Monthly Archives:December 2018

Footbal commentators will have less time for “bubble and froth” under the AFL’s new proposal. Photo: Channel SevenThe AFL has revealed it is set to impose heavier penalties on clubs who are tardy to move into position after intervals as part of a bid to keep the action flowing.
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The AFL has closely monitored the time players take to move into positions after quarter-time, half-time and three-quarter-time breaks. There is a maximum six-minute break between the siren ending the first term and starting the second, and ending the third and beginning the final quarter. There is a 20-minute break at half-time.

Television broadcasters have been frustrated at times with some teams lingering and continuing to chat when they should already be in place to resume play, with Geelong understood to be a serial offender until recently.

Broadcasters work to a specific rundown, meaning commentators have had to fill up this added time with what one network manager said was ”bubble and froth”.

Elite sports competitions around the world are now more stringent in their starting times.

The AFL Players Association has supported the crackdown but only if the rule is operated in a ”reasonable way”.

”The AFL wants to shorten overall game length so have put in place minor measures to achieve that, including this one,” AFLPA general manager of player relations Ian Prendergast said.

AFL spokesman Patrick Keane said teams were expected to start on time. ”To run a major competition, all clubs are expected to be on time at all times for match starts and re-starts, with live broadcasts of all games,” he said.

”Sanctions vary depending on the length of the delay by a club in getting into position and whether it is a first offence or recent offence for a club, or has happened on multiple occasions in a short period.

”It is a matter of record that a number of years ago we had a couple of clubs fined large amounts [Port Adelaide being one] for being late in finals, and those sanctions headed towards $20,000.”

In its changes to the laws of the game, the AFL has made it clear it wants to reduce ”dead” time and increase the percentage of the ball being in play. Players have between five and six seconds for kick-ins from defence once the flags have been waived after a minor score. Previously they had seven or eight seconds.

This move has been introduced to ensure consistency with kicks around the ground, with the view it will save up to two minutes a game.

This was made despite objections by the AFLPA, fearing it could lead to greater congestion – an issue the league continues to grapple with and believes could be eased if there is a cap on the number of interchange rotations.

In its submission, the AFLPA said: ”[This] could have a negative impact on congestion by putting kick-out players under further pressure, leading to increased amount of long kicks to packs, rather than allowing more time to hit a target, which keeps the ball flowing.”

For broadcasters, the decision to speed up the game means there is less time for replays, which one operations manager had mixed feelings over.

”We have great super slow-mo vision these days but the flipside is this means there is more live action,” he said.

The original release of this article first appeared on the website of Hangzhou Night Net.

Support: Fans voice their support for Shane Flanagan. Photo: Anthony Johnson Cronulla coach Shane Flanagan may have been stood down from his duties but he has still got his finger on the pulse at the besieged club as this image shows. Photo: Channel Seven
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The day after the Sharks’ emotion-charged 12-10 defeat of Gold Coast on Sunday night, Flanagan caught up with captain Paul Gallen, injured centre Ben Pomeroy and sacked trainer Mark Noakes at a Caringbah cafe. Photo: Channel Seven

He may have been stood down but suspended Cronulla coach Shane Flanagan will continue his duties as coach in an unofficial capacity.

Fairfax Media understands Flanagan is refusing to let go of the team he assembled and is determined to ensure the on-field success of the club in turmoil.

While Peter Sharp has been given the tag of interim coach, Flanagan will still be in constant contact with the staff and players about how he wants the side to prepare and play.

Sharp and Flanagan have spoken every day since the board suspended the coach and sacked doctor David Givney, football manager Darren Mooney, physio Konrad Schultz and head trainer Mark Noakes.

From home, Flanagan will analyse video and devise game plans.

In partnership with Mooney, he has worked around the clock for the past two seasons to compile a star-studded side.

A shortage of staff due to a lack of finances has seen Flanagan and Mooney take on extra responsibilities, including attracting corporate sponsorship and player recruitment. During the off-season Flanagan tiled the club’s gym floor.

While Mooney has been in hospital with stress, Flanagan isn’t going to let all his hard work go to waste. Even during Sunday night’s clash against Gold Coast, members of the staff in the box were on the phone to their former boss.

”He’s struggling, as you can imagine,” Sharp said. ”He wanted to be here tonight, not at home or wherever he is. He wanted to be coaching this side and he should’ve been.”

Sharp is one of only a few assistant coaches in the game with no interest of taking on a head coach’s role in the NRL. He is under no illusion as to whose football team he’s taken over.

”This is about Shane and what a great job he’s done,” Sharp said after Sunday’s 12-10 win against the Titans. ”Darren Mooney, Mark Noakes, Konrad Schultz and the doctor Dave Givney – it’s about them. Flanno and Mooney put this team together and have done a great job preparing them and that was the result tonight of Flanno’s hard work over the last couple of years.”

While Flanagan is highly regarded by the Sharks players, all the player agents contacted by Fairfax Media on Monday denied having clauses in their players’ contract allowing them to leave the Sharks if Flanagan wasn’t at the helm.

Paul Gallen, Todd Carney, Wade Graham, Beau Ryan, Chris Heighington, Michael Gordon, Jonathan Wright, John Morris, Jayson Bukuya, Matthew Wright, Ben Pomeroy, Nathan Gardner and Mark Taufua don’t have clauses in their contract relating to Flanagan.

Carney is off contract at the end of this season and isn’t expected to finalise any deal until the drug scandal plays out.

The original release of this article first appeared on the website of Hangzhou Night Net.

It was a feel-good day for Essendon supporters, but not without an audible gasp from the crowd when one of the club’s marquee players limped on stage in a moon boot.
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On the day designed to galvanise the club and its fans after a torrid off-season, the sight of Michael Hurley in a heavy brace wasn’t a sight to warm the hearts of the red-and-black army.

But images can be deceiving. The moon boot was strictly a precaution as the Bombers leave nothing to chance with their key forward ahead of the season-opener against Adelaide at AAMI Stadium on Friday week.

”It’s a lot more precautionary than probably what you can see from the outside,” said teammate Brent Stanton.

”He’s done extensive rehab over the last couple of days, but he’s reassured us that it’s just a general rolled ankle and he’s going to be right to go against Adelaide.

”He’s confident, so is the doctor and so are the coaches.”

Hurley limped off Manuka Oval in the final quarter of last Friday’s NAB Cup win over Greater Western Sydney, but returned to the field shortly after receiving treatment.

But the looks of concern on the faces of Essendon supporters on Monday was another reminder of how valuable they consider an injury-free Hurley to be to their team’s hopes.

The club also made it clear last year how important Hurley was to the future by locking the 22-year-old away in a five-year deal worth about $3million.

Meanwhile, Essendon’s 2011 best and fairest, David Zaharakis, is close to full fitness.

Zaharakis, who missed 10 games with a quad injury in 2012, suffered a repeat of the injury in late January, but is likely to have his first hitout in a VFL practice match against Bendigo this weekend.

”David is really excited … it will be great to have him back out there,” Stanton said.

The original release of this article first appeared on the website of Hangzhou Night Net.

What?s old is new: Brisbane?s Tom Rockliff (left) is a young player going places, whereas Brendan Fevola?s time in Brisbane proved more a second going than a second coming. Photo: Digitally altered imageWe hear a lot in the AFL about the natural evolution of football, particularly in recent times as an argument against too many sweeping rule changes.
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It’s a conversation primarily about game styles, but AFL football evolves in all sorts of ways and, at present, we’re also seeing a rapid transformation of philosophies towards list management. This is not only about clubs’ greater preparedness to recruit players recycled from other clubs, but about how quickly an inadequate list can be turned into a decent one.

There’s no better flag-waver for the recycled philosophy than reigning premier Sydney, which this season picked up 11 players from the senior or rookie lists of AFL rivals.

The Brisbane Lions’ progress through this pre-season’s NAB Cup may also prompt a rethink about the supposed dangers of dipping into football’s ”used car yard” and the allegedly dire consequences of getting it wrong.

”Buyer beware” was the popular slogan about Brisbane 18 months ago as the Lions crashed to one of their lowest ebbs, finishing 15th of 17 teams with just four wins.

Indeed, coach Michael Voss’ gamble on a raft of players from other clubs at the end of the 2009 season might well remain one of the most spectacular misjudgments the modern game has seen. It’s certainly hard to think of a worse advertisement for trade pick-ups.

Half-a-dozen (including the delisted Matt Maguire) were shipped in all at once for 2010, the former Saint’s new teammates being Brendan Fevola, Andrew Raines, Xavier Clarke, Amon Buchanan and Brent Staker.

As has been well documented, Fevola brought Brisbane only a ton of trouble. Clarke played one game, Buchanan 18 in three years while, of the other trio, only Staker had any immediate impact.

Six potential selections of talented teenagers at the national draft table had been given up for a speculative punt on the next couple of years.

That claim looks patently silly now and not just because the Lions are about to contest a pre-season grand final or because they finished 13th last year with 10 wins – an usually high tally for that spot.

This is as much about the layers of talent Brisbane has been able to gradually add to the point where finals campaigns seem likely for the next few years, than the memory of that ill-fated topping up growing more distant.

Daniel Rich, Jack Redden and Rockliff are now well-known Brisbane names and established keys to the Lions’ success, but Voss and co have continued to push new faces – both youthful and a couple a little older – into the system with some impact.

It’s quite a roll call now beyond the three R’s. Dayne Zorko was a revelation last year at half-forward, as was Mitch Golby off half-back before he was injured. Jared Polec began to find his feet after a slowish introduction to AFL football and Claye Beams has shown plenty in between injuries in only 13 games.

Those four can be expected to improve further this season, along with two whose pre-season signs have looked particularly encouraging – a lightning quick small forward in Josh Green and a hard runner in Rohan Bewick who, as he showed against Collingwood, can also kick goals.

Then there’s a couple of wildcards in Patrick Karnezis and Aaron Cornelius, the former seemingly ready to become a bona fide midfielder with a touch of class, the latter starting to deliver more up forward than cameos.

To top it off, what remains of the foreign legion from the end of 2009 is still capable of pitching in; Raines a reliable run-with player, Maguire coming off his best year since his early St Kilda days, and Staker ready to contribute again after a couple of injury-ravaged seasons.

It’s a bright future barely visible at the end of 2011 when it appeared Voss’ cards would forever be marked by those recruiting indiscretions and by the perception of having overrated his list. Perhaps, though, in hindsight, he merely got a little ahead of himself in developmental terms.

Rich, Redden, Rockliff and Cornelius were already there when Brisbane went the senior player route. As poor as the Lions’ player choices seemed post the 2009 draft, the 2010 recruiting period alone might in time come to be seen as more than making up for it, delivering Polec, Karnezis, Green, Beams, Bewick and Ryan Lester.

Brisbane now has a list that in terms of games experience ranks eighth but in age terms is 12th, with 28 of 39 senior-listed players aged 24 or younger.

They’re a nice mix of numbers for any club, youthful experience a prize outcome. But also more evidence, as Brisbane sets its sights on 2013, that even a serious injury sustained at the AFL trade table need not be fatal.

The original release of this article first appeared on the website of Hangzhou Night Net.

COMMENT
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The AFL’s decision to rob Brisbane of a NAB Cup grand final in its home state is a shocker on so many levels.

In pure football terms it belies the unwritten rule of even a pre-season competition that the team that earned the right not to travel in the final play-off should be rewarded. In financial terms for the cash-strapped Lions the decision will probably cost the club close to $100,000 – the difference between the winner’s and loser’s prizemoney on Friday night.

More importantly, Brisbane will go into 2013 having travelled interstate three weeks in a row – a genuine issue when the club was led to believe that the highest finishing club would host the final.

The decision appears purely dollar-driven but I believe the AFL has put short-term dollars and the appeasement of its free-to-air broadcaster ahead of the bigger and ultimately richer picture. A NAB Cup grand final in foreign territory would have been good for the Gold Coast Suns, the fair decision for Brisbane and a move that Carlton was fully expecting.

Etihad Stadium will attract a bigger crowd than Brisbane could have achieved on the Gold Coast but the league keeps telling us what a magnificent boutique arena Metricon has proved and certainly any number greater than 12,000 looks adequate there.

The Gold Coast is not proving the sports-mad community the AFL had hoped for and the competition has reminded us again and again that Queensland, with its financial struggles, has damaged the sporting landscape.

Surely a marquee game between Brisbane and one of the biggest clubs in Australia would have proved some form of fillip. Particularly on a weekend when no NRL game has been scheduled anywhere hear Metricon or anywhere in Queensland.

The league claims it was still debating as late as Saturday evening where to play the game. Not true according to Brisbane or the Gold Coast. Both clubs were told last Thursday that, irrespective of the weekend’s results, the grand final would be played at Etihad.

The Suns – whose Metricon Stadium officials had been preparing for a potential bonus AFL fixture – were also disappointed.

AFL chief Andrew Demetriou said on Monday that he had great sympathy for Brisbane and that had the Gabba been available the game would certainly have been played there. But the ongoing cricket problem, which has again disturbed the AFL fixtures for the 2013 season, is irrelevant on this occasion.

Demetriou said the decision had nothing to do with the wishes of Channel Seven, that it had been a difficult one and that in the end it was financial.

“I think, on balance, we’ve done the right thing,” he said.

But Demetriou’s confidence was unconvincing. The league would have had almost a week to build up the clash in southern Queensland. It clearly feared Brisbane fans would not travel to Metricon in big numbers but that is exactly what the competition should be encouraging and taking risks for if it is to achieve a bigger footprint in southern Queensland.

The AFL took the risky and expensive step of establishing teams in non-traditional markets and yet now it has backed away from a small, but golden, opportunity. It’s not as though the difference in dollars counts for anything in the grand scheme of things.

In purely financial terms the pre-season premiership team will collect about $200,000. The loser about $120,000. If Mick Malthouse’s Carlton cannot defeat Brisbane with an extra day’s preparation and playing at home then it clearly won’t be trying.

Where the great expansionist cause is concerned you’d have to conclude that, on this occasion, the AFL wasn’t really trying. It has wasted the sort of chance that doesn’t come around too often.

The original release of this article first appeared on the website of Hangzhou Night Net.

AFL players have questioned whether on-field congestion is such a bad thing for the viewing public.
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As Collingwood ruckman Darren Jolly used his Fairfax column on Monday to express the frustration many players are experiencing over the introduction of a cap on the number of interchanges next season – a move designed to ease congestion – AFL research shows there was an increase in players crowding contests last season.

There were ”regular occurrences of all players squeezed into a 60 metre x 80 metre section of the ground to place pressure on the opposition and generate their next scoring attack”, the AFL found.

A study by the AFL Players Association, however, says players believe congestion isn’t an entirely bad thing.

”There is substantial evidence that the game is in really good shape from a spectacle point of view backed on the information provided by the AFL and feedback from players and coaches,” the AFLPA said in its submission to the Laws of the Game Committee late last year.

”In any case, and particularly given that congestion is not presenting as a significant issue for the game at this time, players query whether some games that are more congested than others doesn’t have a positive impact on the AFL competition by providing a variety of games that fans are exposed to throughout a season.

”In other words, there are also things that fans may like about games that have increased congestion. For example, these games are often ‘great contests’ that highlight the combative nature of our game, producing close scorelines due to the intense pressure of highly contested football.”

Video-based TrakPerformance player density tracking said there had been a ”significant rise” since 2006 in the average number of players within five metres of the ball, and another ”significant increase” between 2011 and 2012.

Last year’s analysis showed there were five players within five metres of the ball 24.8 per cent of the time, up from 24.3 per cent in 2011, while there were between three and 10 players within five metres of the ball 34 per cent of the time, up from 29.9 in 2011.

In a bid to ease congestion, the AFL is set to cap interchange rotations next season, in the hope players fatigue and cannot get to as many contests. This has frustrated the AFLPA and most coaches, as Jolly reaffirmed. ”There’s a reason why we need to rotate as much as we do. It’s because you [AFL] have instructed the umpires to throw the ball up quicker; you’ve shortened the time allowed when kicking for goal; and kicking-in after a minor score.”

The original release of this article first appeared on the website of Hangzhou Night Net.

For a decade, Mark Webber has carried the weight of Australia’s high hopes of grand prix glory.
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It is a load Webber has borne willingly and well, even if his compatriots haven’t always appreciated his achievements in one of the world’s most fiercely competitive sports.

Ill-informed pundits spout disparagement that he hasn’t won more formula one races, portraying him as a driver not good enough to be mentioned in the same breath as Jack Brabham and Alan Jones.

They are Australian legends because they won world titles – Brabham in 1959-60-66 and Jones in 1980 – but statistics aside, Webber is very much in the same league.

Just as Brabham and Jones were better known for being ruthless than gifted, Webber’s sheer talent is also underrated.

His sense of fair play is very much in the tradition of old-school Australian sportsmanship, whereas Brabham and certainly Jones didn’t mind getting their wheels dirty in the pursuit of victory.

The big difference between them is that ”Black Jack” and AJ were in the right places at the right times to win world titles.

What Webber’s critics don’t understand is that for most of his 11 seasons in F1 he has been with teams and in cars not capable of winning.

It wasn’t until Red Bull Racing hit its straps in the second half of 2009 that he had the equipment to convert his ability into victories.

Which he has done – nine times, including twice at Monaco – but not enough to convince the doubters.

The lack of respect in this country for what he has done is at odds with the reality of how far he has come since his gutsy fifth-placed F1 debut with minnow Minardi in the 2002 Australian GP.

Unfortunately for Webber, the rise of RBR also coincided with the arrival of Sebastian Vettel, whose brilliance has outshone – but not overawed or subjugated – him.

He has remained combative and assertive against Vettel’s blossoming talent and refused to be worn down by the team’s psychological favouritism of the young German.

Despite the internal friction – and the fact that he is an F1 veteran and not a product of Red Bull’s driver development program – the team can find no better alternative, and neither can Webber.

He declined the chance to join Ferrari this year and finish his career with the storied Scuderia, gaining F1 immortality in the process, because his priority is driving for the best team in the best car with the best chance of winning races and contending for the world championship.

And Webber firmly believes he can do it this year, despite all the talk about him being the oldest driver at 36 and heading into his final season.

Retirement – or being replaced by some young gun – is a touchy subject because the speculation is not based on anything he has said or hinted.

Signing a one-year renewal with RBR – along with the next wave of proteges such as fast-rising fellow Australian Daniel Ricciardo waiting in the Red Bull wings – is seen as indicative, yet, in fact, it is how Webber has plotted his course in recent years.

Adamant that he is not even thinking that this is his last season in F1, he forcefully dismisses his age as a defining issue.

”It’s completely obvious that I’m not at the start of my career any more, but I’m also achieving some very good results and while I continue to do that and while I enjoy my work, I’ll continue,” he said. ”Whether I was born in ’76 or ’86 is irrelevant. It just so happens that Michael [Schumacher] has retired and all of a sudden I’m the oldest guy.

”Lewis [Hamilton] is one of the youngest guys [at 28], but I think he’s the sixth oldest or whatever.

”Jenson Button [33] is the most experienced on the grid with the most grands prix [228 versus Webber’s 196], so all those stats don’t mean a huge amount. And it’ll be on my terms – if I’m not happy with how I’m driving or performing, then I’ll do different things and we’ll make different decisions, as I always have done.

”So, yeah, it starts and stops with me. My first contract in F1 was for three races, so you always have to perform, especially when you’re aiming for podiums in this game and it’s no different this year. So I’m going to go out and enjoy it, but still obviously with that steely determination to make sure that we make every opportunity count and continue to do well.”

Webber heads into Sunday’s season-opening Australian Grand Prix at Albert Park confident that he’ll be in contention to finally win his home race.

”We’re definitely going to be in contention to put a strong weekend together, no question about that,” he declared. ”Testing’s gone pretty well for us. We’ve had some opposition – they’ve put some pretty good times in as well – so it’s going down to the details, all the little boring things that make the difference.”

While winning would rank with his Monaco and British GP victories as a highlight, Webber approaches it the same as any other race.

”Every grand prix’s brilliant to have a chance of winning,” he said.

”Obviously, the Melbourne event is in the top three for me in terms of winning.

”So it’d be brilliant to get an amazing result there, but it’s really only an extra one or two per cent stronger than any other victory at the other tracks that I’ve had.

”I can’t try extra hard or or do anything else than what I do at any other venue.”

The original release of this article first appeared on the website of Hangzhou Night Net.

Adam Gilchrist believes Australia might have been better served by using the eight-day break between Tests in India to escape from cricket – and even get out of the country.
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The captain of Australia’s only series-winning team here in more than 40 years, Gilchrist said the ploy had worked a treat for the successful touring party of 2004.

The Australians used a seven-day gap between the second and third matches to take off in their own directions, to Singapore, Mumbai, Goa and other destinations. They then regathered in Nagpur and won by 342 runs to clinch an unassailable 2-0 lead.

Michael Clarke’s side, by contrast, remained together in what turned out, due to a defeat in Hyderabad inside four days, to be an eight-day break before the third Test in Mohali.

They were given two free days but, aside from the captain who travelled to Delhi for promotional commitments and also took in the Taj Mahal with his wife Kyly, the 16-man squad stayed at the team hotel in Chandigarh. Some played golf or visited the zoo, and some – including Matthew Wade, of course – played basketball.

The difference between Clarke’s team and Gilchrist’s is Australia was 1-0 up at this point nine years ago and heading into Thursday’s third Test trails 2-0. There would undoubtedly have been outrage at home had coach Mickey Arthur told them to rack off for a week.

But the game’s greatest wicketkeeper-batsman, the captain of Mohali-based Indian Premier League side Kings XI Punjab, believes there is merit in getting away.

”The boys jumped into the nets [in Hyderabad] I believe half-an-hour or an hour after the game finished and the next day they were in there again,” Gilchrist said.

”Sometimes it gets to a point where you do need that time to clear your head and get away from it. India is that sort of venue that for all the wonderful things about India – the intrigue, and the fascinating country that it is – I find it is a place that becomes all-consuming and not just in a cricket sense.

”It really consumes every part of your day and your night and your life, such is the passion and the intensity of the place. So to get away and make a clean break for the purposes of freshening up for a new challenge there, I found it extremely beneficial and I think our team prospered from that in ’04.”

Gilchrist, who stood in for the injured Ricky Ponting in 2004, flew to Singapore in that break to see his family, while others took off for Goa or Mumbai.

”It really added a freshness to the tour and gave us the spark that we needed to get us back into that tour,” he said. ”I think that was of vital importance. Yes, we were 1-0 up but the Chennai Test, which was our second Test, was a really hard-fought, close match in the balance going into the last day and then it washed out.

”When we got back together it just felt like a new tour, a fresh, new beginning where we were obviously aware of the scoreline but catching up with each other was exciting.”

The original release of this article first appeared on the website of Hangzhou Night Net.

In line for a recall: Berrick Barnes. Photo: Anthony Johnson Waratahs coach Michael Cheika has indicated he will make several changes to his side to play the Cheetahs from South Africa on Friday night after being thrashed by the Brumbies last Saturday, sticking by his mantra that players should be picked on performance.
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A hamstring injury is most likely to rule out Wallaby hooker Tatafu Polota-Nau for the round-five game at Allianz Stadium in Sydney.

However, Cheika also said that Wallabies utility back Berrick Barnes was looking good to make a return to the side after undergoing rehabilitation on a knee injury.

But Cheika did not hide his belief that before focusing on Friday’s game, the Waratahs who lost 35-6 to the Brumbies in Canberra needed to account individually for their impact – or lack of – in the game where NSW was beaten in almost every domain.

Cheika started by rescheduling a planned training run from Monday afternoon to Tuesday (that was to have been a rest day) to allow more time for players to absorb the points of the roasting he gave them after the game on Saturday before meeting on Monday for a more analytical assessment.

”You can’t brush aside losing like that. With those things happening you have to pay attention, get accountable for what each individual did wrong and then you can get on to the next game,” Cheika said.

”[But] me going down there to beat everyone with a big stick is not going to serve anything.

I’ve already done that. I spoke harshly to the team after the game. It was merited … The last 10 or 15 minutes we didn’t do the basic things that you don’t need any talent to do – [such as to] go out and chase kicks, get up off the ground. You don’t need talent to do that stuff. That was probably for me, out of the whole 80 minutes, the most disappointing.”

Are team changes likely?

”Maybe … yeah,” Cheika said. When asked if performance would determine who was picked he added: ”We have shown performance is important. We’ll try and select wherever possible around performance … especially in this first season so everyone knows where the standards are at.”

With Polota-Nau out, one selection issue will be who replaces him in the starting side – Luke Holmes who came on for Polota-Nau or John Ulugia.

Cheika said training this week would answer that, although he said that while Holmes was good in the scrum, he was short on pace.

While the Waratahs appeared to lose direction when Polota-Nau left the field, especially in the line-out, Cheika defended Holmes, saying: ”Luke has a game under his belt now. [But] some of the roles he needs to fill – and the pace he needs to fill them at – is where he needs to step up the mark.”

Cheika was still scathing of the NSW forwards lack of physicality in the lineout against the Brumbies, saying the Waratahs: ”Let them stand in the middle of our lineout, just let them stand there.

”If someone intimidates you, you have to intimidate them back. And we didn’t. They will next time.”

Cheika was coy about where Barnes would play if he was selected.

But indications are he will run in the inside centre slot and that the NSW coach will remain faithful to the halves combination of Brendan McKibbin and Bernard Foley.

”I’ve been conscious of giving some continuity to the nine and 10. Everyone has been far too quick to say different things [about them],” Cheika said.

Twitter – @rupertguinness

The original release of this article first appeared on the website of Hangzhou Night Net.

Michael Clarke’s move up the batting order will stabilise Australia’s fragile top four, according to opener David Warner.
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The Test captain has considered promoting himself as high as No. 3 for Thursday’s third Test against India at the Punjab Cricket Association Stadium, driven to action by the top-order failures that led to the humiliating innings defeat in Hyderabad last week.

Only in the first innings of the first Test in Chennai has Australia progressed past 100 before losing its third wicket.

Statistics published by cricket website ESPN Cricinfo reveal a grim reality, in particular at No. 3, for Australia.

Australia’s batsmen are averaging only 27.13 in the key position over the past three years – a figure bettered by Bangladesh and all other Test nations except New Zealand and Zimbabwe.

Clarke is unlikely to bat any higher than No.4 beyond this series but on the subcontinent a leap of two places to first drop is on the cards in an effort to add the solidity which is severely lacking.

”I just think it will stabilise us a lot,” Warner said. ”Instead of losing three wickets we might only lose one wicket and rotate the strike more.

”I don’t think it is necessarily having Michael at number three. It is about the top four knuckling down and scoring runs – that’s the main issue. If we can do our job right, there is no reason to reshuffle the order. I think that is the reason why [selectors] are thinking [about] it.”

The current resident at No. 3, Phillip Hughes, has struggled to adjust to Indian conditions and has made only 25 runs in four innings. There were fears the 24-year-old could have been a victim of a facelift to the batting order that would have given Usman Khawaja his first Test appearance in 15 months, until Khawaja was one of four players stood down on Monday.

Australian coach Mickey Arthur said the players, Shane Watson, Mitchell Johnson, James Pattinson and Khawaja, had been told they would not be considered for selection for the third Test after they failed to give feedback on how the side could recover from the thrashings in the first two Tests.

Earlier, Hughes was thought to be in the firing line for what would be a third time in his Test career despite scoring more runs than any Australian, including Clarke, in international and domestic longer-form and one-day games during the summer.

”Phil is in a patch at the moment where he isn’t scoring as many runs as he would like, but I’m sure if the selectors stick by him he will come good,” Warner said.

”He is the type of player who always puts runs on the board, especially when he scores a hundred he scores a big hundred. It’s only a matter of time.

”He is hitting the ball as good as he can in the nets and that’s the most frustrating thing as a cricketer – hitting the ball as well as you can in the nets then coming out in the middle and not scoring runs. Hopefully he gets another chance.

”I just think it’s more of a time thing and being patient. I know personally I like to play shots so I have to hold back to not play any shots, but if I play shots with the ball turning away, that brings first and second slip [into play].

”If he keeps working hard on batting time and play with the spin, he will be fantastic, I reckon.”

Veteran wicketkeeper Brad Haddin left Sydney on Monday headed for Mohali as cover for first-choice gloveman Matthew Wade.

The Victorian sprained his right ankle playing basketball during a day off from training.

”Matt has a complex ankle injury which has been confirmed by the scans and at this stage is in doubt for the third Test,” team physiotherapist Alex Kountouris said.

”A final decision on whether he will be available for the third Test will be made closer to the match.”

Warner dismissed a comment by former Indian skipper Dilip Vengsarkar that this could be the worst Australian squad to tour India and said the current side was no worse than past teams.

”In the last 50 years [since 1969-70, in fact] we’ve won one tour … We’re doing pretty well to put up a fight at least.”

With aap

The original release of this article first appeared on the website of Hangzhou Night Net.