Craig ponders putting up hand for Demons job

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By , 10/10/2018 09:47

Having declared he was finished as a senior coach after leaving Adelaide, Neil Craig has changed tack and says he will use the next 11 weeks to decide whether he wants to apply for the Melbourne role.
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Craig, 57, will be caretaker coach for the Demons after Mark Neeld was sacked on Monday. He had been a senior assistant and mentor to Neeld.

This period before the end of the season will allow Craig to determine if he still has the passion for the top role, while also allowing the club to determine if he fits its as-yet unspecified criteria.

Asked on Tuesday if he wanted the top job on a permanent basis, Craig replied: “There are a couple of things on that. In the next 11 weeks, we will have the opportunity to see what the feelings are again.

“It is a tough job being the senior coach of an AFL club, doesn’t matter what club you’re in. It is a really tough job.

“The headaches as early as yesterday came back, so the stress comes back pretty quickly. There will be 11 weeks to gauge that.

“The key thing, of course, is that the club needs to be really clear about the type of coach it is looking for.

“Sometimes that can take some time. You might say it’s obvious they [Melbourne] will do that properly, but my experience is a lot of clubs don’t necessarily do that well. They don’t really know what they want.

“I am sure Melbourne will take its time to decide the type of coach it needs. That might be poles apart to myself.”

One major challenge for Craig will be to separate his style, manner and even game plan from Neeld, otherwise he could be seen as an extension of the problem that has derailed in the embattled club in the past 18 months.

Craig said he sympathised with supporters who were sick of “hearing what’s going to happen – they want to see some action and I think that’s fair enough”.

Premiership coaches Mark Williams and Paul Roos, and experienced former Sydney and Western Bulldogs coach Rodney Eade, top the Demons’ wish list.

Roos has again given mixed vibes, although he now says he would chat with the Demons if he was approached. The Demons would have submit a long-term, multimillion-dollar deal to secure him as part of an overhaul of its football department.

Craig said he had felt obligated to take on the caretaker role.

“When I finished in Adelaide, I was pretty clear on that [not coaching again]. These are exceptional circumstances, I guess,” he said.

“You certainly have a sense of responsibility in the end to the playing group, and to the football club in general to be part of helping the club through.”

This is not a new position for Craig, for he was caretaker coach of the Crows in 2004 when Gary Ayres stood down. He led the Crows into a preliminary final in his first full year, and made five consecutive finals appearances. He quit in July 2011 after a 103-point loss to St Kilda.

Craig said he had reflected on whether he could have done more to help Neeld, who managed just five wins and had a team regularly mauled by rivals.

“You certainly don’t like to see people go through what Mark has gone through over the 18 months. There has been no relief at all in terms of playing performance and off-field issues,” he said.

“Sitting watching it [on Monday], it brings back the emotions, having been through it myself.

“So you do reflect – could you have done it better, could you have done more? In hindsight, you say: ‘You could have done that a bit better, I wish I had done that’.”

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GALLERY: Favourite Harrison Craig wins The Voice

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By , 10/10/2018 09:47

There were all the things we’ve come to expect fromThe Voice in the series two finale. There were pyrotechnics, and there was glitter. There was song, dance, hyperbole, tears and celebrity guests. But finally, on Monday night, there was also a winner.
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Harrison Craig, 18, from Chelsea was the clear favourite from the outset, and with three number one singles on the iTunes charts, he coasted easily to victory on Monday night. The other finalists ranked as they were expected to, with kooky Danny Ross of Team Joel finishing in fourth place, Delta Goodrem’s folky charge, Celia Pavey, coming third, and former opera singer, Luke Kennedy, coached by new recruit Ricky Martin, taking out the runner’s up spot.

Craig, who describes his style as “popera”, a combination of pop and opera, was a firm favourite with coaches and home viewers alike dating back to his blind audition, when all four coaches spun in their chairs and tried to convince him to join their team. In the end, he got “Sealed”, the silver-tongued coach telling Craig, “It’s guys like you that make me want to coach.”

Seal, who was the subject of headlines last week when he lashed out at Australia’s “trash media” on Twitter following the alleged discovery of marijuana in fellow coach Joel Madden’s hotel room, had only cause for celebration last night, describing performing with Craig as one of the highlights of his life.

“You sing for a lot of people without voices and I think you know what I mean by that,” said Seal to Craig, who fought back tears as he thanked his coach, family and those who voted for him.

The show has received some criticism for focussing on sob stories rather than the talent, and Craig’s back story was one we were reminded of constantly. When speaking, he suffers from a stutter, and his father walked out on the family when Craig was six, something that he sang about in a self-penned ditty performed during last week’s semi-final.

But neither issue appears to have had an impact on Craig’s singing ability. His voice is one of the best we’ve seen on the show, and Craig himself has said to Seal of his father, “You can’t miss what you’ve never had.”

Eager fans had lined up from 5am this morning outside Fox Studios in Moore Park, Sydney for the partially live recording.

The biggest star turn of the night was provided by visiting US R’n’B artist Robin Thicke, who sang his hit single Blurred Lines. The top sixteen artists performed a rendition of John Farnham’s hit, You’re the Voice, at the start of the night, which will be released as a single in the very near future. Craig too, will release a single and album within the next couple of weeks.

The people who know Craig well use similar words to describe him.

“He’s just the same as what you see on TV, very relaxed, very loving, happy go lucky. He’s a very organised person,” says his Mum, Janine Cochrane.

“He’s just humble, he’s beautiful and he’s just a lovely human being and I’m just very fortunate that he’s my son.”

Ben Pisani, who was Craig’s music teacher during his VCE at Sandringham College, describes Craig as very family-orientated, caring and genuine. “He’s not pretending to be anyone.”

And singing teacher David Jaanz, who has groomed a number of The Voice contestants including last year’s finalist, Sarah de Bono, was also full of praise for Craig, who he has taught twice weekly since Craig was nine years old. “He’s a beautiful young man with the biggest heart, he’s very coachable,” he said. “I think he’s going to be one of the most successful artists ever to come out of Australia.”

While it’s generally agreed upon that Craig is as lovely off screen as when the cameras are rolling, his music career is less of a sure thing.

Karise Eden had a number one album following her win last year but has been relatively quiet since, with personal issues postponing any major touring.

Meanwhile, albums from winners of the UK and US series have failed to crack the top 100 in their respective countries.

Winning is no guarantee of success beyond the show, but after a gruelling ten weeks of filming, it still tastes sweet for Craig, who described it as “a pretty magical moment to have.”

When asked what he was going to do when he got home. Craig had only one thing on his mind. “Sleep. I’m going to sleep.”

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Milne faces four charges of rape

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By , 10/10/2018 09:47

Stephen Milne Stephen Milne
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Stephen Milne

Midway through an AFL season that has reached soap-operatic heights not seen in its 24-year history, St Kilda’s past has come back to haunt it.

Stephen Milne was charged on Tuesday with four counts of rape dating back to an incident involving a 19-year-old girl in 2004.

The shattered Milne learnt on Monday that the police believed they had enough evidence from the re-opened case to charge him after allegations the investigation had been previously interfered with.

By late Tuesday Milne was planning to play against Melbourne this weekend and appeared to have the cautious backing of his football club and the support of his coach.

The St Kilda board had scheduled an emergency meeting on Tuesday night and Milne was expected to attend a meeting at the club. The AFL refused to comment on Milne’s future but had not ruled him out from playing.

Club chief executive Michael Nettlefold, who was handling the situation from overseas with the AFL, his board and the players’ union. He refused to comment.

The Saints have a history of dealing with scandals of a sexual nature but they appear to have not seen this one coming. The last time they had a player charged with rape – Andrew Lovett in 2010 – the player was sacked immediately and his career effectively finished. The AFL backed the Saints.

Late last year another Saint, Jason Gram, was sacked after police intervened in a personal relationship involving Gram. Coach Scott Watters said later: ”We tried very hard to work through the situation that Gram was involved in. But when it gets to the point when the Victoria Police were involved, there is a gravity to that sort of situation.”

Lovett had endured a short, unhappy time at the club and with Gram, too, there were mitigating factors. But Milne is a beloved Saint in his 13th season with the club with 268 games and 564 goals to his name. A social media comment on Lovett’s Instagram stated: ”Wow! I wonder if Milney will get the arse like I did??? #sacked #unfair #innocentuntilprovenguilty…”

The dilemma facing the competition was not lost on anyone. The Milne investigation, which included his teammate Leigh Montagna, prompted the AFL to introduce changes to its code of conduct rules which included a clause allowing players to be stood down, suspended or sacked before being judged by a court of law.

Footballers are suspended for missing training, drinking too much or becoming involved in fights. The AFL pushed Carlton to suspend Brock McLean for an unsavoury tweet. This makes the prospect of a man charged with four counts of rape representing his football club a strange dilemma indeed. Should Milne be forced to wait until his committal that should see out this season which is expected to be his last.

Only last week Milne appeared to be taking cautious steps towards becoming an unlikely poster boy for villification as part of the competition’s campaign against crowd abuse, something he puts up with on a regular basis.

He met the league’s football boss Mark Evans to discuss his situation after admitting on Channel Nine: ”I cop a few words which aren’t good for anyone. I’ve got a couple of kids and they go to the footy and my family and parents have to cop the abuse. So the sooner we can stamp it out the better.”

In a season punctuated by scandal in which Essendon has been haunted by performance-enhancing drug allegations, the Melbourne Football Club virtually dismantled and Adam Goodes racially villified in extraordinary fashion, St Kilda until now has played below the radar.

It has taken more than two years for the club to escape the spectre of a 17-year-old schoolgirl and the subsequent scandals. As it happened this was to have been a week to celebrate Nick Riewoldt’s and Nick Dal Santo’s 250th games but their Wednesday media appearance was cancelled.

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Business is business but Soward feels robbed of farewell

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By , 10/10/2018 09:47

Outgoing St George Illawarra five-eighth Jamie Soward feels robbed of having the chance to farewell the Dragons faithful but says his impending short stint move to England is the best outcome for he and his former club.
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After weeks of turmoil and unrest, Soward has left the Dragons and will link up with English Super League club London Broncos for the rest of this year before starting with Penrith on a four-year-deal.

In his only interview since announcing the switch, Soward defended his relationship with the Dragons senior players, was critical of his form and spoke of his disappointment of not being offered a contract extension at the club beyond this year.

“It was [disappointing],” Soward said. “We’ve said all along it’s a business and I think everyone understand that if your current job doesn’t want to retain you, you have to look elsewhere. The Panthers offer was very enticing and I’m very excited about joining the Panthers.”

His last moment as a Dragon will be missing an after the siren penalty goal against Canterbury on May 31. Soward hasn’t featured in the NRL squad since that, instead axed to NSW Cup and forced to train with Illawarra Cutters part-time. He wouldn’t confirm if his relationship with coach Steve Price was strained but said he had maintained a strong bond with the playing group.

“I’m not going to comment on mine and Pricey’s relationship,” Soward said. “I’d rather talk about the good times like Pricey being an assistant coach to our 2010 premiership win.

“I’ve got no problems with the senior players and they have no problems with me. I’ve spoken to Ben Creagh a lot recently and they are lifelong mates who obviously didn’t want it to end this way. I will be mates with them and I’m sure if they wanted to catch up for an orange juice we would.”

He leaves the Dragons with a premiership and world title. He is also the joint-ventures leading point-scorer with 997 points from 140 games since joining the club midway through 2007.

“I haven’t got sour grapes,” Soward said. “When I signed with Penrith the club wanted to look for the future as part of giving Pricey the right roster. My form hadn’t been great this year, whether I should have been dropped or not, isn’t for me to comment but I seem to get the blame when we lose.

“Dousty (CEO Peter Doust) was very professional with the way he handled things behind the scenes. It may seem like this has happened very quickly but it’s been a long couple of weeks for me and my family.

“The most disappointing thing for me is that I don’t get the chance to say goodbye to the fans. I know with the way it’s played out, everyone comes with their own opinion. When I came to the Dragons everyone was so receptive and I guess when we won the premiership everyone was relieved. They are great memories that we are always going to share.”

It is hard to believe that just two years ago, Soward was preparing for his second game for NSW and went on to feature in the entire three match series. Now he is busy packing his home to relocate to London to join the Broncos as he waits for his visa to be approved. London sit second to last on the ladder.

“I’ve been in contact with (London coach) Tony Rea and he has been sending the game plans over,” Soward said.

Soward’s departure allows the Dragons to step up their chase for the immediate signing of Canberra half Sam Williams.

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St Kilda forward charged with rape

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By , 10/10/2018 09:47

St Kilda forward Stephen Milne has been charged with rape over an incident that allegedly happened in 2004.
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Victoria Police today confirmed that Milne has been charged with four counts of rape following a review of the initial investigation carried out after the woman complained about Milne.

‘‘Victoria Police can confirm that it has today charged a 33 year-old man from Cheltenham with four counts of rape following an alleged incident in 2004,’’ a spokeswoman said.

‘‘The decision to charge follows an extensive review of the initial investigation by specialist detectives within our Sexual Crimes Squad.’’

The review of the original investigation – at the behest of the Office of Police Integrity – followed an inquiry into 2010 allegations made by the detective leading the investigation that he had dropped the charges under pressure from other officers.

A senior officer in the region reportedly had a part-time job with St Kilda at the time.

Former Brighton Senior Detective Scott Gladman had told Channel Nine last year that records of interviews with the players were stolen from his desk and the alleged victim’s statement was leaked to the football club.

‘‘As a result, further inquiries have been conducted by the Sexual Crimes Squad and after consulting with the Office of Public Prosecutions, the decision has been made to lay charges,’’ the spokeswoman said.

‘‘In recent years Victoria Police have implemented substantial reforms and improvements to our sex crimes investigative processes which has enabled a number of older investigations to be reviewed, offenders identified and charges laid.

‘‘It is unfortunate for all parties concerned that this matter has taken so many years to progress, but having discussed with the alleged victim in this matter, we can confirm that our decision to lay charges accords with her wishes.

‘‘It is now important that the defendant in this matter be afforded the same procedural fairness any other member of the community would expect in these circumstances.’’

More to come…

St Kilda forward Stephen Milne. Photo: GETTY IMAGES

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