Crows-mad kid Walker relishes grand final

Taylor Walker was a seven-year old growing a mullet.

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A Crows fan, he was in raptures watching Adelaide’s first AFL premiership, in 1997. Then the second, in 1998.

“I was a Crows-mad man, I still remember watching it with a couple of mates,” Walker told AAP.

“I could imagine what a little kid would be feeling like next Saturday. Like I was back in ’97-98. It’s exciting.”

The boy from Broken Hill is now a man rated, by peers, as the AFL’s best captain and preparing to lead Adelaide in Saturday’s grand final against Richmond at the MCG

The Crows plucked Walker from the North Broken Hill footy club in the isolated mining town just inside the NSW border.

The location meant the shrewd Crows got a bargain for a slight bogan.

Walker was a man-child in footy terms.

Aged 16, he agreed in 2006 to join Adelaide and was taken with pick 75 in the 2007 draft, a NSW scholarship selection.

He arrived in Adelaide after, as a 17-year-old, kicking seven goals in North Broken Hill’s premiership in the rough-and-ready league.

But Walker reckons he also arrived in Adelaide as the classic stubborn teen.

And he arrived into a Crows outfit run by an uncompromising coach, Neil Craig.

The perception is Walker, the young upstart, and Craig, the seasoned campaigner, clashed. That Craig rode Walker rougher than most.

“I wouldn’t say he was harder on me than others,” Walker said.

‘He was just like that. He wanted the best out of everyone. That is what coaches are there for.”

But it’s only with hindsight that Walker, who made his AFL debut in 2009, really appreciates Craig’s tough love.

“Probably not at the time,” he said.

“But now that we’re here, he taught me a lot of things, he was awesome to me.

“Most men are pretty stubborn. I was like that.

“When you’re a young kid you sort of think you have got everything under your hat and know what is going on.”

Craig recognised Walker’s weapons and innate footy nous.

But he frequently dropped the youngster, imploring a greater defensive mindset in a kid who just wanted to attack.

In Craig’s last season, 2011, Walker was admonished for having a beer at the footy in Adelaide, when a non-travelling emergency for a Crows away game. He played only 13 games that year, but booted 32 goals.

Under fresh coach Brenton Sanderson in 2012, Walker flourished – 19 games, 63 goals – but the Crows were pipped by Hawthorn by five points in a preliminary final.

“We were a kick away from the grand final but it wasn’t to be,” Walker said, not wanting to dwell on the thought.

Walker did his knee in 2013. And when Sanderson exited after the 2014 season, Phil Walsh arrived as head coach.

Walker first came across Walsh at the funeral of Adelaide assistant coach Dean Bailey, who died from cancer in January 2014.

Walker recalls being impressed by Walsh’s off-the-cuff tribute to Bailey, thinking he’d like to meet this man.

They formed an instant bond. The first-year coach asked Walker to be a first-year captain, but he needed convincing before accepting.

Then, July 3, 2015. Around 5am, Walker received a message on his phone from club chief executive Andrew Fagan. The skipper ignored it. Fagan then called.

Walsh had been stabbed to death by his son Cy, who was later found not guilty of murder by mental incompetence.

“It’s still tough to talk about,” Walker said.

The Crows were widely lauded for their resilience to a tragedy which Walker said galvanised the players.

“One of our coaches passed away but it created a unique bond for us,” Walker said.

“And the culture has just got stronger and stronger … hopefully we can carry it on this week and for however long.”

Walsh was succeeded as Adelaide coach by Don Pyke. Again, Walker formed an instant bond.

Asked for one word to describe publicity-shy Pyke, Walker said: “Passionate.”

“He does this job because he loves it, he doesn’t do it for any other reason.

“He has got two daughters but I reckon he has got 45 sons. And that is all of us players.”

But what’s the publicly-guarded Pyke really like?

“I can’t tell you what he”s like behind closed doors otherwise it would be outside the doors,” Walker said.

“He has got a very enthusiastic character and is just someone you would love to have a beer with.”

Puerto Rico seeks help after Maria

The governor of Puerto Rico says the US Caribbean territory needs urgent help to rebuild after experiencing an “unprecedented disaster” in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria.

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In a statement released on Twitter, Governor Ricardo Rossello said that “swift action” is needed as the island’s 3.4 million Americans struggle to recover from the storm.

“What Puerto Rico is experiencing after Hurricane Maria is an unprecedented disaster. The devastation is vast,” he said.

“Our infrastructure and energy distribution systems suffered great damages.”

The US Caribbean territory was still almost entirely without electrical power Monday, five days after Maria struck as a Category 4 storm.

Rossello said Puerto Rico is collaborating with the US federal government in the emergency response and that the territory has received “a tremendous outpour of solidarity from people all over the nation.”

In addition to the power outage, a damaged dam is in danger of collapsing and the communication network is crippled, according to news reports.

Brock Long, head of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), and White House homeland security adviser Tom Bossert have been dispatched to Puerto Rico, White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders said.

Sanders defended the federal government’s response as “anything but slow,” citing rapid action on federal funding to provide aid. She said the US government would continue to do everything it can.

The US Coast Guard said it has sent 13 ships and 10 aircraft to Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands as part of its hurricane response. Among its objectives is the reopening of ports and waterways, the Coast Guard said in a statement.

Republicans struggling to repeal Obamacare

Republican senators struggled to gather more support for a last-ditch attempt to repeal Obamacare despite revising funding provisions of their bill to make it more attractive to some representatives.

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The outcome remained in doubt with several senators in the party voicing concerns in recent days about the legislation to dismantle Democratic former President Barack Obama’s signature healthcare law.

In hopes of finding more backing, Republican senators leading the effort released a changed version of their bill that included a table showing some states where senators have been undecided, such as Alaska and Maine, would get more money.

For seven years, Republicans have hammered Obamacare, which extended health insurance to some 20 million Americans, as an unwarranted and costly government intrusion into healthcare, while also opposing taxes it imposed on the wealthy.

President Donald Trump made repealing Obamacare one of his top campaign promises in 2016. Democrats have fiercely defended it.

A Senate Finance Committee hearing on the healthcare legislation on Monday was disrupted by protesters chanting “No cuts for Medicaid, save our liberty.” Capitol Hill police removed the protesters, many in wheelchairs, from the hearing room.

A total of three Republican defections would kill off the latest anti-Obamacare effort.

Republican Senators John McCain, Rand Paul and Ted Cruz have said in recent days they would vote no. Other senators such as Susan Collins and Lisa Murkowski have also voiced reservations.

A spokesman for Paul said on Monday the senator still opposes the latest version despite the tweaks and an aide for Cruz said on Monday that the Texas conservative still opposes the bill.

Trump said there was little room for Republican wavering on healthcare.

“We have 52 senators, so you lose two, you’re out,” he told the Alabama-based “Rick and Bubba” radio program on Monday.

“We don’t have much a margin. We don’t have any margin.”

Democratic leaders roundly rejected the revised draft of the repeal legislation as a sleight of hand to gain support.

The last attempt to repeal Obamacare fell one vote short in July, in a humiliating setback for Trump and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.

India showing they are a class above, says Finch

Australia’s five-wicket defeat in Indore on Sunday saw them fall 3-0 behind in the five-match series.

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The defeat was their 11th in their last 13 ODIs away from home, while the other two matches were rain-affected no results.

Finch, who scored 124 in Indore after missing the defeats in Chennai and Kolkata with a calf problem, said Australia had failed to take their chances against India but conceded there was a clear difference between the sides.

“You have to play well but I think you also have to go in with the right attitude and make sure that when you do get an opportunity to win a game, you don’t let that slip,” Finch said in comments published on Cricket Australia’s website (cricket南京夜生活,南京夜网,)

“We’ve been in a couple of good positions in the first few games and as soon as you give India a sniff, they’ll beat you nine times out of 10.

“You have to play 100 percent to beat (India) in these conditions,” Finch said. “If you play 90 percent, it’s not good enough here.

“There’s obviously a gap between the sides at the moment and they’re proving that.

“They’re 3-0 up, they’re the number one side in the world and there’s just a few things we need to tinker with as players to bridge that gap and get the results going our way.”

Australia were whitewashed 5-0 away to South Africa last year and Finch said the mounting losses were not helping with confidence.

“Whenever you’re losing, it’s never easy,” said the 30-year-old, who struck his eighth ODI ton in Indore.

“Winning away from home is what every side strives to achieve and I think whenever you start losing, you can lose a little bit of confidence in yourself and in the way you’re playing.”

Finch was understandably glad to score some runs, especially after going to lengths to convince the team’s physiotherapist of his fitness to play.

“If (the calf) had have gone again last night, I might have been in a bit of strife,” he said.

“So it was nice for that to hold up.”

The fourth ODI is in Bengalaru on Thursday.

(Reporting by Ian Ransom in Melbourne; Editing by Peter Rutherford)