker in a bid to
snare the World Cup for Australia.
In 2001, Kennett offered to take a hands-on role in the running of the game,
which was then beset by financial and political crises. He advocated for an
independent commission to run the game in Australia, in the same way the AFL
commission ran its sport at arm's length from its individual clubs. He was
consulted by then Soccer Australia supremo Ian Knopf during this
He has been president of Hawthorn since December 2005 and was premier of
Victoria from 1992-1999.
Back to the Diary
Herald Sun reveals demands on World Cup hosts
December 14, 2009
The Herald Sun on Monday (14th) explosively
revealed all Melbourne bars would be granted late-night opening in a
push by global soccer chiefs to seize control of our city if Australia
hosts the World Cup.
Fiona Hudson reported: The move to override existing local liquor
laws is contained in a secret contract that cities trying to woo the
world's biggest sporting carnival in 2018 or 2022 must sign.
The Herald Sun provided a link to the
Host City Draft Contract available on the Internet which outlines
dozens of onerous conditions soccer's ruling body FIFA demands of World
Cup host cities. Under the draft agreement, FIFA would demand that
CLOSE any road or restrict public access to roads at any time
during the event;
DEVOTE special traffic lanes and provide police escorts for FIFA
officials, teams and VIP guests;
TONE down promotion of the Melbourne Cup, AFL Grand Final, F1
Grand Prix or other major sporting events in the year leading up to the
KEEP airports open later into the night and open them early in
REMOVE advertising and commercial logos across the city at
GIVE special treatment to preferred commercial partners,
potentially costing locals work.
TURN the city into a cultural desert by banning substantial
cultural events – such as music concerts - on the days before or after
The Herald Sun asked Football Federation Australia for an
official copy of the Host City Agreement that Melbourne will be locked
in to if Australia's bid succeeds. But public affairs chief Bonita
Mersiades refused to release the document.
Asked why it should stay secret – given the significant impact it could have
of the daily lives of Melburnians – she said FIFA had stipulated it not be
released. But the Herald Sun found copies of the Host City Agreement freely
available on the websites of other bid cities.
Cities in the US and UK, in particular, have had public debates about the
impact of the agreement before deciding to bid. No such public debate has
occurred in Melbourne, despite a formal pledge from Kevin Rudd and premiers
including John Brumby effectively locking Australia in to FIFA's demands.
The clause overriding existing local liquor licensing laws comes as
Melbourne grapples with booze-fuelled violence.
The document specifically orders that all bars, restaurants and shops within
the host city be granted licences for late-night opening each match day at a
minimum, and preferably every day of the carnival.
The draft contract is full of clauses pushing costs on to taxpayers and
granting FIFA immunity from responsibilities. State government spokesman
Cameron Scott said last night Australia's bid team could still negotiate
"We are confident the bid team can work through these issues with FIFA to
achieve the right balance between hosting of the world's largest and most
spectacular events, supporting Melbourne's vibrant entertainment industry,
and ensuring we keep our streets and late-night venues safe,'' he said.
"As we saw from the Commonwealth Games, Melbourne is capable of hosting such
international events that provide a celebration for the whole community
without compromising these processes.''
Lord Mayor Robert Doyle was in Copenhagen last night and unavailable
Back to the Diary
Soccer Australia outlines AFL options should Australia
win World Cup bid in 2018 or 2022
December 11, 2009
An early start to the season and relocation of games to Princes (Visy) Park,
Kardinia Park (Skilled Stadium) and interstate are among the options given
to the AFL by Australia's FIFA World Cup bid organisers.
Football Federation Australia has sent a document to the other codes,
outlining the options for their sports should Australia host the event in
2018 or 2022.
There are four options presented to the AFL – using the 2018 calendar as a
guide - which all work on the assumption that the AFL will have moved to a
The grand final is locked in for September 28 on all options.
One option is to start the season as early as February 2 and have a
Another is to begin the season as normal in early March and relocate games
for nine weeks at alternative venues.
FFA chief Ben Buckley envisaged some clubs, such as Collingwood, Essendon
and Richmond, playing home games at the revamped base of arch enemies
Others, such as North Melbourne and Western Bulldogs, would have bases at
Skilled Stadium, while yet others would find themselves playing in
Launceston, Darwin and Canberra.
The document also proposes that St Kilda play at Geelong, and factors in a
yet-to-be-built or funded 'E-Gate' stadium in West Melbourne as another
option for AFL matches.
Buckley said the FFA was "working with all the sports and we are not
pointing the finger and saying, 'You should do it this way'.
"It's not our right to tell someone how to run their own sport, but we've
simply put some options forward.
"We want to explore with the AFL and governments the alternative venues and
what it might take to upgrade those and to use on a temporary basis to
satisfy the needs."
Buckley, who was Demetriou's No.2 at the AFL, said he "totally respected"
"I grew up in the AFL system and they gave me a huge start in my
professional career," he said.
"We've seen from the outset the World Cup is a World Cup for Australia and
not just for a sport. It's not just for football and it will have
wide-ranging benefits for all Australians.
"We respect the fact there are complex issues and I respect other sports
have to protect the interests of their own stakeholders.
"We are listening. We will seek to solve the problems in partnership with
the sports and the state and federal governments."
Visy Park, which has not staged an AFL match since 2005, would need a
considerable and costly upgrade if it was required to host games.
"The capacity right now is around 20,000 and it would need plenty spent on
it to bring it up to a match venue," a Carlton spokesman said.
"There's no seating at one end of the ground where the old Heatley Stand
used to be, and across the board the outlay would be significant.
"Media facilities would need upgrading, maybe even a second tier on the
Legends Stand would be required, and that all costs a lot of money."
The AFL maintained its stance that the FFA was reneging on a promise made
last year that Etihad Stadium was not part of the World Cup bid.
"The AFL supports our bid for the World Cup, no question, but we need Etihad
Stadium to run a viable competition," an AFL spokesman said.
It remains unclear whether FIFA would permit AFL games being played in
Melbourne during the cup.
"We want to work with Victoria to bring as many World Cup games to Victoria
and we acknowledge taking Etihad out of the AFL fixture for a period of time
will be disruptive," Buckley said.
* 24-round season starts February 16
* Rounds 13-16 at relocated venues
* Then a five-week break for the World Cup
* 24-round season starts March 9
* Rounds 10-17 (including split rounds) to be played at relocated venues
* 22-round season starts February 2
* Nine-week break (between rounds 14 and 15) for the World Cup
* 17-round season starts March 9
* Nine-week break for the World Cup
* Adelaide and Port Adelaide to play at AAMI Stadium and Darwin
* Brisbane Lions and Gold Coast to play at the Gabba
* Fremantle and West Coast to play at the WACA Ground
* Sydney Swans and Western Sydney to play at the SCG
Back to the Diary
Hawthorn goes back to school
to plant AFL seed in New Zealand
November 23, 2009
Understandably, the announcement last week of Hawthorn's plan to drive an
AFL flag into New Zealand turf and lay claim to whatever football potential
it can discover there met with a muted response.
Talk of the world as Australian football's oyster is not new and, of course,
after-shocks from the news only days earlier of Kevin Sheedy's
appointment as coach of a team from western Sydney that will enter the AFL
competition in 2012 were still being felt.
Understandably, too, what coverage the announcement did garner was given
over to Kurt Heatherly, the 190cm, 14-year-old nephew of former
All-Black Jeff Hine, who has turned his back on exceptionally
promising careers in basketball, rugby and cricket for the opportunity to
become Hawthorn's first international scholarship player.
What the brief attention paid to Hawthorn's scheme did not allow to emerge,
though, was something potentially far more significant than the public
relations value of Heatherly's signature.
Where the AFL, at a cost of hundreds of millions of dollars and what it
admits will be generations of persistence, is out to conquer a region of
NSW, it seems Hawthorn and AFL New Zealand have won access to the children
of a neighbouring nation of 4.1 million people for several hundred thousand
dollars a year.
Sport at junior level in New Zealand is conducted almost entirely through
the school system, at primary and secondary level. What Hawthorn and AFL NZ
have been able to do is infiltrate that system, to win, for example,
approval from the New Zealand Secondary Sports Council for the expansion of
a development competition pitched at Year 9 and 10 students.
The competition, known as the Hawks Cup, was trialled in 28 schools this
year but will move into 70 schools in the Wellington, Auckland, Christchurch
and Hamilton regions in 2010.
The best of the players will be invited into regional talent squads and it
is expected than some of them will represent Oceania, which is to field a
side in the annual AFL national under 16 championships from next year.
The truly critical breakthrough, though, is not the NZSSSC's official
endorsement of the Hawks Cup, but an undertaking to add AFL football to the
school sports curriculum in 2011 if the competition is deemed a success next
There are 42 sanctioned school sports in New Zealand at present. AFL
football would be the 43rd. In a 40-week school year some serious jostling
for prominence will still be required but as Hawthorn's general manager of
personnel and strategy, Chris Pelchen, says, all schools have to
expose all of their students to sanctioned sports. "Every secondary school
child will be exposed to AFL football. "Every one of them," Pelchen said.
"The importance of that sort of opportunity can't be overstated.
"It will introduce the game and encourage understanding of it at a grass
roots level. Right now AFL football in New Zealand is largely an expatriate
interest. To get a foothold in their schools is just an enormous leap
It is a leap that the AFL is a long way from making in NSW.
Coincidentally or not, it is a timely push into New Zealand for the
Australian game and the Hawks alike.
Hawthorn president, the restless Jeff Kennett, turned to his various
managers five months before the club won the 2008 premiership with a
question: "What next?"
With the Hawks on their way to the flag, more than 50,000 members, a growing
and increasingly profitable stake in Tasmania, where the club plays four
home games a season, and yet another multi-million-dollar profit, Kennett
wanted, and wants, more.
He took some convincing but the president is now enamoured of the idea of
what he calls the Tasman Triangle, a connection through Hawthorn between
Victoria, Tasmania and New Zealand.
The Hawks have an exclusive agreement for their livery to appear on
everything AFL NZ issues from now on, to the point that future national
teams will be known as the Hawks and wear an impressive silver and black
version of the Hawthorn jumper. The entire AFL presence in New Zealand has
been given the acronym HANZ UP, which is shorthand for Hawks Australia New
For their missionary effort, the program itself has been given Hawthorn's
name, colours and interest although a priority claim to players does not
The Hawks are certainly making an investment in New Zealand — it has two
part-time scouts in the country now answering to east coast recruiting
manager Graham Wright, is lobbying the AFL to provide the finance for
the appointment of two AFL NZ development officers and will spend six-figure
sums each year to support its various programs and scholarships but they are
certainly expecting a return.
When Kennett asked his question 19 months ago, what he was really asking for
was a way to grow outside the claustrophobic and all but wrung dry 10- team
Victorian AFL market.
"If we find a home for the game with only 0.02 per cent of the New Zealand
population that will amount to 8000 potential players and members," Pelchen
said. "We're looking for a niche, but if we do it right we believe it can
become a permanent market, a constant source of players and members for
There are, of course, other imperatives at work. Such as the concern that as
the AFL competition admits a 17th and then 18th team over the next three
years finding players, certainly elite athletic talent, is going to get
harder than it already is for the established clubs.
Then, there is the thought that games against the expansion sides are likely
to be commercial disasters of the type witnessed when Fremantle and Port
Adelaide, for example, play in Melbourne.
It could make compelling commercial sense, apart from anything else, to play
one or two of the extra home matches each season, against Gold Coast and
western Sydney, not at the 100,000 capacity MCG or 50,000 capacity Etihad
(Docklands) Stadium but Wellington's cosier Basin Reserve with an
underwriting, such as teams get for taking games to Darwin.
"My belief is that AFL football will be played on a regular basis in New
Zealand within 10 years," Pelchen said, before making the point that it is a
shorter flight from Melbourne or Sydney to Auckland than it is to Perth and
that, unlike nations in the near Pacific, there are no visas required to
travel between the two countries.
"I'd add that coming to Australia there are far fewer difficulties for a New
Zealander to deal with than there are for an Irishman, a South African or
In New Zealand, the move also appears fortuitously timed. The government,
through its peak sports body, the Sport and Recreation Commission, or SPARC,
has committed to more than trebling the funds available for junior sport
over the next four years, an increase from $25million to $82m.
It has done so with two objectives; an improvement in adolescent health and
a higher profile on the international stage. It is a fine time, then, for a
sport, particularly a foreign one, after a warm reception for a grass-roots
Back to the Diary
'No cash' for AFL in report
November 19, 2009
The AFL has rejected suggestions it will triumph financially from the
controversial Crawford Report and its recommendation that the Federal
Government redress a ''bias'' towards funding Olympic sports.
Many critics have questioned the panel behind the report, suggesting its
members – including AFL commissioner Sam Mostyn, former commissioner
Colin Carter and David Crawford, who restructured Australian
football in the 1990s – are too close to the AFL.
But the league maintained yesterday that it had not asked for a single
additional cent from the Government when it appeared before the Crawford
panel last year. Nevertheless, the AFL stands ready to use its broad appeal
to help the Government improve community health and activity.
"We are also always happy to partner with the Federal Government,
particularly in looking at how we can use Australian football to get more
young kids physically active and playing sport - any sport,'' spokesman
Brian Walsh said last night.
''Any move to give more young people an opportunity to be active and to take
part in sport is a good thing for the country. If more kids play sport as a
result of this report, then that is a great step forward.''
The response came as the Australian Olympic Committee began planning its
response to the report, which says that the Australian public needs to be
re-educated about sporting success and recommends abandoning the goal of
being a top-five Olympic nation.
A study group – dubbed ''Coates' army'' by some – has been assembled by AOC
president John Coates and features former and current Olympic
athletes and administrators. The group will craft a response to the Crawford
Report, with the document to be prepared by EKS services, the Swiss-based
consultancy responsible for Rio de Janeiro's winning games bid.
The group of 18 includes marathon great and former Australian Institute of
Sport head Robert de Castella, former swimmer and now Swimming
Australia director Chris Fydler, gymnastics head coach Peggy
Liddick, Australian Commonwealth Games chief Perry Crosswhite and
Yachting Australia president Andrew Plympton.
Olympic sporting bosses continued to savage the report yesterday. Rowing
Australia president Patrick McNamara called the report flawed and
misguided and said it would ''extinguish the aspirations of so many
Back to the Diary
Why Sam must get the boot
November 19, 2009
Several months ago, an impeccably dressed Andrew Demetriou took me
for a coffee in a Sydney cafe with his media offsider, Tony Peek.
The AFL's public relations machine was in full swing, determined to win over
a cynical Sydney media that had little real interest in the Western Sydney
So sensitive to stressing the AFL's anti-sexist line is Demetriou that he
wisely wheeled out the eloquent and intelligent female AFL commissioner
Sam Mostyn at the Western Sydney launch.
Demetriou is smooth as silk, looks you in the eye and has a huge respect for
women. He talks openly and affectionately about his wife and daughters.
The AFL chief is savvy enough to know that the way to a footy fan's heart in
this toughest of Sydney markets is to make the new club as female-friendly
as possible, with zero tolerance for badly behaved footballers.
In short, Demetriou pressed all the right buttons. He drew a line in the
sand with the other macho footy codes. AFL, he pledged, is the one code
geared to women and families, the one modern game that understands it is not
OK to abuse women.
Much closer to home, Demetriou has let himself down very, very badly in his
anti-chauvinistic crusade. Back in his home town of Melbourne, the AFL chief
and a group of television bosses have turned a blind eye to the biggest
single thorn in their side.
Sam Newman is the antithesis of Demetriou's image of a modern
footballer. He is an arrogant, self-serving human being who has hidden
behind the image of a man's man for far too long.
But he cannot be the sole acceptor of the blame for his errant ways. The
Melbourne media, and in particular the Nine Network, have allowed Newman the
leverage to behave appallingly at any opportunity.
Just this week, Melbourne's Channel 9 boss Jeff Browne apologised on
behalf of the network for remarks made after Newman's completely unclever
and unfunny segment last year.
This was the Footy Show episode in which he fondled a lingerie-clad
mannequin after attaching a photo of Age football writer Caroline
Wilson to it.
A subsequent Newman tirade against female AFL board members accused them of
being liars. One of them, the Western Bulldogs director Susan Alberti,
took him on in court and won. Channel 9 this week agreed to pay Alberti a
defamation settlement of $220,000 plus costs (an estimated total of
$500,000) after she took the network to court over Newman's allegations.
"I didn't spend the last 30 years doing what I've done to have this happen
to me, so I feel very vindicated," Alberti said.
"I'm treated very fairly in football. I don't have a problem. I've been
involved in football for over 50 years, so I would hope that women would
continue to participate, continue to be on boards, and there's room for
Not in Newman's world, there's not. He has not apologised. Once again, his
bosses said sorry on the network's behalf but refused to force Newman to do
the same. He remains unrepentant and, even worse, employed.
"It's not my money," he declared. "Channel 9 can do what they like. As long
as they didn't include my name, that's fine by me."
Channel 9 is a blokey world that shamelessly exploits every antiquated
notion of sexism in both its Sydney and Melbourne footy shows. I had the
displeasure of working for a single show on the Sydney version, which I can
safely say was the worst and most humiliating two hours of my life.
The male hosts, former rugby league players Paul Vautin and Peter
Sterling, refused to speak to me. They made it well known in the media
before my appearance that I would not be welcome.
They insisted they would not talk to me before, during or after the program.
I was even forced to sit in a separate empty room before the show because
they refused to be in the same space. They kept their promise during the
telecast as well.
The Jack Daniels-swilling audience of blokes sitting in the front row, loved
the hatred, because it gave them a feeling that the old, macho world is
pretty damned good after all.
Just like Newman's small and vocal fan base, they refuse to believe footy is
any different from the good old days and the public humiliation of a woman
Nine is one of the last major bastions of chauvinism, which has allowed
several modern aspects of sexual equality to pass it by.
Browne and Nine Network CEO David Gyngell have sat back and watched
this world flourish under their stewardship. They preside over declining
ratings for both footy shows, but refuse to yield to public pressure for
Perhaps they actually like Newman, Vautin and co because they hark back to
those politically incorrect days when boofheads were an accepted part of
footy culture. How else do you explain their apparent endorsement of
Brendan Fevola's on-camera antics at the Brownlow Medal ceremony?
After last year's Footy Show incident involving the mannequin,
Gyngell issued a pathetic excuse of an apology, saying he was displeased.
Another Newman mate, Eddie McGuire, supported Newman's employment at
the TV station.
The boys' club that is, and was, Channel 9 reigned supreme, oblivious to
just how much damage Newman does to their brand each week.
Sam Newman is now way beyond any psychologist's kind words. He is a
recalcitrant who negates every step forward Demetriou and the game have
taken in recent years. He will not stop the bile because he believes those
who oppose him are the misguided ones.
Newman has never been funny but he is now just more bitter and misogynistic
than before. His brushes with the
law have underlined his aggressive, nasty streak.
Demetriou can take as many female journalists as he likes to coffee. He can
talk up the changes and show us the statistics that reflect more women are
coming to AFL games.
The bottom line is, while you can still turn on the television to see Sam
Newman wearing his AFL hat on a program strongly endorsed by the code, none
of it means a pinch of anything.
Newman's number is up.
Jeff Browne cannot hide behind written apologies shrouded in legalese for
The women on the AFL boards united under one banner to nail Newman. Those
female AFL fans who are providing Demetriou with his positive statistics
should now do the same, telling Browne to sack Newman or face the backlash.
So many recently retired AFL players are well-spoken, respectful and
thoroughly admirable people. They would probably kill for a chance to fill
We can live without his snarl, without the constant barbs aimed at women and
the downright sleaziness of a man who must now have finally run out of
lives. He is a relic whose bosses should put him on the extinct list before
it's too late to salvage their already tattered reputations.
Back to the Diary
Sheedy tackling geography of code and city
November 14, 2009
Two scenes in far eastern Sydney last week that maybe tell a story about
where the AFL is going in that disjointed part of town.
Driving past the SCG, you spy a tanned and shirtless Paul Roos.
Almost as bronze as the statue of him holding up the 2005 premiership cup.
Must have been for a swim in the ocean, you think.
The charismatic coach has got it sorted. Incredible pad in Randwick, halfway
between work and play. Legacy bolted to the concrete and set on a plinth.
Not a bad life those Swans boys have. Almost all are shacked up in the
eastern suburbs, handy to the ocean and the SCG, the beach-side cafes and
the inner-urban boutiques. And yet, the club has struggled so hard to get
young players to commit that it gets thrown buckets of money by the AFL to
help it help the youngsters overcome the hardship of living in the alien
city. Pulling into the car park at the football stadium you enter the NSW
AFL headquarters and there's not a soul in sight. Nobody is at reception,
the tea rooms and offices empty, every desk vacant.
You find them all in the boardroom, hanging on to every word of an avuncular
man from the south. It's Sheeds. Kevin Sheedy. Master raconteur,
footy legend and the messiah come to introduce a foreign religion to the
heathens huddled some 60km to the west.
He's been appointed coach of Greater Western Sydney and already he's doing a
great job, attracting truckloads of media attention. The GWS side will make
its debut in the AFL competition in 2012. There's been a lot of half-baked
jokes made around those initials. Some say it should be GPS. Someone else
says it stands for God-knows Where it iS.
Victorian football reporters shuttled in for meet and greets at the code's
$30 million Blacktown complex, rub their weary eyes and talk of the drive
from the airport. How they got to Homebush and kept driving and driving. And
The horrified Melburnians tell tales of how they tried to find a cafe latte
but all they could see were housing estates, toll booths, McDonald's and
more McDonald's. They'd never ordered a coffee at a drive-thru before.
These are people who, like most visitors to Sydney, spend their times
somewhere between Bondi and the bridge. Went as far west as Newtown once,
but thought it didn't scrub up in comparison to Fitzroy.
They thought Waverley was a folly, but this GWS business has an air of Burke
and Wills to the whole thing. Maybe one day the AFL will travel out with its
buckets of money for the settlers only to find a few scattered graves and
initials on a telephone pole. You can be sure sometime soon someone will
tell you the GWS joke.
It's a hoary old sports gag that at one stage was about the kid that comes
from Rwanda (you can insert the name of any war-torn place) to play football
for Collingwood (you can use any hardscrabble suburb). The story goes that
his mother calls the rooms at half-time of the match demanding he come back
home and protect them. Life is hellish. The dog has been killed, his sister
shamed, his father abducted and their home is under attack from the local
"C'mon mum," says the boy. "The club told us it would take a while to settle
into Collingwood/Port Adelaide/GWS."
At the same time the AFL is introducing football to the west, the west is
introducing the concept of a Greater Sydney to everybody else. It's a lesson
in the new geography. Sydney's compass passed its use-by date years ago.
In truth, Parramatta is now the heart of the pancaked city, Homebush is in
the east and those seaside clusters that once called themselves the eastern
suburbs are, in fact, the far east.
Sheedy is a master of bluff and bonhomie. He arrived early in the week
talking about his love and knowledge of the city. He remembers Liverpool
from 40 years ago.
"I have been coming in and out of Sydney for a long time with Essendon," he
says after the staff have cleared the boardroom.
"I was coming up in the '60s and '70s when I was in the army, out at Casula
in the engineers, it was a terrific eye opener. When I played for Prahran in
the VFA we used to come on interstate trips ... I sat near the Sydney
harbour and couldn't believe it. I saw the Opera House getting built."
He is not bothered that the west is a place oblivious to the AFL.
"It's all Australia isn't it?" he asks. "Why shouldn't you be working and
toiling your own sport in your own land, whether it's western Sydney, the
Gold Coast or Cairns?
"I have been on the road with this game for 40 years. Let's go on an
adventure and see if we can get it right. That's what people have been doing
all through history, going to frontiers and trying to get things right, get
things better, trying."
When other coaches have come to Sydney they have promised the wife and
family a home by the sea, but Sheedy won't be able to do that. He and his
wife Geraldine have not worked out where they will stay. "We've got friends
in Sydney," he said. "We have to work out where we are going to live
eventually. Maybe somewhere in the north, near the river or Parramatta, or
Baulkham or Pennant Hills or Liverpool."
Sheedy talks of Australia's migrant experience in decades past and sees a
new chapter of it opening up in GWS. "When I grew up, after the war years,
when we had so many people come here from the war-torn countries," he says.
"Some of these were people we were at war with but they became very, very
"That is quite amazing to experience that through your life, the Italians,
the Germans, the Greeks, everybody. In the end it is great that we can put
our hands out to people from countries who were struggling, who have had
problems, whether it is tsunamis, drought or famine.
"These are people are just looking for a chance and we should be on the
doorstep. It is a chance for Australia and the AFL to say 'Hi', this is our
game, you might like it'. And you might find another Dipierdomenico (Robert,
former Hawthorn footballer) or the Ukrainian Jesaulenko (Alex, Carlton star)
we don't know what is going to come but if you are not there you are not
going to get anybody.
"When you have got an exciting game, don't fail it. After the knowledge and
experience the game has given me ... you have to come back and say this is
what I have learned over the last two years as an ambassador and in the 40
years before that.
"Maybe this is a good way to help the people of western Sydney shape this
game, but this is the menu, have a look at it. It's not a bad game, we are
not trying to pinch your rugby league and rugby union, but we are the new
kids on the block."
Back to the Diary
Sheedy no great western force just yet
Melbourne's Herald Sun,
November 12, 2009
Kevin Sheedy is the AFL's top gun in the battle for the west, but
fewer than one in five people in western Sydney know who he is.
Sheedy was yesterday often confused for Wests Tigers and Australian
Kangaroos coach Tim Sheens.
The AFL's $200 million invasion of western Sydney appears to have a long way
to go, with a Daily Telegraph survey revealing most western Sydney
residents cannot identify many of the AFL's biggest stars, including Sheedy.
Brisbane Lions recruit Brendan Fevola was recognised by only one in
10 people in the survey conducted at Blacktown's Westpoint shopping centre.
The former Carlton spearhead was wrongly identified as Roosters forward
Willie Mason more than 10 times.
."Swans star and dual Brownlow medallist Adam Goodes was recognised
by one in four western Sydney residents.
"He's a Swans player, but I can't think of his name," said Brett Stevens,
Mike Bell, of Roseville, said: "He's another rugby player. He sure looks a
lot like Ernie Dingo, but I can't get his name."
Carlton captain Chris Judd was mistaken for former Swan Barry Hall
by a number of people.
The Daily Telegraph yesterday surveyed 156 people in Blacktown,
asking them to identify five AFL stars and NRL marvel Jarryd Hayne from
The investigation revealed that:
was easily the most identifiable footballer, with almost half of the
respondents naming him as the Eels rugby league star.
who features in a Gatorade television advertisement, was the most identified
AFL star, with 25.6 per cent of those interviewed correctly naming him.
16.7 per cent of people could identify Greater Western Sydney coach Sheedy.
More than half of the respondents were unable to name any of the football
Of those interviewed who classed themselves as keen sports followers, about
half were of the opinion the proposed Blacktown AFL team would be able to
secure its own territory in western Sydney.
"It's probably a good thing. Blacktown isn't really serviced by Parramatta
or Penrith so it's good for Blacktown," said Mark Maiorana, of Quakers Hill
Many respondents said they would not support the AFL's 18th club, but said
the code was a threat to rugby league in the region.
Back to the Diary
Biggest fan base? Not the Magpies – says poll
October 22, 2009
For years the black-and-white hordes have told all who would listen – and
plenty who had preferred not to – that Collingwood was the biggest sporting
club not only in this universe but in every parallel one as well. The most
passionate fans, the biggest support base, the most glorious history - the
Magpies supposedly had it all.
But the truth, it seems, has finally come out. Collingwood is not the most
popular club after all – not in this world, not in Australia and not in
Melbourne. According to a recently released Roy Morgan poll, the Magpies are
not even the most popular team on Swan Street.
Yes, that's right, the Melbourne Storm, which next year will move its home
games from Olympic Park, which is beside Collingwood's Lexus Centre, a
couple hundred metres down the road into the new rectangular stadium nearing
completion, rated more fans (826,000) than did the Magpies in an identical
Roy Morgan poll released earlier this year. Collingwood, said the poll, had
just 731,000 fans. In fact, Brisbane Broncos were crowned the most popular
club by the survey, with their 1,259,000 fans eclipsing the Sydney Swans'
1,217,000 (registered in the earlier poll, which relegated Collingwood to
third place behind the Swans and Brisbane Lions).
But even these results could not draw the usually vocal Storm chief
executive Brian Waldron – whose team has won three premierships since
coming into the NRL in 1998 compared with Collingwood's one flag since 1958
– into a free shot at that most vocal of Magpies, club president Eddie
McGuire. ''I can't do it, he'll kill me,'' Waldron laughed when
presented with the opportunity.
The polls – which each asks about 20,000 respondents across the country
''what [AFL or NRL] team do you support?'' – must be viewed with a cautious
eye. Teams such as the Broncos, Storm and Swans – which have a whole city
from which to draw support – are more likely to attract higher numbers than
a team such as Collingwood, which has to share its pie with nine other
Back to the Diary
AFL sets up new Sydney Team GWS foundations
October 21, 2009
Recruiting and draft concessions for the AFL's new club in western Sydney
were based on a ''generational decision'' to introduce a team into a
non-traditional football region, according to league boss Andrew
Team GWS (Greater Western Sydney) will get the first pick in each round of
the 2011 national draft and picks 2, 3, 5, 7, 9, 13 and 15 in the opening
round – before the team's entry into the 2012 AFL season.
A major difference with the new Gold Coast franchise, which can sign one
uncontracted player from each club before entering the competition in 2011,
is a decision to allow Team GWS two years to sign uncontracted players.
If the new club, which will be based at Blacktown Olympic Park, has not
signed 16 uncontracted players at the end of the 2011 season, it can sign
the balance – up to 16 players – at the end of its first season.
''The AFL Commission is fully aware that establishing an AFL club based at
Blacktown Olympic Park is one of the most significant challenges ever
undertaken by the AFL,'' Demetriou said yesterday.
He said the success of the league's 18th team would be judged ''during the
next 20 to 30 years'' and the concessions revealed yesterday were aimed at
developing a ''community club'' that was strong on and off the field.
The league's legal and business affairs manager, Andrew Dillon, said the
concessions were also designed to give the incoming team from western Sydney
access to experienced AFL players.
The club will also have zoned access (up to 16 players) in southern NSW and
ACT and all areas outside the current NSW scholarship region during the 2010
to 2013 national draft period.
Team GWS will also be able select up to 12 17-year-olds (born between
January and April 1993) at the end of the 2010 season with the option to
relocate to Sydney for the 2011 season. The club can also opt trade some of
those 17-year-olds for experienced AFL players from other clubs. To assist
the club's trading window at the end of 2011 and 2012 seasons, Team GWS will
also have access to an extra four 17-year-old's (born between January and
April 1994) to be traded to other clubs.
At the end of 2011 and 12 the new club can also pre-list 10 players who had
previously nominated for the draft or were previously listed with an AFL
club. In next year's rookie draft the club will have selections 1, 2, 3, 4,
5, 6, 7 and 8 and in 2011 will alternate NSW priority selections with the
The new club's expanded list of 44-50 players, plus nine rookies in 2012, 13
and 14 will also be granted an extra $640,000 to $1 million in salary cap
allowances, reducing down to $200,000 to $520,000 in 2018 before a senior
list of 38 players and nine rookies is reached in 2019 (with no additional
salary cap allowance).
Team GWS high performance manager Alan McConnell, who will coach the
team next year in the TAC Cup, said the increased list size and salary cap
relief were major tools for development.
''We are delighted with the access we have also been given to players in the
Northern Territory, ACT and southern NSW,'' McConnell said.
''It (the concessions and rule changes) gives due credit to the size of the
challenge ahead and differences that exist between the build of our list for
Team GWS and the Gold Coast franchise.''
Back to the Diary
Annual Review to consider
repeat offenders may be hit harder
October 14, 2009
The AFL is weighing up whether to increase tribunal penalties for serial
offenders, a move that would ramp up the pressure on temperamental Western
Bulldogs star recruit Barry Hall.
Under the current tribunal system, penalties are increased for prior
offenders, but the maximum is 50 per cent for players suspended for more
than five matches in the previous three years.
The league has asked clubs for feedback on whether that cap provides a
Former Sydney premiership star Hall, last week traded to the Bulldogs, would
be one player liable to be hit with a bigger penalty for any future offences
if that change occurred.
He will enter the 2010 season with suspensions totalling 10 matches hanging
over his head.
He was banned for seven games for a huge hit on then-West Coast defender
Brent Staker in 2008, as well as a one-match sanction later that year for
attempting to strike Collingwood's Shane Wakelin.
Hall was then hit with a two-match ban this year for hitting Adelaide's Ben
Rutten, an incident which ended his Swans career.
Upon joining the Bulldogs last week, Hall said he was confident he could
keep his infamous temper in check, but added: "I can't promise anything".
The AFL is also putting several other aspects of the tribunal system under
scrutiny as part of their annual review.
They include looking at whether players who obviously stage for free kicks
should be fined.
The league is also considering whether to ease the eligibility criteria for
the Brownlow Medal, to allow players who have committed offences which earn
only a reprimand to remain in contention.
They are also looking at whether current penalties punishing unreasonable
contact to the face are appropriate.
Carlton captain Chris Judd was a notable offender under that charge, copping
a three-match ban for contact to Brisbane's Michael Rischitelli in the
Blues' elimination final loss last month.
The club unsuccessfully appealed that decision.
The AFL will also assess their sanctions for umpire contact and for
dangerous sling tackles.
Other issues to be looked at are whether to have three regular tribunal
members, rather than a rotating panel, and whether incidents in intraclub
practice matches should be covered by the tribunal system.
Back to the Diary
New claim against Fevola
Martin Blake and Andrea Petrie
October 10, 2009
An incident in the women's toilets at Crown with a newspaper reporter has
emerged from the debris of Brendan Fevola's catastrophic Brownlow
The Herald Sun reporter has not made an official complaint but is
believed to have been upset at the time. AFL football operations manager
Adrian Anderson said that the woman's claims, which are that Fevola
sexually harassed her, were being taken ''extremely seriously''.
''We've got a respect and responsibility policy for women that's been in
place for five years now and any contraventions of that policy will be
viewed very seriously by the AFL,'' Anderson said.
''We have spoken to the employer of the woman concerned, we've provided
support and access to counselling, and we've also made it clear that the AFL
is ready and willing to act on any breach of what we expect of our players
to behave towards women.''
Carlton president Stephen Kernahan yesterday admitted Carlton had not
conducted any inquiry into the matter. He said it had become a matter for
the AFL. The Blues put Fevola up for trade soon after the full-forward's
drunken rampage and the deal was done yesterday with the Coleman medallist
switching to the Brisbane Lions.
''It's an AFL call from here and we're officially not involved with that,''
''I think everyone knows of an alleged happening at the Brownlow. I think
it's already being looked at by other parties.''
Anderson said the AFL was ready to act if required. 'We've provided support
and also indicated that we're willing and able to act as soon as she would
like to talk to us,'' he said.
Fevola, who is on holidays with family on the Gold Coast, said he regretted
Brownlow Medal night.
''I want to express my deep sorryness,'' he told reporters. ''I think on
Brownlow night, as I stated in my statement when the Blues were putting me
up to trade, that I pretty much made a dick of myself that night - obviously
had too much to drink.
''I don't think I missed too many people that night. I've apologised to the
AFL, to the club, to my supporters, to the players, to other media people
that were there and I want to express my deep sorryness again, because it
was absolutely disgusting, my behaviour.
''I've got to earn a lot of trust, particularly from 'Vossy' [coach
Michael Voss] and the players.''
Back to the Diary
AFL trade week: done deals
October 9, 2009
1. North Melbourne exchanges Josh Gibson and its round five selection
(currently number 69) to Hawthorn for its round two selection (currently
number 25) and its round three selection (currently number 41).
2. The Sydney Swans exchange Amon Buchanan to the Brisbane Lions for their
round two selection (currently number 28).
3. The Brisbane Lions exchange Bradd Dalziell to West Coast for Brent Staker
and its round three selection (currently number 39).
4. West Coast exchanges Mark Seaby to the Sydney Swans for its round two
selection (currently number 22).
5. Melbourne exchanges Brock McLean to Carlton for its round one selection
(currently number 11).
6. The Sydney Swans exchange Barry Hall to the Western Bulldogs for their
round three selection (currently number 47).
7. The Sydney Swans on-trade their round three selection (currently number
47) to the Brisbane Lions for its round three on-traded selection (currently
8. Essendon exchange Andrew Lovett to St Kilda for its round one selection
(currently number 16).
9. The Sydney Swans exchange Darren Jolly to Collingwood for its round one
selection (currently number 14) and its round three selection (currently
10. St Kilda exchanges Xavier Clarke to the Brisbane Lions for its round
four selection (currently number 60).
11. Geelong exchanges Shane Mumford to the Sydney Swans for its round two
on-traded selection (currently number 28).
12. Hawthorn exchanges Josh Kennedy to the Sydney Swans for its round three
on-traded selection (currently number 39).
13. Hawthorn exchange Ben McGlynn to the Sydney Swans for its round three
on-traded selection (currently number 46) and its round five Selection
(currently number 70).
14. As part of a three-way exchange, Essendon exchanges its round three
selection (currently number 42) to Port Adelaide.
15. As part of a three-way exchange, Port Adelaide exchanges its round three
selection (currently number 40), its round three on-traded selection
(currently number 42) and its round four selection (currently number 56) to
the Geelong Cats for its round six selection (currently number 97).
16. As part of a three-way exchange, the Geelong Cats exchange its round two
selection (currently number 33) to Essendon.
17. Hawthorn exchanges Mark Williams to Essendon for its round one on-traded
selection (currently number 16).
18. Port Adelaide exchange Shaun Burgoyne to Hawthorn for its round one
selection (currently number nine) and its round one on-traded selection
(currently number 16).
19. Essendon exchanges Jay Nash to Port Adelaide for its round two selection
(currently number 24).
20. West Coast exchange its round four selection (currently number 55) to
the Sydney Swans for its round eight selection (currently number 118).
21. Carlton exchanges Brendan Fevola and its round two selection (currently
number 27) to the Brisbane Lions for Lachlan Henderson and its round one
selection (currently number 12).
22. Richmond exchanges Jay Schulz to Port Adelaide for Mitch Farmer and its
round five selection (currently number 72).
23. Richmond exchanges Andrew Raines to the Brisbane Lions for its round
three selection (currently number 44).
24. Fremantle exchanges Brett Peake to St Kilda for its round three
selection (currently number 48).
25. Fremantle exchanges Marcus Drum to the Geelong Cats for its round three
selection (currently number 49).
26. Essendon exchanges its round four selection (currently number 58) to
Hawthorn for its round six selection (currently number 89)
Back to the Diary
Loyalty benched as pragmatism rules
October 8, 2009
This trade week has been unlike others in recent history in two ways. One,
an advance, is the number of deals already done. Pragmatically, clubs have
accepted that the bird in hand now is worth at least the two in the bush
that after tomorrow's deadline can never be caught. Carlton's astute work
yesterday was an example. Although anxious to wash its hands of Brendan
Fevola, once it might have hesitated over such a bombshell deal until it
was too late to stitch it together. This time, it was not caught – as Fevola
too often is – with its pants down.
The other shift, a regression, is the rhetorical premium some clubs are
putting on loyalty, and the unfair way this reflects on players.
Loyalty in professional sport is a nuanced concept. The loyalty of fans to
their club is unqualified and unalloyed. It can never be bought or sold. It
is wilfully and admirably blind. It inspires spontaneous and indignant
protests such as Carlton's in support of Fevola earlier in the week and
Hawthorn's standing up for Campbell Brown yesterday. It is black and
white, founded entirely on what its heroes do on the field, not having
regard for the complexities off it. It does not have to deal with the harsh
realities of running a club. But it is what clubs depend on, and the game,
too. It is for life.
The other – the loyalty of club to player, and player to club – is
different. It is intense and exacting, as only the bond can be between those
thrown together in the cause of combat, but necessarily it is fleeting. From
the moment a player signs with a club, he is on the road to leaving it,
sooner or later, sometimes on his own terms, more often on the club's. It is
the implicit clause in every contract. It is 'til death do us part, except
Unquestionably, Josh Gibson was ill-mannered in the way he left North
Melbourne, not bothering to pre-empt his announcement to teammates, for
instance. This prompted high-minded sermons from new coach Brad Scott
and football manager Donald McDonald characterising Gibson as a
deserter and claiming that the club was well rid of him because it wanted
only players who were committed utterly to the North cause. This is the way
a club must think.
But the cause Scott was committed to until a month ago was Collingwood's,
and the cause he might have been committed to now might have been Richmond's
if the game of musical chairs had played out differently, and the cause
McDonald once was committed to was Hawthorn's.
Moreover, who at North can truly say that even if Gibson had remained
staunch, the club would not have traded him anyway, for that is what this
week is all about? The fact that a player is talented is no protection, and
indeed sometimes leaves him more vulnerable; it makes him tastier bait.
It is why Brown's name bobbed up yesterday, so infuriating Hawks' fans. It
is why every AFL footballer, no matter where he is in the world this week,
sweats on the ringing of his mobile.
There is a further irony in the Gibson case. For all we know, one man who
might have been deeply offended by Gibson's abrupt departure was Adam
Simpson, a former captain, a heart-and-soul player, at that time still
under contract to North, and still in the club's bosom. Now he is an
assistant coach at Hawthorn, where one of his charges will be Gibson.
The posturing is everywhere. St Kilda professed to be disappointed with
Luke Ball's decision to ask for a transfer to Collingwood. Coach Ross
Lyon said he expected an appropriate return, in terms of ability and
leadership. As things stand, that actually means a marginalised footballer
with no formal leadership role, for that is what Ball has become under Lyon.
The coach need not apologise; he has said repeatedly that he is obliged to
do what he thinks is best for the team, no matter how wrenching.
But he can hardly have been surprised by Ball's request, and ought not to
impugn his loyalty. Ball has been defined by loyalty, but as noted, in the
football ecosystem, loyalty has a short half-life.
What to do? The system compels turnover, hurts players and hurts fans. Fans
recover: three wins in a row the next season quickly transcends the pain.
Fans are nothing if not resilient. Some players recover, some don't. There
must be a system; everyone accepts that. But it could be more humane, which
underscores the players' association's push for a form of free agency.
In the meantime, the faux and sometimes hypocritical emphasis on ''loyalty''
ought to be toned down. Not every player moves because he wants to. Not
every club moves a player on because it wants to. Brad Scott, damning
Gibson, said North would bring in in his place two players who desperately
wanted to play for the club. But the fact is that the two, as yet unknown,
will have no choice. They will be desperate to play league football, of
course, but not until their name is called out on draft day will they know
that their desperation henceforth will be in North's cause.
Hawthorn's great maverick ruckman Don Scott once said that he felt
minimal loyalty to the club, but much to the group of players who were his
contemporaries there. For all the rhetoric, not much has changed.
Back to the Diary
AFL players nervous ahead of national draft
September 29, 2009
Only the elite few at each club are untouchable. For the rest nervous times
await. Some should be more nervous than others.
Mark 2009 down as the season when AFL clubs decided aggressive pre-draft
trading was the way to go.
The unavailability of 17-year-olds, with the Gold Coast having access to the
best 12 in the country, has recruiters declaring the November 26 national
draft to be somewhat thin after the first 12-15 picks.
And that's where the trades come into play. If you can't find what you are
looking for via the kids, go with what you know.
And it could involve established players such as Western Bulldog Brian
Lake and Geelong's Mark Blake, despite the latter having played
in his second straight AFL Grand Final with Geelong on Saturday.
The Western Bulldogs have told Lake and his management that he won't be
traded under any circumstances.
With the parties believed to be up to $100,000 apart in salary talks, Lake
is said to be willing to take his chances in the pre-season draft.
Which means Melbourne would get first crack at the 27-year-old full-back,
who was recruited from Woodville-West Torrens in 2001 with pick 71.
That would mean the Bulldogs get nothing for a player who is a large part of
their planning going into the 2010 premiership campaign.
It is hard to see it happening but, remember, Port Adelaide got nothing when
Nick Stevens returned to Melbourne in 2004 and joined Carlton.
Blake is a different case, the 200cm ruckman refusing to sign the new
contract offered during the season.
Seven weeks ago departure from Skilled Stadium seemed likely as Blake
languished in the VFL, but when rookie Shane Mumford tired towards
the end of the season the Cats turned to Blake to give them predictable
results at stoppages.
Blake, Mumford and Trent West are all out of contract at Geelong,
while giant project player Dawson Simpson has re-signed with the
Blake is building a house at Ocean Grove, but with 29-year-old Brad
Ottens expected to play at least two more seasons, competition for
rucking sports will remain intense.
On the subject of the Cats, don't rule out interest from them in Fremantle
defender Marcus Drum, whose uncle Damian played with Geelong.
Geelong is keen to replenish its defensive stocks with Tom Harley,
Darren Milburn and Matthew Scarlett part of an ageing defence.
Drum is 22 and was taken with pick 10 in the 2005 draft, so he won't come
Carlton is another side desperate for defenders, hence its interest in West
Coast's Matt Spangher and Andrejs Everitt of the Western
Could we even see Chris Tarrant bob up in a Blues jumper, the
29-year-old having declared his interest in returning to Victoria. The
expected retirement of Stevens will leave room in Carlton's salary cap.
Spangher is a Melbourne boy and wants to return home while Everitt is said
to be seeking a change of environment after being overlooked by the Dogs for
all three finals.
St Kilda's Matt Maguire is another defender who could create interest
at the Blues, although as of yesterday he was said to be favouring Hawthorn
or Essendon, both of which have shown keen interest.
The environmental change can also be applied to Fremantle's Brett Peake,
who has made his intentions to begin again outside Perth very clear.
There has been some interest from Melbourne in the 26-year-old who boasts
explosive running ability.
Now, to arguably the best credentialled player in trade talk: Port
Adelaide's Shaun Burgoyne.
Almost 27, it has been a stunning fallout at Alberton Oval given earlier
this year he was coach Mark Williams' preferred choice as captain.
Hawthorn has put pick No. 9 on the table for the sublimely skilled Burgoyne,
Port responded by asking for pick No. 9 and Jordan Lewis. Lewis,
though, does not want to leave Hawthorn and that deal won't be happening.
If other players from the Hawks become involved look for names such as
Mitch Thorp and Ben McGlynn.
As for Josh Gibson, who has declared his intent on joining Hawthorn,
pick No. 25 from the Hawks is said to be on the table.
Andrew Raines will leave Richmond for Brisbane for the Lions'
third-round pick while Shane Tuck is another Tiger looking for a new
club, probably somewhere who wants a player capable of winning contested
Essendon and Andrew Lovett are expected to part company, with Sydney
having shown some interest in a player who can break up a game with
Collingwood and Essendon could look at a Leon Davis-Lovett swap, although
the former is 28 compared with 26 and the Bombers have been steadfast in
pursuing their youth policy.
The Magpies have been fielding calls about 20-year-old key position players
Nathan Brown and Ben Reid. Travis Cloke's name has also
In terms of players wanting to return to their home states, West Coast's
Ben McKinley is a name that has surfaced again, the 184cm forward
originally from Old Ivanhoe.
The biggest deal to be locked away is Brock McLean to Carlton with
Melbourne getting pick 11.
Depending who you speak to, that is either a win-win or a plus for
Melbourne, given McLean hasn't played his best football in the past two
The reality is he hasn't completed a pre-season in that period and the Blues
know the improvement will come now he is free from injury.
Sydney is expected to take West Coast ruckman Mark Seaby for a
second-round pick, while Brisbane has shown interest in Brent Staker.
Hawthorn continues to be a potential player with the names of Josh
Kennedy and Jarryd Morton having roused interest from rival
Brent Reilly, Robert Shirley, Taylor Walker, Nick Gill
Bradd Dalziell, Jamie Charman, Scott Harding, Rhan Hooper
Brendan Fevola, Andrew Walker, Brad Fisher, Adam Bentick
Leon Davis, Travis Cloke, Chris Dawes, Ben Reid
Andrew Lovett, Jason Laycock, Jay Nash, David Myers
Chris Tarrant, Marcus Drum, Steven Dodd, Ryan Murphy
Mark Blake, Kane Tenace, Trent West, Ryan Gamble
Beau Dowler, Mitchell Thorp, Mark Williams, Rick Ladson
Clint Bartram, Brock McLean, Paul Johnson, Brad Miller
David Hale, Daniel Harris, Corey Jones, Sam Power
Brett Ebert, Shaun Burgoyne, Danyle Pearce, Justin Westhoff
Adam Pattison, Jordan McMahon, Jay Schulz, Jarrad Oakley-Nicholls
Raphael Clarke, Luke Ball, Matt Maguire, Stephen Milne
Barry Hall, Nick Malceski, Henry Playfair, Ryan Brabazon
Ashley Hansen, Ben McKinley, Mark Seaby, Matt Spangher
Andrejs Everitt, Guy O'Keefe, Cameron Wight, Wayde Skipper
Note: The Herald Sun nominates these players as potential trades and is not
stating they will be traded.
1993 Nathan Buckley to Collingwood from Brisbane Lions for pick 12 (Chris
1997 Wayne Schwass to Sydney Swans, Shannon Grant to North Melbourne
1999 Brett Montgomery to Port Adelaide, Nathan Eagleton to Western Bulldogs
2001 Damien Hardwick to Port Adelaide from Essendon for pick 47 (Andrew
Welsh), Barry Hall to Sydney from St Kilda for pick 13 (Nick Dal Santo)
2006 Chris Tarrant to Fremantle from Collingwood for Paul Medhurst and pick
8 (Ben Reid)
1995 Craig Davenport to Carlton from St Kilda for pick 19 (Barry Hall)
2000 Evan Hewitt to Adelaide from North Melbourne for pick 23 (Drew Petrie)
2002 Nick Davis to Sydney from Collingwood for pick 21 (Bo Nixon)
2003 Jason Gram to St Kilda from Brisbane for pick 23 (Matthew Moody)
2004 Brad Ottens to Geelong from Richmond for picks 12 and 16 (Danny Meyer
and Adam Pattison), Chad Morrison to Collingwood from West Coast for pick 37
Back to the Diary
Lost your bounce?
Melbourne's post-footy blues
September 29, 2009
Saturday's final siren brought euphoria to Geelong fans and heartbreak to
Saints supporters but for much of the rest of Melbourne it symbolised the
onset of post-footy blues.
Geelong may be preparing to paint the town blue and white at its grand final
winner's street parade today but in the capital, the streets are feeling a
little forlorn to some.
St Kilda cheer-squad president Pam Mawson has more reason than most
to be feeling flat.
The self-confessed football tragic said it would take time to recover from
Saturday's defeat and cheer-squad members had been sharing their
disappointment as they cope with the loss.
"It takes a lot of picking back up. I'll probably catch up with others and
read about how the Saints are feeling, a few are going to the best and
fairest, that will help," she said yesterday.
"I don't read the Geelong bits in the paper, I only read the Saint bits. I
don't want to read about how wonderful they are."
But it's not just St Kilda fans who are feeling drab, according to Victoria
University sport studies lecturer Matthew Klugman.
"Even those whose teams don't make it to September, they still after the
grand final sense that something's ended and there is some mourning and
grieving that goes on," Dr Klugman said.
The heart of Melbourne beats to football's rhythm during the AFL season, Dr
Klugman said, which makes Victorians more susceptible to post-season blues
than followers of other codes.
Fulfilling social lives that centre on weekend football games can suddenly
seem sparse before the spring racing carnival and cricket offer a
distraction for sports fans.
"I think it's like an emptiness, there's that thing has been so central to
their lives and it's gone for a long while," Dr Klugman said.
"There's an emptiness and an ache and then for most people it will die down
and the hope will start springing again."
Dr Klugman, who has written a book Passion Play about AFL fan life, said
while Geelong supporters would be relishing in their "glorious summer" some
passionate St Kilda fans could be experiencing a feeling akin to trauma.
In the most extreme cases, he said fans of losing sides reported feeling
grief as intense as if a family member had died.
Many would talk and think about the game incessantly for years until St
Kilda were able to cinch a premiership and achieve redemption.
Ms Mawson said St Kilda's devastating loss to Adelaide in 1997 had "ached
into my soul".
She recorded the clash on videotape but has never been able to watch the
This year, she said the Saints' gallant grand final effort meant she would
be able to stomach watching a repeat as she clung to the promise of the
"I think this time, it's so hopeful they are going to get up and do what
Geelong did last year and take that to heart and hopefully win next year,
you've got to hold that in," she said.
"We're not wanting to wait another 43 years, I won't be around."
Meanwhile in Geelong, Cats' cheer-squad president Norm Richardson was
yesterday gearing up to lead today's parade and bask in the glow of a grand
final win before heading off for a month-long Bali break on Sunday.
Mr Richardson said the grand final euphoria would last a few weeks before
the cheer-squad regrouped and got down to the business of securing
This season was Mr Richardson's last as president. He said after feeling the
bitter sting of defeat in 2008 as well as in 1989 and the 1990s, Saturday's
win was the sweetest retirement gift.
"The victories stay forever ... they take away a lot of pain," Mr Richardson
Back to the Diary
Ticket 'system' robs loyal fans
September 26, 2009
The State Government once was gung-ho about the rorts attached to AFL Grand
We'll stamp out the problems, it said. Trust us, we'll make sure more common
footy supporters will have access to the big game.
It is no longer gung-ho about it and it also says there is no need to look
into what some AFL club officials refer to as a rort.
The government now does as the AFL does and conveniently hides behind the
Grand Final ticketing "system", a system that seemingly legalises much of
the rubbish relating to tickets, which went on before legislation was
introduced with the claim it would be stamped out.
Allocation of seats to the AFL's big day is not a "system" in the eyes of so
many people familiar with how it all works.
To them, "system" is replaced by terms such as "corporate scalping",
"gouging" and "legalised scalping".
In March 2002 then-sports minister Justin Madden made some claims he knew
would be well received by the general public.
"We want to ensure the people who support sports week in and week out are
not disadvantaged when it comes to getting to see the premier events,"
Madden told the Herald Sun in an article where he outlined the merits of the
Sports Event Ticketing (Fair Access) Bill, which was before State
"That is why our proposed legislation will counter excessive corporate
ticket grabs and greedy individuals marking up tickets exorbitantly for
He went on: "The critical issue is the large-scale corporate scalping where
third parties obtain large slabs of tickets, which stops distribution to
genuine sports fans at a reasonable price."
With today's St Kilda-Geelong Grand Final the seventh AFL Grand Final to
fall under that legislation, very, very, very little has changed.
People who support football week in and week out continue to be severely
disadvantaged when it comes to gaining a ticket.
Excessive corporate ticket grabs not only have continued but actually may
have increased. Greedy individuals do exorbitantly mark up the price of
tickets for personal gain and third parties continue to obtain large slabs
As revealed last week in a Herald Sun investigation, even if the common
footy supporter is fortunate enough to snare a ticket for the Grand Final,
he will be shunted way up into the nosebleed sections of the stadium.
Sitting way up in the bleachers may not bother you too much during the
match, as being there is better than not being there.
Being there will likely override the fact that the seats and space normally
reserved for you and your fellow football lovers on every other day of the
AFL season will today be packed with people who wouldn't go to the footy
unless there's a wine and food package attached to the day.
Being there to watch Nick Riewoldt and Gary Ablett and Jimmy Bartel and
Lenny Hayes will even temporarily temper your annoyance that thousands and
thousands of your footy-loving colleagues have been robbed of the chance of
being there with you.
But at some stage tonight or tomorrow, your anger levels may reach the
strength of those not fortunate enough to land a Grand Final ticket.
But don't bother complaining to the State Government about the AFL Grand
Final ticketing "system".
It thinks everything is OK.
Back to the Diary
New stadium deal 'momentous'
September 24, 2009
Western Bulldogs president David Smorgon has described the new
agreement between the AFL and Etihad Stadium over match returns as a
'momentous' decision which will protect the future of the Victorian clubs
for the foreseeable future.
The AFL and Etihad Stadium announced on Wednesday that the battle they had
fought over several issues, including stadium returns to the clubs, had been
resolved, resulting in a $5.5 million injection for tenant clubs, a boost of
around $100,000 a game.
The decision protects the clubs from making a loss on playing matches at the
55,000 seat stadium, with the five tenant clubs, Essendon, Western Bulldogs,
North Melbourne, Carlton and St Kilda, set for a $1.1 million windfall each
Smorgon, whose club has been one of the worst affected by the previous
agreements, said the decision would have a huge effect on those clubs which
have been struggling financially and praised the AFL for its persistence in
obtaining the best deal from both Etihad Stadium and from the MCG.
"It is a momentous decision for all Victorian clubs, but particularly for
the smaller clubs. I think there's been disadvantages and inequalities in
our system which has affected the small club in particular. Through no fault
of their own, we've really struggled," he said.
"The AFL have worked very closely, very openly and transparently with the
clubs on this issue. And I think since then the AFL and all the clubs worked
particularly well together and we've delivered the right result, not just
here at Etihad Stadium, but also at the MCG."
"The Victorian clubs in particular are going to be the beneficiaries of
this. That will help reduce the gap that was appearing based on stadium
returns, between non-Victorian clubs and Victorian clubs. All Victorian
clubs will benefit, and particularly the smaller clubs, we are also going to
be advantaged by this decision."
Smorgon said the spirit of co-operation between the clubs and the AFL was at
an all-time high and that had helped achieve the desired outcome in the
negotiations with both Etihad Stadium and the MCG.
"I think it's a credit to all of the clubs, who listened to this on Monday,
and accepted without one word of criticism or knock back that this is the
way we should move forward. We know as an industry we will get bigger, and
everyone will be better."
AFL CEO Andrew Demetriou said that while the chief beneficiaries of
this will be the smaller clubs, the bigger Victorian clubs believed this was
the right direction to go.
"We had nothing but support from the Collingwoods and Hawthorns on Monday.
We had that throughout the year. The clubs have been united when they say
we've got a far better competition when we've got 16 clubs who have got the
best opportunity to compete on the field." he said.
Demetriou said he expected that much of the extra revenue would go into the
football departments of the clubs, but warned them to be careful with their
"We had a very frank discussion with the clubs on Monday about being
cautious and sensitive and not just spending all the money, let's not create
football inflation," he said.
"It gives clubs a great opportunity to plan going forward with surety. With
Etihad it's a 15-year agreement. At least they know that they can bank on
that income coming in. It's up to the boards now at football clubs to manage
their businesses and how they spend it."
Demetriou said the new agreement meant there was no chance of the AFL now
imposing an equalisation tax on richer clubs and that it would review the
current gate equalisation system.
"There's enough money washing around in the system that we don't have to
introduce a tax. But the one area which we have flagged which we do think is
an old inherited archaic system is our gate equalisation system and it is
something we will undertake to review in 2010 for 2011," he said.
Back to the Diary
Call for AFL to open its accounts
Sunday Herald Sun,
September 20, 2009
Community leaders and charity bosses have called on the AFL to open its
financial accounts to public scrutiny.
The call came as a study revealed the AFL had received up to $600 million
worth of benefits from public funding in the past decade and almost $500,000
a year in direct subsidies.
The research, by the University of South Australia's Centre for Regulation
and Marketing Analysis, also stated that the AFL had an unrivalled lack of
transparency in its financial affairs.
The report's authors, John Wilson and Richard Pomfret, said the accounts of
the major Australian professional team sports were non-transparent. "Given
the industry's profitability, it is surprising that it receives public
subsidies," they said.
"The overall outcome has been spending in the hundreds of millions of public
dollars to the benefit of a profitable industry."
The biggest subsidies have been for ground upgrades, but there is also
almost $500,000 a year in taxpayer funding, including $194,000 for the
Australian Institute of Sport's AFL program and $216,000 for the sport's
"The idea that professional sports are a profitable industry, whose size and
composition should be determined by demand and for which public subsidies
are unnecessary, has not entered the public debate," the authors said.
"The political economy of sports subsidies appears to reflect politicians'
beliefs that many sports fans are potential single-issue voters happy to see
tax dollars spent to support professional team sports."
Charity leader Rhonda Galbally said the AFL should be more open about its
"The lack of accountability and transparency are not good. It gets back to
basic governance and it ought to be public," Ms Galbally, of website
But she said the AFL should be commended for its inclusive social programs.
An AFL spokesman said: "Australian football is a non-profit community
industry where the revenue generated at the elite level is ploughed back
into all levels of the game, including community facilities and programs.
"The AFL, like all major community organisations, publicly releases its
accounts as we are all required to do."
Back to the Diary
Newman granted life, then loses the plot
Chris de Kretser and Daryl Timms
September 18, 2009
The Footy Show resident clown Sam Newman was told to get off
stage after his boorish response to being made a life member by the AFL
Media Association on Wednesday night.
Newman, one of five people bestowed with life membership at the
association's annual awards dinner, launched into a bitter rant about the
media when he was interviewed by Tim Watson on the honour.
His behaviour shocked the audience which included the AFL hierarchy led by
Andrew Demetriou, club presidents and officials, media chiefs and
football journalists from newspapers, radio and TV.
As his tirade grew more tiresome, he was told to get off stage by his former
mentor, Channel 7 chief Ian Johnson.
Newman did so, praising Johnson and his other major supporter Eddie
McGuire, who appeared embarrassed by his outburst.
And before storming off stage and walking out of the dinner, Newman said
"Get F-----" to the audience.
Asked about his behaviour yesterday by Herald Sun reporter Siobhan
Duck, Newman was unrepentant.
He said that he just wanted to let people know that he didn't really like or
respect most of the people in the room.
That was contrary to a view expressed by Newman when first told of the
Association president, Herald Sun chief football writer Mike
Sheahan, took him to task over that at the dinner.
"Sam told me a week or so ago that he would be honoured to accept this
award," Sheahan said. "I think he told me a fib."
Sheahan said he had expressed his reservations to Newman about giving him
life membership. Newman thanked him for his candour and said he was
flattered by it.
Newman said yesterday he was only being "honest" when he got stuck into the
media for its treatment of The Footy Show and hinted that he would
have preferred to be at the Beyonce Knowles concert.
He denied he was drunk.
"I was wondering how long it would take them to start saying that," he said.
"I had two standard drinks of red wine with a lovely, large dinner so anyone
who says I was drunk can go and get f*****."
Newman said he didn't like or respect many of the journalists in the
audience and wanted to let them know it.
"Let's clear this up now. I am delighted with the award," he said. "But it
only takes 10 seconds to say that.
"Tim Watson asked me questions and I was just answering those questions
"I would not choose to spend time in the company of most of the people
there. And I don't think they would want to be in my company either.
"They're not friends, they're acquaintances. I just tried to make that
Back to the Diary
Brisbane record another loss but Queensland ready to
September 16, 2009
BRISBANE is set to announce a second consecutive year in the red, but its
administration believes the code in southeast Queensland will "take off"
over the next few years.
Coinciding with the start-up of the Gold Coast team in 18 months, Lions
chairman Tony Kelly views Queensland as being the national "hot spot" for
Australian football over the next couple of years.
Lions chief executive Michael Bowers describes southeast Queensland as
"fertile ground" for the code's expansion, despite a lull in Brisbane since
making four straight grand finals between 2001 and 2004.
Following an overall loss of $2.2million last year, which was due to a
massive writedown of shares, Brisbane is heading for another significant
loss this season of at least $500,000.
The Lions' 2008 result included a trading profit of about $100,000, which
will be at least five times worse this season, mainly due to a decrease in
corporate hospitality at the Gabba.
"It's too early to predict exactly what our loss will be, but there will be
a trading loss, possibly about $500,000," Kelly said. "But we still have a
reasonably strong balance sheet, in the vicinity of $3million." Brisbane,
however, appears to be far better placed than Sydney in coping with the
arrival of a second team.
The Swans posted a $797,520 deficit in 2008 and, after budgeting to break
even this year, Sydney, which failed to make the finals for the first time
in seven years, is again heading for a substantial loss, which appears
certain to be more than $1m.
Following Brisbane's top-six finish and experience this year of playing in
two finals, Kelly believes support will grow on the back of an improved
season under new coach Michael Voss.
This year, Brisbane's membership of 24,873 was the lowest in the competition
after it achieved a record high of 30,221 in 2004 following three successive
Kelly was quick to point out that membership was up this year, particularly
from 2007 when the figure dropped under 22,000.
"We've certainly taken a giant step forward performance-wise, and I believe
we've captured the imagination of the Queensland public," Kelly said.
"People are talking about the team again and everyone in the community feels
that we are heading in the right direction."
Kelly attributes much of Brisbane's rise to the efforts of Voss.
"He's got an engaging personality and I think he's connected well with the
public," Kelly said. "Voss's refreshing approach and presence in the media
has also been outstanding.
"His performance with the playing group is beyond the expectation of many,
but not mine personally."
In a crowded football market, both Kelly and Bowers believe the Lions have
more than held their own, despite a slight drop in home attendances this
season - down about 1000 on average from last year according to Bowers.
"In Queensland, there is a lot of choice within rugby league, rugby and
soccer, as well as in lifestyle," Bowers said. "But we're starting to move
our way up and we will get there before the Gold Coast starts. Our finals
crowd (32,702) was a good attendance on short notice, considering the
scheduling long before of a rugby Test on the same night."
Bowers said everything pointed to there being room for two clubs in
"The soil is very fertile for both teams," he said.
Kelly said Brisbane's improvement this year would lead to an increase in
football department expenditure for next season despite its operating loss.
Yesterday, the Lions added Richmond caretaker coach Jade Rawlings and triple
Brisbane premiership player Craig McRae to the staff as assistant coaches.
McRae spent the past three years as the Tigers' development coach.
Brisbane will be active during next month's trade week, but it is not
expected to trade away its first- or second-round national draft selections.
The Lions have verbally agreed with Richmond to trade in out-of-contract
Tigers defender Andrew Raines. In return, Richmond will receive a
third-round pick from Brisbane.
Brisbane and Sydney are two of four clubs the AFL expects to record losses
The others are Port Adelaide and North Melbourne.
Back to the Diary
Appeals board verdict signals the end of the bump
August 28, 2009
A note for posterity: the bump finally died at 7.55 last night, upon the
finding of the AFL appeals board after 140 minutes of legal argument and
just five minutes of deliberation.
Peter O'Callaghan, QC, was charged with delivering the verdict, not
only upon Lance Franklin, but upon a time-honoured skill of
Australian football. There was not even a wake.
When O'Callaghan dismissed all three of the grounds of appeal put up by
Hawthorn on behalf of Franklin, it can only have meant that the bump becomes
an unnecessary risk for a player. Yet it was never outlawed by the AFL, and
not one of the team of spruikers who work down at AFL headquarters was
required to trot out a press release to say it was so. It has been done by
When the league introduced the appendix to its rough conduct rules in
February after the Nick Maxwell case, it was not immediately obvious
how sweeping the change would be. But it is now.
Franklin is stiff. When he knocked out Ben Cousins at the MCG last
Saturday, he performed a bump that was correct in every tenet of the way the
game has been played for more than a century. But in the new world, he
should have tackled Cousins. If the message was not clear before, then it is
staring players in the face now. No player travelling at high speed and
bumping can guarantee that there will be no high contact to his opponent.
Hawthorn tried valiantly. Franklin's counsel, David Denton, spent
more than an hour arguing unsuccessfully that the charge had been wrongly
framed. This was dismissed in a second or two. Denton argued that the jury
had been misdirected on Tuesday night. It was thrown out. Finally, he
presented a case that the verdict of the tribunal had been perverse and
unfair. All three arguments fell on deaf ears.
This was not a malicious act by Franklin. There remains a feeling that the
rule was not meant for cases like this, which is why Hawthorn now intends
confronting the league about it.
But people who have raged about the tribunal and the match review panel this
week are missing the point. The rule, set down in February after the Maxwell
case, is crystal clear. You can't blame the match review panel and the
tribunal for applying it to this case. They were just doing their job. And
three sets of people - the match review panel, the tribunal and the appeals
board - all felt this way.
What the ''killing the game'' advocates ought to be focusing upon is that
the rule was changed in an instant after Maxwell was reprieved of his big
hit on West Coast's Patrick McGinnity in February, without reference to the
laws of the game panel, the very group set up to tinker with the rules where
required. Why that happened has not been fully explained.
The issue is the law or ''deeming provision'', which instructs the match
review panel and the tribunal to disregard whether a bump is reasonable or
unreasonable, and merely focus on the result of the impact, and whether a
player had another option. The Franklin case suggests that the rule has been
framed too tightly. Perhaps it is time to get the lawyers in again.
People will now continue to say that the game has gone soft, but this is
overly emotive. They should go to a club medical room after a game, or sit
by the boundary to hear the clashes of hard, fit bodies. They should count
how many players head off for surgery next week to repair mangled joints in
the off-season. They should take a peek at a video of a 1970s game and watch
the players skirt around each other, tossing the ball in front so they
cannot be tackled.
Cousins twisted like a rag doll when he was hit. As he lay on the ground,
Franklin fell on to his back, gathered the ball and fired off a handball.
The umpire did not even provide the cold comfort of a free kick, and play
simply moved on around Cousins' fallen body. Don't suggest the game's gone
Back to the Diary
New hush money claim in AFL rape case
August 28, 2009
A woman who claims she was raped by a Carlton AFL player 10 years ago has
accused Victoria Police of offering her hush money for bungling her case.
The woman, known only as Kate, claims that in 1999 police waited two days
before visiting the crime scene, failed to get the suspect's DNA, and
records of his interview with police disappeared.
Kate has told ABC1's 7:30 Report program (August 27th) while she has
now reached a confidential settlement, she was originally offered $20,000 to
Victoria Police declined to be interviewed because it says it cannot comment
on any payments because of strict confidentiality clauses.
The allegations come two months after former Carlton president John Elliott
said the club had paid hush money to women who claimed they had been
assaulted or raped by its players.
The club has now banned Mr Elliott.
Kate also says the police now want her help investigating whether, along
with slain gangland identity Jason Moran, a Carlton player was supplying
drugs to some of his team-mates.
"[I had] bad depression. I now suffer from an anxiety disorder. I just want
to be a happy person again," Kate said.
"There's been times in the last six years where I've thought of ending it
because I don't see that it's ever going to get better."
Kate's memories of the 1999 AFL grand final are of bitterness and
Carlton's season ended in a 35-point loss to the Kangaroos and according to
Kate, a haze of alcohol and drugs – and her alleged rape.
She had met her idol, a Carlton player, at Crown Casino two nights after the
club's defeat and agreed to go home with him. She says other players were at
the Essendon house, some high on cocaine.
"In the middle of having intercourse, a person had walked into the room
right in the middle of having sex and was sort of offering some drug and he
said no," Kate said.
"Then he got a phone call and said he had to go get his keys and get his car
from Optus Oval and that he would be back. So I went to sleep and that's
when I woke up to being fondled and touched.
"I thought that it was the same person but when I noticed he was going - he
was having sex with me, that it was a bit more rough. It just wasn't the
same and he sort of popped his head up from under the covers and I realised
that it wasn't who it was originally."
Kate says she ran out, telling numerous players she had been raped.
She claims some players, including one of Carlton's biggest stars at the
time, tried to stop her from going to the police.
A week later, when leaving her job as a stripper at Melbourne's men's club
Goldfingers, she says Mr Elliott was waiting for her in her boss's office.
She refused to meet him.
"I wasn't offered hush money but I believe if I had've sat in that room I
would have been offered hush money," she said.
Both Mr Elliott and Goldfingers boss Ray Bartlett deny the meeting ever
'They failed to do so much'
Kate went to the police. Three years went by before officers told her there
was not enough evidence.
But she feared she was being ignored because she was working as a stripper
at the time. So she called in the police watchdog.
A leaked 2005 review by the Office of Police Integrity details a litany of
errors in the police investigation.
The informant neglected to collect the suspect's DNA but told colleagues he
had. He waited two days to visit the crime scene.
"By that time they could have washed sheets, they could have – they failed
to do so much," Kate said.
"They let the players go on their overseas football trip before they even
took a statement from the alleged player."
And both the master copy and the back-up of the suspect's police interview
disappeared and have not been seen since.
"You don't completely botch a police investigation that badly just by
mistake," Kate said.
Kate says Victoria Police then sent an apology and a sweetener to let it be.
"They offered me some money... $20,000... on conditions that I don't proceed
with having it heard it court," she said.
"You think you can pay me off with $20,000? $20,000 is nothing, not that it
was ever about money. But I think in some way they owed me more than just 20
grand. They owed me – doing their job properly."
Kate rejected the cash offer and tried to sue the officers involved. Her
civil claim never made it to trial; the Victorian County Court ruled police
do not owe a duty of care to an individual member of the public.
The ABC understands she has since signed a confidential settlement with
They declined an interview but issued a statement saying: "Victoria Police
can't comment on any payments because of strict confidentiality clauses."
As for the botched 1999 rape investigation, one officer was disciplined and
the other two have since resigned from the force.
Prominent Melbourne senior counsel Dyson Hore Lacy says Victoria Police
regularly instigate settlements, most with confidentiality clauses embedded,
so the public is none the wiser about the use of taxpayer dollars.
"I think with [Victoria Police] there is an embarrassment factor. It's the
norm for confidentiality agreements to be signed with settlements against
their members," he said.
"It may be an assault by a member against a member of the public. It might
be a false imprisonment, malicious prosecution. There have been all sorts of
This June, Kate's nightmare was dredged up again, with Mr Elliot's
bombshell. He claimed his club paid four or five women up to $5,000 not to
go public with their claims they had been raped by Carlton footballers.
"We did have a few problems here at Carlton as every club did," Mr Elliot
said on a community television channel.
"I can't name them, because I can't remember."
Kate says it hurts to watch stars like Brendan Fevola and Ange Christou
distance the current playing group from the controversy over the alleged
payments of hush money.
She says although they were not involved in her alleged rape, she told them
about it that night.
Mr Elliott has never spilled the beans as promised. The only questions he
has answered are those of sex crime detectives. He has not responded to the
7.30 Report's requests for an interview.
Claims of underworld links
But in an astonishing twist, Kate suspects Carlton's tentacles stretched
into Melbourne's underworld.
On the same day back in 1999 that she refused to meet Mr Elliott at
Goldfingers, there was a separate incident as Kate was leaving the club.
She says she was confronted by the same man who was dealing drugs the night
of her alleged rape – Jason Moran – who would be killed four years later at
the height of Melbourne's gangland war.
"From nowhere, I got pushed into a little laneway that came off the laneway
and had a gun put to my head and was told that if I was to mention anything
about the drugs, that I would be killed and so would my family," Kate said.
"I was threatened by the same person who walked in on me having consensual
The Moran brothers, Jason and Mark, who helped run Melbourne's underworld
drug syndicate the Carlton Crew, were well known amongst the Blues; their
grandfather worked for the club.
The ABC has contacted former members of the drug squad. None have been
willing to reveal if any gangland links between the Moran family and the
Carlton Football Club were investigated during Melbourne's underworld war.
Six years on from Jason Moran's death and police are now looking into claims
one associate – a former player – was also dealing drugs to some team-mates.
The police want Kate's help, but she says she owes them nothing. The man
police are interested in was the first player she told of her alleged rape.
Kate does not think her case was botched because of any drug links, rather
police wrote her off because she was a stripper.
"From the moment I stepped foot into the police station, I was treated like
crap," Kate said.
"I was treated so unfairly. I was thinking, they're not taking me serious. I
mean, look what I do for a job."
Sex scandals are not uncommon in either football code - AFL and NRL - but
Kate says her experience suggests Aussie Rules is just better at damage
"You'd hope that now they'd take it a bit more serious ... it might damage
your club, but you know, you're damaging the whole AFL by hiding it, and
girls like me coming out in the public and going 'well, you're not as good
as what you think you are'," she said.
A spokesman for the Carlton Football Club says, given it was 10 years ago,
the club is unable to comment on the allegation that drugs were involved on
the night of Kate's alleged rape.
He says there has been no known link between the club and the activities of
the late Jason Moran.
Back to the Diary
AFL gets is right on club equalisation
August 22, 2009
In the space of six months AFL football has been turned on its head. And in
the most sensible way.
At the beginning of the season the commission had it in its mind that the
financial chasm between rich and poor clubs – which was reflected on the
field as well as the books – needed to be addressed. The solution would be
to raise a tax on the wealthy clubs. Call it the Robin Hood rule.
When the plan was run by club presidents, Collingwood's Eddie McGuire,
head of the most aggressive and influential club in the land, did not like
what he heard. Not a bit of it. With support from Hawthorn's forthright
chairman Cappuccino Kennett, McGuire argued that to rob the rich to pay the
poor was to drag the competition down. Sabotage from within.
Better, argued McGuire, that the AFL leave the wealthy alone but lift its
own funding of the weaker sides up to the levels of the bigger clubs. That
way the push was towards excellence and not mediocrity. Those present say it
was a passionate and persuasive argument.
And it must have been because the AFL philosophy swung 180 degrees. The
commission decided to investigate a plan that would boost the monies
available to poorer, less successful clubs to such levels that every club
had an equal chance of playing at their best. No longer would clubs be
forced to trim coaching staffs, rookie lists, recruiting networks, medical
care or physical conditioning.
The change of philosophy, reported exclusively in The Australian
yesterday, has seen the AFL administration undertake an overhaul of old
equalisation and income distribution policies in what chief executive
Andrew Demetriou reiterated on 3AW radio yesterday was "a comprehensive,
radical new funding model".
The plan to ensure all clubs for the first time in the game's history would
be able to spend the same amount of money on football fundamentals continues
to be finetuned by the AFL and a refined version will be shown to the
presidents in a meeting next month. While the principles driving the salary
cap and national draft will not change, the new scheme will not affect
clubs' ability to show initiative and generate other incomes. But it will
ensure the club with the best football brain will have every chance to
succeed and not just the clubs with the most money.
Described yesterday by Geelong football general manager Neil Balme as
"a very mature way, a very intelligent way" to address the entrenched
inequalities in the competition, the scheme was essential if the AFL was to
grow to 18 clubs without great division among the existing clubs.
The AFL has set out generous draft concessions for the new franchises – Gold
Coast and west Sydney – which come online in 2011 and 2012 respectively.
Senior AFL officials have also said that the league would be prepared to
spend as much as $400m over time to ensure the new teams are successful.
It would be inconceivable that the present 16 clubs would tolerate money
being poured into the new teams while traditional clubs were forced to beg
for money to field a rookie list, for example. The league needs all the
goodwill it can muster to ensure the draft advantages and financial backing
set aside for Gold Coast and west Sydney do not prove disruptive at a time
when the AFL attempts to conquer new markets and will be on the eve of a new
The AFL has spent millions ensuring clubs like Carlton, North Melbourne and
the Western Bulldogs have training facilities the equal of the richest clubs
in the competition. It only makes sense then that it would also address
their ability to compete in other non-regulated areas like recruiting and
There is much at stake as the football codes position themselves in a
marketplace that is growing more competitive by the week. A look at the
strength of our athletics team at the world championship suggests that not
every sport gets its hands on the best sportsmen and women. The sport that
presents itself professionally with the best facilities and the best
opportunities for sports folk to earn money, profile and respect will be
best placed to prosper.
The amount of damage rugby league has suffered in recent years will be
realised in time. The AFL itself looks amateurish as the poorer clubs
continually weep and moan about their tight circumstances, have supporters
raise money so that a rookie can be added to the list, constantly tell
supporters home games might be transferred to another state or venue to help
make ends meet.
It is to the AFL's advantage that its clubs can be proud, competitive and
well-run. It would be pointless for the AFL to win a battle on the Gold
Coast or west Sydney and lose loyal troops in Melbourne.
Back to the Diary
Radical plan to level playing field
Patrick Smith and Greg Denham
August 22, 2009
The AFL commission is overseeing a revolutionary financing scheme that will
ensure for the first time in the competition's history that all clubs have
sufficient resources to compete equally on the playing field.
The commission met last Monday and was updated on the plan – outlined to
clubs at the most recent CEO's meeting – that is engineered to ensure every
club can meet costs for recruiting, drafting, rookie lists, additional
services and salary cap payments.
The new system includes an overhaul of the equalisation systems and formulas
that relate to gate levies and other income streams.
Further work on the scheme will be completed before a presentation to club
presidents next month. AFL chief executive Andrew Demetriou told
The Australian yesterday that it was unlikely the scheme would be ready
by next year but still refused to rule out its implementation as early as
"The commission would want the scheme within two years. (A new Gold Coast
team joins the AFL in 2011 and a side from west Sydney is scheduled to
become the 18th AFL team in 2012). Because there is work yet to be done, it
is not possible to say whether the new plan will be in place for next year,"
"This is the direction that clubs support. Rather than taxing the richer
clubs to support the poorer-performing ones the idea is to bring the
less-advantaged clubs up to a level that will allow them to compete with the
very best," Demetriou said. "For the first time, clubs would be able to go
head-to-head on the football field."
The new scheme has taken significant form since the AFL put together a
series of options at the CEO's meeting in Sydney earlier this month. The
benefits of the new scheme are obvious and engaging. Rather than lowering
the standard by restricting the capacity of the richer clubs to spend, the
AFL seeks to improve standards from the bottom to the top. And with teams
finally self-sufficient, the league will have freedom to arrange the draw in
the most attractive way for the new TV rights deal expected to reap
$1billion in 2012.
One senior AFL official likened it to ripping up the nation's taxation
system and "turning it on its head. It is revolutionary." Senior officials
believe that further tinkering to the scheme when all money streams are
freed up or re-negotiated (stadium revenue, broadcast rights) will ensure
the clubs are sustainable and self-sufficient deep into the future. It is
also envisaged that the scheme will help clubs ease existing debt burdens.
Demetriou said: "The idea is to ensure that every club has the capacity to
pay the full amount of the salary cap if it needs to, as well as additional
services (promotion and marketing payments to players). "The philosophy is
not dissimilar to (Collingwood president) Eddie McGuire's suggestion
earlier this year that rather than bring the strong clubs down to the level
of the weaker ones, we lift the standard across the board.
"We can benchmark what it costs to run a football department. We have all
those figures. At the moment the scheme could take the form of funding what
the commission believes is a band of money which would enable every club to
meet industry standards on everything to do with getting a competitive AFL
team on to the field."
At present, the AFL recognises clubs that are adversely affected by poor
stadium returns and traditionally small supporter bases and those clubs are
compensated through the Annual Special Distribution scheme.
The AFL is in discussion with the Melbourne Cricket Club, the MCG Trust and
the Victorian government on securing a better deal for clubs based at the
MCG, Melbourne's premier stadium. All parties appear comfortable that a
satisfactory outcome is not far away. A suggested compromise would be a
five-year extension in the AFL-MCG contract if clubs receive an extra
$100,000 for every game they play at the ground as the home club.
A dispute with Etihad Stadium, the No2 AFL stadium in Melbourne, is more
complex and volatile. The AFL is preparing court action to recover as much
as $20m it claims is owed in supply and pourage rights at the stadium since
it came on-line in 2000. The court action would also address issues of the
stadium's naming rights and a deal between management and A-League soccer
side Melbourne Victory.
"We sought and got discovery on the documents we need just this week and our
legal team is preparing our case. We intend to litigate. Always have,"
The new scheme is a melding of existing equalisation fund and special
distribution formulas and is not dependent on resolution of the two disputes
with the Melbourne stadiums.
The new scheme will be welcomed by all clubs. As it stands now the
difference in football-department spends between the rich and poor clubs is
growing bigger by the year. It gives the wealthy clubs the ability to pay
100 per cent of the player salary cap, have a full list of rookies, meet
extra payments through the additional services payment scheme, run bulging
recruiting networks and explore new directions in conditioning and medical
Last year Western Bulldogs supporters were forced to hold a fundraiser to
find $50,000 so the club could select Jamason Daniels on its rookie
list and this week it has been suggested something similar might be needed
to keep Jason Akermanis next year.
Some of the crippling examples of the uneven playing field in the AFL in
2008 are: the Western Bulldogs spent $12.9m (after a $1m increase on 2007
figure) on its football department, $4m less than the Swans' expenditure on
their football department. North Melbourne's football department spend of
$12.7m was the lowest in the competition. The Kangaroos were one of nine
clubs which spent less than the competition average of $14.45m. The
recruiting and list management contrast is stark if you compare the $1.23m
spent by Collingwood last year to the Western Bulldogs amount of $381,000.
Sydney became the first club to pay its players more than $10m. Swans
players earned $10.4m, while perennial strugglers North Melbourne and the
Western Bulldogs paid their players $8.6m.
Carlton was the leader in expenditure in fitness and conditioning, shelling
out $1.43m, ahead of St Kilda ($1.38m) and Collingwood and Sydney, which
each spent $1.35m. The cellar dwellers, again, were the Dogs ($770,000) and
Back to the Diary
Anti-siphoning laws for TV sports under review
August 21, 2009
The Rudd government will consider strengthening use-it-or-lose-it provisions
for sports on the anti-siphoning list that are not shown on free-to-air
television, under a review started yesterday.
Federal Communications Minister Stephen Conroy released a discussion paper
calling for submissions on rules governing the broadcasting of sport on
free-to-air and pay TV, beginning the long-awaited review of the
Under the current legislation, more than 20 categories of sporting events –
including the Olympic and Commonwealth Games, AFL and NRL premiership
matches, rugby union Tests, most national team cricket and the Melbourne Cup
– may not be shown on pay TV or digital multi-channels before free-to-air
broadcasters have obtained the rights or shown them on their main channels.
The pay TV broadcasters yesterday renewed their call to be allowed to bid to
show sports not currently being shown on free-to-air television's main
Steve Bracks, the chairman of pay TV industry body ASTRA, said the Seven,
Nine and Ten networks "use the system to keep a stranglehold on the sports
codes, consumers, and to block competition".
"Australia's anti-siphoning list is the longest in the world, and most of
the sport listed is not shown by the free-to-air TV networks," he said.
A spokeswoman for the Ten Network, which in March launched a sports-focused
digital multi-channel called One HD, said the free-to-air networks should be
allowed to screen more sport on their multi-channels.
Submissions are due by October 16.
Back to the Diary
Ireland's call shows Swans are up to fight
August 14, 2009
Inevitably, all the attention at Sydney's double-barrel press conference on
Wednesday was on the hastily orchestrated and remarkably smooth handover of
the coach's whistle from Paul Roos to John Longmire.
A change of coach is always big news, even if only the timing of Roos's
decision was surprising, but his replacement by Longmire was predictable and
the process won't happen for more than a year.
Overshadowed was an announcement that could have even greater ramifications
- the promotion of general manager (football) of Andrew Ireland to
replace outgoing chief executive Myles Baron-Hay.
Longmire will inherit a team in transition after the retirement of most of
its premiership heroes and suffering the draft-table consequences of an
ultra-competitive seven years under Roos. Ireland's new role is even more
daunting if the bottom line is any indication.
An $800,000 loss last year and the forecast of another ''significant''
shortfall this season. A steady decline in membership. A pitched battle to
win corporate support underlined by a shortfall in match-day revenue.
And, perhaps most significantly, the realisation that the beloved
''Swannies'' of the 2005 and 2006 seasons have lost cache in a notoriously
fickle sporting market as they are about to confront opposition from the
AFL-sponsored West Sydney Whatevers.
Little wonder Ireland allows a knowing chuckle when you suggest it would
have been easier to remain in his old job signing opposition players than it
will be trying to recruit public and corporate supporters.
''There's no doubt we've got some pretty significant challenges ahead,''
says Ireland, who as Brisbane chief executive from 1990 to 2001 oversaw the
club's transition from the Gold Coast to Brisbane.
''We're at a point, I think, where we need to re-engage with our members in
an environment where the AFL will be throwing a lot of resources at the new
Ireland's management of the Swans' cutting-edge football department since
2002 won deserved praise – not least from chairman Richard Colless,
who regularly jokes he is so in love with his football manager his wife
considers Ireland a serious rival.
For that reason, Colless was keen to make it clear that he was not solely
responsible for Ireland's appointment. ''I am close to Andrew but I had a
number of board members who have dealt with him tell me [that] we had the
right person under our nose,'' he said.
''We could have undertaken a process that took four to six months to
identify a candidate but we would have been wasting our time.''
Ireland believes his strong football knowledge – he was a stout grand final
defender with Collingwood in the late 1970s – gives him a similar advantage
to some other well-regarded chief executives with playing backgrounds, such
as Geelong's Brian Cook. It will also mean he is more hands-on in
football matters than his predecessor.
''I tend to compare footy to a cinema,'' Ireland says. ''You put on a dud
film and they'll stop coming. You need a team playing strong, competitive
footy, which is difficult in a seriously competitive league.''
But Ireland acknowledges that results alone won't get the club the 30,000
Sydney members that the Swans had ambitiously set out to recruit before the
arrival of the Western Sydney Whatevers. He cites the use of new media and,
perhaps, even the recruitment of another big-name player in the mould of
Barry Hall and Tony Lockett (unlikely this year) as means to that
''But hopefully a lot of what we do comes from within,'' he says. ''I think
you tend to be judged against what you've done and, compared to what we
achieved, some will see the last few years as failure. We're rejuvenating
with young players and I think there's some interest and excitement. It's up
to us to build on that.''
Back to the Diary
Sydney pays homage to Magic man
August 10, 2009
There may not be as much as there once was between the talent on the Sydney
and Richmond lists, but there remains a world of difference between the two
clubs as institutions, a vast cultural gulf that explains just about
everything that took place at the MCG yesterday.
The Swans, typically tough inside and forever forcing the issue, made
certain that the day Michael O'Loughlin became the first player in
the club's history to play 300 games was a celebration. Of "Micky O", of the
club's warrior spirit, of the past.
The great John Rantall, who was for decades the longest-serving
"Blood", handed O'Loughlin his jumper before the game and then proudly
watched on, amid a cast of former players gathered for the occasion, as the
team of today went about routing Richmond, ultimately by 55 points.
An eight-goal third term from the Swans, which included two from O'Loughlin
and three from best afield Adam Goodes, had the result set by the
last change but long before Richmond had surrendered to a typically proud,
combative and fierce Sydney side led, and embodied by, its captain Brett
Kirk runs as if every step hurts. He is a graduate of the Adam Simpson
kicking school and not often prolific as a possession winner, but on a
special day he laid as many tackles as he had touches — 14 — as if to make
his performance a personal gift to O'Loughlin.
Most of Sydney's best players of the last decade, at least those still
playing, also obliged; the likes of Ryan O'Keefe, Jude Bolton
and Goodes. And a handful of younger types paid their respects, too.
Kieren Jack went head-to-head with Ben Cousins and gave as
good as he got, Jesse White led strongly and marked well at times,
offering glimpses of key-forward potential, and Dan Hannebery showed
that he has ball-winning touch.
If any further evidence of what sets Sydney apart from teams like Richmond
was required, it was the sight of just about every Sydney player celebrating
O'Loughlin's third-term goals.
"That's what the club is about, that emotion," O'Loughlin offered later.
"That's why we won the grand final that year (2005). We just had so much
respect and pride in each other. I'm exhausted and humbled now but thank God
I came to this club."
Cousins has embraced Richmond wholly and continued yesterday to repay the
club for its 11th-hour decision to revive his career but few would be
surprised if he has not wondered how different his football life would now
be if St Kilda chose him, as they wanted to for many months, instead.
For his 250th match, of which 12 have been in yellow and black, only Jake
King, who shadowed Rhyce Shaw but managed to snag three goals while he
was at it, turned up for the party.
This, to Richmond caretaker coach Jade Rawlings, was a contrast that
didn't just affect the outcome of a football match. It was symbolically
"They (Sydney) epitomised playing for the team today," Rawlings said
"To see Brett Kirk, at three-quarter time, still be really vocal towards his
team-mates. I heard that at stoppages he was reminding them of the
requirement to play for their mate and to see Brett Kirk run over to Michael
O'Loughlin in the room, to see the way he acknowledged and celebrated, that
sums up (Sydney).
"Brett Kirk brings his game to the table every weekend we have people who
pick and choose when they bring what they've got. Who's going to turn up?
That's a big question a lot of our players have to answer at the moment."
Rawlings said he was certain that the greatest challenge before Richmond is
cultural, one that he didn't believe could be easily remedied.
"People have been talking about cultural issues at Richmond for a long time.
Unfortunately, our players go back to habits which reflect badly on them.
Because they can't fight through it, when it gets tough, or do something to
help a mate or if it's not working out for them individually they can still
have an involvement. Bring something to the table which is going to have an
impact on the team."
Which remains a Sydney speciality.
Back to the Diary
Who was Charlie Clymo?
August 7, 2009
Bill McMaster, the former premiership ruckman, recruiter, coach and
all-round genial gem of the Geelong Football Club, has seen the puzzled look
on people's faces when they gaze up at the painting.
Among the montage of great moments and players sits a stern man in suit and
hat. "There he is," McMaster says. "The most successful coach ever."
"Who?" they ask, brows creased. They've never heard of Charlie Clymo.
tomorrow night's 150th birthday celebrations of the AFL's second-oldest
club, talk will doubtless turn to the men who have sprinkled a little
football gold on the city by the bay. If Clymo's name comes up, the
conversation will be short. Because nobody seems to know much about him,
beyond one amazing fact: he coached in the VFL for one season, took Geelong
to the 1931 premiership, and never coached at the highest level again.
"It seems quite a mystery, doesn't it?" says Bob Davis, who oversaw the same
number of flags yet enjoys an appreciably larger profile.
Beyond a Sam Wells caricature of Clymo (pictured), armed with grave
countenance and disciplinarian's cane, the only image of him in Russell
Stephens' history The Road To Kardinia is a group shot with the 1931
season match committee. He didn't even get a gig in the premiership photo.
The snippets of descendants and historians form only a skeleton sketch, with
little meat on Charlie's bones. McMaster echoes Davis: "It's an amazing
story. I'd just love to know more of it."
William Charles Clymo was born in Bendigo on October 30, 1884. It is not
known why, but he was brought up by an aunt and uncle, Bertha and Nicholas
Clymo, who sold hay and chaff, poultry and firewood.
Bruce Reid, the former Liberal party member for Bendigo, is Nicholas and
Bertha's grandson. His mother was much younger than Charlie, and he used to
quiz her on their cousin. When he was invited down from Sandhurst to play a
practice match for Geelong in 1959, somebody made the connection, and his
curiosity was piqued. "But I didn't find out a great deal about him, I'm
afraid. I think he was a pretty hard task master. He knew what he wanted. If
you didn't meet his standards …"
This supports one theory on Clymo's replacement by Reg Hickey for 1932 -
that players were unhappy with his hard-nosed methods, and the committee
supported them. But we're getting ahead of ourselves. In 1907, St Kilda
recruited Clymo from Eaglehawk, where he was a champion runner in the local
fire brigade. He played 43 games in three seasons as a ruckman-forward;
McMaster was told he wore three-quarter length shorts and a cap at training.
A Geelong Advertiser cutting from his first season shows how highly he was
regarded: "As showing the mood in which St Kilda regards football at
present, the case of Clymo is interesting. He is a miner from Eaglehawk and
had to be ready for his shift underground at midnight on Sunday, so a little
after eight o'clock yesterday morning, a St Kilda motor car took Clymo home
In 1910 he moved to Ballarat and coached Golden Point to the premiership - a
feat repeated in 1914 and 1919. He coached Ballarat from 1920-23, winning a
flag in the last year, and is again listed as Golden Point's coach in 1926,
yet doesn't bob up anywhere again until 1931 - as coach of Geelong.
"Anywhere up to the 1920s there was still talk around town of Golden Point -
and other clubs up here too - going into the VFL; they were strong enough
for the first half of the '20s," says Wayne Hankin, unofficial historian of
the Ballarat Football League. It points to a standing to validate Geelong's
A VFL premiership won, Clymo was back coaching Golden Point in 1932. Hankin
has a photo of that team, which finished on top of the ladder but was
overrun by Ballarat in the grand final.
"They're a ragged lot because of the Depression, all their jumpers are a bit
tatty and worn. Charlie's sitting in the middle at the front in his civvies
- his hat on, his coat, a scarf and tie, looking very serious," he says.
McMaster has never seen a picture of him smiling, but doesn't buy the line
that unpopularity cost him his job at Geelong. More than a decade ago he
interviewed Milton Lamb, the last survivor of the 1931 premiership side
before his death three years ago. He held Clymo in high regard. "Milton
thought he brought the best out of everybody. He said he was an individual
coach, one of the first who would go around to the players and talk to them,
try and improve their skills and their game. He had no idea why he went back
Another veteran of the day, Allan Everett, once told McMaster it was most
likely down to money - that Geelong dallied in recontracting him, Golden
Point stepped in with an offer that included a job, and he walked. "He was a
working man, he wanted to work," McMaster says. "Maybe Geelong didn't
satisfy him as Ballarat could."
After 1932, great nephew Billy Clymo says Charlie "disappeared off the
earth". He has his Eaglehawk team of the century plaque, but little else.
"You get to his name on the family tree and there's a complete blank."
Charlie Clymo obviously knew plenty about football. If only football knew as
much about him.
Back to the Diary
O'Loughlin reaches 300 games
August 6, 2009
Sydney forward Michael O’Loughlin was asked yesterday who he thought
were the best two players to have reached 300 games.
O’Loughlin, who plays his 300th game on Sunday, looked through a sea of
microphones and cameras to see a familiar face at the end of the question.
‘‘Well, you’d be one of them,’’ O’Loughlin replied to his coach Paul Roos,
who’d temporarily wandered away from training.
Only momentarily satisfied by the response, Roos persisted: ‘‘And who’s the
O’Loughlin began preparing a diplomatic answer before his coach interjected
again, ‘‘It’s Johnny Blakey!’’
Roos finished his career with 356 games, three fewer than his assistant
Blakey, with both enjoying a long association with Fitzroy before moving to
Sydney and North Melbourne respectively.
But while O’Loughlin will finish his career this season and will barely make
it past the milestone, he began life as a Swan in 1995 and will finish in
the same red-and-white colours.
Originally a reluctant recruit from Central Districts in South Australia,
the 32-year old will become the only player in the club’s 135-year history
to play 300 matches when he runs out for Sunday’s clash against Richmond at
the MCG on Sunday.
‘‘It’s a bit surprising with all the great players that we’ve had over our
history,’’ he said. ‘‘I’ve been trying to keep a lid on it but I’ve just had
so many well-wishers and the response has been amazing, so I’m looking
forward to it.’’
Asked if he would try to take ‘‘the emotion out of it’’, O’Loughlin thought
about agreeing with the statement before pulling back.
‘‘I’ve been around long enough to know you’ve still got to prepare the way
you’ve always done to get up for the weekend and nothing will change that
side of things,’’ he said. ‘‘But I’ve got to organise people coming to the
game, family and friends.
‘‘The club have been so supportive of it, just doing various things.
Obviously they’ve put it out there so that all of our fans know about it.
I’ve been here 15 years so I can’t fault the club.’’
In all those years, O’Loughlin has seen the club change considerably. He was
drafted two months after Sydney finished 1994 with the wooden spoon. ‘‘When
I first got here I didn’t see any footy fields. I saw a lot of rugby fields.
Now that’s changed a bit. We’ve got a second side coming in, which will be
interesting,’’ O’Loughlin said.
But it certainly wasn’t easy at the start for O’Loughlin, who had no idea
his AFL career would rise to include a best-and-fairest award, dual
All-Australian and club goal-kicking honours and, of course, a 2005
‘‘Back in those early days I didn’t know whether I’d be here for a year or
two or whatever,’’ he said. ‘‘I came here as a pretty shy person. Now I’m
pretty confident of knowing what I want to do and where I’m heading in terms
of what’s going on in the outside world.’’
O’Loughlin won’t be the only one celebrating a milestone on the day with
Richmond’s star recruit Ben Cousins playing his 250th game.
Back to the Diary
Season '09 – the best ever?
July 16, 2009
Has there been a better year of football than the one we're fortunate enough
to be witnessing right now? If there has, it escapes me.
There's a tendency towards hyperbole these days, particularly when it comes
to AFL football. Everyone's supposedly fitter, stronger, faster, and
everything's apparently bigger and better. It's hard not to take all the
superlatives with several grains of salt.
But sometimes, despite your most cynical instincts, you just have to sit
back, soak it all up, and let forth the spruiker within. Which is a bit how
I feel about season 2009.
We've still got seven rounds and a month's worth of finals to go, and
already 2009 has to be considered an absolute classic. Full, as usual, of
individual highlights, great marks and goals but, most importantly, full of
fantastic games of football that we'll be recalling many years from now.
So good that the St Kilda-Geelong epic of a fortnight ago is being touted by
some as the best AFL game yet played. I'm not sure I'd go quite that far
(the 1994 preliminary final between Geelong and North Melbourne remains my
No. 1), but the Saints-Cats stoush would certainly earn a spot in my top
half-dozen, with a number of other 2009 classics not far behind.
They've come thick and fast this year, as early as round three, when
Essendon and Carlton staged a free-flowing thriller that ended with a narrow
Bomber victory and veteran Matthew Lloyd's declaration of a win as
good as he'd been involved with.
A big call, but one he was revising within a fortnight when his Dons somehow
got over the line on Anzac Day against Collingwood despite trailing by 14
points with less than four minutes to go.
That game had more great storylines than you could shake a library at —
Paddy Ryder's heroic effort to ruck all day after David Hille was
carted off with a serious knee injury just five minutes in, and a cracking
game of football going this way and that before an almost unbelievable
last-breath comeback and rookie David Zaharakis' last-second
Much has been written and said about the St Kilda-Geelong game, four
quarters of virtually everything you could ask for in a match — tight, tough
but always fair play, a flying start by the Saints, a gritty comeback by the
Cats, and Michael Gardiner's soaring grab to finish it off.
Perhaps the most satisfying aspect, though, was that unlike so many other
much-hyped clashes, this one played out even better than we'd hoped, between
two great, even teams who could still barely be separated at the end.
It was so outstanding that it managed to overshadow another epic between
Geelong and the Western Bulldogs which almost any other season would waltz
away with "game of the year" honours.
The Doggies slipped as much as 37 points behind Geelong in the third quarter
as the Cats' Steve Johnson and Gary Ablett wove their magic,
but came charging home with six goals to three in the final term, the whole
thing resting upon captain Brad Johnson's post-siren shot from close
range but a tight angle. Same time, same venue last week, it happened again,
the Western Bulldogs this time running down a Collingwood side that managed
to get even further in front than had the Cats, after a sublime seven-goal
Again, there was almost too much action and too much drama to take it all
A bit like the old-fashioned spearhead shoot-out between Carlton and
Hawthorn in round six, when Jarryd Roughead and Brendan Fevola
each finished with eight goals, but Fevola dramatically fluffed a chance for
nine and his side the match points in the last stages.
Speaking of drama, Port Adelaide's last-gasp win over Richmond at AAMI
Stadium in round eight overflowed with it, Warren Tredrea booting
seven goals including the match-winner, the Tigers blowing what appeared a
winning break, and Mitch Morton infamously playing on and booting
out-on-the-full, much to Terry Wallace's displeasure.
Those arch rivals of a few years back in Sydney and West Coast staged yet
another cracker, too, at ANZ Stadium in round eight, the sort that in 2006
we would have salivated over for weeks.
Yet so high has the bar been raised come 2009 that that one almost slipped
under the radar.
That's what happens when a football epic becomes virtually a weekly
And that's certainly the case this season, a year that, no matter what
happens from here in, will be pretty hard to top.
GREAT GAMES OF 2009
1 – St Kilda 14.7 (91) d Geelong 13.7 (85), round 14, Docklands
2 – Geelong 17.14 (116) d W Bulldogs 17.12 (114), round 9, Docklands
3 – Essendon 13.15 (93) d Collingwood 12.16 (88), round 5, MCG
4 – Collingwood 17.9 (111) d W Bulldogs 16.14 (110), round 15, Docklands
5 – St Kilda 16.8 (104) d Carlton 14.11 (95), round 12, Docklands
6 – Hawthorn 16.10 (106) d Carlton 15.12 (102), round 6, MCG
7 – Port Adelaide 14.18 (102) d Richmond 15.9 (99), round 8, Football Park
8 – Sydney 16.10 (106) d West Coast 15.11 (101), round 8, Homebush
9 – Essendon 17.14 (116) d Carlton 16.16 (112), round 3, MCG
10 – North Melbourne 20.5 (125) d Port Adelaide 18.12 (120), round 7,
Back to the Diary
Demons must keep up the fight – like Jimmy
July 4, 2009
Before Thursday, when it was announced that Melbourne Football Club
president Jim Stynes is battling cancer, I had often thought that
Melbourne's two biggest assets were its history and its leader.
To some extent, the two are linked. The Melbourne Football Club began as an
off-shoot of the Melbourne Cricket Club, which began as an off-shoot of the
Melbourne Club. The Melbourne Club, in company with the Argus
newspaper and the Legislative Council, ran the colony. I doubt there are too
many Irish Catholics, particularly from working-class backgrounds, to be
found in the early annals of the Melbourne Football Club. From what I
gather, they still had the flavour of a gentlemen's amateur club when coach
Checker Hughes arrived from Richmond in the 1930s.
Jim Stynes' life has a sense of fate about it. He came to the club as a
result of a program initiated by Ron Barassi for attracting overseas talent
to the Australian game. Barassi is Melbourne's last great son. He stands
beside Norm Smith, Melbourne's greatest coach. The question that any
historian will ask is where would Melbourne be now if Barassi had succeeded
Norm Smith as coach in 1966?
But Barassi – who had a respect for Smith similar to the one now being
displayed by Nathan Buckley for Mick Malthouse – would not become involved
in any patricidal struggle. By the time Barassi eventually got to coach
Melbourne in the 1980s, he had lost something – his fire or, perhaps, from
the players' viewpoint, his magic. But he was still the game's great
modernist and he saw the potential of attracting recruits from Irish
football. As a result, 18-year-old Jim Stynes came to Australia to pursue a
professional sport he had never played before.
He couldn't believe how big Melbourne was, how far apart everything was, and
the first time he trained it was smotheringly hot. There was smoke and ash
in the air. It was Ash Wednesday. This strange new land he had come to was
Stynes is from a proud Irish Catholic family. As a kid, he went to camps
where only the Irish language was spoken — English being the language of the
Jim's "Uncle Joe" – his grandfather's brother – won an all-Ireland football
title with Dublin. He also fought with Michael Collins' IRA brigade during
the Irish war of independence. In Ireland, Collins is a legendary figure.
There's a photo of Uncle Joe and Collins in Jimmy's autobiography.
I interviewed Stynes during his last years as a player. By then, his
reputation was assured. He had this amazing capacity for playing with injury
that befuddled coaches and medical staff. He established a record by playing
244 AFL games in succession. Mention that statistic to Melbourne captain
James McDonald, a seriously tough player, and he just shakes his head and
says: "How tough is he in the mind?"
Stynes was tall, highly mobile and amazingly brave. In the brawl that
followed the start of the 1988 grand final, he had Dermott Brereton under
one arm and Gary Ayres under the other. Ayres was a formidable figure but
Brereton at his fiercest and most intimidating was more fearful than Barry
Hall. And, three years later, Stynes won the Brownlow Medal.
Stynes told me the Brownlow was a direct consequence of the pain and
humiliation he suffered after the 1987 preliminary final when he ran across
the mark and brought Hawthorn sharp-shooter Gary Buckenara within range.
Hawthorn won by less than a goal and Melbourne saw the magic of its first
revival since Norm Smith's days dissipate.
Stynes ended up fleeing the country to get away from it all but on a train
in Paris, a voice said: "Aren't you the bloke who ran over the mark in the
preliminary final?" He knew then he was never going to escape what he had
done. Instead, he resolved to return and redeem himself. Which he did.
We learnt on Thursday that Stynes, to borrow an image from a Jimmy Clift
song, has another river to cross. He is not stepping down from the
presidency, he says, but is taking "time out". To be frank, Stynes may have
already given the biggest part of what he has to give the Melbourne Football
The club looked to be going nowhere but down when he took over.
Single-handedly he altered the trajectory. Before Stynes, Melbourne didn't
have a story to sell. After him, it had his story, the story of a man who
was already a football legend. He was back and there was only one reason he
was back. He cared for his club, it was part of him — an old-fashioned
sentiment, but at the end of the day football is an old-fashioned game. It's
about representing a club.
This week, Melbourne coach Dean Bailey had his players jump off a pier into
the chilly waters of Port Phillip Bay as a form of shock therapy. Theirs has
been a most disappointing past three weeks. As the old poem says, it's not a
case of whether you win or lose but how you play the game. Over the past
three weeks, Melbourne looks to have lacked fight, which I would define as a
spirit of plucky endeavour that resists the logic of defeat, that glories in
victories won against the odds.
What does it mean to play for the Melbourne Football Club? It means you're
part of a line stretching all the way back to Tom Wills. It means you're
playing for the oldest football club of its sort in the world. It means you
play for the red and the blue and stand in association with the great names
of the club's past. And it means you play for Jimmy Stynes, because you
never forget the great heart he showed when he played for you.
Back to the Diary
Good luck Jimmy, I'm with you all the way
July 4, 2009
I have met Jim Stynes only a few times so I don't know him well. Sure, I
watched his footy deeds from the press box during his celebrated career,
marvelling at his courage and how he adapted to a foreign game. Never did I
think that one day he and I would have so much in common.
That changed on Thursday night when my wife and I watched the news and saw
the big Irishman, his wife Sam alongside, reduced to tears as he told of his
battle with cancer. He spoke of preparing himself for the toughest fight of
his life — and of his biggest fear, that his two young children might have
to grow up without him.
Been there, done that, big fella. But I have news for you, Jimmy. If my
experience is anything to go by, then no matter how bleak things seem in the
first quarter, this is an opponent that can be beaten.
Not that I have beaten it completely — my doctors insist they will never
guarantee I'm cured — but, thanks to wonderful medicos and the support of my
family (like Jimmy, I have two children) who have pushed and pulled me
through it all, I'm still here.
Four months ago I was a breath away from death. Now, the cancer "markings"
in my blood that spiralled to 22,000 at their worst are now down to 170.
A miracle? Well, it will do me.
In fact, two doctors – my oncologist, Dr Rowan Doig, and Dr Peter Oziemski
of the Epworth Hospital's intensive care unit – both dubbed me "Lazarus",
neither knowing the other had done so. That's how close I was.
It began two years ago – Thursday, August 2, 2007 to be exact – when, after
three months of complaining to my GP of needing to get up in the middle of
the night to pee – I was sent to a specialist.
The scans were bad. The biopsy was worse. I was diagnosed with bladder
cancer – and our lives were turned upside down in an instant.
My wife Jillian had endured her own battle with breast cancer years before.
Now she had to tell our 22-year-old daughter Madeleine and 16-year-old son
Sam the bad news. They heard it after Madeleine had watched Sam perform in
the second night of a five-night school play. That he managed to hold down
his lead role for the other three nights amazes me.
After a six-hour operation on August 13, 2007 – my 57th birthday – I learned
that while some of the cancer had been removed along with my bladder, I
would need ongoing treatment, including chemotherapy.
After months of treatment I was starting to feel I had it beaten, but then
the cancer returned, this time wrapping itself around the outside of my
rectum. Result: more chemo and 33 sessions of radiotherapy, five days a
week. Next came a bowel blockage that also turned out to be cancer.
Last December, the four of us arrived in London to start a six-week trip of
England, Europe and the United States. Immediately, I fell so ill I couldn't
eat. My stomach ballooned. I went to St Thomas' Hospital in Westminster,
which happened to have one of England's top colorectal surgeons.
If I was dying, the timing was lousy. This particular day after my arrival
was set up for a reunion with five mates from my Fleet Street days working
at the Daily Express in the 1970s. One was driving from the north, another
from the Midlands. But there would be no reunion. In fact, no holiday.
The English doctors said the cancer was inoperable and that I should go back
to Australia immediately and go into palliative care. I had only months or
weeks to live, they said.
It gets worse. Because of the severity of my condition, according to airline
rules, I could not make the 24-hour trip home without a qualified medical
practitioner accompanying me. Christmas Day was just three days away. Where
would we find someone to make a return trip to Australia at such a time?
I had given up believing in Father Christmas half a century ago, but I now
believe in him again. And this one is real.
The first people my wife Jillian thought to ask for advice was a surgeon
friend, Bernie Lyons, and his wife, Dr Jacinta Mogg, who were home in
They were having Christmas drinks when Jillian called, but Bernie
immediately came to the phone. When she asked if he knew of anyone who might
make a mercy dash to England, he didn't flinch.
"I will be on the next plane," he said.
Jillian was gobsmacked. Here was the head of the St Vincent's Ear, Nose and
Throat department (who has since become an associate professor of surgery at
Melbourne University) who was prepared to miss Christmas with his family to
bring me home.
Within hours, Bernie was on his way. After just six hours in London (and a
quick Christmas lunch with my family but no sleep) he was briefed about my
condition, loaded up with the necessary medical equipment and instructions
on what to do if anything went wrong.
This is no place for free plugs but the truth is that without Qantas, I
might not have made it in time.
Contacted by a former work colleague, Geoff Easdown of the Herald Sun,
Qantas staff swapped mine and Jillian's holiday bookings for tickets to
Australia, and upgraded us to business class so the "rescue" (which required
an IV drip system to be set up) could go ahead without hindering other
Meanwhile, in Melbourne, Jacinta Mogg arranged for an ambulance to drive
onto the airport tarmac, so I could be whisked straight to Epworth. Despite
the English doctors' gloomy prognosis, I wasn't going to palliative care. My
oncologist Rowan Doig wouldn't hear of it.
All that was seven months ago. Today I am back to 85 kilograms – 23 more
than when I was so thin and weak that most people assumed my days were
Looking back, so did I. But not Rowan Doig, nor my surgeon, Campbell Penfold.
They admitted my prospects were grim, but never gave up on me. Within 24
hours of my return, Mr Penfold performed emergency bowel surgery and Rowan
Doig organised new chemo treatment.
But soon things got worse before they got better. Days after starting the
new treatment in January I awoke feeling so weak I told Jillian: "I think
I'm going to die." I was nearly right. Without the two parademics who were
at my bedside within four minutes of my son making a 000 call, and the
brilliance of the Epworth emergency department, I almost certainly would not
have survived. With my medical history on hand but no time for blood tests
to establish what was wrong, they decided I probably had an infection from
my latest chemo treatment and needed antibiotics. Fast. Septicemia had set
in and without antibiotics I would die, and they knew it. As the paramedics
carried me out of the house one of them asked Jillian quietly: "Where would
your husband prefer to die?" and she said: "At home." Instead, that night I
was perched up in bed in intensive care, eating sandwiches and drinking
coffee. Better still, next day I got encouraging news from Dr Oziemski. "If
the new chemo you are being treated with almost killed you," he told me,
"there's a good chance it could be killing your cancer as well."
He was right. I was soon to discover the chemotherapy worked a treat.
Not only have those cancer marker levels hit rock bottom, but I am back
walking normally, my legs have muscles again and my appetite and yearning
for a glass of chardonnay (which had vanished for months) have returned.
A few months ago Jillian would add cream to ice-cream, force-feed me
chocolate bars, anything to put some weight on me. Times change. This week
she scolded me for eating too many biscuits. I didn't know whether to laugh
It has been an unbelievable and, at times, heartbreaking journey. As Jim
Stynes is about to discover, cancer is like that. But it can be beaten, Jim.
Geoff McClure will resume writing the Sporting Life column on July 14.
Back to the Diary
Second Sydney team has support: poll
July 3, 2009
A third of people surveyed in NSW were interested in the AFL and almost a
fifth would watch the games on TV, a poll on the planned team for western
Sydney has found.
The Auspoll survey found that 6 per cent of people in NSW would make western
Sydney their team, and 5 per cent would become members. Three per cent would
switch clubs to follow the new club, perhaps indicating the Swans might lose
some of their support. While the survey, which was not commissioned by the
AFL, found an overwhelming 67 per cent had no interest in the AFL, this was
not surprising in a rugby union- and rugby league-dominated state.
Importantly for the sake of the AFL's next broadcast rights agreement, 18
per cent of respondents said they would watch AFL games on television.
People in higher income brackets were more likely to be interested in the
The survey, of more than 500 people, was deemed an indicative sample in line
with the Australian Bureau of Statistics. Auspoll chairman Adam Kilgour
said the research showed there was a good level of interest in Sydney for a
second AFL team.
"The encouraging thing for the AFL is the main interest is from the
high-spending 25- to 34-year-old age group, and higher income earners. This
would be music to potential sponsor's ears and good news for the AFL's
media-rights partners," he said.
Back to the Diary
Swans need to fall for flag tilt
Sunday Herald Sun
June 28, 2009
I spent the early part of this week in Sydney – and it made me realise how
much work the AFL and Sydney have to do in that difficult market. Our great
game barely exists in terms of publicity.
Driving around, I didn't see one Australian footy ground other than the SCG.
On many of the ovals there were kids kicking a soccer ball.
It was just an observation, and it might not ring true with the junior
participation levels, but on face value it shows the Swans have plenty of
ground to make up in a city that has been their home for 27 years.
So imagine how much work the proposed western Sydney team has to do. That is
a frightening thought.
Compounding that problem is the fact I barely heard anything about the Swans
or the game while I was in Sydney. There was little on TV and radio, and
they barely rated a mention in the papers.
One of the greats of the game, Michael O'Loughlin, announced during
the week he would retire at the end of this season, but it got better and
bigger coverage in Melbourne than it did in Sydney.
It wasn't until the Swans rolled out Barry Hall for a press
conference to acknowledge his 250th game that footy got a reasonable run in
the papers. Barry always seems to make news in Sydney.
My point is that the now struggling Swans, in danger of missing the finals
for the first time in seven years, are not attracting the interest of their
home city any more.
It's a shame, because there have been few more gritty teams in recent
seasons than Paul Roos' men.
They have played in six successive finals series, they broke a 72-year
premiership drought in 2005 and they have continued to regenerate rather
than redevelop their list.
It's a credit to Roos and his players.
I always feared playing against the Swans because they played as if their
lives depended on it. You just knew it was going to be a grind.
And you can perhaps understand why the club has been so loyal to some of
their old warhorses.
Many of them have given their all, but the kilometres on their playing
clocks have been pushed to the absolute limit.
As much as Roos and the Swans have tried to keep the list competitive by
making a few subtle changes and loyally backing his players, it was never
going to last forever.
And although the AFL would hate it to happen, Sydney needs to go backwards
in order to go forwards and perhaps win that next premiership.
In my view, the Swans are as far away from an AFL flag as Melbourne and
In some ways, their premiership window might be even further away, given I
cannot look at their list and see a guaranteed 10-season youngster on their
They have a few kids with reputations, including Patrick Veszpremi, but I
haven't seen enough to suggest that is going to be the case.
O'Loughlin will be gone at the end of the year, and perhaps earlier if his
form continues to slide.
Hall's future is clouded and there are a few others who could be moved on at
the end of the season.
I have some real concerns when I scan through their list.
The Swans could try to remain competitive, or they could seek a marquee
player from another club as they have done before.
But they are much better off starting again.
The AFL do not want them to bottom out, because they would want the club to
still carry the interest levels at their highest points.
But there might not be a choice.
Back to the Diary
AFL bid to allay stadium fears
Caroline Wilson and Danny John
June 24, 2009
AFL chairman Mike Fitzpatrick has promised the National Rugby League
that his controlling interest in ANZ Stadium would not harm the NRL's
dominance at Homebush.
Fitzpatrick telephoned NRL boss David Gallop late yesterday to assure
him that rugby league fixtures would not be jeopardised at the stadium.
"I appreciated Mike calling me," Mr Gallop told The Age. "Obviously
the stadium's important to us and our game is important to the stadium so I
would say the long-term viability of our relationship is secure.
"Because of that we would expect to run smoothly. Mike gave me a number of
assurances in this regard."
The AFL was rumoured last year to be considering buying out the stadium,
which hosts four home-and-away fixtures each year and an estimated 25 rugby
However, with the AFL's plan to launch a second Sydney team, the
competition's governing body has been attempting to strike a deal with the
NSW Government to build a new, smaller venue at the nearby Sydney
Showgrounds in the belief that ANZ is too big for regular western Sydney
Mr Fitzpatrick is taking control of ANZ Stadium as a result of a management
buyout of the infrastructure fund that owns it and which, in turn, is
controlled by ANZ bank.
The stadium is just one of the fund's assets that includes power stations,
pipelines and wind farms.
However, the main venue of the Sydney Olympics is its most high-profile
business and was acquired by ANZ Infrastructure Services – as the fund is
called – in 2007.
ANZIS itself was formed nine years ago when its current managing director
John Clarke joined the bank with the intention of building up a
specialist management division to own and finance infrastructure operations.
But the bank has since chosen to get out of the business and will now sell
its 80 per cent holding to a consortium headed by Mr Fitzpatrick.
Mr Fitzpatrick will own 50 per cent of the business, with another 40 per
cent taken up by John Clarke.
Last night Mr Fitzpatrick said the acquisition of ANZIS was a "family
business" decision and would have no impact on the agreements that the
stadium had with AFL or the major sports that used it — rugby union, rugby
league and soccer.
Back to the Diary
Sydney Swans forecast financial loss as
membership and attendances drop
June 20, 2009
Club chairman Richard Colless said the Swans were bearing the brunt
of "AFL fatigue" in the city – a sobering assessment for the league's
administrators, who are determined to plant a second club in Sydney in 2012.
Colless, who has been at the helm of the Swans since 1994 and is the
longest-serving chairman in the competition, said the club failed to attract
new members this season despite playing finals every year since 2003.
"Our membership numbers have gone down because AFL as a sport and hence the
Swans are probably not at the forefront of people's psyche in Sydney the way
they were a couple of years ago," Colless said.
As they prepare to play Collingwood in a season-defining game in Sydney on
Saturday night, the Swans are sitting 10th and perceived to be entering a
downward cycle as the best players reach the end of their careers.
But Colless believes the underlying reason for the Swans' falling support is
not just their on-field prospects but a general downturn for the code in
"That is part of it, but you look at some of the struggling Melbourne clubs,
and their memberships have gone up. You can come up with any number of
reasons – style of football, where the games are played, what time they are
played, but I do believe there is a bit of AFL fatigue in Sydney at the
moment," he said.
"The growth over the last 15 years has been extraordinary and I think we are
just having a breather. I don't think it is terminal but we are the ones
caught up in the middle of it."
The AFL released its mid-year review this week, which showed that TV
audiences, attendances and membership were all down for the Swans.
Sydney's membership has fallen every year since 2006, when it reached a peak
of just over 30,000 in the season following the club's historic premiership.
Last year, membership stood at 26,721, but this year it has plummeted to
22,658 according to AFL figures, while attendances are down to an average of
29,132 from a peak of 35,632 in 2007.
Meanwhile, in Melbourne a number of clubs are tallying record membership
figures despite the global financial crisis. Collingwood released figures on
Friday boasting it had signed more than 45,000 members for the first time,
up from the previous club record of 42,498 set last year.
"I think it is actually a metaphor for the difference between Melbourne and
Sydney," Colless said.
"In Melbourne in difficult times, people rally and in a lot of cases
membership goes up. Here, people make more pragmatic and less emotional
Colless said the club was working closely with the AFL to find ways to
increase membership and revenue and to better promote games.
However, the challenge comes at a difficult time for the club, facing an
uphill battle to make the final eight this year. It has so far successfully
defied the AFL's equalisation policies, not falling to the bottom of the
ladder since the early 90s, when Colless came in and began to transform the
But coach Paul Roos gave a blunt warning last week that it was
becoming harder each year for Sydney to defy the trend and avoid slipping
down the ladder to rebuild.
"The challenge for this footy club and for the AFL bringing in a second
(Sydney) team is if we go down for three years, well, it could be absolutely
catastrophic," Roos warned.
Roos also admitted last week he was unsure of the long-term strength of the
club's playing list because a number of the young players had been injured
Because of its success, Sydney has not had a top-10 draft pick since 2002,
when Jarrad McVeigh came to the club, and has regenerated its list
with recycled players such as ruckman Darren Jolly and defender
The club stuck with its older players and had only three draft picks last
year, and two of them, Dan Hannebery and Campbell Heath, have
remained in Victoria to finish their schooling. The third, first-round pick
Lewis Johnston, who could have played senior football this year, is
A number of other players who have been at the club for three or four
seasons, such as Daniel O'Keefe, Matthew Laidlaw and Ryan
Brabazon, have not been able to break into the senior team.
The club will need to turn over players and stock up big at this year's
draft because it is the last relatively uncompromised one before the Gold
Coast team gets all the best pickings in the following few years.
Colless knows on-field success would help the bottom line, but it is not
that simple for the Swans in a non-traditional AFL state.
"There is no question that the cure-all for every football club is on-field
success, but we have just had our most successful run in the club's
history," he said. "You can't expect to be in the grand final every year."
Colless said the hurdles for the club, which recorded a $300,000 loss last
year, were immense. "I have to be careful I don't sound like I'm full of
gloom and despondency, but it is hard. It has always been pretty hard but it
is very hard at the moment," he said.
"We are down on membership and we are down on people attending games. You
get that right and it is worth one or two more million dollars to you. You
get it wrong and you've got gaping financial holes.
"We are looking at a loss well in excess of what is acceptable. We lost, in
cash terms, $300,000 last year, and it's worse than that."
However, Colless refused to specify a figure.
The strength of support for the Swans, and the AFL, will be tested when
Sydney plays the Magpies at ANZ Stadium.
In 2003, the same fixture attracted a record crowd of 72,393, the largest
attendance at an AFL game played outside Victoria.
It was figures like that that convinced the AFL western Sydney was fertile
ground for the code's 18th club.
However, attendances at Swans games at ANZ Stadium have been significantly
down last year and again this season, to about 33,000.
While the club is hoping to attract 50,000 people tonight, Colless said he
was worried the figure might be closer to 40,000.
He said the club was collaborating with the AFL to boost the club's revenue
and shore up support in the long-term.
"We have to come up with an enhanced reason for members staying or joining.
We have to be better at selling tickets to games for casual attendees, and
we've got to be a hell of a lot better at promoting games, which is
something you don't have to worry about in Perth or Adelaide or Melbourne,"
Back to the Diary
Laidley's rift with CEO beginning of the end
June 17, 2009
It was all over for Dean Laidley and he knew it. He could not sleep
on Saturday night but lay awake in his Adelaide hotel room with only a
replay of the Richmond-West Coast game for company.
He took a sleeping pill at 4am and slept until 10, breakfasting with his
coaching panel before announcing he needed a walk to clear his head.
Wandering though the rain-soaked streets of inner-city Adelaide on Sunday
morning, Laidley reflected on his six-and-a-half often turbulent seasons at
North Melbourne. He had made his decision. He also believed, despite what
his president said yesterday, that the Kangaroos had made theirs.
Already, last week, at least one Melbourne-based club had contacted his
manager, Ricky Nixon, and suggested interest in Laidley for a
director of coaching role. The industry was reading the play and saw the
writing on the wall for the second coaching departure of the season.
Two more calls came yesterday – one from outside Victoria and again for an
operational football role – but even before then Laidley had begun to wonder
whether, at the age of 42, it was time to choose a more secure position in
football, the industry he does not want to leave.
On Sunday night after his last, forgettable game at the helm of the
Kangaroos Laidley presented Adam Simpson with his 300-game medal and
then asked for a private meeting with just his players.
"Thank-you for your efforts," said Laidley. "Thank-you for all you've done
for me." Several of the older players suspected something was up and on
Monday Brent Harvey, Simpson, Drew Petrie and Daniel Pratt
all called the coach to ensure all was well.
By mid-morning yesterday they knew they had lost their coach. President
James Brayshaw broke down when it came to his turn to address the
shocked players and most embraced Laidley after his speech to the group.
But by late yesterday Laidley had still not spoken to North chief executive
Eugene Arocca. For months there has been speculation that Laidley and
Arocca had fallen out and the Laidley camp believed the CEO wanted a new
coach. He was not expected at the Laidley household last night. Caretaker
coach Darren Crocker was.
"People say I fell out with the players but they will all be here later,"
said Laidley. "So will the president. Relationships at clubs don't usually
end like this and I'm proud of that it has here."
As the ex-coach and his wife Jo prepared for last night's farewell drinks at
their house involving the players, Brayshaw and most football staffers, the
lengthy presentation Laidley had prepared for tomorrow's scheduled meeting
with the club's coaching review panel sat unopened inside a computer on the
Laidley's kitchen table.
In the end the break with North was quick and clean. A financial settlement
was resolved at Arden Street before the press conference and it is
understood Laidley – contracted until the end of October – has been paid out
It was also mutual. Although North had indicated last August that Laidley
would be offered a contract extension by the end of 2008, the club's woeful
capitulation against Sydney in week one of the finals along with a series of
messy player issues had irrevocably damaged the relationship. The results
this season had not improved Laidley's prospects.
Both Laidley and Brayshaw admitted yesterday that the coach had unofficially
offered to resign after the finals loss.
Still they embarked on this season with hope and optimism with Brayshaw
admitting to The Age earlier this year of Laidley that: "As good as
he is as a strategist and genius, I believe, in match-day terms, he needs to
work on the other stuff."
Brayshaw went on to add: "To his credit, he has put his hand up and really
worked on his relationships around the club. The feedback we are getting is
Not only was the on-field scenario – injury problems have hurt the club like
several others – hurting Laidley, but his decision to stick to the round-16
contractual deadline caused the club to put in place a coaching
sub-committee that stymied the week-to-week football operation.
Laidley was reportedly told that the sub-committee's formation had been
leaked to the publication Inside Football by club director Ron
Joseph and his insecurity was compounded.
Glenn Archer, whose Stride Management handles 10 North players, was
appointed to the sub-committee in a conflict that heightened the tension,
tension that rose again last Friday when football boss Donald McDonald
was asked whether he believed Laidley should stay. McDonald, a consultant to
the sub-committee, is understood to have refused to answer. No wonder he,
according to Laidley yesterday, cleaned him out of beer on Monday night.
Thirty-seven people, including players, have been interviewed by the
sub-committee, which has now been disbanded as Brayshaw and his mentor and
brother Mark look to rebuild the club's football operation.
Laidley will now not present the overview of his coaching career that he
spent five hours writing last week. In the end it probably proved a
worthwhile exercise and one that might prove handy as he presents to other
clubs towards the end of the season.
Meanwhile, the former coach, who seemed to have a weight lifted off his
shoulders yesterday, is planning a trip to the US with his wife before
considering his next move.
He would have loved to have coached North to a premiership and didn't but
history should record that three finals appearances in six seasons was a
commendable effort given what he was up against.
Back to the Diary
Swans honour club greats
June 17, 2009
Sydney's ex-skipper Paul Kelly might not share current captain
Brett Kirk's love of meditation, but their approaches to playing are the
same. Give it everything you've got.
It says so on a plaque on the change-room wall at the SCG, where Kelly
describes himself as "a bloke that had a go".
"I'm glad I'm not playing now," Kelly laughed on Tuesday as he launched the
club's inaugural Hall of Fame dinner to be held at Melbourne's Crown Casino
on July 18.
"It (yoga) was half in when I was here (1990-2002). There's still debate
whether it's good or bad.
"It's individuals isn't it? I like the ice baths.
"You might leave me out of the yoga."
Kelly, a plumber and father of five from Wagga, came to Sydney with little
idea about the club's history and no concept of the potential burden of
taking on the No.14 jersey, previously worn by triple Brownlow Medallist
Kelly went on to win his own Brownlow in 1995, despite coming from a rugby
"When I came to the Swans they hadn't been here that long and we were sort
of all over the shop a little bit anyway," Kelly recalled.
"With Roosy (coach Paul Roos), the culture and the history is jammed
into the kids as soon as they get drafted.
"They are sat down and shown videos and `this is who we are, this is who
went before us and make sure you know it'."
Four-time club champion Kelly's name is prominent in this induction and the
39-year-old is clearly chuffed.
"It's great. I didn't appreciate it really until the last couple of years
when you are looking from the outside and you sort of realise what you did
and who you were and that sort of stuff," he said.
"When you are doing it, you are just doing it mate. You are trying to be as
good as you can be that week."
Kelly said the club's 2007 dinner to celebrate 25 years in Sydney was "the
best footy function I've been to". He said next month's event will be
another landmark occasion for the Swans.
From a list of about 1500 players who have played for the club since 1874,
selectors have trimmed their squad to 90.
The number of inaugural inductees hasn't been announced but Kelly is keen to
see the AFL's all-time leading goalkicker Tony Lockett honoured.
"I often get asked who was the best player I played with. Tony Lockett would
be my pick," Kelly said.
"People were coming to watch Plugger. He was dragging them in.
"I don't think we've had that since then."
Skilton says he's thrilled at the way the football world now regards the
Swans, who are 10th on the ladder and shooting for a seventh successive
"The thing that I'm proudest of our club now is for the first time, as far
as I'm concerned in my lifetime, we are now respected as a football club,"
Skilton said on Tuesday.
"Other clubs have chosen to copy the way we've gone about it. Our cultures
and whatever else."
Skilton said he loves watching gritty midfielder Kirk, describing him as the
game's best on-field leader.
Back to the Diary
Canberra rejects AFL bid as it waits for 18th club
June 16, 2009
The AFL has been rebuffed in an attempt to secure more games in Canberra for
the next two years as the ACT Government demands a significant stake in the
planned western Sydney franchise in exchange for its investment.
League boss Andrew Demetriou and his Sydney lieutenant Dale Holmes travelled
to Canberra yesterday to meet with representatives from the ACT Government.
While the AFL was hoping for a greater financial commitment from Canberra,
Demetriou was given the opposite news.
The national capital, wanting more to show for its investment in football
than occasional visits, will cut back from hosting four matches this year,
to just two or three for the next two years.
"We will be saving our pennies for the introduction of the 18th club," ACT
Sports Minister Andrew Barr told The Age.
"We want to continue AFL in the Canberra market until then but we certainly
won't be upping the amount of money we provide. The AFL were interested and
asking for some more but we have said no. We will look to focus our
resources on the 18th club in two years time."
That will mean cutting the NAB Challenge match played at Manuka Oval, a
fixture that has drawn poorly in recent times. There is also a strong chance
that the NAB Cup pre-season match may also be jettisoned.
The ACT will pay $400,000 for two home-and-away matches each year but is
prepared to put in a multimillion-dollar investment to buy a significant
stake of the new western Sydney franchise.
Demetriou has said, since the territory entered negotiations, that there was
no guarantee the club would bear that name. Barr said his government had
significant money to invest but wanted a say in team colours and name, as
well as a seat on the board.
"We were very pleased to see Andrew Demetriou say it was unlikely to be
called western Sydney," Barr said.
"We've asked for a proper footy jumper, a traditional jumper with an
identifiable brand, not some new-age concoction like we see some of the new
franchises in various codes wearing. We want a strong brand that could be
shared across Sydney and Canberra."
Those backing the Canberra push favour the name ACT/NSW Rams — a moniker
that has previously been used for a team in the under-18 competition and
which they believe covers western Sydney's pastoral history and the current
grazing industry in the ACT.
The government also wants a separate playing jumper for Canberra home games,
of which there could be up to half a dozen each year. Canberra is determined
not to be seen as a minor or weaker partner in the potential new club.
"Given the comparative levels of support in the ACT versus western Sydney
the new team would expect to draw more of its players from this region
rather than western Sydney," Barr said. "We think it would be very difficult
for that team to be successful without a very strong ACT presence."
Barr also had a friendly warning for the AFL, saying that other potential
recipients for government largesse were circling. It has already agreed to
underwrite a Canberra bid for soccer's A-League to the tune of $2.5 million.
"Given the fact that the FFA (Football Federation Australia) are actively
considering our A-League bid and rugby union is expanding, one would think
the AFL would want to maintain content in this market," he said.
A deal for matches at Manuka for the next two years is expected to be
unveiled at the final match hosted in the territory this year, during round
The Western Bulldogs played a home game in Canberra earlier this year but
Barr does not expect that to continue, believing the club's negotiations for
a move to Darwin are likely to prove fruitful.
"That would leave Melbourne as the most likely (to play matches in Canberra
during the next two years)," he said.
Canberra's A-League bid leader Ivan Slavich met with FFA chief executive Ben
Buckley yesterday to press the capital's case for an elite soccer team.
Canberra's bid is believed to be the most complete of the four competing for
a 12th A-League licence but FFA is also wary of ignoring western Sydney.
After admitting a second Melbourne club last Friday, FFA will decide on the
final A-League expansion franchise within the next four weeks.
Back to the Diary
Hall brain fade costs Swans
June 8, 2009
Barry Hall was spared no mercy from his exasperated coach Paul
Roos, who said the volatile forward's three consecutive 50-metre
penalties had been the turning point in a narrow loss to Hawthorn yesterday.
While Roos doubted Hall would be suspended by Sydney's playing group for his
string of final-term offences, it is the latest in a long list of on-field
crimes in the spearhead's controversial career.
It is also a particularly ill-timed transgression for the 32-year-old, whose
contract expires this year, with the Swans to review their list during the
Hall was dragged immediately by Roos after he single-handedly caused the
ball to travel from inside Sydney's attacking 50-metre zone to Hawthorn's
goal line. It gifted the Hawks a goal when they were only four points up in
a tense final term.
Hall's first infringement was for verbal abuse after Jarryd Roughead
marked in front of him. He then swung an arm at Roughead and contacted him
high before being sanctioned again for subsequent manhandling of Sam
"I think clearly that's the turning point in the game," a despairing Roos
said after the eventual 11-point loss.
"You could sit here and we could dream up fictional reasons or you could get
to the source of the problem and that was clearly a massive turning point in
Swans Brett Kirk and Adam Goodes tried to calm Hall down
before the team runner ordered him from the field, much to the delight of
the jeering crowd. Roos did not talk to Hall on the bench but after about
three minutes was sent back on.
Goodes said each player had been asked to identify key words before the
"Hally put his hand up and one of his words was that he wanted to be
aggressive during the game. I said (after the match): 'Hally, you are
aggressive but sometimes you step over that line. I thought today that
pretty much cost us.'
"The game's bigger than individuals at this football club and we know that
and we know that it cost us a goal and that it cost us the momentum."
Hall had been booed from as early as the first term following an accidental
clash with Xavier Ellis that sent the Hawk to the bench with a
bleeding mouth and nose.
Hall has already worked extensively with a clinical psychologist for his
blow-ups on field. He was suspended for seven matches after king-hitting
West Coast's Brent Staker in round four last year.
Soon after returning, he spent a further fortnight out — at the club's
direction — after taking a swipe at now retired Collingwood defender
"To put it in perspective, it wasn't anywhere near what he did last time,"
Roos said last night, referring to the Staker incident, "but … it's probably
surprising because he's been in good form and we're actually doing really
well as a team.
"Obviously the group's disappointed, the coaching staff's disappointed, I'm
sure the fans will be disappointed … there's no point painting a rosy
picture about it, everyone saw what happened."
Hall was addressed by his teammates soon after the match and while the three
50-metre penalties will be reviewed in more detail by the club today, Roos
thought it unlikely the forward's peers would suspend him again.
"I wouldn't think (it would lead to) something like that," he said. "It's
straight after the game, we've briefly discussed it as a group but I
wouldn't think there would be anything like that."
Hawks coach Alastair Clarkson joked he was elated by Hall's
transgression. "In games that are an arm wrestle, especially with the
conditions today, to get a goal like that put a smile on our face."
Hall also gave away a further four free kicks yesterday and Roos conceded
the key forward was consistently frustrated by how he was being umpired.
"We've addressed that with the umpires' department on many, many occasions,
but we know nothing's going to change and he knows nothing's going to
change, so you've got to accept the way it is."
Back to the Diary
Aussie footy sampled free agency in 1972
May 28, 2009
Australian football's only previous dalliance with free agency came during a
10-month period between August, 1972 and May, 1973. Legal advice at the time
convinced VFL clubs (most against their wishes) to permit the introduction
of a ruling that allowed players with 10 years service to move to another
club without a clearance.
Six took advantage, with Barry Davis (Essendon), Doug Wade
(Geelong) and John Rantall (South Melbourne) joining North Melbourne.
The others to move were George Bisset (Footscray to Collingwood)
Carl Ditterich (St Kilda-Melbourne) and Adrian Gallagher
North Melbourne, which also attracted Ron Barassi as its coach,
benefited most, moving from wooden spooner in 1972 to sixth in 1973, and
second in 1974.
Davis captained the Roos to their inaugural premiership in 1975, while
Rantall was arguably best afield. Wade booted four goals that day and
finished with 223 in his three years at Arden St.
The ruling was abolished when the other 11 clubs complained loudly about
North Melbourne picking up three super players.
Wade, one of the players to benefit from the 10-year-rule, is now in his
11th year as a Geelong committeeman. And he is strongly opposed to free
"Thirty-five years ago we had very little chance of moving clubs, unlike
today's players. The amount of time clubs put into players, both on and off
the field, means they should have some control of them," Wade said
"I'm not a fan of the concept at all, in fact, I couldn't vote for it after
any length of time. Isn't there a draft, both national and pre-season, for
"Not too many players today don't get well compensated and don't end up
getting what they want. Do we want a situation like the US or English
The issue of free agency has been raised on an irregular basis ever since
the experiment with the 10-year rule.
In 1996, then AFL Players' Association president Justin Madden said
he was confident free agency would come in "when the collective bargaining
agreement ends in 1998".
Seven years later, in 2005, AFL Players' Association chief executive
Brendon Gale promised his body would "be taking a long, hard look at
In March this year the 16 AFL club captains met at Docklands (aka Etihad
Stadium) for media opportunities and a meeting about issues of concern.
High on the agenda was free agency and a poll from that day showed 14 to be
in favour, and in most cases strongly so, with two unsure.
Adam Goodes, co-captain of Sydney and a player with 10 years service,
has been his club's AFLPA delegate since 2000 and on the AFLPA executive
When asked in March about free agency, he was adamant it should be
introduced "sooner rather than later".
"It makes sense and seems totally fair that a player who has given good
service to his club, and obviously that length will cause most discussion,
would be given the chance to move," Goodes said.
"Most players are in favour of free agency. It happens overseas in the big
sports, so why shouldn't it here?"
Back to the Diary
Seven sets tone in battle for TV rights
May 28, 2009
Channel Seven has launched the battle for the next AFL broadcast rights,
with network boss David Leckie signalling to league bosses Seven's
preference to roll over the current $780 million agreement for another five
Leckie is believed to have spoken with the AFL in recent weeks and indicated
the game's historic rights holder was keen to remain involved and that the
total five-year package from 2012-2016 could be worth more than the current
Negotiations have begun in earnest for the next media agreement. Six days
ago, the AFL forwarded a set of terms and conditions for the next broadcast
deal to channels Seven, Nine and Ten.
The AFL has been unable to indicate whether it will be selling a
nine-game-a-week home-and-away series involving 18 teams or a competition
involving eight weekly games, with some uncertainty surrounding the
introduction of an 18th team out of western Sydney.
"We can only sell eight games at the moment because the 18th licence hasn't
been issued," said AFL chief executive Andrew Demetriou last night.
"It would be irresponsible of us to do otherwise.
"Our plan is well advanced to appoint an advisory board for the western
Sydney team by early July and we would need to have a licence in place by
the first part of next year to be in line with the Gold Coast roll-out this
Demetriou refused to comment on the document forwarded to the three
commercial free-to-air networks last Friday.
It is believed Seven has sent the document to its legal team and that the
AFL has held fast to its traditional view that the annual home-and-away
series remain fixed, and not moveable in the fashion of the National Rugby
Demetriou confirmed the AFL had been in talks with all networks in recent
weeks, despite the fact the current five-year agreement is not halfway
The 2012-and-beyond package looms as the first in three broadcast agreements
in which Channel Seven does not hold the first and last bidding rights.
Currently in partnership with Ten, the two broadcasters have a complex
contractual partnership that specifies a joint bid in the first instance
next time around with various conditions attached. Although Ten has met the
AFL in recent weeks, the network was not part of the Seven strike.
Seven executives refused to comment last night but Leckie's move was
influenced in part by the recent roll-over of the American football
broadcast rights, another multi-network agreement.
Under the Federal Government's anti-siphoning broadcast laws, Fox Sports,
which broadcasts four of the eight weekly home-and-away games but no finals,
cannot bid for the AFL rights — Australia's most expensive sporting media
However, the Nine Network, which has an agreement with Fox Sports to
broadcast the 2012 London Olympics, has indicated through its executive Jeff
Browne that it plans to be part of the next AFL bid.
Media experts such as Harold Mitchell have predicted the next AFL
media deal could be worth $1 billion over five years.
While Leckie, who was not available for comment last night, indicated to the
AFL that the next rights package would be worth more than the last, the
billion-dollar figure has not been raised.
The AFL recently added former Nine boss Paul Waldron to its team, and
conceded it needed to improve its expertise in the broadcast media area.
Back to the Diary
We'll move grand final to Sydney: AFL
Greg Denham and Patrick Smith
May 19, 2009
The AFL has threatened to take the grand final away from its traditional
home, the MCG, if a satisfactory financial deal cannot be struck with the
Melbourne Cricket Club and the MCG Trust over increased revenue to clubs.
MCG Trust chairman John Wylie confirmed last night that AFL
Commission chairman Mike Fitzpatrick had warned that the league was
prepared to shift the biggest match of the season to Sydney unless it
extended the offer placed before the AFL last Friday.
The league and the 16 clubs last week rejected a new offer over the next 10
years from the MCC and the MCG Trust because of the fear factor associated
with what they describe as a short-term fix.
A 14-year "black hole" appears to be the major stumbling block in
negotiations between the MCC and the AFL and its clubs as the football
industry strives for a better financial deal to play at the MCG.
Western Bulldogs president David Smorgon, acting as chief delegate
for a sub-committee acting on behalf of all clubs, yesterday said the murky
area in negotiations related to a 14-year period leading up to 2032, when
the current MCC-MCG Trust-AFL contract is due to expire.
The MCC-MCG Trust is only prepared to guarantee clubs an additional $60
million in match returns and benefits for the next decade, and Smorgon said
clubs feared they would have to take a backward step, and possibly again "go
cup-in-hand" after the new offer expired in 2019 and before the MCC-MCG
Trust's current contract with the AFL ends.
"Andrew Demetriou (the AFL chief executive) and us have said all
along we want a long-term fix, not just for the short term," Smorgon said.
"A 10-year deal is a short-term fix."
MCC chief executive Stephen Gough said yesterday a 10-year goodwill
deal was better than nothing, adding that the MCC and MCG Trust were unable
to offer the clubs a longer-term financial commitment.
"That's the big issue," he said. "The MCC is responsible for debt and
responsible for upgrading the facility. Our existing debt will be roughly
$200 million by 2019 and because of the potential unknowns, we can't
possibly commit beyond then."
Gough said that if the MCG's Southern Stand needed to be upgraded within the
next 15 years, "we couldn't take on more debt, as well as continue to
provide extra money for the clubs".
Wylie said the trust was prepared to extend the deal in line with its
current contract with the AFL, which runs until 2032.
"We told the AFL we were prepared to look beyond 10 years so long as any new
extension was of mutual benefit and that there was no obligation to extend
it," Wylie said.
Gough said: "In 10 years' time, we'll know the landscape a bit better and
if, when and what funding will be needed for capital works. We are going
outside the contract as a matter of goodwill to assist the clubs and in
return we are seeking a short extension to the contract."
The MCC currently carries a debt of about $320 million for its redevelopment
of the northern side of the MCG.
It is understood the AFL considered the MCG Trust's offer for this year
only, which would have enabled it to extend its contract by a year to 2033.
But that also hinged on a full contract review involving all parties over
the next six months.
Under the current contract the AFL has with the MCG, it must play a minimum
of 45 home-and-away games each season and a minimum of four finals,
including the grand final, at the ground. It also carries a "reasonable
endeavours" clause to play 10 of the 12 highest-attended matches during the
premiership season, and a similar clause that ensures the venue is attended
annually by at least 2.1 million football patrons.
The latest 10-year MCC-MCG Trust offer to the AFL and its clubs is to
provide an additional $100,000 per home team to MCG tenant clubs, and an
additional $1 per patron over an annual attendance of 2.1 million each year.
It would extend that to a $2-per-person deal for attendances over 2.5
million each year.
In exchange, the trust wants the AFL contract extended by five years to 2037
with a minimum commitment of 46 matches each year, including the grand
It is believed the AFL's comeback position was that it would not commit to
playing any games other than the grand final at the MCG during the five
years. The AFL also wants a $1 million bonus payment for each year
attendances pass three million.
It is understood the AFL will press the Victorian Government to fund future
capital works at the MCG. Demetriou and Fitzpatrick are scheduled to meet
the Victorian Premier John Brumby and Wylie on the issue later this
week. Smorgon and Collingwood president Eddie McGuire will also be
Back to the Diary
Meeting of minds that gave Aussie football its rules
May 17, 2009
The first rules of football as we know it were codified on this day, 150
years ago, writes John Harms.
Today's date, May 17, is of great significance to the nation – especially
its footy lovers. Not that many of us know about it. On May 17, 1859, at the
Parade Hotel, in Wellington Parade, East Melbourne, four men from the
committee of the fledgling Melbourne Football Club (and maybe the publican)
nutted out the first rules of football as it was to be played in the
Although it has benefited from many other influences since – the Irish
influence, the indigenous influence, the local influence – football as we
know it is linked to this meeting.
This date is barely known because a different foundation myth exists. Over
the years, the public memory has been consumed by the events of August 7,
1858 – the so-called first game of Australian football, between Scotch
College and Melbourne Grammar School in the Richmond Paddock. The AFL chose
this date as the focus of its 150th anniversary celebrations last year, a
logical follow-on from the centenary celebrations of 1958.
That game retains a symbolic significance. But historians tell us it wasn't
even the first game – football matches (ad hoc games played by a variety of
rules) had been played in the colony for years, and football-like matches
had been played in indigenous communities for generations.
When it comes to football celebrating a single day, May 17, 1859, is far
more appropriate. It was the day when Australian football was codified; the
day influential men of football agreed on specific laws. These laws were
publicised and gained currency.
In cities and towns, when the instigators of football clubs decided on the
rules by which their clubs would play, many chose the rules prescribed by
this meeting and further meetings of the Melbourne Football Club committee.
Of course, clubs modified the rules as well, and the laws inherited local
While details of the meeting itself are sketchy, quite a lot is known about
the characters involved, and about the rise of football around that time.
In 1858 a push to make football more organised led to the formation of the
Melbourne Football Club. The problem was, depending on their backgrounds,
and the schools they had attended, its members understood football to be
played under a variety of rules. This needed to be sorted out.
On May 14, 1859, after a practice match within the club, players elected a
committee. Four committee members met at Jerry Bryant's Wellington Parade
pub. Bryant was not on the committee, but he was a sportsman. He had played
as a professional for Surrey Cricket Club in England and been involved in
the Surrey Football Club, which had its own rules.
William Hammersley was a local journalist. He had played cricket as a
gentleman amateur with Bryant at Surrey. The illegitimate son of a
prosperous Englishman, he had attended Trinity College, Cambridge.
James Thompson had also been at Trinity. A journalist, he wrote for the
Ballarat Times before becoming theatre critic for The Melbourne Morning
Tom Smith was present as well. Known as "Red" and later as "Football" Smith,
he was the classics master at Scotch. He had played in the August 7 match.
The son of a Protestant merchant, he had grown up in Ireland and studied at
Trinity College Dublin. Gaelic football had not been codified at that time.
The final committee member at the meeting was Tom Wills, Australian born,
and educated at Rugby. Having returned from England, he had built a
reputation as a cricketer and a character. He was loved by Melbourne crowds.
Accounts of the meeting differ. Hammersley claimed Wills wanted football
played by Rugby rules, but the others thought such rules were too specific
It seems discussion would have focused on topics such as how rough the
contest should be, when the ball could be handled and how the ball was to be
returned to play? The meeting outlawed hacking: the custom of kicking
opponents in the shins. It also prevented a player from picking the ball up;
he could only handle it when marking a kick. Until mavericks ignored the
rule, players could not run with the ball (as was the case at Cambridge but
not at Rugby). It was a game of kicking and scrimmaging.
The limited number and scope of the rules made the game ill-defined, and the
sizeable gaps gave football room to develop. This committee met from time to
time in 1859 and later years to discuss and modify the rules. Its rules
became known as the Melbourne rules, and while it is unlikely they were
universally prescriptive, they were certainly influential. Other forms of
football were codified and won disciples. But many stayed with the local
game. From then until today, the rules have been organic, changing according
to the desires of the footy community.
So this is an important day, when two journalists, a teacher and a sporting
hero sat down in Jerry Bryant's pub to codify over a few beers a game to
which they were attracted. The handwritten document survives, found in a tin
chest in 1980 by Bill Gray, then the curator of the MCC Museum.
Back to the Diary
Quick fix for West Sydney
May 8, 2009
The western Sydney team scheduled to enter the AFL in 2012 would require
better players and a stronger list in its debut season than the fledgling
Gold Coast side which preceded it.
A group of club experts handpicked by the AFL to formulate the list rules
for GC17 met yesterday at league headquarters to tackle for the first time
the game's proposed and problematic 18th team.
Mindful of ongoing sabotage from rugby league and the AFL's relative
anonymity in the western Sydney region, the group agreed the new team would
need to be more successful over a shorter period of time in its fight for
While no concrete decisions were made, yesterday's talks put forward several
proposals to springboard the western Sydney side into the competition with
short-term success including handing the team a mandatory uncontracted
player from each of the existing 16 clubs.
The group also debated the relative merits of drip feeding high draft picks
and concessions over a period of several years or simply handing the new
side more draft concessions in its first year along with a more generous
Former Brisbane Lions chief executive and current Swans football boss Andrew
Ireland warned the AFL that a western Sydney side would suffer significantly
from a "go home" syndrome given the lack of football culture in the region,
with Ireland reportedly arguing for stronger player picks and an extra total
player payments spending money as a result.
The western Sydney team looks almost certain to be handed the Australian
Capital Territory and the Riverina district of southern NSW as its exclusive
With a working party to govern the birth of the team in the manner of the
GC17 board led by John Witheriff that is being formulated, the AFL has not
yet decided whether to launch the 18th side into an under-18 competition
next season directly following the Gold Coast model. That scenario seems
unlikely, certainly in terms of the TAC competition.
The prevailing view was that a different model would be required to launch
the new team given the tougher market and the obstacles set up by the Sydney
scholarship scheme that is available to all AFL clubs.
Stronger ties with the ACT and the Riverina seem inevitable with the side
proposed to play at least two home games each season at Canberra's Manuka
Back to the Diary
An extra $3m bought Hawthorn a premiership flag
May 8, 2009
Premierships may come ahead of schedule, as Hawthorn's did last year, but
they rarely come cheaply.
By their own admission, the Hawks' 2008 flag was not in their initial
five-year planning set almost two years earlier, but the premiership was set
up by a $3million boost in football department spending.
Hawthorn, which also made a record $4 million profit last year, was by far
the leader in increased football department expenditure.
It spent $12.3million in 2007 before adding another $2.9million to its main
football department resources last year, according to confidential AFL
figures obtained by The Australian.
The Hawks spent $10.9million on their football department in 2006 -
$1.2million below the league average - when they won nine games.
The following year, spending increased by $1.4million and the result was 14
wins and the club's first finals appearance since 2001.
So it was no surprise to see Hawthorn go all the way in 2008 with overall
football department expenditure of $15.15million, which ranked it fifth
overall behind Sydney ($16.93million), Collingwood ($16.38million), West
Coast ($16.23million) and Fremantle, which spent $15.22million on its
The Hawks' biggest increase in spending on the 2007 season was on its
players, adding an extra $1.3million in salaries, including finals bonuses.
Another club on the rise, St Kilda, reaped the benefits of an administration
willing to spend more on its football department.
After increasing their spend by $1.7million in 2007, the Saints lifted it a
further $1.3million last year to a total of $14.26 million, still slightly
below the league average and a long way short of top spender, Sydney, which
created a new record with expenditure just below of $17million.
The best example of the AFL's uneven playing field last year was the Swans,
compared to the Western Bulldogs, who sat second from the bottom of football
department spending with an outlay of $12.85 million.
The Bulldogs, however, were able to win three more games than the Swans and
despite having a football department with more than $4 million less in
assets than Sydney, managed to beat them by 37 points in last year's second
semi-final at the MCG.
North Melbourne, which had the lowest football department spend ($12.67
million), won one fewer game than the Swans.
Nine clubs came in under the average of $14.45million, which was skewed by
the high spending by the Swans, Collingwood and the Eagles.
Sydney became the first AFL club to pay its players more than $10 million.
The Swans players earned $10.42million, of which $728,000 was outside the
salary cap and funded by the AFL for a cost-of-living allowance.
While coaching figures did not collectively rise over the 16 clubs, fitness
and conditioning jumped by almost $3 million to $17.2million. Also on the
rise was recruiting and list management costs, which went up across the
competition from $7.6million to $10.1million.
Collingwood had the most expensive recruiting and list management department
in the business and it spend $1.23 million on identifying new talent last
year. The competition average was $631,000 of which the Western Bulldogs
spent the least on recruiting at $381,000.
But the large volumes of money spent on football departments did not always
directly correlate with success.
The grand final was played between Hawthorn and Geelong, which were the
fifth and sixth biggest spenders.
Also, the top four spenders won eight games fewer than the bottom-four in
football department spending - Port Adelaide, Essendon, the Bulldogs and
Back to the Diary
League's expansion plans are based on flawed TV
May 5, 2009
Doubts over the $100 million upgrade of the Sydney Showground as the home of
the AFL's 18th team are unlikely to curb the code's expansion plans,
scheduled to be ratified by the AFL Commission next month.
AFL clubs have fallen for the pitch that an additional game a week, from the
entry of a Gold Coast team in 2011 and a western Sydney team the following
year, will generate an additional $50 million a year in TV revenue.
Simple arithmetic casts serious doubt on this. The AFL's $780 million
five-year TV deal translates to $156 million a year, or each of the existing
16 clubs generating $9.75 million annually in TV revenue.
How will the Gold Coast and western Sydney generate more than double the
average figure for clubs in the existing TV contract, already inflated
because Channel Nine's owner, the late Kerry Packer, sought to outbid
a Seven-Ten consortium on his death bed?
Nine is extremely unlikely to bid next time, and Foxtel, which bought half
the AFL games off Seven-Ten, can't justify a big spend on the basis of
selling subscriptions on the Gold Coast and western Sydney.
There might be a few AFL lovers on the Gold Coast who haven't bought Foxtel
subscriptions because they are not interested in the Titans, but western
Sydney households hooked to pay TV have become so because they are committed
to rugby league and soccer. So why the bullish push by the AFL, particularly
chief executive Andrew Demetriou, for two additional teams?
Demetriou has used many a forum to point out 56 per cent of the advertising
spend in Australia originates from NSW and Queensland, where the AFL has two
clubs. In other words, 44 per cent of the advertising budget comes from the
rest of Australia, where the AFL has 14 clubs.
If the AFL can locate an additional two teams in NSW and Queensland,
Demetriou reasons it can cut into that 56 per cent spent.
This assumes businesses will buy advertising time and space with a code that
is consistently outrated on free-to-air TV in NSW and Queensland and doesn't
attract the same Foxtel viewer numbers in the Gold Coast and western Sydney
as the NRL's under-20s competition. Suppose, long term, an additional two
teams in this rich advertising territory works. What happens in the interim
to the nine clubs in the poorer Melbourne market? Some will die because the
annual AFL payment per club will fall dramatically. It will cost an
additional $40 million a year for five years to sustain the two clubs.
Geelong chief executive Brian Cook says the western Sydney licence
will cost the AFL a subsidy of $20 million a year.
The AFL vigorously denied a claim 18 months ago by Gold Coast Titans boss
Michael Searle that the GC17 licence would lose $100 million in the
first five years, yet the announcement of the licence came with an
underwriting payment of $100 million over five years. Searle says: "The
question is, 'Do the AFL really expect within that time the Gold Coast team
will generate enough revenue to be self-sustaining in 2016?' Eventually, the
cash has to dry up, the Melbourne AFL clubs will cry about salary-cap
concessions, draft picks and a quarantining of local talent."
The Age understands Seven and Ten are committed to a joint
broadcasting pitch. So what will be the result of Demetriou's strategy?
Expansion leading to contraction? Start clubs on the Gold Coast and western
Sydney that drain AFL coffers of $40 million a year, cut the annual grant to
Melbourne clubs such as the Demons and Kangaroos, who had the hide to refuse
to relocate north when offered … and watch them die?
Back to the Diary
Friday, May 1, 2009
Hawk president takes $5000 fine option
Hawthorn president Jeff Kennett on Thursday
snubbed the AFL and decided to pay a $5,000 fine for criticising the
ABC Online reports: The AFL had wanted Kennett to attend an
umpiring seminar as well as watching a video of the laws of the game.
In a statement, Kennett says it is time for the club to move on and in
future his public comments will be as bland as those of the AFL.
Message to Hawthorn members ...
Kennett responds to the AFL
Thursday, April 30, 2009
Hawthorn Football Club
Please find my response to the AFL this afternoon.
I have decided to pay the fine for the reasons I have articulated in my
As much as I would like to have pursued the issue, it is better we all get
on with what we are about and that is winning games.
And secondly you could not put it past the AFL to impose sanctions on the
Club, such as loss of Premiership points, if the matter was not settled, and
that we would not want.
So let the matters of substance be settled in the court of public opinion.
Sorry if I have caused you distraction. Be assured my future public comments
will be as bland as those who seek to control us.
See you all at the MCG on Saturday.
My letter to the AFL is as follows:
Mr Adrian Anderson
General Manager – Football Operations
Australian Football League
Dear Mr Anderson
I refer to your letter of 28th April 2009 in which you, on behalf of Mr
Demetriou and the AFL, have seen fit to reject the entirety of my
explanation and decided to impose a fine on me for comments I made on 18th
As my comments were not umpire or incident specific, were hardly outrageous,
and expressed views that are felt by many in the community, one can only
assume that you had already decided to fine me before receiving my letter of
I wish to state again, that my concern is with the inconsistency of
umpiring, and the difficulty increasingly being faced by umpires, as a
direct result of the number of rule changes imposed by the AFL on our game,
and secondly, the heightened focus on individual umpires as a result of the
AFL sanctioned microphoning of umpires during matches.
It is my view that both of these issues are of concern to a majority of the
public. Further, that in sanctioning me for what were factual comments,
expressing a commonly held view, the AFL is again shooting the messenger
rather than addressing the fundamental issues.
Your letter of penalty has given me two options, one that I be sent to what
is best being described as umpiring school, or secondly, to pay a fine.
Your first option, umpiring school, only further puts the umpires under a
microscope. It would take time before I could clear my diary to provide for
the three hours you believe this schooling would take, and until I had
completed my three hours of re-education, the media would continue to focus
on umpires and this issue. Not to mention what they would justifiably expect
from me, once I had completed this re-education.
I personally think that is unfair on umpires.
In your letter you have referred me to the Sanders Report, the National
Review of Umpiring. I have already read that document and perhaps should not
find it unusual that in justifying your sanctioning of me, you have relied
on your interpretation of certain recommendations in that Report, but
clearly the AFL does not embrace other recommendations.
In short, you interpret those recommendations that suit the AFL’s purpose
but ignore those that don’t. Another AFL inconsistency.
Finally, in terms of the re-education issue, regardless of the number of
DVDs, Reports and explanations that I would be subjected to, my complaint is
not with the education of the umpires per se as they do a task of work under
very difficult circumstances.
My complaint is that the AFL, by consistently introducing new rules, further
confuses the umpires and the public and that once the umpire’s education is
practiced on the field, there is unfortunately, because of the plethora of
rules, confusion by individual umpires as well as inconsistency between any
of the three umpires that might be adjudicating on the day.
You have cleverly pointed out in your letter that soccer only has one
umpire, and of course you are correct. I personally am not opposed to that
concept, i.e. one umpire per game, as it would certainly ensure consistency
of umpiring throughout each game, allowing for the obvious mistakes that
might be made by an umpire, or any of us from time to time.
In determining my position on this issue, I have decided in the interests of
my Club, and to be quite truthful, in the interest of umpires, that it is
best that this matter be resolved as quickly as possible to allow all
parties to get on with their primary function. Umpires to umpire, and in my
case, to oversee the conduct of affairs of the Hawthorn Football Club and to
allow our players and coaches to compete on the field.
I have therefore decided, with regret, to pay the fine that you have levied.
With regret because I would rather retain my $5,000, with regret because I
think your sanctions are misplaced. But I am aware that unless I pay this
fine, you at the AFL may well apply further sanctions against my Club which
I certainly do not want to occur.
However, I do not resile from the thought process behind my comments that
have now been explained to you twice, and my explanations which you have
seen fit to reject.
So please find attached my personal cheque for $5,000, and as the AFL works
to paint the sky grey, and limit free speech, be assured that many of us
will continue to manage our affairs as best we can to the advancement of the
code and those who support, not only our individual clubs, but the game
Hawthorn Football Club
Wednesday, April 29, 2009
AFL acts on Hawthorn's criticism of umpires
Hawthorn president Jeff Kennett will be
forced to attend an educational camp with the AFL umpiring department or his
club will pay a $5000 fine for criticising umpires.
Jake Niall reports in The Age: The AFL has decreed that Kennett
attend a meeting with the umpiring department, in effect forcing him to be
schooled in all facets of umpiring – including watching game reviews and a DVD
of the laws of the game.
Kennett has been given two weeks to attend the meeting or the AFL will fine the
Hawks $5000, with the league treating the Hawks as two-time offenders. The AFL
fined coach Alastair Clarkson $5000 after its round 17 game against
Geelong last year, when he singled out umpire Justin Schmitt for
criticism, saying: "He's a good player for the Cats that No. 17, wasn't he? He's
Kennett accused the umpires of drawing attention to themselves, his comments
adding to the conflict between the umpiring department and Collingwood over the
Heath Shaw report and the contact between umpire Scott McLaren and
player Shane O'Bree.
Kennett letter to the AFL
Wednesday, April 29, 2009
Blog Article Content
As you are aware, the AFL has deemed fit to impose a penalty on the Club for
comments I made recently regarding confusion surrounding what I consider to
be inconsistent decisions in the adjudication of our game by umpires.
It had not been my intention to debate this publicly, as I had assumed the
correspondence and arguments were to be discussed privately between myself
and the AFL.
However, today the AFL has gone public through their General
Manager-Football Operations, Mr Adrian Anderson, on talkback radio station
3AW, justifying the AFL’s position. Therefore I think you are entitled, as
members of the Club, to read my letter of explanation to the AFL in response
to their charges.
My arguments were totally rejected by the AFL and that has resulted in them
imposing a penalty on the Club.
Finally, I make the point that at no time did I criticise an individual
umpire, nor name one. We at Hawthorn play the ball not the man. My comments
were general and the result of watching or viewing many games this year.
I am clearly still considering my position and will communicate that to you
via this website in the next 48 hours.
My letter to Adrian Anderson is as follows:
27 April 2009
Mr Adrian Anderson
General Manager – Football Operations
Australian Football League
GPO Box 1449N
Melbourne VIC 3001
Dear Mr Anderson
I refer to your letter to me dated 23 April 2009.
You initially wrote to Ian Robson, our CEO, asking him to explain my
comments. Clearly that was inappropriate, as a CEO can’t answer for his
President. Therefore I appreciate you redirecting your letter to me.
In your letter you have asked me to explain recent comments I have made
My response is as follows.
1. You take offence at my use of the words “bloody umpires”.
I used the word “bloody” out of sheer frustration. Akin I guess to the
phrase “bloody idiots” being used to describe drink drivers.
For better or worse, “bloody” is commonly used in Australia today. It can I
suppose be offensive, but it can also be a term of endearment, it can be a
term of jest, regardless I would hardly think in this day and age it would
generally be thought to be offensive but if that is your take on it so be
2. You refer to my “negative comments” regarding umpires on the SEN
interview I gave last Saturday 18th April. I consider them to be simply
My comments did not apply specifically to the Brisbane vs. Collingwood
match, nor to any specific umpire, nor to any specific incident during any
of the first four games this year, but was a generalisation as a result of
personally attending three matches this year, and watching many more on
television, I like many others find that the performance and inconsistency
of umpires increasingly confusing and frustrating.
This is not necessarily the umpires’ fault alone but the result of regular
rule changes by the AFL, and the increased focus on umpires by ‘wiring’ or
‘miking’ them for sound, which has made them a greater focus of attention.
The AFL sheets the ‘miking’ of umpires to the broadcasters, but this is a
cop out, as the AFL attempts to control every aspect of the game. The AFL
has clearly sanctioned the ‘miking’ of umpires and therefore they, the AFL,
must accept responsibility for the increasingly difficult circumstances in
which umpires are operating.
Again you may wish to interpret my comments as negative but I argue they are
simply factual and shared by many in the community.
A good umpire should aspire to unnoticed perfection.
The AFL has made this almost impossible for umpires today.
It is interesting and again factual, that soccer, the most popular and
professional code of football in the world, do not introduce rule changes
annually, and do not ‘mike’ their umpires.
The practice set by world soccer allows for greater understanding, knowledge
and comfort of the game and its rules, by umpires, coaches, players,
supporters and commentators – and even Presidents.
You get that wonderful ingredient of simplicity of application.
It would not be a bad example for the AFL to follow.
By removing the microphone from umpires you would reduce the public focus on
them, you would also eliminate the intrusion that their running commentary
often creates when watching a television broadcast.
You might even consider removing the numbers from umpires backs – numbers
are worn by players. If you think necessary replace them with their names to
distinguish a player from an umpire. But again in soccer there are no
numbers and no names. Why? To leave the umpire as anonymous as possible.
It is AFL policy that has singled out umpires to be more than unnoticed
I am sorry if you found my comments offensive but I consider them to be both
factual and constructive.
I will take up your suggestion to raise the issue of umpiring at the next
AFL Presidents meeting, in the hope that we can have genuine discussion,
where the views of the Presidents will be appreciated and hopefully
May I finally conclude that if you are serious about the welfare of umpires
and attracting others to serve in the profession, the AFL should very
seriously review their policies that are increasingly making the umpires the
focus of attention.
Hawthorn Football Club
Back to the Diary
Richard Colless: Warning on west Sydney
Michael Cowley and Richard Hinds
April 30, 2009
Swans chairman Richard Colless says he does not believe a team will
be entrenched in western Sydney "in my lifetime", even as the AFL moved to
reassure local clubs that plans to implant a team in the region as early as
2012 remained on track.
"I'm not saying it's the wrong thing to do, but I think it would be unwise
for clubs to assume this is sort of a licence to print money," said Colless,
who is the longest-serving chairman of an AFL club.
"It's going to be a long, hard battle and I don't think the winning of the
west is going to occur in my lifetime."
The NSW Government and AFL yesterday denied reports that promised funding
for a $100 million redevelopment of the Homebush Bay showgrounds had been
withdrawn and the establishment of the new franchise imperilled.
The AFL has been studying the feasibility of turning the showgrounds into a
boutique stadium that could accommodate crowds of about 25,000 for some of
the western Sydney team's games, with larger-drawing matches to be played at
But the NSW Minister for Sport, Kevin Greene, said a formal request
for funding of the showground's development had yet to be made.
"I understand the AFL are still looking at their options on this issue and
we are more than happy to speak to them when they are ready," he said.
"They have not yet made a proposal for the Government to respond to."
While AFL boss Andrew Demetriou would not comment yesterday, NSW-ACT
AFL chief executive Dale Holmes sent a letter to all AFL clubs in
Sydney reassuring them that plans for the west Sydney team were proceeding.
"On Monday … the commission made it clear that it understands the challenges
ahead and is committed to the 2012 target date," he wrote.
"There are a number of stadium options being discussed and we will continue
to discuss them with a range of stakeholders, including government."
With the AFL entrenched at ANZ Stadium and the proposed team to have its
training and administrative headquarters at the new 10,000-seat AFL-cricket
stadium in Blacktown, the league is confident it has the facilities in
place. The greater challenge will be in finding fans and corporate support.
Former Blacktown mayor Leo Kelly, a strong supporter of the AFL's
push into the west, claimed any potential loss of government funding was a
"minor hiccup", but local interests had been told last week there was no
change in the expansion plans.
However, Colless said it was important the public understood the
difficulties of expansion, noting that where there was "a massive outpouring
of support for a Super 14 franchise" when the Western Force were established
in Perth, there was no such demand for AFL in western Sydney.
"That doesn't invalidate doing it … but what I continue to say unrepentantly
is there is a not a natural demand for it, so understand this is going to be
an unbelievably long haul and it's also going to be a substantial drain on
the AFL system's coffers," he said.
"(Geelong CEO) Brian Cook volunteered four to six weeks ago that he thought
it would cost the AFL system probably $20 million a year, and that's not an
insignificant amount of money … if you do that for, say, 10 years, it chews
up a substantial amount of money that could be deployed somewhere else."
While the Swans have been careful to avoid going head-to-head with the NRL,
as the AFL would do in western Sydney, Colless said he doubted the new
franchise would harm the Swans as long as its introduction was properly
"I don't fear for our viability because I think the strategic importance of
the Swans now is undoubted," he said.
"But what you won't be able to do with this new team is offer discounted
seats, and discounted sponsorships, because if you do that, you cannibalise
what's taken us nearly 30 years to build up.
"That's why I think the amount of subsidisation is going to be massive and
(that) it's going to be open-ended. Now that in itself is no bad thing and
if the AFL has the financial clout to do it, it might be the greatest
strategic move in its 100-odd year history.
"But as long as people understand this is more than just a consequence of
the economic downturn, this is fundamentally supply and demand."
Back to the Diary
Western Sydney venture a giant leap of faith for
April 29, 2009
Establishing a team in western Sydney is the AFL's version of the Apollo
project. Unless you are an astrophysicist - or, in this case, a
footbophysicist – the best reason to believe it is possible is the sheer
conviction of those certain that a second Sydney franchise will provide a
giant leap for their game.
Inevitably, those just as certain Neil Armstrong would have found more AFL
supporters on the moon than Andrew Demetriou will in Rooty Hill are looking
for tell-tale signs of hesitation and indecision – particularly a backdown
on the projected 2012 start-up date.
In that context, some might seize on the slight equivocation of Demetriou
who said after Monday's commission meeting the west Sydney team still had to
present a business case before the 2012 start-up date was set in stone. It
might even be suggested the "bullish" AFL boss and his fellow commissioners
were wavering in their commitment to the game's riskiest, and potentially,
most expensive enterprise.
However, in admitting that the West Sydney Whatevers would be "much more
difficult to establish" than the Gold Coast team, Demetriou merely
acknowledged a simple truth – that this expansion project will be like no
other the league has attempted.
In the 14 months since AFL chairman Mike Fitzpatrick went public with the
AFL's plan to expand, the west Sydney project has been overshadowed by
efforts to ensure the 2011 launch date for the Gold Coast franchise. That
was only achieved last month thanks to the Queensland Labor's victory in
last month's election, which assured the new club a stadium.
Starting with Monday's commission meeting, where NSW-ACT AFL chief Dale
Holmes presented a progress report on plans for a second Sydney team, the
spotlight now falls on west Sydney. That means the media and, in turn, the
public will start to examine the significant question – can an AFL team be
successfully implanted in soil that has, at the very best, been lightly
Previously the AFL had expanded to cater for the demand of would-be
spectators demanding a stake in the elite competition. In west Sydney they
plan to create a team designed to "service the market" by generating
interest in, and helping develop, the code – something they believe the
Swans cannot and have not done across the length and breadth of a large and
Holmes's presentation focused on comparisons between the west Sydney and
Gold Coast expansions and made it clear the league had significantly greater
challenge here because of the differences in "the maturity of the AFL
football community and marketplace in the two areas".
Indeed, compared with the implanted Whatevers, the Gold Coast will be a
relatively organic creature. The Meter Maids do not have the deep roots of
the AFL's previous no-brainer expansions – West Coast and Adelaide began
with the support of entire Aussie football supporting states; Port Adelaide
and Fremantle were nurtured by relatively large and fiercely partisan
communities. But the strong Southport Football Club provided a platform, the
(slightly over-estimated) ex-pat Victorian community underpins the supporter
base and businessmen associated with Brisbane (as either the Bears or Lions
or both) have provided natural and experienced leadership.
Holmes said he left Monday's commission meeting believing there was still
strong support for the 2012 start-up date, while admitting the expansion
remained a "dynamic process". Rather than providing more wiggle room on the
establishment timeline, Holmes says that merely underlines the most
compelling point made to the commission – that regardless of when the team
plays its first match the game's development in west Sydney remains a very
Meanwhile, it is anticipated a list of 35 candidates will be whittled down
to an advisory board of six to eight members by late June. Depending on how
you look at it, they will have the honour of founding the Whatevers or the
toughest job in Australian sport.
Back to the Diary
AFL's ground rationalisation costs clubs
April 16, 2009
A GENERATION of kids never had the privilege of standing near the "animal
enclosure" at Moorabbin. They haven't jostled for a spot under the windsock
at Windy Hill, haven't experienced the unique hospitality, and saliva, that
Victoria Park extended to visitors from other clubs.
If they're lucky, they might have caught a game at the most pristine of the
old fortresses, Princes Park, before it was closed as an AFL venue.
Some would say good riddance to suburban grounds, which were antiquated
hovels in comparison with the comfortable, shiny Docklands, the refurbished
MCG and the modern interstate venues. These local grounds, symbols of the
old Victorian order, were sacrificed on the altar of progress and the
We were told that these grounds had to go, for the sake of the game and the
economic future of the clubs, which were better off closing the run-down
family home and renting either at the MCG or what is now known as Etihad
Ground rationalisation, the '80s agenda pushed by the current Australian
Competition and Consumer Commission chairman Graeme Samuel, was an example
of the AFL's willingness to make the tough business decisions in the game's
Those who had misgivings about jettisoning all the old grounds were merely
foolish romantics who didn't understand the AFL's hard-headed wisdom.
These sentimental Luddites were blind to the dollars and sense of ground
rationalisation. Preserving club histories and identities was just narrow
Funny how ideologies get mugged by reality and history bends in an
As the AFL struggles to obtain a fair deal for its clubs at the MCG and
Docklands, it's become apparent that these old grounds were
over-rationalised. How much better off would the clubs be financially if the
AFL had kept at least one of its suburban grounds?
The AFL has huffed and puffed about shifting games interstate, tried to get
the State Government to heavy the MCG Trust, and yet negotiations remain
mired in Middle Eastern mode. The MCG has a contract and doesn't need to
budge. What the AFL doesn't have — and even delusional romantics understand
this — is leverage.
There is no third ground, because, in its sociopathic drive to remove all
vestiges of suburbanism from an expanding competition, past AFL
administrations forced the closing of the smaller grounds. A policy that
made a certain amount of economic sense, was over-cooked and the clubs have
been badly burnt.
Consider the negotiating tactics available to Andrew Demetriou and co, who,
to be fair, inherited the two-stadium agenda. "If you don't give the clubs a
better deal, we'll …" Build another stadium? Move games to Geelong or
Canberra? It's not easy to complete that sentence with a feasible threat.
The MCG is controlled by a trust, Etihad is privately owned and its
shareholders want the best possible return.
The logical ground to have remained open for business was Princes Park,
which, until recent renovations, could still accommodate 35,000 in relative
comfort. It would have required relatively few dollars to upgrade to AFL
standard — Carlton went broke building the ground, in the belief that it
would find a niche as Melbourne's third (or more optimistically, second)
stadium once Waverley was turned into real estate.
Clubs have, belatedly, woken to the fact that bums on seats doesn't
necessarily translate into dollars. Geelong makes about as much from a
typical home game as Richmond earned from a sold-out MCG in round one. Had
the AFL sufficient foresight to keep a 25,000-35,000 boutique ground, the
low-drawing games against Freo, West Coast, Port et al — some of which are
sold off to other states — would earn a pretty penny.
The AFL, sadly, failed to heed its own dysfunctional history with the MCG.
The league created Waverley, in part because it was sick of being ripped off
and dictated to by the Melbourne Cricket Club.
How did the AFL's decision makers, otherwise pretty astute, fail to read the
play? Well, the obvious point is that they envisaged fewer Victorian clubs —
at least two and maybe three teams were expected to merge or relocate. But,
instead, we've seen the birth of new clubs, with the 17th and 18th babies on
the way. The additional games won't draw many fans in Melbourne. Ideally,
they'd be hosted by a low-cost, smallish capacity ground.
They call it a boutique stadium. I call it a suburban ground.
Back to the Diary
League pushes north with new TV commercial
March 10, 2009
The AFL'S national television advertising campaign has declared itself "In a
LEAGUE of its own" and placed some of football's biggest stars in the centre
of the most famous sporting venues and events in the world to prove it.
Brisbane Lions and Sydney captains Jonathan Brown and Adam Goodes
are two of the opening attractions in the commercial born largely out of
last year's historic 150th campaign which failed to engage the northern
The AFL's push to create new franchises in Queensland and NSW lost
significant momentum last September when a dismal crowd of less than 20,000
turned up to watch the Swans defeat the Kangaroos in a sudden-death final at
The Lions' attendances and TV ratings continued to plummet, creating a
massive headache for the AFL. The Swans were particularly vocal about the
random nature of the promotion of their home games which occasionally went
to air after the games had been completed.
The Bill Hunter-voiced commercials had little relevance for a Sydney market
its home club was attempting to lure to games and the AFL was told as much
by the Swans. As a result the league brought in its advertiser George
Patterson's Sydney team to redefine not only the AFL's message but its
placement of commercials.
The "In a LEAGUE of its own" commercial was filmed largely in Victoria but
mocks up venues such as the Happy Valley racecourse in Hong Kong, a bullring
in Mexico, a Canadian ice hockey rink, boxing at Madison Square Garden,
London's Wembley Stadium and the home of the New York Mets.
In a further salute to NSW audiences, Kieren Jack — whose father Gary
starred with Tina Turner in the successful "Simply The Best" rugby league
commercial — stars in the advertisement as part of a sequence involving Port
Adelaide's Chad Cornes, who smothers Jack and Collingwood's Leon
Davis in an ice rink and which finishes with the ball being hit to
Brownlow medallist Adam Cooney in a bullring.
The action then moves to Adelaide's Nathan Bock, Lion Daniel
Merrett and Melbourne skipper James McDonald who kicks the ball
to Gary Ablett who evades racing cars at a major international event
to kick the ball to Matthew Pavlich.
The sequence is then picked up in turn by Justin Koschitzke and
Daniel Wells in the middle of Wembley and finishes with Lance
Franklin into a group of Essendon players competing under lights at the
Every AFL club is represented in the commercial which also features Dean
Cox, David Hille, Brett Deledio, Aaron Davey and
Chris Judd who evades giant basketballers in a supposed NBA clash.
Not only has the AFL worked closely with its broadcast partners to ensure
the campaign is given significant airplay, it has also worked to improve the
timing of the commercials in a bid to increase lagging crowds in Brisbane
and Sydney and continue to push attendances at Carrara.
The AFL has refused to divulge details about the campaign which will be
unveiled to the industry later this month at the 2009 season launch and
shown for the first time on television on Sunday, March 22 — four days
before the Richmond-Carlton season-opener at the MCG.
Back to the Diary
Stadium stalls; AFL's Sydney doubt
Sunday Herald Sun
March 1, 2009
The AFL's ambitious push into western
Sydney has stalled, with the league yet to submit plans for the $100
million redevelopment of the Sydney Showgrounds at Olympic Park.
Almost a year after then premier Morris Iemma gave the AFL $40,000 for a
feasibility plan, the AFL confirmed on Friday it had not submitted
The new stadium is to be the home base for a proposed 18th team, to be
introduced by 2013. The NSW Government is understood to now be reluctant
to help fund the stadium's reconstruction.
The Sunday Herald Sun has learned NSW premier Nathan Reese is far
from sold on the AFL's plan to expand into rugby league's heartland.
Several sports in NSW struggle financially, including basketball and
A spokesperson for Mr Rees said this week the AFL had not contacted the
Government about the plan.
A government insider said there was "little chance" funding would be
"The big concern here is the AFL doesn't seem to be certain that this can
The AFL refused to comment this week about its commitment to the Showgrounds
The $30 million redevelopment of Blacktown's Olympic Park in western Sydney
into a 10,000 capacity venue and training base is on schedule to be
completed by June.
It may be called upon as the team's home ground should the AFL push ahead
with its expansion.
NSW Sports Minister Kevin Greene said the Government was still waiting for
the AFL to provide detailed plans for the proposed team. Mr Greene said he
would support a second team, but he would not comment on the probability of
The West Australian Government has shelved plans for a $1 billion stadium in
Perth to replace Subiaco Oval. The AFL also must strike a deal with the
Queensland Government to redevelop the Carrara stadium in time for its
proposed Gold Coast side's entry in 2011.
It was revealed this week the Gold Coast would not gain the AFL's 17th
licence unless government funding for the redevelopment was secured.
Back to the Diary
Delay in stadium financing puts Gold Coast bid in doubt
February 26, 2009
The Gold Coast will not be granted the AFL's 17th licence unless funding for
the redevelopment of the stadium at Carrara is guaranteed.
It was revealed the hitch in the GC17 bid consortium being awarded the next
licence, which had been put on hold by the AFL for four months, is because
multi-million-dollar grants from the federal and Queensland Governments have
not yet been signed off on.
Another hiccup facing the code's expansion in southeast Queensland relates
to next month's state election and whether the incumbent Labor government
can guarantee its funding pledge before it goes to the polls.
The AFL on Wednesday declared the Gold Coast's entry into the competition
would not proceed unless its stadium deal was fully guaranteed.
And that's despite a $5million commitment to establish and underwrite a team
this year in the Victorian-based TAC under-18 competition, the first step in
developing a club to be ready for AFL participation in two years.
After what seemed a formality a few months ago, the AFL has still to receive
state and federal funding commitments for the project, which is estimated to
cost between $120million and $130million.
It is understood the Gold Coast City Council has promised $20million to
upgrade Carrara, while the AFL is putting in $10million.
The AFL has been working on the Queensland and federal governments tipping
in an equal split of about $100million. The league's plans to upgrade the
Carrara facility include increasing seating to 25,000 from its current
capacity of 8000, as well as upgrading a number of player and administration
AFL chief operating officer Gillon McLachlan, who is overseeing the Gold
Coast's scheduled entry into the AFL in 2011, would not comment when
But AFL sources remain optimistic of getting the government funding
necessary to bring the Gold Coast stadium into line with other major AFL
"You can't commit to funding that hasn't been approved," an AFL source said.
"Negotiations are progressing well and we've certainly had positive signs,
but in saying that we thought that was the case three months ago."
Bid chairman John Witheriff said he had no knowledge that the licence was
dependant on government financing of the Gold Coast stadium.
"That's the first I've heard of that," Witheriff said. "All that is news to
Rather than the more costly option of building a new stadium to host AFL
games in southeast Queensland, the league has settled on Carrara in the
short term. That decision was also buoyed by the Queensland Government's
decision not to hold the AFL to an existing contract that required the new
club to play all home games at the Gabba in Brisbane until 2015.
Should the Gold Coast be granted the 17th licence, it is unlikely to pay for
the privilege, despite the past five clubs to enter the expanded national
competition - West Coast, Brisbane Lions, Adelaide, Fremantle and Port
Adelaide - each paying $4million for their licences.
The consortium - Witheriff, Graeme Downie, Alan Mackenzie, Bob Gordon and
Dale Dickson - believes it has achieved all entry criteria placed on it by
the league last year.
The criteria included a minimum prospective membership figure of 20,000,
which has escalated to more than 45,000 pledges, a major sponsor, 11 support
sponsors and 100 business partners as financial contributors.
Witheriff said any stalling of the licence by the AFL had no impact so far
on the club's on-field development and progress. Under senior coach Guy
McKenna, who has a two-year contract, the Gold Coast will make its debut in
the under-18 TAC Cup competition in April. It has already signed eight
teenagers and has a squad of 40 players.
The Gold Coast will not appoint its first chief executive until it is
granted a licence and little has officially progressed since last August
when its CEO search was narrowed to seven.
Dickson, chief executive of the Gold Coast City Council, has firmed for the
position following St Kilda chief executive Archie Fraser's resignation to
join soccer's A-League as its new chief.
Back to the Diary
Rewrite rule, says lawyer
Greg Baum and Andrea Petrie
February 21, 2009
The lawyer who acted for Collingwood captain Nick Maxwell in his
successful appeal against a four-match suspension for rough conduct says the
rule is virtually impossible to understand in its current form, gives
players no understanding of the limits they must observe and should be
Terry Forrest, QC, won mitigation of penalties in two high-profile striking
cases against Sydney's Barry Hall, but had not previously had to
unpick the rough conduct rule. "I found it an extremely difficult rule to
understand," he said.
So, he said, did four eminent QCs, three on the appeals board that cleared
Maxwell yesterday, and David Jones, the chairman of the tribunal that
convicted Maxwell on Tuesday. "All are extremely highly regarded in the
legal community, almost icons," said Forrest.
Forrest said the guidelines to the rule are riddled with double negatives
and in a crucial clause do not even make clear whether the "player" is the
offender or the offended. It reads: "When determining whether the conduct
was unreasonable, consideration should be given, but not limited to, whether
the player is not, or would not reasonably be, expected to influence the
"Is the 'player' the opponent, or the player charged with the reportable
offence?" asked Forrest. "That's ambiguous in itself.
"In the significant paragraphs, there are two 'unlesses', overlaid by three
alternatives, overlaid by a qualification, which embraces six potentially
relevant factual considerations, overlaid by an onus — and then a duty.
"All of that says to me that as soon as the reasons (for the appeals board's
verdict) are published, and before the home-and-away season commences, this
rule ought to be reviewed as a matter of urgency, and drafted in a much
simpler language, so that the clubs, the players and the administrators know
where they stand.
"No player, reading the rule now, would have any idea of the limits and the
possibilities facing him. It wouldn't be hard to draft it more elegantly."
AFL football operations manager Adrian Anderson said the thrust of
the rule was clear, as summed up by its last clause: "The onus is placed on
a player who elects to bump to do so legitimately. He has a duty to avoid
significant contact to an opponent's head or neck where reasonably
But Anderson also said that since the tribunal and appeals board had come to
different conclusions in the Maxwell case, the AFL would examine the appeals
board's decision to determine "if any clarification to the rules was
An explanation of the AFL appeals board decision to overturn suspension will
not be revealed until next week.
In direct contrast with Tuesday's tribunal's findings, the appeals board
yesterday found that Maxwell's contact to young Eagle Patrick McGinnity
was reasonable and within the rules and that the head contact was
accidental. McGinnity broke his jaw in the incident and will miss for three
The decision enables Maxwell to play against Richmond on Thursday. It has
also written Collingwood into the record books for becoming the first club
to have a tribunal decision overturned on appeal since the system was
introduced in 2005. The first 10 appeals have failed.
Forrest successfully argued during the 90-minute hearing that Maxwell had no
reasonable alternative but to bump McGinnity in the circumstances.
Had he gone for the ball rather than bumped McGinnity there would have been
a "serious risk" of injury to both players as well as Maxwell's teammate
Anthony Corrie who was nearby, Forrest said.
"Putting his head over the ball with Corrie and McGinnity coming like a
freight train is not asking him to execute a realistic alternative. It was a
situation fraught with potential for injury".
Counsel assisting the AFL Jeff Gleeson, SC, suggested the safer
alternative would have been for Maxwell to pull out of the bump but Forrest
argued it would be very difficult for a professional footballer to explain
such a decision to his coach, in this case Collingwood's Mick Malthouse.
"That is not our game. I'm a 10th of a second away from impact, I'll pull
out of this. I'm only the captain … Sorry Mick," he said.
Gleeson requested a 10-minute break in proceedings and upon resuming,
Collingwood's appeal was amended to include an error of law relating to the
question the jury was asked to consider on Tuesday — whether Maxwell had a
reasonable alternative to contest the ball. Forrest argued it should have
included the options of tackling and shepherding.
The original appeal was on the basis that the tribunal's decision was "so
unreasonable that no tribunal acting reasonably could have come to that
decision having regard to the evidence before it".
After less than five minutes of deliberation, the appeal panel of Peter
O'Callaghan, QC, Brian Collis, QC, and retired Victorian Court of
Appeal president and 1961 Hawthorn premiership player John Winneke
emerged to uphold the appeal.
"It is of our opinion the appeal should be upheld. We'll publish our reasons
later," appeals board chairman O'Callaghan said.
After the hearing, a relieved Maxwell said he felt vindicated.
"I always felt that I did every thing right in the circumstances," he said.
Football operations manager Adrian Anderson said any clarification or
refinement to the rules surrounding bumps would only take place after the
full findings had been received.
"But if need be we'll do what is necessary to reconfirm our position on
bumps," he said.
"We received a report from the Medical Officers Association two years ago
urging us to take action and we introduced two rules, one to protect a
player with his head down over the ball and another that said that if you've
got the option of going for the ball or tackling and you elect instead to
bump, if you cause damage to your opponent's head or neck you'll be held
responsible in that situation.
"Last year's injury report showed that we had the lowest incidence of head
and neck incidents for AFL players on record and we don't plan to deviate
from our position."
Back to the Diary
Japan learns to love Aussie footy
January 7, 2009
Twenty-one years ago I received a phone call in Tokyo from one of my bosses
at the Sun News-Pictorial with what seemed a straightforward
Two Australian football teams, Essendon and Hawthorn, were planning to play
a promotional match in Yokohama. The newspaper had heard the organisers,
Fuji TV, were going to hold a curtain-raiser involving Japanese players.
I was the local correspondent for the Sun-Pic, now the Herald Sun, so
I called Fuji TV. Their idea was to put on a game between Keio and Waseda
universities, the most distinguished of the nation's 600 private
universities. Sporting contests between them are like Oxford-Cambridge
matches, so Fuji TV was sure they would get plenty of local attention.
"But can they play?" I asked the producer handling the match.
"Umm ... no, not yet," he said.
"Well, who will teach them?"
"Will you?" he asked.
His strategy for finding Aussie football coaching talent was to ask the
first person he came across with an Australian accent. Sadly for him, that
I laughed and told him even though I was from Melbourne I could barely play
the game, let alone teach it. Oddly enough my sport as a kid had been judo
and my footy career peaked with two games warming the bench for the Parade
I promised that when they found some real coaches I would come along to
training sessions as an assistant.
But the search for real coaches in Tokyo got nowhere, and a few weeks later
I was politely told I was the head coach. In fact the only coach. For both
My interpreter, Hiroshi Osedo, and I had lunch with the leader of the
players, a madly enthusiastic Keio student named Takeo Iida. He spoke little
English and I had no Japanese. Iida-san had been to Australia on an exchange
visit and was intrigued by the game, although he had never played.
Some of the other volunteers had played soccer and a few had been on a rugby
field, but Aussie footy was totally exotic. That novelty was the attraction,
along with a chance to get on television, which they figured might help them
So we had a coach who could not coach, players who had never played and no
common language to talk footy. How hard could it be to introduce a sport to
a new country?
Hiroshi thought the whole thing was hilarious but promised to help, mainly
in the hope of seeing me make an idiot of myself.
A correspondent's life is too busy and unpredictable to take on regular
sporting commitments but our match was only two months away. I assumed that
after the game we could all forget footy and regain our Saturdays.
The VFL turned down my appeals for help because it was only interested in
selling TV rights to the Japanese, not in getting them to play the game. The
Australian embassy was also no help because it could see no trade advantage
in having a bunch of kids playing our game, even though I pointed out these
were elite universities and the students could one day be influential.
So my family sent me a coaching manual for teaching primary-school players
and Hiroshi set to work translating terms such as torpedo punt. I found two
Australian bankers who knew how to umpire and convinced a mate who could
play the game to come over from Hong Kong for our first training session, a
two-day camp at the base of Mount Fuji.
The first lesson began with 30-odd fit young guys sitting silently on the
training pitch while I held up a mysterious object in my right hand and
tried to sound authoritative.
"Kore wa football desu!" ("This is a football!") Thirty faces nodded
earnestly, absorbing this information with as much concentration as if I had
just shown them a working model of a combustion engine.
Fancier things - kicking, hand-balling, the rules and the scoring system -
had to wait until we spent hours showing them the quirky way an Aussie
They worked ferociously and lost a lot of skin on the grassless training
pitch, but commitment and bonding were no problem. While Australian kids
their age might be self-conscious in the showers, we shared a huge hot bath
that first night, laughing and forming a chain to scrub each other's backs
We slogged away every Saturday, scouring Tokyo's outer suburbs for any open
piece of ground, preferably with grass, where we could practise with the
half-dozen balls provided by Fuji TV.
I was 26, only six or seven years older than the players, but at first they
treated me like a middle-aged professor or sensei. I was dreadfully unfit
and within a few weeks they were all better players than me, although I
thought it would hurt morale to let them know quite how incompetent their
They put on a good show at Yokohama baseball stadium in front of about
15,000 people and a decent TV audience. In fact Essendon coach Kevin Sheedy
and Hawthorn's Alan Jeans seemed pleasantly surprised by their performance.
They both remarked that our best player, Katsutoshi Ishibe, had real talent.
That was supposed to be the end of my lost Saturdays but something
unexpected had happened. These guys had become my friends and by now I had
learned it was hard for foreigners to make genuine friendships in Japan. I
had found that bonds of friendship in Japan rely on sharing some defining
link, such as working for the same company or coming from the same village
or school, rather than simply meeting somebody and finding that you like
That makes Japanese society a series of tight social circles. And if people
are always insiders or outsiders, then foreigners are the ultimate
outsiders. More often than not, foreigners are treated as if they are more
charming and interesting than they really are, but I was sick of always
being treated as if I was special and different.
To have normal friendships I needed a circle or bond of my own, and I had
stumbled into one with Aussie footy. I decided to keep at it.
For the next three years I would be dragged out of bed, exhausted and
hung-over, for the long Saturday morning drive into the suburbs to lead
training sessions or matches against teams of Australian bankers and
language teachers. Somehow we even ended up with an Irish team made up of
Gaelic football players who had been lured to Tokyo by the strong yen of the
The local office of QBE Insurance donated money for jumpers and the Fitzroy
Football Club sent some footballs. But that was the only help we received.
After the games my tiny apartment would be packed with players, beer and
pizza. Their English improved to the extent that a few ended up with
Australian accents. My Japanese got nowhere but I did pick up some loyal,
Iida became a close friend and perhaps the strangest Aussie footy fanatic in
the world. He had footy magazines shipped to Tokyo and would ring me in
genuine distress to report things such as Paul Salmon hurting an ankle.
One Saturday morning when I was more tired and hung-over than usual, I was
sitting in Tokyo traffic in a car packed with students, wondering why I was
spending my time doing this, when the best rover in Japan, Akio Nakajima,
leaned over from the back seat and turned on the cassette player.
Out blared the Coodabeen Champions. A car full of kids who could barely
speak English began singing along with "I'm DiPierdomenico, all the way from
head to toe..." When they also knew the words to the song Never Turn Right
at Burke Road, Malvern (Or You'll Be There All Day"), I just shook my head.
I left Japan at the end of 1990. On grand final day five years later, I had
another of those "is this really happening?" moments. I had returned to
Tokyo for Iida's wedding at the Hotel Okura.
After his bride, Akiko, had changed from a kimono into a Western outfit,
they entered the ballroom to the applause of 500 guests. The music then
started up for the bridal waltz, sending my table of footy old boys into
cheers but leaving me laughing. Never before had Up There, Cazaly featured
in a traditional Japanese wedding.
The former ruck-rover sitting next to me had become an executive for one of
Japan's biggest trading companies, travelling the world buying wheat.
In fact, he confided with a guilty smile, he had switched tens of millions
of dollars in contracts from Canada to Australia "because I like Australia".
Over the next decade or so our contact dropped off into the occasional
exchange of cards and I assumed the game had died out in Tokyo. Last year,
though, I received an email asking me to come back for the end of season
awards night to mark the 20th anniversary of the Japan AFL.
It was a wonderful trip, with lots of pub time catching up with my old
players, soaking up news of their children and their careers with the pride
of an uncle, even though our age difference had all but disappeared now we
were all in our 40s.
Teams are now spread across Japan and sides tour Australia each year. Two
Japanese footballers even play semi-professionally in Australia.
The awards night was in a swish Tokyo hotel with the ballroom full of black
ties and elegant dresses befitting the Japanese version of Brownlow Medal
When it came time for the big award I had another of those "is this
happening?" moments when I was called up to present the best and fairest
player in the league with something I had only recently heard about.
I muttered something about friendship being the most important thing in the
game, then handed out the eighth annual Peter Wilson Medal.
Sitting down in something of a daze, I was told a player named Michito
Sakaki had won the medal twice and went on to train with Essendon. He played
in the semi-professional Ovens and Murray Football League.
Charles Brownlow was a genuine player and talented administrator and he had
a rather bigger impact on the game than me. But he made one mistake by dying
a year before the Brownlow Medal was launched.
You should have stayed alive, Charles; these things are fun.
Back to the Diary