Monthly Archives: April 2019

Wallabies warned to beware warm Irish welcome

Ewen McKenzie has predicted a “desperate and attritional” Ireland will meet the Wallabies at Aviva Stadium this weekend.
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The Australians flew into Dublin – for so long a favourite touring destination for the Wallabies – on Sunday.

But any lingering euphoria from their seven-try rout of Italy at the weekend was well and truly put to bed as McKenzie made clear the task ahead.

“The reality is we’ve been OK at knocking over teams behind us but we have to do be better at knocking over teams ahead of us,” the Wallabies coach said.

“The teams we’re about to play aren’t ahead of us [in the rankings] but they could be if we don’t get it right. We have to be able to compete in that environment.”

McKenzie is hugely fond of Dublin, having spent two weeks here in the knock-out stages of the 1991 World Cup.

But his experiences in one of the most hospitable northern hemisphere rugby cities mean there are no Guinness factory tours on the official schedule this week.

“We’re well aware that they’ll host us really well and say nice things about us but when we get on the field it’s a different story,” McKenzie said.

“We don’t want to be lulled into a false sense of security; there’s never been an easy game played [here] at all, not in my memory.”

After a balmy week in northern Italy, the Wallabies will have to adjust of daily tops of 10 degrees and frequent showers.

The Test this weekend will more closely resemble Australia’s nightmare against England than their dream run in Turin.

Ireland marks the halfway point of the five-Test tour. Plenty of Wallabies have played plenty of rugby, and McKenzie signalled he would rest players during training to ensure they were fresh for the weekend.

He also flagged straight swaps in certain positions, where bench depth allowed it.

“I think [Ireland] will try and play us into a space, it will be desperate and attritional in that sense,” McKenzie predicted. “But by the same token I think their coach has a little bit of expectation around [the fact that] they’re going to express themselves with the ball.”

Ireland’s recent high water mark – apart from mauling Australia in the World Cup – was their 2009 Six Nations grand slam victory.

But after that glorious season of nine wins, one draw and not a single loss, victory has been harder and harder to come by.

New coach Joe Schmidt has come in with promises – much like McKenzie – to reinvigorate Ireland in attack.

A five-try performance against a depleted Samoa was, as Schmidt said, “a super exercise”.

The real test is old foes Australia, who are not at their peak, and then the big dogs of world rugby, the All Blacks.

“Everyone’s going to see us as an opportunity. They’ll look at the win loss [record], and say it’s a good time to play us,” McKenzie said.

“I don’t know beyond that. They’re in a situation where they won the Six Nations [in 2009] and then every year they’ve won fewer games … so they’ll be looking to climb the mountain themselves.

“They’ve got their own backyard to be looking at. From a confidence point of view, we know what they’re aiming at. Hopefully they’re concentrating on New Zealand.”

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Ashes 2013: Ryan Harris backs George Bailey to be a Test success

George Bailey is ready to make the leap from limited-overs sensation to the Test arena, according to Australia’s pace leader Ryan Harris.
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The 31-year-old Tasmania captain has been heavily tipped to be named in the Australian team on Tuesday for the opening match of the Ashes series next week, an honour that would make him the country’s 436th Test cricketer.

It is a squad captain Michael Clarke predicted, on Monday, was full of ”no-brainers”, all but picking itself. But, for Bailey, selection against England would be the culmination of a long-held ambition.

Nine years after his first-class debut, he was considered for a berth on Australia’s tour of India earlier this year but, after a Sheffield Shield season in which he averaged only 18, his inclusion could not be justified.

Form, however, is anything but an issue for him at present, even if it is with a different coloured ball.

Bailey’s 478 runs in six games, at an average of 95.6, lit up Australia’s one-day series in India and rammed home what he has been quietly arguing with the bat since his ODI debut 20 months ago: that he can be an international player to be reckoned with.

Australia are searching for a middle-order rock that can go some way towards replicating what another late Test bloomer, Mike Hussey, was able to provide and Bailey, who has been in competition with state colleague Alex Doolan for a maiden call-up in Brisbane, will be hoping he can be it.

”I think he’s ready for it,” Harris said. ”I think he’s in the form of his life. He’s done very well in the one-day arena and just bowling to him last week [in the Shield match between Queensland and Tasmania] … he just looks solid.

”He’s obviously got his game where he wants it to be and he’s on top of his game. If someone is like that and is in form, I think it [doesn’t matter] what form of the game you’re playing, it’s the same result – you’ve still got to watch the ball and hit the ball and that’s what he’s doing.”

The great-great-grandson of George Herbert Bailey, a Tasmanian cricketer who toured England in 1878, Bailey is rated for his leadership qualities; the attribute behind his shock elevation to the Twenty20 captaincy two summers ago when he had not yet played for Australia.

Harris said Bailey’s modest return in first-class cricket last season should be overlooked given his recent output.

”Sometimes you have to forget about averages and, at this point in time, with such a big series, you’ve got to pick your best players to be in those positions,” he said. ”He’s one of those guys at the moment.”

Elsewhere, the Australian squad was expected to have few surprises, with David Warner retained at the top of the order after an explosive start to the season and Mitchell Johnson to join Harris and Peter Siddle in the attack after also starring in India.

Likely Australia team for first Test in Brisbane:

Chris Rogers, David Warner, Shane Watson, Michael Clarke (c), Steve Smith, George Bailey, Brad Haddin, Peter Siddle, Ryan Harris, Mitchell Johnson, Nathan Lyon, Ben Hilfenhaus/James Faulkner.

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Ashes 2013: MitchellJohnson to go for Poms’ throats

Mitchell Johnson says he is bowling faster than he ever has, and has vowed to give Jonathan Trott and Alastair Cook a good going over with the short ball in the first Test.
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And if the left-armer, who is set to receive an Ashes recall on Tuesday, cannot send England’s linchpins packing, then hurting them would be the second option, he said.

Trott received a sneak peek of what he can come to expect from Johnson next week in Brisbane during the one-day international series in September, when he was hit on the head by a searing bouncer and also lost his wicket to another short ball.

”I look at the England one-day series and really went hard at a few of those players, in particular Trott. I think he’s come out and said he’s not worried about the short ball, but we saw what he was like in the one-day series, he definitely didn’t like it,” Johnson said.

”There are guys in their team who we’ll definitely go after.”

Cook, the England captain, can also expect to receive some rough stuff from the fiery and rejuvenated Johnson, who has twice broken Graeme Smith’s hands and last summer shattered Kumar Sangakkara’s finger.

”If I can get a few of those rearing balls towards the ribs or those throat balls and if he gets in the way of it that’s his own fault,” Johnson said. ”You’d rather get the wicket more than anything, you get a lot of joy out of that when you get a player like that out. I [had] a look at last summer and Sangakkara was an example. I’ve busted his finger and he’s one of their best players, so they were one short and I got a couple of those in the middle order. If you can’t get them out, that’s the second option.”

Johnson could well be the fastest bowler in world cricket at the moment. During the recent limited-overs series in India, which was dominated by the batsmen, Johnson frequently broke the 150km/h mark, once reaching as high as 155km/h. The scary thing for England is Johnson was not even trying to bowl fast. Not surprisingly, batsmen are not exactly lining up to face him in the nets.

”It was something I wasn’t actually working on in my time off, I was a little bit surprised that my speeds were getting there,” he said. ”I felt like it was coming out of my hands at good pace. When you speak to some of your teammates and those you play against, they give you a good indication it’s good pace.

”I don’t think I’ve consistently hit the 150s. If I can do that and swing the ball it becomes a big weapon.”

The great Dennis Lillee has also been working closely with Johnson, encouraging him on long runs to help him build the fitness required for the longer run-up he has used since coming back last year from a career-threatening toe injury. ”When I sit back and look at it, I felt like my run-up rhythm was the best it’s ever been, I’ve lengthened my run-up since coming back from my toe injury.

”That’s made a big difference. I just feel like I’m getting better momentum through the crease and being able to hit those speeds without applying myself out of the water or forcing it, it felt pretty good.”

Johnson said he had also been used in shorter spells, which allows him to bowl at a higher intensity.

”If I was bowling eight-over spells I wouldn’t be able to bowl at that pace for a long period of time,” he said. ”Maybe I could get through a Test match doing it like I could during the week [last week] but I don’t think I could sustain it for the whole summer.”

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Racing NSW, government combine to boost autumn carnival

John Messara: “If you are interested in racing, you will want to be in Sydney for this week”. Photo: Louise KennerleyThe state government and Racing NSW are set to deliver a long-promised boost to the Randwick autumn carnival with huge prizemoney injections to attract the racing world to Sydney.
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And it is hoped that one week of racing at Randwick in April will come to rival the eight-day Melbourne Cup carnival at Flemington, which is the crowning jewel of Melbourne’s racing calendar.

The concept has been in the pipeline for more than two years and will be announced by Racing Minister George Souris at Racing NSW headquarters on Tuesday.

A small committee has been working on the meeting for the past year and former Australian Turf Club chief operating officer Ian Mackay was appointed the chief executive of the series last January.

Racing officials were extremely tight-lipped about the final make-up of the series on Monday, claiming that “it could still fall over” if it was to appear in the press.

Racing NSW chief executive Peter V’landys said at the time of Mackay’s appointment he could not reveal much about the series because of ”commercially sensitive negotiations”.

“This new race series will complement the wonderful facility that is being developed at Royal Randwick and give Sydney a world class racing carnival. The hard work now begins for us to deliver this, ideally in time for 2014,” V’landys said in January.

The Herald understands the carnival will target the best horses from Asia and North America and Canterbury racecourse is set to become a quarantine centre for the overseas visitors.

Canterbury is scheduled to hold its last meting for the autumn on March 12 and will not race again until April 23, which will allow it to be used as a training and quarantine venue by any international stables.

Racing NSW chairman John Messara told a select group of owners and breeders during this year’s Easter sales in April about the concept.

”If you are interested in racing, you will want to be in Sydney for this week,” he said. ”I would think we would get horses from Japan and North America to compete at the meeting.”

It is believed the funding will come from a revamp of the way the NSW government distributes funds under its agreement with Tabcorp, bringing it into line with the Victorian model, under which racing in that state picks up about $85 million a year more than its northern neighbour.

”If we can get this plan in place it will be an incredible boost for the industry in NSW,” said Messara about the difference in funding levels during his address in April.

”We have been working on this for quite some time and it would make NSW the leading open jurisdiction in the world in terms of returns to owners.

”We can’t match some of the closed markets in Asia but in the next couple of years it will be great to be part of the industry in NSW.”

The focus will be the races at Randwick during the autumn carnival – the main group 1s, including the Doncaster, the T.J. Smith, the Queen Elizabeth Stakes and the Sydney Cup, are likely to get significant boosts in stakes. The announcement on Tuesday is expected to make it clear whether the goal of a start next year has been reached.

However, there are also plans to use some of the additional funding in grassroots racing around the state.

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Michael Clarke takes swing at ‘naive’ former coach Mickey Arthur

Michael Clarke has opened up for the first time about his rift with Mickey Arthur, saying he was ”pissed off” at the former coach during the Ashes and labelling the South African naive for the way he handled the aftermath to his sacking.
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Launching The Ashes Diary in Sydney on Monday, the Test captain said he believed Australia had emerged as a stronger group before next week’s first Test against England at the Gabba.

The book does not contain the same fireworks that catapulted Ricky Ponting’s autobiography into the headlines last month but Clarke does not spare Arthur, who was sensationally cut as head coach less than three weeks before the series in England.

Clarke revealed he was furious when details of Arthur’s subsequent unfair dismissal action against Cricket Australia were made public in July, just before the second Test at Lord’s. According to a TV station’s report, Arthur’s claim to the Fair Work Commission said that Clarke had described Shane Watson and his faction as a ”cancer” on the team, and that the coach had become the ”meat in the sandwich” in the stand-off between Clarke and Watson.

Clarke strongly defends his relationship with Watson in his Ashes diary but takes aim at Arthur.

”I’m filthy. I had a long talk with [his wife] Kyly about it tonight, pouring out my frustrations,” Clarke writes in his diary entry of July 16. ”I’ve supported Mickey through thick and thin, and it pisses me off that this has come up now.

”I sent him a text to tell him as much. He’d said that he didn’t want it to come out publicly, but somehow it leaked out anyway. If Mickey didn’t know this was going to happen, he’s been naive. I still can’t believe he would allow this to happen to the team members, who had no part in his dismissal. As I’ve said until I’m blue in the face, Shane and I get on fine, even if we don’t always see eye to eye. That is healthy and natural. I am frustrated about this continually being brought up. The important thing is that our relationship has improved out of sight.”

Arthur, who strongly denies he or his lawyers leaked details of his claim, reached a confidential settlement with CA in August.

Promoting his book on Monday, Clarke said the off-field controversy that dogged Australia in England – from David Warner’s nightclub altercation with Joe Root in Birmingham to Arthur’s sacking in Bristol – had strengthened them before the return series.

”There was a number of incidents on and off the field where this team could have fallen apart and broke down. We could have lost the series 5-0,” Clarke said. ”But I think everything that happened to the team has brought us closer, and I really believe that. I really believe that the work we put in in the UK will hold us in great stead, and I believe we’ll get some rewards this summer. I think the team is in a fantastic place. The feeling in the group is outstanding. I know all the guys are looking forward to Thursday week.”

Clarke declared he would not be changing his attacking captaincy style this summer as Australia seek to turn around a year in which they have won only one of 10 Tests.

”I don’t have that negativity in me to be honest,” he said. ”It’s about trying to win games of cricket. I’ll do everything I can to help our team win as many games of cricket as possible, and sometimes you risk losing.”

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