Archives - December, 2018

29 Dec 18

Kerrin McEvoy guides Epaulette home in the Doomben 10,000. Photo: Tertius PickardTrainer Peter Snowden is likely to let Doomben 10,000 winner Epaulette shoulder the weight of history in the Stradbroke Handicap after the three-year-old was assigned 56 kilograms for the group 1 contest on June 8.
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”He’s been set specifically for two races [the 10,000 and the Stradbroke] and barring injury I’d say he will be running,” said Snowden.

Buffering is topweight with 58. It leaves Epaulette carrying significantly more weight than older and more seasoned sprinters.

Epaulette must not only set a modern weight-carrying record for a three-year-old in the Stradbroke if he is to win, he must also buck a trend of failures by Doomben 10,000 winners seeking to claim the Brisbane sprint double.

Just one horse in the last 30 years, Campaign King, has won both races in the same year.

Snowden had feared an unsuitable handicap for Epaulette following Saturday’s dominant 10,000 victory, but said after looking at the likely field, he expected the colt to receive between 55 and 56.

”It’s what we expected after we had a look at the race and talked about it this morning. It will be a tough ask for him,” Snowden said.

Epaulette produced a remarkable final burst to claim Saturday’s Doomben 10,000 at weight-for-age, but will now meet a number of his rivals from that race on worse conditions in the Stradbroke, including fellow three-year-old and BTC Cup winner Your Song, who was assigned 54 after finishing sixth in Saturday’s race.

Snowden is taking consolation in the dominance of the victory and the fact that Epaulette had recovered so well following the race.

”He’s been to the beach and seems to have come through in great shape,” he said. ”They went hard in the 10,000 and if you look at his best performances, the Golden Rose, the TJ Smith, and Saturday’s race, the horse appreciates a strong speed. He’s going to get that again in the Stradbroke.”

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29 Dec 18

Scene stealer: Josh Dugan produced two tries on debut. Photo: John VeageDRAGONS recruit Josh Dugan admits the fire still burns to prove himself at State of Origin level.
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Had his career panned out differently, Dugan may well have been in camp with the NSW squad today, preparing to wear the sky blue No. 1 jersey for the second time, against Queensland at ANZ Stadium next week.

Dugan’s form in his two appearances for the Dragons suggests the spark is still there for the 23-year-old, who spent two months out of the game after leaving Canberra in controversial circumstances.

In 2011, Dugan made his first – and so far only – Origin appearance. He was hurt playing for the Raiders days after his NSW debut – a 16-12 loss to the dominant Maroons machine – and has not returned.

While Dugan continues his rugby league rehabilitation after the infamous social media outbursts and a rooftop drinking session with Blake Ferguson, his former Raiders teammate’s recent run of remarkable form earned him a place on the NSW wing.

Instead, Dugan will be part of St George Illawarra’s salvage mission on Friday night against the Bulldogs, after a 19-0 loss to Penrith at Kogarah. However, he admits playing for NSW again is a future goal.

“It’s in the back of my mind at the moment,” he said. “It’s always a goal for any player to play for their state, or whatever else. But at the moment, I’ve only been back two weeks, so I’m looking forward to playing good footy for the Dragons and [it] staying that way.”

A scene-stealing two-try debut for the Dragons not only reinforced Dugan’s immense talent but also warranted NSW great and Mercury columnist Steve Roach to say he could even play a part in this year’s Origin series. But NSW coach Laurie Daley last week revealed he only wanted Dugan to focus on his form with the Dragons without being distracted by any greater expectations.

Daley picked Jarryd Hayne at fullback, allowing Ferguson to make his Origin debut with Brett Morris recovering from injury in time for selection.

For his part, Dugan realises the importance of going the “right way” about making the most of an NRL lifeline.

“I’ve settled in pretty well,” he said. “It’s a big vibe around here and it’s good to be part of. I’ve been speaking to a couple of the players and a couple of the coaching staff, I’m looking to improve and go the right way about it. They’ve welcomed me well, I’m just enjoying each week getting back into the routine of things.”

While Dugan’s brilliant introduction was tempered by the 19-0 loss to Penrith, Kiwi international winger Jason Nightingale said the star recruit hadn’t put a foot wrong in the Dragons squad.

“He’s been great with the group,” he said. “Especially on the field he’s been outstanding in his two games so far. He’s a great individual player.

“He’ll spend a bit of time tinkering with the ability that he’s got and making sure we understand when to pop up next to him.”

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29 Dec 18

As Melbourne president Don McLardy reiterated, there would be no “quick fixes”, club great Gerard Healy said the Demons must show improvement in the next fortnight otherwise coach Mark Neeld should be sacked.
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As the pressure mounts on Neeld after another heavy loss, Healy said clashes against heavyweights Hawthorn and Collingwood before the mid-season bye should determine whether the second-year senior coach is allowed to complete the season.

He also branded the Demons’ midfield “the worst midfield I have ever seen” after the club’s 90-point loss to Fremantle.

“Something has got to give at that club,” Healy said.

“If a decision hasn’t already been made, the coach has just two games left to get some improvement against Collingwood and/or Hawthorn.

“If not, it will be the bye for the players and bye bye for the coach before the club suffers the same fate as they are showing on the field.

“They are bankrupt on the field. They have got to make a move before they become bankrupt off it.”

Neeld’s contract does not expire until the end of next season but interim chief executive Peter Jackson has already made it clear no one is safe.

Neeld has only five wins – one this season – in 31 matches since taking charge. He admitted on Sunday the side had not improved since last year, claiming it would take another 12 months.

He also conceded his team “couldn’t cope” with the Dockers’ pressure.

Healy, whose brother Greg is the Demons football director, said on 3AW injuries could not be entirely blamed for the loss to Fremantle.

“You can be a lot more impressive than they [Melbourne] were,” he said. “They had five or six out but Fremantle had six of their best seven out.”

The dilemma for the financially struggling Demons appears to be whether they can afford to pay Neeld out and install Todd Viney as caretaker coach for a second time, or maintain the status quo and possibly risk losing contracted or uncontracted players because of the losing culture and ongoing uncertainty.

Healy indicated there had been a major post-match players’ meeting on Sunday but a club spokesman said the debriefing had been “nothing out of the normal”.

“Only the players can save the coach right now. They have to show something,” Healy said.

“I believe there was a players’ meeting [on Sunday night]. I believe some of the coaches may have been called into that meeting. If this doesn’t generate some sort of positive response on the weekend, then it’s curtains.”

McLardy said Jackson was continuing to review all internal operations.

“Peter Jackson is working hard on looking at all critical aspects of the club, in particular the football department, and will report to the board in due course,” he said.

“As we all know, there are no quick fixes from this position.”

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29 Dec 18

Not since 2000 have Queensland played an Origin game without one of Darren Lockyer or Petero Civoniceva, but Blues prop James Tamou dismissed the notion the Maroons would field their weakest team during their seven-year supremacy.
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The retirement of two Maroons greats over the past two years, as well as injuries to regular starters Darius Boyd and Ben Hannant, has given some south of the border added belief the Blues now have their best chance to end Queensland’s long-standing dominance.

Civoniceva and Lockyer have 69 games of Origin experience between them, more than the first 10 players named in Laurie Daley’s side combined, while Hannant (12) and Boyd (14) have been an integral part of Mal Meninga’s all-conquering side over the last four years.

Injuries to the pair have forced Queensland to name two debutants – Melbourne’s Justin O’Neill and South Sydney’s Chris McQueen – for game one at ANZ Stadium.

Tamou refused to provide his rivals with any ammunition leading into the opening game of the series by comparing the Maroons team to that of yesteryear.

”You can never say that,” Tamou said. ”If I come out and say that now and we go out and lose it will look bad. You can never say stuff like that. But I honestly don’t think so. Queensland have got all this firepower, in their backline for example. They have all these guys up front who can do the job. They have Johnathan Thurston and Cooper Cronk at six and seven. We can’t take anything for granted with Queensland because you never know what they can bring, but I’m pretty confident with the team we’ve got we can finally do it.

”The reason Queensland have been so good is the depth. You take a gun player out and they’ll bring another one back in. Because Petero is not there, you can’t not bring your A-game. You can’t treat this lightly.”

While Tamou was arguably one of the form front-rowers of the competition heading into last year’s Origin series, he comes into camp this year after three months of mediocrity and plenty of criticism over his form.

”And rightfully so,” he said.

”No I haven’t, to be brutally honest … Hopefully I can forget about that and really step it up in Origin.”

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29 Dec 18

Central Coast Mariners goalkeeper Mat Ryan is set to end months of speculation over his future by signing with Belgian team Club Brugge.
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The highly rated shot-stopper left for Belgium on Monday to make the next step in his blossoming career by leaping from the A-League to the UEFA Europa League. Fairfax Media understands that Ryan will undergo a medical test with Brugge as soon as Tuesday and is expected to sign a four-year deal upon finalising personal terms.

The 21-year-old was close to joining Danish club Randers FC but turned down their offer at the 11th hour in favour of an opportunity to become Brugge’s first-choice goalkeeper.

Club Brugge coach Juan Carlos Garrido has identified Ryan as their prospective No.1 if he impresses during their pre-season campaign. The Blue and Blacks have struggled to find a long-term custodian, with three goalkeepers tested over the past three seasons. It is understood Ryan will be given a chance to assume a starting place ahead of 31-year-old Serbian goalkeeper Bojan Jorgacevic.

Ryan will sign as a free agent but the Mariners have agreed to compensation of $180,000 with Brugge for developing the player, and the A-League champions are also set to receive up to 20 per cent of his next transfer fee.

His imminent move to Brugge continues the trend of Australian players flourishing with the 13-time Belgian champions. Former Socceroos Paul Okon and Frank Farina enjoyed stints at the club. Okon spent five seasons there after leaving Marconi in 1991 and went on to win a league title and two Belgian Cups. Farina won a league title and cup as well as the golden boot for the top goalscorer in his two seasons at the Jan Breydel Stadium.

Ryan could become the third departure from the Mariners in less than a week after Pedj Bojic was granted a release and Patrick Zwaanswijk retired. The exits could continue as a host of foreign clubs have signalled their interest in young stars Bernie Ibini, Trent Sainsbury and Oliver Bozanic. The Mariners have re-signed 23-year-old defender Brent Griffiths on a one-year deal.

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