Daryn Cresswell interview on ABC Grandstand

As you may or may not know I recently helped former Sydney Swan 250-odd gamer Daryn Cresswell pen his biography.

Since his time as a player and AFL coach, Daryn’ went through a self-inflicted wringer – gambling, depression, suicide attempts, a totally shredded personal life, a fraud conviction, a jail sentence.

These days Crezza (as he is probably better known) coaches Palm Beach Currumbin in the the local SEQAFL competition and plies a trade as a landscaper having quietly rebuilt his life.

This chat took place the day before Crez was due to coach his local lads in their Grand Final. (They went on to win it by six goals).

It starts with Daryn telling ABC Grandstand’s Zane Bojack and Al Nicholson about how much he was looking forward to the decider.

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White Man, Black Board

Here’s a little story I wrote for the quite spectacular Winter edition of White Horses Magazine.

The gist was to gather as many photographers and writers as possible to converge on the first day of Winter 2013 so each could give a fresh perspective. Not sure if you’re familiar with the classic 1981 ‘A Day in the Life of Australia’ publication, but White Horses’ ‘Winterfell’ was a kind of surf-related equivalent. I’m extremely proud to have made a contribution. It’s a stunning window into a moment.


White Man, Black Board

No one on the roads. A few fluoro-vested worker bees lurking, smoking in the industrial zone that splits my valley home from the Pacific.

On the radio local shaper Richard Harvey does his usual Saturday surf report thing. Talks of two feet, maybe three on a bomb set if it’s my lucky day. Talks of it being too straight on the open stretches. The points are my best bet, he thinks.

This should have excited me.

I’ve got the big Pig on the roof, 9’6″ of loved local labour.

I adore my Pig.

It was a delicious glossy black until a few months back when I failed to restrain her properly on the racks. The wax held her down for a bit, but eventually she broke free and disappeared, a silent flicker in my rear view mirror. When I found her she was broken and battered, chunks missing, fin flattened to her underside, the whole thing a big, black fibreglass carcass munched by Currumbin Creek Road gravel.

It’s amazing what they can do, though. Glossy black was sanded back and holes were filled. Her sheen was stolen – a faded black mat finish better at hiding the scars of my idiocy. She still remains mightily distinguishable, even if her colour sees her suffer horribly from wax melt on hot days.

But today’s not hot.

It’s the first day of Winter.

And now I have my two-maybe-three feet only a few minutes away, conditions theoretically customised to the Pig’s proportions, the kidlessness, the morning quiet, a working week set to be washed away.

You’d reckon it’d all add up to something resembling special.

Not today though.

The week preceding wasn’t one to be proud of.

Race was the culprit. Age old casualised bullshit attitudes by twerps who ought to know better.

A dickhead kid at the football with her dickhead friends who thought it’d be hysterical to call a proud indigenous player an ape. And then a dickhead commentator with a dickhead ego who thought it would be awesome to compound the brouhaha with similar dickheadery.

I did nothing to contribute to it all and yet I remain ashamed.

It’s still filling my head full of sorrow and my heart full of ache as I yank on a wet wetsuit.

Out in The Alley the tide is all over the shop.

From my vantage it looks smaller than what the radio guy crystal-balled but I know this wave well enough now to recognise the deception.

My board’s a mile off being right for this stuff. Too thick, too cumbersome. I can tell by the way the water tugs at my legs, the way my feet get tangled in my leash.

I saunter in regardless and let the cold rush snap me awake.

I start paddling.

It’s futile.

Before I can blink I’m sucked north at alarming pace, snowy seafoam zig-zagging every which way beneath and dragging me everywhere but the direction I want to go.

Given the week that’s been, the irony isn’t lost for long.

A white man floundering with his black board in a wild world where despite best intentions neither work well together.

At least today. Tomorrow’s another, of course. The climate changes quickly. There’ll be a new ocean, a fresh tide, a different breeze.

My board and I will be back.

We’ll try again then.

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Dare to spare a thought for Daryn Cresswell this weekend?

In a week during which footballer behaviour has been in the spotlight – or just plain alight [groan] – I’m here to ask you to spare a thought for former Swan Daryn Cresswell.


Read on.

Born in Tassie, ‘Crezza’ played 244 games for the Sydney Swans between 1992 and 2003. He was the Swans Best and Fairest player in 1994 and a six time runner up for the same award. He’s a member of both Tasmanian and Swans ‘Teams of the Century’, he played in Sydney’s grand final team in 1996, and was selected All Australian the following year.

Cresswell was an extremely fit and skilful footballer with a penchant for big moments. Check out the highlights of the understrength Swans’ unexpected win against Port Adelaide in the 2003 First Qualifying Final for a few glimpses (the kick to find Hall at 4.12 is a peach). Who could forget the 1999 Preliminary Final between Sydney and Essendon? Cresswell was also a huge part of Sydney’s win in the Elimination Final against Hawthorn a few weeks earlier. There’s also this post-siren moment against North Melbourne.

Onfield, he was something of a brute – uncompromising, intimidatory and ridiculously tough and durable. Perhaps it’s unsurprising then that despite a seriously impressive playing CV his career is best remembered for the time he fixed his own dislocated knee against the Cats on a miserable Kardinia afternoon way back when.

Daryn’s personal downfall, as is now well known, was equally wince-inducing.

It’s a complicated, troubling and extremely sad story, one that I had the job of helping him recount in his recent biography, Crezza.

Like far too many Australians, Daryn gambled. At first it was fun but with terrifying speed it became an obsessive disease. He let people down. At his most desperate, he made horrible mistakes. In the end he went to prison. If he didn’t land in the clink, he probably would have taken his own life.

So why then am I asking you to think of Daryn Cresswell today?

When he was released from prison Daryn had next to nothing. People offered him handouts to help him get back on his feet, but he chose not to accept them. Instead, with the only money he had – a few grand eked out of Channel 7 for an entirely regrettable interview – he bought a second hand lawnmower, a grubby old ute and had some fliers printed. Then he donned his joggers, and ran the streets of the Gold Coast suburbs making letterbox drops. It was the fresh start he needed. These days, a couple of years on, sporadic mowing has morphed into a landscaping business that keeps him occupied pretty much most of the week. The rest of his time he devotes to coaching the Palm Beach Currumbin Lions in the South East Queensland AFL competition.

Last year he took his Lions to the Grand Final. They fell to the highly fancied Western Magpies in a forgettably lop-sided affair.

This weekend, Palm Beach Currumbin take on the Western Magpies again, only this time it’s in a Prelim. They’ve met three times this year already – one win apiece in the ordinary rounds, the Maggies too good in the First Semi. But, they’re better than that this year, the Lions. Crez has demanded it of them, they’ve listened and last year’s Grand Final defeat is still a fresh memory. They’ll be hard to beat this Saturday. One more win and they’ll have earned their chance to make amends.

And so to my point.

As this week has illustrated, people sometimes do stupid stuff. Sometimes, though, human error delivers real ramifications. People tie themselves in seemingly hopeless tangles. They hurt loved ones. They burn bridges that will never be rebuilt. They lose trust. They pay incredibly heavy personal tolls. And yet at the end of it all they can still search for and find redemption.

In a small way that’s part of what Daryn Cresswell will be setting out to do this weekend.

And good on him.

So as the sun sets on a week where a rapacious media has fed heartily on our bloodthirsty desire to sweat the small stuff, perhaps we can momentarily rail against this rather base mentality and spare a thought for a bloke whose mistakes had real and awful human consequences but who has worked his arse off to come out the other side.

Carn the Lions.


The Lions defeated the Western Magpies 19.21 (135) to 12.5 (77) in last Saturday’s Preliminary Final.

The Lions now play Springwood in this weekend’s SEQAFL Division 1 Grand Final. 

Note: I don’t receive royalties from the publication of Daryn’s book. It’s his story, not mine.

Crezza is available at all the usual outlets.

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Dwarf torching and other random acts of lunacy

A South Melbourne hotel. Booze. Blokes. Mad Monday. A ‘Jackass’-like dwarf * entertainer whose modus operandi is to occasionally go beyond the usual limits. A little more booze.

This will end well.

Actually, it probably won’t.

And so it proved.

Yesterday St Kilda fans** groaned as one. Why? Because one of their own – this time Clinton Jones – thought it HYSTERICAL to set a dwarf entertainer’s shirttail alight. Yet again the Saints’ faithful would be forced to defend themselves against the salivating masses who delight in tossing moralistic hand grenades their way every time one of their lads does something silly.

Look. A foolish Mad Monday escapade, of that there is no doubt. But no-one’s suggesting said dwarf entertainer charged from said hotel resembling Halley’s Comet. His clothes were burnt, but to an unspecified extent. He claims no physical injury. There’s even a bit of chatter from the pub where it all went down that the whole thing was something of a post-fact stormy teacup. But lets not slip ill-fitting shoes on the high horse that now parades among us.

Instead, lets just gallop with it like A Current Affair and call this a BURNT DWARF EXCLUSIVE. ***

When initially confronted with this sordid scoop, AFL chief Andrew Demetriou was so shocked at its apparent ridiculousness he damn near wet his pants on live television (How DARE he JEST?! Demetriou MUST GO!). Closer to St Kilda, supporters cursed their club’s all too predictable ability to BE bad news. Essendonian types freshly whacked by AFL House LOVED the prospect of a few deflective snipes at the only club that could possibly find a way to steal a spotlight hitherto fixed on AFL’s worst ever scandal. Twitter went into meltdown. How DISGUSTING is it to SET FIRE to someone? What KIND of PERSON does something so INSANE? WHO in their RIGHT MIND? How DARE he do that, especially to a POOR DEFENCELESS ENTERTAINER? A $3000 club-imposed fine? So THAT’S what it costs to BURN A DWARF?

On and on and on it went. On and on and on it probably still goes.

But I mean, really… Is this what we’ve become? Introspection thrown out the window, the collective overwhelmed by the intoxicating odour of fresh disgrace, a bandwagon packed solid like a Fiona Scott-ian M4 full of refugees all destined for a good lynching.

I say spare me your finger-pointing outrage. I say take that same finger and point it at yourself.

Everyone does totally contemptible and entirely regrettable stuff, don’t they?

I sure as hell have.

So, in the interests of balance, I thought it only fair to expose some of my own historical horrorshow for public scrutiny. Thankfully I eventually outgrew the several different versions of idiot that inform these various tales. I also remain remorseful. I suspect Clint Jones does too. He probably always will. He is, after all, human.

Anyhow, in no real order, and with shamefully little need for much thought, here is a quick insight into the occasional twerp I’ve been:

1. Last day of school. As tradition dictated we were required to consume copious amounts of grog at a so-called Champagne Breakfast. I don’t recall much champagne. Mostly premixed rocket fuel and sickly warm Tooheys New twist tops. Amid the pass-outs and hilarious spasming of delicate underage stomachs everyone thought it an awesome idea to hurl the lesser proportioned of the crew over a sandstone wall and into Sydney Harbour for a swim. Depth check? Never discussed. Not that depth would have mattered. The high tide had concealed a series of rusted metal poles jagging out of the harbour floor like some giant Barracuda’s lower jawline. Except for dumb luck several of our own could have been left there impaled. So, SO incredibly thick. Can you imagine the headlines that could have been?

2. The special home-baked biscuits Steve**** brought along to my Byron Bay stag function were definitely not beer snacks. Not that anyone noticed. Least of all me. Three hours later, the sun only just down on an event scheduled to finish perhaps twelve hours later, I slinked off totally incapable of dealing with the incoherent voices whirling around in my brain. Yes, I Backdoor Bennied my own bucks. On the lonely trudge homeward down Lawson Street I longed only for the comfort of my bride-to-be’s arms. I could all but smell her by the time I rounded a corner near the descent to our rented Wategos Beach abode. But what was that? Through the trees? LIGHTS. It was a cab. One of those voices convinced me that in it was my naughtiest groomsman, Dunny. HE’S CHASING ME! I MEAN WHO ELSE COULD IT BE? HE’S COME TO TAKE ME BAAAACK! NOOOOO! So I ran. Beyond the safety rail that edged the road was thick scrubby bush. I charged at it, overcame the cookie-fog and a belly full of beer to hurdle the bastard like an Olympian, and beamed at the prospect of lunging into the cool foliage that would soon be my safe haven. But then something awful happened. The ground was never there to meet my feet. I flew for way too long. How long? I’m not really sure. But certainly long enough to conjure a vision of myself as a wastoid north coast casualty in a pool of blood, little more than a skin-bag of crushed bone on the rocks at the foot of Cape Byron. But then, thank the stars above, I felt terra firma once more. I tumbled forward. Branches tore at my shoulders and chest. I rolled uncontrollably. Then a thud as the back of my head struck a thick timber fencepost. Thereafter it was only the hum of a heavy concussion to keep me company. When I came to I realised I was on the coastal walking path that connected Byron’s main beach to my final destination. At a slightly different trajectory and a metre or so to the left and that horrible image I had of myself a few seconds earlier could well have been a reality.

3. Ever tried to pull a stunt style handbrake 180 degree turn while on a late night munchie run to the local 7-11? Only when you’re not a stunt driver. And you weren’t in a stunt car. Nor did you have any understanding of the kind of physical forces in a play. All without a seatbelt. On a narrow road with cars parked either side. With your equally unbuckled best mate in the car. Guilty, your honour. How many people – young men in particular – have NOT emerged from these situations miraculously unscathed. Sheesh.

4. Ever engaged in a close range ‘gun fight’ with a friend, your artillery a big bag of twenty-shooter fire crackers? So, so yep if you’re me. I was a kid, sure. Still, I knew as a pastime it was about as bright as goalsquare mud. Another bullet dodged. In the circumstances somewhat contrarily, I might add.

5. With full and frank understanding of the likely consequences have you ever sauntered through a bunch of parked Comanchero-owned Harley Davidson motorcycles because the grog you consumed at a Marrickville Fight Night made you feel brave enough to make some kind of personal stand against Outlaw Motorcycle Gangs? Yep, I’ve done that too. It didn’t hurt much. Actually it did. I prefer to forget.

6. I was once arrested for maliciously damaging a street sign. Hardly a hanging offence, of course. But it occurred outside a Police Station in front of a couple of officers who’d just come back from McDonalds with their free Happy Meals still dangling in their mitts. I was lairising whilst liquoured after, of all things, the funeral of a mate’s brother. Probably not a good idea to pipe up about being a law student and how ‘I knew how the system worked’ and quoting sections of the Evidence Act while I was in the holding cell. Nor was it a good idea to mention repeatedly (and not just a little arrogantly) the name of a detective – also a cricketing teammate – as someone who would ‘sort it all’ at a time when the good members of the NSW Police Force were under the Wood Royal Commission’s microscope. I probably could have weaseled my way out of it completely had I mentioned the reason why I was turpsed in the first place. At the time I thought any mention of the funeral as some kind of excuse somehow distasteful. Honourable stupidity is actually a ‘thing’, it seems. So too ‘loyalty stupidity’. I had a fresh-outta-Uni solicitor friend defend me when I finally made it Manly Magistrates’ Court. Before my matter was called I watched small time drug pushers, car thieves and fine-dodgers walk out with a slap on the wrist and a ‘don’t let me see you here again’. I, on the other hand – the only suited defendant in the entire courthouse – copped a fine I couldn’t afford, a twelve month good behaviour bond and a dressing down that was making the court transcriber wince. That my friend was a more a trainee conveyancer in his old man’s suburban practice than a lawyer per se probably didn’t help.

7. There was also the afternoon of that cricket training camp way back when. A few of my teammates were at a barbecue beforehand. I say barbecue, but a recall little in the way of meat. Nor the existence of a hotplate for that matter. So in the absence of food we filled ourselves full as boots. With nothing left to drink and the clock ticking towards a training session we weren’t taking all that seriously, one of the non-cricketers, Paulie, agreed to give us a lift in. As we unloaded from his Corolla, our opening bowler nodded towards it’s roof racks. I knew what I had to do. I grabbed on. The bowler let out a loud WOO HOO that faded out behind me as Paulie accelerated. At real pace, too. Later I was told that my body swung all but horizontal as he hurtled left and out of sight. I tried to get Paulie to stop. I yelled. I thumped on the roof. He couldn’t hear me over the din of a Cold Chisel ‘Best Of’ compilation. What else could I do but let go? Lets just say I didn’t have much of a preseason that year. Let’s just say I still bear a few scars.

So there’s seven simple illustrations of the total numbskull I once was. At least sporadically. Thankfully – mercifully – I am no longer the same guy.

None of these things I will do again, of course.

Still, feel free to string me up now. Slice me into sixteenths. Serve me cold on your morality sandwich. In the end it won’t matter a fig. I carry the burden of my own idiocy. I always will.

It’s part of being a person, one that in all likelihood is not so dissimilar to plenty of you.

We stumble our way through eventually.

* For those concerned citizens who have ‘phoned in’ I always thought ‘person of short stature’ was the agreed term, but seeing as mainstream media have teed off on all things dwarf, and the fact there’s a Dwarf Olympics, it seems silly for me to get all politically correct on your arses. Begs the question, though. What if the alleged victim was not a dwarf?

** of which I am one.

*** they really did do this:


**** Not his real name, naturally.

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Only dust now the dust has settled?

So what remains of things now Essendon has been slapped with a velveteen mitten?

A Twitter feed filled with US Open results (#doitHewitt) and Liberal Party advertweets that  bemoan ALP evil of every kind but fail to offer the simple courtesy of a link to where it is on Ebay I might buy one of those wretched Indonesian fishing boats. 

Other than that I’ve got nuthin’.

And it’s kinda boring.

The Age’s investigative team of Baker and McKenzie are seemingly taking a break and the dogged Caro Wilson has turned her attention to finals. Patrick Smith still searches for outrage but now perhaps it’s the NRL’s turn to wear his wrath. For the Bombers, pugnacious gold-tooth Chairman Paul Little probably can’t believe his luck at being allowed to dodge a bullet. Down at the Herald Sun Mark Robinson can probably ease off on the heart medication for a bit (a good thing) now his Bombers have been dealt their hand. I do carry with me an indelible image of self-appointed Essendon spokesperson Mark McVeigh scratching his head as he reads Vitamin bottle labels while Matthew Lloyd sucks his thumb in a corner. Only really Brendon Goddard, the newest Bomber – to many still a Saint (and even moreso if one was to consider the term literally against the shady backdrop of the club he moved to) – has offered any real post-fact insight. That was anger and disappointment. In other words little has changed for BJ. His career hallmarks remain intact.

Yep. That ol’ scandal’s gone and disappeared awfully quiet and awfully quick.

Questions do remain of course.

ASADA still probes for evidence of banned substance use that has long been hidden or lost if it ever existed at all. Danks still floats about like a ghostly black cloud. L. Ron Hubbard James Hird sits tight until the Church of Scientology Essendon Football Club starts paying off his Toorak manor once more. Bomber Thompson pulls strange faces at weird moments. Meanwhile Doc Reid dips into his super to avoid doctorly deregistration by battling on in the Supreme Court.

But despite all this we are still left with a kind of void now the AFL guillotine has finally fallen.

I must confess to a certain voyeuristic rapture throughout the whole tawdry episode. I wasn’t alone.

At first it arose out of disdain.

Essendon’s willingness to wriggle either side of the accusatory finger during the entire brouhaha compounded the ill-feeling. The fanboys/girls in the mainstream media who chose a jumper over plausible counter-argument grated. There were personal historical reasons, too. A vile hostility in their section of the outer in particular. One doesn’t readily forget one’s wife being spat on for no reason other than a willingness to quietly applaud a Tony Lockett goal at the SCG way back when. One also doesn’t forget the sanctimonious leer of the Essendonian employers one had the misfortune of working for over the journey (Toorakians, Prahranians, Malvernians and Elwoodians if truth be known – the coterie kind of Bomber we’ve been hearing about). But mine are quiet, irrelevant biases. Especially now.

The Bombers will always have those flags and a rich and proud history, but fact is 2013 mud will stick forever. Essendon will always be THAT club, the one with an asterisk aside it’s name.

How the mighty fall.

So what’s left in the wake of all that muck?

A final eight of two distinct halves is what.

At the important end the Hawks, Geelong, Fremantle and the Swannies are a cut above.

Below them the Blues sneak in at the expense of the Dons, Richmond fans finally have their chance to roar (oh the irony of them making the finals in a year when ninth would have been good enough after all!), Kenny Hinkley’s revitalised Port Adelaide add an element of feelgood and Collingwood consider one more campaign before – perhaps inevitably – they go the way of St Kilda, West Coast and the Crows.

Hang on. Hold the presses.

How on earth DIDN’T the skilful, slick and exciting North Melbourne win themselves a finals berth?

Five losses by less than a kick, that’s how.

It’s almost as if you have to check the ladder to convince yourself they WON’T be there this September. One of the more intriguing battles of season 2014 will be the one between the Roos’ ears.

But developing the energy required for next season after the horrors of one wasted won’t be left entirely for the Kangas.

Hell, I can barely even feign outrage at the Cats being handed a final at Kardinia and if I was any semblance of the football man I once was I’d be howling blue murder.

Nup. Essendon has pretty much entirely sapped me of chutzpah this time around.

So as the dust settles on one of the most awful footballing years ever, all I’m seeing is, well, dust.

I’m guessing I’m not alone in hoping for a little September football magic.

Still, in the total oddness that was season 2013 I have managed to nonchanlantly list a few memorable moments. Even when it’s horrible our game’s full of highlights. That’s why broadcasters pay what they do.

1. Ash McGrath splits ’em after the bell v Geelong at the Gabba. The passage of play that led to McGrath’s last ditch shot was as good as football can be – desperate, precise, constant motion. That he nailed the kick from outside fifty after the siren with a tired right leg was impressive enough. That his drop punt offered the last six of a 52 point turnaround was freakin’ amazing. Moreover, that McGrath iced the cake in his 200th game was something truly wonderful.

2. The rise of Richmond. They play a terrific game the Tigers. They’re fast and they’re exciting and they have a spearhead called TYRONE for whom the crowd rises as he throws upwards at the ball and that counts for plenty I reckon. It helps that Tigers fans roar like no other, too. Gutteral. Primal. Intoxicating. I couldn’t be more delighted to see the yellow and black brigade get their chance this year. It’s been a long wait. I’ll be yelling for ’em.

3. Rd 19 Port v Crows. Chad Wingard put the Power in front with a minute to play, but the game will be remembered for one extraordinary Angus Monfries bounce that led to a goal. Outside fifty, his team down but surging, he went right, then left, got around his man and kicked long. The ball pitched near the left behind post but jagged right and somehow dribbled through. Included because football should be both unpredictable, romantic and because, for added drama, it all occurred in a Showdown. And because – at least in a sense – it proved my Saints were bloody unlucky in 2010.

4. Ken Hinkley. A perennial Assistant, he’d been courted by any number of clubs over his career but never quite got the nod for a senior role. He could have just about tossed in the towel when Scott Watters pipped him for the Saints’ job, but instead he jumped on what many thought was basket case in Port Adelaide. He took the opportunity to prove the doubters wrong and ran with it. Hats off for Kenneth. Fine job done. One for the good guys. Coach of the Year for mine. 

5. Rd 23 St Kilda v Fremantle. Farewell Kozi, Blakey and Milney. How a retirement game should be. A kind of Harlem Globetrotters event to ice a long year. Sure it had the benefit of being totally meaningless in terms of the final ladder, but this was a joyous celebration of three blokes who have given their all for their sport. Even the finals bound Freo players were smiling as the Saints won a training drill handsomely. Pity the goal review umpire didn’t share the same sense of theatre by allowing Kozi’s last quarter shot the all clear despite it shaving the post. Ah well. At least the other two retirees snagged majors.

6. Geelong. The bubble will burst eventually, but for now lets just celebrate how freakishly good the Sleepy Hollow Footy Factory has become. Still a joy to watch.

7. Gary Ablett. Save us the boredom of count night. Give him the bloody Brownlow now. The best player in the competition by some margin. Will he win a flag with the Suns? Two years? Maybe three more? I hope so. He’s been incredible.

8. Rd 22 Essendon v Carlton. Because Essendon were buried under the weight of self-inflicted doom, could have thrown in the towel, but didn’t. Also because Carlton needed to win, should have won, but couldn’t. But mostly because Bomber David Zaharakis, apparently afraid of needles, was the only Essendon player NOT pincushioned during the club’s supplements program, and he managed to kick the winning six-pointer. THAT, my friends, is totally awesome.

9. Jaeger O’Meara is Gary Koutoufides. Or Anthony Ablett. Take your pick. The bloke is a  football machine. Look out 2014.

10. Jack Steven. Sure I’m biased, but this is my blogpost. Fact is when you watch your own rebuilding team struggle each week it is encouraging to see a young bloke bust his gut in a quest to improve. Steven is like an electric shock on-field. May not snag a B and F this year, but it’ll be hard to deny him in years to come. He’s from Lorne, you know.

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