The unheralded number 44

Number 44 is not a number accustomed to football superstars. 44 is a number that is usually given to footballers who barely make it onto a football list or a young draftee, who has to earn his stripes before being given a lower number.

But at Carlton and Geelong, 44 is a number worn with great pedigree.

Footballing wise, Justin Madden and Corey Enright were extreme opposites. In his own words, Madden was a lumbering ruckman who could not run, but could use his height and footballing smarts to forge a career.

Enright is 19 centimetres shorter than Madden and forged a career playing across halfback in a Geelong side deemed one of the best to ever grace the football field.

Despite the gulf in their abilities, Madden and Enright’s careers drew similar paths. Both players played 332 games wearing number 44 and both were held in high regard internally at their clubs, but did not receive much acclaim from the wider footballing public.

Madden began his career as a tall, skinny ruckman at Essendon in 1980. Recruited from Airport West, Madden was played predominately as a forward, because his brother Simon played in the ruck.

Realising his chances of dethroning his brother in the ruck were slim, Madden transferred to Carlton at the end of the 1982 season.

At first, Madden played in the forward pocket, but soon he was moved into the ruck and retained that mantle for the remainder of his career.

Madden was a cult figure to Carlton supports, due to his bubbly personality and awkward style of play.

Speaking on Fox Footy’s Open Mike, Madden said he always wanted to have fun on the football field and didn’t take the game too seriously.

The ruckman played with some of the greats of the game, including Greg Williams, Stephen Kernahan, Stephen Silvagni and Anthony Koutoufides. Because of the superstars he played with, Madden’s own success went unnoticed.

Madden leaping for a mark.

Madden won two premierships, two John Nicholls Medals (Carlton Best and Fairest award) and was an All-Australian, as well as finishing runner-up to Brad Hardie in the 1985 Brownlow Medal,

Similarly to Madden, Corey Enright had great success at his football club, without receiving the fame of his teammates.

Enright was drafted with pick 47 in the 1999 draft by the Geelong Football Club. Originally from Adelaide, Enright moved to the Cats with Joel Corey, Paul Chapman and Cameron Ling, who were all recruited in the same draft,

An extremely hard worker, who used his leg speed and strong pair of hands to his advantage, Enright won Geelong’s best first year player award in 2001.

2001 would be a pivotal year in the future of the Geelong Football Club, as they recruited Jimmy Bartel, James Kelly, Steve Johnson and Garry Ablett in the draft.

The names Bartel, Kelly, Johnson, Chapman, Corey and Ling all featured alongside Enright in the Cats best in the 2007 Grand Final. Enright finished the with 29 disposals and four marks, outstanding numbers for a Cats defender in the game they won by 119 points.

Enright always possessed dashing speed.

Enright would reach the pinnacle of his career in the following years, claiming six All-Australians (2008-11, 13, 16) and three premierships (2007, 09, 11).

Enright’s biggest achievement was winning two Carji Greeves Medals (Geelong Best and Fairest award) in premiership years.

On the night he claimed the 2011 Carji Greeves Medal, Geelong coach Chris Scott introduced Enright as “still the most underrated player in the competition”.

Enright finally started to receive recognition from the wider public later in his career. This was largely due to the departures of his more heralded teammates.

But like Madden, Enright would prefer to be an unheralded player in a successful team.

When asked by Mike Sheahan on Open Mike if there was ever the possibility of switching to a lower number, Madden said he was given the option, but preferred to remain in number 44, because it reminded him that he was not one of the best players in the team and needed to work hard to remain in the best 22.

Knowing the type of player Enright was, he too, probably preferred wearing number 44 to remind himself of all the hard work he completed to forge a successful career.

 

 

 

AFL Championship

Imagine if AFL clubs played for a title that could be won weekly.

A title similar to the one’s seen in the world of Boxing, UFC and the WWE.

The AFL Championship is a title that is up for grabs during every round of the home and away season.

Teams defeating the previous holder of the title win the belt.

The championship first began in 1898, a year after the inaugural season of the VFL.

The 1897 season was a year played out to determine the championship holder, which ended up being Essendon, who defeated Melbourne in the Grand Final.

The Bombers entered 1898 as the inaugural champions and started the campaign strongly, winning their first five games.

In round six the Bombers were defeated by Geelong, who became the new titleholders.

From there, the championship was shared between all the VFL/AFL clubs for 120 years, including University, who held the crown on two separate occasions for a total of four weeks.

During the 2018 season, regular updates on the title holder will be posted on the Sportdot Twitter and Facebook page.

For more information on the AFL Championship, click on the link below.

https://create.piktochart.com/embed/29083499-new-piktochart

The Collingwood and Richmond trade war

It was a war that should never have happened. A war that saw one club bankrupt and the other on the brink of extinction.

Collingwood and Richmond have never gotten along.The cross-town rivals have shared a history that dates back to the 1920s, when the Tigers claimed their first premiership in the 1920 grand final.

Collingwood sought their revenge by trouncing the Tigers in three successive grand finals between1927 to 1929.

Tensions between the clubs were so fierce that Richmond immortal Jack Dyer confessed he could not watch black and white television because of his hatred for the Magpies.

But for all of their history, nothing would prepare the clubs for the bitter trade wars of the early 1980’s.

Richmond and Collingwood began the decade by squaring off in the 1980 Grand Final. In front of 113,461 fans, the Tigers defeated the Magpies by 81 points to win their 10th VFL premiership.

With a side full of youth, the Tigers were expected to dominate the decade and be become one of the most successful teams in VFL history.

However, the Tigers failed to make the finals in 1981 and sacked coach Tony Jewell.

Former player Francis Bourke was appointed coach in 1982 and guided the Tigers to the Grand Final. But in wet conditions the Tigers were no match for Carlton, who ran away with an 18-point victory.

While Richmond was mourning the Grand Final defeat, Collingwood were in the midst of an evolution.

For the first time in six years the Magpies failed to make the finals. The Collingwood board were criticised for being conservative and the lack of improvement saw rebel groups challenge the board for power of the club.

One of these rebel groups was the ‘New Magpies’, who were led by well know media identity and businessman Ranald McDonald.

McDonald and the‘New Magpies’ promised fans if elected onto the board they would embark on one of the biggest recruiting campaigns ever seen in VFL history.

Ranald McDonald

An election was called and the ‘New Magpies’ gained power of the club.

Collingwood historian Michael Roberts recalls the ‘New Magpies’ early promises.

“They [the ‘New Magpies’] went out to spend big money and buy a premiership. It was a charged environment under that regime and that mean’t they were spending big money and that mean’t clubs who were poached by Collingwood got a bit more pissed off.”

Richmond was one of the clubs annoyed by the Collingwood recruiting strategy.

In the wake of the grand final defeat, club legends David Cloke and Geoff Raines asked for pay increases to compliment their service to the Tigers.

According to former player Dale Weigtman in his book ‘Saving our skins and other tiger tales’, the duo had requested pay increases after discovering 20-year-old forward Brian Taylor was on a larger salary.

Livid by the perceived lack of respect shown towards the club, Richmond secretary Graeme Richmond did not accept the request.

“Graeme Richmond had this attitude that you don’t tell us what you are worth, we tell you,” Richmond historian Bill Meaklim said.

Graeme Richmond

News of the player unrest reached Collingwood and the Magpies offered the pair the money they were seeking.

Losing the well-loved players to their fiercest rival infuriated Richmond, who began plotting their revenge.

“Guys like Cloke and Raines were royalty at Richmond and Richmond were understandably pissed off,” said Roberts.

David Cloke and Geoff Raines

The Tigers tried signing Collingwood icon Peter Daicos, but a conversation with his father persuaded Daicos to stay at the Magpies.

With Daicos rejecting a move, the Tigers set their sights on Phil Walsh and John Annear.

Walsh was named Collingwood’s best first year player in 1983 and the move hurt Magpie fans.

“He [Walsh] was a very popular player,” Roberts said.

“The fans loved him and from that moment it was a realisation that this was a war.”

Collingwood hit back by securing Brian Taylor in 1985, while Richmond poached Wally Lovett, Neil Peart and Craig Stewart.

But the effects of the war were beginning to take its toll. While Collingwood were getting the best out of their recruits, Richmond’s signings failed to impress.

“What we did was dopey,” Meaklim said.

“While Collingwood were get- ting hundreds of games from Cloke, Raines and Taylor, we got ordinary players who played under 50 games.”

“The money we spent on transfers would have been enough to pay Cloke and Raines what they wanted.”

Collingwood returned to the finals in 1984, while Richmond struggled in the lower half of the ladder.

Over a four-year period, the ‘New Magpies’ spent $1.8 million on player acquisitions.

In 1986, the Magpies were on the verge bankruptcy, but found enough money to pay off their debts.

“We got a stay of execution of a couple of weeks and that gave us the time we needed to settle things down a bit,” Roberts said.

Richmond were not so lucky. Disappointing on-field results saw the club sack four coaches in a five-year period. In 1990 Richmond declared they needed to raise $1 million by October 31 or face extinction.

The Save Our Skins campaign was established and saw the club rattle tins for survival.

“Tins were taken everywhere to raise the money. A legend match was planned at Windy Hill and it got a crowd of over 23,000,” recalls Meaklim.

Amongst the many who donated to the cause was the Collingwood Football Club.

It is unclear why the Magpies donated to the Richmond fund. But what is clear is no matter how strained the relationship became, both clubs needed each other for survival.

Promising career cut short by savage assault

July 8 1972 will always be remembered as the day football lost one of its most promising careers. Aged 21, Collingwood’s John Greening was one of the best players in the VFL.

In his fourth year of senior football, Greening averaged 26 disposals a game and had an unforgettable fortnight between rounds 9 and 10, when he accumulated 91 disposals and kicked 10 goals.

Greening was a favourite for the Brownlow Medal, before his season and career was cut short by a savage incident.

Greening started the round 14 clash against St Kilda at Moorabbin in fine fashion, taking the first mark of the game.

Greening leaping above the pack.

The midfielder kicked the ball into the Magpies attack and as fans and the television cameras followed the flight of the ball, St Kilda tough man, Jim O’Dea, viciously hit Greening.

The Magpie was left unconscious and bloodied by the fleeing O’Dea, when Collingwood trainers came to his aid.

Magpie’s teammate Len Thompson recalled the incident prior to his death in 2007.

“I looked down at Johnny and it gave me a dreadful fright. It was a horrific sight, he was severely hurt.”

“Whatever happened, and I didn’t see it, I think part of what did happen is he hit the ground and his head hit the cricket pitch.”

The incident left Greening in a coma for 24 hours and in intensive care for 12 days.

Doctor’s feared Greening would not survive and considered brain damage as the best-case scenario.

As Greening lay fighting for his life, the VFL acted quickly and sanctioned O’Dea with a 10-week ban.

O’Dea escaped legal action for the incident, even though there were reports St Kilda coach Allan Jeans instructed O’Dea to ‘fix up’ Greening.

St Kilda fans taunted Greening, as he lay unconscious on the stretcher, infuriating Magpie fans and beginning a fierce rivalry between the clubs.

Following the incident, Magpie fans adorned boundary fences with a banner bearing Greening’s name, when the two sides met.

Some Magpie fans were so appalled by the incident that they never attended another game.

Spectacularly, Greening returned to football in round 9, 1974.

Against reigning premiers Richmond, Greening booted a goal with his first kick and helped the Magpies to a 69-point win.

But Greening would never again reach the heights of his comeback game.

In his own words Greening said his aim was to return for one game and prove to the doubters that he could still play at the top level.

A lack of motivation saw Greening play only eight more games before announcing his retirement in 1976.

Greening may only have played 107 games, but Magpie fans will always remember him as one of the
most prestigious talents to wear the famous black and white guernsey.

Docherty to miss 2018 AFL season

Carlton defender Sam Docherty has ruptured his anterior cruciate ligament and will likely miss the entire 2018 AFL season.

The 2017 All-Australian injured his left knee in a seemingly innocuous incident when running in pre season training.

The 24-year-old will undergo traditional surgery over the coming days before commencing rehabilitation.

Carlton Head of Football Andrew McKay said the club would fully support the defender throughout his recovery.

“Sam is a total professional and a resilient young man and we know he will face his rehabilitation process with the utmost dedication,” McKay said.

“As a terrific young leader at our club, Sam will continue to work with the leadership group and assist in the development of our young players both on and off the field.”

“While we are incredibly disappointed by the long-term nature of Sam’s injury, it provides an opportunity for our young defenders to continue to train hard over the pre-season to solidify their spot in the backline in Sam’s absence in 2018.”

Since crossing to Carlton in 2014, Docherty has played in 79 of a possible 88 games for the Blues.

The former Brisbane halfback won Carlton’s best and fairest last year and was selected in this years All-Australian team.

The injury will be a massive blow for the Blues who were hoping to rise up the ladder in 2018.

Carlton will enter the new season without Docherty and Bryce Gibbs, who both finished in the top four in the Blues Best and Fairest this year. Gibbs was traded to Adelaide during the trade period.

 

 

Pies flag tainted by off-field misdemeanour’s

Drugs, assault and betting.

No we are not talking about the West Coast Eagles, we are talking about the 2010 Collingwood premiership team.

Last week Scott Pendlebury suggested the Magpies suffered a premiership hangover in 2011, because players over celebrated the 2010 flag.

It is difficult to support Pendlebury’s claims given the Magpies lost only two games for the home and away season and were trailing Geelong by only seven points at three quarter time in the Grand Final.

But what Pendlebury’s accusations raise is a discussion about the teams off-field antics during the early part of the decade.

The 2006 West Coast premiership is blemished because of the off field antics of it’s players.

There is no evidence to suggest party drugs can be performance enhancing, but nonetheless the misdemeanours of the West Coast players have left many, including veteran AFL journalist Mike Sheahan questioning the feats of the Eagles.

“The longer it goes the more convinced I am that there’s a taint attached to West Coast in 2006,” Sheahan said on 1116 SEN.

“Wallsy (Robert Walls) said immediately after that premiership win that he thought it was tainted, I taunted him at the time and said it was ungracious, but I’m now in Wallsy’s corner.

“I think the evidence suggests that there was a drug culture that was rife at West Coast at that time.”

In October 2016, former Collingwood player Dane Swan admitted to experimenting with illicit drugs.

“I have experimented with what some people call recreational drugs, but have never taken performance-enhancing drugs or what you might call ‘heavy’ drugs.”

Swan also went on to say that only a small contingent of teammates have also used drugs.

It was not revealed when Swan used the drugs but in 2012, Collingwood CEO Gary Pert said the “volcanic behaviour” of players during the off-season and the use of drugs was the biggest issue in the AFL.

Like Ben Cousins, Swan was the biggest name in the Magpies side.

Cousins was said to have had an influence on the younger players at the club, including Chad Fletcher and Daniel Kerr.

At Collingwood Swan was part of the ‘Rat Pack’, a group of rebel teammates, which included Ben Johnson, Alan Didak, Heath Shaw and Dale Thomas.

A 2013 report by the Australian Government showed eight million Australian’s over the age of 14 had consumed illicit drugs at least once in their lifetime

It is not right to accuse individuals of using drugs but if a well renowned player like Swan has experimented with drugs, it could influence teammates to experiment as well.

Drugs were not the only issue the Magpies faced during the 2010 period.

Two days after the premiership two players were accused of sexually assaulting a woman, while in 2011 Heath Shaw was suspended for eight matches for placing a bet on captain Nick Maxwell to kick the first goal in a Round 9 clash against Adelaide.

Off field behaviour should not dampen the on-field success of a team, unless the off-field incidents are proven to be performance enhancing.

West Coast’s problems were not found to have enhanced player performances, yet still people question the teams success.

Yet no one argues the party culture at Collingwood during the 2010 premiership season is anymore than ‘boys having fun’.

If the Eagles success is questioned then so too should Collingwood’s, or we should just accept the players made mistakes off field but on-field they achieved undeniable success.

The mistakes of the bad boy Eagles has overshadowed the success of the unimpeachable Chris Judd, Dean Cox and Andrew Embley.

The same goes for Collingwood, where the party boys have prevented the likes of Scott Pendlebury, Nick Maxwell and Steel Sidebottom from winning a second flag.

AFL news you may have missed this week (April 10-14)

Not a lot of news went through to the keeper this week, as a shortened week meant less time to discuss the usual amount of topics.

The AFL media focused heavily on the fallout from the Adelaide Showdown and the build up to Good Friday football.

But with that being said, there was a debut over the weekend that didn’t receive the attention it required.

 

Boomer’s numerology

brent-harvey-1

Brent Harvey on debut for North Heidelbeg

AFL games record holder Brent Harvey made his North Heidelberg debut in Division 2 of the Northern Football League over the weekend.

Boomer struggled with a heavy tag in the opening half, but a move to full forward in the third term allowed Boomer to show his class, kicking two goals and assisting in many others.

However some interesting numerology came out of the game.

Boomer wore number 29 and had 29 disposals in the Bulldogs 29-point victory.

The coincidence is perfect for Cameron Mooney’s numerology segment on Fox Footy’s ‘Bounce’ and if you do see it on the program, remember it was first mentioned here.

 

Shanks, shockers and set shots

Bad kicking is bad football.

While it may be an age-old cliché, it still rings true in the modern game.

There is no greater pressure cooker for an AFL player than the dreaded set shot.

The heart rate quickens as you pace backwards, searching for the perfect spot to begin your run-up. You look up, only to be met by a sea of eyes transfixed on your every move. A subtle move-it-on by the umpire and its down to business. The mouth-guard into the sock, the grass into the air and the Sherrin onto the boot.

The ball cuts through the frosty MCG air, careening off course and slams into the goal-post. Your head drops as a collective sign is cast over the ground. Living rooms across the country form a chorus of less than constructive criticism, while the old-timer chuckles and proclaims that back in his day they never missed their set shots.

It’s an all too familiar tale and the old-timer might be onto something.

In 2000, goalkicking accuracy was at 60.2 per cent. In 2016, the goal kicking accuracy across the competition was 58.6 per cent. In 2000, set shot accuracy was 64.2 per cent, in 2016 it had fallen to 60.9 per cent.

While the drop off is not shocking by any means, it is concerning when considering the rise of players wages and professionalism.

In 2000, the average listed player was earning $126,996. In 2017, that figure has jumped to $309,208.

We rave about the players being faster, stronger and better. Yet it seems to be the more we pay them, the worse they kick for goal.

Strip Australian Rules Football down to its core and scoring is the main object of the game. If you can’t score more points than the opposition you will never win a game, plain and simple.

Despite the modern player’s collective struggles, there are a few diamonds in the rough when it comes to set shot kicking.

The often-unheralded Bulldog, Tory Dickson, is one of the most accurate kicks for goal the league has ever seen.

Through his 79 career games, Dickson has a goalkicking accuracy of 73.8 per cent. That is third all time for players who have had 50 or more shots on goal, behind only Michael Murphy (76.8 per cent) and Matthew Capuano (74 per cent).

tory dickson

Dickson has booted 138.49 over his career, but more impressive is his 65.16 record from set shots.

When asked about the secret behind his success, Dickson stressed the importance of keeping the process as simple as possible.

“I wouldn’t say it comes easy to me, but I don’t have a total routine step wise…I bring my heart rate down with a few deep breaths, make sure my momentum is always going forward and just go through with it.”

Another exponent on the art of the set shot is former Saint, Ahmed Saad. Over his career, Saad averaged a conversion rate of 64 per cent in front of the big sticks, with a return of 48.27 over his 33-game career.

More impressive however was his set shot goal kicking. In 2012 Saad kicked 14.2 from his set shot opportunities, drawing attention due to his unique run-up style.

Saad paces back roughly 27-30 steps before beginning his run up, not cantering into a jog until his finals steps.

Despite the criticism, Saad stuck with the routine and still uses it today with his current club, West Preston Lakeside FC in the Northern Football League.

It’s clear that there is no perfect science to the set shot. It’s a unique part of our game, which will challenge player’s ability and fans nerves for years to come.

The fate of a game and even premierships can be decided by a team’s ability to convert their opportunities in front of goal.

In the 2013 Grand Final, Ross Lyon and the Dockers trudged to halftime after kicking 1.6 through the first two quarters. They would finish the game with a score line of 8.14 and fall to the more accurate Hawks (11.11) by 15 points.

In 2008, the Cats were left with a Saturday in September they desperately didn’t want to remember. Geelong came into the Grand Final as heavy favourites, but would butcher the ball in front of goal, finishing with a score line of 11.23 (89) to the Hawks 18.7 (115).

With quality shots on goal so hard to find in the pressure-packed modern game, set shots are one of the rare opportunities a player gets to take their time and make it count on the scoreboard.

The message from the experts and best set shot kicks in the league is clear. Take a moment to compose yourself, before falling back on a simple routine.

Then its once again down to business. The mouth-guard into the sock, the grass into the air and the Sherrin straight through the middle.

Just like the good old days.