Monthly Archives: August 2019

Smith launches NRL season in Auckland

The event host may have had a “Dave Smith” moment but this time the NRL boss’ words resonated for all the right reasons at the official season launch in Auckland on Thursday night.

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Smith may be prone to a clanger since taking over the NRL, however he exuded cool as he delivered some not so subtle jibes to rival sports while reading his 2015 season address.

But event MC Matt Shirvington was not so lucky, with many swearing he called a certain Canterbury strike weapon Josh Hoffman during an otherwise polished ceremony that ushered in this weekend’s Auckland Nines at Eden Park.

NRL chief executive Smith took his time reading from his teleprompter in front of more than 500 VIPs in Auckland – possibly while still reeling from fallout over confusing Benji Marshall and Ben Barba, coming up with Benji Barba, at the same event two years ago.

But there wasn’t a gaffe in sight as Smith signalled the first NRL season launch in New Zealand and only second outside Sydney.

Indeed Smith did everything right as traditional elders greeted him with a nose-to-nose Maori kiss on-stage before unveiling his bold vision, cheekily describing the NRL program as the greatest in sporting entertainment across Australia and New Zealand”.

“Wow, what a calendar,” Smith said.

“As you’ve seen, it’s a calendar which will take us through the best 10 months of sporting entertainment across Australia and New Zealand.”

But some were left scratching their heads after swearing former Olympic sprinter Shirvington, now the face of Fox Sports’ NRL coverage, mistook Dogs centre Josh Morris for Titans fullback Josh Hoffman during the extravagant launch.

The gaffe appeared to be made while Blues clad Morris strode out holding the Origin trophy representing NSW before the 2015 NRL season was officially launched by new South Sydney captain Greg Inglis and local superstar Shaun Johnson.

But it seemed nothing was going to dampen Smith’s enthusiasm.

“We already know, from our success last year, that nothing can capture big audiences and excitement like rugby league,” he said.

“We’re coming off the back of a phenomenally successful 2014 where we had the top three television programs of the year.

“Origin II was the highest rating rugby league match ever, (with) nearly 4 million people attending matches live at the grounds.

“Our clubs recorded record memberships, more than 250,000 fans signed up to support their clubs – the game has never been stronger.”

Smith added: “But, if 2014 was a spectacular season, 2015 is set up to be even more memorable.

“State of Origin returns to the Melbourne Cricket Ground for the first time in 18 years.

“And to top it off, we’ll have live Sunday afternoon football on the Nine network.

“This is a big game with a big heart and an even bigger spirit – and one heck of a lot of talent.”

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Pochettino faces Spurs keeper dilemma before League Cup final

He must decide whether to keep faith with number two Vorm, who has played every minute of the campaign, or give a Wembley spot to Lloris, one of the best keepers in the world and his regular first choice.

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Spurs reached the final with a 3-2 aggregate win over third-tier Sheffield United on Wednesday after a late goal from Christian Eriksen gave them a 2-2 draw at Bramall Lane for his second strike of the night.

Spurs looked set for an overall victory after Eriksen put them 2-0 up on aggregate with a sublime 28th minute free-kick, but United stormed back with two goals in two minutes from teenager Che Adams late in the game to lead 2-1 on the night.

Spurs showed class and character to strike back with the decisive goal after 88 minutes — the fourth time this season Eriksen has struck in the dying minutes of a match to give Spurs a positive result.

But Dutchman Vorm had a less than impressive night after Pochettino kept faith in him despite his late error gifting Leicester City a 2-1 win over Spurs in the FA Cup fourth round at White Hart Lane on Saturday.

Vorm fumbled an early cross which almost led to a Sheffield United goal although he had little chance of saving either of their goals later on.

Spurs go to Wembley hoping for a repeat of their 2008 League Cup victory over Chelsea when they came from behind to win 2-1, which was also the scoreline when they beat them there in the 1967 FA Cup final.

Chelsea beat Spurs 5-1 in the FA Cup semifinal in 2012 in their last meeting at Wembley, though Spurs won 5-3 at home in their latest match in the Premier League on New Year’s Day.

And if Pochettino wants to give his team the best chance of making it three final wins over Chelsea, he might take a leaf out of Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho’s book.

Petr Cech, backup at Chelsea to first choice Thibaut Courtois had played in every domestic cup tie this season until the League Cup semi-final first leg against Liverpool when the Belgian started.

Cech was then restored for the FA Cup fourth-round tie against Bradford City last Saturday but after the third tier side sent Chelsea crashing to a humiliating 4-2 defeat, Courtois returned for the second leg against Liverpool.

The Belgian earned praise from Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers for ensuring Chelsea’s win on Tuesday with a string of superb saves.

(Editing by Sudipto Ganguly)

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NZ man may face death penalty in Indonesia

Indonesian prosecutors have confirmed they will press charges carrying the death penalty against a New Zealand man caught with crystal meth at Bali’s airport.

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Antony de Malmanche, 52, says he thought he was going on his first overseas trip to meet a woman he met online.

Instead he says he found himself diverted to China at the direction of a man claiming to be the woman’s personal assistant.

The man gave him a bag and instructions to fly to Bali, where he would finally meet “Jessie”. Lawyers for de Malmanche say he didn’t know there was 1.7kg of the drug known as ice inside the backpack when he was intercepted by customs in Bali. On Thursday, the invalid pensioner tripped and fell as he was taken to the prosecutor’s office and needed medical attention.

Asked what he expected to happen at trial he said: “To be found not guilty.” Prosecutor Siti Sawiyah says she has received the police brief of evidence including a green backpack and 1709 grams of “shabu”, or crystal meth. She confirmed the Kiwi would be charged with offences carrying a maximum penalty of death.

“We will keep the suspect in detention in Kerobokan prison,” she told reporters on Thursday, adding she hoped a trial could begin as soon as possible. Indonesian lawyer for de Malmanche, Chris Harno, says his client – who spent three years in institutional care as a child – is in poor physical and mental health.

“He suffers pain in his spine and the back of his neck … suffered long ago, but he still feels it now,” he told reporters.

“My focus in court will be to try to get him off the death penalty.”

Indonesian President Joko Widodo has said there will be “no compromise” in executing drug offenders sentenced to death, as part of his determination to stop drug crime. Barrister Craig Tuck, representing de Malmanche, is set to use a groundbreaking defence at trial.

A specialist team of human rights and legal experts from Indonesia and elsewhere will demonstrate that de Malmanche is a victim of human trafficking. 

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Roosters serious about Nines assault

The novelty of the Auckland Nines has already worn off for the Sydney Roosters – much to their rivals’ anxiety.

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Suddenly it seems the Roosters are very serious about winning what has been billed as the “fun” $2.4 million NRL season opener.

Eyebrows were raised about the Roosters’ initial intentions when they named retiree Brad Fittler in last year’s squad.

And a 42-year-old Fittler proved to be a promoter’s dream thanks to his now famous 70m intercept try in their pool win over the Broncos at the inaugural tournament.

But it seems the Roosters were hardly satisfied after they failed to advance from the pool stage with a 1-2 win-loss record.

Any doubts over the Roosters’ 2015 gameplan were quickly erased when they avoided a mooted move to inject more club legends – either Anthony Minichiello or Luke Ricketson – into the 2015 squad.

And the tri-colours further revealed their hand when they announced both starting halves Mitchell Pearce and James Maloney in a strong 2015 squad.

Still, Roosters assistant coach Steve McNamara thought he would ram home the point ahead of the 2015 opener on Saturday.

“It wasn’t the most positive experience for us last year,” the Roosters deputy and England head coach said.

“We are going to give it our best shot – we are representing our shirt, our club.

“We want to give our best performance and hopefully that takes us a long way in this competition.”

The Roosters’ selection of Fittler appeared to kick-start a Nines “old boys” trend.

Manly veteran Steve Menzies also came out of retirement in the inaugural tournament.

And this year Canberra stalwart Ken Nagas and South Sydney veteran Matt King have dusted off the boots.

But the Roosters hope to start their own tradition by claiming the lucrative Nines trophy with a bulked up squad.

Apart from their dream halves, the Roosters will be bolstered by the likes of Jared Waerea-Hargreaves, Tongan international Willie Manu and boom youngsters Mitch Williams and Jackson Hastings.

However the controversial Blake Ferguson did not make the Nines cut.

And according to Waerea-Hargreaves – Nines co-captain with Pearce – they may not need the ex-NSW flyer.

Asked about the Roosters bucking the trend and naming their starting halves for Auckland, Waerea-Hargreaves said: “This is their (Pearce-Maloney’s) game.

“They are going to kill it out there.

“I think we can (win the tournament).”

Roosters CEO Brian Canavan injected: “It’s a prestigious event and we are taking it very seriously.”

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Sangakkara sets new ODI dismissals record

Kumar Sangakkara rewrote the record books twice as Sri Lanka salvaged some pride with a 34-run win over New Zealand in the seventh and final One-Day International in Wellington on Thursday.

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A graceful century from Sangakkara set up the visitor’s 6-287 before the hosts were dismissed for 253 in the 46th over.

New Zealand won the series 4-2 but Sri Lanka can now take some confidence into the teams’ next meeting, the opening game of the World Cup in Christchurch on February 14.

New Zealand had won eight of the last nine ODIs at Westpac Stadium but nobody could match Sangakkara’s deeds with the bat, his timing and class obvious in an unbeaten 113 off 105 balls.

In scoring his 21st century, the left-hander became the highest run-scorer for his country in ODIs, reaching 13,434 runs to surpass Sanath Jayasuriya.

The 37-year-old then claimed two catches, making him a world leader for wicketkeeping dismissals in ODIs. His 474 scalps are two more than Australian great Adam Gilchrist.

The first catch was a diving left-handed effort to dismiss the dangerous Corey Anderson and send Sri Lanka on their way to a much-needed win.

Sangakkara rated his team’s pre-World Cup progress as more important than any personal milestones.

“The entire team’s been working really hard and the hard work has paid off with a good performance,” he said.

“I think the guys are disappointed that we couldn’t win the series but we were competitive throughout.”

Sangakkara said experiencing gained playing in New Zealand conditions will be invaluable during the World Cup and the Sri Lankans have learned plenty from how the Black Caps play.

New Zealand’s chase began disastrously with the cheap dismissal of out-of-touch openers Martin Guptill and Tom Latham – the latter promoted in place of rested skipper Brendon McCullum.

The struggling Guptill departed on the first ball of innings for second time in the series, and for his third duck, trapped lbw by Nuwan Kulasekara.

Stand-in skipper Kane Williamson’s patient 54 and lively knocks from Anderson (29 off 20 balls), Luke Ronchi (47 off 42), Daniel Vettori (35 off 30) and Kyle Mills (30 off 17) kept the game alive but wickets fell too regularly.

Seamers Kulasekara, Shamida Eranga and Dushmantha Chameera all claimed two wickets, the latter impressing on debut with his pace.

Williamson says late swing undid his team but he was pleased with how his lower order kept them in contention.

“We certainly weren’t at our best but we kept making plays and to stay right in the game until the end was a positive for us,” he said.

“We want to win every game we play but Sri Lanka were outstanding today and outplayed us in all facets.”

Earlier, Sangakkara struck 14 fours and dominated a 104-run partnership for the second wicket with opener Tillakaratne Dilshan (81) after captain Lahiru Thirimanne had departed for 30.

Tim Southee was the pick of New Zealand’s bowlers, taking 2-50 off 10 overs, while allrounder Corey Anderson claimed 3-59 off nine.

MOST ODI WICKETKEEPING DISMISSALS

474 – Kumar Sangakkara (Sri Lanka, 396 matches)

472 – Adam Gilchrist (Australia, 287)

424 – Mark Boucher (South Africa, 295)

314 – MS Dhoni (India, 253)

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