Baby Riley’s mum says antenatal experts are failing mums on vaccination

Little Riley Hughes, the four-week-old baby who died after contracting the highly contagious whooping cough Photo: FacebookBaby Riley’s mother who lost her infant son to whooping cough is shocked her antenatal health care advisers have not yet mentioned vaccination to her as she now enters the seventh month of a new pregnancy.
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Catherine Hughes, who revealed she is expecting a girl, said it was the perfect time for her to have the whooping cough vaccination.

“If I had been offered that in my last pregnancy then my child would probably have survived,” she said.

“I’m still waiting for my antenatal health care providers to mention that vaccination can decrease the risk of severe pregnancy complications, stillbirth and premature birth.

“I’m still waiting for them to mention the importance of getting vaccinated against whooping cough, because it can kill newborn babies as it did my last.

“There has been not one word. Not one brochure. Just like last time,” Mrs Hughes said.

The expectant mother is in Sydney at the Pregnancy, Babies and Children’s Expo with a team of experts educating parents about the importance of immunisation.

“But is it the parents who need educating . . . or the healthcare providers?” she said and urged those in the health system to ensure that information flowed down to patients.

“If you are an antenatal health care provider, tell your patients about the importance of maternal immunisation,” Mrs Hughes said.

“It’s a method of prevention that can and does save lives.

“It shouldn’t be left to grieving families to stand up and be strong and raise awareness,” she said.

Mrs Hughes received messages of support and endorsement on her Facebook page “Light for Riley”.

“My daughter is four weeks old and I was not offered a whooping cough vaccination during my third trimester. It wasn’t ever mentioned during any antenatal visit. In fact, when I asked if my husband and I needed a booster, neither the doctors or nurses could tell me.Clearly the message isn’t reaching our health practitioners which I find disturbing.” – Jenn Davie.

“My newborn baby girl was taken ill with whooping cough as well. Not only was I not offered the whooping cough vaccination, but discharged from A&E three times as doctors misdiagnosed baby as having a cold and being cranky. Not knowing what to do, I planted myself in A&E and waited for a bad bout of coughing. Staff thought I was seeking attention and possibly suffering from depression. Eventually, she was rushed to the ward and put on oxygen therapy. All this could have been avoided with one vaccine.” – Noemie L-g.

“Protocol at my hospital is mentioning vaccines including flu and 3rd trimester whooping cough from the initial antenatal appointments and reminders at every other appointment. Pamphlets are also given for both at initial visit… Riley also gets a mention when we mention whooping cough vaccine as he and the work you’ve done was the reason our hospital has made offering these vaccines as part of our policy.” – Kadj Alaouie.

“At work today and I have just vaccinated a first time expectant mum at 30 weeks. I actively seek out the opportunity to inform all my patients of the importance of vaccination. This morning my patient and I discussed Riley and she has booked her husband in for tomorrow morning to get his shot too.” – Raechael Stoops.

Australian Medical Association (WA) president and obstetrician Michael Gannon said he was “gobsmacked” to hear of Mrs Hughes experience.

“I would certainly have expected her advisers to have their antennae up and be super sensitive to her needs,” he said.

“That kind of blockage of information delivery would certainly not be regarded as best practice,” he said.

Dr Gannon said pregnant mothers should be offered a seasonal (flu) immunisation between April-June and the whopping cough vaccination between weeks 28-32 of their pregnancy.

“It’s not appropriate to offer the whooping cough shot before that period, but I would have thought they would have been told the right time to have the vaccination,” he said.

“We need to reduce barriers to women being immunised. Critically, they must receive accurate and timely information from their care providers, be they

midwives, GPs or obstetricians.”

Dr Gannon said the process needed to include the facilitation of the injection.

“Simply handing patients a piece of paper and telling them to make an appointment to see their GP is not best practice,” he said.

“Some obstetricians, some public clinics and some private hospitals need to do better.”

Dr Gannon said in the past 12 months, tens of thousands of newborns had been protected by the vaccination program.

“The vast majority of whooping cough deaths occur in the first three months of life,” he said.

Most of the danger period is before a baby has their first routine vaccination at 6-8 weeks of age.”

A health department spokesman said WA Health recommended all pregnant women be vaccinated against pertussis (whooping cough) to protect themselves and their baby.

“In a survey of more than 400 mothers who recently delivered, 72 per cent reported they had been recommended by one or more providers (GP, midwife, and/or obstetrician) to get a pertussis vaccination,” he said.

“About 70 per cent of women reported receiving the vaccination.”

The spokesman said since WA Health started its pertussis program in March 2015, 19,000 pregnant women had been vaccinated.

“While these results are positive, there is always room for improvement,” he said.

“WA Health will continue its efforts to promote the importance of pertussis vaccinations.” Follow WAtoday on Twitter

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Police probe link between Scarborough and Fremantle tyre slashers

Police are probing whether there is a connection between tyre slashing incidents in Fremantle and Scarborough Photo: FacebookPolice are investigating whether there is a connection between a series of tyre-slashing incidents in Scarborough and Fremantle.
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Scarborough police made an appeal on Friday for information regarding a number of tyres that were vandalised on April 26.

It is understood about 8.30pm a man punctured the front tyre of a car on Sackville Terrace. His actions were caught on CCTV.

Police said it was believed he may have been responsible for damage to four other vehicles nearby on the same night.

Scarborough Police acting officer-in-charge Cris Marzo said he had been in contact with Fremantle police over a similar spate of tyre-slashing incidents in their area.

“It’s too early to say whether the incidents are linked or whether it is a copycat offence.”

Scores of Fremantle owners awoke on April 24 to find their tyres had been slashed.

At the time police spokeswoman Susan Usher said police were seeking information on tyres damaged on vehicles overnight in South Fremantle between April 23-24.

“Unknown persons have used a sharp implement to puncture the tyres on numerous vehicles located on Attfield Street, South Fremantle,” she said.

“Police are aware of 36 vehicles having two or more tyres damaged at an estimated cost of more than $10,000.”

“We would like to speak to anyone who was in the area during those times who may have witnessed suspicious activity,” Ms Usher said.

The man wanted for questioning over the Scarborough tyre-slashing incident is described as having a tanned complexion, 183cm with a medium build and dark scruffy hair.

He was wearing black pants, a red t-shirt and carrying a white jacket.

Anyone with information should call Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000 or report online at 梧桐夜网crimestoppers.wa.gov419论坛.Follow WAtoday on Twitter

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Terrorism feared in EgyptAir plane mystery as Australian-British citizen passenger confirmed

A major international search is under way in the Mediterranean Sea after the disappearance of an EgyptAir passenger jet with 66 people on board that experts now believe was due to terrorism.
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A dual Australian-British citizen has been confirmed to have been on board.

Richard Osman, 40, was travelling on Flight MS804 from Paris to Cairo, where he worked as an executive with mining company Centamin, when the plane disappeared between the Greek island of Crete and Egypt’s coastline on Thursday.

The geologist and new father who had previously worked in a West Australian gold mine has been identified as a passenger on board the missing EgyptAir flight that abruptly swerved before vanishing from radar.

Just two weeks ago, Mr Osman and his wife, Aureilie, had welcomed the birth of their second daughter, Olympe, a sister for one-year-old Victios. Welsh-born Mr Osman was said to be “deliriously happy” at becoming a father again, his brother Alistair told the South Wales Evening Post.

“Richard was so happy at the birth of his second daughter, and yet two weeks later he is no longer with us. It’s an absolute tragedy,” Alistair Osman said. “He was really happy about having the baby and was looking forward to enjoying a lovely family life with his two girls.”

Australian Foreign Affairs Minister Julie Bishop confirmed an Australian-British dual national was on board the missing flight.

Contact with the flight was lost 10 miles after entering Egyptian air space and 20 minutes from its destination. The flight plummeted from its cruising altitude, veering right and left and disappeared from radar screens at 10,000 feet.

The loss of the flight, EgyptAir 804, was the second civilian aviation disaster for Egypt in the past year. It immediately resurrected fears and speculation about the safety and security of Egyptian air travel and broader questions about terrorism against civilian air travel.

Sherif Fathy​, Egypt’s aviation minister, told the London Telegraph it was more likely the Airbus was brought down by terrorist attack than a technical breakdown.

“If you analyse the situation properly, the possibility of having a terror attack is higher than the possibility of having a technical fault,” he said.

In the US, both the Democrat and Republican presidential frontrunners cited terrorism as the likely cause.

“A plane got blown out of the sky,” Republican Donald Trump told a fundraiser in New Jersey. “And if anybody thinks it wasn’t blown out of the sky, you are 100 per cent wrong, folks. OK? You’re 100 per cent wrong.”

US Democratic presidential frontrunner Hillary Clinton also cited terrorism.

“It does appear that it was an act of terrorism,” Mrs Clinton said on CNN.

However, US officials said government satellites could not find any indication of an explosion – such as a heat signature – on MS804’s  flight path, the Telegraph reported.

As distraught families continued to wait for news, details emerged of victims, including a student at France’s elite Saint-Cyr military academy who was going home to Chad to mourn his mother. An official at Chad’s embassy in Paris said he was “was going to give condolences to his family”.

CNN identified the pilots of the plane as captain Mohamed Said Shoukair​ and first officer Mohamed Mamdouh Ahmed Assem​, citing an official close to the investigation and a security source.

The head flight attendant was identified as Mirvat Zaharia Zaki Mohamed.

Authorities in Egypt and France said it was too soon to say what caused the Airbus A320 carrying 66 people to come down on its way from Paris to Cairo.

John Goglia​, a former US National Transportation Safety Board member, told AP that early indications point more to a bomb than to a structural or mechanical failure.

Mr Goglia told the news agency that “given the fact that [the pilot] made those abrupt turns without broadcasting any maydays would indicate to me that something catastrophic like a device happened”.

A mechanical failure “still has to be considered but at this point I would put that down pretty low” he said.

In the 24 hours before it disappeared, the plane, registration SU-GCC, had carried out three other trips: a return trip from Cairo to Tunis, and then the flight from Cairo to Paris.

EgyptAir said there were 66 people on board the flight, including a child and two babies.

Those on board, according to EgyptAir, included 15 French passengers, 30 Egyptians, two Iraqis, one Briton, one Kuwaiti, one Saudi, one Sudanese, one Chadian, one Portuguese, one Belgian, one Algerian and one Canadian.

Egyptian officials issued conflicting information about whether wreckage had been found, correcting earlier claims that wreckage had been found, saying that debris near a Greek island “did not come from the plane”.

– London Telegraph, wires

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Tsai Ing-wen: The woman in China’s sights

Taiwan’s Tsai Ing-wen, right, waves beside incumbent her predecessor President Ma Ying-jeou on Friday. Photo: Kyodo News/AP Beijing: She is soft-spoken, attentive, balanced and loves cats. She is also the most powerful woman in the Chinese-speaking world and she has drawn a line in the sand with Beijing on her very first day on the job.
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After being swept to a landslide election victory in January by a Taiwan public deeply disillusioned with the mainland-friendly Kuomintang government, Tsai Ing-wen was sworn in on Friday and promptly skirted around directly acknowledging the so-called “one-China policy” in her inaugural address, a move likely to irk Beijing.

‘One-China’ Policy and the ‘1992 Consensus’

Ms Tsai, of the independence-leaning Democratic Progressive Party, said in her speech she would seek common ground with the mainland and ensure cross-straits relations remained stable and peaceful. But she resisted pressure from Beijing to acknowledge they were part of a single nation, merely saying she respected the “historical fact” of “joint acknowledgements and understandings” reached between the sides at a landmark 1992 meeting which has underpinned all subsequent engagement between both sides since.

Beijing had been stepping up pressure on Ms Tsai in recent weeks to follow her predecessor Ma Ying-jeou’s lead and openly endorse the “one-China” principle, the understanding that both sides belong to one China, even if they have different interpretations of what that signifies.

“If there is a cross-strait deadlock, or a crisis emerges, the person who changed the current situation should bear responsibility,” Ma Xiaoguang, a spokesman for China’s Taiwan Affairs Office, said at a news conference last week.

A more combative tone?

Much of Ms Tsai’s mandate – the DPP has taken control of both the executive and legislative branches of parliament – is predicated on showing greater transparency, and a more sceptical tone, in the government’s dealings with mainland China.

Toward the end of his second term, Mr Ma was heavily criticised for courting mainland business and economic pacts at little discernible benefit for the Taiwanese public. Lack of transparency over a mainland trade pact prompted widespread demonstrations and the occupation of the legislative yuan by university students in 2014.

“I think she will be incredibly attentive to domestic politics where the Ma government wasn’t,” says Mark Harrison, a Taiwan expert at the University of Tasmania.

“They will have a very different tone … it will be noisier but not necessarily substantively different.

“Tsai has signalled pretty strongly that she wants to maintain stability and peace and balance but the Chinese government has a strong position and we need to see whether it will go along with Tsai in finding a new equilibrium point.”

Domestic agenda

Despite strong trade ties with mainland China, Taiwan’s economy is in recession, having shrunk for three straight quarters, dragged down by slowing demand for its exports from mainland China and around the world. Recent university graduates, in particular are disillusioned with a lack of employment, low starting salaries and decreasing housing affordability.

Ms Tsai on Friday reinforced her pledges to enact policies focused on youth empowerment and social justice issues, while in another signal to the mainland, she said would reform Taiwan’s flagging economy and “bid farewell to our past overreliance on a single market”.

Ms Tsai drew strong applause from the crowd when she said her government would look into judicial reform: “the general sentiment is that the judicial system is not close to the people, and is not trusted by them”. Also drawing cheers was a pledge to set up a “truth and reconciliation” commission to properly account for Taiwan’s darkest page in its modern history: the bloody crackdown during an uprising of Taiwan’s indigenous population in 1947, a prelude to decades of martial law that was only formally lifted in 1987.

There is also significant expectation that Ms Tsai could make Taiwan – with an increasingly liberal and progressive demographic – the first in Asia to legalise same-sex marriage.

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Jake White legacy lives on in Canberra through Uni-Norths Owls hooker Cuan Hablutzel

Uni-Norths player Cuan Hablutzel scores a try against Wests. Photo: Jay CronanCuan Hablutzel is the nuggety Uni-Norths Owls hooker that World Cup-winning coach Jake White left behind as a parting gift to Canberra rugby.
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But the determined South African junior wants to forge his own path in the capital and chase a National Rugby Championship berth this year when his Jake White scholarship ends.

Cape Town-born Hablutzel is the owner of the first and only Jake White scholarship at the University of Canberra that was set up in conjunction with the former ACT Brumbies mentor three years ago.

The only problem was that after Hablutzel accepted the offer to uproot his life and move to Australia, White quit the Brumbies and moved back to South Africa.

Hablutzel played junior rugby with White’s son Wesley and had met South Africa’s world champion in passing, but he was determined to see out his study and rugby opportunities in Canberra even if White wasn’t around.

“It’s been great so far, I’ve really enjoyed it. I was watching a rugby game and the scholarship was advertised so I applied and I was lucky enough to get it,” Hablutzel said.

“The only time I met Jake was before I even got the scholarship. It took some time to make the decision, but looking back it was the right decision for me.

“Before I even got awarded the scholarship Jake had left the Brumbies so I didn’t know how I would be received when I got over here.

“It would have been good to work with Jake, but my skill level and understanding of the game have all increased with all the people I’ve worked with at the Brumbies.”

 

The Jake White scholarship was set up as a joint initiative between the Brumbies and the University of Canberra to help both organisations tap into the South African market.

But White quit just two years into a four-year contract after guiding the Brumbies into the Super Rugby final in 2013. His departure meant the end of the scholarship.

But it has paid dividends for the Owls. Hablutzel scored a double in their win against Wests last weekend to help keep their finals hopes alive.

The 20-year-old is not shirking his academic duties either and will take a accounting and finance exam at the university on Friday before the Owls play the Queanbeyan Whites on Saturday.

Hablutzel, known is Owls circles as ‘Cha Cha’, hopes he can finish his studies this year and earn selection for Canberra’s NRC side as a stepping stone to Super Rugby.

“Getting into the NRC is the first goal and for me it’s just about taking steps, then taking it further each time,” Hablutzel said.

“We’ve found at the Owls that we’ve got a good combination of youth and experience going. We believe we’ve got the structures in place to match it with teams and cause some upsets.”

Meanwhile, eight Canberra players have been selected in an Australian Barbarians side to play the Australian Under-20s at Chatswood Oval next week as a warm-up match for the junior World Cup.

Brodie Leber, Andrew Robinson, Liam Berry, Tim Cornforth, Neori Nadruku, Max Pizzamiglio, OJ Noa and Edan Campbell-O’Brien will all play for the Barbarians, as well former Tuggeranong Vikings stars Rodney Iona and Rowan Perry.

JOHN I DENT CUP ROUND EIGHT

Saturday: Royals v Easts at Phillip Oval, 3.05pm, Uni-Norths Owls v Queanbeyan Whites at ANU North, 3.05pm, Wests v Gungahlin Eagles at Jamison Oval, 3.15pm. Tuggeranong Vikings – bye.

Tuesday: Australian Barbarians v Australian Under-20s at Chatswood Oval, 7pm.

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Hunt for those throwing Molotov cocktails at the homeless uncovers Kings Cross drug ring

Police allege the nine people were involved in supplying heroin and cocaine in Kings Cross Photo: NSW Police Five women and four men were arrested in the raids. Photo: NSW Police
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An investigation into Molotov cocktails being hurled into groups of homeless people in inner-Sydney has uncovered an alleged drug syndicate supplying Kings Cross.

Police arrested nine people and raided six homes in the Woolloomooloo area on Friday morning who they allege are behind the distribution of cocaine and heroin in the Kings Cross area.

Along with the five women and four men, police also allegedly uncovered an unspecified amount of cannabis and heroin. All nine were taken to Kings Cross police station and are expected to be charged.

Police said the arrests came about as part of the investigation into an incident in February where three Molotov cocktails were hurled into Tom Uren Place.

Two of the lit devices were thrown into the area where homeless people gather to sleep at night by a person wearing mask just after 11pm on Thursday February 18.

A third lit Molotov cocktail was thrown in the same area at 1.10pm the following day. No one was seriously hurt in either attack.

Police made public footage of the February incident on Tuesday in a bid to catch those responsible.

No one has been arrested over the Molotov cocktail attacks but information gained from that investigation led to Friday’s arrests, police said.

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Boy, 11, hit by car at Forestville in Sydney’s north

An 11-year-old boy has been hit by a car at Forestville in Sydney’s north.
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The boy was struck by a four-wheel-drive as he rode his scooter along the footpath on Warringah Road about 5pm on Friday.

Police believe he rode across the driveway of a service station when he was hit.

A NSW Ambulance spokesman said paramedics were called to Warringah Road with reports a boy, then believed to be 7, had been hit by a car.

The boy was treated by paramedics for injuries to his pelvis, lower leg and head.

He was placed into an induced coma at the scene before he was taken by helicopter to Sydney Children’s Hospital at Randwick with serious injuries, police said.

The hospital said he was in a stable condition on Friday night. #BREAKING: A 7yo boy has been hit by a car at Sydney’s northern beaches. Rescue operation underway. #TenNewshttps://t.co/PI5xIfSPjP— TEN News Sydney (@TenNewsSydney) May 20, 2016

A woman, believed to be the driver, was taken by ambulance to Royal North Shore Hospital for mandatory blood and urine testing. She was not injured.

Following the crash, westbound lanes of Warringah Road were briefly closed at Cook Street as the boy received medical treatment.

Officers set up a crime scene at the crash site and are investigating what happened.

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NSW Swifts rookie Maddy Turner learns well from Sharni Layton and Laura Langman

Fast learner: Swifts player Maddy Turner.Sitting on the couch back home in Adelaide, tuned in to last year’s World Cup, Maddy Turner experienced mixed feelings as she watched her future NSW Swifts colleagues in action for the national team.
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Excitement, anticipation and a fair dose of nerves churned around inside as Sharni Layton, Kim Green, Paige Hadley and Caitlin Thwaites got the job done for Australia, putting the Diamonds on top of the world.

Within a few months, Turner was in Sydney for a pre-season camp with her new side. A month after that, she arrived to live and moved in with teammates Stephanie Wood and Silver Ferns legend Laura Langman, another of the NSW side’s new recruits.

“I was just in awe at everything [that] was happening,” the 20-year-old defender says.

“I watched the World Cup from home and it all just felt pretty exciting and new. Watching Sharni playing and then thinking I was going to get the opportunity to work with one of the world’s best defenders, and living with Laura, I don’t think I could have expected anything better.”

Neither could the Swifts, it seems. Turner, who was awarded the most valuable player prize at the under-21 national championships, has played a part in every one of the team’s games this year, helping guide them to six wins from seven matches. On Sunday, she will likely play another important role as the Swifts look to secure victory over New Zealand side Mainland Tactix in Christchurch.

Some of her opponents across the ditch might look upon her with envy, given her opportunity to work with Langman, one of the Kiwis’ best.

“It’s really been amazing,” she says. “She’s been so supportive. Just watching the way she goes about everything, I can learn so much. It’s pretty cool.

“We talk about netball sometimes, sit around and do some video analysis together, talk about the games coming up or whatever. Just being able to talk to someone who’s got so much experience is really great for me.”

But her closest link on the court is with Layton.

“We’re different people when it comes to things like preparation. She likes to be a bit more pumped up than me, whereas I like to be a bit more relaxed than her. But she’s definitely a good mentor for me.

“It’s been incredible. I’m learning everything I possibly can from her, soaking up as much information as possible. She’s a legend of the game, for sure, and she’s teaching me new stuff all the time.

“It’s definitely been a surprise playing as much as I have since I got here. I didn’t expect to be involved in every game so far. Coming here, I thought I was just taking a risk. I’ve tried to just put my best foot forward and train hard. It’s going really well.

“There is plenty I need to work on, but I feel like I’ve made little improvements each week and just building connections on court with particularly Sharni, and everyone else.”

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Kick the thing. Just kick it, and keep doing so ….

As a Fairfax soccer writer, I don’t get to the MCG all that often – only for very rare Socceroo appearances.
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So a visit to the great old ground on Sunday afternoon for the Melbourne v Bulldogs game was a real treat. It’s easy to forget just how big it is, how wide the expanses, how the wind swirls and the sun, obscured by the giant stands, casts shadows and shade bringing one moment heat, the other cool, and not always light.

I was also looking forward to seeing the man of the moment, Demons full forward Jesse Hogan, in action.

So much was being written and said about the youngster – how he could be the franchise player any number of clubs could be built upon, how he could command a salary of $1.5 million a year, how he could, it seemed, do just about anything.

I thought he, according to the hype, must be the footy equivalent of England’s young gun Harry Kane, the Tottenham striker who has just won his first Golden Boot in the English Premier League. Kane is 22 and is poised to lead England’s attack at the upcoming European Championships – a high pressure role in an unforgiving media environment.

Hogan might well turn out to be a superstar. And he might well, one day, do just about anything.

But what he clearly can’t do right now do is kick a ball. Or at least to the standard required.

And isn’t that one of the primary skills in a game that calls itself football? Particularly for a star frontman upon whose capabilities the fate of his team will so often rest?

This is not a “bag Jesse” rant by the way: he’s certainly not Robinson Crusoe in the AFL world.

Whenever I watch AFL footy – which is quite often, as its impossible to not be affected by it in Melbourne and it is a terrific sport after all – I am struck by how poor so many players are at what should be the most basic skill in the game.

They are magnificent athletes, brilliant endurance runners who can produce devastating sprints at the end of a gut-busting game. And there are wonderful jumpers who can soar and stay aloft in an act of levitation, pulling down sensational marks.

Some players seem to have a sixth sense of where their colleagues are and fire off brilliant handballs. Others can improvise, punching or knocking the ball into space for an onrushing teammate to pick the ball up and drive another attack forward.

But so many seem aberrant where the foot part of football comes in.

Now I know that its a contact sport, and that pressure, or implied pressure, comes into it. I know that its an oval shaped ball and certainly not as easy to strike as a round soccer ball. And I know that the pressure to play on at all costs means that sometimes kicks in play won’t always hit the target.

But I am not talking about Hogan and his mates’ ability to improvise, snap and kick on the run. I am talking about set shots inside the 50 metre arc, often from pretty straightforward angles and relatively close in.

There is no goalkeeper to worry about. No crossbar, so you can kick it as high as you like.

Rather like a penalty kick in soccer, the nearest player, the man on the mark, has to be some 10 metres away from the kicker.

How hard should it be for professional athletes, who are paid handsomely to do nothing but eat, sleep, train and prepare for one game a week, to deliver on a more regular basis than they do.

I lost count of the number of set shots the Demons tyro missed on Sunday, many from close in. Had he been more accurate his team might have got much closer at the final siren.

If Kane, for example, was to miss four penalties out of five, squander several chances from inside the six-yard box with only the goalkeeper to beat, he would not just be out of the England picture, he would be out of the Tottenham team also.

My colleagues, who watch a lot more footy live than I do, tell me that Hogan will come good. That he is young, that he is still growing, that big blokes like him don’t hit their straps until their mid-twenties.

Maybe. But in most sports that I know of – even the contact games like rugby with which AFL is more analogous – the star players have a huge impact even as youngsters and deliver despite the pressure.

James O’Connor – sadly a talent that appears to have dissipated – was kicking match-winning conversions for the Wallabies when he was a teenager. Wayne Rooney was tearing it up in the Premier League at 16 and leading the line for England at 18. Pele was a World Cup winner at 17, while Max Verstappen has just become the youngest ever Formula One winner at 18. And there are numerous jockeys on the honour board as group 1 winning riders at 16, 17 or 18.

As I said, I am not having a go at Hogan so much as using him as an exemplar, having watched him last week.

Just to make sure I wasn’t wrong in my view of footy players’ kicking skills, I checked with one of the greatest goalkickers ever, former Essendon full forward Matthew Lloyd.

He concurred, suggesting that while almost every other skill in the game had improved over the years, kicking for goal was the one that hadn’t. Park footballers were, in some cases, more reliable kickers than some players in the AFL.

Lloyd believes that much of it comes down to practise. With some good coaching thrown in.

So many promising young AFL players have never been told early in their careers that their kicking technique is wrong. They don’t kick the ball enough or have enough shots at goal in training.

They have, Lloyd says, often dominated junior leagues and at TAC Cup level and the fact they might be kicking at a rate of 50 per cent or less is overlooked if they are snaring four, five or six goals a game from a much bigger number of shots.

Perhaps that’s all it is. Ninety nine per cent perspiration, one per cent inspiration.

It worked for Jonny Wilkinson, perhaps rugby union’s greatest goalkicker, and David Beckham, a man who mastered the art of striking a dead ball.  It worked for Lloyd himself, who perfected a lengthy goalkicking routine which saw his concentration and accuracy rise to unprecedented levels. The former Essendon man’s career percentage of shots to goals is 68.59 – fractionally below the greatest kicker of them all, Tony Lockett, at  69.74.

So there you have it, lads. Forget the sports science, forget the work-loading, forget all the coaching mumbo jumbo.

Go out there and have a kick – again and again and again and again … you never know how good you might get.

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How Geelong turned the corner

Key player in the rise of the Cats: Brian Cook. Photo: John WoudstraIt is 10 years since Geelong chief executive Brian Cook set about the uncomfortably public but ultimately groundbreaking review that would radically alter the fortunes of his under-performing football club.
Nanjing Night Net

The Cats had entered season 2006 with high hopes having narrowly lost the previous year’s semi-final to Sydney and won the pre-season premiership. But after opening the season with two big wins the wheels fell off and, as Geelong lost seven of its next eight games, divisions began to emerge between frustrated players and between the coaches and the fitness department.

From Frank Costa’s generally stable board down, there appeared to be some unrest at every level. The review was announced in July and the spotlight turned to coach Mark Thompson and his future.

With Cook already highly respected, having built and overseen two premierships at West Coast and having significantly reduced Geelong’s crippling debt and stabilised the Cats’ finances, the review according to insiders sealed his legacy as a one of the game’s great administrators.

While every battling club grapples with its own individual set of circumstances it remains baffling that less experienced club chiefs have not moved to pick apart in detail the nuances of the Cook review.

The Cats’ round-nine rival Collingwood presents a stark example of a powerful and successful AFL operation which appears to have lost its way in a football sense despite the best of intentions. While there has rarely been a more unified triumvirate than Eddie McGuire, Gary Pert and Nathan Buckley since the latter took over in 2012, a combination of coaching expertise, recruiting and players’ behavioural standards has somehow been falling short.

It must be said, though, that younger bosses such as Richmond’s Brendon Gale – who has also stabilised his club’s finances but is now facing the mammoth task of reviewing and also making key personnel changes across coaching, recruiting and high performance to achieve the next level at Tigerland – have sought Cook’s counsel from time to time.

In 2006 the Cats chief enlisted just one outside consultant – his old coach David Parkin – and spent the best part of 60 days interviewing close to 60 club stakeholders ranging from first-year players to coaches to player agents. Nineteen of 20 recommendations Cook put to the board were accepted.

The view of the senior players was that if the CEO was prepared to get his hands dirty on the factory floor then the least they could do was speak truthfully. Adamant that Thompson was the right coach, the players were equally adamant that he had become distracted from coaching by a football bureaucratic thicket including list management, fitness, recruiting and IT.

The players themselves, whom Cook believed were good enough and age appropriate to win a premiership, were angry at their lack of success.

Despairing at the stand-off between the coaching and high-performance teams and concerned at poor behavioural standards within their own group, they spoke more frankly than ever before to Cook and each other.

One pivotal meeting at a player’s house led to Matthew Scarlett calling journalist Mike Sheahan in a bid to save Thompson’s job. And in what was a radical call at the time Tom Harley replaced Steven King as captain. The leadership group rewrote its brief and set itself new on and off-field standards, famously suspending Steve Johnson for the first six rounds of the 2007 season.

The Cook recommendations were ratified at a board meeting during 2006 preliminary final weekend and immediately unveiled on an individual basis to senior football media – in the company of an uncomfortable Mark Thompson – at Princes Park on the Sunday of the VFL grand final.

Harley reportedly arrived at King’s house to drive him to the game only to be asked to wait outside while the ruckman and 2006 captain took a phone call. King then walked out to the waiting Harley, shook his hand and congratulated him.

While Thompson survived and went on to coach two premierships over the next three years he remained bitter at being so publicly scrutinised.

Several key personnel lost their jobs with assistant coach Andy Lovell making way for Brenton Sanderson and Paul Haines and Dean Robinson taking over the Cats’ high-performance department.

And Cook could not save football operations boss Garry Davidson despite pushing for him to retain a role at the club, with Neil Balme taking over the top football job. It speaks volumes for all concerned, though, that on the eve of the 2007 grand final Cook, Davidson and Balme dined together over lunch.

The timing was right for Geelong to recalibrate their football operation. First-round draft pick Joel Selwood immediately became a regular senior player and matured as an on-field leader seemingly overnight while more experienced stars Scarlett and Cameron Mooney became fathers and matured accordingly. And the players’ internal review of themselves provided a pivotal cultural change.

Gold Coast and North Melbourne have tried since to lure Cook from Geelong and the fledgling Suns, through the AFL, might have succeeded in 2009 had their offer been marginally more attractive. He also interviewed for the top AFL job in 2014.

Now Cook has committed to Geelong until the end of 2018 overseeing the fourth and potentially fifth stages of the Simonds Stadium redevelopment, an achievement he likened last December to the Bendigo Bank’s bailout that saved the club at the start of the 21st century.

But more intriguing surely remains the transparent, risky and clinical manner in which Cook, now 61, took on the under-performing Cats footballers and their coaches and trainers and bosses in 2006. In the nine years since that restructure Geelong have achieved six top-four finishes, won three flags and missed the finals once. And in the 10th season the Cats are once again a premiership favourite.

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.