NRL Indigenous leadership camp 2014: War cry to unite team and country

New ritual: Aboriginal NRL players perform with Bangarra Dance Theatre. Photo: Anthony Johnson’You are the most powerful group of Aboriginal men in the country.’
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That was the theme of the 2014 NRL Indigenous leadership camp as players developed a new Aboriginal war cry they hope will eventually have the same significance for Australians as the haka does for New Zealanders.

Fairfax Media was given exclusive access to the camp on Friday night and Saturday as players ranging from superstars such as Greg Inglis to Penrith rookie James Roberts, discussed and rehearsed the dance they believe will increase pride in indigenous communities and promote Aboriginal culture.

”For the indigenous kids, I think it will be great for their self confidence and make them proud of their culture, proud of their heritage and really proud of their aboriginality,” Inglis said.

”It is something we can own and something we can be proud of, and hopefully this dance can filter all the way down to the juniors and all the way through the game.”

The players intend to publicly unveil the war cry at next season’s All Stars match and believe that if the dance is performed regularly, it will eventually be considered a part of Australian culture.

While no one at the two-day camp in the Hunter Valley was bold enough to publicly suggest the Kangaroos adopt the war cry before Test matches, the fact that more than a third of Australia’s World Cup winning squad were Aboriginal means it is a possibility.

Every Australian team on Kangaroo tours from 1908 to 1967 performed an Aboriginal war cry, derived from Stradbroke Island, before matches but they never did so on home soil and it was decided in 1973 that the dance ”did not reflect being Australian”.

However, Newcastle centre Timana Tahu pointed out that a lot of players in the Kiwis team had Samoan, Tongan, Cook Islands and even Australian heritage, and they performed the haka with pride and passion.

”You see those blokes doing it as hard as the Maori blokes are doing it because they have got so much pride and it means so much to the players because they have grown up doing the haka,” said Tahu, who represented Aotearoa Maori in 2010.

”For us, that is what we want to do as well. We want to have the young kids knowing the dance and not be afraid to do it, to go out and give their all because they are not only representing a jersey, they are representing their family and their country.

”What we are doing is a gift to future generations that are going to be doing it over the years so we are sort of starting history here.

”Everyone is going to have input in the war cry and for us it is good because it has been talked about and now we are putting it into action.”

With more than 250 Aboriginal tribes throughout the country, the players borrowed from a variety of influences as they worked under the guidance of Bangarra Dance Theatre artistic director Stephen Page to develop the war cry they hope will unify all Australians.

NRL welfare and education manager Dean Widders told the gathering that rugby league was uniquely placed to introduce a war cry because of the game’s gladiatorial nature, the international exposure it receives and the high representation of indigenous players.

Aborigines comprise only two per cent of the Australian population but 12 per cent of NRL players are indigenous, and they make up 22 per cent of State of Origin teams and 35 per cent of the Test team.

”As far as role models for our people, you are the guys they look up to,” Widders told the players in a room featuring larger than life posters of Johnathan Thurston and Preston Campbell, the driving force behind the All Stars concept five years ago.

”You are the most powerful ambassadors and role models that we have got so we need to leave a legacy and set standards for the young kids coming through.”

However, the players were also reminded of the negative impact that off-field incidents have on the game, the Aboriginal community and their own careers, with Widders showing them statistics on the media exposure a number of incidents attracted.

While no details of the incidents were revealed, one assault received mention in 2891 articles that were read by 28 million people and seen by a further 23.5 million television viewers. It was estimated that it would cost $5 million to reach the same audience through advertising.

In comparison, media coverage of last season’s Close the Gap round were equivalent to $550,000 in advertising costs and Inglis’s appearance at the Jillaroos departure for the Womens World Cup was worth $2.5 million in advertising.

”Whether we like it or not, anything that NRL players do gets a lot of attention,” Storm forward George Rose said. ”When kids see GI do something on the weekend, they all try to mimic it in backyard footy or when they play at school.

”I’m sure it will be the same with the war cry. If they see the Indigenous All Stars doing this dance every time they play and even leading up to a game, like the New Zealand team do the haka wherever they go, I think it is something they will want to copy.”

Rose, whose grandfather George Rose I was a key figure in the Freedom Rides of the 1960s, said he was looking forward to publicly performing the dance.

”I am getting goosebumps now just thinking about it,” Rose said. ”To know I was one of the first people to develop it and perform it would be unbelievable.

”Aboriginal culture is a massive part of Australian culture – our boomerangs and our didgeridoos are the biggest things associated with Australia – and I am sure with this dance the rest of Australia will embrace Aboriginal culture more.”

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Reece Robinson and Travis Robinson urge Goannas not to give up on NRL dream

Reece and Travis Robinson during a break at the Indigenous leadership camp in the Hunter Valley. Photo: Anthony JohnsonTravis and Reece Robinson are encouraging First Nation Goannas players to use next weekend’s match against Newcastle to push for an NRL contract, after the twins struggled to secure their own careers.
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Reece, who played 13 matches for the Broncos in 2008, had to wait another two years before getting another run in the NRL with Canberra, while Travis’ journey has been even harder, and the Storm recruit admits he thought he would never make it. In fact, Travis quit the game after suffering a horrific ankle injury in 2006. He moved to Alice Springs, then returned to play two years in the local Canberra competition before getting an opportunity with Penrith in 2012.

Travis, who made his NRL debut aged 24, encouraged others who have not secured contracts not to give up, including those in the First Nation Goannas team who joined their NRL counterparts in the Hunter Valley on Saturday. ”I have overcome injuries,” he said. ”I left the game for a bit and came back so I am just grateful that I got the opportunity to do what I am doing now.

”Hopefully the Goannas boys, who are in that situation at the moment, can do the same. This is a big opportunity for them next week coming up against the Newcastle Knights, so if anyone goes good, there will be teams watching them.”

While Travis worked with schoolchildren in Alice Springs, Reece was playing on the wing for the Broncos, but he played only one season and could not start elsewhere until then Brisbane coach Wayne Bennett recommended him to Canberra.

Since 2010, he has played 67 matches for the Raiders, but it was during last season that he established himself as a star after taking over as fullback following the sacking of Josh Dugan. But he is unsure whether he will stay at No.1 under Canberra coach Ricky Stuart. ”I would love to be in the No.1 jersey again but I will just be happy to be in the team,” Reece said. ”I love playing the game, so I just want to get on the field.”

The brothers attended their second NRL indigenous players leadership camp at the weekend and said being around Greg Inglis, Timana Tahu, Nathan Merritt and Willie Tonga, among others, had given them increased confidence.

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Waratahs lose to Rebels in their first Super Rugby trial of 2014

Waratahs coach Michael Cheika may have more questions than answers after his Waratahs lost to the Rebels in their first Super Rugby trial at Albury on Saturday.
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Cheika was just happy for his squad to have had their first game. ”I just wanted them to get a hit out. We have timed our pre-season to work this way,” he said.

”We have an extra trial than we did last year so that everyone can run because of the way everyone is coming back staggered. So the main priority was to get a hit out.”

But Cheika said two areas where the Waratahs fell short on in the game were ”in the attacking ruck and turnover defence”.

”We have to take a look and see why,” Cheika said. ”We didn’t have a whole lot of ball during the game. We got pretty heavily penalised and didn’t have a lot of ball to attack from. When we did we looked good.

”But we struggled sometimes on attacking ruck and turnover defence, just in that 20-minute block in the third quarter.”

The Waratahs showed glimpses of what they can do at the Albury Sports Centre in the first 20-minute quarters when they always looked dangerous with the ball.

But while NSW still led going into half-time in the third quarter they appeared to suffer more than the Rebels on a day when it reached 41 degrees and hovered in the high 30s throughout the game.

It was in the third and punishing quarter when the Rebels pushed through to take the lead from NSW, who were constantly pressured and began to give away penalties.

But the game did not appear to settle any selection questions for Cheika.

The Waratahs led 7-0 after the first 20-minute quarter thanks to a converted try by halfback Brendan McKibbin after four minutes.

McKibbin’s opportunity came courtesy of second-rower Will Skelton, whose bustling five-metre run got the Waratahs past the Rebels’ 22-metre line.

Skelton, active in the first quarter, was tackled but offloaded to McKibbin who weaved past two defenders before finding open space to score.

The Rebels looked set to draw even just before the break, with a run by winger Alex Rokobaro produced off the back of the scrum about 20m from the NSW line.

He was brought down, but then the Waratahs were penalised for an infringement at the breakdown.

The Rebels took a quick tap but a knock-on just before the 20-minute siren rang snuffed their scoring opportunity.

The first injury of the night came just before the break when Rebels inside-centre Lachie Mitchell broke down with heat stress. After the break, Rebels inside-centre Mitch Inman was quick to make his mark after being brought on.

He scored the Rebels’ first try of the season to leave them two points behind with the score at 7-5 after the conversion was missed.

One more try each in the second quarter by both sides – from NSW winger Matt Carraro through some weak defence and Rebels halfback Ben Meehan, who chased down a grubber by his captain and No.8 Scott Higginbotham – left the score at 14-12.

But just before half-time Stephen Hoiles, playing for the Waratahs on trial in a bid to earn a contract, took a short pass from five metres out to score NSW’s third try.

Converted by McKibbin, the Waratahs went into the break 21-12 in the lead.

The Waratahs were penalised several times in the third quarter and then were left a man down after prop Tim Metcher was shown a yellow card for offside.

Tries by five-eighth Bryce Hegarty and fullback Jason Woodward gave the Rebels a 26-21 lead.

The Rebels then surged away to a 33-21 lead when outside back Tom English scored their fifth try which Woodward also converted.

The Rebels, to their credit, never let up, even though Peter Betham’s try for NSW left the score at 33-28.

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Live: Newcastle Jets v Western Sydney Wanderers

sLive coverage as the Newcastle Jets take on the Western Sydney Wanderers.
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It’s a warm night in Newcastle – 26 degrees – and both sets of supporters, the Jets’ Squadron and the Wanderers’ Red and Black Bloc are already in fine, and respectful, voice, which is great news considering the crowd unrest that marred the last fixture between these sides at Hunter Stadium. It’s a massive game for the Jets: new coach Clayton Zane had a fiery baptism last week – a poor 3-0 loss – and favourite son Joel Griffiths is back after almost six years gallivanting about the soccer globe. Apart from a resounding victory over the Roar weeks ago, the Jets have looked shaky in recent times, but in talisman Ruben Zadkovich, they have a man who can inspire great things from the back. The Wanderers got back on the winners’ list last week, and with Tomi Juric back from suspension and Youssouf Hersi in scintillating form, they will be hard to knock over. Tony Popovic has come under fire for his rotation policy but playing Matt Spiranovic in a defensive midfield role last week was a coaching master stroke. The Wanderers are playing in their predominantly white away kit and the Jets are resplendent in royal blue and scarlet. Late news: Emile Heskey out with a back spasm. The Wanderers are unchanged from last week – first time this season – with Juric on the bench. Hunker down for a massive game. This will be a corker.

Disturbing fact for Jets fans: Newcastle have only won two of their last home games.

3rd minute:

Jets kick-off and the Wanderers are dominating with excellent one-touch short passing between Mooy, Cole, Hersi and Ono. Mooy has really come of age in the last few weeks.

6th minute:

Adam Taggart was the Jets’ wonder boy earlier in the season, with a number of cracking goals, but like Newcastle he’s slipped in form recently.So far he hasn’t touched the ball.

NJ 0 WSW 0

8th minute:

Shinji Ono is on fire, one-two-ing with Mooy and then hitting a vicious shot just wide of the right post. Ooooh.

NJ 0 WSW 0

10th minute:

Brendan Santalab clatters into Zadkovich and the subsequent free kick from Goodwin is cleared nicely by Covic. Against the run of play, you’d have to say. Wanderers still pulling the levers.

NJ 0 WSW 0

13th minute:

Jets show some promise. Caravella sprinting down the right flank, smashed in a low cross which Ward tried to stab in but Beauchamp wouldn’t allow him to get goalside and Covic made the save. Good, gritty stuff from the Newie boys.

NJ 0 WSW 0

16th minute:

Wanderers are camping in the Jets’ box. Nicky Ward brought down Mooy from behind 30m out and Ono’s inswinging freekick was well dealt with by Jaliens who headed away for a corner. It was the first of three successive corners, the Jets ultimately smashing the ball out of danger.

NJ 0 WSW 0

20th minute:

So far the Wanderers have been making all the play – the Jets are playing a reactive game, almost like they’re the away team.

NJ 0 WSW 0

22nd minute:

Topor-Stanley is looking very impressive at the back tonight, regularly cutting out Newcastle though-balls.

NJ 0 WSW 0

24th minute:

Goal out of the blue! A 30m cannonball screamer from Adam Taggart. Wow! Covic had no chance – his outstretched hands were a metre from the ball. A great run from Nicky Ward ended with him turning the ball back to Taggart with nothing really going on. Then he unleashed his right boot and WHOOSHKA!

NJ 1 WSW 0

29th minute:

On the back of that wonder goal, the Jets have grown in confidence. Nicky Ward and Caravella are making strong runs from midfield, but the Wanderers back four are a deadset wall – except when it comes to long-range efforts, of course.

NJ 1 WSW 0

33rd minute:

A fantastic weaving run from Goodwin on the byline, nutting Spiranovic along the way, culminated in a toe poke at Covic from a tight angle. Inspiring stuff.

NJ 1 WSW 0

37th minute:

A Jaliens foul on Santalab gave the Wanderers a foul from 20m out but Ono ripped the ball over the crossbar. The Wanderers are still playing patiently when in possession – they’re the more attractive football side at this point.

NJ 1 WSW 0

42nd minute:

Ripper goal! Aaron Mooy wins another free kick for the Wanderers 30m out and curls the ball into the top right hand corner of the Newcastle goal. Fantastic strike. Beckham-esque.

NJ 1 WSW 1

Halftime and the honours are even thanks to two awesome goals – a broken play 30m piledriver from Adam Taggart, and a sweetly hit 20m free kick by Aaron Mooy. Both teams have everything to play for this half, but Tony Popovic must be feeling confident his team’s patient, possession-based football will pay off. Apart from Mooy, who is having another pearler, the Wanderers well-oiled midfield is functioning neatly and the Jets will have to find a way to grab more possession. Clayton Zane will be hoping Caravella can produce more bucaneering runs from midfield and if Nicky Ward can turn it on like he did in the first stanza, this will go down to the wire. Time for a beverage. Check you in 5.

NJ 1 WSW 1

Jets fans unleash:

#NEWvWSW Wait until the Jets unleash Griffo in the 2nd half.— LewDub (@NaoetsuCafe) February 1, 2014

Grammar point for the Red and Black Bloc…

Shouldn’t it be ‘whom’ instead of ‘Who do you sing for?’…. #NEWvWSW— Gareth Askham (@GarethAskham) February 1, 2014

48th minute:

The Jets have only had one clean sheet in their last 14 matches… but that’s not going to worry Adam Taggart whose stinging shot from the inside of the 18s is goal-bound till Covic snuffs it out with an acrobatic left fist. Taggart is on fire.

NJ 1 WSW 0

51st minute:

The Wanderers’ composed, slow build-ups almost bear fruit as Ono is denied by Zadkovich who hooks the ball away as the Japanese tries to get in a shot.

NJ 1 WSW 1

55th minute:

Jets fans are salivating: Joel Griffiths is warming up on the sideline. Meanwhile an inswinging free kick from Ono is met with a solid free header from Spiranovic. Alas for Wanderers fans it goes way over the crossbar. Should have done a lot, lot better. Ton Popovic throws his hands up in frustration…

NJ 1 WSW 1

59th minute:

The Wanderers are dictating terms at the moment, and the Jets can’t get any momentum. Plus, their supporters are being outsung by the Red and Black Bloc. Hersi and Ono are weaving their magic big time and the Hunter boys can’t get a look in.

NJ 1 WSW 162nd minute:First substitution – Joel Griffiths on for Nicky Ward, who has had a strong game.NJ 1 WSW 1

70th minute:

Wanderers’ first substitution: Santalab off for excitement machine Tomi Juric. That crazy goal has sparked the Jets into action: a Taggart shot on the run sees Covic diving to his left to haul in the leather. Newcastle is pressing forward in numbers.

NJ 1 WSW 2

73rd minute:

Just looking at the replay – it seems like Beauchamp scored off his elbow. Legitimate mind you, but hilarious on slow motion.

NJ 1 WSW 2

75th minute:

Wanderer Heffernan concedes a foul 2m outside the box and Griffiths caresses the free kick only a meter over the crossbar. Quick rap for Jets defender Taylor Regan – he has been outstanding at the back, regularly stopping the tricky Ono and Mooy in their tracks.

NJ 1 WSW 2

78th minute:

More substitutions – Pepper on for Goodwin, and Hersi off for Haliti. At this stage, Newcastle’s best hope for a goal must be in the interplay between free-running Caravella and Taggart up front. Taggart is super-sharp tonight.

NJ 1 WSW 2

82nd minute:

The Wanderers defence is holding firm – Topor-Stanley and Beauchamp have an excellent understanding. It’s frustrating the Jets as Zadkovich tries a hit and hope from 25m that crashes into a wall of legs.

NJ 1 WSW 2

86th minute:

More subbing: Ex-Leeds striker and Newcastle veteran Michael Bridges on for Caravella. Moments later, Haliti drills in a low shot Birighitti has to dig out. Close.

NJ 1 WSW 2

89th minute:

Goal. Another scrappy one, as Taggart intercepts a deflection from Ono 3m out and slots home the equaliser. The ball was ricocheting about and it needed the Jets’s strikers’ presence of mind to convert. A real poacher’s goal.

NJ 2 WSW 2

93rd minute:

Joel Griffiths has been sent off for remonstrating with the referee after Taggart was floored by Covic as he chased a bouncing through ball. Apparently the ref had already blown for full-time. A dramatic finale.

NJ 2 WSW 2

What a finish! The Jets had looked shot. The Wanderers were the better team for the majority of the match, only to concede a scrappy goal at the death. Adam Taggart was the Jets’ hero, with two fantastic striker’s goals. It was a great result for new coach Clayton Zane, who will be impressed with the fighting qualities his team showed tonight. Regan and Zadkovich, in particular, were inspirational for the red and blue. Tony Popovic can only dream of what might have been. Aaron Mooy created difficulties for Newcastle all over the park and Shinji Ono was silky smooth in midfield – as usual. But he won’t be overly disappointed by the way his side played – the Wanderers’ formation was steady all night and their passing movements smart and penetrating. All up a cracker of a game and a great night of football for the 16,000 crowd.

NJ 2 WSW 2

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Shamal Wind fantastic at Caulfield

Some horses are fantastic at one course, and awful everywhere else.
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Some horses need to hear their hooves rattle, while others need a bog surface to show their best.

And some horses are simply superb at their first run back from a spell, while others need time to race themselves into peak form.

Robert Smerdon’s high quality sprinter Shamal Wind definitely falls into the first up specialist category, and anyone who spotted that in the form guide reaped a reward on Saturday when she rattled home fast and late to get up and win the listed Robert Taranto WJ Adams Stakes by a long head at the rewarding odds of $10.

Shamal Wind has thus won four times at her first start in her only four career preparations, and her trainer is optimistic that she will carry her form forward over the next few weeks to run a bold race in the Oakleigh Plate.

The four-year-old, a daughter of Dubawi, saw off the gallant top weight General Truce ($21), who made a bold bid to follow up his listed race victory in the Kensington Stakes at Flemington a fortnight ago.

Peter Moody’s three-year-old filly Brilliant Bisc ran a game race to hold on for third place at $31 in a race that will probably be remembered for the fatal injury suffered by her stablemate Kiss A Rose, who collapsed and died in the mounting yard following the 1000 metre contest.

The disappointment of the race was the heavily backed favourite Lord of the Sky, Robbie Laing’s three-year-old, who went off at the cramped odds of $1.90. After trying to take a prominent position he faded quickly and eventually finished last.

His rider, Glen Boss, was less than impressed by the fact that the field was allowed to go down to the start what he claimed was seven minutes before the off time, arguing that the delay on a hot day with horses milling around behind the barriers meant his horse had run his race before he even jumped out of the gates.

It didn’t worry Maloney, who produced a cool ride to get up close home on a mare who had drawn the outside gate in the field of 13, which meant that he either had to use her up to get a forward position or drop her out and finish fast.

He opted for the latter, and at the 400 metre mark the winner was the last horse in the field before unleashing a withering burst that collared General Truce close home.

”I can’t remember the last time one let go on me like that, she just toyed with them. It was really impressive.

”She got a brilliant first up record, we were around the gates for a long time, but she was that relaxed and calm it was like a trial. Credit to her,” said the winning rider.

Smerdon added:  ”I came into the race with a few negatives from the barrier and I thought we were maybe going to be stone last with a big job in front of her, especially as we are aiming at the Oakleigh Plate in three weeks.

”I thought if she was finding the line and finishing on the back of them … that would have satisfied me. But courtesy of a tactically good ride on Ryan’s part she’s come up with the major end of the prize.”

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