Month: August 2019

Pressure ramps up on Malthouse in AFL

Three years after Carlton sacked Brett Ratten, another upset AFL loss to a Queensland team has ramped up the pressure on Mick Malthouse.

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Brisbane posted their first win of the season on Sunday, beating the Blues by nine points at Etihad Stadium.

The 12.12 (84) to 11.9 (75) leaves Carlton ahead of the Lions and Gold Coast only on percentage at the foot of the ladder with 1-5 records.

“We know where we’re at – if we’re not on the bottom then we’ve bottomed right out,” Malthouse said.

In the wake of last weekend’s appalling capitulation to arch-rivals Collingwood, Malthouse conceded that no club board could sustain a coach who is not winning.

But when asked on Sunday about the inevitable increase in pressure whether he remains determined to see the job through, Malthouse was typically defiant.

“I find that strange that you’d ask,” the three-time premiership coach said.

“What’s my history? Turn the toes up and go, you reckon? No – the simple fact is that while there is a job to be done I will be doing it as best as I possibly can, along with the rest of my match committee.”

There is no obvious short-term relief, with Carlton playing emerging GWS, Geelong, Sydney at the SCG and Adelaide ahead of the Blues’ round-11 bye.

Three years ago, Ratten’s fate as Carlton coach was sealed when Gold Coast upset his team in the second-last game of the season.

The Blues sacked him a few days later.

On a weekend where the unexpected became commonplace, West Coast capped the shocks late on Sunday with a 10-point win over Port Adelaide at Adelaide Oval.

The injury-plagued Eagles kicked seven of the last 10 goals to win 11.12 (78) to 10.8 (68) and claim their biggest scalp so far this season.

The Giants had the biggest win in their short history on Saturday night, shocking reigning premiers Hawthorn by 10 points.

And outsiders St Kilda staged the equal fifth-biggest comeback in AFL history to beat the Western Bulldogs.

The Saints were 55 points down early in the third term before they came marching in to down the Bulldogs by seven points.

On Friday night, Collingwood’s favouritism lasted as long as it took for Geelong to blast them away with the first seven goals of the match.

While the Cats are deep in transition, the 41-point win showed their best is still lethal.

Carlton’s loss was manna from heaven for Richmond coach Damien Hardwick.

Without the latest instalment of the Blues’ crisis, the blowtorch would have been firmly on Hardwick and the Tigers.

Saturday’s 35-point loss to North Melbourne left Richmond mired in a 2-4 mess.

Sydney predictably took care of Melbourne by 38 points and Adelaide similarly were too good for undermanned Gold Coast, beating them by 41.

Fremantle’s 28-point win over Essendon leaves the unbeaten Dockers two games clear at the top of the table.

It is the first time since Melbourne in 1956 that the top team has held a two-game buffer after six rounds.

That season, the Demons won the second of three-straight premierships.

Late Brisbane Lions surge stuns Carlton

Brisbane Lions went into their clash against Carlton a club in crisis, but left Etihad Stadium with a gutsy, morale-boosting nine-point win on Sunday.

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The winless and last-placed Lions endured a week of intense media scrutiny after they surrendered to Gold Coast in round five, and also faced serious questions about their handling of young players James Aish and Zac O’Brien.

But Justin Leppitsch’s men put aside a week under the blowtorch to play with aggression and grit as they came from behind in the third quarter to post the 12.12 (84) to 11.9 (75) win.

“I think the week was built up more externally than internally but it’s just good to win because we hadn’t won a game yet for our group,” Leppitsch said.

“It’s good for our group to build a little bit of belief.

“It was the ability to play roles and I thought we were diligent today. Not perfect but we restricted the opposition scoring well and more consistent in what our output was.

“That was probably the pleasing thing and hopefully that builds a bit more faith in what we’re doing with the group and a bit more belief.”

The match was punctuated by turnovers and skill errors from both sides, but Leppitsch was pleased with the improved work rate of his players and their desire to “guts it out” in the scrappy affair.

Allen Christensen had a quiet first half but he sparked Brisbane with 10 possessions in the third quarter, while Dane Beams impressed throughout with 29 touches.

Daniel McStay and Josh Green were lively in attack with four and three goals respectively.

Tom Bell, who was outstanding for Carlton with 26 disposals, sliced the margin to just nine points with under five minutes left, but the Blues spurned chances to snatch the win in the frantic final minutes with Levi Casboult and Liam Jones sending shots at goal wide.

Carlton coach Mick Malthouse lamented a crucial period late in the game when his side failed to capitalise on a 15-point lead.

“In that third quarter I thought if we could just squeeze another goal … goals were hard to get for both clubs,” Malthouse said.

“I just thought if we manage to get that next one (to put us) 21 points up … every goal we got we had to fight for and the goals they got I thought they came pretty well-structured.

“We just lost our initiative for 10 minutes – I don’t think we went into our forward line for that 10 minutes.”

Young Lion Nick Robertson was involved in a scary incident in the third term when he clattered into the advertising signage.

He was taken from the field on the cart, but was later cleared to return, with Leppitsch saying it was more of a back issue than a concussion scare.

My finest win: Eagles AFL coach Simpson

Adam Simpson hopes his finest moment as West Coast coach is a watershed for his AFL club.

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Simpson’s Eagles are perched in second spot on the ladder after they stunned Port Adelaide with an upset 10-point victory on Sunday.

“It’s the best win I have been a part of since I have been at the club,” said second-year coach Simpson of a tenacious 11.12 (78) to 10.8 (68) away triumph.

The Eagles were in danger of losing touch with Port, who led by 17 points at halftime.

But West Coast kicked seven of the last 10 goals of the game for a stirring victory.

“It’s probably just the next step of, hopefully, the evolution as a side and what we stand for,” Simpson said.

“Good clubs have a distinct brand and we are still working on ours. Hopefully today was a step towards that.

“That second half and the way the players stood up, how we went about it – and then the last 10 minutes when we were under siege, I thought our backs really stood up as well.

“We are really starting to see some development and excitement with our kids coming through.”

Simpson said the Eagles’ punt paid on playing spearhead Josh Kennedy despite an elbow injury paid off, with Kennedy collecting 14 possessions, kicking a goal and setting up two others.

West Coast were brilliantly served by a senior core of Mark LeCras (28 disposals), Brownlow medallist Matt Priddis (31 touches) and Chris Masten (30 possessions).

Basking in the Eagles’ ruck dominance, the trio provided plenty of drive into a forward line featuring two-goal cameos from Josh Hill, Jamie Cripps and Luke Shuey, who slotted his brace in the final term.

Port, now with three wins and three losses, were overly reliant on brilliant utility Robbie Gray, who gathered 25 disposals and kicked three majors.

Midfielders Hamish Hartlett (25 touches) and Brad Ebert (23 disposals) were prominent and Chad Wingard roamed far and wide in an influential two-goal, 20-possession game.

But Port coach Ken Hinkley said his side paid the price for a tardy approach.

“We didn’t get up again for a contest that we should have,” Hinkley said.

“The boys haven’t been able to consistently back it up over the journey.”

Real team mates not passing to Bale enough, agent says

Bale’s troubled second season in Spain hit a new low with a poor performance in last week’ Champions League defeat at Juventus and he again failed to spark in Saturday’s 2-2 La Liga draw at home to Valencia.

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He has been whistled by disgruntled fans at the Bernabeu, a startling turnaround for a player who scored in the finals of the Champions League and the King’s Cup last term.

Real broke the transfer record to buy the 25-year-old but he has lately been struggling to live up to expectations in a season partly disrupted by injury.

“Real have to work with Gareth and pass the ball to him more,” Bale’s agent Jonathan Barnett was quoted as saying in Britain’s Sunday Telegraph newspaper.

“Give him more of the ball and let him show everybody what he’s good at,” Barnett added.

“He’s going to be the best player at Real Madrid when his team mates work with him and help him.”

Real are in danger of ending the season without defending their Champions League crown or securing a first La Liga title since 2012.

Eliminated from the King’s Cup by Atletico Madrid in January, Real lost the semi-final, first leg at Juve 2-1 and are four points behind leaders Barca in second in La Liga with two matches left.

Bale’s statistics are actually similar to last season, with 17 goals and 10 assists in 46 matches compared to 22 goals and 12 assists in 44 games in 2013-14.

However, he has been criticised for being selfish in front of goal and not contributing enough in defence.

“Most people would have been broken by this but he is determined,” Barnett said.

“He could have screamed and shouted or knocked on the manager’s office door but he doesn’t want to upset anyone.

“Every top club in the world would want to sign him but he will be at Real Madrid next season.

“There’s no way he is going anywhere in the summer. When we said he always wanted to play for Real, it was 100 percent true and he’s determined to be a success there.”

(Reporting by Iain Rogers, editing by Ed Osmond)

Snapshot of NRL round nine

SNAPSHOT FROM ROUND NINE OF THE NRL:

THEY SAID IT: “When you’re younger you can take it the wrong way sometimes.

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It’s a big period leading up to Origin. It’s always the same sort of talk as a player every year.” – Roosters half Mitchell Pearce on the pressure being placed on him as he bids to reclaim his NSW halfback jumper.

STAT THAT MATTERS: Canberra confirmed their status as the Gold Coast’s bogey team when the Raiders ran out 56-16 winners at GIO Stadium on Saturday. It was the Titan’s fifth worst losing margin of all time. The Gold Coast’s biggest loss (56-10 in round 18, 2007) and equal third biggest loss (46-4 in round 20, 2008) also came against the men from the nation’s capital.

MAN OF THE ROUND: Shaun Johnson set up one try and scored one himself as the Warriors twice came from behind in the last 10 minutes to beat the Sharks 20-16. After a see-sawing final stanza, the Kiwi halfback sliced through the Sharks line to score a great solo try and seal a memorable win for his team.

MAGIC MOMENT: Brisbane halfback Ben Hunt went from zero to hero in the space of a few minutes after setting up Corey Oates’ match-winning try against Penrith. Earlier Hunt had missed a field goal which could have tied the scores at 5-5. Deep in the Panthers’ half again, he could have taken another attempt at one point but instead took on the Panthers defence to send Oates over for an 8-5 win.

TALKING POINT: Are the Raiders the real deal? Ricky Stuart’s side has now won three games on the trot to sit in fifth spot. Five-eighth Blake Austin is firming as the buy of the year and has been talked about as a smokey for the NSW State of Origin side.

JUDICIARY WATCH: Tyrone Peachey (dangerous throw), Konrad Hurrell (lifting knee).

KEY INJURIES: Sharks – Anthony Tupou (broken jaw), Tinirau Arona (hamstring); Raiders – Sam Williams (collapsed lung); Warriors – Manu Vatuvei (sternum).

UNDER PRESSURE: Canterbury five-eighth Josh Reynolds is under pressure to retain his NSW jumper after some indifferent form and a suspension for tripping during City-Country. The Roosters’ James Maloney meanwhile has surged into form and the two will meet head-to-head on Friday night.