Archive for October, 2019

Oct 9 2019

Lions set to interview Neil Craig

The Brisbane Lions will interview Melbourne caretaker coach and former Adelaide coach Neil Craig for the coaching position this week.
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Craig and Hawthorn assistant Adam Simpson are understood to be among the candidates who will be spoken to in the next couple of days by the Lions, who are seeking a senior coach to replace Michael Voss.

Mark Harvey, who took over from Voss late in the season, has ruled himself out as a candidate for the Lions’ job.

Craig would be a major candidate for the Lions job in the event that the club looks for an experienced coach, with industry sources suggesting that the club will consider a younger coach working as an understudy and eventually taking over, if they decide upon an experienced coach.

Craig shapes as a major domino in Melbourne’s audacious play for Paul Roos, who is seeking to put together a ”ticket” – a coaching group that he feels he can work successfully with – for the Demons before accepting the job.

Craig is contracted to the Demons for 2014 on an estimated $400,000-plus. If the former Adelaide coach won a job at the Lions – as either senior coach or the experienced assistant in the Rodney Eade mould – the Demons would save a significant amount of money. Otherwise, they would have to consider paying him out, since it is unclear what role he would fill in the revamped football department at Melbourne.

The salary saved could be used on a prospective support team for Roos, who is expected to command a massive salary, speculated to be $1.5 million a year.

Sydney’s Irish pioneer and premiership player Tadhg Kennelly is understood to have been sounded out as a potential development coach, while Roos’ close friend and associate George Stone, an assistant at the Swans, is out of contract and is seen as a likely member of a Roos coaching panel at Melbourne should Roos confirm his appointment over the next week. It is unclear whether Kennelly, who has been working as an international talent coordinator for the AFL, is in a position to start immediately. But John Blakey, who worked under Roos in Sydney, is considered certain to remain with the Swans in 2014. Blakey is out of contract but has indicated a preference for staying.

Another Sydney assistant, Leigh Tudor, is expected to return to Victoria at season’s end. He is likely to be joining North Melbourne, rather than the Demons, despite the Paul Roos link.

Sydney wants its assistants to continue working with the club for the duration of the club’s finals campaign – the Swans, like most clubs in contention, are seeking to ensure that their premiership prospects aren’t hurt by the loss of assistants in September.

Craig, who worked as a senior lieutenant alongside Mark Neeld before Neeld’s sacking, coached the last 11 games of Melbourne’s season, and initially lifted the Demons’ performances, as they defeated the Bulldogs in round 14 and were more competitive against Sydney and Gold Coast. But the Demons fell away thereafter, as their lack of midfield quality and depth saw the pattern of heavy defeats resume.

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Oct 9 2019

Vickerman to do things his way at Breakers

Make no mistake, the Breakers are Dean Vickerman’s ball club now, and will have his stamp on them when the NBL season rolls round in a little over a month.
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The threepeat champions started pre-season training this week with Tall Blacks skipper Mika Vukona the last of the squad to roll after having an extended break to attend a wedding overseas.

And after the biggest off-season shake-up since the club morphed from pretenders to contenders, Vickerman is well aware he has plenty to do ahead of the season tip-off against the Wollongong Hawks at Vector Arena on October 10.

Not only has Vickerman come in to replace Andrej Lemanis as head coach after the latter departed to take up the reins of the Australian men’s national programme, but there has been a significant turnover in personnel, including imports and a new assistant coach in the form of foundation player Paul Henare.

With talismanic league MVP Cedric Jackson declining to return to Auckland and Will Hudson not retained, the Breakers have gone with Belmont University southpaw Kerron Johnson and ex-Sydney King Darnell Lazare as their restricted players for 2013-14.

They’ve also promoted development player Reuben Te Rangi and brought back former Tall Black Jeremiah Trueman to fill the spots of Leon Henry (unwanted) and Dillon Boucher (retired).

“We’ve got seven [pre-season] games for me, for Kerron, for all the new guys. It’s going to be important we get our systems and structures in place very quickly and we just learn how to play,” Vickerman said.

“If it’s a new brand of Breakers basketball or whatever it becomes, with a new group it’s always a bit different every year when you turn people over.”

Vickerman is intent on stamping his mark on these Breakers, so expect some tweaks and adjustments to the way the team plays. But he also won’t veer dramatically from a formula that’s worked so well for the club en route to the championship treble.

“We sat down and spoke as a coaching staff, and defensively we loved the style we played last year. We thought it was an enjoyable style, a disruptive style and led to us forcing turnovers and creating fast-break opportunities where we are at our best, running or making dunks or getting early three-point shots.

“I want to play that style again. But it will be different with the personnel we have. Darnell stretches the floor a little more than Dillon Boucher, and Dillon was an outstanding passer and got other people involved, so it’s going to be different in those positions.”

But it’s at the offensive end where Vickerman hopes to stamp his mark more.

“You always bring a little bit of your own flavour there,” he said. “Our early offence won’t change too much. We want Kerron into early on-balls and spreading the floor and we want Alex [Pledger] running at the rim early.

“Then as we get into it a bit more we’ll have some different motions. I really want to try find a bit more for our 2s and 3s (shooting guards and small forwards) coming off staggered screens. There will be some changes to the offence.”

Vickerman said he wasn’t locked into a starting five yet, and would keep an open mind through the pre-season. His main puzzlers will be between Daryl Corletto and Corey Webster at two guard and whether he uses Lazare off the bench, as they did Hudson last year.

“I’ve never been that strict on starting fives, and it may change throughout the season for various games. We’ve got a lot of people pushing for starting spots and that’s a positive thing. At some point before the first game we’ve just got to get everyone accepting of the role they’re given.

“Whatever’s best for the group will be who starts the season and players will decide that through the pre-season.”

Vickerman said it was too early to tell how effective Johnson would be in the influential point guard role, but he had certainly presented in great condition, with his skinfold measurements well under the Breakers’ minimal requirements.

“We recruited him for a skillset he’s got, and that’s his quickness, and his ability to get in the lane. He’s a good free-throw shooter, he’s drawn a lot of fouls in his career, and it will be interesting to see how he’s refereed the way he attacks the basket.

“Right now I’d say his shot is marginally better than Ced’s so they’re going to have to play him a little more aggressively.”

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Oct 9 2019

Star Tiger’s vote against the umpires

As the Richmond faithful prepare to relive their last premiership in a new documentary, one memory from an otherwise glorious 1980 still rankles with champion centreman Geoff Raines.
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In a season in which he was the club best and fairest and was one of the best midfielders in the competition, Raines believes there was an umpiring conspiracy against him, as he began the Brownlow Medal count as favourite but left the night bewildered and voteless.

Raines believes former umpire Peter Cameron was central to this, although Bill Deller, another umpire from that era and a former chief of the AFL Umpires Association, denies such claims.

”What I heard was that Peter Cameron … Peter was very cunning. You thought he was on your side, but he is on everyone’s side,” Raines told Fairfax Media.

”All I know is that Peter had a fair influence with the umpiring fraternity. He was quite senior. There were little things that came out, basically, I wouldn’t say not to give me votes, but I think he was saying: ‘He chirps back at the umpires, he is a sniper, he does this, he does that’.

”I know – a couple of umpires have told me. I am not saying I would have won, but I would have thought I would have got a vote.”

Footscray full-forward Kelvin Templeton emerged victorious, with Essendon wingman, the late Merv Neagle, runner-up. Ruckman Mark Lee, with 16 votes and equal sixth, led the Tigers’ count.

Raines, a three-time Richmond best and fairest and named on the bench in the club’s team of the century, airs his theory in a documentary on the 1980 premiership, The Final Story – 1980, on Channel Nine on Thursday night.

”I think there was a bit of a campaign from behind the scenes by the umpires,” he says.

Deller said on Tuesday Raines’ claims were ridiculous. ”I didn’t even realise he didn’t get a vote. I can’t remember any umpire in the 20 years that I was involved discussing votes. It wasn’t worth your spot on the list,” he said.

”I don’t remember Raines as a back-chatter or anything like that. In fact, I got on with him pretty well.”

Cameron umpired 306 matches between 1977 and 1993, including three grand finals, and was judged the league’s best umpire in 1985.

Raines, however, maintains the ”proof is in the pudding”.

”If you don’t get a vote, something funny has gone on. But I can’t prove that. Kelvin Templeton was a worthy medallist,” he said.

”I played on ‘Gubby’ Allan at the ‘G against Fitzroy. I think I kicked three goals and had 34 touches. He said it was one of the best games he had seen a centreman play and I played on him. He was absolutely astonished I didn’t get any votes.

”I have got no bones with Peter [Cameron], but there is some kind of conspiracy. But when you talk about these things, they think you are a spoilt brat and because you didn’t get a vote you start complaining. It’s none of that.

”I have said this – I was happy with a best and fairest in a winning premiership side. For me, that’s the ultimate.”

Raines played 134 games for the Tigers before crossing to Collingwood during the poaching war of 1983.

The documentary relives the story behind the 1980 premiership, a then record 81-point win against Collingwood. Players recall an infamous training session on a 41-degree day under coach Tony Jewell, and the hypnotism sessions the players were put under by club psychologist Rudi Webster.

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Oct 9 2019

Monfries’ September surprise

Angus Monfries certainly would not have picked it. That, when he said goodbye to Essendon and all the close friends he had made at the club over eight years, he would be the one still playing football in September and not any of them.
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When Port Adelaide wooed him back to his home town with the promise of a four-year contract and a more responsible playing role, Monfries hoped he would help fast-track his new club’s rebuilding process, but he did not believe that process would lead to him lining up against Collingwood in a final.

Nor could he have imagined the horrific mess he would unknowingly leave behind. But all that began to come clear on the Tuesday in early February when he noticed on Twitter an ominous notification of an Essendon media conference at AFL headquarters.

”I was a bit surprised,” said Monfries, in something of an understatement. ”I’m still not sure this whole thing is over for me or any of us, but my motto through the whole thing is to worry about what things I can control and not stress about the things I can’t.

”I didn’t think what was being done was much different to what other clubs were doing. The whole program and all the things that have come out … I was surprised at some things.

”There’s not really too much more I want to say about it, to be honest. I’m not going to talk down Essendon. I spent eight good years there and I made some great friends. I played a lot of footy with them and they’re pretty flat about the whole thing now. It’s been

tough on them. I really feel for them not playing finals. I think they deserved to play.”

And where his own situation is concerned, Monfries, who has played all 22 games for Port this season and averaged almost two goals a game, admits this season, on the whole, has been a lot easier for him. He loves being home in Adelaide and he knew the first time he spoke to coach Ken Hinkley – just days before Hinkley signed on to Port – that he was more than ready to step up to the senior job.

Monfries agreed that he had learnt valuable lessons from his experiences at Essendon in 2012. He said he could understand why people would question how players so willingly allowed themselves to be part of the ”pharmacologically experimental environment”.

”I think, in hindsight, every one of us would have done things differently,” he said. ”But I’d been there for eight years and I wouldn’t have seen any reason to question what people asked me to do.

”I’m the sort of person who wants to get the best out of myself and you put your faith and trust in people to do the right thing.”

Hinkley, Monfries’ fourth coach in nine seasons, has a mantra he often repeats to his players which is that: ”You get what you deserve.” If the 26-year-old would beg to differ where his old teammates are concerned, he does manage to lighten the conversation and have a laugh at his own expense.

The laugh concerned his famous mis-kick, which proved to be one of the more bizarre goals of the season, in early August at AAMI Stadium’s last Showdown. ”Looking back, I shouldn’t have turned the way I did,” he said, ”and when I saw what happened, I didn’t know whether to pump my fist in the air or cover my face in my hands. I was so embarrassed. I certainly didn’t deserve that.”

Having moved to Melbourne as a 17-year-old who didn’t know how to put petrol in a car, Monfries has found himself in the unusual situation of moving back in with his parents after owning his own home in Ascot Vale – he lived there during his Windy Hill years with various teammates such as Cale Hooker, Andrew Welsh and Mark McVeigh and in his final year alone – and had enjoyed the experience.

He is not planning on moving out in a hurry while he renovates a house in Adelaide he bought recently, pointing out he paid his parents’ last electricity bill but had enjoyed being looked after again and eating his mother’s cooking.

In Melbourne, Monfries’ elder brother Lachlan has represented the family at the meetings held by Essendon for its player parents, and while Monfries said it had been tough in a sense not being part of the stress his former teammates went through, it had also been much easier for him than others.

He said he had received plenty of good wishes from his former Bomber teammates, most of whom he said would have headed overseas on post-season trips by the time he lined up at the MCG on Saturday against Collingwood.

His former coach, James Hird had called him, he said, on a couple of occasions during the season to keep him up to date on the Essendon situation and Monfries sent Hird a text message last week after the AFL penalties were handed down. Like many former Essendon people he seems most sympathetic to club doctor Bruce Reid.

Hinkley has quietly monitored Monfries’ state of mind during regular private chats during the year and and said he remained confident that Monfries had handled his unusual situation with a pragmatism that has become his trademark. ”Angus was very much under control all through the season,” said Hinkley. ”It would have been much more difficult had he been living through the thick of it and not coming into a completely new environment and new experience as he has. The club showed great faith in offering him a four-year contract, but I think he’s repaid that faith. If you didn’t know, you would have thought he’d been at the club for years. We lost 600 games of experience at the end of last year and to gain his experience has been invaluable.”

Hinkley would not put a number to his assessment but others at the club placed Monfries in the top six in Port’s best-and-fairest. And Hinkley stressed that while Monfries has attracted more attention in the second half of the year, his whole season has been solid. ”To come into a club as an older player with so many young blokes and do what he has done … I think he should be very proud of what he’s achieved.”

Monfries has played only two finals in his AFL career and in both those Essendon was humiliated – first by Adelaide in 2009 and second by Carlton in 2011. He goes into his third elimination final with his side the underdog again but off the back of a career-best season and against the biggest team in the competition. ”We’re definitely looking forward to it,” he said.

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Oct 9 2019

Fiery dwarf jape AFL’s latest sorry episode

Burnt: Blake Johnston, right, former footballer Warwick Capper, centre, and a fellow ‘Dwarf My Party’ entertainer. Photo: SuppliedWarning. Do not fall into Andrew Demetriou’s error and presume this is a joke, and that this could not possibly be true. This is not make believe, this happened.
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A St Kilda player at the team’s Mad Monday celebration set fire to a dwarf. Ahem, you read that correctly. That was not a mistake. It reads like a Seinfeld episode but it was not a joke.

The player, Clinton Jones, on Tuesday apologised to dwarf entertainer Blake Johnston and agreed to pay $3000 to charity for his misbehaviour.

On August 26, AFL officials drove to Seaford, sat St Kilda players down and did as they had done with players at numerous other clubs and spelt out the dangers of binge drinking on Mad Monday and the pitfalls to be avoided.

They plainly forgot to discuss the most obvious and important advice: ”Do not set fire to a dwarf. In fact, under no circumstances go near a dwarf entertainer with a naked flame. And while you are at it, do not set fire to each other.”

This is the weirder-than-life reality show that periodically percolates around the St Kilda Football Club. Why did it have to be StKilda?

A day after the NRL was sheepishly looking at its feet and kicking pebbles about a state-league player allegedly biting another player’s penis in a match (yes, also a true story) the AFL trumps it with … burning a dwarf entertainer.

Demetriou can be forgiven for laughing on TV when first told of this story, for it is so ridiculous, so comically exaggerated it could not possibly be true. But it was.

When Demetriou realised he was not being fed a line but that the story was real, he was aghast.

”After I found out that it was true, it’s just reprehensible,” he said on Tuesday.

”I was flabbergasted, because in the scheme of all the things that we’ve been [through this season], that would’ve been one thing I could have never predicted that we would deal with.”

When a sobered-up Jones realised on Tuesday what he had done, he, too, was aghast. What started out as drunken high jinks – lighting each others’ shoelaces when players were not looking, moved into lighting the back of each other’s clothes – and escalated into putting a flame to the entertainer’s shirt.

”I sincerely apologise to Mr Johnston and have done so personally today,” Jones said. ”As a playing group, we were engaged in end-of-season activities which, in hindsight, were quite childish. I made an error of judgment in including Mr Johnston in the activity.

”I am embarrassed if this has caused angst and certainly had no intention to cause any harm to anyone, including the St Kilda Football Club and its members.”

Presumably when players organised their day’s activities at the South Melbourne pub they figured the dwarf entertainers were a safe if unusual choice. They didn’t figure on getting, ahem, burnt.

Consider this though: this season St Kilda Football Club has had a player fail a drugs tests for performance-enhancing drugs, they have had another player charged with rape and have now burnt a person … and they are still not the most outrageous embarrassment of the league.

Essendon burnt more people and was more badly burnt than anyone by its own people.

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