Port, Brisbane reach Ansett Cup grand final

Posted on: 3/10 at 10:35pm ET

Every Victorian football fan’s worst nightmare has come true: two interstate team will meet in a grand final.

Hello fans:

Every Victorian football fan’s worst nightmare has come true: two interstate teams will meet in a grand final. More details later. First to the news:

Seven’s $45m lifeline for Colonial Stadium
The Seven Network, in its last year as AFL broadcaster, has agreed to inject up to A$45 million (US$23 million) into the financially struggling Colonial Stadium in a deal that could see the television group take majority ownership of the second home of football.
Seven’s stake in the stadium could vault from about 7 per cent to almost 60 per cent as a result of the deal, which throws a lifeline to Colonial until the end of this year.
The other shareholders in the stadium’s holding company, Stadium Operations Ltd (SOL), voted in favor of the final A$25 million stage of the three-part raising at an extraordinary meeting last week.
They have the right to participate in the deal, which involves the issue of notes that can be converted into stadium shares at the end of this year for as little as 40 cents each - a deep discount on the A$2 paid by original investors.
The stadium is central to the AFL, which late last year dumped Seven as the code’s broadcaster from 2002 onwards after accepting a more lucrative offer from a consortium headed by the Packer and News media groups.
Seven sources said that the network would not use Colonial as a bargaining chip. Seven viewed the deal as a way to acquire cheap equity in a stadium that would eventually succeed financially, they said.
The network’s move is also driven by its need to buttress a separate, profitable A$100million-plus exposure it has to Colonial, through its purchase and resale of rights to seating, signs and the stadium’s name.
Plagued by problems with ticketing and turf quality, the stadium went into the red as soon as it went into service last year and posted a A$24 million loss in the year to June 30. Its losses have narrowed significantly since, but predictions of 20 per cent-plus returns for investors now look fanciful.
Investors in SOL include Utilities Trust of Australia (20 per cent), Queensland Investment Corporation (10.5 per cent), National Australia Financial Management (6.6 per cent), Commonwealth Bank of Australia (6.6 per cent), News Corp (6.6 per cent), the stadium’s builder, Baulderstone Hornibrook (5.3 per cent), Perth Property development company Perron Investments (3.3 per cent) and individual investors, who hold about 27 per cent.
The Seven Network also bought a 6.6 per cent stake in SOL, and separately paid $100 million for ticketing, signage and naming rights at the stadium, which are being profitably on-sold.

Colonial could be re-turfed
Still with Colonial, it could have a complete surface facelift just days before the start of the 2001 home-and-away AFL season.
Stadium boss Ian Collins said the replacement grass from new turf contractors HG Turf was maturing in the country and may be ready to lay at the end of the month.
A complete turf replacement of the 19,000 square metres ground will cost about A$1.5million. Collins estimated that the new turf would have to be replaced twice a year.
AFL clubs that played at Colonial Stadium last weekend (six clubs in all) gave a positive reaction to the state of the present surface.
Most described a 20-metre by 30-metre dead patch of couch in the centre of the ground as being better than it appeared. “No players complained about the surface. Parts of it look worse than it actually is,” one club official said.
Collins also guaranteed that the new grass, called Motz Product, would be able to sustain heavy traffic a day after being laid. He said: “We want the new grass to be as mature as possible and to lay it as late as possible. The beauty of the Motz Product is that, because of its synthetic fibre back, it can be rolled out and played on the next day.”
Collins said it was the same type of grass that was used at Stadium Australia for the Olympic Games. It is also used to cover the Gabba in Brisbane and the centre of the MCG.
“It was always our intention to restore last year’s turf for as long as we could, to get as much life out of it as possible before changing,” Collins said. “The couch is starting to go into a dormant period and we’re hoping to get another three weeks use out of it by sowing a bit of rye grass.”
Officials from rugby league tenants Melbourne Storm, however, were unaware of the proposed resurfacing of the venue. “That’s surprising to us,” Storm chief executive Chris Johns said. “Why are they saying they have to re-lay it? If it’s good enough for the AFL, I hope it’s good enough for us ... the pitch has been in great condition for us.”
Collins said the re-turfing program could begin after the rugby league game on March 25 between Melbourne Storm and the Newcastle Knights, played the day after the Bon Jovi rock concert. “From our point of view, I hope they don’t do it before Bon Jovi because I’ve got serious worries on how the ground’s going to come up for us on the Sunday after they have 35,000 people walking on the field,” Johns said. “We’ve got 17 players (training) for 45 minutes on the ground, as opposed to 35,000 on the ground for three hours, jumping up and down listening to a rock concert.”
Collins said he would inspect the playing surface late in March before deciding how much of the area needs replacing immediately. “We believe it will be aesthetically good and will play very well,” he said.
An AFL spokesperson said the league would be surprised if the ground was returfed before round one of the AFL season. “I’m sure there wouldn’t be time for that,” the spokesperson said.
When asked whether the Storm had a detrimental effect on the ground, the spokesperson said: “I don’t think so at this point in time.”

Pagan blasts “undisciplined” Roos duo
North Melbourne midfielder David King will miss the Ansett Cup final should his team make it after adding a one-week suspension for misconduct to a one-match striking ban handed down the night before.
But Anthony Stevens, also suspended for one week on Tuesday night, escaped further time on the sidelines when he was fined A$3500 for bumping Collingwood doctor Paul Blackman, in an incident both Stevens and the doctor dismissed as a joke.
The penalties are likely to further anger Kangaroos coach Denis Pagan, who publicly criticised the pair at a training session on Wednesday afternoon, calling them petulant and undisciplined and accusing them of putting the financially stricken club under unnecessary pressure.
Pagan revealed that he had spoken to both players to convey his disappointment and then said that their absences had jeopardised much of the planning that has gone into the club’s pre-season.
“I just think it was really undisciplined and petulant,” Pagan said. “It’s not the publicity we want at the place. It’s not the role-model example to set about the place. So we’re very disappointed.”
Pagan said that on a practical level, the financial reward for a win in the first Ansett Cup semi-final, against Port Adelaide, was something not to be dismissed at Arden St and yet the loss of the two decorated and senior midfielders had weakened the team’s chances of reaching the final for a second successive year. “A win on Friday night is probably worth A$90,000 to the club, which is good money we’re talking about.”
King and Stevens created club history by appearing on tribunal hearing on consecutive nights.
King was suspended for two weeks on Tuesday night after the tribunal ruled that while contact he made with Collingwood runner Peter Harrington during Saturday night’s match was accidental, it was unnecessarily rough. King was charged with making contact with Harrington after being interviewed at length by AFL investigations officer Rick Lewis on Monday afternoon.
Tribunal chairman Brian Collis ruled that one of the weeks could be served concurrently with the Tuesday night penalty, which saw King rubbed out for one week for striking Magpie Andrew Dimmattina. The Roos said they would not appeal David King’s two-game suspension.
King told the tribunal that while he now understood his collision with Harrington during the first quarter of Saturday night’s match was accidental, he thought at the time he had been deliberately hit, or “picked off”, by the runner. “At the time I certainly felt that something had happened that wasn’t on,” said King, who said he grabbed Harrington by the collar and pushed him in an attempt to get him “out of my space”.
Harrington told the tribunal he was running with his head down, reading a message he had to deliver to Collingwood forward Anthony Rocca, when he was “cleaned up”. “I was basically attacked,” he said.
Stevens was strongly supported by the evidence of Blackman, who told the tribunal he had known the player on a professional and social level since working with the Kangaroos in 1994. He said he fell forward after being bumped while attending to winded Collingwood captain Nathan Buckley but that, when he turned to see a smile on Stevens’ face, he laughed the episode off. “If you could see my facial expression (on the video) it would be patantly clear that we were having a bit of a lend of each other,” Blackman said.
Reading from a prepared statement, Stevens said that after suffering an almost fatal accident last year when a falling shard of glass slashed his face and neck, he had an appreciation of the work done by doctors and nurses. Had the situation with Buckley looked more serious, said Stevens, he would not have interfered with Blackman at all.
The tribunal said that while Stevens was not malicious and had not intended to intimidate Blackman, he had nonetheless behaved inappropriately. By suspending both King and Stevens, the tribunal sent a clear message to players not to make any contact with officials from opposition teams.
On Monday night, King was suspended for one match after pleading guilty to striking Magpie defender Andrew Dimattina. Stevens received his one-game suspension for striking Magpie captain Nathan Buckley. The Roo pleaded not guilty. Both would miss the Kangaroos’ Ansett Cup semi-final against Port Adelaide at Football Park on Friday night.
At the same hearing, Richmond skipper Wayne Campbell was cleared of charging Fremantle recruit Daniel Metropolis, after the tribunal ruled the contact made was reasonable, given that the football was in genuine dispute.
King pleaded guilty to pushing Dimattina at a boundary throw-in during the third quarter of the match against Collingwood, but said that it wasn’t a “spiteful” swipe and that he didn’t realise he would make contact so high.
“I threw my arm back to hit him in the chest so I could get first across to the ball,” he said. “I knew as soon as I did it that it would be a free kick. I didn’t think it would be a report but, looking at the video, it doesn’t look too flattering.”
Dimattina, who said he felt contact to the chin during the incident, said he, too, was surprised that the contact came as high as it did.
The tribunal agreed with King’s assessment that the contact looked considerably worse on video than it would have been when the incident occurred.
Stevens, who pleaded not guilty to striking Buckley in the stomach, argued that he had pushed, rather than struck, the Collingwood captain and that any more serious contact made was incidental.
Stevens, who tagged Buckley for most of the Kangaroos’ 28-point win, said he was trying to keep him from smothering the kick of teammate Scott Clayton, who was clearing the ball from defence. “I just tried to grab him, pull him or block him from going to the contest,” he said.
Buckley said that while he wasn’t expecting contact, he was winded for only a couple of minutes, and able to run the match out.
Earlier, Campbell escaped suspension after arguing that had Metropolis turned his body side on while hovering over the ball, as he expected he would, hardly any contact would have been made.
Metropolis, who left the ground concussed after the incident, said he could not remember the incident.

Roos players not paid
AFL chief executive Wayne Jackson has intervened in North Melbourne’s player payment problems. Jackson, who has been holding regular talks since last November with the club’s chairman Andrew Carter over the financial crisis, confirmed that he was expecting a briefing from the Kangaroos’ chief on Tuesday.
“I’ve spoken to Andrew Carter and I’ve spoken to (AFL Players Association chief executive) Rob Kerr,” Jackson said. “I’ll be speaking to Andrew Carter again after a senior management meeting at the Kangaroos.”
Jackson is believed to have expressed his disappointment to Carter that the Kangaroos had not yet settled their player payments.
The depth of North Melbourne’s financial crisis intensified this week when it was revealed that the club had not yet paid at least five of its 2001 draft picks and still owed significant amounts to a small group of its senior players for performances last season.
Several influential player agents have demanded immediate resolutions to their footballers’ financial dues. Ricky Nixon, who manages six of the Kangaroos’ rookies including Daniel Motlop, Daniel Pratt and Dylan Smith, met the Kangaroos’ chief executive Greg Miller on Monday and received assurances that his draft players would be paid.
The AFL Players Association is believed to be losing patience with both the Kangaroos and the AFL, having called for talks two weeks ago to resolve the matter. The association was made aware of the Kangaroos’ ongoing payment problems in late February following a regular meeting with the players.
AFLPA chief executive Rob Kerr said talks between the three parties should have been held before now. Several senior players are believed to have approached the association concerned about late payments.
The Kangaroos’ 324-game veteran John Blakey, an AFL life member, is one player the club has not yet come to terms with for 2000. He was one who approached the AFLPA on behalf of himself and several teammates last month. However, Carter said that Blakey had received a cheque from the club on Monday, covering work performed off-field for the club last season.
It was revealed last November that a group of Kangaroos players were still owed a collective six-figure sum for their performances last season, a debt played down at the time by Miller and the AFL. Both the league and the North Melbourne administration pledged that all players would be paid in full by Christmas, a pledge that has not yet been fulfilled despite several cash advances delivered by Kangaroos directors and a guarantee by the AFL to redirect the club’s dividend to its bank.
Complications compounded by changes to the fringe benefits tax have seen the Kangaroos promise its senior players that all unpaid monies would be settled by March 31. However several senior players are believed to be losing patience with the club.
While Nixon refused to comment, he was reportedly disappointed upon learning last week that the club’s debut teenagers, some of whom will earn only the minimum annual sum of A$25,000, had not been paid at all and had turned to their families for money since starting the pre-season with the Kangaroos.
Carter denied that any player was owed money from last season. He said that the money owed to the Kangaroos’ rookies was insignificant and had been delayed due to a misunderstanding, but added: “I’m waiting for more information.”
Kerr said he was disappointed that a meeting between the three parties - the Kangaroos, the AFL and the AFLPA - had not been called following the association’s concern at the situation more than two weeks ago.
He was assured by Jackson that the AFL, a co-signatory to all player contracts, would demand a full explanation and payment resolution from the Kangaroos. Under AFL rules, the association demands that all players receive five-twelfths of their annual pay by March 31.
The AFL has already ensured that the Kangaroos could extend their bank overdraft by guaranteeing that their next dividend payment would be directed immediately to the bank debt.
The club lost A$1.14 million last season and Carter recently told his players that the proposed redevelopment of Arden Street had been placed on hold.
Two weeks ago, Carter met Jackson and AFL chairman Ron Evans as part of his briefing agreement with the league. He said that the AFL had been “enormously supportive” of the Kangaroos’ financial situation.
Carter is believed to have elaborated during those talks on his club’s belief that it had been disadvantaged by the draw in recent seasons.

McGuane painting lost and found
Melbourne police said they were continuing their investigations into the theft of a life-sized portrait of Collingwood hero Mick McGuane that turned up at Channel Nine on Thursday night.
Police said they expected to charge two men, 18 and 21, both of Melbourne’s inner eastern suburb of Camberwell.
But police said they were still upset over Channel Nine’s actions. Victoria Police spokesman Kevin Loomes said the network did not contact police when the painting was recovered, despite initially asking for police help.
The painting, stolen sometime last weekend from AFL House, was shown on the popular Footy Show (on its eighth year) along with the man responsible for its return.
North Kew Football Club player Tom Maule said on the show he went to a house and picked up the painting after speaking to the person who stole it. “I was at football training and a bloke said he knocked off the painting and he wanted to return it,” he said.
The man apparently wanted to sneak in the stadium to see an Ansett Cup match but failed, so he tried other ways to get in. He arrived at AFL House on the western side of the stadium, saw the painting and took it off the wall, Maule told the audience.
A police spokesman declined to say whether Maule would be asked to make a statement, and said investigations were ongoing. “The painting is safe and we will be making further inquiries this morning,” Senior Constable Rob Pugh said.
The one-off painting, by Melbourne artist Lewis Miller, was said by Footy Show presenter and Collingwood president Eddie Maguire to be worth more than A$40,000. The painting is one of the 12 pieces displayed in the AFL’s centenary art collection that was commissioned in 1996.
It details a scene from Collingwood’s 1994 elimination final against the West Coast Eagles in Perth, which turned out to be the crucial turning point in the history of both clubs. It showed the former midfielder, looking into the sun, spilling a chest mark in the dying moments of the Pies’ two-point loss to the Eagles in the WACA Ground match. Had McGuane grabbed the ball and kicked a goal, history might well be rewritten. The Eagles went on to win their second premiership in three years.
McGuane and then West Coast captain John Worsfold had an angry confrontation after the game, when Worsfold reacted to McGuane’s constant taunting with the sledge: “Bad luck, anejoy the off season.”
AFL chief executive Wayne Jackson said on Wednesday: “We are extremely disappointed that this painting has been stolen. It is a one-off piece. The painting is irreplaceable and both the AFL and the Collingwood Football Club are very keen for it to be returned.” McGuane himself also appealed to the thief to return the painting.
After the painting was returned by police to the AFL House, Jackson said the league would step up security to stop more valuable football memorabilia being stolen.
McGuane was an integral part of Collingwood’s drought-breaking premiership in 1990. He played 152 games with the Pies and three with Carlton before retiring in 1998. The 33-year-old is probably best remembered for his seven-bounce run and goal from the centre of the MCG in 1994.

Fletcher the A$1.3 million man
Essendon full-back Dustin Fletcher has agreed to terms on a new contract that will make him one of the most expensive defenders in football. Fletcher, the club’s best and fairest last year, as well as an All-Australian full-back, settled on a new deal for seasons 2002 to 2004 that is believed to be worth almost A$1.3 million.
The deal means that the dual premiership player, who was contracted until the end of this season after negotiating a one-year extension last year, will be tied to the Dons until his 29th birthday at the least. It also elevates him to the financial league of Glen Jakovich (West Coast) and Justin Leppitsch (Brisbane) who, until now, have been the two highest-paid defenders in the AFL. Jakovich signed a three-year, A$1.2-million deal with West Coast on Tuesday (see below).
Essendon also struck deals this week with premiership players Mark Johnson and Paul Barnard, both of whom agreed to a further two seasons after 2001.
With almost half of the Essendon list out of contract at the end of this season - including full-forward Matthew Lloyd and 1999 best-and-fairest Mark Mercuri – the three agreements amounted to significant headway in securing valued players.
“We’ve still got a few (to sign) but we’re obviously happy to have those players contracted and committed to the club long-term,” said Essendon chief executive Peter Jackson, who added that negotiations with Lloyd had been “productive”.
Fletcher’s manager, Top Dog management chief executive Michael Quinlan, said that both Fletcher and Essendon had been keen to commit to a longer deal rather than another short-term arrangement.
“Dustin was always happy to continue at Essendon. He’s had a terrific career there so far and believes that the prospects for future success at Essendon are strong,” Quinlan said. “Provided his worth to the team was acknowledged by Essendon, then it was going to get done.”
Jackson had also indicated earlier that with television rights revenue set out for the next five years, a return to longer-term contracts was possible.
Quinlan, who also manages Barnard and Johnson, said preliminary discussions on the Fletcher deal were held before Christmas but were quickly finalised in recent weeks.

Jakovich re-signs for three years
West Coast defender Glen Jakovich signed a new contract on Wednesday that will tie him to the club until the end of 2003, but declared he could play on for at least another five years.
The contract, which is believed to be worth about A$400,000 a year, will ensure the dual premiership player remains one of the highest paid at the club. Its signing comes just a month after the four-time club champion was overlooked for the captaincy. But he said the role was not an issue during the negotiations, which began in October.
“I have been overwhelmed by the public support, the polls and all that,” Jakovich, 27, said. “But the club made a decision (on the captaincy) for the better of the football club. I am not disappointed I did not get it. To a certain extent I would have loved it, but I was not the man for the job.
“I can’t jump up and down and say I am disappointed when I am not. I am happy for the two guys they have chosen (Dean Kemp and Ben Cousins), they are worthy men for the job.”
Jakovich, who said he had never spoken to another club, said it had been important to lock the deal away before the start of the AFL season. His last contract negotiations were conducted in the middle of the season and became a very public issue, which adversely affected his form.
Jakovich said he was keen to finish his career with one club. “I have always been a traditionalist and have always been very patriotic to this football club,” he said. “It has helped me both on and off the football field with things like when my father passed away and my knee injury.
“I have been here since I was 16 and it has basically been my home and I am pretty proud of that.”
West Coast chief executive Trevor Nisbett said he hoped the club’s younger players would “learn by Glen’s commitment, because it is unquestionably outstanding”.
Jakovich resumed against the Crows in Adelaide on Saturday evening in a practice game.

Father-son draft rule under threat
The father-son rule, one of the few traditions left in football, will come under renewed scrutiny this year as the AFL looks for ways to have an uncompromised player draft.
Among other things, there will be a push from South Australia and Western Australia to have the rule made fairer to all clubs. Some officials from those states have suggested that clubs taking a player under the father-son rule should lose more than a second-round pick.
Their concerns will be raised before an AFL draft-review working party, chaired by football operations manager Andrew Demetriou.
Collingwood football manager Neil Balme is one who believes the father-son rule may go. “My prediction would be that it’ll go rather than stay,” he said. “Not that I’m saying it should ... but that’s my prediction.
“While on the one hand we can see why it’s probably not a bad idea to maintain some of these traditional things, it’s very hard to manage and very hard to make it fair.”
Since the birth of the national competition, the AFL has had the problem of making the father-son rule fair for all clubs when it was born out of the old VFL. The father-son rule can be used when a club wants to draft a player simply his father or grandfather has played at least 50 games with a club. For example, David Sierakowski was picked by St Kilda because his father, Brian, played with the club in the 1960s and was part of its 1966 premiership side.
Clubs in WA and SA have been able to claim a player if the father played one game in his respective state competition before chalking up 50 with a VFL/AFL club.
But West Coast has been the only team to benefit from the rule. In 1989 it picked up Ashley McIntosh because his father John had played in the WAFL before going to St Kilda. And in 1995 the Eagles claimed another emerging star, Ben Cousins, whose father Brian had also played in the WAFL before going to Geelong.
While Fremantle, Adelaide and Port Adelaide have all yet to gain a player using the rule, it is the two Adelaide clubs which are the most disadvantaged. Unlike Western Australians, not many South Australians played in the VFL in the 1970s.
Dockers football manager Gerard McNeill said his club hadn’t finalised its position on the draft or father-son rule. “Traditionally, we believe if you’re going to have a draft it should be totally uncompromised ... I can’t see that view changing,” he said.
Adelaide football manager John Reid, a member of the draft working party, said he couldn’t comment on the father-son rule. But he confirmed that Adelaide, which doesn’t expect to benefit from the rule for 15 years, still had a view that it was not equitable for all clubs. “The general concept of father-son is good because it’s sort of tradition in the game,” Reid said. “There is nothing better than to see a kid play for the club where dad played. But you can’t have that unless it’s fair for all clubs.”
Port Adelaide football manager Rob Snowdon said it was more difficult for SA and WA clubs to benefit from the father-son rule because the player had to qualify through two outlets.

Footy fans alienated by commercialisation, says academic
Aussie Rules will become just another TV sport unless efforts are made to maintain strong links with faithful fans, says a researcher of Melbourne’s Monash University.
Dr David Nadel said the “tribal” element of AFL had kept the game alive. “Football is seen as a product. A lot of it is sound business sense, but things like spirit and culture are hard to quantify,” he said. “You cut that off, it potentially weakens the game.”
Dr Nadel’s thesis, “The commercialisation and professionalisation of Australian football, 1975-1996”, examines the impact commercialisation has had on football, from the television to the closing of suburban grounds. (The years chosen are significant: 1975 marked the first broadcast of VFL matches in colour, while 1996 saw the VFL/AFL’s centenary year and the end of Fitzroy, one of the eight foundation clubs of the VFL.)
Dr Nadel said moving games from venues such as Footscray’s Whitten Oval and Collingwood’s Victoria Park, in favour of the MCG and Colonial Stadium, negatively affected the game.
For the game to survive, Dr Nadel recommended a modified form of zoning be reintroduced, ties between AFL and local leagues be strengthened, and positions on the AFL commission be created for community representatives.
He concluded: “The risk is not that it (Aussie Rules) will totally disappear, the risk is it will become a minor sport.”

Saint Laura signs up
Former world No.1 female golfer Laura Davies has been made St Kilda’s “No.1 Great Britain ticketholder” - a title she can place alongside her Member of the British Empire gong when she gets her new letterhead printed.
37-year-old Davies was in Melbourne this week for the Women’s Australian Open. The Englishwoman became the Saints’ latest off-season recruit after she spoke to officials last weekend and told them of her growing interest in the club. She said she loved watching football on television in Britain and was drawn to St Kilda several years ago by the club’s tri-colors.
“I like the game – it’s nice and rough,” she said. “I know St Kilda was in the grand final a few years ago, I saw that on TV in England. Now I’ve got a real interest in the club, I’ll be watching them even more.”
Before teeing off in the Australian Open pro-am on Wednesday, Davies was presented with a Saints scarf by Nathan Burke and former Fremantle player Mark Gale, a three-handi-capper who is the son of Australian golfing veteran Terry Gale.
On Saturday night, Davies headed off to Colonial Stadium to watch Brisbane play Hawthorn in the Ansett Cup semi-final. “Unfortunately, it’s not these boys playing,” she said, pointing to Burke and Gale. “But I’m looking forward to it. Apparently, it’s quite different to watching it on TV.”
The larger-than-life Davies is a sports nut who, if not participating in some game or other, can usually be found watching it on television. She follows Liverpool in the English Premier League and once created a minor storm by extracting a small television from her golf bag during a Japanese tournament to watch a World Cup match.
Davies finished third behind Karrie Webb and Rachel Hetherington at the Australian Open last year and missed the cut at the Australian Ladies Masters last week.

Charles ordered to train harder or get out
St Kilda has given reluctant forward Sean Charles a blunt ultimatum: perform or get out.
The 25-year-old was this week suspended by the Saints, his third AFL club, for the next month by a disciplinary committee after breaching his playing contract.
It is believed that Charles had been warned earlier this year before Wednesday’s suspension by the five-man committee of coach Malcolm Blight, president Ron Butterss, football director Grant Thomas, chief executive Jim Watts and football manager Brian Waldron.
Charles has failed to attend several training sessions and the situation was finally brought to a head by the revamped club, which has pledged to be more open and transparent.
Waldron said the four-week suspension was a result of Charles’ constant failure to comply with the Saints’ training requirements. “Throughout this four-week period, Sean will undertake an intense training program to fast-track his fitness that will ensure it is to a standard appropriate to play AFL football,” Waldron said. “Over the past month the club has been working in conjunction with the AFL Players Association representatives Coyne Didebury and Sean’s management group, Elite Sport Properties, to assist Sean manage these compliance issues.
“Despite his difficulties, Sean has expressed a willingness to continue with the club. He does, however, understand that there are compliance issues in place that are non-negotiable.”
Charles won’t play during his club suspension, but will train with his teammates, as well as doing extra sessions six days a week.
Since Blight’s appointment last year, Charles is the third player the club has had to publicly take a stance against. Peter Everitt and Justin Peckett were both given counselling for alcohol-related incidents.
Charles made his AFL debut with Melbourne in 1992 and played 47 games in six seasons. He joined Carlton in 1998 but played just one game for the Blues after breaking his leg. He was sacked by the Blues for failing to attend 1999 pre-season training. He then played for Woorinen, near Swan Hill, before being a shock nomination for the 2000 pre-season draft when he was recruited by St Kilda.

*St Kilda recruits Fraser Gehrig and Steven Lawrence have completed their first full training sessions with teammates since joining the club late last year.
Gehrig and Lawrence, both snared as out-of-contract players during the trading period, have had seriously interrupted pre-seasons with knee and groin injuries respectively and had been confined to running until Friday afternoon.
They were able to kick the ball for the first time and, according to StKilda football manager Brian Waldron, should play for Springvale the Saints’ VFL club in the last weekend before the season, when there are no practice matches.
*Hawthorn would be without key player Trent Croad for this weekend’s Ansett Cup semi-final against Brisbane because of an ankle injury.
Croad had X-rays on his left ankle this week to check for further damage, after which he was given the all-clear. The ankle had been badly bruised during the Hawks’ comprehensive win over Melbourne at the weekend, when he landed on an opponent’s foot in a marking contest during the second quarter.
Croad’s ankle would be treated with ice and physiotherapy but the bruising was severe enough that Croad will probably miss up to two weeks with the injury. This meant Croad could possibly miss the final of the Ansett Cup should Hawthorn make it through.
*Sydney suffered a triple injury disaster yesterday (Saturday) to reduce its impressive practice match victory over Collingwood in Newcastle to a meaningless statistic.
Ryan Fitzgerald, seen as part of the answer to the Swans’ forward problems, ruptured a cruciate ligament in his left knee and is out for the season. Veteran Dale Lewis broke his arm for the third time in a simple marking contest halfway through the first term, and would be out of action for 10 weeks. And youngster Ben Fixter has a possible broken leg.
Seven unanswered goals in the second quarter gave the Swans a 32-point lead at the main break and set up their comfortable 14.9 (93) to 11.10 (76) win.
*Sydney captain Paul Kelly had a scan, which revealed a grade-one tear to his hamstring. He will go through rehabilitation and the club expects him to be ready for the opening round of the home-and-away season. Kelly, who missed most of last season with a fractured kneecap, suffered the injury after just eight minutes of the Ansett Cup match against Essendon in Canberra last Saturday week.
*Port Adelaide forward Brendon Lade had vowed to return to AFL football next season. Lade’s right leg cracked in a mid-air collision with teammate Che Cockatoo-Collins in the Ansett Cup match against Geelong last Saturday week (“The break is about 2cm down from the other break and is just very unfortunate,” said he). It was Lade’s first game since suffering a double fracture to the same leg against Fremantle at Football Park on March 18 last year.
Lade, who had a rod inserted in his shattered leg at Melbourne’s Prahran Hospital on Tuesday night, has been buoyed by visits from Essendon captain James Hird and former Adelaide ruckman Shaun Rehn, now at Hawthorn. They spoke to Lade about the effect of long-term injuries and how best to overcome the adversity, having both fought back from career-threatening leg injuries.
Lade said he had come to terms with his injury and would begin rehabilitation immediately with a view to playing next year. He has also decided to accept a cadetship in TV reporting with Channel Nine Adelaide, a timely grab considering the network will have the AFL footy rights from next year.
*Western Bulldogs’ deputy vice-captain Scott West has conceded time is running out for the Dogs. After four fruitless finals campaigns in as many years, West said it is time for the Bulldogs to end their 47-year premiership drought. “You get that window of opportunity and you just hope it doesn’t close on you,” he said. “We probably need to do it (win a premiership) soon.”
*Ansett Australia Airlines is expected to take up sponsorship of the AFL’s rookie-of-the-year award, known previously as the Norwich Union AFL Rising Star.
Financial institution Norwich has withdrawn from the award it initiated with the league in 1993 when Nathan Buckley, as a Brisbane rookie, was recognised as the AFL’s most-talented young player. It is believed that a review of Norwich’s Australian operations after the company’s merger with fellow British insurance firm CGU prompted the withdrawal.
Ansett, which already sponsors the AFL’s pre-season competition (since 1995) and flies all AFL teams, is touted as the new sponsor of the award that has given a A$20,000 investment portfolio to the winner. An announcement is expected from the AFL next week.
*Geelong has adopted a real DIY approach to spreading the gospel. In what could at the very least
be described as innovative, the club’s marketing department wants fans to do their work … and at no small risk to life or limb, going on suggestions on the club’s website. As part of the Fighting with All Our Might campaign, Cats fans are being asked to earn some publicity for their beloved club. To quote the club’s website:
“That could mean getting one of the new membership posters with the Cats eyes on national television. Or it could mean making your own banner and hanging it off the West Gate Bridge (in Melbourne), or the Harbour Bridge in Sydney, or the Storey Bridge in Brisbane, or London Bridge, or the Golden Gate (in San Francisco).” The prize for going out on such a limb: a day at the footy as a guest of retired Cat and funnyman Billy Brownless.
Geelong also continues to wait for oil giant Shell on whether it wants to retain the naming rights at its home ground next year. The company has until June to decide and submit terms to the Cats for one of AFL’s eight remaining venues.

Finally, Gary “Herbie” Gazelle, the AFL’s second-longest employee, is retiring from the league after 19 years of service. The one-time caretaker who became office mailman (at 50, he’s hardly a “mail boy”) has become somewhat of a legend, because he saw off a president, a chief commissioner and a couple of commission chairmen. However, it’s also because of some of the stories that staff tell, including one that during an after-grand final barbecue a gust of wind whipped up the flames and his hairpiece caught alight.
Herbie once also used to boast that not only did he work at the league but he was even “above Jack Hamilton (then VFL commissioner) and Allen Aylett (then VFL president),” which was quite true because his caretaker office at the old VFL House in Jolimont was atop their offices.
Herbie is quitting to dedicate all his time to his cleaning business, but if the truth be known it’s probably because he has given up all hope of becoming the league’s longest employee. That title belongs to ground operations manager Jill Lindsay, who this year chalks up year No.31 and is still going strong.

Ansett Cup semi-final results
Port Adelaide will meet Brisbane Lions in the 2001 Ansett Australia Cup Grand Final after close victories on the weekend. Either team will become the first non-Victorian team to win the night series and/or pre-season competition, since Sydney beat North Melbourne at Waverley Park to win the 1983 Escort Cup.
Star ruckman Corey McKernan suffered what appeared to be a minor knee injury as North Melbourne lost to Port Adelaide for the first time ever to exit the Ansett Cup with a 16-point defeat in the Ansett Cup first semi final in Adelaide’s Football Park.
The Power won 15.12 (102) to 13.8 (86), pulling clear with the first five goals of the final quarter after trailing by three points at the final change to remain unbeaten heading into next week’s pre-season grand final.
Defenders Fabian Francis and Michael Wilson provided plenty of run for Port and Francis also kicked two sensational second half goals, one a torpedo punt from well inside the centre square that went sailing through the middle from about 70 metres to start the third quarter.
Adam Kingsley and Roger James were valuable in the midfield, while Che Cockatoo-Collins was lively up forward and former skipper Gavin Wanganeen was damaging with four goals.
And consistent defender Darren Mead did a superb blanketing job on Kangaroos skipper Wayne Carey, keeping him to just one kick, one mark and two handballs before he went to the bench midway through the third quarter.
The game was free flowing, with both sides giving each others midfielders plenty of space to rack up possessions.
Kangaroos speedster Brent Harvey made the most of it early with 13 damaging touches before half-time, although he had less impact in the final term. Harvey was also reported for interfering with an umpire in the third quarter, while Port’s Wilson was reported for abusive language.
Shannon Grant was also in strong form and young midfielder Daniel Harris showed plenty of glimpses of class.
Saverio Rocca was another good performer for the Kangaroos, kicking two quality goals before half-time, both from strong leading marks to be his side’s only multiple goal kicker.
The big concern for the Kangaroos was McKernan, who was limping after he got a knock to the knee in the opening term as he was smothered while attempting a kick. But he stayed on the ground and returned for the start of the second quarter before being permanently benched and going to the rooms with a bandage on his knee.
Kangaroos coach Denis Pagan said McKernan had wrenched his knee and would have a scan tomorrow in Melbourne to assess the extent of the damage. He said Carey was also suffering from general soreness and had suffered a kick in the calf muscle and was likely to be rested from next week’s practice match against Fremantle.

Port Adelaide 4.4 7.7 9.9 15.12 (102)
North Melbourne 4.3 7.4 10.6 13.8 (86)
GOALS: Port Adelaide: G.Wanganeen 4, P.Burgoyne 2, C.Cornes 2, F.Francis 2, S.Paxman 2, C.Cockatoo-Collins 1, S.Dew 1, M.Primus 1. North Melbourne: G.Archer 2, S.Grant 2, S.Rocca 2, S.Cochrane 1, D.Harris 1, B.Harvey 1, A.Lange 1, S.Motlop 1, D.Petrie 1, D.Smith 1
BEST: Port Adelaide: F.Francis, R.James, M.Wilson, D.Mead, G.Wanganeen, C.Cockatoo-Collins. North Melbourne: B.Harvey, S.Grant, J.Blakey, D.Harris, A.Simpson, S.Rocca.
INJURIES: Port Adelaide: none. North Melbourne: C.McKernan (jarred knee), W.Carey (calf)
ATTENDANCE: 18,516 at Football Park.

Brisbane Lions buried its Melbourne AFL finals hoodoo and booked a berth in the Ansett Cup grand final with a stunning comeback win over Hawthorn in the semi-final at Colonial Stadium last night.
The Lions had appeared to have blown a good early lead when, with several key players injured, they allowed Hawthorn to lead deep into the final term. Somehow, showing enormous resolve, Brisbane rallied to kick the final four goals and win 14.10 (94) to 12.7 (79).
Brisbane dominated the first term, and by kicking the opening goal of the second quarter, put the team 27 points ahead and seemingly on the way to victory. However, Hawthorn rallied as the excitement and standard of the match reached levels that made a mockery of its pre-season status.
The Hawks trailled by just two goals at the main break, when they took the highly unusual step of swapping the garish Ansett Cup gold jumper for the traditional brown and gold stripes, and when scores were level at the final change, it was set for thrilling finish.
Tim Clarke, who played a great match as a Hawks rookie, goalled at the 11-minute mark of the final term to give the Hawks an 11-point lead. And with Lions playmaker Michael Voss still trying to shake off the effect of a head-knock and his team looking disjointed, Hawthorn appeared home.
Nigel Lappin goalled on the run soon afterward, and then Clark Keating soared for a towering mark and goal that swung the initiative to put the Lions in front again.
Justin Leppitsch marked at the back of a pack to goal and Lappin goalled on the run just a minute before the siren to cap a famous victory.

Hawthorn 1.1 6.5 10.7 12.7 (79)
Brisbane Lions 4.4 8.5 10.7 14.10 (94)
GOALS: Hawthorn: B.Dixon 3, N.Thompson 2, T.Hazell 1, B.Johnson 1, A.Lord 1, S.Rehn 1, A.Rock 1. Brisbane: D.Cupido 2, N.Lappin 2, L.Power 2, S.Black 1, D.Bradshaw 1, C.Keating 1, J.Leppitsch 1, A.Lynch 1, C.Scott 1, M.Voss 1, D.White 1.
BEST: Hawthorn: S.Rehn, J.Barker, M.Graham, S.Crawford, N.Thompson. Brisbane: M.Voss, M.Pike, D.White, N.Lappin, C.Scott, R.Hadley
INJURIES: Hawthorn: S.Rehn (cut eye). Brisbane: D.White (groin), S.Hart (foot).
ATTENDANCE: 15,866 at Colonial Stadium.

Next Saturday night’s grand final will be the first of any sort played in the AFL not involving a Victorian-based side, and the first night series decider to be played outside Melbourne since the concept was revived in 1977.

That's all for today. A final note: as a Hawthorn fan, I praise their effort in the Ansett Cup semi-final. But if this year's Ansett Cup is a good indicator as in last year's (when the same four teams: Essendon, Melbourne, North Melbourne and Carlton) reached the final four of the Ansett Cup AND the preliminary finals in September, then Victorian teams will have a hard time this season.

See you next week.


Johnson Leung

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