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Jake King: Tiger tough

Centre of attention: Jake King has his say at Tiger training. Photo: Paul RovereRichmond’s Jake ‘Push Up’ King has been integral to the Tiger resurgence. But he wants more.

MATTHEW LLOYD: How would you rate the Tigers’ start to the season?

JAKE KING: Four and three you’ll take it because you are in the positive, but we still have a lot of things we need to work on … as long as we keep improving we’ll be happy.

What were your expectations at the start of the season?

It’s always a funny one when people ask that, because if you say you don’t want to play finals, you’re kidding yourself. So every team wants to play finals football. I guess for us we needed to improve on last year and to improve then we have to play finals; and as a group we believe we’re good enough and we’re ready to take that next step.

What did you make of the criticism directed towards Jack Riewoldt, Brett Deledio and Trent Cotchin leading into the Port Adelaide game?

With all AFL footballers, they’ve all got a big ego and when you don’t play to the standards that you believe that you’re capable of playing, you get very upset. The boys were just disappointed. And I guess as their teammate, you’re OK with that because they’re only going to get better and they’re only going to bounce back the next week. I didn’t have a problem with them showing their emotions or feelings.

How much was the Age article written by Robert Walls mentioned among the boys?

I think Jack brought it up at the start and wasn’t too impressed. But we all had a bit of a laugh about it, you know, it’s someone’s opinion and so be it. The thing is that it’s not about sitting and dwelling on that one week of football and the boys were just rapt that they could actually stick it up him a little bit.

You were ranked 18 for tackling. Was that something Damien Hardwick made a focus of leading into the match?

Yeah, it was. We’ve always said that we have to get our competitiveness up a hell of a lot, and a lot of people judge it all on competitive footy and contested possessions but tackling’s also a big part of it. It’s something that we’re going to continue to work on because we want to be known as one of those ferocious sides like the Tigers of old.

On the subject of your coach, how would you describe Dimma?

He’s a ripper, to be honest. He’s one of the boys when it’s not football, but in saying that, when push comes to shove, he’s the boss and he makes that clear. Dimma’s a big believer that to have a strong football club, you must have good people, and he’s really driving that, and I think he’s doing an outstanding job.

Do you think he sees a bit of himself in you?

I’ve never asked him, to be honest. Everything that relates to me and him I’m a bit worried because he gets a bit nasty and tells me to go away.

You didn’t make your debut until you were 23. Tell me about your football journey before then.

Growing up during under 18s football, I kept hearing that I wasn’t good enough, I wasn’t tall enough, skills weren’t clean enough, so for me it just drove me further and made me compete even harder. From 16 to 18 I was getting told I wasn’t good enough for under 18s footy, which hurt. I then went back to playing local football at North Heidelberg and I had a lot of good people around me. I had Robbie Powell, Jason Heatley and I had my brother and my uncle sitting there helping me out as much as they could with my local footy. I was just lucky enough that Essendon’s recruiting manager Adrian Dodoro rang me when I was 21 after we won the grand final and said ‘come down and do a pre-season’. I went down and did the pre-season with the Bombers and then I got told that I was probably a little bit too old for them but I had to take the next step and play VFL the following year. I was lucky enough that Coburg took me in, and Andrew Collins pretty much started my career there and helped me out enormously, and I was lucky enough to then get a chance as a rookie at the Tigers.

You’re a plumber by trade, was playing AFL something you wanted from a young age?

I guess it’s always someone’s dream but when you get told that you’re not good enough and you’re not going to make it, it’s a bit of a kick

in the guts … Most people wouldn’t dream of being drafted at the age of 22 and I guess when that happened for me, things took a turn for the better. When I had to choose between digging a hole and kicking a footy, it was a pretty easy decision.

In your first three years at Richmond you played 41 games for eight wins, three draws and 30 losses. It must have been tough going in the back pocket during that time?

Yeah, it was quite difficult. Although we didn’t win many games, we were very tight and the boys always stuck together. We had good leadership in Kane Johnson, Troy Simmonds, Nathan Brown and

Matthew Richardson who were always up and about and making the boys laugh. There wasn’t a day where you’d think that you didn’t want to be there. We were hurting but the players are like a second family, so we stuck it out, which was good.

Is 2013 the most confident you have been in the Richmond playing group?

I guess so, yeah. When you’re playing, you can have all the skill in the world and you can go out there and be as fit as you can possibly be, and we believe we’ve had those things over the last couple of years. The next biggest one is belief – and that the boys have a strong belief of what’s in front of them, and what

they can achieve. Richmond’s a good place to be right now.

Tell me how your move to the forward line came about.

That was made by Jade Rawlings when he took over from Terry Wallace in 2009. Jade said he wanted me to play a defensive forward’s role on Sydney’s Rhyce Shaw. It was a real defensive role that I had to play and I ended up kicking a few goals, and I played there for Jade from that moment on. Then when Dimma Hardwick came as coach, he said, I like the way you go about your defensive work and continued to play me there.

You average two goals a game this year and you’ve laid the most

tackles inside forward 50 of any Tiger this season. You must be happy with your own form?

Yes I am, but in the end I just like winning as a team. It’s funny because one of my most enjoyable games was against the Bulldogs. I actually didn’t kick a goal in that game but we had won the previous two games so it was an important game for us to win. We had a game plan to beat them on the inside and it worked. The four points is more important to me than anything individual.

You’ve got a hard image and you’ve been suspended a fair few times but is it true that you’re very conscious of it now?

Definitely, as you get older you get a bit smarter and a bit more mature in the way you go about things. Everyone gets frustrated but I guess it’s just the way you’re channelling it, and I guess I’m learning to channel everything in the right way now. When you’re missing games it hurts the team and you start to realise that and you see it. I get frustrated just like anyone else, but you don’t see Trent Cotchin doing anything silly, or Dustin Martin or Brett Deledio, so why should Richmond accept it from someone like myself.

How do you think Trent Cotchin is handling the captaincy this year?

I think he’s stepped into it quite well. Chris Newman’s been outstanding helping him and was able to direct him in the pre-season, and Trent’s now taken the reins and he’s leading the way. His leadership with training has been outstanding, and then on game day he always stands up when he needs to, but then also verbally will let the boys know what he thinks. He’s got a good presence about him and the boys have huge respect for him.

You’ve captained a few NAB Cup games and practice games yourself. Is leadership something you want to be part of?

I believe that everyone’s a leader in their own way. My issue is that I hate meetings and I hate sitting down with paperwork and everything like that. But I love the physical training and I love helping out my teammates and trying to get the best out of them. So if I lead, I try and do it in the ways that I know best.

Is it true that you only ever eat steak and potatoes? So on the night before a game, everyone gets pasta, you get steak and potatoes?

Oh, I do have a bit of a weird diet. I do like my red meat, yes. But the night before a game I have been known to have a fair few steak and potatoes on the interstate trips. It’s just easier to cook and it fills the stomach so it makes me happy.

Where did the tag ‘the push-up king’ originate?

We did a gruelling boot camp several years ago with the SOG boys that a few clubs have used. We had to do a whole heap of push-ups and the winning team won Mars Bars and I think some soft drink. My team needed about 270 push ups to win and I was lucky enough to actually pump those push-ups out and ended up getting 303 and the boys ended up calling me ‘push-up’ after that. Then James Brayshaw took it to the next level.

How would you like to be remembered when your career’s done and dusted?

To be respected by the blokes that I’ve played with and all of the Richmond supporters. Also that no matter the circumstance, I always had my teammates back and that I was a hard-working, honest bloke, I guess.

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Goss: report showed less skin, more transparency

Australian sprinter Matt Goss has welcomed the report of an independent review into his Orica-GreenEDGE team’s anti-doping processes. He also said he found assisting the investigation was no different to undergoing a doping test, except ”they just see less of your body.”

”I’ve always been on teams with anti-doping systems. You are always under scrutiny. We are always being tested so answering a few questions is no different to doing a [drug] test, I guess … they just see less of your body,” Goss told Fairfax Media before Friday’s Giro d’Italia 13th stage, from Busseto to Cherasco.

The inquiry was launched late last year in the aftermath of the US Anti-Doping Agency’s findings in the case involving Lance Armstrong, who has been banned for life. It included evidence from former Orica-GreenEDGE head sports director Matt White, who admitted to doping as a rider.

White lost his job with Orica-GreenEDGE and also with Cycling Australia as the national men’s road team coach. He recently revealed an inquiry into his case by the Australian Sports Anti-Doping Authority ruled he be handed a six-month retroactive ban dating back to October 13. With the ban having expired on April 13, he was free to resume work in the sport, although his future at Orica-GreenEDGE hinged on the report by anti-doping expert Nicki Vance.

The findings have recommended he be reinstated to his position on the team, and that sport director Neil Stephens be kept on and not penalised for his involvement as a rider in the 1998 Festina doping scandal.

How many of the recommendations are actually implemented depends on a meeting between Vance and the team’s owner, Gerry Ryan, and general manager Shayne Bannan in Australia next week.

Despite the wait for Vance’s findings, Goss said he understood why the probe was carried out and lauded it as trouble-free for riders.

”If it makes the team a more respected team in the cycling community because of it, I’m happy to do it,” Goss said. ”It took a few minutes out of the day to talk to Nicki. Like all the [riders] on the team, I have nothing to hide, so it was no drama to talk to her. Hopefully it does some good in resolving the issue in the sport and gives another option of a team that they know is abiding by the rules.”

Goss is focused on trying to win a stage at the Giro, despite again missing out on the action in the 13th stage, which was won British sprinter Mark Cavendish (Sky), with Australian Brett Lancaster (Sky) fourth. But Goss knows with his recovery from a virus incomplete, and the Giro to finish in Brescia next Sunday, there are really only two more chances for him – stage 17, 214 kilometres from Carravagio to Vicenza, and stage 21 from Riese Pios X to Brescia over 197 kilometres. ”I’m not feeling that great, but I’m getting through,” he said.

Rupert Guinness is covering the Giro d’Italia as a guest of Eurosport.

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Brereton: time to tackle ‘blight on the game’

Angst about players buckling in tackles to ”stooge” umpires into paying free kicks resurfaced after West Coast’s dramatic win over North Melbourne.

Dermott Brereton has implored the AFL to stamp out what he described as a ”blight on the game”.

Confusion reigned over the free kick to Adam Selwood just before Nic Naitanui’s spectacular mark and after-the-siren goal won the game by two points on Friday night. Selwood appeared to fall backwards into his tackler to draw high contact.

The umpire said at the time he had paid the free kick because ”the second one was high, on the ground”. Brereton said if this was the case, the umpire had made an ”unforgivable” mistake.

AFL umpires’ boss Jeff Gieschen will not make a judgment on the decision until after he has viewed all available footage on Monday.

An earlier free kick to Luke Shuey, which allowed the Eagles to keep the ball in their forward arc, was paid when Shuey dropped forward from the knees, and an opponent crashed into his back.

Brereton said players could not be blamed for exploiting a loophole, saying he had done the same thing during his career. ”I disliked the fact that I did it. It meant that I didn’t have the creativity to get out of the situation so I would try to stooge the umpire. It was a get-out-of-jail card.

”You can’t blame someone for exploiting a loophole that is there. It’s up to the rule makers and the umpires’ department to become a cohesive unit and strike at the heart of this,” he said.

”I hope something can be done about it before next year because it’s an absolute blight on the game.”

The former Hawthorn star said the principle was no different to the one that underpins free kicks against players who have the ball and put their heads down to initiate contact with an opponent. ”Close the loophole,” he said. ”These rules are put in place to protect the ball carrier, and by slipping the tackle and flailing your arms out slightly, lowering your body and putting the tackler’s arms on your neck to gain a free kick, players are deliberately putting themselves in danger.”

North Melbourne coach Brad Scott did not blame umpires for the loss, the Kangaroos’ third defeat by four points or less this season.

”There were some mistakes that we made defensively as well. I don’t know if they were mistakes, the umpiring decisions,” Scott said.

”I will focus on our mistakes and let the umpires’ directors coach up their umpires.”

Last season, he turned the spotlight on the controversial tactic of ducking to elicit frees, but there was no subsequent change to the head-high interpretation.

”The onus is on the tackler to get as low as he can to make sure the tackle is legal,” Gieschen said in March.

Naitanui relived his leaping mark on Saturday morning, and revealed he was emotional afterwards because of a family tragedy. ”My girlfriend’s little cousin passed away. Being a young little baby it’s pretty sad. The funeral was yesterday.”

Still, he seized the moment. ”There was a pretty big pack. I think I was a few deep. I felt if there was a chance to go for the mark, to fly for it, I was going to do it. I just backed myself in.” He backed himself to kick the goal, too.

■ AFL Hall of Fame legend Kevin Bartlett insisted there was no reason for him to stand down from the laws of the game committee because of a perceived conflict of interest with his role as an outspoken radio host. ”Why would I do that?” he said on SEN.

A column by Age chief football writer Caroline Wilson said Bartlett had angered clubs and coaches by blurring the line between commentator and committeeman.

”I speak for myself, I’m not a sheep,” he said in response. ”When I’m on a committee I will give my opinion, and it can be agreed upon or not.”

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Kelly has an American dream

Excited: Rick Kelly is fulfilling a fantasy by racing his Nissan Altima at the Austin 400 and is hoping he can ”sneak into the top 10” . Photo: SuppliedThe only thing that could make former champion Rick Kelly happier than finally getting to race in the United States would be to score Nissan’s first V8 Supercars victory at the inaugural Austin 400.

It’s very unlikely because the Japanese car maker is early in its freshman year and still a long way from catching up to Ford and Holden, which have dominated for 20 years.

But while he faces another character-testing struggle to threaten the top 10 in V8 Supercars’ first event in the US at the Circuit Of The Americas in Austin, Texas, on Sunday and Monday morning Australian time, Kelly is fulfilling a fantasy by racing in the Lone Star State.

”Racing a V8 Supercar over here is a dream come true,” he told Fairfax Media. ”I can do what I love in America, which is a place I really like. I’ve always loved coming over here.” Kelly, 30, once had ambitions to pursue a career in American stock cars, visiting NASCAR teams in 2007 – the year after he won the V8 title – in search of an opportunity to compete in a starter series.

Even though former V8 champion Marcos Ambrose had successfully graduated from truck racing to NASCAR’s second-tier stock car competition, there was no interest from NASCAR teams in giving another Australian road racer a chance.

Kelly’s disappointment at not being able to get his foot in the NASCAR door will be forgotten when he races his Jack Daniel’s Racing Nissan Altima in the four-race Austin 400, which he regards as ”a big moment” for V8 Supercars.

”It’s extremely exciting. It really is a dream come true to have an international race in America. I love the place.”

Kelly’s enthusiasm for the US meant he had no qualms about heading over early for a two-day promotional tour in Tennessee for his team’s major backers, Jack Daniel’s and Nissan, both of whom have operations in Nashville.

”It’s a little bit like a home event for us because it’s our sponsors’ home turf,” he said of racing in the country of origin of the whiskey maker and the roadgoing version of the Altima, which will be launched in Australia at the end of the year. After accepting that his American dream wasn’t going to come true, Kelly joined his brother Todd – also a leading V8 driver – in the even more ambitious goal of establishing their own V8 Supercars team.

They became teammates in 2009 and this year are running Nissan Australia’s return to racing, fielding four Altimas under the new Car Of The Future regulations that have opened the sport to new makes.

It’s been a struggle for both Rick and Todd Kelly as they try to fast-track the development of their all-new Altimas while spending most of the races battling to finish in the top 15.

In the first four events, they routinely qualified in the bottom third of the 28-car field, a rude awakening for former factory Holden drivers who have, between them, won a V8 championship, three Bathurst 1000s and made regular appearances on the podium.

Rebranded Nissan Motorsport, the family owned Kelly Racing team’s best result so far this season was a strong seventh for Rick in one of the four races at Pukekohe, near Auckland, last month.

The Altima V8 racer, which uses a production-based V8 against Ford’s and Holden’s bespoke competition engines, is trailing in straight-line speed in the early stages of its development.

While Kelly accepts that qualifying near the back of the grid and racing in the midfield is inevitable in the early stages of the development of a new entry, he admitted that the experience has been frustrating.

”I built myself up mentally to go out and have a shot at being at the front,” he said.

”And so when the reality hit that we were behind in a couple of areas and needed to develop the engine, it hit me hard personally. It really, really hit hard to know that I’d turn up to the events and only sneak into the top 10 if I did a fantastic result. That was tough.

”That knocked me down for probably six weeks. It was just hurting because you want to win. It’s a great sport when you have the opportunity to win, but when you haven’t – if you really, truly give a shit about it – that definitely hurts.

”I’m not capable of just shrugging it off. It really did hit hard. You just have to go back and reassess everything and make plans to turn it around. It took a little time to get back my A-game.” Although a breakthrough top-three result is unlikely at the Circuit Of The Americas, which features a horsepower-dependent steep climb to the first turn, Kelly is confident the Altima’s sharp-handling chassis will be in its element in the twisting second half of the 3.7-kilometre track.

”If we do a good job, we should be able to sneak ourselves into the top 10 – and, really, for where we’re at in the early stage of our development program, that’s pretty good,” he said.

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Hawks coach praises GWS

Hawthorn left Aurora Stadium with a winning margin over Greater Western Sydney – 83 points – that indicated a thrashing, although both coaches were united in declaring it did not portray how effective the tenacious Giants were.

The Giants never threatened a boilover against the Hawks although they were strongly in contention to keep the final margin within 10 goals, especially after they shaded their mighty opponents in play – and almost on the scoreboard – in the third quarter.

But GWS’ efforts were undermined by its concession of the last six goals of the match – mainly because its defenders were too exhausted to clog their defensive zone as they had for the rest of the clash – which Hawthorn coach Alastair Clarkson reckoned was ”a pretty locked-down, dull affair really”.

”The scoreboard probably flattered us a little bit in the end because I thought the Giants were pretty competitive throughout the course of the day,” Clarkson said of the win, the Hawks’ seventh from eight games.

”They out-tackled us by a long way, we couldn’t get control of the clearances as much as we’d have liked, and with them clogging up our front half it made it difficult for us to be able to get fluency in our game.

”You’d think that our game went pretty smoothly today, having an 83-point win, but there was aspects … particularly in the third quarter, we weren’t really pleased with. All we can do is keep refining those things.”

GWS coach Kevin Sheedy, asked whether he too thought the margin overstated the Hawks’ dominance in the match, replied: ”I think most people would think that, but that’s the score.”

The tackling advantage cited by Clarkson – the Giants led that statistic 82 to 57 – was considered by Sheedy to be a positive sign of both his players’ attitude and development in their second season in the AFL.

”We’ve worked hard in that area. We saw what the Swans were able to achieve in last year’s grand final [against Hawthorn with] over 100 tackles and were up about the mid 80s. We just don’t have the skill to actually own the ball and get the benefit of it.”

Hawthorn’s Sam Mitchell was peerless overall in the match with 35 possessions, four of them inside-50 thrusts, although the dominant player in close was teammate Jordan Lewis, who had a game-high 11 clearances and 14 contested possessions.

The Hawks were also well served by key-forward trio Jarryd Roughead (five goals), Jack Gunston (three goals) and Lance Franklin (two goals), while Jeremy Cameron kicked four for the Giants.

Clarkson said the Hawks would regain Bradley Hill, a late withdrawal with a corked thigh, and Josh Gibson (ankle) for next week’s match at home to Gold Coast, a match he stressed they would approach with their usual level of intensity.

”They’ve improved a lot and their midfield is … one of the more potent going around.”

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