Month: December 2018

Wallabies planning for SBW’s selection

“He does provide some really strong points of difference which will provide opportunities for them, but also provide opportunities for us” … Wallabies coaching coordinator Tony McGahan.DESPITE the uncertainty over whether Sonny Bill Williams will play in the opening Bledisloe Cup match, the Wallabies are preparing for the dynamic All Blacks midfielder to be running onto ANZ Stadium on Saturday week.
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Whether Williams appears in the All Blacks colours depends on talks between the Panasonic club, where he will play in Japan, and the New Zealand Rugby Union.

Wallabies coaching co-ordinator Tony McGahan said when the 30-man Australian squad assembled in Sydney yesterday, he assumed the All Blacks would do everything they could to have him playing, especially after his crucial role in the Chiefs’ first Super Rugby title triumph.

”We just have to wait and see, because they were ruling him out on Sunday. On Monday he was back in, and then today he could be ruled out again,” McGahan said. ”From the All Blacks perspective they are very keen to play him, and they’ll do everything they can to get him out on the field, because he has had a wonderful season.

”He does provide some really strong points of difference which will provide opportunities for them, but also provide opportunities for us.”

McGahan understood if the Panasonic-NZRU negotiations became complicated. ”I have worked in Japan and they can be quite clinical and demanding on what their expectations are.”

McGahan, who joined the Wallabies coaching staff this year, said management had been closely watching recent videos.

”He’s a real focal point of all the back lines he has been involved with, and certainly been a positive influence on the side he has played with this year. We’ve been looking at that, and coming up with a plan to counter it.”

The Williams influence aside, the Wallabies are not expecting any radical changes in the New Zealand approach this season, even if they have a new coach in Steve Hansen. Wallabies head coach Robbie Deans argued the top New Zealand provincial sides played ”a similar brand of football”. ”Obviously the Chiefs have

some special individuals with the likes of Sonny Bill, but beyond that there is a lot of consistency in the way they approach their work. And with Steve now in charge, I don’t think there will be a huge change in style because he has been part of the furniture for a fair while,” Deans said.

Deans is also relieved the Bledisloe Cup has reverted back to a three-Test series for the first time since 2006.

”It’s good to be involved in a series where you get a genuine outcome every year. It has been a long time. There used to be two fixtures a year, and then we went through a long period where there was four. I’d imagine for the general public it is unsatisfying to finish with a one-all or two-all draw, but one side still wins. That doesn’t quite sit right. To play three, with the knowledge that more than likely there will be a clear result, is great.

”And obviously mathematically it makes it a little more achievable as well.”

Deans confirmed that while Quade Cooper is likely to be available for the second Rugby Championship match, after playing club football in Brisbane on the weekend, James O’Connor and Pat McCabe will be missing until at least next month due to injury.

”James is making good progress, but we will not promote him before he is ready, particularly with the potential of him suffering a recurring hamstring injury. We have to make sure we take care of his long term future,” Deans said.

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Malthouse won’t travel to coach

MICK Malthouse has revealed he is interested in coaching again, but not at Port Adelaide, and has recommended the Power pursue forgotten former coach Terry Wallace.
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Malthouse, a three-time premiership coach, has been mentioned as a possible candidate to replace Matthew Primus, with the Power keen to pursue an experienced replacement.

Malthouse said he would only coach a Victorian side and any overtures from Port would be a ”waste of time”.

Rodney Eade has emerged as the front-runner for the Port Adelaide role, but Malthouse was quick to turn the spotlight on Wallace, the former Western Bulldogs and Richmond coach.

Wallace coached the Bulldogs from 1996 to 2002, when he left on messy terms, and the Tigers from 2005 until late in the 2009 campaign.

Asked about the Power approaching Eade, Malthouse said: ”He has got experience, certainly a finals coach, he knows what it’s like in the big league … [but] I would look at Terry Wallace.”

Malthouse denied Wallace, a media commentator, had been out of the game for too long. ”No, because he is right over the top of the game. He has been watching the game,” he said on Adelaide radio.

”I know he has a hold on the game, he thinks about it very much in the terms probably I would, playing to players’ strengths.”

Wallace guided the Bulldogs to two preliminary finals but failed to feature in September with the Tigers.

”He is the sort of bloke that could bring discipline, a bit of flair where needed. He is a person players like. By and large you hear a lot of good stuff about Terry Wallace,” Malthouse said. Eade is now football and coaching strategist at Collingwood, helping first-season senior coach Nathan Buckley.

Malthouse said Port Adelaide should also consider Dean Laidley, the former North Melbourne coach who is now an assistant at St Kilda, and Peter Sumich, a long-time assistant at West Coast now with Fremantle. Sumich had a strong background but agreed he might not have the charisma possibly required for the top job.

Now working in the media, Malthouse said he would be interested in coaching again. ”The only way I would get back into coaching, it would have to be in Melbourne,” he said. ”That’s being selfish in many respects, but … probably for the right reasons.”

Malthouse said the new Port Adelaide coach would need up to seven years to transform the club. ”A coach that takes on a role like that, he is probably not going to get any more than three, maybe four [years], if he is worthy of it,” he said.

”You would need probably six or seven years to settle the dust, have a close look at what you have got, weigh up the draft – now it’s not going to be the barrier it was in the last couple of seasons – what players you have got of currency, what game structure you have got, how long is it going to take to reorganise the game structure if, in fact, it needs reorganising, what is [Travis] Boak doing.”

Interim Power coach Garry Hocking said he would not know whether to apply for the top job until after the season.

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Hyped ‘Hawk’ starts to spread his huge wings

BEING a first-round draft pick at a football club comes with a bit of pressure. It’s the world we live in – 17-year-olds and 18-year-olds expected to have an instant impact in AFL. Well, that is the the case for most. I was lucky, I was drafted alongside the much-hyped Tom Hawkins.
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‘Hawk’ had the public expectation to turn into a superstar within five minutes – a teenage key forward expected to manhandle and outsmart veteran defenders immediately. It was unfair and was never going to happen. It takes time. His first two games probably didn’t help him, he kicked three and four goals respectively. He was 110 kilograms, had never done a pre-season before and went from monstering boys while playing with Melbourne Grammar to playing against men.

At first, all the outside pressure from the media and football public didn’t bother him, it just happened around him while he took very little interest in it.

I find some teenage players are very naive about the fanfare associated with their performances. It’s like they are still just playing at school or TAC Cup but just with 60,000 people watching them. Over the course of Hawk’s short career, the outside pressure hasn’t really got to him. But the high standards that he has set for himself have probably paralysed him at times.

He has just continued to work hard. He’s had patience in his development, faith that he was being taught and coached the right way, and always believed the rest was going to take care of itself.

Hawk came back at the start of his third pre-season (2009) chiselled with skin folds under 45 millimetres. I’m not sure what it was but things had changed. He went from a likeable kid who had an easy-going attitude about most things in life to a man who didn’t waste a session when he trained. He ensures that every weights, skills, speed and conditioning session is done to the best of his ability and he is getting the most out of it. He is still working hard on game reviews and education sessions – however, we all know he dreads the thought of Chris Scott or Nige Lappin asking him a question in front of the boys.

He has a real addictive, caring personality that draws people to him. He is a loyal friend who is quickly becoming a leader of our footy club. Hawk rarely sits still if he is not training. He loves playing golf any chance he can get and if it’s not golf then he is rounding up a group of boys to go out for lunch. He is the butt of 90 per cent of the jokes and pranks that happen around the footy club. Especially if it comes to the quantity of food being eaten in our players’ lounge after training, or if someone feels his hygiene issues need attention.

He is a complete romantic to his long-term girlfriend Emma. This side to him gets a majority of us other boys in trouble with our girlfriends as we are constantly being told we don’t put in the effort Hawk does.

Over the weekend, I was asked several times how a guy who hands a ball to Stevie Johnson in a grand final because he has got himself into such a panic about his set-shot kicking for goal, ends up drilling a 55-metre goal after the siren to win a big game? The answer is easy. As a playing group we have told him we want him to go back and have a shot when in range. Hawk does more work then anyone with his goalkicking. He is one of the better ground kicks in our team.

I ran over to him quickly on Friday when he took that mark at the death because I knew he was capable of kicking it. At times his teammates/coaches have more belief in him then he has in himself.

Hawk is maturing as a player quicker then ever. Several times this year he has dragged us to victory. On the weekend we played a team we really respect and without arguably their best player they fought back from 51 points down. They are premiership favourites and going to be hard to beat. He delivered for us. With Hawk, what you see is what you get.

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First things first, players who err need support

ILLICIT drugs in sport are again in the spotlight after the activities of young Bulldog Tom Liberatore over the weekend.
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The AFL has a three-strikes policy, which means that players will suffer public consequences only after a third positive test. Debate on this issue and whether it is the best way to keep players on the right path will continue to simmer.

There has always been the doubt as to whether testing for recreational drugs is relevant and how appropriate the method is. The AFL would be an industry leader in the way it collects the data, maintains confidentiality and assists players who have tested positive through rehabilitation. The priority is, of course, education and giving the guilty parties the opportunity to get their lives back on track. The argument has been made, why wait until a third strike?

Drugs in sport can be put into four categories: performance-enhancing in competition; performance-enhancing out of competition; recreational drugs in competition; and recreational drugs out of competition.

It is widely accepted that performance-enhancing drugs, either in or out of competition, are not accepted. In fact, it is regarded as an appalling act of deception. The argument regarding recreational drugs is problematic and the jury is out as to whether their use can be deemed performance-enhancing – or enough to gain a significant edge over the competition.

The media attention surrounding Liberatore, accused of being in possession of an illicit substance, focuses on the effect on society of having an elite AFL player semi-conscious with a banned substance in his possession rather than why players need to use such means to ”enjoy” themselves. The AFL has done a good job providing education and all relevant data suggests its policy is working.

The recent example should not be one of, is the AFL’s policy relevant? But rather, what still needs to be done?

Before we as a community judge this young man, we must understand the parameters in which players have to perform their duties every week.

Are the expectations placed on young players too great? Are they not ready to become automatic role models? Is the draft age too young?

The simple answer might be that young men, a lot of money, social superiority and instant fame might not be the best mix.

The review of allowing players into the AFL must look at other ways to further educate them and have more mature players entering the AFL.

The AFL Players Association already has a mandatory induction camp where drugs, alcohol and treating women with respect are all covered. The AFLPA also provides players with yearly seminars, so they are very well educated.

The Bulldogs have insisted Liberatore take on full-time work. Perhaps this suggests they think this will help players have an appreciation of life away from football. If the age of AFL draftees was, say 20, they may have two years of employment under their belts. Does it then help them understand the meaning of a dollar and what is acceptable in society?

Life is not always about having a perfect, trouble-free path. Temptation is a dangerous curse.

Unfortunately, Liberatore has found himself in the wrong. But as a society, we will forgive and assist those who need it, provided their intentions are clear to make it right.

First, understand what has made this young man choose this path and then provide him with the education he needs to understand that this is something he does not need in order to have a good time with his mates.

The Secret Agent is one of the AFL’s 95 accredited agents.

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Pietersen hits out at politics

KEVIN Pietersen has hinted that dressing-room politics with the England and Wales Cricket Board are behind his raising the possibility of early retirement from Test cricket.
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Pietersen admitted that next week’s third Test against South Africa at Lord’s could be his last for England, although the ECB may decide that his farewell appearance came in the draw at Headingley after his outspoken comments.

”All will become clear after the next Test match, I am not going to say any more at this stage,” Pietersen said.

”There are things that I am trying to sort out in the dressing room, but it’s 100 per cent not about money.

”For me, the saddest part about this is that spectators just love watching me play and I love playing for England. But the politics is what I have to deal with personally and it’s tough for me in this dressing room. We will see.”

Pietersen also suggested he was disappointed that confidential details of his negotiations with the ECB over the possibility of being allowed to miss next summer’s Test series against New Zealand to play a full season in the Indian Premier League had become public.

”There’s always speculation. You can read my Twitter feed, you speculate about my life all day every single day,” he said. ”I am going to make some decisions that are going to make me very happy.

”It was blamed on me pre the Test series that I was grabbing headlines.

”Did I leak anything about the meetings I was having with the ECB? I never spoke to the media but it was me grabbing the headlines and journalists talking about me grabbing the headlines.

”I never spoke a single word about anything that happened behind closed doors. So you guys are always going to speculate and make me out to be the bad guy.”

England captain Andrew Strauss refused to be drawn on Pietersen’s comments or whether there was a problem in the England dressing room.

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