Tippett tribunal bid rejected by AFL

KURT Tippett’s bid to move to the club of his choice as a delisted free agent has again been thwarted by the AFL.
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Football operations boss Adrian Anderson late on Thursday rejected Tippett’s attempt to take his case to the league’s grievance tribunal before next Wednesday’s deadline for nomination for the pre-season draft.

Tippett, who is holidaying in Bali and will not attend Friday’s directions hearing at AFL headquarters, has told his management and his legal team he is not prepared to take his case to the Supreme Court. The 25-year-old remains hopeful of joining the Sydney Swans and does not want to jeopardise his future nor antagonise the AFL Commission.

Friday’s procedural hearing will see the following legal figures sort out the terms of next Friday’s hearing of the AFL Commission: Adelaide’s Queen’s Counsel Will Houghton; Tippett’s QC David Galbally; legal representatives for Adelaide officials Steven Trigg and Phil Harper as well as former official John Reid; and the AFL’s legal team.

The AFL remains keen for the issue to be resolved before next month.

Galbally is expected to again attempt to have his client delisted before next Wednesday’s pre-season draft deadline. Anderson has told the Tippett camp that while the grievance tribunal’s parameters have been widened under the new collective bargaining agreement, that agreement with the AFL players has not yet been signed and therefore does not apply to Tippett.

If the AFL stands firm, Tippett will have to nominate for the pre-season draft not knowing whether he will be deregistered as a result of being charged with draft tampering and salary cap breaches.

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Bulldogs face wait for SBW

CANTERBURY fans will have to wait until round 15 for Sonny Bill Williams to return to ANZ Stadium against the club he walked out on in 2008. Williams, whose return to the NRL next season is expected to draw big crowds wherever he plays with Sydney Roosters, will also face his former club in round six at Allianz Stadium.
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The Bulldogs-Roosters clashes are two of the highlights of the 2013 draw to be officially announced on Friday. Channel Nine is also banking on Williams being fit for the season opener against South Sydney at Allianz Stadium on Thursday, March 7.

Other round one matches include:

Brisbane v Manly at Suncorp Stadium on Friday, March 8;

Parramatta v Warriors at Parramatta Stadium on Saturday, March 9, and;

Melbourne v St George Illawarra at AAMI Park on Sunday, March 10.

The Storm will also host a grand final replay against the Bulldogs in round three.

The draw, the first the NRL has released for the opening 20 rounds, features 12 Sunday night matches. Among them are Manly v Newcastle at Brookvale Oval in round two and Canberra v St George Illawarra at Canberra Stadium in round three.

With the Broncos playing Manly in the opening round, their derby match against the Cowboys that has traditionally opened the season in Queensland will be played in round six.

Another potential grudge match, Wests Tigers’ first clash with Cronulla since the Sharks poached Beau Ryan and Chris Heighington, will be played in round nine. Penrith and Gold Coast travel to Darwin in round 17.

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Warner hits way out of rut

IT IS one of sport’s uncommon delights to see an individual rebuild his self-belief, from rock bottom, out in full view. David Warner arrived at the second Test in much the same condition as the Adelaide Oval: half-complete, with an architect’s impression of glory in his head, but basically a shambles.
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His recent slump in confidence was real, even if the statistics helped hide it. Edgy in Brisbane, he was perhaps lucky to get out quickly. In 1997, Doug Walters said Mark Taylor’s problem was he was batting for too long, drawing out his agony as he clawed his way towards form. Warner had at least avoided that.

On a perfect clear morning, Warner walked out, as out-of-form batsmen will, with an air of fake-it-until-you-make-it. The positive body language and signs of intent were orthodox psychology, but what often happens is about 20 minutes into an innings, once the surge of bravado fades, the batsman is back in his rut.

So it went, until Warner got lucky. In his third over, Morne Morkel bowled two fullish balls wide of off-stump. Warner threw his bat at both, slicing one and middling the other to the cover boundary. Then Dale Steyn repeated the error in his fifth over, and Morkel gave Warner another. Warner’s first six boundaries, all between point and mid-off, were not necessarily controlled, but on the scoreboard he was nearly 30.

The crisis in Australia’s innings happened at the other end, prompted by Jacques Kallis taking the ball for the 11th over. In the next 16 minutes, Ed Cowan, Rob Quiney and Ricky Ponting were out, and suddenly Warner’s personal crisis was forgotten.

It helped that soon after Michael Clarke’s arrival Kallis’ brilliant spell of swing bowling became just a cameo as his hamstring did for South Africa’s day.

A day of grand entertainment hit a high note after lunch, as Warner and Clarke put on a festive 100 runs in 10 overs. This was mostly a matter of taking full advantage of poor bowling. It was slowed by a probing spell by Rory Kleinveldt, who, it must be said, had earlier fully vindicated his captain’s lack of confidence in him. A late replacement for Vernon Philander, Kleinveldt started with the same trundling short-pitched ordinariness as in Brisbane.

But, in the middle of the day, Kleinveldt troubled Clarke for several overs and put a brake on the Australians’ momentum, leading to Warner’s dismissal to Morkel.

Warner’s job, by then, was done. The middle order was again cashing in and, with their three best bowlers booking MRI scans, it was the visitors looking in need of renovation.

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All bad news for South Africans

WHETHER it was bad luck or bad management, South Africa had a very bad day. By the end of it, Jaques Kallis had a strained hamstring and coach Gary Kirsten was forced to defend the decision to take a holiday between matches.
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Kallis was last night cleared to bat in this Test with a grade one hamstring strain, but he will not be allowed a runner under ICC rules, and his influence with the ball has already been badly missed.

The bad news started at breakfast time, when Kirsten was informed that paceman Vernon Philander had woken up with back spasms and could not bend.

The coach phoned Rory Kleinveldt, the only spare fast bowler in the squad.

Disaster struck in the first session when Kallis, the champion all-rounder and South Africa’s most pivotal player, pulled up lame during his fourth over, collected his hat and sunglasses and walked off.

He joined Philander at hospital for scans on his hamstring. ”We’re waiting for those results and we hope he’ll be ready for the next Test,” Kirsten said.

The 37-year-old had taken the wickets of Ed Cowan and Ricky Ponting, and things unravelled for the South Africans almost from the moment he left the field.

Captain Graeme Smith, short of bowling options, had no choice but to persist with inconsistent leg spinner Imran Tahir, whose 21 overs went for 159. Tahir’s confidence looked shot when David Warner and Michael Clarke feasted on his bowling after lunch.

Kleinveldt is still searching for his first Test wicket, while Faf du Plessis’ first ball, a full toss from the part-time leggie, was heaved into the construction zone by Warner.

Kirsten described the day as one of the toughest of his tenure, but defended the preparation. Players dispersed to the Great Barrier Reef and the Sunshine Coast instead of the nets, while Kirsten himself flew home to South Africa to spend time with his young family.

”It’s not an exact science,” Kirsten said. ”You can always find a way to criticise, but we’ve had a long year and the second and third Test matches coming up are back to back.

”We had two really big days of training coming into this Test match and two top-up days, and Vernon Philander actually commented it was the most he’d bowled in preparation for a Test, so maybe he bowled too much and that’s why he got the injury.”

Kallis, given his age and workload, sat out South Africa’s final, optional training session. ”Jacques Kallis has earned the right to prepare the way he needs to prepare,” Kirsten said.

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Players get say but ban on shoulder charge stays

NRL officials have agreed to meet disgruntled players over the banning of the shoulder charge, even though they are adamant there will be no backflip over the issue.
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The Rugby League Players’ Association executive met on Wednesday night to discuss the consultation process given the wave of public condemnation via social media by the players, after the controversial decision to outlaw the shoulder charge.

Following that meeting, NRL officials agreed to meet with the RLPA to discuss the findings of the report which was the catalyst for the ban.

While RLPA chief executive David Garnsey acknowledged that the players were asked for their input during the composition of the report – leading to one emailed response and a telephone call – he felt the consultation should have extended beyond the completion of the report.

”As has been reported in the media today, the players’ views on the shoulder charge were invited at the outset of the review four months ago but that has been the extent of the consultation with the players on this issue to date,” Garnsey said following the scheduled board meeting.

”While the report was described as ‘detailed’ in the NRL’s media release, all that I have seen, and all that the players have seen, are the five dot points that appeared in that media release.”

Garnsey said while player welfare – at the heart of the decision by the NRL to ban the tackle – was paramount, he said his members were entitled to have a voice on the issue.

”The RLPA certainly wants its members to have long, productive and injury-free football careers and to enjoy good health once they have retired,” he said. ”But in the context of making a decision that directly impacts on players – and we are talking here about the very people who both make and are the recipients of shoulder charges – the players are entitled to be provided with the relevant information and an opportunity to discuss it.”

Garnsey said he was in the process of scheduling the meeting with NRL officials.

The NRL’s interim chief executive Shane Mattiske said he was ”happy to talk to the RLPA at any time about any issue”. ”We’re quite happy to meet with David and to talk to him about the decision that was made by the Commission,” Mattiske said.

In addition to the issue of consultation, the players will no doubt be seeking answers on what will constitute an illegal shoulder charge from next season. There is still confusion about whether, for instance, Simon Dwyer’s tackle on Jared Waerea-Hargreaves – a front-on tackle where contact was made via the Wests Tigers player’s shoulder – will be deemed illegal.

That issue was raised by new Warriors coach Matthew Elliott on Thursday. After watching video this week of his front-rower Ben Matulino, he said the definition needed clarifying.

”He’s not actually shoulder charging – he’s tackling where he hits with his shoulder,” Elliott said. ”It’s a little bit different. I guess we’re going to have to make sure we get to the other side of the semantics of what a shoulder charge is and what a shoulder charge isn’t.”

Elliott said, though, that he expected debate about the death of the tackle to die down quickly. ”It’s a low percentage play. It’s not an effective play even though it looks good, because guys bounce up off the ground and get a quick play-the-ball, or they keep going,” he said.

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Wallabies need to move with times, says Mitchell

FLORENCE: Returning Wallabies winger Drew Mitchell says the growth of ”elaborate” defensive structures in world rugby means Australia’s once-vaunted attack must take on a clinical edge.
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Mitchell, along with Quade Cooper, Kurtley Beale and James O’Connor, was an integral part of the Wallabies’ expansive style that won hearts and eyeballs during the 2009 and 2010 seasons, but now believes the days of easy opportunities are gone, and the Wallabies must adapt.

”We’d all like to go out and play this sort of flamboyant type of rugby, but sometimes the defence doesn’t allow you to do that,” he said.

”More than anything in world rugby, the defence has come on a lot more than the attack has. Defensive structures and systems have become so elaborate and disciplined that it actually makes it harder to find those types of gaps and spaces and opportunities.”

The 28-year-old’s career hit a major snag the same year the lights began to dim on the Wallabies’ attack. Mitchell broke his ankle in April last year and by September the Wallabies back line was enjoying less and less cut-through as rivals upped their defensive games. The World Cup was a low point for both.

One year on, there are positive signs for player and team. Mitchell will start against Italy in Florence on Saturday after learning he could run on his right leg despite having ruptured the tendon supporting the arch in that foot, and the Wallabies are showing the first encouraging signs of long-lost potency in attack.

But the Brisbane-born winger says for the Wallabies to keep entertaining fans, territory and possession cannot be squandered on the basis more chances will pop up.

”There’s going to be limited opportunities in a game. We will get some but they may be limited and we have to make sure we make the most of the ones we are presented with,” Mitchell said.

Mitchell and Florence share a colourful past. The last time he played at Stadio Artemio Franchi, in Australia’s 32-14 victory over the Azzurri, he ended up with his pants down on television as a clutching tackle revealed a paper-scissors-rock tattoo on his backside.

”I didn’t necessarily mind about the back end, because just prior to that the front end was catching a bit of wind, so I just had to get rid of the ball pretty quickly,” he said of his cheeky run two years ago.

Back on track after the most trying two years of his career, Mitchell’s daily routine is a far cry from those of his younger, less battle-scarred teammates. The mysterious nature of his ankle injury – there is no good reason why his right arch should not collapse at any second – has him lining up outside the physiotherapist’s door for daily treatments.

”It’s an ongoing thing and it’s something I’m going to have to do until I hang up [the boots],” he said.

As for when that day might come, Mitchell neither minds nor cares to predict. He is looking no further than the Test match on Saturday.

”I’ve stopped [looking ahead] because it seems every time I try and look too much further down the track, I hit a bit of a crossroads before that,” he said.

”You don’t necessarily know how many times you’re going to get to pull the jersey back on and it’s something that I certainly hold dear, to be able to get that opportunity, and it’s something that I certainly savour.

”It may be my last – hopefully not, but that’s the attitude I’ve got to go about it with. What comes of that in the future is not necessarily my choice.”

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Australia can’t afford to give Azzurri a sniff

The origins of the All Blacks’ five-pointers against Italy in Rome last weekend were as follows: lineout, lineout, lineout, scrum and counter-attack. Little wonder then that the Waratahs this week handed coach Alan Gaffney a new portfolio concentrating entirely on attacking set-pieces.
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The Waratahs also announced a new assistant coach, New Zealander Daryl Gibson, but they’ve clearly been keeping a close eye on how his compatriots have been really hurting sides year.

Of those set-piece All Blacks tries, the first two came from first phase, the third from fourth phase and the fourth from seven phases, but even in the latter the intent was there to strike immediately.

Runners were in motion either side of five-eighth Aaron Cruden and only good defence prevented him from squeezing through a gap close to the line.

For the Wallabies, Digby Ioane’s try from a scrum against Argentina stood out not only because of its excellence, but because of its rarity. How they could do with some of these rapier thrusts in Florence this weekend because the longer the game remains close the more it becomes a threat to fingernails.

The Wallabies do not want this side to get a sniff, or even be at arm’s length on the scoreboard. On last week’s evidence, this is a handy unit. Rising self-belief in front of a parochial crowd would make them an even more worrying commodity.

Talk this week about a more expansive approach from the Italians is not just hot air. Looking at how they played at times in Rome – with enterprise and some skill – you wonder what took them so long.

What also stood out is they have a bit of size away from the traditional source of their threat, the forwards. On the right wing Giovanbattista Venditti – who scored the try when Italy beat Scotland in the Six Nations this year – is a powerful runner, while fullback Andrea Masi’s new licence to counter-attack brought his footwork into the game.

The approach also suits their back row of openside Simone Favaro, the hard-working lineout target Alessandro Zanni and Sergio Parisse. The No.8’s reputation in the northern hemisphere has not always stood up against the powers of the southern hemisphere but the new desire to offload and support plays well to his undoubted athletic gifts.

The All Blacks were made to miss an uncommonly high percentage of tackles.

There is, however, a specific weakness to the Italians’ defensive structure if they keep to last week’s selections. It is one the Wallabies are familiar with, having also had to contend with the challenges it brings. The No.10, Luciano Orquera, is a fallible defender who they try to protect by taking him out of the defensive line. Instead, they shift Masi into the No.10 channel on opposition ball, with not entirely convincing results. The fullback got badly lost for the All Blacks’ opening try, over-running Cruden whose sharp feet took him inside in the break that led to Kieran Read’s score.

In Rome, Orquera was positioned on the wing in defensive situations, but his 170-centimetre, 78-kilogram frame can also provide an opportunity when Italy are set up to attack. In the first half the All Blacks nicked a lineout and threw it to No.6 Liam Messam, whose eyes lit up as he charged straight over the op of the little Italian. Orquera rather woozily returned to his feet and trotted off to the relative sanctuary of the wing once more. It remains a game for all sizes, but not if you can be exposed in a one-on-one contest. Accordingly, the crossfield kick probably now comes into the Wallabies’ thinking in Florence.

Of course, all this supposition goes out the window if the big men don’t attend to their business. We already know the Italian scrum will attack on their ball. They’ll probably pick up some penalties, too. That will mean less if the Wallabies can win their own feed with conviction and give the backs something to run onto.

In the background there is the knowledge that a certain news conference has been scheduled for Monday, with a talented but disaffected colleague apparently intent on exiting. A display of crisp, accurate attack would lessen the relevance of that event but the Italians do not have the appearance of fodder. First, the Wallabies must get the win.

Twitter – @whiskeycully

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Rich incentive to run in reverse

THERE aren’t many country races worth $200,000, let alone virtual maiden events.
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But Ballarat will stage such a contest on Sunday, a race which will also have another historic distinction. It is being run right-handed – in the NSW and Queensland style of racing – rather than the left-handed direction which is traditional in Victoria.

The Magic Millions Clockwise Classic is being bankrolled by the Gold Coast-based sales company as a part-promotional venture, part-assistance program to give Victorian-trained two-year-olds the chance to get some experience of competing in the reverse direction before they get sent north to run for the riches on offer at Southport in January, when the Magic Millions headline two-year-old race is staged.

The 1000-metre scamper is, according to Racing Victoria, the first race to be staged right-handed in the state for 65 years.

It has attracted a capacity field, including runners from the leading stables of David Hayes – who had a two-year-old winner at Sandown last Saturday – Mick Kent and Anthony Freedman, as well as Ballarat trainer Darren Weir.

Only two of the runners have had race experience – Hayes’ Gracious Prospect, who ran sixth in the Maribyrnong Plate at Flemington – and debut Ballarat winner Ticket To Toorak, from the stable of Matthew Williams.

The race will also feature a father-and-son jockey rivalry, with Chad Schofield, last year’s Sydney champion apprentice who is now attached to the Hayes yard, aboard Gracious Prospect, while his father Glyn is travelling south to ride Liberty Heights for Sam Kavanagh.

Ballarat Turf Club had to carry out extensive work on revamping the track to pass health and safety conditions to stage the race.

According to RV, Sunday’s race will be the first event run clockwise in Victoria since 1947, when the now defunct Port Fairy club changed its direction to move into line with all the other tracks in the state.

Hitherto there was not a uniform direction, with several courses racing the right-handed way, including Warrnambool, Bendigo, Bairnsdale and Sale.

The finish line for the Ballarat race will be around the 250-metre mark of the home straight.

Special gallops have been staged in the lead-up to the race, with a trial last week won by Mark Riley’s Reaan filly I’m Too Sexy, a contender on Sunday when she will be partnered by Luke Currie.

■Champion jockey Frankie Dettori has put his hands up and accepted that he will be banned at a forthcoming hearing before the disciplinary committee of France-Galop.

The findings of the French racing authority’s medical committee at Dettori’s drugs inquiry on Tuesday have been passed on to the disciplinary committee.

Dettori is reported to be preparing himself for the imposition of a global suspension at a second hearing on a date still to be fixed, but which is thought likely to be early December.


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It’s not you, David, it’s the gimmick

IN 1977, as a 12-year-old, my dad took me to watch our team, South Melbourne, in the first year of the National Soccer League. Reports from that day say more than 17,000 people packed into Middle Park and for me it felt like I was at a ground in Europe and experiencing in person what I had seen on my TV.
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The reason for the excitement was that both clubs that day, South Melbourne and St George, had invested heavily in two high-profile guest players. South had Malcolm McDonald, otherwise known as ”Super Mac”, while St George had brought over Charlie George, a great player with a playboy lifestyle.

The game ended 3-2 to St George, with George scoring the winner and Super Mac scoring twice for my team. It was a promoter’s dream.

With Beckham mania now enveloping the A-League, it is interesting to note that while we are constantly looking to progress the game, often we find ourselves revisiting history and employing the same selling techniques in search of growth.

That day 35 years ago definitely had an impact on me and gave me an early lesson on how all that glitters is definitely not always gold. The short-term boost to the club and the game was never capitalised on and what should have been a foundation on which to build the game became an obsession with who could come up with the next gimmick that would get them the most headlines.

High-profile players were wheeled out for guest appearances and in the end the credibility of the competition was the main victim of this celebrity pursuit.

There has been plenty of excitement generated on the back of David Beckham potentially joining the A-League, and mostly it’s been very positive coverage. I was asked last week whether I would be interested in him at Melbourne Victory, and my answer was a fairly succinct ”no”, but it should be clarified that the answer had more to do with the guest stint than the player.

There is no doubt Beckham would be great and in my view he should be pursued if he does see Australia as a possible destination, but the guest-playing scenario is something I am not a fan of. I know we live in an ever-changing world, but culture and tradition should still have a place when it comes to building sporting clubs and competitions.

When I see players code-jumping in the NRL, rugby union and AFL, I cringe because I think it attacks the integrity of every player who has given their all in the pursuit of a professional career.

It also demeans the competition because it gives the impression it is somehow easy to jump from one to another, a fact I have no doubt is false because I see how hard the players in the respective codes work to achieve the ultimate success.

A guest player has the same feeling for me. It suggests someone can come in and have an overriding impact irrespective of the months of work everyone else has put in.

I love it when clubs stand for something and publicly label themselves as community clubs or development clubs, because it shows there is a belief in the journey they are taking.

I also understand there is a commercial aspect that needs to be addressed when you are in a growth stage and the Beckham brand is one that is guaranteed a return.

I just hope whoever takes him on convinces him to become a permanent member of the family rather than a guest so that the return goes beyond the commercial aspect.

Some may say I am old-fashioned in my thinking, but remembering what happened 35 years ago perhaps it is not me who hasn’t changed with the times.

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Eye and ear hospital gets $165m renewal

Ted Baillieu at the Royal Victorian Eye and Ear Hospital in 2009.A LONG-AWAITED $165 million redevelopment of Victoria’s crumbling Royal Victorian Eye and Ear Hospital will be completed within five years, the state government says.
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Premier Ted Baillieu said the project would go to tender early next year with construction due to be complete by 2017.

Work will be done in stages and patients will continue to be treated at the East Melbourne hospital while the project is under way.

Mr Baillieu said the redevelopment would allow the hospital to treat an additional 7000 patients a year, helping it meet growing demand.

”Obviously the building here has done a lot of work,” he said. ”In many ways it is a just a little bit weary and it needs an upgrade.”

The hospital treats 250,000 patients a year, performing more than half of Victoria’s public general eye surgery and 90 per cent of specialist eye surgery.

Works to modernise the East Melbourne hospital are long overdue, with its two 10-storey, 30-year-old towers having been left in poor condition for many years.

Around 2004, chunks of concrete fell off the facade, costing $6 million to repair, and occasional internal flooding has been a long-standing problem.

Hospital chief executive Ann Clark said: ”We’ve patched and patched and held it together as long as we can, but it’s really timely now to get on with this.”

Mr Baillieu did not put a final figure on the project, but he said the state government was still committed to spending $165 million on the redevelopment, which it promised while in opposition.

”We will go to market with the plans and the final costs will be not only fully funded but will be revealed at that time,” he said.

Ms Clark said staff and patients were ”thrilled” that the long-planned redevelopment, promised by both Labor and the Coalition in the lead-up to the 2010 election, would now proceed.

The hospital’s towers are poorly linked and only on lower levels, but the redevelopment will provide a connecting building with five fully integrated floors for patients.

Improvements will be made to the emergency department, operating theatres and medical imaging clinics, and glass walkways will join five upper levels to be used for research and teaching.

Ms Clark said the redevelopment would allow the hospital to better meet growing demand for its services from an ageing population.

The hospital treats a large number of people from interstate, including Tasmanian Dean Bucknell, 44, who was born blind and has been travelling to the hospital since he was eight weeks old.

He has congenital glaucoma and has had more than 50 surgical procedures at the hospital.

”The building does need some repair. It’s inefficient. There’s too much travelling, walking about. It’s like a rabbit warren,” he said.

The Monash Children’s Hospital is still waiting for substantial funds towards a promised $250 million redevelopment, which experts say is urgently needed to meet growing demand in Melbourne’s south-east.

The Coalition promised $60 million in its first term for the hospital, with the remaining $190 million to be delivered in a second term. To date it has allocated only about $15 million for planning and land acquisition.

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