Dragons confirm new ownership by WIN

29/05/2019 // by admin

St George Illawarra have confirmed WIN Corporation as their new part owner after completing years of on-again, off-again negotiations.
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As part of the deal, Andrew Gordon, the son of WIN owner Bruce, will take over as the club’s chairman.

Ex-Dragons CEO Brian Johnston will return to his former job, replacing Peter Doust.

“Today is a momentous day in the history of the St George Illawarra Dragons as we welcome WIN as a partner in our club,” Johnston said via statement on Monday.

“The Gordon family through WIN bring a great passion for the Dragons and have been a supporter of rugby league for decades, first with the Steelers in 1982 and then the Dragons.”

Dragons coach Paul McGregor hailed the new owners after they agreed to buy a 50 per cent stake in the NRL joint venture.

“It’s really positive going forward with such a strong organisation as WIN Corp and the Gordon family being big supporters of rugby league,” McGregor told Macquarie Sports Radio.

“The growth there in the business behind the football team will improve, so it’s a positive all round for everyone involved in the club.

“Not too much will change.

“Brian Johnston coming on board as the new CEO, he’s a very experienced ex-player and businessman and his attitude towards everything is really good to be around.

“It’s all systems go for us because everything is all about winning with WIN.”

Doust, who earlier in the year announced his plans to retire at season’s end, has been a lightning rod for criticism during recent years with “Oust Doust” banners a frequent sign on the hill at Dragons games.

As part of the deal, the Dragons’ $6 million loan to the NRL will be repaid.

WIN will take over the Illawarra Steelers’ share of the club and will have three seats on the board, however, it is not expected to result in a change in the club’s name or brand.

Games will continue to be played in Wollongong at WIN Stadium and Kogarah’s Jubilee Oval.

Australian Associated Press

Federal Government’s decision to add cystic fibrosis drug Orkambi to the PBS will offer better health, and more time, to those eligible

29/05/2019 // by admin

New future: Morgan Gollan, of Fletcher, is happy a cystic fibrosis drug that helped her is now available on the PBS. “It has taken a village of people fighting for this,” she said. Picture: Max Mason-HubersTHE things Morgan Gollan longs for most cannot be bought –good health, and more time.
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But the Federal Government’s decision last week to add a “life-changing” drug for cystic fibrosis (CF) to the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS)will offer bothbetter health, and more time, to those who are eligible.

Mr Gollan said Orkambiwasthe only available drugthat treatedthe underlying cause of cystic fibrosis, rather thanthe symptoms.

Previously, it cost $250,000 a year for CF patients.Now, it is set to cost less than $80 a year for concession patients, and $39.50 per month for general patients.

Related reading: Speaking up for access for pills of hope

“Friday’s decision means a new future,” Ms Gollan said.

“It means redefining what CF is, and that a bright, healthy future isn’t just possible, it is real.”

Cystic fibrosis is a chronic condition that affects the lungs and digestive system, with a life expectancy of 37.

Ms Gollan knows from personal experience what a difference the drugmakes, having been granted compassionate access to Orkambi in 2016 after waiting on alung transplant list for more than two years.

She watched herlung capacity grow from 35 per cent to55per cent while using the drug, and hascampaignedfor it to be made available to other cystic fibrosis sufferers ever since.

She said after three failed attempts to get it placed on the PBS, Orkambi was finally given the go ahead.

“It has taken a village of people fighting for this,” Ms Gollansaid.

“I havebeen on the drug for two-and-a-half years, and I am so happy that everyone else who is eligible for it will be able to access it. It’s the beginning of a new future for them.

“It is life-changing. Really.

“I felt guilty. It bothered me that I could have it, and other people couldn’t, because I knew how much difference it could make.”

Related reading: Cystic fibrosis patients need more mental health support

Ms Gollan, 27, said it was a wonder that she was still alive.She expected the drug would help others, like it had helped her,in preventing or reducing hospitalisations.

“I got my Christmas present, and all my dreams, two-and-a-halfyears ago when I first started taking it,” she said.

“Andnow, they get their new future too.”

Ms Gollan said the medication was expensive.

“But how much is a life worth?

“For the kids that start it, it will give thema normal life. The life expectancy before was37, but this drug is supposed to add 20 years to your life. That’s a normal life.

“And there will be more medications like it that will come through. So it will pave the way for those,” she said.

“Friday’s decision affirmed that the Australian government believes our lives are worth it, and that is everything.”

Business lobby unhappy with coal law changes, but so are injured workers

29/05/2019 // by admin

CLARITY: NSW Business Chamber says new coal industry workers comp legislation appears to go well beyond its intended reach, affecting service providers as well as mineworkers.LEGISLATION designed to close a loophole in coalmining workers’ compensation law has created a problem for companies providing various everyday services to the coal industry, according to a major employers’group.
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Australian Business Lawyers and Advisers, a subsidiary of the NSW Business Chamber, says businesses whose employeesenter mine sites for something as simple as a delivery job may have to take out two sets of workers’ compensation insurance:one policy for the time they spend at a mine site and one for all their other work.

ABLA’sNewcastle spokesperson, Kyle Scott, said on Monday the situation followedchanges to the coal industryworkers’ comp system that were introduced on July 1 with a transition period until October 1.

The legislation, the Coal Industry Amendment Act2018, was designed to close a legal loophole caused by a 2014 court case that had allowed labour hire firms to move away from the supposedly compulsory coal industry workers’ comp scheme run by Coal Mines Insurance or CMI.

CMI is a subsidiary of Coal Services (formerly the government-owned Joint Coal Board, which was handed to the Minerals Council and the Construction, Forestry, Maritime, Mining and Energy Union in2001.

Restructure causes job losses at mines insurer

Coal Services is responsible for the health and safety of mineworkers and its compensation system charges premiums that recognise the health costsof long-term exposure to coal dust.

Mr Scott said the Minerals Council and the CFMEU were clearly consulted in the lead-up to the legislation but it seemed as though the“service companies” were not.

“As far as we are concerned, the amendment goes well beyond closing the loophole to arguably impact ona huge range of other businesses that supply services to the coal industry,” Mr Scott said.

He said the new definition of an “employer in the coal industry” as “any employer whose employees work in or about a coal mine” was too wide.

“Where employees spend some of their time working in or about a mine and the remainder working elsewhere, employers must now have two policies to cover that one worker,” Mr Scott said.

“They will also need to estimate the percentage of their employee’s total work activity in or about a mine, and then split and declare wages between the two policies.”

Mr Scott said the business chamber had written to the ResourcesMinister, Don Harwin, who had responded to say that it was not the intention of the legislation to rope in companies from outside of the industry.

He said that if the problem wasn’t fixed by regulation it would probably end up in the courts.

Asked about the chamber’s concerns, Mr Harwin said on Monday night that “the types of work that are required to have CMI coverage have remained the same, and have not been broadened under the recent amendment”.

“Workers engaged in non-mining related activities, and workers who are required to attend a coal mine site on an ad hoc or irregular basis in the course of their work, are not required to be covered by CMI,” Mr Harwin said.

Responding to ABLA’s concerns, a spokesperson for Coal Services said it had material on its website that clarified for things for employers.

As for holding two workers compensation policies, the spokesperson said this was already the case and had been since 2008.

The Coal Industry Amendment Act, which passed through NSW parliament in May, was championed by the Coalition and Labor alike as a fix for an industry with growing confusion over its workers compensation system.

In April, Resources Minister Don Harwin told parliament:“Given that the mining industry is increasingly moving towards a flexible contract workforce it is crucial that mine workers are afforded the same level of health and safety protection. Employers who are not using the Coal Mines Insurance scheme do not contribute funds to support the Coal Services health and safety monitoring of workers or the monitoring of dust and airborne contaminants. This puts coal mine workers at risk because of the difficulty in tracking health records and monitoring results over time.”

Miners’ lung disease detected again in NSW

But former Mount Arthur contractor Simon Turner said on Monday that nothing has been done for people like him who had been injured while their employer was using“the wrong insurer”.

He said the industry was“still pretending that injured workers like us don’t exist”.

“The changes mean that anemployer in the coal industry means any employer whose employees work in or about a coal mine,” Mr Turner said.

“That’s straight from the amendment bill. It’s alsowhat I’ve pointed out from day one to everyone involved, starting withSIRA (State Insurance Regulatory Authority), Icare, CGU Insurance, GIO ,Chandler Macleod and WIRO (Workers Compensation Independent Review Office).

“Yet after almost three years of fighting this stuff, those of us who have been injured while our employer was not using Coal Mines Insurance as they should have been are still left where we are, still falling through the cracks with each organisation saying it’s not their job, or they don’t have jurisdiction, or they’ve already answered that question.”

Mr Turner’s plight and that of others in a similar situation attracted the interest of a specialist Canberra law firm, Adero Law, which has launched a class action to pursue the rights of present and past casual mineworkers it says have been substantially underpaid.

Vic Greens call for $1.5b banking levy

29/05/2019 // by admin

A tax on banks could rake in $1.5 billion over four years for the state, the Victorian Greens say.
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The minor party is pushing for a controversial banking levy, based on the South Australian model proposed by the former Labor government.

“The Greens’ plan for a levy on the big four banks, plus Macquarie Bank, will return some of the super profits of the banks to all Victorians,” Greens’ treasury spokeswoman Ellen Sandell said in a statement on Monday.

“This means more public money for our schools, hospitals, public transport, and essential services across Victoria.”

The Greens have had the policy reviewed by the recently-established parliamentary budget office, which costs political policies.

The party’s plan would apply to banks operating in Victoria which are already liable for the federal major bank levy and would be set at 0.015 per cent per quarter of the state’s share of bank liabilities, calculated using Victoria’s share of the national economy.

“Banks should be working for us, but the royal commission has shown us that they’ve racked up super profits off the back of shocking behaviour,” Ms Sandell said.

“We can’t just rely on taxes from an over-inflated housing market to pay Victoria’s bills.”

However, Premier Daniel Andrews quickly shot down the suggestion, telling ABC radio on Monday he ruled it out when the SA government tried it and his position had not changed.

Australian Banking Association CEO Anna Bligh said the policy was “recklesss and dangerous”, discouraging investment, slowing growth and affecting jobs.

“This proposal will hurt business confidence, affect investment and make the state a riskier place to do business,” Ms Bligh said.

“The finance and insurance industry is vitally important to the Victorian economy, contributing 10.6 per cent to economic activity of the state.

“Australia’s banks last year paid almost $14 billion in tax, making them the largest taxpayers in the country.”

Australian Associated Press

Family angered by Qld shooter’s sentence

29/05/2019 // by admin

The distraught sister of a man shot to death on the Gold Coast by his ex-partner has told the woman to “rot in hell” in a Queensland court.
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Linda Annette Currie, 50, was sentenced to seven years’ jail at a Supreme Court hearing in Southport on Monday for shooting Gabriel Orchard following a confrontation at a Labrador home in August 2016.

Currie had earlier pleaded guilty to manslaughter but not guilty to murder.

With time already served, Currie will be eligible for parole from December 21, 2018.

The sentence drew sighs and groans from Mr Orchard’s family, who wept in the back of the court before one of his sisters angrily disrupted the hearing.

“Rot in hell you scum … you murdered my brother,” the woman yelled before being escorted from the court by a police officer and other family members.

Outside court, Mr Orchard’s father Mac simply said “not bad for murder, isn’t it?” when asked by reporters about the sentence.

The court heard Mr Orchard, who had been released from prison a couple of months before the shooting, had given Currie a gun to look after the morning of his death while he attended Southport Court.

Later that day, he returned looking for Currie at the Labrador home and when the pair had wrestled for control of the gun around a kitchen table, he was fatally shot in the chest.

Prosecutor Matthew Hynes told the court Currie had expressed remorse and distress when police arrived.

“I should’ve just taken a beating,” Currie told officers, referring to the pair’s history of domestic violence.

Justice David Boddice said the nature of the pair’s former relationship and her remorse were factors in his sentence but that she had a “fleeting intention to do grievous bodily harm” to Mr Orchard.

“It’s a terribly tragedy that you have taken the life of another human being,” Justice Boddice said.

“The loss of that human being has been devastating for the family.”

In a victim impact statement read to the court, Mr Orchard’s mother Kathleen said the loss of her first-born son had left a “gaping hole” in her life.

“No one should lose a child like that,” her statement said.

Mr Orchard’s sister Katie said in her statement that explaining what had happened to her children had been particularly galling.

“My heart has been shackled,” she wrote. “In an instant it was all gone.”

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Australian Associated Press

Misogynists, nutjobs and falsehoods: PM hits back

29/04/2019 // by admin

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JULIA Gillard lashed out at ”misogynists and the nutjobs on the internet” and ”false and defamatory” reports in the Murdoch press as she delivered a 50-minute blow-by-blow rebuttal of allegations that she behaved improperly during her time as an industrial lawyer.

In a dramatic change of tactics, the Prime Minister abandoned her stonewalling on the issue after The Australian newspaper wrongly claimed she had set up a trust fund for her then boyfriend, Bruce Wilson, who was an official with the Australian Workers Union.

When she saw ”false and defamatory material attacking my character” recycled, she had decided to deal with the issues, she told a news conference yesterday.

In the 1990s, Ms Gillard, working at Slater & Gordon, gave legal advice on setting up an entity for Mr Wilson and his colleague, Ralph Blewitt. The fund was then used to siphon off money from companies, which believed they were paying for training. Ms Gillard has always denied any wrongdoing. There were also allegations that some union funds had been used on renovating her house.

Last week, a former partner in the firm, Nick Styant-Browne, said the firm had taken a very serious view of the situation and had accepted her resignation. Slater & Gordon and another former partner, Peter Gordon, have both said the firm’s 1995 inquiry into the matter had found nothing that contradicted Ms Gillard’s account.

The Prime Minister, who answered questions until journalists had no more to ask, said:

■She had ”determined to resign” from Slater & Gordon ”in circumstances where there had been growing tension and friction amongst the partnership” over several matters, including the AWU affair.

■She had advised on setting up the entity, the Workplace Reform Association, but did not sign the document for it and had no involvement in its operation.

■She had understood the entity’s purpose was to fund the re-election of a team of union officials. She preferred now not to call it a ”slush fund” – as she had in her interview during the 1995 Slater & Gordon inquiry – because that had an overtone.

■It was routine not to set up a file on the office system when free advice was given, but with hindsight it would have been better if she had.

■She had personally paid for all renovations to her Abbotsford house.

■She had ended her relationship with Mr Wilson when she

found she had been deceived, and had not been in contact with him since 1995.

Ms Gillard said the false claim about her was first made by News Ltd during the 2007 election campaign under the heading ”Con Man Broke My Heart”, and was repeated years later by Australian columnist Glenn Milne, whose ”employment was terminated”. The Australian yesterday apologised for the latest false report.

Ms Gillard said she had no plans to sue The Australian or former cartoonist Larry Pickering, who has been running a virulent internet campaign against her. Mr Pickering was operating a ”vile and sexist” website, but he was ”bankrupt or something, so you would end up with a never-ending trail – for what purpose?” she said. He could lose a dozen defamation actions and would still be ”propagandising sexist and vicious stuff about me until the end of time”.

Ms Gillard said this was not reasoned or factual but ”to do with this Americanisation of our politics, this eccentric, lunar-right, Tea Party-style interventions that we are seeing in our politics”.

Asked what her feelings towards Mr Wilson were now, Ms Gillard drew the line.

”I ended our relationship and I know that there’s some material in today’s Australian which would lead people to believe that our national newspapers are for Mills & Boon style recounts of words spoken between people who were formerly in a close relationship,” she said. ”It’s not my intention to canvass those matters.”

Rinehart’s cat plays with mouse

29/04/2019 // by admin

GINA Rinehart’s cat-and-mouse game with the board of Fairfax Media continued last night as she hired Morgan Stanley to try and find a buyer for almost 5 per cent of her shareholding at a tiny discount to the closing price.
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The discount was so small that most plausible explanation is she is sending the signal that if she doesn’t get what she wants – two board seats – then she is prepared to torch her entire investment, an ugly prospect from the point of view of the impact on the share price.

Rinehart is the company’s biggest shareholder and after reducing her stake at a discount to her entry price last month to 14.9 per cent to satisfy director and officer liability insurance issues, and increase pressure on the board, she has shown she is willing to lose money to make a point.

The latest move, to sell down her stake to 10 per cent at 50¢ a share – 1¢ below the closing price – will put pressure on the shares when they open today. The parcel of shares were pulled because they could not find a buyer at such a small discount.

Fairfax shares closed down 9.7 per cent yesterday after Fairfax chief Greg Hywood issued a gloomy outlook for 2013 and revealed that revenues in the early part of the current financial year were 10 per cent behind last year’s.

The fall in the shares was not helped by the fact that it wrote down its mastheads and goodwill by $2.8 billion, which many interpreted as a sign of the board’s pessimistic outlook for cash flows.

Hywood talked about the company being in a perfect storm of one of the worst cyclical downturns, coupled with massive structural changes.

While he is right that the advertising market is ugly, a lot of the problem boils down to structural issues.

Fairfax posted an earnings before interest and tax, depreciation and amortisation (EBITDA) of $506 million ($607 million in 2011), which looks pretty good if it was not for the fact that annualised cost savings of $56 million from redundancies will cost the company $200 million. These sort of costs will continue for the next two years at a time when the company is watching revenue go backwards and the monetisation of its digital brands is yet to translate into meaningful dollars.

The feeling is the group’s 2013 EBITDA will be closer to $400 million given the structural shift away from newspapers to digital. They will be lower again the following year. If this is right then it is hard to imagine hard-copy newspapers surviving within three or four years.

However, if the advertising market picks up, it will enable the company to milk the print business with its legacy costs a little longer. The great white hope is that the digital business continues to gain traction with it, on a stand-alone basis, being able to produce EBITDA of $100 million a year. On a multiple of 10 this would value it at $1 billion.

Fairfax is targeting cost savings of $235 million, partly by reducing its workforce by 20 per cent over the next three years, as it moves to a digital-first platform. It is early days and the board and senior management need time to get there.

There has been strong speculation that a few private equity groups are looking at the company with a view to breaking it up. Fairfax’s enterprise value, which is the market cap plus debt is a tad over $2 billion, which looks good against an EBITDA of $506 million. The company can also decide if it continues in its current form or breaks itself up. But as the share price drifts closer to 50¢, the clock is ticking.

The brutal reality is traditional media is going through massive structural changes. The fall in revenue and earnings is largely structural. It’s why there are $2.8 billion of asset write-downs and impairment charges. It is also why News Corp made more than $2 billion of write-downs two weeks ago, most of which was from its Australian newspaper mastheads.

The pattern is this: digital revenue is up, audiences continue to fragment and advertisers are putting more of their dollars into the digital space.

Fairfax has a strong brand and its audiences have grown 30 per cent since 2007. However, it, along with the rest of the global media world, has to find the magic bullet on how to monetise these digital platforms.

Seek, Realestate南京夜网 and Carsales all have market caps well above Fairfax and their earnings and stock prices keep going up – structural tailwinds.

Media information company SMI, which does not cover all advertising spending, showed that ad revenue booked into newspapers (metro, national, regional and suburban) was down a massive 29.5 per cent.

Newspapers are not alone, they are merely ahead of the curve in terms of bearing the structural pain as audiences increasingly move online.

In the United States, which is a good indicator of things to come in Australia, figures show that internet protocol TV (IPTV) is rising at the expense of television.

Recent figures from the US indicate that people are increasingly turning from TV to IPTV.

Comcast showed a drop of nearly 400,000 TV subscribers in the past year, Time Warner Cable lost 169,000 residential video subscribers and DirecTV reported a loss of 52,000 subscribers in the second quarter.

US cable TV is actually free-to-air (FTA) as there is no FTA without a cable connection, so to see cable connections being dropped in these numbers is more like people turning off FTA than turning off cable. Internet customers are on the rise. Time Warner Cable increased its broadband subscribers by 59,000.

Old favourites appear once more in ASX hall of shame

29/04/2019 // by admin

ASX commanders fired their annual warning shots across the bows of the sharemarket’s corporate cling-ons yesterday, telling 39 companies to either pay their listing fees or be tossed off the stock exchange.
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The groups have seven days to lodge a bank cheque with the exchange or be delisted. Last year 75 per cent of those served with the notice paid up, but that still meant 13 companies were delisted.

All of the companies nominated yesterday were already suspended, but Insider would like to pay special tribute to three companies – Asian Pacific, Biron Apparel and Natural Fuel – which have now made it onto the list three years in a row, and so far lived to … well, not much really.

Asian Pacific was a website design company until its shares were suspended in early 2008. Not long before that, then chairman Barry Maranta had looked at helping to bail out former cricketer Craig McDermott’s troubled businesses.

Asian Pacific was finally handed over to administrators, and promises of a revival have continued, the last at the end of March this year when the Takeovers Panel’s favourite applicant, Darren Olney-Fraser, repeated the company’s commitment to relist as soon as practicable and become National Health Ltd.

Olney-Fraser tried to raise $500,000 late in 2011 from a convertible note issue, but it was abandoned after failing to attract sufficient support.

Biron Apparel has been telling investors since last December that it plans to buy into Perth-based Terraflow, which it said had $5 million of business supplying water management services to the mining industry – including BHP’s Pilbara operations. Updates reveal that Biron has raised $250,000 from issuing shares, and its last statement in June said it was closing in on finalising a notice of meeting and independent experts’ report for the deal.

Natural Fuel has not been heard of since July last year when director Simon Lill announced that it was on the verge of buying into oil production in California.

Insider would also like to give a big welcome back to Viculus, which rejoined the list of non-fee paying companies after a break last year. Viculus has managed to make the list of dubious distinction four out of the past five years. Once a retirement village manager, it retired from that business when it went into administration in 2009.

Last year it managed to turn an accounting-rules inspired $16 million profit by having its debts forgiven as the shell was cleaned up for a proposed relisting as an investment company. That is not happening, either.

Finally, one of Insider’s favourite listed companies, Zheng He Global Capital, is also facing delisting for not paying fees. As noted earlier this month, Zheng He has had only two directors, neither of them Australian residents, since July – which would seem to put it in breach of a whole lot more than not paying listing fees. Maybe those two are too busy trying to recover the $20 million that shareholders thought was the company’s assets, but turned out to be claimed, and banked, by the Malaysian-based family that is Zheng He’s largest shareholder.

That is a shame, because if it is delisted, shareholders may never hear about how the hunt for the money is going.

Directors take wing

QANTAS chairman Leigh Clifford and fellow non-executive directors must have breathed a sigh of relief when chief executive Alan Joyce yesterday stood by his commitment to getting the international business back on a profitable footing within three years.

That is not just because Clifford will have another bang-up annual meeting this year trying to convince shareholders that they should not mind the width of losses, but look at the quality of the business. Insider wonders whether Clifford and the other non-executive board members would also have had in mind that so long as Qantas retains an international operation, one of the best post-employment perks going around will still be available to them – annual free air travel.

Clifford gets four overseas jaunts and 12 domestic trips each year, which were valued at $25,000 in last year’s annual report. Lesser directors get only half that allowance each year.

Insider figures that if a value has been put on the perks, then there must be a limit to where you fly, rather than an open-ended Phileas Fogg-style trip. Still, that works out to about $1500 a ticket – which tends to suggest, unsurprisingly, that the lanky Clifford ain’t flying cattle class.

When you leave the board, though, it is a little like a politician’s golden ticket – ex-directors of Qantas retain half that travel allowance annually, for a period equal to the number of years served.

In Clifford’s case, for example, his five-year anniversary has just rolled around which means that even if he stood down at this year’s annual meeting, he has 40 free tickets on Qantas’ fleet to use – or about $62,500 of plane sailing.

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Remembering a true Bombers favourite

29/04/2019 // by admin

MERV Neagle played 147 games for Essendon over nine seasons, a fair innings yet not enough to put him among the all-time greats of the club in terms of service or status.
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Yet for many Essendon fans of a middle-age, Neagle, 54, tragically killed yesterday in a truck accident near Griffith, in New South Wales, will always occupy a special place in their hearts and memories, a pivotal part of long-time coach Kevin Sheedy’s first batch of ”Baby Bombers”, and in the breaking of a 19-year premiership drought.

The most definitive memory of an at-times underrated player surely remains the final goal of the famous 1984 flag win, when Essendon turned around a 23-point three-quarter-time deficit against bitter rival Hawthorn after having been belted by a record margin by the Hawks the previous year.

A then-record nine-goal final term delivered the long-suffering Bomber hordes their promised land. Deep into time-on, and with Essendon leading by 18 points came the symbolic exclamation mark, Neagle taking the ball on the outer wing, taking off on a run and delivering the coup de grace with a 55-metre bomb.

Neagle, from Dimboola, like teammate Tim Watson, was a product of the club’s successful country recruiting zone. A saddened Watson said last night that he’d known Neagle his entire life and would always remember him as a ”likeable, loveable larrikin”. Watson recalled when they were both paperboys in Dimboola, waiting to begin their rounds, eagerly scanning the VFL teams, Watson a Richmond supporter, Neagle a Bomber.

As a footballer, even at junior level, Watson recalled a ”fiery, volatile” player. Yet Watson also paid tribute to Neagle’s natural talent. ”Because Essendon had such a good side, it was often overlooked how good he was,” he said. ”He was a real power athlete, he was quick, and for his size pretty strong overhead.”

The captain of that 1984 premiership team, Terry Daniher, was similarly stunned on hearing the news. ”He was a terrific, hard-running player on the wing for us, who gave us his all and had the tenacity to run all day without a spell,” he said. ”He was a great mate who loved a beer and loved to be around his teammates. He was just a good bloke.”

Neagle debuted in 1977, but blossomed under the coaching of Barry Davis, his distinctive gait matched with some silky delivery into the forward line. By 1980, Neagle had hit peak form on a wing. Playing every game, he racked up an average of 25 disposals. Watson was a popular favourite to win the Brownlow Medal that year, but it was Neagle who finished runner-up to Footscray’s Kelvin Templeton.

When Sheedy arrived as coach in 1981, Neagle quickly became a favourite for his mix of skill and an uncompromising, hard-nosed attack on the ball in a side that was young, and in the coach’s view, in need of some toughening up. The wingman was never slow to fly the flag during a tough era, memorably in 1983 at Princes Park when Robert DiPierdomenico ironed out Essendon’s Alan Stoneham. Neagle, almost inevitably, was the first Bomber to remonstrate.

”I was lucky enough to coach Merv and he was not only a brilliant footballer but was also a real character and a highly respected teammate and friend to many people,” Sheedy said last night. ”Merv has left us all too soon but has left those who knew him with many great memories.”

Neagle was unfortunate to miss out on the second leg of the back-to-back Essendon premierships in 1985. He was part of the second semi-final win over Hawthorn but was a late withdrawal on grand final day through injury. He then became part of the Sydney Swans’ recruiting push, and left the Bombers on big money, playing another 56 games, despite often being hampered by injury. He retired at 32.

Neagle’s son, Jay, played 28 games for Essendon between 2007 and the end of last year, and is now playing in Queensland. Another son, Jydon, plays in the TAC under-18 competition with the Murray Bushrangers, and is a potential father-son recruit in this year’s national draft.

Neagle had this year been coaching Hume Football League club Walla, about 40 kilometres north of Wagga Wagga, after moving his family back to where his wife, Donna, had grown up. Winless and bottom of the ladder last season, Walla had risen to the cusp of the finals under his stewardship. ”It’s a terrific little club, mate, and the social side is really strong,” Neagle told The Sunday Age in a recent interview. ”We play the game, and I yell at them if we get beat, then we all walk over to the pub, forget about it and have a beer.”

As sad as yesterday’s news was, he could be certain plenty of old Bombers fans will be – while sharing a beer – determined not to forget a favourite.

Former greats find that coaching grates

29/03/2019 // by admin

COACHING does strange things to usually sane men. The highs are high, the lows low. Frustration builds, excitement boils over. The sacrifices are great, the satisfaction is short. There’s always the next game to prepare for. Here’s some recent observations.
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NATHAN BUCKLEY

Saturday, August 18, Etihad Stadium: The Roos are doing a job on the Pies. It’s the same old story for Collingwood’s big forwards. Chris Dawes is dropping chest marks and Travis Cloke leads up, doesn’t mark, returns to the goal square. The coach is once again frustrated, but maybe it’s time things were done differently. There are other options.

It should be noted that the Hawks without Lance Franklin are kicking more goals than when he is there. Cloke could be played more as a centre half-forward than full-forward. Dawes could be dropped. Ben Reid or even Nick Maxwell could go forward. There’s no doubt that if Scott Pendlebury was played as a permanent forward, he would kick and create heaps of goals. Time is starting to run out on a problem that needs to be fixed.

JAMES HIRD

Saturday, August 18, 10.45am, MCG: The sky is grey, the drizzle steady. No one is on the ground but the Essendon coach and a trusted sidekick. Hird is oblivious to the rain. He walks the ground, football in hand. He goes from wing to goal square, bouncing the ball and getting a feel for the conditions. From 70 metres out on the half-forward flank, dressed in street clothes, he takes one step and launches a torpedo. The connection between ball and shoe is perfect. The ball spirals 55 metres, lands outside the goal square, skids towards the goal post and curls a metre over the goal line. It’s impressive, but not surprising.

5pm: Hird faces the media. He is flushed and visibly shaken. Carlton has beaten the Bombers by 96 points. It’s the biggest defeat Hird has encountered as a coach. His players played with little, if any, heart. He knows it. The coach apologises to the Essendon members. It must be eating him. For years Hird controlled his own destiny. As a player, businessman, media performer and family man, it was all up to him. And he rarely let himself down. But coaching is different. You can do your job really well, but any one of the 100 players and staff you are responsible for can muck it up and bring the rest down. I always wondered whether Hird, the perfectionist, would be able to cope with that. Time will tell.

MICHAEL VOSS

Sunday, August 12, 8.30am, Melbourne airport: The Brisbane Lions coach boards a plane at Melbourne Airport for Launceston, where the Hawks are to take on Port Adelaide. He offers his trademark smile to all the footy people on board. I look at the footy fixture and realise he is going to have a close look at the Power, who the Lions play in Adelaide tomorrow. I wonder how he is feeling. The Lions lost the night before to Carlton. It was their fifth loss in six weeks. Voss is coaching for his future. He won’t get home to Brisbane until late Sunday. That’s three clear days since he has seen his wife and kids, and the next opponent will be the high-flying Crows.

Saturday, August 18, Brisbane: After being 38 points down at quarter-time at the Gabba, the Lions have fought back to lead by four points with 30 seconds left. Voss is in the coach’s box, tight and tense. The ball spills to Tom Rockliff. He kicks truly from outside 50, and the Lions will win. Voss can’t contain himself. He shakes hands and hugs his assistants. If they can beat Port Adelaide and then the Western Bulldogs, it will be 10 wins for the season. That’s six more than last year. Real progress will have been made.

BRENTON SANDERSON

Saturday, August 18, Brisbane: The final siren sounds at the Gabba and the Crows coach and his loyal mate Darren Milburn are ashen-faced. They have just lost the unloseable game. Hot favourites and six goals up at quarter-time, the Crows relaxed and got rolled. But perhaps the coach hadn’t helped. Perhaps the coach sowed the seed for the loss the week before, when his team tossed Fremantle at home to chalk up its 15th win for the season, and climb to second spot. Back then, the novice coach was pumped, he was all about talking up his players. He was saying Scott Thompson and Patrick Dangerfield had to be Brownlow Medal chances, and that young centre half-back Daniel Talia was a good thing for the Rising Star. Hold on, Brenton! It’s not the time to talk about individual awards when team success is all that matters.

DAMIEN HARDWICK

Saturday, August 18, Perth: Richmond, for the 10th time this season, has lost a game by fewer than four goals. The coach is angry and frustrated – again. So he has a crack at Fremantle for bringing in the emergency ruckman, Aaron Sandilands, and taking out selected ruckman Jonathon Griffin. Hardwick says what the Dockers did was OK by the rules, but was it a ruse? Did the Dockers always plan this? Was it in the spirit of the game? Well, Damien, it really doesn’t matter. It’s no big deal. It’s replacing one ruckman with another.

The Richmond coach says they planned for one thing and got another. Please, Damien, get over it. If the Tigers are so fragile that they let something like that throw them, no wonder they lose the close contests.

GARRY HOCKING

Sunday, August 19, Adelaide: It’s late in the third quarter at AAMI Stadium. Port Adelaide’s caretaker coach is down on the boundary line, itching to get on the field. His team, after kicking one goal in the first half, has kicked three goals to the Eagles’ one in the third term.

The coach is excited. Too excited. The siren ends the quarter, and Hocking sprints on to the field waving his arms. He wants his players to follow him to the outer wing. He plans to take the players to the rank-and-file fans. It’s the old-school Mark Williams trick and Hocking, in just his second game, is going to pull it. But there’s a problem. When they arrive, there’s scarcely anybody there. The crowd was 13,683, the smallest crowd ever to attend an AFL game at AAMI Stadium.