Month: October 2019

Lions make late bid for popular Pie

CHRIS Dawes is expected to settle on his new football home by tonight, with the Brisbane Lions making a late pitch for the Collingwood forward.
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Dawes, on holiday in the US with his girlfriend, met the Western Bulldogs and Melbourne last week and both clubs expect him to make his mind up before or over the weekend.

The 24-year-old, contracted for two more years at Collingwood, appears most likely to play for either the Demons or Bulldogs next year. Both clubs have similar first-round picks – Melbourne pick 20 and the Bulldogs No. 21 – to work into a potential trade.

It had been understood that Dawes’ preference was to join Carlton, but the Blues insist he is not on their radar, despite his abilities being well known to new Blues coach Mick Malthouse.

The Lions consider themselves long shots to persuade Dawes to move interstate, given he is studying for a law degree, with his girlfriend well positioned in her accounting career.

Dawes decided to explore his options beyond Collingwood last week, feeling the club’s decision to sign West Coast forward Quinten Lynch as an unrestricted free agent threw his role for 2013 into doubt.

Melbourne coach Mark Neeld is still hopeful his relationship with Dawes can convince him to join the Demons. Neeld coached Dawes in his first four years when he was an assistant at Collingwood and the Demons have also used one of his former premiership teammates – assistant coach Leigh Brown – in pitches to sell their vision to Dawes.

Melbourne has spoken to Dawes several times. ”We used [our relationship with Dawes] for everything it was worth. Leigh Brown and I went around to see ‘Dawesy’ straight away,” Neeld said.

He said having someone at the club with a strong relationship with a recruiting target had worked for the Demons last year when they lured another key forward, former Brisbane Lion Mitch Clark. Neeld said the club would take both Dawes and Scott Gumbleton if it could.

Meanwhile, Geelong remained open to offers for talented forward Mitch Brown, who is contracted. Brown has drawn the interest of Fremantle, as well as a small handful of other clubs, and may move on after four years with the Cats.

Geelong’s interest in Melbourne defender Jared Rivers hinges on it being able to create a spot on the list for him, given it has brought in Gold Coast onballer Josh Caddy, is hoping to acquire Hamish McIntosh from North Melbourne and has several rookies who must be upgraded, delisted or lost as free agents.

Geelong might be able to accommodate Rivers, who would require around $350,000 per annum, under its salary cap but the list spot is the more pressing issue and has held up the prospect of him leaving the Demons. The Cats’ success in acquiring Caddy means the club is no longer pursuing Melbourne onballer Jordan Gysberts.

Brent Moloney’s move to Brisbane is expected to cancel out Melbourne’s acquisition of Shannon Byrnes in regards to compensation, meaning the Demons will only receive an extra draft pick should Rivers walk to another club, as it expects he will.


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Border alert: Inglis vows to keep Maroons in the family

Greg InglisAUSTRALIA centre Greg Inglis plans to future-proof his children against changes to rugby league eligibility rules by insisting they be born in Queensland.
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As the wrangling over who should play for which state and country reaches its climax among officials, Inglis suggested the criticism he has received for choosing the Maroons despite being raised in northern NSW had made him determined that his future offspring be Queenslanders.

”I’m pretty sure they’ll be Queenslanders … we’ll go back over the border,” Inglis said before tomorrow’s trans-Tasman Test at Dairy Farmers Stadium. ”But we’re talking, probably, another few years yet. It’s their choice in the end, whatever they want to do.”

Inglis said he had sympathy for Australian teammate James Tamou, who switched to Australia this year after representing the Maori and was so stunned by the backlash he stayed in his Auckland hotel room before his green-and-gold debut in April.

”I was copping a lot of criticism over it,” said Inglis, who qualified for Queensland due to Melbourne’s feeder team being Brisbane Norths. ”When it was first asked, ‘Who do you want to play for?’ … what it says in the rule book, that’s just the way it is.

”They pledge their eligibility. If people don’t like it, they’ve just got to live with it. They’re putting on the green and gold and that’s it.”

The Herald this week reported that the Rugby League International Federation wanted Australia to end the current situation where the lure of Origin was helping the green and golds recruit players who would otherwise represent other countries. But the ARLC has no plans to present any proposals when the boards of the two countries meet tomorrow and the only scheme under serious consideration is stopping Junior Kiwis from playing Origin. There are fears this would simply dissuade players from making themselves available for the Junior Kiwis and make the Junior Kangaroos stronger by virtue of the same process that has led Tamou and Josh Papalii to opt for Australia at senior level this year.

The ARLC does not believe it owes the RLIF or New Zealand any undertakings on changes to Origin selection criteria as it is a domestic issue. This could lead to Origin players being chosen by other countries, as Anthony Minichiello was last year when he represented both NSW and Italy without changing his country of election.

The Australians had yesterday off while the Kiwis followed a morning media session with school visits.

Prop Adam Blair, whose role as the competition’s highest-paid forward has proved the catalyst of the upheavals at Wests Tigers over the past 12 months – including the axing of coach Tim Sheens – admitted he did not deserve to be in the Kiwi squad.

The recruitment of Blair, who replaced the injured Jeremy Smith in the Test squad, prompted the departure of Bryce Gibbs and Andrew Fifita last year and others such as Beau Ryan and Chris Heighington moving on recently was reported to have turned players against Sheens.

”With how I played this year and what I did for the club, I didn’t think I deserved to be in front of the boys who played finals footy,” Blair said. ”I got caught up in that kind of stuff where it took me away from what I do best for myself and how I play footy. Once I got that sorted, which was the back end of the season which was really too late, I tried to do the things I used to do but it wasn’t what the Tigers needed of me. When I’m defending well, I’m playing well. That’s one of the things I went away from this year, being a strong defender. That’s one of the things I need to work on.”

Blair said he was relaxed about Wests Tigers not having appointed a coach for 2012. ”My future’s secure at the Tigers, I can’t worry about anything else,” he said.

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No denying ITM Cup’s place as a nursery for next generation of All Blacks

There was a sight to cheer the souls of NSW fans and content new coach Michael Cheika on Tuesday night: a Waratahs winger, Peter Betham, frightening New Zealand defenders with his pace, power and finishing ability, grabbing two tries against the Tana Umaga-coached Counties Manukau. Playing for the Tasman province in this year’s ITM Cup, Betham has lit up New Zealand’s provincial competition. In many judges’ form XV of the tournament, he’d command one of the wing spots: no small feat, given there are 14 teams competing across two divisions.
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Followers of the game in Australia need no reminding that the third-tier debate is an inflamer of passions. There is no attempt to sail in those complex and choppy waters here – navigating the issues relating to scheduling and structure is for brighter minds – but from observing the New Zealand competition, some reasonable assumptions can be made on the impact it has.

It’s helpful in the first instance to dispel the silver-bullet theory. Even if Australia had a third-tier competition running now, the idea that the Wallabies coach could dip into that tournament and find new talent, who hadn’t been seen at Super level, to replace injured Test players is stretching credibility. The gap is too wide. ”We have used players from there for end-of-year tours before and found what we were seeing at ITM Cup wasn’t replicated at our level because the step is just too great,” All Blacks coach Steve Hansen told a New Zealand radio station last month.

And there have been rumblings of Kiwi discontent this year. The condensed nature of the competition – essentially squeezed because of the expansion of Super Rugby that’s given Australia two extra sides since 2006 – had led some coaches to lament that their job had ceased to involve much coaching. Recovery and preparation for the next game had eaten up their time. One went even went further, saying, ”The ITM Cup is not conducive to player development.” Certainly it has led to some poor contests, with Canterbury’s 84-0 drubbing of Southland a reflection of these issues. Crowd figures, and television ratings, are also under pressure. Harsh economic realities hover in the background. No doubt these worries occupy the minds of Australian administrators, and correctly so. But there are benefits to coaches, fans and players.

The Super franchises sift through the weekly performances, watching from the stands and crunching the statistics to form an informed view of the available cattle. For supporters, there is the simple but engaging joy of ”spotting” a youngster and tracking his progress through the ranks. And for the players, they get to build, or rebuild, their games in an environment that provides pressure but not the unforgiving glare of Super Rugby.

These are but four names who prove its worth: Betham, Charles Piutau, (Auckland), Ardie Savea (Wellington) and Gareth Anscombe (Auckland) – all of who have grown in this ITM Cup.

Betham will return to Sydney confidence brimming after an integral role in a side that loves to counter-attack. For those unfamiliar with his qualities, he has size, evasiveness, speed and an offload. He has been expert at hovering at his halfback’s shoulder looking for opportunities, but has also been used from first phase to crunch the ball up in the No.10 channel.

There is always a risk in promoting young players but enough has been seen of Piutau to predict he will be an All Black. He’s a big kid, very strong in contact, runs straight lines and has a huge left boot – pretty much the modern template for a player in the back three.

Savea, the younger brother of All Black Julian could be anything. Although still only 18 and 97 kilograms, he has been playing at openside and No.8 for Wellington, using his remarkable pace and power as a ball carrier and menace at the breakdown. If he continues his development at this rate, hits the 105kg mark and avoids the usual pitfalls, he might not only be an All Black, but a very good one.

But it is the case of Anscombe that is perhaps the most valuable in assessing the ITM Cup’s value. The young No.10 had a difficult season at the dreadful Blues last year, and suffered the jolt of being surprisingly delisted by the franchise during his ITM Cup campaign with Auckland. There were noises that his availability piqued the interest of Australian franchises. But with his good form for Auckland – combined with his pedigree at age-group level he was picked up by the Chiefs and now will continue his journey at Super level under the wing of former All Blacks guru Wayne Smith. Such are the benefits of a shop window.

When the Wallabies take on the All Blacks in Brisbane in a week, there will be similarities between the players: all are exposed to excellent coaches – at national and Super level. But there are differences, too. And if the All Blacks keep on winning, the development path provided by a national provincial competition will continue to be seen as an important one.

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McGregor crash-tackles stereotypes as Sydney gears up for Bingham Cup

On the up … Lachlan McGregor, lifted, with his teammates from the Sydney Convicts at the Opera House. Their bid for Sydney to host the 2014 Bingham Cup was backed by the Prime Minister, Julia Gillard.COMING out almost cost Lachlan McGregor his love of rugby.
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The Sydney Convicts outside-centre played every year while attending Scots College, and spent a season with Woollahra Colleagues when he studied at University of Sydney but quit just before he told his friends and family that he was gay.

”I didn’t know of anyone else in the team that was gay, I felt quite different,” McGregor said. ”It wasn’t like I thought I would be paid out or persecuted if I came out, but I just felt like a lot of the guys in that team would be uncomfortable with it, so I kept quiet.”

Now 23 years old and comfortable with his sexuality, McGregor admits his own prejudices played a part in the problem. ”I guess I bought into the stereotypes that gays can’t play sport or can’t play rugby well, so I declared to myself that I wouldn’t play again because gay people can’t play,” he said.

Even when he found the Convicts, Australia’s first gay rugby club, McGregor thought playing in a team of gay men would be too ”confronting”.

It took the encouragement of friends and family, and self-acceptance for the commerce student to change his mind.

”It was just ignorance and a lack of education that made me think that way,” he said. ”Once you meet the people that play in that team, the worry and the stereotypes fade away … It’s been great to meet some new people and realise you can do whatever you want, no matter what sexuality you are, no matter who you are.”

McGregor credits the Convicts with turning him from an average player to a member of a grand final-winning, third-division suburban team.

This year he went on his first rugby tour with the world champion Convicts side and says he would not miss the chance to play in the next gay rugby world cup, in Sydney in 2014.

”It will be awesome if the one this year [in Manchester] is anything to go by,” he said.

”It felt really great to be a part of a gay rugby tournament where you know that everyone’s not necessarily there because they’re gay but because they love rugby first.”

The Bingham Cup will attract to Sydney up to 1500 players across about 40 teams in August 2014.

The Colleagues and Eastern Suburbs will host games at their Rose Bay ovals, with the help of the Melbourne Chargers and Brisbane Hustlers rugby clubs, in their own cities.

The Convicts’ bid for Sydney to host the tournament was backed by the Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, the federal member for Wentworth, Malcolm Turnbull, Australian Rugby Union board member John Eales, Wallabies breakaway David Pocock, NSW Rugby Union chairman Nick Farr-Jones, Sydney lord mayor Clover Moore and the NSW Governor Marie Bashir.

”In many respects the Bingham Cup is more than just a rugby tournament,” Eales said. ”It is an important demonstration of mutual respect and diversity which has always been part of the rugby community. Regardless of the football code you would like to play, sexuality should be irrelevant consideration. Unfortunately this is not a reality and there is still work to be done to eliminate negative stereotypes and homophobia in sport.”

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Style of game will not be changing

THE two things that surprised me most about the opening game were our performance and the reaction to the result.
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We all realise this year will be a challenging one because we have changed both the squad and the playing style quite dramatically. It would be unrealistic to expect the team to be executing everything perfectly in such a short space of time.

Our performance was still disappointing, however, because it did not reflect the progress the team has made in the past couple of months and so, from that point of view, our first step was a faltering one.

There were a couple of specific areas where we failed to keep our structure and as a result we were punished and not able to control the game in the manner we wanted.

There were also some positive outcomes on the night, including the goal we scored, which came directly from us playing the style of game we had been working on. The one thing we don’t do as a coaching staff is analyse the result.

Too often coaches fall into the trap of measuring the performance against the backdrop of the result. A win means we played well while a loss must have resulted from a poor performance. That is not always the case and my mood would not have been any better had we won the game but played in the same manner.

Our players know they will always be measured against the specific benchmarks we have as a club and that sometimes this will not be reflected on the scoreboard.

I was asked this week how far I would go in implementing this game style and particularly the perceived risk of always playing out from the back. As a coach I have yet to find that limit and still believe we have not yet scratched the surface of the possibilities possession football can create. Our goal in the first game started from our goalkeeper playing the ball out.

The second thing that surprised me was the reaction to our result and the others from the weekend’s games.

Favourites have been framed, strugglers identified, players elevated to star status and others relegated to the dustbin. Ninety minutes of football can certainly change the landscape very quickly. The challenge for each club and coach is to stay the course regardless, because reactions in the heat of the moment can lead to consequences that are far more damaging than if things were allowed to pan out.

We are playing against the champions this week and our challenge will be to try to impose our game on an opposition that also likes to dominate possession. To do this we will need to be more disciplined and have more belief in our structure than in the first game. The players now realise we will not compromise our style of play and, regardless of the result or the personnel representing us, our structure will remain a constant.

I am looking forward to the trip back to Brisbane. It will provide us with a strong football challenge. The Roar are the champions and still the benchmark in the competition, so our structure and discipline will be really tested. But watching the players train I can tell that each day they are gaining more belief in what we do.

They also know that our measure each week will be the performance and not the result so there will be clear indicators of how we are progressing.

I have always measured the success of my day when the sun is setting and in A-League terms we have just seen the sunrise, so there is plenty of the day left.

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