The big question before the AFL Community Series match between Collingwood and Richmond was which Magpies were we going to get.
While the club still has two weeks before the season stars, it’s been a nightmare pre-season for the club.
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Going back to the trade period last year, after beating West Coast by one point in the first elimination final, the side was dumped from the finals by 68 points to Geelong in week two.
What followed was a debacle of a trade period with Jaidyn Stephenson, Tom Phillips and the especially ugly exit of Adam Treloar.
Then the Do Better report was and continues to be the talk of the AFL world, finding the club had a cultural history of “systemic racism” and Eddie McGuire stepping down as president.
It’s left coach Nathan Buckley under pressure as he revealed he would be prepared to step away from the club at the end of the season “for the betterment of the football club”.
So with the season within reaching distance, the last thing the Magpies need is injuries.
But in the 11.14 (80) to 11.8 (74) pre-season loss to Richmond, two players went down with injuries.
Young 20-year-old prospect Will Kelly copped a boot from the Tigers’ Dylan Grimes on his collarbone and appeared distraught in the rooms after leaving the field in the second term.
“He just grabbed it (collarbone) straight away, walked off and that doesn’t look good for the young man. It’s a tough start to his career,” Garry Lyon said in commentary.
It comes after a dislocated elbow cost him more than one game last year.
He was joined by Magpies veteran Steele Sidebottom with a soft tissue injury in a “tight calf”.
Jordan De Goey and Brayden Maynard also appeared to cop knocks but De Goey returned to the field and Maynard finished on the bench with ice on his leg.
Post-game, the Herald Sun’s Jon Ralph said it looked as though Kelly had a broken collarbone and Sidebottom’s injury woes were continuing with the soft tissue damage in the calf.
“Steele Sidebottom is the missing link for this football club, only just nine games with that COVID suspension and staying out of the hub with the birth of his first child,” he said. “But he has what the club is calling a precautionary issue with the calf and they’re also aware he only lasted 15 minutes. He came into this game with a bit of calf soreness and he just wasn’t able to go. So 14 days before a round one clash against the Western Bulldogs at the MCG. He turned 30 two months ago, it’s the time in your career you just can’t be risking those contests.
“The terrible news is for Will Kelly. He seems almost certain to have a cracked collarbone. He got posterised there by Dylan Grimes and he was pretty shattered in the rooms. I think the feeling would be that that would be a broken collarbone. Tom Stewart came back in about a month last year from a cracked collarbone but they tend to be 4-6 week injuries and it just puts him behind the eight-ball. If he had played well tonight, the club had said to him ‘you’re in for round one’. Instead, a player who has only played a single AFL game looks like he’s out for the better part of six weeks.”
In positives for the Magpies, Brody Mihocek and Taylor Adams will return to field in the coming weeks.
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GWS captain Stephen Coniglio believes there’s still positives for the club despite a number of players leaving the Giants in the off-season.
Aidan Corr, Zac Williams and Jeremy Cameron were among the big names to depart the Giants in the off-season.
Young gun Jye Caldwell headed to Essendon, while Zac Langdon returned to Perth for family reasons.
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Coniglio reflected on the players leaving but believed it would be beneficial for a number of young guns to step up and receive an opportunity in 2021 and beyond.
“In terms of how good of a system we have, we’ve got players that keep coming up and progressing and turning into really good players at this level,” he told Fox Sports News.
“Jeremy in a separate boat, he’s probably been the best player to play at this football club. Phenomenal player across the competition. That was really disappointing. At the same time we haven’t even seen, some of our younger players.
“(Jake) Riccardi played a couple of games last year and he was the talk of the town. There’s so many of them.
“Yes, we understand that’s the landscape of the AFL, but the amount of younger guys that want to make that next jump is something we always pride ourselves on doing really well.
The midfielder added it was “disappointing” to lose a player of Cameron’s calibre, but wished them all well for the future.
“It’s disappointing, he wasn’t the only one. Aidan Corr and Zac Williams to just name a couple,” he said.
“I know there were other young guys who left. But those guys in particular, it’s disappointing. We’ve had players come and go and in a way it has been a bit normal.
“However, those three last year, we were keen to keep all three. They chose to leave, all really good guys and friends and I wish them all the best for the future.”
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While the Panthers are set to be cleared of having any knowledge that Naden snorted a line of coke the night before the match, the player may face sanctions for breaching bio-security rules.
The wider issue worth exploring is the one-month suspension Naden received under a timely modification to the World Anti-Doping Code concerning “substances of abuse”.
In the past, Naden would have received a two-year ban for ingesting cocaine while in competition — as Wendell Sailor did in 2006 while playing for the NSW Waratahs — because the stimulant was in his system on game day.
But a two-year review of the WADA code resulted last year in a dramatic softening of one of the most contentious rules in anti-doping, responsible for all sorts of wild defences including tennis player Richard Gasquet successfully arguing he tested positive after kissing a girl who had taken cocaine at a nightclub.
“This means that if an athlete can demonstrate that the use of any of these [illicit] substances was out-of-competition and unrelated to sport performance, the suspension imposed will now be three months and may be reduced to one month if the athlete completes a drug rehabilitation program,” WADA said in a statement.
The Panthers remain furious at media reports suggesting they knew Naden had taken cocaine when he took the field for the grand final.
The timeline of events the club and Naden have provided to the NRL is plausible. Naden claims he took the drug, along with a few beers, the night before the grand final because he figured he would be omitted from Ivan Cleary’s 17-man side.
Instead, he was named on the bench and played 32 minutes in the dramatic 26-20 loss.
When drug-testers picked out Naden along with other players in the dressing room later that night, and he submitted a urine sample, he panicked and advised a member of the coaching staff that he feared he would test positive to cocaine.
The following day, Naden also admitted having mental health issues, which the club has been aware of since he received horrific racial abuse during a match at Gosford earlier that year.
The Panthers management contacted the NRL to tell them about Naden’s cocaine confession, although they were unaware of the imminent change in the WADA code. Head of integrity Joe Collins, however, knew it was coming.
The NRL and Sports Integrity Australia was subsequently satisfied Naden took the cocaine out of competition and accepted he would enter a relevant rehabilitation program.
A one-month ban, as per the new WADA code, was handed down. That meant the 25-year-old could resume training on January 1 — something that has outraged cynical fans and divided opinion among coaches and officials.
Sailor has declined media requests to comment on the change in the WADA code and the Naden matter, but has regularly said in the past he believed the two-year suspension was too much.
But there is a fear among some club bosses, who spoke to the Herald on the condition of anonymity, that the new edict sends the wrong message to players wanting to dabble in party drugs when they’re not playing. Some illicit substances, like cocaine, can stay in the system for as much as four days.
“The thought of two years out of the game was a huge deterrent,” said one club boss. “Now, some players might be prepared to sail closer to the wind.”
It is also unclear under the WADA code what happens if athletes continually test positive, arguing each time that they have issues with addiciton.
RLPA chief executive Clint Newton applauds the change.
“What is the WADA code for?” he said. “It’s to stop cheating. We support the change because there’s a significant difference between substances of abuse and substances used for enhancing performance.”
Newton and Abdo will sit down shortly to refine the NRL’s illicit drugs policy, which affords players three strikes: a warning the first time; a 12-match ban the second; and deregistration the third.
It appears to be working: while testing has gradually increased since the policy was first implemented, the number of positive tests is below one per cent.
Abdo said the game will look to further increase testing, as well as target testing. Newton wants further protection and welfare provided to those players who do test positive.
Like every sport, the NRL walks a fine line with penalties that deter drug use while also providing support for their greatest assets: the players.
“Our policy has serious consequences because, if you’re a multiple offender, you’re out of the game,” Abdo said. “But it’s also a matter of culture. That might sound too naïve or optimistic. I believe truly professional athletes need to be disciplined and make the right choices in a high-performance environment. But they deserve support, too. If you step out of line, we’ll support you. But if you continue to step out of line, there’s no place for you in our game.”
Andrew Webster is Chief Sports Writer of The Sydney Morning Herald.
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Some coaches will be turning their attention to success.
While others have major decisions to make and signatures to chase.
Foxfooty.com.au looks at the priority for every coach in 2021.
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AFL shudders as CTE discovered in Tuck
To avoid anymore off-field incidents
The Adelaide Crows simply can’t keep themselves out of the media after various saga since the club’s 2017 Grand Final loss. And just when fans thought it was all ending with the appointment of Matthew Nicks, the Crows just can’t shake the incidents from occurring. The season had only just finished with Brad Crouch and Tyson Stengle were caught by police with an illicit drug, with the pair soon suspended for a short period in 2021. Then just two months later, Stengle was again in the news and was stood down after an “off-field matter”, making it his third indiscretion in eight months. Throughout 2020, more fuel was poured on the fire that is the Adelaide Crows training camp, with the club hopeful of avoiding anymore attention towards the 2018 incident. Nicks needs all the attention to be a positive one as his young side aim to push up the ladder after collecting the wooden spoon in 2020.
To create a powerful forward line with a fit Joe Daniher
The Brisbane forward line received a huge boost when Essendon tall Joe Daniher nominated the club as the place where he wanted to play football for 2021 and beyond. His inclusion with give the Lions a twin-towers of talls close to goal, with Daniher linking up alongside Eric Hipwood. Brisbane had major issues converting chances in front of goal throughout last season, with the club having one of the worst conversion rates across the entire competition in front of the big sticks. If Chris Fagan can find a way to get the club’s forward half clicking, there’s no doubting a late September finish is on the cards.
To push for the top eight
Carlton fans will be expecting that 2021 is the year the club can bounce back into finals action after multiple years down the bottom of the ladder. The Blues jumped from 16th to 11th last season and had a number of impressive outings against sides above them on the ladder. But it is now time for the Teague Train to depart the bottom 10 and play finals, especially after the off-season signing bonanza. Zac Williams, Adam Saad and Lachie Fogarty all comes through the door and will be best 22 for Round 1, with the trio giving the club power across all areas of the ground. Charlie Curnow’s return remains a mystery, however the Blues are well stocked in the attacking half and have firepower around the ball to get it deep inside 50.
To put a horror 2020 campaign behind and reach the pointy end of September
It was a brutal year for Collingwood supporters. Since their devastating grand final loss in 2018, the Pies have fallen in a preliminary final and a semi-final in the following years. Then what followed in the off-season was even more of a shock with stars Adam Treloar and Jaidyn Stephenson forced out the door due to salary cap issues at the Magpies, with Tom Phillips and Atu Bosenavulagi also pushed out. While Nathan Buckley’s club was arguably one of the most successful teams at the national draft, the multiple best 22 players walking out the door is sure to hurt in the short term. The club’s age profile isn’t exactly getting any younger with Steele Sidebottom and Scott Pendlebury still crucial cogs in the club’s midfield brigade. The Pies will to let the results do the talking in the final year of Eddie McGuire’s tenure.
To get the signature of star Zach Merrett
There were a plethora of stars on the free agency list when it was revealed on Friday, with Essendon’s Zach Merrett among them. After a horrendous 2020 season, there was talk during the trade and free agency period that the midfielder could depart the club. After some time, Merrett did confirm he would stay a Bomber for 2021, but won’t commit beyond that. If the Bombers have a poor start to the season, there’s no doubting the onballer will question if his future remains at the club that drafted him back in 2013. His signature would go a long way to easing the concerns around the club with all eyes on Ben Rutten’s Bombers this season.
Heppell no certainty for round 1
To turn the young kids into stars of the competition
Andrew Brayshaw, Adam Cerra, Caleb Serong, Hayden Young and Liam Henry – they’re just among the stack of young Dockers at Justin Longmuir’s disposal. It was an impressive first season at the helm for the new senior coach, which culminated in seven wins. A 12th place finish was arguably higher than many might’ve thought heading into the year. Matthew Taberner stepped up inside 50 with Brayshaw, Cerra and Serong starring in the onball brigade, often allowing Nat Fyfe to be used as a deep forward. Fans have plenty to be excited about and another big pre-season could unearth the next generation of Fremantle stars that can get the club back into the finals mix.
To get September success after an off-season recruitment drive
The ageing Cats threw everything at the Grand Final and ultimately fell short against the Tigers. While Gary Ablett might’ve retired, Geelong has found some impressive replacements with Jeremy Cameron, Shaun Higgins and Isaac Smith walking in the door. Cameron and Tom Hawkins will be tough to stop for opposition clubs, with a number of big scores likely to be kicked down at Kardinia Park. Higgins is continuing to get better with age, with the smooth mover to play a key role in the attacking half of the ground. Smith’s addition compliments Sam Menegola on the outside and adds some leg speed to the club. Nothing less than a Grand Final appearance should be viewed as a success in 2021.
GOLD COAST SUNS
To be a finals contender
The Suns had a mighty rise last season and after Round 7 found themselves inside the top eight. While the Suns ended well out of the finals race, there was a lot to like and many have jumped on the bandwagon. Izak Rankine, Ben King and Matt Rowell are among the young players who have taken the competition by storm, taking the game on and showing their class against some of the AFL’s biggest stars. Stuart Dew’s team have a number of strong role players alongside them and another big pre-season is bound to hold them in good stead to push up the ladder and be a genuine finals contenders. Gold Coast are still yet to feature in finals action and if it’s not 2021, 2022 should be the year of the Suns.
To find a new game plan capable of scoring heavily
It’s fair to say 2020 didn’t go to plan for the Giants after missing out on finals and losing big name players in the trade and free agency period. On-field however, there’s one element that needs attention and came under the microscope throughout the year. Throughout 2020, two-time premiership player David King mentioned on Fox Footy that GWS’ game style was out of date, with an expiry time fast approaching. With no finals and the year gone, Cameron is sure to have been working hard on devising some new tactics for the year ahead. The loss of Zac Williams and Jeremy Cameron hurts, but there’s still plenty of class in the group that can bring the pressure and class at crucial stages of games.
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To address their key position deficiencies
Jack Gunston was far and away the most damaging forward for Hawthorn in 2020 and he’s set to miss at least some of the 2021 season after back surgery. Jonathon Patton has had a horror run with injury and his future is clouded after off-field allegations, Tim O’Brien has failed to truly announce himself as a bona fide key forward and the Hawks used their top pick in the 2020 draft to bolster their defence by selecting Denver Grainger-Barras. Alastair Clarkson needs to figure out a way to get his side producing more reliable sources for goals outside of Gunston, while defensively his side conceded the third-most points of any team for the season, in front of only North Melbourne and Adelaide. No James Sicily and a still young Grainger-Barras means Clarko will have to employ all of his tactical nous to stem the tide in defence and open up the waterways in attack.
Maximise Ben Brown
Ben Brown at the Dees ticks all the right boxes and his strengths are perfect for Simon Goodwin’s needs. The challenge now is to deliver on that promise and implement a game plan that gets the most out of Brown’s capabilities. It is very hard to see Brown having a bad year and the Demons having a good one – the two will almost certainly go hand-in-hand. Rightly or wrongly the blame for the outcome of a season will fall smack bang on the shoulders of the senior coach, so Goodwin will need to make sure Brown is given everything he needs to return to his goalkicking best.
Young Demon ruptures ACL
To avoid the wooden spoon
It will be a tough ask, but incoming coach David Noble has said he doesn’t believe the Roos are as far behind the pack as many may believe and finishing somewhere not 18th on the ladder will be a huge step towards proving that to supporters and onlookers alike. Even the most optimistic of fans would concede there will be a tough period before the Roos can get back into premiership contention, but that doesn’t mean there can’t be hope sprinkled throughout the seasons leading up to that success. Climbing off the bottom of the ladder seems a bit diminutive as a goal, but it would mean a lot.
To maintain altitude
It’s easy to forget that, at the start of 2020, the equation for Ken Hinkley was effectively ‘make finals or you’re done’. While not a like-for-like comparison, Melbourne in 2018 went from just outside the eight in 2017 to a preliminary final berth. Port Adelaide have made a similar jump in 2020, albeit one that looks more sustainable than Melbourne’s proved to be. The goal for Hinkley is to avoid complacency among players and coaches and double down on the push for a flag. A lot would have to go wrong for the Power to end up being a one-year wonder, but Hinkley’s job is to eradicate the possibility as comprehensively as possible.
To not let off-field drama influence the Tigers football
When presented with obstacles over the past four years, the Tigers have almost always found a way to overcome them, no more so than in 2020. There is no shortage of off-field drama for them heading into the 2021 season, including some centred around coach Damien Hardwick. During this now-dynasty for Richmond there seem to be a growing number of obstacles presented to the team in its quest for success. You simply have to give the Tigers the benefit of the doubt given their track record, but keeping the train on the tracks could well be the number one priority for Dimma and his coaching staff.
To have the stars fully fit at the right time
Getting to the finals was a huge deal all on its own for the Saints in 2020 – now the task must be managing the list so it can be fully firing for a likely second berth in 2021. Paddy Ryder’s hamstring injury at the end of a spellbinding finals win over the Dogs proved a huge blow the following week while Dan Hannebery had just one game back from injury before he entered the finals series. The Saints enter 2021 with a better list thanks to the acquisitions of Brad Crouch and Jack Higgins, while Max King should be even better with another pre-season under his belt. There is no reason to expect the Saints to regress from 2020, so for Brett Ratten the focus has to be on getting his charges firing at the right time with some calculated management in the backend of the season.
To get Buddy back
Tipped by some to be the bolters of 2021, Sydney getting Buddy Franklin back on the park isn’t just priceless for their on-field success but for the competition as a whole. An AFL Legend in waiting, Franklin deserves to go out with a bang rather than a whimper and these last two years of his contract provide a chance for one more reminder of just how fearsome he can be on a footy field. The amount of on-field guidance Franklin, who signed a $10 million deal to join the Swans, could provide for new draftee Logan McDonald could be absolutely crucial to his development as a player once Buddy hangs up the boots. There are so many reasons why getting Buddy back to full fitness is crucial for John Longmire and for footy lovers as a whole.
WEST COAST EAGLES
To keep Nic Nat on the park
No player in the competition would’ve benefited more from 16-minute quarters in 2020 than Nic Naitanui. At the start of the year it was all about how many games NicNat would manage. He ended up playing all bar one game and emerged as arguably the game’s best ruckman for the year, a hitout and clearance-winning machine. With a return to 20-minute quarters this year, managing the 30-year-old will become a much more nuanced challenge. There are few players in the competition more influential than Naitanui at his best and with Tom Hickey being traded to the Swans there is even more emphasis on his ability to shoulder the load in the ruck. His health is absolutely paramount to any premiership tilt.
To make the midfield brigade function at its best
Having too much star power can be a good problem to have and it’s one Luke Beveridge is definitely dealing with given Adam Treloar’s last-second arrival at the Dogs. Figuring out the best way to use his midfielders will be key to the club’s success in 2021. Treloar’s arrival is intriguing given Josh Dunkley’s noted displeasure with being played as a makeshift ruckman for periods of the season. Treloar being deployed across half-back and Liberatore as a pressure forward are a couple of options that must be going through Beveridge’s mind, but at the end of the day ‘with great power comes great responsibility’ and the onus is on Bevo to deliver on the enormous promise his line-up of stars offer at their best.
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Clubless NRL legend Benji Marshall has been the subject of a link to glamour club the Sydney Roosters.
Nine first reported the Roosters’ apparent interest in signing Marshall to a $150,000 deal.
Since being released by the Tigers, where he famously won a premiership in 2005, Marshall‘s future has been in limbo.
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Marshall reportedly snubbed lucrative offers from the Super League in a bid to play on for one final season in the NRL.
The veteran half was reportedly close to a deal for 2021 with Todd Payten‘s Cowboys, but talks fell through over Marshall’s asking price of around $400,000.
Fox League’s James Hooper then reported Marshall was in discussions with the Sharks, but no deal has materialised thus far.
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However, Seven News reported Tuesday night that the Roosters were not interested.
“The Sydney Roosters have denied they are interested in signing the clubless Benji Marshall, preferring to stick with young halves Sam Walker and Lachie Lam,” Seven reported.
Benji‘s frustrating wait to find a club to continues.
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Richmond veteran Jack Riewoldt is backing embattled teammate Sydney Stack as the small forward prepares to make another court appearance in the coming days.
Stack is currently due in a Perth court next week, after spending the festive period in jail after being arrested on December 19 for allegedy breaking Western Australia’s strict COVID-19 quarantine rules.
Riewoldt said it was disappointing to hear the 20-year-old had been in trouble over the off-season, but wasn’t going to “give up” on the talented forward.
“It’s been hard for the club to be in touch with him because he’s been in jail for the holiday period,” he told reporters on Monday.
“It is disappointing as a senior player when someone finds themself in trouble, but when we engaged Sydney to come to our football club we weren’t under an illusion that he was going to come in and it was going to be a really smooth transition.
“We expected that we were going to have some small issues with him. When you take on a young man like Sydney, who wasn’t and hasn’t been afforded a lot of the luxuries that a lot of Australian children grow up with, you know it’s going to be a project.
“So we’re not going to give up on Sydney Stack. He is a young man that has got a lot of issues, he has a lot of potential, but most importantly now we put the football side of things to one side and we actually want to continue to grow him as a young man because he’s got some fantastic traits.”
Stack has been at the club since early 2019, where he was picked up as a pre-season supplementary player.
He was embroiled in controversy in 2020, where Stack alongside teammate Callum Coleman-Jones was sent home from Richmond’s hub in Queensland after breaking COVID-19 protocols, with both players still having four matches of their 10-game ban to serve in 2021.
Stack has played 26 games for the Tigers in two years.
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The San Francisco 49ers just closed up shop on an injury-plagued and disappointing 2020 NFL season. Dealing with star players missing substantial action, San Francisco followed up a Super Bowl appearance by winning six games and finishing in last place in the NFC West.
This obviously isn’t the way head coach Kyle Shanahan and general manager John Lynch envisioned things going fresh off both receiving contract extensions.
Heading into what could very well be a franchise-altering NFL offseason, the 49ers now have a ton of questions to answer. A lot of these questions will be answered early in the offseason. Here’s a look at four of said questions.
Who Do The 49ers Replace Robert Saleh With As Defensive Coordinator?
Pretty much the hottest NFL head coach commodity of this cycle, it’s already a foregone conclusion that Saleh will move on from the 49ers this offseason. The Detroit Lions have been linked to him more than any other team. However, the Jacksonville Jaguars, Atlanta Falcons and Los Angeles Chargers have also shown interest.
For good reason. Saleh, 41, has led a top-five total defense in San Francisco each of the past two seasons. However impressive his performance was with a fully-loaded unit last season, Saleh was even more impressive in 2020.
49ers Defensive Players Who Missed Games In 2020
* K’Waun Williams: 8 games
* Jaquiski Tartt: 9 games
* Richard Sherman: 11 games
* Nick Bosa: 14 games
* Solomon Thomas: 14 games
* Dee Ford: 15 games
We’re talking about three Pro Bowl performers and two other core starters. Even then, San Francisco yielded the fifth-fewest points in the NFL while recording 17 interceptions. Once Saleh does in fact move on, the 49ers will have to look for candidates to replace him.
San Francisco 49ers Defensive Coordinator candidates
“I think Saleh will kill these interviews,” Shanahan told reporters Monday about the defensive coordinator. “I think he’ll do a great job.” That sounds like a head coach resigned to the fact that Saleh will be leaving the organization after four seasons.
Recently-fired former Atlanta Falcons head coach Dan Quinn becomes the most-realistic option to replace Saleh with the 49ers. Shanahan worked under him as the Falcons’ offensive coordinator in 2015 and 2016. The 50-year old Quinn was also an assistant in San Francisco from 2001-04, meaning he has a built-in relationship with the organization.
Another option becomes former Jacksonville Jaguars head coach Gus Bradley, who served on Anthony Lynn’s coaching staff with the Los Angeles Chargers over the past four seasons and is currently out of a job after Lynn’s firing on Monday.
Bradley has led four top-10 defenses during his tenure as a coordinator and head coach. He worked with Saleh in Seattle and has the defensive play-calling abilities an offensive-minded Shanahan will seek out.
An up-and-comer of sorts, former Pro Bowl linebacker DeMeco Ryans could very well be an internal option for the 49ers’ defensive coordinator position. Serving as San Francisco’s inside linebackers coach, Ryans has overseen the progression of Pro Bowler Fred Warner as well as youngster Dre Greenlaw. He might be a popular pick among 49ers players.
Will The San Francisco 49ers Release Dee Ford?
“When you’re dealing with that part of your body, sometimes these things take more time and I think Dee tries to say encouraged but I think it’s been a struggle for him and we try to stay encouraged as well but I can’t tell you with great absolute that yeah, he’s going to be ready,” general manager John Lynch told reporters about Ford’s back and neck injuries that limited him to one game (47 snaps) this season.
Ford, 29, remains an impactful player when on the football field. Unfortunately, he’s been injury-plagued since the 49ers acquired the former Pro Bowler from the Kansas City Chiefs ahead of the 2019 season, signing Ford to a huge contract in the process. The former first-round pick has recorded 6.5 sacks in 12 games with San Francisco.
Complicating things further is the fact that San Francisco can save a whopping $16 million against the 2021 NFL salary cap should the team release Ford with a post-June 1 designation. Given the uncertainty surrounding the NFL salary cap due to the revenue downfall brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic, that’s a whole heck of a lot of cash.
Sure the 49ers can go to Ford with the hopes that he agrees to a new deal that lowers his 2021 cap number. But relying on the injury-plagued EDGE rusher to remain healthy seems foolhardy.
A lot of this will also depend on options for the 49ers during NFL free agency. Veteran Kerry Hyder led the team with 18 quarterback hits and 8.5 sacks in 2020. He’s also set to his the open market. Could Hyder be a more cost-effective option opposite Nick Bosa moving forward? His market will dictate that.
Jimmy Garoppolo And The 49ers’ Quarterback Situation
This is, quite honestly, the $26.9 million question for these 49ers heading into the NFL offseason. Garoppolo, 29, was limited to six games this past season due to multiple high-ankle sprains. Suggestions are that Lynch and Co. are going to be on the look out for an upgrade to see if they can find a better option than the Super Bowl quarterback.
The backstory here is Garoppolo’s $26.9 million cap hit and the fact that San Francisco can save as much as $25.5 million by releasing or trading the embattled signal caller. Garoppolo talked to reporters about his possible future with the 49ers on Monday. In what can’t really be considered too much of a surprise, he wants to remain in Northern California.
“Yeah, this is where I want to be and I love it here,” the quarterback told reporters in a Zoom call.
This decision will not be left up to Garoppolo. Unlike previous offseasons, there’s going to be a ton of starter-caliber quarterbacks available, either via free agency or a trade.
49ers Options At Quarterback, Sans Jimmy Garoppolo
Detroit Lions Pro Bowler Matthew Stafford could move on from that team via trade when March comes calling. Detroit is coming off a last-place season and seems headed to a full-scale rebuild.
To a lesser extent, Atlanta Falcons Pro Bowler Matt Ryan could potentially be made available depending on the team’s new head coach and general manager situation. Obviously, there’s a fit here with Kyle Shanahan having overseen Ryan’s MVP season back in 2016. Whether the Falcons even contemplate trading Ryan remains to be seen.
Other options include recently-benched Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz and young New York Jets former top-three pick Sam Darnold. With that said, it’s not yet known whether the 49ers would view either as an upgrade over Garoppolo. Stafford and Ryan almost certainly would be.
Of course, the 49ers could look to trade up in the 2021 NFL Draft for a quarterback of the present and future. However, that’s a story for much later in the offseason depending on how the early action goes in March.
What we do know is that Garoppolo has proven himself to be a winner since joining the 49ers midway through the 2017 season. He’s 22-8 as a starter for the team while all other quarterbacks have posted a 7-27 record during that very same span. The 49ers must weigh that with Garoppolo’s inability to progress to elite status under a quarterback guru in Shanahan.
How Can The 49ers Create More NFL Salary Cap Room?
Outside of potentially moving Garoppolo and releasing Ford, these 49ers have other avenues to pursue that could help create cap room. It’s going to be needed with Trent Williams and Jason Verrett slated to hit free agency and San Francisco in a less-than-stellar cap situation.
49ers general manager John Lynch told reporters on Monday that they are working under the guise that the 2021 NFL salary cap will be a mere $175 million due to the above-mentioned revenue downfall created by COVID-19. For Lynch and Co., it’s a hope for the best, plan for the worst approach. Taking into account that $175 million figure, the 49ers would currently be $16.4 million under the cap.
In addition to Williams and Verrett becoming free agents, it’s highly unlikely that Richard Sherman will be back. There’s also growing concern about the future of multi-time Pro Bowl fullback Kyle Juszczyk in San Francisco. None of this even takes into account outside free agents the 49ers might want to add in order to help build up a roster that was ravaged by injury in 2020.
The good news? These 49ers can save another $10 million against the cap by releasing Weston Richburg and Mark Nzeocha. They also have the opportunity to free up a ton more in cap room should the brass opt to restructure the contracts of Arik Armstead, Jimmie Ward and Laken Tomlinson in hopes that the 2020 revenue downfall doesn’t extend into next season.
If the 49ers were to move on from Garoppolo and Ford while making the moves mentioned above, they’d actually have a robust $80 million to spend under the cap with a tremendous amount of holes to fill on both sides of the ball. Chief among them, the quarterback position.
The new NFL league year is not slated to start until March. However, the 49ers’ offseason began in full earnest the minute they were eliminated from playoff contention. These are the four questions that must be answered in the short-term.
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Australia’s newly formed sports watchdog has reportedly alerted NSW police to a dinner involving Dustin Martin, Lance Franklin and high-profile gambler and former brothel owner Eddie Hayson.
The Age reports Martin arrived in Sydney at the start of December and arranged to meet with Hayson, who has been investigated and cleared of match-fixing by the NRL in the past and in 2014 lost control of his high-profile NSW brothel, declaring he had debts of $52 million and admitting he provided several footballers with free services at the premises.
The report indicates Franklin had no relationship with Hayson and was surprised by his arrival at dinner with Martin and former AFL ruckman Tom Derickx.
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When approached for contact by The Age, Martin’s manager Ralph Carr labelled the suggestion of the meeting “rubbish”.
Once informed the pair’s meeting had been caught on film, Carr replied, “Who cares?”
Intelligence reportedly provided by Sport Integrity Australia, formed in June to better manage communication between sporting codes and authorities, led NSW detectives to access footage of the December 4 dinner in Kings Cross.
Both Hayson and Martin left the venue at around 7.30pm, with Martin reportedly appearing heavily inebriated.
There is no evidence of wrongdoing relating to Martin and Hayson’s relationship, although the AFL has in the past urged clubs to warn players against associating with anyone who could hinder reputations.
With many back for the first time in six months, AFL clubs have returned to training at their home bases, as the build-up for the 2021 season gets underway.
All first to fourth-year players were scheduled to return to training on Monday December 7, for a two-week block lasting until December 18, with all other players returning on Wednesday January 6.
However many veteran players also returned on Monday, including the AFL’s oldest player Shaun Burgoyne.
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At 38, he will become one of the 10 oldest players in league history when he runs out for the Hawks next year. It will be his 20th season.
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Burgoyne’s young teammate Finn Maginness claimed his second consecutive two kilometre time trial at the club, making it two-from-two in his AFL career, ahead of Changkuoth Jiath and Dylan Moore.
“It was a great run by Finn,” Hawks physical performance manager Luke Boyd said.
“CJ did really well to challenge him over the journey, as did Moorey who came third.
“Worps (James Worpel) and youngster Harry Pepper also put in really pleasing performances.
“It was great to see a number of senior players down for the first session too and joining in so it was a great way to kick off our pre-season.”
Monday was the first chance for new Essendon coach Ben Rutten to lead his charges in a session at the club’s Tullamarine headquarters.
Bombers captain Dyson Heppell and backman Michael Hurley joined their younger teammates, with Rutten declaring this off-season will be crucial in working through the club’s new gameplan.
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“I think it’s important that we do really establish who we are,” Rutten told reporters.
“That’s where we’re going to be spending a lot of time throughout the summer. We certainly need to improve parts of our game on field, but we also need to understand and give the players and the coaches and everyone here a really good understanding of who we are and who we’re representing and the responsibility that it is to be part of Essendon.
“That will all unfold over the summer, but I certainly can see the real desire and the want … there’s some really hard work and strong coaching, and a disciplined way of playing is certainly what I’m going to be driving.”
It wasn’t exactly summer weather for the Victorian clubs, despite Christmas being less than three weeks away, with North Melbourne one of many teams to cop rain on their return to training.
Emerging midfield star Jy Simpkin won the club’s two kilometre time trial, ahead of recruit Lachie Young, with fellow newcomers Atu Bosenavulagi and Jaidyn Stephenson also participating.
New coach David Noble oversaw the session while veterans Jack Ziebell and Robbie Tarrant, plus best and fairest winner Luke McDonald, joined the kids.
Gold Coast put second-year midfield gun Matt Rowell on light duties, as he continues his rehab from a season-ending shoulder injury.
The 19-year-old has been a frequent sight at Suns HQ in recent weeks but has been given a couple of weeks of down time.
Tall forward Josh Corbett was an impressive winner of the two-kilometre time trial, ahead of Jack Bowes, Noah Anderson, Connor Budarick and Izak Rankine.
Many senior Suns returned to training as well, along with recruits Rory Atkins and Oleg Markov, but some chose not to run in the time trial.
Big-name Carlton recruit Adam Saad joined his new, young teammates at Ikon Park, along with veteran midfielder Ed Curnow.
Both South Australian clubs returned to training, with different expectations for the 2021 season after finishing at the two extremes of the ladder.
There’ll be plenty of hard work to do at Adelaide, while Port Adelaide unveiled new recruit Orazio Fantasia.
Observers at Fremantle’s return to training praised Ethan Hughes’ work over the break, saying the young gun had bulked up.
Dockers best-and-fairest winner Luke Ryan and midfielder Connor Blakely, who was in trade talks in recent months, were among the veterans joining the young players in Cockburn.
Across town, West Coast unveiled recruits Alex Witherden and Zac Langdon.
Scroll down to see more snaps and tweets from the AFL’s return to training.
Delisted West Coast Eagles speedster Lewis Jetta has said he was almost brought to tears by the support shown from retired teammate and close friend Will Schofield.
Before Jetta’s delisting was confirmed, Schofield urged his former club to retain the 31-year-old, claiming that delisting him would be a “poor decision” and that Jetta was “the best player I’ve ever played with”.
Speaking on SEN after being let go by the Eagles, Jetta, who has played 202 AFL games across West Coast and Sydney, revealed how much Schofield’s support meant to him.
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“Me and Will Schofield, we’re pretty close and we love each other as teammates but we’re also really close friends off the field as well, same as with a lot of Sydney boys that I’m also close with,” Jetta told The Sporting Capital.
“Being at West Coast, Will was probably one of the closest ones I was with. For him to come out and say that means so much to me.
“Just as a friend and a good bloke and an amazing teammate, not to mention a premiership teammate.
“It was amazing, it just showed how much he cared, it almost brought a tear to my eye when I saw that and how much he cared for me.”
Jetta is set to play in the WAFL in 2021 and, despite believing he still could play for “a couple of years” yet in the AFL, the two time premiership player is adamant he is comfortable with where his future lies.
“I’m very satisfied, I’m happy and the way I see it, footy’s not everything,” he said.
“I’m ready for this new chapter in my life and I’m ready to spend a lot more time with my children and teach them about life, which is probably the biggest excitement that I’m getting at the moment.”
Jetta’s road to the elite level was far from a straight one – he was overlooked in the 2007 draft and returned to his hometown of Bunbury to play local footy before eventually being selected with Pick 14 in the 2009 draft.
“I still can’t believe it. I’m just a boy from Bunbury. I never thought back in 09’ and 07’ of making it to the AFL and having the career that I’ve had. It was just a dream to be honest,” he said.
“Thinking back now, I still can’t believe it. I reflected with my family and a couple of brothers and still can’t believe it.
“Now my son and my daughter are reflecting as well, which is even better because all they see is daddy being dad and being not a ‘superstar’, we’ll put half a star, just having fun and playing some footy and bringing joy and excitement to footy fans.
“At the end of the day that’s all I tried to do, making the family proud and bringing entertainment in a footy sense to a lot of fans.”