Bruce McAvaney has stepped away from AFL commentary ahead of the 2021 season, but the highly respected broadcaster intends to continue his career.
McAvaney says he will miss calling the AFL but he needed a reduced workload
He will continue as a sport broadcaster with the Seven Network
The 67-year-old called over 1,000 AFL matches during his broadcast career
McAvaney, 67, announced his decision less than three weeks out from the first round of the AFL premiership.
He said a desire to reduce his workload was largely behind the move.
“I’m going to miss it enormously,” McAvaney told the Seven Network.
“I just visualise when Richmond and Carlton run out there in round one, and the ball is bounced, I’m going to climb a wall somewhere.
The Adelaide-based McAvaney will continue to be a member of Seven’s horse racing broadcast team and will be a part of the network’s coverage of the Tokyo Olympics later this year if they go ahead as planned.
He said he was not considering retirement just yet.
“It’s just a new phase, where I cut back slightly,” McAvaney said.
“Anything I’m asked to do at Seven I’m going to do with the same enthusiasm and same commitment.”
McAvaney’s decision, announced on Sunday afternoon, was met with praise for his career on Twitter.
According to the Seven Network, McAvaney has called more than 1,000 AFL matches, including 20 grand finals.
He joined Seven’s AFL commentary team ahead of the 1990 season after coming across from Network 10.
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“I’m going to have to move on and just be a fan like everybody else.”
The 67-year-old will continue to be part of Channel Seven’s horse racing and Olympics coverage, and said he was not pondering full-on retirement.
“It’s not anything close to retirement. It’s just a new phase where I have cut back slightly. Anything I am asked to do at Seven I am going to do with the same enthusiasm and the same commitment,” he said.
“I still feel like there is a bright future. In a ridiculous way, I still feel like I haven’t reached my potential. I still want to get better and that’s what I am hoping to do over the next few years.
“For those that like me on air, they are still going to see me. For those that say “shoosh”, bad luck.”
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“Now I’ve again impressed upon Mr McLachlan the need for that to occur. I have to say that I felt this morning that Gill was listening. We had a very constructive discussion.
“I think it would reasonable to say that I have impressed upon Mr McLachlan that I would much prefer one of the independent firms, preferably one of the big four. I would have concerns if it were someone that was hand-picked that had a long association with the AFL. I think both for the AFL’s comfort and for the Tasmanian government’s comfort a truly independent report would be the best way forward.“
The AFL did not wish to comment on the latest discussions but reinforced last week’s statement by saying the report would not be finished until later in the year or early 2022 “when the AFL hopes to have a clearer picture of its own financial position and that of the wider AFL community”.
The league and Tasmanian officials will continue to negotiate their next steps over the weekend, with Gutwein saying he expected to give a public update on Monday.
Gutwein said he had also been in contact with Hawthorn president Jeff Kennett and North Melbourne counterpart Ben Buckley, the two clubs awaiting confirmation on whether their lucrative deals to play home-away-from-home matches in the Apple Isle from beyond 2021 will continue.
“I have impressed upon them the need we have to ensure we can get clarity at the earliest opportunity and, in terms of that independent consultant’s report, I am not moving from my position that I believe that can be done in a matter of months. It doesn’t need a further 12 months,” Gutwein said.
Kennett said on Friday Gutwein’s proposed time frame suited the Hawks.
“As long we get it by June, July, we can manage that. It’s just that these are very difficult times for people to try and make new investments in sporting bodies, so it will be interesting to see what comes of it,” Kennett said.
“As I have always said, I would hate for Tasmania not to have AFL football in one form or the other and, hopefully, we will arrive at a landing place that suits everyone.”
The Tasmanian government won’t renegotiate with the Hawks or Kangaroos until the league provides clarity on a pathway and timeline towards establishing a standalone team. This could yet mean there are no AFL games in Tasmania in 2022.
The Tasmanian taskforce report, published last February, projected gross revenues for its new club of $42.5 million, “bettering the average of similar sized clubs of North Melbourne, GWS, Brisbane, Gold Coast and St Kilda”.
The report expected membership of 38,400, an average match-day attendance of 18,400 and predicted the club would add an extra $19 million onto the AFL’s broadcast rights deal.
Kennett raised eyebrows this month when he said the Hawks had not ruled out the possibility of moving to Tasmania.
Jon Pierik is cricket writer for The Age. He also covers AFL and has won awards for his cricket and basketball writing.
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For a footballer who has starred in front of huge crowds, the buzz of a different audience is getting too loud to ignore for Marlon Motlop.
Marlon Motlop is turning to music after a successful football career
He is playing in a new band with fellow team-mate Rulla Kelly-Mansell
They will play at Womadelaide this year, along with many other First Nations artists
From a lead role in an SANFL premiership with Glenelg at a packed Adelaide Oval, to playing with Port Adelaide in the AFL, Motlop has tasted wide-ranging sporting success.
But now his calling is for music, a much smaller stage but just as big a thrill.
“I get a different type of excitement out of playing in front of people and singing in front of people as well,” Motlop said.
“There’s a certain type of vulnerability that you display I think and I get a different high out of that.”
Football in one hand, guitar in the other
As his football career was blossoming as a junior, his dad was insisting he also learn the guitar.
Along with his cousins and future fellow AFL footballers Daniel, Shannon and Steven, he’d write raps and play music.
Now Motlop can see the curtain coming down on his football career with a final season with Glenelg, with the itch to scratch with his music becoming overwhelming.
“Like a bull at a gate, I just can’t wait to get out there, It’s a really different feeling for me, it’s a new feeling,” he enthused.
“People from the industry started to book us for gigs and I made a promise to myself that I’d just say yes to a lot of opportunities and use it as an opportunity to work on my craft and just see where it goes.”
Once the boots are hung up at year’s end and the smell of liniment becomes a distant if fond memory, Motlop wants to push his music as far as it can go.
“I’d love to be able to travel the world with my family, with my friends and share my music and sound with the world, if it ever gets to that point,” he said.
First Nations artists making big splash
Darwin-born Motlop is just one of many South Australian First Nations performers making audiences sit up and take notice.
Their success is being pushed by Letisha Ackland, who was employed by Music SA less than a year ago to get more Indigenous musicians into the sector and achieving success.
Thirty-six First Nations artists were nominated at the 2020 SA Music Awards, which Ackland said had been a long time coming.
“There’s actually a really great amount of talent that’s coming through and they’ve been there for many years and people just don’t know who they are,” Ms Ackland said.
Tilly Tjala Thomas, 18, is one of the freshest faces, with her mix of indie folk and electronic music proving popular.
Like an increasing number of First Nations musicians, she is mixing English and native language in her songs, a blend Ackland said works perfectly.
“It’s really beautiful actually when you can pull the language into it, when it’s sung and spoken is really beautiful to put the melody behind it,” she said.
Thomas looks up to the likes of Australian hip hop duo A.B. Original and just like them, has a strong activist theme through her songs.
“I think a lot of my songs are quite political and I’d like to kind of use music to my advantage,” she admitted.
Letisha Ackland says she will continue pushing the case for the likes of Motlop and Thomas.
“Where we can be able to give the spotlight to First Nations artists, to pop them up on those stages and give them the opportunity is definitely where I’m driving,” she said.
Marlon Motlop and Rulla Kelly-Mansell will play at Womadelaide on Saturday March 6.
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Crowds will be able to return to the MCG and Marvel Stadium for AFL matches in Melbourne this season at a 50 per cent capacity.
The crowd capacity is the largest allowance at a sporting event in Victoria since the COVID-19 pandemic first hit last year.
The MCG will be able to host up to 50,000 patrons in round one of the AFL Premiership Season from March 4, where Richmond will host Carlton in the traditional blockbuster at 7:25pm AEDT.
Marvel Stadium will be able to host up to 28,961 patrons. AFL Chief Executive Gillon McLachlan said the announcement was great news for clubs and fans. “Footy fans in Victoria have been excited about getting back to matches and we have seen that with great numbers across the opening rounds of the AFLW season,” he said. “We haven’t had footy crowds this big in Victoria since the match to support Bushfire Relief in February last year, so today’s announcement provides a big boost for our players and fans in the leadup to the season. “Our team has been working extensively behind the scenes planning for multiple scenarios and all our venues will be ready to welcome fans back into the stands come next month.”
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Star recruit Jesse Hogan is racing the clock to make his debut for the Giants in Round 1 of the 2020 AFL season after suffering a quad injury in training this week.
The former Demons and Dockers key forward will reportedly be on the sidelines for up to a month.
Hogan did not feature in the Giants pre-season scratch match with the Swans on Saturday.
According to afl.com.au, Hogan’s injury could also put him in doubt for the showdown against Fremantle in Round 2.
Hogan made a high-profile exit from the Dockers during the 2020 Trade Period and was eventually let go for the No. 54 draft selection.
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It is another cruel injury set back for the 25-year-old who endured a miserable two years with Fremantle where he was only able to play 19 games in two years.
With the Giants losing superstar Jeremy Cameron at the end of 2020, Hogan was the great hope to add punch to the Giants’ forward line this year.
The Giants will next weekend take on the Swans again in their only official Community Series pre-season game before their season begins against the Saints on March 21.
Hogan’s injury was followed by news Adelaide player Wayne Milera has also suffered a nightmare serious knee injury.
The Crows defender left the field during Adelaide’s scratch match with Port Adelaide on Saturday.
The club announced the injury has been preliminarily diagnosed as a patella tendon rupture.
The injury would likely see Milera miss six months of football.
He is expected to undergo scans to confirm the injury.
Clubs fared better in Friday’s pre-season action with the Magpies, Cats, Tigers and Demons all getting through their scratch matches without any serious injuries.
Collingwood was happy with what they saw from first round draft pick Oliver Henry with the teenager emerging as a genuine contender for selection in the Pies’ season opener.
Henry was the Magpies’ top selection at the 2020 AFL Draft and is the shining hope for the under-pressure club after a disastrous trade period which cost them the likes of Jaidyn Stephenson and Adam Treloar.
Taken with the No. 17 pick, Henry has already begun to repay the faith.
Magpies assistant coach Hayden Skipworth said of Henry: “He will be right in contention for that round-one spot”.
The Magpies were also excited about the return of Jeremy Howe, who slotted it nicely in the defensive fifty.
Geelong also had plenty to be excited about after superstar recruit Jeremy Cameron kicked the first goal of the match. He appeared in fine form before he was rested for the entire second half.
Meanwhile, Melbourne’s experiment with Max Gawn moving forward appeared to be a success in the Demons’ win over Richmond at Casey Fields on Friday.
Gawn started in the ruck but popped up regularly inside the forward fifty arc.
The action continues when the 2021 AFL community series begins next week.
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Jess has assumed a role as the public face of a quest for what he sees as justice for the legions of past players who he claims have been let down by the AFL’s handling of concussion. It has become his raison d’etre. Concerned about the impact of CTE, he lodged a complaint with Worksafe, while his long-threatened legal action against the league and a push for a $2 billion concussion redress fund among his highest-profile ideas.
Jess’ view is that this will save the game, rather than imperil it, because it will quarantine the issue of concussion, similar to what has taken place in the US.
For the league and to a lesser extent the AFL Players’ Association, he is antagonist-in-chief, questioning every move in the realm of head injuries to footballers and accusing the league of being negligent and ignoring what he claims is incontrovertible scientific proof about the dangers of playing the game.
His detractors struggle to get their heads around his media-driven approach. But Jess says the proof is clearly in the pudding, pointing to the AFL’s changes to its game-day concussion protocols and increase in mandatory days off between games following a concussion.
“I actually generate change,” says Jess.
“I’m very strategic, I’m outcome-driven. It was generated by myriad research papers and clinical evidence presented to the AFL which gave an overwhelming outcome that returning to play under 30 days put the playing cohort at risk. No one has challenged that science or medical evidence.
“I am the AFL’s leading player advocate. I make administrators accountable to the players and the public.”
Standing up for causes is nothing new for Jess. In 1966, as a 15-year-old schoolboy at Highett High, he organised a 500-student sit-down to protest the Vietnam War.
Having studied at Caulfield Tech, Jess turned his hand to accounting. His primary occupation remains as an accountant, with the walls of his Essendon office adorned with personalised sporting paraphernalia from greats including Usain Bolt, Pele and Azumah Nelson.
In 1980, Jess began acting for his first footballer client. It was his cousin, Richmond premiership player Jim Jess. These were relatively primitive days, but word got around of the job Peter had done for Jim, and soon Peter started acting for a host of top players in the 1980s and ’90s, dealing with Warwick Capper and famously taking care of Nicky Winmar, leading to a heated television exchange with Molly Meldrum in 1993 over Winmar’s contract dispute with St Kilda.
Another of those was Justin Madden, who went on to become a 300-gamer, dual premiership player at Carlton and a state Labor MP.
“The clubs found him fairly confronting because he was very upfront in looking after the interests of his players, and he’s maintained that over his professional career,” Madden said this week of Jess.
Greg Miller, the veteran former football administrator, said negotiating with Jess was a nightmare.
The two fell out several times but always patched things up eventually, with the two teaming up to run a football clinic in Argentina.
“He’s one of the strangest, differentest, brilliant men in the world I’ve ever met.”
Jess is these days much better known for his concussion advocacy but he is similarly proud of the reform he helped drive in the early years.
“When I started, professional sportsmen had no superannuation, no long-service leave, no holiday pay, very limited insurance, no access to continued learning, no access to a whole range of subsidiary services,” Jess said.
He would delve into other sports, becoming involved in soccer through Carlton soccer club and playing an advisory role in the founding of Melbourne Victory, and athletics where he worked closely with Cathy Freeman.
But during his time working with Freeman and her former coach and partner Nic Bideau, Jess played a significant role, handing Freeman the Aboriginal flag in which she draped herself after winning Commonwealth Games gold in Victoria, Canada in 1994.
Bideau and Jess remain close.
“He’s a very unusual person. He’s a go-getter, he goes after things. It’s hard to figure out sometimes what drives him, what motivates him,” said Bideau.
“I would say he’s almost never motivated by the money.
“He also fights for Indigenous people.”
Jess says his head injury obsession stems from a couple of key episodes in his life.
The first came in 1971 when he lost the sight in his left eye in a car crash also involving Jim Jess.
Then in 2006 he was knocked off his motor scooter by a car in Melbourne’s CBD. He fractured three vertebrae in his neck, four in his back, broke nine ribs, suffered a punctured lung and a broken jaw and was unconscious for 20 minutes.
It led to years of cognitive therapy as he dealt with the lingering effects of that incident.
Then in around 2009 he started to see a string of his former player clients complain of major health and social issues. Jess started searching for answers as to whether their head knocks sustained while playing had contributed to their conditions. He looked at what was happening in the US with concussion in the NFL and saw parallels.
“It wasn’t won in the courts, it was won with public opinion,” Jess said of the NFL’s concussion settlement.
Jess may not be a scientist or a doctor, but he undertakes enormous chunks of research into head injuries.
“I’m happy to debate the science with anyone who can debate the factual evidence,” Jess says to that.
“I’ve got three post-graduate degrees, so I understand research and I understand the interpretation of data.”
While Madden sneaked him onto the MCG after the 1995 grand final, one of the other striking things about Jess is he is not really a football lover or even a sports lover. This shapes the way he comes at the discussion about the future of footy.
“I like the concept of sport, I like the concept of competitiveness, what I am saying is is that we need to create new paradigms for sport, skills-based, not collisions-based, for both men’s and women’s,” he says.
In the wake of CTE diagnoses for Polly Farmer, Danny Frawley and Shane Tuck, plus the AFL’s recent changes to its concussion guidelines, it is clear that the issue of head injuries in football is not going away any time soon.
Certainly not while Jess, 70, is punching on.
’He’ll fight the 1000-year war as he says,” said fellow agent Liam Pickering.
“He’s always been a players’ man. People can see him as hard work.
“He’s not doing it for the money. He’s doing it because he believes in the case and the cause.
“I know the AFL are probably sick to death of him, and the PA probably as well but you need voices like him in the game.”
Another long-time AFL player agent said Jess could be annoying. But that same agent also said that Jess’ lack of concern for what others say or think of him could be viewed admirably.
Jess says his long-mooted concussion legal action has been made much harder because of Australia’s Medical Records Act which he compares to those of a despotic regime.
But he keeps taking on the authorities, prepared to talk the talk and walk the walk.
“The fact is this, the guys I work for know that I am absolutely driven to help them, in whatever way I can,” Jess said.
“I’m a great friend, but I’m a horrible enemy.”
Daniel is an Age sports reporter
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Taylor has only played four AFL games and the Swans dropped him less than a year after being drafted.
He knows he faces a long road back to earn people’s forgiveness and respect, and is under no illusion he may have thrown his football career away for good. But he’s intent on returning to the WAFL this season in the hopes of securing another stint at the top level.
“I felt really down about it and blame myself for what happened and I know it was wrong,” Taylor told The West Australian.
“It was tough. Afterwards I was feeling pretty low about myself for a couple of months and didn’t want to come back to footy.
“I just got lazy and started sleeping like 12, 14 hours a day. It was a pretty bad time for me but I … decided to give footy another chance and it’s been good so far. I know it’s going to be a long road for that to happen but I’m willing to do anything just to be where I was in the AFL.
“I’ll probably have to work twice as hard as I did when I was younger but I’m willing to do whatever it takes.
“I’ve learnt from my mistakes, I’m willing to do whatever it takes.”
Taylor wasn’t sure whether he wanted to play footy again after hitting rock bottom because of his off-field mistakes, but came to the realisation he feels happiest on the field so is determined to give it another crack.
Perth Magistrates Court heard in December Taylor had been out the night before he assaulted Pearce when he ran into her at a nightclub and they went back to the hotel. Taylor woke up the next morning to Pearce hitting him after she saw a Snapchat message from another woman.
He then repeatedly punched her and hit her across the back with a belt. At one point during the attack, Taylor told her: “You’re not going anywhere.”
His lawyer Seamus Rafferty said Taylor had been under pressure in the lead-up to the incident – including struggling with his AFL suspension for breaching WA’s quarantine laws and the media attention that came with it – but entirely accepted blame for the attack.
“He was not the person who started the aggressive behaviour,” Mr Rafferty said. “Basically, he lost his self-control.
“This kid just wanted to crawl under a rock and then his whole world came crashing down.”
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Brisbane Lions draft pick Harry Sharp will be one of more than 1,000 students expected to line the sidelines tonight’s blockbuster round five AIC First XVIII St Laurence’s vs Villanova match.
The two schools haven’t yet met this season and both come into the game undefeated.
With the Lions facing the Gold Coast SUNS in a pre-season practise match tomorrow, the 183cm midfielder, who’s in his final year of school at St Laurence’s, will have to settle for the stands.
Sharp, and fellow Lion Archie Smith, both hail from the South Brisbane boys’ school, where the popularity of AFL continues to rise.
St Laurence’s College Director of Sport, Eddie Wallace, said the growth of AFL at SLC had been significant over the last couple of years.
“This year the College has entered 9 teams into the various AIC competitions – more than any other school. This allows 180 boys to play the game each weekend,” he said.
“We are very grateful for the support AFL Queensland, the Brisbane Lions and their Academy have provided the College and we hope the students have the opportunity throughout 2021 and beyond to watch both Archie and Harry play many games for the Lions.”
Villanova College Director of Sport, Craig Stariha, said AFL at Villanova was continuing to kick goals.
“AFL is going extremely well this year, five of our seven teams are heading into round five undefeated which indicates the overall strength of our program and the talent we have at Villanova,” he said.
“We’ve got a fantastic group of teacher and parent coaches, who have worked well in the Junior School to expose our boys to the game and equip them with the skills and confidence to not only enjoy the game but to improve.”
“Many of the current year 10 boys, were the first group to ever play AIC AFL at Villanova and now make up a substantial part of our Opens team. We are now starting to see many good players filter through to our Opens and we look forward to seeing them drafted in the future.”
St Laurence’s vs Villanova AIC First XVIII match details: Friday, February 26th 2020 Coorparoo Oval 1 at 4:45pm Score updated can be found at https://www.facebook.com/AFLQSchoolFooty
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Over a five-year contract Cameron was on an average of around $1 million a year but took massive pay cuts to help the Giants, leading to a balloon payment last year of more than $1.4 million before the COVID pay cuts. He received payments from a fund set up by the AFL and AFL Players Association to compensate for the huge amount of money he lost because of a backloaded deal.
Richmond’s Dustin Martin and Carlton’s Jack Martin, who was on a front-ended deal after being snared from the Gold Coast, were also reportedly two of the players on more than $900,000 last year. There had been 16 players who were paid $900,000 or more in 2019.
Only 10 players earned more than $700,000 last year. Of this, there was one in the $1 million to $1.1 million range and one who still pocketed between $1.1 million and $1.2 million.
Across the board, players took more than a $100,000 hit, with the average wage plummeting from $363,000 in 2019 to $260,000, excluding rookie-listed players.
The pay range with the most listed players was $100,000 to $200,000 (189) with $200,000 to $300,000 (142) the next best. There were 131 players in the $300,000 to $400,000 range and a surprising 113 in the $60,000 to $100,000 range.
“The summary shows that in 2020 AFL clubs paid a total of $170.3 million in player payments, before deductions allowed for injury allowances, veterans’ list payments, finals incentives and other reasons, decreasing 29.8 per cent from the 2019 figure of $242.3 million,” the AFL said in a statement.
Playing groups have tackled the thorny issue of cuts in different ways, with St Kilda agreeing to an across-the-board seven per cent cut to ensure the list is not impacted in years ahead.
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