Day: September 12, 2019

Duty calls: Sharpe puts retirement on hold again

NATHAN SHARPE has answered the mayday call from Australian rugby and will play on through the four-Test tour of Europe next month.
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Sharpe said he wanted to help the Wallabies through the toughest international season he could remember and would delay his retirement for a second time and finish his 111-Test career playing against Wales – for the 14th time – in Cardiff on December 2.

“Playing for Australia is something I have never taken for granted. As such, to be asked to continue beyond the deadline I had set for myself was both flattering but also a request that was very difficult to turn down,” Sharpe said.

“I have never known a season where the Wallabies have faced such adversity as we have this year. To show the spirit and character that the team has is a mark of how the group has grown, both individually and collectively, and I have enjoyed playing my part in that.

“The opportunity to lead the Wallabies again on what will be a challenging but exciting tour was too tempting. It is not easy to say no to your country.”

Sharpe, 34, had planned to retire at the end of the Super Rugby season but agreed to play through the Rugby Championship and final Bledisloe Cup match after a career-best performance in the three-Test series against Wales in June.

The Wallabies’ second-row stocks were ravaged by Dan Vickerman’s forced retirement and a long-term injury to first-choice captain James Horwill.

Deans has spent the past 12 months cultivating the likes of Sitaleki Timani, Dave Dennis and Kane Douglas and Reds second-rower Rob Simmons is a regular member of the match 22. But without Sharpe the Wallabies lack the hard-won composure the Queenslander brings to the table.

His decision to play on past the Brisbane Test against the All Blacks next weekend also helps fill a leadership vacuum in the squad left following injuries to back-up captain David Pocock and his replacement Will Genia.

“You only have to look at what he has achieved with the group since he took over as captain,” Wallabies coach Robbie Deans said.

”His influence has been immense, he is arguably playing the best rugby of his career but, most importantly, he is enjoying the experience.

“Sharpey’s presence and leadership has been a constant throughout the year – one of the few aspects of continuity that we’ve had through a season that is probably without precedent in terms of disruption.

“For that reason, it was straightforward asking him to continue … While he has a range of other commitments in his life, and touring means putting them on hold again, I had no doubt that he would be keen to continue.”

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Heart wary of the danger in depleted Phoenix

MELBOURNE Heart is well aware of the potential banana skin that a ravaged Wellington Phoenix side, which will field as many as four debutants, represents when it lines up at AAMI Park on Sunday.
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Wellington, impressive 2-0 winners over Sydney in round one, has been gutted by the demands of the New Zealand national team, which has taken six of its players, and the Solomon Islands side, which has called up Benjamin Totori.

”We have got to approach the game as if it’s a normal match,” said Heart’s former English Premier League midfielder Richie Garcia.

”The players who come into the side will be doubly eager to impress and hold their position. They looked like a very hard-working and physical team against Sydney and it will be a difficult task for us.”

For several seasons, Paul Ifill, who played at Millwall, Sheffield United and Crystal Palace. has been the Phoenix’s go-to man and Garcia, who played at West Ham and Hull City in England, knows all about him.

”We have come up against each other in the past,” he said. ”He has done well wherever he has gone, he has always scored goals, so he will be a very dangerous player we have to watch in this match.”

For Garcia, the slower rhythms of the A-League are something he is still getting used to. The wait for the season to start seemed interminable and, even now, he is restless because he has to wait nine days to play his second game. It’s certainly another world to the hurly-burly of the Premiership, and the even busier Championship, where league and cup games come thick and fast.

”It’s odd for me. Normally we have played three games [in the first week of a new season] by now and you are tired and can’t move,” said Garcia. ”I am used to being a lot busier, but as I have been told, when all the travelling starts I will probably be grateful for the recovery time. But the travel won’t be a problem. I am going to have to get used to it but when I have been on international duty I have played in Australia then flown back to England and played the next day.”

Garcia said he was surprised by the intensity and speed of Friday’s season-opener against Victory.

”It was quite a fast-paced game, quite intense. I was expecting it to be a bit slower, so that was good for me that it was at high intensity,” he said. ”Maybe there were a few more turnovers, but that’s what you expect when the game is played at a good pace. Players always want to play in front of big crowds and the atmosphere was great, and the crowd.”

Although he struggled with injuries in his final seasons in England, Garcia, who played for the Socceroos in the 2010 World Cup in South Africa, said his body was at a good stage and he was enjoying the deeper midfield role he had been asked to occupy by John Aloisi.

”I am growing into my new role and enjoying it, but I want to chip in with a few goals as well, I don’t want to lose that from my game,” he said.

”Defending is something new for me, but I made my debut at centre midfield for West Ham and played for the state team in WA as a kid in that position, so I know it.

”When you get off to a winning start it always brings confidence. It’s just a matter of going back to back this weekend.”

WEEK TWO(All games on Fox Sports) ADELAIDE UTD v WANDERERSHindmarsh Stadium, 7.30pm The Reds defied expectations with a 2-0 away win in round one against a fancied Newcastle. Not bad considering they had only just arrived back in the country after an Asian Champions League quarter-final a few days earlier. Dario Vidosic netted the first that day, but he is an absentee tonight through injury. WSW ground out a scoreless draw in its first game against Central Coast and will be better for the run. Japanese star Shinji Ono could start this time, but even his presence might not be enough to stop the Adelaide gaining another three points.

SYDNEY FC v JETSSydney Football Stadium, tomorrow, 5.30pm The game all Sydney has been waiting for since it was announced that Italian superstar Alessandro Del Piero was coming to the harbour city. Del Piero created a good impression in his first appearance in last week’s season opener in Wellington, but his teammates didn’t as Sydney crashed to a 2-0 loss. Emile Heskey is the other big name on show in this game, the former English Premiership striker having made his debut for his new team in the surprise loss to Adelaide. Promoters will be hoping both get on the scoresheet. They might, and this game could end in a draw.

ROAR v VICTORYSuncorp Stadium, tomorrow, 7.45pm Another fixture rife with possibility as the FFA’s policy of setting up tantalising matches in the early rounds of the season delivers another potential delight. Ange Postecoglou, Victory’s new coach, returns to the scene of his triumphs having led Brisbane to the past two A-League titles, to face a team now helmed by his former assistant, Rado Vidosic. Victory could struggle without Thompson, Milligan and Rojas, and it would be no surprise to see the Roar get back to its winning ways.

HEART v PHOENIXAAMI Park, Sunday, 3pm Heart has been the best backed team this round, and it is hardly surprising that John Aloisi’s side should be odds-on to record its second win in a row with the Phoenix missing seven first-team squad members because of Oceania World Cup qualifiers over the next week. Heart will be cock-a-hoop after its derby win and can go on with the job here.

MARINERS v GLORYBluetongue Stadium, Sunday, 5pm A game that might offer some measure of revenge for the Mariners, who were defeated at this venue by Perth Glory in the preliminary final last season. The Mariners got off to a stuttering start with a scoreless draw against Wanderers, while Perth got its own form of revenge by defeating reigning premier Brisbane last weekend. Perth these days is tough, organised and competitive home or away but so are the Mariners, who are always difficult to beat. This game could end up with the spoils shared.

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NZ hoop set for big time

JAMES McDonald has never won a Guineas in Australia or at home in New Zealand, but at the top of his wishlist is the Caulfield Guineas. He hardly expects to win tomorrow’s race, but he can’t wait for the opportunity.
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McDonald takes the Caulfield Guineas ride on Ashokan for John O’Shea, who is in the running for a classic placing if he can recapture his best Sydney form. McDonald could hope for nothing better.

”I have always wanted to have a ride in the Caulfield Guineas. It is one of those races that captures my imagination,” he said.

”It is a stallion-making race and these are races that everyone talks about, and I wanted to be involved in them and win them.

”When I made the decision to come [to Australia] it was these days with the big atmosphere which made it an easy one.”

McDonald first came to Australia to ride in the big time last year and freely admits he was a bit green.

”There is a lot more pressure over here,” he said. ”There is [pressure] at home as well, but it is different here. It is constant.

”I’m a lot more street-wise about it now than I was 12 months ago. I had that month in Hong Kong, which is really competitive, and I learned a lot from John Moore. It is just about being a bit tougher.”

McDonald is an undoubted talent but the difference from his ride in last year’s Golden Rose on Foxwedge and his winning effort on It’s A Dundeel in the Spring Champion Stakes at Randwick was marked.

”I think it is about having confidence to make a move and not second guessing yourself,” he said. ”I was very confident going into the race. I thought I was on the right horse.

”It will be a bit different on the weekend because we are taking on a champion in Pierro. He is just a superstar.

”Ashokan is a horse that is going to put himself in the race and his runs going into this have been very good without winning.

”I think the mile will really suit him.”

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Gate may be open for Caulfield Cup

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Imported galloper Gatewood is well supported to win on his Australian debut in tomorrow’s Herbert Power Stakes at Caulfield, despite the concession yesterday from his trainer John Gosden that the horse faced a tough task. ”It’s a learning curve travelling a horse that far and we’re happy with the profile we have so far but let’s be clear about it – it’s a big ask,” Gosden told Sky Sports Radio. ”He settled in great, he travelled well. The most important thing is he ate and he drank on the way. The great thing about horses, unlike us, they don’t drink alcohol on a plane, he didn’t dehydrate too much.” Gatewood has been backed from $5 to $4 for tomorrow’s race over the Caulfield Cup distance and Gosden said that if he could earn a run in the $2.5 million handicap the following week, he could pull off an upset. ”I think he’ll suit the racing [in Australia] well,” Gosden said. ”He’s a progressive horse.”Frankel closes in on memorable farewell

The countdown is on for the farewell run for the world’s leading thoroughbred, Frankel, who this week galloped strongly at Newmarket in preparation for next Saturday’s group 1 Champion Stakes at Ascot. Teddy Grimthorpe, racing manager for Frankel’s owner Prince Khalid Abdullah, said the son of Galileo did everything required of him by trainer Sir Henry Cecil. ”Everything went very well, it was a good bit of work and we were all very happy. It’s so far, so good,” Grimthorpe said. Frankel will perform in front of royalty in the Champion Stakes with the Queen to travel to the Berkshire course to see the superstar in action for the final time.

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The next best

Pipe-opener: Sydney colt Epaulette wins the Caulfield Guineas Prelude a fortnight ago. Now for the main game tomorrow.HISTORY often plays a big part when assessing the premier races on a day such as tomorrow’s Caulfield Guineas meeting. Trends can appear in certain eras and that is certainly the case with the feature sprint race, the Schillaci Stakes.
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Over the past nine years, eight three-year-old fillies have run in the Schillaci with all but one of those ultimately clinching a top-four finish. That filly was Jade Diva, who finished fifth in 2004. The others were multiple black-type fillies: Karuta Queen (2nd behind Black Caviar in 2011); Paprika (4th in 2009); Royal Asscher (2nd in 2007); Nediym’s Glow (3rd in 2006); Danerich (2nd in 2005); Alizes (2nd in 2004) and Halibery (1st in 2003).

OK, there is only one winner among that group, but it appears you can bank on a quality sprinting filly getting into the finish. In tomorrow’s race, there is one three-year-old among the 10 runners, she is a female, she is already a stakes winner and, above all, she is likely to offer plenty of value, as she is at $26 in early markets. MALASUN (Race 4, No. 10) might fly under the radar a little in this race after what appeared to be a disappointing first-up flop at Moonee Valley. But she carried the weight penalty (1.5 kilograms) and she led that day at a sizzling tempo, allowing Love For Ransom and Stella Lante – who were at the tail of the field turning for home – to fly home late and swamp her.

Also, that run was at 1200 metres and her first run since immaturity forced trainer Mick Price to send her to the paddock when in the running for Blue Diamond Stakes favouritism.

She is back to the pure sprinter’s course tomorrow and even though she is drawn a touch awkwardly in barrier nine, she has just 51 kilograms and so can jump and run and keeping running.


Have something each-way on Malasun and also rove her around numbers 1, 2, 5, 7, 8 and 9 in trifectas.


A MARE’S sprint race with a capacity field at the end of a long day’s racing can present its problems for punters looking to carry on a winning day or recoup losses. But tomorrow features the return of a mare that might be something special and I think we can safely bank on SHEILA’S STAR (Race 9, No. 11) to get the job done.

In five runs for Caulfield trainer Mick Price, she has won three convincingly before injuring herself when beaten in a stakes race in Adelaide before a spell. Her three wins on end were over 1400 metres and she was beaten first-up over 1200 metres but drew poorly that day and got back in the ruck before finishing on strongly. The manner of her three wins last campaign were of a horse capable of taking a large step in class.

Sheila’s Star was a work in progress last campaign and now, as a fully matured five-year-old, should be able to take up an ideal spot on or just off the speed from her inside barrier. It is certainly notable that Glen Boss takes the mount and given his current form, he should give her every chance of a first-up win.

The hardest for her to beat may well be the horse that Boss rode at her last start. The Darley-trained mare DETOURS (No. 3) did not enjoy the best of runs first-up late last month as she was caught wide but still managed to win with authority. This mare has promised much and looks set for an excellent spring campaign.

It was difficult not to be taken with the Victorian debut of MISS MARX (No. 4), who came from a seemingly impossible position to win at Caulfield. She had run second to More Joyous in Sydney before that so you have to trust her form. But the query with her is that while Sheila’s Star and Detours have inside gates, she may again be forced back from gate 13 and may have to rely on luck to win.


You might try Sheila’s Star one-out in the quaddie and if you have a ”live” ticket, lay off on Detours and include Miss Marx in trifectas.


APART from the Caulfield Guineas, the most intense race tomorrow surely is the Herbert Power Stakes, where the winner grabs a spot in next Saturday’s $2.5 million Caulfield Cup. The race brings together horses from all sorts of form lines and indeed from different parts of the world, and with such a prize at the end of this race, the time to perform is now.

The horses are fit, the jockeys are hungry (in more ways than one) and so the best and most adaptable stayer should win. Three especially appeal.

IRONSTEIN (No. 3) has not won a race since he thrashed in rivals in the group 3 Queen Elizabeth Stakes (2600m) at Flemington last spring, but his past two starts when finishing fast in the Kingston Town Stakes in Sydney and JRA Stakes at Moonee Valley over 2000m have been most impressive. At Moonee Valley, he settled at the tail of the field and found trouble in the run before flashing home to finish within two lengths of Bianmick. He meets that horse 1.5 kilograms better and has a definite advantage over Bianmick at the barriers.

I suspect MR O’CEIRIN (No. 10) will prove a tough horse to get past. Out to 2400m this bold front-runner should enjoy the slightly slower tempo and might be able to dictate. He’s enjoyed a perfect build-up to this trip and with Glen Boss aboard is set to produce a career-best performance.

The John Gosden-trained GATEWOOD (No. 2) appeals as the wildcard of the race. He returned to racing with just a maiden win next to his name in May at York in Britain and immediately began a dramatic rise through his classes. At his most recent start at Deauville, France, in August he was beaten a neck in a group 2 over 2500m. That form is surely strong enough to win here so it’s a matter of how well he’s settled in.


A great betting race suggests a tidy reward in multiples. Take 2, 3, and 10 in quaddies and take the same numbers to finish in the top two in trifectas around the field.

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