Month: November 2018

Coleman battle going down to the wire

THIS year’s premiership race is shaping as the most unpredictable in a long time. The same could be said for the Coleman Medal.
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After 19 rounds, there are four leading contenders for the flag – Sydney (1st on the ladder), Adelaide (2nd), Collingwood (3rd) and Hawthorn (4th) – separated by not much, and then a sleeper (Geelong, 6th) which would have to come from a long way back. You would probably keep West Coast (5th) in the mix too.

If there is one club standing slightly above the rest, Hawthorn is it, provided the Hawks can put it all together when it counts.

Draw, then, the parallels with this season’s leading goalkickers.

There are four main contenders – Matthew Pavlich (55), Drew Petrie (52), Lance Franklin (51) and Jack Riewoldt (49) – with four rounds remaining.

The sleeper also comes from Geelong – Tom Hawkins on 47 – who will have to come from a long way back, and you would probably keep St Kilda’s Nick Riewoldt (46) in the mix too.

If there is a favourite, he also comes from Hawthorn – Lance Franklin – provided he gets back on the park and stays injury-free.

Even St Kilda goalsneak Stephen Milne (44) and Collingwood powerhouse Travis Cloke (42) are still close enough if they went on an end-of-season rampage.

There is nothing in it, and no one keeps a closer eye on how tight these things are more than the bookmakers.

”It’s certainly been one of the more intriguing and, can we say, challenging markets for us to operate this year,” TAB Sportsbet’s Adam Hamilton said.

Franklin was the man a month ago, and with the Hawks still to play crisis-hit Port Adelaide in Tasmania on Sunday and Gold Coast at the MCG the following week, he looms large in the run home.

Yet the superstar left-footer is no certainty to play this week and while he has been sidelined with a hamstring injury in the past month, others such as Pavlich and Petrie have made their move.

Pavlich has kicked 44 goals in the past nine games, which accounts for 38.5 per cent of the Dockers’ goals in that period – a staggering dominance of a forward line.

After round nine, he had just 11 goals and was a $251 shot for the Coleman. Now, he is equal favourite with Franklin.

Two-time Coleman medallist Fraser Gehrig said that Pavlich – regarded as perhaps the most versatile player in modern football – had benefited from coach Ross Lyon leaving him inside forward-50 this year.

”He’s always had it in him to win a Coleman Medal, it’s just now they are playing him a lot closer to goal,” Gehrig said.

”He is getting a bit older as well, so it is probably a wise thing to do. They might get a few more years out of him.”

As for Pavlich’s sudden burst of goals, Gehrig – who played under Lyon at St Kilda – said he believed the Dockers were starting to understand the new coach’s game plan, and how to use their superstar spearhead to better effect.

Fremantle has, on average, gone to Pavlich inside forward-50 10 times a game in the past nine matches – up from seven for the season overall – and the Dockers have been able to isolate the six-time All-Australian one-out more often. Former Melbourne captain David Neitz, who won the Coleman Medal in 2002 in a tight and low-scoring race similar to this year, said he would love to see Pavlich win the Coleman.

”It’s ridiculous that you could say this, but in some ways he is still an underrated player,” Neitz said.

”If he was able to continue with the form he is in and win the Coleman, I think there would be a lot of people that would be pretty pleased for him.”

Petrie has also come from nowhere to put the heat on Franklin and Richmond’s pre-season favourite Jack Riewoldt. Not even listed in betting markets at round one, he is now second in the Coleman Medal race and has kicked an astounding 23.3 in the past four matches.

Then there is Hawkins, who booted a career-high six goals in a match-winning performance against Hawthorn last Friday night and is also running hot with 14 in his past three games.

Don’t forget the Riewoldts, either, particularly younger cousin Jack. He is still only six goals behind Pavlich despite an average season by his standards and has games against non-finals contenders Western Bulldogs and Port Adelaide to come.

Gehrig said he believed the draw would come into it ”big time” in the run home. ”If you are playing some of the weaker sides you can certainly kick some big bags and that will change things significantly in a year like this where it’s so late in the season and there is only a handful of goals between the top six,” he said.

”To be honest, there are not too many great defenders out there at the moment that are six-foot-four and 100 kilograms that can defend one-on-one. You’ve got a lot of guys that are only 90 kilograms and six-foot-three playing full-back, and it makes a difference because the big monster forwards can tear them up if they get the opportunity.”

Neitz agreed, adding that the wafer-thin gap between Pavlich and the rest could be closed ”very quickly”. ”I don’t think there would be any one of those six who would be feeling comfortable at this point. A couple of good weeks and you can make a big surge,” he said.

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.

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Cats to focus on ensuring Eagles’ kicks aren’t free

Big man, big job: Orren Stephenson at training yesterday.GEELONG coach Chris Scott has warned his team to lift its discipline and stop giving away ”clumsy” free kicks, fearing West Coast’s knack of being paid free kicks could cost the Cats victory at Patersons Stadium on Friday night.
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Scott yesterday said Perth was the toughest trip in the AFL and the Cats could not afford ill-discipline.

The Eagles are No. 1 in the competition for receiving frees, having been awarded 405 for the season so far, 99 more than they have given away. The Cats are the worst in the league, conceding 55 more free kicks than they have earned, with 326 received to 381 against.

Scott said frees were unavoidable, but he said his team was sloppy in several areas and needed to iron out those weaknesses if it hoped to conquer fifth-placed West Coast on its home ground.

”The really lazy free kicks, like falling into someone’s back or just going that little bit high in a tackle, is the stuff that we need to fix up and it will be a huge factor in the contested ball numbers [against West Coast],” Scott said.

”Frees for and against count as contested possessions, so you have got the best in the comp against the worst in the comp. If that continues, that is really going to put us behind the eight ball, so we’ve got to make sure our discipline is at a really high level and we are conscious of the way some of their players play and we react accordingly.”

West Coast has attracted criticism from rival clubs and commentators for the number of free kicks it receives at Patersons Stadium.

Carlton players Marc Murphy, Jarrad Waite and Jeremy Laidler were fined $7500 when they criticised umpiring decisions in the Blues’ 10-point loss to West Coast in round 12 on social media. Even coach Brett Ratten tried to be diplomatic but could not hide his true feelings in his post-game media conference.

”What can you say? You come here knowing that that’s the lay of the land,” he said. ”They only cost you goals those little incidental free kicks.”

But Scott said there would be no excuses on Friday night. ”We haven’t put too much work into why the Eagles are getting that many free kicks, with the possible exception that they do get a lot of free kicks for high contact,” Scott said. ”That’s been well documented.

”We have spent a lot of time on the fact that we are No. 1 in the comp for frees against. There is a little bit of an issue with discipline there, although I sort of use that term loosely. It’s more about the attention to detail with our technique and making sure we don’t give away clumsy free kicks.”

The Cats will again be without their No. 1 ruckman, Trent West, who injured his knee in the Cats’ 27-point triumph over Adelaide two weeks ago.

Scott lashed out at newspaper reports that said West could be out for the rest of the season.

”It’s just completely untrue,” he said. ”Someone just made that up. The initial prognosis was probably two weeks, and that’s where he is at the moment. He is no guarantee to come back for the St Kilda game, but he’s a very good chance.”

West’s absence in Perth where the Eagles’ formidable ruck duo Nic Naitanui and Dean Cox rule the roost means mature recruit Orren Stephenson and 19-year-old forward Josh Walker are likely to share ruck duties. Scott said he was happy with their work against the Hawks last week.

”You can assume that Naitanui and Cox will get their hands to the ball more often than our ruckmen, so in some respects that makes it a little bit more predictable. You are sort of setting up for a worst-case scenario to an extent. But we don’t want to be completely reactive to them,” he said.

”We have got some pretty good ground-level players and while we need to be aware of [Daniel] Kerr and [Matthew] Priddis, [Andrew] Gaff, [Luke] Shuey and those types, we have got to make sure that we’re proactive in there, and even though we might not get our hands first to the ball in ruck contests, we’ve got to work hard to make sure we get first possession from the stoppage.”

Veteran defender Josh Hunt is unlikely to play after he injured a quadricep against the Hawks.

”We haven’t ruled him out, but if I had to be specific … I’d say he’d be more unlikely than likely,” Scott said.

David Wojcinski could fill Hunt’s spot as he will return from a hamstring niggle. ”He played significant game time in the VFL [last week] and has pulled up quite well,” Scott said.

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.

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Blues playing for respect

WITH hopes of playing in the finals all but over, stand-in Carlton captain Marc Murphy says the Blues are determined to regain the respect of their rivals in the next month.
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They remain two games adrift of the top eight and would appear to have little chance of featuring in September, although mathematically this remains a slight possibility.

They would have to win their remaining four matches, against the Brisbane Lions, Essendon, Gold Coast and St Kilda, and hope other results fell their way.

This appears highly unlikely, with Murphy declaring regaining respect was now the focal point.

”We are still a chance mathematically to get there,” he said yesterday.

”We have got a few things which we want to work on over the next month of footy and try and get back a bit of the respect that we probably lost a little bit from last year from opposition sides.”

Coach Brett Ratten had guaranteed the Blues would finish in the top four this season, while they were premiership favourites after the round-three win over the Magpies. Injuries and poor form have cruelled their expectations.

”That’s a real big focus over the next month, trying to get that respect back and play some good footy,” Murphy told the Blues website.

That will have to be done without key defender Michael Jamison for at least one week after he strained a hamstring against the Swans on Sunday. ”Jammo has pulled up reasonably well. It’s a low-grade strain of the hamstring,” Blues football manager Andrew McKay said yesterday.

”We are hoping for one [out] but it may end up two. Scans show there is a very, very, very small amount of swelling in the area, so it’s not too bad.”

Andrew Walker and Mitch Robinson are likely to be recalled after recovering from calf injuries.

Ruckman Robbie Warnock is battling a shoulder injury and could miss another week.

”Robbie hurt his shoulder against Hawthorn just a little bit,” McKay said. ”Nothing structurally damaged or anything but it has just stiffened up. We are just waiting to loosen that shoulder a little bit so he can have a bit more function before we put him on the park.”

Defender Lachie Henderson has had surgery on his hip and thumb.

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Baby steps as Bombers on the mend

ESSENDON keeps taking two steps back for each step forward in the injury stakes, but the Bombers are anticipating they will have up to five fresh players back for the game against North Melbourne on Sunday.
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Nothing will be confirmed until the Dons’ main training session tomorrow, but Dustin Fletcher (shoulder), Stewart Crameri (hamstring), Michael Hibberd (quadriceps), Kyle Reimers (hamstring) and Ricky Dyson (ankle) have good chances of getting up for the crucial game at Etihad Stadium. None played in the four-point loss to Adelaide last weekend.

Angus Monfries (hamstring) also is a chance to play against the Kangaroos, and Brent Stanton (general soreness) is hopeful.

The two hamstring victims from last Sunday’s game, Jason Winderlich and Ben Howlett, are expected to miss the standard three weeks.

They are the latest chapters in the soft-tissue epidemic at Windy Hill this year, which numbers more than 20 separate incidents.

David Zaharakis (quad) and Paddy Ryder (calf) are at least a week away from resuming.

Meanwhile, St Kilda is pondering an infusion of youth for its game against Melbourne at the MCG on Saturday, with Arryn Siposs, Terry Milera, Daniel Markworth, Tom Ledger and Jamie Cripps all in the mix for selection, according to coach Scott Watters. Jason Blake is also likely to be available after recovering from an ankle injury.

The Saints need to win all four remaining games to have a chance of playing finals, but Watters said there could be one or two changes.

”I don’t think I’ll go with exactly the same side,” he said. ”I’d like to get one or two kids who played well [in the VFL] on the weekend in.”

■St Kilda’s Brett Peake has been fined for misconduct for throwing the ball at an umpire in a VFL match last weekend.

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