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Cornes leads SANFL with pride in jumper at forefrontFriday, May 22, 2015 - 12:11 AM - by Chris Pike

SOUTH Australian football legend Graham Cornes feels a great affinity with Western Australia in their combined disdain for Victorian football, but that doesn’t mean he isn’t out to prove the SANFL's superiority in Saturday's State match against the WAFL on a massive weekend for his family.

Cornes has been inducted into both the Australian and South Australian Football Hall of Fames, and the fact that he is coaching the SANFL team into Saturday's State game with the WAFL at Lathlain Park illustrates how seriously it is being taken.

On top of everything Cornes achieved in his 369-game playing career with Glenelg, North Melbourne and South Adelaide, and in 284 matches as coach of South Adelaide, Glenelg and the Adelaide Crows, representing South Australia as a player and coach has always meant the world to him.

Cornes played 21 State matches for South Australia and then coached the Croweaters in State of Origin matches for eight years so he is delighted now be back involved coaching the SANFL team again in 2015.

The pinnacle for both WA and South Australia has been beating Victoria, and they have always had that common goal against the old enemy, but coming into Saturday's clash both the WAFL and SANFL want to win and say they are the best competition below the AFL at present.

The last time WA and South Australia met in Perth it was a thrilling one-point victory for the WAFL at Leederville's Medibank Stadium. That was WA's first win over the Croweaters since 1994 and then South Australia got revenge with a 14-point win back in 2012 in Adelaide.

So while Cornes doesn’t have that natural hatred for WA as he does Victoria, by no means does he come to Perth with the ambition of doing anything but proving that the SANFL is a slight step ahead over the WAFL.
"In some ways it's a pity we have to play against WA because we are kindred spirits in certain ways. The football is slightly different, but we share that disdain for Victorian football and Victorian football has never given us the credit that either state has deserved despite some of the greatest players to play in Victoria have come out of WA and SA," Cornes told WAFL World on 91.3 SportFM.

"There is enormous importance to this game and bragging rights are particularly important because football still has an enormous part to play in our community. Whilst the AFL has taken the biggest slice of the pie, they've ignored community football to a degree and our local clubs have that opportunity to fill that void.

"But we like to think we are the next best competition outside of the AFL. We understand it's going to be a tough game, but we also understand what's at the end of it and we want to be able to say that we are the best competition outside the AFL."

While the AFL no longer embraces State of Origin football and with a national competition there is regular state against state battles in the game now, Cornes has no doubt that the pride in the jumper once anyone pulls on the South Australian colours is still just as strong.

Cornes has fond memories of wearing that jumper himself and now continues to beam with pride when thinking of coaching South Australia again into battle, and letting loose a group of players going out there wanting nothing but to win for their state.

"The jumper that we wear is a magnificent red jumper and to pull that on and represent South Australia, and wear that jumper with pride has always been really special. To have the opportunity to be involved again rekindles that emotion and passion again for the jumper," he said.

"The biggest common denominator between the State football of the past and now is the jumper. I don’t know how the West Australians feel about their jumper, but our jumper is magnificent.

"Given the deeds that have been performed in it, and the players who have worn it, it holds a special place in all our hearts whether it be Stephen Kernahan or Neil Kerley who wore it in years gone by, or current players. The jumper is still just as special even if the profile isn’t quite as great."

Cornes is also excited by the team representing the SANFL he will bring to Perth with him.

While it includes plenty of experience and talent in the form of Marlon Motlop, Jace Bode, Ian Callinan, Jason Porplyzia and Chris Schmidt, he had no hesitation in keeping the same leadership group.

Paul Thomas will continue as captain of the SANFL team with the 33-year-old veteran of 254 matches the most experienced player in the side, with the hard-running Luke Jarrad to again be his deputy.

"Paul Thomas has been the captain for the last three years so he will be captain again and Luke Jarrad has been the vice-captain, and he will remain. I have this theory that if it's not broken, don't try and fix it," he said.

"Paul is a good player and a good lad. You can start to fiddle with transition and succession plans, but I didn’t want to come in and make too many changes given the fact that our South Australian teams have good form in recent years.

"We had five or six different club captains in the squad so we had to analyse it all, but in the end there was no point making a change when Paul and Luke have done such a good job."

Coaching the SANFL in the State game on Saturday isn’t the only reason it's a big weekend for the Cornes family either and Graham will be sure to get home in time on Sunday to see his son Kane play the 300th and final match of his AFL career for Port Adelaide against Richmond at the Adelaide Oval.

"I have to go back through Melbourne to make sure I'm back in time and it is a big weekend. Kane has had a great career and his record is outstanding if you look at it in terms four fairest and bests, top three finish 10 years in-a-row and now to be the first Port player to get to 300 games," Cornes said.

"It came out of the blue in a sense even though he had applied to join the fire brigade last year, but there were 1500 applicants for 11 positions so we weren’t really sure how he would progress.

"Ken Hinkley was always honest with him and told him it would probably be his last year and he will be managed, and won't play every game. The club was really understanding when the application was successful. He's been accepted into the fire brigade so it all sort of culminated quite suddenly so Sunday will be his last game and it's been a great career."