From the Blog
The Sydney Swans are primed for the flag
Date: June 17, 2016 / Posted by control
Once again many pundits in the pre-season were writing the Sydney Swans’ obituary. Once again, they have been proved wrong. With the mid-season bye approaching the Swans find themselves third on the ladder with the second-best percentage in the competition. Had it not been for the stumble last weekend against GWS the club would be atop the ladder. Since 2003, the Swans have missed the finals just once – in 2009 when they finished 12th. In that time, Sydney has won two flags, contested a further two grand finals and been eliminated at the preliminary final stage twice. Whilst the red and whites have not had the premiership success of the likes of Hawthorn (four flags) and Geelong (three) since 2003, Sydney’s 12 finals campaigns in the past 13 seasons betters all other clubs – Geelong has contested September action ten times and Hawthorn and West Coast on eight occasions. Year after year the Swans fly under the radar. Like those to their north, they play in a market where Australian Football is very much a second-tier sport in the eyes of the media and while the southern states report on the code fiercely Sydney is seldom mentioned. This season, with the rise of GWS, the club is even taking somewhat of a backseat in the Sydney press. For coach John Longmire, it is a perfect situation. The talk nationally has mainly surrounded GWS’s looming maiden finals series; Geelong’s Patrick Dangerfield-led charge; speculation of whether or not Hawthorn can claim four in a row; the implosion of Fremantle; and the continued trials at both Collingwood and Richmond. Meanwhile, the Swans just keep purring along. Another finals campaign appears a formality and another flag a very real possibility. One of the strengths of Sydney over the past dozen years has been its ability to replenish its stocks despite the luxury of top-end draft picks. The club secured the services of the likes of Craig Bolton, Kieran Jack, Dan Hannebery, Luke Parker, Tom Mitchell, Sam Reid and Kurt Tippett through various drafts while also proving highly successful during the annual trade period. While Lance Franklin’s stellar ten-year, $10m to whip him away from Hawthorn under free agency remains one of the biggest coups of recent times, Sydney also traded successfully for the services of Josh Kennedy, Ted Richards, Rhyce Shaw, Craig Bird, Martin Mattner, Darren Jolly and Ben McGlynn. Whilst many clubs bemoan the performance of their recruiting department, Sydney has deftly been able to maintain a high-quality, highly competitive list for over 12 years. The current squad has plenty of class. One of the hallmarks of the Swans’ recent success is its midfield. For both class and depth few in the competition can compete. The club is blessed with the perfect blend of in-and-under on-ballers and outside runners who rack up heavy possessions. So far this season, Hannebery averages 31 disposals, with Kennedy (30), Mitchell (28), Parker (27) and Jack (23) all rolling through the midfield and wreaking havoc at various times. On the end of much of the midfield’s enterprise is Franklin. To date, the proven match-winner has kicked 43 goals to lead the charge for the Coleman Medal. While ‘Buddy’ is a handful inside 50, he has also run amok up the ground. On Sunday, against GWS, he lined up on a wing early in the game. His ability to run and carry the ball and then kick it forward 50-60m when playing up the ground puts enormous pressure on opposition defences. Finding a suitable opponent for him is a major challenge. While Franklin more often than not is the go-to-man inside 50, the Swans have found numerous avenues to goal. Their midfielders are renowned for hitting the scoreboard, and likes of McGlynn, Isaac Heaney and elevated rookie Tom Papley have also regularly bobbed up. Down back, Sydney has plenty of steel and rebounding ability. Richards and Heath Shaw fill the primary key defender’s role while skipper Jarrad McVeigh Dane Rampe, Nick Smith and Jeremy Laidler provide plenty of run. With the retirement of Mike Pyke, Kurt Tippett has been used more on the ball this season. Coming off a 44-goal season last year – his best return since 2010 – he has carried the bulk of the ruck work this season while also managing to kick 15 goals. The club was struck a blow on Sunday when Tippett succumbed to a hamstring tendon injury which is expected to sideline him for up to six weeks. Callum Sinclair, who was traded to Sydney last year from West Coast in return for Lewis Jetta, will now shoulder the rucking duties with his sidekick, should one be deemed necessary from week-to-week, a choice between Sam Naismith, Toby Nankervis and Tom Derickx who have each been playing in the NEAFL in recent times. The loss of Tippett will hurt the Swans. Either side of the bye, over the next six weeks Sydney meets Melbourne (H), Western Bulldogs (H), Geelong (A), Hawthorn (H), Carlton (H) and Fremantle (A). Sinclair will be an able replacement for Tippett but the lack of a genuine two-prong ruck combination will put real pressure on the midfield against the classier opponents. It appears that the competition at the top of the ladder will be tight come season’s end. The period sans Tippett will be challenging but a positive win-loss ratio through that period will place the club well in contention for a one-two finish at the end of the home-and-away series. Come September, and deep into it, the Sydney Swans will likely find themselves front and centre in the AFL media. For now, Longmire and his charges will simply continue to do what they do best – play tough and uncompromising football – and hope the other clubs continue to dominate the AFL discussion. First published on The Roar - theroar.com.au - on 16 June 2016, soliciting 46 commentsRead More →
The day I ‘met’ Ali
Date: June 06, 2016 / Posted by control
There are seminal moments in one’s life where you always remember where you were when you received news of great import. The death of the great Muhammad Ali will remain as one for me. Bizarrely, but somewhat fittingly, as I pen this I am sitting beside a waterhole in Africa having just been floored by the news of his passing. It was on the African continent that Ali fought what was perhaps his most famous bout, the ‘Rumble in the Jungle’, against the formidable George Foreman. In the total tranquillity of the African bush it is not difficult to feel a sense of loss. For me Ali, like for so many, was a somewhat mythical figure. In his prime he was reputedly the most famous face on the planet. On his various trips to Africa people lined the streets, at time five deep, to get a glimpse of the man who rose above his sport. I never met Ali, but I was luckily enough to be touched by the power of his aura. It happened one day in September 2000 while I was covering the Sydney Olympics for the ABC. I was in the International Broadcast Centre at the time when a colleague burst through the door to inform several of us that Ali was in the building. Myself and my ABC colleagues hastily went out into the main corridor of the thralling building that was home to the world’s electronic media for the duration of the Games. Ali was being driven down the broad corridor on a golf cart, destined for the master control area that was responsible for co-ordinating the various video feeds from the myriad sporting venues around Sydney. Ali, as an ambassador for the Games, was on his way to personally thank the staff for their efforts. As he made his way through the building various doors along the way opened, pouring out representatives from media outlets from around the globe. Ali bore the mask of those significantly afflicted with Parkinson’s Disease – expressionless and deadpan. Yet there was an unmistakeable glint in his eyes, one that both betrayed a mischievous side and the sheer joy of being the centre of attention as he was throughout his adult life. As he passed by he was shadow boxing with his imposing fists, throwing gentle left and rights with hands that clearly trembled with the affliction he had been cruelly dealt. He drove past a veritable United Nations of world media, passing people of all colours and creeds. Some were clapping, others chanting “The Greatest’, while some just stood there with mouth agape as if witnessing something beyond normal comprehension. I reflected later that day as to whether any other person could have had such an impact on seasoned sports journalists. It is doubtful that anyone else could have mobilized such a frenzy. It was simply a sign of the standing in which Ali was held. Like no man before or him, or dare I say, after him he transcended the sporting firmament. He was a man of his era – an era that abounded in civil rights; the rise of the black man; and the nascence of the live televising of international sporting events. His bouts against the likes of Foreman and his trilogy against ‘Smoking’ Joe Frazier were beamed free into households around the world. It was an era when heavyweight boxing captured the minds of hundreds of millions. Ali was often a polarizing figure, particularly in the early years of his career. His conversion to Islam and his stance on the Vietnam War did not sit well with many. However, over time, he outgrew those issues and became embraced as a larger than life individual. He was as famous for his poetry and one-liners as he was for his flailing fists. Many will debate where he stands in the pantheon of his sport with respect to his ring craft and successes. One thing I unquestionable – no heavyweight ever moved with the grace and speed of Ali. By sheer personality, he was simply head and shoulders above them all. Whereas today elite sportspeople are insulated within carefully crafted bubbles, Ali was a man of the people. As he prepared to take on some of the most fearsome men his sport has witnessed his training camp at Deer Lake was open to one and all. You could simply walk in and watch Ali spar, pound the heavy bag or hone his innate skills on the speed ball. You would often be an audience for his ever busy mouth and mind. Following his retirement, he lived in Berrien Springs, a small town not far from Notre Dame University in Michigan. His home, often to the chagrin of his wife Lonnie, had an open door policy. Uni students would drive to see him and be welcomed with opened arms. He was known for performing magic tricks in his lounge room for his myriad uninvited guests. He lived a life that would be foreign to any other sportsperson of today, many of whom carry reputations that are mere footnotes compared to the man who proclaimed himself, ‘The Greatest’. With the passing of Ali the world has lost a behemoth. We will never see the likes of him again. First published on The Roar - theroar.com.au - on 5 June 2016Read More →
Russia needs to be banned from Rio
Date: May 27, 2016 / Posted by control
Russia is making a mockery of international sport. Consider what would happen to an Australian coach if his charges returned nearly 30 positive drug tests over a period of a few years. Chances are such a thing would never get to that stage as Athletics Australia would step in and remove his accreditation before the numbers surged to that ridiculous level. Remarkably, in Russia that was not the case. The penny eventually dropped for the country’s athletics officials in March last year when they finally handed the national race walking coach, Viktor Chegin a lifetime ban from the sport. Unfortunately, by that stage he had produced several world and Olympic champions and sundry minor medallists. Among Chegin’s squad of drug tainted walkers was Sergey Kiryapkin, who ‘won’ the 50km event in London and two world championships. Australia’s Jared Tallent, who crossed the line second behind Kiryapkin four years ago at the London Olympics, has been rightly upgraded to the gold medal. Tallent’s story of initial denial on the world’s biggest sporting stage is just one of many as a result of wholesale Russian cheating. In August 2013, Russian sports minister, Vitaly Mutko trumpeted the opening of the Federal State Unitary Enterprise Anti-Doping Centre in Moscow. It was intended to be the cornerstone of Russia’s bid for clean sport. The reality has proven be starkly at odds with that claim. In November last year WADA announced that the facility had been responsible for a concerted and deliberate cover-up of positive tests along with the destruction of around 1400 samples. As a result, its track and field athletes are currently under an international ban. The WADA report recommended that five athletes be given life bans. Amongst them was the 2012 Olympic 800m champion, Mariya Savinova. Earlier this month, whistle-blower Grigory Rodchenkov, the former head of the now unaccredited Moscow laboratory, made stunning allegations about how the lab operated during the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics. He spoke of a separate room within the drug testing facility in which tainted urine samples were exchanged with clean urine. He alleged that steroids were dissolved in whisky for the male athletes and martinis for the females as a way of accelerating the absorption rate and thus reducing the prospects of detection through testing. Rodchenkov asserted that at least 15 Russian medal winners at Sochi were given banned performance enhancing substances. In the end the host nation topped the medal tally with a total of 33 medals, 13 of which were gold. Yesterday, news emerged that 14 of the 31 positive results returned from the retested samples from the Beijing Olympics involved Russians. The IOC says the 454 retested samples were focused on athletes who were potentially in the mix for selection at this year’s Olympics. While Russia comprised 14 of the 31 positives, the remaining 17 are spread across 11 nations. Whilst the Russian Olympic Committee says it will not name the 14 athletes until their B-samples have been tested, Moscow-based Match TV has revealed the names of the alleged culprits which include ten medallists. Among them is Yulia Chermoshenskaya who won gold in the 4 x 100m relay; javelin silver medallist Maria Abakumova; and high jump bronze medallist Anna Chicherova, who went on to claim the gold medal at the 2012 London Games. The IOC has announced that it will be retesting random samples from the London and Sochi Olympics ahead of August’s Rio Games. The IOC has also promised “swift and decisive action” into the allegations that have been raised about the possible corruption at Sochi. If the investigation and retesting of the Sochi samples can be completed ahead of the opening ceremony at Rio, and should they indicate widespread drug use, there would be a strong case to ban the entire Russian Olympic team from the Games. Currently there is irrefutable evidence, from November last year, of the broad use of performance enhancing drugs in Russian athletics, hence the current ban. As of yesterday there is a strong indication that it has spanned back as far as the Beijing Olympics eight years ago. Aside from track and field, two other sports involving Russian athletes have been responsible for positive tests from Beijing. Should the Sochi retests indicate widespread drug use among Russian Winter Olympians it will provide clear evidence of a systematic doping program across much of Russian sport. There is every indication that the current practices within Russian elite level sport are on a par with the dark days of the old Eastern Bloc. That era was a total blight on the Olympic Games and myriad other major international competitions with many worthy athletes denied their rightful place in the sun. On 17 June when the IAAF makes its determination on the immediate future of Russia’s track and field athletes it must uphold the current ban and refuse entry to the squad at the Rio Olympics. Should the forthcoming follow-up testing of more recent Olympics turn-up widespread doping across other sports, the entire Russian Olympic team should be removed from the Rio Games. Such a stance by the IOC and its constituent sports federations would result in extreme bleating from Vladimir Putin down. But it is a move that would has to be taken if it can be found that sport in Russia is being systematically manipulated. We hear ad nauseum from the world’s leading sports officials how they are vehemently opposed to drug use and cheating. It is incumbent they act in accordance with their trumpeted beliefs and not cower to those who are laughing in their face as they stockpile their ill-gotten gains First published on The Roar - theroar.com.au - on 26 May 2016, soliciting 19 commentsRead More →
Jarryd Hayne has left it too late
Date: May 20, 2016 / Posted by control
Jarryd Hayne is an exceptional athlete and a driven individual, facts that are beyond dispute. He shocked sports fans when he turned his back on rugby league to pursue his dream of playing American Football. Many thought it was a dream that would never be transformed into reality. Hayne was able to stun his critics when he was first chosen by the San Francisco 49ers and then silenced them completely when he made his debut. His dalliance with the NFL lasted one season and eight games with Hayne turning his back on gridiron on the weekend by announcing his aim of being part of Fiji’s rugby sevens team when the sport makes its Olympic debut in Rio de Janeiro. San Francisco coach Chip Kelly says he was taken aback by Hayne’s career choice, saying “I was surprised. I had no idea”. Many thought if Hayne was to abandon his American adventure it would be for a return to the NRL where he had starred with the Parramatta Eels from 2006 until his move over the Pacific. That is likely to come to pass after the Olympics but for now he is hell bent on walking behind the Fijian flag at the opening ceremony in Brazil. The big question is whether Hayne has left his bid for an Olympic jersey too late? The cauldron is due to be lit in Rio in 78 days however Hayne has considerably less time than that to convince Fiji’s selectors that he is worth the gamble. Coach Ben Ryan will name his 12-man Olympic squad in late-June following an intensive training camp in Fiji earlier in the month. Hayne lobbed in London on Monday hoping to be included in Fiji’s team for the tenth and final round of the World Rugby Sevens Series this weekend. The final leg of the sports globetrotting extravaganza would provide Hayne with a valuable litmus test but after going into camp with the Fijians he missed the final 12-man squad for the weekend. It would have been his first experience of the shortened form of rugby. Hayne arrived in England with the aim joining a Fijian team that is within touching distance of a second consecutive World Rugby Sevens title. Currently, Fiji sits atop the standings with 166 points – 14 clear of South Africa and 21 ahead of New Zealand. Quite clearly the Fiji sevens team is the best in the sport. That is what makes Hayne’s bid to make the grade even more remarkable. Unlike other Australian athletes like Jana Pittman, who transitioned from the 400m hurdles to the bobsleigh, and Fiona Robinson who moved from basketball at Atlanta to handball at Sydney, Hayne is looking to join a national team that dominates its sport. And he is looking to make the transition with respect to the required fitness, skill level and tactical awareness and understanding with less than three months before the biggest event in the history of sevens rugby. Kelly noted earlier in the week when talking to the media at the 49ers’ Santa Clara training facility about Hayne’s move to rugby sevens that, “He’s a sharp learner”. He will need all his smarts to make this latest dream a reality. It can be argued that his history in rugby league will greatly aid his morphing into a sevens player. Whilst that is no doubt true it certainly will not guarantee success. Even hugely accomplished fifteen-a-side rugby players have struggled with the move to the sevens format. Quade Cooper is the perfect example. The New Zealand-born fly-half who won 58 caps for the Wallabies recently failed in his bid for inclusion in the Australian sevens side for Rio. A fortnight ago, Australian coach Andy Friend cut Cooper from his pre-Olympic squad. At the time Friend said, “There’s no doubt Quade is a quality player, but put simply, we just haven’t had the opportunity to work with him as much as we would have liked over the past five months”. Hayne is looking to make the grade and convince people in virtually half that time. Friend also stated that, “Many players have found throughout this season’s World Series, it is no easy task to transition from fifteens to the sevens form of the game”. Hayne is endeavouring to make that transition coming off a brief career in American Football prefaced by nine seasons in the NRL. Whilst Hayne has to come to terms with the tactical side of sevens he also has to ensure that he has the necessary physical requirements as well. Sevens is an infinitely more aerobic based sport than American Football and as such he will need to change his basic physiology in the next few months. Karmichael Hunt spoke about the challenges he had changing body type when he made the move from the NRL to the AFL a few years back. Coming off his NFL training it is doubtful that Hayne would be close to the aerobic capacity he would need for the gut-running sevens game. Had Hayne had a longer lead-up to his Olympic dream it would not be hard to see him reaching Rio. But presently, with less than 80 days to go and with no experience in the sport whatsoever and with questions over his requisite fitness, it is hard to see Hayne being on the plane. And let’s face it, given Fiji is the favourite to take out the gold medal at Rio does it need to risk the inclusion of Hayne at the 11th hour? Whether he will look for a more conventional entrée into sevens prior to the 2020 Tokyo Games remains unknown. However, for now, it would appear that a man who has set lofty goals in sport and managed to attain them is going to fall short on this occasion. First published on The Roar - theroar.com.au - 19 May 2016, soliciting 111 commentsRead More →
Where to now for Collingwood?
Date: May 13, 2016 / Posted by control
Collingwood fans do not suffer a lack of success well, the president even less so. No club has won more games in the history of the VFL/AFL – it currently sits three shy of its 1500th victory. Unfortunately for Pies fans and everyone associated with the club 2016 is rapidly descending into an annus horribilis. The season started with an 80-point thumping at the hands of the Swans in Sydney. Since then the club has beaten the hapless Richmond by one point and the beleaguered Bombers by 69. Around those wins there have been losses to St Kilda, Melbourne, Carlton and West Coast in Perth. On paper, the Magpies would have pencilled in the first three of those as wins at the start of the year. Not only did they lose those games against recent strugglers they did so without much sign of a coherent game plan. Yes, the side has been hit hard by injury. The likes of Dane Swan, Tyson Goldsack, Travis Varcoe, Alan Toovey, Marley Williams and Jamie Elliott have all missed matches. But West Coast was also ravaged by injuries last season with key tall defenders Eric McKenzie and Mitch Brown not completing a game; Jack Darling missing the first ten weeks; Sam Butler and Matt Rosa missing eight weeks each; and Jeremy McGovern, Will Schofield and Chris Masten all missing three to four matches. The loss of McKenzie – the 2014 best and fairest – and Brown forced coach Adam Simpson to remodel his team’s style of play, hence the emergence of the ‘Eagles Web’. The altered game plan – forced upon the club one week into the season – proved a success with West Coast surprise grand finalists. Presently it is difficult to get a handle on just what Collingwood’s game plan is. The back half is leaking goals and the ball is being constantly rebounded from the side’s attacking 50 with little pressure being applied by the forwards. Last season the club ranked third in the league for turnovers in the forward half. This season they are ranked 15th while also being smashed in the clearance count. Too many times opponents have gone pretty much coast to coast as a result of turnovers with the Magpies incapable of stymying the opposition on transition. Worse still, given the injury toll, several senior players over the past month have been badly out of form and running around in the VFL. Heading that list is Travis Cloke. A former best-and-fairest and dual All-Australian, Cloke has spent the past three weeks in the VFL and by all reports while he has been solid his performances have not demanded a recall. He was one goal away last year from claiming the club’s leading goal kicker award for the fifth consecutive season. For much of that period Cloke has been a barometer with respect to his club’s performances. When on-song he straightens the Pies up and gives them a genuine focal point up forward. In 2011 he led the competition in marks and the club played in a grand final. In 2013 he booted 68 goals. This season his first four games before being dropped netted five majors. In his absence the principal target inside 50 has been American recruit Mason Cox, who was only elevated from the rookie list as a result of Swan’s season ending foot injury after round one. Whilst Cox has already become a favourite of the fans they cannot expect him to be a leading player within the club in his debut season. A return to form by Cloke is a must for the Magpies. Still only 29, he should be in the prime of his career as a big man. Currently sitting in in 14th spot with a win-loss of 2-5 and a percentage of 79.5, Collingwood is effectively three matches out of the eight. This week it plays 16th-placed Brisbane at the Gabba followed by games against current top-four sides Geelong and the Bulldogs. If the season is not already a write-off it soon will be. The last two seasons have seen 11th and 12th-place finishes. The club will need a quantum lift in performance for it not to head further north this year. Replenishing the side’s stocks will not be easy. The trade that brought Adam Treloar south from GWS – and he has been arguably the Pies best player this year – cost them their first round draft pick later this year. The loss of that first round pick is going to the see the club take its first player well down the pecking order if it cannot improve its position during trade week. The other decision that will face McGuire and his board come season’s end is what to do about the coach. Buckley’s contract was extended by a year just prior to the season. McGuire said recently that he would have no compunction in sacking one of the club’s favourite sons if he believed it would be for the betterment of the football club. A bottom-four result – which is not out of the question – would place enormous pressure on the coach. McGuire himself admitted he considered steeping down from his 18-year presidency in the wake of Saturday’s loss to recent cellar dweller and arch-rival Carlton. If the Pies go down at the Gabba on Saturday night he is likely to become apoplectic, as will the fans. Collingwood continues to search for that 16th flag that will see it join the Blues and the Bombers at the top of the competition tree. For now, premierships are not a concern however. What matters at present is merely finding a way to become a competitive outfit once again. Currently the players lack spark and across the board the intensity needed to compete successfully at AFL level. The Magpie Army will only tolerate so much. First published on The Roar - theroar.com.au - on 12 May 2016, soliciting 33 commentsRead More →
Matthew Pavlich has been a giant of the game
Date: May 06, 2016 / Posted by control
Matthew Pavlich has been a true champion of the AFL. If anyone deserves a premiership it his him but alas that will never happen. This season is Pavlich’s last and after six weeks Fremantle is the only winless club. He has been showered with personal glory during his stellar 17-year career but it is team success that players crave most dearly. He got close to the holy grail in 2013 when he led Fremantle into the grand final only to fall short against Hawthorn on the day. Over the 22-year history of the Dockers, Pavlich has been a near constant. This Saturday’s clash with GWS will be the club’s 468th since entering the AFL while for Pavlich it will be his 342nd match. The next most capped player in Fremantle’s history is retired full-back, Luke McPharlin who hung up the boots last season after 244 appearances in the purple. Pavlich’s resilience has been extraordinary, averaging over 20 appearances each season. He debuted in round five in 2000 and in the period between 2001 and 2008 he played a club record 160 consecutive games. Much has been written in recent years about the effect that travel has on players from Western Australia. Many believe it results in players ending their careers prematurely. That makes Pavlich’s performance even more staggering as only 14 men have played more career games in the competitions 120-year history. The next highest games tally for a WA-based player is held by former Eagles’ ruckman, Dean Cox who left the game at the end of 2014 having tallied 290 appearances. If Pavlich plays the full 22 home-and-away games this season he will bow out with a total of 357 matches placing him at number 12 all-time. He grew up in a football mad family in Adelaide – his father Steve, along with two uncles – played for the West Torrens Football Club in the SANFL. The younger Pavlich also turned out for the club however by then it had morphed into the Woodville-West Torrens Eagles. He nominated for the National Draft in 1998 but was overlooked by all clubs. The following year Fremantle utilised the fourth pick to snare his services. During the early stages of his career the Dockers were the competition’s easy beats. The club won just 19 games in Pavlich’s first three years including an annus horribilis in 2001 when it managed just two wins. Throughout the first decade of Pavlich’s career, whenever he came out of contract, rumours abounded that Adelaide and Port Adelaide were circling and willing to part with considerable riches to lure him back home. He was never swayed and remained committed to Fremantle despite the fact that team success seemed a considerable way off. When Chris Connolly became Dockers coach in 2002 he pulled a surprise by throwing Pavlich down back. Despite being just 20 years of age he more often than not won his personal duels with the best power forwards of the day. At season’s end he was named at full-back in the All-Australian team. He won a further five All-Australian jumpers – half-forward flank (2003), centre-half forward (2005), interchange (2006), full-forward (2007), and interchange (2008). Along with his six All-Australian selections there were six club champion awards, winning the Doig Medal in 2002, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008 and 2011. When Peter Bell stood down from the captaincy at the end of the 2006 season, Pavlich was the natural successor. By the time he handed the reigns to David Mundy at the start of this season – his 189 games as skipper had been bettered by only five other club captains. He is Fremantle’s all-time leading goal-kicker (678) – he sits at number 23 all-time in the competition’s history – and has topped the club tally on eight occasions – not other Docket has done it more than twice. Pavlich has been a leader by example rather than rhetoric. A thoughtful and measured individual, he recently completed an MBA, and has served as the President of the AFL Players Association for the past two years. Throughout his career he has been renowned for his work ethic on the training track. There were long periods where he was the club’s only bona fide star. Despite being the public face of the club for well over a decade not once did he allow the burden of responsibility to dent his passion or love for the game nor did he ever put a foot wrong off the field. For many a year Pavlich was the Fremantle Dockers. Whilst his star has shone brightly for nearly two decades one wonders whether his standing in the game would be even greater had he played for one of the powerhouse Melbourne clubs that occupy the sport’s centre stage. Pavlich took a considerable period after last season to weigh up his playing future. In the end, having led the club to the minor premiership last year, he no doubt felt the window was still ajar with respect to a premiership. That window has slammed shut. Once Matthew Pavlich has served the necessary time requirements he will be immediately ushered into the AFL Hall of Fame. He will deserve that accolade wholeheartedly for both on and off the field he has been an ornament to the sport of Australian Football. First published on The Roar - theroar.com.au - on 5 May 2016, soliciting 66 commentsRead More →
The AFL must adopt a send-off rule
Date: April 29, 2016 / Posted by control
Every level of Australian Football has a send-off rule bar one – the AFL. The question is why? It makes no sense at all that the peak league in the sport is the only one that does not allow umpires the option to send players from the field for blatant and wilful acts of violence. Surely, if any umpires are sufficiently equipped to make the correct call with regard to send-offs it is those in the AFL. Last week Gold Coast’s Steven May was suspended for five weeks for a sickening charge on Brisbane’s Stefan Martin late in the second quarter at the Gabba. Rather than determining a sanction, the Match Review Panel sent May directly to the AFL tribunal for its consideration. At the hearing May pleaded guilty. The incident itself was ugly – May ran the past the ball, left the ground and hit Martin in the head with his shoulder with force that was adjudged severe by the tribunal. The Lions’ ruckman was immediately rendered unconscious and taken from the field on a stretcher, unable to return to the field after half-time. The match day officials reported May at the time of the incident. It was all the umpires could do with the exception of issuing a free-kick and a 50-metre penalty. Had there been a send-off rule in place, May could well have been given his marching orders. I doubt had such an option been available and invoked many would have complained. Nowadays we hear ad nauseum about teams being under the pump due to a reduced interchange bench which affects rotations and the ability of a team to properly rest its players. Injury is part and parcel of the sport of Australian Football given its sheer physical nature. The vast majority occur as a result of incidental contact within the natural playing of the game. There are others that do not as they are the result of acts that are committed outside the both the laws and spirit of the game. However, no matter the level of intent and damage rendered to an opponent the match day punishment can never exceed a free-kick and 50-metre penalty. In some circumstances – and they are thankfully remote in nature – such a scant penalty is in no way commensurate with the crime. What if May’s actions were to occur in the opening minutes of a grand final, or worse still, another player was similarly ruled out of the game as a result of a similar incident? One of the more blatant acts of disrepute in recent times on an AFL field was the felling of West Coast’s Brent Staker by Sydney’s Barry Hall at the SCG in 2008. Many metres off the ball, Hall simply punched Staker in the jaw. Staker’s eyes rolled back in his head and he was out cold before he even hit the ground. Hall was suspended for seven weeks as a result of his blatant strike on an unwitting opponent. Bizarrely, the suspension mattered little to Hall and Sydney for later in the same game the full-forward broke his wrist on a metal railing on the fence behind a soft advertising board. Incidents like Hall’s result in no significant penalty on the day while the team on which it is perpetrated loses a player for the remainder of the match as the result of a calculated act. Many will argue that the introduction of a send-off rule in the AFL would result in mass ejections. Anecdotal evidence would show that to be a totally erroneous theory. I have commentated WAFL games weekly since the league adopted the send-off rule in 1993. I have witnessed firsthand it being invoked twice in that entire period, the last time being over 18 years ago. So, in the past 450-odd WAFL games I have commentated I have not seen the send-off rule used at all. Its introduction into the WAFL has hardly resulted in a flurry of send-offs. But, importantly, the rule is there and available to the umpires should they deem a malicious act warrants it application. The rugby codes and soccer, along with many other team sports, have a send-off rule enshrined through all levels of their sport. It is time the AFL did likewise. I am not aware of any other code that allows for a send-off rule in all levels other than the highest in its sport. Being sent from the ground and barred from returning for malicious acts at least provides some offset to the team that has lost a player as a result of a violent act. Whilst it would seldom be applied it should nonetheless be part of an AFL umpire’s options when dealing with untoward violence on the field. When all said and done, AFL umpires are more highly trained than their counterparts in lower grades. Surely, they can be entrusted with the responsibility of applying a send-off rule. First published on The Roar - theroar.com.au - on 28 April 2016, soliciting 147 commentsRead More →
What does the future hold for Fremantle?
Date: April 22, 2016 / Posted by control
The Fremantle Football Club has gone from minor premiers last season to 17th this season with a win-loss record of 0-4. Sunday’s last quarter capitulation at the hands of North Melbourne means the Dockers will have to buck history if they are to contest this season’s finals series. Since the introduction of the top-eight in 1994 no team has qualified for September action off the back of four successive losses to start the season. Whilst a finals berth is a significant stretch at this stage – the club’s last five opponents of the home and away season will be Sydney, West Coast, Adelaide, GWS and the Bulldogs – that elusive maiden premiership seems completely out of reach. That would leave the Dockers without a flag after 22 years in the competition. By comparison the Eagles won a flag six years after they joined the then VFL. Brisbane tasted premiership success in its 15th season; Adelaide in its seventh; and Port Adelaide in its eighth. The big worry for those who both represent and follow Fremantle is that the flag drought may well last for quite a while yet. Shortly after Fremantle finished the 2011 season in 11th spot, the club announced that Mark Harvey had been axed with a year remaining on his contract. His replacement, Ross Lyon, exercised an out clause in his contract with St Kilda and arrived in WA with his signature inked on a four-year deal. The marriage seemed a win-win for both parties. The Dockers believed they had a squad that was primed for a tilt at the flag and they saw in Lyon a coach who had the credentials to get the job done. As for Lyon, he had taken the Saints to the season decider in 2009 and 2010 for two defeats plus the 2010 drawn grand final. Lyon arrived at Fremantle with a 65 per cent win ratio from 71 home-and-away games. His finals record however was 50 per cent. Lyon could no doubt see the writing on the wall at the Saints and believed his best opportunity to win a flag as coach lay out west. His assessment of St Kilda’s list proved accurate with the four seasons since his departure from Moorabbin resulting in 9th, 16th, 18th and 14th placed finishes. Lyon brought his defensive-oriented game plan to the west. Under his command the Dockers became renowned for their strangulation defence. In his four seasons heading into 2016, Lyon took Fremantle to the finals each year – 6th in 2012; runners-up in 2013; 6th in 2014; and the minor premiership last year before bowing out at the preliminary final stage. Once again, Lyon proved to be a master in home-and-away ranks with a four season winning ratio of 69 per cent. But again, he failed to fulfil his dream come finals time with a 44 per cent success rate. The big criticism of Lyon coached teams come finals time has been the inability to kick a winning score. Across four grand final appearances at both the Saints and Dockers his teams managed totals of just 9, 10, 7 and 8 goals. Following Fremantle’s 2013, 15-point grand final loss to Hawthorn Lyon spoke publicly about the fact that his team needed to find greater goal-front productivity. The tinkering to the game plan unfortunately failed to produce the desired results. After scoring an aggregate 2035 points in 2013 home and away season, the Dockers managed 2029 points in 2014 and 1857 last year. Ahead of this season it was felt the reduction in the rotation cap from 120 to 90 per game would result in more offensive oriented football. While many encounters in the opening four weeks have seen attractive free-scoring games, the Dockers have managed an aggregate of just 41 goals in that time. Allied to the inability to hit the scoreboard has been an unacceptable skill level with missed targets by hand and foot producing myriad turnovers. The dilution in the side’s ball efficiency has been hard to fathom. Like many clubs who see their premiership window ajar the focus has been very much on the now seemingly at the expense of the future. Recruiting wise there are certainly questions over succession planning. All-Australian full-back and 256-game veteran Luke McPharlin was for so long both the general and lynchpin of the team’s defence. He bowed out at the end of last year with no standout replacement waiting in the wings. Former skipper Matthew Pavlich has announced his 17th season will be his last. The heart and soul of the club for so long, he has played exclusively in the forward half in the back half of his career, finishing as the club’s leading goal scorer on seven occasions. Whilst Fremantle has made plays for some power forwards coming out of contract at other clubs the current cupboard does not instil confidence in the short term with the likes of Matt Taberner, Michael Apeness and Tanner Smith a long way from regular selection. Dual best and fairest and four-time All-Australian ruckman Aaron Sandilands is not likely to go beyond 2017. Of the likely successors to the number one mantle, Zac Clarke has 89 games behind him but his impact has been inconsistent while Jonathon Griffin has played just 79 games across ten seasons at both Adelaide and Fremantle. Jack Hannath to date has managed to play 18 games in three seasons as an understudy to Sandilands. The Dockers must find a ruckman of note prior to Sandilands retirement. The Fremantle list is currently the oldest in the league yet premiership success seems a good while off. Ross Lyon is in his tenth season as a senior coach. In the previous nine years he has failed to make the finals just once, his first year at the Saints in 2007 when the club finished ninth, just two points shy of a finals berth. Lyon has always been seen as a finisher rather than a developer. If the current trend at Fremantle is any indication he will have to do more of the latter in the coming years. Whether he can successfully rebuild a team is currently an unknown. The Fremantle hierarchy showed great faith in him prior to the season by extending his contract through until 2020. Chances are much of that decision was predicated on the expectation of considerable success this season. At present, Fremantle’s 2016 looks anything but a bumper year, leaving the timing of that elusive first flag one of the AFL’s great imponderables. First published on The Roar - theroar.com.au - on 21 April 2016, soliciting 104 commentsRead More →
In the media
Reliving Eden Gardens 2001 through the voice of Australian radio
By Sandeep Dwivedi, ‘The Indian Express’, 14 March 2015 – Sitting on a wooden bench at King’s Park at Perth, you are at a height, the vantage point providing an enchanting view of the serene city and the sparkling river Swan. Sitting on that same wooden chair, facing Glenn Mitchell, sipping coffee and feeding on […]read more →
FIFO induction must contain mental health advice: Mitchell
By Michael Washbourne, December 2014 edition of Australia’s Paydirt – Renowned broadcaster and mental health advocate Glenn Mitchell has called for a greater emphasis on suicide prevention and mental wellbeing during the induction process for FIFO workers. Mitchell’s plea comes in the wake of a parliamentary inquiry into the mental health impacts of FIFO work […]read more →
Back from the brink
As part of Mental Health Week in 2014 I did a video interview with Marnie McKimmie from ‘The West Australian’. In the interview, I discussed the journey that I have been on and what I have learned as a result of being sufferer of mental illness. Click on the link below to view it. http://bcove.me/acr130arread more →
"Glenn Mitchell is a man with a powerful personal story to tell. He is an accomplished sports broadcaster who has walked the path from despair and illness to hopefulness and well-being.
As a story-teller, Glenn's ability to openly "speak his truth" is inspiring many people who are in a dark place to reach out to find and accept the support they need and deserve.
As a host and presenter, Glenn's professional approach and capacity to engage an audience with his unique blend of humour and whit, are exceptional.
Amanda Wheeler. CEO Lifeline WA
"Excellent presentation which provided our audience with an entertaining and informative insight into the world of elite sport. We've had much positive comment and feedback from our members and guests."
CPA Australia State Congress
"Many thanks for the fantastic job you did as MC for our Jumper Presentation Evening. The success of the night can be largely attributed to the insightful and informative style of your presentation, and we thank you for making our event a night to remember for all involved."
Scott Ballem, W.A. Football Development Trust.
"Excellent speaker. Glenn was exactly what we wanted and participated really well."
Clare Thompson, IWIRC Network (W.A.Branch)
"Glenn is a thoroughly entertaining speaker who can highlight the serious side of sport whilst simultaneously having the audience in stitches. A most enjoyable speaker who can clearly tailor a speech to suit a variety of audiences. Excellent presentation."
Ben Williams. Ravensdown 2009 Agents Conference
"Glenn had our audience captivated. His presentation 'What We Can All Learn from Sport' was excellent."
Stacey Martin, 2006 Ausnet Real Estate Services Conference
"We appreciated Glenn's professional approach as MC for our Emerging Leaders Program Launch, and his prior preparation. We were very pleased with the outcome of the launch. Excellent MC".
Kim Ellwood, Department of Sport & Recreation
"Glenn spoke superbly about the relationship between Australian society and cricket. The audience was hugely impressed by his knowledge and humor"
Cricket Club of India
"Glenn was the perfect guest speaker for our Sports Star of the Year Awards. His speech was engaging and most appropriate for the intergenerational audience in attendance. Overall excellent presentation."
Chris Thompson, Manager Great Southern, Department of Sport & Recreation. Albany
"Glenn's presentation was great using his experience and knowledge of sport mixed with humour. Importantly he was able to engage the whole audience from all parts of Australia, New Zealand and South Africa. Rating: Excellent"
Lisa Lynch. Capricorn Society Limited.