Bendigo Pioneers mark great start to season by beating North Ballarat Rebels 

THE Bendigo Bank Pioneers kicked off their season by beating North Ballarat Rebels in the AFL TAC Cup under-18s football clash at Craigieburn on Easter Saturday.
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Led by the play of Kyneton’s Jordan Mangan and Castlemaine’s Josh Cakitaki across half-back, skipper Jacob Chisari from South Mildura, Sandhurst’s Harry O’Meara and Lalbert’s Jake Maher through the centre and across midfield, the Pioneers won 12.18 (90) to 7.6 (48).

It was the club’s first victory since the Ollie Wines and Jake Stringer-inspired 10-point triumph against Northern Knights on July 14 in last season’s 13th round Huntly’s Strauch Reserve.

Although they had 15 players in their first TAC Cup under-18s clash, the Pioneers teamed superbly after a nervous opening to the 2013 campaign.

North Ballarat capitalised on a stiff breeze to lead 12-nil after less than five minutes.

Both of the Rebels goals were taken after two marks inside forward 50m.

Bendigo’s defence tightened up after the early onslaught to concede just two more marks inside the Rebels attacking 50m for the rest of the contest.

The Pioneers finished the first quarter by scoring four consecutive behinds.

Bendigo made a brilliant start to term two.

Liam Byrne’s strong tackle at the centre bounce earned a free kick.

Byrne passed to Chisari who in turn handpassed to the pacy O’Meara to goal on the run from near the 50m arc.

The Rebels replied to lead 19-12 after five minutes.

A series of passes by the Pioneers was capped by a mark and goal to Irymple’s Bryce Heeps.

Mangan’s tap at the next centre bounce ended up with Bendigo winning the centre break and the first of three goals by Sandhurst’s Alex Hywood to take the lead in the 12th minute.

A superb kick-in by Lockington’s Trent Bacon after a Rebels point set off an attack down the outer wing from which Blake O’Halloran marked and goaled to lead 30-20 in the 15th minute.

The Rebels intercepted a kick across ground near centre half-forward and goaled.

It was one of few errors the Pioneers made in transition from defence to attack.

Bendigo hit back with consecutive goals, which included one by O’Meara on the run to lead 43-26 at half-time.

The Pioneers won the crucial third quarter by 14 points.

Highs included Chisari’s brilliant roving and quick handpass to O’Meara in the clear to kick his third major.

Kyneton’s Daniel Davie was rewarded for his chase and tackle with a goal, while South Bendigo’s Blake Poyser intercepted a pass from which the Pios attacked and Hywood goaled.

The Pioneers did most of the attacking in the final term.

O’Halloran and Hywood were on target in a quarter where several shots at goal were askew.

While it was second-year players such as Chisari, Mangan and O’Meara who stood out, a lot of the Pioneers newcomers showed a lot of skill and poise under pressure.

Shortly after they had sung “We Are The Pioneers” with gusto, coach David Newett praised the team for its intensity, workrate and determination to win a lot of one-on-one contests against the Rebels.

The Pioneers led the inside 50m tally, 54-31; clearances 27-21; and marks inside 50m, 7-4.

“Every player contributed to this victory. It’s a fantastic feeling to start the season with a win,” Newett said.

“We showed today that by getting the ball into space and using our pace and skills that we can open sides up.

“Today is reward for effort for all the work you have put in. The challenge is to go again next week,” he said of facing Murray Bushrangers on Saturday at Shepparton’s Deakin Reserve.

GREAT PLAY: Bendigo Pioneers’ Billy Evans wins the ball in the midfield. Picture: AFL PHOTOS

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Street art debate: a conversation Ballarat needs to have

IS graffiti art or vandalism? It’s a question dividing the Ballarat community.
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It’s also an issue that is costing more than $250,000 a year to address and frustrating many business owners who have to clean up graffiti attacks on their buildings.

According to City of Ballarat’s public art advisory committee head, councillor Des Hudson, a conversation about urban art is something the community needs to have.

“Where there are legitimate spaces, acceptable designs and approval from the community, urban art can be an acceptable form of public art,” Cr Hudson says.

He cites the council’s traffic signal box art project as a great success in curbing graffiti and encouraging urban art.

Started two years ago with the approval of VicRoads, the $30,000 project has seen 20 signal boxes painted by Ballarat artists.

The project is modelled on a similar effort by the City of Brisbane and links professional artists and community groups together.

Cr Hudson says another 15 signal boxes will be painted by the end of this financial year at a further cost of $10,000.

“When you use public art to reduce the number of blank canvasses, it provides an opportunity for urban art to come out in public domain,” Cr Hudson says.

“Generally, it then doesn’t attract graffiti as it becomes sacred space.”

However Cr Hudson, who also chairs the Ballarat community safety committee, says not all graffiti can be considered appropriate or art.

“For me, graffiti is tagging, it’s words and scrolls that doesn’t mean anything to anyone,” he says.

“It’s designed to damage property and generally make an area appear untidy.

“To that end, we would commend the work of Ballarat police in Operation Centaur, which is taking a hard line to people who participate in this form of vandalism.”

The council has also spent good money trying to clean the streets of graffiti.

“We have spent in excess of $250,000 a year on a graffiti removal program,” Cr Hudson says.

“That’s in partnership with the Department of Justice… we have received around $100,000 from the state government.”

Delacombe-based DJ Graffiti Removals owner David Jebb says removing graffiti from a wall can take between 15 minutes and three hours per square metre.

The costs, he says, can be anywhere from $20 to $45 per square metre.

“I remove the graffiti with biodegradable chemicals. Once its off, I use pressure wash (to clean up),” Mr Jebb says.

“But sometimes I have to paint the wall because the graffiti damages the painted surface.”

One Ballarat businesswoman – who doesn’t want to be named – says she has spent more than $2000 on cleaning up graffiti from her business premises in the past 10 years.

“We got tagged once a year,” she says.

“A lot of the time, depending upon the size, I’d get out there and remove it myself.”

“When it comes to removing graffiti, she says, Ballarat businesses need to be more proactive.

“I would appeal to business owners to remove it immediately themselves,” she says.

“They (graffiti artists) are doing it so that they can see their tags.

“We need to encourage people to be a bit more concerned about the look of their business. That’s what makes our city look so much better.”

Shep Cannery owner Peter Corboy is also concerned with the appearance of his business, but he decided on a different strategy by commissioning sanctioned graffiti.

Mr Corboy says the colourful and vibrant mural on a huge shipping container kept on the side of his shop in Wendouree has attracted a lot of notice.

“It’s my way of stopping graffiti,” Mr Corboy says.

“The container was a big white canvas and someone would have come and put tags on it.

“I didn’t want to look at rubbish.”

Mr Corboy says he spent $50 and two hours scrubbing to remove a previous tag.

The commissioned work, which was done by Ballarat artist Cax and two of the youths he mentors, cost $300 in paint.

“It was something that was worth doing and looking at,” Mr Corboy says.

The work has already attracted positive comments and lots of youngsters have come through for a look.

“I spoke to the kids who were doing it and they seemed really good.

“They had a passion for street art but just nowhere to do it.”

One passionate proponent for street art is 36-year-old Ballarat artist K23.

Somewhere in a leafy city suburb, the father-of-three will put a circle cutter to sticker paper, pick up some spray paint and begin creating.

Inspired by patterns in nature, the softly-spoken visual art graduate likes to produce work that reflects the bright colours of sunsets and flowers.

On first glance, the artworks – bright circles placed on top of each other – might seem random. But they aren’t, sometimes taking weeks to finish.

K23, as he likes to be known, has previously exhibited his work in galleries.

But these new artworks will instead be stuck on the back of signs, on signal boxes and in laneways – mostly in the dead of night.

K23 has been creating contemporary art for the past seven years, but only got into street art in the past two years.

“I like to put art in the public spaces so it adds colour and pattern,” he says.

“Public spaces can be a bit dull and grey.

“It is nice to have some colour and art to look at.”

Street art, he says, brings vibrancy to the landscape and creates public discussion.

“You reach a different audience on the streets than in a gallery,” he says.

“Art gets people thinking.

“Street art adds to our lives.” Reclaiming public spaces from advertisements is also a motivator for K23.

The artist says he would never deface historical buildings, schools or private property.

K23, whose work has appeared in Melbourne, New York and the UK, says street art is a global phenomenon.

Ballarat, he says, is in dire need of a legitimate space dedicated to street art.

Graffiti on the roof of the MLC building opposite Craig’s Royal Hotel in the Ballarat CBD.

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Dragon Mile draws hundreds to compete

FAST times were achieved by many athletes in yesterday’s running of the 27th Bendigo Bank Dragon Mile.
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A big morning of racing include the mini-mile for grades four and under, and the mile classic for grades 5-6, years 7-8, years 9-10, and the open.

The Dragon Mile drew hundreds of competitors across a wide range of age groups as they raced along Pall Mall, up Mitchell Street, left onto Queen Street and a U-turn before heading back down Mitchell Street and to the finish opposite the old Bendigo Advertiser building on Pall Mall.

Results from yesterday’s racing:

Dragon Mile open

4.24 Brady Threlfall, 4.43 Jesse Fullerton, 4.47 Jacob Nolan, 4.48 Jamie Cook, 4.54 Luke Crameri, 4.59 Peter Guida, 5.04 Harrison Pearse (Girton), 5.05 Melissa Duncan, 5.14 Daniel Plowright, 5.18 Dave Tarrant, 5.26 Ross Freemantle, 5.27 Katie Duncan, 5.31 Jake Salt, 5.36 Zachary Raeburn, 5.37 William Watson, 5.44 Michael Gibbon, 5.47 Matthew Wilson, 5.48 Nathan Cain, 6.00 Gary Murphy, 6.16 Nathan Healey, 6.28 Darren Trevaskis, 6.37 Jess Pethybridge, 6.43 Pete Taylor, 6.46 Kelly Hayles, 7.59 John Meagher, 8.00 Tim Gretgrix, 8.19 Elizabeth Guida, 8.54 Bec Doherty, 9.33 Tara Hosking, 9.34 Lisa Nicolson,

Dragon Mile years 9-10

4.48 Joshua Powell (Creek Street Christian College), 5.03 Jackson Blakemore (Creek Street Christian College), 5.06 Xavier Walsh (Catholic College Bendigo), 5.08 Matthew Heislers (Girton Grammar), 5.12 Beau Roy-Clements (Bendigo South East Secondary College), 5.28 Teleah Hayes (Rochester Secondary College), 5.24 Peter Rothacker (Creek Street Christian College), 5.34 Ryan Brook (Bendigo South East), 5.38 Luke Rowlatt (Bendigo South East), 5.39 Tom Barkmeyer, 5.43 Nico Schoobee (Bendigo South East Secondary College), 5.46 Michael Flynn (Weeroona College), 5.47 James Brown (Catholic College Bendigo), 5.52 Carnie Edlin (Bendigo South East), 5.52 Gary Egan (Catholic College Bendigo), 6.02 Maxwell Pearse (Girton Grammar), 6.03 Tom Mannix (Bendigo South East), 6.08 Travis Mercante (Bendigo South East Secondary College), 6.09 Mitchell Keuken (Bendigo South East Secondary College), 6.10 Thomas Dante (Bendigo South East Secondary College), 6.12 Demi Goodall-Hoffman (Catholic College Bendigo), 6.17 Nathan Burrell (Bendigo South East), 6.22 Shaina Brook (Bendigo South East), 6.30 Andrew Bruce (Bendigo South East Secondary College), 6.38 Brianna Elder (Weeroona College), 6.39 Paige Davis (Bendigo South East Secondary College), 6.40 Jayden Wright (Bendigo South East Secondary College), 6.42 Grace Edlin (Bendigo South Eat Secondary College), 6.49 Shelby Gahan (Bendigo South East Secondary College), 6.54 Maddie Law, 7.03 Ruby Tuohey, 7.11 Matilda Gibbs (Girton Grammar), 7.24 Casey Barczynski (Bendigo South East Secondary College), 7.55 Matilda Schaeche (Bendigo South East Secondary College), 7.58 Jocelyn Teggerth, 7.59 Bridie Pearse (Catholic College Bendigo), 12.13 Karina Robertson (Weeroona College).

dragon mile years 7-8

5.13 Hugh Schaeche (Bendigo South East Secondary College), 5.16 Spain Ndikumana (Weerona College), 5.18 Zacharia Paynter (Nambour, Queensland), 5.20 Anthony Dempster (Victory College), 5.21 Ben Powell (Creek Street Christian College), 5.23 Alexander Nielsen (Girton Grammar), 5.26 Jordan Wanafalea (Weeroona College), 5.41 Samuel Wallace (Victory College), 5.48 Matthew Sporle (Catholic College Bendigo), 5.52 Jonas Hosking (Bendigo South East Secondary College), 5.53 Kayle Thompson (Girton Grammar), 5.54 Kristian McNaughton (Bendigo South East Secondary College), 5.55 Luke Keuken (Bendigo South East Secondary College), 5.57 Kate Salvador (Bendigo South East Secondary College), 5.58 Wade Kinniburgh (Bendigo South East Secondary College), 5.59 Callum Tucker (Bendigo South East Secondary College), 6.00 Liam Christensen (Victory College), 6.04 Kane Watts (Bendigo South East), 6.04 Tom Floyd (BSE), 6.05 Jake Hilson (Weeroona College), 6.15 Harvey Gibbs (Girton Grammar), 6.16 Darby Semmens (Castlemaine), 6.16 Kyle Butcher (Bendigo South East), 6.17 Meg Patterson (Catholic College Bendigo), 6.23 Jack Bourke (Weeroona College), 6.27 Jaydon Flynn (Weeroona College), 6.30 Adelia Ilsley (Bendigo South East), 6.31 Corben Leskie (Bendigo South East), 6.32 Jessica Law, 6.33 Emily Patterson (Catholic College Bendigo), 6.34 Maddison Hooke (Weeroona College), 6.35 Alice Bailey (Catholic College Bendigo), 6.39 Madison Hill, 6.40 Gabrielle Rusbridge (Weeroona College), 6.40 Alex Di Valentine (Bendigo South East), 6.41 Sam Watts (Bendigo South East), 6.46 Annabel Bradshaw, 6.47 Jacinta Rooke (Crusoe College), 6.49 Gabrielle Kleyn (Catholic College Bendigo), 6.58 Rosie Jeffrey (Bendigo South East), 7.01 Emily Seery (Bendigo South East), 7.07 Charlotte Edlin (Bendigo South East), 7.10 Maddi McGregor (Bendigo South East), 7.11 Harry Harrick (Weeroona College), 7.12 Breana Merrin (Girton Grammar), 7.17 Rebecca Dower (Bendigo South East), 7.21 Jessica Saffron (Weeroona College), 7.25 Emma Hindson, 7.27 Caitlin Rowlatt (Bendigo South East), 7.31 Darian King (Bendigo South East), 7.39 Alana Mitchell (Weeroona College), 8.34 Georgia McGuiness (Weeroona College), 8.35 Alexandra Moat (Bendigo South East), 9.59 Chantal Hansford (Bendigo South East).

Dragon Mile GRADES 5-6

5.54 Lachlan Balcke (Lockwood), 5.58 Zahra Hayes, 6.00 Fraser Symons (St Therese’s), 6.04 Macklin Wellard (Eaglehawk North), 6.05 Cayden Thompson (Girton Grammar), 6.12 Bridie Semmens, 6.14 Fletcher Gallagher (St Therese’s), 6.15 Anthony Delgallo, 6.17 Noah Walsh (St Therese’s), 6.18 Pheobe Wearne, 6.22 Matilda Moore (St Joseph’s), 6.33 Ethan Guida (Girton Grammar), 6.34 Yazmine Hayes, 6.37 Frank Gibbs (Girton Grammar), 6.38 Ella Wicks (Lockwood), 6.39 Nick Williams (Girton Grammar), 6.47 Connor Mayman (Strathfieldsaye), 6.40 Jack Merrin (Lockwood), 6.49 Dane Keuker (Strathfieldsaye), 7.04 Ryan Salvador (Kennington), 7.07 Jakeb Nicolson (Holy Rosary), 7.09 Emily Heislers (Girton Grammar), 7.17 Jack Di Valentine (Axedale), 7.18 Sharn McNamara (Lockwood), 7.19 Ted Taylor, 7.27 Tom McCormick (St Peter’s), 7.29 Connor Symons (St Joseph’s), 7.29 Tamas Spark, 7.43 Braydn Murley (Weeroona College), 7.44 Ella Fletcher (Girton Grammar), 7.45 Greta Schaeche (Kennington), 7.56 Abbey Hromenko (Huntly), 8.02 Aisha Quattrocchi (Lockwood), 8.15 Lauren White (Huntly), 8.18 Jazna Austin (Lockwood), 8.19 Shakira Dean (Big Hill), 8.26 Sean Stephens-Schultz (Lockwood), 8.34 Thomas Moore (Huntly), 8.48 Jordan Hayles, 9.51 Jake Hindson (White Hills).

Mini-mile grades 4-under

2.46 Harvey Gallagher (St Therese’s), 2.52 Luke Salvador (Kennington), 2.53 Ryley Taylor (Lockwood), 2.54 Nathan Delgallo, 3.00 Erin Hilson (White Hills), 3.00 Timothy Long (St Therese’s), 3.00 Baxter Symons (St Therese’s), 3.01 Toby Balcke (Lockwood), 3.03 Carissa Brook (Quarry Hill), 3.03 James Kay (Girton), 3.04 Jack McDonald (Strathfieldsaye), 3.05 Zayne Pearce (Axedale), 3.05 Jack Craig (St Joseph’s), 3.06 Cain Donnelly (Kennington), 3.10 Piper Dunlop (St Therese’s), 3.11 Tyler McLennan (Huntly), 3.12 Joshua Ilsley, 3.12 Lucia Dyer (Kennington), 3.13 Cameron Gibbon, 3.14 Solomon Gibbs (Girton), 3.15 Kaleb Crothers (Lockwood), 3.16 Tully Dunlop (St Therese’s), 3.19 Max Balcke (Lockwood), 3.19 Cooper Rooke (Lockwood), 3.20 Elka Barnett (Kennington), 3.20 Jack Fry (St Liborius), 3.21 Owen Towler (St Liborius), 3.21 Jade Donnelly (Kennington), 3.23 Fynn Neilsen-Proctor, 3.25 Caitlin Campbell, 3.27 Mairead Spark, 3.27 Gemma Quattrocchi (Lockwood), 3.30 Hudson Symons (St Therese’s), 3.30 Keely Fullerton (California Gully), 3.31 Callum Craig (St Joesph’s), 3.32 Joshua Liersch (Axedale), 3.32 Ebony Delgallo, 3.33 Samuel Kay (Girton), 3.36 Ebony Butcher (Strathfieldsaye), 3.39 Baillie Bennett (Weeroona College), 3.39 Tom Reid (Quarry Hill), 3.40 Lachlan Feueherdt (Camp Hill), 3.43 Damon Kaine (Girton Grammar), 3.47 Skye Webb (Epsom), 3.47 Max Healey, 3.48 Oliver Mayman (Strathfieldsaye), 3.49 Shae Crouch (St Joseph’s), 3.53 Thomas Nicolson (Holy Rosary), 3.54 Mia Bolitho Williams (White Hills), 3.55 Luke Feueherdt (Camp Hill), 3.56 Portia Kaine (Girton Grammar), 3.56 Depp Hosking (Girton) , 3.57 Shayla Webb (Quarry Hill), 3.57 William Harvey (Axedale), 3.59 Mackenzie Webster (St Francis), 4.06 Hunter Webster (St Francis), 4.08 Marley Gallagher (St Therese’s), 4.16 Beth Towler (St Liborius), 4.17 Catherine Fry (St Liborius), 4.18 Jorja Crothers (Lockwood), 4.19 Courtney Campbell, 4.20 Logan Horomenko (Huntly), 4.12 Abbey Thompson (Girton Grammar), 4.25 Ella Dobell, 4.26 Charlotte Taylor (Healesvillee), 4.29 Abby Warn (Lockwood), 4.30 Darcy Gath (White Hills), 4.30 Zora Shelten (Lockwood), 4.42 Myia Nicolson (Holy Rosary), 4.44 Jessica Taylor,4.45 Rena Nichol (Girton Grammar), 4.48 Tyler Quattrocchi (Lockwood), 4.49 Thomas Harvey, 4.40 Kimberly Stingel (St Peter’s), 4.52 Angus Seigloff (St Josephs), 4.53 Joel Purdy (Huntly), 4.56 Tom McNamara (Lockwood), 5.0 Joshua Feueherdt, 5.18 Nikita Purdy (Huntly).

SPRINT: They’s off and racing in the mini-mile for girls. Picture: JODIE DONNELLAN

SPRINT: They’re off and racing in the mini-mile for girls. Picture: JODIE DONNELLAN

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Waterhouse reaches for fifth Slipper win

“This is the goal; anything else along the way is just a bonus. The Golden Slipper is what all the work is about”: Trainer Gai Waterhouse. Photo: Anthony JohnsonGai Waterhouse doesn’t use the calendar year, her year starts and finishes with the first Saturday in April and the Golden Slipper.
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The year may end the way she would hope it did last year when Pierro beat Snitzerland in the Slipper. As Pierro hit the line, the cycle had already started again, with the selection of yearlings.

Saturday means Waterhouse’s toil and hard work comes to fruition as she has three Golden Slipper runners, including $2.10 favourite Overreach.

”This is the end of 12 months of work with the babies,” she said. ”This is the goal; anything else along the way is just a bonus. The Golden Slipper is what all the work is about.”

Add appearances by Pierro and More Joyous, and even Waterhouse admits it will be one of the biggest days of her career at Rosehill. ”It is just exciting to have horses like More Joyous and Pierro going around in their races [the Queen Of The Turf and George Ryder Stakes],” she said.

”I have had some big Golden Slipper days – of course, when I had five runners one year [in 2001] and had four run and had the trifecta, that was exciting.

”I don’t think I have had a team like this going to a big day before.”

While Pierro and More Joyous will start odds-on favourites, Driefontein will be at each-way odds in the Vinery Stud Stakes.

”Driefontein is a very underrated filly, and she will run a very good race,” Waterhouse said.

But Slipper day is about the two-year-olds, and Waterhouse will search for her fifth winner from either Overreach, Whittington or Sweet Idea.

”The Slipper is the reason why we sent Overreach to Melbourne in the spring. Sweet Idea went to the Magic Millions [where she was runner-up] but was always going to the Slipper,” Waterhouse said. ”They both worked very well on Saturday. Overreach had a bit of a look-around, being by herself, but she is still the one to beat.

”Whittington, well, he had a setback in December and missed the Magic Millions, and has a couple of runs to boost his confidence. I’ll put a tongue tie on him for the Slipper. Nash [Rawiller] just said he was playing with his tongue the other day, and in the Slipper you can’t afford to be playing with anything.”

New Zealander Ruud Awakening’s connections will pay the $150,000 late-entry fee, while a decision on whether Queenslander Whiskey Allround will pay the late fee will be made after he gallops on Monday. Anthony Cummings and the owners of Scandiva are leaning towards not paying the late entry, even though she is guaranteed a Slipper run after her win in the Magic Night Stakes.

Peter Snowden confirmed Guelph and Kuroshio would run, and is monitoring how Pago Pago winner Sidestep pulls up.

”We will have the two runners for sure, and make up our mind on Sidestep after he works on Tuesday,” Snowden said.

Kerrin McEvoy has indicated he will probably ride Sidestep in if he were to run, which would mean a jockey would be needed for Guelph, as Darley have booked Christian Reith for Kuroshio.

Gerald Ryan is looking for a rider for Dothraki.

Slipper field (In order of entry)Criterion  $12Overreach  $2.10Sweet Idea  $15Sidestep  $10I’m All The Talk $17Scandiva  $35Romantic Moon  $26Fast ’N’ Rocking  $17Villa Verde  $12Kuroshio  $51Guelph  $26Whiskey Allround  $26Whittington  $15Ruud Awakening (NZ)  $17Dothraki  $51Charlie Boy $17Va Pensiero  $101

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Top spot rams home reality of knockout for Wanderers

On the mend: Shinji Ono trains with the Western Sydney Wanderers on Friday. Photo: Anthony JohnsonIn his own mind, Tony Popovic knows his Western Sydney Wanderers have already won the league, regardless of what happens from here. But whether he, the Asian Football Confederation or a legion of traditionalists who prefer the first-past-the-post model like it or not, the honour of being Australian champions is only bestowed upon the grand final winner.
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Popovic and his men must swallow the slightly gruesome reality of knowing that while his team are just two wins away from being crowned champions, they are also 90 minutes from elimination.

You read it right. Despite all their amazing deeds, a mistimed tackle, own goal, errant pass or sending off might be enough to end the Wanderers’ season.

Welcome to the new look finals series, where, in an attempt to spice up the playoffs, Football Federation Australia has made every game a knockout match.

It’s a complete reversal from the system of previous years, one skewed so heavily in favour of the top two teams, the remaining four were virtually no chance of claiming the title. Indeed, no team ever won from outside the top two, and only twice did a third-placed team make it to the decider (one time being when only four teams were in the finals). Teams from fourth, fifth and sixth never figured.

Now there’s great hope for any team that has the good fortune to make it to April. The difference between Perth and Western Sydney being champions from here? Perhaps no more than a penalty shootout.

However, the benefit for the Wanderers and Mariners for finishing in the top two – an extra week’s break – shouldn’t be underestimated, especially considering their respective fitness issues.

Instead of taking risks with their players this coming weekend, the premiers can now nurse Aaron Mooy, Jerome Polenz, Adam D’Apuzzo and skipper Michael Beauchamp – who managed to push through Friday’s 3-0 win over Newcastle – back to full health.

But the man who really needs the break is Shinji Ono. The 33-year-old has been cleared of any deeper damage to his groin but an extra fortnight of rest will do him the world of good.

Such has been his impact this season that neutrals across the country will have their fingers crossed he comes good in time. It would be a real shame to have him miss the finals.

The Central Coast Mariners just need a break, full stop. They’ve won their final three games of the regular season but they’re an exhausted batch – just ask Graham Arnold. If only they could use the whole fortnight to rest, but that’s not the case. They have to front up on Wednesday night at home to Chinese side Guizhou Renhe in the third game of their ACL campaign. With one point from two matches, a win is a must to keep their continental hopes alive.

To rub it in, they have to back up six days later for the return leg in Guiyang. Their A-League semi-final is five days later. At least the FFA had the good sense to schedule the game on a Sunday, but the coach will feel the planets have aligned against him once more.

Yet while some may accuse Whitlam Square of creating a finals series too cutthroat for its own good, nobody can accuse it of being boring. We’ve seen the marathon, now we’re about to get the sprint. It’s going to be one wild dash to the finish.

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It’s a honey-bunny win for English

Jason English wins the men’s 30-34 category. Photo: Katherine Griffiths Cyclists on the home stretch after 24 hours of riding. Photo: Katherine Griffiths
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Hot cross buns with honey were the secret weapon that helped power Jason English to his sixth consecutive Australian solo 24-hour championship at Stromlo Forest Park on Sunday.

The Port Macquarie teacher is hoping to find a baker willing to make some of the traditional Easter buns in October when he’ll return to Canberra for the world 24-hour championships.

He’ll be going for a remarkable fourth consecutive world title in the endurance event.

”Hot cross buns with honey is amazing,” English told The Canberra Times after the race.

”I haven’t really tried it before, I don’t know how many I had.

”I’ll have to get a bread shop to sponsor me so they can make hot cross buns in October, it’ll definitely be handy.”

While English has established himself as the benchmark in the men’s event, Wollongong’s Liz Smith was starting to do the same for herself in the women’s.

She won her second consecutive national title, to go with her 2012 Scott 24-hour title, by more than one lap of the 12-kilometre course.

Smith is yet to win a world title, but gets her chance to change that later this year.

While she’ll celebrate her 33rd birthday on Friday, Smith said she felt closer to 50 after her 24-hour ordeal, although she looked as if she’d just been on a Sunday afternoon ride.

”I’d like to think I could [emulate English], but there’s a lot of good girls out there and a lot of strong competition,” Smith said.

”I’ll give it everything I’ve got and see what happens.

”I think there’s going to be lots of competition [at the world titles], not just from the internationals, but from the other Australians that weren’t here today.

”Hopefully I’d like to [finish] top five.”

Smith completed 25 laps in 24 hours and 25 seconds.

Libby Adamson finished second and Francesca Sanders third, both with 24 laps.

While her win was comfortable, English was made to fight for his until the very last lap.

The OnTheGo Racing team member was just 10 minutes ahead of Canberra’s Ed McDonald going into the 33rd-and-final lap.

It had been as low as 90 seconds on Sunday morning before English ground it out to nearly 26 minutes by the end of race.

The 32-year-old felt it pointed to a close race at the world titles, albeit one dominated by Aussies.

”You definitely can’t be confident [going into world titles], a race that close, it could’ve gone either way,” English said.

”That just comes down to a flat tyre.”

The world titles will be held at Stromlo on October 12.

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Dual World Cups a lure for SBW

Work in progress: SBW wants to be selected on form. Photo: Jenny EvansSonny Bill Williams will return to Test football for New Zealand in two weeks in a move that may lead to the Sydney Roosters superstar becoming the first player to win World Cups in rugby league and union.
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Williams confirmed his decision to make himself available for the Kiwis on the eve of Monday night’s match against Parramatta – his fourth since returning to the NRL after five years in union – and will be selected in the Kiwis’ side for the April 19 Test against Australia at Canberra Stadium.

New Zealand coach Stephen Kearney met with Williams in the week leading up to his Roosters debut on March 7 and asked about his availability, but the dual international wanted to ensure he was selected on form.

The 2011 Rugby World Cup winner was maintaining the same line on Sunday when asked about playing in the upcoming Test, but given how quickly he has readjusted to the game, Kearney will have no hesitation in choosing him.

”I’d love to say yes and I will definitely be putting my hand up if my form warrants it,” Williams told reporters during his first media session in Australia since starting training with the Roosters in February.

”We will have to see how I go but at this stage it’s about keeping my place at the Roosters and playing good consistent footy.”

After a solid but unspectacular start from the bench in his first match against South Sydney, Williams played 80 minutes in each of the Roosters’ other matches and was widely considered man of the match in last weekend’s 8-0 shutout of the Broncos.

While Williams was regarded as potentially one of the game’s greats when he walked out on the Bulldogs in 2008, Kearney said the way he has eased himself back into the game showed how much he has matured.

”The thing that I think everyone has been impressed with is the way he has improved since his first game. It is a real credit to him,” Kearney said.

”It would have been easy for him to come back and try to play the way he left it, but he has been very measured in the way he has gone about it and hasn’t tried to force things.

”We all know what he was capable of before he left the game, but the way he has come back is probably a sign he is a lot more mature and he has played that way.”

Kearney is yet to ask Williams about the World Cup at the end of the season but the fact he has made himself available for the one-off Test in Canberra suggests there is a strong possibility of him playing in the tournament.

Williams’ inclusion in the Kiwis squad would be a massive boost for the World Cup holders and also for tournament organisers in England, where ticket sales for the semi-final at Wembley and final at Old Trafford are already very strong.

After missing New Zealand’s triumph over Australia in the 2008 final to play rugby for Toulon in France, Williams would have the opportunity to become the first player to win World Cups in both codes.

Wendell Sailor and Mat Rogers came closest after winning the 2000 World Cup with the Kangaroos and being members of the Wallabies side that lost the final of the rugby union equivalent in 2003 to England.

Williams said the game was much more structured since he last played but after his stint in rugby union he was used to that.

”I’ve come back to league as a union player and I’m facing new situations,” he said. ”Sometimes they’re big hurdles but good players can overcome them.”

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Obstruction rule baffles Bennett

Newcastle coach Wayne Bennett has branded the policing of the obstruction rule  a “minefield’’ and  called for the NRL to address it before it costs a team a semi-final.
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The Raiders were on the wrong end of two contentious calls during Newcastle’s 28-12 win at Hunter Stadium on Sunday night.

In the first half, referees Gerard Sutton and Brett Suttor disallowed a try to Raiders centre Blake Ferguson after they ruled Josh McCrone had run behind decoy runner Brett White.

Sutton and Suttor penalised the Raiders without sending the call up to the video referees.

Also in the first half, video referess Shayne Hayne and Luke Patten awarded Newcastle winger Anthony Quinn a four-pointer, despite a Knights player making contact with McCrone in the defensive line.

Referees boss Daniel Anderson told all clubs before the season if an attacking player initiated contact with a defender, it would result in an automatic penalty.

But there is the belief defenders are using the interpretation to their advantage by deliberately making contact with an attacking player.

Coaches are becoming increasingly frustrated that defenders are being rewarded for poor reads.

Bennett is the most decorated and respected coach in the game and when he talks, officials generally listen.

“They’ve got a minefield for themselves and they’re going to have to fix it up,’’ Bennett said bluntly after the match.

“[Before this year’s interpretations] it was much simpler and the game has got to that complex stage.

“It’s going to create more controversy as the season goes on, and the games become more vital.’’

Told of Bennett’s comments, Canberra coach David Furner grinned and said simply “I would agree’’.

A case could be made in both instances last night for a try to be allowed or disallowed.

Therein lies the problem, with clubs desperate for that ‘grey area’ to be addressed.

It is particularly hurting the Raiders, whose attack is centred heavily around decoy runners and second-man plays.

The obstruction rule came under heavy fire when Melbourne halfback Cooper Cronk was disallowed a try in last week’s win over the Bulldogs.

Officials deemed a Bulldog defender had been unfairly taken out by a Storm decoy runner, but most agree he was unlikely have played in part in attempting to stop the try.

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Hurt Wighton adds salt to Raiders’ loss

NEWCASTLE, AUSTRALIA – MARCH 31: Adam Cuthbertson of the Knights scores a try during the round four NRL match between the Newcastle Knights and the Canberra Raiders at Hunter Stadium on March 31, 2013 in Newcastle, Australia. (Photo by Tony Feder/Getty Images) Photo: Tony Feder iuytre
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How the match unfoldedWhat we learnedObstruction rule baffles BennettNRL ladder

A bruised and battered Canberra is furious Newcastle’s Akuila Uate escaped punishment for tackling Jack Wighton in the air after the Raiders winger hurt his wrist in Sunday night’s 28-12 loss at Hunter Stadium.

Early in the second half, with Canberra leading 16-12, Wighton leapt for a bomb but appeared to be tackled by opposite number Uate before his feet hit the ground.

Wighton has carried his wrist injury all season but the Raiders fear he may have broken it in his exchange with Uate.

Referees Gerard Sutton and Brett Suttor ruled a knock-on against Wighton, and the Knights scored off the next set when halfback Tyrone Roberts embarrassed Josh Papalii with a dummy.

The Raiders were also unhappy Knights hooker Danny Buderus was not penalised for a clear shoulder charge on Canberra centre Blake Ferguson in the second half.

Canberra coach David Furner is likely to seek clarification from referees boss Daniel Anderson.

Asked if there would be any team changes for next week, Furner replied: ‘‘I’m not thinking about that at the moment.

‘‘I’m thinking a couple of mandatory penalties would have helped us in the second half. There’s a couple I thought were mandatory.’’

Officials have heavily policed the shoulder charge since it was banned before the start of this season.

Ferguson lay on the ground for some time before playing the rest of the match after the Buderus hit, but Furner was bemused it did not result in a penalty.

‘‘I’m very surprised – very, very surprised,’’ Furner said. ‘‘There’s been a lot of ‘hoo-ha’ about it. I had a quick look at it on the replay [after the game] and it summed it up.’’

Raiders hooker Glen Buttriss (shoulder) and winger Sandor Earl (hamstring) will be assessed this week, while Knights skipper Kurt Gidley (concussion) played no part in the second half.

Having led 12-10 at half-time, a litany of errors and poor discipline cost the Raiders badly, the Knights scoring 18 unanswered second–half points.

In an early season hole at 1-3, Canberra need to regroup for crucial home assignments against the Sydney Roosters and New Zealand Warriors the next fortnight.

The Raiders trailed 10-0 early after Knights tries to Uate and fellow winger Anthony Quinn, but took a 12-10 lead through tries to Joel Thompson and Papalii.

However, momentum swung back in the Knights’ favour when Roberts’ ‘‘show and go’’ completely fooled Papalii.

Furner did not blame referees for the loss, saying Canberra was again its own worst enemy at times, especially in the second half.

They handed the Knights chance after chance, and two soft second-half tries to Newcastle prop Adam Cuthbertson sealed their fate.

Furner criticised the last-play options of halves Sam Williams and Josh McCrone, who are coming under increased pressure.

‘‘Our last play options, our kicking game was pretty poor tonight,’’ Furner said.

‘‘We didn’t give ourselves a chance in that first half, we visited their line four times and we didn’t even get a repeat set.

‘‘There were times there where our defensive principles and our discipline let us down.’’

Roberts backed up his starring effort in last week’s thrashing of the Cowboys with another brilliant effort, while Newcastle prop Kade Snowden made 192 metres from 16 runs.

As usual, Raiders lock Shaun Fensom was tireless with 103 metres and 59 tackles, while centre Ferguson (eight tackle breaks) looked threatening whenever he touched the ball.

NEWCASTLE KNIGHTS 28 (Adam Cuthbertson 2, Akuila Uate, Anthony Quinn, Tyrone Roberts, tries; Roberts 3, Kurt Gidley goals) bt CANBERRA RAIDERS 12 (Joel Thompson, Josh Papalii tries; Jarrod Croker 2 goals) at Hunter Stadium. Referee: Gerard Sutton, Brett Suttor. Crowd: 18,689.

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Alexander says he’ll benefit from Sio’s starring role

A fresh Ben Alexander believes the emergence of fellow ACT Brumbies prop Scott Sio opens the way for his own game to have more of an impact.
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Alexander played almost every minute of the 2011 Super Rugby season, with Wallabies duties on top, but has spent the past two weeks coming off the bench.

He was meant to start in the 23-20 win over the Pretoria Bulls on Saturday night, but a stomach bug last week forced him to the bench with Sio starting in his place.

Brumbies coach Jake White preferred to give Alexander more time to recover rather than risking him in a starting role.

The 21-year-old Sio took his chance with both hands and played a large part in Robbie Coleman’s first-half try.

Sio broke the Bulls line and the next phase resulted in Coleman crossing the line after the half-time hooter.

Declaring himself fully fit and over the bug, Alexander is hopeful the break will increase his own impact when he does return to the starting line-up.

”That’s it exactly, it is a long season, there’s a lot of games and it does take it out of you,” he said on Sunday.

”You’ve got to look at how long the seasons are, if you’re playing every game you’re going to run out of puff.

”While you’ll still be out there you won’t be contributing your best, that’s why it’s good rotating, sharing the load and keeping guys fresh.

”Especially in the front row where it’s a physical position.”

Alexander said Sio had all the weapons needed in Super Rugby and predicted a ”bright future” for his fellow prop.

He said the top teams had depth in every position and pointed to when the Canterbury Crusaders rotated the Franks brothers, Owen and Ben, and Wyatt Crockett through the front row.

The Brumbies also have Ruaidhri Murphy bolstering their prop stocks.

”Scotty’s been awesome as everyone’s saying,” Alexander said. ”He’s a big lump of a lad and he’s got a good attitude.

”He’s willing to listen … and he’s bearing the fruits of that, a pretty bright future. He’s put in two good performances, so he’s just got to keep to it and keep going well, and expect big things from him.”

Alexander said a Wallabies cap was on the horizon for Sio, while his coach said he was a ”great talent”.

White has been impressed with how Sio has settled into the starting line-up since earning his starting debut against the Durban Sharks at Kings Park two weeks ago.

He then played the full 80 minutes against both the Cape Town Stormers and the Bulls.

”Not just this week, he’s stepped up every week,” White said of Sio.

”He stepped up against the Sharks, he’s now played the Stormers and he’s played three really big South African sides.

”I’m sure he’ll get a lot of confidence out of playing against a Bulls pack.

”Scott’s a talent, he’s a great talent. He’s now learnt what it’s like – three big South African sides in a row and he’s got three starts in a row.”

White said he was delighted with the improvement of the Brumbies’ scrum. ”It’s fantastic … not only because we scrummed well [against the Bulls], but that we’re developing our frontrowers,” he said.

The Brumbies’ next test is against the Southern Kings at Canberra Stadium on Friday night.

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Number of involved players critical to ruling

Referees boss Daniel Anderson will examine footage of Krisnan Inu’s spear tackle on Greg Inglis on Monday morning to deem whether the Bulldogs centre should have been sent off.
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Anderson has not spoken to the match officials about the incident, having seen limited footage of the tackle that led to Inglis being dumped head first into the turf at ANZ Stadium on Friday.

”I didn’t evaluate that game; I was at the game and saw it on the big screen, but that’s all I know about it,” Anderson said.

”I have to have a look at the number of players in it. If there’s two men in it, it’s very difficult for someone to be sent off. I’ll look at it [on Monday].”

Anderson wasn’t willing to say what effect his interpretation would have on the match officials for this weekend’s game – dumping a referee would be new territory for him.

”When I view it, I’ll look at the process and coach and educate. I’ll speak to referees. It’s not easy for the men in the middle to send someone from the field. It’s a very big decision. That’s taken into account but I can’t identify the process because I don’t know what their thinking was.” Inu stood beside Inglis as he received treatment to make sure the Queensland and Australian star wasn’t seriously injured.

They later gestured to each other to clear the air, with Inu showing plenty of remorse for placing the Rabbitohs’ No. 1 in such a dangerous position.

Inu’s teammate Josh Reynolds conceded the tackle wasn’t a good look for the game but insisted it was out of character.

”It wasn’t pretty,” Reynolds said after his side’s loss to South Sydney. ”But anyone who knows Krisnan knows he’s not that sort of player. He was very sorry for it. That’s all I can really say. We’ll just have to wait and see what happens from here.”

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Dugan apologises for outburst

Josh Dugan and one of the messages he posted on a social media site. Photo: InstagramTroubled former NSW Origin star Josh Dugan has apologised for his behaviour on social media and claims he has been abused since posting a photo of himself and Canberra teammate Blake Ferguson drinking on the roof of Ferguson’s house.
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Dugan, who was sacked by the Raiders after the incident, told a Canberra fan to ”end yourself” after becoming embroiled in a slanging match with two Instagram users late on Saturday night after he posted a photo of himself and a friend with their shirts off. The pair – one named @gearbox82 and another named @mark-raider1 – criticised Dugan over the way he was sacked by the Raiders, the fact he split up from his pregnant partner and claimed Reece Robinson was a better option at fullback.

”haha righto Marky Mark: go get another Raiders Tattoo then end yourself,” Dugan wrote. ”Your mrs is hot too … send her my way ill show her the time of her life.”

After jeopardising his career, Dugan posted an apology on Twitter but claimed there were two sides to every story ”and only the bad side of my story has been told over the last few weeks”.

”Yes, I stuffed up and, yes, I’m paying my price, but people go on and on about bullying when I am constantly being harassed for simply putting a photo up,” Dugan wrote.

”I apologise to those who I had bad words with but I am a normal person like anyone else.

”Media can write what they want but have not spoken to me personally or seen the abuse I have copped.

”Life goes on and I’m trying to move forward with my life and career.”

Dugan won support from former Canberra teammate Travis Waddell, who now plays for Newcastle, South Sydney winger Nathan Merritt and Wallabies five-eighth Quade Cooper, who tweeted: ”head up brother. Things happen for a reason. In your corner if you ever need anything bro”.

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Sio’s future bright, says benched Alexander

A fresh Ben Alexander says the emergence of fellow ACT Brumbies prop Scott Sio opens the way for his own game to have more of an impact.
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Accustomed to playing 80 minutes in recent times, Alexander has spent the past two weeks coming off the bench.

He was meant to start in the 23-20 win over the Bulls on Saturday night, but a stomach bug forced him to the bench and Sio started in his place.

Brumbies coach Jake White preferred to give Alexander more time to recover, rather than risking him in a starting role.

The 21-year-old Sio took his chance with both hands, playing a large part in Robbie Coleman’s first-half try.

Declaring himself fully fit and over last week’s bug, Alexander is hoping the break will increase his impact when he returns to the starting line-up.

”That’s it exactly. It is a long season, there’s a lot of games and it does take it out of you,” he told Fairfax Media.

”You’ve got to look at how long the seasons are – if you’re playing every game, you’re going to run out of puff. While you’ll still be out there, you won’t be contributing at your best. That’s why it’s good rotating, sharing the load.

”Especially in the front row where it’s a physical position.”

Alexander said Sio had all the weapons needed in Super Rugby and predicted a ”bright future” for his fellow prop.

He said the top teams had depth in every position and pointed to when the Crusaders rotated the Franks brothers, Owen and Ben, and Wyatt Crockett through the front row. The Brumbies also have Ruaidhri Murphy bolstering their decent prop stocks.

”Scotty’s been awesome as everyone’s saying,” Alexander said.

”He’s a big lump of a lad and he’s got a good attitude. He’s willing to listen … and he’s bearing the fruits of that, a pretty bright future.”

Alexander said a Wallabies’ cap was on the horizon for Sio, while his coach said he was a ”great talent”.

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