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Dodge career complacency and get your best foot forward


All levels of government have had to catch up and become creative in their responses. Some of these responses seem to have been on the whole successful, such as JobKeeper (although not without its faults such as largely excluding workers such as artists). Other responses seem to have been lacking in areas such as quarantine hotel security arrangements.

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For too many workers, COVID-19 has been a cruel reminder of the uncertain nature of even the most supposedly secure jobs. Regular readers will know I have been banging on about chaos and uncertainty in careers for two decades, and I even have a theory to my name alongside my colleague Robert Pryor that emphasises the uncertain, ever-changing nature of work and careers.

In times of employment stability, it is easy for any of us to fall into the complacency trap and fail to run our own pandemic-planning exercises. Even in the good times, we should be keeping planning skills up to scratch by looking for opportunities, developing contingency plans and being strategic about our futures. We cannot make long-range predictions (so much for long-term career plans).

What we can do is develop skills of opportunity awareness such as strategy, optimism, risk-taking, curiosity, flexibility, persistence and luck readiness. Right now would be a good time for us to mark our own performance against these skills.

Ask yourself how can you be more flexible, strategic and curious and how can you take more calculated risks? I think we should be asking ourselves these questions routinely in good times as well as bad.

This doesn’t mean everything rests with the individual. Governments have a responsibility to provide opportunities for jobs growth, for personal growth through education and work, and support for those that need it. One thing they can do is embrace skills-based careers education from the beginning of formal education and not leave it to the last minute with an emphasis on a single transition from school to work.

None of us know what a day will bring, which makes it all the more important that we equip everyone with the skills to be able to deal with success and adversity with felicity and grace.

Jim Bright FAPS is Professor of Career Education and Development at ACU and owns Bright and Associates, a Career Management Consultancy. Email to opinion@jimbright.com. Follow him on Twitter @DrJimBright



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The final whistle blows on former Australian Diamond Natalie Medhurst’s 17-year netball career


Growing up in a small country community, Natalie Medhurst is the first to admit her rise to elite level sport came as a surprise.

Last week, the former Diamond, Commonwealth Games gold medallist and multi-time World Cup player announced her retirement from a professional netball career spanning 17 years.

The third-most-capped national league player took to the court 235 times and scored 4,415 goals across Commonwealth Bank Trophy, ANZ Championship and Suncorp Super Netball competitions.

Medhurst, who was born in Melbourne, returned home to finish her career with the Collingwood Magpies in her native Victoria.

Grateful for family support

When the 178 centimetres goal shooter was just three, her family packed up and moved to the small south-east South Australian township of Millicent, where she became involved in local country sport.

A team photo with eight girls in netball uniforms
Natalie Medhurst, left, back row, began her netball career with the Millicent Saints in South Australia.(Supplied: Millicent Football and Netball Club)

“My parents ran the Somerset Hotel in Millicent so we also lived there (at the hotel). It was awesome, we loved it as kids, it was different home compared to most and my parents were incredibly busy,” Medhurst said.

She said the family’s commitment to supporting her in local sports such as Little Athletics and basketball eventually turned to taking return road trips to Adelaide for state team trials in netball.

“Dad was heavily involved in the footy club, and footy and netball go hand in hand so that’s really where everything started and it took off from there,” she said.

Career exceeded dreams

Medhurst began her professional career in 2004 with the Adelaide Thunderbirds, before heading to the Queensland Firebirds in 2010, followed by stints with West Coast Fever and the Collingwood Magpies.

The Thunderbirds club champion and two-time winner of the Tanya Denver medal and the Adelaide Advertiser player of the year (2006 and 2007) came as highlights in the early days, but it was in 2007 when she first wore the green and gold as Diamond #144.

Medhurst represented Australia with the Diamonds on 86 occasions and went on to win three Netball World Cup gold medals, one Commonwealth Games gold medal, one Commonwealth Games silver medal and six Constellation Cup titles.

Throughout her Diamonds career, she scored 1,166 goals for Australia and captained the Diamonds on one occasion.

Cool under pressure

Reflecting on her rise in the sport and time at the top, she said her competitive streak married well with a naturally laid-back style on court.

“I was very chilled out on court, I think some people confused that and thought I was lazy … but I’ve always loved the pressure — that’s probably why I’m a shooter.”

“Competing was the best thing; game day and those big games … are something I’m really going to miss.”

A woman in an Australian netballer uniform holding a netball. Another player defends
Natalie Medhurst scored 1,166 goals for Australia and captained the Diamonds on one occasion.(AAP)

She said she was most proud of seeing how far the sport had come, with a clearer pathway for young athletes looking to make it to the top.

” … But a thing that helped me a lot was that I played a lot of sports — I wasn’t fixated on netball at a young age.”

And for the next generation of country kids throwing the ball around an asphalt court, Medhurst has this to say: “Realise it is incredibly hard work; it takes a lot of dedication — and from parents too. So for the kids, make sure you thank your parents.”

Young players follow footsteps

Donna Denton, who is a grade coach with the Millicent Saints, said Medhurst had inspired a new generation of young players.

Lisa Alexander celebrates with Natalie Medhurst
Natalie Medhurst, seen here with then coach Lisa Alexander, left, says she will miss competing.(AAP: Paul Miller)

She said the township of Millicent still claimed Medhurst as one of their own.

“Obviously there’s a keen interest in our town following her,” Denton said.

Netball Australia chief executive Marne Fechner thanked Medhurst for her service to the sport.

“Nat has made an enormous contribution to Netball in Australia, both on and off the court, and we congratulate her on an incredible career,” she said.



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St George Illawarra apologises to Nathan Blacklock after racism claims during NRL career



St George Illawarra has apologised to former player Nathan Blacklock for the racism he experienced during his career at the Dragons.

Blacklock, in an article published by The Sydney Morning Herald on Sunday, highlighted his experiences of racist behaviour while playing with the Dragons.

The Dragons released a statement on Sunday afternoon, apologising “unreservedly” to Blacklock and other Indigenous Australian players who might have been subjected to racism during their time with the club.

“Racism has no place in society, in rugby league and certainly not at the St George Illawarra Dragons,” Dragons chief executive Ryan Webb said in the statement.

“Everyone at the club was saddened to read over the weekend that racism played a contributing role in Nathan’s departure from the club in the early-2000s, and commend his bravery in speaking out.

“We have come a long way as a club with addressing matters pertinent to not only players of Indigenous background but across all cultures.”

Blacklock, who played for the Dragons in two stints between 1997 and 2004, said his experiences of racism at the club were “like a dagger to my heart”.

The 44-year-old said he did not speak up at the time as he was worried about the consequences for his playing career.

“I wanted to play first grade and didn’t want the attention that speaking out then would have brought,” Blacklock told The Sydney Morning Herald.

“My dad always told me to just keep my head down and do my job, but I feel times have changed now.

“I work with people from all races and all areas in my job with suicide prevention. It’s time to be true to myself and speak up in case anyone else is going through it.

“Those boys shouldn’t worry about their positions in the team. And I hope race never, ever picks a team.”

Webb said the Dragons were committed to standing up against racism.

“With a commitment to reconciliation, the club will continue to uphold these values in taking a stance against racism,” he said.

“The club respects the unique position of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples as the first peoples of our nation, and appreciate the contribution they have and continue to make to our country, our community, to our sport and to the Dragons.”

Blacklock played 137 matches for the Dragons and made two Test appearances for Australia.

He also played five matches for the Roosters when he debuted in first grade in 1995.

A fan favourite known for his acrobatic try celebrations at the Dragons, Blacklock was named as the Dally M Winger of the Year on three occasions (1999, 2000, 2001).

He scored 121 tries across his first-grade career.

Blacklock also had a brief stint in rugby union, playing for the New South Wales Waratahs in 2003 before returning to the NRL later that year.



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Indian cricket great MS Dhoni retires after 16-year international career


Indian cricket great Mahendra Singh Dhoni has announced his retirement from international cricket.

“Thanks a lot for your love and support throughout. From 19:29 hours consider me as retired,” the 39-year-old wicketkeeper-batsman posted on his Instagram account.

The news came as he joined his Chennai Super Kings teammates ahead of next month’s Indian Premier League tournament, which will be held in the United Arab Emirates because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Dhoni, who played in 90 tests, 350 one-day internationals and 98 Twenty20s for his country, was dropped from India’s list of 27 centrally contracted players in January.

Fellow India great Sachin Tendulkar said Dhoni’s contribution had been immense.

“Wishing you and your family all the very best for your 2nd innings.”

Sachin Tendulkar and MS Dhoni hug after winning their World Cup semi final in 2011
Sachin Tendulkar (left) described India’s World Cup win under MS Dhoni (right) as the best moment of his life.(Reuters: Vivek Prakash)

Australian great Shane Warne also joined in the praise for Dhoni on Twitter.

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Dhoni had not played international cricket since last year’s 50-over World Cup.

He made his test debut in 2005 and retired from the longer format of the game nine years later.

Dhoni was one of his country’s most successful captains before standing down as skipper of the limited-over teams in 2017.

Under his stewardship, India won the T20 World Cup in 2007, the 50-over World Cup in 2011 and the Champions Trophy in 2013.

Indian cricket captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni plays a shot during the third one-day international cricket match against Bangladesh
MS Dhoni averaged 50 runs a game in ODIs, amassing 10,773 runs over the course of his career.(AP: AM Ahad, file)

The team also reached the top of the test rankings in 2009 under his leadership.

In tests, Dhoni made 4,876 runs with the bat, averaging 38.

He hit 33 half-centuries and six centuries, and also took 256 catches and made 38 stumpings.

In ODIs, he totalled 10,773 runs, averaging 50.

He hit 73 half-centuries and 10 centuries, and also took 321 catches and made 123 stumpings.

In T20s, Dhoni made 1,617 runs, averaging 37.

He hit two half-centuries, and also took 57 catches and made 34 stumpings.

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Raina joins Dhoni in retirement

Shortly after Dhoni’s announcement, former India all-rounder Suresh Raina also said he was retiring from international cricket

“It was nothing but lovely playing with you [Dhoni],” Raina, Dhoni’s Chennai Super Kings teammate, wrote on Instagram.

“With my heart full of pride, I choose to join you in this journey. Thank you India.”

As well as 18 tests and 78 T20s, the 33-year-old Raina played in 226 ODIs, where he averaged 35 with the bat, including 36 half-centuries and five 100s, and took 36 wickets.

AP



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Ash Barty, world number one, reflects on her career with Kurt Fearnley on One Plus One


The coronavirus pandemic has given Ash Barty time to reflect on her impressive young tennis career, from its auspicious beginning to its unforeseen hiatus, all the way to world domination.

Barty, the world number one, has been a popular Australian sporting champion and in an interview with Kurt Fearnley for One Plus One, charted the personal growth that took her to the top.

Barty says her love of tennis was forged at the age of five, when a Saturday morning lesson set her on her way. At 15-years-old, Barty won the junior Wimbledon title — a success, she says, that came “too fast and too soon”.

In the early years of her career, Barty was a promising teenager whose junior success had marked her for stardom in Australia and abroad. But the rapid rise left Barty feeling “lost”, prompting in 2014 her shock decision to step away from tennis — to play semi-professional cricket with the Brisbane Heat.

“In short, I think I needed just to find myself,” Barty said.

“I felt like I got twisted and maybe a little bit lost along the way in the first part of my career.

“I was very lucky to have a lot of success, but I’m still very much a homebody and I kind of lost my way a little bit with not being able to connect with my family.

“We didn’t lose that love or that care, but I felt like there was a bit of a split. I wanted to come back to that. I wanted to come back to my family and those who love me the most.”

Ashleigh Barty at Brisbane Heat event
Ash Barty took a break from tennis to try her luck as a cricketer.(AAP: Dave Hunt)

The sojourn with cricket may have been brief, but it refreshed a young Barty who says the time away from tennis taught her plenty.

“Not just about myself personally either,” she said.

“My relationships with my family improved, my relationship with myself improved.

“I met a lot of different people in cricket who had a different upbringing and a different perspective about sport.”

But the door to tennis was always left ajar for Barty.

Although she chose to forgo the chance to hold on to a WTA ranking during her absence — which would have required her to say she was injured or some such for that time — Barty had never ruled out a return.

Australia's Casey Dellacqua and Ash Barty react during their Fed Cup doubles against Ukraine
Barty plays Fed Cup doubles with friend and mentor Casey Dellacqua.(AAP: Lukas Coch)

And over a beer and a barbeque with her long-time friend, teammate and mentor Casey Dellacqua, Barty begun to realise just how much she had missed tennis.

“There was just something about that conversation [with Dellacqua] that I was like ‘I miss testing myself, I miss competing. I miss trying to bring out the best in myself’,” she said.

“As an athlete and a competitor, I really missed having that feeling of fulfillment when you know you’ve done all the work, you know you’ve done all the preparation and then it’s just about having a crack.

Coming back with a bang

And so an unranked but motivated Barty began on her road back. Within three years, she was French Open champion.

“It doesn’t feel real, still,” she said.

“That whole match is a bit of a blur, and the lead up to that [final, winning] moment is a little bit lost.

“The best thing was turning around and being able to look at my team, that moment I will never forget. Even if I can’t remember the match at all, or I never watch the match again, that moment I will never forget.”

A tennis player stands with the trophy after winning the French Open women's singles final.
Barty won her first grand slam at the French Open in 2019.(AP: Christophe Ena)

Barty is yet to taste grand slam victory since, but that win at Roland Garros was hardly a flash in the pan.

She has been a fixture at the top of the WTA rankings ever since, coming close at this year’s Australian Open where she was knocked out at the semi-final stage by eventual winner Sofia Kenin.

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Barty says winning Wimbledon is her ultimate career goal.

Ask her what her number one goal is though, and her answer is clear.

“My dream is winning Wimbledon. Without a doubt,” she said.

“It took a long time for me to say that out loud. It took a long time for me to have the courage to say that out loud, but that’s what I want. That’s what I want to work towards.

“Being able to win Junior Wimbledon was really special, but it just gave me a taste of what it’s really like.”

A female tennis player laughs after she won a match at the Australian Open.
Ash Barty is one of Australia’s most popular athletes.(AP: Lee Jin-man)

Barty was robbed of that opportunity in 2020 when Wimbledon became one of the many major sports events to be cancelled due to COVID-19.

The pandemic has seen competition come to an almost complete stop, and has given Barty yet more time to think. Fittingly for one of Australia’s most relatable athletes, she says her coronavirus experience has been very similar to everyone else’s.

“Like everyone I think, I’ve had ups and downs,” she said.

“At the moment, there’s a lot of unpredictability and uncertainty, and you can just kind of do your part. You can play your role and do what you need to do.

“That was a massive part of it for our team — accepting that this is something greater than what we can control, we can’t do anything about it. We just have to play our part and do the right thing. And then hope we get an opportunity some time in the year to get back to some kind of normal.

“At the end of the day, there are a lot of things in life a lot more important than hitting a tennis ball. I think it’s been a really important time to bring that perspective.”

Watch the full interview with Ash Barty on One Plus One on ABC TV at 9:30pm tonight.



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Wheelchair basketball player contemplating leg amputation to continue international career


A British wheelchair basketball star says he may have to consider amputating his leg to continue playing at international level.

George Bates, who is a World and European champion with Great Britain, was told his disability does not fit into new criteria introduced by the sport’s governing body at the start of this year.

Bates said he has complex regional pain syndrome, which has left him in “constant pain every day for the last 15 years” after suffering a football injury when he was 11 years old.

The 26-year-old said he has been deemed to be “‘the wrong kind’ of disabled”.

Wheelchair Basketball’s governing body, the International Wheelchair Basketball Federation (IWBF), has been under pressure to adapt its classification rules to bring it in line with International Paralympic Committee (IPC) rules.

Great Britain takes on Canada in Invictus Games wheelchair basketball
Wheelchair basketball is a popular event at a variety of competitions, including the Invictus Games.(Getty Images/Invictus Games 2018)

The IWBF had been asked to make changes to the classification rules prior to the 2020 Tokyo Paralympic Games or risk being taken off the program of events.

The IWBF classifies some disabilities differently to the IPC and was asked to reassess all athletes in the 4.0 to 4.5 category, those athletes with the lowest impairment.

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It was claimed by the IPC that some athletes were competing with disabilities that are not covered by the IPC code.

The IPC classification code includes health conditions that “primarily cause pain” as one of its “non-eligible impairments”, specifying complex regional pain syndrome.

Bates was classified as a 4.5 player, meaning he had the lowest level of impairment permitted under IWBF rules and, after being reclassified, was deemed ineligible.

“It is ironic that the IPC — who attempt to base their brand around equality and inclusivity — are deliberately discriminating against athletes who don’t meet their narrowminded view of what it actually means to be disabled,” Bates said in a statement.

“This injury resulted in serious and prolonged mental health issues and left me in a position where I was contemplating if I wanted to carry on with this life.

“At this point … I was given the option to amputate my leg, an issue that I assumed would benefit me in later life.

“Due to the decision of the IPC today I may be forced to revisit this heartbreaking option.”

Bates added that he would be taking legal action.

The IWBF said in a statement that: “IWBF’s classification philosophy has always been to make the sport as inclusive as possible and give all those with eligible impairments and disabilities a chance to play the game of basketball”.

IWBF president Ulf Mehrens said the decision to change the classification structure was met “with much regret and sadness”, adding that it believed it had a “strong robust classification system which has acted as a role model for other sports”.

Germany's Dirk Passiwan is chased by Iran's Zakaria Hesamy Zadeh and Hakim Mansouri
Wheelchair basketball is played all around the world.(Claro Cortes IV, file photo: Reuters)

“Despite our disappointment, IWBF acknowledges the current action by the IPC and I kindly request all athletes, teams and member nations for their cooperation and understanding,” Mehrens said.

“We hope to have the collaboration and support from all our national federations as we do everything possible to serve our wheelchair basketball community and make sure wheelchair basketball secures it place in the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games and future Paralympic Games.”

The para-sport classification system aims to group athletes with similar impairments into categories.

The Australian Paralympic website says this is to, “ensure the type and severity of an athlete’s impairment has a minimal impact on the outcome of a race, event or match”.

Athletes wishing to compete undergo a sport-specific classification assessment by someone certified by Paralympics Australia.

The issue of classifications has been controversial, with some athletes raising questions over some athletes being classified incorrectly deliberately to boost medal chances.

Last year, Paralympics Australia introduced a mandatory online course for athletes to help understand the importance of a transparent classification process.

Some athletes in the Australian Rollers and Gliders teams are expected to be impacted by the classification changes.

Basketball Australia and Paralympics Australia have been contacted for comment.



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Melbourne captain Max Gawn reveals how cigarettes and injuries nearly derailed his AFL career before it began


Max Gawn’s journey from lanky teenager to arguably the best ruckman in the game has been a long one, filled with injuries, setbacks and a few too many cigarettes.

Now the captain of Melbourne, Gawn told The Phil Davis Podcast about his early days at the club, and how he slowly found his voice and identity while learning to ignore external comparisons.

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The Phil Davis Podcast: Max Gawn’s journey to the top
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Gawn says he felt like a fish out of water in the “private school” environment at the Demons — but a few nasty habits admittedly didn’t help his cause.

“I feel like just before I got there, our club wanted to live up to that [private school] stereotype. Because I walked into the most private school place I’d ever walked into,” Gawn said.

“Here’s me who has come in and was as raw as anything. It was well documented that I loved a dart, loved a drink and wasn’t exactly the most professional person … they didn’t comprehend that I did things differently.

“I found it so hard to fit in when I got to the club. I’m not putting it all on that divide and I don’t think it’s that big of a divide … but my whole first year I didn’t say a word.

“It was purely from the fact that I felt so different. I felt like I was an alien. I probably looked like one as well.”

Will Minson wrestles for possession
Both Gawn and his beard needed to time to grow.(AAP: Joe Castro)

While injury played its part in his early struggles, Gawn’s own personal standards took a while to reach AFL level. It took an awkward interaction with the club’s captain and a sit-down meeting with its leadership group for him to realise that.

“It was preseason in my first year, and I hadn’t trained yet because of my knee,” he said.

“I wasn’t a full time smoker, far from it, but there was a cigarette deck in my car from maybe a week before.

“For some reason I thought I was the only person driving on the Monash on the way down to Casey, but it turns out it was quite a popular route for players.”

Gawn may have got away with his sneaky smoke on the drive to training, had his captain James McDonald not pulled up alongside him.

Max Gawn sticks his finger in the air as he celebrates kicking a Demons goal.
After a rocky beginning, Gawn has more than made a name for himself in the AFL.(AAP: Julian Smith)

Not long later, unaware he had been sprung, Gawn was called in to face the music.

“It was daunting. We had 10 people in our leadership group at the time and I was sat in a chair in the front with a semi-circle of all 10,” he said.

“I think it was Brad Miller who asked ‘are you doing whatever it takes to be the best footballer you can be?’. And I go ‘yeah, I think so, I think I’m doing everything’.

“He says ‘so you weren’t smoking on the Monash on the way to training then?’. I’m like ‘ah shit, I’ve been caught here — so do I deny again or do I go the sob story?’.

“I went the sob story and said my family all smoke — they don’t, none of my family smoke, so I wasn’t sure why I ran with that.”

Breaking through and battling Brodie

After a stop-start first few years of his career, Gawn reached a crossroads in 2015. He found himself out of the team for round one, and by his own admission took the news poorly.

His subsequent form in the VFL was not promising, and at that stage he had not yet come to fall in love with the craft of ruckwork. His career was very much in the balance.

“By round eight 2015 I’ve got my head so far up my arse that I’m nowhere near playing AFL football,” he said.

“I didn’t know if ruckwork was what I wanted to do. I was 208 centimetres but I was playing as a forward. I stopped wearing shin guards because I thought I was a forward, and I hated going into centre bounces.

“[Assistant coaches] Simon Goodwin and Ben Matthews sat me down and had a really good chat. I was able to get away from the constant feedback I was getting from [coach Paul Roos], and they really put me in a good mindset.”

Max Gawn of the Demons walks off injured during the round three AFL match against the Cats in Melbourne on April 8, 2017.
Injury held Gawn back early in his career, but has had a better run in recent years.(AAP: Tracey Nearmy)

He found his way back into the team in the middle of the 2015 season, and soon made a breakthrough. From there, Gawn hasn’t looked back.

“It was purely just marking the football in a game against St Kilda. I took maybe two or three marks and all of a sudden, I felt like I belonged,” he said.

“A sense of belonging is what I really valued. That’s what got me going and got me sky high.

“As much as injuries are setbacks, I think it was about working out what was going on inside my head.

“If I had have worked out a sense of belonging and working out my own identity and how I wanted to be viewed, I would’ve fast tracked a little bit quicker.”

Brodie Grundy and Max Gawn hold on to each others arms and look up
Brodie Grundy and Gawn are the two leading ruckmen in the comp at the moment.(AAP: Daniel Pockett)

Now at the top of the game, the natural compulsion is to rank Gawn among his contemporaries — particularly Collingwood’s Brodie Grundy, a ruckman different in style but equally dominant.

Gawn says the one-on-one nature of ruck battles can lead to easy analysis, in which the player with the better stats is said to have won the battle. It’s something he says he struggled to deal with early in his career, but has now moved past.

“This is stuff I struggled with and what I once valued as important,” he said.

“It really screwed with my brain in the early parts of my career.

“Now, I literally couldn’t care how I’m viewed around the competition or who is the greatest ruck because everyone can have their day, and I’ve been beaten by so many ruckmen, not just Brodie.”



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Damian Martin retires from Perth Wildcats after decorated NBL career featuring six titles


Perth Wildcats captain Damian Martin has called time on a glittering National Basketball League career after six championships and 342 games.

Flanked by coach Trevor Gleeson, Martin announced his retirement in front of family, teammates and club staff at the team’s practice facility this morning.

He said it was the “right decision” to end his career and said he could happily retire knowing he had done all he could on the court.

One of the NBL’s most decorated players, Martin’s six titles with the Wildcats is a record for anyone at a single club, alongside teammate Jesse Wagstaff.

Perth Wildcats captain Damian Martin sits talking at a media conference next to coach Trevor Gleeson.
Martin (left) was joined by Wildcats coach Trevor Gleeson as he announced his retirement.(ABC News: David Weber)

The point guard was also crowned the league’s best defensive player a record-breaking six times, including in five consecutive seasons, and was grand final MVP in the 2016 championship series.

That year he went on to play for Australia at the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio and two years later won gold with the Boomers at the 2018 Commonwealth Games.

Martin began his career with the West Sydney Razorbacks and moved west when the club’s successor, Sydney Spirit, folded in 2009.

His arrival in WA coincided with the Wildcats ending a 10-year championship drought in his first season with the club, when they claimed the 2010 title over the Wollongong Hawks.

Martin’s leadership and defensive prowess went on to steer Perth to another five championships in 10 years, with his impact on the game stretching far beyond the statistics sheet.

But the guard struggled with injury in his final few seasons as he battled several lower leg issues, including a torn calf and Achilles problems.

This year he missed the entire month of January with a partially torn Achilles, before returning to play a crucial role in Perth’s truncated 2-1 championship win over Sydney Kings.

The injury almost ended his season and eventually required career-ending surgery.

Damian Martin passes a basketball with his right hand while DJ Kennedy tries to stop the pass with his left hand.
Martin had a far bigger impact on the game than statistics suggested.(AAP: Hamish Blair)



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Conor McGregor announces third retirement following decorated UFC career


Irish mixed martial arts (MMA) great Conor McGregor has announced he is retiring from fighting for a third time.

The 31-year-old former two-division UFC champion, who stepped away from MMA in 2016 and 2019 before returning to the sport, announced his retirement on Twitter this afternoon.

“Hey guys I’ve decided to retire from fighting,” McGregor tweeted.

“Thank you all for the amazing memories! What a ride it’s been!”

Retirements in combat sports are regarded as a time-honoured device for gathering attention and increased bargaining power.

Countless champions of boxing and MMA have gone back on their solemn announcements whenever need or ego brought them back to the sport.

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McGregor made his first Twitter retirement announcement in April 2016.

This was during a spat with the UFC over promotion of a rematch with Nate Diaz.

“I have decided to retire young. Thanks for the cheese. Catch ya’s later,” he tweeted.

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McGregor and Diaz fought in August 2016.

Three years later, McGregor retired again in March 2019 in what UFC president Dana White believed was a gambit to entice the UFC to offer him an ownership stake in the company.

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McGregor began talking about new fights shortly afterwards and he eventually returned to face Donald Cerrone last January.

He revitalised his combat sports career with an impressive first-round stoppage of Cerrone at UFC 246.

Prior to defeating Cerrone, McGregor had not won a fight in a MMA cage or a boxing ring since 2016, when he stopped lightweight Eddie Alvarez to become the first fighter in UFC history to hold two championship belts simultaneously.

UFC lightweight champion Conor McGregor of Ireland poses on the scale.
Conor McGregor is hanging up the gloves yet again.(Reuters: Steve Marcus)

With his fame and fortune multiplying, McGregor fought his only boxing match with Floyd Mayweather in 2017 and he lost a one-sided UFC bout to lightweight champion Khabib Nurmagomedov in late 2018.

But McGregor remained the UFC’s brightest star and biggest financial draw.

White had already said McGregor was next in line for a title shot at the winner of lightweight champion Khabib Nurmagomedov’s bout with Justin Gaethje.

The UFC’s schedule is in upheaval due to the coronavirus pandemic, but McGregor was expected to get his title shot later this year and he recently had been talking to White about taking another fight even earlier.

AP/ABC



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Daniel Ricciardo’s move to McLaren could be the vehicle for his Formula 1 career to rise again


With confirmation that Daniel Ricciardo will be swapping the black and yellow of Renault for the orange of McLaren in 2021, it seems as good a time as any to assess the current status of his career in F1.

The 30-year-old shocked the Formula 1 world when he made the decision to leave Red Bull to drive for Renault.

It was a gutsy decision at the time, described as “smart” by some and “backwards” by others.

So has the move paid off for Ricciardo, or has he been overtaken by other contemporaries in the race to succeed Lewis Hamilton as top of the F1 pile?

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Shifting team pecking order makes life difficult

Let’s rewind for a moment.

When Ricciardo moved from Red Bull to Renault, it’s fair to say that everyone was pretty surprised.

Red Bull were a frontrunner and Renault were, at best, considered to be a team in the midst of a rebuild.

However, that’s a hugely simplistic view to take on what was a tumultuous time for Ricciardo and the team as a whole.

After spectacularly deposing Sebastian Vettel as top dog at Red Bull Racing during his first season in 2014, after promotion from Toro Rosso, Ricciardo was the number one in the stable.

However, in the super-competitive and unforgiving world of the Red Bull junior driving program, there is always someone waiting in the wings, as it were.

That man, or boy as he was then, was Max Verstappen, whose arrival in the top team as an 18-year-old sent a shock wave through the sport when he won on his debut, but throughout his first two seasons, he was firmly positioned as Ricciardo’s number two.

Daniel Ricciardo and Max Verstappen in boats on the Yarra River
Drifting apart? Daniel Ricciardo (L) and Max Verstappen (R) were on different courses after Red Bull began viewing the Dutch driver as the team’s future.(AAP: Tracey Nearmy)

In 2018, that dynamic changed, with Verstappen standing on the podium 11 times compared to Ricciardo’s two, claiming fourth in the drivers world championship.

There was little doubt to observers that Red Bull favoured Verstappen’s precocious talent as the future of the team, being eight years younger than Ricciardo.

That issue was compounded when Red Bull cast the net of blame equally between Verstappen and Ricciardo for a crash in Azerbaijan that took both drivers out of the Grand Prix.

Both drivers were forced to apologise, but to many, the blame should have been laid firmly at the Dutchman’s door.

That may well have been the beginning of the end for the Australian at Red Bull.

Why did Ricciardo move to Renault though?

Rule changes make overtaking easier, level playing field

Given the weight of F1 cars and the downforce used, drivers have been required to use more fuel in recent years.

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Up until 2019, race fuel allowance was set at 105kg — which meant that decisions had to be made to take the foot off the gas at times to get to the end of the race.

Obviously, many drivers, including the attack-minded Ricciardo, would prefer to be able to go flat out for the entire race.

Before last season, F1 responded to the dilemma by increasing the fuel allowance to 110kg, giving drivers the chance to attack more and potentially go all out — depending on their engine performance.

This could mean that Ricciardo saw this as something of a free pass.

His position at Red Bull had become untenable due to the tensions with the boy wonder.

Red Bull were changing engine supplier to the unproven, or at least, proven to be unreliable, Honda engine.

Renault were struggling, but they’d either continue to struggle, or they’d improve and he’d be in an ideal place to benefit — it’s worth considering that when Lewis Hamilton left McLaren for Mercedes, eyebrows were raised.

He’s since added five world championships. That gamble paid off.

The flip side to that is Fernando Alonso, widely lauded as one of the best drivers of the modern era, also moved away from a leading team (Ferrari) to race for McLaren in the hopes that he could help them move back up to the next level.

That gamble didn’t work out quite so well.

Did it work out for Daniel?

Daniel Ricciardo drives his yellow Renault F1 car in Monaco as seen through a safety barrier
Ricciardo had a frustrating time at Renault, failing to win a single grand prix out of 21 races for the French F1 outfit.(Reuters: Benoit Tessier)

So, did moving to Renault pay off? The short answer is — not particularly.

Renault has continued to struggle with performance and reliability. Ricciardo had earned seven grand prix wins and 29 podiums in eight seasons at Toro Rosso and Red Bull.

In 21 races for Renault in 2019, the Perth-native didn’t have a single win — he didn’t even make it onto the podium.

The frustration has grown.

An F1 car sits on the back of a truck during a grand prix race after failing to finish.
Renault’s reliability has been an ongoing issue for Daniel Ricciardo during his time at the team.(AP: Jens Meyer)

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Before, Ricciardo was mainly concerning himself with his teammate Verstappen in terms of positioning himself as the next one to make a run at the title.

Now, however, the list of rivals is growing.

Behind the dominant Mercedes duo of Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas, there is Verstappen (now 22) and the new face of Ferrari, Charles Leclerc (now 24).

The latter pair won five races between them in 2019. But it wasn’t just those two that the Australian had to look out for.

Ricciardo also found himself behind McLaren’s Carlos Sainz Jr (now 25), Toro Rosso’s Pierre Gasly and Red Bull’s Alexander Albon (both 24).

We already mentioned the Red Bull Junior drivers program.

Although that program has had more misses than hits, Ricciardo and Verstappen have proven to be the great survivors, with the Australian driving for Red Bull or its affiliates for seven seasons in Formula 1 in total, while this so-far-aborted year will be Verstappen’s seventh.

A racecar on a racetrack
Carlos Sainz Jr is taking Sebastian Vettel’s seat at Ferrari for 2021, freeing up a spot at McLaren for Daniel Ricciardo.(Reuters: Albert Gea)

Well, one of the other hits has been Carlos Sainz.

Sainz spent three years at Toro Rosso before moving out of the program to Renault when his chance was not forthcoming with Red Bull.

His stint at Renault ended when Ricciardo came in to take his seat.

Now, the situation has reversed itself, as Ricciardo once again takes the seat of the Mexican driver, only this time he’s not pushing him out into the cold.

Sainz finished in sixth spot in the world championship last year, three places and 42 points ahead of Ricciardo.

Where now for Ricciardo?

Daniel Ricciardo looks concerned as he looks up at something while sat in his Formula 1 car.
Daniel Ricciardo struggled at Renault — maybe a McLaren car with a new Mercedes engine can help him push for the top.(AAP: James Ross)

Does the fact that Sainz has earned a contract at Ferrari make him a better driver than Ricciardo?

No. It’s more that he fits better as Charles Leclerc’s backup driver, whereas anyone signing Ricciardo will be doing so to make him a lead driver.

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However, time is ticking for Ricciardo. Mark Webber, the Aussie who Ricciardo replaced at Red Bull, said as much in an interview with Fox Sports last year.

“Young guys come in and the landscape changes really fast in two years. You think, ‘yeah, I’m cool, I’ve got a bit of time’. Next minute, people come along.”

Ricciardo is 30. That’s no age for an F1 driver. After all, Lewis Hamilton for one is still going strong at 35. However, Hamilton is a six-time world champion.

As good as Ricciardo is, he does not have that pedigree.

Ricciardo is a great F1 driver, of that there is no doubt.

However, this is Formula 1. There are a lot of great drivers out there. And there are not a lot of seats, let alone in leading cars.

As one of the best overtakers on the grid, with the prospect of new rules promising a levelling of the playing field, perhaps driving for a middle-of-the-road team won’t be the handicap in two years’ time that it would have been when he signed for Renault.

Perhaps, McLaren — a team not without its own pedigree — could be the vehicle for Ricciardo’s career to rise again.

The fear is that he may have missed his chance.

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