Jun 10

Shaw weighs up several options to fly Magpie nest

In demand: Collingwood’s Heath Shaw will meet with rival clubs. Photo: Sebastian CostanzoHeath Shaw will meet at least six other clubs at both ends of the ladder as he considers vastly different financial offers and vastly different futures.

Top four clubs in contention for the Collingwood defender include Geelong and premier Hawthorn. The Hawks’ interest in Shaw, and capacity to afford him, is likely to hinge on whether Lance Franklin stays or goes.

Shaw has a connection with the Cats football department through former teammates Shane O’Bree and Blake Caracella, who are assistant coaches.

Geelong on Monday delisted dual premiership defender Josh Hunt who as a free agent will explore possibilities of playing on somewhere else next year.

Paul Chapman is unlikely to be re-contracted and Joel Corey’s future remains uncertain.

If all three were to leave, Geelong would free up some space in the salary cap to accommodate a player such as Shaw, who is understood to be on about $400,000 a year for the next two years of his contract. The Cats’ first-round draft pick would be likely to be required for any trade.

Essendon has had preliminary discussions with Shaw and would consider an exchange of a draft pick the Dons would likely receive as part of a Stuart Crameri trade to the Western Bulldogs as a potential part of any trade.

Carlton has some interest in Shaw, while Melbourne and Greater Western Sydney are keen to explore a possible deal.

Shaw has to weigh up the choice of move to a top club in contention for a flag in his remaining playing years against the idea of working with young players and helping foster his ambition to become a development coach after football.

Shaw will this summer work with TAC Cup team the Oakleigh Chargers in a development role.

The choice of top or bottom club would also come at significantly different terms, with the two bottom sides likely to have to offer a longer contract.

GWS was believed to be prepared to do a straight swap of Shaw for homecoming midfielder Taylor Adams, who Collingwood is keen to secure during the trade period, as part of the Shaw exchange or not.

Given Shaw is a contracted player, any trade needs to be suitable to both player and club, so while Collingwood might have a preference for where he goes based on the best trade it can get, Shaw would have to agree. Similarly Collingwood is under no obligation to trade Shaw to the club he chooses if the deal is not right for the club.

Collingwood key defender Nathan Brown has agreed to a three-year deal, although the details have not been officially released.

Recruiting manager Derek Hine said the club could not confirm the contract until the situations surrounding Dale Thomas and Shaw were sorted out.

Meanwhile, Sydney has announced it has delisted defender Alex Brown.

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Jun 10

Pushed to the limit and beyond

Robert Walls coaches Fitzroy. Robert Walls coaches Fitzroy in 1981.

On the cold open tundra of Waverley Park, nearly 30 years ago, Robert Walls was as hostile as I’d ever seen. The Fitzroy coach’s usual demeanour was so grim that a scowl construed a positive comment.

Savage outbursts were not uncommon, yet Walls had raised the bar with this new level of seething hostility. He wrenched his hands open and shut, pacing in front of the race entrance, looking, it seemed, for someone to throttle. As players came onto the ground in dribs and drabs, they quickly averted their eyes and skittered away into their warm-up lap.

Fitzroy in the early-to-mid 1980s was a good team, with Roos, Pert and Osborne emerging, alongside old champions in Quinlan and Garry Wilson. The previous Saturday this team had put in a ”soft pissweak performance” and was easily beaten. Add to that it was against Walls’ old club, Carlton, and you start to understand Walls’ ignominy.

Yet what tipped Walls over the edge was finding a large number of players in the medical rooms, in high spirits, awaiting treatment for various injuries, real or feigned. Walls’ lividity at not having all the culprits from his team available for the torturous Tuesday evening training session he had so meticulously planned, was quietly terrifying.

As we gathered in front of Walls on this wintry eve, awaiting retribution, I realised this was the likely fulfilment of the nightmarish potential I had detected two years earlier.

My first clear memory of meeting Walls was arriving at Bulleen Park in January 1983 for my debut pre-season training session. He was wearing short running shorts and a singlet and was bellowing instructions at 60-odd Fitzroy hopefuls, all similarly garbed.

Sweat dominated, dripping off hair-matted foreheads, rolling from under bushy armpits, glistening hairy chests, and staining those short shorts. I was late, lithe, and to be honest, a little scared. When he spotted me, and scowled, I knew then I should run, to get away from this dreadful man.

But no, I naively put on short shorts, a singlet, and joined in what was a hard and torturous pre-season training campaign. For months I slept, ached, ate and trained, which allowed me to survive the near on three hours while Robert Walls extracted his pound of flesh.

He hounded and exhorted us into exhaustion, using all the contested training drills he could come up with, including corridor football with full-on shepherding, tackling, bumping and, of course, one-on-one contested drills.

During a contested man-on-man drill something remarkable happened. You know the drill, where the coach would roll, flick, kick, handball, throw the ball out in any direction he chose and two players at a time would battle each other to give it back to him – only to see the ball slapped away again, and the battle resumed, and so on until the coach thought you’d battled manfully enough and looked thoroughly exhausted and then you rested while two others went through the same thing.

If your kick or handball back to Walls was inaccurate, he would just let it sail past, rumble ”not good enough” and make you battle it out all over again. If he thought you were waxing with your opponent, or were one of the particularly poor players on the previous Saturday, or were faking exhaustion, then he kept you going until you could barely get off the ground, just to make sure.

Sometimes when you won a clear ball, the desire was to run right up to Walls and slam it into that soft paunch of his. And, as he bent over, to drive him into the ground, such was the frustration of this training night. But of course this never happened.

What did happen, which seemed remarkable, was that the lights went out. The dark descended like a loving cloak, leaving only a small pool of light illuminating the ground near the players’ race. Walls’ curses echoed off the stands, rolling off into the distance, but the lights remained off.

Eventually, Walls went to find out the problem while players jogged a slow warm-down lap thinking training had finished. I wondered who had the temerity to switch the main light towers off? And would they be found out?

When Walls re-emerged from the race, preceded, I swear, by the silhouette of a large grizzly bear, and followed by all the ”injured” players from the medical room, I had an answer.

Relief immediately turned to apprehension. Walls arranged all players in a large circle with arms outstretched, crucifixion style, and asked us to think about our game and whether we wanted to be a part of this club. I thought about a warm shower, mostly, and about how hungry I was, and about my first game under Walls.

Fitzroy had lost the first four or five games of the ’84 season and Walls was at his wits’ end. He dropped a couple of senior players and picked a couple of kids. I came on in the second quarter and was put in the forward pocket, with the message to change on ball with Garry Wilson. All quarter I waited to get a signal from Wilson to change, but it never came.

Walls asked pointedly at half-time why I hadn’t given Wilson a rest. I replied he hadn’t asked for one. ”Well make sure you change this quarter. You signal him, OK?”

The third quarter passed while I tried to get Wilson to change, but he wasn’t about to change with a kid from the country. I told Walls at three-quarter-time I had tried but Wilson didn’t want to change. Scores were close and he gave me his scowl and said if I didn’t change this last quarter then I was off. Five minutes into the last quarter I signalled Wilson to change and didn’t get a response so went on the ball as well. Then the runner comes out and says, ”The coach wants to know why you’re both on the ball?”

Unbeknown to me, the coach was gauging my mettle. Wilson was renowned for not changing off the ball; he was a fitness freak and could manage it. Walls was just seeing what I’d do. I kicked two goals and we won the game and I’m sure I saw a glimpse of a rare smile. A feast for a frustrated young kid.

But this night was no feast, at least not for the players. Arms were trembling with fatigue. Backs were beginning to bend to ease our shoulders, not to mention the weather closing in. Walls had gone up the race and was most likely trying to find out who switched off the lights, or was watching us from the darkness of the stands. We didn’t know which. The urge to drop my arms for just a second was strong, but I wasn’t going to be the first. So we stood arms forced out horizontally, in a bedraggled Monty Python portrayal of pilgrims re-enacting a Biblical scene.

When Walls came back he said, ”Keep your arms up Micky”. To which Conlan replied, ”You’d struggle too Wallsy if you had arms this big”. Walls glared a minute before saying that as soon as the first person dropped their arms we could all go and have a warm shower, just be sure to let him know who that player was. Rain fell, lightning flashed, thunder rolled, as Walls disappeared up the race. Nobody dropped their arms.

It may seem strange to hear that this article is a tribute to Robert Walls.

Yes, Walls gave many players the opportunity to push far beyond preconceived mental limits. And gave many players the chance to become far better than they were through sustained hard work and perseverance. Cheers Robert Walls.

Tim Pekin played 219 games with Fitzroy (1984-89, under Robert Walls in 1984-85) and St Kilda (1990-95).

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Jun 10

McKenzie ponders kick or run tactics

ROSARIO: Wallabies coach Ewen McKenzie gave no guarantee Will Genia would regain a starting role for the Rugby Championship wooden-spoon clash against Argentina, despite putting some spark into his slumping team.

Long-term incumbent halfback Genia has been on the bench for Australia’s last two matches, including the demoralising 28-8 loss at the hands of the rampant Springboks in Cape Town on the weekend.

The Wallabies were down and out after only 19 minutes, trailing 20-3 as they stuck to a kick-at-all-costs mantra that was poorly executed by starting No.9 Nic White.

When Genia came on after half-time they finally switched to a running game and looked far more comfortable as he and Quade Cooper combined to spark the attack.

McKenzie said he was undecided what kind of game plan they would take into the Rosario clash against Argentina on Saturday, although he hoped the side could successfully execute both as required.

‘‘You saw against the Springboks two halves of footy; a kicking half and a running half,’’ said McKenzie.

‘‘Clearly, if we’re playing running footy Will’s our best exponent, but Whitey is with our kicking game so it depends on how we want to pitch the game.

‘‘We looked more comfortable running the ball in the second half, but the ideal game is when you’ve got variety in your game.’’

He acknowledged that Genia, who has captained the side, also offered unparalleled experience, which will be key at an Argentine rugby cauldron.

As for a swag of changes to the squad, McKenzie said the answers lay in the players he had.

‘‘Tell me who the other people are who are going to break the game open and suddenly give us the silver bullet. I think we’ve got the best players available.’’

Australia is ahead of last-placed Argentina on the Rugby Championship ladder going into the final round, but only by two points.

The Wallabies have four points from their sole win over the Pumas in Perth, while the Pumas have no wins but two bonus points.

The Pumas put world champions New Zealand under the pump in their weekend game, leading early in the second half before the All Blacks fired up for a 33-15 victory, which puts them in strong position to clinch the title against South Africa in Johannesburg this weekend.

McKenzie, who has stayed remarkably sanguine despite only having one win in the Rugby Championship, said he didn’t expect the Pumas to stray far from their usual forward-focused style. AAP

PRESSURE: Halfback Nic White tackles Springbok fullback Zane Kirchner on Saturday.

Jun 10

Jets ready to face Sydney FC 

NEWCASTLE Jets hired gun Nathan Burns is back training and on track to make a much-heralded A-League return in the round one blockbuster against Sydney FC.

On-loan from Korean club Incheon United, Burns strained his hamstring in the warm-up before the Jets’ 1-0 friendly win over Melbourne Victory almost a fortnight ago.

In a double blow, marquee striker Emile Heskey tore the medial ligament in his knee after being collected by Victory defender Nick Ansell in the opening 20 minutes.

It was feared both would miss the start of the campaign.

Heskey is out until at least round three but, in a major boost, Burns trained fully yesterday and only needs to get through an intra-club hit out on Thursday to get the green light for the season opener.

‘‘I’m back training 100per cent and am pretty happy with that,’’ Burns said after an hour-long workout.

‘‘Initially it was thought I’d be out longer.

‘‘It healed pretty quick, but we had to strengthen the muscle.

‘‘We worked pretty hard today – three on twos, four on fours, a bit of game stuff which involved shooting and sprinting. It’s ready to go.’’

Jets coach Gary van Egmond had no hesitation in declaring Burns a certain starter despite the winger having played only 45 minutes, which included a superb goal, in a 3-0 win over Sydney Olympic since arriving from Korea.

‘‘He has shown enough,’’ van Egmond said.

‘‘If he can get 45 to 60 minutes on Thursday, that will make him cherry ripe for the following week.

‘‘He is going to be very important for us this year.

‘‘He is able to go past players, he is able to score, he is able to create things – everything you want from someone in that front third.’’

Burns, 25, was still a teenager when he burst on to the A-League for Adelaide United, scoring nine goals in 28 starts, before signed by Greek giant AEK Athens and eventually heading to Korea.

‘‘It will be a bit like making my debut again,’’ he said.

‘‘It has been a few years since people have seen me play live.’’

Burns is expected to start on the right of a front three alongside Adam Taggart and Craig Goodwin, who scored a double in the 2-1 win over Central Coast in Tamworth on Sunday.

The win over an under-strength premiers was the Jets’ final competitive game.

‘‘First half was good, 2-0 probably flattered them to a degree,’’ van Egmond said.

‘‘We created a number of chances.

‘‘In saying that, they had a very young team and we would expect to dominate the match and control the match the way we did in the first half.

‘‘We probably should have scored a few more goals but overall it was good.

‘‘Second half we took our foot off the gas which is something we need to address, and again we got scored against from a set piece. That was not good enough by any means.’’

The win was the third straight over A-League opposition – they lost 1-0 to Wellington in Weston in August – and van Egmond was happy with their progress less than fortnight out from kick-off.

‘‘It was a bit of a set back with the two injuries, in particular to Emile – in light of the fact that he got here early, a good solid two months prior to the season beginning,’’ van Egmond said.

‘‘But from a fitness point of view, from a football point of view, from the boys in regards to their confidence, and really believing, and really buying in to everything. I’m very happy.’’

AQUATIC RELAXATION: Jets players recover in the Forum pool after an intensive pre-season training session yesterday. Picture: Ryan Osland

Jun 10

Anger at likely loss of art gallery director: poll 

POLL at bottom of page

ART lovers are up in arms about Newcastle City Council’s restructure of senior management, saying it will destroy the reputation of Newcastle Art Gallery.

The restructure coincides with news that the existing gallery director, Ron Ramsey, has secured the donation of an $850,000 Brett Whiteley sculpture for the gallery forecourt.

The chairman of the gallery’s fundraising foundation, Dr Robert Henderson, said Mr Ramsey had personally negotiated the donation of the sculpture by the artist’s widow, Wendy Whiteley.

Although the council is yet to publicly confirm the detail of the restructure, critics believe the gallery director’s role will be abolished and a ‘‘cultural facilities manager’’ appointed to oversee the gallery, Newcastle Museum and possibly the Civic Theatre.

Dr Henderson has written a scathing letter to Newcastle lord mayor Jeff McCloy about the impact on the gallery, saying the loss of a stand-alone director would ‘‘leave Newcastle open to ridicule and damage its reputation almost beyond redemption’’.

Dr Henderson said the foundation had raised the $40,000 or so needed to bring the sculpture to Newcastle from its present home at Millers Point, behind the proposed Barrangaroo development.

‘‘This will cost the council nothing,’’ Dr Henderson said last night.

‘‘Ron had been negotiating with Wendy and she wants to see it in Newcastle.’’

The art gallery dispute emerged last week after councillors voted in closed session to adopt a new management structure proposed by general manager Ken Gouldthorp.

Labor councillor Nuatali Nelmes said last night that she and other Labor councillors were considering lodging a recission motion on the restructure, although she acknowledged ‘‘we don’t have the numbers’’.

Cr Nelmes said she and the other councillors had ‘‘four minutes’’ to view the restructure before voting on it, which was a ‘‘totally unacceptable way’’ to expect democratic decisions to be made.

In a statement last night, Cr McCloy said the NSW Division of Local Government had confirmed the process as ‘‘appropriate and reasonable’’.

‘‘To claim council’s restructure is about one person (Mr Ramsey) is insulting to the 82 former staff affected by the restructure to date,’’ Cr McCloy said.

Newcastle Art Gallery director Ron Ramsey.

A sculpture entitled “Black Totem II”, made by Matthew Dillon from a drawing by the late Australian artist Brett Whiteley who died in 1992,

He confirmed that the latest phase of the restructure would result in 25 senior management positions cut to 19, which would all be advertised.