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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.

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.

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.

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

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

AFL 50-metre penalty


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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Rich rewards: Porte visualises road to glory

AS Richie Porte cycled in the solitude of the high mountains early this week, he played over in his mind how his dream of winning the men’s elite world road race championship might unfold.

The Tasmanian, who has so often ridden for others, would love to claim next Sunday’s crown for himself. But if another Australian is in a better position to win the 272-kilometre race, Porte will have no problem playing the team game.

Porte (Sky), 28, and 2009 champion Cadel Evans (BMC), 36, will lead Australia’s nine-rider team for the men’s elite road event in Florence next Sunday. Both riders come in to the world titles after competing in last week’s two Canadian one-day World Tour races – the Grand Prix Cycliste de Quebec and the Grand Prix Cycliste de Montreal – rather than the last of the three grands tours, the Vuelta a Espana, which finished last Sunday.

The risk of having two leaders from the same lead-in is that neither will have a first-hand gauge of the form of other contenders who raced in the Vuelta. But they will have a close knowledge of each other’s condition; and because they have both raced in Canada they have been able to discuss world title tactics.

Evans won the 2009 world title in Mendrisio, Switzerland, on a hilly course. It will suit him that this year’s circuit in Florence is tougher than at Mendrisio. And judging by his recent form – highlighted by a stage win in the Tour of Alberta in Canada – he is on the right trajectory for a best performance in Sunday week’s race.

Porte, meanwhile, has taken a steadier build-up towards the road race, which he will enter for only the second time after his debut last year.

But he will start after having competed in Sunday’s first world championship event – the 57.2km team time trial he will race for his British Sky team – followed by the 57.9km individual time trial on Wednesday for which he will swap his black and blue Sky strip for the white with green and yellow hooped jersey of the Australian team.

While the men’s elite road race is the top event, Australia will field strong line-ups in every race – from the team time trials for trade squads in which the Australian men’s Orica-GreenEDGE and women’s Orica-AIS are highly fancied, to all road and individual time trial races.

Porte should be strong in all his three events, but his priority is the road race. If the chance arises, he will try to win it after spending most of this season at the service of his Sky leader, Englishman Chris Froome, who won the Tour de France and will this time be a rival in Florence.

But Porte is confident Evans will be worth supporting should he be a better option between the two for an Australian win. “I had a little chat with him about it,” Porte told Fairfax Media on Wednesday from Dolceacqua, in the Italian province of Imperia during a break in a ride that included 3,200m of climbing.

Asked about Evans, Porte said: “He’s fit. He’s lean and on a course like that – he’s done it before, hasn’t he? If I have a bad day I’ll have no trouble at all in trying to give him a hand for the win.”

Is he confident Evans will do the same for him in similar circumstances? “Cadel is a professional and so am I. If we can help each other,” said Porte, who has never forgotten Evans for his help on his grand tour debut in the 2010 Giro d’Italia, when Evans advised him on climbs en route to placing seventh overall, wearing the leader’s pink jersey for three days and winning the white best young riders’ strip.

Porte returned to Monaco on Monday from Canada and the US, where he trained at high altitude with Froome and his Sky team after the US Pro Cycling Challenge in Colorado from August 19-25.

The US Pro Cycling Challenge marked the start of Porte’s back-end of the season after a well-earned break following the July 27 Clasica San Sebastian World Tour race in Spain a week after the Tour finished.

“I had a couple of weeks doing nothing but being a normal person, drinking beer and eating what I want. I needed that,” Porte said.

So what of his return to racing and training in the US and Canada?

“It’s as high I have ever been before,” Porte said of the high altitude training he and his Sky teammates did before the two Canadian races. “One day, we rode up to 4200m – then there was the intensity. We came down to Canada and did those punchy [World Tour] races, which was a shock. Now we’re back at sea level, recovered and feeling good, not just for the worlds but for the end-of-season races like [Giro di] Lombardia [October 6].” Porte’s training program this week has been simple, as he explained on Wednesday. “I’m just riding mountains … the jet-lag absolutely busted me,” he said. ”I’ve never had it this bad – at 2am I’m awake. After the flight it’s nice to get out and do the longer rides.”

On Thursday, Porte travelled to Tuscany to join his Sky teammates and fine-tune preparations for Sunday’s team time trial. With Sky as favourites are the Belgian Omega Pharma-QuickStep, Australian Orica-GreenEDGE and the US Garmin-Sharp and BMC teams.

In Wednesday’s time trial, Porte and Australian Rohan Dennis face stiff opposition, with the likes of German Tony Martin, Switzerland’s Fabian Cancellara and Briton Bradley Wiggins all on form. “It’s those three guys for the podium. If it’s not an Aussie who wins, then I’d like it to be Brad,” said Porte.

As for the road race, it’s always a lottery. And Porte does not know what to expect from those who have just competed in the Vuelta.

“I just hope they come out on their hands and knees,” he says.Schedule of events for September 22-29

Sunday, September 22: Team time trial – women (42.79km), men (57.20km)

Monday, Sept 23: Individual time trial – junior women (16.27km), men’s under 23 (43.49km)

Tuesday, Sept 24: Individual time trial – junior men (22.05km), elite women (22.05km)

 Wednesday, Sept 25: Individual time trial – elite men (57.9km)

Thursday, Sept 26: No racing

Friday, Sept 27: Road race – junior women (82.85km), men’s under 23 (173.19km)

Saturday, Sept 28: Road race – junior men (140.05km), elite women (140.05km)

Sunday, Sept 29: Road race – men’s elite (272.26km)

Television: Live on Eurosport, starting Sunday from 10.30pm, Sydney time. Live on SBS2 from Monday, 10.30pm

Twitter – @rupertguinness

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Three ruled out, but strong line-up for the elite men’s road race

Three key riders had to rule themselves unavailable for selection in the Australia team to race in the men’s elite road race at this month’s world championships.

Simon Gerrans is out with a fractured hip, Michael Rogers with a shoulder injury and Adam Hansen due to fatigue after finishing the Vuelta a Espana on Sunday.

However, selectors have still named a strong nine-rider line-up for the 272km event, which will be raced on the final day of the September 22-29 titles at Florence, Italy.

RUPERT GUINNESS looks at who they are and their form and roles.


Cadel Evans (Vic/BMC) Evans (pictured), 36, 2009 world champion, made great return to form with stage win in Tour of Alberta earlier this month and strong rides in World Tour races, Grand Prix Cycliste de Quebec (12th at 8 secs) last Friday and Grand Prix Cycliste de Montreal (18th at 26secs) on Sunday. Form for world title race on hilly course augurs well.

Richie Porte (Tas/Sky) After a strong Tour de France (19th) to help Chris Froome win, raced Tour Grand Prix Cycliste de Quebec (54th), Grand Prix Cycliste de Montreal (DNF) and US Pro Cycling Challenge (92nd) for training, not results. Porte, 28, will relish world’s route and should recover well from individual time trial four days earlier.

Sprint option

Michael Matthews (ACT/Orica-GreenEDGE) Unafraid of hills or of joining breakaway, as he did in last year’s world titles on a hilly course at Valkenburg in the Netherlands. Matthews, 22, is a sprinter who likes a selective course. A threat should he find himself in a lead group. In terrific form, with two stage wins in the Vuelta a Espana.

Team Captain

Mathew Hayman (NSW/Sky) Hayman, 35, brings 13 years’ experience as a professional. He must co-ordinate tactics to protect team leaders and help them save energy before race explodes; a crucial role in a race with no radio contact between riders and their sports director in the team car behind.


Simon Clarke (Vic/Orica-GreenEDGE) Finished world’s preparation on Sunday, placing 69th in the Vuelta a Espana. Strong climber, unafraid to go in breaks, Clarke, 27, should provide great cover for Evans or Porte in the back end of the race, as he did for Evans in 2009.

Rohan Dennis (SA/Garmin-Sharp) Dennis, 23, has had a top rookie season that includes overall and stage 3 wins in the Tour of Alberta. Never raced over 230km, but form and hill-climbing ability should help early on. In his first senior world’s, he will also race in the individual time trial.

Cameron Meyer (WA/Orica-GreenEDGE) Tour de France finish with team time trial win and ninth on hilly stage 16. Meyer, 25, raced Grand Prix Cycliste de Quebec (98th), Grand Prix Cycliste de Montreal (DNF) and Tour of Alberta (35th). Good for an early long-range breakaway.

Rory Sutherland (ACT/Saxo-Tinkoff) Strong climber, Sutherland, 31, can support Evans and Porte in the hills. Last races include US Pro Cycling Challenge (9th), Grand Prix Cycliste de Quebec (75th) and Grand Prix Cycliste de Montreal (83rd).

David Tanner (Vic/Belkin) Tanner, 28, has valuable all-round qualities. Provides strong, reliable, selfless back-up to riders – and can do so in all terrain. Rode very well at last year’s world’s at Valkenburg. In good form after finishing Vuelta a Espana on Sunday in 106th place.

Twitter: @rupertguinnesss

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Diamonds wary of narrowing trans-Tasman gap as Kiwis rise

IT USED to be that the Australian and New Zealand netballers would play each other so occasionally that, by the time the big clashes arrived, there was such tension and mystery that the intimidation factor played a big part in the result.

Often it worked to Australia’s advantage. Sometimes not. Liz Ellis confesses to having had mental visions of Silver Ferns players seeming to be ”10-feet tall”.

”We’d play against New Zealand, and someone like Irene van Dyk, she’d loom large in your mind because she was so good and you wouldn’t have played her in a long time,” says Ellis, whose career from 1993 to 2007 yielded a record 122 appearances for the Diamonds.

”By the third time you’d played her, you’d work her out. But then you wouldn’t see her again for 12 months.”

That has changed. Since the establishment of the ANZ Championship in 2008, the veil of secrecy has been lifted. Before it, the Australians had a national competition and New Zealand played in theirs. But the joining of the heavyweights in a trans-Tasman super competition, while increasing the sport’s overall strength, appeal and professionalism, may have started to alter the balance of power.

Following five straight losses, including a series defeat to England early this year, the Diamonds beat the Silver Ferns in a 47-45 thriller in Auckland on Thursday to even the ledger at 1-1 in the Constellation Cup, a series introduced in 2010 to mirror rugby’s Bledisloe Cup. The Silver Ferns are the holders after winning last year for the first time. The recent pattern has raised questions about whether Australian netball’s aura is diminishing.

”We didn’t have an ANZ Championship,” former Australia coach Jill McIntosh recalls of the dominant period in the 1990s under her leadership. ”There was a national championship, which evolved to the Commonwealth Bank Trophy, a good competition between eight teams which played each other regularly. Our youngsters, in that environment, were always playing against top players, week in, week out. Then the ANZ Championship started. It’s a fine competition. But, because we only have five [Australian] teams competing, it has limited the amount of space available for those up-and-coming players.”

There are five teams, too, from New Zealand. All franchises are allowed one import, meaning fewer Australian teams and one less place on each team list.

McIntosh says the set-up ”has benefits, but it has also worked a little bit against us”. ”It has given our players the chance to play against top international players,” she says. ”But it has also meant fewer positions for some of our younger players to get experience.”

Australian netball’s grassroots structure, talent identification and development remain sound, McIntosh says. But the international club-based championship has brought New Zealand closer to Australia in more ways than one.

”I think, overall, the New Zealand teams playing in a mixed competition with Australian teams has been more beneficial to New Zealand. But I don’t think that’s bad for the game. From an Australian point of view, we’d like to be winning more. But, still, the games are very close and great to watch.”

Only one New Zealand team has won the ANZ Championship, the Waikato Bay of Plenty Magic last year, and often the New Zealand sides finish amid the bottom.

”From a club point of view, Australia still dominates,” Ellis says.

”Internationally, it’s certainly shifted towards New Zealand. I guess that having their players playing against the top Australian players week in, week out, it means both teams lose a bit of that fear factor and it evens things up a bit. It goes both ways.”

Ellis points to other factors behind the Diamonds’ recent struggles.

Vast experience has been missing, including Cath Cox being unavailable for this tour, Mo’onia Gerard having left the sport to give rugby sevens a go and Natalie von Bertouch having retired.

”There’s 250 Tests between them,” she says. ”Meanwhile, the Kiwis have had a very settled line-up. Their only changes have been in wing attack and wing defence positions. But there’s no doubt that the balance of power has shifted and it’s now up to Australia to play catch-up.”

Australian netball faced a similar predicament when Norma Plummer was appointed coach in 2004.

Under McIntosh, the Diamonds had won the 1995 and 1999 World Championships and the 1998 and 2002 Commonwealth Games gold medals, the pinnacles of the sport. At the 2003 World Championships they were pipped by the Silver Ferns, sparking a reshuffle.

”There were a lot of changes around that time,” Plummer says. ”Some players retired, some had got pregnant, there were some bad injuries. You have that happen occasionally.”

The Silver Ferns won Commonwealth Games gold in Melbourne in 2006, but the Australian team soon settled and regained the world championship in 2007. The Silver Ferns claimed the 2010 Commonwealth Games title in a double-overtime epic, but the next year Australia won yet another world championship.

Plummer says a key to her success through the transition time was that, as a former Australian under-21s coach, she knew which players to bring up and wasn’t afraid to do so. ”It allowed us to build things up quicker,” she says. ”You’ve got to make sure you’re always blooding youngsters.”

Neither Plummer nor McIntosh believe there is any reason for concern. They are confident that depth, resources and programming augur well for the Diamonds’ future. But they know Australia needs to be on its toes.

”Australia and New Zealand are still one and two, clearly,” McIntosh says. ”But England are making big strides forward and Jamaica are realising the benefits of some of their players playing in the ANZ Championship. It’s having a positive effect. The top four are very competitive now.”

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Fans declare Gwar over Super Bowl half-time gig


Messi still the one with three … Fourth time lucky for McKenzie … It’s 5 o’clock somewhere but O’Connor wouldn’t know … Six the new eight as seven becomes the new six … Hat-trick for McKay but it’s still England on cloud nine … Atlantic Jewel shoots for perfect 10.


It may be two decades since Seattle was the centre of all things noisy but it’s good to see the spirit remains after Seahawks fans at CenturyLink Field this week set a Guinness record as the loudest stadium crowd. The mark of 131.9 decibels was set when Michael Bennett sacked San Francisco quarterback Colin Kaepernick in the first quarter, breaking the record held by a football crowd in Turkey. Taking a leaf out of Pearl Jam’s book, the Hawks faithful went on to bigger and better things than their stellar debut, later beating their own mark by hitting 136.6dB in the third.


Don’t say you haven’t thought about it. The Dudefoods blog is packed full of goodness such as the inside-out grilled cheese sandwich, chicken and waffle wings and the bacon weave taco, but his latest effort tops the lot. The McEverything. It’s exactly what it claims to be – a combination of every burger (including breakfast offerings) available at the Golden Arches reaching a height of 1.5 metres. That’s a total of 43, and set him back $US140. In the immortal words of another Seattle legend, there goes my hero.


Sticking to this developing theme of all things American and loud (tautology anyone?), here’s a cause we can all get behind. Sugar’s item last week about the travesty of Bruno Mars getting the Super Bowl half-time gig struck a nerve and no group was more vocal than fans of theatrical heavy metal act Gwar. More than 18,000 people have signed a petition to see the Virginian five-piece, famous for non-hits such as Meat Sandwich and Stalin’s Organs, take the biggest stage of them all. There’s some football pedigree there too – frontman Oderus Urungus, right, writes a column on the game for Check out their version of Carry On My Wayward Son for a glimpse of what might have been.


Basketball legend Cal Bruton stole the show at the NBL season launch at the Entertainment Quarter on Thursday night. The pioneer of the competition’s early days revealed the secret to his team’s success way back when – sausage sizzles. ”We’d have a barbecue on court two while we were playing on court one,” the 58-year-old Hall of Fame guard said when asked about his initial foray into Australian basketball with the Brisbane Bullets. He said the smell wafting onto the main court would often distract opposition players. ”That was our sixth man,” he said.


Silk Degrees. Boz Scaggs. Summer is on the way and the feeling is laid-back. As in banana lounge. Poolside. Cabanossi. Margaritas. Never mind albums with ”never mind” in the title – chillax to the Californian sounds of the 70s.

Stearns Hefti


Can he get an encore? It’s our man Adam Lefkoe again who, fresh from his Seinfeld heroics last time out, this week devoted his Sportscast to classic hip-hop lyrics. Jay-Z, MC Hammer, Bone Thugs-n-Harmony, Dr Dre, Blackstreet, Eminem, Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five, Aaliyah, Beastie Boys, Naughty By Nature, LL Cool J, Wu Tang Clan, it’s all there. Search: Rapcast.

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Roadmap plots Socceroos path to top

By the e-book: FFA released its online curriculum designed to reshape Australian football. Photo: Justin McManusIf a Socceroos team ever wins the World Cup, historians will pinpoint the day back in 2013 when an online e-book was launched, aimed at reshaping the style and culture of football in Australia.

Around midday on Friday, Football Federation Australia released The National Football Curriculum – The Roadmap To International Success, which national technical director Han Berger described as his legacy, a comprehensive blueprint the Dutchman is confident will transform the way the game is played and coached from grassroots upwards, hopefully eventually placing Australia among the world’s football powers.

Based on years of research and analysis, the free resource – which Berger believes may be unique in the world – is aimed at players, coaches and parents and provides detailed practical lessons on training, coaching and football philosophies.

It offers age-appropriate drills and model sessions directed towards building a style of possession-based, pro-active football, rather than relying on physicality and mental strength.

”At this moment [the patient possession-style game] is not really in the Australian psyche,” Berger said. ”The simple fact of the matter is that, at the top level, it’s impossible to think you can ever be successful consistently with a physical direct playing style. In a one-off, everything is still fortunately possible in football. But on a consistent basis, the direct physical playing style is not the way to go. Modern top level football has moved away from that.”

Berger revealed that Guus Hiddink’s former assistant, A-League-winning coach Graham Arnold, warned shortly after the 2006 World Cup there was not a sufficient succession plan. Pim Verbeek repeated the warning when he left in 2010.

Berger, who joined FFA in 2009, said when things were going well, it was sometimes hard to look to the future. ”People and organisations tend to take things for granted,” he said. ”Then suddenly the coin starts dropping when things go less well.”

In recent years, despite qualifying for the 2014 World Cup, the Socceroos’ rank has fallen from the 20s to the 50s. The so-called ”Golden Generation” of players who carried the team to relative success throughout the mid and late 2000s is breaking up and cracks are appearing. No longer can Australia simply hope that another good group of players comes together.

The building blocks have to be laid. In 2009, the first edition of the curriculum was released but it dealt mainly with the over-riding philosophies required to implement a new way of playing football.

It was focused on the top down and some of the results have filtered through to A-League and national junior sides. Berger highlighted the under-20 team as having shown encouraging signs at the Under-20 World Cup in Turkey in June.

This edition is a practical resource, which will be implemented at future A-League club elite academies and national premier league clubs. It is especially aimed at the foundation level.

”When it starts there, I’m convinced we’ll see the results of that,” Berger said.

The main culture change will centre around changing the win-at-all-costs mentality in junior football, which Berger explained led to booting the ball upfield and scrapping for possession. That approach emphasised physicality, not technicality.

It also had the effect of alienating smaller children. He said he wanted young players to be encouraged to be creative and clever with the ball, rather than just trying to get the ball to the goal as quickly as possible.

”At grassroots level it’s still very much a winning at all costs mentality, a direct physical type of game,” he said. ”That’s the big challenge now, to convince the coaches, the players and the parents that that’s not the right way to go.”

Implementing such a change will take much more than publishing a book, apps and videos. It will take time and patience. In Japan, a 50-year plan was launched in the 1980s. In Germany, it took a decade.

”That is the minimum,” Berger said. ”So, you have to think in decades. That’s a difficult selling point because people tend to look at results next year, or changes next year, they want it to be tangible and visible. But those processes do not happen overnight.

”To really make it happen … there needs to be a shift and change in culture and mentality. The success [of the curriculum] stands or falls with how much, how deeply, it will be embraced.”

If it is embraced properly, Berger is convinced the long-term approach will develop generations of players to take Australia to the top levels of the game.

”We’re three or four years into it. We’ve only touched the surface. We’ve only worked top down. Now we have to start putting our energy in working bottom up. Only if you have a broad and strong foundation, your summit will be of top quality as well.”

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