African-Australian players plead for unity

AFL PLAYERS of African descent have joined forces in a bid to stamp out anti-social behaviour by some members of the African-Australian community in Melbourne and to ask that the community not be stigmatised by these actions.

An open letter issued on Thursday by North Melbourne’s Majak Daw, Sydney’s Aliir Aliir, Richmond’s Mabior Chol, Hawthorn’s Changkuoth Jiath, West Coast’s Tony Olongo, Port Adelaide’s Emmanuel Irra and other prominent sportspeople of African heritage pleaded with the public not to attribute the actions of a few to the whole African-Australian community.

“As many of you are aware, there are current social and youth issues causing harm, conflict and division within Victoria,” the statement read.

“To be clear, we in no way, shape or form, stand for such behaviours, but we urge the broader community to not allow it to define everyone of African descent.

“We as role models and members of the African-Australian community have come together to promote and represent the majority of the African-Australian community that are contributing and valued members of this country.

“Within the African-Australian communities are mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters, keen university students, children and young people with dreams and aspirations to become the next Majak Daw, Thon Maker or Deng Adut; respected professionals in their own right. This is what should come to mind when assessing the general population of African-Australians.”

Aliir Aliir, Gach Nyuon, Jason Johannisen, Majak Daw, Reuben William and Mabior Chol in 2016.

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I started off as a skinny, 18-year-old Frankston kid driving a 1994 Holden Commodore.

I left seven years later with a ton of skills and knowledge to help with my transition into non-AFL life, whilst driving a 2013 Holden Commodore.

Being in the AFL system is everything it’s cracked up to be. You build great relationships, you live a healthy lifestyle, you spend every day with 45 of your best mates and you get to play the greatest game on earth.

Having said that, it’s bloody hard. The constant physical and mental strain being put on the players, coaches, partners and families gets overseen because, from the outside, it’s all about results and nothing else.

My seven years were like most careers. Lots of ups and downs, injuries, form slumps and self doubt.
Self doubt ruins careers.

You bring a confident and free 18-year-old into the AFL system who is ready to take his career by the scruff of the neck, and unless you have AND utilise the correct resources around you, in the blink of an eye, your on-field personality can go.

You fear failure, you play safe and you’re scared to make mistakes because you think you need to be perfect. Unfortunately, I only realised this in my last season.

My seventh year, a year spent all in the VFL — besides one game — and the year of my delisting, was my most enjoyable year.

I built so many better relationships, on and off the field. I learnt more about myself and what makes me tick, and I managed to play my best year of consistent football.

Finishing off the year with a VFL premiership medallion would have been great, but the program was about the year as a whole, not the disappointing final two hours at the end of a very successful season.
What also came from a year in VFL was my silver lining. I found a huge passion for coaching, which if I played in the AFL team, I daresay I would not have found.

From that, I am now the defensive coach at the Frankston Dolphins who have rejoined the VFL. I’ll also be pulling on the boots.I get unbelievable satisfaction about helping other people achieve what they want, and with this role I feel I can contribute in helping others.

Although I no doubt would love to still be in the AFL system, I’m looking forward to my new life in Frankston, with family and friends.

Grand Final day was great, even thought I didn’t take part. I went through a whole host of emotions. Nervous, excited and disbelief come to mind, but the one that I can still feel to this day when I look back, is pure happiness.

No anger, no jealousy. Pure happiness.

I’m smiling as I write this while thinking about that remarkable day. People ask me what it was like to be there last year but not actually be part of it.

My response is that although 22 blokes played, 100+ people contributed to the club’s success, and that’s why I’m looking forward to watching another great year in 2018.

Go Tiges.


McCartin pens two-year extension

Emerging key forward Paddy McCartin has reaffirmed his commitment to the St Kilda Football Club, signing a two-year contract extension.

The 21-year-old put pen to paper to remain in red, white and black until at least the end of 2020.

Recruiting and List Manager Tony Elshaug said McCartin was an important signing as the club continued to develop its young talented list.

“It’s a great sign when one of your emerging players recommits to the club long term as Paddy has done,” Elshaug said.

“He has become a really popular member of our playing group and obviously sees a bright future at the Saints.

“Paddy has shown great character and resilience in the way he has confronted every challenge over the past three years.

“His work on the training track in the latter stages of last season and throughout the pre-season has been first rate and we’re excited by the player he can become in the coming years.”

McCartin said he was fully committed to helping St Kilda become a genuine contender.

“I love the club and I’m excited for what the future holds,” he said.

“The club has invested a lot in me and I look forward to repaying their faith.

“There is a great feeling among the group and we are really hungry to take the next step this season.”

McCartin returned to full training last week after suffering a minor foot sprain in early December.

He has played 22 games and kicked 22 goals since being drafted to the Saints with pick No. 1 in the 2014 AFL Draft.

Rising Ryan extends with Freo

Fremantle’s 2017 NAB AFL Rising Star nominee Luke Ryan has agreed terms to a two-year contract extension with Fremantle.

The deal will see the exciting young defender in Fremantle colours until at least the end of the 2020 season, with the extension on top of the one year remaining in the 21-year-old’s original contract.

Emerging as a part of a developing core of young players at Fremantle, Ryan said he was looking forward to seeing what he can achieve with the club.

“I feel very excited and very privileged to be a part of Fremantle for the next three years,” Ryan said.

“I’m looking forward to it. We’re all quite young and playing together so, hopefully, we’ll stick with each other for a few more years.

“I can’t wait to see how we go this year and in the years to come.”

Ryan went close to breaking an AFL record in his debut season, with his nine intercept marks against Gold Coast in round 20 one short of the AFL record.

Luke Ryan showing his marking ability against North Melbourne in round 16

He impressed during his 11 AFL appearances despite a hampered pre-season, dealing with shoulder and ankle injuries earlier in the year.

The half-back went on to feature for Peel in the WAFL finals series in September, winning the Simpson Medal as best on ground in the WAFL Grand Final against Subiaco.

“I’m feeling a lot better (compared to this time last year),” Ryan said.

“I had the shoulder injury, so I didn’t do much running and I wasn’t as fit as I am now.

“I feel a lot fitter and a lot stronger. I can’t wait to get out on the track and start playing some games.”

Ryan joins no.2 pick Andrew Brayshaw in signing a contract extension with the club this week, with the young midfielder extending his original two-year deal through to the end of the 2021 season.

General manager of list management Brad Lloyd said the excitement building around Fremantle’s young list made it easier for young players to make the call to extend their time at Freo. 

“Luke’s settled in really well. We’ve got really good facilities and a vibrant young group coming through at Freo,” Lloyd said.

“It’s a good lifestyle for the players. Luke didn’t hesitate to with the extension and we’re keen to see him develop.”

According to Lloyd, securing Ryan was crucial for a growing Freo defence.

“Luke has a key role in a young backline, he reads the ball well, he’s a smart player, he’s good overhead, he’s courageous and he uses the ball really well off half-back,” Lloyd said.

“He’s come back to the club in really good shape and he’s run well. He’s in the early stages of pre-season and we feel like he’s setting himself up well.” 

2017 PMG Draft Class

Phoenix welcomed a total of 10 new faces into the AFL via the National and Rookie Drafts this year. 6 of those coming from the National Draft and 4 coming from the Rookie Draft.

In addition to those picks, Billy Hartung was selected in the National Draft but North Melbourne after being de-listed by Hawthorn. Roarke Smith and Lewis Pierce were taken back by their respective clubs in the Rookie Draft. 

Run, repeat: Parish pumps out the kilometres

ESSENDON young gun Darcy Parish plans to take his running capacity to a new level this pre-season in a bid to keep pace with the competition’s best midfielders.

The No.5 pick in the 2015 NAB AFL Draft has racked up 40 games in his first two seasons, but admits he was found wanting on occasion.

“Probably for me it’s that repeat effort, aerobic running (that I need to work on most),” Parish told RSN927.

“It really does test me at AFL level, getting from contest to contest, so it was a big focus for me over the break to work on and it will be a big focus for me this pre-season.

“You see some of the greats of the game, how they work, and you get to play alongside some of them, like Danger (Patrick Dangerfield) and (Joel) Selwood and the likes of these guys.”

Parish averaged 21.1 disposals, including 8.5 contested, last year, to go with 3.3 tackles, 3.2 clearances, five score involvements and 2.6 inside 50s.

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Darcy Lang joins the Blues

HERE’S everything you need to know about new Blue Darcy Lang, who has joined Carlton from Geelong. The Club secured his talents on the final day of the trade period after the Blues traded pick 58 and a future fourth-round pick for Lang and Geelong’s future fourth-round pick.

Age: 21
Height: 183cm
Weight: 81kg
Recruited from: Geelong Falcons/Geelong Footbal Club
Draft history: Selected by Geelong with its first-round selection (pick 16) in the 2013 AFL national draft.

Debut: Round 13, 2014 v St Kilda
Position: Midfielder
Career games: 44
Goals: 31


Having kicked 31 goals in 44 games for the Cats, Lang arrives at Ikon Park with the ability to play run through the middle and push up forward. After making his debut in 2014, the Colac local has been a consistent contributor for Geelong, playing in a variety of roles. He received a Rising Star nomination in 2015 after a breakout performance against St Kilda and was a standout in Geelong’s win against Hawthorn on Easter Monday last year. The 21-year-old predominantly played as a high half-forward for Geelong in 2017, before injury interrupted his season. In a testament to his character and desire to push for senior selection, Lang recovered in time to be recalled for Geelong’s finals campaign, starring against Sydney in the semi-final. 

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Austin becomes a Saint

St Kilda Football Club has secured promising key defender Logan Austin after a deal was struck with Port Adelaide Football Club today.

St Kilda exchanged the club’s future third round selection (2018) for Austin and Port Adelaide’s future fourth round selection (2018).

Austin, 22, originally hails from Canberra and has played 13 AFL games after being drafted to the Power with pick 69 in the 2014 AFL Draft.

St Kilda List Manager Tony Elshaug said Austin would add important key position depth.

“One of our major objectives during the trade period was to add key position depth and we feel Logan Austin fulfills that need,” Elshaug said.

“He is player that our recruiting team have tracked for a while now and someone we believe has plenty of upside.

“He has outstanding character and while we think he will improve, importantly he is ready to play a key defensive role immediately if called upon.”

The Logan Austin lowdown

DOB – 8 July 1995

Height – 184cm

Weight – 85kg

Drafted – Pick 69 in the 2014 National Draft from Belconnen

Playing history – Debuted against Collingwood in Round 1, 2016. Played 11 games that season and two games in 2017 after returning from a leg injury.

Zaharakis signs new deal


David Zaharakis has signed a new four year deal with the Bombers.


Essendon Football Club is pleased to announce David Zaharakis has signed a new four-year contract.

The deal will see Zaharakis remain at the Club until at least the end of the 2021 season.

The 27 year-old said he is proud to secure his future with the Club but knows the hard work is just beginning.

“It’s fantastic to get the contract finalised on the eve of what will hopefully be a very exciting finals series for us,” Zaharakis said.

“Essendon has been such a significant part of my life for a long time. I grew up barracking for the Bombers, and over the past nine years I’ve been able to live my childhood dream.

“We have such a proud history of success, and it’s our job as players to ensure that tradition continues.

“We’ve been starved of finals success for such a long time, so it’s time for action and we hope all the hard work, effort and commitment we’ve put in this year pays off over the coming weeks.

“As a playing group we’re committed to ensuring this Club gets back to where it belongs, and the talent and dedication within the playing group provides me with great confidence about the future direction.”

Zaharakis is a Crichton Medal winner who has established a reputation as a big game player.

He kicked the match-winning goal in the 2009 ANZAC Day match and won the ANZAC Day Medal in 2013.

This season the midfielder is averaging career-highs in disposals (26 per game), marks (five per game) and inside 50s (five per game).

Senior Coach, John Worsfold, said Zaharakis sets a great example for his teammates.

“David’s preparation is elite so it’s no surprise he’s been such a consistent performer over a long period of time,” Worsfold said.

“Last year he carried a significant workload in the midfield and played an important leadership role, not only supporting Brendon Goddard, but also mentoring his younger teammates.

“He’s had a slightly different role this year which he’s adapted to really well.

“His running power and skill level makes him a central part of our midfield group for not only this season, but pleasingly the next four years as well.”

Zaharakis has played 169 games for the Club since arriving at the Bombers via the 23rd pick in the 2008 National Draft.

List and Recruiting Manager, Adrian Dodoro, said Zaharakis is entering the prime of his career.

“David is going to play a key role in our midfield over the next four years,” Dodoro said.

“He’s a lifelong Essendon supporter and it’s great to see him continue his commitment to the Club.

“We’ve got an exciting group emerging in the middle of the ground with Zach Merrett’s continual improvement, Darcy Parish’s promise and potentially Andrew McGrath spending more time in there.

“David will continue to play a key leadership role with those young guys and also brings a consistent level of output from which we can build a really strong group around.”

Sis Signs On

James Sicily will remain at Hawthorn until at least the end of 2020 after agreeing to terms with the club this week.

The young Hawk has been in career best form since switching to defence in Round 14, averaging 23.3 disposals, 4.5 rebound 50s and 8.8 marks across the past nine rounds.

Wrapping up his third season at the club, the 22-year-old has averaged 18 disposals a game in 2017, far exceeding his previous best of 12.6 (2015).

Hawthorn Recruiting and List Manager Graham Wright says the club is pleased to have secured one of the game’s budding young talents.

“James is an exciting player to watch,” said Wright.

“His passion and determination is on display every time he plays, and he’ll continue to hone those qualities as he develops.

“He plays an important role within our young backline, and we’re looking forward to seeing where this emerging group of players can take us.”

Hardwick’s challenge to Townsend pays off

WHEN Jacob Townsend was warming up for his first senior match of the season on Sunday, Richmond coach Damien Hardwick set him two simple objectives; apply pressure and kick a bag of six. 

The first part would be easy for the tough ex-Giant, but with just four career goals to his name and none since 2015, the second part appeared to be impossible.

In just his fifth game as a Tiger, Townsend got to work early, kicking two of his team’s three first-quarter goals when the Dockers were up for the fight in their final game at Domain Stadium on Sunday. 

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Rising Star: Docker makes his mark

LUKE Ryan’s former Maribyrnong Park coach was glad – in a way – about the rookie Docker’s one-match ban last month for a drinking indiscretion. 

Robbie Castello, also the ex-captain of Werribee’s VFL team, was disappointed his uber-talented, one-time protégé had found trouble in his first season as an AFL footballer. 

Ryan already had a reputation as “a bit of a lad” who enjoyed a big night out with his mates. Some AFL clubs even dodged him because of that, and recruiters constantly rang his Coburg VFL coach Peter German last year asking whether they could trust him. 

But there’s something Castello and German knew about the 21-year-old, that others missed – and what Fremantle looks set to benefit from for the next decade or more. 

Hidden behind the off-field problems was a hardworking kid always keen to rectify his missteps, which, in reality, were never serious. 

Castello believes the suspension setback – for drinking alcohol with teammate Brennan Cox after the Western Derby, only six days before the next game – happening early in Ryan’s AFL career will be a blessing in disguise.

Ryan told it was just a coincidence he had produced his two best performances in the fortnight since returning to senior level, but he has certainly paid the Dockers back. 

There were 25 disposals and 14 marks against Greater Western Sydney, before an extraordinary 28-possession, 16-mark showing at Gold Coast’s expense on Saturday night. Nine of his marks were intercepts – one short of the record – and his effort was rewarded with the round 20 NAB AFL Rising Star nomination.

Three more years for Melican

Emerging Sydney Swans defender Lewis Melican has been rewarded for his breakout season, signing a three-year contract extension.

The 20-year-old will remain in red and white until at least the end of the 2020 season.

Sydney recruited the late bloomer with pick 52 in the 2015 Rookie Draft from Birregurra in country Victoria.

The key defender had to bide his time in the NEAFL for his first two seasons on Sydney’s list, before getting an opportunity to make his debut in Round 5 this year.

Melican has made the most of his chances at senior level, having missed just one game since making his debut and performing at a consistently high level.

Swans Head of Football Tom Harley says he’s pleased to secure Melican’s signature.

“Lewis has been on a gradual improvement curve since arriving at the Swans as a rookie three years ago,” Harley said. 

“After overcoming a few injuries, he was able to put together a really solid pre-season and force his way into the senior team. 

“His poise with the ball, competitive nature and overall character hold him in good stead and we are very happy that he has committed to us for the next three seasons.”

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Young star signs on

Essendon Football Club is pleased to announce, Darcy Parish, has committed to the Bombers for a further two years.

The new deal will see the exciting young midfielder remain at the club until at least the end of the 2019 season.

Parish said the Club’s promising future was the reason behind his decision to re-sign.

“I’m really excited about our future and proud to sign on for two more years,” Parish said.

“We’ve got a great group of players, with a solid mix of youth and experience, and while we know we have a lot of hard work ahead of us, I really feel like we’re heading in the right direction.

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Hardwick’s star on the rise

Young Hawthorn defender Blake Hardwick has been rewarded for his impressive performance against the Pies with the Round 15 Rising Star nomination.

Hardwick gathered 19 touches, including 11 intercept possessions, at 95 per cent disposal efficiency on his way to earning the nomination. Playing on dangerous small forward Jamie Elliott, he held the Magpie to just one goal and 10 touches for the match. 

In his 11 games this year, Hardwick is averaging a tick under 15 disposals a game while playing across Hawthorn’s half back flank.

The 20-year-old currently sits sixth in the league for average disposal efficiency (of those who have played at least three games) with 87 per cent.

In his post-match press conference, Alastair Clarkson praised his young defender for standing strong against tough opponents in consecutive weeks. 

“Hardwick played on Eddie Betts last week and played on Jamie Elliott this week, and he’s kept those guys to just two goals across two games.

Young Hawthorn defender Blake Hardwick has been rewarded for his impressive performance against the Pies with the Round 15 Rising Star nomination. Hardwick gathered 19 touches, including 11 intercept possessions, at 95 per cent disposal efficiency on his way to earning the nomination. Playing on dangerous small forward Jamie Elliott, he held the Magpie to just one goal and 10 touches for the match.  In his 11 games this year, Hardwick is averaging a tick under 15 disposals a game while playing across Hawthorn’s half back flank. The 20-year-old currently sits sixth in the league for average disposal efficiency (of those who have played at least three games) with 87 per cent. In his post-match press conference, Alastair Clarkson praised his young defender for standing strong against tough opponents in consecutive weeks.  “Hardwick played on Eddie Betts last week and played on Jamie Elliott this week, and he’s kept those guys to just two goals across two games.

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