On for all ages as Harvey baits Singo

Gerry Harvey has never had a super horse and it pains him that he will never get to find out if All Too Hard is that horse.

But the half-brother to Black Caviar could give him something that money can’t buy if he can get the better of his old mate John Singleton’s pride and joy More Joyous in Saturday’s All Aged Stakes at Randwick.

”With all the horses I have had, I haven’t had a super horse and I truly believe this fellow could be it,” Harvey said. ”Singo has had his super horse in More Joyous and we have to beat it [on Saturday].”

Harvey and Singleton will be wired for sound by TVN as All Too Hard and More Joyous clash and the old mates will not hold back after the race, Harvey promised. ”I think gloating and bragging will be OK,” Harvey said. ”It will be no holds barred provided one of us wins.

”I have known Singo for a long time and I’m hoping to see that real look of inner despair that only comes when he loses a big bet or something that’s close to his heart.

”It is something you can’t hide, that look when something really hurts. If All Too Hard wins, I’m hoping there is a really good photographer around to [take] a picture of him. I will be putting it on my wall, so when he gets the better of me I can look up and feel better about myself.”

If More Joyous wins the All Aged, the picture will be given completely different treatment. ”I will be burning it because you can imagine what he is going to be like,” Harvey said.

Harvey had a win over Singleton last week when Royal Descent dusted Dear Demi by 10 lengths in the Australian Oaks but it counts for nothing going into Saturday. ”That’s in the past and I live in the present and the future and if More Joyous wins Singo would have completely forgot about it as well,” he said.

All Too Hard has proven a frustration for Harvey since he became an owner of the son of Casino Prince.

He was already a Caulfield Guineas winner and Cox Plate runner-up when the deal was done but the colt went to another level early in the autumn. All Too Hard was commanding in the Orr Stakes, then toyed with his older rivals again in the Futurity Stakes before a virus stopped his preparation on the eve of the Australian Guineas.

”The thing is I don’t think we are ever going to see the best of him,” Harvey said.

”I think we saw the best of Black Caviar and Pierro but this fellow [All Too Hard] was still getting better. I think he is something really special. A super horse. He didn’t get the chance to show how good he actually is because of the problem.”

Harvey would love to continue racing All Too Hard but the horse will only have this run and possibly one more at Royal Ascot before being retired to stud.

”There are [commercial] reasons why he won’t race on as a four-year-old but it’s a pity we won’t get to see him then because at a mile and beyond I feel he could be that super horse,” Harvey said.

Saturday is All Too Hard’s first run since his setback and Harvey labelled him the underdog against More Joyous.

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Storm sale will be sooner … or later

The sale of the Melbourne Storm will be delayed for months if a deal is not done shortly.

Negotiations involving the Storm, News Limited and a multi-national consortium, with London-based New Zealanders among the leading figures, are reaching their conclusion.

Fairfax Media has been told by a reliable source that conclusion will either be an immediate announcement over the sale of the NRL and world champion or a two- to three-month delay to suit the purposes of the new owners.

“We don’t want to jeopardise the sale by speaking publicly about it,” club chief executive Ron Gauci said.

Storm staff have been assured their jobs are safe but Gauci was hired to find the club a new owner and will walk out – along with directors – when the deal is done.

The change of ownership is not expected to have significant impact on the day-to-day running of the club.

Meanwhile, the Storm has a united approach to closing in on the record of consecutive victories. It is ignoring it.

Thursday night’s 28-18 win over the Warriors was the club’s 15th in a row – just four short of the mark set by the 1975 Eastern Suburbs side.

And if it continues on its winning way, it will have to beat Sydney Roosters, formerly Eastern Suburbs, on May 25 to beat their record.

“That’s the first I’ve heard of that – I knew we’d won a fair few on the trot,” said coach Craig Bellamy. “I don’t think that will come into our consideration a whole heap.

”It’s just what we do each week and making sure we’re getting ready for the next game. If we can get there, that would be nice.

”But I’m not going to put pressure on the players about doing the next four games or whatever it is.”

Centre Will Chambers, who is off contract this year and scored two tries on Thursday, said: “We don’t think that far ahead. Now we’ve got Canberra.”

PLAYED THURSDAY:Storm 28 (Chambers 2, Fonua, Waqa, Slater tries; Smith 4 goals) d Warriors 18 (Henry, Tupou, Johnson tries; Johnson 3 goals)

Roosters 54 (Milne 2, Noble 2, Elliot, Asiata, Goodsell, Thomas, Martin, Langi tries; Langi 7 goals) d Dragons 10 (K Seru 2 tries; S Crook goal)

FRIDAY:Rabbitohs 20 (Champion, Inglis, Sutton tries; Reynolds 4 goals) d Sea Eagles 12 (Cherry-Evans, Watmough tries; Lyon 2 goals)


Cowboys v Raiders, 1300smiles Stadium, 5.30pm

Wests v Broncos, Campbelltown, 7.30pm


Titans v Knights, Skilled Park, 2pm

Sharks v Bulldogs, Bluetongue Stadium, 3pm


Panthers v Eels, Centrebet Stadium, 7pm

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Malthouse wary of Crows forward

While delighted by the return of one of his own key forwards from injury, it’s the threat posed by a visiting marksman that has Mick Malthouse concerned.

That threat comes from Taylor Walker, Adelaide’s big-marking tall who will play a crucial role in the Crows’ bid for victory when they face the Blues at the MCG on Saturday.

Malthouse lavished praise on Walker after a closed training session at Visy Park on Friday, just as he did on the mulleted South Australian last year in his role as a media commentator.

But it was hard not to think Malthouse may also have been playing mind games when he compared the emerging Walker to two of the AFL’s great forwards, Tony Lockett and Jason Dunstall.

”I made a comment some time, I think it was last year, and I had the luxury of making it without reference to being not attached to any football side – he reminds me of a modern-day version of a Lockett or Dunstall,” Malthouse said.

”Let’s not get caught up in this – they are out-and-out champions and he has a lot of time to prove that. But he is only a young bloke, he is powerful, he is not six-foot-six. He is the traditional, front-end player that has great strength, great kicking power, plays for his teammates and kicks goals.

”When you trace it back along the lines of those players [Dunstall and Lockett], he is as close to those type of players physically as any player in the competition.”

Walker, at 192 centimetres and 100 kilograms, is an imposing figure, and will almost certainly match up on full-back Michael Jamison, who has had a superb year.

Last year, Walker booted 63 goals in 19 games, with his average of 3.3 goals a game second only to Lance Franklin.

This year, his role has changed slightly, with more of an emphasis on winning the ball up the ground.

He won 51 per cent of his disposals inside 50 last season, this year it’s slipped to 38 per cent. This may have contributed to the average number of goals per game dropping to 2.5.

While Malthouse’s immediate focus will be Walker, this will turn to Jarrad Waite on Sunday when he resumes from a calf injury for the Blues’ affiliate, Northern Blues.

As Malthouse said, it’s been a long wait for Waite, the key forward who is crucial to the Blues’ finals hopes.

”He has trained very well over the last couple of weeks [but it’s been] the old saying: ‘When they are ready, give them another week’. He will play as much as he can,” Malthouse said.

Waite, 30, remains the Blues’ premier forward but since 2008, when he managed 21 matches, he has logged only 48 senior appearances, including 11 last season.

Small forward Eddie Betts has recovered from a fractured jaw and will line up against the Crows.

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Cats coach has Scott all the right moves

Chris Scott is coaching very well. When hasn’t he, it could be argued, given that he won a premiership in his first season as coach of Geelong and backed it up with a finals appearance the following year?

While there were plenty of opinions proffered to suggest the great Cat era was coming to an end, Geelong sits undefeated after four rounds, its extraordinary ability to win games from seemingly hopeless positions handsomely enhanced.

Scott, as is his nature, will deflect credit for their position, preferring to point to the players’ unbelievable resolve and their faith in one another. It is indisputable that the winning culture that permeates every part of the football club was well and truly established before he arrived to take over from Mark Thompson.

But to maintain it, and to infuse a new group of young footballers with a similar mindset, was always going to be a mighty task. It helps that there is a leadership group of rare quality that inspires, and demands, nothing less from its peers, regardless of age or experience. It would be a very brave, or dumb, footballer who defies the example set by his captain, Joel Selwood. To get a simple nod of approval from Selwood would be enough to nourish a youngster’s career for a year.

Taking all of that into consideration, Scott’s coaching still deserves recognition. And the thing that I’ve enjoyed most about the way he is managing his side is the proactive nature of the way he is going about it.

In recent times, Hawthorn’s Alastair Clarkson has provided the best example of an AFL coach being ahead of the game, with his radical decision to implement an aggressive, zone-based defence that was pivotal to the Hawks’ unlikely 2008 premiership.

Scott’s ability to maximise the exceptional talents of key defender Harry Taylor in recent weeks has been a joy to observe. Taylor has long been recognised as one of the elite defenders in the competition. What we are coming to appreciate is that he could be equally effective at the other end of the ground. He should be acknowledged as one of the most valuable footballers in the competition.

Last week, against the Swans Taylor continually went on searching forays deep into Geelong’s attacking 50-metre zone. To be able to do this, Scott has to first trust that Taylor picks the right time, so that he is not left with the embarrassing sight of his opponent taking an uncontested mark, with him 100 metres away at the opposite end of the ground.

Taylor picked his moments perfectly. It was fascinating to watch the mind games being played out between him and his direct opponent. Whether it was Lewis Roberts-Thomson or Adam Goodes, you could see them wrestling with the notion that they were the attackers; therefore Taylor was obligated to chase them.

What happened was actually the opposite, for Taylor is such a dangerous marking option that to risk not chasing him was to flirt with disaster. The fact that he ended up kicking 2.4 from centre half-back would suggest that his opponents lost the mind game.

But Scott provided Taylor with the perfect safety net. It appeared that every time he ran forward it was a signal for James Podsiadly to head back and provide cover, picking up Taylor’s opponent. It provided Taylor with the confidence to run, and then to spend extended time in the forward half, secure in the knowledge that Podsiadly had his back. The effect was twofold.

Taylor, obviously, posed an enormous attacking threat. But it also gave Podsiadly a focus, other than the need to hit the scoreboard. The ”J-Pod” has been a terrific story, but he can go for long periods of a game without exerting a great influence. The momentary change of focus, to be able to lock down on an opponent, can be a stimulating match-day experience. It can free the mind of concerns about winning possessions or kicking goals.

The change of on-field scenery for a player can lead to dramatic results, and should be exploited more. The Cats now know that they have a goalkicking weapon up their sleeve in Taylor, and may continue to explore Podsiadly’s ability to defend. Luke McGuane, at the Tigers, is filling the role of the third tall in the forward line. Kyle Hardingham started as a high-flying forward for the Bombers and is now an integral part of their back six. Daniel Merrett went from forward to back with great results.

Travis Varcoe was going to be another of Scott’s successful, proactive decisions. Varcoe gave every indication, in the pre-season and the couple of games he played before injuring his shoulder that, by the season’s end, he could have been the most dangerous running half-back in the game.

The Cats are, and have been, all about ”team” for a long time. Scott has been happy for Jimmy Bartel to play in the back half this year. Last week, in the second half, he played in the back pocket. If there has been a more decorated or skilful back-pocket in the modern era, I’d like to know who it is. But Bartel was happy to play his role.

George Horlin-Smith played his best game for the Cats, winning a Rising Star nomination for his 23-possession game on Swans superstar Josh Kennedy. He was one of seven Cats who made his debut last season under Scott, and one of 12 who have played their first game under him.

Scott has moved Joel Corey from the midfield, but still found an important role for him, primarily as a defender, or defensive run-with player, while injecting some pace through the middle with increased responsibility handed to Mathew Stokes and Allen Christensen.

While coaches are ultimately judged on their ability to win games, they are also judged on their ability to develop talent. What we have witnessed from Mark Blicavs in the first four weeks of the year has probably not been fully appreciated. This former Olympic aspirant, with just a handful of football games under his belt at any level, has held down the No.1 ruck position in one of the great sides of the modern era. And yes, injury to the rucking stocks played its part, but Scott has said that Blicavs was shaping as preferred choice regardless.

With seven home games to come in the back half of the year, the 4-0 start to the season has the Cats well placed. They play the struggling Dogs on Saturday night, and Taylor will be darting forward, Bartel might be patrolling the back half, Horlin-Smith might be running with Matty Boyd and ”The Blitz” will be running Will Minson from one end of the ground to the other.

I suspect Scott will be thinking, proactively, about what else he can do to make this outstanding side even better.

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