Brumbies coach Stephen Larkham gets gig as waterboy

larkham Photo: act\daniel.briggsInternational rugby rules ban him from being on the field, but ACT Brumbies mentor Stephen Larkham will use a loophole to become the first Super Rugby head coach to double as a waterboy.
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Super Rugby’s governing body SANZAR has cleared Larkham to become the most high-profile waterboy since Adam Sandler played Bobby Boucher in the 1998 Hollywood hit.

International Rugby Board protocols dictate head coaches are not allowed to run the water.

But because Laurie Fisher is the Brumbies’ director of rugby, SANZAR has cleared Larkham to be on the field while Fisher is in the coach’s box.

Larkham will be the only head coach in any Australian sport to be an on-field coach.

”I haven’t seen a head coach on the field in rugby before, but if you look at soccer, the coaches are on the sideline,” Larkham said.

”It’s not dissimilar to that, but I just get the chance to get on the field.”

While Boucher was an expert in ”high-quality H2O” in the movie The Waterboy, Larkham’s concern is not so much hydration as it is emotion.

The former Australian Wallabies and Brumbies play-maker, who retired from playing Super Rugby in 2007, says he gets a better feel for the game on the field.

”You miss out on the emotion and communication if you’re up in a coach’s box,” he said.

”I think getting on and giving messages yourself is quite important. This way we can get two perspectives on the game and I can get on the field. I’m looking forward to that again.”

Larkham, 39, is also the youngest coach in Super Rugby.

Having former players as waterboys has caused angst in the NRL in the past while former Wallabies Matt Giteau and Stirling Mortlock have both had stints running water in Super Rugby.

Manly great Geoff Toovey and Nathan Brown caused uproar in rugby league because of the extended time they spent on the field directing the play.

It was thought Toovey was pushing players into holes and telling them where to run from behind play.

Larkham insists he will give minimal instructions, leaving Wallabies representative and five-eighth Matt Toomua to guide the Brumbies around the field.

”The guys are very experienced now, they have a good understanding of what needs to be played,” he said.

”I occasionally go out there and have a bit of a chat about what they’re seeing and what’s coming up next.

”But generally it’s left up to them to make all of those on-field calls … You get to feel the intensity on the field.

”You can hear the calls, you get the emotion and the atmosphere that the crowd provides. I’m not worried about it, it was quite beneficial for us last year.”

Fisher and Brumbies assistant coach Dan McKellar will sit in the coach’s box.

The Brumbies start their Super Rugby campaign against the Queensland Reds at Canberra Stadium on February 22.

They lost their opening trial match against the Otago Highlanders on Friday night, but will fine-tune their preparations when they play an ACT XV at Viking Park on Saturday.


February 8: ACT Brumbies v ACT XV at Viking Park, Saturday, 7pm.

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Courting rituals in the Victorian bush

With the doors locked on the expensive big blue courts for another year, now the rest of Victoria can go back wondering how we’ll get the funding to keep our local community courts at a playable level.
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In October, a small town near Colac claimed to have the worst tennis courts in country Victoria. From the pictures I reckon I’ve seen worse, but to be fair, Cororooke is still trying to operate an active club on its courts.

There are plenty of abandoned tennis courts around the bush – overgrown and crumbled. Sometimes these remnants of another Australia are the only evidence left that a town was ever there at all, pointing to a different time in the history of the sport, when tennis was the only game in, well, town.

My husband grew up just outside of Horsham in a time where no one in country Victoria lived more than 200 metres from a tennis court and playing was non-negotiable. His local was Remlaw. If you look for it now you’ll find a monument amid the long grass commemorating its existence. It’s even on the Monument Australia website, touchingly archived under the major theme of ”culture”, sub-theme, ”sport”.

Tennis failed to find me in suburban Ballarat, where my early labelling as a recalcitrant PE student left me hanging about in the drains of the Yarrowee Creek in my spare time instead. (Kids, don’t do this at home – I’m now a mum and understand now that this is dangerous and not even classified as an extreme sport.)

Still, from our disparate worlds we ultimately set up camp not far from the remains of the original Tarrington tennis courts in western Victoria. Thanks to a recent subdivision they now form part of someone’s front yard. No monument marks their moment in the sun, but a local group of residents did erect a sign as part of a local heritage trail.

These original courts were replaced by new courts on the Tarrington Recreation Reserve in 1980. None other than our Premier Denis Napthine became the secretary of the Rec Reserve just a few years after the opening of the courts – a position I now reluctantly hold. Still, based on the recent meteoric rise of the Premier, I’m told my long-term career prospects are good.

Thirty-four years down the track, the courts are now in such disrepair that most serious players choose to play on the nearby Hamilton Lawn Tennis Club courts instead. Some sections of our fence are missing. The surface crunches with loose screenings and ruptured asphalt. The line markings are not terribly prominent. Weeds? We’ve had a few. But this little sporting oasis is not entirely unloved. There’s a bloke on the corner you can count on to poison the weeds when they go a bit Sideshow Bob. The nets are stored inside over winter to try and prolong their life. My two elder sons have learnt to ride their bikes there. Sometimes people hit a tennis ball there.

Courts are expensive to upgrade. Committees of management, such as ours, typically have no money, and no one with the time and expertise to chase any down. Grant money is occasionally available, but it again relies on these bodies being correctly structured (in an ATO kind of way) and, most importantly, they need to be able to demonstrate demand. It’s all a bit chicken and egg of course. And we’re not short on either of those things out here, thanks.

Given the challenges it is not surprising that local government and tennis associations are moving towards a model of regionalised tennis centres. While these might be great facilities for developing players, like the loss of junior football teams, there is undoubtedly something lost. No casual hit with friends at the court down the road means no time and space in which young players of dubious talent can fall in love with the game.

And while the era of the Hamilton courts being maintained by grazing sheep are now gone, country tennis is far from dead. Indeed, out of the 15 clubs that still operate in the Southern Grampians region, most have memberships above the state average, relative to population. The junior program run by the Hamilton Lawn Tennis Club (which has synthetic courts as well) is growing in popularity, although participation rates wane around the time the kids discover the joys of teenage life.

For the country parent this could be a blessing in disguise. Certainly after the third week standing on the freezing sidelines of my five-year-old’s Auskick session, and two more sons to go, there appears many more years ahead of footy, swimming, basketball, taekwondo, soccer, music, gymnastics, little aths, and junior campdrafting (that’s cow herding, people). But not so much tennis.

I don’t really care what sport my boys get into as long as they understand early on it will be the same one for all of them. Football, netball and basketball clubs are all part of regional leagues and for those clever enough to have given birth to girls as well as boys, they can often expect to be driving one child 100 kilometres in one direction for netball, while the other parent gets to ferry the other to the footy in the opposite direction.

Quite frankly, by the time the new year comes around, it’s a known fact that many of Hamilton’s sporting parents are so catatonic they spend all of January cowering in an annexe at the Port Fairy caravan park, tethered to a barrel of semillon, while the kids go all Cadel with their summer tribe. That’s when they’re not playing tennis on the beach. You know, just for fun.

Tarrington’s Naomi Turner is a freelance writer with a good backhand.

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Superstars of snow and ice ready to thrill in Sochi

There are plenty of stars to watch at the Winter Olympics which begin on February 6.
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Shaun White (US): Snowboard

If the X-Games is viewed as the great threat to the Winter Olympics by the International Olympic Committee, then White has proved to be the perfect bridge between the clash of the two cultures – the non-conformism of the freestyle sports versus the conservative European values of the IOC.

White is a different beast to the S halfpipe at the Turin Games in 2006.

Gone are the long red locks that earned him the nickname, ”the Flying Tomato”. Gone is the goofy teen who asked figure skating star Sasha Cohen out on date on American TV. Still present though is the hunger for success. White is not just a two-time Olympic snowboard champion. He is a businessman with estimated earnings of $20 million a year, a champion skateboarder and burgeoning rock star with his band Bad Things.

No expense is spared in his quest. Before the Vancouver Olympics, his sponsor Red Bull built White his own private halfpipe in Colorado that could only be accessed by helicopter. The same has been done in the lead-up to Sochi, this time, at Perisher in Australia’s Snowy Mountains.

Viktor Ahn (Russia): Speed skating

It’s a match made in heaven. Russia has never won a short-track speed skating medal, Ahn Hyun-Soo has won four at one Olympics, including three gold medals.

Ahn should be well known to Australian audiences. When he was 16 at Salt Lake City, he was part of the crash that cleared the path for Steven Bradbury’s miraculous gold medal in the 1000 metres. Four years later in Turin he dominated for South Korea, with four medals.

Two years ago, embittered by his omission from the Vancouver Games, the Seoul-born champion changed his first name to Viktor and declared his allegiance to Russia. For Ahn, adopting the name Viktor was more than just a case of Russification, it was a statement of intent.

The four-time world champion heads into Sochi on the back of five titles at the European championships in January, leaving one competitor, Sjinkie Knegt of the Netherlands, so incensed he flipped him the bird as he crossed the finish.

Mikaela Shiffrin (US): Alpine skiing

With a knee injury ruling out Lindsey Vonn from the US squad, the golden girl hopes have fallen on the shoulders of an 18-year-old from New Hampshire and Colorado who finished high school in December.

Not that slalom specialist Shiffrin is feeling the pressure. She was competing on the World Cup circuit when she was 15 and by 17 was a world champion. Three weeks ago she was named alongside NFL quarterback Peyton Manning as Colorado’s athlete of the year.

Her domination of the slalom circuit has earned her the tag the Mozart of alpine skiing. It’s not that she’s just a child prodigy, it is the technical expertise she displays, making the most treacherous course seem like an effortless ski down the slopes.

When she won the opening World Cup slalom race this season in Levi, Finland, Shiffrin was given a special prize: A reindeer, which she named Rudolph.

Petter Northug (Nor): Cross-country skiing

Cross-country skiing is the Winter Olympics’ most traditional sport and Northug is its least conventional star.

A top cross-country skier has rock star status in Norway, and Northug lives up to the hype.

He has a reputation as a bad winner and sore loser. But with four Olympic medals – including two gold – and a record-equalling nine world titles to his name, Northug is more often bad than sore.

He is versatile. At the Vancouver Olympics, he finished third in the sport’s shortest event, the sprint, but managed to win gold in its longest, the 50-kilometre race. Like Shane Warne, he is also a regular on the poker circuit.

But it’s Northug’s style that sets him apart. The Norwegian is a champagne-class stirrer particularly of cross-border rival Sweden. At the 2011 world championships in Sweden, Northug anchored Norway to a gold-medal performance in the relay but not before mocking the crowd in the home straight and slowing down to tease his rivals near the finish line.

His antics led one Swedish commentator to say that Northug ”is a wolf in the ski tracks and a pig at the finish line”.

But his fellow Norwegians did not mind with more than 100,000 fans gathering in Olso to greet him and his teammates when they returned.

Kim Yu-Na (S Korea): Figure skating

The spotlight shines no brighter at the Winter Olympics than on figure skating and Kim is its brightest star. The Ice Queen from South Korea has never missed a podium place at any championship, culminating in record scores and a gold medal at the Vancouver Olympics.

That victory gave Kim unprecedented fame and fortune for a female athlete in South Korea. Forbes magazine ranked her in the top 10 highest paid women sport stars in the world. Kim became an endorsement magnet, promoting major brands such as Hyundai, Nike, Samsung and Kookmin Bank (which reportedly paid her $US1 million for her world record score in Vancouver). She even recorded a song with pop star Lee Seung-gi for South Korea’s soccer World Cup campaign in 2010.

Kim enters Sochi as the reigning world champion and should she succeed in winning gold she will be the first back-to-back ladies’ singles champion since Katerina Witt of East Germany in 1984 and ’88.

South Korea has won 45 medals at Winter Olympics, and 44 have been in speed skating (both short and long track). Kim is the exception, as she so often is.

Felix Loch (Germany): Luge

It was no surprise when Loch won the gold medal in the men’s luge in Vancouver in 2010. After all, every champion in the Olympic history of the event had been a German speaker; even the two Italian winners (Armin Zö¨ggeler and Paul Hildgartner) came from home towns near the Austrian border where Deutsch was more often heard spoken than Italiano. What separated Loch from his predecessors was his age. He was just 20, the youngest Olympic champion in luge. A crowning glory to go with his world championship win as an 18-year-old.

In between both events he produced the fastest speed recorded on a luge track when he rocketed down the Whistler course at 153.9 km/h during an Olympic test event in 2009.

In a sport renowned for the longevity of its champions, it was a phenomenal beginning. He has now won four world titles and with the introduction of the luge relay, Loch could leave Sochi with another two Olympic gold medals.

Alex Ovechkin (Russia): Ice hockey

As the best player in the host nation’s most popular team, Alex Ovechkin could well be the face of the Sochi Games.

Fame and fortune have come easily to the Russian. He is engaged to tennis star Maria Kirilenko and is one of the top five paid players in the National Hockey League where he is the skipper of Washington Capitals. But despite being consistently one of the league’s leading scorers, Ovechkin is yet to win the Stanley Cup, with the Caps crashing out in the play-offs in each of the past six seasons.

His Olympic record is bleaker, with a fourth and sixth place finish at the past two Games. The Soviet Union won seven out of nine Olympic tournaments from 1960 to 1992 but since its break-up, Russia is yet to win one.

The pressure will be on Ovechkin to match Sidney Crosby’s efforts in Vancouver four years ago when the host nation won the gold medal.

If he does, he will match his mother Tatyana Ovechkina who won a gold medal at a home Olympics in basketball at the Moscow 1980 Games.

Ireen Wust (Netherlands): Speed skating

Speed skating may have lost some of its Olympic lustre to its brasher, short-track cousin, but not in the Netherlands. They treat short-track with the sort of sneer Test cricket watchers give the Twenty20 game.

Since 1928, the Dutch have won 86 medals at the Winter Olympics, and 82 come from speed skating. Like Australia’s passion for the 1500 metres freestyle, it’s the longer events that capture the hearts of the Dutch.

Wust burst on the scene at the 2006 Turin Games where she became the Netherlands’ youngest Winter Olympics champion in the 3000 metres. She followed that up with victory in the 1500 metres at the Vancouver Games. Since then she has won three all-round world titles and could win up to four gold medals in Sochi.

Sara Takanashi (Japan): Ski jumping

Ski jumping is one of the most popular sports at the Winter Olympics and has been a feature since the inaugural 1924 Games in Chamonix, France. The concept is very simple – jump as far as possible. Athletes ski down a steep ramp and jump until reaching a landing zone, with the skiers attempting to land smoothly and within the critical (or construction) point, or even exceed it, in order to get the highest amount of points.

While distance is the main component when the judges award points, other considerations include length of in-run attempt, steadiness of the skis mid-flight, body balance, smoothness of landing, and wind condition. Competitors receive 60 points for landing on the critical point, with points taken away for every metre the point is missed, and added for every metre the point is exceeded.

Women’s ski jumping is making its long-awaited Olympic debut in Sochi, and despite being only 17 Takanashi is the red hot favourite to claim gold. Takanashi has won seven of the eight World Cup events this season and notched up 760 points in the overall standings, 294 points ahead of her nearest rival, Germany’s Carina Vogt.

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Oliver pulls the right rein on Bull Point

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After having the choice of the plum rides on Bull Point and Prince Harada, it was no surprise to see a big smile on Damien Oliver’s face after Gai Waterhouse’s Bull Point scored a resounding first-up win in the group 3 Manfred Stakes (1200 metres).

”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 ($2.80 favourite), who raced a little keenly. Oliver eased Bull Point out three wide on the turn and, after grabbing the leader Worth A Ransom ($20) at the 150 metres, drew away to win by 1¼ lengths.

”He put himself into a good position and then showed good acceleration,” Oliver said. ”You can get a good impression when you first get on them and he certainly gave me that and proved it here today.”

Prince Harada came wide in the straight but failed to finish off the race and was photo-finished out of third by The Quarterback ($11), who flashed home from last on the turn.

Jockey Blake Shinn thought the hot weather might have been partly to blame for the poor performance of the Tony Vasil-trained Prince Harada.

While Cox Plate winner Shamus Award remains $8 favourite for the group 1 Australian Guineas at Flemington on March 1, Sportsbet shortened Bull Point from $13 into $9 second favourite.

The Quarterback was a big mover and, after being a $17 chance, is now on the third line of betting at $10. Prince Harada eased from $9 to $12.

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Sampson to join Nine’s cricket coverage

Channel Nine’s male-dominated cricket team will increase its female presence next summer, with the station bringing sports presenter Yvonne Sampson into the coverage.
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And, while Sampson will be hosting, rather than providing special comments during play, Nine’s head of sport, Steve Crawley, said the cricket commentary team – long a male bastion – would definitely have a woman providing ball-by-ball commentary in due course.

Crawley said Sampson, who has been involved in the station’s rugby league coverage, would be brought into the cricket broadcasts for the 2014-15 summer as the station sought to improve its female representation. He said Sampson ”knew her cricket” and was expected to be used in a hosting/presenting role.

Nine has been in talks with Cricket Australia about how it can bring women into the coverage of men’s international cricket, with CA believing that the game will benefit enormously from more women in commentary roles – including ball-by-ball – given the high level of interest in cricket by women and the expertise available through Australia’s elite female cricketers.

Channel Ten has promoted Mel McLaughlin to a prominent hosting role in its coverage of the Big Bash League, in what has been seen as a success. CA believes the growth in female audiences and participation are paramount, and is aiming for a 50-50 audience split in viewership.

Nine used presenter Stephanie Brantz in its coverage of the Ashes in 2006-07 when she appeared on The Cricket Show.

But play-by-play calling remains something of a glass ceiling for women in cricket, a fact of which CA and Nine are acutely aware.

In the 1980s, Nine was criticised for using actress Kate Fitzpatrick, who had no cricket background, in a commentary role; today, the prevailing view – from Nine and CA – is that prospective female commentators should have the credibility of an expert. ”This will happen, it’s just a question of when,” Crawley said of Nine’s eventual introduction of a woman in a ball-by-ball commentary role.

Crawley said Nine had used Mel Jones and Lisa Sthalekar – both former international players for Australia – in its coverage of the Twenty20 games for women on its digital channel GEM.

Nine and Ten have been interested in the highly marketable dual sports (cricket and soccer) star Ellyse Perry, but Perry is under contract to Foxtel.

CA’s research shows that the female share of the Twenty20 and Big Bash League audience was higher than in the traditional forms of the game, even though the overall numbers are lower than the massive ratings for the Ashes.

Cricket is but one of a number of sports that have been forced to confront the issue of the relative lack of female commentators, given the huge female participation rates and/or audiences.

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

Pssst all summer

Graham Couch. Photo: Sandy Scheltema”Car looks like a hot rod! It’s got swag. Pum-ped!” – Australian for-mula one driver DANIEL RICCIARDO likes the look of his new Red Bull ride.
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Paul Daffey looks back at some of the moments that shaped Australian sport.

What Forty years since Graham Crouch ran in the 1500 metres final at the 1974 Commonwealth Games.

When and where February 2, 1974, in Christchurch, New Zealand.

The legacy His name was etched into legend as part of a historic race.

These days the Commonwealth Games are considered a bit of a picnic by international standards. But not so long ago a Commonwealth Games event was likely to feature several of the best competitors in the world.

The 1500 metres at the 1974 Commonwealth Games was a case in point: it featured Olympic medallists as well as European and African champions, not to mention two runners from New Zealand, which was then one of the leading middle-distance nations in the world.

The three Australians were Graham Crouch, David Fitzsimons and Randall Markey. Crouch, an accountant from Ballarat, was the top-ranked among the Australians. He was to play a large part in what is widely regarded as the greatest 1500 metres race in the history of the event.

In 1968, Crouch was a 20-year-old runner with the Ballarat East High School Athletics Club when the powerful Box Hill club recruited him to run in Melbourne. Crouch continued to live in Ballarat, where he worked at the family business, a Four Square grocery store in Pleasant Street. He ran around Lake Wendouree and up Mount Buninyong. He ran in the Nerrina and Creswick state forests, but it was the advice from renowned Box Hill coach Allan Barlow that made the big difference. In late 1968, Crouch made his inter-club debut with Box Hill in B-grade. At the end of the season he was national mile champion.

Crouch made his international debut at the Pacific Conference Games in Japan in late 1969. He ran only reasonably, but it was his experience of running alongside Olympic stars Ralph Doubell and Ron Clarke that filled him with belief. Crouch ran in the Australian titles early in 1972 confident that he could earn a ticket to the Munich Olympics. He narrowly lost the 1500 metres to South Australian Chris Fisher. Although he had run a qualifying time during the season, he was left out of the Olympic team.

Late in the 1973 northern season, Crouch had just finished running in the Pacific Conference Games in Canada when a highly anticipated mile event was held in Stockholm. The race featured Ben Jipcho from Kenya and Filbert Bayi, a member of the Tanzanian air force, whose boldness created a magnificent frisson wherever he ran. He was a front-runner who dared his rivals to catch him. In those days, the first 800 metres of mile events were generally run in two minutes. In Stockholm, Bayi ran the first 800 metres in one minute, 52 seconds, which put a break of almost half the straight on those who ran through in two minutes. Jipcho overhauled him to score a famous victory.

When Crouch learnt of the 800-metre split his path was clear. He had to train for the next six months with the purpose of being able to stick with Bayi early in the race. “The whole concept of how a race was run was changed,” he said. “I had to be able to run 1.52 for 800 and keep going.” His increased training intensity included more trips from Ballarat to Melbourne to do track sessions with Box Hill teammates.

During the lead-up to the event, Crouch believed he could win a medal. Given the quality of the field it was a belief that suggested a deep well of confidence. When asked to describe the source of that confidence, Crouch thought for several seconds before suggesting it might be because he’s small. (He’s 168 centimetres.) “Maybe it taught me to battle … I don’t know,” he said. “I’ve always been one to have a go.”

The field included Bayi, Jipcho, fellow Kenyan Mike Boit, England’s Brendan Foster and New Zealand pair John Walker and Rod Dixon, who between them had won several Olympic and Commonwealth medals, some from earlier events in Christchurch. Crouch was the Australian champion. “I knew it was going to be hot. And I wanted to beat them,” he said.

Bayi went out as expected. He was five metres ahead after 200 metres and 10 metres ahead after the first lap. A man not much taller than Crouch, he ran with a low knee lift. The Kenyans seemed extravagant by comparison. Bayi went through the 800 in 1:51.8, right on his expected split, and was 15 metres ahead. Crouch was not on his heels, but his training had enabled him to be with the chasing pack. It was panning out as he expected.

Bayi took several looks over his shoulder as he approached the straight for the bell lap. He was still five metres ahead. The chasing pack was jostling for position. Dixon emerged to lead the chase, ahead of Walker and the Kenyans. Crouch, at shoulder height to some of the runners, was on their heels. The BBC commentator described him as “the little Australian”.

The chasing pack sprinted down the back straight before Walker led the charge from 200 metres. Crouch was set to make his move on the medal positions when Boit hit the wall at the 150-metre mark. “All of a sudden he died,” Crouch said. He dropped back on to Crouch, forcing him to lose a few steps in momentum.

In the home straight, Walker closed within a metre of Bayi but with 50 metres to go the Tanzanian fought back. To the astonishment of onlookers, he moved clear of Walker before breasting the finishing tape a couple of metres ahead. Walker, who until these Games was largely unknown, finished second, with Jipcho fighting on for third. Dixon, after a look over his shoulder, held on for fourth, while Crouch came in fifth.

The times were extraordinary. Bayi, with 3:32.16, had broken American Jim Ryun’s world record by almost a second. Walker had also broken the world record. Crouch, with 3:34.42, had broken the Australian record that Herb Elliott had set at the 1960 Olympics in Rome. In all five runners broke their country’s national records. Crouch, in finishing fifth, had run the seventh-fastest time in history. “I was satisfied with my time,” he said. “But I didn’t run to finish fifth.” He later struggled to watch the medal presentation, believing he should have been up there.

Crouch went on to make the final at the 1976 Olympics and still maintains a close interest in athletics. He’s on the board at Athletics International, a body that brings former Australian athletes together and sponsors current ones. He spends summers in Australia, doing contract accounting work, and spends a few months of the northern summer in Europe. Throughout Europe he’s asked about his experience in the 1500 metres in Christchurch. “You can go to a lot of places in the world that aren’t Commonwealth countries – and they know about Christchurch,” he said.

Numbers up

6329 credentialled members of the media at the Super Bowl this year, each one uncovering truth and telling a different part of the story, said NYU journalism lecturer Jay Rosen on his @jayrosen-nyu twitter account this week.

3.5 million ticket requests from 199 countries in the World Cup’s second sale phase. Said FIFA’s man in charge Thierry Weil: “With a little more than three million tickets available at the 12 stadiums, the requests are at least 10 times more than the inventory we have available.”

What they should do …

… is have sporting administrators take a leaf out of much maligned public transport authorities and ensure Senior Card holders get through the gates at the lowest price. Why not offer an admission discount commensurate with pensioners and the disabled? Racing, pacing, chasing, footy, hit and giggle codes, bikes and cars could benefit with increased crowd numbers from Baby Boomers who often baulk at steep admission prices. Given this small incentive this demographic with time on their hands could ensure return business to boot. Win, win. – RICHARD WORLAND. Manifold Heights

Email your contribution to: [email protected]南京夜网.au or twitter: @sundayagesport

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

David Hussey’s future lies in Twenty20 cricket

David Hussey does not want to join the ranks of freelance Twenty20 players, but concedes he may have no other option as part of Victoria’s squad transition.
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The veteran is about to take part in his most significant match of the past year, when Melbourne Stars host Hobart Hurricanes in a Big Bash League semi-final on Tuesday night – and he hopes another on Friday night, in the final.

But looming large is the Indian Premier League auction to be held on February 12.

Hussey’s six years in the IPL have been remarkably settled, spending the first three years with Kolkata and the past three with Punjab. For this season, he was one of many international players to be released, putting him back into the auction.

The right-hander has had a prosperous career – on and off the pitch – in Twenty20. Even in this season’s BBL he has averaged a lofty 62.50 at better than a run a ball, although that is largely because his Melbourne Stars top-order teammates have been performing so well his only substantial innings was his unbeaten 50 in the second-round win against the Sydney Sixers.

Beyond that, from his new position at No.5, he has never faced more than 18 deliveries, but has boasted such a high average because he has been dismissed only twice in his six innings.

The reason this year’s IPL is so significant for Hussey, 36, is because it could end up as his primary wage if he is among contract casualties at the end of the season for Victoria, last on the Sheffield Shield ladder.

Given Hussey’s robust record, his base price of 3 million rupees ($54,600) seems extremely good value, even for IPL teams that may not guarantee him consistent selection as one of their four international players.

As soon as Hussey was dropped by the Bushrangers’ shield team in November, the obviously conclusion was for him to follow former state teammates Brad Hodge and Dirk Nannes in prioritising freelance Twenty20 opportunities.

But given Hussey has held on to his dream of playing Tests for Australia until only recently, his determination to still keep playing in whites is understandable , despite confirmation that when Victoria has a full-strength shield team he will be on the outskirts of it.

”I still enjoy playing. I love batting, I’m still very, very competitive … it’s probably just a different phase of my cricket. I still want to contribute to the team and still want to win,” he said.

”Everyone has setbacks in life. Mine was a big dream, to play Test cricket for Australia, but I know now it’s not going to happen. But I’ve got other things to worry about in my life now: a wife to look after, and the kids as well.

”Maybe I have to reassess my goals and focus on the Twenty20 side, but at the moment I still want to contribute to Victoria.”

Hussey said that while the Stars’ hopes of winning the BBL and qualifying for the Champions League were in the balance, the IPL auction would not be a distraction for him, especially as the Stars were beaten in their past two semi-finals.

One key on-field change for Hussey since he was dropped was that it eased the apprehension he had felt since the winter when he suspected ”something was happening” about his place in the state’s pecking order.

”Probably more relaxed … I know that I’m in and out of the team now – that’s my role,” he said.

Off-field, he has sought advice about life after cricket, and also placed a greater focus on completing the final three units of a degree in sports science and sports management.

”I’m in the 16th year of a four-year course,” he joked. ”For me, life after cricket is nerve-racking, but it’s an exciting time as well.”

Besides Victoria, the IPL and BBL, his main goal is to play in the Caribbean Premier League, a West Indies Twenty20 competition that began last August. England, where he has spent most of the past decade, is a less-attractive option because Twenty20 matches will be played every Friday night over three months rather than in isolation like most other competitions.

Hussey is resigned to rivals targeting his perceived weakness for short-pitched fast-bowling – not that he is at all perturbed by that prospect.

”I like asking former teammates’ and [current] rivals’ plans for me,” he said. ”It’s pretty much ‘start with some bumpers, mix up his feet early and then just don’t bowl spin to him’. It is comical, but it’s something you try to prepare [for] the best you possibly can.

”I actually saw a pitch map of where I’ve scored my runs in the Big Bash and one-day cricket, and surprisingly – or maybe not surprisingly – I’m striking at about 240 for the short ball, so hopefully they continue bowling short to me.”

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

Ron Walker confident of Albert Park grand prix until 2020

Australian Grand Prix chief Ron Walker is confident Melbourne will retain its place on the formula one calendar until the end of the decade, despite admitting there are ”sticking points” in renewal negotiations.
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As race organisers prepare for Monday’s official launch of next month’s F1 season-opener at Albert Park, the second-last of the current five-year contract, talks are continuing to finalise an agreement for 2016-20.

Walker, the chairman of the Australian Grand Prix Corporation, said he was optimistic the race would be renewed by the Victorian government beyond next year.

”I’m as confident of it as I can be,” he said. ”Negotiations are continuing in a favourable direction, so we’ll just see what happens.”

There will be no announcement by Premier Denis Napthine at Monday’s gala launch of the March 13-16 event about the future of the race beyond next year. The lakeside launch at the Albert Park street circuit will feature announcements of the AGP’s title sponsor and the event’s celebrity ambassador.

Although Walker expected the Australian GP’s future would be decided before this year’s event, he confirmed the new deal was not ready to be submitted to the government for approval.

”The lawyers are still talking about some minor points,” he said. ”It’s a work in progress. It’s just taken longer than we thought. I hope the impasse will be resolved soon. Hopefully, it will be concluded before this year’s race.”

Chief among the hurdles is the government’s insistence that the annual sanction fee for the race, which will reportedly reach almost $36 million this year, be significantly reduced.

As well as slashing the operating costs of the event, which reduced the public subsidy to $50.7 million last year from a high of $56.7 million in 2012, the government wants any new contract to represent ”better value”.

Walker and the government are relying on the fact that F1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone has reduced fees in the renewals of other races that have been under financial pressure.

Walker maintained the obstacles to a new agreement would be ironed out in the ongoing discussions between legal representatives of the AGPC and Formula One Management. ”We think there’ll be a meeting of the ways soon,” he said. ”There are just a few sticking points to be resolved, then it goes to the government. The [AGPC] board will make a recommendation to the government, which will weigh up the figures.

”We won’t take it to the government until we’re ready. There’s no rush as far as we’re concerned.”

He dismissed the disputed terms as ”nothing serious”, characterising them as ”just normal practice” in high-stakes negotiations.

Despite his insistence that finalisation of a renewal agreement won’t be hurried, Walker said he still hoped to secure a renewal ”sometime before this year’s race”.

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

Collingwood coach Nathan Buckley pleased his squad didn’t travel to a high-altitude training camp this pre-season

Deep heat: Nathan Buckley will consider a “heat camp” in the Middle East in the next few years. Photo: Ken IrwinCollingwood coach Nathan Buckley has questioned the merits of expensive high-altitude camps, declaring the Magpies have almost completed a comprehensive pre-season program on home soil.
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The Magpies this campaign opted not to head to the US, where they regularly ventured under former coach Mick Malthouse, former head of sports science David Buttifant and in the first years of Buckley’s tenure.

While admitting high altitude delivered a ”two or three per cent” increase in pure fitness, Buckley said remaining at Olympic Park and the Westpac Centre had delivered a rounded routine that had included fitness, game-plan development and leadership testing.

”We have had a really consistent training block, especially pre-Christmas,” Buckley said on Saturday. ”The fact is, inside the Westpac Centre, we finalised the upgrade probably halfway through last year; we got the hydro pools. So this is the first pre-season we have had with all our facilities available.

”Clearly, we wanted to focus on other elements as well. We identified that we needed to develop leadership and we wanted to get consistency of environment as much as anything.

”The fact that we didn’t have to jump on a kite and waste a day and a half to get to the States, then a day and a half coming back, three or four days off to recover – we just got some really consistent training. It felt like we had been able to get more volume and more consistency as a result.”

After an intra-club clash at the club’s family day on Saturday, Buckley said the Magpies were thinking about sending their players to a ”heat camp”. Port Adelaide fitness boss Darren Burgess has espoused the benefits of training in the searing heat of the Middle East.

”We really don’t care what anyone else is doing. We are keenly aware that we can develop our players and our list and the way that we play our football in many different ways,” Buckley said.

”Finding 2 or 3 per cent at altitude … is unquestioned in a fitness sense. Technically, we are trying to increase haemoglobin at altitude. You get the benefits of that when you come back. It helps you train harder for the next week, which makes you a bit fitter, and then it’s a ripple effect – that’s really what the altitude theory is.

”We believe we have been able to tip in really good volume here. We have not discounted the possibility of going to altitude, we are looking for a heat camp at some stage in the next couple of years.”

As the equalisation debate intensifies in the AFL, that the Magpies opted not to head abroad should mean clubs with less resources do not feel as if they need to stretch an already tight budget to match the overseas training programs of their cashed-up brethren.

While the re-signings of Dane Swan and Heritier Lumumba gave the Magpies reason to cheer on Saturday, young defender Adam Oxley was carried off the field on a stretcher during the intra-club match with a suspected leg fracture. Oxley, who played two matches last season, was taken to hospital for scans.

In a match where the Magpies played eight periods of nine minutes, recruit Jesse White was strong up forward, while the ball-carrying Clinton Young, having endured a wretched first season at Collingwood because of injury, was impressive.

”We are obviously looking at him [to play] through the wing and half-back and he can even play as a high forward at times. He has great running power, great penetration on that left foot,” Buckley said.

Adding that Lumumba, formerly known as Harry O’Brien, would be used in defence, on a wing and in the midfield this season, Buckley said he was happy with how the Magpies’ defensive objectives were progressing.

”We wanted to see some elements of our defence that we have been working on and we did see that,” he said. ”We are just starting to see it all come together from potentially putting pressure on the ball but also supporting the defence down the field a little bit. Getting that balance right is important for us.

”I thought our back-half ball movement last year was a highlight – we are continuing to do that. We just have to find that connection inside 50 a little bit more.”

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

Major challenge as South Africa looks to relive glory days

Illustration: michaelmucci南京夜网The last time South Africa won a series against Australia on home soil, Bill Lawry was the visiting skipper, primary school kids were still working on their decimal currency conversions and humankind’s representative had just landed on the moon.
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That 4-0 hammering in the opening months of 1970 came immediately after Australia’s arduous five-Test series in India, the players were sick and tired and South Africa had some fresh geniuses in Barry Richards and Graeme Pollock.

After 10 weeks in India, Australia then played four Tests in South Africa through to mid-March.

There were no business-class flights and no WAGS paid to visit. In fact, there was very little salary. If modern millionaire players complain about bulging schedules, they should have a chat to some of the guys from that sojourn.

There has never been much between the two teams since the new era of the republic. In 1994, Allan Border’s men drew the series 1-1. The third Test at Kingsmead completed the career of Australia’s most resilient captain.

It is not completely edifying to label two Test matches in a row a series, but that was all that could be managed three years ago. The spoils were shared with two very different results, although Australia’s two-wicket win to level the series could have easily gone the home team’s way but for half-centuries to Brad Haddin and Usman Khawaja and Mitchell Johnson’s rapid 40 in pursuit of 300 on a cracking fifth-day pitch.

Neither side would have been completely happy with its performances, although the Australian comeback at Johannesburg after the Cape Town debacle was admirable. The South Africans acutely felt the sting of that loss as they thought the series was all but won going into the last day. The local media had talked up the fact that they could have the first series win in the new era and South Africa had only won 12 times against Australia since the Boer War.

History will again be challenged over the next five weeks.

Australia has made changes to the touring party due to injury, but at least these alterations have come early enough to allow Moises Henriques and Phil Hughes to get their heads around Test cricket again. The loss, once again to injury, of Shaun Marsh looks inconsequential. His selection was as mysterious as the fallacious reasoning of chairman of selectors John Inverarity – ”he was in a good head space”.

It would be much better if he was in a deep, dark, diabolical head space if it meant he could make more first-class runs and average better than 30-odd. I always thought runs were the currency that bought selection rather than amateur psychoanalysis.

Hughes has been minting runs this Sheffield Shield season despite the misleading veneer of his idiosyncratic technique and unpublished head space. He is the direct replacement for Marsh.

Henriques goes in for the all-rounder James Faulkner, yet they are not peas from the same pod. The leftie Faulkner is more a bowler who bats, and Henriques a genuine top-six batsmen who bowls usefully.

Will Henriques find himself pressing for Shane Watson’s role? Watson is under pressure after a modest Ashes and is even-money to pull any one of a dozen muscles.

Henriques’ disciplined batting in the Indian debacle and good form in shield cricket has seen him recognised. Alex Doolan usually bats high in the order so maybe a trip down to six in a direct swap with his Tasmanian captain, the dropped George Bailey, is unlikely.

Michael Clarke has an opportunity to slip Watto down to six, giving him more R&R after an innings in the field rather than getting him padded up and potentially back at the crease and stressing the body.

So Doolan at three, Watson at six and Henriques breathing down his neck. There is an opportunity for sea change after the eclectic top-order batting performances of the home summer.

Dale Steyn, Vernon Philander and Morne Morkel aren’t going to bowl as poorly as the English bowlers did. Haddin is due to fail and it would be nice if he could do so with 400 or more on the board.

The immediate challenge is for batsmen to move out of the mode of playing a shot at anything within swinging range and damning the consequences into red-ball discipline and patience mode. That is not as simple as hitting the reset button. The bowlers need to have enough miles in their legs to get through five days rather than 1½ hours.

As is the way in contemporary schedules, there is time for only one tour match before the Test. Bowlers may get the quantity of overs without necessarily achieving quality, but batsmen who get an unplayable one early or a poor decision will be severely underdone.

It will be two months since the last Sheffield Shield match and five weeks since the end of the Sydney Test. The modern player has to adapt or be rotated, something Ryan Harris, Mitchell Johnson and Peter Siddle have grown unaccustomed to.

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