Monthly Archives: February 2019

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Basic mistakes continue to cost AFL Roos

North Melbourne veteran Brent Harvey isn’t sure why the same basic mistakes keep tripping up his side, but he’s still confident the Kangaroos can overcome them.

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North’s maddeningly inconsistent season hit a new low on Saturday, with a 55-point loss to cellar-dwellers Gold Coast, leaving them 11th on the ladder with a 6-7 record and Harvey admits Monday’s team review wasn’t pretty.

“It’s some basic stuff that we’ve really got to get right,” Harvey said.

“We’ll never be a really good team if we don’t get the basics right.

“We’re too inconsistent and to challenge the good teams you can’t have that inconsistency week in week out or (from quarter to quarter).

“We can turn that around, but to be honest – and I’m not being smart – we’re over that game now and we’ve got to move on because if we don’t we’ll get our pants pulled down against the Cats.”

North Melbourne supporters will find it difficult to move on from their club’s fourth loss of nine goals or more in a season where they were widely expected to push for a top-four finish.

After bowing out at the preliminary final stage last year, the Roos appeared to get stronger when they topped up with veteran free agents Jarrad Waite and Shaun Higgins.

Harvey admits the club’s current ladder position may suggest otherwise, but maintains all is not lost as they prepare for a pivotal clash against Geelong.

“I’m always confident that we’ll bounce back,” he said.

“When we’ve got our backs against the wall we probably play our best football.

“But for our supporters we’ll be bouncing back, we’ll finish off the year well and we’ll go from there.”

Harvey is nearing his 400-game milestone and the 37-year-old still plans to play on next year but will make a final decision with the club’s hierarchy in about a month’s time.

Battered Kyrgios to pick up the pieces

Coachless, out of pocket and his reputation suffering, now Nick Kyrgios is in a race to retain a US Open seeding after his turbulent Wimbledon campaign came to a miserable and premature end.

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Denying allegations of tanking and forking out $US9,500 ($A12,675) in fines for unsportsmanlike conduct were just the start of Kyrgios’s troubles as he departed the All England Club struggling to digest his four-set fourth-round loss to Richard Gasquet on Monday.

Kyrgios must now begin a rescue mission to repair his battered image and ranking after a failure to defend his quarter-final points from last year sent the young firebrand plummeting 14 spots to No.42 in the world.

With little more than a month to climb back into the top 32 and shattered after enduring a Fleet Street grilling following his loss to Gasquet, it’s no wonder the New York major was the last thing on the 20-year-old’s mind.

“I’m not thinking about that right now,” Kyrgios said following his 7-5 6-1 6-7 (7-9) 7-6 (8-6) loss.

“It hurts. You never want to go out of a grand slam. I feel like I definitely could have done better.”

Win or lose, even former tennis super-brat John McEnroe said Kyrgios should have behaved better after Australia’s emerging star refused to acknowledge he stopped trying during an appalling third game of the second set.

Social media erupted before the British press savaged Kyrgios for not even attempting to return Gasquet’s serve during the bizarre mid-match meltdown.

“He should have admitted he lost it for that period of time,” McEnroe told the BBC.

“He’ll realise tomorrow he made an ass out of himself.”

Kyrgios could be fined up to $US20,000 ($A26,675) under grand slam “best effort” rules.

The tennis hot-head, who said he felt misunderstood and was finding it tough to deal with personal issues and the pressures of his meteoric rise to grand slam stardom, has already been hit with a $US7500 ($A10,000) ticket for his racquet narrowly missing fans after he bounced it into the grass in his third-round comeback win over Milos Raonic.

Kyrgios was also slugged with a $US2,000 ($A2,675) fine for swearing in his loss to Gasquet.

His, though, was among dozens of fines handed out by the ITF over the first eight days of the championship and Kyrgios found an ally in home hope Andy Murray, himself no stranger to coping with grand slam stress in front of expectant British fans over the years.

“I don’t think people appreciate how difficult it is to grow up under the spotlight, how difficult it is to have loads of people expecting you to be perfect from a young age,” Murray said after safely moving into the quarter-finals on Monday.

“I like Nick. I’ve spoken to him away from the court. He’s quite different to how he is on it.”

Kyrgios split with long-time coach Todd Larkham on Wimbledon eve and used his manager John Morris and others during the championships.

He clashed with Morris and dismissed him from his courtside box during his loss to Gasquet, but said he had no immediate plans to begin the search for a new mentor ahead of his scheduled appearance at Australia’s Davis Cup quarter-final in Darwin from July 17-19.

Tennis insiders have suggested McEnroe, a huge admirer despite his criticism of Kyrgios, would be the perfect fit, while Davis Cup captain Wally Masur said he should hunt down a Darren Cahill or Roger Rasheed – who on Monday announced his split with Grigor Dimitrov – to get back on track.

“If Nick had people like that in his corner, it would be great for him,” Masur said.

“But that’s the funny thing in tennis too; it’s like stars have got to collide to get the right person.

“When you’re young, you still think you’ve got an infinite number of Wimbledons, but they come and go very quickly.”

Honey Badger: I’m here to launch

Nick Cummins has taken his Wallabies World Cup lifeline the only way he knows how.

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“I always say this – I haven’t heard the fat lady sing yet,” the man known as the Honey Badger told reporters on Tuesday, at the national squad’s Sunshine Coast training base.

“The World Cup is a biggie in my own personal book and that’s something I’ve been hustling to get to.

“It comes right now to crunch time and if it is to be, it’s up to me.”

The writing appeared to be on the wall for Cummins last week, when he was one of the highest-profile ommissions from coach Michael Cheika’s original 40-man squad.

But the 27-year-old found himself back in the Australian fold after Henry Speight’s departure on compassionate grounds, and he is intent on taking his seemingly faint World Cup chance with both hands.

Cummins had an average Super Rugby season for the struggling Western Force, crossing just once in 13 appearances as he battled to find the form that made him a Wallabies mainstay out wide over the past two seasons.

He has now slipped behind Speight, Joe Tomane, Rob Horne, France-based Drew Mitchell and uncapped NSW blockbuster Taqele Naiyaravoro in Australia’s wing pecking order but is ready to make up for lost form.

“I’m here to launch. She’s pedal to the metal,” said Cummins. “There’s not a whole lot of sight-seeing getting done.

“Cheik always has a plan up his sleeve. He’s a little magician.

“He’s (Cheika) got a job he’s heavily focused on and the team is following.”

Cummins has long wanted to cross the World Cup off his sporting bucket list.

It was the reason why he sought a loan move back to the Force this year from his Japanese club Coca-Cola Red Sparks – before the Australian Rugby Union changed its eligibility rules to allow players from foreign clubs to represent the Wallabies.

That change put Mitchell back in the frame, and it would be understandable if Cummins held frustrations after the selection goalposts were shifted.

Instead, Cummins said he was more than happy to see Mitchell and fellow France-based star Matt Giteau back in green and gold.

“Bring in the old dogs, they’ve still got some fight in them,” Cummins said.

“You see Gits out there, he’s still got it.

“Back in the day six, seven years ago I was playing with him at the Force and he still has that same zing.

“Credit to him, I don’t know how he does it. He’s going to be dangerous.”

Scott to bounce back in Origin III

Last year Matt Scott couldn’t watch as NSW captain Paul Gallen finally raised the State of Origin trophy at Suncorp Stadium.

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Fast forward almost 12 months to the day and Queensland prop Scott reckons he has his eyes on the prize ahead of Wednesday night’s Origin decider in Brisbane despite a quiet game two.

Scott did not play Origin III last year due to a facial fracture but was in the Suncorp Stadium stands when Gallen finally got his hands on the Origin trophy.

It marked the official end to Queensland’s record eight straight series winning run.

“I think I turned away at that point,” Scott said of Gallen raising the trophy.

“I’ve seen enough replays on TV over the year to make sure it’s still hurting.”

Scott’s pride is hurting too ahead of the must-win Origin III.

The man considered the world’s No.1 prop was overrun in Queensland’s 26-18 game two loss by the likes of his Cowboys teammate James Tamou, Aaron Woods and up-start David Klemmer.

The low point came when Woods brushed past Scott – 30 later this month – to score a key try near the posts.

Overall Scott amassed an underwhelming 51m from six hit-ups and notched 17 tackles in his 38-minute display.

“I am expecting a lift from Matty definitely,” Scott’s Maroons teammate Jacob Lillyman said.

“With Matty I know he was very disappointed with game two.

“He is a great player and will be looking to bounce back.”

Queensland have reportedly won just three of 10 Origins when Scott fails to crack the 100m-barrier.

Lock Corey Parker (114m) was the only Queensland forward who made more than 100m in game two.

For NSW, Woods (153m), Tamou (105m), captain Paul Gallen (131m) and Ryan Hoffman (138) all cracked three figures.

“I think between game one and two they definitely picked up their intensity,” Lillyman said of NSW’s pack.

“There was a bit more feeling in it.

“They came out all guns blazing.

“That’s the beauty of this decider in front of our home fans – it is going to make for a blockbuster.”

Lillyman agreed with Scott that their centre field defence needed improvement in game three.

“I think everyone knows we have to step up, right across the board,” he said.

“This team prides itself on rock-solid defence and last game wasn’t good enough.”

Scott said they could also stop being “too nice” in the ruck.

“Not in terms of grubby stuff but just about slowing it down,” Scott said.

“I think the referees allowed them to really slow the play-the-ball down so that’s an area we can get better at.”

Cook challenges Johnson to fire again

England captain Alastair Cook put forward three reasons his Ashes side would be a different beast to the one tamed so easily in 2013-14.

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One, it’s on the other side of the world.

Two, England’s XI has changed significantly since then.

Three, Mitchell Johnson’s 37 wickets in that series represented a freakish once-in-a-lifetime performance.

The Australian camp will care little and can do nothing about the first two, but Johnson will be out to prove Cook wrong on Wednesday when the Ashes series begins in Cardiff.

When asked about the prospect of Johnson reprising his role as the intimidator, Cook noted the left-armer’s challenge was to back it up.

And the opener hinted that might not be possible, likening it to the staggering 766 Test runs the English skipper scored in England’s successful tour of Australia in 2010-11.

“Mitchell had the series of a lifetime, pretty similar to what happened in 2010-11 with my form,” Cook said.

“You get on a bit of a roll and you can’t do no wrong.

“Credit when it’s due, he bowled very well and bowled quickly.

“Whether he can repeat that, that’s the challenge and we’ve got to make sure we cope with it better if he does.”

Cook also echoed the thoughts of Stuart Broad, who suggested last week that local conditions should leave England better equipped to face Johnson.

“Obviously, the pace and bounce in these wickets aren’t as much (as Australia),” he said.

Without naming names, Cook noted there were a few English veterans in the most-recent Ashes that were “kind of hanging on”.

Whereas now, most players are at the early stage of their cricket careers – or, in the case of Adil Rashid, yet to play a Test.

“They’ve got the chance to create their own history,” he said.

“That side at the end of 2013-14 was right at the end of its life cycle, I suppose.”

Cook added “a lot has happened” since the 2013-14 Ashes.

“It wasn’t the last game we played,” he said.

“It’s a different set-up and … we know how hard it is when you travel abroad to play.”

Cook described Trevor Bayliss as a no-nonsense operator, adding the division of labour between coach and captain had largely stayed the same.

“The captain does get a big say,” he said.

“It hasn’t changed too much.”

The series starts at 8pm (AEST).

Diamonds get down to World Cup business

After a dramatic trans-Tasman netball championship final and intense competition for national spots, Australia’s World Cup squad are relieved to be getting down to business.

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One month before the Diamonds kick off their world title defence against Trinidad and Tobago in Sydney, the 12-player squad are bunkered down on the Gold Coast in the first of two five-day training camps.

Pressure is undeniably on coach Lisa Alexander’s charges to claim a third consecutive World Cup trophy and extend their global dominance in front of home crowds.

But for the two-thirds of the squad comprised of NSW Swifts and Queensland Firebirds, the feeling is exactly the opposite.

There’s a palpable sense of calm in training that’s come with putting last month’s ANZ Championship grand final hysteria behind them.

“It’s been such a long ANZ season, and a little bit of angst going around,” said Kimberlee Green, Diamonds vice-captain and skipper of the Swifts side that lost the grand final to the Firebirds by one point.

“So to have the team named and be in camp, this is what we’re good at. We’re good at playing netball and not worrying about everything else.”

Green is one of five Swifts called up for World Cup duty along with goal shooter Caitlin Thwaites, retiring star Julie Corletto, fellow defender Sharni Layton and bolter Paige Hadley.

On the Firebirds side are Australian captain Laura Geitz, Kim Ravaillion and the recalled Rebecca Bulley.

With the new faces of Bulley, Hadley and Adelaide Thunderbirds goal attack Erin Bell added to last year’s Commonwealth Games gold medal line-up, the focus this week is on-court cohesion.

“Obviously players have been in and out before, but it’s just reconnecting it all and making sure that we are just spot on with all of our court work,” said Green, a member of both the triumphant 2014 Commonwealth Games and 2011 World Cup teams.

“Lisa said it a few times. We’re just working on combinations and on units and making sure they’re nice and tight.

“All the rest will look after itself.”

After this week, the Diamonds will head home for individual training before another five-day training camp in Newcastle from July 31 to August 4.

Ref boss calls for strict 10m in Origin

Referees boss Tony Archer has set the scene for an entertaining State of Origin series decider, directing his men to again enforce the 10-metre rule strictly.

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After a stodgy Origin I in Sydney, referees Ben Cummins and Gerard Sutton kept the teams well apart with a large 10m in game two at the MCG, creating a fast-paced, flowing game which drew widespead praise.

Archer says fans can expect more of the same at Suncorp Stadium on Wednesday night when Cummins and Sutton will be in charge for a third consecutive game.

“I thought their performance in game two was better than game one and I would like to see that continue,” Archer told AAP.

“I have asked them to work hard again in relation to the 10m as they did in game two because it facilitated some real flow and momentum within the game.

“They worked hard to get the players back behind them (in the defensive line) and when they didn’t comply they penalised them and you can expect that again.”

Whether that suits NSW or the Maroons most is a moot point, but lightning-quick Blues centre Michael Jennings was one player who thrived in the extra space as the Blues won Origin II.

Much of the focus in the lead-up to Origin II was on the niggle in the tackle and the possibility of a punch-up.

That didn’t eventuate in part because Cummins and Sutton kept a large 10m but Archer said his officials remained aware that flare-ups could happen with the stakes and emotions so high.

“It is up to the referees to identify that and we have been quite clear about that (the ramifications of punching) and I think you have see how the players have complied with that,” Archer said.

NSW have only won one penalty count in the last 11 games at Suncorp Stadium, but Archer was confident the vocal home ground wouldn’t influence the decision process of Cummins and Sutton.

“We have two very experienced referees there,” Archer said.

“They have refereed Origin before and grand finals, they know how to referee.”

The performances of the Blues and Maroons have been the subject of most discussion in the series so far with little talk focused on the effort of the referees and Archer said he hope it would stay that way.

“I’m hoping that after the game on Wednesday people will be talking about the game itself and not the referees,” Archer said.

Maloney backs Pearce to beat Origin Blues

Roosters NRL star James Maloney has backed halves colleague Mitchell Pearce to overcome any post State of Origin letdown in their title-chasing club’s run to the NRL finals.

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Pearce will be one of four Roosters playing in Wednesday’s decider in Brisbane, with Michael Jennings and Boyd Cordner also lining up for NSW and Aidan Guerra for Queensland.

All four have been named in the third-placed Roosters squad for Saturday’s away clash with Penrith, when the premiership favourites will look to build on successive wins they had before last week’s bye.

“The backup (after Origin) is tough on everyone that has to do it,” said Maloney, who represented NSW in the 2013 series.

“All of us (non-Origin) boys will take a little bit of that workload there and try and make it a little bit easier for them.”

Asked specifically about halfback Pearce, who has been playing at five-eighth for the Blues, Maloney said “no doubt he’ll go through a little flat period getting over the three (Origin) games.

“But he’ll be right, he always plays good footy for us.

“We’ll try and take a little bit of the workload off him this weekend.”

Although the Roosters haven’t won more than three in a row this season, Maloney was happy with where they are at, at this stage of the competition.

“It’s important that we’re playing the right footy at the right time of the year so that’s not just yet,” Maloney said.

“We still need to build. We still need to improve our footy for the back end of the year.

“We’re happy with where we’re at.

“We obviously had a bit of a slow patch at the start there and it’s taken a lot of work to get us back to a good position.

“There’s still more to do, but you can’t fault where we’re at.”

Cronulla-bound after this season, Maloney was pleased with Tuesday’s news that the Sharks had regained former player Chad Townsend from the Warriors.

Townsend is a potential halves partner for Maloney next season.

“He’s been doing really well over there with the Warriors, so that’s a good signing,” Maloney said.

Worsfold rules out senior AFL coach job

John Worsfold has no intention of being an AFL head coach again despite answering an SOS from Adelaide.

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Worsfold will act as Adelaide’s coaching director for the rest of the season after the alleged murder of Crows coach Phil Walsh.

But the West Coast premiership coach on Tuesday ruled out coaching Adelaide or another AFL club next season.

“I feel like I could manufacture enough time to commit to the end of this footy season,” Worsfold told reporters in Adelaide.

“By that point, Adelaide will be really clear on where they’re heading and I’ll disappear into the sunset.”

Worsfold was a close friend and worked at West Coast with Walsh, who was allegedly stabbed to death by his 26-year-old son last Friday.

“I will deal with what is in front of me as it comes along,” Worsfold said.

“Certainly my life is not heading where I thought it would be this week … but that is a small part of the unique and tragic situation that we’re in.”

The West Coast premiership coach said he would speak with the Walsh family in coming days as he prepares to assist Adelaide’s interim coach Scott Camporeale.

The Crows return to AFL action on Saturday against the Eagles in Perth with Worsfold saying he would be a sounding-board to the first-time head coach Camporeale.

“I’m not here to give him the answers,” Worsfold said.

“I’m not here to bring any ideas about game plan.

“My role here is to support these guys through the remainder of this footy season.

“This is big picture. Adelaide have a pretty young and inexperienced coaching group who had a very strong person in charge … they don’t have that now and I think I can offer some insight.”

Worsfold spent two days with Walsh at the Crows earlier in the season to offer feedback to the slain coach.

“There has definitely been a mark put on this playing group in terms of the vision that Phil had put in place,” Worsfold said.

“They (players) talk the language. They’re very focused on how they want to become a good team again. That is in place.”

Aust mull toss and XI for Ashes opener

The chat last week was England could play two tweakers in the Ashes opener, which starts on Wednesday in Cardiff.

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Having inspected the pitch, Michael Clarke isn’t sure Australia will play one.

Spin-friendly Sophia Gardens was considered a surprise choice for the first Test when the fixtures were announced last year.

The venue has certainly stunned the Australian camp, which had previously been spruiking Nathan Lyon’s potential to unsettle England’s many left-handed batsmen.

“It’s got a lot of grass on it. It’s surprising how much grass is on it,” Clarke said of the strip that will decide who takes the early advantage in the five-Test series.

“The selectors – I think they’ll contemplate playing four fast bowlers if the wicket stays like that.

“As much as I always love having a spinner in the team, you’ve got to pick the best XI for the conditions.”

Clarke added he would have no hesitation in sending the opposition in on day one of an Ashes, a tactic that famously backfired in 2002 for Nasser Hussain at the Gabba.

“If the wicket’s how it is today and you win the toss, you’d definitely bowl first. I think both teams would do that,” he said.

The reality is the pitch is likely to look a lot different on Wednesday at 8pm (AEST), when Australia start their campaign to win a Test series in England for the first time since 2001.

However, rain and overcast conditions might limit what the curator can achieve before day one.

“It’ll come down to what England are after – if they want grass cut off, I’m sure they’ll cut it off,” Clarke said.

“If they’re worried about spin bowling, they’ll leave more grass on it.

“I don’t really care, to be honest.

“If we can adapt and play our best cricket, I’m confident of success.”

For all the recent conjecture about Australia’s XI for the first Test, it looks to be fairly settled.

Selectors are expected to bank on Shane Watson’s experience and control with the ball ahead of younger allrounder Mitch Marsh’s power batting and bowling ability.

Chris Rogers is set to return from concussion and open alongside David Warner, replacing Shaun Marsh in the team.

Lyon is likely to play, although Peter Siddle is adding to the case for a four-prong pace attack.

“Sidds was unplayable in the nets … and he was probably the pick of the bowlers in the last tour game,” Clarke said.

England captain Alastair Cook didn’t comment on his side’s spin selection showdown between Moeen Ali and Adil Rashid, but agreed Cardiff could potentially be a paceman’s paradise.

“The grass on English wickets can keep the pace and bounce in it more than you see abroad,” Cook said.

Both Clarke and Cook downplayed the importance of past series and weren’t ready to look further ahead than this week.

“Beating teams in their own backyard is always the toughest part of our game and I’m sure this series will be no different,” Clarke said of Australia’s 14-year wait for Ashes success in England.