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Drugs probe not linked to signing delays: Noyce

Cronulla officials insist the future of seven unsigned players called for interviews with Australian Sports Anti-Doping Authority investigators will be determined for football reasons alone.

While hooker John Morris is in talks about a new deal with the club, the Sharks are yet to decide whether Ben Pomeroy, Nathan Gardner, Nathan Stapleton, Ben Ross, Matthew Wright and Stewart Mills are part of their plans beyond this season.

However, Cronulla chief executive Steve Noyce said the delay in finalising the club’s new roster had nothing to do with the ongoing ASADA investigation.

”While there is a group of players involved in the ASADA stuff, their contractual situations are all different,” Noyce said. ”Nathan Gardner, for example, has only played four or five games [because of injury] and his focus has just been getting on the football field.

”I think in the end your reason for wanting to re-sign players is about footy stuff and if he comes back on the field and plays good footy he gives himself a real opportunity to continue his partnership with the club.”

With the exception of Ross, the off-contract players are among 11 survivors of Cronulla’s 2011 squad summonsed for ASADA interviews that began on August 1. Of the others, Jason Bukuya is leaving for the Warriors and Anthony Tupou has taken up an option for another season. Wade Graham is off contract at the end of next season and captain Paul Gallen is signed until 2015.

Noyce said Morris wanted to continue playing for the Sharks and the club was also in discussions with the 30-year-old utility about a future coaching career. ”He is doing a masters in elite sports coaching at Sydney University and we are talking with him about putting that into practice with some of our academy teams,” Noyce said. ”There were a number of players who were a priority for us and we are working through the rest.

”A couple of the other guys know we are talking to them and it is up to them to get out on the field and play some good footy, but obviously we are always looking to see what new blood we can attract to the club.”

After a week’s break from the interviews with ASADA, Cronulla players will again be quizzed over the allegations of doping at the club next Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday.

Fairfax Media has been told that investigators have been happy with the level of co-operation provided by the players after Graham was the only player interviewed before ASADA abandoned the process in April.

Despite not initially having been on a list of 30 NRL players required for interviews this month, Graham was quizzed for a second time last Friday and Fairfax understand that it was at his request.

A further four members of the Sharks 2011 squad now at other clubs – Newcastle pair Jeremy Smith and Kade Snowden and Gold Coast’s Albert Kelly and Luke Douglas – are also due to be interviewed soon.

The other club in the spotlight is Manly, with six players – Anthony Watmough, Brett Stewart, Steve Matai, George Rose, Ben Farrar and Richie Fa’aoso – asked for interviews, along with former Sea Eagles Glenn Hall, Dean Whare and Darcy Lussick.

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Wallabies keeping pace for crunch clash

The Wallabies are confident they can play ”fast, up-tempo footy” against the All Blacks without the errors that hobbled their performances against the British and Irish Lions.

Despite keeping the bones of the back line that failed miserably to match the Lions’ firepower at ANZ Stadium just over a month ago, there is a sense among the squad that a couple of positional tweaks have restored the rightful order to the Wallabies’ attack.

Halfback Will Genia said as much on Friday, calling the wing the best place for former five-eighth James O’Connor and assuring jittery fans there would be no repeat of the pushed passes or fumbled catches that surfaced the last time the Wallabies tried to play at pace.

”It’s completely different. We’re playing a different style of game under Ewen [McKenzie] to what we played in the Lions. We’ve got players in different positions and guys who are here who have been playing well all season and are full of confidence,” Genia said.

”We want to play fast, up-tempo footy. As well as the breakdown being a focus, one way to beat the All Blacks is to run them around, change direction, and just have different points of attack, as opposed to just playing off No.9s or No.10s.

”It’s good we’ve got someone like Jesse [Mogg] at the back, and Christian [Lealiifano at No.12], who is a good ball distributor as well. We just have to make sure we utilise the strengths we have in the group.”

Mogg and Lealiifano will start on Saturday in the same positions they finished the third Lions Test.

McKenzie moved O’Connor to the wing to make room for Matt Toomua, but the coach retained Lealiifano’s midfield partner Adam Ashley-Cooper and kept Israel Folau on the wing.

Genia said a back three boasting the collective pace and footwork of O’Connor, Folau and Mogg, who makes his first Test start on Saturday, could prove the Wallabies’ trump card.

”[Mogg] has genuine pace and a left boot, and I think that’s something we’ve genuinely missed out on, having a left and right foot,” he said. ”And just his ability to run the ball, he is so elusive. He can beat players very easily one-on-one, and he’s very quick. Hopefully we can give some space to use his ability.”

There are more than a few threats to take care of first. If the Wallabies fail to slow down the All Blacks’ ball, they will pay – as they have many times before.

”They’re almost impossible to defend against if they get a roll on or get quick ball, so we have to be really accurate in that area with our low tackles and make sure we get guys over the ball,” Genia said.

The ”impossible” comes in many forms in the All Blacks back line. There is winger Julian Savea, nicknamed ”Big Bus” in his homeland for his near-unstoppable runs down the flank.

The Wallabies have been drilled. They know to tackle hard and tackle low. ”You’ve got to take out his legs,” Genia said.

Traditional All Blacks fringe player Ben Smith will be hoping to transfer his scorching hot Super Rugby form to the Test arena. But apart from the Highlanders winger, All Blacks coach Steve Hansen has lined up a cast of ”been-there, conquered-that” characters for his defence of the Bledisloe Cup.

Hansen’s approach, which again uses the nucleus of the Crusaders squad and just a smattering of Chiefs, is the opposite of McKenzie’s form-above-caps selection strategy.

”[Hansen] has gone with experience, guys that have been there and done the job for them in the past,” Genia said.

”You can’t question that, they’ve been so successful for such a long time, in particular in big games against Australia. He’s selected the team he think can win, and I can’t really question that.”

The last time the teams met, the Wallabies held their trans-Tasman foes in an 18-18 draw at Suncorp Stadium. It might as well have been last century judging by the attitude of the McKenzie-era team.

”Someone said the other day there’s three guys from that game that are in the Test tomorrow night,” Wallabies captain James Horwill said.

”We get a familiarity by playing [the All Blacks players] regularly in Super Rugby.

”We play [them] week in, week out and do well against them, so we need to take that confidence and belief that we can get the job done.”

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Tech support: Clarke’s former coach shows batsmen where to improve

One of Australia’s most successful coaches says fundamental flaws can be found in the techniques of our Test batsmen.

In the week that Michael Clarke was seen offering batting tips to the lbw-prone Shane Watson, the Test captain’s former personal coach, Neil D’Costa, shared his thoughts on how Australia’s struggling batsmen could achieve more consistency.

In addition to coaching Clarke for almost 20 years, D’Costa has worked extensively with Phillip Hughes and Mitchell Starc, coached in England and India, and holds development coaching roles with Sydney grade club Campbelltown Ghosts, and the Ghosts Cricket Academy.

D’Costa said there were ”non-negotiable basics” in the techniques of batsmen who scored more than 5000 Test runs, which were missing from the Australians’ games.

”Coaches, particularly in South Africa, India and England, are focusing on those basics in their junior elite programs,” D’Costa said. ”There is a more biomechanical approach and greater importance being placed on technical fundamentals, like grip, stance, kinetic flow, balance, and shot entry and exit points.”

D’Costa believes individual flaws have been ”picked apart and exploited time and time again” by opponents in recent series, and will continue to be until glaring errors are addressed.

”I don’t want to be critical of the players, who have all shown by reaching Test standard that they are very talented,” he said. ”Obviously, they’re trying their hardest. But their performance says that without some adjustments, the inconsistency will remain.”

On those he has worked with, D’Costa said Clarke had the fundamentals right but was restricted by back pain, while Hughes worked on flaws last season but some had returned to his game.

”These are all small things to do with technique that could add consistency to these batsmen’s game,” he said. ”Players like Ian Bell have worked extremely hard at the basics and the results are obvious.

”Over three years in India I saw that. At the elite junior level, they kept ensuring their players had these basics in place and, I believe, the county system is doing it well, too. I hope we start to educate our junior elite players like that so we can get back on top.”

D’Costa has analysed the batting techniques of a number of Australia’s batsmen.David Warner

‘‘Warner has what in swing mechanics is called a reverse swing. His weight is distributed as if he’s a right-handed batsman facing the wicketkeeper. The shoulder facing the bowler is high when, in fact, it should be lower at the time the ball is released. That would enable Warner to enter his shots with the correct weight shift and put his nose over the little toe on his front foot. What I see is Warner’s leaning back. That allows him to cut easily but, when he comes forward, his balance is off. Having too much weight leaning back also makes him susceptible to lbw when the ball is swinging. If you watch Kumar Sangakkara’s position when the ball is released, this will make sense.’’Shane Watson

‘‘Watson has a similar shoulder angle and alignment problem to Warner. He shifts his weight back when he sets up. Watson is a big build, so it’s worth comparing him to Kevin Pietersen or Jacques Kallis, who each get their front shoulders down and stand slightly open at release so they can lean into the ball, chin-forward. Watson’s weight is back, so he leads with his leg …  Lately, he’s been over-compensating by reaching with his bat and shifting his back hip around faster, which leads to edges.’’Usman Khawaja

‘‘Khawaja breaks rule No.1 – keep your head still. He’s tracking the ball by dropping his head. After his dismissal in the second innings of the fourth Test, Nasser Hussain asked ‘How did he miss that?’ The answer is, he dropped his head before the ball arrived and was looking at the ground instead of the ball. Until he changes that habit and is able to track the ball in and out with his head still, the rest doesn’t matter.’’Steve Smith

‘‘Smith stands too straight and is not engaging his quadriceps. If he crouched a little, he would bring in his quadriceps, hamstrings, glutes and core, and his head would be lower. He would be better balanced. Smith also checks the swing on his cuts and pulls, and doesn’t rotate his left elbow over. He’s not using enough wrist. No player has been consistently successful with that sort of technique. Smith is a rare talent and a fighter, but on wickets with variable bounce or swing, he will keep struggling. He will still perform on occasion but will find consistency without adjustment challenging.’’Brad Haddin

‘‘You cannot recalibrate your judgment if you move your head and Haddin moves his head around, both when he’s batting and wicketkeeping. Like Khawaja, he drops head when batting and keeping, losing milliseconds of vision. M.S.Dhoni mis-gloves less balls than any keeper because he keeps his head still and drops his eyes when the ball comes into his gloves.’’

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Pup and Watson in unlikely alliance

Northampton: Michael Clarke has turned instructor and his star pupil is Shane Watson.

In a sight that might have been regarded as extraordinary just weeks ago, the Test captain spent more than 30 minutes at a training session in the East Midlands schooling his former vice-captain on his technique to help him avoid being susceptible to leg-before dismissals.

Clarke often works with the younger batsmen in his squad. But on the eve of a two-day practice match against England Lions at the County Ground on Wantage Road he took extended time out to put the microscope on Watson, who was named as stand-in captain for the game.

The pair’s relationship has been well documented, and featured as part of Mickey Arthur’s claim against Cricket Australia with the Fair Work Commission last month before that case was settled. Documents leaked to Channel Seven claimed that the sacked coach said Clarke had described Watson and his faction as a ”cancer” in the team.

There was a noticeable absence of animosity in the Northants nets, however, as Watson took in the captain’s advice from the other end of the practice wicket where Clarke stood at length.

Asked the contents of the mini-lesson, which also involved head coach Darren Lehmann and batting coach Michael Di Venuto, Lehmann said bluntly: ”Probably not to get out lbw, I would think”, adding: ”[Clarke] came a bit early for his session; he just wants to help the young blokes out, which is good.”

Watson, of course, does not fit into the definition of one of the ”young blokes”. He is 32, the same age as Clarke. But after being successfully targeted by England’s bowlers as a candidate for lbw earlier in the series – and trapped leg-before again in Australia’s second innings at Durham – he is keen to avoid being a sitting duck.

And with Clarke boasting nearly three times as many Test centuries as the rest of the Australian team combined, he shapes as a fair teacher.

As for the suggestion of any remaining tension between the pair, Lehmann replied: ”I’ve had no problems with them since I’ve been here. They’ve worked really well, they get on well. No dramas from my end.”

Di Venuto said the involvement of Clarke on the coaching side was a bonus. ”It’s outstanding having it come from the captain,” he said.

”I know Ricky [Ponting] when he was around the Tasmanian side he did it with the Tassie boys all the time, and I believe with the Australian boys as well.”

In other news, Tim Bresnan has been ruled out for the rest of the English season with a stress fracture in his lower back.

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Once overlooked but spotlight turns to Di Venuto

Finally on an Ashes tour … as batting coach: Michael Di Venuto. Photo: Steve ChristoNorthampton: Australia’s golden generation of batsmen stood in the way of Michael Di Venuto playing Test cricket for his country despite a first-class runs tally that ended up exceeding 25,000. The Waughs, Hayden, Ponting, Langer, Martyn, Lehmann and others were all ahead of him on the conveyor belt, and even when a vacancy arose it was filled by a Love or a Jaques instead. The production line was that prolific.

A year after his retirement as a player, the 39-year-old finally finds himself on an Ashes tour, with Australia’s batting stocks far more bleak. It has been said more than once since he joined the national set-up as batting coach this year that the Tasmanian would have played 30, 40, 50 or more Tests if he had been around in this era. The same applies for others. Pick a name: Cox, Law, Hodge, all were unlucky in the timing of their birth even if they had a brief taste. Even Michael Hussey had to wait until he was 30.

Di Venuto did play nine one-day internationals in 1997, but once that window shut it did not open again. ”I had an opportunity and didn’t quite grab it, and in those days you couldn’t afford to do that because there was a queue behind,” he said. ”I never got another opportunity from then on because you had to be in the right form at the right time. That’s just the way it was throughout our era. If you didn’t average 50-plus or 60, if your season wasn’t exceptional you didn’t play for your country.”

It would be easy to finger Di Venuto for Australia’s troubles with the bat – the collapse at Durham that handed an Ashes series victory to England on Monday being the most recent glaring example – in the same way that a football club’s defensive coach might be blamed for a team’s missed tackles.

But that ignores what he and Lehmann, the head coach, are working with: talented young batsmen who have the core skills but are not yet the full package. That is why it frustrates Di Venuto to hear calls for the likes of Usman Khawaja and Steve Smith or previously Phil Hughes, to be moved on for others to get a go.

”We need to be patient,” he said. ”Imagine if we weren’t patient with Steve Waugh early in his career. We would have lost one of the legends of the game, if they’d given him six or seven Tests and then said, ‘Oh no, he’s no good, spit him back out’. That’s what a lot of people are saying about the current crop.

”These kids are learning on the big stage, in an Ashes series in England. They haven’t got a lot behind them to fall back on, they haven’t got a lot of Test experience or domestic experience to fall back on. Chris Rogers, even though he hasn’t got a lot of Test experience, he’s got years of playing first-class cricket, so he’s been in similar situations where the ball is darting around like that (in Durham) and he can draw on his experiences that he’s lived and learnt.

Di Venuto finished his 20-year career with a stint with Durham that ended last year so, knowing the Riverside and its quirks and behavioural patterns, he was not entirely shocked at what he witnessed after tea on Monday.

”When wickets fall they fall in clumps,” he said of the ground when overhead conditions conspire to help the bowlers, but added, ”… maybe not nine.” The advice being handed out by Di Venuto, Lehmann and Michael Clarke, the last remaining member of the generation champions just gone, in the wake of that capitulation in the fourth Test varies from batsmen to batsmen. But it has a straightforward, and for good measure even rhyming, theme.

”Our message is pretty basic: play the ball late, play it straight,” Di Venuto said. ”Wait for the ball to come into your area and pick it off, especially when you’re playing on wickets that are darting around or getting through a spell from a good fast bowler.

”Their skills are outstanding. But their games have got to adapt to Test cricket and situations that demand their game does adapt.

”You don’t learn in a classroom – you learn by playing and making mistakes. In this game you don’t make one mistake and that’s the last time you do it. You make the same mistakes over and over. It’s about getting into match situations knowing what they can and can’t do and getting through good spells of bowling … making the bowlers come back for their fourth and fifth spells.”

Di Venuto is a realist and understands that with Australia light years from the days of winning 16 Tests in a row – they have not won since January, and lost seven of their past eight matches – heads will inevitably roll if the trend continues.

Yet with the door not having been knocked down lately by others in the Sheffield Shield he argues stability, with a return Ashes series on the horizon, is key.

”That’s the frustrating thing, especially for the public,” he said.

”They’re used to the Australian team being the dominant side over the last 20 years, and all of a sudden we’re not the dominant side any more. When we’re good we’re good, but when we’re bad we’re bad.

”We’ve got to find that middle ground where we’re not quite at our best but we can still guts our way through situations and scratch out a win. We can’t continue to play the way we’re playing. But ideally you’d like to stick with a pretty similar group to what we’ve got. We have to be patient.”

In a country whose high expectations are coloured by the enormous success of the recent past, the question is how long Australia is prepared to wait.

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Coach Francis’ holy advice: too many ‘i’s in Mario


Aussies Ahmed and ready to prevent whitewash … Barba bound for home … Hird charged but doesn’t jump … Toomua pips Quade … Farah stays but Benji gets shirty … Neill big in Japan.


Much like the well-known football song, Mario Balotelli went to Rome to see the Pope, and this is what he was told: ”There is no place for individualism; everything should be about the team.” The striker went public with his desire to meet the head of the Catholic Church before Italy’s friendly against Argentina but instead of being blessed, he found himself on the end of a football-related spray from the pontiff. The Argentinian-born Pope is a football tragic and used his introduction to the two squads to pass on his technical advice. Though, when it came to Balotelli, he didn’t hold back on the player’s ego and attitude. ”You, dear players, are very popular,” he said to him and the squad. ”People follow your example, off the pitch as well as on. You have a social responsibility. Otherwise something is missing from the match, even if you win. There is no place for individualism; everything should be about the team.”


After watching the debate last Sunday it was clear that neither prime ministerial candidate packed a punch but that won’t be the case in the next Ukrainian election. World heavyweight champion Vitali Kitschko announced that he will run as a candidate for Ukraine’s third biggest party. The 42-year-old is keen to fight crime and corruption and believes his skills in the ring qualify him to lead his government. ”I think for boxing, I use exactly the same skills,” he said. ”Trust myself, discipline and organisation and build a team, it’s a teamwork.” Well, it beats repetitive three-word phrases.


A 20-year-old female cricket player showed that she can more than match it with the men as she became the first woman to play first-team cricket in England and took four wickets in her debut. Chloe Wallwork bowled out four batsmen in just 11 overs for her local club Walshaw in the Bolton Association. She said the men were embarrassed that they were sent walking by a woman on debut and some even played more defensively to ensure they weren’t the next casualties. ”When I’m bowling against them they either try to slog me or block me because they don’t want to get out to a girl,” she said.


Drop Out. East Village. As close to pop perfection as you can get. Jangling guitar genius released in 1993 and it still sets the gold standard.



Havard Rugland, a footballer from regional Norway, made the leap to the NFL after a sensational highlight reel of his kicking of the pigskin went viral. Rugland was obsessed with gridiron and might be playing for the Detroit Lions in the coming season after he kicked field goals from 40m and then from 50m in a preseason match. Though, it’s no wonder the Lions and New York Jets were interested in converting Rugland after he displayed his talent on YouTube, performing tricks that need to be seen to be believed. Search for Kickalicious on YouTube.

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Puissance De Lune has class to eclipse rivals

Great expectations: Cup hope Puissance De Lune with Mitch Freedman. Photo: Aaron SawallThe essence behind the prospects of Puissance De Lune in Saturday’s $220,000 P.B. Lawrence Stakes (1400 metres) at Caulfield is class requires speed.

Puissance De Lune is the early Melbourne Cup favourite and the Lawrence, once the Liston Stakes, has not been a happy foundation ground for old-time two-milers; none has completed the double and few even started in it.

But the former French stayer, energised to new heights since arriving at Darren Weir’s yard, is being mentioned for the Cox Plate at Moonee Valley, hardly a race for one-paced stayers. Puissance De Lune has brilliance, as yet untapped under 1600m. Still, circumstances can play a role.

Look at Bayrir, a group 1 winner in the US and cups contender, which resumed at Rosehill recently and was downed by Coup Ay Tee. ”Undoubtedly a superior beast but simply outsprinted,” The Sun-Herald’s Tony Brassel wrote.

Alas, bookmakers don’t seem keen to gamble against Puissance De Lune – at reasonable odds, anyway – although six out of the 11 in the Racenet poll of leading betting houses made him their lay.

”Can’t believe the bookies have him so short,” Betfair’s Daniel Bevan said, but added exchange punters had laid him around $3, which is hardly a savage difference.

”Well backed in the Melbourne Cup,” Michael Sullivan (Sportingbet) said. ”With that in mind, I can’t see them busting a gut to win first-up.”

”First up over 1400m in what is likely to be a slowly run race suggests he will be settling at the back from barrier nine,” Alan Eskander (Betstar) said.

But will the sprint lack tempo? Ajeeb, trained by Mick Price, is a leader and will be watched by rivals. ”Hopefully we can catch them with their pants down,” Price said.

Second Effort, last year’s winner, and Launay should get the run of the race with Under the Sun, victim of poor navigation at Rosehill last start, likely to pour on early pressure.

They have superior fitness, but the quality to handle Puissance De Lune? Sure, his only real sprint was over 1600m, a dead-heat in the Blamey, but he came out of it with bone chips, subsequently removed.

No doubt bookmakers are capitalising on his boom, established over longer journeys, with such a short price but should it stop you from backing him?

Verdict: Puissance De Lune ($2.35).FORM RUNNER

Coup Ay Tee, a member of the Chris Waller team, is hardly taking on a Bayrir in the Spring Preview (second) at Rosehill in which the stablemate menace again rears its ugly head. Waller has four opposing Coup Ay Tee, which has Nash Rawiller in the saddle. Jason Collett handled him with dash and daring to score last start but he goes on to Studio for the trainer. With the exception of Havana Rey, pace is a query but Coup Ay Tee showed he can be effective off a dawdle when downing Bayrir, also prepared by Waller. Havana Rey may need another race to be prime but still looks the hardest for Waller to beat.

Verdict: Coup Ay Tee ($2.50).BACKMARKER

The highly promising Catkins and Velrosso are the Waller conundrum in the fifth. Scratched from the corresponding Caulfield meeting, Catkins is weighted to advantage with Yusuke Ichikawa’s three-kilo claim. Resuming, she can be handy to the lead, while Velrosso gets back. Catkins has the quality edge; Velrosso, fitness, winning form and Jim Cassidy. ”Slots into a perfect spot from an inside draw,” Glenn Munsie (TAB) said about Catkins. ”Undefeated first-up and trialled OK recently.” Waller has Altius, an eye-catcher first-up, with Rawiller atop, against them.

Verdict: Velrosso ($2.60).SLIPPER POINTER

Class against condition is again the query concerning Sidestep and Windjammer in the San Domenico. Regarding Sidestep, trainer Peter Snowden said: ”He had three runs in three weeks and for a two-year-old so early in his preparation it tells you he’s above average.” Sidestep is having his first start since his second in the Golden Slipper at Rosehill in April, while Windjammer, looking short of his best, scored first-up at Rosehill on August 3. But Hugh Bowman sacked Windjammer for Cluster, a maiden, which has done wonders for Windjammer’s price.

Verdict: Sidestep ($3).


Rosehill parlay:  Race 1 — (8) Happy Clapper, Race 4 — (1) Burbero, Race 5 — (8) Velrosso, Race 8 — (2) Travolta.Quadrella: Race 5 — (2) Catkins, (8) Velrosso, Race 6 — (1) Sidestep, (7) Windjammer, Race 7 — (2) Total Attraction, (11) Fast And Sexy, Race 8 — (2) Travolta, (5) Less Is More, (8) Marden.Caulfield parlay:  Race 1 — (8) Text’n Hurley, Race 3 — (2) Sea Galleon, Race4 — (2) Fast ’N’ Rocking, Race 6 — (4) Puissance De Lune.Quadrella:  Race 5 — (1) Scandiva, (8) Spirit Of Heaven, Race 6 — (4) Puissance De Lune, Race 7 — (4) That’s The One, (5) Serene Star, (7) Amah Rock, Race 8 — (5) You’re So Good, (11) A Time For Julia.

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Dazzling Jewel gives Kavanagh a headache he is happy to have

High expectations: Trainer Mark Kavanagh with champion racehorse Atlantic Jewel. Photo: Paul RovereUnbeaten Atlantic Jewel is making Mark Kavanagh’s job harder with every seemingly effortless gallop.

”I like to underpromise and overdeliver,” Kavanagh said. ”That is getting a bit hard with her now.”

Atlantic Jewel is a five-year-old mare which has been restricted to only seven runs because of injury caused by her freakish power.

The daughter of Fastnet Rock showed she had lost nothing in her 16-month lay-off when she led and ran 46.10 seconds for an 800-metre jump-out at Flemington on Friday.

She got home her final 400m in 21.68s, usually a time that would have clockers checking their watches, but with her it is just expected.

Kavanagh and his stable jockey Michael Rodd know the pressure will only build from here.

”If she gets beaten it won’t be her fault, so I have to be doing everything right,” Rodd said. ”She is a lot more mature and she is fantastic.

”She has never led in a trial and she did it on her ear. I gave her a little squeeze and she did it within herself.” About the slick time, Rodd added: ”I gave away being shocked by her a long time ago. She has the biggest stride of any horse I have ridden and it all seems so easy.”

Kavanagh will make a decision on a start in the next week or so. Atlantic Jewel could attempt to add another group 1 to her triumphs in the Thousand Guineas and All Aged Stakes – her most recent race-day appearance – in the Memsie Stakes at Caulfield in a fortnight’s time. The easier option is to wait for the Let’s Elope Stakes on her home track of Flemington on September 7, however, that could compromise her program for later in the spring.

”She is showing she might be forward enough for the Memsie and that opens up the options for her,” Kavanagh said.

”She has been out for 16 months but we have had her back in work for six months and we want to get this right, so we will have a look at her next week before doing anything.

”Running in the Memsie would allow her to go to [Moonee] Valley and get an extra run [in the Dato Tan Chin Nam Stakes over 1600m on September 14] before the Underwood [a week later].”

The main goal for Atlantic Jewel is the Cox Plate on October 26.

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GALLERY: Hughes in for the fight of his life

Mark HughesMARK Hughes punched above his weight throughout a nine-year National Rugby League career for the Newcastle Knights.

That career included two premierships, 161 first-grade games, and three State of Origin appearances for NSW.

That determination and drive has steeled the ‘‘Kid from Kurri Kurri’’, now a 36-year-old father of three, for the fight of his life.

Hughes had an ‘‘avocado-size’’ malignant brain tumour removed two weeks ago and will begin radiotherapy on Monday.

Amid mounting speculation among the Hunter sporting community, and with the staunch support of his wife Kirralee and their children Zac, 9, Dane, 6, and Bonnie, 2, Hughes chose to speak to the Newcastle Herald to set the record straight about his state of health.

‘‘I have got cancer, so I’ve got to start treatment next week to deal with that. There’s some tough times ahead, but I’ve always had to work hard for whatever I’ve got,’’ Hughes said.

‘‘There’s still some hard work to be done, and the prospects are good, but there’s a bit of water to go under the bridge yet.

‘‘Lots of people go through cancer and come out the other end, so I’m not the first person to go through this, and I’m going to tackle it with everything I’ve got and I’m sure I’ll come out the other side.’’

Hughes, who runs his own cleaning company, explained he experienced several days of intense headaches about two months ago.

‘‘I’ve never been one to get headaches, so I went and saw my doctor and he sent me off for a head scan as a precaution,’’ he said.

‘‘That showed something in my brain, but the specialist wasn’t exactly sure at that stage. It was like an avocado-sized darker colour in there,’’ he said.

Follow-up scans three weeks ago confirmed a tumour, which was removed during a four-hour surgical procedure at John Hunter Hospital on August 2.

‘‘I tried to be as positive as possible, and the indications were that it was in a good position and they could get it out pretty well,’’ he said.

‘‘I went in on the Thursday and I ended up getting done about 5 o’clock on the Friday.

‘‘That was the night that the Knights played the Broncos, because my first memory when I woke up was one of the nurses telling me the Knights were getting beat 18-10, and I vaguely remember thinking that’s not going to help my recovery.’’

(The Knights went on to draw 18-18 in extra time).

Hughes could not speak highly enough about his surgeon Dr John Christie, neurologist and Conjoint Professor Chris Levi, long-time Knights medical officer and friend Dr Neil Halpin, and the hospital nursing staff for helping him through his ordeal.

‘‘They’ve all been amazing,’’ he said.

‘‘It’s easy to drive past John Hunter Hospital and not realise what goes on behind those walls. At 5 o’clock on a Friday afternoon, most people are going home or going to the pub or going to the football, and I had my surgeon and his team going in to do surgery on me for the next four hours.

‘‘You put it into perspective, and there were 16,000 or so people watching the Knights and the Broncos that night, and with all due respects to the players, the real heroes are the people that are saving lives. It’s amazing what these guys do, day in and day out. They’re wonderful.’’

For the next few days, Hughes felt better than he thought he would, except for some double-vision and hallucination issues.

‘‘When I was closing my eyes, I was seeing these cartoon figures and 3D illusions, which was pretty weird,’’ he recalled.

‘‘I was talking to Kirralee and it looked like a big clump of her hair floated away into the next room in front of my eyes, but that’s quickly improved.’’

He left hospital late last week and has been overwhelmed by the level of support he has received from his family, friends and former team-mates including Danny Buderus, Andrew Johns, Ben Kennedy and brothers Matt and Kurt Gidley.

‘‘The support I’ve had from my wife, Kirralee, both our families, the Kurri community, all my mates out there, the staff and parents from Holy Family Primary School at Merewether, they’ve all been outstanding,’’ he said.

‘‘Joey’s made five trips up from Sydney to see me, BK and his family have been bringing food around, and everyone’s really rallied around us.

‘‘I always knew with football, probably the best thing about it was the mateship, and that’s been confirmed through all of this, with the people who’ve called and texted to find out how I’m going … The support I’ve had and am still getting has been phenomenal.

‘‘Neil Halpin has known me since I was 20, so it hasn’t surprised me how good he’s been through all this, but he told me and Kirralee that his phone’s on 24 hours a day and I can ring him any time of the day or night – and I know he meant it.’’

Dr Halpin spoke to the Herald with Hughes’s permission, and at his request, to explain the prognosis.

‘‘The situation is that Mark had a posterior cerebral tumour, which was picked up after he was having headaches and some vague funny turns about a month or two ago,’’ Dr Halpin said.

‘‘Initially it was unclear whether it was a tumour, and there was some suggestion it was a stroke, and the rumour got out that he’d had a stroke, but I think it was always going to be a tumour, and he had surgery done two weeks ago.

‘‘He had world-class treatment at John Hunter Hospital. They were magnificent, and he was up and about the following day, after hours and hours of brain surgery.

‘‘He has had histology done, and it’s not a benign tumour, and the grading is not entirely clear yet because we don’t have the final results of the histology and hormone tests on it, but he will be starting radiotherapy on Monday morning.’’

Dr Halpin said the slightly built Hughes, who former team-mates described as ‘‘skinnier than a minute to six, with the shoulders of a brown snake’’, was showing the same courage and character that he demonstrated during his career.

‘‘I think Mark is one of the loveliest guys who ever played for this club,’’ Dr Halpin said.

‘‘He’s a gentle, wonderful person, and he is having the fight of his life, there’s no doubt about that. I think he’s one of the most loved people in the Newcastle community, and in many ways he was such an unlikely footballer – certainly not the stereotype of your average footballer.

‘‘Let me make the point that he’s shown extraordinary bravery through this. His attitude has been so positive – get in there and get it done – which is truly remarkable.

‘‘He’s such an inspiration to everyone else, and he’s been a tower of strength to his wife and his family. You can’t admire the guy enough.’’

From the moment he knew what he was dealing with, Hughes said he was determined to tackle it with a positive attitude.

‘‘It definitely doesn’t scare me to really take this thing on,’’ Hughes said.

‘‘You look at my footy career, I would never have thought I’d have played 160-odd games for the Knights, won two premierships and played for NSW.

‘‘I did all these things that I had to work really hard for during my footy career, and I think some of those traits and skills that I learnt in footy I’m going to be using vigorously over the next couple of months.

‘‘It’s in a good spot, and things are looking good. There’s certainly going to be some hard work ahead and some tough times, but I will get on top of it.

‘‘It’s going to be something I’ll have to monitor for rest of my life.

‘‘I’ve got three kids and a beautiful wife and they’re my motivation to make sure I look after them and get myself fit and get on top of it,’’ he said.

Former Newcastle Knights and NSW State of Origin player Mark Hughes, who has begun radiotherapy after surgery to remove a brain tumour.

Former Newcastle Knights and NSW State of Origin player Mark Hughes, who has begun radiotherapy after surgery to remove a brain tumour.

Former Newcastle Knights and NSW State of Origin player Mark Hughes, who has begun radiotherapy after surgery to remove a brain tumour.

Former Newcastle Knights and NSW State of Origin player Mark Hughes, who has begun radiotherapy after surgery to remove a brain tumour.

Former Newcastle Knights and NSW State of Origin player Mark Hughes, who has begun radiotherapy after surgery to remove a brain tumour.

Former Newcastle Knights and NSW State of Origin player Mark Hughes, who has begun radiotherapy after surgery to remove a brain tumour.

Former Newcastle Knights and NSW State of Origin player Mark Hughes, who has begun radiotherapy after surgery to remove a brain tumour.

Former Newcastle Knights and NSW State of Origin player Mark Hughes, who has begun radiotherapy after surgery to remove a brain tumour.

Former Newcastle Knights and NSW State of Origin player Mark Hughes, who has begun radiotherapy after surgery to remove a brain tumour.

Former Newcastle Knights and NSW State of Origin player Mark Hughes, who has begun radiotherapy after surgery to remove a brain tumour.

Former Newcastle Knights and NSW State of Origin player Mark Hughes, who has begun radiotherapy after surgery to remove a brain tumour.

Former Newcastle Knights and NSW State of Origin player Mark Hughes, who has begun radiotherapy after surgery to remove a brain tumour.

Former Newcastle Knights and NSW State of Origin player Mark Hughes, who has begun radiotherapy after surgery to remove a brain tumour.

Former Newcastle Knights and NSW State of Origin player Mark Hughes, who has begun radiotherapy after surgery to remove a brain tumour.

Former Newcastle Knights and NSW State of Origin player Mark Hughes, who has begun radiotherapy after surgery to remove a brain tumour.

Martin turns down Richmond

Hands up for more? …. Richmond young gun Dustin Martin. Photo: Sebastian CostanzoDustin Martin has rejected Richmond’s most recent contract offer, demanding a “fair” deal be done otherwise he will consider his options.

It’s understood that the Martin camp and the Tigers have a difference of opinion in terms of where the emerging midfielder sits in the pecking order of playing talent at the club, and the flow-on impact of what this has on him financially.

Martin is estimated to be on $450,000 this season, and is understood to be keen to push this to between $600,000 and $650,000. It’s believed the Tigers have looked to the middle ground, offering about $500,000. The length of any deal is not in question.

On the eve of the club’s first finals appearance in 12 years, Martin’s preference is still to remain a Tiger. But after he rejected the Tigers’ latest offer on Wednesday, those close to the goalkicking onballer insist it must be a ”fair” deal and there are up to four clubs interested in trading for the 22-year-old.

Richmond’s general manager of football, Dan Richardson, formerly one of the most astute player agents, said discussions were on-going. “We are still in discussions. We are confident he will be there next year,” he said on Friday.

Earlier, Tigers coach Damien Hardwick said he believed a deal was “pretty close” with Martin.

“Dustin is obviously a fantastic player, an important player in his fourth year,” Hardwick said. “[He] just seems to get better every year so we think that deal will get done in the not too distant future.”

Martin’s manager Ralph Carr, a former Carlton director who played hardball in contract negotiations between Travis Cloke and Collingwood last season, is on holidays and was unavailable for comment.

The Tigers have little room to move as they face a salary-cap squeeze, having recently re-signed several players, including Trent Cotchin, Jack Riewoldt, Alex Rance, Dylan Grimes, Sean Grigg and Daniel Jackson.

Emerging midfielder Reece Conca, 21, has also yet to agree to terms on a new contract. Hardwick said he also believed Conca would re-sign with the club “in the not too distant future”.

Martin has enjoyed an excellent season, and close observers believe he would sit in the top five in the club’s best and fairest. Despite the conjecture about his contract, he has remained focused and is happy and well liked at Punt Road.

Cotchin, Chris Newman, Brett Deledio and development coach Mark Williams have worked closely with the sometimes wayward Martin to help him deal with the disciplines expected of a professional athlete.

However, Cotchin has made it clear this year that financial sacrifice is required if the building Tigers are to enjoy sustainable success.

“Every player in the AFL would love to be paid as much as they possibly can, but the reality is there’s a cap there for that reason. If you want to be part of successful clubs, then sometimes there’s a little bit of sacrifice that needs to be made,” he said.

“We’re all about spending time together, building something and enjoying the whole ride together.”

Riewoldt signed a three-year extension last month, rejecting a massive offer from Fremantle, while Cotchin, Grimes, Grigg, Rance and Jackson will remain at least until the end of 2015.

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on 苏州美甲学校.