Reboot to placate Balmain and Wests factions

 Wests Tigers will work with ARLC boss Dave Smith in overhauling the corporate structure of the club to ensure a more harmonious relationship between the merged entities.

The Balmain and Western Suburbs factions have been in an uneasy alliance since they merged into Wests Tigers in 1999, with boardroom bickering a constant throughout their short history.

However, both parties have made a concerted effort to work more co-operatively and resolved at a board meeting last week to review the corporate structure of the club. The NRL has been asked to become heavily involved in the process to ensure the best possible outcome for all parties and align the club’s strategic plan closely with that of the ARLC.

Chief executive Stephen Humphreys resigned on Friday night in the belief it would help the parties move forward together. Humphreys, Wests Tigers chairman Mike Bailey and deputy chairman Nick Di Girolamo sat down with Fairfax Media on Saturday in a show of unity.

Humphreys, who will remain at the club for the next two months, delivered the key goal: ”To be strongly branded and recognised as Wests Tigers. We all come from somewhere, but … over the next five years we need to be about Wests Tigers.”

The Tigers face numerous challenges on and off the field. They are in last position after being trounced 54-10 by South Sydney on Friday night, face a crippling injury toll and have reached a delicate point in negotiations to extend the contract of benched superstar Benji Marshall. But perhaps the biggest obstacle to long-term success is ensuring Balmain and Western Suburbs come together in more than name only.

”The reason we are sitting here and talking today is because we want this to work and work well,” said Bailey, the Magpies representative. ”We can look back through history and point fingers sometimes at individuals, but we’re not intending to do that. We’re trying to move on together and we want to do it positively.”

To that end, Smith has been consulted about the organisational restructure and will provide counsel along with ARLC chairman John Grant. ”Mike and I have realised we face significant challenges in relation to our current structure and it’s a significant step in our journey for the two of us to have a chat to John Grant and Dave Smith,” said Balmain representative Di Girolamo. ”We need a structure which provides best corporate governance practices and long-term sustainability.”

While the situation is politically sensitive and the trio were reluctant to go into details, it’s understood the system of rotating chairmen – a member of each faction chairs the joint-venture club for 12 months at a time – is likely to be scrapped. All parties agree that training facilities at Concord Oval are becoming outdated and that a strategy to establish a centre of excellence must be put in place. The officials will also work closely with the ARLC on stadia strategy as the game consolidates towards a handful of major venues.

There was also unanimous support for new coach Mick Potter, who has overseen a squad riddled with injuries in his first year in charge.

”He is doing a fine job and we have absolutely no criticism or questions of what he is doing,” Bailey said. ”We’re right behind him and that is myself, Nick and Stephen. We’ll give him all the support we need for things to come together.”

Humphreys said he would work diligently on retention and recruitment before his departure. The former Balmain first-grader said he was confident of retaining Marshall and securing young playmakers Luke Brooks, Bayley Sironen and Mitchell Moses. ”Despite what some critics may say, our board is doing an excellent job in confronting what are some very difficult issues,” he said.

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Danny Weidler: Dank ready to come to Sharks’ rescue

This’ll do: Paul Gallen with his wife Anne and his latest ring. Photo: Dallas KilponenSports scientist Stephen Dank has refused an interview with ASADA but he wants Sharks players and their coach, Shane Flanagan, to know he is in their corner in the strongest possible way. And the main reason Dank is so keen to help them is due to his enormous respect and strong friendship with their captain, Paul Gallen.

The pair hit it off when he was at the club and they remain mates despite everything that has happened. Dank has regard for Gallen’s leadership and considers him the finest skipper he has dealt with during his time in the NRL and the AFL. Their relationship is one of genuine mateship and Dank says they have had no professional dealings since he left the club in 2011. Dank says he will give the Cronulla players whatever assistance they need should infraction notices be issued. Dank has sat back and watched his name get trashed – much of it based on leaks from the Kavanagh report, a document that contains some truth but is by no means even close to an accurate account of what happened in 2011 at the Sharks. Things have been taken as fact when they are plain wrong.

Dank has no problem supporting the players when the time is right. “Since early February this year, much has been written and said about the inevitability of prosecutions and that convictions will follow for doping violations, yet to date no specific allegation has ever been made detailing substances, persons involved, dates, places and how and why a violation took place. I can’t make this any more clear and I don’t know why people won’t listen to this – no Cronulla player or coach Shane Flanagan have anything to fear,” he said. ”It’s as simple as that and that will be proved. If or when prosecutions are commenced I will be available to assist their legal teams, if asked, to meet the allegations.

I am confident that no wrongdoing has taken place.” Despite the Kavanagh report having been made public and selectively leaked, it seems neither Dank nor his lawyers are able to access the document or obtain a copy. Requests have been met with either no reply or an answer that there are no instructions that allow it to be handed over. This is despite loud and repeated claims of the document containing significant information concerning the alleged role played by Dank and others in the Sharks saga.Tim rides out storm

Tim Mannah says he has come through the tough times that followed reports that peptides somehow may have played a role in his brother Jon’s death. There is no concrete proof that peptides played a role in Jon dying from Hodgkin’s lymphoma. I’m yet to see evidence of his alleged peptide use on one occasion – let alone on an ongoing basis. What was the volume of use, the frequency and where is the medical proof that it had a negative effect? “I’m doing well now,” said Tim. ”I’ve had a great support system at Parramatta, starting with Ricky Stuart. I’ve got friends at the club and at church who have been great and the family has come through it.”

Thompson loses head

Parramatta media manager Adam Thompson has been forced to deflect claims he and former Eels skipperNathan  Cayless became involved in a heated argument after a function in Mudgee. The pair were promoting an upcoming Eels game, and were said to have had an altercation which resulted in Cayless headbutting Thompson. ”Not true at all,” said Thompson. ”I was just showing Nathan some Jiu Jitsu moves and was explaining to him how a smaller man can cope with a bigger bloke and we had a head clash. We were the only two there.”

Bombers forewarned

There has been miles of praise for Essendon and the way they have handled the entire drugs-in-sport drama. But from what this columnist understands, they had far more warning that they were going to be under the blowtorch. Those with connections to the Bombers started to be interviewed by the ACC 12 months ago. And the AFL was aware of the matter for at least six months before the first Bombers press conference. Despite being a heavy-hitting club and flush with resources and funds, the report into their practices and lack of management was at least as damning as the Kavanagh report. The NRL has been suitably supportive of its players and Dave Smith, unlike his AFL counterpart, has been happy to allow natural justice to take its course. That’s why he hasn’t been the subject of a defamation suit from sports scientist Stephen Dank, unlike Andrew Demetriou. ASADA’s main information seems to have come from the Sharks-commissioned Kavanagh report, which didn’t look into whether any substance used breached the World Anti-Doping Authority’s ”S2” or ”S0” banned lists. The rest comes from Trent Elkin, club emails and information passed on by the ACC that can’t be used as evidence. Dank met the ACC for three days and was told he had nothing to worry about. Charges and convictions under WADA S2 and S0 are very rare. Globally in the last three years there have been a couple of cases – and none challenged in court.

Chooks hot for yoga

Sonny Bill Williams, Mitchell Pearce and Shaun Kenny-Dowall are the hipsters in the Roosters side even though they don’t all live in Bondi. SKD and Pearce are regulars at Bikram yoga and have brought SBW into the fold. They are also eating organic when they can. “It’s about putting the right fuel in your body and organic is as good as it gets,” Kenny-Dowall said. As for yoga in a room heated to 40 degrees, “It’s become a little ritual we do. It’s a great way to stretch the body and get the soreness out and it gets you pretty ripped. More than anything, it tests you mentally – being in that room for 90 minutes makes you tough.”

Campo in the fray

David Campese is back to make amends for losing to the Lions all those years ago – he’s flying home from South Africa to play for the Classic Wallabies against the British & Irish Rugby Legends at North Sydney Oval on July 4. He is sure to cop plenty.

Robbo a bargain buy

The inflated salaries that coaches are lapping up can be traced back to the Dragons’ poaching of Wayne Bennett and it continued when Bennett left to join the Knights and Todd Greenberg snared Des Hasler at the Dogs. The Roosters went the other way and signed a coach for $250,000 – and Trent Robinson is proving he is a career coach in the making. The Roosters players rave about him and they also talk about the systems he has in place. Their creed is to be a “second-half” team and a team that emphasise defence over anything else.Diamonds take forever

Paul Gallen is a slow mover when it comes to his life away from football. It wasn’t until after the Sharks and NSW captain had a couple of kids with his long-time partner Anne that they tied the knot in the off-season. And it’s taken until now for him to start wearing his wedding ring. He was sporting a sparkling number from Infinity Diamonds at Cronulla’s Women in League luncheon. There is nothing behind his decision to only don the ring now – the one he designed initially through someone else wasn’t to his liking, but he is a happy man now and we are sure Anne is as well.Here’s 10 reasons why the Blues are specials…

If there has ever been a coach walking into a golden opportunity, it’s Laurie Daley with the Blues. After years of struggling, there are so many things working in Daley’s favour that point towards the last seven years of misery being wiped away. Here are some of the reasons.

1. The Blues have two home games. They have a great record at ANZ Stadium because Queensland havetrouble with the surface.

2. Last year the Blues came within one dud decision – the Justin Hodges decoy – of winning the series. It was a call that many say cost Bill Harrigan the top job. It was one of the most critical decisions in Origin history.

3. Ricky Stuart re-established pride in the Blues jersey to such an extent that Queensland can no longer claim to have a mortgage on passion. He put the Blues on their level when it comes to understanding what Origin means.

4. The Storm are struggling, so the likes of Cameron Smith, Billy Slater and Cooper Cronk – while still excellent players – are not at their peak.

5. Jarryd Hayne is playing his best football since his amazing 2009 season. Hayne has embraced his Eels leadership role, is more involved in attack and his defence is now where it should be.

6. Paul Gallen will revel in the time away from club dramas. He has been under huge pressure to carry the load for his Cronulla teammates.

7. NSW have genuine options at five-eighth with Todd Carney, James Maloney and John Sutton all deserving selection because they are playing very good football for their respective club sides.

8. Mitchell Pearce has ditched the Playboy bunnies for organic food and Bikram yoga. He says he has grown up and admits that he really needed to do so.

9. Star centre Michael Jennings is happy again and playing his best football in many years.

10. Daley will walk into the best-prepared, best-funded and most professional Blues side in history.

It’s time for the Blues to stop the seven-year rot.

Danny Weidler is a Channel 9 reporter

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‘I’m disappointed, upset and disgusted’

Stunt gone wrong: Scott McLean suffered severe brain damage on the set of The Hangover Part II. Photo: SuppliedCourageous Australian stuntman Scott McLean, who was almost killed during a high-speed stunt that went tragically wrong on the Bangkok set of The Hangover II, is still battling with mega-film company Warner Bros over medical costs, two years after the horrific injury.

In the week of the release of the hit trilogy’s finale, The Hangover III, which stars Academy Award nominee Bradley Cooper and features plenty of extreme stunts, Fairfax has learnt the film company has not covered McLean’s healthcare-related expenses.

McLean and his partner Raelene Chapman have been left ‘‘disgusted’’ and distressed, with McLean now facing stress-related seizures on top of his rehabilitation.

Friends have tearfully revealed to Fairfax that the Coogee man, who performed stunts in blockbusters Star Wars and The Matrix, still suffers seizures that last anywhere between eight and 12 minutes and can only be stopped with medication, administered by either a registered nurse or his carer and partner of 15 years, Chapman.

He still needs 24-hour nursing care and requires oxygen to prevent further possible brain damage.

Chapman, who has been his rock and carer since the injury, has declined to comment until now, but relented last week, clearly hurt and in anguish over the differences with Warner Bros.

‘‘Obviously everything doesn’t always go 100 per cent smoothly, and we have some ongoing differences with Warner Bros that we are trying to work out regarding reimbursement of some healthcare related expenses,’’

Chapman said. ‘‘Hopefully the lawyers will get that sorted away very quickly, but it’ll be resolved one way or the other very soon. To say I’m disappointed, upset and disgusted is a gross understatement. My lawyers have put a gag order on me so although I would love to elaborate on my thoughts and feelings I’m unable to do so at this time.’’

McLean agreed to a confidential out-of-court settlement in 2011, just 11 months after the tragic accident.

He was doubling for actor Ed Helms while performing the stunt that required him to lean out of the window of a moving vehicle when his head smashed into a truck.

The collision left McLean ‘‘a mess’’ and in a coma for six weeks in Bangkok with serious traumatic brain damage. He was eventually moved to Royal Rehabilitation Centre Sydney in Ryde, where he remained for eight months doing intensive rehabilitation.

McLean said in documents at the time the stunt needed ‘‘precision and timing’’ and claimed the second unit stunt  co-ordinator was at fault.

‘‘[The stunt co-ordinator] commanded to the driver of the automobile in which plaintiff Scott McLean was a passenger, that the speed of his vehicle be increased significantly to a speed unsafe for the stunt, thus resulting in a major collision,’’ McLean alleged in his lawsuit for unspecified damages in 2011, which was settled out of court.

Despite box office takings of about $500 million, the film company has been disputing medical costs.

Chapman reluctantly accepted work  last year for a few months on the new Mad Max film Fury Road in Africa but has had to pull up stumps on her career to care for Scott.

‘‘Rae never takes time for herself as it’s more than a full-time job being Scott’s carer … Unfortunately while she was in Africa, Scott had one of his worst seizures,’’ a friend told Fairfax.

Chapman did say: ‘‘I have made several attempts to get back to work, but it’s impossible. My priority is and will always be Scott. I do try to protect him by not telling him about most of the ongoing problems … I’m not a good liar. He knows me too well.’’

At the time of printing, Warner Bros had not responded.

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Dogs feel Suns’ bite

GOLD COAST 1.3 4.7 11.11 13.15 (93) WESTERN BULLDOGS 3.3 5.6 6.10 8.13 (61) GOALS: Gold Coast – Brown 3, Hall 2, Matera, Stanley, Bennell, Harbrow, O’Meara, Shaw, Day, May. Western Bulldogs – Stringer 3, Markovic 2, Giansiracusa, Jones, Murphy. BEST: Gold Coast – Ablett, Brown, O’Meara, Thompson, Prestia, Stanley. Western Bulldogs – Cooney, Minson, Macrae, Murphy, Boyd, Griffen. INJURIES: Gold Coast – Smith (knee). UMPIRES: Jeffery, Hay, Armstrong. CROWD: 13,520 at Metricon Stadium.

Bob Murphy knows the price of loyalty. In a heartfelt column on Wednesday, he reflected with remarkable honesty on the fact that his chances of playing in a premiership with his beloved Western Bulldogs had come and gone. He could have moved on, chasing the dream like erstwhile teammates Brian Lake and Jarrod Harbrow. Now, he admitted, would be the time.

Murphy is one of football’s last true romantics. A fan as much as a footballer, he identifies with his battling team from the underprivileged west like he identifies with the outcasts and underclass of rock ’n’ roll. He’ll accept defeat now for the prospect of success in his dotage, when players he won’t know will hoist the flag in the name of those who have gone before. For him, even vicarious glory will be worth the wait.

You’d hope, as unlikely as it seems now, that one day he’ll get his wish. And there were glimpses, early on in Saturday’s match against the Gold Coast Suns, that his day might one day come, especially with the undeniable quality of 2012 draft picks Jack Macrae and Jake Stringer.

Macrae started on the bench, but was as influential as anyone on the field in the first half: his skills exceptional, his willingness to defend as well as attack an example. Stringer is more of a work in progress, but his three goals up forward were all class. Then there’s the speed and flair of former rookies Luke Dahlhaus and Jason Johannisen. The Dogs have a future, even if it’s distant. These young players combined brilliantly with the Bulldogs’ old heads in the first half: a seemingly reborn Adam Cooney, who won the ball at will, while Murphy and Daniel Giansiracusa were as creative and silky as ever. Matthew Boyd and Daniel Cross, combined with ruckman Will Minson, bested the Suns in the clinches. All are still fighting their hearts out for their team.

But, the longer the match went, the brighter – and more immediate – the Suns’ future loomed. And ironically, it was not one of their budding superstars but Campbell Brown, once a heart-and-soul player for Hawthorn, who initially dragged the home side back into the contest with his presence, smarts and three goals.

Of course, there was also Gary Ablett – who was as ever – and Harbrow, whose late goal in the third quarter gave the Suns a winning break of 31 points at the last change. The biggest revelation is Jaeger O’Meara, who may already have surpassed Harley Bennell and a quiet David Swallow to be the Suns’ most exciting future prospect. (That’s if you don’t count Jack Martin, the under-age prodigy who, like O’Meara last year, is playing his first season in the NEAFL.)

O’Meara’s third quarter was enormous, and a key to the Suns’ engine. He kicked one goal himself out of mid-air while lying on his back, but more impressive still was when he won a front-on contest for a loose ball with Brett Goodes, took possession and delivered calmly to Aaron Hall, who wheeled around onto his right to convert.

The Suns didn’t do much more than hold the Dogs at bay in the last quarter, Dahlhaus and Murphy combining again to briefly send a shiver through the home side camp, but it only took a goal from the otherwise rarely sighted Steven May to quickly put down the rebellion, Bennell icing the cake after that.

After beating the Demons last week, it gives the Suns two wins in a row for the first time in their history, and four wins for the year, with a narrow loss to the Lions in between. Granted, their success has come against weaker clubs, but more and more often, they’re playing like a team that’s increasingly sure of itself; that knows its potential is also its destiny.

The Bulldogs have hope. But they will be waiting a bit longer to fly their own flag.

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I was whacked three times, says Scotland

Heath Scotland, a 250-gamer. Photo: Wayne TaylorWhen Mick Malthouse consented to the trading of Heath Scotland from Collingwood, he had played 53 games in five years. Despite two grand final appearances, he was discarded for Carlton’s third-round pick, which Collingwood had hoped would be part of a swap for Port Adelaide’s homecoming midfielder Nick Stevens, who would join the Blues and become fast friends with Scotland.

Scotland walked down the musty corridors of the Carlton Football Club – then still unreconstructed in every way – and took note of the great names on the wall who had played 200 games. He did not imagine then that he would ever be on that wall, or that would reach 250 games in aggregate.

”God no, no. Not at all,” said Scotland, to the question of whether 250 games were conceivable then. ”No, I’d played 53 for Collingwood, been playing for five years, no. I remember walking down the corridor … looking at the 200 club players at Carlton, the pictures on the wall, thinking, ‘Geez, what an achievement and it would be fantastic to get close to that.’ But I didn’t think I’d be playing 200 games … even in total.”

Late last year, Scotland was reunited with the coach who had, if not pushed him, then certainly allowed him to leave. Superficially, this was an echo of Corey McKernan, traded away from his tough taskmaster Denis Pagan and North, only to find the coach joining him.

Actually, Scotland’s scenario is quite different – a decade of water has passed under that black-and-white bridge. But the wizened, wiser Scotland acknowledged that he had not been entirely sure where he stood with his old coach when Malthouse turned Blue, while insisting their relationship had been fine at Collingwood.

”I was a little bit unsure and I wasn’t contracted until after the [2012] season – I didn’t sign a contract. I wasn’t sure how things were going to pan out. But the relationship with Mick was always fine, even when I was playing. I got along with Mick really well. For me it was an opportunity to come to a club and get more of an opportunity to play football. So there was no animosity between the two of us.”

Malthouse had rated him sufficiently well, he said, to select him in two grand finals as a young player. Yes, the coach had marked Heath hard, ”but he marks everyone hard and he brings the best out of footballers and there’s no doubt that lessons I think I learnt from him early on he held me in good stead to be able to stay in the game as long as I have.”

”I am an experienced player now,” he said, explaining how he and Malthouse were dealing with each other on different terms. ”I suppose there’s a bit more level of confidence or trust in me.

”Over 10 years, he has seen me play enough football to know, OK, he knows what I can and can’t do.”

What he can’t do: accelerate like Chris Yarran. What he can do: win the ball and use it by foot, his family friend from the western suburbs and hero Dougie Hawkins having inspired him to be dual sided. Those assets – plus his durable body – have helped him reach an improbable 250 games.

Scotland has played his best football in what is usually a player’s dotage, winning his only best and fairest last year, aged 32. Today, only 10 active AFL players have been alive longer, and just 13 have played more games. Most of them – Dustin Fletcher, Brent Harvey, Adam Goodes, Lenny Hayes, Simon Black, Stephen Milne, Chad Cornes, Jude Bolton – are famous, Scotland is merely well known. Regrettably, he has received maximum notoriety for an incident in which he hit a man at a Mulwala pub and consequently, in his words, was whacked three times.

”Media cracked me, AFL cracked me, football club cracked me,” said Scotland of the incident, from January 2012, in which he eventually – after the NSW Director of Public Prosecution successfully appealed for a less-lenient outcome – recorded a conviction for assault and received a bond. Scotland’s version was that he came to the defence of his beleaguered brother Brett and hit the man (who would also record a conviction, along with Brett Scotland).

”There’s no doubt I let people down and it was a time in my career, you know, my life, that I don’t look fondly on. I was there helping my brother. Whether it’s right, wrong or indifferent doesn’t matter. Fact of it is I let people down and I’ve paid a price for it.

”And it’s been a tough time. It was a year and a half ago and we’re still talking about it. You know, to play all of last season with it and go to court at the end of the season and then front up again after the first result and go back again.”

The DPP was successful in obtaining a conviction in February, arguing that Scotland, who had pleaded guilty back in October, was not entitled to be treated as ”of good character” since he faced court on an assault charge in 2005, for which he was placed in diversion, without conviction.

Carlton, under AFL pressure, suspended Scotland for two matches in late January.

Did the forthright Scotland view the suspension as fair? ”Of course I’d like to say no. I felt like I had three whacks for it – you know, I got slammed in the media, unmercifully. I got smashed by the court system, obviously – you know, not the first time, but we go back. Basically I get convictions, I get fines, I got a bond, I ended up getting a bond.

”The worst part about it … at the end of the day, we play the first two games against Richmond and Collingwood, I’m unavailable for two matches. I feel that a year and a bit later I’ve let them down. We lose two games.

”I let people down regardless of whether I believe I did the right thing or I believe I done the wrong thing … there’s going to be some people out there say ‘I would have done the same thing’, there’s going to be some that say ‘he’s a no-good bloke’. That doesn’t worry me, people’s opinion. At the end of the day, the consequences of my actions there let a lot of people down.”

As one whose path wasn’t smooth, Scotland has learnt to not look too far ahead. ”You really do play every one like it could be your last. So if I do go on next year, it would be great. If not, well …” The sentence didn’t need completion.

Malthouse’s homily, ”Don’t count your games, make your games count,” has stayed with Scotland for a decade. His career has been a gradual climb from fringe player to best and fairest destined for Carlton’s wall, if not its Hall of Fame.

Scotland’s incremental progress mirrors that of the Blues, who were so broke and broken when he arrived they could not afford footballs. ”There was one pre-season we all got slugged with $120 to buy our own footies to train with,” he recalled.

Today, Scotland is Carlton’s most seasoned player and, in a sign of the club’s evolution from the dark age, his 250th game will also be the 150th for Marc Murphy and Andrew Walker, players gained from prized picks during those hard times.

”For me, I suppose it’s a nice one to realise I’ve hung in the system quite a little bit of time and I’ve been reasonably durable,” Scotland said.

Teammates have taken to calling the sweeping midfielder/half-back ”Fossil” and ”Poppy”. But, as a best and fairest at 32, Scotland reckons he is still improving, having the good fortune to have avoided major injuries. He is noticeably leaner, at 79-80 kilograms, rather than last year’s 82-83, following an ankle operation in January.

”I’m 32 and I’ll be 33 in July. But the body’s sound, it has been pretty good … I still feel like I’m continuing to improve. I’m not feeling like I’m slowing up. I don’t feel like I’m getting caught out through lack of leg speed and power. I don’t see why I can’t continue.”

Scotland attributes his late blooming in part to his previous coach’s whip-cracking. ”I think Ratts [Brett Ratten] took me to the next level again, you know. He really challenged my professionalism a bit. Just the little things, that tend to add up. It’s probably a coincidence too, with age as well. My change in lifestyle. And I probably played my best football to date under Ratts.”

One of those steps was reduced drinking for Scotland, whose closest Carlton friendships have been with ”lads” such as Nick Stevens, Lance Whitnall and the trouble-prone Brendan Fevola. ”No doubt, I used to like going out and having a beer, you know, as did most players. If you’re honest, you look back five-10 years ago, 15 years ago, most players were going out every weekend. That did take an adjustment. And that’s probably one of the areas where I probably completely changed under Ratts. Like I used to semi-regularly go out and have a beer.”

As a father with two young sons, Scotland found that ”your lifestyle changes. I still like to have a beer. I haven’t had one for a while, to be honest.”

And how would he like to be remembered?

As a player who ”could be trusted” and gave ”everything” to teammates and club, he said. An old-school footballer, with old fashioned mores. ”Remembered as someone who played for the jumper, I suppose.”

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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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