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Qantas boss Alan Joyce predicts Virgin and Rex won’t both survive post-pandemic battle


Qantas boss Alan Joyce says Australia still only has room for two major airline groups and it is unlikely both Virgin Australia and new rival Regional Express (Rex) will survive the post-pandemic aviation dogfight.

Mr Joyce said in an interview on Wednesday that country airline Rex launching flights between Sydney and Melbourne in March would spark fierce competition on the busy route.

Rex will start Sydney-Melbourne services in March.

Rex will start Sydney-Melbourne services in March. Credit:Robert Pearce

“My personal view is that this market has never sustained three airline groups and it probably won’t into the future,” he told an online event hosted by Reuters.

“You can be guaranteed that Qantas will be one of them – it’s who else is going to be in the market place post this and into the future is going to be interesting.”



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Residents in Aubin Grove, Banjup, Cockburn warned ‘act immediately to survive’


Residents in several suburbs in Perth’s south were warned to “act immediately to survive” while others scrambled after being told it was “too late to leave” in a dramatic night which saw an out-of-control bushfire roar through the area.

The fire was reported at around 2.30pm local time Tuesday afternoon and grew larger into the night with approximately 60 firefighters on ground battling the blaze, supported by air water bombers as the flames crept closer towards homes, helped by strong winds.

Authorities said the fire was unpredictable and warned residents not to get in its way. The cause of the blaze is currently unknown.

The warning applies to the area bounded by Lyon Road, Gibbs Road, Beenyup Road, Freycinet Circuit and Cape Range Crescent in Aubin Grove and Banjup in the city of Cockburn.

The Department of Fire and Emergency Services (DFES) posted updated emergency warnings overnight with the message: “You are in danger and need to act immediately to survive. There is a threat to lives and homes.”

For people in homes on and near Prosperity Loop, it was too late to leave and residents were forced to fend for themselves.

“If you are not at home, it’s too dangerous to return”.

The bushfire is moving in a north easterly direction. It is not contained or controlled.

Authorities advised residents in the area to “shelter in your home in a room away from the fire front and make sure you can easily escape”.

“You must shelter before the fire arrives, as the extreme heat will kill you well before the flames reach you.

“Close all doors and windows and turn off evaporative air conditioners, but keep water running through the system if possible.

“Choose a room with two exits and water such as a kitchen or laundry.”

The DFES told shocked residents to protect themselves by wearing long sleeves and trousers made from cotton or wool and strong leather boots.

Burning embers were likely to be blown around properties, they said.

“If your home catches on fire and the conditions inside become unbearable, you need to get out and go to an area that has already been burnt.”

Meanwhile a bushfire Watch and Act is in place for people in the area bounded by Lyon Road, Goodwill Ave, Beenyup Road and Gibbs Road in Atwell in the city of Cockburn.

A Watch and Act was also in place in the nearby city of Atwell. The alert level for the fire has been downgraded but authorities still warned “there is a possible threat to lives and homes as a fire is approaching in the area and conditions are changing”.

“If you are not prepared or you plan to leave, leave now if the way is clear,” the DFES advised residents in the area bounded by Lyon Road, Goodwill Ave, Beenyup Road and Gibbs Road.

“If you are well prepared and plan to actively defend your home, make final preparations now.

“If you plan to stay and actively defend, do not rely on mains water pressure as it may be affected.

“You need to have access to an independent water supply, and start patrolling your property to put out spot fires.”

It was a battle on two fronts for firefighters on Tuesday after another bushfire forced families to evacuate a theme park and an ice arena during school holidays.

The “packed” Adventure World and the Cockburn Ice Arena in Bibra Lake were evacuated during a bushfire emergency on Tuesday afternoon which sparked shortly before 1pm on Tuesday and raged towards the park’s boundary.

The fire was later lowered to an advice warning and Adventure World said it will open on Wednesday as scheduled.

The DFES said the fire is contained and controlled and that there is no threat to lives or homes.

ROAD CLOSURES AND CONDITIONS

Avoid the area and be aware of fire and emergency services personnel working on site.

A number of roads have been closed including:

  • Aubin Grove Link off Lyon Road
  • Cape Le Grand Ave
  • Prosperity Loop
  • Sanctity Link
  • The Gibbs Road off ramp from Kwinana Freeway has reopened.

Motorists are asked to avoid the area, reduce speed and drive carefully due to smoke.

Visit emergency.wa.gov.au or call 13 DFES (13 3337) for more details.



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Business

Harper’s Bazaar, Men’s Health could survive in Australia under new licensing deals


Paragon Media is a special interest publisher that prints titles such as Australian Men’s Fitness and Ecogeneration. Paragon chief executive Ian Brooks confirmed the talks and said he was hopeful of finalising the deal.

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“Men’s Health and Women’s Health are the strongest health and fitness brands in Australia and we have long recognised their unique value as a channel for advertisers,” he said. “These mastheads, in an expanded print and digital ecosystem, will continue to be important in this segment and we are hopeful that discussions can be concluded.”

Brag Media, the new publisher of Rolling Stone Australia, will also launch a new magazine in the next few weeks. It is unclear whether it will be a former title from ARE Media. ARE Media staff are currently de-commissioning Harper’s Bazaar while Hearst continues talks with prospective buyers.

Before closure, Harper’s Bazaar, which was printed for more than two decades, had an average readership of 177,000 per issue. Men’s Health had an average of 318,000 readers per print edition and Women’s Health had 268,000, according to figures from Enhanced Media Metrics Australia.

It is unclear when the new magazine titles will appear on newsagent and supermarket stands. Magazine publishers have been knocked during the coronavirus pandemic by a large reduction in spending from advertisers and many were forced to suspend the printing of titles and slash jobs. Bauer even tried to renegotiate the terms of its acquisition of Seven West Media’s magazine division Pacific. Almost 400 jobs in the magazine industry were lost in the first six months of the year.

The $40 million sale of Pacific to Bauer closed in May after a tumultuous few months. It meant popular titles such as New Idea, Marie Claire and That’s Life were brought into the same company as Australian Women’s Weekly, Woman’s Day and Take 5! But shortly after the deal, the owners of Bauer decided to sell the entity to private equity, a move which prompted further job cuts and magazine closures.

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NSW Swifts survive scare to defeat Adelaide Thunderbirds in Cairns Super Netball clash



Cracks have appeared in the NSW Swifts’ Super Netball title defence despite their 57-54 win over Adelaide Thunderbirds in Cairns on Saturday.

Assured of a finals berth, the Swifts should have put away the seventh-placed Thunderbirds in the Indigenous Round fixture but instead gave coach Briony Akle some headaches ahead of next weekend’s final match of the regular season.

Fellow top-four side West Coast Fever won Saturday’s earlier match in Cairns, the 71-66 defeat of the Giants making sure they stayed third on the ladder, one spot ahead of the Swifts.

The Swifts had lost four of their past five matches before the road trip north and their confidence was further dented by the Thunderbirds, who found strength in a midcourt led by rising playmakers Maisie Nankivell and Georgie Horjus.

It took a final-quarter surge from goal attack Helen Housby — who scored 22 goals for the match — and brave milking of possession in the dying seconds for the Swifts to hold off the Thunderbirds.

“That was super tough. We always knew the Thunderbirds were going to come back,” Swifts centre Paige Hadley said.

“Leading into the finals we like matches like that to prepare us for tough games.

“More teams are going to come at us because we are the reigning champions. We need to develop the belief that we can do it again.”

Hadley was the shining light in the centre third, finishing the match with 24 assists and 42 feeds.

Lenize Potgieter’s 33 goals at 97 per cent accuracy gave the Thunderbirds a chance but the Swifts were clinical when the game was on the line.

Sam Wallace led the scoring for the Swifts with 27 points (25 goals, one super shot).

Season over for Giants

The sun has set on the Giants’ finals hopes following their loss to the Fever.

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Fever coach Stacey Marinkovich underlined why she was selected to coach the national side, pulling all the right strings to spark a second-half fightback and keep alive the club’s chances of a top-two finish.

Both teams had much to gain. To snatch second spot, the Fever need to win each of their last two matches and rely on the Lightning to fall to the Vixens in the final round.

That finals thread was even thinner for the Giants who had no lifelines remaining and may rue not giving Diamonds captain Caitlin Bassett more court time throughout the season.

The same could not be said of Fever shooter Jhaniele Fowler, who is the season’s most prolific scorer after adding another 62 goals to her tally on Saturday.

Fowler also slotted two super shots to complete another dominant performance.

Jo Harten was the Giants’ top scorer with 34 points (24 goals, five super shots).

AAP/ABC



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Forget footy and netball — fans are desperate to see these niche sports survive the pandemic


From people dedicated to an archaic form of tennis, to a 60-year-old table tennis association in a tiny sheep-farming community, country clubs for sports that usually fly under the radar are feeling the pinch of the pandemic.

Real tennis is an old form of the game played indoors, on a larger court, and similar to squash — you can hit the ball off the walls.

It is a heritage sport, a progenitor of modern lawn tennis, and one the members of the Ballarat Tennis Club takes pride in keeping alive.

But the club is now suffering under COVID-19.

“We’ve basically no income, it’s just stopped our income flat,” club committee member and player Catherine Faull said.

“Initially when it happened, we called out to members to pay their bills straight away so we could just get a handle on how much we had and what we needed to do.”

The club has around 120 members, who would normally pay a $399 early membership fee — out of goodwill, the club did not ask members to pay that fee this year, charging only for the month or so it was open.

A woman swinging a real tennis racquet.
Catherine Faull is concerned the future of her historically significant real tennis club is at risk because of the pandemic.(Supplied: Ballarat Tennis Club)

The club was still working out the toll of that financial hit.

“We have a professional tennis player, Andrew Fowler, who is employed by the club … so that’s been hard for him, thank goodness the JobKeeper kept him going,” Ms Faull said.

Unlike Aussie Rules, or soccer, the fact real tennis exists as a played sport is due to clubs like Ballarat’s — without them, it could be relegated to the annals of history, like a language that ceases to exist when its last speaker dies.

A real tennis court in Ballarat.
The rules of real tennis are similar to those of lawn tennis, but they are more complicated.(Supplied: Ballarat Tennis Club)

“We’d love to keep it going because, historically, it’s fascinating and we’d love to preserve that,” Ms Faull said.

“We’re planning for future events, but we’re also realistic that this 40-year-old club is at risk, basically.”

Croquet members ‘keen as mustard’

The Ballarat Western Croquet Club has been running for more than a century — they have also lost significant amounts of income because of the pandemic.

“We’ve cancelled probably three or four competitions,” club secretary Jenny Leviston said.

“But the main thing that’s affected is the cancellation of our groups that come to visit … we use them as one of our main fundraisers.”

Black and white picture of people playing croquet in Ballarat early in the 20th century.
People with croquet mallets in Ballarat early in the 20th century.(Supplied: Ballarat Western Croquet Club)

Croquet requires a pristine playing surface, and lawn maintenance is not cheap.

“The cost of chemicals is quite expensive, ” Ms Leviston said.

“We’ve got the greenkeepers cost, and just before Christmas last year, we spent over $3,000 top-dressing our lawns.

“We were hoping to get that money back with the competitions and the green fees in the new year, which we weren’t able to because we did have to stop playing very early in March.”

The clubs membership fees are kept low, as a lot of members are on fixed incomes — luckily, the croquet community is lively and dedicated, and so membership numbers haven’t plummeted over the last few months.

The club secured a State Government grant earlier in the year, but it was spent immediately on the water bill.

“The green-keeping is the main thing, and the water,” Ms Leviston said.

Multiple elderly people mow and rake the lawns at a croquet club.
The Ballarat Western Croquet Club lawn requires a lot of care from members.(Supplied: Ballarat Western Croquet Club)

“Our last water bill before Christmas was nearly $1,000 … so that’s a lot of money for a little club.”

Ms Leviston is hopeful the tenacity of the members will see them through this difficult stretch.

“I’m positive that the club will keep going because I know that our members are as keen as mustard and they love to be out on the court playing,” she said.

Players keep it going in between sheep farming

David Rowbottom has been the president of the Orford and District Table Tennis Association since 1972 and he said despite the setbacks brought on by the coronavirus pandemic, it will not be folding anytime soon.

The association was set up in the 1950s in the tiny south-west Victorian sheep-farming community of Orford, which had just over 100 residents at the 2016 census.

The Orford Memorial Hall.
The Orford Memorial Hall in south-west Victoria has been the base for a strong table tennis association since the 1950s.(ABC South West Victoria: Sian Johnson)

Mr Rowbottom said many similar associations had stopped operating over the years, but his club had a “tremendous core” of players that had stuck around for decades.

“It’s a great, clean sport and very rarely does anyone get injured,” he said.

The association usually has about 30 players but Mr Rowbottom said it was becoming more difficult to maintain numbers.

They carefully manage their funds and import high-quality tables from Germany and inherited some from the 2006 Melbourne Commonwealth Games.

“Family farms are disappearing and the young people go to the city for their jobs and not a lot stay around,” Mr Rowbottom said.

A man wearing a mask with a young woman and a boy.
David Rowbottom is instilling a love of table tennis in his grandchildren Ally, 14, and Jensen, aged 8.(ABC South West Victoria: Sian Johnson)

At the beginning of 2020 the association managed to attract more players from coastal hub of Port Fairy, but apart from a few games in between restrictions the competition has mostly been on hold.

“We’re pretty certain that the majority of the players that we picked up will keep going, but there is some concern about next year,” he said

“It definitely won’t be the end, though — we’ll keep going.”

Small sports rely heavily on volunteers

Chief executive of VicSport, Lisa Hasker, said weathering the COVID-19 storm has been tougher for the smaller clubs.

“You’re a big sport, you have resources to lean on … but the small sports are run pretty much entirely by volunteers,” Ms Hasker said.

“There’s a lot of areas where it’s harder because everything falls back onto those volunteers.”

Ms Hasker said the variety these smaller niche sports provide enrichens the sporting landscape around the Victoria.

“We’re all different; we all like different sports,” Ms Hasker said.

“But it doesn’t suit everyone, so I think [variety] is vital.”



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Parramatta Eels survive Canterbury Bulldogs NRL comeback to win 18-16



Parramatta captain Clint Gutherson has scored a double in the 18-16 win over Canterbury, as the Eels chalked up their best start to a season through 12 rounds since 1978.

But there was no mood for celebration following the unconvincing performance against the Bulldogs, with Eels coach Brad Arthur even asking his players if they still wanted to sing the team song after the match.

After they jumped out to an 18-0 lead in the opening 28 minutes, the Eels — who now have a 10-2 win-loss record this season — were forced to avoid the biggest upset of the season in a poor second half.

“It was like a morgue in the dressing rooms, they were really disappointed,” Arthur said.

“I had to ask them if they really wanted to sing the team song.”

Perhaps the dejection of the players is a sign of how far Parramatta has come, however, given two years ago it was the Eels on the bottom of the ladder trying to cause upsets.

“We need to enjoy our wins. While we can be disappointed we still need to enjoy it,” Arthur said.

“But that’s two points we needed.”

Gutherson and Mitchell Moses were both electric in the opening 30 minutes, while Junior Paulo stood up in defence and attack.

The prop gave Parramatta its first try with a nice offload for Moses, before Gutherson scored the next two.

Gutherson’s first came in bizarre circumstances, after Bulldog Dallin Watene-Zelezniak was penalised on the previous set for playing the ball facing his own goal line.

Trailing 18-0 in the 32nd minute, the Bulldogs suddenly came to life with Raymond Faitala-Mariner touching down for their opening try, which was converted by Jake Averillo.

Averillo scored the Bulldogs’ second four-pointer just after half-time, before Foran put Marcelo Montoya through for a converted try to make it 18-16.

The Bulldogs were then left to rue a missed opportunity to level the scores with 24 minutes to play, when Aiden Tolman took a quick tap from right next to the posts.

AAP/ABC



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The AFL’s 20-day Festival of Footy is here. Follow these tips if you want to survive it


Cancel your dinner plans and settle into that couch groove, because the AFL’s rona-enforced Festival of Footy is upon us.

That’s right, for the next 20 nights you can switch on your telly and be guaranteed to find high-quality (maybe) footy action as the game’s biggest stars (sometimes) go head to head for the ultimate (not really) prize.

The unpredictability and instability of Australia’s coronavirus situation has forced the league to cram four rounds into just under three weeks, concocting this unprecedented football extravaganza that falls somewhere between a broadcaster’s dream and a coach’s nightmare.

How will it all play out? Nobody really knows. The cocktail of hubs and quarantine and four-day breaks and injuries that is about to be mixed is completely new, and we’re all left guessing how it will actually taste and how sick it will leave us the following morning.

The Western Bulldogs AFL coach leaves the field after a quarter-time address with his players in the background.
Coaches will have to get creative in managing their players through this period.(AAP: Scott Barbour)

But for us fans, for whom the greatest personal risk is that the batteries in our TV remotes go flat, it’s the unknown that makes it fun. Let’s be honest, who hasn’t come home after a shocking Wednesday at work and wished they could unwind with a nice bit of Geelong-North Melbourne at the Gabba?

Still, there are steps we can all take to make sure we get the most of out of this marathon and to avoid suffering from the dreaded footy fatigue.

Avoid the overreactions

Internally, most clubs will abide by a theory that states things are never as good or as bad as they seem. Basically, the world isn’t crumbling after every bad loss, and a five-year dynasty is not on the horizon after every good win.

Externally, that is very much not the case. The natural tendency is to take each team’s most recent game and then wildly extrapolate that data to create sweeping and definitive judgements, before immediately forgetting those judgements and starting afresh once a new round begins.

A group of AFL players walk off looking glum after losing a match.
The Hawks are struggling at the moment, but in this of all years, things can turn quickly.(AAP: Craig Golding)

That’s easy to do when there is an entire week of space to fill between games, but you can bet it will still happen even with this compressed schedule.

Avoiding getting sucked into these boom-or-bust cycles is going to be crucial to enjoying the next 20 days, because you’ll confuse yourself to the point of exhaustion. That team that you wrote off on Tuesday? They just had a big win on Sunday and looked a million dollars again.

It’s a ‘go with the flow’ kind of season. Enjoy each game as its own little standalone contest and then worry about your crystal ball predictions once things have settled down a little.

Find a new way to watch the game

Granted, our physical and technical means of watching footy are pretty limited — we are at the mercy of what Channel Seven and Fox Sports deliver us, and as Russell Jackson so perfectly laid out, that’s not always ideal.

So it’s up to us to do some eyeball improvisation — and you’d be surprised what switching your own focus can do when watching the footy.

An AFL player handballs the ball as a defender tries to grab him from behind.
Intelligent players like Hugh McCluggage do some of their best work away from the ball.(AAP: Darren England)

Our natural inclination is to follow the ball, right? Next time you’re nodding off in front of the TV as another stoppage is called, try watching the blokes off the ball instead and see if you can spot the set plays and tactical manoeuvres at work.

Better yet, pick a player and follow their movements as much as the TV coverage will allow.

Watch how Patrick Cripps moves at a stoppage, or how Nick Haynes reads the play in defence. Take note of Lachie Whitfield’s position before an attacking chain from halfback then see if you can spot where he ends up at its conclusion.

An AFL defender grasps the football above his head while an opponent tries to grab him from behind.
Nick Haynes is one of the smartest players in the league, and therefore one of the most interesting to watch.(AAP: Julian Smith)

Failing that, just mute your TV for a while and see how differently you see the game when it’s not being explained to you by commentators.

None of these are particularly ground-breaking suggestions, and none are any sort of substitute for being at a game and being able to see the whole puzzle unfold before your eyes, but it might spice things up a little while you’re watching Freo play Hawthorn at 8:40pm on a Monday night for some reason.

Have a night off

This is incredibly obvious advice. You’d have to be a real sicko to even want to watch every single game played in the next 20 days, but for those of us who fall a little too comfortably into the sicko camp, it might be time we learn some impulse control.

Let’s be perfectly clear — some of these games are going to be awful. Players are going to be fatigued, stars are going to be injured or rested, and training restrictions mean team cohesion is still going to be lacking.

And while there’s no scientific formula for predicting which games are going to stink the place out, there certainly are teams that are more worthy of tuning in to than others.

A large group of St Kilda players congregate in jovial celebration
St Kilda is one of the most entertaining teams in the league at the moment.(AAP: David Mariuz)

On the available evidence of 2020, Port Adelaide, Brisbane, St Kilda, Carlton, Gold Coast, the Western Bulldogs and even Essendon are pretty safe bets. West Coast looks like it is back playing some watchable stuff, and you would imagine GWS and Richmond would have to find their form again at some point.

With that in mind, Port-Bulldogs on a Monday night? Sign me up. Eagles-Blues on a Sunday arvo? Don’t mind if I do. Bombers-Lions on a Friday? Worth a crack.

So don’t be afraid to target the big games and embrace a bit of load management for the rest. If it’s good enough for the best players in the AFL, it’s good enough for you.

Don’t take it so seriously

You’re probably aware that we are in unprecedented times. There is no precedent for the times we live in. There is no prior experience we can draw upon when trying to contextualise the events that are transpiring now.

With that in mind, the next few weeks of wall-to-wall footy should offer an escape from your daily stresses, not add to them.

Two Fremantle players smile as they hug each other
Like Ethan Hughes and Blake Acres here, it’s best to keep things light and cheery.(AAP: Dave Hunt)

That means no social media blow ups at an underperforming second-year defender, no pointless state-of-the-game debates, no hurling umpire-related abuse into the ether.

We’ll all get out of the next 20 days what we put into it. If we go in with an open mind and a relaxed attitude, grateful to be getting a nightly distraction but understanding the conditions are miles from being right for picturesque footy, we’ll probably all have a much nicer time.

We footy fans are facing the greatest challenge of our AFL-watching careers. Our endurance will be tested, our strength measured, our mental capacity strained to within an inch of its life.

But we’ve done the work. It’s been a long preseason. If any group of people is up to the task of watching a silly amount of football in a short period of time, it’s us. Good luck.



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Cronulla Sharks beat St George Illawarra Dragons despite coughing up lead, Sydney Roosters survive Warriors scare


St George Illawarra has gone close to pulling off an improbable comeback win over arch-rivals Cronulla, going down 28-24 in an enthralling affair in Kogarah.

The Dragons were down by four with two minutes to go on Saturday night when Matt Dufty failed to cleanly ground a Ben Hunt grubber with no one in sight.

Jason Saab then had a chance to steal the game with the final play when he soared to take a Corey Norman kick, but grounded the ball on the dead-ball line.

St George Illawarra coach Paul McGregor will also be left to rue a dubious try to Cronulla’s Jack Williams early in the contest.

The frantic last few minutes provided a thrilling finish to an entertaining contest at Jubilee Stadium, with the sides combining for nine tries in the wet conditions.

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Dragons centre Zac Lomax was involved in two contenders for the try of the year, but it was not enough to prevent the hot form of Sharks star Shaun Johnson.

The NRL leader in try assists added two more, taking his tally to 16, while he was involved in a third and scored a fourth himself in another stellar display.

He was supported by prop Royce Hunt, who made 196 metres off the bench.

The win may have come at a cost, though, with halfback Chad Townsend failing to finish the match after suffering a suspected calf injury.

Roosters run all the way by Warriors

Playing below their best, NRL premiers the Sydney Roosters outlasted a gutsy Warriors side for an 18-10 win in Gosford.

The Warriors led 10-6 at half-time, but the boot of Roosters five-eighth Luke Keary eventually weakened their defence on Saturday afternoon as Trent Robinson’s men escaped with the win late.

Jared Warea-Hargreave is being tackled by the ankles and chest by two Warriors opponents
The Roosters were made to work for their two points against the Warriors.(AAP: Darren Pateman)

Keary produced a try assist, a try and four repeat sets on the Warriors’ line in the second half to tire out the gritty defence.

Fireworks sparked late in the second half when Warriors loan prop Jack Hetherington took on Roosters enforcer Jared Waerea-Hargreaves in a personal battle up front.

The two came face-to-face, gripping jerseys, and made a mission to run at one another, raising the intensity late in the game.

Taking a hit-up with 10 minutes to go, the New Zealand international charged at Hetherington, who didn’t back down from the confrontation.

But the energy lifted the Roosters and, off a quick play-the-ball, Joseph Manu spotted space from dummy-half and raced over to score to extend the lead to 18-10.

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After a bitter battle in the middle, Manu’s try put the result beyond doubt for the Roosters, who had appeared less that their clinical best over the past few weeks.

It was the third-straight loss for the Warriors but a much-improved performance after last week’s 48-10 loss to Cronulla at Central Coast Stadium.

Departing Warriors winger Ken Maumalo scored the first try of the afternoon five minutes in when he ran over untouched in the left corner and it took almost 20 minutes for the Roosters to hit back.

And after some brilliant pressure from the Warriors, the premiers finally responded when a Keary bomb was cleaned up by replacement forward Sitili Tupouniua to score between the posts.

A try late in the second half for rising Warriors star Eli Kaota off a deceptive handball from Kodi Nikorima gave the home side the half-time lead.

The Roosters didn’t hit the lead until the 51st minute, when Keary put through a grubber to score and go up by two points with half-an-hour to play.

AAP



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Matildas midfielder Elise Kellond-Knight says player unions key if women’s football is to survive coronavirus fallout


When Matildas midfielder Elise Kellond-Knight arrived in Sweden on March 16, she had no idea what the next few months had in store for global football.

Her first match for Kristianstads DFF in Sweden’s Damallsvenskan league was supposed to kick off that weekend, but between landing on the tarmac and lacing up her boots on game day, competitions around the world had come to a shuddering halt.

“It was an awkward time as I wasn’t sure how bad the situation was going to become,” Kellond-Knight said.

“Within a few days of arriving, the circumstances got drastically worse.

“We’ve still been able to train as normal here — Sweden has only implemented restrictions to groups of less than 50 people. Fortunately for me, life hasn’t looked too different over here … besides missing competitive games.”

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Kellond-Knight is one of the lucky few female footballers whose leagues will recommence following the COVID-19 pandemic.

Of the seven major women’s leagues in Europe, just three — Sweden, Norway and Germany — have returned or will return to action, while competitions in England, Spain, France and Italy have been cancelled altogether.

This was, frustratingly, predictable. In April, FIFPro — the global players’ union — released a paper warning that women’s football faced an “existential threat” from the shutdown.

It called on governing bodies and other stakeholders to put structures in place to ensure the women’s game did not lose the ground it had rapidly gained over the preceding five years.

“Unless there is a clear commitment to stabilise competitions and provide financial assistance to keep leagues, clubs and players in business, the economic standstill will ultimately result in insolvencies of otherwise profitable and stable clubs,” the report said.

“The lack of written contracts, the short-term duration of employment contracts, the lack of health insurance and medical coverage, and the absence of basic worker protections and workers’ rights leaves many female players — some of whom were already teetering on the margins — at great risk of losing their livelihoods.”

Elise Kellond-Knight and her Matildas teammates celebrate scoring a goal
Kellond-Knight scored against Norway at the 2019 Women’s World Cup.(Reuters: Jean-Paul Pelissier)

The COVID report is something Kellond-Knight is familiar with, as she provided insight and feedback to the team who put it together.

In January, the Matilda became the first (and so far, only) Australian representative on FIFPro’s Global Player Council (GPC), a representative body of professional footballers that aims to “protect the interests of players around the world and safeguard their rights.”

From legal support to physical and mental health advice, negotiating international rule changes, and education and training for life after football, the union provides players with an added layer of representation and protection from football’s ruthless machinations — something many of them have experienced first-hand recently as the double-edged sword of globalisation has come crashing down on the industry.

“[The GPC] is another way to connect directly to players and ultimately elevate their voices to global decision-making tables,” said Kellond-Knight, who also sits on Professional Footballers Australia’s (PFA) executive committee.

Global football’s union landscape has existed largely as a patchwork of national associations, such as the PFA, which focus exclusively on their own members. But FIFPro is the first international football body to bring these various union groups — 65 so far — to the one table.

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The GPC in particular reinforces FIFPro’s mandate and provides a player-led platform for discussions of wider issues affecting football’s most important workers, including sexism, racism and homophobia. The council includes players such as Anita Asante, Vincent Kompany, Saki Kumagai, Rui Patricio, Kim Little and Giorgio Chiellini.

Domestic and international player unions have been particularly vocal in the women’s game recently. Following the COVID paper, FIFPro shared its long-awaited “Raising Our Game” report — a ‘state of the industry’ study of women’s football — with FIFA, urging the governing body to further support the women’s game as it emerges from the coronavirus wreckage and beyond.

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“The COVID paper produced by FIFPro highlights the fact that women’s football can’t be forgotten now, in an exceptional time of need,” Kellond-Knight said.

“Women’s football has gathered momentum and I hope it’s this momentum that carries it through this crisis. It’s important women’s football isn’t overlooked as clubs and federations try to find their feet again.

“Many have thought that now is an opportunity to reposition the game, allowing leaders to look at the game more collectively.

“How can we reboot the game together, instead of focusing on just rebooting the men’s game?”

It’s a timely question as men’s football leagues around the world have begun resuming their seasons while their female colleagues watch on from the sidelines.

“We can always be doing more,” Kellond-Knight said.

“Governing bodies could step in and implement certain incentives to ensure clubs don’t forget the female game. I also think planning and creating strategies with longer-term success in mind will be useful at this stage.

“There won’t be an overnight solution, so we need people with big-picture thinking and the ability to develop strategies directed at long-term and sustainable improvement.”

Elise Kellond-Knight stands in an attempted tackle from Chu.
Elise Kellond-Knight has 106 international caps for the Matildas.(Reuters: Kelvin Kuo)

The coronavirus has exposed many things about the football industry, not least the powerlessness of players in the sport’s wider economic riptide. But organisations like FIFPro and national unions like the PFA have slowly gained legitimacy and strength in numbers to ensure these workers are not left on their own to drown.

“The power of a collective voice in comparison to a single voice is immense,” Kellond-Knight said.

“When the collective has solidarity, the organisation in question is challenged and cannot simply dismiss what the group is appealing for. A collective opinion basically has a higher chance of being a catalyst for change.

“As a young player, I dreamed of playing for my country and competing in full stadiums, making it my chosen career path. However, when I reached the top level, it wasn’t all I thought it would be. I want to make it a realistic dream and a desired career path for all young aspiring female footballers.

“Without a change of strategy and alignment, the female game won’t reach the level we want it to. I want to help change the thinking surrounding women’s football, to give it the respect and investment it deserves.”

Samantha Lewis is a freelance women’s football writer based in Sydney.



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Australian community sport can survive coronavirus challenges through volunteer spirit


For organised sport the advent of National Volunteer Week can be heart warming and also somewhat problematic.

It is a time when administrators reach out to their grassroots workers and acknowledge some of the glowing examples of the dedicated volunteers who keep community clubs on the field.

The legendary local coach, the bloke who runs the bar or the canteen, the family that washes the jerseys, the high school kid who operates the all-abilities program and all those who perform one of the many tasks required to keep the most important level of sport ticking along.

But, increasingly, the acknowledgement of volunteers can also unwittingly emphasise the widening gap between well-funded professional sports administrators and participants, and those at the base of sporting pyramid reaching into their own pockets to support their communities.

Given the challenges created by the COVID-19 shutdown, this month’s National Volunteer Week comes at an even more delicate time in the sometimes tense relationship between professional and community sport.

As ever, most of the media’s emphasis on sport over the past few months has been about the urgent attempts to get the major football codes back on the field to provide content for media partners whose rights deals fund sport — at least notionally — from top to bottom.

Given this trickle-down economy, making professional leagues the first priority is justifiable, assuming these sports have demonstrated a genuine commitment to their grassroots competitions and clubs.

But sport must be more dependent then ever on the commitment of volunteers over the coming months, even years, as local clubs confront the various financial and logistical hurdles they must clear to get back to training and playing in the midst of the pandemic that has flattened their economies.

These challenges have become more stark in recent days as clubs across various codes grapple with the strict protocols they must follow to safely conduct even limited non-contact, small squad training sessions in preparation for still hypothetical seasons.

In most cases this involves appointing a safety officer for each group of 10, recording the names and taking the temperatures of participants, ensuring squads are correctly spaced, keeping youngsters who’ve been cooped up for weeks from climbing all over each other and sanitising equipment.

This is after club officials have calculated funding shortfalls from lost sponsorships and matchday revenue, renegotiated ground hire with local councils, considered any further fine print imposed by their leagues and associations, and factored in the health and reputational risks should their club create a COVID-19 outbreak.

And before the players kick, throw or a hit a ball they will have to convince residents now using grounds as outdoor gymnasiums to exercise elsewhere, which is potentially the most confronting task of all.

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This is why a local club president or coach might consider with envy the supposedly “heavy burden” of an NRL or AFL official forced to choose which of several expert assistant coaches, fitness and medical staff will be excluded from their pods and bubbles.

This is not to trivialise the plight of those in professional sports who might lose their incomes, rather it is merely to illustrate the very different lives of those well-paid coaches and stars who sometimes suggest “I love the game so much I would do it for nothing” and those who do.

What this presents is a test of good faith for those sports administrations who this week lauded their local volunteers.

Those peak-level sports administrations that genuinely appreciate the efforts will not just be uttering hollow sentiments about their volunteers. They will cut shrunken cloths in a way that ensures their grassroots commitment is maintained or find other imaginative ways to support clubs suffering hardship.

Particularly, they will acknowledge the local clubs — with vastly varying levels of expertise — that were already struggling with the complex challenges of local government red tape, grant applications and other administrative issues before the pandemic put a hole in their funding and pool of volunteers, and threatened club membership numbers.

At the same time local clubs might also find out during these even more testing times something about the calibre and the motivation of their own committees and volunteers, and — particularly — their commitment to their broader communities.

Volunteers can be local heroes

The best of local volunteers will champion their club’s efforts to get players — and particularly juniors — back on the training track despite the tough regulations.

They will understand the importance of maintaining relationships with members, particularly kids who might be lost forever if their connection with the sport is broken during the shutdown.

Children playing soccer
Junior sport will be subject to protocols that coaches and participants must observe.(ABC News: Jonathon Gul)

This in itself provides a test for coaches: are you willing to supervise modified sessions that might only be recreational, or is your interest purely in training for competitive games where your own ego is invested in the outcome?

While recognising the difficulties of dealing with the new protocols, I suggest the junior coach throwing his or hands in the air because non-contact skills sessions will not be rewarded with trophies and medals at the end of this season might not have been the right coach anyway.

What we do know is that the volunteers honoured at this time next year after guiding their clubs through the toughest of times, and in some cases ensuring their survival, will be genuine local heroes.

Offsiders will cover all the major issues from across sport, including the football codes’ return to play in detail, on Sunday at 10:00am on ABC TV.



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