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Weekend musing – Drew Morphett, Nathan Buckley, All Australian team, Chris Scott, Ange Postecoglou

One of things I want to discuss is the tragic passing of Drew Morphett. Drew was one of those classic ABC commentators who was comfortable commentating on anything from football to athletics to tiddlywinks. He was always interested in presenting the picture to the audience and not pumping up his own tyres. In a pretty cut-throat industry I think he was universally liked by his peers. He will be missed.

I was also pleased that Nathan Buckley was reappointed as Collingwood coach for another two years as this will consign Collingwood to another two years out of the finals. It has to be good for the competition.

It was interesting to see that three of the banned Essendon players made the All Australian team with Hurley the only player to have made the team previously. Unfortunately for Essendon, Paddy Ryder (Port Adelaide) and Michael Hibberd (Melbourne) no longer play for the club. What it does show is that a year out of the game is not fatal for a player in his 20’s, but perhaps once you get to thirty it is not a positive experience.

Chris Scott took Geelong into another finals series last night and his fellow coaches recently voted him as the hardest coach to coach against. He certainly has had a lot of success since taking over from Bomber Thompson, however, his finals record needs some scrutiny. Since the 2011 finals series where Geelong won three games, including the premiership, but with the loss to Richmond, he has now contested a further nine finals for only two wins and one of those wins was over Hawthorn last year when Isaac Smith had a shot after the siren that could have taken the game away from Geelong. I think a few questions need to be posed as to Scott’s finals coaching record.

Speaking of coaches I cannot believe that Ange Postecoglou has come under so much pressure recently. He got the Socceroos an Asian Cup and in the current qualifiers the Socceroos have only lost one game. They do have an issue with scoring, but I put that down to personnel, not system. His system creates scoring chances, but we don’t seem to have the quality of strikers to put the goals away and this was no more evident that the recent game against Thailand. I think Tommy Juric is a good developing striker in the Mark Viduka mould, but we need a Harry Kewell or Tim Cahill at his best to compliment Juric. This is not Postecoglou’s fault, he has tried to develop players, but Australia just does not have genuine strikers playing at the highest level. Let the World Cup campaign pan out and reassess at the end.

Have a great weekend!

Weekend musing – NAB Rising Star, Christian Petracca, AFL’s ‘rule of the week’, van Gaal out at United……

Chris Barwin HillsThis week sees Melbourne’s Christian Petracca get the Club’s third Rising Star nomination in the first nine rounds which is a great achievement. However, they still have a long way to go to emulate the Greater Western Sydney Giants who had eight nominations during the 2012 season. Putting aside the Giants who were given a leg up by the AFL in this regard with Draft concessions, the next best was five by Essendon in 1993 (a premiership year) and Fremantle in 1996. Then there are eight teams who have had four nominations. petraccaOf those, only Port Adelaide in 1997 and West Coast in 2004 converted their advantage into a premiership and in Port Adelaide’s case it took a further years! Fitzroy had four nominations in 1994 and were out of the competition two years later and Brisbane had four in 2005, the year after their last Grand Final appearance. So having good young talent is not the guaranteed formula for success, but it certainly doesn’t hurt and the Dees had two nominations and the winner last year so they are assembling a good batch of youngsters. It will be interesting to see if they can get any more nominees. I have heard there are some wraps on Sam Weideman so there is a chance they can get to four or maybe more. That being said, the GWS record looks safe for now.

There has been a lot of discussion in AFL circles this week about “rule of the week”. Last week the discussion centred around the deliberate behind with two examples being Lee Spurr from Fremantle and Pierce Hanley from Brisbane. Quite frankly I think both of those should have been penalised even without a “rule of the behindweek” crackdown. Both players had alternatives to rushing a behind and chose to go with the behind and copped the penalty. Neither infringement cost their side the game. If I was to nominate a rule which I think should be tightened up it is incorrect disposal. Once you take possession there are only two ways of disposing of the ball, that is by way of a kick or a handball. Watching the game between Hawthorn and Sydney last week, I noticed that Hawthorn have added a third means of disposing of the ball. Just about every time a Hawthorn player was tackled the ball spilled from the tackle and there was no penalty and no reward for the tackle. Come on AFL tidy this one up please.

As predicted in this column several weeks ago, winning the FA Cup wasn’t enough to save  Manchester United’s coach Louis van Gaal.louis Just a few days after the FA Cup triumph, van Gaal was dumped in favour of Jose Mourinho. There is no doubt the Club has struggled since the departure of Sir Alex Ferguson. He managed United from 1986 until 2013 bringing plenty of trophies and stability. Since then Mourinho is the third manager in three years. The Club seems to have lost its way and I don’t know that Mourinho is the one to get it back on track. We will see.

Have a great weekend!

Friday musing – Australian Swimming Championships, Malcolm Turnbull and Port Adelaide FC’s China push

Chris Barwin HillsI have been watching a bit of the Australian Swimming Championships this week and have been amazed at the performance of Cameron McEvoy. Not only is he the first swimmer to win the men’s 50 metres, 100 metres and 200 metres freestyle, he is also mcevoyconsiderably smaller than the other swimmers. Most swimmers these days seem to be built like Centre Half Forwards whereas McEvoy is built like a Forward Flanker/Rover. He must have a very good technique to beat his more imposing rivals. I was also impressed that James Magnussen was happy to face the cameras after his defeat in the 100 metres final, he was clearly disappointed, but still put himself out there.

I was also bemused to hear during the week that Port Adelaide FC had secured a substantial sponsorship from China and they intended port adelaideto play an “away” game in China. That is quite magnanimous of them offering someone’s home game for their sponsorship! It reminded me of Carlton offering to play all their away games in Sydney some time back when it looked like the Swans were struggling and may fold. I cannot see any team wanting to take up Port’s generous offer, but the AFL may pressure the Gold Coast or Greater Western Sydney to take up the game as the AFL is still propping them up.

One thing I did laugh at was our Prime Minister, Malcolm Turnbull telling the world that Aussie Rules was the best game going turnbullaround….this from a private school educated person who has no doubt played a fair bit of ‘rugger’ in his time. I thought at one stage Turnbull was going to gag on his words.

Have a great weekend!

Friday musing – Premier League, Essendon FC…..

Chris Barwin HillsWell Leicester City just keep rolling on and defeating Manchester City at home 3-1 is no mean feat. Their demise has been anticipated for some time, but with two thirds of the season over they have defied the odds and the pundits and are five points clear of their alexis-sanchez-arsenal-burnley_3223813nearest rivals. This weekend the top four sides play each other and should Leicester beat Arsenal and Tottenham go down to Manchester City, you would have to think that it would have to be something catastrophic to prevent Leicester from taking out the title. Other than the big four of Arsenal, Chelsea, Manchester City or Manchester United, they would be the first team since Blackburn Rovers in 1995 to take out the Premier League title. As much as I want Arsenal to win the title, if the Gunners cannot do it, I think it would be great for the competition for Leicester City to win.

I know I was not going to comment further on the Essendon saga, but I would like to make a comment on the related issue of top up players. I must say I find it quite annoying that the other clubs who have had imagesplayers suspended have come out saying how unfair it is. They were saying it was unfair that the Bombers were losing key players on the back of the saga and they have been happy to pick them up. The only team that has any right to complain would be Port Adelaide who picked up Angus Monfries before the story broke. In addition, what also must be remembered is that Essendon have been given access to ten top up players and upgrading two rookies and the other teams can upgrade rookies. There is a parity there and when you consider also that the players being picked up were unwanted in the recent drafts, it is hardly a panacea to success.

Have a great weekend!

Weekend musing – AFL, Adam Goodes, cricket, Mitchell Johnson……

Chris Barwin HillsI ventured along to the MCG last Friday night to see the Real Madrid v Manchester City game and it was mazing to be part of a crowd of 99,000+ people. I enjoyed the game for the first 60-65 minutes, but with Real controlling the game each side took off their best players and it petered out towards the end. Having said that it was great to see the skill of Cristiano Ronaldo and to see him get a goal on the MCG. It also is a reminder of what a great sporting stadium the MCG is. I have witnessed the World Cup cricket final, game 2 of the NRL UnknownState of Origin series and now the soccer in front of 90,000+ crowds. I missed the Anzac day game this year in front of 88,000+ and the biggest AFL game I have witnessed this year was the Dreamtime game before 83,000+. This year the ground has hosted four different sporting codes with crowds exceeding 88,000 and when you factor in the AFL Grand Final it will means the average will be lifted over 90,000+. We are truly blessed to have this magnificent stadium to showcase all these different sports.

Last night at that great ground we had the Richmond v Hawthorn game and I was expecting a good game. I wasn’t disappointed! Richmond displayed an ability to retain the ball which put pressure on Hawthorn and this was instrumental in the Tigers’ win.

This brings me to something I have been mulling over the last couple of weeks. When St Kilda belted Essendon a month ago I thought it may be detrimental to St Kilda as it may have given them an unrealistic appreciation of their ability. The next week they lost a winnable game against GWS and the following week only just lost to Richmond after the Tigers led by 9 goals at 3/4 time. I think for sides on the way up like St Kilda, it would have been better to have beaten mcgEssendon by 5-6 goals than to win by 18 goals because the youngsters understand they need to work hard every week to get the result. Conversely, you get a top side like Hawthorn give a fellow top eight side in Sydney a belting, then they come out the following week against Carlton and win by even more. The theory is, a big win by a good side against another good side franks their form, a big win by a lower side against another lower side is not a great guide to form. St Kilda’s grittier win last week against Melbourne will be better for them going in as underdogs this week against Port in Adelaide.

The Adam Goodes story just won’t go away and I won’t go over the Adam-Coodesissues that I raised earlier in the season, but I thought two articles in the Herald Sun on Thursday were worth some thought. The paper printed a poll of 50,000 people where 80% said the booing wasn’t
racist. There is no doubt a percentage of the booing is racially motivated and the rest is part of a mob element where people follow on like sheep. What we do know is Adam feels it is racially motivated and so it doesn’t really matter what the poll finds or what other people think.

The other article wasn’t even about Goodes, but about Mitchell Johnson and how the Barmy Army got stuck into him in 2009 and Unknownjust about destroyed his career. It is an indication on how barracking can destroy the confidence of some players where race is not even an issue. Crowds now know that Goodes is affected by the booing so it is hard to see it being totally eradicated unless both captains agree to stop the game until the booing ceases. I have expressed my views previously about Adam Goodes on field persona, but it would be a real shame if he was forced into retirement because of the booing, just as it would have been if Mitchell Johnson pulled the pin after the 2009 Ashes series.

Have a great weekend!

Friday musing – AFL, Phil Walsh, Sam Mitchell, Harley Bennell….

Chris Barwin HillsWell it is all AFL today.

I have just heard about the tragic passing of Adelaide Crows coach Phil Walsh. In my time following football or sport for that matter, I cannot remember a current sportsman being murdered. I must say I am a bit stunned and shocked and I wonder how this will impact on the Crows players. If the game was tonight you would think it would not proceed. Not forgetting that he also spent some time at Geelong, so they would not be immune from the impact of this shocking event. This is unprecedented and goes beyond the grief of health related deaths that have impacted AFL clubs over recent years.

It was interesting to hear the commentary over the Sam Mitchell incident in the Hawthorn -v- Essendon game last Saturday. Yes it was a bit juvenile, but I am surprised there hasn’t been more of it and I am sure the Essendon players were not phased at all given what they have been through. It is also quite ironic given the Sam Lane article in the Age in 2012 lauding the Hawthorn supplement injection programme.

There was also a lot of debate in AFL circles this week about the leniency of the Buddy Franklin decision compared to the Bryce Gibbs suspension. Again it has to be referred back to the consequences. Franklin put Edwards out of the game for 20 minutes for testing, but he was able to come back on (albeit a bit early!). Gibbs put Robbie Gray out of the game and probably cost Port Adelaide the match. After Franklin was reported he only touched the ball once, so it could be construed that the report actually cost the Swans the game, so it was the reverse of the Gibbs outcome.

The other big story of the week was the continued issues with the Gold Coast Suns players and their illicit drug use, in particular Harley Bennell. There has been a lot of hysteria about this and I would urge people to take a deep breath and give the kid a chance. I hark back to Tom Liberatore and his issues in King Street a few years ago. The Bulldogs dealt with it and he became one of their best players. Young players will make mistakes and I think they all deserve a chance and if they keep making the same mistakes, then it is time to give them their marching orders.

Have a great weekend!

Friday musing – State of Origin, NBA, Women’s World Cup, AFL

Chris Barwin HillsOn Wednesday night I ventured along to the MCG with 91,500 others to watch Game 2 of the State of Origin series between NSW & Queensland. It was certainly a much better game than Game 1 with an early try to both teams. However, the most exhilarating part of the night, the Greg Inglis near length of the field try, was disallowed by the video referee. I don’t claim to be an expert on Rugby League, but to the letter of the law it would seem the decisionUnknown was correct, but what an anti-climax! In the end the game was essentially decided on two very marginal video referee calls. The Josh Morris try where he appeared to only get a thumbnail worth of downward pressure on the ball and Myles knock-on which cost Inglis his try. Both decisions looked correct on review. I enjoyed the game, but I think rugby league is probably a better game to watch on television, particularly for the uninitiated. That observation may also explain why their club games do not draw big crowds.

The NBA final series came to a close earlier in the week and it was good to see Andrew Bogut celebrate his win with the Golden State Warriors, however, given he had no game time in the last two games and only a couple of minutes in game 4, it may be a slightly hollow feeling for him. He obviously deserved the accolades but it would have been good to see the coach put him on for the last couple of Unknownminutes given they had a reasonable lead at that stage. I hark back to the old days with football when you had the 19th & 20th men and the coach would bring them on for the last couple of minutes of a grand final just so they felt part of it. Continuing with the NBA it is hard to see how LeBron James could not be considered the MVP for the final series given his herculean performance, however, I understand that in American sport that the MVP would never go to a player in the losing team.

Great to see the Australian women’s soccer team, the Matildas, get through to the round of 16. I know the team from the United States is always strong in women’s soccer, but Australia was in the ‘GroupUnknown of Death’ together with the Nigerian and Swedish teams. To get through that group was a very good effort. They now come up against Brazil who are one of the tournament favourites so fingers crossed for the Matildas.

The “3rd man up” in ruck contests in the AFL is generating a bit of discussion at the moment and I think the way Geelong are using it with Mark Blicavs & Rhys Stanley has probably narrowed the discussion. It seemed to me that last week against Port Adelaide, imagesone of them was blocking Matthew Lobbe while the other one took the hit out. That would appear to be contrary to the rules, but not only that, what happens if each side sends another man up, then you have 4 players competing for the throw in and it begins to get farcical. I am starting to agree with Leigh Matthews that the “3rd man up” should be banned.

Have a great weekend!

Pelchen out at St Kilda is troubling

pelchyI have said many times before, that if I was in a position to influence an AFL club, the first person I would hire would be Chris Pelchen.

Why? He has a very good pedigree having had stints at Hawthorn (x2) Port Adelaide and St Kilda, he wants to be successful and he has a blue print for putting together a list of players that can take the ultimate step.

I have read quite a few comments on social media from St Kilda supporters saying they are glad he is gone. I would imagine that those supporters felt badly about players that were traded over the last few seasons and about the performance of their Club during that time.

I would suggest that those supporters consider that when Chris took over he was presented with an aging list that, through lack of vision had not been rejuvenated. He also had to deal with a diabolical total player payments problem and ensure that the up and coming young guns were re-contracted before they slipped into free agency. Needless to say he accomplished that and also had time to foster a new market in New Zealand and establish the Saints player academy.  By the way, I have relied on the St Kilda CEO’s summary of what Chris had done for St Kilda in putting that list together.

But, clearly that was not enough and to quote Matt Finnis, the Saints wanted to ‘drive further development in their high performance programs’.

Good luck is all I can say as rebuilding properly is all about timing and careful planning. Areas I think the Saints aren’t good at. I say this as parting company with the Head of Football who has control over the player list several weeks before the AFL draft seems a very strange decision indeed.

Friday musing – AFL trade period, Ryan Griffen, Caulfield Cup….

Chris Barwin HillsThe AFL trade period is over and all the trades that had to be done were done including the Dane Beams & Paddy Ryder deals. As a Bomber supporter I think Collingwood did better than Essendon with their respective “forced” trades, but it helped that they were dealing with Brisbane who had more to offer. It was always going to be hard to prise a decent player out of Port Adelaide at the moment to come to Essendon

I have gathered a bit of information regarding the Ryan Griffen & Allan Christensen trades.

With Griffen, it appears there was a bust up between some of the players and Griffen and his leadership group wanted the coach to sort it out and the coach, quite rightly told them it was a leadership group issue and they should sort it out. They didn’t like it and it caused a lot of division within the club. The Bulldogs now have the key forward they have been after, but it may take a while for Tom Boyd to produce on a regular basis. At least it will take the pressure of Stuart Crameri, who was never more than the third tall in the forward line anyway.

With Christensen it is alleged that he had an affair with a team mate’s partner and she became pregnant. If this rumour is true, then it explains why Geelong traded him without much of a fight. For Geelong to then use the pick they got for him on Rhys Stanley is somewhat of a surprise. Stanley has shown some promise, but a second round draft pick, I don’t think so.

For me the overall winner in the trade period was Hawthorn. They have won the last two premierships, played in the last three Grand Finals and they picked up an All Australian defender in James Frawley. To that throw in a very promising youngster in Jono O’Rourke and the fact that they lost no required players.

Moving on to the races it occurred to me that Lloyd Williams spends a lot of money on importing horses from overseas, but somewhat ironically his best horse at the moment and indeed his best horse for some time in Fawkner in not only locally bred, but bred from a stallion, Reset, that Lloyd used to own. Perhaps he should concentrate on the local market instead of spending so much on overseas horses!

Well Rich Enuff came unstuck last week, but on that run I don’t think he will lose too many admirers. He beat everything else in the race quite easily and he rallied once the other horse went past him and pushed him right to the line. Perhaps the 1600 metres was a bit too far, but not by much. The colts ran about a second faster than the fillies in the corresponding race and they were just shaded by the time recorded by Trust in a Gust in the Toorak Handicap. There is a Group 1 race out there for Rich Enuff and he is now being set for a sprint at the Flemington carnival.

My place tip for this weeks main race the Caulfield Cup is Big Memory. In the Herbert Power last week over the same track & distance of the cup he recorded a time of 2.26.68 which is good enough to win just about any Caulfield Cup and he drops a kilo on that run. Not only that, he also did a lot wrong in that race and held the race despite a protest.

Have a great weekend!

Friday musing – AFL trade period, NRL, Caulfield Guineas…..

Chris Barwin HillsWell what a week in AFL trading! We already knew about Paddy Ryder and Dayne Beams, but this week Allen Christensen and Ryan Griffen emerge wanting to be traded. Who will pop up next? These trades will be difficult, but if a player has publicly flagged that he wants to go, he has to be traded in my opinion. There are exceptions, like Ryan O’Keefe who flagged a few years ago that he wanted to go to Hawthorn, the Swans kept him and he went on to win the Norm Smith medal in their 2012 premiership side. Supporters from the four clubs involved will all be very disappointed as the players are popular players at their clubs, but for different reasons they want to go and the clubs have to try and get the best deal available.

On a related topic, I was not surprised the AFL knocked back the proposed de-listing of Paddy Ryder to give Essendon an additional draft pick. It would have been a good result for the club, but tantamount to draft manipulation.

Now that it is inevitable that Paddy is going, my son will have to remove the badge from his jumper and send it over to Port Adelaide. The situation at Essendon seems to be lurching from bad to worse. What player would want to come to that club the way things are at the moment? Even Jason Winderlich, who grew up an Essendon supporter and was not involved in the supplements saga wants to go! I cannot see any light at the end of the tunnel at the moment and this is a club that played finals this year!

I watched the NRL Grand Final last week and it was a lot more competitive than the AFL equivalent. Although South Sydney did eventually blow Canterbury out of the water, the game was in the balance until about half way through the second half. The game apparently rated higher than the AFL Grand Final and there has been a renewed push for the AFL to play its Grand Final at night. As much as the ratings would be better, I hope the AFL retain the afternoon time slot, but money does dictate the terms in sport these days and it is probably inevitable that the AFL Grand Final will be played at night or the early evening before too long. The first AFL night final was in 1993 so we are probably lucky that it has lasted in the afternoon for so long.

The Spring Racing Carnival is really starting to pick up with Caulfield Guineas Day this Saturday. This is one of the best days on the racing calendar and should Rich Enuff emerge as the winner of the Guineas this weekend, we may have found the star of the carnival. To date no horse has stamped their authority on the Spring and racing really does need stars to bring people to the races. Weight For Age racing looks a bit thin this year and if Rich Enuff can get through he would be highly fancied in the Cox Plate. He looks the logical winner with Looks Like the Cat the one that could knock him off without being a big upset.

Have a great weekend!