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Australian News

Start of SGC Test match ends fraught build-up that had nothing to do with cricket


After a first week of January that felt a lot longer, the Sydney Test will end a fraught lead-up when it finally gets underway.

Not that it means that conducting the match will be any less fraught. Such are the unknowns of staging major events in the middle of viral outbreaks.

It was December 29 when Cricket Australia (CA) insisted that the Test match should go ahead in a city where COVID-19 had breached containment lines, rather than using one of several cities where it had not.

Mercifully, the daily case numbers in New South Wales have stayed low, but that was no surer than a gamble when the decision was made.

Cases continue to be found and traced, as has their spread to Melbourne where the preceding MCG Test is now under investigation as a transmission site.

Meanwhile, unfounded optimism from CA and the New South Wales government has predictably had to be reined in.

A cricketer stretches in front of empty seats at the SCG
Crowds will be present at the SCG, but not as many as had been hoped.(AAP: David Gray)

They started with projections of crowds at 50 percent capacity and hopefully more, and are now down to 25 percent capacity and probably less.

In a matter of days, medical masks went from spectator’s choice to recommended to mandatory, the progression of a chronic government reluctance to be decisive.

Then there was the matter of staging a spectacle that encourages people to visit Sydney when health advice was that no one should visit Sydney, and that anyone who did would need a fortnight’s quarantine on entering another state.

Deputy premier John Barilaro’s line to country constituents on January 4 was typically half-hearted: “My advice to people would be — think about it, reconsider, maybe this year isn’t the year to come to Sydney to watch the Test and that’s what we’ll be doing.”

By the next day, Health Minister Brad Hazzard was banning some people under threat of $1,000 fines, depending on the postcode on their ID.

“If you live in Auburn, Berala, Lidcombe North, Regents Park or Rookwood, we would love you at the Test in a non-COVID year, but we can’t [this time],” he said. On January 6 he added more suburbs.

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Brad Hazzard added Belmore and Wentworthville to list of suburbs banned from attending the SCG.

The credibility of everything above is summed up by the ban on Rookwood, a place with zero residents given it’s entirely a massive cemetery that boasts the dubious distinction of being “the largest necropolis in the Southern Hemisphere”. Take that, Chile.

If you incorporate the ideas of the departing US President, getting dead people involved can be a way to pad out numbers. Rookwood residents could boost the SCG attendance without raising its risk of transmission.

The other option is that if the virus does get to the cricket, the traffic flow might be from the SCG to Rookwood rather than the other way around.

For Hazzard, the episode was a bit too close to Rudy Giuliani opposite a crematorium. But that’s the world that we and our cricket team live in. At least CA can be grateful that months ago India requested a later start date — imagine the chaos had the first day been January 3.

As to why it was vital to stage this match in Sydney, we’ve kept hearing that CA owed Cricket New South Wales (CNSW) and the SCG for having staged some white-ball games last year that had to be moved from Queensland.

A better view is that the SCG got four bonus games against India with decent crowds, and so has already had its share.

An Australian male batter points his bat to his right after scoring a century against India in Sydney.
Steve Smith starred in the limited overs series, that was held exclusively at the SCG and Canberra’s Manuaka Oval.(AAP: Dean Lewins)

But entitlement to a Test match is about power and privilege. Try imagining the same determination to keep a match scheduled in Hobart in these circumstances.

CNSW is the most powerful state association, having effectively sacked CA’s previous chair and chief executive.

Then look at the SCG Trust board, the Venues NSW board, the CA board, and the ranks of Liberal Party politicians and advisors. It’s easy to miss where one stops and the next begins.

At the centre of this swirl will be the teams taking the field. Australia is under pressure to stay in the hunt for the Border-Gavaskar trophy, having failed to top 200 with the bat in the series thus far.

This brings about the unusual situation of picking a player who isn’t fully fit, though David Warner says his groin strain is a matter of residual tendon pain rather than a weakness that risks re-injury.

Then there’s the question of whether to double-change the openers by bringing in Will Pucovski to debut after his many concussions. That would send Matthew Wade back down the order and push out Travis Head.

India also welcomes back a destructive opener from injury in Rohit Sharma, an easy swap given Mayank Agarwal hasn’t coped with Australia’s new-ball bowling.

Jasprit Bumrah smiles and looks at his teammate as a group of men crowd around him
Jasprit Bumrah, centre, has only played 16 Tests but will lead the Indian attack.(AP: Asanka Brendon Ratnayake)

Among India’s quicks, Mohammed Siraj impressed on debut in Melbourne and keeps his spot, while Navdeep Saini debuts to replace the injured Umesh Yadav. Saini was picked for the tour as a bowler who naturally maintains pace and hits a hard length, in a way the Indian camp thinks will suit Australian conditions.

But experience is scant. It’s easy to forget that Jasprit Bumrah will lead these two having played only 16 Tests himself. This is what Australia’s batting has to target, before the tried and tested spin duo of Ravichandran Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja can take control.

The home team has a fight on its hands. Even the small part of this match that happens within the boundary line will be complicated.



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Local News - Victoria

Melbourne shoppers off to a slow start after COVID-19


“I think it was a lot more relaxed, not as frenzied as usual, people didn’t seem to be rushing around this year,” Ms Brown said.

“I think everyone kept a good social distance. We were feeling a little bit cautious, but in the end it was well managed.

“I think you got a bit more for your dollar this year too. More bang for your buck.”

Highpoint Shopping Centre in Maribyrnong is expecting than 130,000 people through the doors until close at 11pm.

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Vicinity Centres, which owns 66 centres across Australia including Chadstone, Northland and DFO in Melbourne, introduced pandemic-busting technology to manage crowds.

Every shopping centre website has an interactive feature, updated every 15 minutes, that uses real-time data to show visitor numbers.

Vicinity’s chief operating officer Peter Huddle said heat-mapping technology was also in place to manage customer density in shopping centres.

“We know Boxing Day is going to be busy at our centres, it always is, which is why we’re asking people to plan and prepare before coming to shop … It is worth considering a visit during less busy times such as late in the afternoon and evening.”

Both healthcare workers, Ms Brown and Ms Bolmat weighed up the COVID-19 risks before making their journey to Melbourne this year.

Shoppers wait in line to enter Zara in Bourke Street Mall.

Shoppers wait in line to enter Zara in Bourke Street Mall.
Credit:Paul Jeffers

Ms Bolmat said she was comforted by seeing mask-wearing enforced at the big department stores and temperature checks at smaller retailers: “In difficult circumstances, they’ve all done well.”

“We did have to think about whether we came down, [COVID-19] is always something we’re careful about, but our confidence came from the fact we’d go early and leave early before we left the crowd,” she said.

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“The number of people is definitely down on what it would usually be, but people seem to be spending – there’s a lot of people with shopping bags … snapping up some bargains.

“You can tell it’s getting busier as the day goes on.”

The Australian Retailers Association, the country’s peak retail body, has forecast that shoppers are likely to spend $19.5 billion in the post-Christmas period from Boxing Day through to January 15.

Around $4.9 billion is expected to be spent in Victoria alone, according to the association’s chief executive Paul Zahra.

He said there was “good momentum” for the holiday sales, pointing to preliminary figures released by the Australia Bureau of Statistics showing a 13.2 per cent year on year increase for retail sales in November.

“For many retailers, 2020 has been a year to forget, so it’s fantastic to see people get out and support local businesses,” Mr Zahra said.

Shoppers in David Jones on Bourke Street Mall on Boxing Day.

Shoppers in David Jones on Bourke Street Mall on Boxing Day.Credit:Paul Jeffers

“In-store traffic may be down this year, as more consumers discover the convenience of online shopping.

“However, the retail industry has done a fantastic job ensuring their stores are COVID-safe, and consumers can look forward to shopping with confidence knowing their safety comes first and foremost.”

In Sydney, where the northern beaches COVID-19 cluster continues to grow and concerns remain about a cluster in the CBD, Premier Gladys Berejiklian said suburban retail centres were busier than expected after shoppers heeded her advice to stay away from Boxing Day sales in the city.

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On Christmas Day, Ms Berejiklian discouraged shoppers from going to the annual sales event, dealing a blow to retailers.

Ms Berejiklian said there were record-low crowds in the CBD for the sales on Saturday morning and the community’s response to the health advice to avoid the Pitt Street Mall area was “very positive and overwhelming”.

“Those who have gone into the CBD to shop have worn a mask and we’ve seen numbers substantially reduced on last year which is exactly what we wanted to see,” she said.

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Sydney coronavirus outbreak delays start to 2020-21 A-League season with opening match now in Geelong


The 2020-21 A-League season will now kick off in Geelong on Monday, with Sunday’s proposed opener between Western Sydney and Macarthur FC in Sydney delayed.

Organisers announced that the Western Sydney Stadium game has been pushed back to December 30 and will be played with a restricted capacity after the COVID-19 cluster in Sydney’s northern beaches.

The decision means Monday’s match between Western United and Adelaide United at Kardinia Park will now be the opening fixture of the 2020-21 A-League season.

In a move which may have implications for January’s third cricket Test between India and Australia at the SCG, modified COVID-19 restrictions from the NSW Government will apply over the Christmas period.

It means the New Year’s Eve derby between Central Coast and Newcastle in Gosford will also be played at a venue with capacity capped at 50 per cent.

The decision also affects the W-League with the match between the Wanderers and Sydney FC, which was to be played before the A-League opener, also pushed back to December 30.

“Moving the matches back three days with a reduced capacity supports the government’s risk mitigation plan in relation to crowds and to mobility around the city during this Christmas period and New Year’s Eve,” said Football Australia head of leagues Greg O’Rourke.

Luke Brattan kneels down in front of Nathaniel Atkinson, who is on his knees
The reshuffled schedule will allow NSW sides and non-NSW sides play each other separately for four weeks.(ABC News: Brendan Esposito)

The A-League/W-League double-header was the only sporting event with a significant crowd expected in NSW at the weekend, with about 10,000 fans expected to attend.

Wednesday’s decision came 24 hours after officials postponed almost half of the A-League’s first 35 games due to the outbreak.

Bigger decisions await in other sports, including whether the third Test will go ahead in Sydney.

A NSW Health spokesperson said the situation was still being monitored.

“NSW Health continues to monitor the evolving situation relating to the recent Avalon cluster,” the spokesperson said.

“Our concern remains the health and safety of the people of NSW.

“We will update the community as the situation develops and we will adjust our advice accordingly.”

AAP



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Local News - Victoria

What are the new COVID-19 travel rules and when do they start?


Thirteen vehicle checkpoints will be established along the border from midnight on Sunday night, which will be managed by Victoria Police. They will operate 24 hours a day.

Changes to traffic light permits

Under Victoria’s new “traffic light” border pass system, which went live at midnight on Friday and applies only to Victorians, everyone coming into the state from NSW, including returning Victorians, now needs a border crossing permit.

This includes people who transit through Sydney Airport on to another flight into Victoria.

Sydney’s Northern Beaches Council was the first to be declared a red zone, but that has now been expanded to Greater Sydney and Central Coast.

The change from orange to red for Sydney and the NSW Central Coast means people who had planned to return from there will need to apply for a fresh permit before crossing the Victorian border by road or air.

On Sunday, the northern beaches was changed to a hot zone.

The Victorian government said that means Victorian travellers coming home from Sydney’s northern beaches would not be permitted to enter the state.

There are currently no areas in the orange zone, which allows people to freely enter the state but strongly advises them to have a COVID-19 test and isolate while waiting for the result.

People visiting green zones – regional NSW – can come and go as they please.

Those who arrive in Victoria from Greater Sydney and Central Coast before midnight on Sunday and were in those areas from December 11 will not be required to quarantine. But they must take a test and remain at home until they get a negative result.

Airports will not be regarded as a red zone, provided passengers go directly to their connecting flight, wear a mask and do not leave the airport.

This means that those flying from Sydney to Melbourne who originate from a green zone in NSW will not need to quarantine for 14 days, even though the airport is in Greater Sydney.

Those living in local government areas along the border will be able to cross without a permit but will need to use their driver’s licence as a passport to travel between the states.

The XPT train service leaving Sydney for Southern Cross Station at 8pm on Sunday – which would normally have travelled into Victoria after midnight – will be stopped at the border. This change will remain in place for the duration of the ban.

New red zones a ‘sensible precaution’

Deakin University’s chair of epidemiology Catherine Bennett said while the outbreak was still fairly limited, people who were infected had moved across NSW before they were aware they had the coronavirus.

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“The majority of cases are linked, but they don’t all necessarily reside in or have spent their infectious period in that northern beaches area, so we’re seeing that in the expanding number of exposure sites,” Dr Bennett said.

The tiered traffic light system was preferred to a hard border closure, because it targeted affected areas rather than applying a broad-brush approach that had a devastating impact on the regions.

Dr Bennett said there was a low risk that the many thousands of people set to return to Victoria before the border closure would spark a cluster.

But she encouraged returning Victorians to be fastidious about checking the NSW Health website for any new exposure sites, in addition to getting tested.

Getting a permit

To get a permit, you must declare you are free of COVID-19 symptoms. Permits should be received within five minutes of applying, the government says, and you can apply via your smartphone.

The traffic light system applies different restrictions on travel based on where a person visited in NSW.

People who travelled only to the green or orange zones are largely free to enter, so long as they have a permit.

If you have visited an orange zone you will be tested when you cross the border and encouraged – but not required – to self-isolate until your test results come back.

If you refuse a test you will be sent to mandatory hotel quarantine.

Do I need to quarantine?

People who arrive in Victoria from Greater Sydney and Central Coast before midnight on Sunday and were in those areas from December 11 will not be required to quarantine.

But they must take a test and remain at home until they get a negative result.

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Australian News

Australian Open confirmed to start on February 8



This service may include material from Agence France-Presse (AFP), APTN, Reuters, AAP, CNN and the BBC World Service which is copyright and cannot be reproduced.

AEST = Australian Eastern Standard Time which is 10 hours ahead of GMT (Greenwich Mean Time)



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Business

Wall Street edges higher to start the week


Alexion Pharmaceuticals Inc was among the top boosts to the S&P 500 and the Nasdaq, surging 31 per cent to a 4-1/2 year high after British drugmaker AstraZeneca said it would buy the US biotech firm. AstraZeneca’s US-listed shares fell 6.1 per cent.

“It is a sign that animal spirits are back … companies are reluctant to do deals when they have a negative outlook on the future, but the fact that you are seeing these types of big deals on merger Mondays is a sign of things to come,” said Thomas Hayes, managing member at Great Hill Capital in New York.

In early afternoon trade, the Dow Jones Industrial Average is 0.1 per cent higher, the S&P 500 was up 0.1 per cent, and the Nasdaq has added 0.7 per cent. At 4.53am AEDT, futures are pointing to a flat start for the ASX.

Uncertainty over more fiscal stimulus had cut short a recent rally in US stocks, after the Senate last week approved a one-week extension of federal funding to avoid a government shutdown and to provide more time for negotiations on coronavirus relief and an overarching spending bill.

“Equities have performed very strongly in what has been a very difficult economic environment … there is some vulnerability there if the market concludes that fiscal support is at its end,” Eric Winograd, senior economist at AllianceBernstein told the Reuters Global Market Forum.

Focus was also on early voting in a pair of US Senate races in Georgia that will determine control of the chamber and heavily influence lawmaking.

E-commerce company Alibaba Group Holding shed 2.6 per cent after China warned its internet majors of more anti-trust scrutiny, slapped fines and announced probes into deals involving Alibaba and Tencent Holdings.

Electric-car maker Tesla rose 4 per cent as anticipation of the firm’s addition to the S&P 500 benchmark next week offset a report of production delays.

Walt Disney fell about 2.7 per cent after rallying on Friday and was the biggest drag on the Dow after BMO Capital Markets downgraded the stock.



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Business

Is this the start of the next commodity supercycle?


All the major economies have abandoned austerity and declared a collective war on inequality. The planned spending surge on green deals and social welfare in Europe, America and the OECD bloc will be buttressed by a consumer spending expansion in China. The combined largesse will match the “BRICs” investment bubble of the 2000s in scale and outrun the supply of “almost all commodities”.

If correct, the vaccine catch-up rally for unloved commodity stocks over the last three weeks is just an ‘amuse bouche’ before the supercycle gets going in earnest.

That is the broad thrust. If correct, the vaccine catch-up rally for unloved commodity stocks over the last three weeks is just an “amuse bouche” before the supercycle gets going in earnest. The Bloomberg commodity index has fallen 60 per cent since its last hurrah in 2011. In synthetic terms, it is back to half-century lows.

Goldman Sachs says there is no political appetite for the contractionary debt-reduction policies seen after the global financial crisis: whether the Tea party and the fiscal “sequester” in the US; or Osbornian austerity in the UK; or the draconian Schauble cuts of Europe’s Lost Decade.

It predicts something more like the “guns and butter” policies of Lyndon Johnson in the Sixties, the era of the Great Society and the welfare programmes of the War on Poverty. LBJ’s Keynesian deficit spending was coupled with the Vietnam War and the budget-busting costs of Soviet containment.

This time the strategic imperative is to counter China and the Xi-Putin axis. We already see it in the rising British defence budget, with the once unthinkable backing of Labour. Military, technological and cyber rearmament is the new Western consensus.

Running to hit ‘escape velocity’

The bull case is that central banks will accommodate this fiscal expansion much as they did 50 years ago (bar Germany’s Bundesbank), deliberately letting their economies run hot to achieve “escape velocity” after the long malaise of secular stagnation.

Goldman Sachs says this revival of inflation will lead to the “revenge of the old economy”, and the effect will be turbo-charged: a V-shaped recovery in demand will collide with a structural supply shortage, something normally seen only towards the end of the business cycle but already visible today even in a downturn. “Nearly every commodity is in deficit despite lockdowns,” it said.

This includes oil once you strip away the distortions of the pandemic. Upstream investment in new oil and gas fields neared $US900 billion ($1.22 trillion) a year in the glory days. It halved after Saudi Arabia flooded the crude market in 2014 and prices crashed. Then came the Paris climate accord. The advent of electric vehicles and talk of stranded assets scared the bankers away. The capital markets began to shun Big Oil.

The International Energy Agency said investment remained stuck at $US480 billion in 2018 and 2019, and will barely reach $US300 billion this year. The IEA’s Fatih Birol says the well depletion is eroding 3 per cent of global supply annually. “We’re losing one North Sea each year,” he said.

Bracing for the crunch

Eventually, there must be a crunch. Goldman Sachs says that moment is coming sooner than generally supposed. The COVID second wave is a “speed bump” that will not prevent a rebalancing of the crude market as the glut is cleared next year.

Mr Currie thinks Brent prices will reach $US65 by the fourth quarter. From there, presumably, it is off to the races since he calculates that 8 per cent of global supply will vanish by 2025.

America’s nimble frackers in the Permian shale basin have capped previous rallies quickly by reactivating drilled wells but this time they are under much tougher financial discipline.

Westbeck Capital said the oil market is heading for a perfect storm. Insider buying by oil executives has reached record levels. There could soon be a buying scramble to unwind hedge contracts – de facto short positions – setting off a feedback loop. China and India are rushing to acquire stocks while crude is still below $US50.

“All the stars are aligning for a powerful bull market,” it said.

Electric vehicles are not going to change the immediate equation for oil, even if 31 per cent of new car sales in Germany last month were EVs or hybrids. It will take years to whittle down the global stock of petrol and diesel vehicles on the road.

Austerity lite

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The great green switch can happen in parallel with another crude price spiral. Indeed, I suspect that we will see $US100 again before we all rush out to buy ever-cheaper EVs, and the oil industry goes into faster run-off.

My own view is that Goldman Sachs is right about the commodity supply crunch – up to a point – but the jury is out on the putative global spending boom and the return to inflationary economics.

Gridlock in Washington heralds austerity-lite. The Republican Senate will agree to some infrastructure stimulus and a splash of money on green super-technology – to combat China – but it will not fund Joe Biden’s $US1.7 trillion shopping list of windmills, solar panels, EV charging points and the like.

The US Federal Reserve lacks the legal authority to deliver compensating monetary stimulus with rates at zero and the QE magic wearing off. It is pushing on a string. “It can’t make the real economy take off like a rocket,” said former Fed governor Randall Kroszner.

The European Central Bank said in its monthly bulletin that eurozone fiscal policy will be “contractionary” in 2021. Most countries are not spending enough to avoid permanent scarring from the pandemic. The EU Recovery Fund is too small and will come too late to make much difference in 2021 or 2022. The ECB can keep mopping up Club Med bond issuance to avert a sovereign debt crisis, but it too is pushing on a string with negative yields across the board.

As Chancellor Rishi Sunak said on Wednesday, the pandemic hangover in Britain will be long and grim. Most of the world faces legacy damage.

There will be another resource supercycle. The rhythms of the commodity market are as old as the Pharaohs. But this one may be less exuberant and more sluggish than the last one. History never quite repeats itself.

The Daily Telegraph, London

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Australian News

Pushing back Australian Open start date no easy fix amid coronavirus scheduling dilemma


Having endured the greatest peacetime disruption to sport in the modern history of ball games, surely pushing the Australian Open back a couple of weeks would barely cause a blip on the radar of crisis-conditioned fans.

Simply conducting the 2021 Australian Open at Melbourne Park in February — within a drop shot of its original January 18-31 timeslot — seems something of a triumph, given Victoria was almost disqualified altogether from major sport due to its quarantine bungle false start.

Then there is the context provided by sport’s new abnormal — a Masters championship in November, AFL and NRL grand finals in late October, NBA and WNBA seasons contested inside bubbles, cricket Test matches played without crowds and Wimbledon not played at all.

Yes, starting the Australian Open a couple of weeks later than usual so the players could fulfil (now hopefully improved) quarantine requirements would not be ideal for either tennis devotees or the legion of once-a-year couch experts.

January is the perfect time for both live attendees and late-night TV viewers, even if the intemperate climate sometimes means a dogged baseliner is medium to well done by the conclusion of a five-set epic.

But near the end of a year in which Melbourne lost almost every AFL game — including the grand final — to the ongoing and personally debilitating battle to contain COVID-19, surely watching the tennis on a school night would be a trifling inconvenience.

Certainly a February Australian Open would not provide quite the same bulging bottom line on the sometimes rubbery economic benefit statements used to justify public spending on major events.

But, for all its newfound freedoms, Victoria will still be in a stage of cautious reopening in January and — as the current debate reveals — it will be a triumph to get a few hundred players to Melbourne Park, let alone thousands of travelling fans.

More problematic in the ongoing negotiations about the Australian Open’s start date is the attitude of the players, who are pampered at Melbourne Park like no other major venue.

A wide angle view looking down at the stands and showcourt at Rod Laver Arena with the Melbourne skyline in the distance.
Tennis Australia is in ongoing talks with the Victorian Government about when the Open may start.(Reuters: Hannah McKay)

The toe-curling obsequiousness toward the players began when Tennis Australia needed the powerful player lobby to support the Australian Open’s ongoing Grand Slam status — thus the press-conference birthday cakes and other acts of gratuitous pandering.

In that regard, think of the willingness of a top-100 tennis player to attend an Australian Open where they might have to quarantine as something of a test.

Has the slavish devotion of Tennis Australia to their every whim and the hundreds of millions of dollars spent by successive Victorian state governments on Melbourne Park created a store of goodwill to be returned by those players deigning to endure some inconvenience while collecting their guaranteed five-figure first-round-losers cheques?

If not, surely this would say more about the entitled mindset of the players at a time of international crisis than the intransigence of the Victorian Government.

Cricket may benefit from postponed Open

Perhaps the greatest benefactor of a delayed Australian Open would be Cricket Australia. There are 11 games scheduled in Melbourne from mid-January, which could now avoid the usual ferocious competition from a late-night Nick Kyrgios epic or Serena Williams cliff hanger.

This would be in turn a victory for Cricket Australia’s media partners, Seven and Fox Sports, and perhaps a chastening moment for the Seven officials who attempted to cut ties with the cricket — or gain a massive discount on contracted payments — as the sport battled with unavoidable scheduling complications.

As it turns out, it might be the former home of cricket, the Nine Network, that is suddenly seeking a discount from its new partners at Tennis Australia.

A male tennis player makes a facial expression during a match at the Australian Open.
Nick Kyrgios’s Australian Open matches are immensely popular with TV audiences.(AP: Andy Wong)

As anyone who has heard Jim Courier express his awkward enthusiasm about a looming season of a reality cooking show knows, the Australian Open provides relentless and presumably valuable cross promotion of the broadcaster’s new-season programming.

This at least partly explains why broadcasters are willing to pay above-market rates for “loss-leading” sports programming, and why dedicated tennis fans have the earworm jingle from a “new smash-hit comedy” in their heads for months after a fortnight of relentless bombardment.

Would the Australian Open be as valuable to Nine in February when its regular programming would usually have commenced, and when the tennis might prove something of a handicap in the race for ratings line honours?

These are the questions the media rights partners and Tennis Australia will be posing in their frantic negotiations with the Victorian Government to get the Australian Open started as close to its original date as possible.

And factors that, I would suggest, won’t get a great deal of sympathy from Victorians who have just taken a stroll without strapping on a mask for the first time in months.



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Peppers Hotel guests start quarantine again


Australians quarantining at the Peppers hotel in Adelaide’s CBD have been told they must undergo a further 14 days of isolation and are being moved to another medi-hotel.

People who are residing at the medi-hotel, which is the epicentre of the state’s COVID-19 outbreak, were slipped a letter under the doors of the rooms with the information.

“Following a risk assessment of the Peppers Hotel, the Communicable Disease Control Branch has determined the quarantine period of all guests in the hotel needs to be extended by up to 14 days,” a spokesperson told NCA NewsWire.

“We understand the frustration of the guests and we thank them for their assistance as we take every required step to prioritise the health and safety of all South Australians.

“We phoned guests before providing written information to them about the move, and additional information will be provided once more details are confirmed.

“The facility will be thoroughly deep cleaned to continue as a medi-hotel in the future.”

A bus has been seen outside the hotel.

So far, there have been three workers from the medi-hotel — being two security and one back of house staff — that tested positive to COVID-19 and spread the disease.

An SA Health spokesperson said guests will be moved to a range of other quarantine facilities later today and will not incur fees for their extended quarantine.



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Sydney Thunder having great start to WBBL season with help from league’s biggest group of teenagers


The Women’s Big Bash has always been a stage set for upcoming Australian players.

And this year is no different in that respect, with plenty of teenagers enjoying life in the WBBL village.

But there is one team that boasts more teens than any other this season, and that team happens to be leading the ladder.

The Sydney Thunder have consistently tapped into Cricket NSW’s strong pathways over the six seasons the league has been played, blooding young players and evolving their game with the crash and bash format.

Some — like all-rounder Nicola Carey — have even pushed into the Australian team after showstopping performances with the Thunder, and have since gone on to sign elsewhere as a marquee player.

In 2020, the team has six teenagers that have taken the field so far: Phoebe Litchfield, Hannah Darlington, Rachel Trenaman, Anika Learoyd, Gabrielle Sutcliffe and Kate Peterson.

Darlington earned the WBBL Young Gun award last season, after some impressive performances with the ball and in the field.

A Sydney Thunder WBBL player hits out to the leg side as the Brisbane Heat wicketkeeper looks on.
Exciting batter Phoebe Litchfield burst onto the WBBL scene last year for the Sydney Thunder.(AAP Image/Joel Carrett)

Litchfield caught the eye of the Australian public with her brilliant batting technique and fearlessness of facing some of the world’s best players at such a young age.

On debut in 2019, she shone with an innings of 26 from 22 balls in a tough night for the Thunder against the Sydney Sixers — she ended last season with an average of 20.77 and a strike-rate of close to 100.

A further two players in the squad are also in their early twenties: Tahlia Wilson and Saskia Horley.

This makes for a bit of a divide between them and the majority of the rest of the team with international experience, in their late twenties and early thirties.

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Kate Peterson made her debut this week at Blacktown against the Perth Scorchers — the whole team waited outside her door and cheered as she emerged from a period in isolation.

Peterson — who has already learnt a lot from Sammy-Jo Johnson on the bowling front — said it was a really nice moment and an example of the fun and supportive environment at the club.

“This is probably the longest I’ve been away from my family and away from home,” she said.

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Apparently it can get quite noisy on the Thunder’s level of the village hotel, with the older players getting involved with some of the teenager’s antics.

“Most of the time we’re all together in the hallway of our rooms, doing stuff like shooting nerf guns or having water balloon fights,” Peterson said.

“But I guess there are some times where the older ones do have more admin to do.”

Youth development a key for Thunder coach Griffin

Thunder coach Trevor Griffin is really proud of the work being done to continue the development of players that have come through the NSW Breakers and Thunder Academy ranks.

A cricket coach claps as his players get ready for a WBBL match.
Thunder WBBL coach Trevor Griffin says managing young players’ expectations is extremely important.(AAP: Gary Day)

Griffin has previously worked with the England women’s team and academy back in the UK, and also guided the Western Storm to two Super League titles.

He says one of the most important things about working with young players is managing their expectations at the top.

“The best players never get to the top on a straight line and they all have their challenges, dips in form or injuries that they have to overcome.

“The Thunder’s Heather Knight is a great example. She came out and scored 80-odd in her first game and got out very cheaply in the second. That’s the beauty of cricket.”

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Part of managing these expectations comes down to communication between the coach and player, ensuring that young ones especially know what their role is in the side.

“For some players, they’re used to playing in every game.

“And while Phoebe Litchfield made her debut in her first season and had a superb tournament, Hannah Darlington spent two-three years on the bench before she made her debut.

“So it’s definitely about helping players understand that it is a learning journey and we need to be really clear about their role, how they fit into the squad and if they’re not being selected, what they need to do and how we can help them with that.

And while they have a lot to learn from the more experienced heads in the team, Griffin says there is always a mutual exchange of ideas.

“They certainly keep us on our toes,” Griffin says, chuckling.

“They bring this energy to the group that the more experienced players love.

“We love to see that freshness and nervous excitement and I think that helps drive the energy within the senior players as well.”



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