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Australian News

Century-old SANFL magazine faces uncertain future as digital edition abandoned


A 106-year-old magazine considered integral to SANFL football culture may never be printed again thanks to a season disrupted by coronavirus and an ongoing decline in sales.

The Budget has been touted by hawkers at suburban football matches since 1914. It’s a weekly magazine packed with player information, team stories, fixtures, and printed scorecards that many followers traditionally fill out at each game.

But this year the SANFL trialled a digital-only edition for the first two rounds of a delayed season — an experiment it said had been in the works for some time due to declining sales in print.

“Across all five [weekly] games last year, we were averaging between 1,400 and 1,900 sales per round, which reflects a steady decline in the past five years,” SANFL commercial operations general manager Neal Matotek said.

“Revenue from advertising sales had also declined significantly.

“This has resulted in a large net cost to fund its production and distribution.”

The inside of a football magazine with names of each player along with their statistics.
Filling out the printed score card in The Budget is tradition for many SANFL followers.(ABC Radio Adelaide: Malcolm Sutton)

Digital edition fails to fire

Despite high hopes for the digital-only trial, fans were largely uninterested.

In the grandstands at Adelaide Oval, some fans instead brought notepads with ruled margins and hand-drawn player boxes so they could continue to fill out their own personal scorecards.

“With significantly reduced revenue because of fewer AFL matches being played at Adelaide Oval, neither SANFL nor our publisher could afford the commercial risk or cost of continuing to produce a weekly digital publication in this environment.”

He said the digital edition would be replaced by a 2020 Season Guide, with the long-term future of the magazine to be reviewed at the end of the season.

Mr Matotek said The Budget’s production and distribution was outsourced, with the equivalent of a full-time job and two casuals employed to sell the magazine at every match to be affected.

SANFL Grand Final 2018
A lack of crowds at the football in 2020 has also played a role in the magazine’s demise.(ABC Radio Adelaide: Malcolm Sutton)

A life-long tradition

Long-time SANFL supporter Tim Anson has been buying The Budget since he moved to Adelaide in 1979 and joined his grandparents in supporting Glenelg Football Club.

“They’re shouting, ‘Get your budget, get your budget’, really loud, and you can always have a chat with them.

“It’s good value, and quite often it’s young kids selling The Budget too.”

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Mr Anson said he was not the type to fill out the scorecard pages, but he did retain editions with the scribblings of some big football names instead.

“I’ve got one floating around somewhere where I got [Adelaide Crows player] Bryce Gibbs to sign it,” he said.

“That was when he played for Glenelg as a 17 or 18-year-old.”

He said fans had long used The Budget to match player numbers on the field to the names.

“It’s about the only way you could do it, but you could do it online now, I guess, if you’ve got your phone in front of you.”

App hits 150,000

Despite abandoning The Budget for the rest of the 2020 season, Mr Matotek said the SANFL’s digital platforms were “growing”.

Its SANFL app had about 150,000 users, which he said had led to “significantly higher viewership of our website content”.

“There is definitely an appetite from fans for local footy news and stories on SANFL players,” Mr Matotek said.

“They are now just being delivered via our digital platforms as an alternative to the traditional printed Football Budget.”



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Local News - Victoria

Future of Abbotsford Centrelink uncertain as union calls for answers


Since then, according to the Community and Public Sector Union, Services Australia has not engaged with either the people who work in the office – which also includes a Medicare service centre – or members of the public who rely on it.

Alistair Waters, the union’s national president, said in a letter to Services Australia that the agency had no intention of negotiating a long-term lease and was “focus[ed] on shuttering” the office.

“It has sought a month-by-month arrangement so it could control the timing of the closure and limit input from staff and the community,” he said.

“We are concerned that Services Australia is not telling the public or staff what its real objectives are or what it is really doing.”

The union claims the agency contravened a workplace agreement by not consulting its employees and launched a formal dispute under the Fair Work Act which could lead to arbitration at the Fair Work Commission. The union has demanded an urgent meeting to resolve the matter.

Hank Jongen, Services Australia’s general manager, said the public would be informed of potential services changes and insisted there were no proposed changes to staffing.

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“As commercial negotiations about property leases are confidential, no further comment will be made until negotiations are concluded,” he said.

Mr Waters said there is insufficient space at the South Melbourne site to house the functions of the Abbotsford office and claimed Services Australia is planning to split the office’s functions to both South Melbourne and Flemington.

“There is no direct public transport to the Flemington Service Centre [and] travel would involve multiple changes and take well over an hour each way,” Mr Waters said.



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Business

Preparing for the future of work a team effort


Career education at school should be a collaboration between careers staff, students, parents, teachers and employers.

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Parents and carers should make time to see their school’s careers counsellor with their child, multiple times if necessary. They should encourage their children to explore their interests and values; to take advantage of the many career tools available; and to engage in the career program at their school.

It is okay if a child does not know what they want to do after school; any work experience, including casual work and volunteering, can help them develop their transferable employability skills.

I had no idea what I wanted to do when I left school. I think I saw a careers advisor once, and then left at the end of year 10 to pursue a secretarial job in the city so I could buy my own car.

Over the years, I worked in a variety of administration and accounting roles in business, eventually working my way up to management level.

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In each job I had, I found my roles always seemed to evolve into roles with a people focus.

Fortunately, one day a manager encouraged me to study human resource management and created a new position for me.

Later in my career, I had a stint in employment services working with people with a range of barriers, helping with their career development.

While in this role, I became interested in working with young people and assisting them to get a start, particularly into apprenticeships or traineeships, where they would get a qualification as well as a job. I found mentoring a young person and seeing their self-esteem and confidence build as they succeeded, to be extremely rewarding.

It was this passion and commitment to the career development of young people that led me to apply for my ‘dream job’: my current role as career pathways coach at Bishop Druitt College, Coffs Harbour.

As I was not trained as a teacher, I am fortunate indeed that Bishop Druitt College saw that my HR background, experience and existing business networks could bring an industry focus to the Careers role.

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Australian News

Super Rugby AU rule changes hoped to bring crowds back and change future of the game


It’s fair to say there will be many more eyes on Australia’s new domestic rugby competition when it kicks off this weekend than just those of the diehard fans.

Super Rugby AU is Australia’s equivalent of New Zealand’s Super Rugby Aotearoa, and was quickly formed to fill the breach left by the 15-team, five-nations Super Rugby tournament which went into COVID-19-enforced hibernation in mid-March.

The future of that competition remains in limbo, with both South Africa and Argentina isolated and their new case curve still trending upwards. Japan’s Sunwolves were to be mothballed at the end of the 2020 season anyway, and though there were attempts to have them play in the new Australian competition, they’ve now played their last game.

Australia’s four Super Rugby sides — the Queensland Reds, NSW Waratahs, Melbourne Rebels, and the Brumbies — will be joined by the Perth-based Western Force in a full home-and-away competition played over 10 weeks plus two weeks of finals.

For the Force, it marks their return to top-flight Australian rugby for the first time since their axing from Super Rugby at the end of the 2017 season.

Western Force players wait for a try decision during the World Series Rugby match against Fiji in 2018.
The Western Force will be welcomed back to the fold.(AAP: Richard Wainwright)

But it’s the law variations in place that will draw the extra attention, and from the moment the Reds and Waratahs run out onto Brisbane’s Lang Park on Friday night. Behind every one of the changes is an intention to make a more enjoyable spectacle of the game for spectators, fans and players alike.

A couple are already in place over the ditch, with Super Rugby Aotearoa implementing 10 minutes of “golden point” extra time in the event of a scoreboard deadlock after 80 minutes.

The other is the allowance to replace a player sent from the field with a red card after 20 minutes. The sent-off player can’t play any further part in the game, but the contest can be restored to 15 players on 15, 20 minutes later.

Neither has been seen in New Zealand yet in three rounds, but Australia’s leading referee Angus Gardner is a fan.

“You definitely want the players to decide the game and as a ref you prefer to not make a decision that decides it,” he said last week, of the extra time allowance.

Gardner has been busy over the past fortnight, running live familiarity sessions around the new variations with the Waratahs and Rebels. The focus on the breakdown contest in Super Rugby Aotearoa — and the sharp upsurge in penalties — were a cause for concern initially, and were undoubtedly a reason Gardner and his colleagues were utilised during these intra-squad sessions around the country.

Ryan Louwrens holds a rugby ball in both hands and prepares to pass it away from a ruck
New rules around the breakdown have sped up play, but has also seen an initial uptick in penalties.(AAP: Scott Barbour)

“They’re really rewarding speed to the breakdown, I think for us that’s going to highlight our breakdown presence,” Rebels backrower Michael Wells said, his side spending this week of preparation in Canberra to escape the recent spike in COVID-19 infections in Melbourne.

“Attacking wise, you can’t be slow; you have to be really fast. Defensively, if you have a good on-ball presence you’re really going to get pay out of it. I think that was the biggest thing about having Gus [Gardner] here, just to be exposed to those new rules, because it’s different watching it in the New Zealand comp,” Wells said.

But the breakdown focus is having a positive impact already over the Tasman. In half a dozen games over the first three rounds in New Zealand, the rugby on display has been wonderful to watch, no doubt spurred on by huge crowds now allowed with no restrictions in place.

Fans applaud as players line up in the foreground
Super Rugby Aotearoa has returned to huge crowds.(Photosport via AP: Joe Allison)

The crowds will be much smaller when Super Rugby AU kicks off on Friday night, but it’s certainly hoped the rugby is no less exciting. Rugby Australia is also hoping the decision to go a bit further with law variations will have an impact, too.

Several of them roll over from last season’s National Rugby Championship, in which a rampant Western Force ran away with the title. The line drop-out allowance, which rewards the defending team if they’re able to hold the attacking team up in-goal, works as a faster way of restarting play instead of a five-metre scrum that risks multiple resets.

And 50-22 and 22-50 kicks carry over too, borrowing from rugby league’s 40-20, which will force teams to defend differently at the back, as well as open up attacking opportunity.

“Does that open up more space in the front line to play ball in hand?” Rebels attack coach Shaun Berne wondered.

“And if they don’t defend that back field, are we then able to kick and find those 50-22s?”

The players themselves can already see opportunities.

“It’s going to break some teams when we find that space and take those opportunities, it’s going to hurt a lot of teams,” Brumbies centre Irae Simone offered from Canberra.

Waratahs coach Rob Penney loves the removal of calling for a mark in the defensive 22 from kicks originating in the same portion of the field. But he’s equally wary of the architect of the idea.

“I am a bit worried about Matt Toomua and the impact that he is going to have. He is such a talented 10 and he has the ball on a string really,” Penney said of the Rebels and Wallabies flyhalf.

“I thought it was a real breath of fresh air to hear Matt talking about what could be really good for the game.”

A male rugby union player kicks the ball from a penalty goal attempt with his right foot.
Matt Toomua could have a huge impact with his boot under the new rules.(Reuters: Issei Kato)

As Rugby Australia works to negotiate its way to new TV deal for 2021 and beyond, the hope is that these variations and the exciting rugby it anticipates will result will be really good for the game over a longer term. Arguably, the future of the professional game is counting on it.

But the condensed campaign means there won’t be time for the five sides to work their way into contention. Most agree the Brumbies start overwhelming as the favourites, given they were running second overall when Super Rugby was suspended.

Brumbies prop James Slipper says that just means the side is already determined to pick up where they left off back in March.

“It’s always important to start well,” he said.

“We actually addressed that this year in Super Rugby and we did start well.

“What you find is when you have a good start is you try and build on that momentum and that winning habit.”

Super Rugby AU Round 1 fixtures

Friday: Queensland Reds vs NSW Waratahs, Brisbane 7:15pm AEST

Saturday: ACT Brumbies vs Melbourne Rebels, Canberra 7:15pm AEST

Western Force have the bye.



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Australian News

Melbourne AFL clubs should be cautious speculating on future of struggling rivals


Recently, the noted AFL historian Russell Holmesby released an oral history titled The Death of Fitzroy Football Club.

The name is somewhat controversial because, according to the officially authorised AFL version, Fitzroy did not die but, in 1996, merged harmoniously with the Brisbane Bears and lived happily ever after as the triple-premiership winning Brisbane Lions.

But even 24 years later the words of the Fitzroy players, coaches, administrators and, most significantly, fans who faced the choice of embracing the new club or walking away betray mixed emotions about the “merger”, if not the Brisbane Lions themselves.

Former Fitzroy player and coach Billy Stephen transferred his allegiance to the new entity, yet still considers the loss of the Roys as, “like a death in the family”.

The patron of the Fitzroy-Brisbane Historical Society Mel Corben decided to keep following the Lions from afar. But he says his son, “couldn’t come on board. He is still mourning Fitzroy”.

Such lingering feelings will resonate with those who supported South Melbourne when it became the Sydney Swans, even after the wonderful 2005 premiership dedicated to the old Bloods, and of fans of merged or banished clubs in other competitions such as the NRL’s Newtown and North Sydney.

You would think such heartfelt words would also evoke sympathy from the administrators of clubs such as the Bulldogs, Hawthorn and Melbourne who came close to merging, although it seems a near-death experience is more easily forgotten in the club’s front office than in the grandstand.

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The sentiments betrayed in The Death of Fitzroy Football Club seem timely because its release coincides with an outbreak of pandemic panic — a period in which the financial squeeze on the AFL has put a focus on the very existence of some supposedly struggling clubs.

However, counterintuitively, it is not the AFL Commission or executive that is shining the spotlight on the red ink-stained books of debt-ridden clubs; at least not publicly.

AFL chief executive Gillon McLachlan has created a survival mantra to reassure supporters of clubs such as St Kilda and North Melbourne, who have been cast as candidates for relocation or removal: “The AFL went into this [season shutdown] with 18 AFL teams and 14 AFLW teams, and we will come out of it with 18 AFL teams and 14 AFLW teams.”

Rather, reflecting a mid-pandemic tilt from “we’re all in this together” to a form of Footy Hunger Games, it is the leaders of some rival Melbourne clubs that are questioning the existence of their suburban counterparts.

Hawthorn president Jeff Kennett suggested in a letter to his members that struggling clubs should face a promotion/relegation system, although he did not provide details of how relegated clubs would survive in the semi-amateur VFL if they went down.

Nor did it seem to cross Kennett’s mind that, in the same year Fitzroy’s remains were carted north, Hawthorn legend Don Scott stood on a stage before thousands of fans and theatrically ripped a Velcro Hawk from a Melbourne jumper, symbolising what would be left of his proud club if a proposed merger with the Demons proceeded.

A man in a suit stands with his arms folded among Hawthorn players.
Jeff Kennett has suggested struggling AFL clubs could be relegated to the VFL.(AAP: Julian Smith)

Far more surprising was the insistence of Western Bulldogs president Peter Gordon that struggling clubs show “greater accountability” and his publicly stated fears that the 18 clubs might not survive.

Yes, the same Peter Gordon who occupies a significant place in club history after tugging heartstrings and rattling cans in 1989 when the Bulldogs were set to be the junior partner in a merger with Fitzroy.

In the case of the once-struggling Hawthorn and Western Bulldogs, such forgetfulness demonstrates the mere chance that can decide a club’s fate. When the music stopped the Hawks and Bulldogs scrambled desperately and managed to grab a seat. Fitzroy was left standing.

Meanwhile, Offsiders panellist Caroline Wilson has reported further rumblings about the viability of North Melbourne and its suitability as a candidate to fill the vacancy in Tasmania; stories sourced from within the AFL and rival clubs.

History should not be a distant memory

Since South Melbourne’s relocation in 1982, truisms have been created to justify making decisions about someone else’s club or, more recently, to defend the loss-making ventures the AFL has created: “Victoria can’t support 10 teams”.

On the other hand: “The AFL can’t afford NOT to have teams on the Gold Coast and in Western Sydney.”

In such assessments, clubs made of flesh and blood are often cast as mere franchises. History is suddenly just distant memories not part of a team’s DNA. The emotions of supporters are disregarded as misty-eyed sentimentality in the face of gloomy financial projections. Dehumanising a club makes justifying its extermination much easier.

Accordingly, when Kennett, Gordon and the connections of other (currently) wealthy clubs fret about their reduced slice of a now smaller pie, you wonder how much self-reflection takes place. Do they remember it is only a quirk of historical timing that meant they had a relatively robust bottom line when a once-in-one hundred year pestilence descended?

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A footnote to the Death of Fitzroy Football Club is that the Brunswick Street Oval is now home to a vibrant community club in a now gentrified suburb that has taken the Fitzroy Football Club operating licence, name and colours.

The supporters of Old Fitzroy gather on Saturday afternoons to cheer for the local team, some wearing ancient hand-knitted scarves and beanies and badges honouring old Roys favourites.

It’s a great place to watch local footy and, for Fitzroy loyalists, there is a certain relief knowing the vultures of the AFL are no longer circling, but looking for other prey.

Offsiders will have highlights of the weekend’s AFL and NRL matches, and a detailed discussion on all the major sports issues from the week on ABC TV this Sunday at 10:00am.



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Local News - Victoria

Future quarry sites earmarked to feed state’s huge infrastructure appetite


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The report says construction materials such as concrete, bricks, asphalt, paving, road base and aggregates are made with resources extracted from quarries across Victoria.

“We need to secure these extractive resources close to demand areas to ensure more sustainable truck movements,” the report said.

“This will act to maintain cost competitiveness for construction, particularly as demand for these resources is expected to double by 2050.”

Sections of land in Wyndham near Werribee and Nyora in South Gippsland have been identified as “extractive resources areas” in a pilot project released for public consultation.

The proposal includes changes to existing planning provisions that will be applied to pilot project areas for the first time to “safeguard” potential quarry sites.

The changes would limit uses and development that “do not complement or safely coexist with quarrying activities”.

Wyndham is set to supply greater Melbourne with 50 million tonnes of hard rock from 2015 to 2050 but without additional quarries, the report warns, imports will be required given a forecast shortfall of 40 million tonnes over that period.

Both Wyndham and Nyora have existing quarries.

Township of Lara Care Group president Barry White has previously fought plans for a proposed quarry near his property near Geelong, which falls just outside the pilot project area.

Mr White fears the government is now clearing the way for more quarries to be built or existing sites expanded.

‘They’re like moonscapes. They’re terrible.’

Township of Lara Care Group president Barry White

“They’re like moonscapes. They’re terrible. It’s that impact we’re concerned about,” he said.

He raised concerns about exemption provisions in the draft report, fearing the community may not be appropriately notified that sites had been selected for quarries.

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Mr White also called for stronger protections to ensure environmental rehabilitation was carried out.

The Victorian government said consultation in Wyndham and South Gippsland about the draft policy was focused on planning for potential future quarries in coming decades.

A government spokeswoman said the draft policy was about securing access to resources to build affordable housing, better roads and public transport and other infrastructure.

“We’ve released the pilot for feedback because we want the community to be part of the process,” she said. “We encourage people to review the plan and provide their feedback so we can address any concerns they may have.”

The draft report said the pilot project would help determine whether special “extraction resource areas” would be progressively rolled out in other locations. Any new quarry would still need a planning permit and approvals.

The draft report says the project was a partnership between the Wyndham and South Gippsland councils.

An operating quarry near the You Yangs.

An operating quarry near the You Yangs. Credit:Joe Armao

But Wyndham mayor Josh Gilligan said the draft policy would lead to significantly increased truck movements in his municipality.

“Residents should not have to put up with even more trucks running on a single lane rural road because of chronic underinvestment and a continued push for residential development by the state to manage Victoria’s population growth,” he said.

Feedback on the policy will be examined later this year before a final decision is made.

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Retailers and residents at odds on over street’s future


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“Brunswick Street is now known for its trendy boutiques and eateries inhabited by tourists from the ‘burbs,” Maz Wilson, a co-founder and artist at erstwhile Brunswick Street institution Pigtale Pottery, writes in the book Brunswick Street: Art & Revolution.

“For a few short years, this vibrant neon strip with an edgy mix of grunge pubs, retro cafes, art galleries, comedy clubs, experimental theatre and bookstores was the hottest ticket in town. But soaring rents inexorably pushed out the avant-garde and a raft of cashed-up entrepreneurs and fashionistas moved in.”

Mr Ongarato laments there is no longer a balance of retailers: “You have your cafes and restaurants, but it takes a good mix to attract people to the street.” He believes the state government should lower land tax to attract different shops.

He is fed up with Yarra City Council. Parking inspectors are “like sharks”, council rates are “too high”, the council is slow to crack down on graffiti and limited parking permits mean his staff are constantly moving the company’s five vans.

After 50 years in Brunswick Street, Largo Butchers is moving to Alphington at the end of the year. “The council should be making it more attractive for businesses to stay, but they are just smashing everybody from pillar to post.”

The vacancy rate along Brunswick Street was 9.4 per cent in 2019, according to estate agent Fitzroys. Vacancies are predicted to spike this year as a result of COVID-19.

For Lease signs are popping up along Brunswick Street.

For Lease signs are popping up along Brunswick Street.Credit:Wayne Taylor

Yarra mayor Misha Coleman says the council is providing direct support for local businesses as part of its response to the coronavirus pandemic. She says permit and registration fees have been refunded and application fees to display signs and have chairs and tables on the street have been waived. Grants are also available for those businesses hardest hit and interest on COVID-19 related rates payment plans will be deferred until June 2021.

Last month the council also adopted a streetscape masterplan for Brunswick Street, aimed at strengthening the vibrancy and local identity of the strip.

However, to the incredulity of some locals, the projects in the masterplan have not been funded by the council, with just $60,000 set aside for a feasibility study. And some traders say the focus should be on addressing perennial problems such as parking and high rents and rates rather than beautifying the street.

Fitzroy Residents’ Association chair Martin Brennan was “gobsmacked” when Yarra Council voted to adopt the masterplan without bankrolling any projects. (The mayor says they are subject to funding in future council budgets.)

Fitzroy Residents' Association chair Martin Brennan was "gobsmacked" the Brunswick St masterplan was not funded.

Fitzroy Residents’ Association chair Martin Brennan was “gobsmacked” the Brunswick St masterplan was not funded.Credit:Wayne Taylor

“There is nothing worse than walking down a street and getting missing teeth,” Mr Brennan says. “The coronavirus has increased the decline to the point where we are in danger of becoming unable to attract services and people to the street.”

Mr Brennan believes we have taken Brunswick Street for granted since its cultural explosion in the 1980s and ’90s as the epicentre of Melbourne bohemia. He says even the art commissioned by the City of Yarra, including the ceramic seats by artist Joe Raneri, was executed in the 1990s.

The masterplan mulls some existential questions: “What are the things that make Brunswick Street Brunswick Street?”

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It posits some answers: eclectic patterns, art, verandahs and awnings, signage and thresholds – “that moment between street, shop or home [where] a myriad of tiling patterns and terrazzo tell tales of time past and present”.

At its heart, the masterplan is about creating new pockets of public space at key Brunswick Street intersections where people can sit and relax. It recommends more planting, more public seats, more rubbish bins and street fountains and relocating some of the toilets.

“We are not talking megabucks, we are not looking at a gold-plated rollout,” Mr Brennan says.

Councillors Stephen Jolly and Bridgid O’Brien abstained from voting out of frustration the masterplan was unfunded.

“There is a real lack of a sense of urgency in this debate about the crisis on Brunswick Street,” Cr Jolly said. “In the northern portion, from about Kerr Street north, it’s ‘For Lease’ sign after ‘For Lease’ sign.”

Mr Brennan says Yarra should borrow money to fund the masterplan. “In future budgets, this street will be dead and gone.”

Marios Cafe co-owner Mario DePasquale believes the reports of the death of Brunswick Street have been overstated.

Marios opened for business in 1986, focused on good coffee, quality food and having waiters better dressed than customers.

Mario DePasquale believes the death of Brunswick Street has been exaggerated.

Mario DePasquale believes the death of Brunswick Street has been exaggerated.Credit:Wayne Taylor

Marios has drawn luminaries including Barry Humphries, Kylie Minogue, Susan Sarandon and Tim Robbins over the years, although its egalitarian no-bookings policy famously pissed off comedian Jerry Seinfeld, who was turned away in 1998.

Mr DePasquale said the cafe remained busy on weekends even during lockdown, when it could only serve takeaway.

“Babka and Alimentari have been here for years and years and continue to do well. There’s a book shop next to us, Farro Pizza, Rice Paper Scissors, China Bar has opened a branch … A whole lot of stuff is happening, I just don’t believe the street is in decline. Yes, there are empty shops, but if you drive down Bridge Road or Chapel Street, you will see empty shops as well.”

Mr DePasquale is sceptical about the masterplan. He says Marios was not consulted, despite having been on Brunswick Street for 35 years. (The mayor says all businesses were invited to take part and more than 50 were “personally visited”.)

“Trees and seats … how is that going to attract anybody to the street to come to a cafe or bar or go shopping?,” Mr DePasquale says. “I think they think in different ways to people who run businesses.”

He believes money would be better spent on a street advertising campaign, a council-run carpark and a reassessment of the sky-high rents that are driving out the young groovy people.

“I don’t know why people are talking Brunswick Street down,” Mr DePasquale says. “I reckon it’s pretty cool as it is.”

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With the A-League’s future uncertain, Australian football must reconnect with its roots


Of all the coronavirus content used to disguise the absence of actual sport, a personal favourite has been a small documentary series produced by Optus Sport titled Football Belongs.

The five-minute films were originally intended to precede the coverage of Euro 2020 and highlight the connection between Australian football and various clubs established by European migrants.

Of course the Euros have been postponed, but the images of what has become known as “old football” — the clubs that nurtured the game and contested the national league until the establishment of the A-League — have struck a chord with those who believe football has strayed too far from its roots.

While it hasn’t quite reached The Last Dance-sized audiences, Football Belongs has had hundreds of thousands of views across various platforms.

As series producer and Offsiders panellist Dave Davutovic wrote: “If one can’t see the positive connection between ethnic communities and Australian football, and broader assimilation, then they’re not trying very hard.”

Watching the passionate engagement of the volunteers at clubs driven by their Croatian, Macedonian, Italian, Dutch and other European heritage, and being reminded that so many influential figures such as Mark Viduka, Ange Postecoglou, Tony Popovic, Mark Bosnich, Mile Jedinak and Stan Lazaridis were quite literally born and raised in this environment, it is difficult to disagree.

Although, even as you consider the nostalgic images of grassroots clubs and their famous alumni, it is important to remember nostalgia ain’t what it used to be.

Issues such as crowd violence caught most of the non-football media’s attention before the National Soccer League (NSL) folded, but there were also systemic financial and governance problems that meant the league, in its historic form, was a clunky vehicle in which to navigate the road ahead.

Personally, having spent some time on NSL terraces there was a sense that as an outsider — a “skip” as my Greek and Italian school friends called me — you could be a welcome visitor, but never quite a fully fledged member.

Football players celebrating on the field.
Ante Milicic (left) and Tony Popovic (right) played for Sydney United, which displays Croatian colours on its crest.(Supplied: Sydney United FC)

In that regard, I was an advocate of the A-League, believing the new clubs could aggregate both the fans and the passion of the NSL while adding a new layer of largely Anglo-Aussie fans who had fallen in love with football through increased coverage of foreign leagues and the success of the Socceroos.

Yet in the brutal and officially mandated way Football Federation Australia (FFA) stripped away the game’s ethnic heritage — with the National Club Identity Policy banning clubs from being tied to ethnic, national, political, racial or religious symbols up until last year — you can see why some of the game’s true believers feel the new competition has exorcised the game’s multicultural soul rather than embracing it.

The consequence is that while there is a strong connection between A-League supporters and their clubs, there remains a missing link with the roots of the game.

This in turn helps explain the vast discrepancy between the game’s enormous participation numbers and the now potentially ruinous TV viewing figures for the A-League.

Football needs to find cash injection with broadcaster wavering

As the NRL powers into another round of V’landysball and the AFL prepares to start again, Fox Sports is demanding a substantial cut to its $57 million annual fee before the A-League cameras roll again. This is not surprising in the current environment, even less so to those who suspect the pay-per-view provider wants out of the deal altogether.

Meanwhile, News Corp reported on Thursday that the $3.5 million licence fee check from new club Macarthur FC is not yet in the mail, thus stalling the arrival of yet more income the FFA desperately needs to remain operational during this costly hiatus.

The Canberra Arrows in 1984, the capital's team in the NSL
The FFA banned top-flight clubs from being tied to specific ethnic or religious symbols or colours.(Capital Football)

The pending announcement of hosting rights for the 2023 Women’s World Cup could potentially provide some very good news for Australian football. Otherwise, the current outlook seems bleak.

In this context, Football Belongs was not merely a timely reminder of the game’s past. Plans for a national second-tier competition have created optimism among some of the featured clubs that they could again have a strong competitive presence beyond their state leagues.

This provides obvious challenges. For instance, would the inclusion of South Melbourne Hellas in a second tier mean Hellas fans who now support Melbourne Victory withdraw their allegiance, particularly if a promotion/relegation model is introduced?

While the cash-strapped FFA has a number of expensively produced “national strategies” gathering dust on the shelves, the answer might lie with the state federations that control a large proportion of the game’s assets and nurture the grassroots clubs.

The most innovative states are sourcing government grants to build the facilities required to ensure thousands of would-be players are not turned away. For the states, the current number of A-League clubs is insufficient to service the competitive aspirations of 1.9 million participants.

Giving strong ethnically based clubs practical support and the lure of a national second-tier competition might inspire even greater commitment and make that challenge of connecting the game from bottom to top easier.

Iain Fyfe running on a soccer field with a soccer ball at his feet
Many of the clubs in state leagues around Australia maintain their ethnic ties, albeit not as prominently as they once did.(Supplied: Ken Carter)

Another cause for optimism is the reputational improvement created by the FFA’s so-called “proper football people”, with chairman Chris Nikou and chief executive James Johnson benefitting from a strong connection to the game’s traditional clubs in the early stages of their reign.

As one state official said: “It’s so good to be able to pick up the phone and have a genuine football conversation with someone who understands the game.”

The recent involvement of many of the ex-Socceroos, including Viduka from the Golden Generation, has provided another potential link between old and new football.

While a sharp right foot doesn’t help solve the many intricate financial and social problems the game confronts, it is another way for the decades of know-how contained in those old ethnic clubs to find its way into the rooms where decisions are being made.

In troubled times, this is a welcome sign that football, and footballers, belong.



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Australian players reject Cricket Australia’s forecast of cash-strapped future due to coronavirus



Cricket Australia has a fight on its hands after the players rejected forecasts that the game is set to lose hundreds of millions of dollars due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The Australian Cricketers Association (ACA) wrote to the players saying it had no confidence in Cricket Australia’s figures.

According to the ACA, Cricket Australia is expecting revenue to fall by 48 per cent, from $461 million to $239.7 million for 2020/21, with a further 20 per cent reduction in 2021/22, from $484 million to $385.5 million.

The players currently have a revenue-sharing arrangement with Cricket Australia in which they receive 27 per cent of all revenue — an agreement that was realised after a bitter pay dispute in 2017.

The players association said it had little confidence in the forecasts because “they do not appear to be reasonable or consistent with an obligation of good faith”.

“From what the ACA has been able to determine so far, cricket is yet to suffer a significant adverse revenue event and the outlook for the game remains positive,” ACA chief executive Alistair Nicholson said.

The association also said the forecasts appeared inconsistent with an assertion by Cricket Australia chief executive Kevin Roberts that the chances of India touring Australia later this year were “9 out of 10”.

Nicholson said the ACA would start a dispute resolution process with Cricket Australia, as stipulated in the agreement between the two bodies, in an attempt to give more clarity on Cricket Australia’s forecasting process.

“To not follow this process would be to risk further damage to cricket, the game we all love, and its otherwise-bright future,” Nicholson said.

In March, Cricket Australia stood down 200 staff on 20 per cent pay, many of whom could be sacked in July.

Cricket Australia also asked the states to take a 25 per cent cut in grants.

Since then, many states have cut costs and axed more than 100 jobs across the country, directly affecting grassroots cricket.

Cricket New South Wales is holding out, believing — like the players — that the revenue forecasts are not credible, given there have been no cancellations.



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Australia’s restrictions ease in multiple states; Decision expected on future of Al Kuwait ship; US protests spark COVID-19 spread fears


Authorities in the German city of Goettingen say 160 people have been placed under quarantine after several large events caused a new coronavirus outbreak.

Thirty-five people tested positive for COVID-19 after attending a series of private events banned under coronavirus-related restrictions. Of those, one person is in serious condition.

City authorities said that everyone who had come into contact with the 35 would be tested, irrespective of whether or not they are showing symptoms. They said that they were now looking for 140 to 200 people who had contact in the first degree with those infected.

A local newspaper reported that the health authorities again contacted nearly 75 people on Sunday morning after they didn’t show up for testing as requested.

The central city’s social affairs department head said family groups had apparently met with relatives from other states last weekend, with the first infections already being reported as early as Tuesday.

The news came one day after German Chancellor Angela Merkel said that her country had “passed” the coronavirus test so far, but added that some hard work still lay ahead.

Although Germany has had a large coronavirus caseload, the number of deaths has remained comparatively low.

As of Sunday morning, Germany had recorded a daily rise of 286 new coronavirus cases, bringing the total number to more than 180,000 infections.

People relax on rafts and paddle boards on the Landwehrkanal in Berlin, Germany. Source: Sean Gallup/Getty



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