Monthly Archives: December 2018

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Sio’s a Super inspiration

Pat Sio, brother of ACT Brumby Scott Sio.They used to spend afternoons bashing into each other in the backyard and now Pat Sio wants to follow big brother Scott into Super Rugby.
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But first the powerfully built back-rower is aiming to emulate Scott’s junior achievements and win selection in the Australian under-20s side for the world championships in June.

While Scott was in Melbourne preparing to play for the ACT Brumbies against the Melbourne Rebels, Pat was finishing his first camp with the national squad.

The brothers – Pat is taller but Scott is heavier – spent their Christmas holidays ”trying to choke each other out” in wrestling sessions in Sydney. The park down the street from their house was another venue for their wrestling sessions.

Now Brumbies prop Scott is the inspiration driving Pat’s bid to make his first Australian team.

”It’s always good to aim high … I look at [Scott’s achievements] as a challenge,” Pat said. ”I reckon I’m up to the challenge … we both have the same goal – play for the Wallabies.

”Scott has taught me a lot of the things he’s learnt at the Brumbies. He thinks he’s faster than me, but I’ve got him covered … we’re always competitive.”

An Australian under-20s squad spent the past week training at the Australian Institute of Sport at the first camp with new coach Sean Hedger. The initial squad of 50 will be trimmed to a smaller group that will prepare for the junior world championships to be held in France later this year.

Sio failed to make the Australian schoolboys teams, but has his sights set on a Super Rugby deal and under-20s honours.

Canberra duo Tom Staniforth and Andrew Robinson are also pushing their names forward for selection.

Both played in the Australian Schoolboys team last year and Brumbies coach Jake White has invited them to train with the Super Rugby squad.

”I’ve just learnt to go harder and go faster by training with the Brumbies,” towering second-rower Staniforth said. ”I’m still getting bumped and smashed [by the older guys], but I’m really lucky and that’s the only way you learn.

”When I look into [my goals] too much, that’s when I get worried and don’t play well, so I’m just having fun now.”

Robinson had to sit out the majority of work at the camp after injuring a shoulder in the Brumbies Q Sevens tournament last weekend.

The Tuggeranong Vikings back hopes this will not affect his chances of winning a spot in the final 28-man squad.

”It’s frustrating, but hopefully I get a chance to show them what I can do,” he said. ”Getting picked for the under-20s is my major goal for this year and then hopefully have a successful season with the Vikings.”

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

Cooper’s reflections of a dummy past

HE WENT from Australian rugby’s hottest commodity to the sport’s most hated figure in the space of 14 months. It is fair to say Quade Cooper knows a thing or two about the ups and downs of professional sport.
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But success never comes with a promise to stick around and Cooper, a boxing match and a rugby game into his latest, hopeful comeback, has learnt that the hard way.

”The margins of success to failure are so small,” he says. ”At the start of [2011] everything was just falling into place, whether [the Reds] were playing the best football one week to not very well the next week, we were still winning games because we were working so hard. From the success of the 2011 Super rugby season to the – I wouldn’t say failure, but – to the 2011 World Cup, us not performing to our best and myself as well. That margin is so small, you can’t let up for a second.”

The car park of a suburban shopping centre in Brisbane’s southern suburbs is an unlikely place for reflection.

But here is Cooper, sitting in his car on a Thursday night, wondering into his phone why he said the things he did on live television towards the end of last year and whether he would have said them at all if he had not pushed his playing return so hard.

”I think to a degree they all coincided with each other,” he says. ”When you’re injured it’s a very tough time emotionally, there are so many ups and downs with rehab and there’s a lot of hard work and frustration that goes into it. A lot of things can add up and I guess it’s just like anything in life, whatever your day job is, you can have a bad day in the office, a day when little things agitate you.”

Cooper had a bad few months. After the disaster of the World Cup campaign and the long road back from a serious knee injury, the Reds playmaker returned to the pitch last May to help salvage Queensland’s season and get the team through to the finals.

In August he made it into the Wallabies squad for the Rugby Championship but lacklustre performances in three Tests culminated in another injury to his knee and more surgery in September. A little more than a week later came the now-infamous television interview, in which Cooper claimed the Wallabies were ”destroying” him ”as a person and as a player”. The reaction was swift and overwhelmingly negative.

”I understand it, of course,” he says. ”There’s a lot of people, myself included, when I look back over some of the things I said in that interview, there’s a lot of emotion and things that come across wrong and that I didn’t necessarily mean but that came out in a way that was [wrong].”

A $60,000 fine, $20,000 of which was suspended on the condition he toes the line going forward, and an awkward public apology followed but Cooper ruled himself out of the Wallabies tour of Europe in November while his future in rugby hung in the balance.

Three months on, with a lucrative new two-year deal but no guarantees of Wallabies selection, Cooper knows he may never be able to heal the rift with those supporters who found the on-air tantrum was a bridge too far.

”I apologise to everybody that thought I was disregarding the Wallabies jumper, that I didn’t want to play for the Wallabies,” he says. ”I know a lot of people will never fully understand my reaction or fully forgive me for what I did but I’ve got to get on with life and continue to come back and play as good a [game of] football as I can and hopefully everything will look after itself if I do the right thing.”

Cooper continues mulling what he’s learnt since being simultaneously booed and cheered by the Eden Park crowd as he limped off the field in Australia’s final game of the World Cup 16 months ago.

A skipping rope on the back seat of his car is an obvious nod to his controversial new side project, boxing, but is also an important part of the five-eighth’s renewed commitment to preparation, which includes knowing when to push and when to accept you’re not ready.

”If I had my time over I would never have come back [to the Reds] so soon or when I did come back I wouldn’t have played as much as I did because I just wasn’t ready for it,” he says.

Coming back from serious injury is the ultimate test of a quality athlete, balancing the time it takes to return to full physical and emotional strength against pressures from coaches, administrators and the athletes themselves.

As well as pushing his Super rugby return, Cooper now believes he might have been a ”liability” for the Wallabies.

”The things I’m able to do, that are my abilities and the strengths I bring to the team, I just wasn’t capable of doing those things,” he says. ”I probably wouldn’t have put my hand up to play because I feel like now I could have been a liability.”

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

Blowing the whistle on panic

Illustration: Jim Pavlidis.THE Australian sporting landscape – dramatised and catastrophised by a multiple and at a rate not possible before the internet era – looks a bleak place today.
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The Australian Crime Commission has identified corruption on a grand scale, with scope for much more. Essendon remains in a state of crisis as it seeks to deal with what is at very least a grubby look. Melbourne finds itself both victim and beneficiary of football realpolitik. Absolved of tanking on the grounds that the AFL does not know what it is, the Demons were penalised for bringing the game into disrepute anyway; this was not so much a judgment as an out-of-court settlement.

Two reports confirmed what had become obvious about Australia’s swimming team anyway, that it had grown too big for its budgie smugglers. In the aftermath of vandalism at a soccer match, the state government announced a crackdown on flare-lighters, scalpers and those most egregious of sporting wrongdoers, ambush marketers.

In Johannesburg, the Oscar Pistorius story broke, and broke, and broke. At the height of all this carnage, the wanton Ricky Ponting was booked for throwing his bat. Sport stood exposed as a darker and more evil place than any back alley, a cesspit of swirling greed, ego, ambition and immorality, no place to send your kids.

Or did it? How does this landscape really look when the glasses of inflammatory magnification are lowered? Is it really an irredeemably uglier place than it was a month ago? Or a year? Big time sport, with its nexus of glamour and money, always has attracted the corrupt; remember the Chicago Black Sox from almost a century ago? Cricket has been aware of match-fixing for nearly 20 years now.

Globalisation has brought corruption closer to home than ever. It is doubtful that this came to any administrator as a shock. As far as can be ascertained, the incidence of crookedness in Australian sport remains isolated. There is no suggestion of official conspiracy.

Drugs in sport are newer than fixing scams, but scarcely a Gen-Y concoction. In the last month, there has been a regrettable conflation, as the AFL convened a summit on the prevalence of illicit drugs, then the ACC suggested that there was an issue with performance-enhancing drugs in AFL and NRL.

Finally, on Friday, Australia’s swim relay team admitted to breaking the rules concerning prescription drugs. Following hard on the cleats of the Lance Armstrong scandal, it creates an impression of sport as one giant den of undifferentiated drug-addled debauchery.

If it looks as if sporting authorities are always chasing the cheats and miscreants, that is because they are. There is only so much that can be done pre-emptively. Every summer in Australia, despite all the vigilance, precautions and deterrents, there are always fires to put out.

In fighting an image of sport as some sort of anarchic orgy, authorities do not always help themselves. Sweeping statements about bringing evildoers to heel tend to make a hollow sound.

Pettifogging officiousness grates. Run out for 95 in a one-dayer in Perth, Ponting spun his bat in the air in the mildest gesture of frustration. For this, he got a ticket. It is as well for Rob Quiney that he caught his bat that afternoon in Adelaide, or he might have had more zeroes to deal with.

Protecting sponsors’ rights seems so beside the issue. It reminds me of the image of Sachin Tendulkar in the 1996 World Cup, hiding from the drinks cart lest he be identified with a rival soft-drink maker. Coke? Pepsi? I didn’t care then, and can’t remember now, and that’s the point. I remember only Tendulkar as a pawn.

As for the AFL’s bush lawyer ruling on Melbourne, consider the words that started it all, Dean Bailey’s on the day of his sacking: ”I was asked to do the best thing by the Melbourne Football Club, and I did the right thing by the Melbourne Football Club.” The AFL’s verdict, a bureaucratic masterpiece, was that the Demons had embarrassed the game, but not by tanking.

Sport is far from unblemished. As a microcosm of life, how could it be? When held up to the light, it is bound to show the worst of humanity as well as the best.

Not so long ago, we were as a country marvelling at the mighty batsmanship of Michael Clarke, and exchanging gracious farewells with Ponting and Mike Hussey, and hailing Novak Djokovic’s mastery at the Australian Open, and – if our eyes were open wide enough – admiring the excellence of the Australian women’s cricket team, and just last Saturday thrilling to the spectacle of Black Caviar in full flight, and on Thursday feeling a little warmer in our hearts as one-time refugee Fawad Ahmed took five wickets in debut to bowl Victoria to victory over Queensland, and – if our minds were free enough – speculating about the day Khawaja, Sandhu and Fawad might play together for Australia …

And believing and trusting in them all as we always have, which is both sport’s genetic flaw and eternal, animating charm.

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

Free-running Folau will give me room to move, says flyer Kingston

THERE are few in rugby with better inside knowledge of Israel Folau’s potential than Tom Kingston.
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The young Waratahs winger will start in the back line with Folau in the side’s season opener against Queensland on Saturday, and says the NSW fullback is as exciting to play with as he is to watch.

”He drags in that many defenders that it doesn’t matter who runs outside of him a lot of the time, guys like me and Drew [Mitchell] and Lachie [Turner] just have to pick our lines right and you can get some pay out there,” Kingston says.

Of course it does matter who runs outside Folau, and Saturday’s wing spots were among the most hotly contested in the starting XV.

Kingston beat the likes of Test-capped Turner and rookie Michael Hodge to get his start. Coach Michael Cheika went with the Sydney University player because, he said, he wanted a pure flyer who could ”pin his ears back every time he gets the ball”.

”It is the way it goes in rugby, and if you ask the same question to a guy like Lachie or Drew that’s probably how they got their opportunities, so it is a cyclical thing,” Kingston said of his elevation to the starting side.

”At the same time, that competition means it’s not [being selected in] week one and starting for the rest of the season, it’s that continual competition week in, week out. Cheik’s shown he’s going to pick the guy in the best form, so you’ve got to be carrying that form in week to week.”

Kingston’s form was among the strongest in the squad during the Waratahs’ three trial matches against the Rebels, Blues and Crusaders. Played in combination with Folau for some time in each match, the pair’s partnership helped Kingston score three tries against the Blues and gave the Waratahs’ attack genuine unpredictability.

Kingston said the time on field with Folau was invaluable.

”Athletically [Folau is] probably one of the best guys I’ve seen come through the door out of anyone I’ve trained with,” he said of his teammate. ”The Crusaders was a great test, guys that have played 60 or 70 Super Rugby games still can’t tackle him first-up, and that’s an incredible trait to have. He just beats people one on one. Not even one on one, three on one he was beating people.”

Saturday night will be the toughest test yet of the Waratahs oft-mentioned new attacking style. Kingston, 21, who is starting his second full season with NSW, said the side had been ironing out the kinks that were visible in their final warm-up against the Crusaders last week.

”[It was] pushing a last pass, and that’s in a lot of ways not a bad thing because it’s the energy and the enthusiasm coming out,” he said. ”If those passes go to hand we’re 20 points up against the Crusaders, and everyone’s cheering.”

There is no lack of confidence in Kingston but it is born of dedication and a studious application to his game, traits he said he modelled off Berrick Barnes and Tom Carter.

”In my first year [2011] I came in halfway through and it was all bright lights, but then you get a full season under your belt and you realise it’s a long slog, and you have to be diligent about your preparation every week because otherwise you can let it slip so quickly in the season,” he said.

”We did let it slip at points last year … but I don’t know that at any point last year we were as comfortable with our own game plan than we are this week.”

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

Cooper plans to make better fist of things this time around

Listen and learn … Quade Cooper looks on as Reds mate Will Genia takes the mic.HE WENT from Australian rugby’s hottest commodity to its most hated figure in the space of 14 months.
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It is fair to say Quade Cooper knows a thing or two about the ups and downs of professional sport.

Success never comes with a promise to stick around, and Cooper, a boxing match and a rugby game into his latest, hopeful comeback, has learnt that the hard way.

”The margins of success to failure are so small,” he says. ”At the start of [2011] everything was just falling into place, whether [the Reds] were playing the best football one week to not very well the next week, we were still winning games because we were working so hard. From the success of the 2011 Super Rugby season to the – I wouldn’t say failure, but – to the 2011 World Cup, us [Australia] not performing to our best and myself as well. That margin is so small, you can’t let up for a second.”

The car park of a suburban shopping centre in Brisbane’s south is an unlikely place for reflection.

But here is Cooper, sitting in his car on a Thursday night, wondering into his phone why he said the things he did on live television late last year and whether he would have said them at all if he hadn’t pushed his playing return so hard.

”I think to a degree they all coincided with each other,” he says. ”When you’re injured it’s a very tough time emotionally, there are so many ups and downs with rehab and there’s a lot of hard work and frustration that goes into it. A lot of things can add up, and I guess it’s just like anything in life, whatever your day job is, you can have a bad day in the office, a day when little things agitate you.”

Cooper had a bad few months. After the disaster of the World Cup campaign and the long road back from a serious knee injury, the Reds playmaker returned to the field last May to help salvage Queensland’s season and get the team through to the finals.

In August he made it into the Wallabies squad for the Rugby Championship but lacklustre performances in three Tests culminated in another injury to his knee and more surgery in September. A little more than a week later came the now-infamous television interview, in which Cooper said the Wallabies were ”destroying” him ”as a person and as a player”. The reaction was swift and overwhelmingly negative.

”I understand it, of course,” he says. ”There’s a lot of people, myself included, when I look back over some of the things I said in that interview, there’s a lot of emotion and things that come across wrong and that I didn’t necessarily mean but that came out in a way that was [wrong].”

A $60,000 fine, $20,000 of which was suspended, and an awkward public apology followed but Cooper ruled himself out of the Wallabies’ tour of Europe in November while his future in rugby hung in the balance.

Three months later, with a lucrative new two-year deal but no guarantees of Wallabies selection, Cooper knows he might never be able to heal the rift with those supporters who found the on-air tantrum a bridge too far, even for one as precociously talented as Cooper. ”I apologise to everybody that thought I was disregarding the Wallabies jumper, that I didn’t want to play for the Wallabies,” he says. ”I know a lot of people will never fully understand my reaction or fully forgive me for what I did but I’ve got to get on with life and continue to come back and play as good a [game of] football as I can, and hopefully everything will look after itself if I do the right thing.”

A skipping rope sits on the back seat as Cooper continues mulling over what he’s learnt since being simultaneously booed and cheered by the Eden Park crowd as he limped off the field in Australia’s final game of the World Cup 16 months ago.

The rope is an obvious nod to his controversial new side project, boxing, but is also an important part of the five-eighth’s renewed commitment to physical preparation, which includes knowing when to push and when to accept you’re not ready.

”If I had my time over I would never have come back [to the Reds] so soon or when I did come back I wouldn’t have played as much as I did because I just wasn’t ready for it,” he says. ”You might feel like you’re 100 per cent, you might feel confident, but playing footy – actually being out on the field and doing the things you know you’re capable of or have been capable of – takes time.”

Australia hasn’t seen the best of Cooper since that sizzling Super Rugby season nearly two years ago. As well as pushing his Super Rugby return from the knee injury, Cooper believes he might have been a ”liability” for the Wallabies. ”The things I’m able to do, that are my abilities and the strengths I bring to the team, I just wasn’t capable of doing those things,” he says.

But car park confessions do not amount to regrets for a footballer who would be content to never make it back to poster-boy status.

”In our world, for professional athletes, a lot of people are there for the ride, they’ll use you while you’re relevant and move on to the next thing that comes by,” he says.

”It’s tough to learn but it’s better to learn it earlier rather than later. I’m glad I’ve been through a lot of experiences, and I’d like to say that now I’m in a position where I’m learning from all the mistakes I’ve made.”

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