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Australian News

Rule that can help Melbourne beat the virus


The Victorian Government’s latest lockdown may seem extreme and even overcautious by international standards, but there is still one rule the state needs to impose if it wants a real chance at beating the virus.

The lockdown came into effect overnight, putting metropolitan Melbourne and the Mitchell Shire back to stage three restrictions for six weeks. The measure was brought in after the state saw a record breaking spike in new COVID-19 cases, with 191 cases on Tuesday and and 134 recorded yesterday.

But while the restrictions may seem harsh, experts say they may not be enough to stop the virus’s spread if another rule isn’t imposed.

World Health Organisation (WHO) adviser and UNSW epidemiologist Professor Mary-Louise McLaws said making people wear masks in public is an important factor to stopping the spread of the virus from the Melbourne hotspots.

“I think the way authorities are dealing with it now should bring it under control but I would like to see a more preventive approach for people leaving to go to work,” she told news.com.au.

“I would add in wearing face masks in all of Melbourne as they are still allowing workers and students to move out of the hotspots.”

RELATED: ‘Confronting’ scenes at lockdown zones

Prof McLaws said introducing the use of masks was important as Victoria had decided to take a “softer” approach with the lockdown by still allowing some people to move out of hotspots.

“If you were going for full eradication you would not allow people to leave at all for two weeks,” she said.

“But as this different approach is being used all of Melbourne needs to use their masks.”

Since the pandemic began the Federal Government has avoided calling for the general public to use face masks. But many experts are urging Melbourne residents to use masks with the Australian Medical Association yesterday adding its voice to the growing calls for masks use.

The decision to send parts of the state back into lockdown has been a controversial one, with many residents upset at facing another six weeks under tough restrictions.

Looking at the advice from WHO on when it is acceptable to start easing restrictions, it may seem that Victoria is being overly cautious in its approach.

One of the criteria outlined by WHO on whether lockdowns should be in place is determining whether spread of the virus is controlled.

The organisation suggests it is considered controlled if testing for COVID-19 show less than 5 per cent positive results for at least two weeks.

The percentage of positive tests for Victoria’s recent outbreak has consistently stayed below 1 per cent. In fact the highest percentage of positive tests in the past week was just 0.7 per cent.

Looking at these figures it may seem that Victoria’s decision to lockdown may have been too soon, but Prof McLaws said there was an issue with applying this advice to what is happening in Melbourne.

“One of the issues with interpreting this advice is that it is aimed at large country approach and areas with large populations,” she said.

“If we are looking at sampling within Victoria it looks low when you are looking at it through this lens but looking at it in the context of the hotspots it isn’t.”

For a small region like Melbourne, Prof McLaws said if authorities waited until the rate of positive tests was any higher then they may have “missed seeing other clusters emerge”.

“It is all about trying to stop the clusters from spreading further,” she said.

“From late May, moving into June and early July what you are seeing is large family clusters that then spill into workplaces and other family clusters.

“You have got background numbers but you have also got a tight community that now has easier spread of the virus because of their social connections.”



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Super Rugby AU rule changes hoped to bring crowds back and change future of the game


It’s fair to say there will be many more eyes on Australia’s new domestic rugby competition when it kicks off this weekend than just those of the diehard fans.

Super Rugby AU is Australia’s equivalent of New Zealand’s Super Rugby Aotearoa, and was quickly formed to fill the breach left by the 15-team, five-nations Super Rugby tournament which went into COVID-19-enforced hibernation in mid-March.

The future of that competition remains in limbo, with both South Africa and Argentina isolated and their new case curve still trending upwards. Japan’s Sunwolves were to be mothballed at the end of the 2020 season anyway, and though there were attempts to have them play in the new Australian competition, they’ve now played their last game.

Australia’s four Super Rugby sides — the Queensland Reds, NSW Waratahs, Melbourne Rebels, and the Brumbies — will be joined by the Perth-based Western Force in a full home-and-away competition played over 10 weeks plus two weeks of finals.

For the Force, it marks their return to top-flight Australian rugby for the first time since their axing from Super Rugby at the end of the 2017 season.

Western Force players wait for a try decision during the World Series Rugby match against Fiji in 2018.
The Western Force will be welcomed back to the fold.(AAP: Richard Wainwright)

But it’s the law variations in place that will draw the extra attention, and from the moment the Reds and Waratahs run out onto Brisbane’s Lang Park on Friday night. Behind every one of the changes is an intention to make a more enjoyable spectacle of the game for spectators, fans and players alike.

A couple are already in place over the ditch, with Super Rugby Aotearoa implementing 10 minutes of “golden point” extra time in the event of a scoreboard deadlock after 80 minutes.

The other is the allowance to replace a player sent from the field with a red card after 20 minutes. The sent-off player can’t play any further part in the game, but the contest can be restored to 15 players on 15, 20 minutes later.

Neither has been seen in New Zealand yet in three rounds, but Australia’s leading referee Angus Gardner is a fan.

“You definitely want the players to decide the game and as a ref you prefer to not make a decision that decides it,” he said last week, of the extra time allowance.

Gardner has been busy over the past fortnight, running live familiarity sessions around the new variations with the Waratahs and Rebels. The focus on the breakdown contest in Super Rugby Aotearoa — and the sharp upsurge in penalties — were a cause for concern initially, and were undoubtedly a reason Gardner and his colleagues were utilised during these intra-squad sessions around the country.

Ryan Louwrens holds a rugby ball in both hands and prepares to pass it away from a ruck
New rules around the breakdown have sped up play, but has also seen an initial uptick in penalties.(AAP: Scott Barbour)

“They’re really rewarding speed to the breakdown, I think for us that’s going to highlight our breakdown presence,” Rebels backrower Michael Wells said, his side spending this week of preparation in Canberra to escape the recent spike in COVID-19 infections in Melbourne.

“Attacking wise, you can’t be slow; you have to be really fast. Defensively, if you have a good on-ball presence you’re really going to get pay out of it. I think that was the biggest thing about having Gus [Gardner] here, just to be exposed to those new rules, because it’s different watching it in the New Zealand comp,” Wells said.

But the breakdown focus is having a positive impact already over the Tasman. In half a dozen games over the first three rounds in New Zealand, the rugby on display has been wonderful to watch, no doubt spurred on by huge crowds now allowed with no restrictions in place.

Fans applaud as players line up in the foreground
Super Rugby Aotearoa has returned to huge crowds.(Photosport via AP: Joe Allison)

The crowds will be much smaller when Super Rugby AU kicks off on Friday night, but it’s certainly hoped the rugby is no less exciting. Rugby Australia is also hoping the decision to go a bit further with law variations will have an impact, too.

Several of them roll over from last season’s National Rugby Championship, in which a rampant Western Force ran away with the title. The line drop-out allowance, which rewards the defending team if they’re able to hold the attacking team up in-goal, works as a faster way of restarting play instead of a five-metre scrum that risks multiple resets.

And 50-22 and 22-50 kicks carry over too, borrowing from rugby league’s 40-20, which will force teams to defend differently at the back, as well as open up attacking opportunity.

“Does that open up more space in the front line to play ball in hand?” Rebels attack coach Shaun Berne wondered.

“And if they don’t defend that back field, are we then able to kick and find those 50-22s?”

The players themselves can already see opportunities.

“It’s going to break some teams when we find that space and take those opportunities, it’s going to hurt a lot of teams,” Brumbies centre Irae Simone offered from Canberra.

Waratahs coach Rob Penney loves the removal of calling for a mark in the defensive 22 from kicks originating in the same portion of the field. But he’s equally wary of the architect of the idea.

“I am a bit worried about Matt Toomua and the impact that he is going to have. He is such a talented 10 and he has the ball on a string really,” Penney said of the Rebels and Wallabies flyhalf.

“I thought it was a real breath of fresh air to hear Matt talking about what could be really good for the game.”

A male rugby union player kicks the ball from a penalty goal attempt with his right foot.
Matt Toomua could have a huge impact with his boot under the new rules.(Reuters: Issei Kato)

As Rugby Australia works to negotiate its way to new TV deal for 2021 and beyond, the hope is that these variations and the exciting rugby it anticipates will result will be really good for the game over a longer term. Arguably, the future of the professional game is counting on it.

But the condensed campaign means there won’t be time for the five sides to work their way into contention. Most agree the Brumbies start overwhelming as the favourites, given they were running second overall when Super Rugby was suspended.

Brumbies prop James Slipper says that just means the side is already determined to pick up where they left off back in March.

“It’s always important to start well,” he said.

“We actually addressed that this year in Super Rugby and we did start well.

“What you find is when you have a good start is you try and build on that momentum and that winning habit.”

Super Rugby AU Round 1 fixtures

Friday: Queensland Reds vs NSW Waratahs, Brisbane 7:15pm AEST

Saturday: ACT Brumbies vs Melbourne Rebels, Canberra 7:15pm AEST

Western Force have the bye.



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Super Netball’s super shot rule change panders to those with no stake in the game


You are running a widely popular, predominantly female sport that has stood the test of time.

The game has evolved from its conservative roots; it has embraced semi-professionalism and become pleasingly dynamic; it has forged a storied international rivalry that has produced some of the most dramatic moments in Australian sport; it has withstood challenges from voracious competitors and maintained an enormous participant base.

It has even welcomed men to play in their own leagues and mixed competitions — even if they sometimes find it hard to check their fragile egos at the locker room door and keep their pointy elbows to themselves.

But you’ve looked at the TV ratings, you’ve compared the sponsorship model with other predominantly male sports and you want more eyeballs on your domestic competition.

A netballer jumps up and extends her arm as she prepares to pass over the defence.
Super Netball bosses want more people to watch its domestic competition.(AAP: Jono Searle)

So you’re thinking about making a radical rule change, one that will alter the most fundamental element of the game — scoring.

Naturally, you first take the proposal to your competition committee and carefully weigh their input.

Then you run it by the Players’ Association. Not because the lunatics run your asylum. Because, well, maybe the people who are actually going to be bound by this rule might have some practical suggestions about its application?

You have a quiet coffee with some ex-players and even the media types who are tapped into the thoughts of the fans and the game’s wider community to gauge potential reaction.

Two netball opponents stoop to get their hands on the ball in a contest.
Netball has developed a compelling international rivalry between Australia and New Zealand without the gimmicks.(AAP: Dean Lewins)

This is exactly what the Super Netball Commission did NOT do before springing the introduction of a two point “super shot” on its players and fans just six weeks before the start of the season.

This non-consultation process, almost as much as the two-point shot, has caused uproar among the very people who should have had the greatest say in such a radical change.

Instead, the Super Netball commissioners made a mistake common among sports desperate to increase their “reach” — instead of asking what those who love netball wanted, they asked themselves what those who are mostly indifferent to the sport might hypothetically want.

In one sense, bypassing the people who are the cornerstone of your sport and bastardising your game for the edification of those who ticked the “have some interest” box on a fan engagement survey is understandable, even essential.

Caitlin Basset smiles looking over her shoulder
Diamonds captain Caitlin Bassett said on Instagram she half-expected the next innovation to be to wear skimpier outfits.(AAP: Richard Wainwright)

Sporting stalwarts are notoriously conservative. Cricket’s transition from Test to One Day to Twenty20s involved endless anguished debates pitting so-called traditionalists against the perceived desires of less cricket-savvy consumers.

The obvious difference is that cricket has imposed most of its changes on two new formats. Test cricket remains virtually as it was, albeit now crammed into a schedule dominated by limited-overs fixtures and with those ghastly numbers on the shirts.

Netball, on the other hand, has taken a gimmick from its own short-form game, Fast5, and imposed it on the second highest level of the sport without so much as a “What do you guys think?” in a competition committee Zoom meeting.

An Australian netballer shapes to pass the ball as she stands outside the two-point shot line.
The Super Shot Zone will become a feature of Super Netball, against the wishes of the majority of players.(AAP: Mark Evans)

No wonder a member of that committee, Diamonds’ star Jo Weston, was apoplectic when the news dropped via press release during the week.

Weston told The Guardian she was not just disappointed with the “insulting” lack of consultation, but by the rule itself.

Which makes you wonder if Super Netball teams will jog onto the court this season or arrive stuffed in a mini minor given the apparent desperation of the game’s administrators to pander to the non-fan.

The one-off media sugar hit of a radical rule change is far easier than the hard yards of long term grassroots engagement, clever promotional campaigns and relationship building with broadcasters.

Former West-Tigers chair Marina Go is now the Super Netball Commission chair and she admitted some inspiration had been taken from Australian Rugby League Commission chief Peter V’landys’ recent NRL rule changes.

This attempt to imitate the “innovative changes” in rugby league has proven about as popular with netball diehards as telling them players will wear lingerie and games will be played in a giant tub of jelly.

A female netball player holds the ball behind her head as she prepares to shoot for goal.
Netball’s super shot would change the very fabric of the game.(AAP: Julian Smith)

Yet, gallingly for the game’s ignored insiders, the change has gained support from the type of casual high-profile observers who are unlikely to be at a Super Netball game after the last canape in the corporate hospitality area disappears.

So what’s wrong with the “super shot” (to be taken from a designated spot inside the circle in the last five minutes of each quarter)?

The most obvious problem is that all goals will not be created equal. An artfully worked full court move that gets the ball into the hands of the goal attack will not be worth as much as a long bomb executed during an arbitrary time period.

It also perverts the power balance because a team that has gained the ascendency in general play can have its hard-earned lead erased by a couple of freak shots.

But don’t take my word for it.

I stand to be corrected by those who have played the game at all levels or who have spent years in the crowd or on the media bench at Super Netball games.

The kind of people who should be the first consulted when a beloved sport makes a radical change for the benefit of those who usually couldn’t care less.

All the latest sports news and issues including Australia’s 2023 Women’s World Cup bid will be discussed on Offsiders on ABC TV at 10:00am on Sunday.



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Australian News

Global Athletes group calls for IOC to abolish Rule 50, which bans protests at Olympic Games


The International Olympic Committee’s ban on protests — including kneeling in support of anti-racism — is a breach of human rights, according to the Global Athlete group.

The group has called on Olympic and Paralympic officials to move immediately to abolish the rule, opening up the ability for athletes to make genuine acts of protest without penalty.

Rule 50 of the Olympic Charter states that “no kind of demonstration or political, religious or racial propaganda is permitted in any Olympic sites, venues or other areas”.

Athletes breaking the rules are subject to discipline on a case-by-case basis and the IOC issued guidelines in January clarifying that banned protests included taking a knee.

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“The IOC and IPC’s (International Paralympic Committee) recent statement that athletes who ‘take a knee’ … will face bans is a clear breach of human rights,” Global Athlete, an international athlete-led movement that aims to inspire change in world sport, said in a statement.

“Athletes around the globe were awestruck with this statement and demanded change.”

The most famous demonstration at an Olympic Games is the human rights protest on the medal podium by American sprinters Tommie Smith and John Carlos after the 200 metres event at Mexico City in 1968.

The pair bowed their heads and raised their fists in the air during the playing of the US national anthem after Smith won the final. IOC president Avery Brundage ordered the two athletes to be expelled from the Games and sent home.

Tommie Smith, centre, and John Carlos stare downward while extending gloved hands skyward
US athletes Tommie Smith (C) and John Carlos were sent home from the Mexico City Olympics for their use of the black power salute.(AP)

Several major sporting organisations have moved to allow protests at their events following the death last month of George Floyd, an unarmed black man who died in Minneapolis after a white policeman knelt on his neck.

The IOC said last week athletes would decide how best to support the core Olympic values “in a dignified way” as calls to change regulations restricting protests at Olympic Games grew louder.

“Once again, athletes stood together and their collective voice has pressured the IOC to pivot on its position and now consult with athletes on Rule 50,” Global Athlete added.

“It is time for change. Every athlete must be empowered to use their platforms, gestures and voice.

“Silencing the athlete voice has led to oppression, silence has led to abuse and silence has led to discrimination in sport.”

Reuters/ABC



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Super Rugby Aotearoa set for sell-out return in New Zealand amidst rule changes


Super Rugby is set to make its return in front of a sell-out crowd this weekend in New Zealand as officials introduce rule changes to the sport.

The Blues announced on Saturday that its match on Sunday against the Hurricanes at Auckland’s Eden Park had sold out.

With 42,000 tickets sold, it will be the biggest Super Rugby crowd in Auckland since the same two sides met in 2005.

Saturday’s match between the Highlanders and the Chiefs at the 22,800-capacity Forsyth Barr stadium in Dunedin is also expected to come close to a sell-out, with 20,000 tickets sold as of Saturday morning ahead of a 7:05pm local time kick off.

That crowds are free to attend at all is due to the New Zealand Government’s announcement on Monday that the country was coronavirus free, with the nationwide alert system relaxing to “level one” at midnight that day.

That meant mass gatherings were allowed to take place, with tickets for the first round of Super Rugby Aotearoa matches going on sale the following day.

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The Super Rugby Aotearoa competition is a 10-week competition featuring the five New Zealand Super Rugby teams, the Blues, the Chiefs, the Hurricanes, the Crusaders and the Highlanders.

Australia is hosting its own, five-team Super Rugby-branded tournament, featuring the Western Force, which will kick off on July 3 with the Queensland Reds hosting the New South Wales Waratahs.

Both competitions were set up as a temporary replacement for the international Super Rugby tournament, which was suspended in March due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Incoming Rugby Australia chairman Hamish McLennan told The Australian that he hoped a trans-Tasman Super Rugby competition could be set up from next year to help bolster the code’s ailing finances.

A man runs while throwing a ball to his teammate.
A trans-Tasman Super Rugby competition has been mooted by Hamish McLennan.(Brumbies Rugby)

“That incorporates everything from the broadcast deal, to working with our commercial partners, to fixing Super Rugby.

“If I had my way, given the circumstances with COVID, a cross-Tasman competition makes the most sense and will be the most valuable commodity to sell.”

The future of the trans-continental competition was in doubt regardless of the coronavirus-enforced suspension due to dwindling crowds and high costs.

Japan’s Sunwolves are set to be dropped from the competition at the end of this season.

Super Rugby players with hands on their head or on their haunches look disappointed after a loss.
The Sunwolves will not return to Super Rugby in 2021.(AP/Photosport: Shane Wenzlick)

New rules to speed up the game

Seeing fans packed into grandstands will not be the only difference to the sport this weekend.

Both the New Zealand and Australian version of the Super Rugby competition will be experimenting with new rules.

In New Zealand, 10 minutes of extra time will now be played in the event of a draw, five minutes each way in a golden-point scenario — the first team to score wins the match.

Additionally, teams will also be able to replace red-carded players after 20 minutes of game time to bring their side back up to a full complement of players, although the player who has been dismissed cannot return.

Jaco Peyper holds up a red card and points with his other hand as Sebastien Vahaamahina walks away
In the Australia and New Zealand Super Rugby competitions, teams will be able to replace red-carded players.(AP: Christophe Ena)

In Australia, the sport is going even further, borrowing two rules more often seen in the 13-man code.

If a player is held up in goal or the ball is knocked on, play will restart with a goal-line drop out instead of a five-metre scrum.

Also, if an attacking player kicks for touch from inside their own half and the ball goes into touch on the bounce inside the opposition 22, the line out will go to the attacking team.

New Wallabies coach Scott Johnson, who helped coordinate the working party that decided upon the changes, said he hoped the rules would make the game more entertaining.

“Throughout the process we stuck to the principle that whatever we changed, the game still had to be rugby, and nothing could compromise the Wallabies’ preparation for Test rugby,” Johnson said.

“In fact, I believe the changes we have implemented will broaden and enhance the capabilities of our players.”

Current England coach Eddie Jones has also recently called for rule changes to help speed the game up and make it a more entertaining spectacle.



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Electricity bill relief expected with new energy rule


Companies, factories and farms will soon earn money by reducing their energy use when demand is high, in a move set to lower electricity prices.

The Australian Energy Market Commission has decided to set up a wholesale “demand response mechanism” to begin in October next year.

It’s a significant reform of the National Electricity Market, AEMC says.

Demand response is when consumers are paid to reduce their electricity use at peak times to avoid shortfalls and blackouts.

But the three organisations behind the rule – the Public Interest Advocacy Centre, Total Environment Centre and the Australia Institute – are disappointed households won’t be part of the mechanism.

They say it will still bring benefits to consumers and is important for a zero-carbon energy system.

The Australia Institute’s energy lead Dan Cass says big energy users will be able to earn money by saving power when electricity prices are high.

“This will push down prices for all consumers, improve reliability and help Australia safely retire our 20 remaining coal-fired power stations,” he said on Thursday.

Energy Minister Angus Taylor said the rule will result in a more reliable power supply.

“The benefits of wholesale demand response will flow through to all households and businesses through lower electricity bills and improved network reliability,” he said.

“Lower electricity costs on small businesses and industry means Australians have more money to invest, expand and grow jobs – and this is particularly important as businesses recover from COVID-19.”



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Business

British Airways threatens to fire pilots, fights UK quarantine rule


Concerned the self-isolation requirement would block its plans to restart services in July, British Airways’ parent IAG SA sent a letter to the Home Office to start the process to block the quarantine, which could lead to a lawsuit, according to a copy of the letter seen by Bloomberg News.

The letter, also signed by Europe’s two biggest discount carriers Ryanair Holdings and EasyJet, pointed to how the measures will apply to travelers from countries with lower infection rates than the U.K., and disproportionately affect those from England than Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, the letter showed. The Telegraph first reported the letter.

‘The government has failed to identify a valid justification for the blanket nature of the regulations.’

Letter signed by Ryannair and EasyJet to British Home Office

The 14-day quarantine for travelers is also more stringent than the one for those who test positive for the virus, according to the letter. The carriers also pointed out that the U.K. is imposing the self-isolation on arrivals from countries that have a lower infection rate than the U.K.

“In our view, the government has failed to identify a valid justification for the blanket nature of the regulations, more especially given the extremely severe nature of the self-isolation provisions that apply,” according to the letter.

The Home Office declined to comment on the potential legal action late Saturday. On Friday, James Slack, a spokesman for Prime Minister Boris Johnson, told reporters the government wants to work with the industry as the country moves through the pandemic.

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British Airways’ move came a day after IAG chief executive Willie Walsh said he was considering legal action to block the measure. Ryanair said on Friday it would support legal action by its rival. The quarantine is being introduced as carriers try to salvage the normally busy summer season.

If British Airways and the airlines push ahead with a legal challenge, a court proceeding known as a judicial review will be held in London’s High Court. The transport sector isn’t a stranger to a judicial review. Earlier this year, the procedure was used to force the government to take full account of climate change agreements over its plans for a third runway at Heathrow Airport.

The procedure allows members of the public and corporations to hold the government to account over policy decisions. The process is designed to weigh the lawfulness of how a government decision has been reached, rather than whether the decision is right or wrong. Public bodies that lose judicial review cases can make the same decision again as long as they do so using the right procedures.

Like airlines worldwide, IAG is slashing costs to contend with a historic drop in travel. Carriers in Europe have signaled plans to eliminate more than 50,000 positions since the onset of the coronavirus pandemic, including 10,000 on Wednesday at Germany’s Deutsche Lufthansa AG.

Bloomberg

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Wests Tigers coach Michael Maguire rejects idea blowout games are happening because of new six again rule


NRL blowouts are exposing teams that did not work hard enough on their fitness during the coronavirus shutdown, Wests Tigers coach Michael Maguire says.

The six again rule rushed in last week has come under the spotlight after a string of lop-sided scorelines since its introduction.

It’s a trend that continued with Sydney Roosters crushing Brisbane 59-0 on Thursday and Penrith dispatching the Warriors 26-0 on Friday night.

But Maguire played down the effect of the rule change ahead of the Tigers’ Sunday clash with Gold Coast in Brisbane.

The Tigers mentor claimed the routs indicated who had remained focused on training in isolation during the NRL’s eight week hiatus — and brutally highlighted those who had not.

Two Broncos players collapse to the floor after failing to tackle Daniel Tupou
The Broncos were outrun and overwhelmed by the Sydney Roosters in the opening match of round four.(AAP: Darren England)

“We’ve got a few blowout scores at the moment. Is it because of the new rules or is it because of the COVID time when players were away working on their own,” he said.

“Some teams are getting reward for work that they have done during that time.

“Fitness levels are definitely playing a part hence the reason we are probably getting a few blowout scores.”

Roosters coach Trent Robinson and Warriors mentor Stephen Kearney have been vocal about the six again rule’s impact on the game, saying the resulting defensive fatigue and free-flowing matches would lead to more routs.

But Maguire did not believe it was the main factor, pointing to his own team as an example.

An NRL player stands next to the corner post after scoring a try, receiving a hug from a teammate.
Wests Tigers’ 18-point turnaround against Cronulla shows fitness is the key, according to coach Michael Maguire.(AAP: Craig Golding)

The Tigers overcame a half-time deficit to finally overpower Cronulla 28-16last week to move to a 2-1 record ahead of their Titans clash.

“We are finding out about [that] from my team. I am happy how they worked hard throughout that [isolation] time to make sure they came back the best they could be,” he said.

“I am sure teams will get rewards off the back of that through these early periods of the season.”

The Tigers will be out to show off their fitness again when they line up against the battling Titans.

The joint venture is aiming to win its opening three away games of the season for the first time — and extend the Gold Coast’s woeful losing streak.

The Titans are approaching a year without a win, having lost 14 straight.

They last savoured victory on June 9 last year when they beat Brisbane at Sunday’s venue — Lang Park.

AAP



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Inspired by the NRL’s new ‘six-again’ rule, Eddie Jones has some ideas on how to speed up rugby


England coach Eddie Jones says rugby union has turned into a stop-start visual product similar to the NFL and is calling for at least two fundamental changes to speed up play.

Australian Jones pointed to the dramatic impact one rule tweak has made to the NRL, which returned to action last week and was a notably faster spectacle.

The “six-again” rule reduced the penalty count and had singularly transformed the nature of the game, Jones said.

“It’s definitely become less of a wrestle in the NRL and a faster, more continuous game,” the former Wallabies coach told Sky Sport in New Zealand.

“I think we need to make that adjustment in rugby. I think the game’s gradually moved along a track and hasn’t been looked at carefully enough.

Jones said the typical Test match now lasted longer than 100 minutes, with at least 65 minutes taken up without action.

The concept of tiredness had almost disappeared, he said, not helped by more than half of any starting side being replaced late in games.

Jones said reducing the reserve bench from eight to six players would have an immediate benefit.

An NRL player plants the ball down in the corner while mid-air as defenders try in vain to stop him.
A tweak to the rules led to near universal praise as the NRL made its return last week.(AAP: Scott Barbour)

“I reckon that’d make a hell of a difference. It would introduce some fatigue into the game,” he said.

“With eight reserves, we’ve got such a power game now. I think it’s gone too far down the power line and we need to get some more continuity back.”

Re-set scrums chew up the game clock by minutes at a time and Jones said infringements should result in a quick tap or kick for touch but not a shot at goal.

How to handle scrums has also been addressed by former Wallabies captain Andrew Slack, who rounded up a group of thinkers in the Australian game to brainstorm beneficial law changes.

The group has approached Rugby Australia and it is hoped some of the ideas will be considered for the relaunched domestic Super Rugby season planned for July.

New Zealand’s Super Rugby competition kicks of next week and referees have promised to be more severe on ruck infringements, believing it is fundamental to a free-flowing game.

AAP



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Victoria leads nation in COVID-19 social distancing rule fines


However, Victoria Police Deputy Commissioner Shane Patton said the higher numbers were probably due to the fact Victoria had taken a more hardline approach to enforcement than other states.

The closest state to Victoria in terms of penalty numbers is Queensland, where 2069 fines have been handed out, followed by NSW with 1290. Penalty levels in other states are also lower: individuals have been fined $1334 in Queensland and $1000 in NSW for breaching restrictions.

South Australia has issued 271 infringement notices and the Northern Territory 60, while there have been 107 in Western Australia and none in the Australian Capital Territory and Tasmania.

Victoria Police has the largest dedicated coronavirus taskforce in the country, with 500 officers enforcing pandemic regulations.

“It is arguable … that the restrictions in Victoria are some of the more stringent and more constraining than other states,” Mr Patton told a Law Week panel last week.

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“We have given out thousands and thousands of warnings as well, but it is a significant number of infringements.

“Having said that, there are a range of checks and balances in place.”

About 337 of Victoria’s fines have been withdrawn and there have been more than 400 requests for reviews. Just over 2 per cent of the $1652 fines have been paid.

Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commissioner Kristen Hilton said the police response had improved since the heavy-handed enforcement seen when fines began to be issued at the end of March.

Police came under fire for fining a learner driver and a couple who posted old travel pictures on social media.

“It did make people lose a bit of confidence in the way in which fines were being issued … to their credit [Victoria Police] have revised the way they were applying scrutiny to the issue of those fines,” Ms Hilton said.

She called for more information to be released, including a breakdown of where fines had been issued, to show whether vulnerable communities were over-represented.

An analysis of NSW figures by the Saturday Paper reported fines were clustered in Sydney’s western suburbs, where there is a significant migrant population, and in regional areas with limited correlation to infection rates.

“You need more safeguards than you might usually have to make sure there is no inadvertent overexercise of those powers and also to make sure you are still maintaining community trust and confidence,” Ms Hilton said.

“The enforcement system has been necessary in making sure people understand the gravity of the situation, but you don’t want to criminalise a health pandemic either.”

The Police Accountability Project’s Anthony Kelly said there were concerns Victorian officers had been overzealous, particularly against lower-socioeconomic communities.

“Other police forces deliberately took a more educative and informative approach, so it deserves scrutiny to see which approach is more impactful to meet our public health objectives,” he said.

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Police Association of Victoria boss Wayne Gatt said the fact there was sufficient control of the pandemic showed the approach was right.

“If you put police on the beat and ask them to focus on an issue, they will do their job,” Mr Gatt said. “My members have taken their responsibility seriously and with a sense of duty that is commendable, at significant risk of safety to themselves.”

Police Minister Lisa Neville said the minority of Victorians who do not follow the pandemic directions pose a risk to the broader public.

“Police have responded accordingly,” Ms Neville said. “I fully support the work Victoria Police has done during this pandemic – it has undoubtedly saved Victorian lives and I thank them for that.”

Victoria Police, which has the most officers of any force, has conducted 54,692 spot checks during the pandemic.

The police assistance line has received almost 70,000 calls from the public, with more than 25,000 of those about illegal gatherings and isolation breaches.

NSW Police – which does not have a dedicated taskforce – did not keep spot-check data, according to a spokeswoman.

However, it received 18,000 pandemic-related calls through Crime Stoppers.

Queensland, the first state to close its borders, has a COVID-19 taskforce. Since March 27 more than 200,000 cars have been stopped at the border and almost 5500 people on quarantine orders have been checked.

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