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Archive for July, 2019


   Jul 13

Hello Collingwood Magpies and welcome back to a Melbourne netball derby

Collingwood AFL captain Scott Pendlebury and Collingwood netball captain Madi Robinson on Tuesday. Photo: Vince CaligiuriCricket’s Big Bash League flogs them. In the A-League, they prove to be among the highlights of each season. And they were once a mainstay of the National Basketball League in Melbourne.
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Derbies. Club versus club or team versus team in the same city. They are a dream for marketeers and, truth be told, a godsend for sports editors.

Excitement is circling around the relaunched national netball competition, known as the Super Netball league, a competition that also signals the return of a Melbourne netball derby for the first time since 2007.

This Saturday Collingwood’s new netball team – yep, that behemoth of the AFL competition that you either love or hate – takes on the Melbourne Vixens in one of three state derbies that feature on the opening weekend of the revamped -only competition.

Goodbye to the New Zealand franchises in the ANZ Championship and welcome back to something resembling the old Commonwealth Bank Trophy that started in the late 1990s. For netball fans, this new-look competition features something all sports administrators crave: free-to-air TV exposure.

It’s also an invigorating time for the netballers themselves.

“We’re really excited. I think it’s been the longest anticipation for a season we’ve ever had. It’s been about five or six months leading up to this round one game,” said Magpies captain Madi Robinson, who has crossed from the Vixens.

“As a team we’re all coming from different teams, so whether it’s me round one, or someone else round two, we’re all be feeling the pressure facing our old teams.”

Robinson debuted in the national competition when Melbourne boasted two franchises.

“When I first started playing netball at the elite level, we had the two Melbourne teams,” she says.”So I think it’s great to be able to have two teams again, and obviously build that rivalry.

“I think the first five minutes, or even the first quarter will be full on. There will be a lot of physicality. I expect them to come and try and biff.”

The start of the Super Netball league comes hot on the heels of the launch of the AFL Women’s competition and coincides with almost unprecedented interest in women’s sport.

But Robinson, for one, is not worried about the threat of top netballers being swallowed up by another code, namely the AFLW.

“The cream of the crop, or the elite netballers, are very good at what they do, and I think they’ll remain in the sport,” she says.

“I think some of those [athletes] that are trying to push to get into the top teams, that’s where we might see a few go to football.

“I know some of them are trying to watch us in the gym and are going ‘would you like to come and have a kick?’

“We’ll leave that for a couple of years.

“I think netball is still at the forefront of everyone’s mind, which is great.”

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   Jul 13

Anthony Faingaa returns to ACT Brumbies to start and finish career in Canberra

Anthony Faingaa (right) and his Brother Saia Faingaa (left). Photo: Harrison SaragossiAnthony Faingaa says the chance to finish his career where it started lured him back to Canberra, but the Super Rugby championship winner doesn’t want to be a passenger in his ACT Brumbies comeback.
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Faingaa started training with the Brumbies less than a week ago after finishing a stint in Japan and hopes to press his claims for round-one selection.

A stream of videos looms as the 30-year-old’s secret weapon for chasing Brumbies selection, revealing he has watched every training session for the past four months to help his transition.

The Queanbeyan junior says he always had a desire to find a way back to where it all began and insists age will not be a barrier to his hopes of making an impact.

“This is my home. When I started here [in the Brumbies Academy] in 2004, I always wanted to start and finish my career here,” Faingaa said.

“I’ve been lucky to get an opportunity to come back. To be able to do it with Saia is a bonus. I jumped at the opportunity with two hands when [Brumbies coach Stephen Larkham] called.

“It was a big opportunity for me and I just want to make sure I can add to the team and put out good performances.”

Faingaa made his debut for the Brumbies in 2007 before joining the Queensland Reds for 90 games, including a Super Rugby title in 2011.

He left the Reds at the end of last season to join the Kintetsu Liners in Japan, but he had videos of Brumbies training sent to him so he could learn new plays and styles.

It could help fast-track Faingaa’s second coming at the Brumbies, where he will compete with Kyle Godwin for the inside centre job and Tevita Kuridrani for the No. 13 jersey.

“I already know most of the plays, the only thing left for me to do is to get out there and doing it,” Faingaa said.

“I need to just worry about playing football first before I starting going down that selection route.

“I only finished playing rugby two weeks ago, so it’s not like it’s been a long time since I laced up. I can’t wait to get out there and start playing again.

“For the moment I just want to worry about this year. Being in a young team helps you feel young.”

Brumbies coach Stephen Larkham is still settling on his line-up for the first round of the Super Rugby season.

Wharenui Hawera appears to be the front-runner to take the chief playmaking reins as flyhalf while Lolo Fakaosilea and Rob Valetini are competing for the No. 8 spot.

Jarrad Butler is working his way back from injury but it is not known if he will be to play in the opening round against the Canterbury Crusaders.

Godwin is set to claim the inside centre job while props Scott Sio and Allan Alaalatoa didn’t play any trial matches as they nursed hamstring injuries.

James Dargaville hopes to force his way into contention for a spot on the wing after shoulder surgery kept him out of action for almost five months.

“I’ve just got to keep pushing my case at training. Hopefully I’ve done enough to put myself there, but if not I’ll keep working,” Dargaville said.

“The nature of rugby is that some players move on and others step up, new superstars of rugby are created and we’ve got some young guys that are pushing their claims. It’s a pretty exciting time to be a Brumby.”

SUPER RUGBY ROUND ONE

February 25: Canterbury Crusaders v ACT Brumbies at Christchurch, 5.30pm.

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   Jul 13

Will Skelton returns to NSW ‘a much better player’ after stint in UK with Saracens

Fit and firing: Will Skelton says he has come back a better player after a short stint abroad in the UK with Saracens. Photo: Ben HolgateThis time last year, Waratahs second-rower Will Skelton was unfit, over his usual playing weight and in his own words “not in a good place”.
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Twelve months on, Skelton and Waratahs coach Daryl Gibson both agree a stint in the UK with Saracens was worthwhile and has provided him with a new philosophy for the upcoming season; quality over quantity.

The problems started at the World Cup in 2015 when Skelton suffered a pectoral injury and subsequently required surgery.

He returned to NSW underdone after months on the sidelines, which gave Gibson no option but to drop him to the Shute Shield in March.

Skelton worked his way back for the Waratahs but when he joined the Wallabies, Michael Cheika said, of a player with “unlimited potential”, that Skelton was not in the right condition.

The 24-year-old featured in four Tests last year before making the decision, supported by the Waratahs, to get more match fitness by playing with UK Premiership club Saracens.

Christmas and New Year was spent in chilly England but it was a move his coach says was crucial for Skelton to achieve his potential.

“He’s come back a much better player for that experience and also in much better shape,” Gibson said. “Will’s had an excellent time at Saracens. Part of allowing him to stay on after the spring tour is firstly to get that experience with Saracens, currently the best team in Europe.

“He got himself to 140 kilos during the Wallabies campaign, went to Saries [Saracens] and kept training at their intensity, so he hasn’t had much of a break. I expect him to pick up where he left off.”

Skelton shares the same view, saying he is in excellent shape now.

“I feel a lot better,” Skelton said. “The preparation I’ve had in the off-season has been a lot better than last year. I came off the back of an injury, tore my pec, so I was out for a while and I sort of got thrown [back] into it.

“Just coming off the back of the spring tour I played a few games there and then got the opportunity to play at the English club and it’s good to get game time. I skipped the pre-season here but I’m more match fit and I’m ready to go against the Highlanders [in a trial on Thursday night].

“I wasn’t in good form last year and I didn’t warrant a spot in the [Wallabies] team so for me I’ve got to work on myself.”

Those who coach Skelton discuss at length how best to use him. Some believe he needs to be fit enough to play 80 minutes, others think coming off the bench is a better use of his size and skill against a tiring opposition.

Skelton believes the best approach is to play 50 or 60 minutes of quality rugby rather than drift in and out of play across an entire match.

“Quality is the goal for me … if I can get through 60 or 50 [minutes] and go my hardest, empty the tank and really just build on that every game,” Skelton said. “Playing a full game I reserve my energy until the last 20 or the last 10 [minutes] and I don’t get the quality for my team, so that’s the focus. I’ve spoken to Daryl about it, to really improve this year.”

Known for his love of a big feed, Skelton cut back on the calories and improved his diet before the spring tour.

He says he gave himself a few “cheat” weeks in the UK but hoped he would reap the benefits when the Waratahs kick off their season against the Force before a two-week trip to South Africa to face the Lions and Sharks.

“I had Christmas and New Year’s there, I fell off the bandwagon a bit over there but it’s something that you’ve got to cherish as well, that time away from footy,” Skelton said. “We had fun there but now it’s back to work at the Tahs.

“Last year I was in and out of the Test squad and the Tahs so to keep that consistent place in the team, that’s my goal this year.”

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   Jul 13

Michael Wells in line to wear Waratahs No.8 jersey following Jed Holloway injury

Michael Wells has emerged as the frontrunner to wear the Waratahs No.8 jersey in round one of Super Rugby after it was revealed Jed Holloway has a hamstring injury.
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Holloway has had a solid pre-season, but Gibson told Fairfax Media his back-rower is almost certain to miss the season opener against the Western Force at Allianz Stadium next Saturday.

It has left a spot open for Wells, who Gibson says will more than likely start at No.8 alongside breakaways Michael Hooper and Jack Dempsey.

“Holloway is another one who is due around round two,” Gibson said. “He’s had hamstring issues over the last six weeks, so we’ve just figured them out.

“Wells performed very well against the Brumbies. He continues to impress in that position so I fully expect him to take the starting spot at the moment.

“I just like his attitude to the game. He’s a tough, abrasive character and he’s got an immense work rate. All those qualities and traits are something that we like and he’s been an excellent addition to the team.”

Wells moved to the Waratahs this year from the Brumbies, where he started in a handful of games before coming off the bench in their quarter-final loss to the Highlanders in Canberra.

The 23-year-old said he would grab every opportunity he could in what is already shaping up to be a solid NSW back row.

“I’m coming in under no illusions, Jed had a great year and if it wasn’t for injury, he well could have ended up on a grand slam tour,” Wells said. “I was happy enough with my trial last week against the Brumbies. I’ll take whatever I can get.”

Hooper said he had been impressed with Wells at training.

“He’s been very consistent around the role he does,” Hooper said. “He’s got good ball-carrying skills. He had a really good game of defence against the Brumbies, so I’m looking for him to give us a lot this year.”

Gibson will announce his team on Wednesday to face the Highlanders in the Waratahs’ final pre-season trial.

A string of Wallabies players are expected to return and even though Bernard Foley sat out NSW training at Moore Park on Tuesday afternoon, officials are confident the incumbent five-eighth will be good to go.

It is unclear how similar Gibson’s starting XV on Thursday will be to the team that suits up against the Force, but there is one positional change that looks to be on the cards.

Gibson confirmed prop Tom Robertson, who was a revelation for the Waratahs last year, will swap to loosehead in the scrum to accommodate the return of Sekope Kepu.

Robertson represented seven times last year off the bench and swapped between loosehead and tighthead prop.

However, it is in the Waratahs’ best interest to have both he and Kepu, the Wallabies’ current tighthead, on the field at the same time.

Gibson believed Robertson had the potential to be a “world-class” loosehead prop.

“The expectation is his ability to play both sides,” Gibson said. “That’s going to be critical with Angus [Ta’avao] still working his way back from a broken leg, he’s due back round nine. We’re going to need that flexibility in our prop stocks.

“We know Sekope can play across but Tom, at the moment, looks like the person who can really have the ability to play both and play both well.

“We’ve got full faith in him that he’s got the ability to be able to do that and pull it off.”

The hooker spot is hotly contested between Tolu Latu, Hugh Roach and Damien Fitzpatrick, while the other main position up for grabs is that of inside-centre given Kurtley Beale has left, with David Horwitz, Irae Simone and Rob Horne all in the mix ahead of round one.

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   Jul 13

Mickle knee injury cruels two sports, two careers

Hard call: Javelin star Kim Mickle’s AFLW career is in jeopardy following a serious knee injury.One knee injury. Two sporting careers left hanging in the balance.
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Kim Mickle’s debut for Fremantle at the weekend realised a dream to play in the AFLW for the world javelin silver medallist and Olympian. But a knee injury requiring a reconstruction has left her careers in both of her sporting loves in the balance.

Mickle had not intended to try to compete at the world championships in London this year but had planned to make her comeback to athletics on the Gold Coast at the Commonwealth Games next year. That is now in doubt.

Mickle won silver at the worlds in Moscow in 2013, then injured her shoulder at the next worlds in Beijing in 2015 and, after shoulder surgery, raced to be fit for the Rio Olympics last year. She dislocated her shoulder with her third throw in the qualifying rounds in Rio and had to have a reconstruction when she returned home.

She had not thrown competitively since the reconstruction and had put athletics on hold while she pursued a rookie contract to be part of Fremantle’s team in the new AFL Women’s competition.

She injured her knee in the second quarter of her debut match against Brisbane at the weekend.

“I didn’t expect this to be a major injury at all, but you win some and you lose some, and now I just want to look ahead to what my options are and determine a course of action for my recovery,” said Mickle.

The 32-year-old must now be in doubt to return from injury for the Commonwealth Games, having not tested her shoulder in competition and now needing to recover from the knee.

Such is her nature she is understood to have been pragmatic about the injury, accepting that it was a reality and risk of sport and she’d now work through each stage of her recovery before forecasting what the injury would mean for her future.

“The results of the scans were quite a shock,” Mickle said.

Mickle is keen to remain involved with the Dockers’ AFLW side for the remainder of the campaign.

“We’ll work out what that looks like with the club over the next week or so.”

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