LOOKING AHEAD: Ruckman Steven King at Geelong training last night. Although not the official Geelong ruck coach, Steven King still meets regularly with Peter Keenan to discuss tactics. Photo: REG RYAN  
Friday, July 26

IS Peter ``Crackers'' Keenan the Geelong ruck coach or simply Steven King's mate. Or both?

The Geelong Advertiser columnist secretly meets one of the AFL's premier ruckman each week in a quiet park in Essendon.

They review last week's game, map out a plan to combat the opposition ahead and Keenan even gives King ``live bait'' in the form of ruck duels.

The former champion VFL ruckman is not paid for the tutoring, which started in March this year after he resigned as the Cats full time ruck coach.

Since then, upcoming Geelong ruck prospects Paul Chambers, Matthew McCarthy and Henry Playfair have all travelled to Melbourne to be under Keenan's watchful eye.

Despite this, Geelong officials refuse to entertain the thought Keenan is the ruck coach of the player in the fourth line of betting for the Brownlow Medal.

Mark Thompson said last night assistant coach Alan McConnell had the job of mentoring King.

He's said in the past the duo are mates and that's why they're seen together. But the secret suburban rendezvous has people in the football world asking some questions - including folk from Windy Hill.

Yesterday Essendon midfielder Jason Johnson stumbled across King and Keenan on the park oval. And Bombers assistant coach Mark Harvey has also watched a Cats' ruck session from the sidelines.

So deep is the interest in who's coaching King, former Geelong ruckman Sam Newman has again weighed into the debate.

The Footy Show regular, who earlier this year accused Keenan of stunting the development of King, wants an invitation to Skilled Stadium - to be King's coach.

``If the club really gets serious about Steven King's prowess and they really want him to go to the next step, maybe they might call me in,'' he said. ``Am I putting my hand up? You know Mohammed never goes to the mountain . . . . you know that.''

But Keenan - who admits his weekly session with King is ``the most public secret going around'' - only wants to see his former on-field nemesis in a boxing ring.

``I couldn't care less about Sam Newman,'' a laughing Keenan said.

``No matter what anybody else thinks of how I coach, there is only two people I have to answer to: Steven King and Mark Thompson.

``Everybody else - such as Sam - are irrelevant.

``Today Steven is one of the most dominant big men in the game . . . if I can help him become a better footballer or person in any shape or form, I will do it.''