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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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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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Sep 12 2019

Fevola faces bankruptcy over debt

Bad times: Brendan Fevola at the EJ Whitten luncheon in June. Photo: Angela Wylie Back together?: Brendan Fevola and wife Alex holidayed in Vanuatu in August. Photo: Instagram

Brendan Fevola on the field for the Casey Scorpions in 2011. Photo: Mal Fairclough

brendan fevola

Fevola tries his luck in Vanuatu

Former Carlton star Brendan Fevola faces bankruptcy over a $7200 debt to a Brisbane businessman who claims he lent the full-forward the money to help him get back on his feet.

Builder Lou Menniti said he loaned Fevola the money in 2011 after visiting the footballer in the New Farm Clinic, where he was receiving treatment for alcohol and gambling addictions.

At the time, Fevola was awaiting a payout from the Brisbane Lions, who had sacked him in February for ”serious or wilful misconduct” after a series of alcohol-related incidents.

”We got a bit friendly and talking – I said, ‘You’ve got to get back on your feet, get off the bloody drink, get back with your wife’,” Menniti said.

He said Fevola told him he needed $7000 to pay school fees for his children, who were at the time living in Melbourne with his wife Alex.

Menniti alleges that, after Fevola received his payout, the footballer left Brisbane without repaying the money.

”I’ve tried to ring his mobile since that day – he’ll never pick the phone up,” he said.

Menniti said he had tried everything to recover the money before turning to the courts.

”All he had to do was ring and apologise,” he said. ”He did nothing like that, thought he’d get away with it, and I just got upset with that so I put it in the hands of my lawyers. They’ll teach him a lesson so that he doesn’t do that again to anyone.”

Fevola said he did not know Menniti and was unaware of the proceedings, filed last month in the Federal Circuit Court in Brisbane.

”It’s not me,” Fevola said, then added: ”There’s not too many Brendan Fevolas around.”

Fevola entered rehab on January 2, 2011, after he was arrested on New Year’s Eve for obstructing police and being a public nuisance.

He was traded from Carlton to the Brisbane Lions in late 2009 after a series of incidents, including a drunken rampage at that year’s Brownlow Medal ceremony.

Fevola has been playing for Yarrawonga in recent seasons.

A hearing of the bankruptcy case is set for September 25 in Brisbane.

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Sep 12 2019

New order: Federer back in the pack

Roger Federer has finished his grand slam season without a finals appearance for the first time since 2002, humbled in straight sets in the fourth round of the US Open by 19th seed Tommy Robredo.

Federer aborted a recent experiment with a new racquet, and has struggled with a bad back, but it is increasingly hard to imagine this alarm will be false.

The evidence is mounting. It was Federer’s earliest US Open exit since before he won the first of his five titles in 2004. Combined with his shock second-round Wimbledon loss – his first pair of consecutive losses before the quarter-final stage of a major since 2003.

The seventh seed’s first failure against Robredo after 10 consecutive wins, coming soon after three losses to players ranked outside the top 50. And then there was the manner of his exit: not just how many errors, but by how much he was missing: plenty.

”Confidence does all these things. It takes care of all the things you don’t usually think about,” the 17-time grand slam man said after faltering 7-6 (7-3), 6-3, 6-4. ”But I just think it’s been a difficult last three months.”

In, clearly, an altered world. One where opponents believe now. Sniff a vulnerability. Exploit it.

”Obviously Roger, when he was No.1, to the Roger right now, he’s not maybe with the same confidence,” said Robredo. ”Obviously he’s the same player and he plays unbelievable, but I knew that if right now I had a little bit more chances, maybe he will have a little bit of doubt.”

While Robredo said the sole difference was Federer’s inability to convert more than two of his 16 break points, compared with the Spaniard’s four from seven, the setting was unfamiliar too. Some schedule juggling on the second heavily rain-disrupted day at Flushing Meadows meant that Federer played not on his regular centre court home, but on Louis Armstrong Stadium, for the first time since 2006.

”I kind of feel like I beat myself … without taking any credit away from Tommy,” Federer said. ”It was up to me to make the difference and I couldn’t. I kind of self-destructed. I’ve definitely got to go back to work and come back stronger.”

As Robredo celebrated, Federer departed with his head down. Stunned, probably, like everyone. Still going, but backwards. Painful viewing for Fedophiles everywhere.

So much, then, for the first Federer v Rafael Nadal match at Flushing Meadows. Instead, that quarter-final will feature Robredo v Nadal – who is yet to drop serve in four rounds, or lose on hardcourts in 19 matches this year – and sweated past Philipp Kohlschreiber after dropping the first set.

A third Spaniard, David Ferrer, will meet France’s Richard Gasquet, who won in five marathon sets against Canadian Milos Raonic.

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Sep 12 2019

Cats myth out of the bag

The buggies get top spot at Corio Oval in 1912. Photo: Supplied Corio Oval, 1926.

The local paper on August 16, 1897, was all over the whiff of something big on the horizon. ”An event of much importance”, beamed the Geelong Advertiser front-page headline – alerting readers to a ”Geo. Rowlands clearing sale” offering everything from colonial tweed suits to toilet covers.

Elsewhere, ”A lover’s quarrel” reported the grim tale of a Bendigo miner leaving the house of ”a young lady to whom he had been paying attention” and ending it all ”with a dynamite cap placed in the mouth and exploded by some means”. Another report told of two children in Staffordshire, England perishing after eating ”alleged Australian mutton”; another warned of the danger to the young of ”that popular article” chewing gum, believed to contain 18 per cent paraffin wax.

Handy hints were offered on the uplifting chore of clothes washing, and advertisements for Prima Donna corsets – ”perfect shape, comfort and style” – sat alongside bald proclamations like: ”Diptheria – don’t let your little ones die”.

Australia was crawling out of a depression, and in the third winter of a seven-year drought. It is little wonder the Addy also reported that ”it will be gratifying news to the public of Geelong and district … to learn that, in all probability, another senior club match in connection with the Victorian Football League premiership will be played in this town this season”.

Blainey recalls

Geoffrey Blainey was seven when his father first took him to see the Cats play at Corio Oval in 1937. He was struck by how well-dressed the spectators were – ordinary, working class people who donned suits and hats to stand in the outer. He can picture a similar scene at the one and only final played in Geelong, 40 years earlier.

”Things were still depressed – thousands of households had their main breadwinner on the Western Australian goldfields, and depended on the money that would arrive by post,” the Geelong fan and renowned historian says of the VFL’s first season. The tyranny of distance puts some perspective on the concerns Fremantle fans have about the task before them this Saturday.

Col Hutchinson, whose Cats’ credentials need no further expansion than the fact that Saturday will be his 1150th Geelong game in a row, says away fans for that first final, against Essendon, would either have crossed the bay on a steamer doing the Melbourne-Portarlington-Geelong run, or if they had less time and more money, travelled by train.

The crowd was recorded as 5000, barely half of attendances common at the time, but Hutchinson has an explanation. ”The majority of the football public wouldn’t have understood the concept of finals, particularly with the round-robin version used that year,” the AFL statistician and historian says of a game that didn’t reach the anticipatory fervour of this week’s clash.

Blainey has fond memories of Corio Oval, a north-south ground situated in a hollow below the botanical gardens (where the Geelong Conference Centre now stands). A few supporters squeezed into two grandstands, but most stood on the embankment or watched from their horse and buggy. ”There’s no sign of it now whatsoever, which is astonishing. You’d think there’d be a bit of embankment or something, but it’s vanished completely.”

Humble venue

Relative to Simonds Stadium in 2014 it was a humble venue, yet far outstripped the Kardinia Park of the successful early 1950s. Bill McMaster, who jokes of 1897 that he’d ”just finished then” (but in truth was Geelong’s ruckman in that dual premiership era), says the players of his time wouldn’t have wanted a home final even if they’d been offered one.

”Everybody was pleased to get off the ground and go to Melbourne and play,” McMaster says, recalling a crowd nearing 50,000 at the last home and away game of 1952, when he reckons at least 10,000 couldn’t have even seen the game. A solitary grandstand, one row of seats behind the fence, and that was it – yet the state of the surface was far more primitive.

”The east wing of the ground, the drainage had broken down. There were potholes that were full of water, and it was green slime. At the end of ’51 we couldn’t train on the ground, we trained for the grand final out at the Grammar School. And ’52 was a record wet year – the road was closed out near Lara and nobody could get through.”

Having the benefit of a then-and-now picture fills the 83-year-old with pride. ”It’s a feeling of gratification, it’s a feeling of pride in the club,” says McMaster, who’ll be there on Saturday, ”my word I will”.

”To see it now, all the good facilities, the way the club’s being run, the sort of players who are there … the whole thing, I’m very, very proud of the way the club’s being run, the way it shows itself. It’s a great place, the footy club down here at present.”

Geelong stars

While Blainey says many of the best footballers would have been among those searching for gold in WA, Hutchinson reports that the 1897 final included many big Geelong names.

Like Peter ”The Great” Burns, hailed as the complete footballer of his day; Teddy Rankin, whose great-great grandson Gary O’Donnell would captain Essendon; three of the famous McShane brothers; Billy Pincott, who was related to Sam Newman; various men named Arthur and Archie, Jack, Jim and even Firth.

The Addy called the weather ”excellent” and the attendance ”particularly numerous”, and praised the ”warm work” of one team in front of the other’s citadel, and the ”vigorous response” of the other in breaching its opponent’s territory. After ”an adjournment for rest and refreshment”, known today as half-time, the Cats took a 12-point lead into the last quarter, immediately increased it to three goals, but were overrun as Essendon rattled home with the last four goals, capped by a Harry Wright place kick.

Contemporary football reporting has moved some distance from this simple and pure record of events, but one aspect hasn’t changed. ”The umpiring of the game was not by any means satisfactory, and the majority of the players appeared to be greatly displeased with it,” the Geelong Advertiser report concluded.

In his 1984 book Cats’ Tales, Hutchinson wrote that the main issue of contention was the umpire’s methods when throwing the ball back into play from the boundary, sometimes almost bowling it along the ground, others throwing it wildly over the head of the rucks, and firing it with frequency ”to one particular man that took up a position apart from the rest of the followers”.

It would not surprise legions of angst-ridden football fans to find that the umpire’s name was Crapp.

Home-final hopes

Blainey hopes the home-final formline doesn’t continue, but admits he’s never confident. ”I used to be when I was young, but I’m never surprised by defeat now.” Having never thought he’d see his Cats on their own ground in September, he will herald the occasion whatever the result.

His glass half-empty take gives Ross Lyon and Fremantle hope, and the many thousands who can’t wait for Saturday’s historic occasion reason to draw a calming breath. ”It’s remarkable they’ve won 48 of the last 50, but then a lot of the good teams never play at Geelong. It’s largely mythology that Geelong are unbeatable at Kardinia Park.”

Or, for that matter, at Corio Oval.

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Sep 12 2019

Cashing in on Cup, win or lose

International owners and trainers don’t have to win the Melbourne Cup to make big money, thanks to Australia’s addiction to European bloodstock, with millions of dollars to be made without even making the trip to Melbourne.

With a purse of $6.2million, the Melbourne Cup is already recognised as the world’s most lucrative staying race, and is now a cash cow for European trainers and owners keen to offload their horses in a market desperate for quality stayers, and Australians are only too happy to pay top dollar for a ticket in the Cup raffle.

Racing Victoria’s international recruitment officer, Leigh Jordon, continues to be amazed by the sheer volume of European stayers purchased by Australians each year in the hope of gaining a start in the Cup.

”The numbers of horses being bought and the prices being put on them is quite amazing and the prices only increase as we get nearer to the race,” he said.

”I have no doubt that some of the horses nominated for the race this year are only there to be sold to Australian owners – it’s definitely a big factor.”

With just about every local bloodstock agent chasing a European ”cups horse” for clients, European owners lucky enough to have a horse qualified or with the potential to qualify for the Melbourne Cup are selling their way to massive financial gain, often seven-figure sums, such is the craze to secure horses in time.

Fiorente, the 2012 Melbourne Cup runner-up, is typical of the money that can be made for European owners. On the market in May last year for a reported $US500,000, he was subsequently purchased for more than $1million by clients of Gai Waterhouse in September.

With the race itself having reached its peak as far as international exposure is concerned, Jordon said his challenge now was to recruit major owners and trainers that have been reluctant to participate in the race, citing the likelihood of European racing and breeding heavyweight the Aga Khan’s first Australian runner, French mare Varema, as a highlight of his career.

”It’s not about getting numbers now, it’s about convincing those that have not yet come that this is a race that they should be involved in,” he said.

”Convincing the Niarchos family to come, and getting a Cup win for Godolphin, are my high priorities.”

Among the final list of 135 entries for this year’s Cup are 28 overseas-trained horses.

Irish trainer Aidan O’Brien has nominated three horses, including star three-year-old Leading Light, as has regular visitor Godolphin, while 2011 Cup winner Dunaden also holds an entry.

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Sep 12 2019

Inner drive keeps Gourley motoring

Australia’s Mitchell Gourley wins gold in the giant slalom at the world cup event at Thredbo on Tuesday. Photo: Jeff CrowMitchell Gourley has always had the drive to do just a bit better than the next person on the sporting field. It began to show itself with games of backyard cricket against his older brother Cameron that would end with cricket bats and balls flying at – and hitting – each other.

In hindsight, Gourley knows that it was more than sibling rivalry that caused the competitive spirit. Gourley was born without the lower part of his left arm, and always felt that he had something to prove, a conviction that drove him to play not only cricket, but football and basketball as well as travelling to the ski-fields with his family on the weekends.

“I was the standard younger brother and … I always nipping at (Cameron’s) heels and trying to do what he did and try and be better,” Gourley said.

“We had some doozies in the backyard. There were cricket balls flying, cricket bats and all kinds of (things) like that.

“Obviously I knew that I had one arm but I didn’t really think about it. You don’t start thinking about it until you get to an age when kids start pointing it out and you go, ‘Oh whatever’.

“(But) I was pretty lucky, I didn’t have too many issues. A lot people probably go through a bit of bullying at school and obviously I’d like to see it not happen to people in the future but I was pretty lucky.

“The opportunity to compete against able-bodied guys is something that you always, especially for someone who had a congenital (disability) or lost their leg really early, you’ve got more to prove at school or at footy or cricket or whatever you’re doing at the time.

“I don’t know whether that’s a chip on your shoulder or what but there’s just a little bit more drive because you’ve got something to prove so you probably compete a lot harder and try a lot harder.

“I think that is something that happened with me without me really knowing it.”

Gourley, who has been a strong performer on the world cup circuit, is one of Australia’s best medal chances at next year’s Winter Paralympic Games in Sochi. This week at a world cup event at Thredbo, the 22-year-old Victorian backed up his results from the New Zealand event late last month where he won three silver medals and one bronze medal, by winning the giant slalom races (standing classification) on Monday and Tuesday.

In albeit small fields that do not include many of the top European rivals, Australian competitors had an improved performance on the slopes on Tuesday after disappointing first-up races on Monday. In addition to Gourley’s second gold in Tuesday’s giant slalom races, retiring triple Paralympian Cameron Rahles-Rahbula (standing) and Jess Gallagher (visually impaired) won silvers while Tori Pendergast (sitting) won bronze.

The focus now moves to slalom races Wednesday and Thursday.

With Australia likely to send a team of about five alpine skiers and two snowboarders to Sochi, Gourley said he hoped that success there would translate into increased recognition for the athletes who have remained in the shadow of their summer colleagues who enjoyed great exposure at the London Paralympics.

“We probably don’t have the exposure that the summer guys do and particularly in Aust and particularly after London and that can be a tough pill to swallow sometimes,” he said.

“We probably feel like the attention should be starting to shift (to winter sports) but we’re still in this London afterglow not only in the Australian media but even with the IPC (International Paralympic Committee) which can be tough to swallow because we work just as hard.

“I think that’s probably a misconception that maybe the winter guys don’t. It’s (similar) to what people think about surfers. No one thinks surfers go to the gym but they do, the best guys in the world don’t sit around sitting smoking weed and drinking beer these days. Sport has become professional so you’ve got to work harder or you get left behind.”

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