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Gladys Berejiklian slams Sydney rule


New South Wales Premier Gladys Berejiklian has lashed out at the Victorian Government saying state border restrictions should have been dropped “quite a while back”.

In a daily press conference where the NSW government confirmed six new local cases of COVID-19, Ms Berejiklian said Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews had not made contact with her about potential areas of Sydney being able to travel to the southern state in the coming days.

The new cases in NSW are linked to a man who was identified as a positive case on Saturday, however the state’s government is urging for an increase in daily testing rates to ensure there are no further outbreaks.

Ms Berejiklian said the border closures between Victoria and Sydney are against Commonwealth health advice, which on Sunday confirmed there were no COVID-19 hot spots in Australia.

“He‘s not been in touch with me at all but I also say that (border opening) should have occurred quite a while back because we don’t have a hot spot in New South Wales,” Ms Berejiklian said of her Victorian counterpart.

“We are, of course, dealing with a result of an outbreak from a month ago, but I think everybody would agree closing a border of such significance is a really big deal and I stress that we waited until Victoria had in excess of — I think it was 180 cases they had the day after we announced the border closure.”

Victoria and all other states and territories closed borders to Greater Sydney following the northern beaches cluster outbreak which occurred just before Christmas.

“I can‘t understand why the border was closed in the first place and why the attitude of certain governments is what it is,” Ms Berejiklian said.

“There isn’t anywhere in Australia that’s currently being designated as a hotspot.

“So why shouldn’t people be able to return home? And why shouldn’t Australians be able to move around freely?”

On Saturday, Premier Daniel Andrews confirmed travel restrictions to Brisbane would be dropped and parts of Greater Sydney would be permitted to enter the state in the next “couple of days”.

Selected local government areas in Sydney’s west are expected to still have travel restrictions in place while local case numbers are being reported.

“There will be a significant shift in the next couple of days,” Mr Andrews said.

“These are not easy decisions … [but] I’m not about to cherry pick and only follow the advice that’s convenient from a political point of view.”

The Victorian government has not confirmed if the six newly acquired cases in Sydney would change its timeline in easing border restrictions.

People from greater Sydney are not allowed to enter Victoria without an exemption or permitted worker permit.

Those trying to enter via land border will be turned away, but those trying to cross the border via land or sea will face a fine of up to $4957.

If Mr Andrews follows through on his suggestion of easing border restrictions to Sydney, the city would likely become an orange zone, which would require all those crossing the border to apply for a permit and be tested within the first three days of arrival.



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Mask rule change, UK strain risk from Qld


Face masks will no longer be mandatory in all indoor spaces across Victoria, following the state’s eight straight day of no new local cases of coronavirus.

Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews announced on Thursday masks will only be mandatory on domestic flights, at airports, in hospitals, on public transport, in commercial vehicles and at other retail locations.

He also said a number of Victorians in hotel quarantine in Queensland were being contacted and retested for the UK coronavirus strain after returning to Victoria since December 30.

The Premier said as a result of the COVID-19 fears plaguing Queensland, he said 18 people who had quarantined in Brisbane’s Hotel Grand Chancellor and then returned to Victoria since December 30 will be followed up.

“We are contacting them. We are testing them. Some of them will need to isolate. Some will simply need to get a negative test,” he told reporters on Thursday.

“There’s a specific window where we believe there is some chance that because of the infections that have already been recorded in hotel quarantine, between staff and residents, and it is that UK strain, without any other link … circumstances are very much based on each person’s travel movements and when they were in hotel quarantine.”

Mr Andrews said he would provide further updates on the health status of the 18 people once all of them had been contacted.

“There’s a lot of work, our contact tracing team worked throughout the night last night,” he said.

“We will continue to support and advise those people and can I say, as well, to check they are compliant with whatever requests we make of them.”

The Premier described the situation in Queensland as “serious”.

“We’re taking it very seriously,” he said. “To have 18 people who could be infected with the novel strain, that highly infectious strain out of the UK is of concern to us.

“That’s why we have settings for the Brisbane red zones as determined by national cabinet and as announced by the Prime Minister last Friday, but those 18 people are being followed up.”

Mr Andrews also announced Victoria’s return to work plans would resume from Monday.

Plans to open up 50 per cent of private office buildings on January 11, and 25 per cent of public servants, were put back a week after concerns about outbreaks that emerged in late December.

But Daniel Andrews said on Thursday the plans could go ahead with no evidence of local transmission across Victoria.

Mask rules will return to pre-Christmas levels from 11.59pm Sunday.

Victoria recorded no new cases of coronavirus on Thursday as more than 16,000 people were tested in the past 24 hours. There are 29 active cases of COVID-19 across the state.



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NRL to feature two-point field goal among innovative rule changes for 2021 season



A two-point field goal for successful shots beyond 40 metres will be introduced in the next NRL season as one of multiple rule changes endorsed by the Australian Rugby League Commission (ARLC).

The field-goal rule tweak will be introduced in an effort to increase the chance of a result changing in the final stages of a match.

It comes alongside the retention of the controversial six-again rule for 10-metre and ruck infringements, tweaks to the scrum, captain’s challenge, play-the-ball and trainer protocols designed to speed up the contest.

ARLC chairman Peter V’landys said the innovative rule changes would lead to faster games and more unpredictability.

“These innovations will lead to less stoppages, more unpredictability and increased excitement for our fans,” he said.

“The message from the fans and our broadcasters has been clear; the game became too predictable and the balance between attack and defence had gone too far in favour of defence.

“Our changes last year were successful in addressing some of those challenges and the changes announced today will take the element of unpredictability and entertainment a step further.”

V’landys said he hoped the field-goal rule change would encourage teams to attack until the final siren in each half.

It was introduced following a survey of NRL account holders and club members.

“You’ve got to give the customer what they want,” V’landys said.

“It is clear the new innovations last season were a success … the six-again rule has addressed the biggest issue that was in the game and that was the wrestle.

“The changes have sped up the ruck and made the game more free flowing, which is exactly what the commission wanted to see.”

AAP



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Marcus Stoinis defends maligned BBL rule changes, argues they will result in positive tactical shifts


Big Bash League star Marcus Stoinis has gone in to bat for the tournament’s maligned rule changes, arguing they will encourage positive tactical shifts in 20- and 50-over cricket.

Cricket Australia have tinkered with the format for the 10th edition of the BBL, which launches next month, allowing teams to make a substitution after 10 overs of the first innings.

The six-over power play has been trimmed to four overs, with the batting team to nominate another two overs of fielding restrictions from the 11th over onwards.

CA has also rejigged the BBL’s points system, with the chasing team to be awarded a point if they are ahead of their opponents’ equivalent 10-over score.

If not, the fielding team will receive the bonus point.

The changes drew the ire of recently retired Australia allrounder Shane Watson, who described them as “gimmicks” and “science experiments” that would create confusion for players, coaches and fans.

But Melbourne Stars opener Stoinis, who blasted a BBL-record 147 not out last season, does not agree.

A helmeted batsman plays a cross-bat shot in the Big Bash League.
Marcus Stoinis is not afraid of innovating in the BBL.(AAP: Mark Evans, file photo)

“I don’t like going against Watto because he’s mentored me for a long time,” Stoinis said.

“But I understand the purpose of them [the changes] and we can’t afford to get too attached to anything when it comes to Twenty20 cricket and progression of our sport.

He said the late-game powerplay would change the way he thinks about his innings but that the 10-over bonus point rule would ensure teams never “cruise”.

“I’m going to have to try to figure out how to be there for that second power play,” he said.

“There’s going to be a lot more tactics. Captains, coaches will be busier and you’ll probably see a few floaters in the batting order and people specifically going out there for those sorts of things.”

While the new laws are confined to Australia’s domestic competition, Stoinis can see the benefits flowing on to international cricket.

“I can see it’s going to overlap into one-day cricket a lot more,” he said.

“It’ll lift that ceiling of what we think’s possible in one-day cricket in my opinion and it’ll be harder and harder to play all three formats.”

AAP



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FIFA plans rule change to mandate 14 weeks’ maternity leave, and protect players ‘before, during and after childbirth’



Women football players around the world should soon get their maternity rights protected under new employment rules announced on Thursday by FIFA.

The governing body of soccer is preparing to mandate clubs to allow at least 14 weeks of maternity leave paid at a minimum two-thirds of a player’s full salary.

National football bodies can insist on more generous terms.

“Her club will be under an obligation to reintegrate her into football activity and provide adequate ongoing medical support,” FIFA said.

Any club that ended a player’s contract for becoming pregnant faces having to pay compensation and a fine, and being banned from the transfer market for one year.

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The move is seen as a key step in professionalising women’s football and respecting players’ family lives after a successful 2019 World Cup, and more investment by elite clubs in having a women’s team.

United States forward Alex Morgan, a World Cup winner last year, signed with Tottenham in September, four months after giving birth to her first child.

She played her first game this month.

The rules are expected to be approved by the FIFA Council next month and would take effect on January 1.

Although FIFA’s judicial bodies have not been presented with contract disputes over maternity rights, Garcia targeted getting ahead of potential problems in the fast-growing women’s game.

“We think these rules are part of common sense,” he said of the move, which follow International Labor Organisation standards on compensating maternity leave.

At least eight weeks of the 14-week minimum maternity leave must be after the player gives birth.

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WBBL’s rising player standards could provide an opportunity to consider rule changes


This week, Cricket Australia has announced several rule changes to the men’s Big Bash League, hoping they might freshen up the domestic T20 competition and grab back the attention of some critics.

In comparison, its women’s competition seems to be thriving, with the skill and athleticism of WBBL athletes growing each summer to set a new standard of play.

It is the place where you put your hand up for international selection, as the premier women’s competition in the world.

And the level of interest it generates for the game in Australia is invaluable — evident by the record-breaking 86,174 crowd at the Women’s World Cup final in March.

So if all is tracking nicely, should it keep keeping on, as is?

Or should the WBBL be following the men’s lead and looking to update its rule book?

Stars coach in favour of innovation

Trent Woodhill already has a reputation for being an innovator in the game.

A cricket coach holds a bat in hand, getting ready to hit a ball to fielders in a drill.
Stars coach Trent Woodhill believes that a strong WBBL still needs to adapt as players’ ability grows.(Supplied: Melbourne Stars)

He has recently helped the England Cricket Board develop The Hundred competition and this year was appointed as the BBL’s first global player acquisition manager.

As the new Melbourne Stars WBBL head coach, he has had a very successful start to his women’s coaching career.

The team has already locked in top position on the ladder and will make the finals for the first time in six years.

But Woodhill believes the WBBL — albeit hitting great strides and being lauded for its high-quality cricket — needs to adapt with the growing ability of its players.

“In the men’s game, I can be bullish and push innovation and rule changes, but in the women’s game … sometimes that is met by off-field people who say hang on, you’ve got to respect the women’s game,” he told the ABC.

“That’s the next stage for women’s cricket. Not to hold onto itself too much or to be too caught up in what they think is right, so that they can continue to grow the game.”

Woodhill has been buoyed by his chats with both up-and-coming and experienced players, about the innovation they would like to see in coming years.

And he thinks the reluctance for change from some of the retired greats may actually hold the game back in the future.

“These women are paid well and are empowered, so we’ve got to tap into that and make sure that we’re listening to new players, as well as the Meg Lannings, Alyssa Healys and Ellyse Perrys … so that we develop and grow what they are doing.

Adapt from position of strength, says Beams

Kristen Beams (L) celebrates with Australia captain Meg Lanning after bowling out New Zealand's Erin Bermingham.
Recently retired Kristen Beams (left) says any changes to the WBBL should come while it’s going well, not struggling.(AAP: Tracey Nearmy)

Former Australian leg-spinner Kristen Beams retired last year and is now a regular expert in the Grandstand cricket box.

She was a one-club player with the Melbourne Stars throughout the WBBL and captained them for some of that time.

Speaking on ABC podcast The Bat Flip, Beams agreed that innovation was important to ensure the league remained a premium product.

“When we look at the BBL, innovation has come as a necessity,” she said.

“People started to question whether it was relevant and if it was still a good product, and that has been the reason for the recent rule changes.

Beams also believes part of the responsibility for creativity comes back to each player and their individual training.

“It’s really important for players to innovate themselves and evolve their own game,” she said.

Alex Blackwell wears a yellow shirt and black trousers and plays a slog sweep shot with a cricket bat
Alex Blackwell looked to baseball to evolve her batting on the cricket pitch.(AAP: Joel Carrett)

“Someone like Alex Blackwell kept herself relevant over such a long international career by reinventing her game.

“I remember she went and saw a baseball coach and was one of the very first people to look at power hitting.

Change doesn’t have to mean gimmicks

Getting the balance right — between retaining the fabric of the game and modernising it — is a tough one to strike, and Beams says people need to understand that change doesn’t always have to come in the form of a gimmick.

“I like when Trent speaks about innovation, that he also talked about having five out again, because sometimes it’s all about the batting … I wouldn’t be surprised if people suggested we should only have three fielders out so we score more runs.

“But maybe the innovation should actually go the other way, maybe our batters have got so good that we can go five out, or the boundaries become longer.”

Whether these advances will be made to the women’s game is purely speculative for now, as we near the end of the WBBL season with the finals in sight.

You can hear the action of the final weekend of the regular season on ABC Grandstand this weekend, on radio or the ABC Listen app — and you can follow the play online in our live ScoreCentres at www.abc.net.au/sport.



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Cricket Australia taking a gamble with Big Bash League’s Twenty20 rule innovations


The significant aspect of the strong response to the gimmicky additions to this season’s Big Bash League (BBL) rules is just that — people care sufficiently about the format and the competition to have a response.

The introduction of the Power Surge, X-Factor Player and Bash Boost to the BBL has prompted the sort of debate that grips the AFL each season when yet more incremental changes to interchange or encroachments on the mark are trialled; or in golf between those hoping Bryson DeChambeau is the first man to land a golf ball on the moon and those who want the integrity of traditional courses protected from wedge-wielding behemoths.

But regardless of whether you are intrigued or horrified by the BBL innovations, an argument about compromising the sacred traditions of Twenty20 cricket would have once seemed about as likely as naming the trophy the Chris Tavare Cup.

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Just 13 years ago the inclusion of NRL star Andrew Johns as a celebrity participant in the NSW team in the BBL’s state-based predecessor was considered all part of the fun and frivolity of a format only slightly more exalted than backyard cricket.

“The states see Twenty20 as an opportunity to be as left field as possible,” said then-Cricket NSW chief executive Dave Gilbert of Johns’s inclusion.

“Nobody loses sleep if they win or lose.”

Admittedly, Australian cricket was unusually slow to realise that the (even more) limited overs version would quickly become a significant part of the game’s ecosystem.

While England and then India began to position T20 in their domestic and international plans, Australian players were taking the field for light-hearted internationals with their nicknames on the backs of their shirts and performing slapstick impersonations of former greats.

But subsequently, in defiance of the doomsday forecasts of bloody-minded traditionalists such as myself, T20 cricket has not merely survived but thrived — beyond even the obvious commercial benefits provided by the Indian Premier League, BBL and other franchise-based tournaments.

The Women’s T20 World Cup final at a packed MCG last March was a spectacular tribute to the growth of women’s cricket and the wise investment in the Australian team particularly, but also further validation of T20 itself.

Similarly the success of the WBBL in a country where women’s professional sports leagues have struggled for both visibility and viability has been made possible by T20’s concurrent growth.

An Adelaide Strikers cricketer gets on one knee to hit a shot on the off-side in a WBBL semi-final.
The WBBL continues to go from strength to strength both on and off the field.(AAP: Glenn Hunt)

You might argue that the emphasis on T20 and ODI cricket has entrenched limited and opportunistic scheduling that deprives the women’s game of regular Test cricket.

But as the rapid improvement in the quality of women’s cricket continues and female participation rates increase there is genuine hope T20 cricket might actually increase the long-term possibility of meaningful women’s Test cricket as the talent pool deepens.

T20 driving participation numbers

At the most significant levels — junior and club cricket — T20 cricket, or modified versions thereof, have become an increasingly important in halting once faltering participation and retention rates.

As the BBL caters to the reduced concentration spans of some spectators or new cricket converts, T20 is providing — if you will pardon the jargon — an “immersive experience” for kids who might otherwise be poached by rival sports or, as likely, stay glued to their PlayStations.

At the same time, T20 is inevitably emerging at club level as an alternative (rather than a replacement) for traditional two-day fixtures or even longer-form one dayers in the lower levels in response to demands from “time poor” players.

Even conservative associations are realising not everyone now has six hours over two consecutive weekends to spend hitting a few shots or standing at mid-on, and T20 will inevitably help clubs fill the need for quicker weekend and even weeknight cricket.

A bowler is mid-leap with his legs outstretched and his fists pumping in celebration of a hat-trick.
The BBL has had an effect on the numbers playing cricket at the grassroot levels in Australia.(AAP: Michael Dodge)

The sum of T20’s various applications is that it has done far more than provide the kind of carefree circus Gilbert and others envisaged when they called up Joey Johns and filled niches the formats commercially-minded inventors probably had not even considered.

So when the BBL applies a thick layer of new rules to what is still a reasonably uncomplicated game it is not putting lipstick on a pig. Rather, it risks giving a format with an already appealing visage a dodgy facelift.

The motivation for the changes seems obvious, even justifiable — a decline in crowds and viewing figures in recent seasons.

Although this seems more a case of the BBL finding its true level in a crowded sporting marketplace as well as some fan fatigue from the elongated scheduling that saw the tournament dawdle beyond its January sweet spot into mid-February.

There is also the underlying commercial compulsion to give the rights holders Seven and Fox Sports extra bang for their BBL buck in the COVID-disrupted season, even if both have signed watertight long-term contracts.

Time will tell whether a well-executed Power Surge or the perfectly timed introduction of an X-Power player creates the kind of excitement that reverses viewing trends.

But before the first of four Bash Boost points are allocated, there is legitimate concern the changes will take an uncomplicated but now widely popular format back to its gimmicky roots and in turn undermine T20’s steady reputational improvement.

Host Kelli Underwood and the Offsiders panel will analyse all the latest sports news and issues at 10:00am Sunday on ABC TV.



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AFL makes rule tweaks for 2021 season to combat defensive play and ‘open up the game’



The AFL will strongly consider mandating at least three players from each team be stationed inside both 50-metre arcs at all stoppages in a bid to combat defensive structures.

The rule will be trialled in the new VFL and East Coast second-tier competition next year, with an eye towards introducing it at the elite level for 2022.

The innovation comes as the AFL on Wednesday announced three rule tweaks for the 2021 season designed to facilitate more attacking play and lead to higher scoring.

As expected, there will be a further reduction in interchange rotations to a maximum of 75 per team, down from 90 last season.

Players standing the mark will only be allowed “minimal” lateral movement, and the location of the mark at kick-ins will be set at 15 metres from the centre of the kick-off line.

It was previously set at 10 metres.

“The evolution of the game has seen an increase in defensive structures and these changes combined are designed to provide a better balance between attack and defence while encouraging more open ball movement,” AFL football operations manager Steve Hocking said in a statement.

“We have some of the most skilful athletes in the world, and the three changes are designed to reduce the defensive capability of teams and open up the game, providing an opportunity for players to have more freedom to play on instinct and show off their natural flair.

Hocking said the AFL had not considered reducing the number of players on the field to create more space.

He said the rule being tested in the VFL and East Coast competition would have that effect by spreading players out across the ground.

It is also expected that fewer interchange rotations will lead to more player fatigue and result in fewer players being able to get to stoppages, thus limiting congestion.

The cap on rotations could come down even further in future seasons but was only reduced by 15 for next year so as not to put players under too much stress.

“We felt that was that right level and it’s incremental change, so we’ll remain open as to what the future looks like beyond 2021,” Hocking said.

AAP



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Caster Semenya takes World Athletics to European Court of Human Rights over testosterone rule


South African double Olympic 800m champion Caster Semenya is taking her fight with World Athletics to the European Court of Human Rights.

Semenya is one of a number of female athletes with differences in sexual development (DSD), who World Athletics insist must reduce their naturally high levels of testosterone in order to compete.

This can be done either through the use of drugs or surgical interventions.

The regulations are for runners who compete in distances from 400m to one mile (1600m).

Women described as having DSD are said to have an unfair advantage due to excessive, but naturally occurring, testosterone in their system

Semenya has vowed to fight the regulations but has already lost an appeal to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS), and another subsequent plea to the Swiss Federal Tribunal (SFT) asking for the CAS ruling to be set aside.

But on Tuesday her lawyers confirmed the runner would take her case to the European Court of Human Rights.

“We remain hopeful that World Athletics will see the error it has made and reverse the prohibitive rules which restrict Ms Semenya from competing,” Semenya’s lawyer Greg Nott said.

The South African champion burst onto the scene as a teenager winning gold in the 800m at the 2009 World Championships.

She went on to win the 800m gold medal at the next two Olympic Games.

However, her success has been controversial due to her being an athlete with DSD.

The new regulations were introduced in 2018 and were immediately challenged by Semenya.

In 2019, the ruling against her was upheld by CAS.

Following this Semenya said she would not conform to the regulations and forcefully lower her natural testosterone levels.

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Caster Semenya confirms she will not reduce testosterone levels after winning Diamond League race in 2019.

World Athletics have consistently said the regulations are aimed at creating a level playing field for all athletes.

“World Athletics has always maintained that its regulations are lawful and legitimate, and that they represent a fair, necessary and proportionate means of ensuring the rights of all female athletes to participate on fair and equal terms,” the governing body said in a statement after the SFT case.

Then new regulations were also criticised by medical professionals.

The World Medical Association in 2019 urged physicians against performing these procedures on athletes.

The organisation’s chairman, Frank Ulrich Montgomery told ABC’s The Ticket that doctors should not be taking part in the practice.

“We do think it is extremely serious if international sports regulations demand physicians to prescribe medication — hormonally active medication — for athletes in order to reduce normal conditions in their body,” he said.

Athletics South Africa insist Semenya is still part of their team for the Tokyo Olympic Games next year, though over what distance remains to be seen.

She has also been competing in the 200-metre sprint, which falls outside of the World Athletics regulations.

Reuters/ABC



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Big Bash League makes three rule changes for 2020, including substitute option and split power play



The Big Bash League will allow a substitute player as part of three rule changes made to enliven the looming competition.

Teams will be able to sub in a so-called X-factor player after 10 overs of the first innings while the six-over power play has been split.

The initial power play will now be four overs, with the batting team to call on the last two overs of the power play from the 11th over.

The points system has also been altered.

Four competitions points will be on offer in each match.

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Three points will be for the overall win, with one bonus point on offer to the chasing team if they are ahead of their opponent’s 10-over score.

If the chasing team is behind after 10 overs, the fielding team will receive the bonus point.

“The … [changes] prioritise scoring, exciting cricket, introduce new strategic angles and ensure there’s always something to play for throughout the entire match,” Cricket Australia’s head of Big Bash Leagues Alistair Dobson said in a statement on Monday.

“We’re confident our fans will love what these innovations bring to the game.”

Trent Woodhill, the BBL’s player acquisition and cricket consultant, who was involved in developing the new Hundred competition in England, said the change was important for leagues.

“The best T20 leagues across the globe are the ones that continue to innovate, push the boundaries and challenge the status quo,” he said in the statement.

“The introduction of these new playing conditions firmly puts the Big Bash League in that category.”

The BBL starts on December 10 with a group of games in Tasmania and the ACT before moving to Queensland and South Australia later in the month.

Organisers have announced a schedule until December 31 for the initial 21 games of the 56-match season.

AAP/ABC



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