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Wallabies look beyond French series

15/07/2019 // by admin

The French may be heading for Australian shores but the Wallabies have old foes – the All Blacks and Springboks – very much at the forefront of their thinking. Wallabies coach Ewen McKenzie pinpointed an ambitious five wins in a row as Australia’s immediate short-term goal on Thursday and named a 32-man squad built around achieving that this year. But he also has one eye focused on preventing another morale-sapping loss to New Zealand or South Africa.  The Wallabies ended McKenzie’s first season in charge with a four-game winning streak in Europe but three painful losses to the All Blacks and Springboks preceding that still sting. Describing the five losses as a “completely thorough investigation” of their game plan, McKenzie said Australia would be treating next month’s series against France as a time to bed down the side’s identity. “We’ll concentrate a lot on how we want to go about things in this series and that’s not being disrespectful to the French, that’s just what we need to do,” he said. “We do have some tactical opportunities [against the French], we have a game plan already that we’ve developed, but the best thing we can do as a team is be consistent and hopefully consistently winning. “That’s going to be the best platform for playing the Springboks or the All Blacks, going in there with confidence.” Evidence of that are the four uncapped players – all in the tight five – named on Wednesday, down from 12 Test rookies in McKenzie’s first season. The Waratahs’ towering second-rower Will Skelton, a raw but exciting prospect, joins Rebels bolter Luke Jones and the Brumbies’ Sam Carter, with Nathan Charles from the Force named as the third hooker behind experienced candidates Tatafu Polota-Nau and Stephen Moore. After injury robbed McKenzie of his go-to five-eighth Quade Cooper, the former Waratahs coach turned to the player he blooded at provincial level back in 2007, Kurtley Beale. Beale was specifically named as a No.10 alongside NSW teammate Bernard Foley, who scored a try on debut against Argentina last year. Brumbies five-eighth Matt Toomua was pointedly listed as a centre option along with Christian Leali’ifano and incumbent No.13 Tevita Kuridrani. A rejuvenated Rob Horne and Pat McCabe also made the list, among 11 Waratahs and 10 Brumbies named in the squad. But the number of Reds players more than halved, down from nine in McKenzie’s first squad last year, to four on Wednesday. Prop James Slipper, halfback Will Genia and second-rowers James Horwill and Rob Simmons were the only players included, a reflection of the shocking season performance of the 2011 Super Rugby title winners. Liam Gill, Mike Harris and Saia Fainga’a were glaring omissions, while winger Chris Feauai-Sautia was ruled out of contention through injury. “Belief and confidence is a very important part in the psychology of the game and you can see that now with the Reds,” McKenzie said. “You don’t become a bad player overnight but confidence can be a killer. “Having said that, when I was at the Waratahs we were in a semi-final, then second last, then made the final, so it can be a yo-yo as well. That’s sport and that’s what makes it interesting.”McKenzie said defence would be a big focus for the squad this season. “Our primary focus [last year] was to re-energise in attack so we didn’t do too much in defence,” he said. “We’ll look back and there were things we didn’t get right but it was such a quick start and you get a completely thorough investigation from the Springboks and All Blacks. “We put all the effort in and we didn’t quite get it right but by the end [of the Test season] we did, and that was as much about all being on the same page.” Wallabies squad: Ben Alexander, Pek Cowan, Sekope Kepu, Scott Sio, James Slipper, Nathan Charles, Stephen Moore, Tatafu Polota-Nau, Sam Carter, James Horwill, Luke Jones, Rob Simmons, Will Skelton, Scott Fardy, Scott Higginbotham, Matt Hodgson, Michael Hooper, Ben McCalman, Wycliff Palu, Will Genia, Nick Phipps, Nic White, Kurtley Beale, Bernard Foley, Tevita Kuridrani, Christian Leali’ifano, Matt Toomua, Adam Ashley-Cooper, Nick Cummins, Israel Folau, Rob Horne, Pat McCabe
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The print version of this story stated Ewen McKenzie was targeting six wins in a row this season. It has been corrected to reflect his short term goal of five in a row on the back of four wins last year.

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.

Richmond a team in turmoil

15/07/2019 // by admin

Jack Riewoldt’s decision to break ranks on Wednesday has angered his club and placed even more pressure on his beleaguered coach Damien Hardwick – a man whose mixed public messages during the Tigers’ horror season have only served to further confuse the situation.
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Hardwick has been so bereft of answers he has resorted to seeking mediocre positives and making promises his players have repeatedly failed to keep.

Repeated assurances that the club is moving in the right direction, any talk of improvement or mention of injuries is just embarrassing and an insult to the club’s much-lauded record number of members and game-day spectators who were so cruelled at the MCG last September.

Hardwick’s team in 2013 and often even in 2012 was one of the most exciting to watch in the competition. Now Richmond is generally unwatchable; scared of playing and frightened of losing and no one can – or has been prepared to – explain why.

The ongoing commentary about poor recruiting decisions and the mediocrity of the list does not wash. Richmond might not boast a top four list but nor does its list rank in the bottom four. More than one-third of the way through the season it is time for the coaching group to accept as it surely has that it has failed dismally this year.

The club has warned against over-analysing the reasons behind Riewoldt’s comments. As horrified as the Tigers’ were by his apparently thoughtless disloyalty, they believe he is without guile and had no hidden agenda.

On Thursday morning he received a blast from the coach who did not rule out dropping him for the GWS game – he eventually didn’t – and was also lectured by executives Brendon Gale, Daniel Richardson and Simon Matthews.

He is believed to have been embarrassed and contrite and underlined his apology with repeated utterances relating to his strong affection for and admiration of the senior coach. He did not face the leadership group of which he was a part last year. None of which gets away from the fact that Riewoldt was clearly telling the truth when he said: ‘‘We probably tried to copy Hawthorn a little bit too much with our kicking style … we went one way with our game and the game went the other way.’’ Or at least his version of the truth.

The genuine hope now is that the Tigers abandon damage control for five minutes and focus on the disconnect between the coaches and players. Clearly the message is not getting through for so many players to have been down against Melbourne given the stakes last Saturday. Half of the leadership group is failing on the field and collectively that quartet must be struggling off it.

If Riewoldt’s misgivings about the team’s direction are exclusive to him then that too needs to be thrashed out. Perhaps, and it is a belated hope despite empty comments by Brendon Gale and others that finals remain an ambition, the explosive Jack’s gaffe could prove the circuit breaker in tandem with the limp loss to the Demons.

Because the signs that something is not right at the club came long before the Tigers’ listless round-one opening against the Gold Coast. In fact Richmond has not truly looked convincing as a team since – ironically – it defeated Hawthorn in round-19 last year.

What followed apart from some truly mediocre football was the Jake King, Toby Mitchell incident which dragged into summer, a series of Dustin Martin indiscretions culminating in him briefly walking out on the club and some perplexing off-field issues.

President Gary March, having achieved so much, left the club in a huff and almost did not attend the Jack Dyer Medal function. March was angry his man and a board split briefly shadowed the club. Peggy O’Neal was installed in a suprise decision.

Questions also remained regarding the quality of the coaching minds surrounding Hardwick after some departures in 2013 and then early this year came Riewoldt’s omission from the leadership group and subsequent dummy spit.

Perhaps his ill-timed comments on Wednesday suggested that the rudderless onfield rabble we have seen on the playing arena in 2014 is being mirrored behind the scenes.

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.

TONY BUTTERFIELD:War on drugs went too far

15/07/2019 // by admin

CAUGHT: Former Raiders star Sandor Earl received a four-year ban from ASADA. Picture: Jay CronanWADA’s focus had always been about the Olympics. It had an ethos of catching cheats and promoting health.
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But just six years after its inception WADA had gone too far.

THE story of Sandor Earl, the only NRL player to be caught up in the ASADA drugs drama so far, was revealed last weekend.

His legal team are threatening legal action for what appears by all reports to be shabby treatment indeed.

I will always be dead against cheats in any pursuit where rules are in place to provide a fair go. But when ASADA announced at the beginning of last season that the spectre of the darkest day in Australian sport was upon us – I was cynical.

But first some background. In 2002 a Canadian snowboarder was stripped of his medal for testing positive to marijuana. This was something of a coup for the International Olympic Committee’s World Anti-Doping Agency which had only been operating since 1999. Unfortunately, it could only boast a very small number of positives for all its expense and efforts.

WADA’s prestige took a further hit when the Court of Arbitration for Sport reinstated the medal because marijuana was not on the WADA list of ban substances.

The powers that be in WADA were ropable. So they set about changing the rules and insisting everyone else did too.

WADA’s list was pretty quickly updated to more than 300 named substances and up to 10,000 molecularly similar substances.

The IOC was no longer just about banning performance-enhancing drugs it was now about banning all drugs.

The mantra was that the Olympics was not just about performance it was also about healthy lifestyles. The war on drugs had a new front and a catchy theme.

And WADA didn’t just want its rules to apply to the Olympics. It wanted all organised sports on the planet to take up the new rules.

As head of the Rugby League Players’ Union in 2005, I argued, along with players’ associations from other sports, that the proposed WADA rules were way over the top and heavy handed.

WADA’s focus had always been about the Olympics. It had an ethos of catching cheats and promoting health.

But just six years after its inception WADA had gone too far.

Supported by independent chemists from around the world, we argued that the science simply did not support having many of the substances on the banned list.

A very sound case was put against the over-officious approach of WADA and its Australian counterpart ASADA. Put simply most of the substances on the list were not performance enhancing.

Many of them could be ingested inadvertently. Some of them are performance limiting and there was little concession for drugs used for legitimate medication or recovery.

Coupled with early morning home door stops and a ‘‘whereabouts’’ regime that would be simpler if athletes were electronically tagged, a reasonable person could start to see this issue from another perspective.

For what is largely a younger and singularly skilled cohort, the bar was (is) set far too high and the punishments far too severe.

At the time the NRL, like most organised professional sports, had an effective regime of its own. At first the NRL was reluctant to get caught up in the WADA maelstrom. It agreed and stated publicly that effective mechanisms were in place without the need to adopt the Olympic scheme.

But the NRL folded. Not because it was wrong but because political pressure was brought to bear. WADA was putting the screws on governments to make all sports toe the line.

The Howard government was one of the first to jump aboard globally.

From there, all it took was an announcement that the government would not provide funding to sports that didn’t adopt the code. No new stadia if no new drug code!

The soccer hierarchy disagreed but soccer was in the Olympics so they had no bargaining power.

Rugby union was ever hopeful they too could be an Olympic sport so they folded. And the AFL fell over at the 11th hour having negotiated extra funding and changes to the unchangeable rules.

The nadir for the NRL was reached when the government trumped the players’ reasoned opposition by advising recalcitrant codes that not only would new stadium funding be withheld but that any sport that does not comply with the code – exactly as it was written – would lose all federal funding to their junior sport.

Fast forward to 2012 and our elected representatives were at it again. Scare mongering about drugs in sport. Smearing players with innuendo and rumour. Implying that every athlete was under suspicion.

So here we are 18months and a new government later and we’re still waiting.

Importantly, ASADA achieved a load of publicity from their announcement – not to mention funding increases, significant new powers and job security for themselves.

They now have the power to intercept calls and text messages, raid homes, demand attendance, stop people at the airport to confiscate phones and the like.

They apply strict liability where athletes must prove that they are not guilty – rather than the other way around.

Kids aspiring to be sports stars should dream of competing in an environment where mind, ability and fortitude alone determine outcomes; where rules level the playing field and ensure a fair go.

Likewise, should ours kids not expect those making the rules adhere to similar standards when applying them.

The Sandor Earl case and possibly others will test the integrity of that expectation in the months ahead.

■ I was down in Newcastle East on Tuesday afternoon where I bumped into my old mates Clive and the General elegantly attired sipping double decaf macchiatos.

The General jumped straight onto me.

‘‘Buttsy’’, he said. ‘‘Mate, after the Penrith game I was so shattered I didn’t even go for a beer.

‘‘But after the game last night, mate, pass on my congrats to the boys would ya? ‘‘They were great.’’

For his part, Clive, the silver fox/smooth operator looks across the table, eyebrow raised nodding with experience.

‘‘Buttsy, they can turn the corner on this season – mark my words”.

And we will Clive.

Students voice concerns over uni fees at careers day

15/07/2019 // by admin

Students at the Careers Expo at Newcastle Jockey Club on Thursday. Picture Ryan OslandSTUDENTS at this year’s Newcastle and Lake Macquarie career expo were concerned about implications that the budget would have for university fees and welfare support.
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Five thousand students registered for a career expo on Thursday to learn more about their future careers.

In the wake of the recently proposed 2014 Liberal budget students and teachers are unsure about what lies ahead.

Under the proposed budget, fees will no longer be capped, and universities will be allowed to charge what they like from 2016.

Welfare payments for the unemployed under 30 years of age will not be available for six months after lodging an application, and recipients will be required to work for the dole.

Levina Abbo, a teacher and career advisor at Merewether High School said the deregulation was a great cause for concern.

LEVINA ABBO

‘‘[Students] are looking much more at scholarships and cadetships which are increasingly harder to get,’’ she said.

‘‘Students in year ten are already commenting on the budget and how it’s going to affect them.’’

She also said those choosing to study away from home would be impacted significantly.

‘‘They may not be able to choose courses that really cater to their needs and may not be able to follow their true passions,’’ she said.

Linsay Burns, a 24-year-old final-year construction management student at the University of Newcastle, said he was reconsidering doing a masters degree in light of the proposed budget.

LINDSAY BURNS

‘‘I’m concerned about being in a position of having to pay back my debt at a higher rate and lower income,’’ he said.

‘‘I work overseas volunteering and so coming back into the country knowing I can’t get benefits for six months makes me concerned about my international career.

‘‘It’s not a fair budget. It’s extremely unfair.’’

The Newcastle Lake Macquarie Career and Training Expo, presented by Career Links had a record number of exhibitors and students, with every high school in the region involved for the first year ever.

Anne Molloy, Career Links spokeswoman said the expo was a fantastic opportunity to support young people making decisions about their future careers.

Ms Molloy said that while federal government funding for university programs would be cut in the proposed budget, Career Links believed there is a need for programs supporting young people as they move from school to work.

‘‘We remain positive and we’re exploring opportunities that will allow us to continue helping young people in the future,’’ she said.

‘‘That’s why we do it. We’re the intermediary between training providers, schools and employers.’’

Is the federal budget making you reconsider your study and career prospects?

HAYLEY KEEN, 17, St Phillips, Year 12

HAYLEY KEEN

‘‘It’s scary, now that I’m in year 12 and having to look into these things, considering the future and study and career options. There are financial limitations already, and they’re getting worse. Now that I’m more politically aware, I can see that these budget decisions will impact us and will probably affect what I want to do. I want to study medicine.’’

BLAKE MARCHANT, 18, Lakes Grammar, Year 12

BLAKE MARCHANT

‘‘I think if Tony Abbott’s daughter gets a $60,000 degree for nothing and other kids all have to pay for their education, it’s very unfair. My family isn’t all that well off to start with and we don’t need all these extra things to have to pay for just so I can get an education. It’s a very unfair budget. It makes it harder for those who already have it hard.’’

CHRIS PANTSOS, 17, Lakes Grammar, Year 12

CHRIS PANTOS

‘‘The budget will definitely make it harder for students to get into what they really want to do. It will limit their options. I’m not sure what I want to study, but I’m tending towards business. This will really limit the universities I can go to, because the massive increase in cost will mean living out of home will be harder. The budget is not really fair, as it disadvantages those who are already disadvantaged.’’

ERIN HEALEY, 17,Merewether High, Year 12

ERIN HEALEY

‘‘I’m having to rethink my gap year because if I wait to start my degree until 2016, deregulation of fees will kick in and the unis will be able to charge me whatever they like. I want to study nursing and midwifery and that’s four years long – three if I do it faster. I’m angry about the budget and I think making the dole harder to get is going to cause problems for a lot of people studying.’’

JOANNE McCARTHY: From Rio back to reality

15/07/2019 // by admin

SO, a few things happened while I was in South America for five weeks.
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1. I lost a bet. When push comes to shove, there’s something about the sight of a little roasted guinea pig’s front teeth and teeny roasted feet curled up on a bed of mashed root vegetable that defeats even a quick $20.

2. I went to Rio, where Jesus is big, the World Cup is bigger, and a short trip to the beach showed why Brazilians invented the Brazilian – the wax job that launched 10,000 G-strings. Neither age, nor body shape, nor fitness level, nor concern for the sensitivities of a few Aussie tourists prevent the good people of Rio from bending over in their thousands on Copacabana and Ipanema beaches wearing nothing but very small strips of buried fabric and even deeper suntans.

‘‘I think I just saw a woman’s tonsils from underneath,’’ said one of my travelling companions, Bruce, who’d made the mistake of looking up from his book as we lounged on Copacabana beach and a woman bent to retrieve her sunglasses.

‘‘What on earth are you talking about?’’ said his wife, Flo, who’d been playing ‘‘Spotto the implants’’ until boredom set in when she reached a triple-digit figure.

‘‘I mean I saw a woman’s tonsils when she bent over and I haven’t even seen her face, if you get my drift,’’ said Bruce, as the amply built middle-aged Brazilian and her even more amply built middle-aged hubby fluffed around for a bit longer until they both bent over to pick up their towels and walked off together, hand in hand.

‘‘I think I’ve just seen her husband’s adenoids from the same perspective,’’ said Flo, before noting Peter Allen singing ‘‘When my baby smiles at me I go to Rio’’ had been ruined for her from that day forward.

3. I survived a mountain-bike ride on Death Road in Bolivia. Every year, the Darwin Awards are presented to dead people who’ve increased our global IQ by dying while doing really stupid things. Tourists doing really stupid things – like taking the first mountain-bike ride of their lives on a notoriously dangerous 63-kilometre cliff road where a single mistake can leave you plunging to a horrible, but extremely quick, death at the bottom of a ravine – tend to feature heavily on the award list. But ignorance is bliss, hope springs eternal, the photos looked fabulous, and my group of oxygen-deprived but smiling Aussies managed to get to the bottom without too much incident.

4. I did a runner from a woman who thought all tourists liked to have giant anacondas draped around their heads. In my formative years in the 1970s, I saw Marlin Perkins wrestle a giant anaconda in a river on Wild Kingdom. Like Skippy and Flipper, that seminal television show left me with fairly settled views about critters that have remained, despite the decades. And those views are: a) kangaroos are the only Australian native animals that can tell north from south and drive a ute; b) dolphins aren’t as smart as kangaroos, but they’re the only sea creatures that can summon an ambulance in an emergency; and c) giant 10-metre snakes with heads as wide as dinner plates and a tendency to crush their meals to death before taking hours to consume them are never, ever our friends, even if they’re called Larry or George. I might have been in an idyllic Amazon jungle setting with a full moon overhead, the anaconda might have been the woman’s family pet from the moment it hatched from an egg and ate its siblings, and I might have been a tourist doing stupid things while on holiday, but there was no way I was wearing a snake. In the Amazon, everyone can hear you scream.

5. Barry O’Farrell resigned because of a bottle of Grange. Now it’s fair to say that when you’re in South America there’s not much about Australia on the local news. In fact, during the five weeks I was in five different South American countries there was virtually nothing about Australia on the local news, apart from pithy comments about our chances of making it past the first round in the World Cup, ‘‘Not a hope in hell’’ being the least pithy of those comments. So it was an email from home to one of our group, received as we lazed in hammocks beside the Amazon River in Peru, that told us Bazza ‘‘I promise we won’t let you down’’ O’Farrell, had let us down. And, somewhere on a continent far, far from home, a group of peeved NSW residents tossed around the names of their favourite fallen pollies of the past two years – Labor and Coalition – while the piranha snapped in the mighty Amazon.

6. Tony Abbott and Joe Hockey broke election promises, targeted the most disadvantaged in the community, barely touched high-income earners, denied that’s what they’d done, lectured critics about how the Abbott government had to wean Australians off the teat of entitlement, did a little dance, smoked a cigar or two, and then celebrated their unfair and ugly budget with a host of party fund-raising dinners.

Public trust trashed again. I must be home.