Monthly Archives: February 2019

AFL charter is one change for the better

In the midst of the latest kerfuffle about a cap on interchanges, rule changes and the entire raison d’etre of the laws of the game committee, the AFL has come up with a nice piece of clear thinking.
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That is to establish a charter outlining the virtues of the game it wants to enshrine, the idea being that if we’re going to have a committee tinkering with the rules as much as this one has in recent times, shouldn’t there be a clear big picture towards which it is working?

It’s the brainchild of new laws of the game committee chairman Gillon McLachlan, who says the input will come from key stakeholders such as clubs, coaches, players and, significantly, supporters.

It’s a terrific idea, one that, had it been canvassed earlier, might have helped spare us some of the rule changes introduced for the purpose of counteracting the unintended consequences of previous rule changes, like a dog chasing its tail.

Exactly what is the type of game we want to be playing and watching at the elite level? Already, plenty of informed debate has been generated.

On SEN on Wednesday morning, former coaches and players such Terry Wallace, David King and Scott Lucas offered their suggestions for such a charter, the AFL a very interested listener.

King said a fundamental had to be no alteration to the scoring system, resisting any temptation for a NAB Cup-style ”supergoal” from long range.

Former Bomber forward Lucas was dismissive of some suggestions that the AFL revert from 18 to 16 players a side on the ground, as per the old days of the VFA.

He made a particularly cogent call to protect the players of all shapes and sizes, always a selling point of the game, but one perhaps now endangered on a couple of fronts.

One is the apparent determination by the laws people to stretch players even more in terms of endurance, the danger that the scales become tilted too heavily in favour of athletic gifts at the expense of football nous.

The other impact may already have been felt, Lucas making the valid point that the introduction of the substitute has rendered a second ruckman all but obsolete, that role now falling to a more mobile pinch-hitter.

Wallace said a key tenet had to be the preservation of the one-on-one contest, dramatically reduced by the greater licence taken by forwards and backs in the modern game, as well as not legislating fair physical contact out of existence.

We all have our particular hobby horses. Mine is umpires clearing congestion by calling for quicker ball-ups rather than waiting, hoping for the ball to come out on its own.

Another is that rules be trialled for at least two years in the NAB Cup for a more accurate indicator of their potential impact. That would also allow emerging trends in the game to be judged more accurately. Is a trend an entrenched blight on the game or merely a passing fad? Hard to tell if you don’t allow the rules to remain long enough for a decent sample size.

On the question of supporter input, McLachlan says ”we have a facility to quickly get feedback from 15,000 people”.

That might be the biggest test of the charter idea, too, because you know that even before such a survey, the overwhelming response from fans will still be: ”Leave the rules alone.” And after 50 rules changes in the past 20 years alone, that’s perfectly understandable.

What remain arguably the most profound changes to the AFL rules – the free kick for out-of-bounds on the full, the centre diamond becoming a square after two years, and the introduction of the interchange bench rather than reserves who couldn’t be replaced – came in 1969, 1973 and 1978 respectively.

Does that mean most of what has come since has been unnecessary tinkering around the edges? Or fine-tuning that has kept the modern game as watchable as it still is? At least now with a charter we might have a definitive guide to help us answer those sorts of philosophical questions.

The original release of this article first appeared on the website of Shanghai Night Net. Continue reading

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PM’s gangs plan hits three hurdles

Julia Gillard’s campaign to tackle criminal gangs is wobbling, with three state governments unhappy about her idea of national laws and a crime statistician saying she has exaggerated the gun problem in NSW.
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As part of her five-day campaign to win back Labor votes in western Sydney, the Prime Minister has talked tough on law and order.

On Sunday, she announced a $64 million ”national anti-gang taskforce”. Ms Gillard said: ”When we look at the NSW Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research, we see that over the past 15 years, shootings in public places have soared.”

But the director of the bureau, Don Weatherburn, said Ms Gillard was wrong to claim that shootings had ”soared”. According to Dr Weatherburn, the number of non-fatal shooting offences in NSW peaked in 2001 and then began to fall.

Ms Gillard has pitched her new gang policies as the government’s way of reining in the violence on suburban streets and in particular in western Sydney, where Labor could lose more than 10 seats in the September election.

At a press conference in Punchbowl on Wednesday, Ms Gillard said she would ask the state premiers at next month’s Council of Australian Governments meeting to endorse new national laws that would give the federal government unprecedented powers to tackle organised crime.

”National laws will prevent members of organised criminal groups from easily shifting their operations to other states and territories,” she said.

The new national laws would include powers to seize ”unexplained wealth” from criminals, including cash, cars and houses.

Courts would be allowed to label a particular group as a ”criminal organisation” and then impose controls on the gang, such as banning members from visiting their clubhouse.

But for Ms Gillard’s plan to work she needs the states to agree to refer their powers to the Commonwealth. At least three appear unwilling.

Victorian Attorney-General Robert Clark said he thought national laws would ”risk disrupting the states’ work in tackling drug trafficking and other organised crime”.

The federal government failed last year to convince the states to accept national anti-gang laws.

”There is nothing in today’s announcement to suggest the Commonwealth has changed its position from the proposal already rejected,” Mr Clark said.

Queensland Attorney-General Jarrod Bleijie accused Ms Gillard of trying to take revenue from the states and said he would not relinquish the Queensland government’s powers to confiscate unexplained wealth.

West Australian Premier Colin Barnett said his state would co-operate ”where the Commonwealth could play a role” but ”we’re not going to hand over powers”.

The original release of this article first appeared on the website of Shanghai Night Net. Continue reading

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Coaching the coaches next priority

LOST, loose and lonely athletes weren’t the only recurring theme in the recently released probes of Australia’s dysfunctional Olympic swimming team. Highlighted several times in Doctor Pippa Grange’s Bluestone Review was a startling absence of leadership that pointed to major failings of national coaches.
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Among Doctor Grange’s recommendations was that Swimming Australia invest in an “intensive coach-the-coach leadership program” that would see the team’s big boss, Leigh Nugent, tutored by an “industry expert” for a minimum of three months.

The Australian Sports Commission also recognised the benefit of coaching coaches when it released its masterplan to rectify the nation’s deteriorating performance in international sport last November it. A priority outlined in the ‘Winning Edge’ blueprint was increased investment into coaches and high performance personnel, and the establishment of a very modern sounding “new cross-sport centre for performance coaching and leadership” designed to encourage information sharing across sports and raise the standard of those working in the industry.

Federal sport Minister Kate Lundy will announce on Thursday that the Australian Institute of Sport is ready for its first intake of coaches who are eager to be pupils again in order to become better teachers.

There are just 30 places – 15 for emerging coaches who will be trained over two years, and 15 for established high performance leaders from national sporting organisations who will be trained for a minimum of 12 months – for the program beginning in May that Senator Lundy is spruiking as “cutting edge”.

“A contemporary sports system is open to the ideas of coaches and high performance staff sharing knowledge,” Lundy said.

“There is no reason a cricket, football or netball coach or leader cannot learn valuable lessons from a swimming, rowing or athletics coach or vice versa.”

The successful candidates will be trained not only by the Melbourne Business School, but by the National Institute of Dramatic Art, and undertake programs the ASC says will be “thematic rather than discipline based, with content delivered via a series of face-to-face residential labs” and involve study tours and individual assessment.

Units for year one include ‘Maximising your Leadership Potential’ and ‘Strategic Thinking and Action’, to be run by the Melbourne Business School. The National Institute of Dramatic Art will run ‘Creating Excellent Communicators’ and ‘Communicating with Impact’ while other units, to be run by the AIS, will broach science (‘Maximising Altitude’), psychology (‘Mental Health First Aid’) and general wellbeing (‘Optimising Sleep for athletes and coaches’).

The original release of this article first appeared on the website of Shanghai Night Net. Continue reading

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Accept bans, Sharks told

Dark days: The investigation into Cronulla has focused on the 2011 season and the involvement of sports scientist Stephen Dank.Up to 14 Cronulla players left a meeting at Sharkies Leagues Club on Tuesday night with their careers in tatters after being told to accept a six-month suspension or risk further sanctions over the use of performance-enhancing drugs.
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A lawyer, hired by Cronulla to negotiate with the Australian Sports Anti-Doping Authority following the investigation of the use of peptides, went to the meeting with documents already prepared for the players to sign, admitting to the use of performance-enhancing drugs.

The players were told if they signed the documents they would not face further sanctions and would remain employed by the club. But if they did not sign, they would open themselves up to the possibility of longer suspensions.

The players refused to sign.

It is believed the same lawyer had previously told Cronulla players they had little to worry about, before dramatically changing tack this week after further talks with ASADA.

The investigation into Cronulla has focused on the 2011 season and the involvement of sports scientist Stephen Dank.

The players believe a former employee has blown the whistle on the use of supplements at the club.

The Australian Crime Commission and ASADA had come under pressure since the release of an unclassified document to name names. But the events of the past few days have brought the focus clearly on to Cronulla, leaving Sharks officials devastated.

But it is understood that eight players at other NRL clubs have been implicated in the latest ASADA investigations.

Fairfax Media was told the meeting on Tuesday night was the sixth attended by the Sharks players since the dramatic media conference in Canberra last month to announce the findings of an ACC report into doping and match fixing in sport.

No player is thought to have failed a drugs test.

It is believed that if players did admit to taking a banned substance, they would claim they did so unknowingly.

Fairfax Media has been told that Sharks players were given beta thymosin and CJC 1295 during the 2011 season. It has been suggested the substances were not on the World Anti-Doping Agency’s banned list at the time.

Sharks coach Shane Flanagan and football manager Darren Mooney did not return calls on Wednesday night.

A club spokesman denied reports players had been interviewed by ASADA on Wednesday.

Instead, the players trained as normal in preparation for Sunday night’s match against Gold Coast, but their futures are uncertain amid speculation that either ASADA or the club will stand them down on Friday.

A shopping centre appearance by players on Thursday night has been scrapped and an announcement of a new sleeve sponsor has been delayed.

The Sharks say they have already lost a sponsorship deal of up to $2 million for the naming rights of their stadium after they were one of six NRL clubs named in the ACC report.

The original release of this article first appeared on the website of Shanghai Night Net. Continue reading

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Drug policy a concern: Dogs boss

Peter Gordon at the Western Bulldogs family day at Whitten Oval last month. Photo: Wayne TaylorWestern Bulldogs president Peter Gordon has highlighted concerns about the AFL’s illicit drugs policy, which had created a series of unfortunate issues for clubs and players, despite the AFL’s best intentions to deal with a society-wide problem.
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Gordon said the AFL had sought ”to cure an incurable problem” and the Bulldogs president also suggested he did not feel he had the right to act ”as moral policeman” to experienced players in terms of what they did in their own homes during the off-season.

”The policy is imperfect and has created a whole series of issues, including civil liberties issues, but also this cops and robbers mentality of which players might be caught next by an increasingly voracious media,” said Gordon.

Gordon said he found it difficult to stand in front of older experienced players – as distinct from kids just out of high school – and act as ”moral policeman”. ”What is my right to play moral policeman about what they do, in the sanctuary of their home, in the off-season?

”There is no moral right. There is a contractual right with the drug policy as an instrument of the AFL player contract and that was the only basis I felt I could say to them with a straight face ‘you will do this because you are contracted to do so’.”

The Bulldogs president said the media were ”only doing their job” in a massively competitive field, adding ”and this is the sexiest of stories – who will be the next player caught?”

Gordon made his comments in a forum at the Wheeler Centre on Tuesday night and subsequently expanded on and clarified them to Fairfax Media, calling the three-strikes policy – based on a medical model – ”the least worst solution”.

”The issue of prudent management of the illicit drugs issue is a complete nightmare,” he said at the Wheeler Centre forum.

”The idea that you stand before young players who you know are in the age demographic, asking if they know we’ve got anything … knowing that the chances of their fessing up, in any circumstances, is illusory.

”All this is from a club management point of view. The potential for this risk to eventuate is uncertain, it’s uncontrollable and potentially catastrophic.”

He said all clubs were at risk of losing sponsors and financial contributors to illicit drug scandals and if the Dogs lost sponsors ”we’re in serious financial trouble”.

”I certainly think that the AFL, in framing this policy, sought to cure an incurable problem.

”I think that they, no doubt, did start with the best of intentions to articulate a policy.”

Gordon later told Fairfax Media that, upon reflection, he did not think there was a better solution to the illicit drugs issue, than the three-strikes policy that the AFL devised.

Gordon also criticised the conflating of ”illicit drugs” with performance-enhancing drugs by the Australian Crime Commission, which had ”blackened” the AFL and its clubs’ reputations.

”It’s blackened the name of the competition.”

It’s done enormous reputational damage,” said Gordon, who is one of Australia’s best known litigators. He said all of the clubs and competition ”have been subject to enormous reputational damage … I think it’s been most regrettable.”

”Who knows what prospective opportunities have been lost because of the risks involved.”

In clarifying his Wheeler Centre remarks, Gordon added on the illicit drugs and ACC issues: ”It’s a massive problem in Australian society. There is a significant proportion of the young people who use drugs. I think it was very unhelpful for it [illicit drugs] to be conflated in the report with what are performance-enhancing drugs.”

He said the AFL, in devising the illicit drugs policy, ”did the best that they could with the responsibilities that they’ve got … I think what they came up with its the least worst policy”.

”I think the conflating of the issue of PED with illicit drugs is unfortunate.” He said illicit drugs were criminal, but performance-enhancing ones, in some but not all cases, were not illegal.”

The original release of this article first appeared on the website of Shanghai Night Net. Continue reading

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