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Penrith’s young players are about to experience the best week of their lives in the run-up to the NRL grand final against Melbourne Storm


Grand final week is the best week of your life.

All the work that has gone into it, all the ups and downs that you’ve gone through throughout the season and even your whole career, that all comes into it.

It’s actually hard to explain. It’s just an amazing week and it comes back to all the hard work that’s gone into you getting there.

You don’t want to wait, you just want to get out onto the field and play.

With Penrith being in the final — and being there with such a young team, just like we were in 2003 — it brings back a lot of great memories.

I was in these kids’ shoes 17 years ago. I was only a young kid, I didn’t really understand the game.

I certainly didn’t know how hard it would be to get back into the grand final, but in time I realised just how much has to go right for you to get that chance.

All I wanted was a grand final ring

Penrith Panthers Luke Rooney and Luke Lewis hold the NRL premiership trophy after the 2003 grand final against the Roosters.
Luke Lewis (right) remembers every second of his first grand final week.(AAP: Charlie Knight)

My first grand final week is something that I remember as clear as day.

I wasn’t nervous at all, I just felt like I was living the best life.

The only thing that I had in my head was that if we played well in the match, we’d get a grand final ring.

I remember looking at the picture of the ring after it was released in the Big League magazine that week.

I kept looking at it, thinking I wanted to have a grand final ring. I wanted to have that grand final ring.

Everything else was just normal; we were still just having a laugh with our mates, chilling out … nothing really changed.

We were still playing practical jokes on each other all week until, before we knew it, we were on the bus to the game and were sitting in the changing room.

I think Penrith — a group of young kids, a lot of them former local juniors — will just enjoy it, not think too far ahead. That’s the key.

It’s probably a bit different for Melbourne because they seem to be in the grand final every second year.

Cameron Smith walks around Lang Park.
Will the grand final mark Cameron Smith’s final appearance in the NRL?

Saying that, their preparation and thoughts might be impacted by not knowing what Cameron Smith is going to do. It could be the end of an era, which will make this time particularly special for them.

Regardless, it’s a super-exciting week for both sides.

Fatigue told for Canberra

In Friday’s match at Lang Park, it was clear that Melbourne focused specifically on going hard in the first 40 minutes of the game.

They would have watched Canberra’s contest against the Roosters last week and would have seen how much it took out of the Raiders.

The Storm would have had a game plan to run the Raiders off their feet for the first 40 minutes.

Suliasi Vunivalu is hugged from behind by Brenko Lee during the Melbourne Storm's preliminary final against the Canberra Raiders
Suliasi Vunivalu (left) scored the Storm’s third try inside the opening 10 minutes against the fatigued Raiders.(AAP: Darren England)

And that’s exactly what they did. They completed 17 from 17 sets and scored a couple of great tries off the back of some real high-energy football.

From then on, it was just about going through their processes in the second 40 minutes to hold Canberra out.

Losing in the preliminary final does not detract from what was a really good year for Canberra.

I would have liked to have seen them make the grand final, but it was still an amazing year for them, and they should be very proud of what they achieved.

Had they made the top four and managed to win to get the week off, that would have helped them a lot, but at the back end of the year, with all their travel and the injuries, it all just came to a head.

Storm players celebrate while Raiders players look down-trodden.
The Canberra Raiders can still be proud of their performance this season.(AAP: Darren England)

Ricky Stewart has done a great job with that side, dealing with a lot of injuries, plus the demands of travel every week.

They also had their plans thrown into disarray for this game, whereby they had to fly straight out from Canberra to the game instead of having a few hours in a Brisbane hotel to unwind and prepare.

There was no room for error, and although you don’t want to make excuses, that has to play a part when it comes to getting your preparation right for what is probably the biggest game of the year.

Penrith closed down Souths expertly

Stephen Crichton jumps over the top of a pack of Penrith Panthers players to celebrate a try against the South Sydney Rabbitohs.
The Panthers did enough to hold off Souths.(AAP: Dean Lewins)

Not everything went Penrith’s way on Saturday night against Souths, but they held everything together.

They didn’t stress and just focused on what was next; getting through their defensive sets and marshalling a good kick chase.

The other thing they got spot on was their outside defence.

Whenever Souths threw something out wide, Penrith were right on top of them and gave them no room to work.

I was a little bit up in the air as to why Brent Naden was changed out for Tyrone May in the lead into the match, but it ended up being a masterstroke from Ivan Cleary.

May was amazing in the centres, his defence was spot on, and that helped Penrith defend perfectly.

We’ve seen how many points Souths can put on teams, especially down short edges — but Penrith loaded up in those areas and shut them down easily.

Penrith has to take its chances

Viliame Kikau has his mouth open as he walks around on the field
Viliame Kikau was missing from the preliminary final, but will hope to get back for the grand final.(AAP: Dan Himbrechts)

That being said, Penrith left three certain tries out on the field in the first half.

If they had executed properly, the match might have been a little more comfortable for them, but the positive thing was that they were still able to create those opportunities.

You’re not going to take every opportunity all the time, especially in big games, either due to errors or just good defence.

For both teams, this weekend is going to be all about taking opportunities when they can.

In a grand final, those opportunities might be few and far between, and that one opportunity could come in the 78th minute of the game.

If you get that opportunity and don’t take it, that could be the difference between holding the trophy up at the end of the game or not.

If you have a chance, you need to nail it. You can’t afford to miss it, because if you do, the other team will make you pay.

Luke Lewis was talking to ABC News Digital’s Simon Smale.



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Brownlow Medal live: Lachie Neale the favourite, AFL players and partners gather for different ceremony


The 2020 Brownlow Medal is here — but not as you know it.

Follow all the glamour and drama of the night, with Brisbane’s Lachie Neale the favourite to take home the medal.

Live updates

By Dean Bilton

What do we know about tonight? 

 

While much of how tonight will work is a mystery, there are a few things we know for sure. We know that players will be gathering in little mini-Brownlow events all over the country, so as to stay in line with coronavirus restrictions. We know that Lachie Neale is the favourite. That’s about it.

  

By Dean Bilton

A Brownlow Medal night with a difference 

 

Hello one and all and welcome, on this fine Sunday night in mid-October, to the 2020 Brownlow Medal. A strange season in a strange year has tossed up a strange Brownlow night, with so many of the event’s traditions made impossible by the rona and whatnot.

 

And so we are left with… whatever this is. A rearranged and rescheduled digital ceremony that, if nothing else, should at least allow us to crown and celebrate the best player of this AFL season.

 

How will it work? Not really sure! Will everyone still be wearing the fancy clothes? Don’t know! Can anyone stop Lachie Neale from winning? Probably not! But we’re going to have some fun finding out. Stick around for the night as we navigate this peculiar COVID Brownlow together.



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Australian women’s cricket team tracks players’ periods in focus on women’s health and fertility


Australian pace bowler Megan Schutt wants to have kids, but as is the case for many people, it’s not always as simple as it sounds.

The 27-year-old and her wife Jess Schutt have started researching what could be the long and costly process of IVF.

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“We’ll be doing reciprocal IVF — that’ll be using my eggs and putting them in Jess and then we’ll do vice versa once I’m ready to carry a child, which isn’t going to be for a long time I imagine,” the South Australian says.

While Schutt isn’t ready for pregnancy just yet, even the process of extracting eggs will be demanding on her body.

“It’s going to bloat me, I’m going to look pregnant, I’m going to be hormonal from the injections.

“And then the actual extraction process is going to leave me in quite a bit of discomfort for the next week or so they normally say.”

It’s rare for elite athletes to share their fertility journeys, particularly same-sex couples who have the added challenge of IVF.

But Schutt is an open book, and while she’s prepared for the road ahead, that’s not the case for all players.

Learning about fertility and family planning

Two female cricketers embrace to celebrate a wicket in a T20 match against India in Mumbai
Megan Schutt (right) has starting researching IVF in the hope to one day have a baby with her wife, and is thankful she can talk to the team doctor about it.(AP: Rafiq Maqbool)

It’s a topic that has been ignored by many sports in the past, but the Australian women’s cricket team doctor, Pip Inge, is trying to change that.

“It’s funny at the start of an athlete’s career you seem to be spending all this time educating about how not to get pregnant.

“And then the other end of it, you start to go down the other pathway of how can you get pregnant.”

Dr Inge says mass education around something like fertility doesn’t work, especially for younger athletes who aren’t in the right headspace to absorb that information.

“But I think once you start discussing contraceptive use and once you start getting that one-on-one environment and you develop that rapport, ideally early 20s is a really good time just to at least start flagging those types of things.”

She says some of the biggest issues athletes need to be aware of include age-related infertility, how irregular periods can affect their chances of getting pregnant, and highlighting the process for same-sex couples.

“We’re thankful that we have a full-time doctor with us now. That wasn’t the case a couple of years ago,” Schutt says.

Schutt had always pictured retiring before carrying a child herself.

But with the organisation’s parental policy now in place, she admits it may be something she considers sooner.

“I don’t think I would ever see myself doing it while I’m still playing for Australia. But while I’m playing just state cricket … I would love to have a child and try and come back.”

Are you on your period?

A group of Australian female cricketers celebrate a wicket
Increasingly, sporting organisations are tracking the menstrual cycles of their female athletes, to determine how they affect performance and overall health.(Reuters: Paul Childs)

It’s a question more and more sporting organisations are asking their athletes as part of menstrual cycle tracking — and Cricket Australia has now jumped on board.

Periods are integral to a woman’s overall health, and abnormal, irregular, or absent periods could be a sign of bigger problems like endometriosis, polycystic ovarian syndrome, amenorrhea or infertility.

“There’s traditionally not a lot of understanding from athletes about their menstrual cycle,” Dr Inge says.

The aim is to see whether players are regular, and what symptoms they might have.

“If we can start to collect those types of things, hopefully down the track, we can start to look at those other facets of the menstrual cycle and how they can actually start to affect performance as well,” Dr Inge says.

So how can menstruation affect athletes?

Megan Schutt puffing her cheeks as she sends down a pacy delivery.
Schutt says she wants to see more of her teammates, and coaching and support staff, have a better understanding of menstrual cycles.(Reuters: John Sibley)

It depends on the individual.

For a start, it’s estimated nearly half of elite Australian female athletes take hormonal contraception, meaning they don’t even have a period.

That can mask any potential problems.

And Australian researchers have found female athletes’ overall knowledge around periods and contraceptives is poor.

But by being more aware of their cycles, athletes can adapt their training accordingly.

“I’m very in tune with my body and I have been for a long time because I’m a whinger,” Schutt laughs.

“And I’m going to complain about it, because my coach needs to know why I’m probably not going to be at 100 per cent that day. And not everyone is as open as me.

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“If those symptoms are quite problematic, I think that can certainly impact your ability to train,” Dr Inge adds.

“Whether that is things like fatigue, poor sleep, change in mood, muscle soreness, menstrual pain, I think actually identifying those things is really powerful.”

While some sporting teams say cycle tracking has helped give them a performance edge, Dr Inge is more cautious.

“In terms of altering training around the menstrual cycle, there’s some research that’s coming out around those areas and people definitely trying this in different sports.

“But I don’t think we’ve really got the data to support that as a good reason to be necessarily altering it en masse in a whole team environment at this stage.”

Schutt just wants to see more of her teammates, and coaching and support staff, have a greater understanding of a normal part of women’s lives.



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Miami State High becomes home for three Gold Coast Suns AFL Women’s players


Miami State High School has become home to three Gold Coast Suns players with a student, past student and teacher expected to play in the 2021 season.

Year 12 student Lucy Single and 2019 graduate Maddison Levi were drafted to the team on Tuesday, joining teacher Sally Riley who signed with the Suns after playing for Adelaide in the 2017 AFLW premiership.

“It still doesn’t really feel real yet,” Ms Single said.

The hat-trick has been a culmination of the school’s partnership with the Gold Coast Suns aimed at mentoring emerging talent and providing young women with a pathway into the elite sport.

Building a culture of AFL Women’s

Ms Levi said it had been a difficult year for many emerging players to get noticed due to the pandemic, but she managed to break two records — the 20-metre sprint and the vertical jump — during the qualification process.

“We were lucky, our lockdown wasn’t like other states so I was able to do lots of fitness,” she said.

two women
Maddison Levi, left, and Lucy Single have benefitted from a program creating pathways into elite sport.(Supplied: Miami State High School)

Ms Single said Suns’ players conducted training sessions with students as part of its partnership program.

“It’s kind of making more of a culture around [AFLW] and making it quite exciting,” she said.

Ms Levi said AFLW’s exposure was just getting bigger and better.

“Having the women come through and the crowd roaring and the impact its having, is an unreal feeling.”

An ‘equal standing’ between genders

Miami State High School’s principal Sue Dalton said the sports program had helped create “equal standing among both genders”.

“We have had back-to-back success in the AFLQ Cup [AFL Queensland Schools Cup] as state champions in senior girls,” Ms Dalton said.

She said 33 students were involved in the program, with plans to include primary school students next.

“They get specialist coaching which is amazing. They learn how to conduct themselves, how to handle themselves,” Ms Dalton said.

With more students set to follow in her footsteps, Ms Single said her advice was to “keep doing it if you love it”.

“There’s no point trying to play a sport if you’re not enjoying it,” she said.



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Six international tennis players implicated in allegedly fixed matches


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The Age does not suggest any of the players did anything inappropriate or illegal, either individually or collectively, only that they are named by police as participating in matches under investigation.

TIU investigators interviewed Mr Lindell, Mr Severino and Mr Turini in Brazil in May 2018, according to the court documents. The agency has previously refused to comment on its investigation, but none of the players are known to have been the subject of any kind of action.

The allegations of match fixing came to light during an investigation by Victoria Police’s sporting integrity intelligence unit into reports of suspicious betting patterns by two Indian nationals living in Melbourne, Harsimrat Singh and Rajesh Kumar.

On Friday, Singh pleaded guilty to placing bets using “corrupt conduct information” on two allegedly fixed matches in Brazil, receiving a two-year good behaviour undertaking from the court but no conviction.

Mr Kumar has pleaded not guilty and will contest his charges at committal later this month. Mr Kumar’s charges involve different allegations and issues to Mr Singh’s charges.

The court was told Singh was a “pawn” for an India-based syndicate run by his cousin, Ravinder Dandiwal, who is now the subject of a global-reaching sports integrity investigation.

Rajesh Kumar outside court in June 2020.

Rajesh Kumar outside court in June 2020.Credit:Eddie Jim

Mr Dandiwal, who runs a sports management business and promotes international tennis and cricket tournaments, was arrested by Indian authorities in July 2020 over separate sports corruption allegations. The Age does not suggest Mr Dandiwal has committed any crime in Australia or elsewhere.

“Dandiwal is the organiser of the match fixing. He … instructed them how to bet and how much; directed where to send payment to corrupted players,” the agreed statement of alleged facts released by the court said.

The court heard that Singh admitted to placing wagers worth $1121, but said he was unaware the matches had allegedly been fixed or that money he transferred overseas could have gone to potentially corrupt participants.

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“There is no evidence and it is not alleged Mr Singh had any involvement in the actual fixing on the matches, nor is there any evidence, significantly, of him having had any communications with any tennis players in Brazil where the matches took place,” defence barrister Michael Allen said.

Mr Allen said Singh was an unsophisticated “pawn” in the wider scheme, placing bets in his own name and demurely accepting the explanation, “Don’t worry about it, kid”, when he queried Mr Kumar about why most of the profits were being wired out of the country.

The assistant manager of a Hungry Jack’s kept only $199 to $399 of the $1199 in profits generated for his participation in the activities.

The materials released by the court do not expressly accuse individual players of misconduct but allege Singh was instructed to bet on particular outcomes in sets and matches.

“One or more of the players had arranged with Ravinder Dandiwal to manipulate the result of the match so that Thales Turnini would win the first set and Carlos Severino would win the match, and … [Singh] used that information to bet on the event by placing a $100 bet with licensed bookmaker Crownbet at odds of 8.75, winning a profit of $775,” according to one charge he pleaded guilty to.

Another charge said: “The accused possessed information in connection with a tennis match between Egyptian player lssam Taweel and French player Maxence Broville … namely, one or more of the players, had arranged with Ravinder Dandiwal to manipulate the result of the match so that Broville would win the match two sets to love”.

The court was told that Singh had since turned on both Mr Kumar and Mr Dandiwal, providing information to Victoria Police’s sporting integrity intelligence unit and the Tennis Integrity Unit.

Singh received a two-year good behaviour undertaking. No conviction was recorded.

“It is plain this is an industry that relies on people having faith on the legitimacy of the competitions on which they chose to bet, and offending of this nature simply flies into the face of that and brings into question the integrity of the entire industry,” the magistrate, Hayley Bate, said.

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Tasmanian NBL team revealed as JackJumpers, to mixed reception from fans and players


Tasmania will finally have an NBL team, but what it’s going to be called has sparked confusion and ridicule on social media — the squad will be named after a venomous ant that can jump long distances.

After a 25-year dry spell, Tasmania has finally secured a new National Basketball League team, launching in 2021-22 — and it will be called Tasmania JackJumpers.

Jack jumper is a species of large, aggressive, venomous ant that grabs its prey with its jaws and stings with its tail.

Their sting usually triggers a mild reaction in humans; however, some people can suffer an anaphylactic reaction that can result in death.

Jack jumpers are most frequently found in Tasmania and south-east mainland Australia.

The Tasmanian Government describes the species as able to “jump 10 centimetres repeatedly when defending themselves”, cautioning people susceptible to allergic reaction to seek medical help if stung.

The Government also notes there were “four recorded deaths from jack jumper stings in Tasmania between 1980 and 2000”.

Jack jumper ant, still image from Max Moller's documentary about Tasmania.
“Aggressive when disturbed”: Jack jumpers can leap up to 10cm, repeatedly.(Supplied: Max Moller)

Introducing Tasmania JackJumpers, CEO Simon Brookhouse said the name selection showed “you don’t need to be the biggest to be the best and to drive fear into your opponents”.

“The JackJumpers are energetic, fierce and ready to attack and defend with force well beyond their size,” he said.

“Synonymous with Tasmania, the JackJumpers will be proud, bold and fearless.”

The logo, depicting a jack jumper’s head, incorporated a basketball, with “smile and menacing eyes representing our challenger spirit”, an explanation on the team website stated.

The name — also shared by a Tasmanian rugby union team — won out over the Tassie Tridents.

Jumpers by name, jumpers by nature

Mr Brookhouse said the name was revealed after “an exhaustive” public campaign that received almost 10,000 entries.

But on social media, many punters as well as current and former NBL players were stunned about the name choice.

Sports writer Titus O’Reily wrote on Twitter:

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To which former NBA and NBL player Andrew Bogut responded:

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Former NBL player and Olympian Chris Anstey was equally confused:

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Former professional soccer player Alex Cisak said:

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Former premier of Tasmania David Bartlett, also a former president of the Hobart Chargers, did not seem to initially agree with the name — but was more forgiving.

“Like many people I have been surprised by the choice of the JackJumpers … but one thing I have learned about branding up basketball teams is that it is less about the name and more about the narrative that goes with it,” he said.

“Having slept on it and having now seen the brand narrative I am 100 per cent sold and on board.”

Many mainlanders seemed perplexed by the choice.

“Can Tasmanians please clarify for interstate folk — what is a jack jumper?” one Twitter user said.

Another user happily weighed in: “Mega tough ants that jump and give horrible bites. They jump super weird directions too, so are super unpredictable.

“If your friends, family, neighbours have jack jumpers somewhere on their property, they will generally let you know first thing.”

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Adelaide Crows players allegedly caught with drugs were detected through CCTV, police say


SA Police has provided more details about two Adelaide Crows AFL players intercepted for alleged drugs possession, saying the pair were detected through CCTV and that there was still the potential for prosecution.

The Adelaide Football Club yesterday said Brad Crouch and Tyson Stengle had been stopped by police and allegedly caught in possession of an illicit substance in the Adelaide CBD, early on Monday morning.

SA Police Commissioner Grant Stevens said CCTV was involved in detecting the pair, who were allegedly in a taxi when police pulled them over to check for drugs.

“Illicit substances were found and they’ve been given a drug diversion, which is the normal course of events for the quantity of substance that was identified,” he said.

The commissioner said it was still possible that the players could be prosecuted if they failed to meet the demands of the diversion program.

“Whilst it’s being referred to the Police Drug Diversion Initiative, it may well end up in a prosecution if the obligations of that drug diversion [are not] complied with,” he said.

The club said it understood neither player would be charged over the matter and instead police have referred them to a counselling process.

That has led some to question why they were not charged,

But criminal lawyer Jason Evitts, a senior associate with Caldicott Lawyers, said they were treated the same as anyone allegedly caught with a small quantity of an illegal drug in SA.

Mr Evitts said anyone in that situation, regardless of whether they were an AFL footballer, is referred to a drug diversion program rather than immediately prosecuted.

“These young fellas aren’t put in any special category or position despite their potential celebrity status,” Mr Evitts told ABC Radio Adelaide.

Under SA’s Controlled Substances Act, a police officer must refer anyone accused of a simple possession offence to a drug assessment service.

No-one can be prosecuted for simple possession unless the service terminates the person’s referral.

“They get a diversion notice, they’ve got to go along to an information session [and] the information session intentionally tries to stop [a] habit forming,” Mr Evitts said.

“It’s about education. It’s about trying to see young people not come back to the criminal justice system.”

Crows deny club ‘drug problem’

Crows head of football Adam Kelly told ABC Radio Adelaide he did not believe the club had a “drug problem”, and instead had a comprehensive education program regarding illicit substances.

“I’m not aware of a drug problem at the club,” he said.

“Players are educated from the very moment they’re drafted. They go through an induction process and then, on an annual basis, they’re educated on the risks.”

Adelaide Crows CEO comments on sacking of Burton and Camporeale
Crows chief executive Andrew Fagan said Monday was an “incredibly disappointing day”.(ABC News)

Crows chief executive Andrew Fagan said the club was disappointed with the players, and was investigating — but he would not identify the drug allegedly involved.

“Yesterday was an incredibly disappointing day,” Fagan said this morning.

“We’re frustrated, and that hasn’t changed today, but we’re continuing with our investigations.

“We want to go through and have a complete understanding of the full picture in the hours leading up to it understand how the players got themselves into the situation, and ultimately, deal with it.”

In a statement on social media yesterday, the two players accepted responsibility for their actions.

“In this regard, we are committed to the counselling process that SA Police has implemented to manage this and will continue to cooperate with our club as required. 

“We will be making no further comments until any club process is concluded.”



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‘This is no fluke’: Panthers 2020 rise in the making since players were kids


2020 has been the year of the Penrith Panthers.

Despite being one of the youngest and least experienced sides in the NRL, they’ve beaten every team that’s come before them this season.

That includes winning a record 15 games in a row and taking the minor premiership with ease.

But this winning culture isn’t new, it’s something that was created in their teens.

Four teenage boys in Penrith Panthers jerseys look at the camera.
Some of the Penrith Panthers, including Jarome Luai and Nathan Cleary as juniors.(Supplied: Penrith Panthers)

“In the under 20s we had a real good streak going but never anything like this, I am super grateful to be playing in such a close group with no egos,” said half-back Nathan Cleary.

Cleary’s got a solid history with five-eighth Jarome Luai, and between them they’re an unstoppable halves pairing.

“It’s just fun that’s credit to Jarome,” Cleary said.

Luai is equally as flattering to Cleary, as well as the rest of the team.

“The form that Nath is in, he is really killing it and has really taken the team by the neck,” Luai said.

The players’ compatibility, secret gestures and ability to read each other started in junior league.

Cleary and Luai were part of the young Panthers that won the junior comp in 2015, and were runners up in 2016.

A team of rugby league players clap and shout.
The Penrith Panthers junior squad after winning the Premiership in 2015.(Supplied: NRL)

The side also featured the current NRL crop of Caleb Aekins, Dylan Edwards, Brent Naden, James Fisher-Harris, Liam Martin and Moses Leota.

And that close knit team has stuck together, forming an unbeatable combination.

“We love coming from the outside and thrive on that sort of pressure — we’ve trained really hard and worked really hard on the combinations,” Luai said.

General Manager Matt Cameron said the success was no fluke.

Five Panthers players celebrate together with high-fives and pats on the head
Penrith prides itself on investing in its juniors.(AAP Image: Dan Himbrechts)

“We’ve been working on this for seven years now and it’s a program that has taken people a lot of work, there’s no one single person that can say they’re solely responsible for it.”

Penrith prides itself on investing in its juniors and the club’s $22 million academy has helped entice new talent.

“When a player comes here and looks at this club and then looks at what’s on offer at other clubs we can say we have the best facilities in the country,” Cameron said.

2003 v 2020 parallels

A football player is carried on an official's shoulders while the crowd cheers in the background.
Scott Sattler was part of the Panthers’ premiership winning team in 2003 and says there are parallels to today’s team.(AAP: Dean Lewins)

Penrith last won a premiership in 2003 with a young, tight-knit group.

“It’s amazing how this year replicates the year we won the competition, much like what happened in 2003,” Panthers premiership winner Scott Sattler said.

“For Luai and Cleary, they know each other back to front — it’s a bit like the Johns boys [Andrew and Matthew Johns], it’s a skip, it’s a whistle, knowing each others idiosyncrasies goes such a long way.”

Sattler believes other clubs should look to Penrith’s junior development system.

“Yes they’ve built depth for their own club, but you can’t keep them all, so what they invariably do is build depth for the entire NRL,” he said.

But he believed winning the premiership could retain players and maintain success.

“Like the Roosters have been able to keep players for less money, but they know they are playing for premierships, and players want to be part of that winning atmosphere.”

Despite the bond, people ‘expect them to fall over’

A Penrith NRL player smiles as he hugs Panthers teammates while they celebrate a try against the Rabbitohs.
Some people expect the Panthers to fall over in the finals because of their youth and inexperience.(AAP: Craig Golding)

This year’s finals are a little different.

Being on top has earned the Panthers a home final, and if they lose that, they’ll get a second chance. If they win it, they get a week off.

“There’s a lot of teams that are fearful of the Panthers and a lot of people are expecting them to fall over because of that lack of experience but they can go all the way — everyone thought we couldn’t do it, saying we were too young and we did it,” Sattler said.

Their sights are now set on bringing the trophy back to the foot of the mountains, a fitting ending to a near perfect season.



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Adelaide Crows AFL players Brad Crouch and Tyson Stengle allegedly caught with drugs


Two Adelaide Crows AFL players have allegedly been caught with drugs in Adelaide’s CBD.

The Adelaide Football Club says Brad Crouch and Tyson Stengle were stopped by police and allegedly caught in possession of an illicit substance in the city early this morning.

The club did not say what the substance was.

Crows head of football Adam Kelly said the club was “extremely disappointed in what was clearly a significant breach of community standards”.

“First and foremost, the alleged conduct is serious and we will continue to ask questions and make sure we have all of the facts before settling on a definitive position going forward,” Kelly said.

“What is absolutely clear is that all players across the league are well educated about drug use and relevant policies.”

The club said it understood neither player would be charged over the matter and instead police have referred them to a counselling process.

In a statement put out through their management, Stengle, 21, and Crouch, 26 said they “unconditionally accept responsibility” for their actions.

“We accept that our error of judgement is not in line with community expectations, nor the high standards we set four ourselves,” it said.

“In this regard, we are committed to the counselling process that SA Police has implemented to manage this and will continue to cooperate with our club as required.”

Hawthorn's James Worpel and Adelaide's Brad Crouch grappel on the ground as the ball bobbles away
Brad Crouch (left) was the Crows’ best and fairest in 2019.(AAP: David Mariuz)

‘Support’ and ‘drug diversion’

Kelly said the Crows would ensure both players received the “necessary support”.

“As an organisation, we take a very strong stance against any behaviour of this kind,” he said.

“The wellbeing of Brad and Tyson is also paramount and we will make sure they receive appropriate support.”

In a statement, SA Police said officers “spoke with a 21-year-old man and a 26-year-old man on Grenfell Street” at 5:15am.

“As a result, both men were drug diverted,” a spokeswoman said.

According to SA Health, “drug diversion” refers to a mandatory nationwide process in which police “divert adults detected for simple possession drug offences away from the criminal justice system”.

“Its aim is to provide individuals with the opportunity to address their drug use through health services and reduce the number of people appearing before the courts for use or possession of illicit drugs offences,” the SA Health website states.

Adelaide Crows players Tyson Stengle pumps his fist after kicking a goal, while teammate Taylor Walker raises both arms.
Tyson Stengle (left) joined the Crows from Richmond in 2019.(AAP: David Mariuz)

Court and contract trouble

Stengle is set to face court next month on a drink-driving charge after his lawyer failed to enter a plea on his behalf in August.

He was suspended for four matches earlier this season after he was reported by police for allegedly drink driving in an unregistered vehicle.

Crouch’s future at the Crows is unclear, without an official contract for 2021, and the midfielder has openly countenanced leaving West Lakes as he seeks a long term playing deal.

“At the moment I’m considering obviously whether to go to another side maybe in Victoria at this stage or whether to stay here,” he said last week.

“It’s a pretty hard decision to make at the moment because I don’t really have a lot of information to go by.”

The Crows ended the 2020 AFL season at the bottom of the ladder with three wins and 14 losses.



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SA Health to investigate coronavirus travel exemption granted to AFL players’ parents


South Australia’s public health chief says an external review will investigate how and why 11 Victorian-based parents of Port Adelaide AFL players were granted exemptions to coronavirus travel restrictions while other families are being denied.

Chief public health officer Nicola Spurrier yesterday revealed 11 relatives of Power players had been approved by SA Health to enter the state, ahead of the club’s qualifying final against Geelong at Adelaide Oval next week.

After finding out about the “absolute mistake”, Dr Spurrier revoked the exemption for six of them, while the other five — who have already arrived — will be able to continue their 14-day hotel quarantine.

The South Australian Tourism Commission (SATC) this morning shed more light on the situation, saying the head of Events SA had played an initial role in the process but was not responsible for the decision.

Premier Steven Marshall apologised for the “error of judgement” by an SA Health employee.

“I’m very sorry this has occurred,” he said.

“It was an inappropriate approval — I acknowledge that, the chief public health officer acknowledges that.”

The bungle coincides with the lifting of travel restrictions from New South Wales into SA, with people in NSW now allowed to cross the border into SA without having to do 14 days’ quarantine.

It has also prompted a backlash from others still stranded in Victoria — where restrictions still apply — who have accused authorities of double standards.

Angela Mead, who resides in the Victorian town of Echuca, said she has not been able to hug her 10-year-old daughter, who lives in Adelaide with her father, since May.

“There’s a lot of people like me people in worse situations,” she said.

A woman wearing a face mask sits on the side of a highway with a girl behind her
Angela Mead (right) visiting her daughter Alannah across the South Australian-Victorian border at the start of the month.(Supplied)

She said it was unfair she could not enter South Australia but Power relatives, along with cross-border sports players, could enter the state.

Ms Mead has put in another application to visit Adelaide, where her father is terminally ill, but it is yet to go before the SA Health panel that decides on exemptions.

Dr Spurrier said someone from outside SA Health would review departmental processes around border exemptions to prevent the Port Adelaide situation being repeated.

“We’re very keen to review this,” she told ABC Radio Adelaide this morning.

Events SA boss spoke to families

The SATC this morning released a statement confirming Events SA executive director Hitaf Rasheed, who previously worked at the Port Adelaide Football Club, helped the players’ families contact SA Health.

“She helped to initially connect a representative of the families to SA Health and then left the decision-making process to the relevant health officials to work through,” a spokesperson said.

“SATC doesn’t have any say in how SA Health view applications or approvals.”

Dr Spurrier said it was her understanding that the person from SA Health who gave the exemption “had no connection whatsoever” with the Port Adelaide Football Club, including as a member or a fan.

SA Chief Public Health Officer Nicola Spurrier addresses the media.
Nicola Spurrier reveals the Port exemptions yesterday.(ABC News)

“This was a mistake — it was a poor judgement,” she said.

She said disciplinary action was a matter for the department’s chief executive, Chris McGowan, not her.

She will meet with him today, and will rejoin the committee that decides on exemptions.

The Premier said the findings of the investigation would be released publicly.

“There is no suggestion whatsoever there has been any interference or personal gain from this,” Mr Marshall said.

Premier has questions to answer: Labor

Earlier this morning, Labor health spokesman Chris Picton said Mr Marshall needed to answer questions about any involvement from the Government in the matter.

“There are so many people that haven’t been able to see dying loved ones, who haven’t been able to go to funerals — how was it that people within the Marshall Government viewed football games and watching a football game as more important than those situations?” he said.

Port Adelaide general manager of football Chris Davies said neither the club nor Ms Rasheed had done anything wrong.

“Let’s be really clear: SA Health were the ones who received the exemption request and SA Health were the ones who made the decision on the exemption,” Mr Davies said.

“So, at the end of the day, I think it’s a decision and a discussion that will continue to be had but it needs to be had with the right authority.”

Two new cases of COVID-19 were reported in South Australia yesterday.

A woman and a man tested positive after arriving in Adelaide from overseas on Sunday — but a child who was travelling with them has so far not tested positive.

They bring the state’s total number of COVID-19 cases since the virus was first detected in SA to 468.



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