Sep 12

Finegan says Larkham’s got the inside running for Brumbies job

Stephen Larkham during Brumbies training this year. Photo: Melissa AdamsStephen Larkham was the playmaker that drove the ACT Brumbies’ golden era and his former captain Owen Finegan believes he will replace Jake White and bring running rugby back to Canberra.

Finegan said the indications he got last season were Larkham was being groomed to take over the top job. He thought coaches tended to want their teams to play the way they did, which would mean a return to Brumbies rugby from the early 2000s when Larkham was wearing the No.10 jersey.

Larkham was the flyhalf when the Brumbies won both their Super Rugby championships in 2001 and 2004.

He was also one of the great Wallabies playmakers and an essential cog in the 1999 World Cup victory. He has spent three years in charge of the Brumbies back line, the last two working under White, before the South African mentor asked for a release from the club.

From his own experience, Finegan felt the potential appointment of Larkham would lead to a more expansive game plan than the simpler one adopted by White in his two years in Canberra.

”If [Larkham] was to take it over that would be one thing you would see a fundamental shift in … and the rest of the side of their game, their defence, the lineout and the set piece … will remain the same,” Finegan said.

”I can see a more, I wouldn’t say flamboyant, but their structures were fairly simple and they’ve got a team that’s been there for two years so they’ve got the ability to be a bit more adventurous.

”The way that I played the game, the way the Brumbies played, is the way I like coaching at the moment – get them to have a go, run the ball, take risks, enjoy their footy – Stephen’s no different to that.”

Finegan felt Larkham had been groomed for the senior coaching role and was the likely successor to White. While White was meant to be with the Brumbies for four years, that would be brought forward a couple of years earlier.

”I just heard Jake talk that I’ll be here for four years and by that stage Steve will be more experienced, and that’s probably just fast-tracked the succession plan that they were looking at doing,” Finegan said.

Brumbies and Wallabies legend Jeremy Paul likened it to new Melbourne coach Paul Roos’ role – lay the foundations for the next coach to take over and be successful.

The former hooker felt Larkham was the right man for the job.

”[Roos] has gone into that spot looking to prepare someone for the next level. He’s openly come out and said I’ll come in here for three years build somebody up and whether or not we win a premiership, I’ve done my job,” Paul said. ”I like what Jake’s done [in rebuilding the Brumbies], obviously not particularly happy that he’s left, but also not particularly angry towards Jake because of what he’s done in two years for the organisation.”

Paul felt promoting from within would provide greater stability for a group that was relatively inexperienced – despite making this year’s Super Rugby grand final.

”I think the trust and the confidence in regards to the playing group would lie with [forwards coach] Laurie [Fisher] and [Larkham] so my preference would be with one of those two guys.”

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Sep 12

Buddy wanted in Canberra

Lance Franklin of the Hawks. Photo: Quinn RooneyHawthorn captain clinging to hope Franklin will stay putAlastair Clarkson puzzled on Franklin’s futureBuddy the centrepiece of looming player movements

The ACT government hopes superstar Lance Franklin will be on show in Canberra next year regardless of what jersey he’s wearing.

Franklin is likely to announce this week whether he’ll be a Hawk or a Giant next year and former Sydney coach Rodney Eade believes ”Buddy” can emulate former Swans star Tony Lockett by being the figurehead that launches the Greater Western Sydney brand on and off the field.

ACT sports minister Andrew Barr has reaffirmed his desire to pencil in Hawthorn as one of four sides GWS will play at Manuka Oval next year.

Despite winning a second premiership with Hawthorn on Saturday, the superstar forward is tipped to sign with the Giants on a multimillion dollar six-year deal.

The ACT government is two years into a 10-year deal with the Giants where one pre-season and three home-and-away games are played each season in Canberra.

The Giants played cellar dwellers St Kilda, Gold Coast and Western Bulldogs in this year’s premiership, as well as a pre-season clash with Essendon.

But the Giants still attracted higher crowds at Manuka than in Sydney this year, and Barr says it has them well placed to attract the AFL’s big hitters.

”We’ll certainly ask for it [Hawthorn match], if we don’t get it this year then maybe the year after,” he said. ”We’ve already put in our requests, which were Hawthorn, Geelong, Gold Coast, Collingwood and Sydney Swans.

”The key thing is to ensure we get a variety of different clubs playing here in the pre-season and premiership matches. Gold Coast will continue as a Manuka rivalry, but for the other slots we certainly want to rotate teams through.”

Manuka Oval is undergoing a revamp including increasing its capacity to around 15,500 after floodlights were installed last year.

An avid Hawthorn fan, Barr believes the improvements give them a realistic chance of luring the premiers.

”The facilities are being developed as we speak getting ready for the cricket World Cup, it will be a much better experience for fans and players,” he said.

”We’ve spoken with the Giants and the AFL and everyone agrees the best thing is for every team to have played the Giants in Canberra over the 10-year period.”

Eade, now Collingwood’s director of football, said Franklin’s likely arrival was a marketing boon for the Giants.

”GWS and the AFL have got to take advantage of his profile and give them a figurehead,” he said.

Eade was Swans coach when Lockett, the AFL’s all-time leading goal kicker, helped put Sydney on the map in the mid to late 1990s.

”He was an enormous drawcard, he was as important as nearly anybody else in getting us up and going and accepted in the marketplace,” Eade said.

”There’s no doubt Franklin can do that, he’s a cult figure at Hawthorn and has that attraction, he’ll be great from a marketing sense. You have to back that up with performance, and he’s proved himself to be a fantastic player.”

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Sep 12

Talking shop

AFL.Round 13. St.Kilda v Melbourne.St.Kilda’s coach Scott Watters on the side line with Leigh Montagna at the MCG.22nd June 2013.Picture Sebastian Costanzo. The Age. Photo: Sebastian CostanzoStar St Kilda midfielder Leigh Montagna could be on his way out of the club as he weighs up the prospect of on-field success elsewhere.

As they moved to dismiss speculation skipper Nick Riewoldt was open to a trade, the Saints expect the contracted Montagna to remain next season but admit there are no certainties heading into the trade period, as was reinforced by the Brian Lake trade to Hawthorn last year.

The Saints’ list manager Ameet Baines said Montagna, who turns 30 in November, was a fierce competitor and wanted to win a flag before he retired. But Baines admitted that was unlikely at St Kilda as a rebuild continues after winning just five matches and finishing third last.

”Guys like Leigh, Leigh in particular, are very ambitious and successful people and want to be part of ongoing success,” Baines said.

”No doubt, he has thought a bit about it from that perspective. In terms of him wanting out or a club wanting him to go to them, no one has raised anything with me.

”Trade week starts next week but I would imagine all sorts of requests … most clubs even the successful ones have spoken about being open to discussions.

”You stay open-minded on anything but how high a threshold that is, it remains to be seen. No clubs have raised him with us but one thing that should be made clear now that we have made those list changes of the weekend every primary list player is contracted.

”If anything is to happen with any player, be it player 40 on the list or player one on the list, it needs to be agreeable to the player and agreeable to the club. We certainly haven’t shopped anyone around.”

Montagna’s manager, Adam Ramanauskas, did not return calls on Monday night.

Carlton and West Coast are both in need of greater run and could attract Montagna’s interest.

The future of another veteran midfielder, Nick Dal Santo, is also unclear. It’s understood he met North Melbourne’s leadership group last week, and is open to a shift.

The Saints have offered former Kangaroos key defender Luke Delaney a three-year contract.

The club on Monday dismissed speculation Riewoldt could be traded, amid suggestions Collingwood had been interested in the reborn forward.

In a succinct statement, the Saints said: ”Nick Riewoldt will not be traded.”

While coach Watters is contracted until the end of next season, his long-term future is also unclear.

His hopes of an immediate extension will be determined by a review of the football department led by head of football Chris Pelchen.

As it rebuilds on and off the field, the Saints have revealed they sought a bank overdraft to be used to run the business.

With the AFL financial year not ending until October 31, the Saints believe there is a clause in a sponsorship deal that could yet reap a greater return, minimising any loss.

The Saints had an operating profit before depreciation and amortisation of $631,135 last season, a significant recovery considering they had suffered a $1.5 million loss in 2011.

”We have had a reduction in club revenue which can attributed in part to the on-field impact, winning three of the first 20 games, on membership and match-day revenue from crowds,” a club spokesman said.

”There will be no additional funding from the AFL to the club this season.

”We have increased our loan facility with the bank to manage our obligations. This has meant an increase in our overdraft limit … Our exact revenue for the year is unclear at this point as a sponsorship clause is yet to be completed.”

The Saints also need a new chief executive for Michael Nettlefold.

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Sep 12

Daniel Jackson wins Jack Dyer Medal

Richmond midfielder Daniel Jackson said earlier this year the reason he took such a keen interest in off-field pursuits was because “I didn’t really feel that I had any value as a footballer”.

On Monday night, Jackson’s value to the Tigers on the field in 2013 could not have been recognised in any greater fashion.

At 27 years and five months, the intelligent and talented Tiger became the oldest player to win the Jack Dyer Medal for the first time since Matthew Richardson in 2007.

While the story before the Tigers’ best and fairest count was the re-signing of teammate Dustin Martin, elder statesman Jackson managed to upstage the young star by the time the votes had been tallied.

Jackson polled 264 votes to clinch the award ahead of runner-up Martin on 255, while the merit of recruiting restricted free agent Troy Chaplin this time last year was further underlined when the former Port Adelaide defender came in third on 241.

Former two-time winner Brett Deledio continued his impressive record at the club’s night of night’s at Crown Palladium by claiming his sixth top five placing in nine years, coming in fourth on 238 votes, while captain Trent Cotchin finished fifth on 237 after a season slowed by niggling injury.

Jackson revealed earlier this year that had it not been for his endeavours away from football – some of which earned him the inaugural Jim Stynes Community Leadership Award last year – the 146-game veteran “probably wouldn’t have bothered playing this year”.

The Tigers are sure glad he did, as the popular hard-nut completed a breakout year in a season when the club finally broke its finals drought – transforming himself into a damaging ball-winner capable of going forward and kicking spectacular goals.

Aside from the career-high 18 goals, Jackson averaged 22 disposals across all 23 games and ranked equal first at Tigerland for inside 50s, No.1 for tackles (90) and No.2 for contested possessions.

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Sep 12

Jakarta agrees to talks on boats

Friendly face: Tony Abbott is greeted by Foreign Affairs Minister Marty Natalegawa on his arrival in Jakarta. Photo: Alex EllinghausenFederal politics full coverageComment: Volatile issue cannot be ignored

The Indonesian President has made a significant concession to Tony Abbott’s demands on asylum seekers in talks in Jakarta, agreeing that Indonesia will need to make direct deals with Australia to solve the people-smuggling problem.

Until now, Indonesia’s position has been that any potential policies should be dealt with at the multilateral forum, the Bali Process. Many of Mr Abbott’s policies – from boat tow-backs to establishing transit ports for asylum seekers on Indonesian soil – have been considered a threat to Indonesian sovereignty.

But after meeting Mr Abbott late on Monday on his first overseas trip as Prime Minister, President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono agreed the countries also needed to work one-on-one.

“Indonesia has striven to overcome this issue, but it would be much better if the co-operation was at the bilateral level,” he said.

The statement opens the door to Indonesia making more concessions to Australian demands, though Mr Abbott and Dr Yudhoyono left tricky details for later.

Australian Immigration Minister Scott Morrison and his Indonesian counterpart, Djoko Suyanto, will meet to thrash out the details in coming weeks.

The concession comes as a senior adviser to the Indonesian Vice-President says her country does not have the legal rights to stop asylum seeker boats leaving their coast for Australia.

Dewi Fortuna Anwar, adviser to Vice President Boediono, told ABC TV on Monday there was nothing her country could do to stop boats leaving Indonesia if there were no clear violations of the law.

”Indonesia does not really have the legal right to stop boats leaving Indonesia towards Australia,” Dr Anwar said.

”In the same way that the Australian government was not able to stop the so-called freedom flotilla from leaving Australian shores with the clear intention of trying to show their support for a separatist movement in Papua.”

Dr Anwar added her country did not regard it as a violation of their law when refugees paid people smugglers to take them overseas.

”It depends on the perspective. These people probably don’t see themselves as smugglers,” she said.

”The fishermen were paid openly by those who wished to go to Australia, and they are pretty open about it.”

Dr Anwar also criticised two of the Abbott government’s plans to combat the people smuggling trade, one of which is to pay Indonesians to spy on people smugglers, the other to buy boats off Indonesian fisherman.

”I doubt very much that Indonesia would approve any other country spying on Indonesia, regardless what the purpose would be,” she said.

”If you buy those leaky boats then the fisherman will have money to buy more boats.

”I’m not sure that will solve the problem.”

Mr Abbott also said in the presence of Dr Yudhoyono: “People smuggling is an issue of sovereignty, especially for Australia.”

However, he emphasised Australia’s “total respect for Indonesia’s sovereignty, a total respect for Indonesia’s territorial integrity”.

Indonesian Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa, who has made much of the sovereignty issue, later drew attention to these comments, saying he was “reassured”.

To sweeten the people-smuggling issue, Mr Abbott announced a $15 million commitment to a new Australian Centre for Indonesia Studies, based at Melbourne’s Monash University, to “build trust and understanding” between the two countries.

He also pleased Indonesia by taking an unusually tough line on protesters in Australia agitating for independence for the Indonesian province of West Papua.

“The government of Australia takes a very dim view . . . of anyone seeking to use our country as a platform for grandstanding against Indonesia. We will do everything that we possibly can to discourage this and prevent this,” he said.

Being overseas made no difference to Mr Abbott’s strong political campaigning against Labor. He apologised in a dinner speech for Australian ”aberrations” in “putting sugar on the table for people smugglers” and for cancelling the live-cattle trade.

“Never again should this country take action that jeopardises the food supply of such a friend and partner as Indonesia,” he said.

The high-level talks come as a key part of the Abbott government’s asylum seeker policy – transfers within 48 hours to offshore detention – has been called into question by medical experts concerned that vital health checks will be sacrificed for political expediency.

At his weekly boats briefing, Mr Morrison was forced to defend the government’s policy of removing people to offshore detention within 48 hours.

Medical professionals who have advised government on asylum seeker health said thorough screening, including vaccinations and X-rays, could not be achieved within two days. The former Labor government could manage only 12 days on average.

A government adviser, who cannot be named for contractual confidentiality reasons, said the Coalition policy had thrown up ”major ethical issues” for Australia.

The Australian Medical Association’s representative on the 12-member advisory group, Choong-Siew Yong, said asylum seekers, particularly children, needed to be screened for infectious diseases and developmental diseases in the same way ordinary migrant arrivals are.

Labor’s immigration spokesman, Tony Burke, called on the government to release any advice it held from the Immigration Health Advisory Group.

He said a 48-hour turnaround ”flies in the face” of everything he was told during his time as minister.

The meeting between Mr Abbott and Dr Yudhoyono also comes in the shadow of the latest asylum boat tragedy off Java, with 36 people so far confirmed drowned, and the arrival of another vessel at Christmas Island carrying 78 people.

with AAP

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