Monthly Archives: August 2018

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Earl switch backed by his teammates

Raiders winger Sandor Earl. Photo: Katherine GriffithsSandor Earl’s Canberra teammates are not holding his pending switch to rugby union against him. In fact, Raiders skipper Terry Campese is encouraging it.

Earl (left) will join a French rugby union club at the end of the NRL season, but Campese – nephew of Wallabies great David Campese – has already given his kicking game a workout.

”I took him for a few torpedo kicks just to see what he had and some drop-kicks as well and he stood up to it,” Campese said.

Earl played for Randwick under-17s with Wallabies utility Kurtley Beale and NSW Waratahs winger Peter Betham before opting for league, where he has had stints at the Sydney Roosters, Penrith and now Canberra.

Campese felt that Earl’s natural athletic ability would stand him in good stead for the code switch.

Earl’s management contacted the ACT Brumbies earlier this year to sound out a possible cross-town move.

While the Brumbies turned him down, a French second-division club has offered him a contract believed to be about $220,000.

Earl has even considered following Israel Folau’s path to the AFL, having participated in a secret try-out with Essendon in 2012, arranged by controversial sports scientist Stephen Dank.

Nothing eventuated from that, but Campese was confident Earl would make a fist of rugby.

”He’s got a great leap on him and can kick the ball as well,” he said

”He tried out for AFL a few years ago. He’s got everything to his game and I wish him the best over there and [that he will] make the most of his opportunity.”

Raiders centre Jarrod Croker admitted he was shocked by Earl’s defection.

”I’ve become pretty good mates with him and I’ll support him … it was a bit [of a shock]. I didn’t really expect it, probably because it hasn’t been talked about a lot,” Croker said.

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Raiders win time to take on Broncos

Canberra Raiders centre Jarrod Croker. Photo: Melissa AdamsThree Canberra players are in a race to be fit for Monday night’s clash against Brisbane, but Raiders fullback Reece Robinson believes the Broncos will benefit more from the long turnaround.

Raiders centre Jarrod Croker has been named to start against the Broncos, despite injuring his hamstring in Canberra’s last-round loss to Manly.

Hooker Glen Buttriss (calf) and second-rower Joel Edwards (hamstring) will also be given until the last minute to prove their fitness.

The Raiders are coming off a bye and playing on Monday gives the injured trio more time to recover.

But it also gives Brisbane’s four returning State of Origin stars five days to recover from Origin I as the Broncos look to bounce back from a humiliating 56-18 loss to the New Zealand Warriors on Monday night.

”It could [help Brisbane] in the turnaround, but hopefully we’ll get it going in training and get a good performance on Monday,” Robinson said.

The Raiders will be hoping prop David Shillington and centre Blake Ferguson come through Origin unscathed, while the Broncos will be nervously watching Sam Thaiday, Corey Parker, Justin Hodges and Matt Gillett.

Former Raiders skipper Alan Tongue said it was a ”huge game”.

”You need to make up some ground in this period, we’re going to have some players backing up and so will the Broncos, but it’s a real important period to keep in touch with the top eight,” Tongue said.

”You don’t want to put too much pressure on yourself coming into the back end of the season.”

Raiders back-rower Joe Picker (tonsilitis) also missed Tuesday’s training, but was named on the bench.

Croker didn’t train on Tuesday, but was hopeful of being fit for the Broncos as the Raiders look to maintain their unbeaten record at home.

”It’s all going pretty well at the moment, but I won’t know until the next couple of days,” Croker said.

Raiders captain Terry Campese was hopeful Buttriss would return, having played only three games this season.

Campese felt Buttriss would make an immediate impact.

”You saw against Melbourne how he can perform, I think that’s one of the best games I’ve seen him play,” Campese said.

”He’s definitely maturing as a hooker and getting better with each game.

”I think it’ll be a big boost to have him out there for the team.”

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Stingy Swans still maintain their rage

It’s a case of new faces, same result for Sydney’s back line, which has retained its Scrooge-like traits despite being rocked by a plethora of injuries this season.

Stability might be regarded as a cornerstone for a successful defensive unit but the Swans remain one of the hardest teams to score against – even with three of their premiership-winning back six unavailable for chunks of the year.

Injuries to Alex Johnson, Rhyce Shaw and Marty Mattner mean there is more than 450 games’ experience sitting in the stands. That’s not including the 10 years’ experience of Lewis Roberts-Thomson, who had been earmarked for more time in defence following Johnson’s injury.

Although Fremantle have taken the crown off Sydney for lowest scores conceded after 10 rounds, the Swans are still incredibly miserly.

They might be a mediocre 13th for the number of entries inside their defensive 50 but the Swans rank first for the lowest proportion of scores and goals conceded from those incursions.

Adelaide, Sydney’s opponent this week, ranks second and third respectively, according to Champion Data. The numbers are not only an endorsement for the Swans’ style of play but also their quality and depth of talent in defence.

Among the new faces to have stood the test so far are Dane Rampe and Andrejs Everitt, while co-captain Jarrad McVeigh has also had stints in the back half.

Backman Nick Smith, who has not missed a game this season, said while it was exciting to have fresh blood there was no substitution for familiarity. ‘‘It’s definitely a different look to last year but in saying that hopefully we can be as good and as solid together,’’ Smith said.

‘‘It’s so crucial everyone is working together, there’s plenty of voice and it lets us sort our match-ups. Even when the ball’s coming in we know what each other are doing.

‘‘[Last year] we became really tight and comfortable playing with each other. We knew each other’s strengths.  It doesn’t happen overnight that everything just functions 100 per cent right. The more footy we play together the more that will start to happen.’’

The Swans’ defence will meet a new-look Adelaide forward line that has made a better-than-expected transition to life without key talls Taylor Walker and Kurt Tippett, who controversially defected to Sydney. Unheralded names such as Josh Jenkins, Tom Lynch and Sam Kerridge have helped fill the breach in recent weeks.

Heath Grundy admitted he knew ‘‘not much about any of them’’ though could recall playing on Lynch in a game against St Kilda.  ‘‘When a few new faces roll in you’ve got to treat them carefully,’’ he said. ‘‘If they’re playing senior footy they’re capable and pretty handy.’’

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Hart gets his reward as a legend

Royce Hart.Richmond’s golden era of the late 1960s and early ’70s produced four premierships and a ton of football talent. Two players who represented the Tigers during that period were already official ”Legends of the Game”. On Tuesday night, they were joined by a third, when champion centre half-forward Royce Hart became the 25th player in history to be accorded such status.

Hart, 65, who had been one of the AFL’s initial Hall of Famers announced in 1996, joined Kevin Bartlett, Ian Stewart, who won the last of his three Brownlow Medals with the Tigers, and club icon Jack Dyer as Richmond’s official legends in this year’s intake, announced on Tuesday night at Parliament House.

The AFL also inducted a further six men to join the existing 245 members of the Hall of Fame. They are former Essendon champion spearhead Matthew Lloyd, Western Bulldogs’ star midfielder Scott West, former Melbourne forward Hassa Mann, South Australian Rick Davies and Western Australian Brian Peake, along with long-serving AFL umpire Bryan Sheehan.

Hart is still considered by many experts who witnessed his career to be the greatest centre half-forward of all time, superior even to modern-day giant Wayne Carey. Hart in 1996 was selected in the key forward post in the AFL’s official Team of the Century.

Hart played in all four of those Richmond premierships of the ’60s and ’70s, and captained the back-to-back wins of 1973-74. He played 187 games for the Tigers between 1967 and ’77, winning two best and fairests, both in years when the Tigers reached the grand final. He also kicked 369 goals, and played 11 times for Victoria. It was only a series of knee injuries that finished his league career at the age of 29, Hart going on to coach Footscray from 1980-82.

Hart arrived at Punt Road as a teenager signed by legendary club administrator Graeme Richmond for the less-than-princely price of six white shirts and a grey suit to wear in his job as a bank teller. An athletic and mobile though not overly tall forward with a magnificent leap, he quickly made his mark with the young Tiger line-up emerging under the coaching of Tom Hafey.

He showed his liking for the big stage early on, in 1966 kicking the winning goal for Richmond’s reserves in the grand final just 30 seconds before the final siren from 60 metres out with a torpedo punt, a feat witnessed by the 100,000-plus people who had assembled for the big one that day.

Only 12 months later, he’d perform similar heroics, not in the curtain-raiser but the senior match, a towering mark at a crucial stage of the last quarter over Geelong’s Peter Walker one of the most replayed of memorable moments from grand finals. In a classic game, Hart’s young Tigers prevailed. He and they would become dominant figures of the VFL scene for the next decade.

Hart’s graceful aerial ability and long kicking were beautiful to watch, but it was his capacity to rise above the pain barrier that also added to his status, most famously in 1973 when he had been troubled by a knee injury.

Hart had a torn knee cartilage, and battled to be fit enough to lead his team into the finals. He managed five goals in Richmond’s losing qualifying final against Carlton, but the knee continued to give him trouble, and come the Tigers’ preliminary final against Collingwood, was advised by medical staff to play only as a reserve (before the introduction of the interchange system).

By half-time, however, the Tigers had slipped six goals in arrears. Hart, in Rhett Bartlett’s history of the club, recalls a conversation between he, Hafey and Graeme Richmond in the rooms at half-time. ”Graeme said to Tommy: ‘You had better bring Royce on’,” Hart said. ”And Tom said: ‘If you bring him on now, you won’t have him for the grand final.’ Graeme said: ‘We won’t get to the f—–g grand final if he doesn’t come on’!”

Hafey took the gamble. It paid off spectacularly, Hart kicking two inspiring goals in a third-quarter comeback, Richmond getting up to win by seven points. Hart fired again on grand final day against Carlton as the Tigers reversed their humiliation at the hands of the same opponent, winning by 30 points. The key forward kicked another three goals and had more than 20 possessions, accepting and raising the premiership cup.

Fans of the modern era will hail the induction of Lloyd and West. Lloyd kicked 926 goals for the Bombers in a career spanning 270 games and 15 seasons, winning three Coleman Medals. He skippered the Dons from 2006-09.

West won seven best and fairests for the Western Bulldogs and was an All-Australian five times in 324 games over 16 seasons.

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Socceroos in fighting draw

Tim Cahill.Coach rues late penaltyPlayer ratings

Australia’s chances of going to the 2014 World Cup remain alive after the Socceroos recorded a 1-1 draw with Japan at Saitama Stadium on Tuesday night.

The Socceroos looked to be on track for an incredible win following Tommy Oar’s 82nd-minute goal, only for Japan to pick up an injury-time penalty that was coolly converted by Keisuke Honda.

That strike was enough to send them to Brazil, sparking scenes of enormous jubilation around the stadium at the full-time whistle. Japan is the first side to qualify of any country, outside the World Cup host nation.

To be fair on the hosts, it was no less than they deserved after dominating the match and the lucky nature of Oar’s original goal.

His cross floated over the poorly placed Eiji Kawashima, who mis-read the flight of the ball. In the finest of margins, the ball squeezed above Kawashima’s hapless outstretched palm and under the crossbar.

The goal shocked 62,172 of the most feverish fans in Asian football, who were seemingly seeing their dream of qualifying at home wrecked before their eyes.

But Matt McKay’s handball late in the play, as adjudged by Bahraini referee Nawaf Shukralla, was enough to earn him a yellow card and send Honda to the spot. He duly smashed it past Mark Schwarzer, who was otherwise excellent in goal for Australia.

Now Australia has two matches at home in the next two weeks against Jordan and Iraq to seal its own destiny and join the Blue Samurai in Brazil.

Holger Osieck decided not to risk the injured Alex Brosque (groin) and Mile Jedinak (ankle) going into this game, instead calling up Oar and Mark Milligan. Mark Bresciano, Lucas Neill and Sasa Ognenovski made up the remaining changes from the 2-2 draw against Oman in Sydney.

Japan’s only pre-game query hung over an injury to captain Makoto Hasebe and whether the rock star-like Honda would start, but coach Alberto Zaccheroni used them both.

The pre-match predictions of Australia playing long-ball and Japan keeping possession were played out straight from kick-off, as Lucas Neill launched the ball immediately forward.

Seconds later, the hosts established their modus operandi for playing the game on their terms, and on the deck, which they did for most of the evening.

The defensive midfield pairing of Yasuhito Endo and Hasebe would try to claim the ball and then find one of the attacking midfield trio, either of the two Shinji’s – Kagawa on the left or Okazaki on the right, or Honda in the middle.

However, the Japanese showed themselves up for matching the physicality of the visitors, never taking a backwards step when it came to challenge.

Schwarzer was busy early and then pulled off a world-class reflex effort from close range to deny Shinji Kagawa midway through the half.

The Manchester United forward managed to win the ball inside the box and scooped a shot that seemed goal-bound, only for Schwarzer to get his right palm to the ball as his body moved to the left.

However, the man causing the most danger early was Honda. His ability to drift between the lines was causing all sorts of headaches for Milligan and Bresciano.

Yet Australia started to come into the game just before the half-hour mark. It began playing the ball on the floor and one through ball from Holman created a magnificent chance for Robbie Kruse, only for a great stop by Kawashima.

Though both Kagawa and Okazaki fired off two effort as half-time closed in, the Australians had achieved their first goal – getting to the break without conceding.

More nervous moments would follow as Honda and Kagawa looked to impose their creative will around the penalty box. They were brilliant after the break and demonstrated the gulf in technical class between the two teams.

But Oar’s accidental effort gave Australia hope of a miracle win and they very nearly held on. Though a draw is helpful, and may ultimately prove vital, the margin for error in the next fortnight is non-existent.

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