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Andy Murray ‘gutted’ to be ruled out of Australian Open after coronavirus diagnosis


Former world number one Andy Murray said he was “gutted” after deciding to withdraw from next month’s Australian Open following a positive test for COVID-19 earlier this month.

The 33-year-old Murray, a wildcard, confirmed last Thursday that he had tested positive for the virus and was in self-isolation at his home near London.

That meant he was unable to take one of the charter flights laid on by Australian Open organisers, leaving him facing a race to be able to arrive in time to complete the mandatory 14-day quarantine period as per health protocols.

“Gutted to share that I won’t be flying out to Australia to compete at the Australian Open,” Murray was quoted as saying by British media on Friday.

“We’ve been in constant dialogue … to try and find a solution which would allow some form of workable quarantine, but we couldn’t make it work.”

Even if Murray had managed to arrive in time he would have gone into the event with minimal time to practise.

Andy Murray tearfully raises his hand
Andy Murray, 33, won a title against the odds in 2019 after recovering from hip surgery.(AP: Francisco Seco)

“I want to thank everyone there for their efforts. I’m devastated not to be playing out in Australia. It’s a country and tournament that I love,” the Briton added.

It is another blow to the five-time Australian Open runner-up who last played at the tournament in 2019.

On that occasion, after a first-round defeat by Spaniard Roberto Bautista Agut, he received an emotional farewell on the court as it appeared his career was coming to a close because of a long-standing hip injury.

After another surgery, however, Murray returned to the Tour later in 2019 and even claimed a title in Antwerp.

Last year he played only seven Tour-level matches because of more injuries and the disruption caused by the pandemic, ending his season in October after a pelvic problem.

The three-time grand slam champion, currently ranked 123rd in the world, had pulled out of the season-opening Delray Beach Open in Florida earlier this month to reduce the risk of contracting COVID-19.

Seventy-two players are currently confined to their rooms in Melbourne after travelling on three flights where positive cases were found on arrival.

Spanish player Paula Badosa was the first player confirmed to have caught coronavirus after arriving in Australia.

She tested positive on her seventh day in hotel quarantine.

She will have to spend at least ten days from the date of her diagnosis in hotel quarantine, while other players will be permitted to leave at the end of next week.

The tournament is scheduled to start on February 8, three weeks later than usual.

Reuters/ABC



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Francesca Jones qualifies for Australian Open years after doctors ruled her out of tennis



Doctors told Francesca Jones when she was eight that she would never be able to play professional tennis.

The now-20-year-old Brit was born with the rare genetic condition, ectrodactyly ectodermal dysplasia syndrome, leaving her with three fingers and a thumb on each hand and a total of seven toes.

Jones has had to endure multiple surgeries and, due to her dominant right foot only having three toes, has struggled with balance throughout her career.

“The doctors told me I wouldn’t be able to play tennis due to whatever disadvantages they thought I had,” Jones told the International Tennis Federation (ITF).

“That was kinda my decision … because you’ve said that, I’m now going to go and prove you wrong.”

Prove them wrong she did.

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Aged 10, Jones was accepted to the Sánchez-Casal academy in Barcelona, developing her game on the clay courts that nurtured the early career of her fellow countrywoman and 2016 Australian Open semi-finalist Johanna Konta, and former world number one Andy Murray.

On Wednesday, Jones beat the odds to qualify for the main draw of a grand slam tennis tournament for the first time.

Jones needed just over an hour to dispatch Lu Jai-Jing of China, 6-0, 6-1 in Dubai — her third win of the week — to secure her spot on Friday’s flight to Melbourne.

“I’m just playing the game with a different set of cards,” Jones told the BBC prior to the qualification tournament.

Those cards amount to a lighter racquet with a smaller grip.

Everything else is Jones’ own dogged determination.

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“My mental strength is one of my biggest strengths, if not my biggest strength,” Jones said.

“I do have that edge against my opponents purely because of the experiences that I’ve gone through.

“I use it [the condition] as a positive and advantage in many ways. I’m not playing out of revenge.

“I’m playing to have a positive impact on people who read my story, and I hope people can take the positives from it and build on it.”

Ranked 241 in the world, Jones is now guaranteed a $100,000 pay day, which will double her career earnings.

The Australian Open gets underway in Melbourne on February 8.



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Will Pucovski ruled out of final Australia vs India Test, Marcus Harris to open


Australia opener Will Pucovski will miss the fourth Test against India at the Gabba due to a shoulder injury.

Pucovski suffered a shoulder subluxation injury while diving in the field on day five of the third Test at the SCG.

Marcus Harris will come into the side and partner David Warner who has been deemed fit despite appearing to struggle with a groin injury in Sydney at the top of the order.

There were no other changes to the side that drew the third Test in Sydney on Monday.

Australian skipper Tim Paine confirmed the change after the team’s final training session on Thursday morning.

“Will won’t play tomorrow,” Paine said.

“Marcus Harris will replace him … We’re looking forward to seeing what he will do.”

Two Victorian batters walk off the field smiling during a Sheffield Shield match against South Australia.
Marcus Harris (right) will replace his Victoria teammate Will Pucovski in the Test side.(AAP: James Elsby)

Harris has not played a Test since the 2019 Ashes Tour, where he made a top score of 19 in three matches.

The 28-year-old West Australian has a top score of 79 from nine Test matches, with a first-class average of 38.86 and a top score of 250.

“[Harris has] been working his backside off in our hub,” Paine said.

“He deserves his opportunity.

“He’s a really relaxed type of character, so he’s one we certainly enjoy having him in and around our group.”

Pucovski made scores of 62 and 10 in his maiden Test match, with Paine saying the medical staff needed more time to get him right for the Test than was afforded under the three-day turnaround.

“He’ll have a bit of work to do with our medicos to see where he goes from here.”

The Border-Gavaskar Test series is tantalisingly poised at 1-1, with the final and deciding Gabba Test set to start on Friday.



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regional quarantine hotels ruled out, Health Minister Brad Hazzard says


The NSW government has ruled out moving coronavirus quarantine hotels to regional areas, the state’s health minister says.

The comments from Brad Hazzard came after the Queensland Premier revealed her government was considering turning rural mining camps into quarantine facilities.

Annastacia Palaszczuk said such a plan would be a “rational option” given a new, more contagious strain of coronavirus had entered Australia and spread in the Brisbane community.

But NSW authorities would not follow suit, Mr Hazzard said.

“This has been looked at very closely by the NSW public health team over the full duration of this particular pandemic,” he said.

“There’s strong views held in our public health team it makes sense to continue to have the hotel quarantine arrangements we currently have.”

He said the main concerns were around transporting arriving overseas travellers to the regions, which might pose a risk of spreading the virus in transit.

Authorities also want to be able to quickly transfer a patient whose condition deteriorates to a major hospital, something that would be harder to do if the quarantine facilities weren’t located in Sydney.

“We simply do not believe, the public health advice here in NSW, we don’t believe there would be an advantage, in fact, (it would mean) distinct disadvantages to consider moving our public health hotels out of the Sydney regional area,” Mr Hazzard said.

Earlier on Thursday, NSW Health issued a warning that anybody who had visited the Hotel Grand Chancellor in Brisbane since December 30 needed to immediately get tested and self-isolate for 14 days after they were last at the hotel regardless of their test result.

Contact tracers have spoken to all 10 NSW residents who were reported to have visited the hotel, Mr Hazzard said.

The new virus strain spread at the hotel after a man quarantining there was confirmed infected after returning from the UK.

Fears of wider community spread led the Queensland government to lock down Brisbane for three days last weekend.



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David Warner ruled out of Boxing Day Test for biosecurity reasons


Star Australian opener David Warner has been ruled out of the Boxing Day Test.

The 34-year-old will sit out a second-straight match as he recovers from a groin injury suffered in last month’s ODI series against India.

Warner is in Melbourne but has been outside of the Australian team’s COVID-safe hub.

Fellow Australian squad member Sean Abbott has also been left out after recovering from injury.

“Warner and Abbott spent time in Sydney outside the team’s biosecure hub to recover from injury,” an Australian team spokesperson said.

An Australian cricketer kneels with his head on the grass after injuring himself while fielding.
David Warner picked up the injury in the second ODI vs India.(AAP: Dan Himbrechts)

“While neither player has been in a specific ‘hotspot’ as outlined by NSW Health, Cricket Australia’s biosecurity protocols do not allow them to rejoin the squad in time for the Boxing Day Test.”

Warner and Abbott travelled from Sydney to Melbourne to continue their rehabilitation as the northern beaches COVID-19 cluster grew.

With young gun Will Pucovski already ruled out, it means Australia will likely enter the second Test unchanged and Matthew Wade will again partner a resurgent Joe Burns at the top of the order.

AAP



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David Warner ruled out of first Test against India at Adelaide Oval, selectors sweat on Will Pucovski fitness


Australian opener David Warner has been ruled out of the first Test against India at Adelaide Oval.

Cricket Australia confirmed that Warner, who suffered an adductor muscle injury during the second ODI at the SCG, would remain in Sydney to continue his treatment.

The first Test is due to get underway on December 17.

“I feel I have made great progress in a short amount of time and it’s best for me to stay here in Sydney to continue working on getting back to full fitness,” Warner said via a statement.

“The injury feels a lot better, but I need to be able to satisfy in my own mind and to my team-mates that it is 100 per cent ready for Test match conditions.

An Australian cricketer kneels with his head on the grass after injuring himself while fielding.
David Warner sustained his injury during the second ODI against India.(AAP: Dan Himbrechts)

“Right now I feel I am short of being able to play at peak fitness and another 10 days will make a difference.”

Australia coach Justin Langer hopes Warner to be fit to return for the second Test on Boxing Day in Melbourne.

“He has done an incredible job to get to where he is today and we hope to have a fully fit David Warner at his absolute best in Melbourne,” Langer said.

With Warner ruled out, Langer will now be sweating on the fitness of young gun Will Pucovski, after he suffered a concussion in the first tour match with India in Sydney yesterday.

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Will Pucovski’s hopes of a Test debut are in doubt after copping a blow to the head in Australia A’s drawn tour match against India.

Pucovski was in line to make his debut, and was looking comfortable on 23 before a rising bouncer from Kartik Tyagi felled him.

The Victorian young-gun was able to leave the field unassisted, but looked groggy.

He has suffered eight concussions previously, and has now just nine days to recover before the Adelaide Test.

Langer also has a potential issue with Joe Burns, who has struggled with poor form this year.

The Queensland batsman has passed 11 just once in seven innings this summer, with his average sitting at 8.71.



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Queensland to make four changes for Origin III, with Xavier Coates ruled out but Cameron Munster set to play


Queensland is confident Cameron Munster will be ready to play in the State of Origin decider on Wednesday, but the Maroons will have to do without young gun Xavier Coates at Lang Park.

Munster has passed all of his concussion protocols after his game two head knock and, barring any setbacks, will line up in the number six jersey against New South Wales.

The Melbourne playmaker’s inclusion is a big plus for the Maroons, who felt his absence after he was taken off the field just three minutes into last week’s 34-10 loss to the Blues in Sydney.

“He’s one of the top three players in the team,” Queensland coach Wayne Bennett said.

“There’s no doubt about that.

“We missed him a lot and we’re pleased we’ve got him back.”

Munster’s big-game experience will be welcome, as Queensland potentially go into the match with four debutants.

South Sydney’s Corey Allan and Harry Grant had already been selected to make their Origin bows, with Bennett confirming on Tuesday that Brenko Lee would also make his first Maroons’ appearance.

Lee, who missed games one and two with a calf strain, will play centre, with Kurt Capewell shifting to the back row and Jaydn Su’A dropping to the interchange bench.

Game two debutant Dumanis Lui misses out after originally being named in Queensland’s 17.

Xavier Coates scores a Queensland try
Xavier Coates has made a spectacular start to his Origin career, but the young Queenslander has been ruled out of game three.(AAP: Dan Himbrechts)

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Bennett had rated winger Xavier Coates as a 50-50 chance to play as he battled a groin issue, but he has now been ruled out.

Another first-gamer — Newcastle’s Edrick Lee — will come in to the side.

Souths coach Bennett confirmed Allan would play at full-back, with Valentine Holmes to move to the wing in a bid to nullify the influence of Blues star Josh Addo-Carr, who has scored back-to-back doubles in this year’s series.

“It’s obviously a big test but he answered all those for the last two years at Souths with how he’s come and played on the wing,” Bennett said of Allan’s debut in the number one jersey.

“He wasn’t a winger. We made him play there and he handled it well.

“He came in at full-back after Latrell (Mitchell) got injured and did a great job for us there.

Queensland will have to defy history to win the series, with no Origin team rebounding from conceding 30 points in a match to claim the shield.

Bennett said his young team had shown in their game one performance they had the ability to beat NSW, it was just a matter of being mentally up to the task.

“That’s the key to it. We got it right in Adelaide in the second half there,” he said.

“We played the way we wanted to play and we went off the pace in Sydney. There’s no doubt about that, and they put us off the pace as well.

“They played a really good game of football, and they maximised their strengths and we found all our weaknesses.

“So tomorrow will be as much mental as it is physical.”

AAP/ABC



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State of Origin 21-man squads named, Ryan Papenhuyzen ruled out for NSW with calf injury



NRL grand final hero Ryan Papenhuyzen has been ruled out of the State of Origin opener with a calf injury while Coen Hess has been recalled and eight debutants named in Wayne Bennett’s Queensland.

Clive Churchill Medallist Papenhuyzen was next in line to replace star New South Wales full-back James Tedesco should he fail to pass Saturday’s fitness test on his injured knee.

Tedesco has been named at full-back, with Papenhuyzen’s bench spot now Cody Walker’s to lose ahead of Wednesday’s opener in Adelaide.

Meanwhile Bennett has sprung a surprise by recalling hulking North Queensland back-rower Hess to the starting side in his preliminary 21-man squad.

Hess played the last of his five Origins in 2018 but could be in line for a shock return in Bennett’s underdog side if the master coach doesn’t tinker with the make-up named on Thursday.

AJ Brimson has been picked at fullback while Gold Coast winger Phillip Sami and Brisbane 19-year-old Xavier Coates have been selected on the wings for their debuts.

With Storm centre Brenko Lee at centre, South Sydney’s Dane Gagai is the only backline member named with Origin experience.

Sydney Roosters hooker Jake Friend has been named to debut at number nine, with Storm monster Tino Faasuamaleaui bumping lock Jai Arrow to the bench.

Cameron Munster is set to overcome a knee niggle and play in the halves with captain Daly Cherry-Evans while Ben Hunt and uncapped duo Jaydn Su’a and Lindsay Collins are the other reserves named.

Boom Titans forward Moeaki Fotuaika, Penrith utility Kurt Capewell, Dumamis Lui and Hymel Hunt have been named as reserves and could add to Queensland’s massive debutant list if Bennett shuffles his deck closer to Wednesday’s kick-off.

Clint Gutherson, Luke Keary and Junior Paulo are in line for Blues debuts while the uncapped Cameron McInnes, Nathan Brown and Zac Lomax are on the extended bench.

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Papenhuyzen didn’t train with the squad on Thursday, while Roosters star Tedesco trained away from the main squad.

“I don’t think [I’ll play] at this stage, it’s about managing the calf,” he said prior to the announcement.

“There’s a little bit of a tear in it from midway through the second half on the weekend.

“Adrenaline kicked in there but the next day I was pretty sore.”

Named in the number one jersey, Tedesco will be given until Saturday to prove his fitness, when the team has their biggest training hit-out of the week.

Meanwhile, forward Jake Trbojevic brushed off concerns he suffered a foot injury at training after failing to complete the session.

The Manly star walked off the field and received physio treatment on his right foot, which was iced while he watched teammates go through their drills.

Prop Daniel Saifiti also didn’t train, but Blues officials said it was about managing his workload.

QLD squad: Alexander Brimson, Xavier Coates, Brenko Lee, Dane Gagai, Phillip Sami, Cameron Munster, Daly Cherry-Evans, Christian Welch, Jake Friend, Josh Papalii, Felise Kaufusi, Coen Hess, Tino Fa’asuamaleaui; Ben Hunt, Lindsay Collins, Jai Arrow, Jaydn Su’a.

Reserves: Kurt Capewell, Moeaki Fotuaika, Dunamis Lui, Hymel Hunt.

NSW squad: James Tedesco, Daniel Tupou, Clint Gutherson, Jack Wighton, Josh Addo-Carr, Luke Keary, Nathan Cleary, Daniel Saifiti, Damien Cook, Junior Paulo, Boyd Cordner, Tyson Frizell, Jake Trbojevic; Cody Walker, Payne Haas, Cameron Murray, Angus Crichton.

Reserves: Cameron McInnes, Reagan Campbell-Gillard, Nathan Brown, Zac Lomax.

AAP



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Kalyn Ponga ruled out of Queensland State of Origin squad with shoulder injury


Queensland’s hopes of winning State of Origin have been dealt a severe blow with star fullback Kalyn Ponga confirming that he will miss the series with a shoulder injury.

The 22-year-old Newcastle fullback was named in Wayne Bennett’s preliminary 15-man squad on Wednesday.

The surgery means Ponga will be fit to return for the 2021 NRL season.

“I’m devastated to miss out on Origin,” Ponga said in a statement.

“I love pulling on the Maroons jersey. It is a privilege to play in the NRL and a privilege to be selected to represent Queensland.

“As an athlete and competitor, I pride myself on performing no matter how my body feels but I also accept that both the Maroons and Knights medical staff have my best interest at heart in making this decision.

Ponga has played three State of Origin matches in his career.

A Newcastle Knights NRL player runs with the ball tucked under his left arm as a Cronulla opponent dives to tackle him.
Kalyn Ponga scored 10 tries and 46 goals for Newcastle this NRL season.(AAP: Darren Pateman)

The statement went on to say that Ponga’s decision to go under the knife had nothing to do with reports he was frustrated with living in the NRL bubble.

“Many people have made sacrifices throughout this trying period for the game and that commitment has not been lost on Kalyn or the family,” the statement read.

Returning Maroons coach Bennett will select his final 27-man squad after the NRL grand final on October 25, ahead of the series opener at Adelaide Oval on November 4.

The Adelaide opener will be followed by matches in Sydney on November 11 and Brisbane on November 18.

New South Wales has won the last two State of Origin series.



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South Sydney’s Latrell Mitchell ruled out of remainder of NRL season with hamstring injury


South Sydney will be without Latrell Mitchell for the remainder of the NRL season after he was ruled out with a serious hamstring injury.

Mitchell is expected to be sidelined for four to five months, with scans revealing he sustained a ruptured tendon during the Rabbitohs’ 38-0 rout of Parramatta on Thursday night.

“Mitchell has ruptured the proximal hamstring tendon in his left leg,” a Rabbitohs statement read.

“He will be assessed by a surgeon with a view to repairing the tendon.

The injury news is a massive blow to the Rabbitohs’ hopes of securing a top-four berth heading into the finals.

The club is in provisional fifth place on the ladder ahead of the completion of round 16, but they could end up seventh by the end of the weekend should other results not go their way.

With just four weeks remaining until the finals, Rabbitohs coach Wayne Bennett is expected to turn to Alex Johnston to fill the number one jersey, while Corey Allen is another option.

But Mitchell’s injury is an even greater loss when considering the Rabbitohs attack was beginning to fire with the Australia and New South Wales representative at the back.

The Rabbitohs have scored 177 points in their past five matches, with Mitchell linking beautifully with halves Adam Reynolds and Cody Walker.

A South Sydney NRL player puts a finger to his mouth as he celebrates a try with his teammates in the background.
Mitchell had been hitting peak form prior to being struck down with the injury.(AAP: Dan Himbrechts)

They tore the Eels to shreds on both edges in the Rabbitohs’ first win over a top-six side all year.

Mitchell set up one of the tries with quick hands, while Reynolds had a major influence over the running of the Rabbitohs’ attack.

The Eels did not come through Thursday night’s match unscathed either, with five-eighth Dylan Brown to undergo ankle surgery that could rule him out for the rest of the season.

The 20-year-old was taken from the field in the second half, with scans confirming a syndesmosis injury.

The club did not put a timeframe on Brown’s return, but it is understood a six-week recovery is realistic, which would allow him to return during the finals.

Brown sustained the injury in the first half but bravely played on until medical staff decided to take him from the field in the second term, knowing little else could be achieved before next week’s clash with the Warriors.

Despite the defeat to the Rabbitohs, the Eels are still third on the ladder with a 12-4 win-loss record.

They are three points adrift of ladder leader Penrith, who play Wests Tigers on Saturday night, and level with the second-placed Storm, who are ahead of the Eels with a superior points difference.

The Storm could move two points clear of the Eels if they beat Manly on Sunday.

ABC/AAP



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