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AFL Brownlow Medal ceremony goes virtual, but the footy stars and their partners still rock red carpet looks


The Brownlow Medal 2020 ceremony usually takes place in Melbourne, but this year’s event was spread out across Australia.

The bulk of the players in the Queensland bubble were at an event at Carrara Stadium on the Gold Coast.

And there were events in Perth and Adelaide, as well as in Sydney and Melbourne.

AFL partners and players are shown across eight different screens with a scoreboard at the bottom on the left and right.
AFL players and their partners at Carrarra stadium, the SCG, the Gabba, Adelaide Oval, Perth Stadium and the Melbourne studio.(Supplied: Channel 7)

Things may be all over the place due to coronavirus, but the footy stars and their partners still delivered looks — even though attendees were reportedly told they didn’t need to follow a strict black tie dress code this year.

Here’s who dressed up and who didn’t (spoiler alert: everyone did).

The Brisbane Lions’ Lachie Neale and partner Julie didn’t hold back, with the new first lady of footy donning a sheer floor-length gown and tousled waves.

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And Hawthorn’s Jack Gunston rocked a suit and a face mask, captioning his Instagram outfit post: “Brownlow Medal Victorian Style.”

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Meanwhile, Melbourne’s Christian Petracca and his partner Bella were #Brownlow ready in Brisbane.

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The Brisbane Lions’ Charlie Cameron went for a suave dark velvet ensemble, with his partner Caitlin Seeto in an equally elegant black number.

Charlie Cameron smiles as he holds his partner Caitlin by the waist. They both wear black.
Charlie Cameron, with partner Caitlin Seeto, was up for the mark of the year gong but went home empty handed.(AAP Image: Darren England)

West Coast Eagles player Luke Shuey and his partner Dani were dressed to the nines.

Shuey said he was disappointed not to be playing this weekend.

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Melbourne’s Jack Viney and his wife Charlotte posed for pictures with their baby daughter Mila Grace.

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And the Sydney Swans’ Luke Parker cut a dapper figure next to partner Kate Lawrence, who stood out in a red number.

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Equally sharp were the Melbourne Demons’ Steven May and partner Briana.

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The Western Bulldogs’ Marcus Bontempelli and Tom Libatore brought their fashion A game, both rocking up to the Gold Coast event in style.

Libatore’s suit even covered up his, “My god you’re greasy” tattoo.

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The minor premiers take on the reigning premiers at Adelaide Oval in front of a crowd of 27,000.



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Follow all the action as the two traditional Victorian clubs do battle.



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Footy finals during coronavirus leave experts ‘very worried’ about spike in domestic violence


Attitudes towards women have long been an insidious undercurrent of Australia’s major football codes.

Most recently, there have been allegations of domestic abuse and drug use against Rabbitohs’ legend turned assistant coach and TV star Sam Burgess.

Burgess denies the allegations. Police and the NRL are investigating and the club vehemently denies there was a cover-up of allegations against Burgess.

Coach Wayne Bennett recently said the issue had “nothing to do with us” and “it won’t have any impact on the team whatsoever”.

Two men sitting in an empty stadium.
Police and the NRL are investigating allegations of drug use and domestic abuse against Sam Burgess (left).(AAP: Darren England)

Allegations about attitudes towards women are not just a problem in rugby league. And in some cases it involves violence.

AFL player Elijah Taylor’s career is in jeopardy with the Sydney Swans after he pleaded guilty to aggravated assault of his former partner.

Former rugby league player Ian Roberts works with the NRL, running player workshops about harassment and sexual abuse.

He believes education is key.

“The NRL are kind of on the front foot but it’s a conversation that needs to be taken to the next level … the conversation needs to be had in the boardrooms.”

Former rugby league star, Ian Roberts. April 2017
Former NRL star Ian Roberts says league is a “man’s world” where tribalism still exists.(ABC News: Simon Beardsell)

Roberts admits harassment and abuse is still a bit of a taboo subject when it comes to footy.

He wants people to start talking about it, particularly around finals time.

“Rugby union, AFL, league, soccer, tennis — all the big ones need to have the conversation because that pushes things along and makes it public,” he says.

Respect Victoria is trying to do just that.

The organisation is dedicated to preventing family violence and violence against women.

At the helm is Tracey Gaudry, who became the AFL’s first female chief executive back in 2017 when she was appointed by Hawthorn.

Tracey Gaudry
Tracey Gaudry says rates of domestic violence spike during major sporting events.(YouTube: UCI)

“Sports is traditionally male dominated and therefore that unhealthy hyper masculinity can come forward in terms of power or rights,” Gaudry says.

So during these finals, Respect Victoria is urging people to call out gender inequality both on and off the field.

“Statistics show that rates of domestic violence spike during major sporting events,” Gaudry says.

“During the 2018 State of Origin, police callouts for family violence rose 40 per cent.”

She’s also concerned that coronavirus could compound those figures.

“The impact of coronavirus on the home has caused an increase in family violence,” she said.

“We are very worried about the compounding effects of football finals and the ongoing COVID restrictions.”

Sports broadcaster Emma Race is passionate about reaching equality and has worked with Our Watch, which prevents violence against women and children.

“It is men that are holding the positions of power still in sport and media, so they are essential to this conversation and we need them to come along with us, we can’t do this without them,” she says

Groups like Ladies who League are also working towards change by celebrating women in sport.

“Now that women in sport are more visible across the board, not just playing but in administration, the media, refereeing, you can only be what you can see,” Ladies who League founder Mary Konstantopoulos says.

A woman stands in front of a window in the city and smiles for the camera.
Mary Konstantopoulos, founder of Ladies who League, says we can all do more to help stamp out domestic violence.(Supplied: Ladies who League)

“Now young boys and girls want to not only be like James Tedesco, but Sam Bremner and Kezie Apps. That visibility is so important and a powerful message not just for women but boys because they will grow up in a world where that’s really normal,” she says.

Her organisation works with the NRL and has been supportive of actions taken like the “no-fault stand down policy” and the “voice against violence program”.

“The NRL is doing a lot but I want to say they can do more, we can all do more,” she says.



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Follow all the action of the qualifying final from Adelaide Oval between minor premier’s Port and finals’ stalwart Geelong.



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Private investment could hand the NRL a lifeline — but will profit-driven investors take the passion out of footy?


During this NRL season, the most conspicuous red smear has not been the blood wiped across the face of the prop who has copped a stray elbow. It’s been the sea of red ink covering the game’s ledger.

Australian Rugby League Commission chairman Peter V’landys has done a wonderful job keeping the competition running and, particularly, boosting the game’s morale in the most trying circumstances. But Pugnacious Pete is an inspiring wartime leader, not a human ATM.

The NRL expects to lose $150 million this season, most notably from the media-rights money lost when its deals with Nine and Fox Sports were renegotiated. Those losses extend into future seasons.

Meanwhile, competition leader Penrith revealed last month it would bleed $12 million in ticket sales and other projected revenue during a season that would normally fill the club’s coffers. Presumably, others have fared even worse.

Four Penrith Panthers NRL players embrace as they celebrate a try against the North Queensland Cowboys.
The Penrith Panthers have had a brilliant year, but the lack of revenue means they are in a bad financial position.(AAP: Cameron Laird)

Like society itself, it has been possible for rugby league to suspend thoughts of the future and the long-term economic havoc the pandemic will cause.

Struggling clubs have continued to sack coaches and pay out their lavish contracts, perpetuating just one of the profligate practices that had left the game more vulnerable to a sudden change of fortunes than it should have been given its media-rights riches.

But now the season is coming to an end, the bills are hitting the in-trays and axes are being sharpened.

The NRL’s announcement on Monday it would sack 25 per cent of staff to save $50 million had been anticipated.

But it is no less brutal when the human cost is revealed.

So, when a report was tabled valuing the NRL at up to $3.1 billion — as reported in The Australian on Monday — you can imagine the eyes of NRL and club officials lit up like smokers after a long-haul flight.

Beyond the valuation, the details of a potential injection of private equity capital are scant. Most notably, there is so far no thought of what control the game would forfeit for the cash that would allow it to continue business (pretty much) as usual.

Private equity investment in sport has become more common as other sources of revenue have been ravaged by COVID-19 restrictions.

A striker makes heart sign with his fingers as he celebrates a goal in Italy's top football league.
Serie A is one of the top sporting leagues in the world — but it has had to consider shoring up revenue during the pandemic.(AP/La Presse: Massimo Paolone)

The Italian Serie A and the English Cricket Board are just two organisations to have recently considered a revenue source that has traditionally been out of bounds.

In Australian sport, the potential influence of private investors has usually been considered contrary to a peak sporting body’s traditional standing as a not-for-profit organisation acting in the best interests of the sport as a whole.

So when the ARLC or the administration of any other sport ponders selling a stake in its operations, a pressing question arises: Is the sport (or even the peak league) theirs to sell?

You might argue the NRL belongs to the fans who monetise the game through their viewing habits; the clubs who continue to pull the strings for better or worse, or even the now-more-empowered players who are paid a percentage of the game’s revenue rather than mere weekly wages.

But if the actual deed to rugby league is hard to locate, there remains that vague general belief rugby league is owned by and on behalf of its various stakeholders, including the grassroots clubs and participants at the foot of the game’s trickle-down economy.

So what happens when you introduce another cashed-up but far less passionately invested owner? One with a sharp eye on profit projections and not much concern about whether the Canterbury Bulldogs can get out of the cellar or the local juniors can put a junior team on the park?

An office worker talks on his phone as he looks the stock board at the Australian Securities Exchange
What would rugby league look like if the money to keep the game afloat came from private investment?(Reuters: Daniel Munoz)

What promises would need to be made about financial accountability and profitability by a game that has, by its own admission, run a billion-dollar business like a cash bar at a suburban club to get a hand on those investor billions?

Even after the redundancies at NRL headquarters, you can assume there will be more cutbacks across NRL clubs and the game itself. Grassroots programs will suffer, as will potential growth areas such as women’s rugby league.

The ARLC might contend this will allow it to present to investors a lean competition with a large component of its media-rights contract locked in, one with the capacity to grow significantly when the COVID-19 restrictions are lifted.

But clubs that see private-equity cash as an immediate solution to their current financial plight should be wary.

The kind of investors with a spare billion or two will be far less sentimental than the local sponsors who pay over the odds to drink beer with club executives in corporate boxes and mingle with players in the sheds or at the annual dinner.

They certainly won’t have the same historical attachment to each of the nine remaining Sydney NRL clubs struggling to make ends meet in an intensely crowded sporting market.

You might argue the ARLC is desperately in need of the kind of bookkeeping accountability a major private investor would insist upon. That a billion-dollar game can’t prosper with its nickel-and-dime economy.

But before cashing private equity cheques, the ARLC and its stakeholders would do well to remember the next time potential belt-tightening measures including mergers and relocations are on the table, it would not just be the old club warlords and rugby-league-loving NRL administrators who are deciding the fate of the century-old game.



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Gnowangerup hometown hero boots 10 goals in local footy grand final


It is a record that even the AFL’s greatest forwards have not achieved, but a player in Western Australia’s south booted 10 goals in a grand final at the weekend.

Adding to the remarkable effort was the fact all 10 goals to Gnowangerup’s Timm House were kicked in the second half.

House lead from the front to take his side from a 22-point half-time deficit to a memorable win over Boxwood Hill in the Ongerup Football Association grand final on Saturday.

Gary Ablett Senior (9 – 1989), Gordon Coventry (9 – 1928) and Dermott Brereton (8 – 1985) fell just short of the record in AFL/VFL grand finals.

House, who spent time on Geelong’s AFL list from 2016 to 2018, had just one point to his name at the main break with his side notching the one major.

By the final siren, he had booted nine and was lining up for his 10th.

Football players celebrate a goal.
Timm House celebrates one of 10 goals he kicked in Gnowangerup’s grand final win over Boxwood Hill.(Supplied: Richard Poulish)

‘There wasn’t much we could do wrong’

“I certainly remember number 10 as it was after the siren, I kicked it through and I turned around and there was a pack of players jumping on me,” House told ABC Great Southern Breakfast.

“It wasn’t just me, the whole team lifted, we were playing a totally different brand of footy in the second half, everyone clicked and we started to believe we could come back and win.

“Once we had the momentum, there wasn’t much we could do wrong.”

An older man with his arms the shoulders of a younger man in football uniform, both grinning.
Richard House with son Timm House.(Supplied: Richard Poulish)

House was named best on ground in the grand final.

The final score was Gnowangerup 15.11 (101) to Boxwood Hill 7.4 (46).



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Local News - Victoria

Christian Porter urged to tackle online racism after attacks on AFL footy stars


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Jetta – who has been targeted with racist trolling on social media this year, along with fellow Indigenous AFL players including Eddie Betts and Harley Bennell – said strong action to stop such attacks was “the next step in the journey to reconciliation”.

“We’ve pushed for a lot of things, Aboriginal people, but now it’s time for the Attorney-General to lead the country in something that can … show what is happening right now in Australia is not on, and there’s going to be accountability,” Jetta said.

He said Indigenous players had decided to take on racism this year, prompted in part by feeling more could have been done to combat abuse towards former Swans star Adam Goodes.

“We felt as players that we didn’t do enough and we weren’t going to let that happen again. And whoever it was, how little or how big the slur was on social media, we were going to call it out, stand united as an Indigenous playing group and ask for support from our clubs, teammates and the football community,” he said.

The letter, initiated by AFL media commentator and teacher Shelley Ware, says: “In recent months, numerous athletes and personalities have been subjected to sustained racist attacks online, including through racist and demeaning language and images.

“As Aboriginal people, people of colour and allies, we are deeply concerned about the ongoing scourge of racism in Australia. Many of us have been personally targeted in harmful and repeated racist cyber attacks … we believe that there is a need for urgent, further action.”

Richmond Football Club CEO Brendon Gale – a signatory to the letter along with Carlton boss Cain Liddle, Hawthorn CEO Justin Reeves and Melbourne Storm CEO Dave Donaghy – said racism towards Indigenous players had become “more notable” this year.

“It [racism] is prevalent. I don’t know why … maybe it’s being called out more as well,” Mr Gale said.

The letter was “about a national conversation about law reform and to shine a light on [racism]”, he said. “I’m proud of putting my name there because [racism] is becoming more notable and we want to continue to create an environment where everyone feels included.”

Former rugby league player Joe Williams said it was vital more was done to combat online racism because it was inflicting trauma that could create long-term harm to the wellbeing of those targeted.

“Racism triggers trauma, it doesn’t just impact on us at an emotional level. There is loads of research showing trauma can be deeply embedded and have long-term effects on our physiological health,” he said.

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“If the government is serious about closing the gap when it comes to [Indigenous] health outcomes and life expectancy, then getting tougher on stuff like [racism online] should be one of those outcomes.”

Ms Ware, whose Instagram page was hit with organised racist attacks after she defended Betts, Chad Wingard and Jetta against abuse, said young Indigenous people were seeing increasing racism, and it was vital for their health to eradicate it.

“I think it’s escalating. People are having a go at [Indigenous] kids, players’ children, saying really vile things about them, and this is not being recognised by social media platforms,” she said.

Former Western Bulldogs vice-president Ms Alberti said she supported the campaign to increase accountability for racist trolling, because “it’s not on and we all need to call it out when we see it”.

“No matter our race, religion, gender, or even what football team we barrack for, we need to treat one another with respect in every forum.”

The Attorney-General said on Wednesday that the government condemned all forms of racism, an online safety act was in development to combat abuse and “there is a growing sense that online behaviour must have the same stringent rules applied to it as exists outside the internet”.

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Local News - Victoria

Pregnant mother arrested, footy identity visited in police crackdown on anti-lockdown protests


Just hours earlier, 28-year-old pregnant woman Zoe Buhler live-streamed her arrest on social media after detectives descended on her Miners Rest home armed with a search warrant.

After being told she was under arrest, Ms Buhler, who was wearing pink pyjamas, began to cry and told officers she would “happily” delete her social media posts as police made demands for her mobile phones and computer equipment.

Zoe Buhler live-streamed her arrest at her Ballarat home on Wednesday.

Zoe Buhler live-streamed her arrest at her Ballarat home on Wednesday.Credit:Zoe Buhler

A police spokeswoman said they had become aware of a prohibited gathering being planned for Ballarat on Saturday and warned anyone thinking of attending the protest that they could expect a swift and firm response from police.

“Police executed a search warrant at a Miners Rest address this afternoon and a mobile device was seized. As a result, a 28-year-old female has been charged with the offence of incitement and has been bailed to appear at the Ballarat Magistrates Court on January 25,” they said.

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“Any gathering of this nature is in blatant breach of the Chief Health Officer’s directions and puts Victorian lives at risk.

“We will have no hesitation in issuing $1652 fines to anyone who is breaching the restrictions on the day, or making arrests if necessary.”

Ms Buhler’s Facebook page includes links to a “peaceful, freedom day” protest in the centre of the regional city on Saturday. The event itself has since been removed from Facebook.

It followed the arrest of two men earlier this week who had since been charged with incitement for allegedly encouraging others to take part in a prohibited anti-lockdown protest in Melbourne’s CBD this weekend.

Fanos Panayides.

Fanos Panayides.Credit:60 Minutes

A 28-year-old Coburg man and a 38-year-old Epping man, identified as Mr Panayides, were later released on bail to appear in court in February.

A police spokeswoman said investigators seized several items including mobile phones, laptops and postage items.

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Forget footy and netball — fans are desperate to see these niche sports survive the pandemic


From people dedicated to an archaic form of tennis, to a 60-year-old table tennis association in a tiny sheep-farming community, country clubs for sports that usually fly under the radar are feeling the pinch of the pandemic.

Real tennis is an old form of the game played indoors, on a larger court, and similar to squash — you can hit the ball off the walls.

It is a heritage sport, a progenitor of modern lawn tennis, and one the members of the Ballarat Tennis Club takes pride in keeping alive.

But the club is now suffering under COVID-19.

“We’ve basically no income, it’s just stopped our income flat,” club committee member and player Catherine Faull said.

“Initially when it happened, we called out to members to pay their bills straight away so we could just get a handle on how much we had and what we needed to do.”

The club has around 120 members, who would normally pay a $399 early membership fee — out of goodwill, the club did not ask members to pay that fee this year, charging only for the month or so it was open.

A woman swinging a real tennis racquet.
Catherine Faull is concerned the future of her historically significant real tennis club is at risk because of the pandemic.(Supplied: Ballarat Tennis Club)

The club was still working out the toll of that financial hit.

“We have a professional tennis player, Andrew Fowler, who is employed by the club … so that’s been hard for him, thank goodness the JobKeeper kept him going,” Ms Faull said.

Unlike Aussie Rules, or soccer, the fact real tennis exists as a played sport is due to clubs like Ballarat’s — without them, it could be relegated to the annals of history, like a language that ceases to exist when its last speaker dies.

A real tennis court in Ballarat.
The rules of real tennis are similar to those of lawn tennis, but they are more complicated.(Supplied: Ballarat Tennis Club)

“We’d love to keep it going because, historically, it’s fascinating and we’d love to preserve that,” Ms Faull said.

“We’re planning for future events, but we’re also realistic that this 40-year-old club is at risk, basically.”

Croquet members ‘keen as mustard’

The Ballarat Western Croquet Club has been running for more than a century — they have also lost significant amounts of income because of the pandemic.

“We’ve cancelled probably three or four competitions,” club secretary Jenny Leviston said.

“But the main thing that’s affected is the cancellation of our groups that come to visit … we use them as one of our main fundraisers.”

Black and white picture of people playing croquet in Ballarat early in the 20th century.
People with croquet mallets in Ballarat early in the 20th century.(Supplied: Ballarat Western Croquet Club)

Croquet requires a pristine playing surface, and lawn maintenance is not cheap.

“The cost of chemicals is quite expensive, ” Ms Leviston said.

“We’ve got the greenkeepers cost, and just before Christmas last year, we spent over $3,000 top-dressing our lawns.

“We were hoping to get that money back with the competitions and the green fees in the new year, which we weren’t able to because we did have to stop playing very early in March.”

The clubs membership fees are kept low, as a lot of members are on fixed incomes — luckily, the croquet community is lively and dedicated, and so membership numbers haven’t plummeted over the last few months.

The club secured a State Government grant earlier in the year, but it was spent immediately on the water bill.

“The green-keeping is the main thing, and the water,” Ms Leviston said.

Multiple elderly people mow and rake the lawns at a croquet club.
The Ballarat Western Croquet Club lawn requires a lot of care from members.(Supplied: Ballarat Western Croquet Club)

“Our last water bill before Christmas was nearly $1,000 … so that’s a lot of money for a little club.”

Ms Leviston is hopeful the tenacity of the members will see them through this difficult stretch.

“I’m positive that the club will keep going because I know that our members are as keen as mustard and they love to be out on the court playing,” she said.

Players keep it going in between sheep farming

David Rowbottom has been the president of the Orford and District Table Tennis Association since 1972 and he said despite the setbacks brought on by the coronavirus pandemic, it will not be folding anytime soon.

The association was set up in the 1950s in the tiny south-west Victorian sheep-farming community of Orford, which had just over 100 residents at the 2016 census.

The Orford Memorial Hall.
The Orford Memorial Hall in south-west Victoria has been the base for a strong table tennis association since the 1950s.(ABC South West Victoria: Sian Johnson)

Mr Rowbottom said many similar associations had stopped operating over the years, but his club had a “tremendous core” of players that had stuck around for decades.

“It’s a great, clean sport and very rarely does anyone get injured,” he said.

The association usually has about 30 players but Mr Rowbottom said it was becoming more difficult to maintain numbers.

They carefully manage their funds and import high-quality tables from Germany and inherited some from the 2006 Melbourne Commonwealth Games.

“Family farms are disappearing and the young people go to the city for their jobs and not a lot stay around,” Mr Rowbottom said.

A man wearing a mask with a young woman and a boy.
David Rowbottom is instilling a love of table tennis in his grandchildren Ally, 14, and Jensen, aged 8.(ABC South West Victoria: Sian Johnson)

At the beginning of 2020 the association managed to attract more players from coastal hub of Port Fairy, but apart from a few games in between restrictions the competition has mostly been on hold.

“We’re pretty certain that the majority of the players that we picked up will keep going, but there is some concern about next year,” he said

“It definitely won’t be the end, though — we’ll keep going.”

Small sports rely heavily on volunteers

Chief executive of VicSport, Lisa Hasker, said weathering the COVID-19 storm has been tougher for the smaller clubs.

“You’re a big sport, you have resources to lean on … but the small sports are run pretty much entirely by volunteers,” Ms Hasker said.

“There’s a lot of areas where it’s harder because everything falls back onto those volunteers.”

Ms Hasker said the variety these smaller niche sports provide enrichens the sporting landscape around the Victoria.

“We’re all different; we all like different sports,” Ms Hasker said.

“But it doesn’t suit everyone, so I think [variety] is vital.”



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