Young Jet eager to rediscover best form

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By , 09/10/2019 18:46

Scott Neville KICKING ON: Scott Neville.
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KICKING ON: Scott Neville.

NEWCASTLE defender Scott Neville believes he is ready to put his best foot forward next season after conceding he struggled physically and mentally in his first campaign with the Jets.

Neville played in 18 games last season after arriving in Newcastle from Perth Glory, but by his own admission the 24-year-old was disappointed with his contribution.

A lingering groin injury that Neville sustained just before the season-opener did not help his cause, restricting him on the field and gradually eroding his self-belief.

“Obviously it knocks your confidence a bit and you can’t play to your full potential, but I’m big enough to say that I didn’t play how I wanted to play all season,” Neville said yesterday.

“I had a couple of good games but just enough consistency throughout the season.

“It was just a lack of confidence and lack of form. Disappointing overall, I’d say.”

Neville, who played 63 games for Perth in four seasons before joining Newcastle, weighed up off-season surgery to repair his adductor muscle but decided that would be his last resort.

“I was close to having surgery, but me, the physio and the club doctor put a procedure in place where I’ve got to do a lot of extra rehab, a bit of pilates, and it’s just getting stronger and stronger by the week,” he said.

“I’ve been back in full training about a week and a half now and I’m just looking forward to kicking on.”

Neville was hoping to play “half a game” in tonight’s pre-season trial match against third-tier Newcastle University at Ulinga Oval, South Cardiff.

With Newcastle’s Young Socceroos Adam Taggart, Andrew Hoole, Connor Chapman and Josh Brillante and marquee striker Emile Heskey all overseas, Neville said tonight’s hit-out was an early opportunity to impress.

“It gives a chance for all the boys to put their stamp on their position and hopefully nail it down,” he said.

“It’s a test of our match fitness and also what we’ve been working on.

“We have to make sure we’re nice and sharp and get through the game.”

Asked about his plans for the coming season, Neville replied: “Just to be more consistent . . . this year I have to come back and show what I’m worth.”

Council cuts 90 jobs, The Loft, lifeguards

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By , 09/10/2019 18:46

NEWCASTLE City Council has wielded the axe and approved cuts to 90 jobs, The Loft youth venue, city lifeguards and a raft of other services.
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One of the most significant and ‘‘blunt’’ budgets in the city’s history was passed seven votes to six by councillors last night.

The debate became heated at times as Labor and Greens councillors attempted unsuccessfully to wind back some of the more controversial recommendations.

Cr Tim Crakanthorp (Labor) said the council had adopted ‘‘a blunt and illogical budget’’.

‘‘We are cutting some of the most productive, efficient and highly recognised units, not only in this council but across the country,’’ he said.

Cr Lisa Tierney (Liberal) said the cuts were an important first step for the council.

‘‘Councils across NSW are facing a very precarious financial situation,’’ Cr Tierney said.

The cuts were initially proposed after financial modelling revealed the city heading for insolvency and underlying annual deficits topping $64million.

The council will now end financial support for The Loft but will attempt to find a service provider or charity to take over its activities by the end of the calendar year.

Professional lifeguards will not patrol Newcastle beaches on weekends, replaced on Saturdays by volunteers from surf clubs. The summer season will also be cut by seven weeks.

Lord mayor Jeff McCloy said the measures addressed a ‘‘major budget problem’’.

Cr McCloy ruled two amendments that attempted to provide discounted entry to city swimming pools out of order because the council had voted against similar motions within the past three months.

Swimming pool entry fees will remain unchanged next financial year but are set to increase in subsequent years.

Cr Nuatali Nelmes (Labor) also had a motion attempting to save The Loft ruled out of order. About a dozen young people who came to the meeting in support of The Loft left disappointed.

‘‘We don’t seem to be able to have a frank and honest discussion about those services,’’ Cr Nelmes said. ‘‘It is absolutely fair as community representatives that we bring up these issues in the forum that we usually bring them up in.’’

Council acting general manager Ken Gouldthorp said councillors could not propose ‘‘general’’ motions in relation to the budget.

‘‘If you want to provide additional money in the budget to retain services, you need to say how much additional money and where that money is to come from so we can change the document,’’ he said.

PNG ‘dirty money’ trail leads to Australia

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By , 09/10/2019 18:46

Sources believe up to $500 million may have been stolen from PNG government legal aid funds over several years. Photo: Glen HuntMillions of dollars allegedly corruptly obtained from the PNG government have been siphoned to Australian banks, confidential banking documents reveal.
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Fairfax Media has also confirmed that Australian bank NAB recently increased its due diligence on some money transfers from PNG due to corruption concerns.

The allegedly dirty money stems from a corruption scandal gripping PNG that has led to the suspension of senior government officials and Prime Minister Peter O’Neill last month asking the Australian Federal Police and Interpol to help investigate.

Mr O’Neill also threatened to sack all staff in the country’s Finance Department after allegations in Parliament implicating top officials and prominent lawyers.

Law enforcement sources believe up to $500 million may have been stolen from PNG government legal aid funds over several years.

A NAB spokesman said on Tuesday that the bank late last year ”heightened our due diligence relating to some funds from PNG, as a result of information that became available to us through official channels in PNG”.

”Payments that NAB deems as suspicious will be blocked and reported as required by law,” he said.

Fairfax Media has obtained documents that show the leading lawyer named in the PNG Parliament as one of the architects of the alleged corruption scheme, Paul Paraka, has been regularly transferring large sums of money to several contacts on the Gold Coast and in NSW.

It is understood that one of Mr Paraka’s PNG banks has a business relationship with NAB. The NAB spokesman said the bank could not comment on payments made on behalf of individual customers.

On one day in October last year, a bank account linked to Mr Paraka wired about $80,000 in three transactions to his Australian-based wives and girlfriends, including one who lives in Sydney’s Star City casino complex. Between February 2012 and February this year, almost $3 million was transferred to Australia from bank accounts linked to Mr Paraka. PNG investigators believe most of these funds were corruptly obtained.

The ability of Mr Paraka – who denies any wrongdoing – to transfer suspicious amounts of money raises questions about what Australian banks, the federal police and the anti-money-laundering agency, Austrac, are doing to block or investigate dirty money.

The ease with which allegedly corrupt PNG officials and businessmen can transfer money to Australia is becoming an increasing concern for law enforcement officials in both countries.

Last month, AFP senior liaison officer Superintendent Steve Mullins reportedly told a conference in PNG that tens of millions of corruptly obtained money was being deposited in Australian banks each year. An AFP spokesman said Superintendent Mullins was working with PNG authorities ”on a range of complex issues”.

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Defence hit with another internet sex scandal

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By , 09/10/2019 18:46

The Australian Defence Force is investigating whether serving military personnel are linked to offensive Facebook pages that included grossly sexist and anti-Muslim posts – another blow to the military on the heels of the sex email affair.
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Facebook pages emerged in recent days that appear connected to serving and former soldiers based in Townsville and refer to local women as ”sluts”. One of the Facebook groups is titled ”Big Tits Don’t Count If Ya Fat”.

One page includes posters stating ”Death to all illegal immo’s” and ”We have seen enough of Islam. Nuke Mecca”, with a picture of a stealth bomber flying over the annual Muslim Haj pilgrimage.

Another states, ”Thanks for burning this evil Quran”, above a pile of ashes.

A spokeswoman said the ADF recently became aware of two pages that made derogatory references to women. The pages had been removed, she said.

”Preliminary inquiries suggest that a small number of serving Australian Defence Force members have associated themselves with the two Facebook pages,” she said.

”Defence has initiated an investigation to determine if any ADF members are associated with the offensive comments posted to the pages. This investigation is ongoing.”

The emergence of the offensive social media pages comes at a sensitive time for the ADF, which is reeling from last week’s revelations that 17 army members, including senior officers, were involved in a sex email ring.

Members of the ring, which called itself the Jedi Council, filmed themselves having sex with women – sometimes apparently without the women’s knowledge – and then sent footage and images to other members, along with demeaning commentary.

In some cases, they included contact information for the women, so other members could attempt to pick up the women and have sex with them.

The ADF spokeswoman said the Facebook pages were unrelated to the Jedi Council affair.

She said all personnel from Townsville’s 3rd Brigade had been reminded of what constituted unacceptable behaviour on social media.

”Should it be confirmed that any serving member has made comments on either Facebook page which are contrary to defence values and social media policy, disciplinary and/or administrative action will be taken,” she said.

”Defence does not condone offensive and unacceptable behaviour, and such behaviour does not represent the values and ethos of Defence and the majority of its members.”

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Teachers blamed for stress of tests

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By , 09/10/2019 18:46

The agency in charge of national literacy and numeracy tests has blamed principals and teachers for pressuring students to do well on the controversial exams.
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It says student anxiety stems from ”poor communications between schools and their communities” leading to false perceptions that NAPLAN is a high-stakes test.

The Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority has used its submission to a Senate inquiry to warn that principals’ and teachers’ influence on ”their parent community cannot be understated”.

”School leaders play an important role in setting the tone and expectations around NAPLAN tests,” it says.

The authority also takes aim at the media for heightening pressure on students and teachers.

The claims come as the Senate education committee prepares for its first hearing on the topic in Melbourne on Friday. It is investigating how NAPLAN – an annual test of the reading, writing, spelling and numeracy skills of year 3, 5, 7 and 9 students – affects teaching methods and student stress.

The authority acknowledges concern over educators who spend too much time ”drilling students” in the standardised tests, but insists it is ”up to the professional judgment of teachers” to avoid excessive training.

That schools feel the need to devote large amounts of time to test preparation says more about their ”lack of confidence” in their normal literacy and numeracy programs, the authority argues.

Greens school education spokeswoman Penny Wright, who triggered the inquiry, said it was irresponsible to blame individual teachers and schools.

”This is really head-in-the-sand stuff from ACARA. I think ACARA is in denial in the face of overwhelming evidence coming into the inquiry,” Senator Wright said.

The Australian Education Union complains in its submission that a ”high-stakes environment” has sprung up around NAPLAN and pressure on schools, teachers, students and parents continues to rise.

Separately, the Australian Primary Principals Association warns about use of NAPLAN results to prepare league tables comparing schools. It says the student stress, anxiety and illness reported by principals is unacceptable and teachers are also feeling the pressure.

But, the authority says, the positives outweigh the negatives, with the publication of school data on the MySchool website stimulating discussion and showing how schools have improved. It insists the NAPLAN tests should be considered ”low stakes for individual students”, contrasting them with the stressful standardised testing in the United States that can lead to American students being held back a grade.

The education committee will report by Thursday next week – the final sitting day before the September 14 election.

Senator Wright said that, due to the impending election, the committee should make an interim report and continue the inquiry afterwards to do justice to the submissions.

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Michael Lynch: Mission accomplished with hearts in mouths

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By , 12/09/2019 22:12

gt Roos
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Rio

MATCH STATS / AS IT HAPPENED

Surely it wasn’t going to be one of those nights.

Surely this wasn’t going to be one of those games, a match where one team has almost all the posession, virtually all the chances – and still can’t finish the job.

For all of the first half and much of the second of a game upon which hung so much of the short term future of Australian soccer, that’s how it looked.

Until a late, dramatic intervention from the bench, an 82nd minute winner from substitute Josh Kennedy, that broke Iraqi resistance and ensured that Australia will, after all, be going to the ball, the biggest party in global sport. The World Cup in Brazil, 2014.We go to Rio! How you did you celebrate? Click here to email us your photos and videos

Given the problems they had in breaking down such an inexperienced and youthful Iraqi side, it is a legitimate question to ask whether this current, ageing iteration of the Socceroos will make much of an impression when they get there.

But, in these circumstances, that would be churlish and an inquiry for a later day.

Suffice to say that it is mission accomplished, but only just.

German Holger Osieck might not be as much of a gambler as his Dutch predecessor but one, Guus Hiddink, nor might he have the inherent fortune of ”Lucky Guus”.

But the Gods smiled on him in this starred arena for the Socceroos as he rolled the dice, replacing talismanic Tim Cahill with the lanky Kennedy, who had sat on the bench throughout the draw with Japan and the win over Jordan.

Cahill made his displeasure at the decision plain, but the coach was in the end vindicated in the only way  that counts.

This was always going to be a night where the result was all that mattered, with the performance secondary.

The Socceroos huffed and puffed, sweated and strained, pushed and pulled, but could not blow the Iraqi house down even though it often appeared to be made of the flimsiest of construction materials.

It seemed that Australia, crammed full of players of vast experience, might in the end be the men of straw, not the callow youths of Iraq who grew in confidence as each moment passed and each Australian attack was repelled.

For Iraq, who fielded five teenagers in a starting eleven with an average age of 20.9 _ a full decade younger than their hosts _ this was a game in which there was nothing to lose. They didn’t throw caution to the wind, but they didn’t sit back behind the ball either.

Initially they were overwhelmed by the physicality and drive of the Australians, who began at a rapid pace in search of the early goal they knew would put them in the ascendency.

How Australia wanted one, to settle nerves, dim the optimism of their youthful opponents and ensure the game was stretched from the outset.

On any other night save one where the stakes were as high as this they might have got it.

Cahill, so long and so often Australia’s saviour had a great opportunity in the third minute but was denied by Iraqi goalkeeper Noor Sabri. The 28-year-old would have been a virtual youth were he playing for Australia but in what was, in football terms, a pre-pubescent Iraqi line up, the shot stopper qualifed as the senior man.

Robbie Kruse showed a week earlier in Melbourne that he was one of the Socceroos brightest hopes for the future, a lithe, jinking figure blessed with pace and balance, happy to run at opponents or create space for others. He tried his utmost to galvanise the stuttering attack again, playing one twos and making forward runs, but all to no avail.

Big defender Sash Ognenovski ventured forward, combining with Lucas Neill. It would have been one of the more unlikely goal and assist combinations in Australian  history, but it remained a longed for hope for rather than actual footnote when Ognenovski’s header flashed over the bar.

The clock ticked, Australia tried to build patiently, but still the goal wouldn’t come.

The pace lifted in the second period. Emboldened, the Iraqis threw men forward searching for a goal that would have sent shockwaves round this crowded arena.

A big complaint against Osieck is that he has put his faith for too long in the senior men and not trusted to youthful exuberance enough

The lumpy pitch, which hosted a rugby league game two weeks before, was doing neither side any favours, but the reality for Australian fans, as their team toiled in search of the goal they so desperately hoped for, was beginning to dawn. This was no foregone conclusion.

A big complaint against Osieck is that he has stuck too long with his senior men and not built for the future, failed to put his trust in the exuberance of youth.

Certainly his younger brigade _ winger Tommy Oar and Kruse  _ looked liveliest as Australia took the game to Iraq, and when the ineffectual Brett Holman made way for Tommy Rogic with half an hour to go the man widely regarded as the future creative force for the Australian game got his chance to change the course of history.

For one glorious instant it looked as though Kruse had delivered, his drive from the edge of the penalty area scorching into the net, but the ”goal” was disallowed for a foul in the build up.

Osieck rolled the dice and threw all his cards on the table. And in the end it was a man whom he had ignored through much of the campaign who delivered when it mattered most. The end justified the means. Three World Cups in a row is an achievement any nation can be proud of.

AUSTRALIA 1 (Josh Kennedy 83m) bt IRAQ 0 at ANZ Stadium. Crowd: 80,523. Referee: Faghani Alireza.

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Shellshocked Lions tamed by Brumbies

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By , 12/09/2019 22:12

CANBERRA, AUSTRALIA – JUNE 18: The Lions look dejected after their defeat during the International tour match between the ACT Brumbies and the British & Irish Lions at Canberra Stadium on June 18, 2013 in Canberra, Australia. (Photo by David Rogers/Getty Images) Photo: David Rogers NEWS/SPORT: Brumbies players centre L-R Siliva Siliva and Clyde Rathbone celebrate after beating the British and Irish Lions at Canberra Stadium. . 18th June 2013.Photo by MELISSA ADAMS of The Canberra Times.. Photo: Melissa Adams MLA
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AS IT HAPPENED / MATCH STATS

The ACT Brumbies have crushed the British and Irish Lions’ confidence on the eve of the Test series with a historic victory at Canberra Stadium.

In a battle that will go down in rugby folklore, the young Brumbies became the first Australian provincial side to beat the Lions in more than 40 years.

The 14-12 triumph in freezing conditions is a massive blow for the Lions just days out from the first Test against the Wallabies in Brisbane.

Sure, the Lions fielded a second-string line-up to protect their stars from injury.

But the Brumbies were without a dozen top-line players and still managed to fight and grind their way to one of the biggest upsets in rugby history.

In just two years South African Jake White has taken the Brumbies from a disastrous rabble to Super Rugby contenders and now world beaters.

The Brumbies will refocus for the Super Rugby finals when the competition resumes on July 13.

They’ve locked in their place at the top of the Australian conference and will bask in the glory of beating the best players in Europe.

It was a win that made Wallabies great and Brumbies legend Stephen Larkham cry.

Larkham was part of the Wallabies’ triumphant series against the Lions in 2001.

He’s won World Cups, Bledisloe Cups, Tri Nations and Super Rugby titles.

“This is one of the best, very emotional,” Larkham said with tears in his eyes.

“The boys knew what they were doing, we’ve closed out some teams this year but this is one of the best.

“I’m very emotional, we’re going to enjoy this tonight and then refocus on the Force.”

The two-point win will be a huge boost for Australian rugby ahead of the Test series.

Despite the Brumbies leading the Australian conference, the match was shunted to a Tuesday night while NSW and Queensland played on a Saturday night.

It brought back memories of the 2001 tour when the Brumbies almost clinched a historic victory, only to fall to a heart-breaking defeat in the dying stages.

On paper Tuesday night’s match it was an massive mismatch. The Lions boasted almost 600 Test caps despite missing most of their starting line-up.

In comparison, the Brumbies had just 28 shared between two players.

The Brumbies are the first Australian provincial side to beat the Lions since Queensland won in 1971.

They are the first provincial side in the world to beat the Lions since Northern Transvaal in 1997.

Brumbies coach and South African World Cup-winning mentor Jake White described the result as one of the highlights of his career.

“You have to put it in perspective, it’s humbling to think these young boys have done that,” White said.

“They were fantastic, the way they were able to grind it out and win … the way it unfolded, it was good to see them off.”

The Brumbies staved off a last-ditch attempt from the Lions and celebrated after the siren as the ball was booted into the grandstand.

Outside centre Tevita Kuridrani scored the only try of the match before the teams traded penalty goals.

The Brumbies played like the Super Rugby title contenders while the Lions were ironing out some kinks before the Tests begin.

It frustrated the Lions. Experience and class should have had them well in front.

But the Brumbies’ determination strangled the visitors and tempers threatened to boil over when Lions flanker Sean O’Brien started to push the Brumbies players.

The Brumbies positioned themselves for a major upset when they led 8-3 at half-time.

Mogg booted two penalty goals after the break to stretch the lead to 14-3, but the Lions hit back with Stuart Hogg slotting one of his own.

The Lions sent in reinforcements to launch a late charge and penalty goals got them within just two points with less than 10 minutes remaining.

BRUMBIES 14 (Tevita Kuridrani try Jesse Mogg 3 pens) bt LIONS 12 (Owen Farrell 2, Stuart Hogg 2 pens) at Canberra Stadium. Referee: Jerome Garces. Crowd: 21,655.

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How will the ball bounce this time?

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By , 12/09/2019 22:12

It should have gone straight. If it had, it would have led to honour and glory and an inviolable place in St Kilda legend and the history of the game. But it didn’t. And in a crude way, it summed up Stephen Milne.
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It was inside the last minute of the 2010 grand final, and St Kilda trailed by a point. Norm Smith medallist Lenny Hayes’ rushed kick forward took two jagged, random bounces. The first went left, over the head of Milne and Collingwood’s Ben Johnson. But Milne, as ever, read it first and best, and was now out of Johnson’s reach and tracking the ball on its trajectory towards the goal. There was no one else ahead.

But the next bounce was a rogue, sharp and right, deceiving even Milne and trickling over the line for a behind. St Kilda never did win the premiership that it seemed it must in that time, and Milne never did assume Barry Breen’s messianic mantle, and it was all because of that wrong-‘un of a bounce.

The wrong-‘un is a good ball, skilful, clever and, against the unsuspecting, devastating. Colloquially, it is also someone who has taken a wrong turn. Arguably, Milne in his time has personified both meanings. Across 13 seasons, he has averaged more than two goals a game, an extraordinary number for a small forward, a triumph of living on one’s wits in a position where nothing comes easily. One night against the Brisbane Lions, he kicked 11. The ends at Etihad Stadium are named for the giants Lockett and Coventry, but the man who has kicked the most goals there is the diminutive Milne.

For the past three years, he has led St Kilda’s goalkicking. For the past two, he has been All-Australian. It is a replete career. Ascribe those numbers to Eddie Betts, or Leon Davis, or Cyril Rioli, and the feeling would be warm and fuzzy. Other than among St Kilda supporters, Milne does not inspire that same affection. If graphed, the peak would be at grudging respect. Mostly, this has to do with impressions, about which Milne can do little. There is something about his manner, impish and leering, that aggravates opposition fans. He was Hayden Ballantyne long before Ballantyne. Like Ballantyne, Milne appeared to enjoy getting under the skin of others. It was a persona, but it was inescapable.

Milne was only in his fourth season when the charges now revived first were aired. It has coloured attitudes towards him ever since. Of course, that is not his fault. The animus towards him reached a miserable low earlier in 2010 when in a heated exchange at quarter-time in a match against Collingwood, Mick Malthouse was seen to mouth at him the word ”rapist”.

Malthouse was fined, and apologised, but crowds are notoriously unthinking, and indiscriminate in their favours, and despite repeated appeals to better instincts, the opprobrium has rained down on Milne ever since. For the most part, he gave the impression it was water off a duck’s back. But earlier this season it got to him, and he talked of the vilification and its effect on him and his family. If the field ever was Milne’s sanctuary, it is no longer. With grave charges weighing, he would be a brazen man to set foot out there on Saturday.

It should have gone straight on. It nearly did.

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Mission accomplished … just

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By , 12/09/2019 22:12

Josh Kennedy.Surely it wasn’t going to be one of those nights.
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Surely this wasn’t going to be one of those games, a match where one team has almost all the posession, virtually all the chances – and still can’t finish the job.

For all of the first half and much of the second of a game upon which hung so much of the short term future of Australian soccer, that’s how it looked.

Until a late, dramatic intervention from the bench, an 82nd-minute winner from substitute Josh Kennedy, that broke Iraqi resistance and ensured that Australia will, after all, be going to the ball, the biggest party in global sport. The World Cup in Brazil, 2014.

Given the problems they had in breaking down such an inexperienced and youthful Iraqi side, it is a legitimate question to ask whether this current, ageing iteration of the Socceroos will make much of an impression when they get there.

But, in these circumstances, that would be churlish and an inquiry for a later day.

Suffice to say that it is mission accomplished, but only just.

German Holger Osieck might not be as much of a gambler as his Dutch predecessor but one, Guus Hiddink, nor might he have the inherent fortune of ”Lucky Guus”.

But the Gods smiled on him in this starred arena for the Socceroos as he rolled the dice, replacing talismanic Tim Cahill with the lanky Kennedy, who had sat on the bench throughout the draw with Japan and the win over Jordan.

This is the Kennedy moment for this generation. Where were you the day Kennedy shot the ball into the back of the net #AUSvIRQ— paul suttor (@paulsuttor) June 18, 2013

Cahill made his displeasure at the decision plain, but the coach was in the end vindicated in the only way that counts.

This was always going to be a night where the result was all that mattered, with the performance secondary.

The Socceroos huffed and puffed, sweated and strained, pushed and pulled, but could not blow the Iraqi house down even though it often appeared to be made of the flimsiest of construction materials.

It seemed that Australia, crammed full of players of vast experience, might in the end be the men of straw, not the callow youths of Iraq who grew in confidence as each moment passed and each Australian attack was repelled.

For Iraq, who fielded five teenagers in a starting eleven with an average age of 20.9 — a full decade younger than their hosts — this was a game in which there was nothing to lose. They didn’t throw caution to the wind, but they didn’t sit back behind the ball either.

Initially they were overwhelmed by the physicality and drive of the Australians, who began at a rapid pace in search of the early goal they knew would put them in the ascendency.

How Australia wanted one, to settle nerves, dim the optimism of their youthful opponents and ensure the game was stretched from the outset.

On any other night save one where the stakes were as high as this they might have got it.

Cahill, so long and so often Australia’s saviour had a great opportunity in the third minute but was denied by Iraqi goalkeeper Noor Sabri. The 28-year-old would have been a virtual youth were he playing for Australia but in what was, in football terms, a pre-pubescent Iraqi line up, the shot stopper qualifed as the senior man.

Robbie Kruse showed a week earlier in Melbourne that he was one of the Socceroos brightest hopes for the future, a lithe, jinking figure blessed with pace and balance, happy to run at opponents or create space for others. He tried his utmost to galvanise the stuttering attack again, playing one twos and making forward runs, but all to no avail.

Big defender Sash Ognenovski ventured forward, combining with Lucas Neill. It would have been one of the more unlikely goal and assist combinations in Australian history, but it remained a longed for hope for rather than actual footnote when Ognenovski’s header flashed over the bar.

The clock ticked, Australia tried to build patiently, but still the goal wouldn’t come.

The pace lifted in the second period. Emboldened, the Iraqis threw men forward searching for a goal that would have sent shockwaves around the crowded arena.

The lumpy pitch, which hosted a rugby league game two weeks before, was doing neither side any favours, but the reality for Australian fans, as their team toiled in search of the goal they so desperately hoped for, was beginning to dawn. This was no foregone conclusion.

A big complaint against Osieck is that he has stuck too long with his senior men and not built for the future, failed to put his trust in the exuberance of youth.

Certainly his younger brigade — winger Tommy Oar and Kruse — looked liveliest as Australia took the game to Iraq, and when the ineffectual Brett Holman made way for Tommy Rogic with half an hour to go the man widely regarded as the future creative force for the Australian game got his chance to change the course of history.

For one glorious instant it looked as though Kruse had delivered, his drive from the edge of the penalty area scorching into the net, but the ”goal” was disallowed for a foul in the build up.

Osieck rolled the dice and threw all his cards on the table. And in the end it was a man whom he had ignored through much of the campaign who delivered when it mattered most. The end justified the means. Three World Cups in a row is an achievement any nation can be proud of.

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Merritt deserves Origin selection

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By , 12/09/2019 22:12

NATHAN Merritt deserves his chance. When he was announced on Tuesday as NSW’s replacement for the suspended Blake Ferguson, there were widespread cheers from fans of all clubs.
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But the South Sydney flyer was not merely a sentimental selection.

With 148 first-grade tries to his name, 11 of them this season, he is a proven performer who is unlikely to let anyone down in Origin II at Suncorp Stadium next Wednesday.

While it is impossible to begrudge Merritt an opportunity that probably should have come several years ago, Knights wingers Akuila Uate and James McManus are entitled to wonder what more they could have done.

Their statistics this season compare favourably to Merritt’s.

In terms of tryscoring potency, Merritt and McManus have both crossed the stripe 11 times, while Uate has eight four-pointers from 11 games.

Merritt is a natural finisher but his career strike rate of 69.4per cent is well shy of Uate’s (77.2per cent).

Both Uate and McManus are clearly bigger than Merritt, and on average they produce more yardage per game.

In Origin, wingers are expected to do the dirty work in their own territory, carting the ball upfield from dummy-half.

Uate has not been chosen since game two of last series, when he was sadly exposed under the high ball and in defence.

The perception is that he is error-prone and would be a target for Queensland’s playmakers, but Merritt’s stats suggest that he, too, can be a weak link out wide.

McManus, who has not played for the Blues since his lone game in 2009, hardly featured in discussions.

But Knights coach Wayne Bennett recently rated McManus the ‘‘form winger in the competition’’ and it is hard to argue.

He is one of the leading try poachers in the competition, has made half as many errors as Merritt and broken twice as many tackles.

McManus is not as flashy as many wingers but week in, week out, he gets the job done.

He could not have done much more to state his case for an Origin recall. On merit.

NATHAN MERRITT

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