Benji starts bright in new code

Benji Marshall has made an encouraging start to his Super Rugby career, getting through 40 minutes for the Blues in his first game of rugby union in more than a decade.
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The former West Tigers and Kiwis rugby league star played the opening two quarters at five-eighth in the Blues’ 38-35 pre-season loss to the Hurricanes on Saturday in Masterton.There was no sign of nerves from Marshall, who distributed the ball well, made the odd run at the line and took on the responsibility of re-starts and kicking for touch.Marshall tried his trademark sidestep once – and met the considerable force of Hurricanes flanker Ardie Savea – but mostly, he was content sticking to basics and getting a feel for his new position.

‘‘I didn’t set the game on fire but, in terms of trying to get control and feel for playing 10, everything I wanted to get I got out of it,’’ said a happy Marshall.‘‘It wasn’t about being the best player on the field. It was just trying to get through what we practised and get a feel for the game.’’

Marshall didn’t shy away in defence, although he failed to hold on to Tim Bateman in the build-up to the Hurricanes’ third try. He even opted to get stuck into a couple of rucks, with mixed results.

Blues coach John Kirwan was pleased with Marshall’s first hitout and ruled out a switch to fullback.

‘‘I think (first-five) is his position,’’ said Kirwan. ‘‘He certainly put his hand up today so we’ll put him out there again next week and we’ll just keep working on him. It was a good start.’’

The match, in front of a sold-out crowd of 6000, was an entertaining one, which produced 11 tries – six for the Hurricanes and five for the Blues.

The Blues recovered from a 19-0 deficit to lead 21-19 at halftime, and 35-24 at three-quarter time, but more direct running from the Hurricanes in the final spell produced the rewards and lock James Broadhurst scored the winning try with eight minutes to go.

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Fatal crash closes Sturt Highway near Hay

SUNDAY 12.30pm:THE condition of a female involved in yesterday’s horror crash near Hay is improving.
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Initial reports indicated the passenger was taken to Hay Hospital with life-threatening injuries.

She has since been transferred to Griffith Base Hospital, where a spokeswoman said she remained in a stable condition.

Police are yet to provide any further information aboutthe crash and the ages of all involved remain unknown.

The Sturt Highway reopened shortly before 1am this morning.

The scene of a fatal crash between a car and truck on the Sturt Highway east of Hay. The accident, which occurred shortly before 5pm on Saturday forced the closure of the highway. Picture: Daisy Huntly

The scene of a fatal crash between a car and truck on the Sturt Highway east of Hay. The accident, which occurred shortly before 5pm on Saturday forced the closure of the highway. Picture: Daisy Huntly

The scene of a fatal crash between a car and truck on the Sturt Highway east of Hay. The accident, which occurred shortly before 5pm on Saturday forced the closure of the highway. Picture: Daisy Huntly

The crash scene near Hay. Pic: Daisy Huntly

The crash scene near Hay. Pic: Daisy Huntly

The crash scene near Hay. Pic: Daisy Huntly

SATURDAY 9pm:A FEMALE is deadand another is fighting for their life after a car and truck collided near Hay this afternoon.

Emergency services were called to the crash on the Sturt Highway, about 10km east of Hay, just before 5pm.

A female passenger of the sedan died at the scene.

Another female passenger was taken to Hay Hospital with life-threatening injuries, while the male driver suffered minor injuries.

Their ages are not yet known.

The truck driver was not injured but taken to hospital to undergo mandatory blood and urine testing.

Police from Deniliquin Local Area Command have launched an investigation into the crash and are appealing for any witnesses to come forward.

The highway is still closed in both directions.

SATURDAY 5.30pm:The Sturt Highway is closed in both directions 10km east of Hay due to a serious car and truck accident.

Westbound motorists can detour via Murrumbidgee River Road, then take the Mid Western Highway to Hay to then rejoin the Sturt Highway.

Eastbound motorists are advised to use the Mid Western Highway to Goolgowi, then take the Kidman Way to Griffith to then rejoin the Sturt Highway.

Emergency services are on site working to clear the accident and reopen the highway.

There is no forecast at this stage as to when the highway will be reopened.

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Who is the Labor candidate, asks Jay Weatherill

IN an embarrassing moment for embattledSouth Australian Premier Jay Weatherill, the Labor leader admitted while in in Crystal Brook on Saturdayhedidn’t know who the local Labor candidate was for theMarch 15 state election.
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The seat, seen as crucial for Labor to retain office, is to becontested by candidate Marcus Connelly, the nephew of a late former Speaker inthe Don Dunstan era.

MrWeatherillwas visiting a command station for the Country FireService atCrystal Brook,near Port Pirie, when hewasasked by Fairfax Media aboutMrConnelly’s absence.

He replied: “Who isMarcus Connelly?”

After being told he was the local candidate MrWeatherillcontinuedthat hewas on a “flying visit so we’re justpopping in here”.

He praised the dedication and skill of firefighters involvedin the marathon Bangor blaze then inspected the incident control room.

When he emerged the said to the Premierhe was surprised he didn’tknow who the candidate was. MrWeatherillsmiled and said “yes”.

He said Mr Connelly was probably not available and reiterated thathe was “just coming through this big area”.

Later, talking to another reporter, MrWeatherillmentioned that theLabor Party was seeking to promote “our Labor Partycandidate” but did not mention Mr Connelly by name.

Earlier, when contacted by Fairfax Media, Mr Connelly said he wasunaware of the Premier’s visit.

This incident comes barely 24 hours after Mr Weatherill said he was prepared to do “whatever it takes” to present a unified government ahead of the March 15 state election.

The newly-created ‘faceless man’ in Port Pirie politics, Marcus Connelly said he was ‘disappointed’ that the Premier had not known who he was.

“I can understand that he is extremely busy and that there are a lot of new candidates, but that is disappointing,” he said.

“He has probably only met me once.

“Coming through my region, he should have some idea who the Labor candidate is.

South Australian Premier Jay Weatherill.

“I had a phone call about it later in the day. To be fair to them, there was a courtesy phone call.”

Labor candidate Marcus Connelly

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Unequivocal convinces Noel Mayfield-Smith to aim high in autumn

On the rise: Unequivocal, left, is set for bigger races. Photo: Jenny EvansNoel Mayfield-Smith is eyeing off the rich two-year-old autumn races with his only juvenile, Unequivocal, after she upstaged favourite Delectation at Rosehill on Saturday.
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The Hawkesbury-trained filly was purchased for $38,000 and proved that she belonged in metropolitan-class racing with her defeat of Chris Waller’s Delectation.

Mayfield-Smith declared the filly would aim high in the autumn.

”Where do two-year-olds go that win? Where’s everyone aiming for? But which route and whether you get there or not is two different things,” he said when asked where the Not A Single Doubt filly would head. ”I’ve got ideas but they’re all in my head at the moment. It’s my one and only two-year-old, so it would want to go good.

”She’s a strong horse and has always been able to hit the line. I think 1400m will be even better for her but she can run a really strong 1200m off a strong speed.”

Unequivocal took her revenge on her last-start conqueror Peggy Jean, which finished third, after Irish rider Padraig Beggy drove between horses at the 300 metres before running down Delectation inside the last 100m. ”You can’t take anything away from this horse,” Mayfield-Smith said. ”She raced well at her first start, showed ability and she can hit the line. Last start when she had to go forward, she wobbled a bit before she got to the top of the rise then she got going, whereas today she just hit it and got moving. He [Beggy] is a bloody good rider.”

Beggy, who secured his first city winner since moving to Australia last April, didn’t panic after Delectation cruised up to him and looked a winner with a furlong to go.

”I travelled well and once Hughie [Bowman] got half a length up on me I still had a feeling in the last 100 metres that I’d get there and I won with a little bit in hand,” Beggy said. ”I had to get out of a little pocket and when Hughie only got half a length in front, I knew I’d make it up.”

While Bowman said Delectation’s first-up run was good, Tommy Berry indicated that Peggy Jean would be suited to a rise in distance. ”She hung in the other day and probably hung in a little worse today,” Berry said. ”She’s still learning her trade, but she’s got plenty of ability.”

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Heat not to blame for death of filly Kiss A Rose at Caulfield, says vet

There was high drama and then tragedy in the mounting yard at Caulfield on Saturday as three-year-old Kiss A Rose collapsed and died after running in the $120,000 W.J. Adams Stakes. The Peter Moody-trained filly had finished unplaced behind the mare Shamal Wind in the feature event over 1000 metres. As she was brought in to be unsaddled in the enclosure directly in front of the stands she collapsed. Her strapper and stable and Racing Victoria staff vainly showered her with water and ice. The Racing Victoria veterinary surgeon on duty, Grace Forbes, said her death was not related to the heat. Racing Victoria’s heat policy comes into play when ”the wet bulb”, which measures humidity, registers 28 or above or the temperature tops 35 degrees. A Racing Victoria spokesman said the highest point the wet bulb reached on Saturday was 27.7 and the temperature 31.5 degrees. Champion jockey Glen Boss, who rode the heavily backed but well beaten favourite Lord of the Sky in the race, was fuming at the length of time the horses were left waiting at the barriers in warm temperatures before the event got under way. ”We were down there seven minutes before we jumped. My horse was gone before we even ran,” an angry Boss said afterwards. An autopsy will be conducted.
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OLIVER GETS IT RIGHT

After having the choice of the plum rides on race favourites Bull Point and Prince Harada, it was no surprise to see Damien Oliver sporting a big smile after Australian Guineas aspirant Bull Point scored a resounding first-up win in the group 3 Manfred Stakes (1200m) at Caulfield. ”They are both good colts and were hard to split,” Oliver said. ”I rode them in consecutive days a couple of weeks ago and this bloke [Bull Point] really pleased me, the way he worked with the blinkers on.” On Saturday, Oliver was able to settle Bull Point ($3.70) behind the speed, just ahead of Prince Harada (the $2.80 favourite) which was raced a little keenly in the early stages. Oliver eased Bull Point out three wide as the field came around the turn and after grabbing the leader, Worth A Ransom ($20), at the 150m, drew away to win by 1¼ lengths. ”He put himself into a good position and then showed good acceleration,” Olive said. Prince Harada came wide with his run in the straight but failed to finish off the race and was photo-finished out of third placing by The Quarterback ($11). While Cox Plate winner Shamus Award remains the $8 favourite for the $500,000 group 1 Australian Guineas at Flemington on March 1, Sportsbet wound Bull Point from $13 into $9 second favourite for the race.

WALLER TO CODDLE CERISE

Chris Waller plans to use a softly-softly approach with All Cerise in a bid to emulate the success of Australian Oaks heroine Royal Descent. ”The autumn’s obviously upon us, but what we learnt with Royal Descent last time [is] if you look after them you can still get them to some big targets as well,” Waller said after All Cerise’s win at Rosehill on Saturday. ”We’ll take small steps and try to keep her winning and we’ll sneak her up in distances.” The Redoute’s Choice filly towed Hugh Bowman into the 1400m restricted race for three-year-olds at the turn and quickly sped by Gai Waterhouse’s Forever Loved ($4.40), which stuck on for second from Casino Dancer ($31). Quizzed about what trip All Cerise, the $2.20 favourite, would relish, Waller said: ”Hopefully 2400m [of the Oaks] … We’ve nursed her and are getting the benefit of that now. She looked very strong coming into the race and that’s obviously a positive sign.”

SEASIDE ENDS DROUGHT

Peter Snowden hailed Darley mare Seaside’s transformation from a ”speedy squib” to a more settled racehorse. The four-year-old charged home off a slow tempo to end a 14-month winless drought in the fillies and mares benchmark 77, prompting Snowden to hint he will go in search of black type. ”She used to be a bit of a speedy squib before, but she settles better now,” he said. ”That was a good effort today because they went steady and then sprinted. She’s had to come from 2½ lengths off that speed. When you’re not winning you’re going for lesser races all the time, but when you can win you can aim a little bit higher. There might be a nice stakes race in her this time in.” Tommy Berry warmed the saddle for a hurt Kerrin McEvoy as Seaside ($2.50 favourite) collared Watabout ($4) in the last 100m.

ROSEHILL SPECIALIST

John O’Shea will be doing his best to keep sprinter Kencella at Rosehill following a dominant win. The four-year-old led all the way to make it five wins from eight starts. And O’Shea said that while Rosehill suited him perfectly, the horse could be exposed in a more hotly run race. ”He appreciates having his runs spaced and at the moment he’s eating up this 1100m at Rosehill and I’ll probably try and keep him here if I can … if he got into a race where they got running from the start then that would provide him with some issues, but at the moment he can get out and travel easily without being gassed.”

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Ginninderra paceman Cameron Suidgeest set to be a star of the Futures after five-wicket haul against Eastlake

Ginninderra bowler Cameron Suidgeest in action on Saturday. Photo: Graham TidyTHEY were on opposite sides on Saturday, but Eastlake batsman Matthew Gawthorp saw enough from Ginninderra quick Cameron Suidgeest to declare he can make an impact in the national Futures League.
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Gawthorp took the bragging rights of the soon-to-be ACT Comets teammates in leading Eastlake to a three-wicket first-innings win over Ginninderra at Kippax Oval on Saturday.

An unbeaten 80 from Gawthorp helped Eastlake out of the mire at 6-128 to finish at 223 in reply to Ginninderra’s 182.

Suidgeest was the star of the show with the ball, taking 5-82 from 21 overs to almost single-handedly lead the Tigers to victory.

He now has 31 wickets for the season at an average of 12.9.

It’s no wonder the Wagga Wagga product has been called into the Comets squad and could debut as early as February 10 against Victoria at Manuka Oval .

”I think he’ll definitely contribute to the Comets,” Gawthorp said.

”He’s improved in leaps and bounds this year and has probably picked up a yard of pace”

Eastlake was desperate to bounce back from last week’s loss in the semi-final of the John Gallop Cup to Tuggeranong.

Gawthorp came to the crease with Eastlake struggling at 3-32 and received solid support from Sri Lankan veteran Anil Rideegammanagedara (59).

But when Suidgeest knocked over Rideegammanagedara and Luke Bartley (0) in quick succession, Eastlake was on the ropes.

”There were a few nervous moments,” Gawthorp said.

”There were some balls that were rolling and some that were kicking, but you didn’t really know what you were going to get.

”It’s a pretty important victory with the finals just around the corner.”

Meanwhile, centuries from Beau McClintock and Joe Cooke led Wests/UC to an incredible three-wicket victory against Weston Creek Molonglo.

In serious trouble resuming at 2-31 in reply to Weston Creek’s 7-318 (dec), McClintock made 113 and Cooke 105 as part of a 214-run stand for the fourth wicket.

Queanbeyan claimed a valuable outright win with a dominant performance against Tuggeranong. Trailing by 74 runs on the first innings, Tuggeranong could only make 172 in its second dig, Queanbeyan passing the total with seven wickets remaining.

North Canberra Gungahlin hung on for a draw in its match with ANU, scoring 9-133 from 85 overs chasing 9-283 (dec).

Attention turns to the final of the John Gallop Cup one-day competition, with Queanbeyan taking on Tuggeranong at Manuka Oval on Sunday from 2.30pm.

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Shipard scores on return

Canberra United is on top of the table and returning star Sally Shipard capped her emotional comeback with a rare goal in a record-equalling thumping of the lowly Newcastle Jets.
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Everything went right for the Green Machine as it survived the 38-degree heat to put the Jets to the sword with a 5-0 flogging on Saturday.

The biggest cheer from the 662 fans at McKellar Park was reserved for Shipard, who found the back of the net after just 10 minutes in her first game back from career-threatening knee injuries.

It was the champion midfielder’s first game for the season and just her sixth in the past two campaigns.

The 57-game Matildas veteran was ecstatic to get through her 45 minutes of action unscathed before being replaced at half-time.

”It felt like an emotion I hadn’t felt in a while,” Shipard said.

”I didn’t really feel like I’ve been away from the game all that long, but I guess my lungs knew very different.

”It was a great game to come back and I’m very chuffed about the amount of support I’ve had to get back out there.”

The timing of Shipard’s return couldn’t be better now there are just two weeks until the finals.

Shipard, the 2011-12 W-League player of the year in United’s championship season, injured her right knee while playing in Germany in 2012, and was restricted to just five games last season.

She was supposed to make her comeback two months ago, but suffered swelling in her left knee.

But all that was forgotten when she fired the ball into the back of the net from close range off a perfect assist from teammate Lori Lindsey.

United coach Liesbeth Migchelsen’s side has won four games in a row, including the last three in the space of six days, to rocket to the top of the ladder.

While Sydney FC can reclaim top spot with a win against the Western Sydney Wanderers on Sunday, United can clinch the league championship and a chance at a home grand final when it faces the Sky Blues in a week’s time.

United quickly established its dominance in handing the Jets an 11th straight loss this season. Super striker Michelle Heyman opened the scoring in the seventh minute.

Shipard doubled the advantage before defender Ellie Brush scored from a header. Second-half strikes from Georgia Yeoman-Dale and Jennifer Bisset rounded out a superb team performance.

The result equals the biggest winning margin in United’s six-year history and also equals the most goals the team has scored in a single game.

CANBERRA UNITED 5 (Michelle Heyman 7m, Sally Shipard 10m, Ellie Brush 27m, Georgia Yeoman-Dale 46m, Jennifer Bisset 63m) bt NEWCASTLE JETS 0 at McKellar Park. Referee: Rebecca Durcau.

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Milford to give his all to Raiders

Anthony Milford has pledged to give his all for the Raiders this season. Photo: Rohan ThomsonThey’re the words all Canberra fans have been waiting to hear from Anthony Milford – ”I’m giving my all to the Raiders; I owe it to them.”
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The teenage sensation has vowed to give his best effort in his final season with the Raiders, claiming Canberra has the talent to ”shock” the NRL and push for the club’s first premiership in 20 years.

Milford quashed suggestions he wouldn’t be on his game this season, the 19-year-old also declaring his ambition to break into Queensland’s dominant State of Origin squad as early as this year.

Milford’s messy request for a release from the Raiders, and his subsequent decision to sign with the Brisbane Broncos for 2015, rankled many Raiders fans.

But Milford, who was discovered by the Raiders at 13, said he would not be holding anything back in his final season in Canberra.

”I’m not going to lack anything for what’s gone on,” he said.

”I’m here for this year and I want to try to do what everyone else is trying to do, and that’s win a competition.

”Our team will shock a few people this year – with the players we’ve got and the depth we’ve got.

”Fingers crossed we go really good and everyone steps up.

”I’m giving my all to the Raiders; I owe it to them. I’ve been with them for a while and they’ve done the right thing by me, so I’ll do the same.”

After electing to join the Broncos so he could be closer to his tight-knit family in Brisbane, Milford said he was desperate to help the Raiders lift the trophy for the first time since 1994.

New Raiders coach Ricky Stuart immediately identified Milford as a pillar of the club when he took the job in October last year.

Stuart travelled to Brisbane to speak with Milford and his family before he signed with the Broncos.

”Ricky was really good; he just spoke about what was important in life, and it was family,” Milford said.

”He didn’t try to pressure me into making a decision whether to go here or there.

”He told me to ‘do what’s best for you and your family’, and I appreciated that.”

After starring for Samoa in the World Cup, Milford is being rested for Canberra’s opening trial match and the Auckland Nines.

Having won the Mal Meninga Medal last year at full-back, and earmarked as a future half with the Broncos, he said he was happy to fill whatever role suits the Raiders.

An invitation to a recent Queensland Emerging Origin squad camp in Brisbane with Queensland Academy of Sport coach Wayne Bennett shows how highly regarded he is by representative selectors.

”I learnt a lot, especially from Wayne. The stuff he says, you try to take it in and use it,” Milford said.

”Playing for Queensland is one of my goals for this year and in the future.”

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Nathan Hart hopes to win place at world track cycling championships

A BROKEN wrist prevented his father from representing Australia at the world track cycling championships more than 30 years ago. Now Nathan Hart will play the waiting game to find out whether he’ll get to this year’s worlds in Colombia later this month.
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Hart won silver in the sprint at the Australian championships in Adelaide on Friday night, following in the footsteps of his father Braham, who won silver at the nationals in 1983.

The 20-year-old grew up in Tuggeranong and came through the same ACT Academy of Sport talent search that unearthed road cyclist Michael Matthews.

While Hart follows the road cycling, he is built for the speed of the track and even when he did athletics as a kid it was always the sprint events he did better in.

He was hoping to be part of Australia’s team sprint at the worlds in Cali starting in 24 days.

Hart said finishing second to Matthew Glaetzer was completely unexpected, earning him his first individual medal at a nationals.

The former Erindale College student got through to the final after Shane Perkins withdrew from their semi-final due to a back injury.

He represented Australia for the first time at a World Cup meet in Mexico in December, where he picked up bronze in the team sprint – the event he hopes to compete in at the worlds.

”Very happy, extremely happy [with silver], it was a little bit unexpected, I wasn’t really focusing on the sprint all that much leading into these nationals, but definitely pretty excited about getting the silver, especially behind someone like Matthew Glaetzer who’s riding super fast at the moment,” Hart said.

”I’ve got some OK form at the moment, I’ve come to national champs with as good a form as I can and ridden as well as I can and I suppose most of it is out of my control at the moment.”

And Hart’s not getting carried away with his chances of going to Colombia.

He said he was one of ”a few” who could get the nod to join likely duo Glaetzer and Perkins in Cali.

Canberran Daniel Ellis, who now lives in Adelaide and is making a comeback from a year off, and Victoria’s Jacob Schmid were also in the mix.

”I’ve been focusing on first wheel for the team sprint … trying to improve my time … trying to be the first rider in the team, getting off to a super-quick start from a standstill,” Hart said.

”There’s a few riders in contention, I’m one of them, Danny Ellis … Jake Schmid who’s also riding similar times in the first-wheel sprint, but really it’d take one of us to really step up and knock a couple of tenths off our PB to put our name forward and really have a concrete position in that team.”

Fellow Canberran Bec Wiasak picked up bronze in the women’s 25km points race.

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Adam Ritchard keen to deliver an all-round Sunday service for Tuggeranong

His long-term ambition is to become a minister in the Christian church.
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But Tuggeranong all-rounder Adam Ritchard has had to pull some strings with the man upstairs to be available for Sunday’s John Gallop Cup one-day final.

The former Australian under-19 representative will play a key role with bat and ball in the 50-over decider under lights at Manuka Oval against Queanbeyan. Ritchard was one of the brightest prospects in the ACT, playing for the Australian under-19 team at the 2006 World Cup and for the PM’s XI against England in the summer of 2006-07.

He continued to be a leading contributor for the ACT Comets, but the 26-year-old sat out the past two seasons after becoming disillusioned with the game.

Ritchard used his time away to focus more on his religious commitments with the Vision Christian Fellowship in Canberra.

”My heart wasn’t really in it so I decided to have a bit of a break,” Ritchard said.

”There were some things outside of cricket I really wanted to invest some time into … my wife and I are pretty heavily involved with the church.

”In the longer term becoming a minister is something I would like to do.”

Ritchard usually doesn’t take to the field on Sundays, but made a promise to his Tuggeranong teammates he would be there if they made the finals.

He made an impact last week, top-scoring with 64 and taking 3-41 from his 10 overs in Tuggeranong’s 18-run win in the semi-final against Eastlake.

”This season I haven’t been playing on a Sunday, but I said if we happen to make the finals that I’d be happy to make an exception,” Ritchard said.

One of Ritchard’s proudest moments came at Manuka Oval when he faced a star-studded England team in 2006-07 featuring the likes of Andrew Strauss, Kevin Pietersen and Andrew Flintoff.

It was the first match of an Ashes tour which finished in a 5-0 whitewash to Australia.

”To be able to play against England in front of a packed house at Manuka Oval was something I was really humbled by and something I’ll remember for a long time,” he said.

”I bowled a few overs against some of their top-order players and got a couple wickets against their tailenders.”

Queanbeyan qualified for the grand final after beating Weston Creek Molonglo last weekend, and will have captain Blake Dean and opener Jono Dean back from Big Bash League duty.

SUNDAY

John Gallop Cup final: Tuggeranong v Queanbeyan at Manuka Oval, 2.30pm.

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Bishop faces up to season’s frustrations

Canberra Capitals forward Abby Bishop is certainly not one for shirking responsibility.
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And just a day after sharing her inspiring tale of caring for her baby niece, the forward was forthright when asked about the Capitals’ up-and-down season after Saturday’s 88-74 win over Melbourne.

The road victory was Canberra’s third on the trot, but barring a miracle it is resigned to missing the play-offs for the third straight season.

Bishop admitted that beating three of the top four teams on the way only added to the frustration, after posting a WNBL career-high 29 points to go with nine rebounds and three three-pointers against the Boomers.

”We seem to beat the top four teams, it’s just the lower teams we’ve struggled with this season,” she told the ABC.

”We wanted to come out and finish the season strongly because we know we’ve been disappointed with ourselves and could have and should have done better than we have.”

Minus forward Rachel Jarry and centre Chelsea Poppens through injury, Bishop was a focal point inside alongside post partner Alex Bunton (14 rebounds, seven points).

Canberra won the assists count 24-14, and Bishop’s dominance opened up the Capitals’ perimeter game.

The visitors nailed 11 of 24 from beyond the arc in its ninth win of the season.

Capitals skipper Jess Bibby scored 19 points, while Rebecca Allen (21 points) battled hard for Melbourne.

”Bishop was by far the MVP – she plays both ends of the floor and everything in between,” Canberra coach Carrie Graf said.

”Our focus was to use our bigs. They were undersized, particularly with [Chelsea] Poppens out, and we had an inside-outside game.”

The Capitals will fancy their chances of pressing second-placed Dandenong on Sunday, after defeating the Rangers away from home earlier this year and almost upsetting them again in Canberra.

Graf said their late-season matches against top-four opposition would help decide who remained on the roster next year.

”We didn’t get wins when we had injured players and had a slow start with matches on the road, but that’s how seasons go sometimes.

”We can’t go ‘woulda, shoulda, coulda’, it hasn’t happened. Closing it out now augurs well for the players we want to keep on the roster for next year.”

CANBERRA CAPITALS 88 (ABishop 29, J Bibby 19, N Hunt 11) bt MELBOURNE BOOMERS 74 (RAllen 21, R Cole 13, A Todhunter 12, T Madgen 12) at State Basketball Centre, Victoria.

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Brumbies beaten but still happy

ACT Brumbies veteran Clyde Rathbone has backed injury-plagued Wallaby Pat McCabe to recapture his best form this year even though he suffered another blow in his long comeback journey.
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Rathbone dismissed the Brumbies’ pre-season loss to the Otago Highlanders as a hiccup and is confident the physicality of the trial on Friday night will benefit their Super Rugby campaign.

McCabe was left dazed by a head knock just 15 minutes into his first game in seven months as the Brumbies lost to the Highlanders by four points. The 20-Test Wallaby has broken his neck twice since November 2012.

He will have to pass rigorous tests before he can make another comeback. It is unclear whether he will play against an ACT XV on Saturday night.

Star Brumbies and Wallabies flanker David Pocock made his comeback from a knee reconstruction in the pre-season trial.

”A lot of the times guys get head knocks, come off and you can tell they’re incoherent and disoriented,” Rathbone said.

”’Patty’ was fine; it was just a precaution thing. He will recover and be back to his top form this season once he gets some game time.

”’Poey’ [Pocock] was playing as well as he did before the injury. He hasn’t lost anything. When you are coming back from serious injuries, you just want to survive and get through.”

The Brumbies will fine-tune the team when they play against an ACT XV at Viking Park on Saturday night.

They will play their contingent of Wallabies – including Ben Mowen, Matt Toomua and Stephen Moore – to give them match fitness. The Wallabies in the team did not play in the opening trial against the Hurricanes as they were being rested.

Coach Stephen Larkham is trying to juggle the salary cap to retain his stars. One factor in his calculations is that prop Ruaidhri Murphy could be returning to Ireland.

Irish-born Murphy started with the Brumbies in 2012.

It is understood the 26-year-old Murphy, who underwent a knee reconstruction last year, is close to signing a deal with Ulster, which would result in his leaving Canberra at the end of its Super Rugby campaign.

The Brumbies returned to Canberra on Saturday after a taxing opening trial.

McCabe was not the only casualty. Rathbone suffered a sore knee and several players needed stitches.

”You can’t read too much into the result … when we won the title in 2004 we played a trial and lost by 50 points,” Rathbone said.

Brumbies director of rugby Laurie Fisher said: ”We’re certainly not disappointed with where we are. We got ruffled by a hard-shouldered Highlanders team, but we’ll learn from that.”

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.

Croker backs Stuart’s Nines call

Jarrod Croker at the Raiders’ fan day on Saturday. He will captain the club at the Auckland Nines. Photo: Elesa KurtzCanberra centre Jarrod Croker has defended the club’s decision to field a weakened side devoid of star power for the Auckland Nines as the Raiders make it clear the NRL season is their priority.
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And Raiders coach Ricky Stuart says one trial match will be enough for skipper Terry Campese and his World Cup stars – Anthony Milford and Josh Papalii – to hit the NRL season running.

Not even a share of $2.2 million in prizemoney has swayed the Raiders to field a strong team for the Auckland Nines, with Canberra’s focus completely on its round-one clash with North Queensland on March 8.

Croker, Reece Robinson, Tom Learoyd-Lahrs and Joel Edwards are the only regular first-graders in the 16-man Raiders squad for the Auckland Nines, which also features six back-rowers.

Stuart will also bypass the two-day event, which begins on February 15. Instead, assistant Matt Parish will take the reins.

But Croker, who will captain the side for the first time, insisted the club’s young talent had earned their chance.

”They’ve trained just as hard as us over the pre-season and they deserve to have a crack,” Croker said. ”They’ll get a lot out of it being in camp and it will make them more hungry as well.”

However, he admitted it was a letdown for spectators that Anthony Milford, who is being monitored for a foot injury, will not line up in Auckland.

”Ricky’s just concentrating on the trials and Tony’s just come back from the World Cup, he’s been working pretty hard and they want to ease him back into it,” Croker said.

”It’s a bit disappointing for people wanting to watch, but … it’ll be good to get Tony back to full fitness and ready for round one.”

Canberra has also named a 29-man squad for its opening trial against Melbourne at AAMI Park on Saturday.

Campese and World Cup stars Milford, Papalii and Brett White will not be used until the second trial, against Newcastle in Tamworth on February 22.

”Trials for me are all about conditioning and getting a bit of timing and cohesion for the [regular season] games,” Stuart said.

”There’ll be a big squad again for the second game [against Newcastle].”

As revealed by Fairfax Media, Jack Wighton and Mitch Cornish will play five-eighth and halfback respectively against the Storm, in a revival of their successful under-20 partnership. Robinson and Jack Ahearn will share the fullback role.Canberra Raiders trial squadsAuckland Nines, February 15-16: Jarrod Croker (c), pictured, Reece Robinson, Mitch Cornish, Bill Tupou, Matt McIlwrick, Joel Edwards, Glen Buttriss, Tom Learoyd-Lahrs, Jarrad Kennedy, Mark Nicholls, Jake Foster, Lagi Setu, Mitch Cronin, Luke Bateman, Jack Ahearn, Andrew Heffernan.Trials versus Melbourne at AAMI Park, February 8: Jack Ahearn, Matt Allwood, Luke Bateman, Shannon Boyd, Mitch Cornish, Mitch Cronin, Joel Edwards, Jake Foster, Jeremy Hawkins, Andrew Heffernan, Jarrad Kennedy, Tom Learoyd-Lahrs, Brenko Lee, Jeff Lynch, Patrick Mago, Sam Mataora, Josh McCrone, Matt McIlwrick, Mark Nicholls, Mosese Pangai, Tevita Pangai Junior, Jordan Rapana, Reece Robinson, Sami Sauiluma, Lagi Setu, David Shillington, Dane Tilse, Bill Tupou, Jack Wighton.

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.