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New legislation enabling the Australian Sports Anti-Doping Authority to demand documents from athletes or others involved in an investigation has been described as a ”game changer” in the case against NRL and AFL players.
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While players will still have the right not to incriminate themselves, ASADA can compel them to attend interviews and to hand over records of text messages and emails.

Under the wider powers granted to ASADA, anyone who does not comply with a disclosure notice issued by chief executive Aurora Andruska faces a fine of up to $5100.

Controversial sports scientist Stephen Dank, who appears to be a central figure in the investigation into doping in Australian sport, is known to have a large record of text messages with coaches and players.

Dank, who has been involved with Manly, Cronulla and AFL club Essendon, has repeatedly denied any wrongdoing.

Fairfax Media columnist and Channel Nine reporter Danny Weidler has reported seeing six months of text messages between Dank and Essendon coach James Hird.

He described the messages as ”detailed in the extreme, with names of players littered throughout the exchanges” and also wrote there were ”numerous mentions of supplements and processes”.

Text messages also revealed a link between Dank and the Melbourne Demons, and News Ltd reported this month that ASADA was aware of hundreds of text messages exchanged between Dank and NRL players.

NSW and Sharks captain Paul Gallen and Canberra centre Sandor Earl, who has been accused of using peptides to treat a shoulder injury while playing for Penrith, are reportedly among them.

ASADA has conducted interviews with 113 players and coaching staff from both codes since the investigation began, but Cronulla’s Wade Graham is the only NRL player known to have been questioned. The interviews stopped after Graham, as lawyers for the Sharks’ players successfully argued they did not have to answer questions that may incriminate them.

Under the new legislation, passed by federal Parliament’s upper house with amendments on Monday night, the players will have the same rights.

The original release of this article first appeared on the website of Shanghai Night Net.

Mitchell PearceJoin us for a live blog of Origin II at 7pm. 1. Tonight is a big night for Blues halfback Mitchell Pearce
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If NSW are to win tonight and end seven long years of Origin football misery, I suggest halfback Mitchell Pearce really needs to have the game of his life. NSW selectors have been very patient with this lad – which is a good thing. However, it’s now time for Pearce to deliver and repay the faith shown in him by winning the Blues a series.

The training wheels are well and truly off. Pearce, at 24 years of age, has now played 143 NRL matches and 10 State of Origin encounters. Of the 10 Origin matches he has played, his team has only won on three occasions. Pearce has all the attributes to play at this level. The most crucial part of his game on Wednesday will be his general-play kicking.

He needs to get the Blues downfield with the long kicks and he needs to apply pressure to the Maroons with his close-range attacking kicks. Pearce must be able to force line drop-outs on Queensland, or at least keep them pinned in their own territory for long periods of the contest. With the Maroons being one match down in the series, Pearce can force them into panic mode with a judicious kicking game.2. Some Origin Trivia for you to ponder

● This is the 48th Origin to be played at Suncorp Stadium – Queensland have won 29; NSW 17, with one game drawn.

● NSW have taken a 1-0 lead to Brisbane on seven occasions for one win and six losses. The only win was in 2000.

● Only six NSW players have won at Suncorp Stadium, but none have won when the series has been ”alive”. The winners are Michael Jennings, Josh Morris, Paul Gallen, Ryan Hoffman, Greg Bird and Anthony Watmough.

● Queensland have trailed 1-0 in the series on 15 occasions. They have won seven and lost eight.

● The last time Queensland lost the series after two games was in 2003.

● Greg Inglis has scored 14 tries. That is one try more than the entire tally of Origin tries scored by the whole NSW team The Blues better be watching him!

3. Some more facts and figures

There have been 97 Origin matches played so far in the three-game series format. Queensland have scored 1599 points from 278 tries, 245 goals and 10 field goals. NSW have scored 1534 points from 261 tries, 244 goals and 13 field goals.

That’s a difference of only 65 points over the entire history of Origin football. However, over the past 22 games, including seven series wins to Queensland, the Maroons have outscored the Blues 425 to 329; that’s a difference of 96 points. NSW have led 45 times at half-time for 33 wins (73.3 per cent). Queensland have led 40 times for 33 wins (82.5 per cent).

NSW have come from behind at half-time on seven occasions to win, Queensland 11 times. Queensland have led at half-time in nine of the past 10 matches.

4. Adam Reynolds is developing fast

One reason NSW half Mitchell Pearce needs to get some wins on his CV is because the young man at South Sydney is starting to snap at his heels. Reynolds is getting better by the week and I was impressed with his football smarts at the weekend in the wet at ANZ Stadium. Reynolds showed maturity beyond his years. Reynolds’ kicking game was superb.

If Souths are not scoring points from his short kicking game, they are certainly dominating field position and applying a lot of pressure to their opponents courtesy of his accurate boot. Reynolds is also becoming quite dangerous with his running game.

He is strong, fearless and elusive – just what you want from a halfback in big games. His try on Sunday where he shrugged off a couple of forwards and powered his way over the line showed tremendous desire and confidence.

5. Big Four are ready to rumble

Last week I travelled to Coolum in Queensland, into the Maroons’ Origin camp, to interview Cameron Smith, Johnathan Thurston, Cooper Cronk and Billy Slater. What an absolute pleasure it was to be in the company of these outstanding young men.

Not only are they champion footballers, but they are wonderful individuals. Smith was especially impressive. I had never met him in person before. While all these boys are leaders in their own right, Smith’s responses and demeanour shone above all else in the room. Just 20 minutes talking to him in that environment and it was obvious why he and his teams have been so successful. An edited version of the interview will be shown pre-match on Wednesday on Channel Nine.

The full version will be available post-match on the new Jump-in app, which you can access through iTunes.

6. The Eels need to forget the referees

At one point in Sunday’s match between Parramatta and South Sydney, the referee was approached by an upset Eels skipper saying words to the effect: “It’s the same every week. We are down in the penalty count 8 to 4 again.”

So what does this tell us? Well, it shows us the penalty count is really on the minds of the Eels players. It’s an obvious source of frustration to them.

The players are reacting badly to penalties because they drop their heads at the sound of the whistle or wave their arms in protest as the captain runs to the referee to complain. The Coach is then hot and bothered after the game complaining about the lopsided penalty count. Hey, we’ve all been there. I’m not pointing fingers here.

But through my own experience I can now ask the question, “How’s this reaction working out for you?” From where I’m sitting it doesn’t seem to be going too well at all. If, as the skipper suggests, this is happening every week, then maybe the players need to settle down and take a different mentality into the game.

How about stop giving the referees reasons to penalise; and if you do concede a penalty, whether you think it’s warranted or not, view the next set of six as a defensive challenge rather than the end of the world. I guarantee your demeanor, your enjoyment and your football will improve as a result.

Phil Gould is general manager of Penrith Panthers

The original release of this article first appeared on the website of Shanghai Night Net.

The crowd at this year’s Anzac Test. Canberra is keen to host the Test again in 2015. Photo: Graham TidyThe Australian Kangaroos played in Canberra to celebrate the city’s centenary, now the ACT government is bidding to bring a rugby league Test match back to the capital to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the Anzac landing at Gallipoli.
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ACT Sports Minister Andrew Barr said the government had commenced talks with the NRL about Canberra’s interest in hosting the Anzac Day rugby league Test between Australia and New Zealand in 2015, the 100th anniversary of Gallipoli.

The ACT government will release a report on Wednesday and is buoyed by the strong support for this year’s Test on April 19, which attracted more than 25,000.

The report is timely, with NRL chief executive David Smith visiting Canberra on Wednesday.

”We’re looking at the possibility of bringing the match back to Canberra, and the next logical opportunity is 2015 and the Gallipoli centenary,” Barr said.

”You could certainly see a package being put together that involves events at the War Memorial and the match being played here.

”We’ve raised it with the NRL and we’ll continue those discussions in the near future.”

The research report conducted by Repucom states:

■ the Test match drew 2600 overnight visitors and 1534 interstate day visitors to the ACT;

■ the match generated $1.8 million of direct expenditure into the ACT economy;

■ 1.65 million people watched the game on television, including 1.39 million in Australia.

NRL commercial and marketing general manager Paul Kind said Canberra’s plans to build an indoor stadium by 2020 would further boost opportunities for the capital to host blockbuster matches.

But Kind said Canberra had already proved it could host Test matches in the near future.

”Everything we saw in April suggests Canberra will absolutely be a location for the future,” Kind said. ”We want to be supportive of that [indoor stadium] because we think it’s the right decision, and we want to support the government in any way we can on that.

”One of the ways we can do that is showcasing the interest Canberra’s community has in major events, and continuing to consider it as a venue until the stadium’s built.”

The NRL has awarded Test matches to regional venues with great success in recent years, with Townsville and Newcastle also attracting sellout crowds.

”The communities that don’t have as much access to elite footy, we have the opportunity to get people more excited and we saw that in Canberra,” Kind said.

”I’d be confident we can play there again and I’m sure the crowd would respond again.

”It’s about making sure everyone stays motivated to attend.”

Barr said the government had not given up hope Canberra could host a Socceroos match later this year.

The original release of this article first appeared on the website of Shanghai Night Net.

”I’ve been waiting a long time for this jumper”: Nathan Merritt. Photo: James BrickwoodHe will probably frame it and hang it on his wall, provided he can keep his mother from taking it. The NSW jumper that is 30 years, 31 days, 213 NRL matches, and 148 tries in the making.
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”I’ve been waiting a long time for this jumper,” Nathan Merritt says.

Has he waited too long for it? It’s a question many have asked. If they’d asked him back when the colour of his skin was being identified as a reason for his inability to play Origin football, he might have said yes. Ask him now, though, and he answers differently. While so many campaigned for his selection, he says now he wasn’t ready.

”To be overlooked over all those years … I probably wasn’t ready for it back then,” Merritt said.

He wasn’t ready, Merritt now believes, until coach Michael Maguire brought not only a hard edge to the South Sydney squad, but to Merritt’s game; older, wiser, and tougher mentally and physically.

”My game’s progressed since I’ve been with him,” Merritt said. ”I just wasn’t mature enough. I’ve got a better understanding of the game now. I’ve got that understanding of why I didn’t get picked back then. I understand they wanted bigger bodies, the right players. I think I’m capable of filling that void now. I don’t care about the past.

”It’s all about the future, looking forward, for me now. I don’t really care about what happened in the past, why I didn’t get picked. It’s all a blur to me now anyway. It doesn’t matter. I’m just happy I’m here. To get a chance to prove to myself and prove to other people that I can play Origin football … I’m going to put my body on the line to help the boys win the game.”

The circumstances are unfortunate but do not dilute Merritt’s elation. He replaced Blake Ferguson, who was originally chosen in the squad but was dumped after being charged with indecent assault. ”If I’m the second choice, it doesn’t bother me. I’m still here,” he said. ”I get a chance to play for the Blues. It’s taken me 10 years or so to get here, I don’t want to let it go now.”

Merritt will become not only the sixth oldest NSW debutant, but the first Souths player to make a NSW squad since Craig Wing in 2009; another Rabbitohs junior done good and playing in Blue.

Merritt is an archetypal Redfern boy playing for the local club; he played the last six minutes as an 18-year-old in the Charity Shield of 2002 – the club’s first game after being banished from and then reinstated to the competition – and he has been reduced to tears on the team bus regaling to his teammates why he loves the club.

But he has not always been a South Sydney player.

He had two seasons at Cronulla, having not enjoyed a good relationship with the Souths administration. Perhaps with good reason: ”I was a bit young and stupid back then,” he said.

At Cronulla, he played with Greg Bird and Paul Gallen, two of his now NSW teammates. He says that stint turned his life around, having taken many things for granted in his early years at Souths. He has since become one of the best finishers in the game, a player who famously topped the try-scoring tally in a season his team took out the wooden spoon, possessing the speed, verve and swerve to be a wonderful NRL player, but not necessarily the traits of a State of Origin player. Until now.

The ”leaving it late” theme is even echoed in the way he was told of his selection. Club officials and his family were informed before him, as they scrambled to find him. Souths football manager Mark Ellison finally found him during a Pilates session in the club’s training facilities, having gone to Merritt’s home to try to find him (he had left his phone in the dressing rooms). His partner Faith knew before Merritt did. So did his father Tony, who Faith called when she could not find Nathan. When Ellison finally found him, a party suddenly erupted in the Pilates session, as Matt King, Dylan Farrell, Bryson Goodwin and others mobbed him. His dad quickly found him. ”I’ve never seen him like that, never seen that look in my career,” Merritt said.

It didn’t take long for him to hear from his South Sydney teammate but opponent on Wednesday night, Queensland centre Greg Inglis, who texted him to say how proud he was that Merritt had hung in there and had never given up. A ”brotherly text” is how Merritt described it. It is clear that this selection is a big deal for many more people than Merritt, who was forced to find 25 tickets for parents, kids, uncles, aunts and his partner – ”a little blue spot in the stadium”.

The truth is, though, Merritt had all but given up, admitting he was ”shocked” by his call-up.

”It’s pretty overwhelming,” he said. ”I couldn’t believe it was true. To put all the gear on, that’s when it finally sinks in, knowing that I’m here to represent my state and play for the Blues. It’s something that I never thought I’d get a chance to do. I’ve been playing for 11 years now – I definitely thought my time was gone. To finally get rewarded with selection, it was a beautiful moment in my life and my career, and is something I’m always going to remember.

”Just being around the best players that NSW have got, it’s an honour.” At 30, he is one of them.

And he is ready. ”Absolutely,” Merritt said. ”If I’m not ready now, I never will be.”

The original release of this article first appeared on the website of Shanghai Night Net.

NSW players have been told to ignore baiting from their Queensland rivals on Wednesday night to ensure they don’t get sin-binned and damage the team’s chances of ending seven years of Origin disappointment.
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With the Blues on the verge of their first Origin series win since 2005, it was fitting that former coach Ricky Stuart was invited by his successor Laurie Daley to present the players with their jerseys on Tuesday night.

Stuart had taken the team to within an ace of winning last year’s series but the NSW campaign was derailed by refereeing controversies and the sin-binning of centre Michael Jennings in Origin I.

This time the Blues don’t want to leave anything to chance and the players have been reminded of the need to remain disciplined after four under-20s players were last weekend sent off or sin-binned and banned for a total of 14 matches over a brawl at Campbelltown.

The tough action followed an edict to referees to sin bin any player who throws a punch after NSW captain Paul Gallen was not even placed on report for the two blows he landed on Nate Myles in the series opener.

While they defended Gallen after the 14-6 win at ANZ Stadium, NSW officials privately concede he could have cost them the match if he had been sin-binned for reacting to niggling tactics by Myles.

The Blues skipper said on Tuesday that all players were aware of the consequences of fighting and he would not take such a risk in Origin II at Suncorp Stadium.

”I am not concerned with fighting, I am concerned about winning a game of football,” Gallen said.

”I think it’s pretty obvious that if you have a fight you get sin-binned.

”Things like that happen on the field sometimes but now players know what the consequences can be, I think we’ll bite our tongues a bit more. I do think it will be a deterrent.”

However, Gallen conceded the crackdown on violence made it more tempting for players to try to bait opponents with niggling tactics, such as those he accused Myles of in Origin I. The Maroons forward did not retaliate after being punched twice by Gallen, who accused Myles of a knee twist and leading with his head in a tackle on Jarryd Hayne earlier in the match.

”Players get away with things all the time on the field,” Gallen said. ”We’ve seen that, we’ve spoken about that.

”If anything illegal happens out there and you don’t get caught for it then good luck to you, but as far as the fighting goes I think if there is a fight players will get sin-binned.

”I think there will still be players in the heat of the moment where things will happen. It’s a game for grown men and sometimes in the heat of the battle it’s hard to hold your nerve. I don’t think it will be the end of it, but I think you’ll find some players hold their fists back. There was a pretty big fight in the under 20s and we’ve seen there is going to be pretty big suspensions dealt out to anyone who gets involved.”

Gallen was the subject of allegations about his tactics in Origin I but the NSW front-rower said he would not change his style.

”I’ve never said I’m an angel, that’s for sure,” he said. ”But it’s not about me, it’s one thing we said at the start of this series, it’s not about individuals. It’s about the result for the team and that’s all I’m worried about – getting the result up here.”

The original release of this article first appeared on the website of Shanghai Night Net.

The conundrum facing the Wallabies with James O’Connor is this: should they move the No.10 to the right wing, Kurtley Beale to No.10 and Israel Folau to fullback, they would be treading that fine line between revamping a back line and disrupting it. With Digby Ioane and Berrick Barnes gone and Adam Ashley-Cooper in doubt, there will already be a minimum of two changes to the starting XV back line. There are other issues with moving O’Connor to wing and one of them is called George North. There is no way O’Connor would have been able to deny the Welsh giant in the way Folau did for that disallowed try in Brisbane, nor would he have scored the try Folau did in that space that exists on the Lions’ flanks. Coach Robbie Deans finds himself between a rock and a hard place, and coaches who find themselves in those uncomfortable confines commonly stick to their original plan.Dumpling delight
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Elements of covering the tour certainly open the eyes to how the other half live. Not so much the players – those warriors deserve their police escorts and superior accommodation. But on Saturday, as us press monkeys flailed away at our keyboards, corporate Australia was enjoying itself in the area below – and they were certainly looking after themselves. First a platter of sushi emerged, whilst in other directions aromatic dumplings whizzed by. Then the thirsty gents got into wines, beers and spirits. Noting our envious glances, one entrepreneur offered us food, ”As long as I get my name in the paper”. It’s reassuring to know the price the public sets for our ethics is as high as a piece of raw fish.Wallaby red herring

The official Wallabies Twitter account sent out a mischievous tweet yesterday morning, which read: ”Rob Simmons has been training at 6 today for the @QantasWallabies as they prepare for the 2nd Test in Melbourne this weekend.” It probably would not have had the Lions’ strategists preparing to face the Reds’ second-rower at blindside in the starting XV, but there might be changes in that area nonetheless. Wycliff Palu was certainly wholehearted on Saturday, but he didn’t have the impact of his performance against the All Blacks last year. At his best, he is a frightening proposition, but he was less than that in Brisbane. The best back-row unit in Australia this year has been the Brumbies’ combination of Ben Mowen, Peter Kimlin and George Smith. Mowen was strong on Saturday and Smith’s availability to the media this week suggests he has a role to play. Deans is an admirer of Kimlin and the big man was excellent against the Lions for the Brumbies. Possible starting XV: Robinson, Moore, Alexander, Horwill, Douglas, Kimlin, Smith, Mowen, Genia, O’Connor, Tomane, Lealiifano, Ashley-Cooper/Horne, Folau, Beale.Mixed motivation

There has been talk the James Horwill not-guilty verdict will rally the Lions, but these things tend to work in mysterious ways. While the very mention of the incident will be enough to make British and Irish blood boil, the Tana Umaga-Brian O’Driscoll incident in 2005 rallied the All Blacks around their captain. A week after O’Driscoll was invalided out of the tour, the New Zealanders destroyed the Lions 48-18 in Wellington. Umaga scored a try that game, and rubbed salt deeper in the wounds by picking up two more the next week.Tweet of the day

”Great to bump into legend Laurie Daley in Brisbane today. Last time we met he took my head off!!!

#widnesvraiders89” @JiffyRugby, aka former Wales dual international Jonathan Davies remembers more hostile times after a meeting with the Blues Origin coach.

The original release of this article first appeared on the website of Shanghai Night Net.

Cricket Australia chairman Wally Edwards has unequivocally backed James Sutherland to continue as chief executive, saying his management team had done all it could to avoid the cultural meltdown that has befallen Australian cricket.
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Sutherland is contracted until 2015 and on Monday said he had no reason to review his own position in light of the on and off-field malfunctions that ultimately led to Mickey Arthur’s shock axing as coach.

However, he has come under scrutiny as the chief of an organisation that has failed to meet the standards set out in the Argus review, and because he was slow to take control of the behavioural issues that bubbled to the surface in India.

He waited until after the 4-0 drubbing to gather the facts. A long-awaited public show of leadership finally came when he slammed the behaviour of David Warner and his fellow drinkers at the Walkabout in Birmingham, describing their display as despicable.

Edwards added that Sutherland had driven major achievements for Cricket Australia including landmark media rights and sponsorship deals. He said the team’s operations and performances were ”probably the only area that we haven’t achieved above what we hoped to achieve but that’s not to say we won’t”.

”That’s the reason for changing coaches, that things were not progressing the way we wanted, so that hard decision was made. That came initially from management. It would have been easy to ignore, to say let’s leave it for another year or six months and let the contract run its course, but we didn’t. That is what I call managing the business,” Edwards told Fairfax Media in England.

He said Sutherland had trusted team management to deal with the India fiasco on the ground. ”That was a difficult time, no question, and it’s in those circumstances that the stress levels rise and issues that exist burst forth. That is what happened. We all wish that hadn’t happened, but it did happen. There are probably still issues there to be resolved. We will see how the new coach and new structure works.”

”In hindsight you can always do things better, but at the time it was a fast-moving issue and management and the board grappled with it as best we could with the information we had. We did what we thought was right at the time and backed management on the ground.”

Asked if Sutherland had the support of the board, Edwards said: ”Absolutely, without question. We are very comfortable with the way things are tracking at that level.”

Sutherland had been armed with powers to do anything it took to bring a solution to the disharmony and ill-discipline that had been dogging the Australian team along with poor on-field performance.

Fairfax Media understands that members of the Cricket Australia board and other senior staff even discussed whether more players had to be sanctioned for the debacle, even questioning at one point two weeks ago whether sending particular squad members home was a viable option.

These conversations never reached to the point where that was a serious alternative – Arthur ended up being the fall guy with his sacking announced on Monday – but the CA hierarchy had become disturbed and disappointed at the state of affairs.

Sutherland has made little secret of his anger not only at the conduct of David Warner, who was fined and suspended for punching England’s Joe Root in a Birmingham nightclub this month, but at the fact six players were out until 2.30am after a woeful loss to England in the Champions Trophy.

There has also been top-level concern about former vice-captain Shane Watson’s place in the team and his relationship with captain Michael Clarke.

Arthur admitted less than two weeks ago that ”Shane obviously lost a little bit of trust after India”, a comment relating to the all-rounder’s hasty exit from the subcontinent when he returned for the birth of his first child but also publicly protested his suspension for the third Test in Mohali.

Worries over the team’s culture were present while Ricky Ponting and Michael Hussey were on duty, but concerns grew after the pair’s departures exposed a massive leadership vacuum.

The team’s performance on and off the field in India so alarmed the board that the behaviour of Clarke’s men was discussed at length at their past two meetings, including one in May.

Arthur’s position is not believed to have been at risk at that point but he was badly let down by his players in the following weeks, most notably by Warner. The six who were out until in Birmingham the early hours of the morning after Australia’s Champions Trophy defeat had contravened a tour protocol where, for security reasons, they must inform management if they leave the team hotel.

The original release of this article first appeared on the website of Shanghai Night Net.

There is something ominously familiar about the position the Wallabies find themselves in heading into the must-win second Test against the British and Irish Lions in Melbourne.
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On countless occasions during the past two years, they have produced their best performances when facing sudden death. There was a desperate World Cup quarter-final against South Africa, redemption against Argentina after a thumping on the highveld and triumph at Twickenham after humiliation at the hands of the French last November.

Ben Alexander, as proud a front-row grafter as there ever was, knows the Wallabies have, historically at least, produced when they’re fighting for survival.

”You look at last year, with our backs against the wall is when we performed best … that’s when you see the best in this side and as a group we will definitely draw on our track record,” Alexander said.

”For Australian rugby it’s a massive thing, we love playing against all the European nations, there is that close bond with the history of how Australia was formed. We’ll never get another chance at this. We had one chance already, we missed that on the weekend, but we still have two more games and we’re ready to make amends for that starting this Saturday.”

Two days is a long time in Test rugby and momentum turns on a 10-cent piece. On Sunday morning the Lions basked in the afterglow of their two-point win, while the Wallabies contemplated the second Test without their captain James Horwill and no less than five of their starting back line.

Twenty-four hours later Horwill had been cleared of foul play, key playmaker Christian Lealiifano was on the mend and the Lions were regretting the loss of injured second-rower Paul O’Connell.

It was a shift not lost on Alexander, who will play his 50th Test at the weekend and knows the Wallabies need more than good fortune to get out of this tight spot.

”The momentum we gain is how we came out of the game, feeling as though there were areas we could attack and feeling that we should have won,” he said. ”That’s enough momentum to carry us through to the next game. We should have won the game, we didn’t, so there’s areas we need to fix, but that confidence gives us momentum as a group.” Players thought they saw O’Connell suffer the fracture in his arm that ruled him out of the series on Saturday. It was not officially announced until late on Sunday night.

”Our physio said ‘he’s just broken his arm there’ before the last few scrums, but he got up, so we thought maybe not, and he packed those last few scrums with a busted arm and we shook hands with him after the game,” Alexander said.

”They’re going to miss that hardness that the Europeans see week in, week out, when he plays for Munster and Ireland. He’s one of the greatest players I’ve ever played against and I think he’s a big loss for the Lions.”

The Australian pack will also be boosted by George Smith’s early return from a knee injury.

The original release of this article first appeared on the website of Shanghai Night Net.

The Blues will go into Wednesday night’s Origin at Suncorp Stadium full of confidence from not only their performance in the series opener but the way Queensland has reacted to the defeat.
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After seven years of Maroons domination, there is a feeling in the NSW camp that the tide has turned and they can seal the series with their first win in Brisbane since 2009.

Suddenly all the pressure is on Queensland and complaints by the Maroons that their opponents were offside, didn’t stand square at marker and resorted to dirty tactics in Origin I has convinced the Blues that they are 80 minutes from glory.

So confident are the NSW players that a relaxed Paul Gallen spoke on Tuesday about how he no longer felt he had anything to prove and was just focused on doing his job while his teammates do theirs.

The decision to drop seasoned campaigners David Shillington and Ashley Harrison and hand Josh Papalii and Daly Cherry-Evans their Origin debuts is at odds with the loyalty usually displayed by the Maroons since their winning run began in 2006 and there are other cracks, too.

Queensland’s star players were well below their best at ANZ Stadium three weeks ago and while the likes of Cameron Smith, Johnathan Thurston and Billy Slater are unlikely to have two poor Origins, the feeling in the NSW camp is that they are now a better team.

The Blues forwards, led by Gallen, now dominate the Australian pack and NSW also have the advantage on their bench through Andrew Fifita, Anthony Watmough and Trent Merrin.

Even NSW hooker Robbie Farah can lay claim to having overtaken Smith as the game’s best No.9 on their form this season.

The Blues have four of the NRL’s top six metre-eaters in Josh Dugan (189.7 metres a game), Gallen (175.8), Fifita (148) and Watmough (143.8). Queensland centre Greg Inglis (168.1) is third but he usually plays fullback for South Sydney, while Slater (142.8) is eighth.

With Matt Scott being their only specialist prop, it is hard to see how Queensland are going to get down the field besides the kicking game of Smith, Thurston and halfback Cooper Cronk.

But the kicking of the star trio will be affected if they don’t have good field position and it will limit their ability to test Blues winger Nathan Merritt under the high ball.

The Maroons are expected to target Merritt, who will make his Origin debut after Blake Ferguson was stood down from playing until he faces an indecent assault charge, as he is considered by some to be a defensive liability.

However, Suncorp Stadium holds no fears for the Rabbitohs winger as his 10 tries in eight matches there is the best strike rate by any player from an away team.

Only Slater has scored as many tries as an opposition player at Suncorp Stadium – but his 10 tries have come in 10 matches for Melbourne.

The original release of this article first appeared on the website of Shanghai Night Net.

Injured Wallabies winger Digby Ioane has hired the same lawyer who successfully defended Kurtley Beale on an assault charge last year.
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Brisbane-based Angelo Venardos, who also acted for Quade Cooper on a burglary charge in 2009 which was later dropped, will defend Ioane against one count of unlawful assault stemming from an incident in a Melbourne pub on March 9.

He was bailed to appear in Melbourne Magistrates Court on August 6 after attending a Melbourne police station on Tuesday, a Victoria Police spokesman said.

Ioane is alleged to have pushed a patron at the Mount Erica Hotel, in Prahran, the day after he played in the Queensland Reds’ win against the Melbourne Rebels.

The 27-year-old was stood down by the Reds for their next match but no charges were laid until two months later, when a summons was issued on May 17.

Ioane was touring South Africa with the Reds at the time. It is understood he gave the document to a mid-level team official at the Reds, who then went on leave and forgot to pass on the summons to someone at the club.

It is understood neither the Australian Rugby Union nor Ioane’s manager knew he had been charged until a warrant for his arrest was issued on Monday.

The 35-Test winger was training with his Australian teammates at Carlton’s Visy Park shortly before he was required in court, where the matter was mentioned briefly.

A potentially serious shoulder injury has ruled Ioane out of the final two Tests against the British and Irish Lions.

It has also helped the Wallabies avoid a potential selection dilemma, should Ioane have been available to play with the charge hanging over his head.

Venardos will appoint a colleague in Melbourne to help with the case. He represented Beale when the Wallabies playmaker was charged with the common assault of a bouncer at the Victory Hotel in Brisbane, on the morning before an Australia-Wales Test in June last year.

The charge was dropped in April after the parties went to mediation and reached an agreement out of court.

Twitter – @geerob

The original release of this article first appeared on the website of Shanghai Night Net.