Hungry Lions eschew usual miserly approach to feed speedsters out wide

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By , 10/02/2019 20:10

Dull, dreary and obsessed with the set piece … northern hemisphere sides generally come to Australian shores with a reputation for keeping it deathly simple on the rugby field.

The British and Irish Lions have fit the stereotype in one regard. Their scrum and lineout has been a well-oiled machine since the tour began with a rout over the Barbarians and Western Force, before facing sterner competition against the Queensland Reds and Waratahs.

But it has been their willingness to swing the ball wide that has impressed and in some ways surprised the locals. Depending on how conservatively Robbie Deans plays his hand, it could be the tourists that play the more expansive game on Saturday night in Brisbane.

Tour games are not Tests by any stretch but Wallabies centre Adam Ashley-Cooper has seen enough to suggest the Lions will be chancing their arm at Suncorp Stadium.

There will be an inevitable tightening of play as the stakes rise, particularly with the accuracy of their goalkickers, but Ashley-Cooper believes the same blueprint will largely apply to the Tests as it has to the tour matches.

”Their ability to spread the ball has been quite impressive. Obviously they’ve come out with a very physical and confrontational approach to the start of the game and have that ability to throw the ball wide,” Ashley-Cooper said.

”You wouldn’t think too much would change. It seems they’ve had a little bit of consistency in the way they’ve approached each game.

”With the wingers they have, George North, [Sean] Maitland, [Alex] Cuthbert, it would be silly not to get the ball to those guys.”

This would guarantee a busy night for Ashley-Cooper, who should be named at outside centre  on Thursday.

”From a backs perspective, it’s going to be tough. You have to consider the physicality and their great ball-running forwards and also have to defend the width they are capable of achieving,” he said.

”But Test match football is all about physicality and intensity. It’s quite simple when it comes to strategy and game plan but when it comes to intensity, it’s some of the toughest football you’ll play.”

The Waratahs utility, who has  found a permanent home under Michael Cheika, is hopeful of coming face-to-face with Irish great Brian O’Driscoll.

After  thinking he’d never been on the same field,  Ashley-Cooper eventually realised he had faced O’Driscoll twice; once in 2009 at Croke Park and again in the Rugby World Cup. ”I’m pretty sure I haven’t played him at 13,” he said. ”I want to though.”

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I won’t coach Melbourne: Woosha

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By , 10/02/2019 20:10

John Worsfold says he will not apply for the vacant coaching job at Melbourne.John Worsfold will not coach Melbourne next season.

The West Coast premiership coach, out of contract at the end of this season and installed as one of the bookmakers’ favourites to take over the toughest job in the AFL, ruled himself out of contention to take on the vacant Demons post today.

Worsfold did, however, still refuse to commit to the Eagles beyond 2013. And while he did not completely rule out taking on a role with a rival club, that appears to be unlikely.

”I’m not really interested in whether my name is there or not,” Worsfold said. ”It’s one of those non-event things.

”You can put my name there, but I don’t know… if someone is thinking about putting money on me, I can tell them to save their money.

”I haven’t thought about it; haven’t thought about the Melbourne job being available… No, let’s rule myself out – let’s do that!”

Worsfold, who will coach the Eagles for the 271st time on Friday night when they take on Hawthorn at Etihad Stadium, is yet to decide whether he will continue on at the helm of West Coast beyond 2013.

When asked if he would coach anywhere other than the Eagles, the former West Coast premiership captain said: ”The main thing I’m clear on is not whether I’ll coach on here at the Eagles, but that I’ll talk about my contract at the end of the year.”

Mark Neeld was sacked by the Melbourne board on Monday.

He leaves the Demons with a record of five wins from 33 games. They have won just one game this season, by 41 points to Greater Western Sydney in round four.

More damning than the win-loss record though is the eight losses this season by 10 goals or more – four by 15 goals or more.

Worsfold said that he had felt sorry for him.

”I’ve felt for him for the last 18 months and spoken to him a few times to offer support,” Worsfold said.

”I think we all know what he’s been through and a lot of it is not of his own making and I think he’s handled it fairly well. He’ll enjoy a bit of a break before he decides which direction to throw himself back into.”

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Van Egmond excited to co-captain Matildas

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By , 10/02/2019 20:10

RESPONSIBILITY: Emily van Egmond played a key role against New Zealand. Picture: Getty ImagesWHEN Newcastle’s Emily van Egmond celebrates her 20th birthday next month, chances are she will still be pinching herself.

Van Egmond was last week given the co-captaincy of the Matildas for two international friendly wins over New Zealand in Canberra.

Australia defeated New Zealand 1-0 on Thursday night then 4-2 on penalties after a 1-all regulation-time result on Sunday to claim the Centenary Cup.

Van Egmond scored one of the penalties on Sunday and was a key member of new Dutch coach Hesterine de Reus’s first two Matildas line-ups, which are built around playing an uptempo, possession-based style.

She anchored midfield and provided the vital link between defence and attack on the pitch.

However, it is clear de Reus views van Egmond as a long-term senior figure on and off the field after asking her to step into the co-captaincy breach left by the late withdrawal from the New Zealand matches of former Novocastrian Kate Gill due to a hamstring injury.

De Reus named Gill, a former Newcastle Jet, and Clare Polkinghorne as the new Matildas captains last month.

For van Egmond, who had only 16 caps for Australia, the call to replace Gill came out of the blue.

‘‘It was really exciting,’’ van Egmond said.

‘‘It was a different role for me, but it was good.

‘‘I was completely shocked.’’

The honour put the teenager in the elite company of Cheryl Salisbury, Joanne Peters and Alison Forman as Novocastrians to lead the Matildas.

But there is little time for van Egmond to savour the moment.

She will be part of the Australian squad that departs next week for a tour of Europe which will include games against the Netherlands on June 29, Dutch club side ADO Den Haag on July 2 and France on July 6.

The Jets midfielder believes the close wins over the Kiwis will hold the Matildas in good stead.

‘‘It was a good test for us under the new coach, our first internationals, and New Zealand were really, really good,’’ she said.

‘‘I was impressed with how they played. They’ve improved a lot.

‘‘We’re obviously learning a new structure now and way to play, and it’s not familiar to everyone yet, but I think once we play a bit more and have a better understanding of it, I think we will do well.’’

After the tour, van Egmond is expected to link with Seattle Reign FC in the National Women’s Soccer League.

The winner of last season’s W-League goal of the year played in the elite US competition in 2012 with Western New York Flash, who she helped reach the grand final.

As for a return to Newcastle after that for the next W-League season, van Egmond was unsure where she would playing.

TOPICS: Reliving light rail

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By , 10/02/2019 20:10

MAKING A COMEBACK: Trams first started running in Newcastle in 1887. It is possible we will see trams clattering back to our streets again. SPOILT: Kookaburra at Eleebana.

COFFINS, dust and waiting rooms – Newcastle’s trams had it all.

And with the possibility of trams clattering back to life, here are some snippets from the city’s first go at light rail.

The hearse tram

In 1896, when the network was nine years old, the government introduced a hearse tram that connected with funeral trains at Honeysuckle.

According to Tramways of Newcastle, by David Keenan, Ken McCarthy and Ross Wilson, the hearse car held three coffins, and was finished with ‘‘highly polished dark wood’’.

Waiting rooms

Busy stops were fitted with waiting rooms, which were wooden shelters fitted out with lights and bench seats.

Community anger over dust particles

Sound familiar? Passengers on the Adamstown and Mayfield lines were, by 1901, having to wipe down their dust-coated seats.

The problem stemmed from crushed sandstone being used as a road surface. Following pressure from locals, the authorities ran sprinkler cars to hose it down.

One for the road

SPOTTED by a reader: a car for sale at City Road, Merewether, with a sweetener.

“Free beer when you buy this car for $3200”.

Friendly natives

IT’s not just possums that pop up in backyards for alfresco dining (Topics, June 18).

Graham and Jenny Parsons, of Eleebana, have a visitor who dines with them twice a day.

‘‘Every morning at about 7am and every afternoon at about 4pm, ‘Kookie’ the female laughing kookaburra arrives at our back doorstep and expects to be fed,’’ says Graham.

‘‘My wife sits on the step with her and passes her diced raw kangaroo and beef pieces, which we buy in the dog food section of the supermarket.’’

Kookie, says Graham, gently takes the pieces from Jenny’s fingers. When she’s guzzled about a dozen she perches in the neighbour’s gum tree awhile, then flies off.

Other kookaburras and magpies drop in for a feed and gobble meat the Parsons toss their way, but they’re shier than Kookie.

Raymond Caves’s yard in Mayfield is home to a family of red wattle birds.

They seem happy to share a bottlebrush tree with neighbouring lorikeets, but not magpies or Indian mynas.

‘‘They’ll even chase crows,’’ says Raymond.

‘‘They’re a bit like F-18s – they can swoop and turn at all sorts of angles.’’

Bruce Kidd, meanwhile, is pleased that locals are making wild friends, but wants everyone to be careful.

‘‘Please do not over-feed them,’’ says Bruce.

‘‘They still need to maintain the ability to forage for themselves.’’

Apparently fruit’s a better meal for possums than bread.

Accounting for taste

RECENTLY at a restaurant, munching through a Mexican-style salad, Topics performed a quick inventory of the meal.

Radish. Avocado. Cabbage, beans and chillies. Wait a minute. Didn’t we used to hate those things?

Into the imaginary trolley of things that were ‘‘gross’’ during childhood, we’d also throw spinach, olives and the entire seafood family except fish sticks, which we can now barely stomach.

Funny how your tastes change.

What did you hate as a kid, dear reader, that you’ve grown to like?

GREG RAY: Rail transition needs to be seamless

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By , 10/02/2019 20:10

LIGHT rail from Wickham to Newcastle station is OK with me, on one small condition.

That is, I wouldn’t like to see them stop the heavy rail until the light rail is ready to go.

It would be a bad result to have the heavy rail out, then hear the government say that we would have to wait until funds were available from the privatisation of the Port of Newcastle before the light rail could follow.

That would be a bad result because, well, shucks, what if the government was to say in future that it didn’t get quite as much money as it needed from the sale and now the light rail thing wasn’t possible any more?

Or that, good golly, now we need that money to buy votes to win an important seat in Western Sydney and the Newcastle light rail has to go in the pie-in-the-sky forward estimates forever.

Just saying …

So, yep, sounds like we’ve got a plan to move the city forward and give everybody a bit of what they want. But let’s make sure the whole plan gets done.

Borrow the money, if you have to, to get the light rail happening, and repay the loan when you sell the port authority. That shouldn’t be a big deal, to keep everybody sweet.

Do that, and the O’Farrell government might yet be remembered as the one that finally found a workable compromise solution to the knotty and seemingly endless argument over Newcastle, its rail line and its connection with its harbour front.

And I will be among the first to applaud.

It’s not lost on me, of course, that this is another instance where Newcastle can’t seem to get state money spent on it without having to furnish the funds itself, one way or another.

We can’t have money out of consolidated revenue, because that belongs to Sydney. But if something of ours gets sold, we can have a portion of the proceeds. Same old story.

But I’m not inclined to be too churlish about that right now. At least they aren’t just planning to pocket the lot.

While we are talking about fair deals, though, how about that harbour-front land?

Remember how former minister for the Hunter, Jodi McKay, promised to stop the Hunter Development Corporation extending its “Great Wall” around the Wickham corner if the heavy rail got cut?

That beautiful big parcel of land on the harbour, just opposite Stewart Avenue, is the one we’re talking about. Can we have a handshake on Jodi’s deal?

Well, what about it, Libs?

And if the Port Corporation is sold, what happens to Nobbys?

About time it came under the control of the city, I reckon. Time to transfer it to Newcastle ownership, along with an annual budget to look after it.

Seems to me there ought to be a bit of loose change left from the port sale.

The government reckons it will earn about $700million from the deal and it reckons the light rail conversion will cost $340million.

That leaves another $360million, more than enough to give the art gallery a leg-up, I’d say, and refurbish the old Post Office too.

As for selling the port, or at least a long lease over it, I’m not sure if there is a downside.

It might even be positive.

Maybe in private hands the port corporation would be in a better position to compete for non-coal business, which the government has never seemed keen to have located in Newcastle.

Remember how the Obeid-Tripodi government (I forget which one of their premiers was warming the seat at the time) stopped car importers putting a terminal here?

The government forced the importers to walk away from their preferred Newcastle option in favour of Port Kembla, for political reasons.

And they’ve never wanted us to have a container terminal either, and that’s something a private operator might change.

Depends on the fine print, I suppose, as it always does.

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