Andy Flower steps down as England coach

The latest casualty of England’s woeful tour of Australia is head coach Andy Flower, and former Australian fast bowler Jason Gillespie has been mentioned as a possible candidate to replace him.
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England has now lost five Tests, four one-dayers, two Twenty20 matches, two senior players, one struggling fast bowler and a head coach during its three months down under, and the future of self-obsessed batsman Kevin Pietersen is still up in the air.

Twenty20 captain Stuart Broad admitted after England lost a third series to Australia on Friday night that the end of the tour couldn’t come quickly enough, and that was hours before Flower – the respected Zimbabwean who in five years in the job guided England to three Ashes triumphs, a series win in India and (briefly) the No.1 Test ranking – announced his resignation.

”Following the recent very disappointing Ashes defeat it is clear to me that this is now time for England cricket, led by Alastair Cook, to rebuild with a new set of values and goals,” said Flower, who added that the next team director should coach England in all three formats.

”The opportunity to start with a clean slate and to instil methods to ensure England cricket is moving in the right direction will be an incredibly exciting challenge for someone but I do not feel like I am in a position to undertake that challenge.

”This has been a very difficult decision and I remain committed to England cricket and would like to wish Alastair Cook and [incoming managing director] Paul Downton every success. I will remain in my position as a selector for the time being and am exploring possible roles within the ECB.”

Ashley Giles, who coaches England in the short formats, has a chance to establish himself as frontrunner to take over from Flower if the team does well on the forthcoming tour of the West Indies and at the World Twenty20 tournament, but the ECB is expected to advertise the role or hire headhunters to find the right candidate. Contenders may include former India and South Africa coach Gary Kirsten, former New Zealand captain Stephen Fleming (who has coached the Chennai Super Kings in the IPL), former Sri Lanka coach Tom Moody and Gillespie, who has coached Yorkshire to County Championship promotion and a runners-up finish in the Championship in his first two seasons with the county.

Gillespie could not be reached for comment. The former Test quick is a close friend of Australian coach Darren Lehmann and is said to have instilled a similar sense of enjoyment in his players as Lehmann has in the Australians since taking over from the sacked Mickey Arthur last June.

Former England captain Michael Vaughan wants a coaching dream team of Kirsten and Paul Collingwood, the retired batsman who has just helped coach Scotland to qualification for the World Cup.

”I guess Ashley Giles will have the first opportunity to stake his claim. I would get Paul Collingwood into the fold as soon as possible. He has too good a cricket brain to allow it to be put to service by someone else. If England have become a bit robotic, a bit dependent on computer information, then Colly is ideal to counter that,” Vaughan wrote in a column for the Telegraph. ”But, if they want the best – and only the best should be good enough – I would be tempted to do whatever it takes to bring in Gary Kirsten … Look at what he achieved in India and South Africa, getting his teams to play with calmness and mental strength.”

ECB chairman Giles Clarke gave his unequivocal support for Cook to continue as captain despite his personal capitulation against Australia but refused to be drawn on the future of Pietersen.

A clearer indication will come on Thursday when England names its squad for the one-day series in West Indies and World Twenty20 in Bangladesh. ”I have spent zero time on him or whatever he or the selectors are choosing to do,” said Clarke, who described Giles as a strong candidate. ”He played a lot of cricket for England and is respected in the game. It may well be that other outstanding candidates emerge as Paul Downton leads the process.”

Flower’s resignation amounts to another scalp for the Australians. Mitchell Johnson took Jonathan Trott way out of his comfort zone before he went home with a stress-related illness while the batsmen hit Graeme Swann into retirement. And Steven Finn regressed to the point he could not be selected.

”I think a few of the guys are looking forward to having two weeks at home in their own bed and not thinking about cricket for a while,” said Broad.

With aap, Telegraph, London

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Pre-season has whiff of 2010: Swan

Having secured a two-year contract extension, Collingwood champion Dane Swan says this pre-season has reminded him of 2010, when the Magpies ultimately delivered a breakthrough premiership.
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As supporters lapped up the intra-club action at the club’s family day at Olympic Park on Saturday, Swan and teammate Heritier Lumumba were given strong ovations when their new deals were announced.

Swan will be a Magpie for life, his contract continuing until the end of 2016, while Lumumba was given a one-year extension until the end of 2015. After a tumultuous 2013 campaign, when he feuded with coach Nathan Buckley, walked out of the club, and later changed his name from Harry O’Brien, Lumumba thanked the Magpies for maintaining faith in him.

Swan had flagged that his current deal, expiring this season, could have been his last, even though he only turns 30 this month.

While that may have been said in jest, he has been warned by former teammates, such as Ben Johnson, about the realities of retirement.

”I was obviously close with a few boys that have finished their career over the past few seasons,” Swan said. ”Just speaking to them, even though they are having a good time retired, they say, ‘You are a long time retired, and while you can, make the most of it’.

”I was always going to keep going if they [the Magpies] wanted me. Thankfully, they did, so here I am.”

But he joked that has meant he has ”been interviewing for friends over the pre-season. I have been getting them all in, one by one, asking what they can bring to the friendship”, as the likes of Johnson, Alan Didak, Dale Thomas and Heath Shaw – all part of the so-called Rat Pack – have left the club.

”I have been walking around like a new kid at school looking for friends to talk to,” he said.

Swan, who had off-season wrist surgery, said his passion for the sport remained strong, despite the not-always-favourable off-field attention he receives.

”I love the game and I love being around my mates. That was probably the main thing that drives me,” he said. ”Obviously, success and premierships. I enjoy coming to work every day and being around my mates and having a laugh.

”If I wasn’t good enough, the club would have said: ‘No, that’s it.’ I certainly would go and play locally with my friends, because that’s what I love to do.”

The hard-running midfielder said he sensed the Magpies were fortified after a shock elimination-final loss to Port Adelaide last season and an off-season clean-out.

”The memories [of 2010] are close and fond, but it does feel a little bit ago. There is a little bit of feeling of 2010 I think this pre-season.

”The boys have got close and we have had a really good pre-season. We are under no illusions, it’s going to be pretty hard to get back to where we want to be, but we certainly think we have the group to do what we want.”

Swan said he would likely spend more time up forward this season but he didn’t think the new interchange cap would affect the burst-style game he enjoys. He was the sixth-most benched player in the league last season and ranked No.1 for disposals per minute.

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Leigh Matthews warns Hawthorn of back-to-back mindset

AFL legend Leigh Matthews has warned Hawthorn that last year’s premiership will not give it a psychological edge as the Hawks take aim at becoming the first team in more than a decade to claim successive flags.
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Matthews was the last coach to take his team to such lofty heights, guiding the Brisbane Lions to three straight flags from 2001-03.

The Hawthorn great, who played in four premierships as a player with the club, said Alastair Clarkson’s men could go back-to-back but this required a specific mindset.

”I know it’s partly a psychology, but Hawthorn have got no better or worse chance in 2014 than any other team,” he said.

”In other words, of course you won it last year, but it doesn’t give you any advantage or disadvantage for the following season. That’s the reality that you have to get through your skull and everyone has to accept.

”And if you happen to win two in a row, that’s two separate campaigns that you have won. But the two things aren’t really related.

”There is no sense of entitlement … You just have to accept it’s a new year.”

Determined to avoid the dramatic slump that ruined their back-to-back bid in 2009, the Hawks have returned to training in mint condition.

The players agreed in the days after last year’s premiership to immediately turn their focus to this season, while club management have been happy with the mindset of all parties.

Matthews said he had yet to settle on his favourite to claim this year’s flag but said the Hawks were well positioned to challenge despite losing superstar forward Lance Franklin.

”Can is easy, of course they can win it. That’s gone on for every team that has won a premiership forever. They clearly can go back-to-back,” he said.

”They have certainly done a fantastic job in terms of their selective recruiting. [Brian] Lake was just fantastic for them and [Ben] McEvoy should be fantastic for them.

”Losing Franklin is obviously going to be a blow because he is such a good player. But as people have noted, they have done very well when he was not playing.”

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Brett Goodes: all about the greater good

Loving what he does: Brett Goodes at training at Whitten Oval. Photo: Paul JeffersStarting an AFL career at 28 with a playing CV that resembled darts thrown at a map of Australia gave Brett Goodes an uncommon launch pad. Yet it was his most recent job, pre-fairytale, that prepared him best when eventually he fell back to earth.
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At Launceston in round 17 last year, Goodes laid an arm’s-length tackle on Hawthorn’s Shane Savage that went wrong with a sickening crack as teammate Liam Picken got in between them, and Goodes’ left forearm was the casualty of their combined momentum. He can laugh now that he was simply the latest ”Picko victim”, but there was nothing funny about it at the time.

”I had this picture in my head that my arm was in half, that was all I could picture until I hit the ground,” Goodes recalled of the time-stands-still feeling that accompanies disasters of any degree. ”I looked down and it wasn’t, thankfully. I picked it up, knew I was gone, and just ran straight off.”

He returned to Melbourne on an early flight, a sling supporting two snapped bones, president Peter Gordon and club doctor Gary Zimmerman his solemn companions. Immediately he was in the purgatory of the long-term injured, a footballer removed from his flock.

This is territory he already knew – if not personally, then professionally. As the Western Bulldogs’ welfare officer prior to his 2012 rookie listing, Goodes had worked closely with Dale Morris and his family as the defender negotiated a cruel, prolonged recuperation from a broken leg. He had counselled others, too, unaware they would one day be his teammates.

”It certainly helped,” Goodes says. ”I can imagine the mental stresses a young guy would have to deal with going through a long-term injury. Even me to an extent – I’ve only got a one-year contract, I’ve just broken my arm, that all comes to mind.

”Having worked in that area certainly helped me get through the rest of the season.”

He was left in no doubt the limbo was only temporary. The coaches and list manager Jason McCartney assured him another one-year deal would be offered, and with two plates and a dozen screws in his forearm he was able to resume running, join in certain drills and throw himself into another quirk of the season-over player’s world: training hard to go on holiday. Already he can feel the benefits.

”I think I’m much fitter this year, having started pre-season fit and ready to go,” Goodes says of how he can be a better player than the one who slotted into the Dogs defence for 13 games in 2013 like he had been there all along. ”I’m just looking forward to being that creative running half-back flanker, getting up the ground a bit more instead of just playing on my man and beating him. Be more creative and help our team surge forward.”

Watching the team win four of its last six was a mixed blessing, rapt to see progress but, with the likes of Shaun Higgins, Clay Smith, Tom Williams and Jason Johannisen , fighting back feelings of jealousy at not truly being part of it. Still, Goodes could reflect on a debut season that met his own expectations, and exceeded those of anyone who had been sceptical about his drafting.

”I played all the games I could physically play,” he says of a season blighted by a suspension, a wrist injury and the broken arm. ”For me that was a good year, a great year – my first season, to have played every game I could possibly have played.”

He never felt out of place and thinks his previous occupation helped here, too. ”There was never anything negative, never, ‘Do I belong?’ It was all positive, ‘What a great opportunity, I’m going to train my backside off and make the most of it’.”

He loved the constant education, that despite having seen up close the workload and stresses that accompany the cherished life of a footballer, he was still taken aback by just how hard it was. He found the training was only part of it, the mental load – criticism, scrutiny, feedback – was much more onerous. ”It’s not a normal life, but I love what I do. I’ve always wanted to be involved in AFL footy in one way or another, working or playing. You know what you sign up for when you walk in the door. This is me now for however long I’ve got left in me.”

Being Goodes by name and nature increases his value as a teammate, still bringing to the change rooms the qualities of his previous role, someone whose make-up is to extend a hand if he sees someone in need. ”I think that’s why I loved my old job so much at the time, it was so natural for me.”

There is one significant difference this year to last: no longer is he Adam’s brother, rather the brother of the Australian of the Year.

Goodes was with friends in Anglesea when Adam accepted the award from Prime Minister Tony Abbott on Australia Day, and delivered a stirring speech on the lawns of Parliament House. He thinks only becoming a father – or seeing the child of brother and father-to-be Jake – could make him prouder.

”For my whole family, watching Adam, his speech, seeing mum in the crowd, it was a really fulfilling moment. It was great to see mum there sharing it with him after all the hardship she’s had. It’s never been an easy track for any of us.”

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How all things tight and beautiful took giant strides

Model Nathan Waring shows off the latest fashion statement – meggings, or leggings for men. Even pop star Justin Bieber is said to be in on the meggings craze. Photo: Steven Siewert Nathan Waring
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Luke Sales likes his trousers bright and tight. “I often wear leggings because I don’t like wearing pants,” he says.

The co-designer of the fashion label Romance Was Born is known for wearing boldly printed leggings, which he teams with shorts, worn over them, to preserve his modesty.

“It’s not for me to go the whole hog, and it’s definitely not a look for everyone,” Sales says.

But leggings for men are definitely on the rise. Justin Bieber wears them, Russell Brand performs in them, and international labels ranging from Givenchy – whose leggings cost up to $US595 ($680) – to Asos and Uniqlo are now manufacturing dedicated “meggings”, as what began as a fad moves closer to the mainstream.

“This time last year we had no jersey bottoms for men, today we have over 40 styles, and we will have 150 jersey styles next year,” said Asos’ head of design, John Mooney.

“We have everything from true meggings and skinny jogging bottoms to tailored shorts with built-in meggings.”

Americans Adam Freck and Andrew Volk went one step further when they launched an entire company devoted to meggings, named Meggings Man, in December. In Australia, Jac+Jack, Bassike and Zanerobe are among the brands that now manufacture drop-crotch style meggings for men. “There is a really strong sportswear influence taking place in menswear,” said David Jones’ general manager of menswear and childrenswear, Deborah Foreman. “A few years ago men were quite staid, but now they are really experimenting and we are seeing a lot more drop-crotch and softer-style trousers.”

Asos sells meggings from $20.27, for its own brand, to $91.23 for the Bjorn Borg brand.

Businessman Paul Connor sees meggings as the evolution of black skinny jeans.

“The meggings I wear now have that skinny-jean look, but because they are stretchy they have a brilliant comfort factor,” Connor said.

“I buy mine from Uniqlo and I would wear them twice a week.”

Men were wearing leggings long before women turned them into a fashion trend in the 1980s. Shakespeare practically lived in them, although they were called stockings then, and Henry VIII wore silk knitted versions.

Mooney believes the beauty of the megging is versatility. “There is so much variety that the appeal is broad,” he said. “Everything from a true megging for a late teen or early 20s fashionista, through to more detailed styles you can dress up with shirts and more.”

But Foreman says the look is not for everyone. “You have to have a bit of confidence about you and you have to know how to put it together,” she said.

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