A second member of the Heal family is hoping to make it big in the US.
Shyla Heal, the teenage daughter of Australian basketball legend Shane Heal, is heading to the WNBA after Chicago Sky selected her with pick No. 8 in Friday’s (AEST) draft.
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Shane played in the NBA with Minnesota and San Antonio and was by Shyla’s side at The Star in Sydney on Friday morning when the announcement came through she was off to the Windy City.
She joins Opals icons Liz Cambage and Lauren Jackson as the only Aussies to go top-10 in the WNBA draft and will ply her trade Stateside in the most competitive league in the world.
Shyla enjoyed a stellar 2020 season Down Under playing for the Townsville Fire, winning the Youth Player of the Year award to cement her status as one of Australia’s brightest up-and-coming basketball talents.
Her hot streak put the 19-year-old on the radar for national selection ahead of this year’s Tokyo Olympics and the 2022 World Cup, and earned her a spot in the All-WNBL Second Team.
Townsville coach Sandy Brondello said late last year: “She is going to be an Opal; it is just a matter of when.
“She has got really good skills and I think she has improved in her playmaking ability.
“Not just being a scorer, but it is also about being a creator and distributor.
“She is on the up and she is only going to get better and better.”
Heal has long been touted for big things after debuting in the WNBL at just 14 and finished last season among the league’s top five scorers, averaging 25.3 points and 7.3 assists per game.
Heal was documenting her day on social media as the WNBA Draft took place, and looked excited as she waited with her family for her name to be called out.
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A code of conduct for all MPs will be drawn up by a parliamentary committee in an attempt to improve the culture of South Australia’s Parliament.
A code of conduct will be drafted by a parliamentary committee for consideration by SA Parliament
The committee will consider all 16 recommendations made by Acting Equal Opportunity Commissioner Emily Strickland
The report found sexual harassment was prevalent in SA’s Parliament
It follows a damning report by the Acting Equal Opportunity Commissioner released earlier this month which found prevalent sexual harassment inSA’s Parliament as well as national protests, including one in Adelaide’s CBD yesterday demanding action to address workplace harassment.
‘A model for all of South Australia’
In Parliament’s Lower House this morning, Attorney-General and Deputy Premier Vickie Chapman moved to establish a parliamentary committee to closely examine the report and its 16 recommendations.
Labor MP Katrine Hildyard moved an amendment to the motion, stating that the committee should also draft a code of conduct.
It passed with support from Premier Steven Marshall, who as recently as this morning refused to say whether he personally supported the idea.
“Every single person in South Australia should feel safe and respected in the workplace, but we here in the South Australian Parliament should be modelling the highest of standards,” Mr Marshall said.
Opposition Leader Peter Malinauskas said it was time State Parliament aligned with community expectations of behaviour.
“The South Australian community expects there to be a code of conduct for this workplace, as there is for theirs,” Mr Malinauskas told Parliament.
SA Best MLC Connie Bonaros, whose complaint against now-independent MP Sam Duluk sparked the commissioner’s review, supports a code of conduct, saying it is “a long time coming”.
“The Parliament has somehow managed to cope OK with average rules and conventions for what seems like an eternity, but it doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be continually looking at how we can modernise and improve our practices,” she said.
Long history of discussion
The South Australian Parliament has a long history of considering, but then not adopting codes of conduct.
In 2003, then Labor premier Mike Rann moved that a joint committee be established to introduce a code of conduct for all members.
The committee recommended the code take the form of a “Statement of Principles” to be adopted by each house.
Debate on motions to adopt those statements was adjourned off in 2004, and again in 2010.
In 2012, the government used the Governor’s speech to outline a plan to adopt a formal code of conduct.
The nature of that code was outlined later that year in a bill to establish an Independent Commissioner Against Corruption.
The bill also sought to establish a Parliamentary Conduct Committee to oversee and monitor the standards set out in the code.
But the proposal contained in the bill was not acted upon.
In 2016, a so-called “Statement of Principles” was adopted by both Houses of Parliament.
But the Parliament was careful to ensure this statement would not actually have any legal effect.
It inserted a provision into the ICAC Act to specifically rule out that any “statement of principles” adopted by MPs could formally be considered a code of conduct.
Before leaving office last year, the former Independent Commissioner Against Corruption Bruce Lander noted that arrangement “fails to inspire confidence”, describing it as a “double standard [that] reflects poorly on the propriety of our legislature.”
Current Commissioner Ann Vanstone QC also called for a code to be established.
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THE GOVERNMENT of Prime Minister Sanna Marin (SDP) on Wednesday published its much-discussed and long-anticipated proposal for restricting the movement of people in Helsinki, Espoo, Vantaa, Kauniainen and Turku, Finland.
It is proposing the enactment of a law that temporarily limits the freedom of movement and close contact of people in areas where the new coronavirus is spreading uncontrollably.
YLE on Wednesday wrote that the government is hopeful that the law can be enacted as soon as possible and remain in effect until 14 May. The actual movement restrictions, however, would be adopted for only three weeks at a time, based on an assessment of the epidemiological situation in the localities.
The proposal would prohibit people from leaving their home or comparable place of residence except for a dozen reasons, such as shopping for food, medications or other goods necessary for personal life; working or running a business; visiting a bank or post office; accessing social and health care services; conducting necessary official business; taking care or attending the funeral of a family member; going to a kindergarten or education institute; moving to one’s own property or vehicle; and taking care of a pet.
People could also leave their place of residence with other members of the same household or no more than two other people to exercise.
The government argued that limiting close contacts and freedom of movement more heavy-handedly is necessary to slow down the exacerbation of the epidemic in certain areas.
The Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare (THL) highlighted in a statement attached to the proposal that, without stricter restrictions, the daily number of infections could be as high as 500 in four weeks in the Hospital District of Helsinki and Uusimaa (HUS). HUS itself has conducted modelling suggesting that without further restrictions the daily number of infections could be 800 and that of hospitalisations 35 in early May.
Both numbers would overwhelm contact tracing efforts and, as a result, enable the more transmissible virus mutations to spread even faster.
“A burden such as this could not be carried without a nearly complete winding down of non-urgent care,” the government stated, pointing to the forecast presented by HUS.
The movement restrictions would not prohibit children born in 2008 or later from playing with each other outside. The mask mandate, in turn, would apply to everyone born in 2007 or earlier in indoor spaces and modes of transport used together with people from other households.
The proposal must still be approved by the parliamentary groups of all ruling parties and the Finnish Parliament.
Aleksi Teivainen – HT
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On Tuesday, March 16, the State Duma adopted the third and final reading of reforms to Russia’s education regulations, adding new restrictions to the “dissemination of knowledge outside formal academic programs,” such as popular-science initiatives and probably even Wikipedia and the mass media. Deputies from the country’s ruling political party, United Russia, used their supermajority in Parliament to force through the legislation without the support of any other faction. If the Federation Council and President Putin support the law, it will enter force on June 1, 2021. Meduza spoke to several educators and popular science communicators about the new reforms and how these restrictions will likely affect their fields.
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The Demons also added Deakyn Smith to the list. Smith, a member of the club’s Next Genaration Academy, filled Melbourne’s last list spot. The Demons opted not to list Kobe Farmer, the son of former star Jeff Farmer. The younger Farmer had been training with the Demons.
The Magpies will have the option of picking two players in the mid-season draft, which some clubs believe will have more talent available due to the players who were overlooked in a COVID-19 compromised 2020 draft.
The Magpies had been considering Jack Briskey, a key position prospect from Queensland who had trained with them, under the supplentary selection rule, before deciding to hold two spots on the playing list.
Carlton confirmed on Tuesday that they were signing ex-Demon Oscar McDonald as a supplentary list recruit.
Known as a key defender, McDonald has predominantly trained in the backline for the Blues, although he impressed when swung forward against St Kilda on Thursday night and combined six marks with two goals.
Carlton head of list management said McDonald, who was delisted by Melbourne at the end of the last season, will add flexibility to the Blues’ key-position stocks.
“Oscar has fit in really well with our backline group over the pre-season and we look forward to seeing him continue to strengthen those connections as the year evolves,” Austin said.
“Also we saw on Thursday night, Oscar is able to play other roles across the ground which gives us some flexibility across the board.”
McDonald beat Callum Moore, Ben Crocker and Zavier Maher for the final spot on Carlton’s list.
As it stood early on Tuesday afternoon, nine players had been signed as pre-season recruits in 2021, with Essendon and St Kilda having added two players – Alec Waterman (ex-West Coast) and South Australian forward Kaine Baldwin joining the Bombers, the Saints signing Mason Wood, the former Kangaroo forward, and ex-Crows ruckman Paul Hunter.
PRE-SEASON RECRUITS SO FAR
Essendon: Alec Waterman (West Coast); Kaine Baldwin (Glenelg)
St Kilda: Mason Wood (North Melbourne); Paul Hunter (Adelaide)
Carlton: Oscar McDonald (Melbourne)
Richmond: Rhyan Mansell (Woodville-West Torrens, North Launceston)
Hawthorn: Lachie Bramble (Box Hill, Williamstown VFL)
Western Bulldogs: Anthony Scott (Footscray VFL)
Adelaide: Nicholas Murray (Williamstown VFL)
Melbourne: Majak Daw (North Melbourne)
Richmond have signed Rhyan Mansell, a Tasmanian, to their list, the Bulldogs have added Footscray VFL player Anthony Scott and Hawthorn also have given a list spot to a VFL player under their direction in Box Hill’s Lachie Bramble.
The Crows have signed Nicholas Murray, the brother of Collingwood’s ex-defender Sam Murray, who had been playing for Williamstown.
Sidebottom in doubt for round one
Meanwhile, Collingwood’s gun midfielder and vice-captain Steele Sidebottom suffered minor damage to his calf in last Friday’s pre-season game against Richmond and is in doubt for round one.
Collingwood sources said scans on Saturday had shown Sidebottom had incurred slight damage to the calf, which put him in some doubt for the Pies’ season opener against the Bulldogs, with the veteran midfielder, 30, rated a 50-50 chance to play on Friday next week.
Sidebottom has played with similar issues in the past without incident, but the decision on whether he plays – it would be a two week recovery for a small nick to the calf – will be based on medical advice and how he progresses. Collingwood also have to consider that they face a six-day break between that March 19 Friday night game versus the Dogs and the next game against Carlton, on the following Thursday night.
But Taylor Adams, Collingwood’s 2020 best and fairest, has recovered from a hamstring injury and, unless there is a mishap, the Magpies expect their tough vice-captain to return and play in the round one game at the MCG against the Bulldogs, who will have ex-Magpie Adam Treloar suiting up against his old side.
Adams is set to join in full training on Tuesday.
In other injury news, scans have confirmed the worst for Lion Cam Rayner, who ruptured his ACL on Monday night.
A distressed Rayner clutched at his right knee after an awkward landing while attempting to intercept a handball during Brisbane’s pre-season win over Gold Coast.
The ACL tear puts an early end to Rayner’s 2021 campaign, with recovery from a knee reconstruction typically taking 12 months.
The 2017 No.1 pick has played 63 games for the Lions since debuting in 2018 and was set for more midfield minutes this season.
Post-match, Lions coach Chris Fagan said it was “a bit of a sad night”.
“It’s not great, he’s a fine young man Cam Rayner,” he said. “When I saw what happened, I thought, I think that’s an ACL. That’s what our physios think. Obviously, we have to get scans and all that done, but that’s the way it’s looking.
“It’s a real pity, I reckon he was about to take off, he was having such a good pre-season. It’s disappointing for him that this has happened [but] it will build his character.”
with Owen Leonard
Jake Niall is a Walkley award-winning sports journalist and chief AFL writer for The Age.
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The Crows are likely staring at back-to-back bottom four seasons for the first time in their history but there’s one giant ray of light in Adelaide and his name is Riley Thilthorpe.
The number two pick in last year’s draft has the future of the club resting on his young shoulders and early signs suggest he’s up to the task.
Thilthorpe, 18, has had an interrupted preparation for his first AFL season but played a full game in Adelaide’s seconds on Saturday and had locals frothing over his performance.
While Joe Daniher shone on debut for the Lions, the 200cm key forward put on a show at Alberton Oval.
After kicking his first goal from a free kick after a Port Adelaide opponent broke the new “stand rule”, Thilthorpe broke the game open in the third quarter, taking several contested marks inside 50m.
He finished with four goals and also dished off a couple in Adelaide’s 14-point win, prompting former Port Adelaide player Kane Cornes to declare the Crows “will be forced to play him” in the senior side “very soon”.
Thilthorpe has been told a round one berth is a definite possibility and he’s been tipped to feature in the Crows’ next trial game, another hitout against Port this Sunday.
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Ugle-Hagan – like all Victorian draftees – was unable to play much football last year because of the coronavirus crisis. Bulldogs great and assistant coach Rohan Smith said the club would not be putting pressure on him to be in the team early in 2021.
“He’s a kid. He didn’t play at all last year. There is a little bit of hype but we just want to see him compete and have a bit of fun,” Smith said.
“During training he’s been really good. He’s shown patches when he can hold a really good mark and hold some really good defensive patterns as well in his game. He’s just got to find that consistency and we’ll certainly see that over the next few weeks.”
Ugle-Hagan will be trying to find a spot up forward, where he will be competing with the likes of Naughton and Josh Bruce. Bruce was relatively quiet in the loss to Hawthorn. It was resting ruckman Tim English who looked the most dangerous up forward, with recruit Stefan Martin doing the majority of the ruckwork in impressive fashion.
Plenty of positives for young Hawks
In a fairly new-look forward line that started with Jacob Koschitzke, it was nippy small forward Ollie Hanrahan who caused the Dogs the most trouble. Hanrahan kicked three goals to half-time and the rookie selection will be looking to build on his 16 senior games in 2021.
New draftee Connor Downie was impressive on the wing for Hawthorn and will provide coach Alastair Clarkson with some much-needed outside run, particularly with Isaac Smith and Tom Scully recently leaving the club.
Changkuoth Jiath – or CJ, as he’s called by his teammates – also impressed across half-back. Jiath is very athletic and has a few tricks in his bag. Expect to see a lot of him at senior level this year after only seven career games to date.
Forget about Adam Treloar and Ugle-Hagan, what about Stef Martin? The former Demon and Lion may prove an invaluable pick-up for the Dogs, given that it allows English to spend more time developing his forward craft.
Martin turns 35 at the end of the year but has been particularly durable during the later stages of his career, barely missing a game since 2015.
He proved a handful for Jonathon Ceglar and Ben McEvoy.
The Dogs are hopeful Treloar, who has had calf tightness, will be back for round one.
New rule had no impact
While there has already been murmuring of discontent across clubs for the new man-on-the-mark rule, it was hardly noticed at Whitten Oval.
There was one 50-metre paid in the last quarter, but that may have even been paid last year.
League football operations boss Steve Hocking would have been pleased with what he saw as he watched from the stands. The rule caused little confusion and both teams had 22 scoring shots. But then again, it was little more than match simulation.
Former Richmond captain and Hawks assistant Chris Newman said it promoted faster ball movement, but will it ultimately improve the game?
“I don’t know yet, that’s the honest answer, ” Newman said. “You can only gauge so much from training. I think we need to have a look at a few more games consistently.”
McEvoy back to the future
New Hawthorn skipper McEvoy played the match in the ruck, interchanging with Ceglar.
The Hawks say he’s likely to play there for the majority of the season and not in his previous role as centre half-back.
“There may be stages where we need him to go back, but at this stage he’ll be predominantly in that ruck role,” Newman said after the match.
Newman said the recruitment of Kyle Hartigan had allowed McEvoy to move back into the ruck without leaving too big a void in defence.
“We feel like he’s got a real opportunity, as captain too, to be able to go in and play with Cegs and provide a strong contest for us on the ground,” he said.
Sam McClure is a sport reporter for The Age and winner of ‘best news reporter’ at the AFL Media Association awards.
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Submission – To the Draft National Children’s Mental Health and Wellbeing Strategy
In August 2019, The Minister for Health, the Hon Greg Hunt MP announced that a National Children’s Mental Health and Wellbeing Strategy would be developed as a part of Australia’s Long Term National Health Plan. Mental Health Australia provided a submission in February 2020 on the content of the draft Strategy, developed by the National Mental Health Commission (NMHC).
Mental Health Australia supports the intent of the Strategy’s Wellbeing Continuum to shift away from a diagnosis-driven approach to instead focus on the child’s functioning. Unfortunately, the narrative of the Wellbeing Continuum does not appear to be well reflected in concrete Actions. The Strategy’s centrepiece, the proposed model of integrated child and family care, appears to be framed largely in a medical model, and neglects to leverage successful community and social programs and therefore does not address the social determinants of mental health. The danger here is a well intentioned policy, which unintentionally perpetuates the existing gaps in children’s mental health services.
Mental Health Australia’s submission outlines a range of recommendations designed to strengthen the Strategy Actions to meet the current and future challenges of Australian children’s mental health and wellbeing. These recommendations will assist the NMHC to design a Strategy that influences governments to build the mental health system Australian children need: a comprehensive system of child and family supports, spanning the continuum from prevention and early intervention through to crisis responses and therapeutic interventions for those with established serious conditions.
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Furious AFL clubs have accused the governing body of “ripping the heart” out of Victoria’s pathway program for elite boys after the competition underwent a controversial overhaul.
In a move that list managers and recruiting officers believe will weaken the state’s draft pool and severely compromise the next generation of players, the AFL reduced funding for NAB League clubs late last year and reshaped the competition.
The changes – some of which significantly improve the pathway for girls to the AFLW – were nine months in the making and have become a source of great frustration in club circles.
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The NAB League – formally the TAC Cup – was once the envy of the rest of the nation. The breeding ground for future stars. Now, according to several recruiters and list managers, it has been reduced to a bit-part player and replaced by school football and local park footy leagues.
One list manager said the AFL’s actions were “neglectful,” while a national recruiting officer argued the revamp “makes absolutely no sense.”
“It’s really disappointing,” the experienced recruiter said to foxfooty.com.au.
“The AFL has ripped the heart out of the pathway system in Victoria and expects everything to be just fine. It won’t be. We are in disbelief.”
Foxfooty.com.au contacted high ranking officials at nine clubs, three of which agreed to be quoted but not named. The other six provided information on background but asked not to be directly quoted.
The sentiment from all of nine sources was similar: Frustration, disappointment and, in a couple of cases, sheer anger at the AFL.
Player managers are also acutely aware of universal frustration in club land.
Presented with a list of criticisms collated after interviews with nine club sources on Monday, the AFL rejected suggestions of a watered down NAB League for boys and reaffirmed its commitment to a strong pathway program for both genders.
“The AFL remains committed to aligning the national, state and community programs and how it can best benefit the development, skill and pathway for girls and boys,” a league spokesperson said to foxfooty.com.au.
“The talent pathway program looks different in 2021 but continues to focus on a holistic football program for girls and boys which is heavily invested in on and off field development and performance.
“Our talent pathway strategy focuses on providing boys’ and girls’ Programs with the same opportunities for elite development and best enhancing their talent profiles ahead of the AFL and AFLW drafts.
“Boys and girls will be as prepared to enter the AFL and AFLW systems as ever before and their talent profiles will continue to be exposed to all clubs and recruiters throughout the year.”
Foxfooty.com.au understands clubs will get the chance to communicate their concerns later this month with the AFL in specially-convened meetings. But according to a particularly agitated list manager: “The horse has already bolted.”
Here are the main gripes clubs have with the league on the eve of the 2021 season.
For NAB League clubs, January and February is a crucial education period for players to learn and coaches to become more familiar with boys. AFL clubs often communicate with NAB League coaches in the summer to get a gauge on who they should be looking at in early season matches.
For as long as they’ve existed, players have benefited greatly from fitness and craft work in the summer months to prepare for the draft, all under the watchful eye of highly credentialed NAB League coaches.
But now, each club has a boys coach who doubles as the girls coach. It’s a full-time dual role that makes it impossible for both programs to operate concurrently at full capacity.
Country TAC Cup systems have had full-time coaches in the past, but this is new territory for metro NAB League clubs coaches, such as Sandringham Dragons coach Jackson Kornberg.
Compare the South Australian and Western Australian set-ups to Victoria’s and it becomes clear Victorian boys have not been afforded the same opportunities as their interstate compatriots so far this year, much to the annoyance of AFL club officials.
Fifty of the best young boys in SA had a four-day camp recently, while WA planned a three-day training camp from February 12 to 14 for the state’s Under 19 male academy. Around 20 kids were invited, according to an email sent from WA talent manager Adam Jones to AFL clubs at lunchtime on December 19.
Contrastingly there has been no get-together for Vic Country or Vic Metro boys yet and clubs have not been told why.
GROWING THE FEMALE GAME
Almost 500 girls from the NAB League completed AFLW draft testing for the first time in front of club recruiters on January 31 at La Trobe University in Bundoora. Since commencing on February 6, the NAB League season has attracted significant attention from AFLW recruiters.
Following a boom in female participation across the country, the AFL has made no secret of its desire to achieve equality in pathways regardless of gender.
And although no club officials argued with that broad ambition, most felt boys programs had been disproportionately disadvantaged with the growth of female participation.
While the girls have been training through the summer, the boys didn’t return to outdoor training until February 8 at most clubs.
One NAB League coach, who asked not to be named, said he is learning names when he should be refining game plans for Round 1 and communicating back to AFL recruiters.
One list chief argued the growth of women’s footy has accelerated beyond the AFL’s planning or resources, which has created tension.
And as well-intentioned as local clubs are to help, most don’t have the quality facilities or coaches to rival the elite junior pathway. Nor do they set up their pre-season programs to prepare boys to play against the best young players in the country a few months later.
“Girls have been working hard on the track but young boys have been left to their own devices all summer,” a recruiter said.
“Surely there is room for both boys and girls to train throughout January.”
Players losing valuable months to improve their skills is the main source of concern for AFL clubs, rather than any physical fitness disadvantages.
“Speed of hand, execution under pressure and decision making are attributes that require elite level coaching for most boys coming through,” the recruiter continued.
THE RICH GET RICHER
This point is really grinding clubs.
It is widely believed Victorian country kids from lower socio-economic backgrounds are at a major disadvantage in 2021 due to the reduction in NAB League games and the pivot towards private school football.
AFL clubs say unless players receive a scholarship to an APS or AGS school, they are being left to their own devices until February and even then will have limited opportunities to show their skills when they play.
If parents are able and willing to send their boy to a private school, recruiters will get five to 10 more chances to look at them than if they are at state schools. Put simply, top-aged draftees who attend elite schools will be exposed considerably more than those who don’t. This hasn’t been the case in the past.
One recruiter lamented the fact that a sport that prides itself on egalitarianism is fast moving the opposite way as the school system drifts towards a US college football model.
Another said it won’t impact the boys at the top of the draft tree, but will likely disadvantage a player from a poor family in regional Victoria that was touch and go to find a home in November’s draft.
The AFL argues talented boys will play 22 to 25 games throughout the year, taking into account all competitions.
LOSING THE BATTLE OF THE CODES
Football used to be the unequivocal, first-choice sport for talented juniors who also dabbled in cricket.
Stephen Coniglio, Luke Hodge, Shannon Hurn, Nick Riewoldt and Brett Deledio were just a few cross-coders that chose football over the summer game.
But in the last two years alone, Zak Evans, Will Sutherland, Mackenzie Harvey and Wil Parker have pursued cricket careers over footy.
Part of this shift might have something to do with new-found T20 riches, but there is a growing concern among clubs a fractured pathway model will further push kids towards other sports that have year-round training programs.
Consider the last two months for evidence. With no clear contact hours in the summer, will talented young footballers be lost to the sport? It’s hard to say definitively one way or another, but the lack of NAB League structure certainly increases the chances, the club sources say.
NO MARGIN FOR MISTAKE
Before 2020, the NAB League was 17 rounds with each club playing 15 games. In 2021, there are just 13 rounds locked in, with clubs expecting eight to 11 matches once the fixture is confirmed.
One AFL club worker used Josh Sinn as an example of a player who, through no fault of his own, might be disadvantaged already.
Sinn finished at Xavier College last year and is expected to be one of the Sandringham Dragons’ best performers in 2021. He won’t have any school football to fall back on and recruiters will rely on his form in a shortened NAB League season, as well as September’s national championships, to place him on draft night. Any injury will put a disproportionate dent in his NAB League season compared to previous years.
A shortened year – with more of a focus on private school football and the national championships – leaves little room for error.
Combine this with the fact there was no football in 2020, no inter-club practice matches in the NAB League and no training until February 8, sample sizes will be limited for prospective draftees in Victoria.
The AFL pointed out the Under 19 national championships will occur in July, August and wrap-up in September.
The onus is on NAB League regions to work closely with VFL clubs so players like Sinn can receive more opportunities. But there are no guarantees of selection, which could leave top-agers in limbo.
PRESSURE ON LIMITED CLUB RESOURCES
Last year was brutal in club land. Jobs were lost, other roles were combined and literally hundreds of workers were impacted as the AFL reduced the soft cap from $9 million to $6 million.
Recruiting departments were hit particularly hard as clubs prioritised other areas.
Clubs say they simply won’t have the resources to send a recruiter to watch a player represent his local club in country Victoria while the NAB League is on one of its proposed three breaks, which cover a cumulative six weekends. Nor do they believe NAB League clubs have the resources to scout players within their own regions as they did in previous years.
Hypothetically, less data on players means a greater chance of a mistake on draft night, which weakens the AFL system across 18 clubs.
A preliminary NAB League fixture seen by foxfooty.com.au has the season beginning on the weekend of April 3-4, with three rounds of action before players return to school and community football for an entire month.
It is in these four weeks where clubs will struggle to send recruiters to local footy to watch players. But as mentioned previously, private school boys will be able to continue to impress in front of scouts from April 24.
Equally bemusing for recruiters is the AFL’s ruling that volunteers are not permitted at NAB League training sessions due to COVIS-19 legalities. Foxfooty.com.au has learned of one club that didn’t have trainers at a session due to the league’s clampdown, which raises other litigation issues if a boy gets injured.
One NAB League club has a longstanding welfare officer that is happy to volunteer but is yet to be allowed into the club this pre-season.
The irony was not lost on one long-time scout, who noted that while volunteers are banned from NAB League work, they are more required than ever at grassroots level in 2021.
WHERE TO FROM HERE?
The AFL is trying to juggle different elements of its business and the pathway system is just one cog in a complicated wheel.
The league may also be anxious about the ongoing impacts of COVID-19 and doesn’t want to overstretch its budget.
As a result, the boys NAB League has been cut back to its bare bones. More is expected from fewer people and AFL clubs have been asked to pick up the slack.
And while the AFL argues coaching resources have increased, recruiters and list managers dispute whether they have been bolstered for both genders or just the female cohort.
According to multiple sources, the league even expected a degree of pushback regarding these changes.
Clubs, some annoyed and others angry, will be hoping the dialled-down NAB League is a one-year measure, but fear it is in for good.
Like so many aspects of this current climate, there is very little certainty in AFL ranks. The only thing for sure – and the league must surely know this by now – is that clubs don’t like the new model.
In a memo sent to list managers and football bosses earlier this month, the itinerary for upcoming visits from the league’s pathway staff was laid out.
It mentioned staffing, the fixture, state academy programs for Under 17s and Under 19s and general business items.
If list managers and recruiters have their way, there will be nothing ‘general’ about the business items they want to discuss.
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The AFL is in danger of losing some of its brightest young prospects to rival sports following the changes to the underage pathway in Victoria.
This is the widespread view of recruiters and list managers, who fear a scaled back NAB League program will force boys to consider other codes.
Long gone are the days where the lure of football – both financially and reputationally – automatically trumped cricket.
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Over the last few years, the AFL’s loss has been Cricket Victoria’s gain, with four players heading down the cricket path instead of the oval ball.
Will Sutherland was touted as a potential top-10 pick in 2017, impressing up forward for both Scotch College and Vic Metro across his underage year despite almost no pre-season.
The son of former Cricket Australia CEO James made the call in July of that year to pursue the cricket, earning a multi-year Victorian contract.
He has since played 39 games at the professional level and took the new ball alongside James Pattinson in Victoria’s white-ball clash with New South Wales on Monday.
His Melbourne Renegades teammates Zak Evans and Mackenzie Harvey were both outstanding schoolboy footballers, with recruiters keeping tabs on the star duo across their underage journey.
THE AFL JUST ‘RIPPED THE HEART OUT’ OF ITS ELITE PATHWAY – AND CLUBS ARE LIVID AT THE ‘NEGLECT’
Evans was regularly among the best for Xavier College in his draft year in the strong APS school boy competition, while Harvey bobbed up in scouting notes during 2016 when he was in Year 10 playing under Robert Shaw in Brighton Grammar’s premiership team that included No.1 pick Andrew McGrath.
In June 2020, Wil Parker turned his back on football and took-up a contract with Victoria. It was another feather in cricket’s cap and a blow to football, which for so long assumed automatic bragging rights over its summer rival.
Earlier that season, Parker had made his Sheffield Shield debut at the SCG against New South Wales, claiming four wickets.
Parker also showed his ability with the oval ball, starring for the Eastern Ranges in 2019’s NAB League competition.
The rebounding defender averaged 18 disposals across 16 matches, dominating with 27 disposals in the Ranges’ Grand Final loss to the Oakleigh Chargers.
At the time of his decision, Parker confirmed the lack of NAB League action due to a hiatus with COVID-19 helped made the decision easier.
“Having the experience last year in cricket, it gave me an idea that I‘m a chance to make it in cricket rather than hedge my bets in footy,” the potential top-20 pick said.
“If I had a chance to play footy, I could be in a totally different position … I could have had a great season, nominated for the draft and who knows what would have happened?
“But obviously in the current circumstances, there‘s no footy going on so I didn’t feel as confident nominating for the draft. And obviously I got an opportunity with cricket and I took it.
“It was a very hard decision, one that I weighed up for a long time. I love both sports, but I had to choose one eventually.”
Stephen Coniglio, Luke Hodge, Shannon Hurn, Nick Riewoldt and Brett Deledio are among AFL stars who turned their back on cricket for the sport.
In recent years, Nathan Murphy (Collingwood) and Jordan Clark (Geelong) elected to be drafted over following the small red ball journey, while Alex Keath earned a three-year contract with Victoria in 2010 before returning to footy at Adelaide as a mature-age recruit.
According to nine recruiters and list managers interviewed by foxfooty.com.au, a scaled back NAB League could further push boys away from football.
With almost year-round training programs in cricket and the lure of T20 riches, it is proving more enticing than ever for teenagers to pursue.
IPL players earn a minimum of $35,476 for a two-month tournament. And to think cricketers nowadays can bounce between T20 leagues around the globe and make millions.
Club sources are worried if urgent attention isn’t taken by the AFL, another Wil Parker could slip through their grasp.
There are bound to be a number of cases over future years too. Noah McFadyen and Harry Flynn are among those who have represented their state at both cricket and football, and are coming through the pathway at the moment.
McFadyen has spent the summer playing First Grade in Queensland for Northern Suburbs, lining up alongside Joe Burns and former Test spinner Nathan Hauritz.
He has been part of the Brisbane Lions academy and is the younger brother of current player Connor McFadyen. But his Dad is a cricket person, having coached Josh Hazlewood, Mitch Marsh and Adam Zampa in Australia’s victorious Under 19 World Cup venture in 2010.
While Flynn was part of the Under 15 School Sport Victoria squad in 2019 and recently played for Cricket Victoria’s Under 17 side in their recent Western Summer Series.
There will always be a battle between sports, that much is clear. And for the first time in recent memory, the pendulum is swinging cricket’s way.
The NAB League, both as a competition and a pathway for higher honours, has a considerable role to play in wrestling that ascendancy back.
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