Archive for the ‘Winter Sports’ Category

Manly Needs to Stem the Flow

Willie Mason. Image: www.dailytelegraph.com.au

The Parramatta Eels have posted their ultimate revenge on the Manly Sea Eagles. After nearly a decade of the Eagles poaching their best players the Eels have turned the tables.

It started with players like Will Hopoate Darcy Lussick and David Gower. More recently the Eels have been removing the spine of the club with Brad Arthur and Anthony Watmough being poached by the Silvertails’ arch rival. Now, if rumours are to be believed, the coup de grace is about to be administered to a club already on its knees.

Kieran Foran has been linked with a move to the Eels, though his signing is yet to be officially confirmed by either club.

After the recent defection of Daley Cherry-Evans to the Gold Coast Titans this news sounds the death knell to the hopes of the Manly club.

Manly fans are irate at the club for allowing the splitting up the halves pairing Cherry-Evans and Foran. The two cut a swathe through opposition teams in their years playing together.

Bu the consequences of the recent exodus are dire: If losing Cherry-Evans to the virtually imploding Titans set off warning bells, then losing Foran to arch-rivals the Eels must be a clear sign of the apocalypse.

Manly players, it seems, are willing to do anything and go anywhere to leave. Rumours of discontent with coaching staff and salaries have bubbled to the surface on occasion. But it seems the club’s woes are not limited to such personal or financial disagreements.

For all intents and purposes the once proud and strong Manly club is being treated as a sinking ship – and it is each man for himself.

Titans Need to Stop Recruiting Other Clubs’ Throw-Aways

Greg Bird does it again. Image: www.samesame.com.au

80 to 1: That’s the odds on the Titans winning this year’s premiership. Anyone with even a passing interest in rugby league wouldn’t even waste the dollar at this rate.

Opinion is divided as to whether the Titans should even be in the competition. Investors have lost all their money, fans (what few poor tortured souls who remain) have lost all hope, and the players themselves have lost whatever pride they may once have had in their light blue jerseys.

The Titans have been preceded by six failed NRL Gold Coast clubs. The Titans themselves haven’t had a year go by when they weren’t part of some scandal – either in the boardroom or on the park. If they haven’t already used up all their lives they must be getting close.

One thing, by now, must be clear – the club’s policy of buying ‘troubled’ players on the cheap and turning them around has failed. The Titans have, since they began, been using a Moneyball selection process which, they hoped, would allow them to compete with the more well-heeled clubs.

And now (with the benefit of hindsight) we can see two conclusions to have emerged from this experiment:

  1. To the last man they have all under-performed; treating their tenure at the Titans more as a working holiday than a real job.
  2. Once a loser, always a loser. No amount of counselling, support, guidance, or incentives can change these losers. They are and will be what they always were.

These are not the type of people or players the Titans, the NRL, or the Gold Coast want.

There is one glaring difference between the Titans and, say, the Broncos: I have never seen the Titans finish a match too exhausted to move. But I can remember half a dozen games (just off the top of my head) where nearly every Bronco’s player was on his knees or back gasping in air. The Broncos take pride in their performance – win, lose, or draw.

If the Titans are serious about coming back from the grave (again) it’s time they looked for quality players, not other clubs’ throw-aways.

Shadow of Exclusion Still Hovers Over All Stars Concept

Image: www.abc.net.au

Another entertaining and high quality match between the Indigenous All Stars and the NRL All Stars is done. The indigenous side won a spirited battle 20-6. And while fans got to see some of the best players in the world fighting it out for four twenty minute quarters the spectre of racism still looms over the concept.

While many believe the All Stars concept is new, it has its origins in a time when racism was much more prevalent.

The first recognised rugby league match between teams selected according to race was in 1963. A team of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders played against a team of white Australians at Barcauldine. Unashamedly known as ‘Blacks versus Whites’ games, the matches were played annually until 1984.

Since that first game Aboriginal sides have been competing against other racially selected teams. In 1973 a team of Aboriginal players was assembled for a match against Auckland club Te Atatu. Selecting only aboriginal players, the side competed in the Pacific Cup in 1990, 1992, and 1994.

After the close of the 1999 NRL regular season rugby league great Arthur Beetson assembled a side to play (and beat) the imposing Papua New Guinea Kumuls. Beetson went on to push for an Australia Day game against an Australian national team.

It took until 2008 for his dreams to be realised. As part of the official opening to the World Cup, on 26 October, a ‘Dreamtime Team’ was assembled to play a commemorative match against a New Zealand Maori side. The match was dubbed the ‘Welcome to the Country Match’.

In 2010 indigenous NRL player Preston Campbell sought to bring the concept back to life. Two sides were selected according to whether or not players were indigenous to the country in which they lived. The game was played prior to the regular NRL season.

Opinion is divided as to All Stars concept; its aims and relevancy.

Players are made available to respective sides according to each individual’s heritage. Whether or not a player is indigenous to their homeland seems to be a matter of conjecture. Backers say the concept improves the self-esteem and prospects of marginalised indigenous communities through a Reconciliation Action Plan.

The plan states, “Funds raised from the Harvey Norman All Stars match have provided over $7 million in funding to the 16 NRL Clubs for the purpose of delivering Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander specific programs at the grassroots level.”

It further seeks to, ” reconnect Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander players with their heritage and cultural history,”

Opponents believe the concept creates another division in the national community, with ‘heritage’ taking the place of ‘race’.

There is no currently is no word for discriminating against a person according to their heritage. At last night’s game members of the audience waved countless aboriginal flags, though not one Australian (or non-indigenous) flag was to be seen.

Non-indigenous rugby league fans seem to largely ignore the game. Most are content to follow their favourite players (regardless of their heritage, race, or country of origin) during the regular season.

For many Australians the All Stars concept seems to drive a knife into attempts at reconciliation. Selecting teams according to a player’s heritage brings to the national consciousness the division between indigenous and non-indigenous elements of the Australian community. It encourages a separation (one of heritage rather than race) the indigenous community claim they are attempting to eradicate.

Footy Show Fight Night Debacle

Image: http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Liam_Messam_at_fundraiser_dinner.jpeg

Regardless of the outrageous mismatch All Blacks superstar Liam Messam says he is ‘shaking’ ahead of tomorrow his boxing debut tomorrow night.

For his first professional fight the New Zealand giant is facing Rhys Sullivan, a man who has been knocked out in all three of his previous fights.

To say the fight card is mismatched in tomorrow night’s inaugural Footy Show Fight Night is an understatement. There would be more competition in just shooting the non-footballers on the card.

But Messam went through the usual media hype to spruik the match and I suppose I’m duty bound to report it: “When we (he and Sonny Bill Williams) were driving here I saw ANZ stadium across the road and I thought, ‘I could easily go out there and play in front of a full stadium in a Bledisloe Cup game’.  I walk in here, I’m shaking, the nerves are going.”

Messam says he has watched boxing all his life. He has trained since he was a teenager, but only started boxing as an amateur after becoming friends with Sonny Bill Williams at the Chiefs Super.

“It (boxing) has helped me all my career. When I moved up to the Chiefs I was doing a lot of boxing in the off-season. I just never had the gonads to jump in the ring and turn it into a fight,” said Messam.

“I’m lucky enough to have had three fights now (Fight for Life charity events). It definitely helps the fitness side of things and the mental side of things – You’ve got to be pretty mentally tough to be boxing.

“You’ve also got to keep your cool in the ring, and that helps in footy. When you get into pressure situations in a big game, you know you can really dig deep and just do your job when it matters most.”

He’ll have no trouble doing his job tomorrow.

EX-Crim’s Allowed Back Into NRL, So Why Not Me? Asks Todd Carney

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NRL outcast Todd Carney hasn’t run out onto the paddock for his Catalan Dragons yet already he is considring a return to Australian Rugby League.

“I haven’t been in jail, haven’t bashed my wife, haven’t sold drugs to kids or done drugs, and those are the players who seem to be allowed back in,” he said to reporters.

Nor, it must be said, has he been involved in performance enhancing supplements.

Carney blew onto the national rugby league seen as a precociously talented 17 year-old in 2004 with the Canberra Raiders. Since then he has amassed a string of alcohol-related offences that has seen him banned from driving, banned from setting foot in his home town of Goulburn and, eventually, banned from playing rugby league in Australia.

And while many of his offences have been dealt with in the courts none of them were serious enough to warrant time in prison and none of them were deemed to be cheating.

Cronulla and New South Wales Captain Paul Gallen got a paltry one month on the sideline for cheating. He plead guilty to taking performance enhancing peptides in 2007. Previous Outrageous Sports articles have detailed the jaw-dropping improvements in Gallen’s meters run per game since that time. And yet Todd Carney gets banned for life for a series of embarrassing off-field misdemeanours and infractions.

Carney delivered the predictable script on how the change to the Dragons has been good for him: “Good headspace”, “allows me to focus on my goals”, “this is a new chapter for me”, etc, etc.

Where he goes off-script is on the subject of alcohol.

He admits it’s the common denominator behind his problems with the NRL, but he refuses to give it up.

“I never said I won’t drink and I never will because I think – well, it’s not part of rugby league, but it’s something I enjoy. The minute say I’m off the drink there’s eyes watching to see if I have a drink.

“There’s ways to work around it, moderation. Over here it’s completely different. It’s not always there to go for a drink and do whatever. It’s not something I stress over. The focus on me is to get better at football and lead a good life.”

Carney then returned to the script saying, “I gave myself to the Catalans Dragons and that’s where my main focus is.

“I’ve signed for three years, which will take me to 31 years of age,” he pauses. “It definitely leaves an option to go home. But that’s up to the NRL.”

Coach Henry Bolstered by Return of Douglas

Neil Henry. Image: commons.wikimedia.org

2014 NRL whipping boys the Gold Coast Titans have been boosted with the return of Luke Douglas. Douglas had his 215 consecutive match streak ended last year when he was swept up in the ASADA investigation into illegal use of peptides by former Cronulla players.

By admitting their involvement Luke Douglas, Albert Kelly and 17 other past and present Cronulla players received a one-year ban (backdated from August).

The ‘slap-on-the-wrist punishment was roundly condemned by all professional sports people as it effectively meant players played during their ban.

Red faced NRL executive, coaches and players just want the whole affair to die quietly.

Since the Titans didn’t make the finals Douglas and Kelly effectively sat out one month of their twelve month suspension.

But new Titan’s coach Neil Henry is just glad to have him back. After the execution of his predecessor, John Cartwright, Henry is under enormous pressure to deliver results. He is hoping those results come from the new tier of experienced players, like Douglas and Kelly, after the departure of club old timers Luke Bailey, Mark Minichiello and Ashley Harrison.

But one has to wonder what sort of example they set – confessed drug cheats who escaped punishments.

Coach Henry has taken the unusual step of moving one of the fastest men in the NRL, winger Anthony Don, into the centres. He has also begun pre-season training earlier in the year, at a new venue (an all-boys high school), with his own limited experience of the club, its culture and people. In the end he has to gel a rag-tag group of beaten individuals, with little experience of playing together, into a team. And then send them into one of the fiercest competitive environments in Australian professional sports.

Good luck to him.

Danny Wicks to Make NRL Comeback With Eels

Danny Wicks looks set to make one of the most unlikely sporting comebacks in Australia’s history. The ex-Dragons’ and Knights’ prop will have his contract with the NRL officially registered next month. But he has already been snapped up by the Parramatta Eels in a one-year deal.

What makes this story incredible is that Wicks hasn’t played a first grade game in more than three years – after being jailed for drug trafficking.

In September 2011 Wicks was charged with eight drug-related offences. He pleaded guilty to a further three counts of supplying prohibited substances.

The judge remanded him to a maximum three years jail.

The ban imposed by the NRL ended in September 2014. The Parramatta football club swooped and spent the final months of the year negotiating with Wicks.

He’ll be on a short leash. The club and league have imposed strict conditions, none offering with a second chance.

Steve Gills, Wicks’ manager, told reporters for The Daily Telegraph that Wicks has been training hard since June.

“Danny has been training with the team and was in rehab with a hamstring injury prior to the break, but he is going well.

“He doesn’t have a contract registered with the NRL, but we are hoping to have it sorted in the next two to four weeks, hopefully.”

Wicks has used his time in Glen Innes jail well. He has lost 20kg but added significant muscle to his already gigantic frame. He has trained well, impressing coaching staff and players alike. Best of all, he appears to have lost none of his speed and skills.

Sea Eagles Start Pre-Season with ‘Six Hours of Hell’

Willie Mason. Image: www.dailytelegraph.com.au

The Manly sea Eagles have begun pre-season training with what club recruit Willie Mason describes as, “six hours of hell.” The former Test and Origin forward believed the ordeals of the day would work to make the team mentally tougher.

The group of players and trainers faced real and serious threats from hypothermia as they climbed up Mr Kosciuszko in bleak, freezing conditions. But the extreme challenge cultivated resilience, camaraderie and toughness.

“You go on a session like that,” said Mason to the Daily Mail, “and you soon discover it’s no secret why they’ve made the finals for the last 10 years and won four grand finals.

“The success at the club is driven by the players and a great coaching staff, who all did the climb with us.

“A few of the senior blokes said this is the standard and this is our culture.

“They said they wouldn’t be happy if anyone quit.

“The senior players got up at the end and said they would have been pissed off if we didn’t train hard and work as a team.”

And work as a team is what they did when one of the trainers was struck down with hypothermia. The players responded to the situation giving him warm clothing and administering first aid, before helping him down the mountain.

After battling the cold, the mountain, and their physical and mental demons the players returned to base. Upon their return they were given a surprise two-hour fitness session.

“So we had to put the wet gear back on and let’s say the boys weren’t exactly impressed,” said coach Singe with a wry smile.

“It was very quiet at first, but then Matty Ballin and Brett Stewart said ‘let’s go’ and that’s when they all started yahooing and carrying on.

“They had to complete the task, so they ran out there and challenged us saying, ‘what else have you got?’

“So we saw the best of the players. A bit of self-doubt and negative talk; but it was satisfying when they lifted to get home.”

First ‘Diver’ Named and Shamed in NHL

James Neal prior to joining the Predators. Image: en.wikipedia.org

Nashville Predators’ player James Neal has become the first man fined by the National Hockey League for diving in a game.

Neal has long been known for ‘embellishing’ contact and thereby pointing a traditionally hard-man’s game in the direction of South American soccer. Against the San Jose sharks, however, he was a little too flagrant, cartwheeling to the ice after a light tap on the leg.

In a post-match review the NHL decided to slap a $2,000 sanction on him for bringing the game into disrepute.

Given that Neal makes $5 million per season, the fine will hurt less than going down in history as the first man ever to be caught diving.

In recent times there have been an increasing number of players gaming the referee rather than the opponents. The NHL is determined to root it out of the game, branch and stem.

In other hockey news Richard Panik, from the Toronto Maple Leafs stunned his hometown crowd by scoring a highlight reel goal and finishing the game duking it out against the boards with Detroit defenceman Brendon Smith.

Since joining the Leafs Panik has shown impressive stick control, jaw-dropping speed, and utter abandon when laying down the law against his opponents.

On Saturday he bought the hometown crowd to their feet as he blitzed through the line of defence and taunted goalie Petr Mrazek. He switched the puck left and right like a casino dealer shuffling cards before slapping it between the goalies’ pads and setting off the siren.

Not content with just winning the game 4-1, Panik decided to show the Detroit defenceman Brendon Smith who the boss was in the dying minutes of the game.

Both men dropped gloves and set-to with some heavy and telling blows before wrestling each other to the ice. And didn’t the Toronto crowd love it!

The Leafs are firming as serious Playoff contenders having won their last six matches.

 

Ice Hockey Player has Part of Ear Ripped-Off in Game

Rangers’ Kevin Klein. Image: slam.canoe.ca

New York Ranger Ice Hockey star Kevin Klein had part of his ear ripped off in a match against the Pittsburgh Penguins. The defenceman was struck by a high stick that tore off the top part of his ear sending blood streaming down the left side of his neck.

Referees ordered him off.

But rather than do the sensible thing and go to hospital Klein had the team doctor stitch it back. He replaced his blood soaked jersey and returned to the rink.

It was just as well too. The Rangers had blown a 3 – 1 lead, allowing the Penguins to slot home two goals in 24 seconds of one another deep in the third period.

The two teams battled it out through the fourth quarter, with Klein re-joining them in the dying minutes.

Klein’s toughness paid off as he was the one to drive home the winning goal in overtime.

Whether you were a Penguins or Rangers fan you had to hand it to the hardy defenceman

Klein isn’t even sure how many stitches the team doctor needed to reattach the ear. It was all done so fast. The blood was pumping and he just wanted to get back into the game.

Now that’s commitment!

Kevin Klein post- match. Image: www.sportsnet.ca

Kevin Klein post- match. Image: www.sportsnet.ca