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PENRITH five-eighth Travis Burns faces bans of up to 16 matches, while South Sydney star Greg Inglis has been hit with a possible five-match suspension after being among nine players charged by the NRL match review committee.
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Among them are three St George Illawarra players – Dan Hunt, Josh Miller and Trent Merrin – all of whom were charged with grade one careless high tackles.

Burns is set to miss the rest of the season after he was charged for an intentional high tackle and a chicken wing incident in the Panthers 28-16 victory over the Roosters at Centrebet Stadium on Sunday afternoon.

He was was sent-off for a high shot on Martin Kennedy and received a grade three intentional high tackle charge that carries a suspension of 12 matches, while he is also facing a grade a grade two dangerous contact – unnessary arm/shoulder pressure for his chicken-wing style tackle on Roosters forward Mose Masoe.

If the Panthers take the early plea to both charges, the five-eighth would be ruled out for a total of 12 matches.

Inglis was charged with a grade four dangerous contact – shoulder, for his tackle on Young in the 33rd minute of the Rabbitohs’ 36-14 victory at ANZ Stadium on Saturday night.

An early guilty plea would sideline him for four matches but he faces a five-match ban if he unsuccesfully challenges the charge at the judiciary.

Brisbane’s Ben Te’o is facing a week suspension after he was charged with a grade two careless high-tackle on Titans forward Luke Bailey.

Teammate Josh Hoffman is facing a one or two-match suspension for a grade two dangerous contact charge.

Canberra’s Josh Papalii was charged with a grade one dangerous contact with a kicker, but will be free to play if he takes the early guilty plea.

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Question: I share an undercover double car space with a tenant. Because he parks his car too far forward I have extreme difficulty getting in and out.

I had the garages measured and a line painted in front and a letter was sent to him from his real estate and strata telling him to park behind the line.

He has ignored the request and has said he will park how he wishes as his tyres are on the line.

Is it OK to park like that, even though the front of his very big ute with a massive metal frame on it hangs way over onto common property? – Butterflyness2006, via Flat Chat Forum

Answer: If he’s parking over common property he’s parking on common property – it doesn’t matter where his wheels are.  The next time the strata manager or rental agent writes to him it should be to explain that he is breaching a by-law which means he is also breaching the terms of his lease.

It’s a shame you can’t work this out amicably but this person seems to have no consideration for his neighbours so it may take a warning that he could be evicted if he doesn’t pull his head (and his truck) in.

Read about the whole parking madness here.  NormalfalsefalseEN-AUX-NONEX-NONE

QUESTION: I share an undercover double car space with a tenant. Because he parks his car too far forward I have extreme difficulty getting in and out.

I had the garages measured and a line painted in front and a letter was sent to him from his real estate and strata telling him to park behind the line.

He has ignored the request and has said he will park how he wishes as his tyres are on the line.

Is it OK to park like that, even though the front of his very big ute with a massive metal frame on it hangs way over onto common property? – Butterflyness2006, via Flat Chat Forum

ANSWER: If he’s parking over common property he’s parking on common property – it doesn’t matter where his wheels are.  The next time the strata manager or rental agent writes to him it should be to explain that he is breaching a by-law which means he is also breaching the terms of his lease.

It’s a shame you can’t work this out amicably but this person seems to have no consideration for his neighbours so it may take a warning that he could be evicted if he doesn’t pull his head (and his truck) in.

Read about the whole parking madness here.  

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Hawthorn coach Alastair Clarkson.Firebrand Hawthorn coach Alastair Clarkson is believed to be under investigation for abusing an umpire during a junior football carnival yesterday.
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The Age has been told Clarkson, who punched a hole in the wall of a coaches’ box at the MCG on Saturday, was an official runner for his son’s under-nine team when he allegedly fell foul of an umpire.

The Age understands it has been claimed that Clarkson directed abuse, including the word “f–k”, at the umpire when he was told to leave the field during the South Metro Junior Football League’s end-of-season lightning carnival.

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Approached by The Age for comment, Hawthorn Football Club spokeswoman Leah Mirabella said she was preparing a statement but “wanted to get all the facts straight” first. Clarkson could not be reached for comment.

Asked by The Age if the incident involved Clarkson, David Cannizzo, general manager of the SMJFL, said a team official had been reported for “unacceptable behaviour” but it was league policy not disclose the names of players or officials “to protect the people involved”.

But he issued a statement confirming the league was “investigating an incident involving an umpire representative and a team official” during the carnival yesterday at King George Reserve in East Bentleigh.

“Following a review of the match report, the SMJFL has requested an explanation from the relevant club,” the statement reads.

“The League does not believe it is appropriate to release the names of those people involved and will not be making further comment at this time.”

The president of one of the junior clubs confirmed Clarkson’s son was an under-nine player and the club was co-operating with the SMJFL investigation, but would offer no further comment.

The lightning carnival is the premiership round-robin playoff for all under-nine teams in the SMJFL. Each participating team plays in three matches of two 12-minute halves.

Meanwhile, the club is believed to be footing the bill after Clarkson damaged a wall in a coaches’ box at the MCG on Saturday after Hawthorn defender Matt Suckling conceded a goal to Collingwood at the end of the first quarter.

Hawthorn went on to beat Collingwood by 47 points, and sits in third spot on the AFL ladder behind Sydney and Adelaide.

Clarkson gained a reputation for his fiery temper following a spiteful match between Hawthorn and Essendon late in the 2009 season when he had to be restrained by Hawthorn football manager Mark Evans as he shouted abuse at Bombers players.

In recent years the AFL has taken a firm approach to incidents of perceived umpire abuse as it attempts to tackle problems with umpire recruitment across all levels of the game. Last month Richmond was fined $5000 after the AFL found one of its staff had abused an umpire following a game against Fremantle.

Last month, Carlton players Jarrad Waite, Jeremy Laidler and Marc Murphy were fined $2500 each by the AFL after they posted comments on Twitter that criticised umpires who officiated during Carlton’s losing match to West Coast.

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Splash down: Drew Petrie with his son Jack, 21 months, at Williamstown yesterday.AS COLLINGWOOD leads the list of teams struggling to successfully field three tall forwards this season North Melbourne is bucking the trend – in no small part due to its hulking but unassuming forward Drew Petrie.
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While Petrie’s goal-scoring exploits – he has 14 goals in the past fortnight – would be enough to generate significant interest on the open market, he is happily under contract, having extended his deal last year without the obvious temptation of gauging his value to other clubs.

Petrie’s career-best 48 goals last season is set to be exceeded this year, with the 29-year-old needing six goals from the Kangaroos’ last six home-and-away matches to reach that mark.

Averaging 2.7 goals per match in a middle-range team is seemingly a mark of a spearhead peaking late in his career, although North Melbourne’s chief of football, Donald McDonald, said the fact Petrie was no longer being shifted to fill ”holes” in the improving team was even more significant.

”He’s been a really consistent player for us for a long time. He’s played in a lot of different roles – he’s had to go into the ruck, he’s played forward at times we were averaging 45 inside-50s, so you don’t get the same opportunities you do when you’re averaging 57,” McDonald said.

”Since I’ve been here he’s always been a really valuable player for us. Now, the role that’s been earmarked for him, that key forward, he’s really settled into it because there’s good continuity down back and [Todd] Goldstein in the ruck, so he’s not thrown all over the place to plug holes.”

Petrie yesterday justified his selfless reputation when discussing his second-half resurgence against Richmond, which included not only his five last-quarter goals but also a desperate tackle on Tiger Kelvin Moore that created a huge turnover in the third quarter.

”When they kick it to me as much as they do I probably should, some days, take a few grabs, like yesterday. But what I did doesn’t happen without what happens up the field,” he said.

”I thought throughout the game I was a bit reactive, wasn’t moving around much and thought the ball would land in my lap, instead of going and getting it. In the last quarter I made sure I went and got it and presented to the boys, and they were good enough to kick it long and deep.”

Finals seemed an outside possibility for the Kangaroos even after they beat Gold Coast in round 12, by virtue of the string of fellow finals contenders they had to face afterwards. But they have won four of their past five matches.

In all of those matches coach Brad Scott has deployed Robbie Tarrant and Lachie Hansen alongside Petrie. The result, apart from the wins, has been 10 goals each for Tarrant and Hansen and 20 for Petrie.

”It stretches opposition defences when there’s three talls running around, and the fitness of Robbie and Lachie is outstanding. They’ve both got good pace and good strength as well,” Petrie said.

Despite Petrie clearly being the senior forward in that trio McDonald stressed the veteran was nevertheless prepared to put himself at a disadvantage, such as by making a dummy lead or splitting a park despite having no chance of marking the ball, to allow one of his tall teammates to convert.

”He does that. He’s an extremely selfless player. Don’t worry, it’s not about Drew Petrie, it’s about North Melbourne Football Club,” McDonald said.

While a Coleman Medal is not out of the question for Petrie, he dismissed suggestions of being in career-best form with a declaration that the team ”is in career-best form under Brad Scott”.

McDonald said Petrie’s performance on Sunday – ”a genuine match-winning effort … to convert those shots in a pressure game” – was evidence of what all his teammates, and everyone at the club, knew he could deliver when it was needed most by North.

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Providing an adequate deal for a player of Ben Reid’s stature looms as a challenge for the Magpies.CONTRACT discussions between Collingwood and Ben Reid have slowed as the impasse with Travis Cloke – an issue that is having an impact on the player and club – continues.
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Reid, an All-Australian centre half-back, is out of contract this year and it has been speculated he could be the one player squeezed out or, more likely, open to a big-money offer from a rival club as the Magpies deal with a tight salary cap.

It’s understood Reid wants to remain a Magpie, the club wants to keep him and he is not in the sights of Greater Western Sydney, one of several clubs in need of a key defender.

But providing an adequate deal for a player of Reid’s stature looms as a challenge for the Magpies.

It’s understood Reid asked for a two-year deal some months ago but the Magpies, who have been preoccupied with several contractual issues, Cloke’s the most time consuming, have yet to commit to a timeframe.

Magpies football manager Geoff Walsh last night denied talks had stalled.

”I meet with Paul Connors [Reid’s manager] regularly. Paul has a number of our players, including Ben; nothing has been held up,” he said.

Connors was unavailable for comment. Connors, who has nine Magpies on his books, last week secured midfielder Dayne Beams to a three-year deal believed to be worth about $1.1 million and has also inked new deals for Luke Ball, Jarryd Blair and Steele Sidebottom.

The Magpies believe Connors’ strong knowledge of their salary cap could work in the favour of his players and the club.

Coach Nathan Buckley has warned off-contract players the club has little room to manoeuvre under a bulging salary cap next season.

While Cloke has been under the spotlight for his contract demands, offers of $1 million a season from Melbourne and Fremantle, and poor form, the Magpies have also yet to secure deals for Sharrod Wellingham, Harry O’Brien and Tyson Goldsack.

Cloke’s management, his father David, and Ralph Carr, did not return calls yesterday.

Cloke, a restricted free agent, is under growing pressure to snap out of his on-field funk, with the likes of retired stars Matthew Lloyd and Matthew Richardson urging him to re-sign as soon as possible in a bid to focus on regaining his form.

Cloke has managed only 35 goals in 16 matches, including just one each in his past two games, against Geelong and Hawthorn. The power forward even endured Bronx cheers from Pie fans when he kicked his lone goal late in the final term against the Hawks on Saturday.

This is in contrast to last season when he booted 69 goals and won All-Australian selection.

Lloyd said Cloke’s performance on Saturday was more representative of a player worth $400,000 a season.

Cloke is after a five-year deal with the Magpies but would settle for four if the money was right. He wants more than $800,000 a season to remain with the club.

The Magpies face Greater Western Sydney at Skoda Stadium on Saturday, giving Cloke and fellow key forward Chris Dawes a chance to regain their form.

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Saints be praised.ST KILDA is on track for a small profit in 2012, and the Saints are taking an old-school approach to raising money for the club.
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The club is holding a raffle but there are no chooks involved. Corporates can win a place on the front of the club guernsey for the August 25, round-22 match against Greater Western Sydney at a cost of $3300 a ticket.

Saints’ sponsors can buy one of 100 tickets available.

”It’s part of our innovation platform,” joked Saints’ chief executive Michael Nettlefold last night. ”We like to do things a little differently.”

St Kilda has a major sponsorship agreement with Centrebet, but the arrangement allows for the club to sell joint sponsorship rights on the other side of the guernsey as a one-off.

The package on offer for a winning ticket includes advertising rights for a month on the club website, branding on the run-through banner and tickets for a corporate function at the GWS game at Etihad Stadium.

The jumper will carry the names of St Kilda’s longest-serving members as part of a members’ appreciation day. Nettlefold said demand had been ”quite surprising” already.

”We’re pitching at an audience that is ‘St Kilda-centric’ if you like,” he said. ”But a lot of people see it as having great commercial value.”

Meanwhile, St Kilda is likely to be in the black in 2012 after losing $1.5 million in 2011, according to Nettlefold.

”It’s going to be significantly better than last year,” he said.

”We’re tracking in line with where we budgeted for. Of course we’re supported by the Future Fund but our TV audiences have been exceptional, and we’re getting positive feedback about the style of play and the youth that we’ve introduced to the team.”

The Saints dropped out of the top eight with the defeat in Sydney on Sunday, but are still in the hunt for the finals with a winnable game against Western Bulldogs this weekend.

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All’s well with Hawthorn it would seem. But that’s only on the surface.AT A time when Hawthorn should be revelling in its superb on-field form, the club was forced on to the back foot yesterday.
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Coach Alastair Clarkson is under investigation for swearing at a junior football club official while acting as a runner at his son Matthew’s under-nine match on Sunday – a day after he punched a hole in the wall of the coach’s box at the MCG.

The Hawks also announced Lance Franklin will undergo a driver education program and donate $1000 to a program or charity that advocates road safety after he was caught speeding last week.

And the club was forced to deal with an incident involving defender Jarrad Boumann.

Boumann left a nightclub with a friend at 2.45am on Sunday and was in search of a taxi when he was embroiled in a verbal exchange with a group of men.

The Hawks said Boumann was repeatedly kicked by a number of people while he was on the ground, and injured his hand during the altercation. He will be required to give a statement to police.

The Hawks will be glad to just get back on the field this week as they prepare to face Essendon at Etihad Stadium on Friday night.

The Dons will certainly have their toughness and composure tested, for Geelong all but guaranteed itself of victory with a ferocious attack on the man and ball in the first term of Friday night’s 67-point win.

The Hawks had yet to complete a major review of the Bombers yesterday, but that opening term, when the Cats booted four goals before their rival had scored, will be a key talking point.

Midfielder Sam Mitchell wants his men to also begin strongly at Etihad Stadium.

”Certainly Essendon have been a great starting side for a long time,” Mitchell said. ”They have got some genuinely good A-grade players now. They will be disappointed with last week’s performance, obviously, but it’s a new week and they will be watching us and the way we played. I am sure they will have spent plenty of time on the way to beat us.”

That could take some time for the Bombers, if recent form is any guide. The Hawks have won 10 of their past 11 matches.

”They are usually pretty physical games but they are played rather than in the dirty ways that they maybe did in the old days,” Mitchell said of the Bombers.

In their past four wins, against Carlton, Greater Western Sydney, Western Bulldogs and Collingwood, the Hawks have led the league in disposals differential, contested-possession differential and inside-50 differential.

Between rounds 10 to 17, they have conceded just 427 points, the best record of any club. The absence of Franklin has not hurt either, as the Hawks have led for 90 per cent of game time in this period.

Clarkson has long called for his midfielders to not be ”Buddy-centric”, and without their injured champion they have had to adjust.

Jarryd Roughead and Jack Gunston have shared the focus inside the attacking 50, while Jordan Lewis, playing as a defensive forward on Heath Shaw, booted five goals against the Magpies on Saturday.

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It’s not that bad: Dustin Fletcher feels the pain of Essendon’s downward spiral this season at training yesterday.RECOVERY SESSION
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ESSENDON is at a flashpoint in its season. Already a top-four spot is probably out of the question, looking at the Bombers’ draw. But coach James Hird will be more concerned with simple matters, such as the way his team is playing.

Games against white-hot Hawthorn this Friday night, followed by a road trip to play Adelaide and a clash with in-form North Melbourne will focus Hird and his players over the next three weeks. If not, closing games against Carlton, Richmond and Collingwood will do it. The Dons lack anything remotely approaching a ”gimme”.

In the middle of 2011 Essendon lost five games in a row and limped into the end of the season, losing its only final by a big margin. There is a touch of deja vu about what Hird’s team is putting out in recent weeks, although to be fair, it has won as many games (11) as it did through all of 2011.

There is a pattern to it and it starts and ends with defensive organisation, structure and the ability to stop the opposition. Essendon has had huge improvement in these areas in 2012, conceding just 84 points a game, its lowest number for years, and 20 points a game better than last season. But two weeks ago St Kilda kicked 21 goals against the Dons, unpicking them at Etihad Stadium, then last Friday night, Geelong bombed 20 goals through Essendon’s defence.

Essendon conceded more than 100 points in just two of its first 13 games; then twice in its past three matches. ”We know that a big thing for us is lifting our defensive pressure,” said defender Kyle Hardingham yesterday. ”At the start of the year it was one of the best and I think this week we’ll do that.”

The Bombers’ season is distinctly broken up. They won eight of their first nine games, starting out on fire, with the only loss being by less than a kick. Then phase two, beginning at round 10. They are 3-4 since then, with two of the victories being over less-than-threatening Port Adelaide and the Western Bulldogs.

Statistics show the Bombers have fallen way off the mark. The most significant are kicking efficiency differential and disposal efficiency differential, which compares the percentage efficiency of the team directly with its week-by-week opponent.

Essendon is 18th in both categories from round 10-17. It is butchering the football. Yet it was third and sixth in those two categories from rounds one to nine.

From rounds one to nine the Bombers were second in the competition for clearances by differential; from round 10 onwards they have plummeted to 14th.

The disposal efficiency figures probably show why Essendon cannot defend any more. It is impossible for even the best defensive group to defend against a bad turnover in the middle of the ground.

Former Essendon assistant coach Robert Shaw, now coaching school football but still watching his beloved Bombers from the stands, said there were a few issues eating away at the team. ”Firstly it’s personnel, because you lose your three key forwards and that’s significant,” he said. ”I believe the small forwards have to apply more pressure and that has to be addressed. And in the middle, Jobe Watson and Brent Stanton have had a long year and they’re getting hammered. Teams are putting work into them … Plus to his great credit, teams are dragging Dustin Fletcher away from goal and Essendon has to find a way to manoeuvre him back within 30 metres of goal.”

There are two other issues. One is that Essendon’s fixture turned out to be extremely good, for the Bombers have still only played two of the top four teams, Sydney and Collingwood (losing both). Hence the draw toughens up from now on.

Second, there is the soft tissue epidemic. Hird is unapologetic, despite the count of hamstring and quadriceps and calf tears moving into the 20s. Essendon has lost 74 player-matches to soft tissues this year, by comparison with Geelong’s 18. But according to Hird, it is part of a strategy.

When Mark Thompson came to the club as an assistant coach last year, he observed that Essendon was not training hard enough. Hird himself felt Essendon could not run out games. The training load was ramped up under high performance manager Dean Robinson and Hird has been prepared to ”wear” the shorter-term consequences as part of a longer-term search for what football people call ”hard bodies”.

Hird also said last week that while he had lost a few players along the way – Paddy Ryder, Kyle Reimers, David Zaharakis, Michael Hurley and Michael Hibberd will all most likely be absent this Friday – the harder training was helping Essendon complete games with more intensity.

It’s a moot point. Essendon has won nine last quarters in 2012, just one more than this time last year, not in the top six in the competition, and three behind the league-leading Geelong with 12 final-quarter wins. Essendon keeps talking about it as a master strategy of conditioning. The fans just watch and wonder.

”It’s frustrating … to see the stars break down, but I see it as a two or three-year plan, not a six-week plan,” said Shaw.

”I’m with the club on this and I’m not just putting out the party line.

”I think we’ll look back in two years and say ‘gee they took a punt, got a whack, but they worked through it’.”

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AFL football is not heading down the same path as rugby league – any suggestion otherwise has little or no merit. AFL clubs requesting private meetings with players, managers and family members is nothing new. It has been occurring for a long time. So why is this an issue among fans?
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To be clear, fans are now made more aware of this and the extended media coverage gives them a constantly updated news service – dedicated media outlets are now providing content daily. This is not a sudden trend. Put simply, you can only sign a player as a free agent inside the trade window, no contracts can be signed mid-season and no player can leave his club until the end of the season. Rugby league does not have free agency, nor does it have compensation picks.

An agent will field calls weekly from AFL clubs inquiring about the services of their players – contracted and out of contract. Frequently a club will ask to meet a player or suggest what appropriate action can take place to research the potential signing. Contracts are never signed, offered or processed in these meetings but an understanding of the player’s mindset and future opportunities are. A good agent can lean on these discussions to work through the best scenario for the player’s contract.

Suggestions that Geelong acted unprofessionally in the chase for Travis Boak are ridiculous. The Cats certainly didn’t advertise they were in town, nor did they affect Boak’s commitments as a Port Adelaide player. How were Chris Scott and his charges supposed to know an airport worker knew a journalist who connected the dots?

Geelong did what many in the AFL industry have come to understand as common practice.

The only disappointing thing was how the media portrayed this as an arrogant and bullish attempt. There was nothing arrogant about this approach.

The trend that is coming into the game is the increased media speculation and interest generated from the daily TV programs. Add to this that the AFL has its own news website.

Contracts can take 12 to 18 months to finalise. During this time clubs will ask questions and co-ordinate with the out-of-contract player’s agent for a time to facilitate a meeting in confidence. It is not a sudden trend hitting our game.

The reality is that the football community is now made aware of what is considered the norm. No player will sign with another club mid-season and our game is not in danger. It’s evolving.

The Secret Agent is one of the AFL’s 95 accredited player agents.

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WHEN I came to write this piece, it was obvious that I would have to write it with an image of Alastair Clarkson looming at my shoulder. And as I write, I can feel him squinting at the words as they come, still scanning them for treachery three years on from our last conversation.
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It’s strange to think that as a past player I could still be concerned with his opinion. I can only put this down to his craft as a coach, and his fierce ability to have a player wanting his respect – or perhaps more accurately, wanting to avoid his wrath.

I remember Alastair not as a tyrant, or a bully, but as a fierce and intelligent character. And it’s somehow impressed upon the game and the players that fierce characters make the best coaches.

Alastair once took a group on a training camp to Tasmania, where we competed in teams in a type of ”Amazing Race”. The clues led to physical challenges, and on to more clues until we finally arrived in a town to camp for the night. One team had become lost in the fading light, and an assistant coach finally told them to forget it, and head back to camp.

After having my dinner and a fun day out, I asked someone where the coach was. I was told he couldn’t bear to stay around after learning the lost team had given up. He’d gone back to Victoria.

One of the joys of football is how it can simplify scenarios through raw physicality. Can you beat the other guy or not? And Alastair, even in his physical decline, could have you second-guessing whether you could beat him. The knot at his brow, and the hole in the MCG wall, are as much a ruse in this game as they are an extension of his character.

Everything from the playing group tends upward, as it does in the mob, to the coach. And he, whoever he is, needs to give the impression he’s more willing, more sure of things and focused than anyone else.

Alastair made it clear in my playing days that his culture would be one that stayed tightly inside the group. A kind of trench was dug to keep us separate from the media, and focused on his plans. It felt like a good idea. It felt like being a part of something bigger, more personal than just being an AFL player. The good sides must surely feel this way, and the poor sides must not.

I’ve said before that I think coaching requires a higher fanaticism for the game than playing it. But more than this, coaching is a hugely ambitious idea.

Coaching means inheriting a group of strangers and convincing them that doing what you say will be better for the players than if they think for themselves. It’s a sporting example of the totalitarian model.

David Parkin described an incident to Mike Sheehan that occurred when he was coaching Carlton. Parkin stopped the players in the race when they were about to take the field, and told them: ”When one of our little blokes goes down, I want you to turn around and knock out the bloke standing next to you.”

When a Carlton player was downed and a melee ensued, Parkin scanned the field ”to see who was coachable”. He said Mario Bortolotto was the only one to do it. ”It was a disgraceful act, but I buy Mario a meal every year, because he’d done what I told him.”

I don’t think I’ve ever heard a more explicit admission about the shifting influence of a coach. Parkin went on to say: ”Coaching does things to people, the white-line fever, the expectation of a moment. Under those extreme circumstances, you can do and say things that you know you shouldn’t, and can cost you for the rest of the your days.”

In my experience, Alastair Clarkson is not a man who suffers from being out of control too often. He brings his intensity to every aspect of his coaching, and perhaps occasionally beyond it. But who could argue that anything has been more influential in his success? Largely, the players continue to do what he asks of them.

Timothy Boyle played 31 games for Hawthorn, all under coach Alastair Clarkson.

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WHEN Kurt Tippett walked off Etihad Stadium after receiving a heavy knock to the back of his head going for a mark against North Melbourne in round 13, he was interrogated by the club doctor, Andrew Potter.
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He asked Tippett where he was playing, at what stage of the game it was, who kicked the last goal, and which team had Adelaide played the previous week and whether it had won.

The giant forward got them right, but Potter wasn’t totally convinced. Tippett said he felt neither nauseous nor dizzy, so his balance and co-ordination were tested. Things didn’t seem quite right; throughout the process trainers were keeping a scorecard of a different kind, and it was obvious he was struggling.

Finally, when Tippett looked at Potter and said, ”I just don’t feel right”, the decision to sub him out of the game was an obvious one.

It’s three games and two more concussions later, and almost every morning for the past 30 days Tippett has been drilled by Potter on questions ranging from as simple as what day it is, the old-fashioned line of what he had for breakfast, and tougher challenges like his mother’s maiden name.

Tippett started to feel better and was breezing through the quizzes, so he started light training, but it still wasn’t enough proof for Potter, who repeated computerised psychological and memory tests that every player does before the start of the season and compared them.

Everything seemed fine, so Tippett played against Richmond and kicked three goals. The next week he accidentally struck his head against Port Adelaide’s Tom Logan just 19 minutes into the game and the concussion testing process resumed. He failed.

Concerned by two heavy knocks in three weeks, Potter advised coach Brenton Sanderson to rest Tippett, and there was no dispute. Yet, he was well enough to travel to Sydney with the team.

And then on Saturday night, there was another simple clash of heads, this time with West Coast defender Beau Waters, and Tippett was again being asked what day it was and what he had had for breakfast that morning.

According to Potter, the test results this time weren’t too bad, but three concussions, no matter how mild they may have been, in four matches? The call was obvious. Tippett was ordered complete rest for 48 hours, and yesterday the question-and-answer process continued. Adelaide is now asking itself what is best for him. As Potter said, it’s not simply about who will play at full forward against Geelong on Saturday any more; it’s whether Tippett has bigger problems than trying to remember whether he had muesli.

Tomorrow is a crucial day. If Potter is not convinced this was just another knock – Tippett has, after all, been listed as ”test” on the club’s injury update list – he will consult former Collingwood club doctor, and now AFL medical adviser, neurologist Dr Paul McCrory.

”One of the problems is that we don’t have one particular parameter that tells us when you have recovered from concussion,” he said. ”Concussion is a functional disturbance of brain. There is a lot of research going on, and one of the things they are looking at is functional MRI scans of the brain, rather than structural, which is the normal MRI.

”There is some suggestion this may help us with our diagnosis and management of Kurt’s concussion, or we may go on and do a formal neuro-psychological testing with a neuro-psychologist. This involves a whole bracket of tests that may take an hour to complete to see how he is going and how the results compare with the norm based on his pre-season computer tests.

”One of the problems is that the more we find out about concussion – there is a lot of research being done within the AFL and everywhere else – the more we realise there is perhaps a lot we don’t know … The first thing is to make sure he feels well and then we have to decide when it is safe for him to play.”

Potter said they were lucky the AFL had doctors considered world experts in concussion and its management. ”We are interested in not only when players who have been concussed are ready to play, but what they are going to be like next year and when they leave footy. It’s about their general wellbeing; whether they feel right.”

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EVEN as the magnitude of his capitulation was still sinking in, Adam Scott was aware his calamitous four-bogey finish to the British Open would be considered one of the most ignominious collapses in major championship history.
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”You can compare it, sure,” said Scott of his performance and that of his friend, and boyhood idol, Greg Norman.

”I don’t know what else you can make of it. It wasn’t a good finish to the golf tournament. I don’t know what else to say to that. Generally, I close golf tournaments very well. But this one I’ve let slip through and that’s going to hurt. But I’ve got to bounce back.”

Yet, despite his obvious disappointment at relinquishing a four-shot lead in four holes, Scott said he was already eager to get back on the course to exploit the form that had put him into a position from which he could – and should – have claimed his first major title.

”My golf game is in fantastic shape,” he said, despite the errors that had contributed to the seven bogeys he shot in his final round 75. ”I’ve probably never been more confident. Maybe that’s something to learn from today, even when you’re playing that good you’ve got to make sure the percentages are in your favour when you are coming down the stretch like that.”

Speaking after he had watched Ernie Els accept the trophy that had seemed to be his at the 18th-green presentation, and a packed press conference where he was forced to relive those nightmare final four holes, Scott acknowledged the extent of his defeat had not yet sunk in.

”My family are here, so that’s good,” he said. ”I felt like I played so good. I’m not completely gutted yet. We’ll see what happens.”

Scott will take a brief break at his home in Switzerland. He will then play six tournaments in eight weeks, including the year’s final major, the US PGA Championship.

”No matter what, I came up with a plan to play through to the end of the Fedex Cup, and I’ll stick to it,” he said. ”I’ve got a lot to play for with the World Golf Championship event and a major coming right up. I should take advantage of this form. This is what I should be doing.”

Scott made no excuses for his failure but, while most will attach the ”choke” label to the errors he made in the final holes, he said he had felt no nerves.

”I just kept thinking about playing the way I was playing,” he said of his mindset. ”All morning and last night I thought about a million things. On the golf course, I couldn’t believe I wasn’t thinking about stuff. On the 18th, the other day, I was nervous and my hands were shaky. Today I felt great and I hit a lot of quality shots. I didn’t put myself in too much trouble – one shot at a time like we always say.”

While much of the attention was on Scott, he paid tribute to Els’ four-under back nine that enabled the South African veteran to exploit Scott’s collapse.

”He did what he had to do to win the tournament,” Scott said. ”He needed to do something special. It’s an unbelievable back-nine score. I was going along nicely. It’s just a shot here or there, that’s the way the game is.

”There are so many things to look back on … start of the week, give me that ten-footer to go into a play-off and I’m going to take it. One of these days, I’ve got to step up and make it.”

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COMMENT
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IN THE hollow aftermath of his calamitous capitulation at Royal Lytham and St Annes, it was tempting to suggest that for Adam Scott, who grew up idolising fellow Queenslander Greg Norman, such a grim fate on the closing holes of a major championship was in his tea leaves.

As a teenager, Scott wept when Norman fell apart at the 1996 Masters and handed the title to that ultimate Sunday afternoon pugilist Nick Faldo. In making four bogeys in his last four holes to relinquish a seemingly unassailable lead to Ernie Els, Scott’s self-harm was no less agonising.

It was the type of wrenching public humiliation that fully entitled the victim to kick the ground, curse the golfing gods and tell the courtesy car driver to ignore all speed limits on the way to the airport.

But, Scott endured his inquisition at a packed news conference with grace and almost ridiculous good humour. Every shot was analysed, every club selection second-guessed, every emotion relived, every hypothetical dissected.

Even when a local reporter inquired about a Scott family connection with the nearby town of Freckleton, he did not bristle. He patiently explained that his father’s cousins were from Freckleton. ”And,” he added, ”I believe his aunt lived behind the ninth green once. That’s the best I’ve got for you.”

In a strange way, it was the very best of Scott. A performance that drew applause from the press tent ghouls who had gathered to write his golfing obituary. Scott then repeated his answers outside, for the benefit of the Australian film crews who had descended on the last day expecting to report on a famous victory. And, later, he spoke of the unspeakable yet again, with a small bunch of reporters, reaching to shake their hands before they reached for his.

Each time, Scott’s message was similarly upbeat. He was gutted, but would take strength from his performance. He had proven good enough to get into a winning position. He would get there again.

As Scott admitted, perhaps his strangely positive manner was the consequence of shock. So violently had the Auld Claret Jug been ripped from his grasp – or, perhaps more accurately, so unexpectedly had he relinquished it – that it might take days, even weeks, for the full magnitude of this disaster to register.

After every Tway, Mize and Faldo deprived Norman of the silverware his talent demanded, he developed a post-trauma facade that was a blend of grace and defiance. A visage that made you wonder if it was sportsmanship, or the unwillingness to face his fallibility, that stopped Norman from flooring Faldo with a right hook on the 18th green, rather than falling into his stony-faced conqueror’s embrace.

Now we wait to see what toll such a bitter defeat will take on Scott. Will it play on his mind the next time he gets into a winning position? Will it motivate him to work even harder to get the chance to make amends?

Meanwhile, Scott will be burdened with the ”choker” label. Hard to dispute given the numbers on the scorecard. Yet, given Scott betrayed no real nerves, his was a strange kind of choke.

Apart from a jittery short par putt on the 16th, Scott’s fatal shots were slightly imprecise rather than wildly mishit: a six iron just left on the breeze into heavy rough at the 17th; a sweetly struck three wood on the 18th tee that went too far, and too straight, into a treacherous bunker. Nothing like the life-threatening duck hoot that brought his playing partner, Graeme McDowell, unstuck on the 10th, Tiger Woods’ triple bogey from a deep bunker on the sixth or Brandt Snedeker’s back-to-back double bogeys.

Scott’s great lament might be that, by playing more tentatively than he had in his first three rounds, he put himself in a position from which he could collapse. Geoff Ogilvy said, before Scott set out, that ”sometimes a four-shot lead can be harder to defend than a one-shot lead”. Scott admitted that, at times, his mind fluctuated between attack and defence over the first 14 holes. In his first three rounds, he had been almost relentlessly positive.

Scott’s greatest problem proved to be the broomstick that had the nay-sayers circling as he was poised for victory. In his first three rounds Scott had 26, 30 and 30 putts, in his last 34. Too often, defensive prods stopped agonisingly short.

Of course, after such a dramatic, disastrous day, the second-guessing will never stop. Not until Scott puts things right.

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