LUCAS PARSONS never did fulfil his potential as a professional golfer, but maybe a whole new career path beckons.
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His golf is now restricted to the odd pro-am as he and wife Simone establish a cafe at a Randwick bookshop – and tomorrow night we’ll discover just how good a cook he is.

Parsons is one of the contestants on Network Ten’s new reality show, MasterChef. David Rollo of IMG, who used to manage Parsons, says the golfer showed superb culinary skills when they shared a house with 2005 US Open champion Michael Campbell in Christchurch a couple of years ago during the NZ PGA championship.

"His lamb shanks and mashed potato were fantastic, the best I’ve ever had," Rollo said.

Parsons played a year on the US PGA Tour without success while here at home he won the 1995 NZ Open and the 2000 Greg Norman International at The Lakes.

Unfortunately, The Sun-Herald couldn’t make contact with him through the week – he was probably too busy in the kitchen. PERRY’S PEN PAL HELP

Greg Norman couldn’t believe the support he received from people he’d never met after his 1996 Masters meltdown to Nick Faldo – now American Kenny Perry is experiencing the same thing.

In a conference call with golf writers through the week, Perry, who led the Masters by two shots with two holes to play before losing a play-off to Angel Cabrera two weeks ago, revealed he’d received 600 emails and hundreds more letters and cards after the loss.

Among the first to telephone was Norman and Phil Mickelson, who has had his share of disappointments despite a couple of wins at Augusta.

"It was an incredible outpouring of support. I had so many people just proud of the way I handled the loss," Perry said. NO BOOZE FOR DALY?

A scaled-down John Daly returns to tournament golf this week for the first time since his three missed cuts in Australia late last year and the controversy of smashing a spectator’s camera.

He is playing the Spanish Open on the European Tour and will then play the Italian and Irish Opens followed by the British PGA championship at Wentworth. Daly, in a bid to curb his eating, had a silicone band tied around the upper portion of his stomach, and as a result has lost 18 kilograms. And, he’s almost completely off the booze. He says he doesn’t like the taste now. CHOOK’S HALF CENTURY

The big day for Peter "Chook" Fowler is June 9. That’s when he turns 50 and is eligible for seniors golf and, to prepare himself for it, he’s been getting the body in shape with a bit of hip surgery.

If that’s not enough for Fowler, his 17-year-old daughter Georgie is modelling in New York and Paris.

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WITH Australian rugby standing at a fork in the road, there’s one important issue that we can’t afford to overlook: the value of developing a strong feeder competition to provide players for the future.
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As ARU chief executive John O’Neill moves to have the Super 14 become a winter-long competition, concerns are being raised over the effect it could have on the club scene in Australia.

The O’Neill model features the Super 14 running from March to August, with the Tri Nations at the end, in direct competition with the AFL and NRL. A definite advantage is that it would fill that black hole for rugby in June, July and August when all attention is focused on league and AFL.

But the problem it presents is that it would take 125 players out of club rugby for the entire season. That could have a detrimental effect on the quality and support of this level of the game, with some clubs already struggling with Super rugby taking just 25 players from their competition. Then there’s the model put forward by former CEO Gary Flowers three years ago, which involved the implementation of the Australian Rugby Championship, running the Super 14 competition from February through May and the Tri Nations slotted in, with the Super players dropped back to club rugby after the season and the rest donated to the Australian cause. It also gives us a jump on the other codes early in the year.

This, New Zealand and South Africa argue, is the preferred method, with these parties in the SANZAR agreement having strong domestic competitions. But, like O’Neill’s model, it also has its cons. While all top 25 players are available for club rugby from May, the other codes will continue to grab the spotlight for the remainder of the year.

The South Africans are clear on what they want; they’re happy with an expanded Super 14, but the competition must start in February and finish in time for their strong domestic competition, the Currie Cup in July.

Australia and New Zealand want to start later, with a winter-long season from March through to August, but nine New Zealand provinces have expressed concern at the damage a winter-long season would have on their domestic competition, which is regarded as one of the strongest in the world.

There are three very different points of view and just how it’s worked out could have a major effect on any of the three domestic competitions. New Zealand have stated in no uncertain terms that they’re not prepared to compromise their domestic competition. All Blacks great Colin Meads has come out strongly in opposition to the ARU’s plan, declaring: "Aussies always struggle when [South Africa and New Zealand] are playing Currie Cup and NPC. It’s up to them to develop another competition to boost their numbers. They had one [ARC] and canned it. It looked good for rugby. I suppose it was a financial thing but they should have built on it."

He also said any nation pulling out of SANZAR would be a bad move and he’d be dead against it.

It’s clear his point of view is that more compromise has to be made.

The problem with the ARU placing all its focus on the top is that this is one of those rare occasions where the blood flows from the bottom up. We can’t lose out focus on the development of players through the club system.

No matter which model the ARU and SANZAR agree upon, the development of new players in Australia cannot be overlooked or it could be disastrous – whether it means strengthening the club rugby scene or re-introducing the ARC.

The amateur game needs to drive the professional game and in doing so become professional itself.

Club rugby needs to be nurtured. The individual states look after their Super 14 clubs, but it’s the ARU’s responsibility to look out for Australian rugby as a whole.

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PARRAMATTA chief executive Denis Fitzgerald admits he must take "a lot of responsibility" for the club’s 23-year premiership drought, a stunning admission on the day his future will be decided at the ballot box.
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Eels fans will effectively decide the future direction of the club at the Parramatta Leagues Club elections today, with rebel ticket 3P – endorsed by former Eels Ray Price, Eric Grothe, Brett Kenny and Terry Leabeater – attempting to overthrow the long-serving Fitzgerald.

Fitzgerald, who has been the CEO for the past 30 years, remains adamant he can ensure Parramatta’s future success, on and off the field. And he admits he made mistakes that contributed to the club’s premiership drought.

"I’ve got to take a lot of responsibility for the situation," Fitzgerald said. "There are a number of other clubs that haven’t won the competition in that time. Like all clubs, we’ve had our ups and downs.

"I’ve made mistakes in times gone by. During our great run in the ’80s we had a number of good juniors coming through … but we didn’t do enough to go out into the marketplace to get players.

"We thought we had enough juniors here and we wanted the fans to identify with the locals. We should have been more active in the market."

Fitzgerald and current directors Ron Hilditch and Geoff Gerard outlined the vision of the current board before the latter two fielded questions from Eels fans at a "Team PLC" function on Thursday night.

The trio acknowledged the need to recruit new talent and revealed that the Eels were in negotiations with several marquee players for next season. "We need to get some more players with the line-up we have now," Fitzgerald said.

"It’s not as strong as other clubs’ player strength, I would say.

"There’s a few key positions which need filling and [coach] Daniel Anderson is the guy to advise us on it. For 2010, we’re having some heavy discussions now about who might be a possibility."

The incumbents are expecting a backlash at the ballot box.

The Brett Finch walkout, poor performances on the field and revelations of a $9.1 million leagues club debt have helped the 3P cause.

While Fitzgerald has a water-tight contract as CEO, there’s no love lost between the former Australian league representative and the ex-players attempting to oust him. There also have been accusations of a "votes for vouchers" campaign, a claim vehemently denied by the incumbents.

And there has been niggle between the protagonists.

"It’s difficult to know who’s pulling the strings [at 3P]," Fitzgerald said. "The current board members speak for themselves, not people outside the situation."

The main focus, however, has been on the performance of the leagues club. Fitzgerald denied reports it was as on the brink of insolvency. "Our cash flow is very good," he said. "We do have $60 million in fixed assets of properties and buildings, which is very strong in anyone’s language.

"We had the loss of $9.1 million …St George Bank is fully supportive and confident we can pay any debts as they become due."

3P ramped up its election campaign on the night of the Dragons match, distributing pamphlets on their reasons for challenging the current board. Chief amongst them was Fitzgerald’s assertion that he could not guarantee that the Eels would be around in five years’ time.

"I can’t be guarantee I’ll be here in five months’ time," Fitzgerald quipped. "But I’m very confident the Eels will be here in five years’ time and I’m certainly confident that Parramatta Leagues Club will be as well."

Price stressed 3P’s campaign was not a personal vendetta against Fitzgerald. "The club is floundering and it needs change," he said. "This is not about Fitzy, he’s not standing for the board. After we get control of the Leagues Club and he doesn’t toe the line, then it’s about Fitzy."

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IN-FORM Wests Tigers prop Keith Galloway admits he needs to "man up" this season and make good on three years of promise.
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In his fourth season at the Tigers, the 23-year-old is thriving in his senior role at the club and says he owed it to teammates, Tigers fans and himself to step up.

"I am a bit more confident in my ability this year – it’s probably due to the fact I re-signed for another three years and know I need to man up," said Galloway, who has been named in the Blues’ 40-man State of Origin squad after displaying career-best form this season."I never really believed that stuff that props get better as they mature, but I think now that I’ve played a few years you start to realise that.

"I came in pretty young and now I definitely feel like I’m maturing. I’m one of the senior guys now and I need to start coming through with my potential. And I think maybe I’m slowly starting to get there."

Affectionately nicknamed "Sauce" by teammates because of his red hair, Galloway is four kilograms heavier this season, and credits his weight gain for his form.

"I just feel a lot stronger and fitter," said Galloway, who played through the pain of a broken foot, taking match-day injections, in the tail end of the Tigers’ 2008 campaign. "I’ve done a lot of strength work this year and put a lot more emphasis on weights.

"I was playing lighter last year at about 104 kg, but I’m up to 108 kg and it feels good. It makes a big difference, especially with contact up the middle."

Tigers assistant coach Royce Simmons said Galloway’s damaging running game and brutal defence had made him the NRL’s form front-rower, declaring he was ready for the step up to State of Origin.

"He’s fitter, faster and more mobile than ever before and he’s very close to the form front-rower in the competition," Simmons told The Sun-Herald .

"No way would he be out of place in a Blues jumper. The game’s made for him. He’s tough, he takes it forward, he’s reliable. If he can remain consistent over the next few weeks and have a big game for City [v Country Origin] then hopefully that can cement a representative future for him.

"He’s done a lot of extras away from training this year. He does a lot of boxing and he’s always on the rower doing extra work. He’s really picked up his work and it’s showing on the field. We bought him a long time ago because we thought he had a lot of potential and now he’s starting to realise it."

¡ Former Sydney Roosters chief executive Brian Canavan says he would like to become involved in top-flight league administration again – and could be a contender for the vacant Wests Tigers job.

The resignation of Scott Longmuir, who fell out with Tigers coach Tim Sheens, has left the club without a chief executive. The role is being shared on an interim basis by Andy Timbs, the CEO of Wests Ashfield, and Balmain Tigers boss Tim Camiller.

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On March 23, Australia was officially acknowledged as the top-ranked men’s road cycling nation, overtaking traditional powerhouses Spain and Italy. Six days later, Australia claimed first place at the track cycling world championships in Poland. Within the week, former track star Jobie Dajka was found dead in his Adelaide home. He was 27.
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The extremes of the sport’s triumph and the disaster of an ostracised competitor seemed to suggest cycling’s success had come at a cost. Media coverage of the Dajka tragedy unearthed stories of cycling’s brutality, ongoing disputes and lack of safeguards for those who fall away. Feuds and controversies were revisited. Names such as Gary Neiwand, Sean Eadie, Mark French and Ben Kersten were again raised in a context other than their achievements.

Cycling Australia’s (CA) response to Dajka’s death was, at best, peculiar. Officials offered that "our thoughts and wishes are with his family and friends at this sad time", adding Dajka never recovered from his axing from the Athens Olympic team, a result of the AIS "shooting gallery" drama, which went as far as the Senate and sparked legal actions that still continue. On the CA website, under the headline "Vale Jobie Dajka", just two paragraphs formed a "tribute" to a young man the authority admits was "one of Australia’s best sprint cyclists of the past decade".

The cool response became clearer when Dajka’s parents declared CA officials unwelcome at their son’s funeral. Then, at the funeral, Dajka’s father, Stan, removed any doubt about whom he thought was responsible for Jobie’s death, saying: "My heart will never forgive them for taking your life’s dreams away from you. They tore out your heart, put you in a heap and closed the door. I hope the guilt torments them forever, as it has done to us."

Perhaps the family’s sentiments were best summarised by respected commentator Phil Liggett, who said by email last week that, "clearly the extent of his illness, which I think was what it was, should have been realised and perhaps more understanding made and help given".

Just days before Dajka’s death, CA president Mike Victor was discussing cycling’s new era, telling The Sun-Herald : "It’s pretty good not to get negative reports in the media at the moment. It seems every sport has its turn."

Victor was referring to the remarkable resilience of a sport that, despite its murky history, had somehow emerged on top of the world. The good press was short-lived.

Cycling’s Australian history stretches back over a century. In the early 20th century, as in Europe, bicycles were a major form of transport. People could respect and relate to it as a sport. Australia’s first superstar, airforce officer, politician and diplomat Hubert Opperman was idolised in the 1920s and ’30s.

Cycling drew big money and thousands of people to regular events in Sydney, Melbourne and Adelaide. There were bike tracks around ovals nationwide. However, problems with gambling and the emergence of the car reduced the sport’s appeal. Cycling re-emerged leading up to the 1956 Melbourne Games but faded again in the 1960s.

Yet, even in the so-called "innocent days" cycling was tinged with tragedy. In 1958, "The Geelong Flyer", Russell Mockridge – who became Australia’s first dual cycling gold medallist at the 1952 Helsinki Olympics – died after he collided with a bus during the Tour of Gippsland, leaving a widow and three-year-old daughter. More than 20 years after that tragedy, cycling’s new era began, when Phil Anderson became the first non-European to wear the Tour de France yellow leader’s jersey in 1981. He announced modern Australian cycling to the world.

"I was handed the yellow jersey on the podium and went to a press conference down the mountain afterwards," he remembers. "They’d never had an Australian up on stage before, and they thought I was pretty unusual, so they began asking me questions like how long I’d been racing. Then they asked me where I was from, but when I told them there were quite a few confused faces around. So somebody brought out a world map and asked me to point to where Melbourne was, which I did. Of course, Australia was pretty small because it was a French map …"

Anderson’s legacy became rich. These days triple Tour de France green jersey winner Robbie McEwen can invite the Prime Minister of Belgium to his house for a barbie, Cadel Evans is preparing to better his second placings in the past two Tours de France, Anna Meares, Oenone Wood, Ryan Bayley, Michael Rogers, Sara Carrigan and Brad McGee are among a long list of recent world champions. There are 26 Australian riders involved with pro tour teams this season, and our track stars are world-beaters.

Anderson’s five top-10 Tour de France finishes were the foundations for the current success. But another result consolidated his achievements.

"I wouldn’t say cycling was a backwater sport in Australia before 1984, but it was certainly not recognised as mainstream," says Mike Turtur, who, with Dean Woods, Kevin Nichols and Michael Grenda, won the 4000 metres team pursuit gold at the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics, a victory etched in lore because their muscle and grit defeated superior technology.

"We got to LA and the Italians, Swiss, Germans and Americans all had disc wheels and aerodynamically designed bikes," he says.

"We were riding standard pursuit bikes with normal wheels."

Their win caught the nation’s attention and led to cycling’s inclusion in the recently established Australian Institute of Sport in 1987. Full-time coaches and federal funding would propel the sport to a higher level.

The momentum continued after LA when Anderson claimed fifth at the 1985 Tour de France. The trailblazing 1980s opened the door for Australians such as Neil Stephens, Allan Peiper and Stuart O’Grady to become professional. Anderson showed Europeans that Australians were versatile, tough and talented, and Turtur’s team drove home the fact.

Liggett admires those attributes in the Australian road riders, who leave young and survive in a cut-throat environment far from home. Evans calls it his "Tyranny of Distance" – from age 17 he has travelled five months every year. As in any professional modern sport, those who fail can find it hard to readjust, while those who succeed enjoy great spoils. McEwen, who married a Belgian, speaks fluent Flemish and is one of Belgium’s most popular sportsmen, earns an estimated $2.5 million a season.

But with success comes challenges. Australian cyclists are now hot property and Victor, the CA president, says a club versus country-type struggle is brewing.

"Our best young riders are being chased all the time, and they now have bosses to answer to who run pro teams in Europe," he says. "It’s something we’ll have to overcome."

Funding is another issue. Victor claims an updated track program is necessary if Australia is to stay on top, but the finances aren’t available.

The toughest challenge could be to overcome the issues that have resurfaced since Dajka’s death.

"It goes without saying that there is still resentment and grudges within the sport," says Turtur, who is the Oceania Cycling Confederation’s president.

"In some people’s eyes, the issues haven’t been dealt with correctly or appropriately. In other people’s eyes, they have been. There will always be conjecture over who’s right or wrong.

"It’s a rocky road. But it’s not only cycling. Swimming’s had some major issues, rugby league, rugby … we can go on.

"The reality is that the majority of athletes do the right thing but it’s the controversial issues that make the headlines and, unfortunately, cycling’s been tarnished by negative attention. If you take a step back, though, you would see that the sport is strong, we’ve got vibrant athletes who’ve done well and are continuing on to the next Olympics.

"We’ve got record participation, the federation is very strong at the moment and we had a great result on the track in Poland. The timing is perfect for us to move to the next phase."

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