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New South Wales Women’s State of Origin captain Kezie Apps confident of facing Queensland


When Kezie Apps felt her leg snap playing for St George Illawarra in the NRLW earlier this month, she feared the worst.

“I honestly thought I broke my leg and thought, ‘Oh no, that’s my good leg,'” Apps said.

“The other leg I’ve broken twice, so I really thought this time I broke it [again].”

The last time Apps felt similar pain was in October 2018 when she fractured her fibula playing for Australia’s national team, the Jillaroos, against New Zealand.

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This time around, she was overcome with relief when she was informed the right knee injury she sustained against the Broncos almost three weeks ago was not as severe as first thought.

“I felt the pain transfer to my knee and was so relieved to find out it was a grade-two MCL (medial cruciate ligament), which is up to six weeks [on the sidelines],” Apps said.

Apps, who also suffered concussion in the opening week of the NRLW season, has been named New South Wales captain for the Women’s State of Origin match against Queensland at Sunshine Coast Stadium on November 13.

Despite the devastating end to her NRLW season, the Dragons second rower said she was thrilled to earn selection for what had become a highlight of the Australia rugby league calendar.

“I was so happy,” Apps said.

“I wasn’t sure if I’d be any chance. When I saw the surgeon they said I could be a chance to play and I took that chance with both hands. So I have been working really hard these last two weeks.”

Apps will fly the Sunshine Coast with her Blues teammates on Friday but she is not in the clear yet.

“It’s probably 80-20 if I’ll play or not,” she said.

Isabelle Kelly of Australia scores during the Women's Rugby League World Cup
Isabelle Kelly is desperate to be deemed fit for State of Origin.(AAP: Craig Golding)

Aside from Apps, Blues and Jillaroos star Isabelle Kelly is also racing to prove her fitness after sustaining an ankle injury during the NRLW season.

“We are doing our return-to-play together, rehab together and checking in because it’s such a rollercoaster,” Apps said.

“But we’re on track and really want to be there come Friday the 13th.”

Blues name nine new faces

Blues coach Andrew Patmore has included nine debutants in his 20-player squad as they look to win a third straight State of Origin title.

Keeley Davis, Kennedy Cherrington, Filomina Hanisi, Shanice Parker, Quincy Dodd, Sarah Togatuki, Melanie Howard, Yasmin Meakes and Brydie Parker were the fresh faces picked in the Blues squad.

“It’s a testament to all the girls who have been working hard through COVID and the talent that is coming through, which is so exciting for New South Wales, and I can’t wait to see what they bring,” Apps said.

The Blues’ improved depth led to the shock omission of incumbent halves Maddie Studdon and Kira Dibb, two of the biggest names in women’s rugby league.

“It’s obviously really sad, being a friend of both of them,” Apps said.

“I know Maddie has been struggling with injury. We’ll miss her organising skills and presence, but the coach has seen a lot of faith in these other girls and they’re very deserving of their spot.

“It’s so positive for the game and shows another NRLW team can get involved. We are at the time of expansion.”

Maddie Studdon State of Origin shield
Maddie Studdon (left) has previously been a member of successful Blues squads.(AAP: Craig Golding.)

The Maroons’ squad is perhaps the strongest they have fielded in State of Origin, featuring most of the Brisbane Broncos team, which just won a third consecutive NRLW premiership.

“They’ve got their combinations and know each other,” Apps said.

“It is going to be tough. We can’t even think of the last two years because we are a brand new squad basically and we’ve got two weeks to figure it out, but we’ll be fine.”

Next month’s clash will be the first time a Women’s State of Origin match has been played on Queensland soil.

Interstate matches had been contested in Queensland before they were officially branded State of Origin fixtures in 2018.

“Playing [in Queensland] in 2016, they are just crazy rugby league fans, and with the borders being closed we aren’t going to get many New South Wales fans,” Apps said.

The Blues squad will go into a biosecurity bubble for a fortnight after arriving in Queensland.



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Is the Eureka flag racist? Unley Council in South Australia says yes


A request to fly the Eureka flag has been rejected by a South Australian council amid concerns it has come to represent “white supremacy”.

Spirit of Eureka (SA) convener Peter Harpas put in a request to fly the flag at the Unley Civic Centre to commemorate the 166th anniversary of the Eureka Rebellion, starting on November 22 and continuing for almost two weeks.

“It can be argued with some justification that the Eureka Stockade was the birthplace of Australian democracy,” Mr Harpas wrote in a letter to council.

He also said it had become a defining moment of Australian multiculturalism because there were people of colour, including two black men, among the 21 nationalities of those who participated in the riot.

But members of the City of Unley, which includes affluent suburbs in Adelaide’s inner south, did not agree, the Adelaide Advertiser reported.

During Monday’s council meeting, Councillor Jennifer Bonham noted the flag’s link to the “struggle for democracy” but said the council needed to “acknowledge the Chinese were persecuted on the goldfields”.

“The Eureka flag can also be a symbol of that persecution,” Ms Bonham said.

Councillor Jane Russo said the flag, which features an image of the Southern Cross constellation, had come to represent “white supremacy”.

The Eureka Stockade took place on November 30, 1854 in the Victorian town of Ballarat, fuelled by discontent among miners about substantial licence fees they were being charged by the colonial government.

The miners swore allegiance to the flag near the Eureka diggings and built a blockade in protest.

The flag has since been used by unions including the Construction, Forestry, Maritime, Mining and Energy Union and is a common sight on construction sites.

However, a similar Southern Cross image was also used by those protesting against the presence of Chinese in the goldfields, which culminated in the worst anti-Chinese riots in Australia history at NSW’s Lambing Flat in June 1861.

During these riots Chinese miners were beaten, had their pigtails cut off, tools destroyed and their tents, clothing and furniture set on fire.

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Over the years, the Eureka flag has been adopted by groups including the Australia First Party, which is led by Jim Saleam, a former member of the neo-Nazi National Socialist Party of Australia, and seeks to abolish multiculturalism.

The Southern Cross also became a symbol of racism after it featured prominently during the 2005 Cronulla riots, which erupted after tension with members of the Lebanese community.

RELATED: Protesters arrested at Cronulla on anniversary of race riots

In a 2010 interview with The West Australian, Professor Greg Craven, vice-chancellor at the Australian Catholic University, said the true meaning of the Southern Cross had been tainted by racism.

He said the Southern Cross had been about dignified rebellion but was now appearing on bumper stickers with racist slogans.

“The Southern Cross is becoming a symbol not of unity but of exclusion,” Prof Craven said.



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Jake Weatherald withdraws from South Australia’s Sheffield Shield squad for mental health issues



Opening batsman Jake Weatherald has withdrawn from South Australia’s Sheffield Shield squad, citing mental health issues.

Weatherald, who struck a century in the opening Shield round, is taking indefinite leave from the Redbacks and departing the team’s Adelaide hub.

He will miss, at the least, SA’s next Shield game against Victoria starting on Friday.

“We are supportive of Jake, who has made the tough but right decision to leave the hub and focus on life outside of cricket for a short period,” the Redbacks’ sports science and medicine manager John Porter said on Tuesday.

The 25-year-old Weatherald made 105 and 36 in SA’s opening game against Western Australia.

But after making four and 10 in the following fixture against Tasmania, Weatherald sought help from Redbacks medicos.

The lefthander follows fellow Australian cricketers including Glenn Maxwell, Will Pucovski, Nic Maddinson and Moises Henriques to miss games in recent seasons because of mental health issues.

With state squads currently in hubs in Adelaide, and Australia’s Test and short-format squads also to spend time in Sydney-based hubs ahead of series against India, Cricket Australia has increased resources available to players.

Players and staff have access to a psychologist residing in the Shield hub, in addition to each state’s medical staff.

CA has also adopted daily monitoring of the mental wellness of players and staff.

AAP



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Australia to tour South Africa for first time since ball-tampering scandal


Australia will return to South Africa for the first time since the infamous ball-tampering scandal of 2018, when they arrive in February for a three-Test series.

Cricket South Africa (SCA) announced the news on Tuesday evening and although exact dates and venues are yet to be confirmed, the series will conclude in March.

Australia won 2018’s opening Test but ultimately lost the four-match series 3-1.

However, the overall result was overshadowed by the fallout from the ball-tampering scandal which lead to the year-long suspensions of Steve Smith and David Warner, and a nine-month international ban for Cameron Bancroft.

Steve Smith is escorted by police officers
Steve Smith, along with David Warner and Cameron Bancroft, were sent home early the last time Australia toured South Africa.(AP: Themba Hadebe)

The Proteas will also host England from late November in limited overs matches, Sri Lanka for a two-Test showdown around the turn of the year and close out their home campaign against Pakistan in three ODIs and three T20s during a busy summer of cricket in South Africa.

“We are delighted to announce the schedule of men’s international cricket for the home season,” CSA acting chief executive Kugandrie Govender said.

“The COVID-19 pandemic predictably forced many changes to … the traditional sequencing of scheduling matches in South Africa this season.

“This is why I am particularly proud of today’s announcement.”

Australia’s summer of cricket has been significantly curtailed from its original schedule, with an historic one-off Test against Afghanistan and a limited overs series against New Zealand both cancelled due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Coronavirus played havoc with Australia’s plans in 2021; a two-Test tour of Bangladesh, scheduled for June, was postponed, while limited overs visits from Zimbabwe and West Indies were also canned.

The men’s T20 World Cup was also postponed until 2022, although a hastily-arranged limited overs tour of England did fill the gap.

The Australians will eventually return to cricket this home summer by welcoming India for three one-dayers, three Twenty20 games and four Tests.

The short-format games will be played in Sydney and Canberra, likely from November 27 to December 8.

Adelaide will host the Test series opener with a day-night encounter slated to start on December 17.

Melbourne’s Boxing Day fixture will be the second Test with Sydney’s Test likely to start on January 7 and the fourth Test in Brisbane commencing January 15.

AAP/ABC



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Wellington Phoenix to relocate to New South Wales to enable A-League season to start


Wellington Phoenix will relocate to NSW for the beginning of the upcoming A-League season.

The Phoenix will move their operations from Wellington to NSW for the second time in as many seasons due to COVID-19 travel restrictions — with Wollongong shaping as a likely base.

Wellington’s squad members will assemble in NSW on November 1, when they can begin training as a team ahead of the A-League’s December 27 start date.

The Phoenix said they still hoped to play home games in Wellington later in the season.

But that largely depended on a trans-Tasman bubble that would allow players and staff to travel without a compulsory two-week quarantine period upon arriving in New Zealand.

Wellington supporters stand and applaud, waving yellow flags
Wellington Phoenix fans in Sydney will get another chance to watch their team live from December 27.(ABC Image: Brendan Esposito)

Should a trans-Tasman bubble eventuate during the season, the club will review the potential to play home games in New Zealand later in the season,” the Phoenix said in a statement.

“This is dependent on changes being made by the New Zealand government around the two week quarantine process upon a person’s return to New Zealand, when it is deemed safe to do so, and the costs incurred of relocation back to New Zealand.

The Phoenix find themselves in the same situation as the New Zealand Warriors NRL team during the 2020 season.

A Warriors NRL player runs with the ball; in his right hand as a Canterbury opponent gives chase in the background.
The Warriors also relocated during the 2020 NRL season.(AAP: Joel Carrett)

The Warriors were based in Terrigal during the season, although not all the players lasted the course.

Ken Maumalo, David Fusitu’a, Agnatius Paasi and King Vuniyayawa all left the bubble to return to New Zealand in August.

The Premiership-winning Melbourne Storm also spent the NRL season away from home, based on the Sunshine Coast.

State and territory leaders have agreed to develop a roadmap out of hard border restrictions in time for the Christmas holidays, with the exception of Western Australia, which could yet pose problems for Perth Glory.

AAP/ABC



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Penrith Panthers beat South Sydney Rabbitohs 20-16 to set up NRL grand final against Melbourne Storm


The Penrith Panthers are into the NRL grand final against Melbourne after a scrappy 20-16 win over South Sydney.

The minor premiers reached their first decider in 17 years with the 17th win of their record streak, which broke the record of the last Penrith team to play in the last game of the year, in 2003.

Next Sunday they’ll face a seasoned grand finalist in Melbourne, after their 30-10 win over Canberra on Friday night.

On Saturday, the sixth-placed Rabbitohs were punching well above their weight as they looked to ride their hot late-season form into a surprise grand final appearance.

A whopping 13 points separated them on the ladder this year, but the grand final qualifier was a completely different matter.

South Sydney Rabbitohs players are strewn across the grass after losing an NRL preliminary final against Penrith.
South Sydney put up an almighty fight, but Penrith’s class won out.(AAP: Dan Himbrechts)

In what proved to be a harbinger of things to come, the Rabbitohs opened the scoring off a Penrith error, when Corey Allan picked the pocket of opposing fullback Dylan Edwards.

Cody Walker was dragged down a metre from the tryline by Brian To’o, but that left the Panthers’ left wing exposed, and Adam Reynolds landed a pin-point kick into the arms of Alex Johnston on the next play.

But a bad drop by Johnston at the other end handed Penrith the equaliser a few minutes later, and Nathan Cleary’s boot handed the minor premiers the lead when he landed a kick in no man’s land for Tyrone May to touch down in the 27th minute.

A penalty goal gave the Panthers a 14-6 lead at half-time but with 30 tackle busts and seven line breaks it would have been more if not for eight costly errors.

The Rabbitohs got back into the fight when Cameron Murray and Walker sparked a short-side raid and Dane Gagai finished it off in the 49th minute.

South Sydney stayed in touch thanks to exceptional defence and more Penrith errors, including one on the tryline after a try-saving tackle by Johnston on Stephen Crichton, who dropped the ball while trying to capitalise on yet another line break.

But four minutes later, workhorse Isaah Yeo broke through the middle and found Edwards back inside for a try under the posts in the 67th minute for what appeared to be the game-sealer.

The Rabbitohs had other ideas, though, and Allan produced a moment of magic off a wayward pass that flew at his feet, but he trapped and soccered ahead to score in the 72nd minute. Epitomising the effort of the sixth-placed Rabbitohs, he could barely celebrate the pivotal four-pointer because of a severely corked thigh.

Reynolds tried to come up with his own moment of magic two minutes later, dropping back behind the play on the fifth tackle and kicking what he thought was a game-changing 40/20 off one step, but his left foot was planted on the 40m line, meaning it was Panthers ball.

They held on and advanced to the grand final for the first time since the 2003 premiership, where they’ll try to add the Provan-Summons Trophy to the JJ Giltinan Shield.



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Springboks withdraw from Rugby Championship due to South Africa’s coronavirus travel restrictions and player safety concerns


World champions South Africa will not defend their Rugby Championship title after governing body SANZAAR announced the Springboks were withdrawing from this year’s competition.

The announcement delivers a big blow to the tournament, 15 days before its scheduled start.

The Rugby Championship, which had included South Africa, Australia, New Zealand and Argentina, will now go take the form of a Tri-Nations competition between the latter three national sides.

The annual Test tournament was already delayed by the COVID-19 pandemic and is being staged in one country for the first time.

“Naturally, it is extremely disappointing that the Springboks, due to the continued complexities of operating in and around this COVID environment, cannot fully compete in the previously planned six-round Rugby Championship,” SANZAAR chief executive Andy Marinos said in a statement.

SANZAAR’s statement cited a number of factors leading to the decision, including South African Government travel restrictions, player welfare and safety concerns, and the effect of the COVID-19 pandemic on South African players.

“SANZAAR recognises the challenges and adversity that the national unions have had to face this year due to the pandemic.

“It is a tribute to the unions in how they have been able to adapt and, dependent on COVID restrictions, run domestic competitions with the exception of Argentina who has been impacted the hardest through their lockdown.

“These short domestic tournaments, and in Argentina’s case no domestic competition, are not the normal lead into an international playing window, and while it has been a far from ideal preparation we look forward to an exciting and vibrant Tri-Nations tournament.”

Last year the Springboks won the Rugby Championship for the fourth time, finishing with two wins and a draw in a shortened competition due to the Rugby World Cup.

The team went on to beat England 32-12 in the final, to claim a third Rugby World Cup title.

South African Rugby chief executive Jurie Roux acknowledged that the other rugby bodies including Rugby Australia had “bent over backwards” to help them and that it would have been unfair to delay a decision any longer.

“This is a hugely disappointing outcome for supporters and commercial partners but the ongoing impacts of the pandemic in multiple dispensations mean we are unable to deliver a Springbok team without seriously compromising player welfare, apart from other logistical challenges,” Roux said.

The new format will see six international matches played in Australia across six consecutive weekends. Each team will play each other twice, with matches to be played in Sydney, Newcastle and Brisbane.

The first two matches involving Australia and New Zealand will double up as the final two Bledisloe Cup series matches.

Tri-Nations Match Schedule 2020

  • October 31: Australia v New Zealand (Olympic stadium, Sydney)
  • November 7: Australia v New Zealand (Lang Park, Brisbane)
  • November 14: New Zealand v Argentina (Western Sydney Stadium)
  • November 21: Argentina v Australia (Hunter Stadium, Newcastle)
  • November 28: Argentina v New Zealand (Hunter Stadium, Newcastle)
  • December 5: Australia v Argentina (Western Sydney Stadium)

Reuters/ABC



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Mal Meninga joins Wayne Bennett’s Queensland State of Origin coaching staff to face New South Wales



Queensland’s underdog State of Origin outfit will be powered by a coaching dream team, with Mal Meninga joining Wayne Bennett’s staff for next month’s series.

Australia coach Meninga was pipped for the Maroons job by Bennett when Kevin Walters was forced to relinquish the role after being appointed Brisbane Broncos coach.

But Meninga’s follow-up offer of support to work as an assistant coach has been accepted by Bennett, and the Australian Rugby League Commission (ARLC) on Thursday conceded there were “exceptional circumstances” in approving the move.

With no Tests scheduled for this year, Meninga will temporarily step down from his national duties and forgo his Kangaroos salary to join Bennett, who he first worked with at Brisbane’s police academy more than 40 years ago.

Meninga was coached by Bennett at the Maroons, Canberra Raiders and Brisbane club Souths during his decorated playing career.

The pair boast 14 State of Origin series wins between them as Queensland coach, while the experienced Neil Henry — a key strategist behind some of Meninga’s nine series wins — has replaced Justin Hodges on Bennett’s staff.

“From my perspective, it’s great to be involved and to work under Wayne and the current batch of players is something that I’m really excited about,” Meninga said in a statement.

Meninga’s arrival gives unprecedented coaching punch to a greenhorn squad out to defy an injury list that includes Kalyn Ponga, David Fifita, Michael Morgan and Moses Mbye, while Valentine Holmes is suspended for the November 4 series opener.

“Mal will be a great sounding-board for myself, support staff and the players,” Bennett said.

“I’m really glad Mal has accepted the role, as his presence alone will be a great asset for us moving forward.”

ARLC chairman Peter V’landys said the disruption to the rugby league calendar caused by COVID-19 had cleared the way for Meninga to join the Maroons.

“Under normal circumstances you can’t be head coach of the Kangaroos and be involved in an Origin squad,” he said.

“But given there are no Test matches because of COVID, we have granted Mal permission to assist Queensland.

“Mal is an Origin legend and his presence in the series will add an additional layer of excitement for our fans and players.”

AAP/ABC



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Mongols president Toby Mitchell fronts court following alleged South Yarra affray


Mr Sheales told the Melbourne Magistrate Court his client had called police after learning they were investigating him over the alleged incident before investigators turned up at his home.

“What Mr Mitchell does is slap [the victim] with an open hand three times and the fellow doesn’t even lose his drink. It’s the most minor incident in the world,” he said.

“Why didn’t you just ring him up and ask him to come in?

“You can see his face on the footage, you can see it’s him.”

Mr Mitchell, who appeared in court via video link due to COVID-19 restrictions, sat calmly through the brief hearing, wearing a black and white tracksuit and a blue surgical face mask.

He was charged with affray, intentionally causing injury, common law assault and unlawful assault.

Toby Mitchell leaving a Melbourne police station after being granted bail.

Toby Mitchell leaving a Melbourne police station after being granted bail.Credit:Simon Schluter

Police informant Senior Constable Lauren Kane told the court the victim had refused to make a statement about the alleged assault and was “in fear of his life”, forcing police to seize CCTV footage from the nearby area to investigate the matter.

She said the footage showed Mr Mitchell, the president of the Melbourne Mongols chapter, repeatedly hit the victim to the face as the man held a beer and attempted to retreat back into the cafe while members of the public watched on.

“The third strike to the victim’s face is with such force that it causes the accused to fall over,” she said.

“Investigators obtained the victim’s medical records and discovered he attended The Alfred hospital on Sunday the 4th of October 2020 and was treated for a suspected facial fracture.”

The officer said that days later, Mr Mitchell and “10 to 15” fellow Mongols members were then seen outside the cafe in a display of “intimidation”.

“He’s well known to members of the public. People fear him due to his notoriety,” Senior Constable Kane said.

The reason for the dispute remains unknown.

Despite police opposition, Magistrate John Bentley granted Mr Mitchell bail on the conditions he not associate with other Mongols outlaw motorcycle club members, not leave Victoria, not contact prosecution witnesses or go within 150 metres of the South Yarra cafe.

Mr Mitchell is expected to return to court in March.

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South Sydney Rabbitohs defeat Parramatta Eels 38-24 to reach NRL preliminary finals



A stunning second half from South Sydney saw Parramatta eliminated from the NRL finals series via a 38-24 defeat at Western Sydney Stadium on a day of much drama for the Eels.

South Sydney’s win sets up a preliminary final with minor premiers Penrith at Sydney’s Olympic stadium next Saturday night.

The Eels had been rocked on Saturday morning by the revelation former Test and State of Origin centre Michael Jennings had failed a doping test and would be provisionally suspended under the NRL’s anti-doping policy.

The NRL said Jennings returned a positive A-sample for banned substances Ligandrol and Ibutamoren and three of their metabolites.

He had been named in the Eels’ squad to face the Rabbitohs and his withdrawal meant rookie winger Haze Dunster was given a baptism of fire after getting the call-up to debut in the morning.

Dunster was thrown onto the wing as a part of Brad Arthur’s patched-together backline with Maika Sivo and Blake Ferguson also missing through injury.

And while the Eels were gutsy in defeat, their season ended in front of 14,510 spectators.

The match was there for the taking at half-time when the Eels led 18-8 following a flurry of points within four minutes, all either set up or scored by star fullback Clint Gutherson.

But the Rabbitohs pounced with two quick converted tries to start the second half and clawed back the lead.

Eels halfback Mitch Moses had the chance to level the scores with a penalty goal in the 62nd minute but the ball hit the posts and Rabbitohs winger Jaxon Paulo went streaking down the sideline.

Full of steam, the Rabbitohs landed on Eels line, with Gutherson bobbling a grubber kick from Damien Cook just enough for Bailey Sironen to ground the ball.

Eels five-eighth Dylan Brown threw an intercept for Paulo to score his second of the night with 10 minutes to go.

The try put the Rabbitohs in front 32-18 but the Eels went down fighting.

Jennings’s younger brother George, playing on the wing for the Eels, grabbed his second try of the night with five minutes to go in the match.

But a late try to Damien Cook put an end to a miserable day for the Eels, leaving Parramatta players strewn and emotional on the turf.

It is the second year in the row the Eels have bowed out of the finals in week two and the third time in four seasons.

AAP/ABC



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