An independent neurologist has given Will Pucovski the green light to play at the SCG; now Australia’s selectors must decide whether the would-be debutant is ready to partner David Warner in the high-stakes Test.
David Warner and Will Pucovski have shared a net at Australian training, adding weight to speculation the pair will open for Australia against India at the SCG
Warner is all but confirmed to play in the third Test, returning to cricket after a groin injury
Langer says there is no reason why Pucovski — who has been cleared to play after a series of concussions — cannot be picked for the Test
Justin Langer has all but confirmed Warner will return from his groin strain on Thursday after spending almost six weeks on the sidelines.
“Will saw an independent neurologist yesterday,” Langer told reporters on Tuesday.
“He’s seen a couple now.
“The real heartening thing for him is that while he’s had a few concussions in the past … it’s not necessarily going to have any long-term impact on him.
“All the concussion protocols … have been passed. He’s been cleared and that would be very heartening for him, his family.
Pucovski, who was on the cusp of a Test debut during the past two home summers but ruled himself out of contention and took a mental health break, only returned to the nets in Melbourne.
Langer noted the 22-year-old prodigy, who posted double-tons in consecutive Sheffield Shield games prior to his untimely bouncer blow in a tour game, was in a “great frame of mind” as he prepared for a short-pitched assault.
Pucovski had no issues whenever confronted with a bouncer during Australia’s main training session before the third Test.
“He’s incredibly positive about playing cricket. He’s trained hard this week and, as he and I have discussed, the only way to get back on the horse is to get back on the horse,” the former Test opener said.
Warner will replace axed opener Joe Burns in the XI.
Head, who is averaging 20.66 in this series, looms as the batsman likely to make way if Pucovski is presented with a baggy green.
“Heady is a good player. Averaging 40 in Test cricket. He’s a really aggressive player in the middle overs,” Langer said.
He said the approach had helped the school community get through the disruption of the coronavirus pandemic.
“This is what the school has prepared students for, we haven’t prepared them solely for exams, we’ve prepared them to cope with what the world throws at them.”
Mount Alexander College’s entry into the “30 club” caps off a remarkable five-year turnaround for the school.
In 2016, the government school in Flemington was at a low ebb. Its VCE results were well below the state average and just 37 children were enrolled in year 7.
The school had lost the confidence of many parents in its diverse and gentrifying catchment.
The school swapped conventional year levels between years 7 and 10 for what it calls a “vertical curriculum” based on students’ interests and ability and gave them more freedom to choose the subjects they were most into.
In 2020, a year 8 boy who is exceptionally gifted at maths took VCE units one and two in maths methods.
“It’s just meant that kids have a greater voice in their learning and as a result they are more engaged, and we have seen an enormous shift in attendance,” principal Dani Angelico said.
The college’s median study score rose to 31 in 2020 from 27 last year.
Its enrolments are also soaring: the school awaits the arrival of 140 year 7 students next month, and received a $24.77 million capital works grant in last year’s state budget to meet growing demand.
Ms Angelico said the school’s punt on an unconventional approach to schooling had paid off, as a diverse mix of students from public housing towers and multimillion-dollar homes enrolled in growing numbers.
“It’s a very diverse cohort: we’ve absolutely got a tale of disadvantage there that we will always have, but certainly we have students who come from very well educated, wealthy families that come to us now,” she said.
“And they are parents who would have [previously] probably sent their kids not to us, but to independent schools.”
Two other schools joined the “30 club” this year: the Islamic College of Melbourne, a co-educational prep-year 12 school in Tarneit. Its VCE results have improved sharply in the past three years, leaping to 30 from a median of 26 in 2018.
Haileybury Rendall School, a new Darwin campus for the independent school, had a median score of 32, up from 28 in 2019.
Start your day informed
Our Morning Edition newsletter is a curated guide to the most important and interesting stories, analysis and insights. Sign up here.
Adam Carey is Education Editor. He joined The Age in 2007 and has previously covered state politics, transport, general news, the arts and food.
Anna is an education reporter at The Age.
Craig Butt joined The Age in 2011 and specialises in data-driven journalism.
Suliasi Vunivalu will join the Wallabies at their training camp in the New South Wales Hunter Valley on Wednesday, only weeks after helping the Melbourne Storm win the NRL grand final.
Vunivalu is unlikely to play in the Wallabies’ remaining two Tri Nations Tests
His involvement with the Wallabies’ training squad is set to be part of his transition to rugby union
Vunivalu scored a try for the Storm in their NRL grand final victory just over two weeks ago
Vunivalu, who signed a two-year contract with Rugby Australia and Queensland last December, is not expected to be considered for selection for the Wallabies’ two upcoming Tri Nations Tests against Argentina.
Instead, the 24-year-old has been invited to join Dave Rennie’s extended Wallabies’ training squad as part of his transition from rugby league to the 15-player code.
Koroibete joined the Wallabies in Europe on their spring tour later that year, although he did not make his Test debut until September 2017. He has since established himself as one of the side’s top performers.
He has played 32 Tests for the Wallabies and was awarded the John Eales Medal last year.
Vunivalu, who along with Korobiete was born in Fiji, played rugby union as a teenager and attended Auckland’s Saint Kentigern College, which produced All Blacks Joe Rokocoko and Jerome Kaino.
He was spotted by the Storm and lured to Melbourne as an 18-year-old, and in his debut season in 2016 was the NRL’s top try scorer.
The Wallabies have already blooded two wingers during the recent Bledisloe Cup Tests.
Tom Wright scored with his first touch against the All Blacks last Saturday night, while Vunivalu’s new Reds teammate Filipo Daugunu has also impressed since making his Test debut in Wellington last month.
The Wallabies’ next match is against the Pumas in Newcastle on November 21, before they play each other again at Western Sydney Stadium on December 5 to wrap up the Tri Nations.
David Fifita will leave the Broncos at the end of the season, signing a multi-million-dollar deal to join the Gold Coast Titans.
David Fifita has played 37 NRL games for the Broncos in his fledgling career, making his debut in 2018
Fifita has not played this season since round two after undergoing surgery on his knee
The Broncos have won just one game since the NRL restarted in May
Reports have Fifita signing a three-year deal worth $3.5 million to head down the M1, the biggest deal in the club’s history.
“It’s a great signing for the club,” Mal Meninga said on Fox Sports.
“For us, it’s a huge kick … it’s only the start of what we’re trying to achieve.”
The Brisbane Broncos released a statement confirming the news, with CEO Paul White saying the club had more than 20 meetings to “try to find a way to keep David at the Broncos”.
“At the same time, we wanted to ensure we did not go beyond what was responsible for the good of the club and playing list as a whole.
“At the end of the day, it was a really tough decision for a young man to make and we respect the choice that David has made.
“It’s disappointing to see David depart but we look forward to him returning to the field to finish out the season with the Broncos.
The highly rated 20-year-old prop has been subject to mounting speculation over his future for weeks, but told his Broncos teammates this would be his last season at the club after Friday’s heavy defeat against the Storm.
Fifita has not played for the Broncos since the league shut down after round two, during which the Brisbane club has endured a horror run of form, losing eight of nine matches since the restart.
The mood around the Broncos’ Red Hill training ground has been sombre enough since the restart, with questions over Anthony Seibold’s coaching style dominating amidst the NRL heavyweight club’s terrible form.
Losing one of the club’s brightest young stars to their local rivals will not help matters.
“I’m not here to talk about that, ” he said. “I want to talk about the game tonight.”
Having starred in the Broncos’ 2-0 start to the season, including a 70-metre solo try in the round-one win over North Queensland, the State of Origin representative had knee surgery a month before games resumed on May 28.
‘Crazy’ money for Fifita
On ABC Grandstand earlier this month, NRL expert commentator Luke Lewis said a club would be “crazy” to part with as much as $1.25 million per year for Fifita.
“I think it’s absolutely crazy. You can probably buy two back rowers for half that price and still be able to go and buy a young raw talent coming through.
Lewis’s argument centred around the fact that, as a back rower, he is unlikely to be able to influence a game in the same way that a player playing in a play-making position would be able to.
“On average, a back rower touches the ball around 12 times a game.
“If you’re going to spend all that money you want … [a player who is] touching the ball all the time, who knows where to go, how the game’s got to be managed … they are your million-dollar players.
“David Fifita is a guy you’re going to give the ball, he’ll come up with some great carries, come up with some great defence … but you’re not going to give him the ball in a clutch moment to kick a field goal.”
Lewis added the speculation put Fifita in a very difficult position.
“It’s not David Fifita’s fault he’s getting that offer,” Lewis said. “You’re only worth what someone is willing to pay.”
The modelling is an update on the predictions released in April, which assumed six months of uninterrupted stage three lockdowns, and shows gross state product, a measure of economic activity, could fall by 5.25 per cent – or $21 billion – this calendar year.
The state’s unemployment rate has grown from 5.3 per cent in January, when there were 195,000 Victorians looking for work, to 7.5 per cent in June with 265,000 unemployed, and is now tipped to grow to 9 per cent, or 318,000 people without jobs, by the end of September.
The Treasurer’s office said the new modelling had taken into account the federal government’s decision to continue with a modified version of its JobKeeper wage subsidy scheme past the original scheduled end date of late September.
The state’s deficit for the first three quarters of the 2019-20 financial year was $773 million, with the full-year result – expected to be very much worse – to be revealed by the government in Thursday’s update.
In an effort to put Victoria’s problems in a global perspective, Mr Pallas pointed to forecasts from the International Monetary Fund and the Organisation for Economic Co-Operation and Development of a damaging recession shrinking worldwide economic output by 7.6 per cent.
The state government was spending an extra $1 billion a week battling the pandemic during its first surge in March and has arranged a $24.5 billion line of credit to fund future spending with no end to the crisis in sight.
The Treasurer said the government had pumped almost $7 billion into the economy in support to businesses and households in an effort to stave off the worst of the pandemic’s economic impact.
“The coronavirus pandemic is one of the biggest economic challenges our state and our country has ever faced – and we’re doing everything we can to support the tens of thousands of Victorian businesses, workers and families doing it tough,” Mr Pallas said.
Sign up to our Coronavirus Update newsletter
Get our Coronavirus Update newsletter for the day’s crucial developments and the numbers you need to know. Sign up to The Sydney Morning Herald’s newsletter here and The Age’shere.
A new women’s football team is coming to Los Angeles, and it will have some pretty big names running the show from the top.
A group of women including Natalie Portman, Serena Williams, Jessica Chastain and Eva Longoria have led a bid for a women’s football team in LA
Portman said the birth of the team had the “power to make tangible change for female athletes”
The plan is to bring on additional investors as the team takes shape
The National Women’s Soccer League has confirmed the tentatively-named Angel City will begin competing in the national competition from 2022 after a “majority woman-founded group” secured the exclusive rights to bring a franchise to LA.
That group contains tennis star Serena Williams — and her two-year-old daughter Olympia — actors Natalie Portman, Jessica Chastain, Jennifer Garner and Eva Longoria, tech entrepreneurs Julie Uhrman and Alexis Ohanain and a number of current and former US women’s team players.
“Today we take an exciting step by announcing the first women majority-owned and led ownership group,” Portman said.
“I am thrilled by the opportunity to partner with this incredible group of people to bring a professional women’s soccer team to Los Angeles.
“Together, we aim to build not only a winning team on the field, but also to develop a passionately loyal fan base.
“Sports are such a joyful way to bring people together, and this has the power to make tangible change for female athletes both in our community and in the professional sphere.”
Speaking to AP, Portman said she heard Abby Wambach, a former US national team player, speak at a Time’s Up event and started thinking about how female athletes are regarded in society.
Then she and venture capitalist Kara Nortman met Becca Roux, the executive director of the US Women’s National Team Players Association.
“We started going to games and we just got so into it. And it was just kind of a revolution to see my son and his friends, these little eight-year-old boys at the time, wanting to wear their Rapinoe jerseys, and Alex Morgan jerseys,” Portman said.
“I was like ‘wow, this would be a different world’. It wasn’t unusual to them at all.”
There were hints that the group was coming together last year when Portman, Garner, Longoria and other celebrities went to a national team exhibition game at LAFC’s stadium before the World Cup.
The women also reached out to a local supporters group that has been campaigning to bring a team to Los Angeles. The plan is to bring on additional investors as the team takes shape.
“I think it’s so important to have role models and heroes that are women for kids — both boys and girls — to see,” Portman said.
“It’s just such an incredible sport in that it really is a team sport. You see one woman’s success and all the others are cheering her on because one woman’s success is the whole team’s success.”
Australia’s newest footballing superstar is something of a link between the old and the new of women’s football.
Ellie Carpenter is only 20 but she’s already been a top-level footballer for six years and a Matilda for five. And the kid from Cowra just signed with the best team in the world, Olympique Lyonnais.
Her memories of going to watch her first Matildas game as a little girl are, frankly, not that distant.
She recalls seeing the Australian team in Parramatta as an eight-year-old and thinking: “I want to be part of that one day.”
Now very much a part of the national team setup with 31 appearances to her name, the classy right-back will very likely be in the thick of things when Australia and New Zealand host the Women’s World Cup in three years’ time.
Fiona Crawford, the co-author of the book Never Say Die: The Hundred-Year Overnight Success of Australian Women’s Football, says co-hosting the World Cup was the next obvious step in the trajectory of the Matildas.
“They’ve made some incredible gains on and off the pitch in recent years. Hosting the Women’s World Cup cements and extends those,” she said.
“Two of the most common themes that emerged during the book interviews were that the current and former Matildas were invariably the only girls in the boys’ teams and that they often did not know you could pursue a career as a female footballer and/or play for the national team.
“The Matildas’ most senior players are, hopefully, the last to remember what it’s like to carve out a football career without pay above the poverty line, clearly defined pathways or female football heroes to emulate.
“So the [Clare] Polkinghornes, [Lisa] De Vannas and the Meeks [Tameka Yallop] and KKs [Elise Kellond-Knight] who were the only girls on the boys’ teams.
“And they’re playing alongside the first generation of players who are starting to benefit from the inroads previous generations have made.
“I think that demonstrates the changing landscape and the growth, and it’s a really interesting intersection of female footballing experiences.”
Carpenter’s face already appears on shampoo bottles and her Matildas teammate, Chelsea signing and Young Australian of the Year Sam Kerr is a bona fide celebrity, but she believes hosting this tournament will further move women’s football into the mainstream.
“Just imagine what a World Cup will do, with young girls and boys being inspired by us,” Carpenter told the ABC.
“I think it will boost Australia in football so much. I feel like it will change the sport forever and inspire so many kids to play the game.”
‘Unsafe, immodest’: The obstacles overcome have made this achievement even sweeter
In Australia, women’s football has overcome myriad obstacles, says Crawford.
“They included suggestions that playing football was medically unsafe or immodest, which saw a concerted push to get women to play more ‘feminine’ sports such as netball, vigoro, or hockey instead.
“They’ve included a lack of access to quality training facilities, kits, injury prevention and rehabilitation, wages, or coaching.
“In 2014, Katrina Gorry flew back from being feted at a black-tie ceremony where she was named the best female footballer in Asia to work shifts at a local cafe.
“Her circumstances showed you could literally be the best female player in Asia and still not earn enough to cover your expenses.”
Crawford says that until recently, female footballers essentially had to pay to play, including covering their own medical insurance, which has also meant they’ve had to juggle work commitments and rehab among training commitments.
“We’ve expected professional footballer commitment and results while paying an amateur wage.”
On-field improvement hugely important in bid success, but Matildas aiming even higher
Carpenter says the ever-growing reputation and improving performances of the seventh-ranked Matildas on the pitch made the bid even more viable, but hosting the World Cup could see them achieve something even greater.
“At major tournaments we have shown what we’re capable of but we haven’t quite played to our potential I don’t think, bowing out a few times with penalties, but in 2023 we’ll have a long preparation and be at our peak as a team.
Crawford agrees that all the elements have come together nicely for the team.
“I think it was the right application at the right time. The Matildas’ on-pitch success combined with a realistic, appropriately costed, commercially viable application was key; Asia being a growing football market and Australia being a safe, tourism-friendly, sport-oriented place would have helped too.
“And with the pandemic, seemingly insurmountable issues such as Australia’s and New Zealand’s geographic isolation are suddenly looking a lot more like perks. Who’d have thought?
“As corny as it might sound, I’ll be just stoked for the Matildas to be competitive and for people to get a chance to appreciate the women’s game — for women’s participation in football to be normalised and celebrated, and for the next generation of players to be able to see what’s possible.
“10,000 people turned up to the first documented women’s game in Australia in 1920. Around 17,000 people turned up to a sold-out Matildas match in 2017. More than a billion people tuned in to watch the 2019 Women’s World Cup final. So the game’s growing.
“I’m really, really looking forward to Australia and New Zealand falling in love with the women’s game.”
Carpenter, at the dawn of what could be a glittering European club career, says the looming home World Cup can’t be her main focus for now, but the excitement is already bubbling.
“We’re going to get the chance to show the football community around the world what our country is and how beautiful it is,” she said.
“The tournament brings the whole world to the country so having everyone come here and being broadcast all over the world, that just brings so much attention to us as the Matildas, opening up all sorts of opportunities.
“It’s definitely a case of now just wanting 2023 to hurry up and get here.”