LUCAS PARSONS never did fulfil his potential as a professional golfer, but maybe a whole new career path beckons.
Nanjing Night Net

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.

Read More →

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.
Nanjing Night Net

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.

Read More →

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.
Nanjing Night Net

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."

Read More →

IN-FORM Wests Tigers prop Keith Galloway admits he needs to "man up" this season and make good on three years of promise.
Nanjing Night Net

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.

Read More →

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.
Nanjing Night Net

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."

Read More →

THE parents of British Olympic diving prodigy Tom Daley are considering removing him from his school following claims he has been bullied due to his high profile.
Nanjing Night Net

The 14-year-old, who is one of his country’s main medal hopes for the London Games in 2012, has been kept away from school over the past week.

His father, Rob Daley, said he was now considering removing his son from Eggbuckland Community College in Plymouth, Devon, permanently because of constant jibes and the "childish name-calling and antics" of his fellow pupils.

Mr Daley said: "I have been to see Tom’s head of year and also the principal in the past six weeks, because Tom has been so upset. Although Tom had not said anything, I could tell by his sombre mood when he came home from school over the past few months that something was wrong.

"Although they [the school] cannot be held responsible for the students, I do think the school should be more proactive in trying to sort this bullying out. We would not want to have to do it, but we will change schools unless this is sorted out, as my son’s wellbeing comes before everything else."

Mr Daley said he had kept his son away from school for two days before the Easter break because he felt the bullying might affect his form at the FINA World Series competition in Sheffield.

At the event Daley competed against Australian Olympic champion Matthew Mitcham and won a silver medal, finishing less than a point away from gold.

Mr Daley, who lives in Plymouth, said he had kept his son off school this week mainly because he did not want him to be further upset before he flies to Florida for next month’s grand prix event at Fort Lauderdale.

The young diver said that the bullying started after last year’s Olympics in Beijing and had become increasingly worse.

He said: "I had always ignored the ‘diver boy’ or ‘Speedo boy’ comments when I came back from Beijing last year, hoping they [the other pupils] would get fed up and stop. The trouble is they have not, and it is even the younger kids who are joining in. It is getting to the stage now where I think ‘Oh, to hell with it. I do not want to go back to school."

The school’s principal, Katrina Borowski, said in a statement: "Needless to say, it would be incorrect for me to specifically discuss the private matters of one of our students. However, what I can say is that Tom’s extremely high profile has led to a minority of students acting in an immature way towards him. Meetings have been held between college staff, parents and Tom’s friends, in which appropriate strategies were discussed. Certain students have been sanctioned.

"We take the wellbeing of students extremely seriously and have a very clear policy for dealing swiftly and firmly with any incidents of conflict. This involves working in close partnership with parents and other agencies where appropriate."

■ Tokyo: Japanese swimming star Kosuke Kitajima, who retained his double breaststroke titles at the Beijing Olympics, hinted heavily in an interview published on Friday that he will compete at the London 2012 Games.

Since Beijing last year, the 26-year-old has stopped regular training to help promote Tokyo’s 2016 Olympic bid and train children, prompting speculation that he may retire.

But in an interview with the Asahi Shimbun newspaper, he said he would soon resume training, in the United States.

"I want to compete for the national flag again. I want to be someone whom people will want to watch perform again," he said.

Kitajima, nicknamed the "Frog King" by the Chinese media, sat out the national championships this month in Japan, a selection event for the world championships in Rome this summer.

Asked which event he would train for, Kitajima said "an event that requires the most thrilling and best performance is definitely the Olympics. Once I start, I will of course go for victory."

Telegraph, London and AFP

Read More →

MAURITIUS-BOUND jockey Danny Nikolic hopes to leave Sydney on a winning note with in-form Melbourne mare Miss Maren awaiting in the Queen Elizabeth Stakes.
Nanjing Night Net

Nikolic confirmed he would take up a riding contract in Mauritius having considered his options this week when news of the possible move came to light.

"Everything looks good, I’ll be riding for a good stable over there," he said yesterday. "It will be something different, but I’m looking forward to it."

Nikolic said Miss Maren was entitled to her chance of snaring a group 1. "She is up in class and up to weight-for-age but winning form is good form and she has plenty of that," he said.

Nikolic links with trainer Anthony Cummings when riding Solo Flyer in the All Aged Stakes and he is on Imananabaa for David Payne in the Emancipation Stakes.

"Imananabaa ran great in the Queen Of The Turf when third at her last start and this is an easier race for her," he said.

The jockey said he was likely to head to Mauritius late next week and his stint would end in time for him to be back in Australia for the spring carnival. Quinn confident

Jockey Rod Quinn is relying on trainer Guy Walter to provide him with success at today’s carnival-ending Sydney Cup meeting at Randwick.

While Quinn has only three rides, two are for Walter with talented mare Bernicia out to return to form in the Emancipation Stakes. "Her first couple of runs back from a spell were pretty good then I rode her in the Coolmore Classic and she came in near the rear there," Quinn said.

"Last time she didn’t get through the heavy track at Rosehill so forget that run. She is good on her day and if she was to put her best foot forward then she’d be a huge chance in the Emancipation."

Quinn rides the Walter-trained filly Balmont in the opening race. The three-year-old is coming off a last-start second, beaten a nose by Purrpurrlena on the Kensington track.

"She shows some talent and while this is a harder race on Saturday it wouldn’t surprise me if she measured up," Quinn said.

Quinn’s other ride today is the Les Tilley-trained Feorlan, which runs in the Tabcorp Handicap. With a Bullet

The Queensland carnival is gathering pace with southern raiders heading north.

Included among the invaders is 2007 Stradbroke Handicap winner Sniper’s Bullet, which gears up for another assault on Queensland racing’s premier event in today’s Sir Byrne Hart Stakes at Eagle Farm.

"He is a little bit new, hasn’t trialled, a bit bouncy," Sniper’s Bullet’s Mudgee-based trainer Tracey Bartley said yesterday.

"I’ve never had him as fresh as he is, he might have a good turn of foot. Greg Ryan said he worked enormous on Sunday at Mudgee and he did."

Sniper’s Bullet must overcome trainer Mick Mair’s group 1 winner Swiss Ace and Gai Waterhouse’s Gamble Me.

In the final event at Eagle Farm, Bartley has Sniper’s Bullet’s full-brother Slick Sniper returning from a spell.

"He has improved out of sight," Bartley said. "He goes head and head with Sniper’s on the training track but the penny hasn’t dropped in a race yet. I’m hoping it does up in Queensland."

Bartley’s Frederick Clissold Stakes winner Marchinski was sold to Hong Kong connections through the week.

"It wasn’t a loss because I owned 40 per cent of him," Bartley said. "It’s why we get up early in the morning and the good part is we’ve got the full-brother at home. We’ve also got the dam."

Read More →

FOOTBALL Hoffenheim v Hertha Berlin.
Nanjing Night Net

Setanta Sports, 4.30-6.30am. Bundesliga.

GOLF Zurich Classic. Second round.

Fox Sports 1, 5-8am. US PGA Tour.

BASEBALL Boston v NY Yankees.

ESPN, 9am-noon. Major League.

LEAGUE Roosters v Dragons (Toyota Cup) from 12.45. Roosters v Dragons (first grade) from 3. Storm v Warriors from 5.30. Cowboys v Sea Eagles from 7.30.

Fox Sports 2, 12.45-9.30pm. NRL.

RACING Blues v Reds. Hurricanes v Brumbies from 5.30.

Channel Nine, 1.30-4.30pm. Sydney Cup day.

AFL

Channel Ten, 2-5pm. Essendon v Collingwood.

RUGBY

Fox Sports 3, 3.30-7.30pm. Super 14.

AFL Rangers v St Mirren.

Fox Sports 1, 5-11.30pm; Channel Ten, 8.30-11.30pm. Hawthorn v West Coast (Fox only). Fremantle v Sydney from 8.30 (Fox and Ten).

FOOTBALL

Setanta Sports, 9.15-11.15pm. Scottish FA Cup semi-final.

RUGBY Cheetahs v Crusaders. Bulls v Chiefs from 1.

Fox Sports 2, 11pm-3am. Super 14.

FOOTBALL West Ham United v Chelsea, Bolton v Aston Villa, Everton v Manchester City, Fulham v Stoke, or Hull v Liverpool (viewer’s choice). Manchester United v Tottenham from 2.30. Setanta Sports, 2-4am. Italian Serie A. Chievo v Udinese.

Fox Sports 3, midnight-5am. English Premier League.

AND ON RADIO … Racing.

2KY, noon-midnight.

702 ABC, noon-10pm. Grandstand . Includes Roosters v Dragons from 3, Storm v Warriors from 5.30, and Cowboys v Sea Eagles from 7.30. SUNDAY

FOOTBALL Malaga v Deportivo La Coruna.

ESPN, 4-6am. Spanish Primera Division.

GOLF Third round.

Fox Sports 1, 5-8am. Zurich Classic.

BASEBALL Boston v NY Yankees.

Fox Sports 3, 6-9am. US Major League.

BASKETBALL LA Lakers v Utah Jazz.

ESPN, 11am-1.30pm. NBA play-offs.

LEAGUE Raiders v Bulldogs (Toyota Cup) from 11.45. Raiders v Bulldogs (first grade) from 2.

Fox Sports 2, 11.45am-4pm. NRL.

MOTOR SPORT Randwick v Easts.

Fox Sports 3, 12.30-5.30pm. Japanese MotoGP.

AFL

Fox Sports 1, 1-7.30pm. Geelong v Brisbane. Melbourne v Adelaide from 4.30. Channel Seven, 2-5pm. Western Bulldogs v Carlton.

RUGBY

ABC1, 3-5pm. Shute Shield.

LEAGUE Tigers v Knights. There’s been a lot of irrational hoopla, a lot of loose talk if you will, over the past week surrounding the fact that Rabbitohs halfback Chris Sandow is on track to become the eighth player in the history of the NRL to rack up 100 missed tackles in a single season. Apparently, the last tackle Sandow successfully executed was in pre-season training, a couple of months ago: Jason Taylor threw a tackling bag on him while he was enjoying a mid-session drinks break, and Sandow tripped over the bag, thereby forcing it to the ground, where it remained stationary for the remainder of the training session. Extraordinary stuff. It is, of course, as this column has successfully demonstrated over the course of its glorious, Walkley-deserving four-year history, only right and good and proper and healthy to snigger at the misfortune of others. But much of the sniggering about Sandow has rested on the assumption that tackling in the modern game of rugby league is some kind of idealised, 1930s vintage, one-on-one pursuit between ball-runner and tackler, where a wispy, moustachioed gentleman in long shorts worn up around the armpits gallops gazelle-like away from his pursuer, before eventually being cut down around his bootlaces in a sweeping, poetic arc that will later furnish the main scene for an advertising poster for some salty, Depression-era, family-run business by the name of "Tooth and Co" or "Cobbs Hams". As we all know, tackling today is nothing of the sort. No one gets tackled in the NRL today unless it’s by 23 opposition players. Seriously, there are nations in Central America that have fewer people in them than the average NRL tackle. On the most minimal model, the modern tackle will need, at the very least , eight players to come even close to being successful. First, a guy charges in and attacks the ball carrier’s midriff. Next, another guy comes in and attacks the shoulders. Then a third team member jumps in and attacks the ball carrier’s neck, twisting it hither and thither as the rest of his body is held in lock and shouting, "How does that make you feel, mate? Feel good?" The fourth tackler, whose sole function is to sit on the ball runner’s head once he’s been pinned down by his three teammates, occupies a pivotal role in the architecture of modern tackling, ensuring that the opposition player rises from the tackle with the imprint of at least one pair of buttock cheeks neatly creased into his face. The fifth and sixth tacklers come in and just, like, flick the ball carrier’s ears and stuff. It’s ineffective and ultimately has little impact on the course of the game, but it makes for highly entertaining television. Finally, two tacklers are introduced at the end, first, to press the ball runner’s head into the ground as he’s trying to get up to play the ball, and finally, once he’s on his feet and in a position to roll the ball under his legs, to give him the obligatory sarcastic little ruffle of the hair. When people criticise Sandow for missing so many tackles, what they are really pointing to is a chronic weakness in the broader collective tackling culture at the Rabbitohs. There are faces to be sat on and ears to be flicked. Get it right, Souths.

Channel Nine, 4-6pm. NRL.

MOTOR SPORT Round four from the Netherlands.

Fox Sports 3, 7.30pm-12.30am. World superbike championship.

FOOTBALL Arsenal v Middlesbrough. Blackburn v Wigan from 1. Setanta Sports, midnight-2am. Scottish FA Cup semi-final. Falkirk v Dunfermline. ESPN, 11pm-5am. Italian Serie A. Milan v Palermo. Spanish Primera Division from 1. Getafe v Villarreal. Sevilla v Real Madrid from 3.

Fox Sports 2, 10.30pm-3am. English Premier League.

AND ON RADIO … Grandstand . Includes Raiders v Bulldogs (first half only) from 2 and Tigers v Knights from 3.

702 ABC, noon-6pm. MONDAY

GOLF Final round.

Fox Sports 1, 3-8am. Zurich Classic.

MOTOR SPORT Aaron’s 499.

Fox Sports 3, 3-8am. NASCAR Sprint Cup.

FOOTBALL Napoli v Inter.

Setanta Sports, 4.30-6.30am. Italian Serie A.

BASEBALL NY Yankees v Boston.

ESPN, 10am-1pm. Major League.

LEAGUE Panthers v Titans.

Fox Sports 2, 7-9pm. NRL.

CRICKET Pakistan v Australia.

Fox Sports 3, 9pm-5am. One-day international.

Read More →

AUSTRALIA’S premier jockey Damien Oliver is out to break a feature-race drought at Randwick today, with the former Caulfield Cup winner Master O’Reilly awaiting in the Sydney Cup.
Nanjing Night Net

The stayer heads weights and is one of four group 1 rides for Oliver. He rides emerging Victorian talent Zedi Knight in the last event.

"I started the carnival off well but it hasn’t been so great since," Oliver said yesterday.

The Victoria-based champ arrived in Sydney for the Rosehill meeting on March 21 when he carted off a feature-race double. All Silent took out the Canterbury Stakes, and Heart Of Dreams was victorious in the Phar Lap Stakes.

At the following four Saturdays of the Sydney autumn carnival, Oliver has had 20 mounts without returning to the winners’ list. On Golden Slipper day, he had six rides and was beaten on three favourites.

On AJC Australian Derby day at Randwick, Oliver failed to ride a winner from six starts but not one of the mounts headed markets, which wasn’t the case last weekend when Apache Cat was beaten as favourite in the TJ Smith as was All Silent in the Doncaster Mile.

"I’ve had a lot of good rides on paper but it hasn’t quite worked out that well," Oliver said. "I’ve been thwarted a little bit by soft tracks and luck in running. I haven’t got the winners on the board but it’s swings and roundabouts in this business.

"The favourites don’t always win, it would be pretty boring if they did."

In today’s All Aged Stakes, Oliver rides Danleigh, having committed to the galloper after his first-up second in The Galaxy. It opened the way for fellow Victorian Craig Williams to link up with All Silent, which is coming off a 10th in the Doncaster.

"I may have erred a little going back to the inside on him [All Silent]," Oliver said. "But he is going to be better on a drier track, on that track last Saturday he didn’t quite let go like he can on a dry track."

Oliver described Danleigh’s effort in The Galaxy as "a great run", and "I had to wait and follow the winner through".

A member of the elite jockeys’ grand slam-winning club, Oliver, who claimed the Sydney Cup on No Wine No Song last year, admitted the task facing Master O’Reilly was a worry.

"He has the visitors’ draw [19]. It is going to make it hard," he said. "It is not the best start; you jump straight on a turn. It hasn’t made the task any easier but the horse is going well."

Master O’Reilly has been winless since scoring in the Caulfield Cup two years ago but the Danny O’Brien-trained six-year-old has competed at the highest level, including another Caulfield Cup outing, two appearances in the Melbourne Cup, and last year’s Cox Plate.

"If the horse was going well, this was an option," Oliver said. "He is getting a bit older, and there is not that many staying races around for him. The spring is always a lot tougher with the internationals coming.

"This is not the strongest Cup but they say that every year and they are still not easy to win."

Oliver fears former AJC Australian Derby winner Fiumicino, which goes into the Cup as a last-start winner of the weight-for-age The BMW at Rosehill.

"The BMW is always strong form, and the wet track doesn’t seem to bother him," Oliver said. "I thought Ista Kareem was well in. He has been carrying the top weight for a long time and he is down on a good weight tomorrow."

In the Queen Elizabeth Stakes, which is headed by the Doncaster and George Ryder Stakes winner, Vision And Power, Oliver rides Master O’Reilly’s stablemate Douro Valley.

"He is one that is on the way up," Oliver said. "Second-up going to 2000 metres but he is the kind of horse that needs that. Anything shorter and they are probably too nippy for him. He is a group 1 performer at the distance and weight-for-age."

As for Zedi Knight, which has won five from six, Oliver is a fan. "I’ve only had one sit on him, last start, and he won well," he said. "He is one of those horses that just does what he has to."

Read More →

WEIGHTS and measures, once the doctrine by which successful horse players operated, will be put to the test by Whobegotyou in the Queen Elizabeth Stakes at Randwick today.
Nanjing Night Net

These days, alas, horses are less educated to mathematics, and the rule doesn’t get the same results.

Only a week ago, Whobegotyou was beaten a length when third to Vision And Power, his major rival again, and even Racing NSW chief steward Ray Murrihy maintained it was a "tragedy" to see him beaten. The Melbourne three-year-old just couldn’t get clear running in the long Randwick straight.

Even if Whobegotyou had every chance, the weight-for-age conditions swing the balance well in his favour over Vision And Power because he meets him six kilos better.

Maybe Whobegotyou isn’t the best-placed horse on the Randwick program either as another Victorian invader, Ortensia, looks an old-fashioned bank teller’s dream – they had easy access to a short-term loan that could be parlayed into a result with seemingly little risk – in the James HB Carr Stakes. Ortensia basically clashes with the same opposition, with the exception of Yesterday, which she beat comfortably last start and on superior terms.

Whobegotyou has a more demanding assignment. Apart from Vision And Power, which now holds two decisions over him, Whobegotyou will strike opposition from the proven wfa horse Pompeii Ruler and a bevy of his age group, including AJC Australian Derby winner Roman Emperor, which will have the benefit of Jim Cassidy aboard. Still Roman Emperor, Metal Bender, Sousa and Predatory Pricer, the unluckiest runner in the AJC Derby, are coming back from the 2400 metres to the 2000m. Maybe Sousa, best leading, will improve if ridden more aggressively.

The anticipated slow ground is another query regarding Whobegotyou, considering his 4.2-length ninth to Vision And Power in the George Ryder Stakes over the Rosehill 1500m on the heavy two starts back. Murrihy, however, has no doubt that the casing used to keep the three-year-old’s shoes in place filled with mud that day and played a role in the finishing position. The substance is now barred.

Beware of another axiom relating to Vision And Power: the more they win, the better the price.

VERDICT: Whobegotyou in the Queen Elizabeth. Try Ortensia and Yesterday in a quinella for the first. The great uncertainty of racing played havoc with bank tellers. For the quadrella, start with Whobegotyou and Vision And Power.

BART’S BEST: Tried-and-tested two-mile trainers litter the honour roll for the Sydney Cup, and while Bart Cummings hasn’t won the Randwick staying test since Trissaro (1984), he has a certain notoriety in the category. Possibly his candidate, Dandaad, is dour more than brilliant but he will prove hard to beat. "I would say this is a horse whose preparation has been timed to the minute," Craig Tompson, Racenet’s Randwick clocker, reported. Dandaad was responsible for an excellent Sydney Cup trial when a 2.1-length sixth to Divine Rebel after being wide throughout. Fiumicino, under Darren Beadman, returned to his best in taking The BMW at Rosehill on a very heavy track, and Jim Cassidy will be out to prove anything Beadman can do, he can do better. Some good judges are querying The BMW form. Fiumicino beat a non-stayer, Theseo, with Viewed third. Mr Tipsy was fifth behind them, and is not a wfa horse but a two-miler, a point he will be out to confirm today. Tangalooma, prepared by Kim Waugh, appeals as the best outsider. Waugh captured the Sydney Cup with Mahtoum in 2005, and Tangalooma was downed only three lengths in the Chairman’s, a strong pointer for a $35 chance today.

VERDICT: Dandaad to win but also take Mr Tipsy and Tangalooma in the quaddie.

HOT STUFF: All Silent, Solo Flyer or Hot Danish? Which will back up best from the Doncaster in the All Aged Stakes today? Yes, All Silent, beaten three lengths in the Doncaster, has won on consecutive Saturdays, at Flemington in the spring, but it was part of the master plan. Solo Flyer went down by only 1.8 lengths last Saturday, and will be suited by the 1400m. Also the gelding has had only four races this campaign so he should still be primed. Hot Danish was 3.2 lengths astern of the winner in the metric mile; at her best, she would be too good but has the mare had enough this campaign? Racing To Win, winner of the All Aged last year, will be improved by two runs back but just didn’t do enough last Saturday in the T.J. Smith. Under the circumstances, it’s open and Gai Waterhouse, with four previous All Aged successes, could again figure with Royal Discretion.

VERDICT: Hot Danish is hopefully still on the boil so take her, Solo Flyer and All Silent in the quaddie.

STAR TURN: The improvement factor promises to kick in for Starring To Win in the Kokoda Handicap, a minor event on an excellent program but major for quadrella and Big6 players. Starring To Win rises in class but still looked above herself in condition when taking a one-metropolitan-win sprint over the Canterbury 1200m on April 8. Obviously, the Melbourne speedster Zedi Knight will be backed with five wins from six attempts down south. On face value, Without Compromise’s last-start Randwick triumph resuming after a break was very good indeed but the strength of the race is suspect.

VERDICT: Starring To Win on top but also Zedi Knight for the quaddie. For the first two legs of the BIG6: (race 3) Pravana and Visit The Queen. (Race 4) Tickets and Onemorenomore.

Read More →