Football’s lost years in Tasmania

The magnitude of what the AFL lost when it turned its back on Tasmania some two decades ago was not lost on anyone among the 500 who attended Wednesday night’s celebration of Tasmanian Football.
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In fact anyone lucky enough to move from Lou Richards’ state funeral earlier in the day to the unique Tasmanian football function at the other end of town ended their day emotionally drenched not so much with sadness but melancholy – nostalgia for a football time that somehow disappeared from within our grasp when we weren’t concentrating.

Chris Fagan, the Queenstown boy who became a hall of famer in his home state and now Brisbane Lions coach, captured the so-called “elephant in the room” when he declared there was a “higher purpose” facing head office. That higher purpose said Fagan was not about marketing or economics.

“I’m talking about heritage and culture and legacy,” said Fagan, a panellist at the function alongside fellow Tasmanians Rodney Eade and Brendon Bolton. “The AFL won’t be truly complete until there is a Tasmanian team. They [the AFL] would do a magnificent thing if they were to have a Tasmanian team.” Peter Hudson presented the narrative, Alastair Lynch the interviews which featured Nick Riewoldt and his equally passionate Tasmanian cousin Jack, a keynote speech by Matthew Richardson, who lovingly described a football pathway journeying along north-west Tasmania that he fears is no longer available to children from his home state.

Geelong’s Jackson Thurlow represented the increasingly rare example of a young Tasmanian footballer in the AFL, while the Robert Shaw-coached state team including Scott Clayton, Graham Wright, Simon Atkins and the Gale brothers that defeated Victoria took the stage.

Triple Brownlow medallist Ian Stewart, a rare public performer moved to speech by what he witnessed, declared his ongoing embarrassment whenever he is compared to the “greatest footballer I’ve seen” Darrel Baldock – whose grandchildren attended the function. Of the three living Tasmanian Australian Football Hall of Fame legends only Royce Hart failed to show.

But none of the above compared with the montage of ovals across the state from Penguin to Sandy Bay, football ovals by rivers and along the coast and nestling into historic building and featuring empty club rooms – ovals where, according to the Tasmanian Football Foundation’s James Henderson, football is no longer played.

If ever the message was to resonate it was on Wednesday night. AFL chief Gillon McLachlan, two other league commissioners, Tasmanian Premier Will Hodgman and four other AFL executives along with the presidents of Hawthorn and North Melbourne all attended.

McLachlan restated his support for a single Tasmanian team, a view he has to date failed to act upon. The sight of all those historic grounds lying empty when the Sydney and GWS reserves struggle to find grounds to play on could not have been lost on the game’s decision-makers. Still this was not a night of recriminations or finger-pointing; more celebration and hope.

“My view has been a single united Tasmanian team and I’ve been very public about that,” said McLachlan, urging Tasmanians not to give up on their dream of a stand-alone team before entering the Crown function.

“…The biggest challenge to a single model is the two incumbents with long-term deals and we respect those. There is no easy solution other than just working towards a prosperous football state and working with all the stakeholders.” The problem being that those AFL club stakeholders being Hawthorn and North Melbourne – particularly Hawthorn who first went to Tasmania 16 years ago -have proved significantly more interested in taking money out of the state than putting football in.

How else do you explain the fact that no Tasmanian player was drafted last year? The beautiful but stark and empty ovals – some no longer in existence? The fact that the Hawks did not even bother to apply for a women’s licence the first time around or engage with the state in a united push?

McLachlan’s task in part involves negotiating the Hawks out of Tasmania – which will come at a price – unless that club is prepared to play football across the state. Or convince the Kangaroos with their new multicultural Tasmanian academy to do the same.

Again, where North is concerned, it’s all largely about the money.

Should the new deal at Etihad Stadium prove as generous as the Docklands home clubs had hoped, there is no chance the Kangaroos will play more than three home games in Tasmania. Should they prove successful in enlisting the help of that state in gaining a women’s licence, the state government should insist upon naming the club the Tasmanian Kangaroos.

More preferable altogether would be a stand-alone Tasmanian women’s team. And, as impossible as it seems now, an AFL men’s team. The irony was that two of the three Tasmanian-bred coaches who appeared on stage in Eade and Fagan coach the AFL’s two biggest problem children.

And as Andrew Demetriou said recently, if the Gold Coast will only ever be a modest football club why not consider Tasmania and the potential membership of tens of thousands of expats as a fall-back position should the AFL’s clout and that of the Suns’ new CEO Mark Evans fail to ignite the competition’s 17th club?

Still, as one elder statesman of the Tasmanian cause pointed out last night, the baton has been handed over. Perhaps the passion shared by a group including the Riewoldts, Richo and the significant clout of the Tasmanian Football Foundation, combined with McLachlan’s stated philosophy, will finally shift the game’s thinking.

And the view that the game cannot grow without a game each week in southern Queensland might not prove the deal breaker it was a decade ago. That perhaps ploughing millions of dollars into a small and financially struggling state bursting with football heritage and passion and creating its own AFL side could actually succeed.

Certainly the prospect of a Tasmanian team in the AFL does not seem as unthinkable as a national women’s league televised in prime time and actually winning its time slot did even five years ago.

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Loss of respect has made Grant’s position near untenable

There’s a perception in clubland and the wider game that there won’t be peace at the NRL until John Grant is no longer at the helm.
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When something goes wrong, Grant is the first person blamed. Rightly or wrongly, there’s so much animosity towards the ARLC chairman that his position has become almost untenable.

There’s no doubt the clubs will try to take advantage of the latest broken promise to remove him from power, but just as quickly as they have turned on him, most will change their minds if he manages to get the money back on the table.

But therein lies the problem.

Ultimately, in giving in to the demands of the clubs to save his job last year, or so it goes, Grant lost the one thing needed to make sure he could be successful leading the sport into the future – their respect. One chairman said: “He’s an honourable man but a gutless leader.”

Back to that broken promise. It all began when Grant agreed to set the club funding at 130 per cent of the salary cap for next season.

It was assumed the salary cap would be $10m, providing the clubs with an additional $3m to run their operations. But soon after making that commitment, the NRL realised the game wouldn’t be able to cope with a salary cap of $10m without running into cashflow problems. The clubs say the NRL would easily be able to afford to fund the clubs to the tune of $13m each if it had not wasted money elsewhere.

Grant took the offer off the table but offered an olive branch – he would give the clubs $13m regardless of the limit set for the salary cap. Naturally, the poorer clubs who had been looking to solve cashflow concerns – such as Wests Tigers and St George Illawarra, began pushing for a lower salary cap so the clubs’ share of the money went up.

But the wealthier clubs, such as the Bulldogs and the Roosters, were lobbying for an increased salary cap so they could go out on spending sprees to strengthen their teams and fight for a premiership. That divided the clubs. But when the NRL announced on Wednesday that the cashflow problems had already surfaced and would leave the clubs around $1.5m short on payments for next year, the frustrated clubs were united once more.

One of the chief gripes? It’s not as if the NRL doesn’t have the money. The governing body has put around $100m aside for grassroots rugby league and another $150m aside to invest in its digital media strategy over the next five years.

The NRL believes its digital media strategy is essential given its fears that the game will not have television networks lining up with open cheque books when the next broadcast rights deal is negotiated.

But most clubs don’t see it as a priority. And certainly not at that price. They are frustrated, at best, that the NRL refuses to divert a small portion of the hundreds of millions of dollars it spends on grassroots and digital media to fund the clubs to the tune of $13m.

The game’s total annual revenue is in the region of $500m. If each club received $13m in funding, it would cost the league $208m. That would leave $292m to spend on operational costs, including $50m per year in digital and grassroots funding. The clubs believe if the NRL can’t make that work, they are being reckless with their spending.

Which brings us to this point. At 9.07pm on Wednesday night, just a few hours after proposing that they phase out club payments over six years instead of the agreed five to cover for the shortfall, NRL chief Todd Greenberg sent an email to all clubs bosses and chairs.

He sensed panic. He knew they were about to revolt. So he assured them the NRL would do everything in its power to source the money to follow through on the commitment Grant had made.

The likely solution to the current impasse is that the NRL will go to major sponsor like Telstra or a bank and ask for a loan, knowing full well the interest paid by the NRL during that time will only reduce the amount it forks out to the sport.

Another gripe of the clubs was that the NRL waited until the majority of the chairmen – who are viewed as the antagonists – left Wednesday’s meeting before unveiling the proposal to the chief executives. That was perceived as weak.

So where to now? Well, the chairman – who this time last week were separated into two factions – are planning to meet next week to discuss the possibility of calling an EGM to vote for Grant to be removed as ARLC chairman.

They only need one club to call the EGM, but they need a majority of members, which is made up of the 16 clubs, two states and six commissioners, to remove Grant.

Problem is, the two NRL-owned clubs, Newcastle and the Gold Coast, are unlikely to vote with them. That’s why plans to remove Grant failed last time. But the majority clubs hope another public humiliation could force him to walk, in any case.

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Ivanka Trump chided over $US1-an-hour pay allegations

Ivanka Trump’s apparel brand is facing criticism from a labour-rights group for relying on Chinese factories that it says force some employees to work long shifts at the equivalent of about a dollar an hour.
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The nonprofit organisation China Labor Watch said it investigated two Chinese factories that produce goods for Ivanka Trump’s brand. It then shared its findings in a letter sent to the first daughter, saying employees are forced to work at least 12 1/2 hours a day and at least six days a week — at a monthly salary of about 2,500 yuan ($475).

The letter didn’t provide evidence for the claims, and the group declined to identify the factories and the items they make, saying its probe was still underway. China Labor Watch previously identified labour violations at a Chinese toymaker used by Walt Disney, leading the entertainment giant to sever ties with the factory. It has also investigated plants used by Apple.

China Labor Watch said it has yet to receive a response from the letter, which was dated April 27.

Abigail Klem, president of the Ivanka Trump brand, said the company complies with labour standards and added it is “impossible for us to respond to allegations, with no supporting evidence, concerning an unnamed factory.”

“Ivanka Trump HQ is committed to only working with licensees who maintain internationally recognised labor standards across their supply chains,” she said in an emailed statement. “Our licensees and their manufacturers, subcontractors and suppliers must comply with all applicable local and international labor laws, and the legal and ethical practices set forth in our vendor code of conduct.”

The criticism threatens to renew questions over Ivanka Trump’s brand and its use of offshore production. When campaigning for president, Donald Trump made the restoration of domestic manufacturing a key tenet of his platform. Since then, his daughter has stepped away from overseeing her brand in a bid to avoid conflicts of interest. She is now an unpaid federal employee, serving as an assistant to the president. Paid by piece

At one Chinese factory that produces Ivanka Trump-branded goods, workers are paid according to the number of pieces they make, said Li Qiang, founder of New York-based China Labor Watch. The staff must work overtime to reach the target with no extra pay if the quota isn’t met, according to Li, whose group probed the two facilities between May 2016 and April 2017. Some workers get the equivalent of less than $US1 per hour, he said.

Staff is given one or two days off per month during the peak season at both facilities, according to the group. And there’s no safety training, even though employees are in contact with oils and glues during the production, the organisation said.

Li estimates that the branded-products make up less than 5 per cent of both facilities’ total orders.


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Members of alleged tax fraud syndicate released on bail

SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA – MAY 18: Adam Cranston leaves Sydney Police centre after being released on bail over a tax fraud on May 18, 2017 in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Daniel Munoz/Fairfax Media) Photo: Daniel MunozAfter watching police seize the vintage race car from his eastern suburbs apartment, Adam Cranston opted for a less-luxurious mode of transport to take him home after posting $300,000 bail.
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Clutching his belongings in an Australian Federal Police-marked plastic bag, Mr Cranston loitered in the foyer of the Sydney Police Centre on Thursday afternoon as a wall of cameras waited outside. Unlike his co-accused, the 30-year-old embarked on the long walk towards the media throng solo, before jumping into a waiting Mitsubishi Magna.

He stayed silent as reporters threw questions at him about his alleged involvement in a $165 million fraud racket and his Australian Taxation Office deputy commissioner father.

It’s alleged Michael Cranston accessed restricted information on an ATO audit for his son, but police do not believe he knew about his son’s alleged fraud syndicate.

Adam Cranston was the fourth of his co-accused to walk out on bail on Thursday after an AFP sting targeting white collar crime a day earlier.

Dressed in a black sweat shirt and cargo shorts, Chris Gullian emerged from the police complex on Thursday afternoon with his father.

Initially responding “no comment”, he was asked what he did with the alleged proceeds of his role in the scheme.

“What money are you referring to guys?” he scoffed. “I’m from Sutherland.” He then cheekily suggested the cameramen following him best return to the front of the police station, as the “other guy” was coming out.

Mr Gullian is charged with dealing with property suspected of being the proceeds of crime and was released on $100,000 bail.

Daniel Rostankovski made a fumbled attempt to cover his face before his lawyer, who picked him up from the police station, advised him otherwise.

The 28-year-old, accused of recruiting straw directors in the alleged fraud scheme, opted for a walk up to Oxford Street in his white track pants rather than hailing a taxi outside the station.

Wahroonga tax lawyer and accountant Dev Menon, who police allege gave advice to syndicate members about how the scheme should be managed, was greeted by his mother and father as he walked out of Newtown police station.

Hours earlier the 33-year-old sighed relief as a magistrate granted him bail after his father, a solicitor and engineer, offered a $100,000 surety.

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Rolf Harris to be released from prison ahead of court appearance

London: Rolf Harris will be released from prison on Friday but back in court by Monday to face a fresh trial over allegations of groping teenage girls.
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Harris is to be released from Stafford prison on Friday, having served time for convictions in 2014, but has been ordered to appear in-person at court on Monday where he is facing four counts of indecent assault.

The 87-year-old has been attending his trial via video link which the jury learnt for the first time on Thursday was from Stafford Prison in Britain’s West Midlands. Judge Deborah Taylor granted the Australian entertainer bail on Thursday after it was sought by his barristers and not opposed by the prosecution.

The judge urged the jury, comprising seven women and five men, not to let Harris’ priors convictions or the fact that he had been released on bail affect their judgment of the evidence they are currently hearing at Southwark Crown Court.

“He will no longer be appearing via video link and will be attending what remains of this trial in person from Monday next week,” Judge Taylor said.

Harris is pleading not guilty to all four charges involving three teenage girls relating to three separate incidents dating between 1971 and 1983.

All three women have now testified to the trial which is in its fourth day. The women, who came forward with their allegations independently of each other, all said that in 2012 they told their friends and families that “Rolf will be next” when it was revealed the BBC identity Jimmy Savile was a sexual predator.

The third accuser told the jury that in 1983 when she was 13-years of age, Harris had approached her in a green room at a filming of a BBC Saturday Superstore program and touched her right breast, asking “do you often get molested on a Saturday morning?”

She said the incident lasted about four or five seconds, after which Harris walked away. “I was in shock because I couldn’t comprehend what has just happened.”

She said she immediately told her sister who dismissed her saying “that’s Rolf Harris, don’t be silly.” “She just wouldn’t believe it because it was Rolf Harris,” she said.

The woman said that response had led her not to report the incident. “From my point of view no one was taking it seriously so I didn’t take it any further at that stage.”

But the woman said over the years she would tell “countless” friends and family, whenever Harris came on the television, that “he’s a pervert.”

The court heard the woman first contacted police about the matter on July 7, 2014 which was three days after Harris had been sentenced. She said when Mr Harris had been arrested in 2013 her friends and family had phoned her with the news but she remained reluctant to come forward. “I still felt I wouldn’t be believed,” she said, under cross-examination by Harris’ barrister Stephen Vullo QC.

But she said she felt empowered by Harris’ conviction and began to feel “I might be vindicated.” She emailed police working on Operation Yewtree – the investigation into Savile and others.

“I can’t be the only person, I’ll come forward and offer my help should it be needed,” she told the jury. Her cross-examination continues when the trial resumes on Monday. She is giving evidence via a video link, meaning she will not have to see the musician in person, when he attends his hearing.

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