Cowboys star savages performance as club legend Johnathan delivers brutal assessment

The North Queensland Cowboys have torn themselves a new one after a horror 42-4 drubbing at the hands of the Parramatta Eels in Sydney.

After an incredible performance against the Newcastle Knights this week, some punters were backing the Cowboys to pull off an upset against the ladder leading Eels.

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But four tries to Maika Sivo and a dominant displayed from the Mitchell Moses-less Eels put the Cowboys to the sword and showed no mercy as the crushed the Queenslanders.

It leaves all three Queensland teams in the bottom half of the ladder the 11th placed Cowboys the best placed of the three teams with three wins this season.

Set for a horror month with games against the Roosters, Panthers, Sea Eagles and Raiders it just gets tougher for the Cowboys with all four teams currently in the top eight.

Just weeks after coach Paul Green was under the pump following a brutal spray after a first half capitulation against the Wests Tigers, it was a bad look for the side.

In the post-match press conference, Green said it was “two steps forward, one step backwards” and the side need to narrow the gap between the side’s best and worst.

“It’s a bit of a theme for us, we can’t put two good halves together,” he said. “Not that there wasn’t plenty of improvement in the first half mind you but I didn’t think we were out of the game at halftime.

“When we got our game on in the first half, I thought we were creating some opportunities but without stating the obvious, defensively we’ve got to find a lot more consistency.”

He also blamed trust in defence for the loss, something Broncos legend Corey Parker said was of the utmost importance.

“If you don’t trust each other, if you don’t trust the guy inside you, outside you, wherever you are on the footy field, it’s not going to work,” he said on Fox League.

While the coach was looking for the silver lining in the match, Cowboys prop Josh McGuire was at his blunt best to ABC Grandstand.

“Was pretty s***house from us to be honest,” he said.

Cowboys skipper Jason Taumalolo said he didn’t think his side “valued the ball enough” and when asked about what Green would say about the loss he said “I’m not looking forward to it”.

The defensive effort was also clear for Cowboys legend Johnathan Thurston, who ripped into the side the side he spent most of his career with.

“I think their effort in defence, what you want to see is the boys keep having effort,” Thurston said. “I think they were beaten on a lot of little efforts tonight. The Eels have got a strong pack, no doubt about that, and they just kept charging forward through the middle third and our right edge was atrocious tonight.

“They’ve got a lot of work to do the Cowboys, especially the Queensland sides. Queensland rugby league, it’s not good signs.”

While the Maroons have until the end of the season to get right for Origin, it’s an ugly time for the Queensland rugby league sides.

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Queensland Reds claim bragging rights over NSW Waratahs

“That was State of Origin and very physical,” Reds captain Liam Wright said. “I was buggered out there. We put a lot of passion into that performance.”

An unstable scrum and more poor handling hampered the Waratahs but they were far from blasted off the park. Jack Maddocks and Will Harrison put in strong shifts at the back and at first receiver.

“Although we’re very disappointed with the loss, I think we’re making progress,” Waratahs captain Rob Simmons said. “To lose by two penalty goals is a marked improvement. We’ll take that and move forward.

“I think discipline really let us down. It’s been letting us down all season.”

New rules are all the talk of Super Rugby AU. While there were no 22-50s on Friday evening, Tate McDermott nailed a clever 50-22 in the 53rd minute. For the trivia buffs, Harrison kicked rugby’s first goal-line drop-out in the 45th minute.

Unfortunately, scrum resets dominated portions of the game but a fascinating dual played out between props Angus Bell and his more experienced opponent Taniela Tupou.

Bell was right under pressure after going to ground a few times and the exasperated look on the youngster’s face said it all as he mentally readied to pack down again against Tupou.

Ned Hanigan is tackled during Friday night's match.

Ned Hanigan is tackled during Friday night’s match.Credit:Bradley Kanaris

Sure enough, Nic Berry had no option but to yellow card Bell when the scrum collapsed again and then, while the Waratahs were half asleep, McDermott took a quick tap to dive over the line. Queensland laughed rather than celebrated. Talk about a coach killer.

Despite the lapse in concentration, the Waratahs hung in to kick a couple of penalties and go into the break trailing 19-13.

The intensity of the clash was reflected in a helter-skelter opening period.

And what a sight it was to see the incumbent Wallabies captain, Michael Hooper, giving Reds young gun Harry Wilson a shove on the red headgear. Wilson got his revenge with the last try of the game in the 64th minute, and didn’t he love it.

During the week Wright said he wanted to smash the Waratahs – and that he did as he barged through their defence for the Reds’ first five-pointer in the sixth minute. Both sides then traded tries courtesy of Harry Johnson-Holmes and Filipo Daugunu.

Maddocks was excellent in the absence of Kurtley Beale at fullback. His aerial work was top notch, he made a terrific try-saving tackle on McDermott and even showed he could kick long with both feet.


But it was his try under the sticks in the 48th minute that came from a bullet, mid-range inside pass from Lachlan Swinton that took the cake for play of the game. It showed Swinton has finesse to go with an absolute mean streak that stirred his opponents big time.

Harrison controlled the game astutely, but debutant Joey Walton was unable to find his feet at No.12 after dropping a number of – albeit poor – passes when the Waratahs craved steady possession. He will be better for the experience but NSW missed Karmichael Hunt’s experience.

Tupou was sin-binned in the 67th minute for a late hit on Harrison. It could have been extremely costly but the Reds held onto the ball, won a crucial late turnover penalty thanks to Fraser McReight and marched up field before O’Connor kicked a late three-pointer after the siren.

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Jordan De Goey goal denied by umpire, score review video

Essendon’s see-sawing clash with Collingwood has been overshadowed by a boiling score review farce that saw Jordan De Goey robbed of a goal.

With the Pies desperately needing a spark, De Goey appeared to have given it to them in the third term when he found some space and kicked long to an open goal square.

His kick saw the Sherrin land on the goal line before it took a rude turn sideways straight towards the goal posts.

Unfortunately, the goal umpire was backtracking in the same direction and found himself wedged between the ball and the post.

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The ball eventually bounced into the goal umpire before it dribbled to the ground and back out of the goal mouth.

The tough decision was sent to the score review after the goal umpire claimed he believed the kick was a goal if not for his interference.

However, replays proved inconclusive with the ball failing to cross the line completely before it made contact with the official.

The video official ruled quickly that the ball was going to make contact with the post.

“Review complete. Looking at this angle; I’m satisfied if the ball did not hit the goal umpire, it would have hit the goal post,” the score review official said.

The controversial ruling had Channel 7 commentator Brian Taylor flummoxed.

“Oh, boy. Oh, boy. Gee, it lands on the line and then hits the goal umpire who was attached to the post at that time,” he said.

“And the whole ball is not across when it hits him.

“Oh Boy, we will never really, really know. But what a crucial decision.”

The goal would have put Collingwood back to within 11 points and would have stopped Essendon’s incredible goal-scoring spree.

Instead the kick was ruled a point and Essendon went on to kick eight unanswered goals as Collingwood was kept goalless for the second quarter and third quarter.

However, the importance of the De Goey decision came into sharper focus in the final quarter when Collingwood kicked four straight goals to close Essendon’s lead to just three points.

It was only when star Dylan Shiel picked up a scrappy loose ball in the goal square and poked through a crucial goal that Essendon killed off Collingwood’s comeback.

Shiel’s goal came after a key tackle from Andrew Phillips that saw the ball land at Shiel’s feet when it came loose in the tackle.

The goal put the Dons ahead 63-48 with just two minutes to play.

The Footy world was earlier left divided by the decision that would prove to be costly in the end.

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Canberra Raiders v St George Illawarra Dragons and Parramatta Eels v North Queensland Cowboys

It just appears the puff has come out of the Dragons’ second-half rally at the moment, not in the least due to one of the most perplexing refereeing decisions we’ve seen all year.

How Bailey Simonsson wasn’t ruled to have knocked on that bomb on before it went into Adam Clune’s hands I will never know. Thankfully, it doesn’t hurt St George Illawarra on the scoreboard as they hold firm on their own line.

More bad news on the injury front though for Canberra, Emre Guler is helped from the field with a leg injury. Their forwards stocks are thinning by the week.

Raiders still leading 22-10 with just eight minutes left.

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Benched Dragons star Ben Hunt ‘one of the worst signings in the history of the game’

The St George Dragons have eased some pressure in recent weeks after a complete debacle in the return from the coronavirus pandemic suspension.

No tries points in the club’s first two games back had immense pressure on coach Paul McGregor but the side has somewhat turned it around with wins over the Sharks and Titans before staying in the game for plenty of time against the back-to-back champions the Roosters.

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One of the big things that’s changed in that time is the role of Ben Hunt. Demoted from starting halfback to the bench, Hunt has been performing well in the position he plays for Queensland.

But after signing a five-year $1.2 million deal with the Dragons in 2017, St George could feel aggrieved by the lack of value they’ve received from a star who takes up such a substantial chunk of the salary cap.

Speaking on Fox League before the game against the Canberra Raiders, Panthers legend and former halfback Greg Alexander said “the formula is working so why change it”.

But he quickly moved on to the role of Hunt.

“There’s a lot to talk about Ben Hunt, he’s their million dollar man, he’s coming off the bench,” Alexander said. “But if it’s working and he’s playing well, you don’t change it because he’s on a lot of money.”

Host Jessica Yates pointed out that it’s “a million dollar halfback on the bench coming in at hooker”.

“It’s whatever works,” Alexander responded. “They were at the lowest of lows. They came back and were beaten 18-0 by the Warriors and then the following week didn’t score a try against the Dogs — they got beaten 22-2. You can’t get any worse than that. It needed to be changed.”

Corey Parker added: “The big plus for me though is that Ben Hunt has got on with his job. Every time he’s come off the bench, he’s not kicking stones, he’s actually made a real impact, particularly in his first game off the bench, scored a try, set a couple up. His value of the team is actually better coming off the bench, the team get more out of him in that regard. Clune’s doing his job, Norman’s found what his role is, and Dufty and the team’s getting some success.”

In his past three matches, Hunt has been getting 57 minutes as a hooker with captain Cameron McInnes shifting into the back row.

But Alexander said the point is that the Dragons brought him in to be the club’s star halfback and is now playing a role worth less on the open market — a deal the Dragons may not have shelled out on if they had a crystal ball.

“Let’s go back a couple of years, signing Ben Hunt for $1.2 million a year for six years was one of the worst signings in the history of the game because now he’s coming off the bench at dummy half — but he’s doing a good job,” Alexander said.

Kangaroos and former Queensland coach Mal Meninga argued Alexander’s point, saying “it’s not a 13-man game, it’s a 17-man game”.

“Ben Hunt’s best position for the Dragons at the moment is at 14 and he’s a very valuable 14,” the Immortal said. “If something happens to one of their halves he can go and play in the halves. They’re utilising him really well. I love the combo of him coming on, his ability to clean up and be on the ball is fantastic.”

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Davies a chance to replace Fowler

The Roar don’t have to look far for Robbie Fowler’s permanent replacement, with Brisbane goalkeeper Jamie Young endorsing the credentials of the club’s assistant coach Darren Davies.

With Liverpool legend Fowler opting out of his Roar coaching deal to stay in England with his family during the COVID-19 crisis, Davies and the club’s academy boss Warren Moon are set to assume the reins for the rest of the A-League season, which restarts on July 16.

How the coaching structure will work remains unknown, with the club yet to announce whether Davies and Moon will be in charge on the bench.

Davies is also yet to commit to taking training beyond next Friday.

The Welshman was interim coach of the Roar last season in tough circumstances following the December 2018 departure of John Aloisi.

But Young stressed that Davies should not be judged on Brisbane’s poor 2018-19 campaign, in which the Roar finished second from bottom with just four wins from 27 matches. Three of those victories came during Davies’ 18-match stint in charge.

“I think it would be very harsh to judge him on the back of John Aloisi’s team,” said Young, the club’s reigning player of the year.

“He was picking up the slack from a previous manager, and that’s very difficult.

“That was a team in decline versus a team now on the rise.”

Under Fowler, the Roar lifted themselves to fourth on the ladder, having lost just two of their previous 13 matches before the competition was suspended.

“Darren’s tried to continue on in training what Robbie’s done. If it’s not broke don’t fix it,” Young said.

“What people need to remember is that Darren has worked under (former Socceroos coach) Ange Postecoglou, (ex-Melbourne Victory mentor) Kevin Muscat, John Aloisi and Robbie Fowler – that’s some pretty good people there.

“Darren has a very good CV in terms of the people he’s worked with, and he has been in A-League managerial role in the past as well so he has that experience. I think a lot of him as a coach.

“You put him in charge of our team right now and you’ve got to say there are some very good characters in there like Tom Aldred, Scott Neville, Jack Hingert, Scott McDonald, Jay O’Shea … there are about eight or nine leaders in our team.

“I think Darren does well with this team regardless.”

Other contenders for the permanent Roar job include Moon, current Brisbane marksman McDonald, Guam national team coach and ex-Roar defender Karl Dodd, and former Brisbane Strikers midfielder Kasey Wehrman.

“Warren’s played for the club, he’s built up an intimate connection with the community in Brisbane, and that’s very important for a club like us,” Young said.

“It’s great that the club has people (Moon and Davies) like that to draw from in a time like this.

“The one thing that Robbie brought is stability. We have an obligation to get the right person for the job.”

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Video analysis of Penrith Panthers halfback Nathan Cleary and how he has evolved since James Maloney’s exit

On the gym walls of many Ivan Cleary-coached football teams has been a ladder.

Not your ordinary competition-points variety, but a ladder that measured his team against the 15 others based on the first and last seven minutes of each half in games.

Nathan Cleary is all smiles after a red-hot start to the 2020 season.

Nathan Cleary is all smiles after a red-hot start to the 2020 season.Credit:Penrith Panthers

They are the seven-minute periods that make or break football games.

The same periods broke Anthony Griffin when he coached a Panthers team that struggled out of the blocks. The same periods have made the current Panthers team a force to be reckoned with.

Only the Sydney Roosters have conceded less points in the first and last seven minutes of each half throughout the opening seven rounds of the season.

The Eels, Panthers, Storm and Roosters went into round seven as the top four teams on the NRL ladder. It’s no surprise they are the same four teams that have the best defensive record during the 28 minutes of the game that Cleary believes requires a greater level of concentration to win football games.

It’s the kind of attention to detail that has been ingrained in his son Nathan, who throughout his career has shown he can produce the goods in clutch moments.

Game of thrones

He was dubbed the prince of Penrith as a teenager. But following the departure of James Maloney, Nathan Cleary has taken his place on the throne at the foot of the mountains, leading a resurgence that has transformed the Panthers into title contenders in 2020.

“Nathan played second fiddle to Jimmy, for sure,” the Panthers coach said.

“And that was fair enough because Jimmy was the senior voice by a long way. Nat and Jimmy are probably a bit too similar. It doesn’t mean it can’t work, because I think they showed at various times together that it can work really well.

“But I guess for long-term success, we needed to make a change. It was good timing. Jimmy was at the end of his career looking for something else, and Nat’s starting to head towards the prime of his career.”

Nathan’s development over the past 12 months is highlighted in the below video analysis, which shows just how much he struggled to stamp his authority on the Panthers in 2019, and how much that has changed this season.

Video analysis 1: Cleary finds his voice without Maloney

“He was always developing, he always had a really good attitude,” Maloney said.

“The biggest thing was for all the hype and how much he had done by an early age, Nath had a really good self-awareness of where his game was at. He was never going to be a kid who thought he was killing it and believing in his own hype.

“He always had a fair assessment of where he’s at. At the end of the day, he’s only 22. He’s still a baby. There are plenty of more things he’ll learn and develop.”

Cleary never got frustrated being the understudy, despite Penrith struggling for form throughout 2019. The NSW halfback believes the two seasons under the now Catalans playmaker is a large reason for his success in 2020.

“Yeah, there was times where we didn’t quite gel because we were so similar,” Cleary said.

“But I learnt a lot off him; things that I wasn’t doing before he came to the club. He’s a pretty good person to learn off. He’s done everything in the game and is an outstanding player. I definitely take those years here under him as valuable and have been able to mould that into my game the best I can this year.”

Play-the-ball speed

Ivan Cleary has plenty of mantras and philosophies he bases his coaching around. His No.1 motto is “the star of the team is the team”. He also places emphasis on the play-the-ball speed of his halves. Jarome Luai and Nathan Cleary have two of the fastest play-the-ball speeds of any halves in the NRL. It has been the foundation of Penrith’s success in 2020.

Interestingly, four of the top eight fastest play-the-ball speeds of NRL halves are players who have been coached by Ivan Cleary throughout their careers (Luai, Nathan, Luke Brooks and Shaun Johnson)

The impact of the quick play-the-ball was highlighted in the below vision of Nathan Cleary’s running game against South Sydney last week.

Video analysis 2: The importance of a quick play-the-ball

“He’s spoken about it a number of times through the pre-season,” Nathan said.

“He always likes me and Jarome running the ball. He always tells us ‘if there’s nothing really on, try and get a quick play-the-ball so we can play off the back of that the next play. Jarome is doing that really well.”

Apisai Koroisau

Three things changed in the golden west over the summer. Maloney left and Trent Barrett came back. But the most significant factor in the rise of Nathan Cleary has been the return of hooker Apisai Koroisau.

His ability to attract markers and keep the defence second-guessing has given his halves more time and space to set up plays and inject themselves into the contest.

“He is probably in the prime of his career,” Ivan Cleary said.

“I reckon he manipulates markers as good as anyone in the comp. He’s also now become an 80-minute player consistently, which he possibly could have done at Manly but he wasn’t used that way. But on and off the field, he’s been good in terms of leadership. He’s had a great influence on and off the field through leadership and personality as well.”

When coaches talk about Koroisau’s strength as a dummy half, they talk about his tempo.It’s a quality that makes him a constant threat, as highlighted in the video below.

Video analysis 3: the impact of Api Koroisau

“I would describe tempo as being able to manipulate the defensive line to create space for other people,” Ivan Cleary said.

“If you’re playing with tempo, the defence is confused as to when they should go to you or should they not. You want to get the defensive line a little bit staggered because there are guys moving faster than someone else. It’s just deception, pretty much, and he’s one of the best at it.”

The influence of Trent Barrett

Manly fullback Tom Trbojevic gets deja vu watching the Panthers play in 2020. “Trent Barrett’s hands are all over that team,” Trbojevic said of his former coach, who is now Ivan Cleary’s assistant at Penrith.

“Baz did all the attack at Manly and you can see so many similarities with the way Penrith are playing. They look very similar. He’s a really good coach. He used Api well at Manly.

“Penrith’s middles and back-rowers generate a lot of quick play-the-balls and Api gets a roll on off the back of it and plays his deceptive style. That seems to be helping Nathan. Api’s released a lot of pressure off Nathan, because he is so good at holding people up, it makes Nathan’s job a lot easier.”

Panthers assistant Trent Barrett with halfback Nathan Cleary before last week's game against South Sydney.

Panthers assistant Trent Barrett with halfback Nathan Cleary before last week’s game against South Sydney.Credit:Getty

Barrett has helped transform the Panthers’ stuttering attack, working with the players he groomed during his last stint at the club. He once ran the club’s halves academy, helping develop Cleary, Luai and Tyrone May when they were coming through the system.


“Baz did attack for me the last time he was out here,” Ivan Cleary said.

“He’s got a certain way he likes to do it and he’s very good at it. He told me what he wanted to do, his ideas and plans, and I thought they were good and that’s what we’ve gone with.

“Trent uses Api’s strength as much as he can, which is what he did at Manly. He touches the ball first and the most, so naturally there’s similarities. And he also has a long-standing relationship with Jarome and Nat. The timing was perfect.”

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Where is your club relocating?

Time to work on your tans, Tigers.

Richmond has expressed its reservations about being placed in a hub, but its players will be forced to adapt after being included in a group of six teams being relocated to Queensland for the rest of the season.

Not just a block of games it seems, but the rest of the minor round.

St Kilda, Carlton, North Melbourne, Essendon and the Western Bulldogs are also heading north.

RELATED: SA slams door on hubs

Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk confirmed the news Friday with a cheeky quip about the new home of footy.

“Essentially Queensland is going to be the home of the AFL, they should give us the grand final after this,” Palaszczuk said.

“Four teams are going to be on the Gold Coast and two on the Sunshine Coast.

“There will be a lot more matches at the Gabba and Metricon and of course our capacity is 50 per cent of the public being able to go see these sports stars in action.

“(They’ll be here) for the rest of the season is my understanding.”

The Saints and Blues will reportedly base themselves in Noosa on the Sunshine Coast while the Tigers, Bombers, Dogs and Kangaroos will be on the Gold Coast after all teams complete their games in round five this weekend.

Remaining Victorian sides Hawthorn, Collingwood, Melbourne and Geelong will head to New South Wales for round six.

The Hawks and Demons will stay on for an undetermined period of time, while the Cats and Magpies will fly to Western Australia for round seven.

West Coast, Fremantle and Adelaide will finally play a game in their home states in round seven, but table-topping Port Adelaide will remain on the road. The Power will remain in Queensland for their next three games, including a clash against Brisbane at the Gabba this Saturday night.

“I have said on a number of occasions that this would be a season of challenges,” AFL CEO Gillon McLachlan said in a statement announcing the changes.

“I want to thank the Governments in NSW, Queensland and WA for their support in helping us set up a series of high-performance centres that will see interstate teams based in their state in accordance with all the strict local protocols and playing games.

“I would also like to thank all of our clubs, players, coaches, umpires and officials for their continued support and ability to adapt quickly as we navigate through the changing environment.

“The Victorian clubs now temporarily moving interstate are playing their part in ensuring our season endures in a year that will continue to challenge us all.”


Thursday, July 9

Geelong v Brisbane, SCG, 7.40pm AEST

Friday, Jul 10

Collingwood v Hawthorn, Giants Stadium, 7.50pm AEST

Saturday, July 11

Fremantle v St Kilda, Metricon Stadium, 12.35pm AEST

West Coast v Adelaide, Gabba, 3.05pm AEST

Melbourne v Gold Coast, Giants Stadium, 6.05pm AEST

Essendon v North Melbourne, Metricon Stadium, 7.40pm AEST

Sunday, July 12

Port Adelaide v GWS, Metricon Stadium, 1.05pm AEST

Richmond v Sydney, Gabba, 3.35pm AEST

Carlton v Western Bulldogs, Metricon Stadium, 6.45pm AEST


Thursday, July 16

Geelong v Collingwood, Optus Stadium. 6.10pm AWST, 8.10 AEST

Friday, July 17

Essendon v Western Bulldogs, Metricon Stadium, 7.50pm AEST

Saturday, July 18

GWS v Brisbane, Giants Stadium, 1.45pm AEST

Sydney v Gold Coast, SCG, 4.35pm AEST

Richmond v North Melbourne, Metricon Stadium, 7.40pm AEST

Sunday, July 19

Carlton v Port Adelaide, Gabba, 1.05pm AEST

Hawthorn v Melbourne, Giants Stadium, 3.35pm AEST

Fremantle v West Coast, Optus Stadium, 4.35pm AWST, 6.35pm AEST

Monday, July 20

Adelaide v St Kilda, Adelaide Oval, 7.10pm ACST, 7.40pm AEST


Amid plans to move all Victorian teams out of the state after a spike in coronavirus cases, South Australia has said no thank you.

SA health minister Stephen Wade shut the door on an AFL hub in his state, declaring the Croweaters would look after themselves during the COVID-19 virus.

“We were planning to lift the border restrictions, recent circumstances means we won’t get there. We will open the borders when it is safe to do so,” he said on SEN SA Breakfast.

“There won’t be a hub in South Australia this year and that’s disappointing. But public health has come first, we are already seeing state to state transmission and we don’t want AFL to be a bridge to that.

“We are keen to work with the AFL to explore all options, but in the context of Victoria being the hub of coronavirus infections and the base of majority of AFL teams, South Australia won’t be giving exemptions to the 14 day isolation.”

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Is this the man behind St Kilda’s revamped forward structure?

Tim Watson and Garry Lyon have hailed Jarryd Roughead’s impact in revamping St Kilda’s forward line and mentoring the club’s key position players.

The Saints are the number one team in the competition for kicks retained and marked inside 50 and scores per inside 50 and their efficiency in front of goal has improved out of sight.

Thursday night’s 18-point win over Carlton moved Brett Ratten’s side to 3-2 and temporarily into fourth spot on the ladder.

Roughead, a four-time premiership star at Hawthorn, joined the Saints’ coaching department in a wide-ranging role that includes working with club’s emerging key position prospects.

“Was it 10 marks that they (St Kilda) actually took inside their attacking 50 in one quarter of football? That is extraordinary,” Watson told SEN Breakfast.

“That doesn’t happen by accident, does it? That’s the way that they’re set up. That’s the way their players leave space or that’s the way players return to space. That’s instruction, that’s a coaching thing, that’s a teaching thing.

“It’s no surprise to me that Jarryd Roughead is there at St Kilda. What was one of the key hallmarks of the way that Hawthorn played their football and still play their football in terms of their forward structure?”

Lyon replied: “Separation. Not flying for the same mark.

“The best forward set ups are ones that are moving constantly and don’t allow opposition defences to get set on them. Once they get set then they can intercept then they can read the play, that means they know where you are.

“Running around the back of a defender makes him turn his head and then you’re back in the proactive position as a forward, and that’s what I’m seeing with St Kilda. I love it, I love every minute of it.

“(Tim) Membrey, (Jonathon) Marsh, the big guy (Josh) Battle came down and was an option and then they’ve got the smalls buzzing around. It was fantastic.”

St Kilda have been able to create space in behind opposition defences and score several counter-attacking goals as a result.

“There always seems to be players that have stayed back in some way or they beat their defender back into that space. But that’s coaching and instruction, isn’t it?” Watson said.

Lyon responded: “It is. Not too often they look up and there’s no one there.

“Or if they do go into a forward line that’s been vacated it’s because it’s (Dan) Butler running back onto the footy or it’s (Dean) Kent running back onto the footy.

“It just seems that there’s system.”

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South Australia rules out hosting AFL hub as fixture scramble continues

The hits keep coming for the AFL as the ongoing coronavirus spike in Victoria keeps the season up in the air.

After having to scramble to redo the round five fixture following the Queensland government’s hard line stance on Victorian clubs not entering the state, the AFL has been hit with another Dustin Martin-style don’t argue.

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Amid plans to move all Victorian teams out of the state, South Australia has said no thank you.

Plans for hubs to be set up in Perth and in NSW appear on the horizon, but SA health minister Stephen Wade shut the door on an AFL hub in the state, declaring the state will look after itself during the COVID-19 virus.

“We were planning to lift the border restrictions, recent circumstances means we won’t get there. We will open the borders when it is safe to do so,” he said on SEN SA Breakfast.

“There won’t be a hub in South Australia this year and that’s disappointing. But public health has come first, we are already seeing state to state transmission and we don’t want AFL to be a bridge to that.

“We are keen to work with the AFL to explore all options, but in the context of Victoria being the hub of coronavirus infections and the base of majority of AFL teams, South Australia won’t be giving exemptions to the 14 day isolation.”

Cases have exploded in Victoria over the past week, leaving other states across the country wary of allowing Melbournites in.

The latest setback adds to a growing list of hurdles the AFL and boss Gillon McLachlan have to clear in what has been the toughest season in a long time.

Despite Victorian clubs planning on being relocated out of the state and into hubs by potentially next week, Collingwood president Eddie McGuire believes three games will be played next weekend.

“My understanding is there might still be three games this weekend in Melbourne,” Ed said on the Hot Breakfast.

“Not that it matters because no one can go anyway.

“I think Brisbane will probably still play Collingwood on the Friday … Geelong and St Kilda, the plan was always Geelong would play on the Thursday and get over as quickly as possible to Western Australia to get another hub.

“The Pies would do the same with Brisbane, and Collingwood would go to Western Australia and then Brisbane, now that they’re locked out of Brisbane … what they can do then is they can go through New South Wales and play Sydney.”

The AFL is looking to shore up the fixture after being forced into a reshuffle for round 5 with the league hopeful a five-round fixture following round 6 would see each team play five games outside of Victoria.

A Sydney hub is expected to house the Swans, Giants, Suns, St Kilda and then potentially North Melbourne and Melbourne.

In Perth the Western Bulldogs, Geelong and Collingwood are all likely to join West Coast and Fremantle with one more team required to make it work.

Hawthorn and Essendon look likely to head to the Gold Coast with Richmond and Carlton’s futures still up in the air as to where they could land.

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