Monthly Archives: October 2018

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Soward must step up after riding wave of demotion

Dropped: Jamie Soward will start from the bench for the Dragons against the Knights on Saturday night. Photo: John VeageJamie Soward is expected to front at St George Illawarra training on Wednesday morning, ending his short-lived exile from the club. But he does not return as a first-grade player after being dumped to NSW Cup on Tuesday.

Just two years ago Soward was preparing to make his NSW debut. Now he will take the field for the Illawarra Cutters after coach Steve Price named Chase Stanley to partner Nathan Fien in the halves when the Dragons play Newcastle on Saturday night.

The axing came just a day after Soward was granted a leave of absence from the club. He had arrived at the joint-venture club’s Wollongong base to take part in the team’s usual video session on Monday morning but was given time off after Price consulted Soward and senior players in the aftermath of St George Illawarra’s dramatic 16-14 loss to the Bulldogs last Friday night. Price excused Soward from training for a couple of days ”to clear his head”. The squad had Tuesday off.

St George Illawarra skipper Ben Creagh insisted Soward had the full support of the squad’s senior players despite the premiership-winning five-eighth being dumped to reserve grade for the second time in the space of 12 months.

Speaking only hours before the Dragons confirmed Soward was again NSW Cup-bound, Creagh said: ”He does – 100 per cent. Pricey has given him a couple of days off to clear his head. I’m sure he’ll be at training [on Wednesday] and we’ll get on with it.”

Soward, who will turn out for the Cutters in an NRL curtain raiser against Newcastle on Saturday, has already inked a four-year deal with Penrith from 2014.

His manager Sam Ayoub said Soward had not asked for a mid-season release and would play out the year in Wollongong. Price resisted naming young halfback Josh Drinkwater in first grade or shifting Josh Dugan from fullback. Drinkwater and Soward will pair up in the halves for the Cutters.

Stanley will play five-eighth for the first time in the top grade, with Nathan Green promoted to the centres. Price stressed the entire squad needed to take responsibility for the Dragons’ run of outs.

”We’re all accountable – myself included, and every player that takes the football field,” Price said. ”We’ve got roles to play and it’s important that each individual plays those roles.”

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Meninga to fire up the Maroons machine

It has been suggested Mal Meninga is to rugby league coaching what John Buchanan was to Australian cricket, although with much more substantial thighs.

In Meninga’s possession is that rarest commodity in sport; not only a group of outright champions but a champion side. Honestly, how hard can it be?

Buchanan was famous for delving into the philosophical and encouraging his players to read extracts from The Art of War. But on the field, the get-out play didn’t require a PhD in psychology: ”Warnie, you bowl at that end, McGrath, you bowl from the other.”

Similarly for Meninga, the virtuosity of his squad has meant his contribution has steadily diminished, or even been criticised by some NSW observers as token. Surely coaching isn’t that difficult when you can just throw it to Greg Inglis, or Billy Slater, or Darren Lockyer, or Johnathan Thurston.

Ask Queensland’s players and the truth couldn’t be further from the perception. Far from a rent-a-legend who bellows a rousing pre-game call to arms, Meninga has become a master motivator and manipulator capable of extracting the last molecule of competitive edge from his playing staff.

With Origin now played by increasingly elite athletes and almost nothing between the sides, it matters. His players say it has been a huge part of their domination of the interstate series, which could stretch to eight in a row should they triumph on Wednesday night and beyond.

”He was a player,” Queensland lock Ash Harrison said. ”He knows what made him tick and what makes us tick. He’s very good at doing those things and he thinks it’s very important for us to know the history of this jersey.

”He never ceases to amaze me with what he comes up with. He seems to push the right buttons every time. It’s one of the things he’s very, very good at.” At the Queensland team announcement, now a gala dinner instead of a media-only event in a dingy hotel space, Meninga was at his best. He assembled members of the 1959 Queensland side, the last to win before the Origin concept in 1980.

Players such as Noel Kelly and Frank Drake stood alongside their present-day counterparts as the 2013 side was called onstage. It was a gesture Meninga had been cooking up since last November.

Meninga has been a picture of relaxation and calm this time around. Zen master Buchanan would be impressed. But as in previous years, behind the scenes, Meninga will have rabbits in his hat.

In series past, when he’s said publicly that NSW taunts meant nothing, his players were then shown DVD of the offending quotes to fuel the fires. He’s had articles pasted on walls and footage of some of the best Origin biffo on rotation.

The now annual trip to regional towns such as Emerald, Bundaberg and Roma has also given players an in-your-face reminder of what the game means to people in the regions. With many of his players growing up in bush towns, it’s not just the fans who benefit.

It all adds to the mix, said Sam Thaiday, but the main ingredient is the man himself. Imposing, deeply respected and an unabashed personification of every Queensland cliche NSW detests, Meninga’s influence over his players is profound.

”If you want to know how good he is as a motivator, you just have to listen to him speak,” Thaiday said. ”We’ve got quite a mix in the coaching staff. We’ve got Steve Walters, who’s a bit of a character, Alfie [Langer], who likes to sling a bit on everyone. But as soon as Mal talks, everyone goes quiet in the room. It doesn’t matter if he’s talking about footy or whatever, everyone shuts up and listens.”

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Origin: it’s back baby

1. State of Origin: A big night for Jarryd Hayne

Origin is definitely a team game, but I will be particularly interested in the performance of Blues fullback Jarryd Hayne. In recent times, the Parramatta Eels star has developed a real passion for his goal-line defence and has saved several tries for his team with brilliant tackles just when it seemed certain the opposition would score. Winning games is as much about saving tries as scoring them, so I certainly hope Hayne brings this attitude to the big game on Wednesday night. I would also like to see him throw himself into the attacking game to the point of exhaustion. I would like to see Hayne have nothing left in the tank come full-time. If he totally immerses himself in the contest, instead of coasting around waiting for opportunities to present themselves, he can swing the result in his team’s favour.2. Origin: a few facts

The importance of winning game one can never be understated. As an Origin coach, I always placed tremendous emphasis on getting the series opener right. The team that’s won the first game has won 23 of 31 series decided. In series openers at ANZ Stadium, NSW have  won five of six matches. Queensland have won the past four series openers. Since their run of seven consecutive Origin series began in 2007, Queensland have  won the first match on five occasions (NSW won the first game in 2008 but lost that series 2-1). The Maroons have led at half-time in the past  nine matches. ANZ Stadium used to be a fortress for NSW. Not so in recent times though. This is the 20th Origin to be played at ANZ Stadium. NSW have won 13 (including a run of 10 wins and a draw before Queensland registered their first win in 2007. The Maroons have won five of the past  eight at ANZ.3. Origin: Some interesting comparisons

James Maloney and Mitchell Pearce become the 15th different halves combination used by the Blues since 2006. Wow! Look at the combinations NSW has used: Anasta-Finch  2  Gasnier- Gower 1Anasta-Mullen 1  Anasta-Kimmorley 1Bird-Kimmorley 1 Bird-Wallace 2Anasta-Pearce 1 Campese-Wallace  1Barrett-Wallace 1 Barrett-Kimmorley 1Lyon-Kimmorley  1Barrett-Pearce 2Soward-Pearce 3 Carney-Pearce 3

By comparison, Johnathan Thurston and Cooper Cronk are Queensland’s fourth halves partnership in that period. Darren Lockyer and Thurston were together for 15 games; Thurston and Scott Prince for two, and Thurston and Karmichael Hunt for one. The most experienced Origin player on the field on Wednesday is Queensland captain Cameron Smith, playing his 28th match; the most experienced New South Welshmen is Jarryd Hayne (it’s his 17th game).

4. Origin: The bench is vital

When selecting State of Origin teams I always paid particular attention to the makeup of the bench. I think games can be won and lost by the contributions of the players numbered 14-17. Naturally you wanted to cover as many positions as possible with your bench players so injuries during the match to key positions did not pose massive disruptions to the functioning of the team. I also liked my bench players to be 80 minute competitors in their own right. If injury meant they were called upon to carve out 79 minutes in the middle, I needed to know they were capable. I also wanted personalities on the bench who believed they could make a difference. If the starting team was struggling, we needed players who could go out there and turn the tide. If the starting 13 had taken the ascendancy, you wanted your bench players to go out there and ram home the advantage. I hope our NSW bench players understand just how important their role is tonight.

5. Wonderful Warriors

When the Warriors are on song is there a more enjoyable side to watch?  The sublime skills of Feleti Mateo, Johnson and Locke; the raw power of Vatuvei and Hurrell; the four prop rotation of Matalino, Rapira, Packer and Lillyman, which is as good as any in the game, and finally the intestinal fortitude of Nathan Friend and Elijah Taylor in the middle of the ruck. On Monday night against the Broncos, they were firing on all cylinders and were so entertaining. Just three weeks ago though, they were beaten 62-6 by Penrith, which was their 16th loss from their previous 18 games. It’s hard to believe it is the same side.

6. The ‘‘cannonball’’ tackle must be stopped.

The media has termed it the ‘‘cannonball’’ tackle. I could write pages on this subject. Two defenders tackle a ball runner around the torso, securing the ball, before a third defender  tackles the legs of the  contained man to immobilise him and make it easy for the men up top to cradle him to the ground and slow down the play.  The first time I saw it used as a deliberate defensive tactic, I implored the then referee boss Bill Harrigan to ban it. I could see where this was headed. The referees said  ‘‘technically’’ it was not illegal. I contended it was dangerous and not in the spirit of the game.  I hate this tactic.

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Charge over CBD bashing

On his bed inside Sydney’s St Vincent’s Hospital Simon Cramp has woken to good news.

The man who allegedly king hit him in an unprovoked attack on George Street early on Sunday that left him in a coma has been charged with assault.

”Really? Great,” the 26-year-old telecommunications worker said groggily before drifting back to sleep.

For his family, who have been at his bedside for the past three days fearing the worst, the developments in the past 24 hours have been everything they hoped for.

Mr Cramp is out of his coma, has been moved out of the intensive care unit, is talking, joking and showing signs of his old self.

And his alleged attacker has handed himself in to police, been charged and will spend the night in custody before facing court on Wednesday.

”We’ve been on a rollercoaster,” Simon’s mother, Angela Cramp, said. ”We thought we were having the last day with our son on Sunday. Now he’s been released from intensive care. He’s on the road to recovery, not some horrible future that is not predictable.”

Mr Cramp was standing with two friends outside McDonald’s on the corner of George and Bridge streets just after 3am when he was king hit and fell to the ground.

On Tuesday Mr Cramp was moved from intensive care to a general ward where he will continue his recovery.

The breakthrough in the investigation came after detectives made public on Monday night security footage of three men they wanted to talk to about the assault. On Tuesday morning two of the men, aged 20 and 21, went to The Rocks police station for questioning but were later released pending further investigation.

The third man, 24, from Haymarket, turned himself in two hours later and after spending about 90 minutes with detectives was charged with causing grievous bodily harm and affray. He will appear in Central Local Court on Wednesday. The man’s solicitor said his client would fight the charges.

Acting Superintendent Anthony Bell said he expected others to be charged over the incident and that investigations were continuing.

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Patients are being shifted like pawns: doctors

Waste of resources?: This operating room at Royal North Shore Hospital is being used as a storeroom. Photo: SuppliedOperating theatres at one of Sydney’s top hospitals are being used as storage rooms while patients are being shifted around ”like pawns” to meet surgery targets, doctors say.

Senior doctors from Royal North Shore Hospital say the decision could put patients at risk, and is a waste of time and money that has been imposed by bureaucrats in the Ministry of Health – directly undermining Health Minister Jillian Skinner’s promise to give local control to local doctors.

Fairfax Media has revealed huge waiting lists for hospital clinics, and the cancellation of life-saving cancer surgeries by a Sydney hospital trying to meet its end-of-year budget. The surgeries were reinstated after public outcry.

Professor Tony Joseph, the acting chairman of the medical staff council and director of trauma at Royal North Shore, said a $1.1 billion redevelopment of the hospital had left it with empty operating rooms and not enough beds.

”It’s a bit of a mess,” he said.

The hospital was operating with fewer beds available than before Premier Barry O’Farrell and Mrs Skinner opened the new building in December, with only 14 of 18 operating theatres funded.

This meant when high numbers of emergency patients showed up, surgeries needed to be cancelled.

”They haven’t funded our surgical capacity to its full potential,” Professor Joseph said.

NSW director of the Australian Orthopaedic Association Andrew Ellis said many of the orthopaedic, as well as ear, nose and throat surgery patients who were being moved had other conditions, such as heart or kidney problems, being treated at Royal North Shore. They could have poorer outcomes without continuity of care, and early assessments might have to be repeated by the new doctors, he said.

The head of orthopaedic surgery at the hospital, David Sonnabend, said it was not clear why they were being moved, as the first patient to be approached had only been waiting for surgery for six weeks. ”We feel that patients are being used as pawns in a political game,” he said.

Labor health spokesman Andrew McDonald said the $3 billion in health cuts and efficiency savings announced by the government were affecting patient care.

”What’s happening is, when staff leave they are not being replaced, and that reduces the capacity of the system, so when you need to ramp up the system to meet demand, you can’t do it because the staff is not there,” he said.

But Mrs Skinner said more frontline doctors and nurses were added when the new building opened, and the district had its budget increased by $33.7 million this year.

”The opening has resulted in a higher level of activity than expected and this has impacted on the hospital’s capacity to do surgery on time,” she said. ”The state priority is that patients receive their care within clinically appropriate times and public hospitals form a clinical network to help that happen.”

Royal North Shore general manager Sue Shilbury said the operating theatres had been built to accommodate demand in future, and there was no shortage of staff.

”As the population increases additional theatres will come online,” she said.

She said since June the hospital had changed operating theatre use so it was not affected by unexpected increases in trauma cases.

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