Andy Flower steps down as England coach

The latest casualty of England’s woeful tour of Australia is head coach Andy Flower, and former Australian fast bowler Jason Gillespie has been mentioned as a possible candidate to replace him.
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England has now lost five Tests, four one-dayers, two Twenty20 matches, two senior players, one struggling fast bowler and a head coach during its three months down under, and the future of self-obsessed batsman Kevin Pietersen is still up in the air.

Twenty20 captain Stuart Broad admitted after England lost a third series to Australia on Friday night that the end of the tour couldn’t come quickly enough, and that was hours before Flower – the respected Zimbabwean who in five years in the job guided England to three Ashes triumphs, a series win in India and (briefly) the No.1 Test ranking – announced his resignation.

”Following the recent very disappointing Ashes defeat it is clear to me that this is now time for England cricket, led by Alastair Cook, to rebuild with a new set of values and goals,” said Flower, who added that the next team director should coach England in all three formats.

”The opportunity to start with a clean slate and to instil methods to ensure England cricket is moving in the right direction will be an incredibly exciting challenge for someone but I do not feel like I am in a position to undertake that challenge.

”This has been a very difficult decision and I remain committed to England cricket and would like to wish Alastair Cook and [incoming managing director] Paul Downton every success. I will remain in my position as a selector for the time being and am exploring possible roles within the ECB.”

Ashley Giles, who coaches England in the short formats, has a chance to establish himself as frontrunner to take over from Flower if the team does well on the forthcoming tour of the West Indies and at the World Twenty20 tournament, but the ECB is expected to advertise the role or hire headhunters to find the right candidate. Contenders may include former India and South Africa coach Gary Kirsten, former New Zealand captain Stephen Fleming (who has coached the Chennai Super Kings in the IPL), former Sri Lanka coach Tom Moody and Gillespie, who has coached Yorkshire to County Championship promotion and a runners-up finish in the Championship in his first two seasons with the county.

Gillespie could not be reached for comment. The former Test quick is a close friend of Australian coach Darren Lehmann and is said to have instilled a similar sense of enjoyment in his players as Lehmann has in the Australians since taking over from the sacked Mickey Arthur last June.

Former England captain Michael Vaughan wants a coaching dream team of Kirsten and Paul Collingwood, the retired batsman who has just helped coach Scotland to qualification for the World Cup.

”I guess Ashley Giles will have the first opportunity to stake his claim. I would get Paul Collingwood into the fold as soon as possible. He has too good a cricket brain to allow it to be put to service by someone else. If England have become a bit robotic, a bit dependent on computer information, then Colly is ideal to counter that,” Vaughan wrote in a column for the Telegraph. ”But, if they want the best – and only the best should be good enough – I would be tempted to do whatever it takes to bring in Gary Kirsten … Look at what he achieved in India and South Africa, getting his teams to play with calmness and mental strength.”

ECB chairman Giles Clarke gave his unequivocal support for Cook to continue as captain despite his personal capitulation against Australia but refused to be drawn on the future of Pietersen.

A clearer indication will come on Thursday when England names its squad for the one-day series in West Indies and World Twenty20 in Bangladesh. ”I have spent zero time on him or whatever he or the selectors are choosing to do,” said Clarke, who described Giles as a strong candidate. ”He played a lot of cricket for England and is respected in the game. It may well be that other outstanding candidates emerge as Paul Downton leads the process.”

Flower’s resignation amounts to another scalp for the Australians. Mitchell Johnson took Jonathan Trott way out of his comfort zone before he went home with a stress-related illness while the batsmen hit Graeme Swann into retirement. And Steven Finn regressed to the point he could not be selected.

”I think a few of the guys are looking forward to having two weeks at home in their own bed and not thinking about cricket for a while,” said Broad.

With aap, Telegraph, London

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Pre-season has whiff of 2010: Swan

Having secured a two-year contract extension, Collingwood champion Dane Swan says this pre-season has reminded him of 2010, when the Magpies ultimately delivered a breakthrough premiership.
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As supporters lapped up the intra-club action at the club’s family day at Olympic Park on Saturday, Swan and teammate Heritier Lumumba were given strong ovations when their new deals were announced.

Swan will be a Magpie for life, his contract continuing until the end of 2016, while Lumumba was given a one-year extension until the end of 2015. After a tumultuous 2013 campaign, when he feuded with coach Nathan Buckley, walked out of the club, and later changed his name from Harry O’Brien, Lumumba thanked the Magpies for maintaining faith in him.

Swan had flagged that his current deal, expiring this season, could have been his last, even though he only turns 30 this month.

While that may have been said in jest, he has been warned by former teammates, such as Ben Johnson, about the realities of retirement.

”I was obviously close with a few boys that have finished their career over the past few seasons,” Swan said. ”Just speaking to them, even though they are having a good time retired, they say, ‘You are a long time retired, and while you can, make the most of it’.

”I was always going to keep going if they [the Magpies] wanted me. Thankfully, they did, so here I am.”

But he joked that has meant he has ”been interviewing for friends over the pre-season. I have been getting them all in, one by one, asking what they can bring to the friendship”, as the likes of Johnson, Alan Didak, Dale Thomas and Heath Shaw – all part of the so-called Rat Pack – have left the club.

”I have been walking around like a new kid at school looking for friends to talk to,” he said.

Swan, who had off-season wrist surgery, said his passion for the sport remained strong, despite the not-always-favourable off-field attention he receives.

”I love the game and I love being around my mates. That was probably the main thing that drives me,” he said. ”Obviously, success and premierships. I enjoy coming to work every day and being around my mates and having a laugh.

”If I wasn’t good enough, the club would have said: ‘No, that’s it.’ I certainly would go and play locally with my friends, because that’s what I love to do.”

The hard-running midfielder said he sensed the Magpies were fortified after a shock elimination-final loss to Port Adelaide last season and an off-season clean-out.

”The memories [of 2010] are close and fond, but it does feel a little bit ago. There is a little bit of feeling of 2010 I think this pre-season.

”The boys have got close and we have had a really good pre-season. We are under no illusions, it’s going to be pretty hard to get back to where we want to be, but we certainly think we have the group to do what we want.”

Swan said he would likely spend more time up forward this season but he didn’t think the new interchange cap would affect the burst-style game he enjoys. He was the sixth-most benched player in the league last season and ranked No.1 for disposals per minute.

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Leigh Matthews warns Hawthorn of back-to-back mindset

AFL legend Leigh Matthews has warned Hawthorn that last year’s premiership will not give it a psychological edge as the Hawks take aim at becoming the first team in more than a decade to claim successive flags.
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Matthews was the last coach to take his team to such lofty heights, guiding the Brisbane Lions to three straight flags from 2001-03.

The Hawthorn great, who played in four premierships as a player with the club, said Alastair Clarkson’s men could go back-to-back but this required a specific mindset.

”I know it’s partly a psychology, but Hawthorn have got no better or worse chance in 2014 than any other team,” he said.

”In other words, of course you won it last year, but it doesn’t give you any advantage or disadvantage for the following season. That’s the reality that you have to get through your skull and everyone has to accept.

”And if you happen to win two in a row, that’s two separate campaigns that you have won. But the two things aren’t really related.

”There is no sense of entitlement … You just have to accept it’s a new year.”

Determined to avoid the dramatic slump that ruined their back-to-back bid in 2009, the Hawks have returned to training in mint condition.

The players agreed in the days after last year’s premiership to immediately turn their focus to this season, while club management have been happy with the mindset of all parties.

Matthews said he had yet to settle on his favourite to claim this year’s flag but said the Hawks were well positioned to challenge despite losing superstar forward Lance Franklin.

”Can is easy, of course they can win it. That’s gone on for every team that has won a premiership forever. They clearly can go back-to-back,” he said.

”They have certainly done a fantastic job in terms of their selective recruiting. [Brian] Lake was just fantastic for them and [Ben] McEvoy should be fantastic for them.

”Losing Franklin is obviously going to be a blow because he is such a good player. But as people have noted, they have done very well when he was not playing.”

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Brett Goodes: all about the greater good

Loving what he does: Brett Goodes at training at Whitten Oval. Photo: Paul JeffersStarting an AFL career at 28 with a playing CV that resembled darts thrown at a map of Australia gave Brett Goodes an uncommon launch pad. Yet it was his most recent job, pre-fairytale, that prepared him best when eventually he fell back to earth.
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At Launceston in round 17 last year, Goodes laid an arm’s-length tackle on Hawthorn’s Shane Savage that went wrong with a sickening crack as teammate Liam Picken got in between them, and Goodes’ left forearm was the casualty of their combined momentum. He can laugh now that he was simply the latest ”Picko victim”, but there was nothing funny about it at the time.

”I had this picture in my head that my arm was in half, that was all I could picture until I hit the ground,” Goodes recalled of the time-stands-still feeling that accompanies disasters of any degree. ”I looked down and it wasn’t, thankfully. I picked it up, knew I was gone, and just ran straight off.”

He returned to Melbourne on an early flight, a sling supporting two snapped bones, president Peter Gordon and club doctor Gary Zimmerman his solemn companions. Immediately he was in the purgatory of the long-term injured, a footballer removed from his flock.

This is territory he already knew – if not personally, then professionally. As the Western Bulldogs’ welfare officer prior to his 2012 rookie listing, Goodes had worked closely with Dale Morris and his family as the defender negotiated a cruel, prolonged recuperation from a broken leg. He had counselled others, too, unaware they would one day be his teammates.

”It certainly helped,” Goodes says. ”I can imagine the mental stresses a young guy would have to deal with going through a long-term injury. Even me to an extent – I’ve only got a one-year contract, I’ve just broken my arm, that all comes to mind.

”Having worked in that area certainly helped me get through the rest of the season.”

He was left in no doubt the limbo was only temporary. The coaches and list manager Jason McCartney assured him another one-year deal would be offered, and with two plates and a dozen screws in his forearm he was able to resume running, join in certain drills and throw himself into another quirk of the season-over player’s world: training hard to go on holiday. Already he can feel the benefits.

”I think I’m much fitter this year, having started pre-season fit and ready to go,” Goodes says of how he can be a better player than the one who slotted into the Dogs defence for 13 games in 2013 like he had been there all along. ”I’m just looking forward to being that creative running half-back flanker, getting up the ground a bit more instead of just playing on my man and beating him. Be more creative and help our team surge forward.”

Watching the team win four of its last six was a mixed blessing, rapt to see progress but, with the likes of Shaun Higgins, Clay Smith, Tom Williams and Jason Johannisen , fighting back feelings of jealousy at not truly being part of it. Still, Goodes could reflect on a debut season that met his own expectations, and exceeded those of anyone who had been sceptical about his drafting.

”I played all the games I could physically play,” he says of a season blighted by a suspension, a wrist injury and the broken arm. ”For me that was a good year, a great year – my first season, to have played every game I could possibly have played.”

He never felt out of place and thinks his previous occupation helped here, too. ”There was never anything negative, never, ‘Do I belong?’ It was all positive, ‘What a great opportunity, I’m going to train my backside off and make the most of it’.”

He loved the constant education, that despite having seen up close the workload and stresses that accompany the cherished life of a footballer, he was still taken aback by just how hard it was. He found the training was only part of it, the mental load – criticism, scrutiny, feedback – was much more onerous. ”It’s not a normal life, but I love what I do. I’ve always wanted to be involved in AFL footy in one way or another, working or playing. You know what you sign up for when you walk in the door. This is me now for however long I’ve got left in me.”

Being Goodes by name and nature increases his value as a teammate, still bringing to the change rooms the qualities of his previous role, someone whose make-up is to extend a hand if he sees someone in need. ”I think that’s why I loved my old job so much at the time, it was so natural for me.”

There is one significant difference this year to last: no longer is he Adam’s brother, rather the brother of the Australian of the Year.

Goodes was with friends in Anglesea when Adam accepted the award from Prime Minister Tony Abbott on Australia Day, and delivered a stirring speech on the lawns of Parliament House. He thinks only becoming a father – or seeing the child of brother and father-to-be Jake – could make him prouder.

”For my whole family, watching Adam, his speech, seeing mum in the crowd, it was a really fulfilling moment. It was great to see mum there sharing it with him after all the hardship she’s had. It’s never been an easy track for any of us.”

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How all things tight and beautiful took giant strides

Model Nathan Waring shows off the latest fashion statement – meggings, or leggings for men. Even pop star Justin Bieber is said to be in on the meggings craze. Photo: Steven Siewert Nathan Waring
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Luke Sales likes his trousers bright and tight. “I often wear leggings because I don’t like wearing pants,” he says.

The co-designer of the fashion label Romance Was Born is known for wearing boldly printed leggings, which he teams with shorts, worn over them, to preserve his modesty.

“It’s not for me to go the whole hog, and it’s definitely not a look for everyone,” Sales says.

But leggings for men are definitely on the rise. Justin Bieber wears them, Russell Brand performs in them, and international labels ranging from Givenchy – whose leggings cost up to $US595 ($680) – to Asos and Uniqlo are now manufacturing dedicated “meggings”, as what began as a fad moves closer to the mainstream.

“This time last year we had no jersey bottoms for men, today we have over 40 styles, and we will have 150 jersey styles next year,” said Asos’ head of design, John Mooney.

“We have everything from true meggings and skinny jogging bottoms to tailored shorts with built-in meggings.”

Americans Adam Freck and Andrew Volk went one step further when they launched an entire company devoted to meggings, named Meggings Man, in December. In Australia, Jac+Jack, Bassike and Zanerobe are among the brands that now manufacture drop-crotch style meggings for men. “There is a really strong sportswear influence taking place in menswear,” said David Jones’ general manager of menswear and childrenswear, Deborah Foreman. “A few years ago men were quite staid, but now they are really experimenting and we are seeing a lot more drop-crotch and softer-style trousers.”

Asos sells meggings from $20.27, for its own brand, to $91.23 for the Bjorn Borg brand.

Businessman Paul Connor sees meggings as the evolution of black skinny jeans.

“The meggings I wear now have that skinny-jean look, but because they are stretchy they have a brilliant comfort factor,” Connor said.

“I buy mine from Uniqlo and I would wear them twice a week.”

Men were wearing leggings long before women turned them into a fashion trend in the 1980s. Shakespeare practically lived in them, although they were called stockings then, and Henry VIII wore silk knitted versions.

Mooney believes the beauty of the megging is versatility. “There is so much variety that the appeal is broad,” he said. “Everything from a true megging for a late teen or early 20s fashionista, through to more detailed styles you can dress up with shirts and more.”

But Foreman says the look is not for everyone. “You have to have a bit of confidence about you and you have to know how to put it together,” she said.

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Griffiths sees red as Jets salvage point

Joel Griffiths and Adam Taggart celebrate the late equaliser. Photo: Jonathan Carroll Disappointing end: Joel Griffiths. Photo: Jonathan Carroll
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There was a great mood of anticipation swelling around Hunter Stadium for the return of Joel Griffiths. After five years away, The Chosen One was back, but it would be another striker who wrote the right headlines.

Western Sydney were on the brink of victory when, in injury time, Jets winger Andrew Hoole squared a hopeful ball in the path of Adam Taggart, who clipped the ball home to make it 2-2.

That sparked a mad minute in injury time, where the Jets chased a desperate winner. Taggart was through in goal and on track to get a hat-trick when Ante Covic clattered him way outside the box.

What nobody in the stadium realised was that amidst the confusion, referee Ben Williams had blown for full-time. Infuriated, Griffiths gave Williams a foul-mouthed serve. He was given the red card, not Covic.

That was the final act of a night that swung in every direction.

Taggart gave the Jets the lead with a sparkling early goal, one that was cancelled out by Aaron Mooy’s free-kick on half-time. A pinball scramble ended with the Wanderers taking the lead before the final-minute shenanigans took over.

Once the events have been digested, the light of day will bring little comfort for both teams. It’s only the second point from six games for Newcastle yet the Wanderers will feel as though they should have returned to Sydney with all three.

The Jets were already reeling from a blow in the warm-up when marquee striker Emile Heskey had to withdraw after suffering back spasms. He was replaced by journeyman midfielder Nick Ward in attacking midfield, giving Taggart a lone role up top.

By contrast, there was no change for the Wanderers, which was odd in itself for the habit Tony Popovic has developed of rotating his team every week, regardless of the result. That meant the experiment of playing Matt Spiranovic in defensive midfield would continue for another week. What Ange Postecoglou makes of this ploy is another matter.

Newcastle sustained pressure on Western Sydney from the opening minute and would make their best attacks from out wide, trying to curl balls behind the defensive duo of Nikolai Topor-Stanley and Michael Beauchamp. A couple of times it very nearly worked.

Taggart’s opener didn’t require assistance, however. The ex-Perth junior let fly with a tracer bullet that swerved wickedly, away from Covic but still inside the left post. Given he hadn’t scored since November, it was some way to break the drought.

But the Wanderers’ reply was first rate. It came after a succession of free kicks just outside the Jets’ defensive box, increasingly irritating the home fans. In the last of them before half-time, Mooy took a deep breath and curled a text book that dipped over the wall and past a stunned Mark Birighitti.

Williams was castigated by the home fans as he blew for half-time, contrasting with the mood of the visiting fans, singing and dancing their way through the main break. They believed the game was now theirs for the taking.

Needing something to get back into the game, Newcastle coach Clayton Zane played his trump card and Griffiths was brought on to make his long-awaited learn with half an hour to play.

Griffiths’ first 30 seconds went something like this: clashing with Topor-Stanley to win a header, simultaneously crunched by two defenders, sparking a break for Taggart and giving the linesman a mouthful. It was a sign of things to come.

But the more critical immediate action would occur at the other end. A goalmouth scramble that Birighitti failed to deal sparked danger, and just as Josh Brillante got his boot to the ball, he whacked his clearance into Beauchamp’s upper arm. No handball was given for the deflection, which trickled over the line.

However, that was only the start of the real drama.

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Freedoms key to a robust debate

We hear a lot of grand rhetoric about free speech and freedom of the press in Australia, but in reality, we can be pretty rubbish at defending these basic liberties.
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Quick to outrage, we confuse dissenting opinions with disloyalty to the nation, and abuse with freedom of speech.

Only a year ago, Tony Abbott was the media’s great defender, thundering about Julia Gillard’s ultimately doomed flirtation with media regulation.

”It is not, repeat not, the role of government to manage the day-to-day practices of journalism, to dictate who can and who can’t control Australian media outlets or to ‘score’ media coverage against unavoidably subjective standards of fairness,” he said.

”The job of government is to foster free speech, not stifle it.”

We in the media cheered, but on Wednesday, Abbott, a former journalist himself, sought to impose his own scorecard on the ABC. He sympathised when Sydney shock jock Ray Hadley complained that there was a double standard between the complaints levelled at Hadley’s on-air comments, and what the ABC broadcast.

Hadley, who described himself as ”a bit to the right”, grizzled that he kept getting ”belted over the head” by the government’s media regulator, the Australian Communications and Media Authority – incidentally, for broadcasting claims that were factually incorrect.

Meanwhile, Hadley griped, ABC journalists were ”left to their own devices”.

”I can understand the frustration that you feel,” Abbott commiserated. ”I think that there is quite an issue of double standards … I think it dismays Australians when the national broadcaster appears to take everyone’s side but our own … You shouldn’t leap to be critical of your own country.”

As the Prime Minister knows full well, it’s not the ABC’s role to be a cheerleader for Australia’s national interest. It’s the organisation’s job to broadcast news in the public interest.

The next day, the Minister for Communications, Malcolm Turnbull, announced that the government would launch an ”efficiency study” of the ABC and SBS.

Turnbull assured there was ”no assault on the ABC” and the government’s terms of reference emphasise that the study is ”not a study of the quality of the national broadcaster’s programs, products and services”.

But the announcement of a cost-cutting review after an extraordinary attack by the Prime Minister on the ABC sent shudders through supporters of independent journalism. This was compounded by the news on the same day that The Global Mail financier Graeme Wood was withdrawing support for the publication.

Running battles against media reporting often take a pernicious path. Last week, over a series of days, I was accused in online forums of being a traitor to my country after reporting that Defence was investigating members who joined an online anti-Muslim group, the Australian Defence League.

Discussion quickly turned to how I would better understand the issues if I were raped, my daughter raped and my husband beheaded by Muslims.

It’s a dreary reflection of the nature of political debate these days that when a woman journalist writes or broadcasts something that someone, somewhere doesn’t like (surely the definition of journalism), some keyboard warrior throws the spectre of rape at her.

It’s a base method of trying to control women, but it’s a diversion: the goal is simply to shut down debate.

In no way am I suggesting the Prime Minister’s comments on the ABC are similar to the ravings of an online extremist group, but in a democracy like Australia, freedom of speech should involve having the maturity to debate ideas on merit, and defend the right of our media to air them, rather than resorting to appeals to patriotism or cheap abuse.

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Listen when a legend speaks

A statue of Neil Harvey now stands in Yarra Park. Unveiled on Friday, it is the fourth in the MCC’s Avenue of Legends. Lis Johnson’s bronze depiction of the dazzling, deft-footed left-hander joins those of Shane Warne, Norm Smith and John Coleman. It’s a fitting tribute to a great cricketer.
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Just how great was at risk of being lost in the mists of time, and distracted from by other issues. For Harvey’s greatness had, in later times, been blurred by his natural inclination to give non-workshopped answers when asked about contemporary cricket. He came to be characterised as a human headline.

He didn’t always like what he saw during Australia’s world-beating years of the last two decades and when his opinion was sought he gave it: gun-barrel straight. But the perception of Harvey, by a generation of Australian cricketers, as an embittered yesterday’s man is a less than comprehensive judgment.

I recall him speaking to me about this during the Melbourne Ashes Test of 1998. He expressed frustration that he felt like the only person in the nation prepared to put his name to what he saw as obvious. He believed, among other things, that the Australians of the time had very little opposition and were a somewhat ungracious bunch.

And he was right in that he wasn’t alone in that latter view. As he was also right in that few others were brave enough to express it; certainly with his level of straight forwardness. Sometimes it requires a CV of Harvey’s stature for kicking against the wind to carry legitimacy. A couple of years later, then Australian cricket boss, Mal Speed, acknowledged the high volume of complaints being received about player conduct through that period. But, inevitably, such expression remained a minority view. We love nothing more than winners and those Australian teams won heavily, and often. Our cricket was surfing on a high tide of public euphoria.

Notwithstanding his credentials, Harvey became a target. The modern players didn’t like him. He felt lonely and, I suspect, vulnerable in his honesty. But still he wouldn’t refrain from answering questions straight up.

Happily, the chief executive of the Australian Cricketers’ Association, Paul Marsh, attended Friday’s unveiling. Players both present and recent past must be big enough to seek to understand Harvey, and to appreciate him. He played the game in a different time and has lived through much change.

And this much must be clear to even his keenest detractor: he was one of the greatest cricketers this country has produced.

It would do well for those who haven’t forgiven him to study his record. If they did, they would surely see that this wasn’t some envious old has-been with little claim to relevance.

They would quickly find, for example, a piece written by Ashley Mallett on ESPN Cricinfo in 2012. Perhaps Australia’s finest off-spin bowler, Mallett played a lot of cricket with Greg Chappell, widely regarded as second-to-Bradman among Australian batsmen.

In selecting the best five players he had seen, Mallett nominated Gary Sobers, Sachin Tendulkar, Viv Richards and Barry Richards. And with them he chose Harvey. Not only that, he implied he regarded the dapper left-hander as the best of them.

He wrote: “I have never seen the equal of Harvey’s batting and I’ve seen most of the great batsmen of the past 50-odd years … his average is less than those of some who played for Australia recently, but Harvey batted against some of the greatest bowlers to bestride the Test stage: South Africa’s Neil Adcock, Peter Heine and Hugh Tayfield; England’s Alec Bedser, Frank Tyson, Brian Statham, Tony Lock and Jim Laker; and the West Indians Sobers, Wes Hall, Alf Valentine and Sonny Ramadhin.”

With 21 hundreds from 79 Tests, Harvey scored centuries at a frequency just below Chappell’s (24 from 87), but above Ricky Ponting’s (41 from 167). Harvey usually came in at the fall of the first wicket, which Chappell rarely did. He also, at times, had to contend with uncovered pitches; never an issue for the generation which followed.

It’s fatuous, as well as odious, to attempt comparisons. The point is that, at worst, Harvey runs Chappell and Ponting close among Australian post-war batsmen. And like those two, Harvey was a superb fieldsman. Bill Lawry, who spoke in his honour at the statue unveiling, says Harvey is the best fielder he’s seen.

Lawry’s maiden Test century – 130 at Lord’s in 1961 – was achieved in Harvey’s only Test as captain. “The Phantom” also experienced his leadership playing for Victoria in the mid-1950s. He speaks in glowing terms of Harvey the leader, placing him with the best under whom he played.

The man who remains the youngest Australian to score a Test century, and the baby of Bradman’s Invincibles, is now 85. That there can be grandeur in old age was evident in Harvey’s still-assertive, but humble, bearing on Friday.

The Harvey statue can now be enjoyed for evermore, but the man himself is to be appreciated in the here and now.

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New-look Rebels turn up the heat on Waratahs

High and low: Melbourne Rebels players bring down Waratah Kurtley Beale in Albury on Saturday. Photo: Border MailDefence has been the catchcry of the Melbourne Rebels all pre-season under new coach Tony McGahan.
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After three seasons where they were shown up – badly at times – against some of the harder teams, the goal was to shore up the leaky defensive line but to do it aggressively by lifting the number of turnovers they snare at the breakdowns.

Saturday’s trial against NSW Waratahs in 40-degree heat in Albury was the team’s first chance to see if McGahan’s tough regime had had an effect.

After two minutes the old cracks seemed to be worryingly present when Waratahs half-back Brendan McKibbin ran through to score without being touched.

He converted the try as the Rebels were left looking for answers to a lapse of concentration, which given only two minutes from the opening whistle could not be blamed on the scorching conditions.

”That was disappointing” skipper Scott Higginbotham said. ”We obviously talked about defence and how much we put into defence during the pre-season so that was a tough one.

”But it’s a trial, the first trial, it was a bit of a lapse in concentration and you could see that we felt our way through the game and the defence really came on in the second half.”

But they regrouped and while they did concede some soft tries, they also shored up their defence – keeping the Waratahs tryless for 30 minutes mid-game while showing that they were not going to back down from being adventurous in attack. The Rebels scored five tries to Tom English, Jason Woodward, Ben Meehan, Bryce Hegarty and Mitch Inman to edge NSW 33-28.

It was enough for McGahan to see promise for the season.

”We’re really happy to get the result but really delighted for the players who put a lot of hard work in,” McGahan said.

In good news for the Rebels, skipper Scott Higginbotham played solidly in his first game back from a shoulder injury that ruined last season, setting up a try to Meehan with a clever kick.

”That was hopefully the hottest game I will play this year,” Higginbotham said. ”I went all right. It’s been seven months since I played and I just wanted to feel my way back into it and I felt like I did that but plenty more to go and I’ve got a long way to go.

”I think the team went well. We started a bit slowly but that’s to be expected in the first trial.”

■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.

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.

Blues coach John Kirwan was pleased with Marshall’s first hitout.

”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.”

With aap

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

Woodbine saves blushes for Gai Waterhouse and Nash Rawiller

Late surge: Woodbine gave punters a scare on Saturday. Photo: Jenny EvansNash Rawiller was hauled before stewards to explain his navigation on long odds-on shot Woodbine after the Randwick Guineas-bound colt left his supporters with near heart failure at Rosehill on Saturday.
Nanjing Night Net

Rawiller angled the blueblood, sent out a $1.20 hope on the tote in the four-horse field, to the centre of the track before wearing down Tim Clark on Pirandello as the leader clung grimly to the fence.

Woodbine’s winning margin was a head, but it didn’t deter chief steward Ray Murrihy from grilling Rawiller about the ride. And Rawiller said he was at odds with trainer Gai Waterhouse over the better ground at Rosehill.

”I told her one, two or three [horses off the fence] was the best part of the track, but she said seven off,” Rawiller told stewards. ”She’s the boss, but I won’t be doing that again. I didn’t agree with her … in fact, I had an argument with her before the race.”

Even Waterhouse was wondering whether Woodbine had arrived in the nick of time to make it back-to-back wins this campaign. ”I know the owner of the second horse, and John [Messara] and the group own Woodbine and I thought, ‘Uh oh, there’s going to be six unhappy owners and one happy’,” she said. ”When they showed the replay I thought, ‘No, I’ve got six happy owners and one unhappy’.”

Woodbine’s stallion prospects will largely hinge on the rest of his three-year-old season as the Hussonet colt, out of multiple group 1 winner Miss Finland, heads towards the group 1 Randwick Guineas.

Rawiller was forced to hunt Woodbine up in the early stages in the small four-horse field after Cosmic Cameo was scratched after tossing Hugh Bowman leaving the mounting yard.

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