Wayne Rooney has a tough task on his hands having taken on a temporary role as co-caretaker manager of bottom-of-the table Championship side Derby County.
The legendary former England striker is keen on the role full-time, but faces stiff competition from nine-year-old Toby Hall, who has wowed chairman Mel Morris in an impressive first interview.
Toby applied for the job following the departure of Phillip Cocu and BBC Radio Derby’s Rams commentator Ed Dawes teed up a chat with the young fan, which turned into a surprise interview for the vacant post when Morris joined the online hook-up.
There was no show of nerves from Toby, who advised Morris that a club that has picked up only one win and scored just five league goals in 12 games this season “might need to improve” on “striking”.
“I like football a lot,” he confidently added. “I like designing formations and I think I am quite good at it.”
And Toby was also very much on the ball when asked about how he would cope with the long commute from his home and the need to balance his school work.
“My nanny and grandad live less than 10 miles from Derby’s ground,” he explained. “And I would probably get a tutor to teach me so I could do matches as well.”
So with all bases seemingly covered, Morris was clearly taken with the budding young football boss.
“Whatever issues I throw at you, you obviously you have an answer for each and every one,” Morris said.
But should Toby’s inexperience count against him landing the role on his own, maybe Morris will expand Derby’s backroom staff from a quartet to a quintet to assist England’s record goalscorer Rooney, Liam Rosenior, Shay Given and Justin Walker?
After all, Toby is bright, enthusiastic, passionate, and certainly in touch with the younger generation.
“I don’t think we reflect on that too be honest,” Nankervis said on Saturday. “We are focused on reviewing the game from last night, [then] take some learnings out of that and watching the game tonight [Brisbane v Geelong preliminary final] and focusing on next weekend.
“We just focus on each week. I know it sounds mundane but the competition is so tight and so even. We know we have to show up, give our best effort to give ourselves a chance.”
Nankervis missed a big chunk of the season after round five, one of a host of Richmond’s front line players sidelined this season due to injury or supporting their partner’s through child birth.
The ruckman, Dion Prestia, Bachar Houli and Shane Edwards were top of that list and all had the extra hurdle of completing their paths back to footy through strict quarantine and hub protocols.
“I think we’re all just grateful to get the opportunity to play footy after what seemed [a] pretty difficult time early on,” Nankervis said.
“It was disappointing to get injured early in the season, I suppose with the difficult season we’ve had being away from the group for parts there.
“First couple of weeks, I was back round 14 or 15, it did take me a few weeks to get match fit. I feel like the more footy I have played the more I feel I can run out games, I certainly feel pretty good.
“I am so wrapt to just be backed within the team and give ourselves another chance.
“I still think we are probably as a team starting to play our better footy this time of year but I can’t wait for this week.”
Indeed hitting their best form at the right time of the season has been a feature of Richmond’s 2017 and 2019 premiership wins and the story looks similar ahead of next week’s grand final.
Nankervis praised teammate Tom Lynch, who was booed heavily at the Adelaide Oval.
“He handled it pretty well Lynchy. The crowd provided an amazing atmosphere last night and I think that’s just a minority event,” he said.
“He is a great person, a great teammate and a great friend. One of the nicest blokes.”
“Ryder, who is a fantastic player, is out and Rowan Marshall, he’s a great ruckman and he has had two or three years of elite standard of footy, so he will be no doubt a tough challenge as well. I have so much respect for the way he goes about it.
“You never want to see anyone get injured.”
It sets up an intriguing battle, however, and Nankervis admitted his experience rucking on his own in big games was helpful as he headed into the clash, knowing he could stand up physically and mentally to the demands.
“I do take a lot of confidence knowing that I am able to do it and have been able to do it in big games before,” Nankervis said.
He has now played in 10 finals and been part of the losing team just twice, with Friday a rare feeling for the former Swan who has played in 21 losses in 79 games.
He praised the Lions for the win but admitted the Tigers’ propensity to give away crucial free kicks and 50-metre penalties did not help their cause, with the 15-point margin mainly due to such mistakes.
“We spoke about our discipline, which we addressed during the week,” Nankervis said.
“It was disappointing, on reflection. There are a lot of things we can get better at and we can improve, which we are excited about.”
Whether the Tigers retain Mabior Chol remains to be seen, with the mobile big man likely to make way for the returning Tom Lynch.
Nankervis is uncertain which way the selectors will go and how much support he will have now that last year’s premiership rucking partner Ivan Soldo is recovering from a knee reconstruction and Callum Coleman-Jones has missed his chance after he breached AFL protocols a month ago and was sent home.
“I’m not too fazed either way to be honest,” Nankervis said.
“I just enjoying getting out there and competing. Whether I am first ruck or not my role doesn’t change too much.”
He has played just eight games this season after an ankle injury sidelined him but he feels as though his form is slowly improving.
He knows what it’s like to return from injury and perform in big finals, having recovered from a groin injury in 2019 to earn a recall after a brilliant performance in a VFL final.
Out of contract at the end of the year, he has made it clear he wants to remain with Richmond but until the finals are done, hopefully from his perspective with a third flag, he’s not concerning himself with it.
Peter Ryan is a sports reporter with The Age covering AFL, horse racing and other sports.
The race to be a small forward in the All-Australian side is heating up.
And there is no shortage of names putting their hand up, with only a few home and away games remaining before the squad of 40 is announced.
Charlie Cameron was an easy selection in 2019 after his outstanding year, while Tom Papley should jump in to consideration after being the starring forward for Sydney throughout the year.
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Ryan runs riot over Roos
Dan Butler’s move from Richmond to St Kilda has brought about plenty of success, even if the lively player has pushed up into the midfield at times.
Mitch Wallis has revamped himself as a goalkicking option for the Bulldogs, kicking 23 goals, while Giant Toby Greene too deserves recognition.
The GWS star has been a crucial figure for the club in multiple wins this year.
But on Thursday night it was Eagle ‘Flyin’ Ryan pressing his case, despite going stat-less in the opening term against North Melbourne.
In the last five weeks, Ryan has been rated in the elite category for marks, assists and goals – while has been considered above average in terms of disposals.
“You know what I love about him, he didn’t touch the ball until quarter time. Not many players can recover from that,” Brisbane champion Jonathan Brown said.
“Quite often you see players go into their shell, we’ve all been there, it’s tough to recover from that. He came out after that and certainly had the biggest impact on the game.
“He might not have had the greatest disposal number, but you could make a strong case he was BOG.”
“Everything he did was quality,” Nick Riewoldt added.
“It looked like the put the cue in the rack late with him, he had the knee strapped up, but he comes on and has a contender for mark of the year.”
Eagle’s pre-finals injury woe
Garry Lyon believed his recent form had been “absolutely sensational” as the small forward aims for a maiden call-up.
“Ball in hand, that’s what excites me the most. I love the marking and all that sort of stuff and now you’re able to see what he does when he gets the ball,” he explained.
“His numbers over the last five weeks have been absolutely sensational. He’s elite in almost every category. If he’s getting around 15 possessions each game you know the West Coast Eagles will be into it up to their eyeballs.”
With a haul of 26 goals this season, there’s no doubting opposition clubs will need to be wary of the forward for the remainder of the year.
“He has (become a match-winner). Our system tonight didn’t click, so individuals stood up,” Adam Simpson said post-match.
“We don’t want to rely on that, but he is All-Australian. His last month in particular. We haven’t had Jamie Cripps for the last four or five weeks … he’s really stood up for us when the game has been on the line.
“He has been one of those leaders who have dragged us over the line the last two weeks.”
Speaking Fox Footy’s On The Couch, Brownlow Medallist Gerard Healy anointed Chad Wingard as the small forward best placed to make the All-Australian team.
“How bad would it be to be an All-Australian selector right now when they focus their minds on the small forward?” Healy said on Monday night.
“At the start of the year Charlie Cameron was an absolute certainty. Then Tom Papley, he was a certainty. Dan Butler… They have all tracked off.
“Champion Data have the top seven rated small forwards. Chad Wingard (is number one). This is a bolt from the blue.”
SMALL FORWARD CONTENDERS
Liam Ryan (West Coast): 26 goals, 17 games, 178 disposals
Dan Butler (St Kilda): 26 goals, 16 games, 174 disposals
Charlie Cameron (Brisbane Lions): 25 goals, 16 games, 150 disposals
Tom Papley (Sydney Swans): 24 goals, 16 games, 183 disposals
Greater Western Sydney Giants star Toby Greene could once again find himself in hot water with the Match Review Officer after striking an opponent during Saturday’s victory over the Fremantle Dockers at Perth Stadium.
In the fourth quarter of the round 14 fixture, Greene was filmed throwing his arm back and making contact with the chest of Fremantle defender Reece Conca.
The off-field incident took place dozens of metres away from the ball, and Conca immediately fell to the turf and grabbed his stomach.
A trainer sprinted onto the ground to assist the 28-year-old, but Conca returned to his feet and played on.
Having returned from a three-week absence due to injury, Greene managed 14 disposals and kicked a critical goal during the Giants’ convincing 14.7 (91) to 8.5 (53) victory over Fremantle.
Meanwhile, Giants young gun Jake Riccardi made his mark by kicking four goals in just his second AFL match.
“This bloke looks like Wayne Carey … he has been outstanding,” Brown said.
“I can’t think of a key forward who has been able to burst onto the scene like this early in his career over the last few years.”
ABC Grandstand broadcaster Ben Cameron tweeted: “For all of their top-end talent, the GWS Giants have found a player in Jake Riccardi. Compliments what they have in their forward line already too. Diamond in the rough.”
Greene starred with five goals, 10 contested possessions and eight marks and had Channel 7 commentator Bruce McAvaney describing his red-hot performance as one of the best by any player this year.
“What an individual performance by Toby Greene tonight. In my opinion one of the performances of the year so far,” McAvaney said.
The late drama started when Brent Daniels had a chance to shut the door on the Tigers as he snapped for goal 15m out. His kick could have put the Giants three kicks clear, but his decision to keep his kick low proved disastrous as Tiger Noah Balta stuck out a hand to deny the goal.
Daniels butchered another chance to ease the pressure on the Giants when the match was there to be won, missing an easy set shot from 30m out after Greene was paid a down-field free kick for being taken out off the ball.
Richmond also squandered chances in front of goal, but pulled back to within six-points with eight minutes to play on the back of three straight behinds.
They were made to pay the price when Greene kicked his fifth after the ball fell in his lap in the goal square following a pack marking contest.
He was everywhere.
“We knew it was backs-against-the-wall sort of stuff and we put ourselves in that position,” Greene said of his team’s hot and cold form this season.
“Richmond are obviously a bloody good side and they gave us a touch up last year so we knew we just had to stick with them.”
Earlier, Greene was the difference between the two teams kicking two goals as the Giants booted five straight during an early rampage in the third quarter.
Earlier, after a brain fart from Aidan Corr gifted Jake Aarts a goal in the first term, the Tigers took control of the game before a Greene monster from outside the 50m arc triggered a Giants onslaught.
GWS led by 27-points late in the third term, but Martin pulled the Tigers off the canvas with two goals in five minutes to help pull the Tigers back to within eight points heading into the final term.
Greene was there again in the final quarter to seal the win when the game was on the line.
Toby Greene has reignited GWS’s hunt for a maiden AFL premiership, booting 5 objectives to produce the Giants a 12-place gain more than Richmond in a substantially closer contest than past year’s grand closing.
Toby Greene kicked a goal in every single quarter against Richmond
The Giants experienced dropped four of their last 6 matches heading into the Tigers clash
Both of those sides compensated regard to former Richmond participant Shane Tuck, who died on Monday aged 38
GWS, desperate to make a statement soon after slipping to 13th on the ladder, were far from faultless but dug deep to prevail 9.8 (62) to 6.14 (50) at Giants Stadium in Sydney.
Greene, who was returning from a sore shin, kicked at minimum goal in each quarter to be best on ground.
Last year’s Norm Smith medallist Dustin Martin ignited a third-quarter comeback by the Tigers with two swift objectives, when Shai Bolton threatened to snatch victory for the people in a frantic last quarter.
But it was Greene who fittingly delivered the sealer for GWS with just around 5 minutes remaining in the contest, crumbing what proved to be the only goal in the fourth term.
Lachie Whitfield, who was shifted off the wing and unleashed as a rebounding defender, and Josh Kelly had been also crucial for the hosts.
But Greene and his fellow forwards showed why some pundits really feel they can problem for a flag in 2020.
Momentum shifted frequently and violently in this grand closing re-match, with the third quarter proving a great snapshot of the topsy-turvy tussle.
The Giants kicked away to a 27-stage guide when Greene out-bodied Dylan Grimes, marked a rainmaker and kicked the resultant purpose, which was his fourth for the evening.
The Tigers responded with three objectives in 9 minutes, like a present for Martin when Heath Shaw set the ball out on the total, to trim the Giants’ buffer to eight details at a few-quarter time.
Bolton, youngster Jake Aarts and vital forward Tom Lynch then skipped options for Richmond prior to Greene stepped up to ice the match
Tigers coach Damien Hardwick will just take coronary heart from the fact he will remember hamstrung captain Trent Cotchin for Wednesday’s clash with Western Bulldogs and preferably 6 other premiership players before the finals.
Prior to Friday night’s match, the two sides paid their respects to previous Richmond participant Shane Tuck, who died on Monday aged 38.
Tuck played 173 senior matches for the Tigers from 2004 to 2013.
He was the son of famous Hawthorn participant Michel Tuck, who gained seven premierships with the Hawks, together with 4 as captain.