AFANA News - 02/28/2000

Provided by our man in Melbourne, Johnson Leung

Hello fans:

I hope you have enjoyed the Ansett Cup Grand Final by any method. It was a big win by Essendon, ending North Melbourne's 14 game winning streak, and giving the Bombers their 6th night premiership and the first since 1994. I am not going through the match in much detail (Lisa and Tim will do that), but I can tell you it was a rugged and fiery match, at least in the first half when several players had to leave the field on blood rule, the most serious being Kangaroos' veteran John Blakey, who had to be stretched off after being bumped heavily. The match was effectively over at half time when the Bombers kicked 4.7 to Kangaroos' 1.1 in the second quarter. After half time the Roos went close several times but were eventually overrun by the Bombers.

The crowd was vocal but somewhat disappointing: 56,720. Essendon midfielder Mark Mercuri won the Michael Tuck medal for best on field. Roos fullback Mick Martyn was reported for striking Bomber forward Matthew Lloyd, and captain Wayne Carey was reported for striking Dustin Fletcher. This case was dropped after a video review found the alleged offender was actually Craig Sholl, who is now charged with striking Fletcher. Carey did not escape, however: he faces a new charge of striking Bomber defender Dean Wallis. The trio will face the tribunal this Tuesday night.

Colonial Stadium update
The AFL has confirmed that the Essendon - Port Adelaide clash on March 9 will have to be held indoors with the roof closed, because of recent industrial dispute at the stadium, which meant the delay in installation of automated closing mechanism for the roof. Without the system, the roof will have to be moved manually, but it takes about 30 minutes to open or close the roof, and cannot be done with a crowd in the arena. And the league does not want to risk a downpour ruining the newly-laid turf during the game. AFL operations manager Ian Collins said the fault with the automated roof mechanism would rule out a half-time closure in the event of rain. "It is being closed by another mechanism and it's preferable that that's done when there's no one in the stadium," he said. The March 9 clash will be the first indoor game played for premiership points as well as the first under a roof in Australia.

The stadium management has admitted some disabled fans could be forced to miss the game because of work bans on lifts. People with physical disabilities seated on level one should have few problems, but fans in higher tiers will face a steep climb up ramps. Builder Baulderstone Hornibrook has arranged discussions between the Electrical Trades Union and lift and escalator supplier Kone Elevators to resolve the dispute and get the lifts running. The company's southern region director, Hedley Davis, said even if the bans came off it would be two weeks before all lifts and escalators were operating. "My expectation is that bans will be lifted in the stadium but it's by no means certain," he said. Baulderstone hopes to have the roof fixed within two weeks and predicts all food outlets will be open for the first match. Though the ground has no air-conditioning, it is designed to provide enough air flow to keep temperatures down even on hot days. In another industrial blow on Thursday, 30 metalworkers downed tools at Colonial over Mr Jackson's criticisms of construction delays. According to Herald Sun, the stadium facilities which are ready for use include:
*toilets
*players' facilities
*lighting
*carparks
*players' creche

Those which are not ready include:
*lifts and escalators at some parts of the stadium. Electrical Trades Union state secretary Dean Mighell said work bans on some lifts had not been lifted because a dispute with the lift supplier is continuing.
*some corporate suites are incomplete and not fitted with furniture.
*eight out of 38 food and drink outlets
*Channel Seven complex, AFL headquarters and LiveWire entertainment precinct. LiveWire will be complete this year, others may take one year or two.

Mr Jackson said fans might have to wait up to four weeks before the stadium is fully operational.

Now to other news:
*A shock on Monday with Ian Collins announcing his resignation as AFL football operations manager, soon after he accepts his AFL life membership. Mr Collins, who was always firm and controversial, has been sitting on the position for years. "I suppose an era has come to a close, I have enjoyed my time in footy," Collins said at a packed media conference at AFL headquarters. "I have enjoyed every day of my time in footy. "It was a bit of a sad day for me, making that decision." Mr Collins said he decided to leave the AFL last Friday night after a negotiating period with the stadium owners that he described as "not long". AFL chief executive Wayne Jackson said Mr Collins was closing a "fabulous" 40 years in Australian football as a player and administrator: a premiership player for Carlton and then the club's chief executive before joining AFL in 1993. Mr Collins will resign in two months' time to become the CEO of Stadium Operations Limited, the owner and operator of Colonial Stadium, replacing Jacques Merkus. The AFL will advertise the vacant position around Australia. Possible candidates include former Victorian coach Rod Austin and North Melbourne chief executive Greg Miller.

*20 former players have receive AFL life memberships, including current Western Bulldogs coach Terry Wallace, former Melbourne great Robbie Flower.

*The AFL has further rescheduled four games in the first five rounds, including Colonial Stadium's much-anticipated debut between Essendon and Port Adelaide. The Power-Bombers clash on March 9 will start at 8.10pm instead of 7.40pm, while the Round 2 Western Bulldogs-Brisbane game will start at 7.40pm at Colonial Stadium and not 2.10pm, to allow the stadium staff to clean up after the previous night's Barbara Streisand concert. The Round 5 Geelong-West Coast game at Shell Stadium will kick off at 2.10pm and not 12.40pm, while the Kangaroos-Sydney clash at the SCG will start at the normal time of 2.10pm and not 3.20pm. AFL communications manager Patrick Keane said on Friday the Round 1 clash had been delayed because of Essendon's planned pre-game entertainment. But an Essendon spokesman last night said the pre-game entertainment was not the major reason for the change. "The extra half hour will allow patrons to go home (from work) and then come to the stadium without rushing and also help iron out any confusion surrounding the new stadium, like parking, where to go, finding the seat, etc," he said.

The two games in Round 5 have been rescheduled to allow Channel Seven to continue its live Davis Cup coverage of Australia's semi-final against Germany from Adelaide.

*Former AFL chief Ross Oakley still believes at least two Victorian-based AFL clubs are doomed to extinction for refusing to accept mergers. And he argues continued reluctance to accept that the AFL has too many Victorian-based teams (10 of 16) is "a detriment to the (national) competition as a whole". Oakley, who still has harsh memories of how Bulldogs supporters targetted him for abuse after he backed Footscray`s failed merger with Fitzroy in 1989, believes the best-model AFL would have just eight teams from Victoria. "My views have not changed," Oakley, now a Collingwood marketing adviser and a Colonial Stadium director, said. "Victoria can only support eight teams. It is fabulous to think that Victorians can support eight professional teams when most other major cities around the world have no more than two. (He is wrong here - Sydney has eight teams in National Rugby League competition, after mergers last year - Johnson) [Ed. note: Oakley is correct that in no other major non-Australian comp are there so many clubs based in one city.]

"Victorian clubs are going to fail and fold, rather than retain their traditions through a merger or a relocation. "Mergers are the last option to the emotional fans and club administrators. Instead they look at solutions that are geared to artificially maintain clubs in Victoria - even to the detriment of the competition as a whole." Oakley, who saw the transformation of the VFL from a state competition comprising technically bankrupt clubs to a vibrant, pace-setting national league, would not nominate the two clubs he sees at risk of extinction.

*Collingwood president Eddie McGuire said the Internet could give the AFL's more popular clubs the financial edge they had been denied by the league`s equalisation policy. Speaking at a Port Adelaide Football Club lunch, McGuire also said an Internet company rather than a television station could buy the AFL broadcasting rights when Channel Seven's contract ran out at the end of next year. "Don't be surprised if the television rights aren't won by Channel Seven or Channel Nine but by Telstra or Sausage Software," McGuire said. (Eddie McGuire hosts the hugely popular AFL Footy Show, various sports events, and the Australian version of "Who Wants to be a Millionaire" for Nine. Sausage Software is an Australian software development company.)

"Television was made to show ads but they have to have some content to hang the ads around and it's the same for the Internet, you have to have the content." McGuire said Collingwood`s new Internet site had more than 600,000 hits since opening last week and it was likely the net would help the Magpies capitalise financially on their popularity. McGuire said clubs could sell memberships to their Internet sites and offer such incentives as a look inside the coaching box during a game. He said interstate fans would also get the chance to be part of the club.

*The AFL has been accused of overlooking the welfare of players by failing to reduce the controversial exchange period, and player agents may boycott the week-long trading period at all. Several prominent player agents wanted the trading period reduced to three days, but the league announced on Wednesday that it would begin on September 5 and end on September 12. The agents claim the exchange period is unsophisticated and fails to protect players and their families from intense media speculation. Prominent player agent Ricky Nixon said he would lodge complaints with the league and the AFL Players Association. He said he was surprised the league had stuck with the long trading period after objections were raised at a conference with player agents last year. Nixon said last year`s exchange period was an "absolute joke". "The exchange period should be held in-house like in the states where clubs go to a hotel with the officials, coaches, the agents, the AFL and the players association."

Nixon said that all players should remain in Australia, and not go on their traditional overseas trips away, until the three-day trade period was completed. He said it was difficult for players to make a career decision when they were overseas. AFL Players Association chief executive Andrew Demetriou said he did not believe the new dates were set in concrete, however the league is unlikely to change its mind. The 2000 AFL national draft will be held on Sunday 29 October.

*Richmond star Matthew Richardson has taken legal action against the company that signed him to a five-figure boot deal. Richardson's manager, Ricky Nixon, has confirmed that his client has lodged a writ in the County Court of Victoria against United Sports, the Australian distributor of Italian sports apparel manufacturer Lotto. In his claim, Richardson alleges that United Sports breached an agreement to pay him tens of thousands of dollars in endorsement income. Richardson's three-year deal was supposed to pay him A$40,000 a season to wear Lotto boots and apparel.

*Brisbane Lions deputy chairman Graeme Downie, Mac Tolliday and Ken Levy were returned to the board of directors at the club's annual general meeting. The trio beat Rob Morgan, Queensland boss of Sportsco, and Dr Allan Smith, head of surgery at Nambour Hospital. The Lions also reported a 1999 operating profit of A$124,562 and awarded life membership to immediate past chairman Noel Gordon. Meanwhile, Lions chairman Alan Piper has stepped aside due to continuing health problems. Piper, 55, has told the club he needs to concentrate his energies on his two-year fight against cancer. He has been in hospital for several weeks since returning from a business trip to the United States in January. He will be replaced by his deputy, Graeme Downie, who has said he would be happy to move aside if Piper was able to resume. Piper will remain on the board and the club's special projects committee. Neville Blunt becomes the new deputy chairman. Downie is a chartered accountant specialising in insolvency. He represented Kedron in Brisbane's Australian football competition. Piper, who moved to Brisbane from Victoria, was a foundation member of the Brisbane Bears board. He is a long-time benefactor of the club and a leading figure in Brisbane's motor industry.

*Hawthorn has withdrawn its promising 17-year-old rookie Shane Tuck - son of club legend Michael - after tests revealed a career-threatening heart condition. The Hawks' medical staff has barred Tuck from taking part in further practice matches and has ordered an extensive series of tests before determining his football future. The club was alerted to Tuck's condition after the youngster complained to club officials of dizziness after a reserves practice game. Tests revealed that his heart-rate during strenuous exercise had reached between 260 and 270 beats a minute. His condition has been diagnosed as an electrical irregularity, with an extra electrical pathway linking into his heart during particularly strenuous exercise. Cardiologist and former Hawthorn centre half-forward Neville Gay has ordered a series of electrical studies on Tuck that involves placing electrodes over his heart in an attempt to pinpoint the problem. The club described the problem as still only 75 per cent diagnosed.

*19-year-old Brett Rosebury, of Perth, who is one of four new senior AFL umpires this year, is believed to be the youngest ever appointed. Rosebury has been breaking records since umpiring his first match in the West Australian Football League at 18. His meteoric rise followed his decision to go to Darwin in 1998 to gain more experience. "I umpired 18 months straight and was named Umpire of the Year in the Northern Territory," he said.

Newly appointed AFL umpires' director Jeff Gieschen said Rosebury "held his own and showed a lot of maturity and composure and consistency with his decisions in two Ansett Cup games" just like a senior umpire. He said: "Our opinion was that if you've got the talent, umpiring is no different to a young Tim Watson coming through the ranks. We feel that Brett has a lot of potential."

Rosebury, an accounts payable clerk with mining company McMahon Contractors, said the step up to AFL level was daunting at first. "The tempo and speed of the game was so intensive, but I was fortunate to work with senior umpires such as Andrew Coates, Mark Nash and Gavin Dore," he said. "They encouraged me all the time and I was able to watch them and see how hard they worked." Rosebury will also get a taste of overseas experience this year because he has been selected to tour Ireland with the under-16 series in April. Gieschen said the retirement of senior umpires Peter Carey and Greg Scroop and two delistings led to the inclusion of Rosebury, South Australians Richard Fox and Michael Avon and Victorian Kieron Nicholls to the umpires' panel. AFL historian Col Hutchinson said the previous youngest senior umpire was Harry Beitzel, who controlled his first game at 21 in 1948.

*Since the death of Alisha Horan, who collapsed in a room in Melbourne's Park Hyatt Hotel a week ago presumably from drug overdose, former Geelong star Gary Ablett was nowhere to be seen. Ablett, who was seen in the company of Ms Horan in her final days, was absent from her funeral in Geelong on Wednesday. He has been in self-imposed exile, is now believed to be in a country hideaway and has not contacted Ms Horan's family since finding the 20-year-old unconscious in the hotel room they were staying. Ms Horan's death is still a mystery, although samples of amphetamines and another drug containing morphine have been detected in her body. Bruises were found on her temple, but police said they might be due to Ms Horan falling after taking a possibly lethal cocktail of drugs. (This is not to suggest that Ablett was involved in Ms Horan's death.) Stewart Harrison, part owner of the Wild Westcoast Saloon in Geelong, where Ms Horan worked, said Ablett had struck up a friendship with her over talks about football and a few drinks. Mr Harrison, who has known Ablett for about five years, said he had never seen the former goalkicking champion involved in drugs. Friends and former Geelong teammates said the incident has hurt Ablett very much.

*"Meet you in the Locker Room"could become a well-known catch phrase at Colonial Stadium this season. This "Locker Room" will be the stadium's new "live" music bar, which along with the Sirens nightclub will be new enterprises for music tycoon and St Kilda board man Michael Gudinski and player manager Ricky Nixon.

*Finally, there is no foundation in the Sydney rumor that AFL umpires will be sponsored this season by a firm of funeral directors. That is dead set. Coca-Cola has the rights to advertise on the umpires, but so far has knocked back the opportunity.

That's all today. See you before the start of the new premiership season.

Regards,

Johnson Leung


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