Menzel to return for Cats in AFL semi

Geelong will turn to the X-factor of Daniel Menzel as they look to overturn a poor recent record against red-hot Sydney in Friday night’s cut-throat AFL semi-final.

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Menzel was a shock omission for last weekend’s qualifying-final loss to Richmond, with doubts cast over his lack of defensive pressure.

In the absence of their second leading scorer this year, the Cats were held to a paltry return of five goals against the rampaging Tigers.

With midfielder Cam Guthrie certain to miss with a calf strain, Geelong coach Chris Scott declared Menzel a certain starter against the Swans, who have won five of the past six matches between the two clubs.

In an eight-year career blighted by four knee reconstructions, the mercurial Menzel has only played two finals.

The 26-year-old also missed last year’s preliminary-final loss to the Swans due to groin soreness, making his dumping last weekend an even tougher pill to swallow.

“He’s been unfortunate the last four or five years and maybe even longer than that, that he hasn’t been available at this time of the year,” Scott said on Wednesday.

“Even last year he was very sore towards the end of the year.

“For this game he’ll be feeling physically very good.

“That’s the part that excites him the most, that it’s a really big game and he’s feeling good and he’s playing.”

The free agent is out of contract at the end of the season and has been linked with a possible move back to his home state of South Australia.

Scott flagged the prospect of the Cats making more than one personnel change against a Sydney outfit who have won 15 of their past 17 games.

The likes of Darcy Lang and Tom Ruggles could be considered for recalls, as could versatile talls Wylie Buzza or Rhys Stanley.

But goalsneak Nakia Cockatoo is out of contention for at least one more week due to ongoing hamstring concerns.

In his first game back after ankle surgery, combative skipper Joel Selwood was well below his best against the Tigers, although he was hardly alone there.

“He is very good when it comes to hiding discomfort,” Scott said.

“I’m sure he had some but he didn’t show it.

“His feedback is that he will be better for the run.

“He wasn’t at his best, but probably the biggest factor for us last week (was) if the coaches’ votes were 10 through to one I don’t think we could have come up with one (player) in the top 10.

“… one of the beauties of getting the double chance is you can turn that around really quickly.”

More on Lionel Murphy saga to be released

The Lionel Murphy saga, one of Australia’s most politically painful and judicially sensational cases, may finally end with the release of files that have been kept secret for more than 30 years.

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Parliament on Thursday will release documents collected by a commission of inquiry into Murphy’s fitness to remain a High Court judge.

The commission was set up after Murphy was acquitted of attempting to pervert the course of justice and its work was cut short because of his death in 1986.

The material it gathered may help answer the central question: was Murphy corruptly close to underworld figures or simply a bon vivant networker who was unwise in his choice of friends?

Murphy was a Labor hero of the Left.

He was a reforming attorney-general in the Whitlam government. Gareth Evans, a later attorney-general, has said he was the most adventurous member of the government apart from Whitlam himself.

His adventures included a raid on ASIO headquarters because he thought the domestic spy agency was withholding information.

He was appointed to the High Court in 1975.

Murphy’s troubles started with the publication of the so-called Age tapes in 1984, which purported to include conversations he had with Sydney solicitor Morgan Ryan, who had been charged over an immigration scam.

Two Senate inquiries were held. The first cleared Murphy on party lines but the second – with Labor members split – found his conduct might have amounted to proved misbehaviour.

By then, NSW chief magistrate Clarrie Briese and District Court judge Paul Flannery had said Murphy had improperly tried to influence them in favour of Ryan.

In January 1985, he was charged with two counts of attempting to pervert the course of justice.

The flavour of the trial was set by Briese’s evidence that Murphy said to him about Ryan: “And now, what about my little mate.”

Murphy was acquitted on the Flannery matter but convicted on the Briese charge.

It was the first time a member of the highest court in the land had been found guilty of a crime, let alone one that went to the heart of the judicial process.

Murphy was ultimately cleared after an appeal and a retrial.

But as he prepared to return to court duties – against the wishes of chief justice Harry Gibbs – fresh claims of misbehaviour, or worse, started circulating.

With a political storm threatening, the government commissioned three retired judges to look at the new allegations and decide whether his behaviour justified his removal from the court.

It’s not known just how far it got before Murphy announced he was dying of cancer and the inquiry was shut down. Its records were sealed for 30 years.

Murphy died on October 21, 1986, just after delivering his last judgments.

Now, more than 30 years later, the politico-judicial system will deliver its last judgment on him.

GWS mull over an AFL recall for Stevie J

Greater Western Sydney are considering a raft of changes as they seek to keep their AFL season alive, with retiring veteran Steve Johnson’s compelling case for a recall likely to be rewarded.

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Johnson was dumped for last week’s qualifying final against Adelaide, while fellow small forward Devon Smith missed that game because of a knee injury.

Giants coach Leon Cameron confirmed both were shaping up well in their bid to return in Saturday’s semi-final against West Coast at Spotless Stadium.

But Cameron made it clear Dawson Simpson, Tim Taranto, Matt Kennedy and Tim Mohr were also in the mix.

Cameron will make at least two changes in response to season-ending injuries suffered by key forward Jeremy Cameron and ruckman Shane Mumford.

But there may also be some unforced omissions after the lopsided loss to the Crows.

“There are going to be some players walking on thin ice at the moment … wondering if they’re going to be playing,” he told reporters on Wednesday.

“That’s the way it needs to be … otherwise it means players can get away with some bad habits.”

Johnson, provided he pulls up well from Wednesday’s training session, is well placed to extend his 291-game career.

The three-time premiership winner, who boasts immense experience gleaned from 24 finals, was dropped after a poor showing against Geelong in the final round of the regular season.

Cameron noted the 34-year-old, who is a proven match winner when on song, impressed in last week’s scratch match, trained well on Wednesday and his dodgy knee is in relatively good shape.

“There’s no doubt it’s enticing to look at him because of what he can do,” Cameron said.

“Experienced players in those big moments, they only need eight or 10 possessions but they can turn it into gold.

“Our forward line hasn’t been functioning as well as it had been.

“There’s a lot in his favour.”

The rest of the selection debate is more complicated.

Cameron confirmed ex-Richmond veteran Brett Deledio is in no danger of being axed despite a quiet game against the Crows, while former Western Bulldogs captain Ryan Griffen is yet to do enough to warrant a recall.

Simpson appeared a certain inclusion for Mumford but the Giants may yet ask Rory Lobb to shoulder the bulk of the ruck burden.

Mohr has played a single game this year but could be summoned for his first career final, with GWS contemplating the prospect of starting one of their key defenders as a forward in the absence of Cameron.

“It’s going to be a really good debate … some 20 or 21 will pick themselves,” Cameron said.

“Then we’ll spend three or four hours on the last spot.”

Eckstein eyes Coolangatta Gold 10 years on

Ironman champion Shannon Eckstein says he will attack his first Coolangatta Gold in a decade the same way his mate Dean Mercer would have the surf marathon.

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On October 8, the 34-year-old will line up for the first time since 2007, hopeful of a strong finish after radical surgery in April to remove muscle from both his calves.

Eckstein says he will be pushing it to be fully recovered in time for the gruelling 42km multi-discipline event, combining swimming, paddling and running.

But he said Mercer’s recent death had convinced him it was worth a shot.

“A couple of weeks ago I was thinking I was 50-50, but after what’s happened, you think you’ve got nothing to lose,” Eckstein said.

“I’ll do it just like Dean did; go out hard and see if you can hold on.”

The 47-year-old Mercer, a father of four, was farewelled last Friday after suffering a heart attack while driving home from the grocery store.

A nine-time Kellogg’s series winner, eight-time Australia ironman champion and six-time world champion, Eckstein is regarded by most as the greatest surf lifesaver of all time.

But, just like Mercer, he has never won the Coolangatta event despite dominating the ironman arena.

“I relate a lot to it too,” Eckstein said, referring to Mercer’s unexpected death.

“As an older athlete, still pushing hard, and with two kids as well … you definitely think about it and get comments from a lot of people that you should get your heart checked.

“So you’ve got to listen to your doctor.”

Eckstein will push those thoughts aside on race day though, confident he has the stamina and fitness after falling short in previous attempts – third in 2005 and second in 2007. Mercer also never won the event he craved, with a third in 2006 and a second placing in 2009.

For Eckstein, his performances were affected by a medical condition known as ‘popliteal artery entrapment syndrome’, that limits blood supply below the knees and often leads to cramping and calf pain.

Knowing it only impacted him over longer distance races, Eckstein opted to put off surgery until this year and get the most out of his ironman career.

Now sporting two sizeable scars behind his knees, Eckstein is confident he will have the ability to handle the final 7.1 km beach run to the finish line on October 8.

“The three times I did it I led halfway through the run, but start tripping over my feet,” he said.

“Once diagnosed it made sense.

“I didn’t want to risk the operation and not be able to do the Kellogg’s Series and ironmans. So I focused on that for 10 years and have done everything I want to there and now I can focus on this.”

Defending champion Ali Day will start as favourite, having won all four times he has raced, while Shannon’s brother and five-time winner Caine will not compete.

“He’s four from four and he doesn’t have a weak leg, Ali’s pretty hard to beat over this format from what I’ve seen,” Eckstein said.

Air force finding zen on battle sidelines

Fighter pilots are usually associated with dogfighting not downward facing dog.

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But at Australia’s main air operating base in the Middle East the crews flying sorties over Iraq and Syria targeting Islamic State (Daesh) are embracing yoga and Pilates to ward off stiffness.

It’s a long day and gruelling work – up to 10 hours of flying time as well as several hours of pre and post flight briefings.

The Super Hornet crews – a pilot and weapons systems officer – are strapped in tightly to ejection seats, while wearing at least 20 kilograms of gear.

Over desert coloured flight suits they wear “G suits”, torso harnesses, survival vests kitted out with first aid kits, pistols, radios, camel backs, flares as well as a heavy helmet with display unit.

Imagine wearing a corset while strapped to a plastic chair all day.

“If the task is busy and there’s a lot going on, time goes by very quickly,” RAAF Wing Commander Jason, whose last name can not be published for operational reasons, told AAP.

“But if you’re doing non-traditional surveillance it can be more uncomfortable because you’re thinking more about the discomfort factor.

“Most guys take a good month or two when they get home to lose any aches and pains.”

Yoga has become popular with crew members.

“It’s good to stretch out and limber up,” one air crew member, who also can’t be named, told AAP.

“I try to get to a yoga session when I can to do some stretching and recovery work.”

A RAAF legal officer on base is also a qualified yoga teacher and runs classes three times a week.

“Military guys in particular are brave… and they know what’s good for the body generally and they embrace things like this because they’re not scared of what other people think,” she told AAP.

“There’s not many places at war to get the yin – it’s all yang – fried food, running, working out, carrying weapons whatever. It’s nice to give people a yin place.”

The air crew are also using Pilates techniques such as massaging trigger points with foam logs, rolling gadgets and balls.

The Super Hornets are cruising at speeds upwards of 800 kilometres per hour, and at times G-forces during manoeuvres can take a heavy toll on the body.

RAAF physical training instructor Corporal Alex Bunyan said fast jet pilots are essentially high-performance athletes because they need to be physically conditioned to handle the extreme environment otherwise they can pass out.

Much of his training is focused on “pre-habilitation” to prevent injuries as well as mentally stimulating muscles to help them brace against G-forces.

Bunyn has also taught them to do special neck stretches while they are sitting in their ejection seats waiting to take off.