Warriors bid for Waddell

TRAVIS Waddell’s brief stint with the Newcastle Knights appears to be over after he attracted an offer from the New Zealand Warriors.
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Waddell, who was released by Canberra at the end of last season, signed with Brisbane club Souths Logan but has been training with the Knights and played in their trial match against South Sydney last week.

Newcastle had proposed using the Aboriginal All Stars hooker as a stopgap, training with them once a month and coming into contention for a call-up if there was an injury crisis. But in the meantime the Warriors have shown concrete interest.

‘‘He’s got an offer to go to the Warriors,’’ Knights coach Wayne Bennett said yesterday.

‘‘That’s probably where he’ll finish up. I’m not totally sure. That’s a decision he’s got to make. He’s in the process now, I think.

‘‘We just haven’t moved our position. There’s not any bargaining going on, or a tussle for him.’’

Bennett was confident the Knights had ample depth to cover dummy-half, even with veteran Danny Buderus expected to miss the opening rounds of the season after recent back surgery.

Matt Hilder will start at rake in tonight’s hit-out against Cronulla at Tamworth, and Chris Adams will come off the bench to give him some respite.

Bennett also has the option of moving skipper Kurt Gidley to hooker, allowing him to bring on playmaker Tyrone Roberts, who scored two tries in the win against Souths.

‘‘I think we’ve all seen Kurt play enough at hooker to know that, if push comes to shove, he can do that job,’’ Bennett said.

‘‘All the indications are Danny will be back to play most of the season.’’

Bennett has stuck with the same starting line-up as last week but said there were vacancies that needed filling, especially on the bench.

‘‘That’s what they’re all fighting for,’’ he said. ‘‘There’s still one or two positions there I’m not really convinced about at the moment.’’

The coach said former NSW Origin winger James McManus, who has been recovering from a knee injury, would receive game time tonight in the second half.

‘‘We’ll give him a bit of a run and make sure everything’s fine and he should be fit to start the season,’’ Bennett said.

After complaining last week about the ruck-wrestling against Souths, Bennett said he had spoken to referees coach Daniel Anderson but was reluctant to divulge details.

‘‘I had a good conversation with Daniel,’’ he said. ‘‘That’s all I want to say on it.’’

AAP reports: Warriors coach Matthew Elliott is expecting more intensity from his players in their final pre-season match today against Brisbane in Dunedin.

The Warriors have lost trial matches against Gold Coast and Penrith and Elliott wants an improvement in their last hit-out before they play Parramatta on March 9.

‘‘We want to improve from game to game, and that applies to the Broncos,’’ he said.

‘‘They have a young, athletic, very physical team. They’ll be a good challenge and measuring stick for us.’’

Elliott, who is entering his first season with the Warriors, is excited by the challenge after their eight-win, 16-loss record last year.

‘‘A lot of guys had their first hit-out against Penrith and we are just in a bit of a process at the moment,’’ Elliott said.

‘‘We haven’t been too concerned about results.

‘‘The scoreboard [32-18] disappointed me last week, and it wasn’t the performance we were looking for, but we’ll improve.’’

Former Melbourne and Newcastle back-rower Todd Lowrie will make his debut and Jerome Ropati returns from injury.

Elliott is happy to have both on deck.

‘‘He [Lowrie] played for a premiership-winning side last year and he’s brought a lot of unity to our team as far as the style of game he has under his belt.

‘‘Jerome has come back from two serious knee injuries and this game is more about getting him back on the park again and letting him accumulate some confidence,’’ Elliott said.

Elliott said the Warriors had not set a goal for the season as they rebuild from a shaky 2012.

‘‘We’re going to prepare to win every game and let the results look after themselves,’’ he said.

‘‘It will be a tough season but, if you out-prepare your opposition, it gives you the best opportunity to win. Last year is not a reference point for me.’’

Pita Godinet has replaced the injured Alehana Mara on the bench for the Warriors.

Captain Sam Thaiday, who is coming back from shoulder surgery, will come off the bench for the Broncos.


Perfect setting

Fairytales sometimes really do come true.
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Last week’s expose on the church ruin on the side of the Federal Highway just north of Collector (Kirkdale Intrigue, pages 38-39) prompted a number of readers to confess about their yearning to be married in the romantic rural setting.

“Oh, I’ve always loved that church from the time I first saw it as a kid with its stone walls, shingled roof and vestry,” gushes Sharon Jones of Wanniassa. ”It just looked so perfect for a place to exchange nuptials.”

In response to this column’s shout-out if anyone has actually been married in the church, Charles Body of Kaleen and Ken Charlton of Ainslie both dug up an old Canberra Times article from 1976 (Workman Whistling by Jon Prance, May 3) that revealed there was at least one documented wedding in the church’s heyday – that of a local farmer, Mr J.A. Baxter, who exchanged vows in the church in 1921. “The article also suggests that the church closed in the late 1940s or early 1950s,” Body says.

Body also dusted off a copy of the Goulburn Herald and Chronicle dated December 9, 1874, published shortly after the church’s opening, which claims that it “will hold about eighty persons comfortably”.

“Far be it from me to argue with the Goulburn Herald and Chronicle, but the newspaper’s definition of ‘comfortably’ must be different from yours and mine,” writes Body, referring to the church’s diminutive dimensions.

Surprisingly, given its state of disrepair, my request for further information on the landmark church flushed out details of at least two contemporary weddings.

Firstly, Craig Shrimpton of Edinburgh in Scotland reports that he married his now ex-wife in the stone church in 1998.

“Like a lot of people, I had driven past it countless times and wondered what it was,” my far-flung correspondent says. ”When we were looking for a venue we decided it could be worth a look. So we approached the property owners and they let us have a look around. They were really friendly and helpful folks.

“At the time, it was basically a massive rabbit warren. Still, the place itself looked great under a blue sky. So we teed up a local lad to come in and level the floor. It was a great day and a fantastic location, and thankfully we got very lucky with the weather.”

As to the questionable church capacity, “I think we had around 50 and it was pretty squeezy and standing room only but we had left some space at the front and there were a few patches of the floor that were very soft and uneven so people avoided those,” Shrimpton reports. “Perhaps they could get 80 in back in the day when it had a floor but it would be tight.”

Secondly, Heather Aspinall of Ainslie reports that she “attended a delightful wedding at the church in December 1999.”

Aspinall reports that her friend, Peita Littleton, “had always wanted to be married there”.

Now, I’m not too sure if celebrations got out of hand at Shrimpton’s shindig for the condition of the church must have deteriorated somewhat in the year between the weddings because Aspinall reports, “unfortunately, the church itself was in too poor a state to allow people inside but the property owners were happy for the couple to be wedded in the grounds”.

Littleton’s big day was apparently quite a spectacle and, just like Shrimpton’s, was blessed with good weather. “It was a glorious sunny day, not at all cold or windy (as you can see from all of the hats in the photo) and the wedding had some spectacular arrivals with someone flying in with a helicopter and landing in the field next door,” Aspinall reports. “It was a memorable event and a beautiful old building, although I was rather glad not to have gone inside when I saw the state of the roof.”

Shrimpton was also a tad disheartened with the state of the building at the time of his wedding. “It seems a shame for it to be so derelict when we have so little in the way of buildings of that age and structure,” he says.

”Ironically, living in Scotland now, I see so many churches of that age that have been converted into houses, bars, lighting stores etc all over the show. It actually makes me think we should be better looking after these kind of properties in Australia.”

STOP PRESS: It seems Shrimpton’s wish for the crumbling church to be preserved has been partially granted.

While Kevin McCloud and his team from Grand Designs hasn’t quite got hold of it yet and turned it into a roadside tavern or quaint B&B, Jude Dodd, who has been travelling the Federal Highway regularly for 40 years, ”recently noticed that the church is now sporting a new dark grey roof (colourbond or painted corrugated iron), and a brand new door in a similar colour.”SPOTTED

Regular readers may recall this column’s feature last year on an elaborate network of rope bridges and “glider poles” that over the past five years has been strategically placed along sections of the Hume Highway in Victoria, and near the New South Wales/Victoria border, to help threatened marsupials such as the squirrel glider (Petaurus norfolcensis) cross the busy highway safely (A Glider’s Best Friend, August 4, 2012) .

Since the inception of the odd looking man-made structures (below), Kylie Soanes, a PhD candidate at the University of Melbourne, has used motion-triggered cameras to spy on animals that use the crossing and has undertaken some initial evaluation of their use by the threatened critters.

“It began slowly, with only a few gliders tentatively inspecting the structures during the first two years. However, since then, both the rope bridges and glider poles have become popular, with squirrel gliders crossing more than 2000 times,” Soanes reports. Soanes’s cameras have also detected common brushtail possums, common ringtail possums, sugar gliders, brush-tailed phascogales, and even a goanna using the structures to cross the freeway.MAILBAG


Ken Wood of Holt has taken exception to this column’s recent claim that Big Cone Pines (Pinus coulteri), such as those growing in the Bendora Arboretum in the Brindabellas, produce the world’s biggest pine cones (Back to Life, January 19). My aptly-named correspondent reckons such a lofty title ought to belong, instead, to the colossal cones of a Queensland native, the Bunya Pine (Araucaria bidwillii). Wood even cites a story he recalls from the late 1940s when living in northern NSW as part of his claim: “A local resident was sitting in a deck chair under one of the trees in his front yard. He went inside the house and, on his return, he found one of these cones had fallen through the chair that he had recently vacated.”

Unfortunately for Wood, his coney claim is dismissed on a technicality for, although the Bunya Pine does produce watermelon-sized cones much larger and heavier (some over 10 kilograms in weight) than those of the Pinus coulteri, it is not actually a true pine – rather, as its scientific name indicates, an araucaria.

Did You Know? The Bunya Pine Lawn at Lanyon Homestead in the ACT, a popular wedding location, is closed every March – due to “the falling of cones” from the two large Bunyas that grow there.


Email: [email protected]南京夜网 or Twitter: @TimYowie or write to me c/o The Canberra Times 9 Pirie St, Fyshwick.

PS: Don’t forget there’s a full moon this Tuesday so if the cloud stays away it should be an opportunity to witness the ”Stairway to the Moon” phenomenon on Lake George, which this column recently named as one of our region’s Top 5 sights to behold (Nature’s Wonders, February 9). If you do snap any photos of the reflection of a rising full moon on the lake’s shallow waters that give the illusion of a magical stairway leading up to the moon, I’d love to see them.

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Lundy rejects doubts on ASADA independence

A STINGING assessment of Australia’s recent record of exposing drug cheats in sport, from one of the nation’s leading anti-doping experts, has been rebuked by the federal Sports Minister.
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Dr Michael Ashenden, an expert in blood doping who has worked for the World Anti-Doping Agency, the Australian Sports Anti-Doping Authority and the International Cycling Union, said Australia had ”rested on its laurels” since the Sydney Olympics.

Questioning the autonomy of ASADA – a suggestion Sport Minister Kate Lundy strongly rejected – Ashenden said the Australian government ”should be embarrassed about its track record on anti-doping”.

Describing ASADA, who he has worked for and advised, as a body with ”exciting potential”, Ashenden said ”for some reason things just haven’t clicked and the results they’ve produced so far have been pretty modest”.

”I think the Australian government has rested on its laurels since the Sydney Olympics … an era when it was quite rightly regarded as a world leader in anti-doping.

”Since then, nothing startling has come from Australia. In fact nowadays we are out of step on important issues, such as the debate about zero tolerance toward past drug use by athletes and support staff. I think the Australian government should be embarrassed about its track record on anti-doping.

”Australia is an international laughing stock regarding how our favourite son Shane Warne was treated when he was found to have used a diuretic.

”In the last 13 years since our lab has been able to detect EPO, we have found just one Australian athlete who blood doped. Frankly that is ridiculous. It seems to me either we’re a nation of angels, or we’re not doing what it takes to catch the cheats.”

Ashenden regards the US Anti-Doping Agency as ”far and away” the world’s best.

”A crucial difference is that USADA are autonomous, whereas ASADA must ultimately answer to our minister for sport,” he said.

”I worry that situation presents a conflict of interest, because public servants are obligated to serve their minister and the last thing a minister for sport wants is a doping scandal.”

Senator Lundy refuted Ashenden’s claim about ASADA’s autonomy, saying: ”These comments show a complete lack of regard for the legislative independence of ASADA and its testing and investigations of athletes.

”The most recent work by ASADA and the ACC [Australian Crime Commission] is proof that the Australian government is committed to deal with the serious issues confronting the integrity of Australian sport.

”As a government organisation, ASADA is arguably more accountable to taxpayers who invest significantly in Australian sport than a private organisation ever could be.”

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Stilnox and stupidity

WITH apologies to Jane Austen …
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“It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of great sporting talent, will, upon going through Customs on his first major overseas representative tour for Australia, lose 10 years from his mental age.” No exceptions.

Eighteen-year-olds will laugh at eight-year-old fart jokes, 22-year-olds will act like 12-year-olds and even 26-year-olds will still have an embarrassing compulsion to act like juveniles.

So it has been through the sporting ages – including in the experience of this correspondent – so it is, and so it will be in the future.

And so it was clearly with the members of the 4 x 100 metre relay team, just before the London Olympics as – in a sport where the difference between victory and defeat is measured in as little as a hundredth of a second – they still thought it would be fun, and “bonding”, to take sleeping pills, possibly mixed with the Red Bull drink, before carrying on like idiots and waking up other team members.

For me, the issue is less about the fact that most of this relay team behaved like dickheads, and far more a question of where was the senior and mature leadership in this team, to curb this natural infantility? Where was the coach, where was the management, where were the older members of the team, as all this

was going on? Why weren’t they pulling the younger ones into line? How did the culture of the whole set-up so lose its way?

We know where the 27-year-old Eamon Sullivan was, on his third Olympics. He was there on the night, in the middle of the throng, as he and his teammates take the AOC-proscribed drug of Stilnox, provided by him, a week before the biggest sporting contest of their lives. He was there as those team members then carried on with it, by waking up other team members with random calls, door-knocking and possibly worse.

Mate, with your experience, did it not occur to you that, as the senior member of the team, it was up to you to call off the jam, to say this is not the go? And what about you, Matthew Targett, also 27, and on your second Olympic Games? Never a thought that maybe as one of the adults in the piece, your duty was to settle everyone down, the way mature members did it for you in 2008?

And finally you, Australian coach Leigh Nugent? This kind of stuff was going on, on your watch, and you claim you knew nothing about the taking of the Stilnox at the time, and have barely heard about it since? Please. This is either truthful or untruthful, and it is a moot point as to which is more appalling.

If truthful, how distant must you have been from the team you are charged with guiding, that you could not have known about it? If you did know about it however, how the hell can you not have knocked heads together the following day to stop this kind of nonsense cold?

For we have all seen the results, or lack thereof. Millions of taxpayer dollars had been put towards preparing your team, with battalions of dietitians, sports psychologists and scientists unleashed, even as tens of thousands of laps were swum by your charges in the best environments imaginable – all for the worst results in the modern era. And yet somehow, this ludicrously infantile and damaging nonsense happened in the crucial immediate lead-up to the contest, without you raising a word against it.

Your watch, Leigh Nugent. Your responsibility. Do the right thing.

Twitter: @Peter_Fitz

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Fallen stars: shameful games began long before the Olympics

In deep water … James Magnussen, centre, with Cameron McEvoy, left, and Eamon Sullivan at their news conference on Friday.”INSPIRE a generation” was the motto of the London Olympic Games. But what might the rising pool of Australian swimmers make of the public shaming of the men’s 4 x 100 metre relay team?
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That they were ”truly, sincerely, deeply” sorry for taking a banned drug less than a fortnight before the Games was not in doubt – each athlete atoned in turn for the media. One television station brought no less than seven cameras to the Sydney mea culpa – Julia Gillard would be grateful for so many.

Asked who had taken the prescription sedative Stilnox, after the ”hypnotic drug” had been banned by the Australian Olympic Committee, five men raised their hand like errant schoolboys: Tommaso D’Orsogna, James Magnussen, Cameron McEvoy, Eamon Sullivan and Matt Targett.

Only James Roberts abstained. But he could still face sanctions, with Magnussen and McEvoy, for ”inappropriate behaviour” towards two female team members at the pre-Games camp in Manchester. The swimmers admitted making prank calls and knocking on the women’s hotel door but denied allegations they entered their room.

The entire team denied drinking alcohol or staying up late. ”We were all in bed by 10.30pm,” they said in a joint statement.

They now face a Swimming Australia integrity panel inquiry, though you might expect any penalty will pale against the pain of missing out on an expected gold medal in London.

A sheen of sweat lit the face of Magnussen, who looked into his lap with a thousand-yard stare. His ”childish behaviour” could cost him the $10,000 he received from the AOC for winning a silver medal in the 100 metres freestyle.

He discovered then the pain of being beaten by a fingernail. Now here was the full face slap of public ignominy. ”I think one of the reasons I agreed to go along with this night is I was feeling under so much pressure and it had been building for the best part of a year,” he said. ”The chance to

sort of bond with these guys and, you know, be normal for one night were my intentions.”

Taking Stilnox did not affect his performance in the pool, he insisted.

That infamous Manchester evening in July 2012 began with a movie – The Dark Knight Rises – and tapas before talk turned to initiation rituals. Senior squad members Sullivan and Targett spoke about taking Stilnox and it was decided, the team said, ”to continue in what we felt was a harmless activity and tradition”.

The tablets were prescribed to Sullivan and Targett before the AOC ban and dispensed in Australia. Each team member – barring Roberts – took a tablet. ”Hindsight is a wonderful thing and of course I regret my decision, and as a senior member of the team I should have stood up and shown more leadership at the time,” Sullivan said.

Head coach Leigh Nugent was told the next day about the prank calls and doorknocks but failed to act. Yet Swimming Australia’s president, Barclay Nettlefold, expressed full confidence in his coach on Friday.

The AOC said it would await the report of a Swimming Australia integrity panel before deciding on possible penalties, such as withdrawing the athletes’ funding. The AOC has also engaged a QC to conduct its own investigation.

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Drug ban won’t work

SPORTS medicine pioneer and former Dragons club doctor Tony Millar warned federal Sports Minister Kate Lundy that codes such as the NRL and AFL will never be drug free.
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Millar, who was the St George doctor during the last eight of their record 11 consecutive premierships and founded the country’s first sports medicine clinic in Lewisham, has written to Lundy over the Australian Crime Commission report into doping and match-fixing.

He told Lundy there had always been rumours of drug-taking and he had witnessed players being handed tablets containing a ”useless substance” but he was not aware of any systematic doping program in the game.

Millar said ”innuendo” created by the ACC report had effected innocent players and he also questioned how anti-doping authorities determined which substances were on the banned list. ”Testing, banning and punishing have never solved any problem and will not settle this one,” said Millar, comparing attempts to ban drugs with the prohibition of alcohol in the US in the 1930s. ”There is evidence that cheating goes on in the highest levels in sport. [But] the whole emphasis in the banning program is on the sportsperson and there is no penalty on the coaches and club officials.

”My interest and concern is that the athlete will be forced on the blackmarket with the potential of permanent harm that can be caused by impurities, as happened in the prohibition era with alcohol.”

Millar, who admitted administering ”low-level performers” with steroids as a ”harm reduction” initiative rather than them buying drugs illegally, said a similar approach would ”protect the athletes and reduce the overall usage”.

”There is no evidence testing will eradicate this problem in top-level sport,” he said. ”The Police Minister admitted that only a few are caught and this costs us billions.”

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Pool’s blame and shame laid bare

Sorry sight … Cameron McEvoy, James Magnussen and Eamon Sullivan deliver their mea culpa on Friday.It is day one of the Games of the XXX Olympiad and in the poolside massage room, in the wash-up of the heats of the women’s 4×100 metre relay, golden girl Libby Trickett is screaming abuse. She has not been picked to swim in that night’s final and lets fly at the Australian swimming squad coaches in an expletive-laden tirade, according to an athlete in the room.
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The relay team of Cate Campbell, Alicia Coutts, Brittany Elmslie and Melanie Schlanger goes on to win what will be the nation’s only gold medal in the pool at the London Olympics. But even that shining moment has been dulled by the turgid tales swamping Australian swimming: late-night benders on banned prescription drugs, a ”toxic” culture of bullying and intimidation, half-naked male swimmers allegedly trying to force their way into the beds of women team members and open hostility in the squad.

”There’s a really deep belief that ‘my loss is your gain’ and vice versa,” a member of the Australian team told Fairfax Media.

He compared Australia’s swimming stocks to crabs in a bucket.

”If one crab tries to get out the other crabs will try to pull them back. If they worked as a team they could get out of the tin, but the reality is different.”

The public shaming of the men’s 4×100 metre relay team on Friday was a clue to how deep the bucket drops. But for sheer symbolism it is hard to top the image of four-time gold medallist Trickett, who did not respond to calls, spitting obscenities at then women’s relay coach Shannon Rollason.

Trickett has previously acknowledged a ”conversation” with Rollason, while reports have intimated ”it was somewhat more than a conversation”.

For decades Australian swimming has basked in a golden glow.

Now it’s drowning, not waving.

”Swimming was like the short-back-and-sides, clean, healthy young person sport with a squeaky clean image,” said triple gold-medallist Shane Gould. ”It has certainly been tarnished.”

Revelations of the recreational use of prescription sedative Stilnox, banned by the Australian Olympic Committee before the Games, have particularly scoured the shine from our swimmers. ”There wasn’t enough control over the use of Stilnox, so the swimmers were abusing it, sometimes mixing it with alcohol,” Gould said.

”I think what’s happened is the athletes are no longer teenagers, as in my era, they are adults and doing adult things, so they have more challenges with drugs and relationships. I think that’s why we’re seeing not just a squeaky clean kid, because they’re no longer kids.”

On Friday, Swimming Australia sought to stop the rot by parading the disgraced men’s relay team before the press.

The public mea culpa came the same day as allegations by swimmer Jade Neilsen. She says that James Magnussen, James Roberts and Cameron McEvoy came to her room late one night at the team staging camp in Manchester and acted ”inappropriately”.

But no one’s climbing out of the crab bucket unscathed.

Australian swimming has been in gradual decline in world status since 2004. Two reviews into the team’s relatively poor performance in London this week exposed the depth of problems facing the sport, which has consistently underpinned Australia’s Olympic success.

That they followed allegations by the Australian Crime Commission of widespread use across sporting codes of performance-enhancing drugs and of links to organised crime, prompting the BBC to ask whether Australian sport was badly broken.

”On the field and off, Australian sport is arguably at its lowest ebb since the Montreal Olympics in 1976,” said the British broadcaster.

Feeding such schadenfreude were the findings of a review commissioned by Swimming Australia that our Olympic swimmers were embroiled within a ”toxic” team culture marred by bullying, misuse of prescription drugs and alcohol, breach of curfews and deceit.

Incidents of ”intimidation” were not addressed and a leadership vacuum left swimmers feeling ”undefended, alone, alienated”.

They spoke of an ”increasingly desperate” focus on winning gold. One swimmer described this as ”like looking at the sun – something you had to turn away from after a while”.

Review author Pippa Grange said: ”The team dynamic became like a schoolyard clamour for attention and influence.”

A separate report, commissioned by Swimming Australia and the Australian Sports Commission, traced such problems to the top, depicting a bloated administration that was out of touch with athletes.

A lack of leadership from coaches and team management had encouraged a ”culture of individualism” among swimmers, fed by a failure to penalise poor behaviour.

Some swimmers celebrated the under-performance of teammates.

Others were satisfied simply with selection in the team rather than trying to improve their performance on the Olympic stage.

An attitude of ”what’s in it for me?” prevailed.

”Every part of the team – athletes, coaches, management – must accept responsibility for the decline in behaviour and team culture,” said the review panel, led by former Australian Sports Commission chairman Warwick Smith.

One current Australian Olympic swimmer, who declined to be named, said findings such as these were long overdue.

Relations between the men’s and women’s squads are thought to be dire, with accusations some are feeding negative news stories to the media to discredit their peers.

”It is pretty divisive. There’s no common goal that everyone believes in. There’s the ‘we’re going to be the best team in the world’ hoorah statement. But it’s not really that strong.”

There is a sense that such problems would have remained unchecked by Swimming Australia if the team had enjoyed greater success in London.

”These reports wouldn’t have happened if our performance was good. I think they would rather the average punter open the newspaper and see a gold medallist than a happy loser.”

Swimming Australia’s problems go well beyond athlete misbehaviour. The independent review by Smith highlighted fundamental structural flaws, such as the lack of a national talent identification strategy and proper induction process. Coaching accreditation problems perpetuated ”a culture of athletes being ‘meal tickets”’.

The review suggested benchmarks for team selection were too low and that team trials were staged too far out from the Games.

Head coach Leigh Nugent, who this week admitted he failed to act on reports of misbehaviour by the men’s relay team, was spread too thinly and offered ”minimal oversight”, the review found.

The former swimming head coach Don Talbot said his successor had to bear much of the blame for the Olympic squad’s failings.

”Leigh Nugent is a friend of mine and he is a very good coach. Swimmers have always been outspoken and some of them have misbehaved, but if something is not going right the head coach has got to do something about it,” he said.

Current Australian athletes had failed to adapt their attitude and expectations to the increasingly competitive swimming world, he added. ”Australians are a bit like ‘I have made the team and just have to appear and everyone will lay down before us’, and they get a hell of a shock when that doesn’t happen.

”From what I can see, a loss of momentum happened.”

Former gold medallist Kieren Perkins, who was on the panel for the Warwick Smith review, blamed behavioural issues on the lack of accountable leadership within the sport. ”When you have an organisation that doesn’t have a clear direction or understanding of what everyone is trying to deliver, like any business, it becomes a complete rabble,” he said.

The high-performance focus on individual athletes had prompted problems within the team, he said. ”I believe when you get to an elite level in sport a very significant part of your responsibility is to lead, mentor and help develop those coming up through the ranks. But when you isolate out elite athletes they lose a sense of reality … they don’t have clear moral guideposts.”

He stressed that Swimming Australia had already taken steps to rectify its structure, including the appointment of president Barclay Nettlefold and the departure of chief executive Kevin Neil.

Neil, who resigned in November, declined to comment on the reviews in detail.

”To me, what it says basically is the team got beat by better swimmers – I don’t know what else to read into it.”

Australian swimming has been the victim of its own success, to some degree.

The sport has provided 59 of Australia’s 142 Olympic gold medals and enjoyed notable success since the 2000 Sydney Games. But past performance is not a determinant of future success, the Warwick Smith review notes.

A troubling sign for the sport is the increasing reliance on government grants amid a slide in sponsorship dollars by $2.5 million since 2007-08, to $1.9 million.

”We have been spoiled by success in swimming,” said Richard Cashman, director of the Australian centre for Olympic studies at the University of Technology Sydney.

But positioning Australian sport at its ”lowest ebb” was melodramatic, he said.

”I think the sport’s reputation has been dented but at the next Games Magnussen will be much more mature and we’ll get a couple of gold medals and forget about it all …

There is obviously some need for reform but I think with some tinkering rather than ostracising swimmers and kicking out the coach maybe we will improve, reform and regenerate the program.”

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

GALLERY: Jets draw with Brisbane Roar

WET WORK: Jets skipper Ruben Zadkovich battles away in pouring rain at Hunter Stadium last night. Picture: Simone De Peak AT ARM’S LENGTH: Jets defenders Dominik Ritter and Taylor Regan keep Stefan Nijland in check at Hunter Stadium last night. Picture: Getty Images
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ROUND 22: Action from the Jets v Brisbane Roar game at Hunter Stadium on Friday night. Picture: Getty Images

ROUND 22: Action from the Jets v Brisbane Roar game at Hunter Stadium on Friday night. Picture: Getty Images

ROUND 22: Action from the Jets v Brisbane Roar game at Hunter Stadium on Friday night. Picture: Getty Images

ROUND 22: Action from the Jets v Brisbane Roar game at Hunter Stadium on Friday night. Picture: Getty Images

ROUND 22: Action from the Jets v Brisbane Roar game at Hunter Stadium on Friday night. Picture: Getty Images

ROUND 22: Action from the Jets v Brisbane Roar game at Hunter Stadium on Friday night. Picture: Getty Images

ROUND 22: Action from the Jets v Brisbane Roar game at Hunter Stadium on Friday night. Picture: Getty Images

ROUND 22: Action from the Jets v Brisbane Roar game at Hunter Stadium on Friday night. Picture: Getty Images

ROUND 22: Action from the Jets v Brisbane Roar game at Hunter Stadium on Friday night. Picture: Getty Images

ROUND 22: Action from the Jets v Brisbane Roar game at Hunter Stadium on Friday night. Picture: Getty Images

ROUND 22: Action from the Jets v Brisbane Roar game at Hunter Stadium on Friday night. Picture: Getty Images

Missed the game live blog with David Lowe? Revisit the action here

THE Jets took another tentative step on the tightrope walk to the A-League finals with a nil-all draw against two-time champions Brisbane at Hunter Stadium on Fridaynight, but only after benefiting from a controversial no-goal ruling in their favour.

The Roar appeared to have drawn first blood in the 43rd minute when Socceroos defender Jade North, who famously skippered the Jets to their 2008 grand final triumph, stabbed the ball into the back of the net, only to be ruled offside.

Replays suggested the decision was line-ball, and Brisbane coach Mike Mulvey was left to rue a call that could prove extremely costly in the race for the play-offs.

‘‘Look, I haven’t seen it, but Corey Brown, we brought him as our 16th player, he was upstairs and he said it was definitely a goal,’’ Mulvey said.

‘‘So that’s disappointing. But that’s football and these things happen. We’re not going to dwell on it. We need to dwell on the positives.’’

Like Mulvey, Jets coach Gary van Egmond said he did not have a clear view of the incident.

‘‘I didn’t even see the replay, so I can’t comment on that, but I’m sure we’ve had a couple like that as well,’’ van Egmond said.

ROUND 22: Action from the Jets v Brisbane Roar game at Hunter Stadium on Friday night. Picture: Simone De Peak

ROUND 22: Action from the Jets v Brisbane Roar game at Hunter Stadium on Friday night. Picture: Simone De Peak

ROUND 22: Action from the Jets v Brisbane Roar game at Hunter Stadium on Friday night. Picture: Simone De Peak

ROUND 22: Action from the Jets v Brisbane Roar game at Hunter Stadium on Friday night. Picture: Simone De Peak

ROUND 22: Action from the Jets v Brisbane Roar game at Hunter Stadium on Friday night. Picture: Simone De Peak

ROUND 22: Action from the Jets v Brisbane Roar game at Hunter Stadium on Friday night. Picture: Simone De Peak

ROUND 22: Action from the Jets v Brisbane Roar game at Hunter Stadium on Friday night. Picture: Simone De Peak

ROUND 22: Action from the Jets v Brisbane Roar game at Hunter Stadium on Friday night. Picture: Simone De Peak

ROUND 22: Action from the Jets v Brisbane Roar game at Hunter Stadium on Friday night. Picture: Simone De Peak

ROUND 22: Action from the Jets v Brisbane Roar game at Hunter Stadium on Friday night. Picture: Simone De Peak

Newcastle entered the round-22 fixture sixth on 26 points, one point behind fifth-placed Sydney and two ahead of both Brisbane and Melbourne Heart.

A win would have given the home side a five-point buffer on seventh position, at least temporarily, and allowed them to breathe a little more easily.

Instead they moved level with Sydney, who remain fifth on goal difference, and both Brisbane and Heart remain in striking distance.

If the Heart beat Sydney at AAMI Park tomorrow, Newcastle will be left clinging to sixth place on goal difference.

Van Egmond admitted he had mixed emotions about the result.

He was satisfied with his team’s resolve in defence but would have preferred a win on home turf.

‘‘Look, we’re at home, if you get maximum points, you’re five points away from them and it really puts you in a good position for the run into the finals,’’ he said.

‘‘But I think we can take quite a bit out of that, with the performance and the opportunities we created.’’

The Jets face a battle of nerves in their five remaining games, the next three of which are in the space of nine days.

On Wednesday they face hoodoo team Wellington Phoenix in the New Zealand capital, followed by Melbourne Victory (away) on Sunday, Perth (home) on March8, Adelaide (away) on March15 and Western Sydney (home) on March29.

Last night was the fifth time Newcastle have kept a clean sheet this season and their second in as many games, after last week’s 2-0 win against the Heart.

But they were lucky to survive with their goal intact after a nerve-racking first half played in often torrential rain.

Striker Besart Berisha, in particular, was menacing and Newcastle keeper Mark Birighitti produced a string of brave saves to keep him at bay.

At the other end of the pitch, Newcastle’s only real chance came in the sixth minute when defender Josh Brillante produced a pinpoint cross for marquee striker Emile Heskey, whose diving shot hit the right-hand post.

Jets skipper Ruben Zadkovich prompted a diving save from Brisbane’s Michael Theo in the 52nd minute with a fierce left-foot shot.

The slippery conditions resulted in a string of dubious challenges, and referee Lucien Lavedure was regularly reaching for his pocket, handing out seven yellow cards.

Given the weather, the 8310 spectators who attended the match deserved credit for their dedication and resilience.

Van Egmond fielded an unchanged starting line-up, although he tinkered with his bench, adding youngster Andrew Hoole at the expense of Craig Goodwin.

AAP reports: Singapore police said the suspected boss of a major football match-fixing ring was ‘‘assisting’’ investigations after the head of Interpol urged his arrest and an alleged associate was held in Italy.

Tan Seet Eng, also known as Dan Tan, who has been named in several probes and is wanted in Italy, is ‘‘assisting Singapore authorities in their investigations’’, police said.

It is the first time police have indicated Tan has undergone questioning.

Singapore has come under growing pressure to act after Europol linked hundreds of suspicious games worldwide to a criminal syndicate in the city-state.

TAFE art students stay the course

HUNTER TAFE visual arts student Kelsey Fletcher could have decided to transfer to university when told of a tenfold increase in the cost of her TAFE diploma.
Nanjing Night Net

‘‘But a few of my friends and I decided to stay at TAFE,’’ she said.

‘‘Having the support system I have here I wouldn’t think of doing it any other way – I want to stick it out.’’

The state government announced in September last year its decision to cut subsidies for visual art, sculpture and ceramic TAFE courses, citing low job prospects and poor course completion rates.

The price of one-year visual arts and advanced visual arts diplomas increased from $1300 to $12,500.

By comparison, the Australian student contribution for a three-year University of Newcastle fine arts degree is $5868 a year, or a total of $17,600.

Ms Fletcher, 19, decided to re-enrol at Hunter TAFE’s 120-year-old Newcastle Art School and took advantage of the new VET FEE-HELP scheme, that allows students to defer repayment until they earn more than $49,000 a year.

Hunter TAFE Teachers Federation Union representative and head teacher of fine arts Matthew Tome said the scheme had been the institution’s ‘‘saving grace’’.

He conceded enrolments had dropped, with the school losing about half the size of its cohort from last year, mostly from ‘‘around the edges’’.

Mr Tome said there were about 90 students in what was a two-year diploma last year.

A new one-year diploma introduced this year has 30 full-time students and 18 studying part-time.

The advanced diploma had 32 students last year and has 30 enrolled this year.

‘‘Things are generally better than we thought they would be and the sense of things is quite positive,’’ he said.

‘‘The students who have stayed feel it’s worth it.

‘‘They see value in the art school, they know they’re going to get great training in art …’’

Ms Fletcher said the most noticeable difference was in the departure of staff or reduction in their working hours.

‘‘The one-on-one we had with them in the classroom was always what we were drawn to rather than uni,’’ she said.

Ms Fletcher will complete her advanced diploma this year and one year of university next year before graduating with a Bachelor of Fine Arts.

WORTH IT: Hunter TAFE students Kelsey Fletcher, left, and Ashlee Bucholtz with their artworks. Picture: Simone De Peak

Royle shot at sprint crown

WORLD champion under-23 triathlete Aaron Royle plans to use the Oceania Sprint Championships in Devonport today as the launchpad for a breakout 2013 campaign.
Nanjing Night Net

In his first serious event of the year, Royle will compete over a half-triathlon circuit comprising a 750-metre swim, 20-kilometre ride and 5km run. He won the corresponding competition last year in Kinloch, New Zealand, in 58 minutes, 24 seconds.

ALL SET: Triathlete Aaron Royle says he is ready to improve on last year.

Although he admits tendonitis in his foot disrupted his pre-season, the 23-year-old from Maryland believes he is ready to improve on his success of last year.

‘‘Comparing where I’m at to this time last year, I’m probably not quite as fit as I was then because I wasn’t able to run for a few weeks, but my training times have been right up there and even a bit better,’’ Royle told the Newcastle Herald .

‘‘So that’s pretty encouraging because I should be able to improve on those times once I run into peak fitness. Hopefully as the year goes on I’m racing at a whole new level.’’

Royle said the Oceania Sprint Championships, plus the full-course equivalent in Wellington, New Zealand, next month, would be the ideal lead-in to the eight-race International Triathlon Union world series, which starts in April.

He finished 46th in the ITU circuit last year against the world’s best triathletes but believes he has plenty of scope for improvement.

‘‘I was a bit too inconsistent,’’ he said. ‘‘I had some good results and some that were a bit disappointing.

‘‘This year I’ll be aiming to consistently finish in the top 15 and hopefully get a few top-10 results as well.

‘‘I’ve raced against the elite guys a fair bit now and I’m confident I can start to challenge them regularly.’’

Royle’s highlight last year was in the final event in the series, held in Auckland, when he opted not to enter the open-age category and instead contested the ITU under-23 world title race, which he won by beating Spaniard Fernando Alarza and Great Britain’s Thomas Bishop in a sprint finish.

After taking a month off at the end of last season, Royle has been training since late November.

Much of that time has been spent with the NSW Institute of Sport team in Falls Creek, where they are able to train at altitude.

‘‘Most of the training has been longer-distance, endurance work, so it’s going to be a bit of a change doing a sprint event on the weekend.’’

Royle will be joined in today’s field by fellow Maitland Triathlon club product and long-time training partner Brendan Sexton, who finished 35th at the London Olympics.

Sexton will be hoping to start the new year positively after finishing what he termed a ‘‘long, challenging and overly disappointing [2012] season’’ in 63rd place on the ITU rankings.