Freo’s the pest that won’t quit

I am a Hayden Ballantyne fan. I realise that there are not many of us in this part of Australia but he won me over with his performance in the opening match of the 2012 season. Ballantyne, one of the smallest men on the park, played havoc with the mindset of the reigning premier Geelong.
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Eventually, Matthew Scarlett swatted Ballantyne like he was dealing with an annoying insect on a camping trip. By then Ballantyne had felled Paul Chapman, flown feet-first into a marking contest in the goal square (“Ballantyne’s done a Jackie Chan!” cried an astonished Brian Taylor) and drawn Geelong coach Chris Scott into an exchange of words as the pair left the field at half-time.

Did Ballantyne bring the Perth stadium to life? He had it roaring like an ocean. He has attitude and he has helped to invent a new sub-category in the game – “the pest”. What can get overlooked is that he is also a remarkably skillful and astute footballer.

Freo also has Ryan Crowley, another man with an applause deficit in this part of Australia. What I like about Crowley is the big smile he plays with, usually accompanied by a non-stop monologue. On the Freo website I read that Crowley has aspirations of being a food critic. When I read that, I understood his smile better – he smiles like a waiter about to guide you to the table you don’t want to sit at.

I have an idea for a Ryan Crowley cafe in Perth staffed by young men with his winning smile and tight Freo jumpers ripped open at the front, which his invariably is by half-time.

I like Freo. It has a good cast of characters. It’s got Aaron Sandilands, all 211 centimetres of him.

Sandilands looks like one of those platforms wheeled forward in mediaeval battles to storm castles. And, in Ross Lyon, it’s got a coach with a good, old-fashioned Stalinist edge.

Players either buy into Ross’ game plan or – they disappear!

“The beauty about Ross,” says Zac Dawson, “is that everyone in the team knows exactly what they have to do.” (Perhaps if Freo wins the flag, someone can write a song using that as a title – The Beauty About Ross.)

Dawson is the ultimate Lyon player.

On appearances you think he should get back to the science lab and continue his studies.

He’s too spindly, too boyish-looking, but Lyon saw something in him, possibly a disciple. To the disbelief of many, Lyon favoured Dawson over Maxie Hudghton, a club favourite, at St Kilda.

Then, when Lyon went to Fremantle, he took Dawson with him like a teacher swapping schools and taking his star pupil with him.

When, for whatever reason, Ross’ game plan doesn’t work, you’re left with a pretty dull football match – all the players playing in the same futile way. Uniform mediocrity. However, when it works, as it did in the first week of the finals, it enables a team once considered a pack of flaky lightweights to march into the citadel of one of the game’s reigning powers and knock them off.

Lyon has been criticised for being unduly sour and aggressive after the Geelong match towards a journalist who questioned Freo’s style of play, which went to the borderline of permissibility on a couple of occasions. Lyon’s conduct can be seen as poor behaviour but it is an example of poor behaviour shared by a number of other enduringly successful coaches – e.g. Manchester United’s Sir Alex Ferguson. I think it’s also known as having some mongrel in you.

Freo has Matthew Pavlich. I look at Pav like racing lovers look at a champion racehorse. He has a magnificent physique – wide shoulders, power in his hips and thighs, height – yet this is a man who is nimble. Pav is a superbly equipped footballer who, like Ballantyne, understands the game as theatre. In Pav’s case, that means delivering on his great talent at big moments in games.

I also like midfielder Nathan Fyfe. He is a magnificent mark who is busy and engaged when the ball hits the ground. Freo has a super-consistent midfielder in David Mundy and, in Stephen Hill and Danyle Pearce, two runners who are so quick they can leave skid marks on the grass.

Sydney comes into Saturday’s preliminary final in Perth without key personnel but everyone knows it will be solid and at some point will challenge. Lyon, it must be remembered, began his coaching career at Sydney and his Freo team, in a sense, is a derivative of the Swans. But footy’s a marathon and I don’t believe Sydney co-captain Jarrad McVeigh, a wonderful player who combines exquisite skills with genuine toughness, can surge for a second week in succession.

At the start of the season I wrote a column in which I borrowed from the old Australian poem The Man From Snowy River to say that Freo would “be with them at the end”. It has had what might be termed a soft run, playing 12 matches at home. It also has a coach who has a better list at Freo than he ever had at St Kilda, where he cajoled a patchwork team into three grand finals.

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OPINION: Political interference inhibits bureaucrats

Kellie Tranter is a lawyer and human rights activist who stood as a WikiLeaks Party Senate candidate in the federal election.
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THE Abbott government’s sacking of three departmental secretaries, with others to follow, doesn’t just send a message to the Australian Public Service. It should also serve as a reminder to the public that the public service is not operating as independently of government as it should.

Over a decade ago, Richard Mulgan, a former professor at the Crawford School of Economics and Government at the ANU, wrote: “Politicisation of the APS, in the sense of appointments to suit the preferences of the government of the day, has been gradually increasing over recent decades. The process has been given added impetus by the growing insecurity of tenure among secretaries and by the sometimes uncritical adoption of private sector management model.”

Political appointments to senior public service positions and the removal of senior public servants by incoming governments, unfortunately, is nothing new at state and federal levels. But the effect of the sackings doesn’t just affect other senior bureaucrats who want to hold on to their jobs: it immediately filters down through all levels of the public service. So your average public servant is then constrained and gagged not only by broad-reaching guidelines but also – and perhaps more effectively – by a fear of personal consequences.

While Mr Abbott said in response to the sackings: “I’m not going to get into the whys and wherefores of individual decisions”, most public servants recognise the all too familiar dog whistle that the newly elected government wants them to give it what it wants. If you’re a public servant with a family and bills to pay, you toe the line: you don’t make career-limiting moves, you don’t probe too deeply and you don’t expose embarrassing matters.

The end result is a top-down culture of self-preservation and self-interest, built on security if not comfort, with blind obedience to the dictates of government.

As anti-corruption fighter John Hatton recently pointed out: “Corruption can’t occur if government departments are truly independent, open, accountable, efficient facilitators of the flow of information acting in the public interest. It just can’t happen. Corruption flows from government to government and from department to department irrespective of the political colour.”

Mr Hatton points out that the “public service is the oil that greases corruption”. Why? Because corruption, or any government wrongdoing, can’t take place over long lunches alone: it requires execution, and execution requires a team of participants, willing or not. It involves the taking of calls and typing of notes, the drafting and delivery of documents, informal conversations within earshot, advice being sought and given, people coming and going from offices and activities cloaked in secrecy.

To maintain public confidence in the integrity of the public service and to help stamp out cronyism, heads of departments should be appointed on a bipartisan basis or by Parliament, and they should have the right to an independent judicial review if their contract is not to be renewed so that their performance can be independently assessed against the relevant guidelines.

We need a truly independent public service with departments led by competent managers appointed on merit who can perform their duties without fear of political interference. We also need public servants who are able to speak out without fear of retribution when they see government waste, corruption or wrongdoing. After all, it is our money and the integrity of our institutions that they should be protecting.


OPINION: Crime is lower when pubs close earlier

NO GOING BACK: Tony Brown talks of the success of the harm minimisation approach to alcohol-fuelled street violence. Picture: Jonathan CarrollTony Brown is the chairman of the Newcastle and Hunter Region Multicultural Drug Action Teams.
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THIS week I convened Newcastle Community Drug Action Team’s annual community conference.

A key focus on the first day was the ongoing success of the modest reduction in late trading hours in Newcastle.

Prior to March 2008, Newcastle had the highest rate of alcohol-fuelled violence in NSW, the highest rate of drink-driving charges, and one of the highest rates of assaults on emergency workers.

In that month the former independent Liquor Administration Board’s landmark decision imposed a mandatory, precinct-wide 3am closure, a 1am curfew/lockout and a package of other drink-supply preventative measures against all 14 late-trading licensed premises, the majority of which were trading to 5am.

Newcastle CBD was attracting about 20,000 preloaded younger drinkers every weekend from up to 100 kilometres away.

The modest reduction in late trading hours has been the subject of scientific scrutiny and peer review. The latest findings were considered at the conference by Professor Wiggers, from the University of Newcastle School of Medicine and Public Health, and Professor Miller from Deakin University.

Police Commander Superintendent John Gralton also gave his endorsement.

The identified benefits of the reduction in late trading hours are convincing and compelling.

They include: a 33 per cent reduction in alcohol-related, non-domestic assaults; a 50 per cent reduction in night street crime; a 26 per cent reduction in related hospital emergency department admissions; a reduction in preloading, the primary predictor of alcohol-related assaults; and a reduction in binge drinking.

Overall, reductions in assaults were much better than achieved in Sydney, Wollongong and Geelong, which have CCTV systems but no reduced trading hours, and the vast majority of late-trading venues in Newcastle remain open.

Significant reductions in public health, policing and related costs in Newcastle compared with the large costs associated with CCTV surveillance systems (not in Newcastle) and other reactive measures in other cities have not matched the outstanding successful harm-prevention measures in Newcastle.

Professor Miller also found that, for some cities in Victoria, reliance on a lockout/curfew alone without a reduction in late closing times actually increased the level of alcohol-fuelled assaults.

It is important to put this small reduction in late trading hours in its proper perspective.

It must be remembered that in NSW, only 4 per cent of licensed premises trade after midnight. The same late-trading premises and their near vicinity account for more than 80 per cent of the non-domestic alcohol-related violence.

The above researchers unequivocally, systematically and methodically refuted the unsubstantiated scare campaign that the “draconian” conditions had “devastated” Newcastle.

On the contrary, they proved that the modest reduction in late trading hours to 3am in Newcastle had not only substantially and sustainably reduced alcohol-related harms, it had actually proven, overall, much better for local business by the creation of a much safer and diverse night economy.

There simply cannot be any “going back” to the bad old days.

The Newcastle conference was attended by a broad range of community members and police across regional NSW and some local liquor industry members.

Many could not comprehend why their communities with similar alcohol-related street problems and failed responsible service of alcohol continued to be deprived of the general Newcastle public-safety, alcohol harm prevention measures and substantial cost savings.

Newcastle residents, police and the responsible venues over the past five years have noted a welcomed and long-awaited improvement in the safety of their streets, other public spaces and licensed establishments.

In NSW more than 70 per cent of police time is spent dealing with alcohol-related incidents.

The NSW Auditor-General recently identified the total public cost of the ongoing dangerous oversupply, promotion and availability of alcohol in NSW as $1 billion a year.

The total cost to NSW taxpayers is about $4 billion a year, money that could substantially reduce hospital waiting times, build better hospitals, health resources and schools, improve public transport and divert scarce police resources to much better proactive and community uses. We cannot “arrest” our way out of this problem.

NSW taxpayers can no longer afford the current “band aid” approach of responding to the very costly consequences of alcohol oversupply and misuse – when what is needed is to address the cause of the problem and acknowledge the overwhelming available independent evidence.

Sensible reductions in late trading hours should be the very first cost- and life-saving measure adopted by any responsible government to dramatically cut and sustain reductions in non-domestic, alcohol-related harms to create safer communities.

The evidence is in, and there are now no more legitimate excuses.


Loyalty in eye of the beholder

Illustration: Jim PavlidisFINAL WORD
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Let’s call him Lance, though it could be Dale or Dustin, or soon, your favourite footballer. He’s on the verge of changing clubs, and the word that forms on every lip is loyalty.

The most pure loyalty, but also the most naive, is the fan’s, and she feels the most betrayed. The fan’s loyalty is not rational. It is inherited, or bequeathed, or has grown from an attraction to a name or set of colours, but almost never from a cool assessment of good and bad. It is the sort of blind loyalty that, Nietzsche said, when compounded by heredity leads to ever-growing stupidity.

It is undying. In some sporting cultures it is kept pure by a determined dwelling only on symbols. In soccer, where players and managers move about more freely than in AFL, this becomes a defence.

In A Season With Verona, Tim Parks tells of how that club’s hardcore ”brigate” honour only the colours. All others, including players, are barely alive to fans before they come to the club, and dead when they are gone. Lance who?

In 1996, this sentiment manifested here, dramatically. When Allan Jeans and Peter Hudson, legends paramount of Hawthorn and hitherto unimpeachable, spoke at a public meeting in favour of a proposed merger with Melbourne, they were howled down. Don Scott, speaking against the motion, held up a mock-up of a possible guernsey for the merged club, showing how it defiled the Hawthorn colours, and was hallelujah-ed. The merger failed.

The fan, not burdened by personal acquaintance with a player, can idealise him. Lance’s foremost virtue, apart from football prowess, is that he is playing for us, in our colours. That makes him a good guy automatically, and even if those stories are true, at worst a loveable rogue. The fan cannot understand why Lance no longer will requite that unconditional love.

But this innocence has limits. The fan won’t shed a tear for a player who was tried and failed, or didn’t appear to try, or wasn’t tried. And if suddenly it looks possible that by trading Lance, we might be able to land that big Mumford bloke from the Swans…

The modern fan, though passionate, does his calculations. Call it the post-Moneyball effect.

The club’s loyalty is another matter. It is in the custody of fans, but is managed by professionals whose loyalty is as a lawyer’s to a client, committed but clear-eyed. It is the loyalty of the here and now.

The club understands that in football, everyone and thing moves – coaches, players, sponsors, even sometimes clubs – and that movement is built into the game’s rules, and that no premiership ever has been won by a team unchanged from the previous year, and that free agency will exaggerate this effect.

The club is governed by what novelist Graham Greene called ”the virtue of disloyalty”, a recurring theme in his writing, postulating that blind allegiance to the status quo meant that nothing ever would change, and that it is important to keep an open mind.

The club has to manage internal frictions that would explain much to fans, yet can never been revealed to them. It must make decisions that if left in the hands of blissfully ignorant fans would be calamitous (this might make list management problematic for the Labor Party, now that its fans vote). Sometimes, loyalty tears. This was most poignantly observable in Dr Bruce Reid’s now famous letter to Essendon, protesting the infamous supplements program. ”I feel I am letting the club down by not automatically approving these things,” he wrote.

The club protests about all the time, money and heartache it has put into Lance, but knows that it was not altruism, and certainly not largesse bestowed on him for being a good bloke; it was an investment, with inherent risk. Even as the club pleads for Lance to stay, it is making contingency plans for his departure. The player’s loyalty is the most ephemeral of all. He will say it is variously to the club, the team, and the fans. But he did not choose the club he joined, nor unless he is very good or very lucky will he get to choose when he leaves it. He also knows he has only a short time to make the most of his talents, and it is unavoidable now that ”most” is measured in dollars, also that free agency has upped the premium. So Lance’s ultimately loyalty can only be to himself.

Bob Murphy has written endearingly of how, once drafted by the Bulldogs, he set out to make himself at one with the club. And he has. But I think he would acknowledge the fine-ness of the romantic thread on which it all hangs. Almost 15 years ago, when Adelaide boy James Begley was drafted to St Kilda, he had never met anyone from the club. Candidly, he told of how hard it was to affect that this was his dream come true. It didn’t last.

So, grieving fans, cut the Lances some slack. However fickle they appear, so is the system.

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Live AFL finals: Hawthorn v Geelong

Hawthorn vs Geelong Hawthorn’s Luke Hodge battles with Geelong’s Josh Caddy at the MCG back in round 15. Photo: Sebastian Costanzo
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AFL 50-metre penalty

goal

Hawthorn and Geelong are the most offensive sides in the competition this season, averaging 17 and 16 goals a game respectively. The Hawks rank second for scores generated per forward 50 entry, while the Cats rank sixth.

Welcome to tonight’s live coverage of the first preliminary final, Hawthorn v Geelong from the MCG.

Action starts at 7.50pm but stay with our live blog through pre-game as we count down to the opening bounce.

Good news for Hawks fans with Cyril Rioli confirmed in the starting line-up.

Rioli and Lance Franklin are the two ins for Hawthorn with Jed Anderson and Matt Spanger making way.

With no late changes it means Kyle Cheney, Spangher and Anderson are the emergencies and will only be called upon if there is a late disaster between now and first bounce.

Brendan Whitecross will start in the green vest.

HAWTHORNB: B Stratton B Lake B GuerraHB: S Burgoyne J Gibson G BirchallC: I Smith S Mitchell J HillHF: L Breust L Franklin J GunstonF: P Puopolo J Roughead C RioliFOLL: D Hale B Sewell L HodgeI/C: J Lewis M Bailey B Whitecross L Shiels

No late changes at Geelong, with Josh Caddy to wear the green vest.

Caddy and Jordan Murdoch are the two inclusions for Geelong, with suspended Paul Champman and omitted Taylor Hunt out.

Hunt, Trent West and yet-to-debut Shane Kersten are the three emergencies.

GEELONGB: J Rivers T Lonergan J HuntHB: A Mackie, H Taylor J BartelC: J Kelly J Selwood M StokesHF: A Christensen N Vardy S MotlopF: J Podsiadly T Hawkins J CaddyFOLL: M Blicavs  M Duncan S JohnsonI/C: J Corey C Guthrie J Murdoch T Varcoe

As has been well documented through the build-up this week, Geelong is on an 11-match winning streak against Hawthorn that stretches back to the 2008 grand final.

Just nine Hawks from the 2008 grand final will take the field tonight; Hodge, Lewis, Sewell, Birchall, Franklin, Guerra, Mitchell, Rioli and Roughead.

There are still 11 Cats from that day playing tonight; Bartel, Corey, Josh Hunt, Johnson, Kelly, Lonergan, Mackie, Selwood, Stokes, Taylor and Varcoe.

Even though there was steady rain at 6pm it appears to have cleared with little prospect of more for the remainder of the night.

Geelong’s warm-up out on the ground has finished and the Cats are back in the rooms. The Hawks have only just made their way onto the MCG to start their warm-up.

Hawthorn’s on-ground warm-up is finished and it looks like both teams have got through unscathed without the need for a late change.

Tonight’s three field umpires are Dean Margetts, Brett Rosebury and Mathew Nicholls.

Boundary umpires are John Morris, Ian Burrows, Michael Saunders and Michael Marantelli, goal umpires are Chris Appleton and Luke Walker.

Here come the Cats. Joel Selwood leads his team through the banner.

Q1 START HAW 0.0 (0) GEE 0.0 (0)

Underway in the preliminary final!

Q1 6.15 HAW 1.0 (6) GEE 0.0 (0)

Big head clash between Jordan Lewis and Mitch Duncan. It looks like the Cat is worse for wear as both come to the bench. null

Q1 9.30 HAW 1.2 (8) GEE 0.0 (0)

Crowd getting fired up as Hill gets a free for a high tackle and James Kelly gives away 50m penalty for remonstrating after the free!

Hill goes forward…Big pack mark by Hale!

The Hawks have been happy to play keepings off so far but that kick to a contest worked out.

Hale shoots from 15m…and misses! A bad miss!

Q1 2.30 HAW 1.0 (6) GEE 0.0 (0)

Gunston kicks a 50m set shot goal to put Hawthorn on the board!

Brad Sewell popped a finger in the first contest of the match but it appears to have been corrected and he can continue playing.

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