Archive for April, 2019 | Monthly archive page

Katie Ledecky, US swim superstar, could square off with Campbell sisters in sprint

Friday, April 19th, 2019

American swimming star Katie Ledecky continues to break records for her personal amusement. In her first meet of the Olympic calendar, she bettered her own 800m freestyle mark for the fourth time in as many years.

And the teenager may present a whole new set of problems for two of Australia’s gold medal hopes, with Ledecky now tipped to make the US team as a 100m sprinter, where she would run headlong into Brisbane sisters Bronte and Cate Campbell.

Now 18 and already a gold medallist after taking out the 800m free in London when she was just 15, Ledecky touched in at 8:06.68 in the meet in Texas on Sunday, more than six seconds faster than when she first won the world title in 2013 in Barcelona.

She already has the 400m and 1500m world records (and the 200m world title), although the latter is not an Olympic event for the women, but her foray into the sprinting realm could ring the alarms for the Campbell sisters, who shape as two of Australia’s best medal prospects in the pool.

Bronte won the 100m and 50m freestyle at last year’s World Championships and big sister Cate, a world champion before that, looks in ominous form as she returns from a shoulder injury.

But there doesn’t appear to be anything Ledecky can’t do in a swimming pool and she could be the first American woman to swim in the 100m, 200m, 400m and 800m in a single games, as well as the various relays.

Such is her profile now that Ledecky relegated Michael Phelps, thought by many to be the greatest swimmer of all time, to “in other news…” status in Austin as he beat Ryan Lochte in the 200m individual medley final.

She finished second to Swede Sarah Sjöström (53.12) in the 100m in 53.75, with both times well off Bronte Campbell’s 52.52 swim in Kazan to take the world title.

But it would be deeply unwise to underestimate Ledecky, who stands to be one of the major stars of the Rio Olympics. The 400m remains her focus and, along with the 800m and 200m, appears to be at her mercy.

It would take a rapid improvement in the sprint to topple either the Campbell sisters or Sjöström, but it would be unlikely Ledecky would be in Rio just to make up the numbers. Her swim in Austin was already 0.8 better than her previous PB.

If things go according to plan, she could break East German Kristin Otto’s haul of six golds, set in Seoul in 1988. That record was set amid what was later revealed to be a systemic German doping program.

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Big Bash: Jason Behrendorff ruled out of WT20, to miss four months after BBL finals

Friday, April 19th, 2019

Perth Scorchers fast bowler Jason Behrendorff will be sidelined for four months after the BBL finals. Photo: Matt BedfordCanberra fast bowler Jason Behrendorff’s dreams of playing at the WT20 have been dashed, but the left-arm quick will play through the pain of a back injury during the Big Bash finals.

Behrendorff will be sidelined for at least four months with a re-occurrence of a stress fracture in his back once his commitments with the Perth Scorchers are finished.

It’s a huge blow for the 25-year-old, who was a massive chance to make his international debut in the Australian bowling attack at the WT20 in India in March.

Behrendorff will be right to play for the Scorchers in their semi-final against the Melbourne Stars at the MCG after being rested last weekend.

But Scorchers coach Justin Langer said Behrendorff would be given the rest of the summer off and won’t play in the Sheffield Shield.

“He’ll be on ice for about four months after that I reckon so I’d say he’ll be doing everything he can to play back to back games,” Langer told The West Australian.

“He’s very courageous to play through the back he’s got.

“Certainly from our point of view, not only because he is one of our great people and best players, but he’ll be having an extended break.”

It’s the second straight summer Behrendorff will have missed a substantial part of the season with the back injury.

He helped the Scorchers to the BBL title in Canberra last January before he was shut down and missed six months.

Behrendorff returned for WA in the Matador Cup, but again suffered soreness in his back in a Shield game.

“If we had have had to make the semifinal, he would have probably played,” Langer said.

“He’ll have now 10 or 12 days rest. He’ll do what he has to do to get ready.

“We’re excited about bringing him back him, he’s very excited about coming back in.”

Despite carrying his back injury, Behrendorff has again been in outstanding form for the Scorchers.

He has snared 10 wickets from his six games at an average of 16.80 and a superb economy rate of seven runs per over.

The large injury toll among Australia’s pace brigade would have put him in a strong chance for his international debut.

Australia are without six of their top-line fast bowlers, including Mitchell Starc, Pat Cummins and Peter Siddle, while the workload of James Pattinson is also being closely monitored.

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Australian Open 2016: Hand of Federer hanging over Murray’s opener

Friday, April 19th, 2019

German Alexander Zverev plays Scot Andy Murray at the Australian Open on Tuesday. Photo: Paul KaneAfter a poor run of results against Roger Federer, Andy Murray must have been delighted when the two men found themselves in opposite halves of this Australian Open draw.

Yet Federer could still play a hand in Murray’s first-round match on Tuesday as a tactical adviser to the German wunderkind Alexander Zverev.

Zverev, who will be facing Murray for the first time, has friends in high places. A gifted 18-year-old with future world No.1 already being mentioned with his name, Federer is just one of the established players who have cottoned on to his potential. Over the past 18 months they have built a strong, German-speaking relationship.

“For some reason, Roger quite likes me,” Zverev said on Friday in his equally fluent English.

“It started in Cincinnati: he had no one to warm up with and I was there. We hit for 30 minutes maybe and then we just sat on court for 45 minutes talking to each other. Then after that he was always nice to me. We’re kind of from neighbour countries.”

Zverev was looking forward to accessing Federer’s tactical databank.

“He always gives me tips on how to act on court, how to behave in different moments, how to behave against different players,” Zverev said. “He can probably help me a bit with how he sees my game and what he thinks I can hurt Andy with.”

Zverev won the junior title at the Australian Open two years ago and is still scouting out the landscape of the senior game. Significant search-and-destroy missions still look to be a couple of seasons away, and the odds favour Murray easing through his opening round in straight sets for the fourth consecutive year.

But you cannot watch Zverev on the court, or meet him in the flesh, without being impressed by his potential. If he does turn out to be the next big thing (very big, at 198 centimetres), then the game is in good hands, because this young man has serious charisma.

Were he not a tennis player, you could imagine him making waves as a pop star or actor.

Zverev’s greatest challenge over the next couple of seasons will lie in managing the physical transition that every tennis prodigy has to go through.

At the moment, he still looks coltish and spindly, even after stacking on muscle over the off-season. His body shape actually resembles Murray’s at the same age, despite the extra couple of inches in height. Which may explain why he has spent the past two years working with Jez Green, the same fitness trainer who guided Murray’s own athletic evolution between 2007 and 2014.

“I think Jez is one of the best physical trainers in tennis,” said Zverev. “He did an unbelievable job with Andy because Andy was quite skinny as well when he was 17 or 18. He was physically not the best but now he is probably the best tennis athlete in the sport.

“I am quite skinny still and Jez’s main goal is to make me stronger and prevent injuries,” Zverev added. “He is one of the biggest reasons why I’m top-100 now, because I started to really feel stronger. We’ve been working together since early 2014. Jez was still working with Andy then, of course, but Andy was totally fine with it. I’m still very thankful for that.”

While Zverev lauds Murray for his generosity of spirit, he also suspects that his own youth was a factor in the decision. Had the request come from a direct contemporary, he suggests, the response would not have been so favourable.

Tomorrow’s match will go some way towards revealing whether this was the right call, and whether the 10-year age gap is indeed enough to prevent Zverev from being a threat. The teenager should at least be grateful for all those gym hours if forecasts of 37 degree temperatures turn out to be accurate.

The Daily Telegraph

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THE LOWEDOWN: A win well deserved

Friday, April 19th, 2019

THE Lowedown, Take Two! Damn you, Jets. Kids never, ever plan too far aheadand get your homework done early. You’ll only have to re-write it, or type it as you youngsters do today .

I had written what I thought was an insightful answer to a series of questions/statements posed by regular “letters to the editor” contributor Daryll Hadfield, of Redhead, who was basically bemoaning what the Jets are producing, and suggesting that the fans deserve much better.

Then lo and behold, the Jets pop up and win, avoid all sorts of ugly milestones and records, and the fans toddle off home with a smile on theirfaces.

So it’s either a re-write, or risk being a “negative Nigel” (the radio advertising character, not Boogaardthe Jets skipper) and run with the sombre appraisal I’d prepared.

A writer with thick skin and conviction in his work would probably stick to his original piece, cop the barbs around town for a week, and move on.

Me, I’m scoffing into the BBQ Shapes while writing a second piece, and saying well done to a team who arenot the prettiest, nor most talented, but whotryhard on a weekly basis, and areusually difficult to break down.

Do I think the fans deserve better than that? I’m not sure “deserve” is the right word, although it would be lovely to pop in each fortnight and watch a free-flowing, cavalier, swashbuckling Jets, romping to victory after overpowering their opposition.

The reality is the team and the club don’t have the resources to do that on anything remotely approaching a consistent basis.

I wondered in my first draft whether we had been somewhat spoiled by a title and two top-four finishes in the first three years of the the A League’s existence, when I presume the relative spending of all clubs was fairly level. The odd marquee player, here and there, aside.

For instance, I would like to compare the expenditure on the players of Con Constantine’s title-winning Jets side in 2008, to Sydney FCand Melbourne Victoryof that day.

I fancy it would be much closer to parity then today’s version, where a variety of marquee concessionsmean that one team’s player budget can comfortably be up to three times bigger than others.

If you spent three times as much as me on a car, you’d be mightily disappointed if you didn’t get better performance.

Then factor in the money behind Melbourne City and the Wanderers, who weren’t even born when Mark Bridge’s goal brought the title up the F3.

Am I suggesting it’s harder to win an A League title in 2016 than it was in 2008? Unquestionably, and even more so if you are a lower-budget side from a non-capital city.

A quick glance at the results of the Mariners and Jets in recent seasons indicates steady decline and not too much cause for optimism abouta turnaroundany time soon.

It’s no coincidence that Graham Arnold, one of the shrewdest operators and coaches in the country, exited the Central Coast at just the right time.

Having said that, do I think the Jets could be doing better than they are? Yes, but not to any large degree.

They needed a change or a freshen-up, I suggested last week, as did a number of “experts”, and the chance would come against an ailing Wellington side, after a very tough run against some of the league’s heavyweights.

And to his credit, Scott Miller seized the moment, went to a four-four-two, played David Carney closer to Milos Trifunovic, and probably posed questions that three of Wellington’s back four have rarely faced before.

The three youngsters in Ernie Merrick’s defence had 12A-League games between them, and even Andrew Durante’s 200-plus games of experience would battle to organise and coax them to a result.The Phoenix fullbacks weren’t sure whether to push on, tuck in ormake runs into yawning spaces when they had the ball, and as a result really struggled positionally.

Carney, who has previously provided tutorials in crossing, dribbling, inverted wing play, and set pieces, then put on a mini-master class to provide two of the Jets’ goals.

Trifunovic enjoyed his company and so did we old farts in the crowd, cheekily suggesting the win could be revoked on review in midweek, due to failure to correctly apply the curriculum.

I’m not going to fall for the trap of thinking a season is suddenly transformed, however.An undermanned Wellington still enjoyed had too many shots for my comfort.

As Miller noted, the boys should enjoy the win, because they had endured mounting psychological pressure leading up to this fixture.

Should we expect better in weeks to come? The Jets could certainly use a couple of good signings in the transfer window. However, I’m not sure the pleas of the coaching staff won’t fall on deaf ears.

For the vast majority of the almost 40 years of national league football in this country, Newcastle’s No.1problem has been a lack of financial resources.

It explains the haste with which Nathan Tinkler was handed the reins to play saviour.

That is still the case today, and whilewe could point the finger at the FFA and request more investment in the project, we must also accept they have other priorities.

Hunter football fans are quintessentially good, loyal peopleand understandably they’d like to watch a more competitive side.

If, as we hope one day soon, the fans get a chance to have a stake in the club, and can help resource it to a level approaching the league’s leading clubs, then can the punters truly insist “we deserve something better”.

A HARD-EARNED THIRST: Newcastle Jets coach Scott Miller congratulates his players after Sunday’s victory against Wellington Phoenix at Hunter Stadium.

Sydney FC welcome FFA’s extension of Wellington Phoenix A-League licence

Friday, April 19th, 2019

Sydney FC’s chairman praised the FFA’s decision to retain Wellington Phoenix in the A-League and withdraw their immediate interest in establishing a team in Sydney’s southern suburbs.

As revealed by Fairfax Media on Monday, Wellington and the FFA are set to announce a minimum four-year licence extension in the A-League, which could be formally concluded as early as next week.

The two parties negotiated a deal that could amount to a total of 10 years, pending the club’s commercial performance in a heavily incentivised structure.

While yet to be finalised, Sydney FC chairman Scott Barlow welcomed the deal that’s set to keep the Phoenix in the competition for the medium to long term as well as delay the introduction of a team in their core supporter base.

The St George, Sutherland and Wollongong regions account for approximately 25 per cent of the Sky Blues membership in what is the largest area of season ticket holders.

“My understanding is that a deal is yet to be reached between the FFA and Wellington but I’d certainly welcome a deal that saw Wellington remain in the competition long term,” Barlow said.

“They’re a very well run club financially, they’re secure and they add a lot to the A-League and I know the other club chairmen share that view.

“From a South Sydney perspective, the region continues to be a vital and important one for Sydney FC and we’ll do everything we can to ensure that remains the case long into the future.”

The FFA are understood to be eager to introduce an A-League club in Sydney’s south which boasts the largest number of registered football players in the country.

That won’t likely occur for up to four years and pending the next broadcast deal. Stakeholders in the St George, Sutherland and Wollongong region may have been disappointed not to have been granted an A-League licence for next season but remain on-call for a future bid.

The local councils and football associations united to form a grassroots support base for an A-League club and said they will continue to support a team even if it won’t likely enter the competition for up to four more seasons.

“We will continue to work with them to be part of the whole of football plan. I think it’s a viable opportunity for the FFA to consider but that’s the FFA’s decision, they know their competition and what’s affordable. We would be happy to help build a club from the grass roots level and up,” Sutherland Shire FA general manager Jeff Stewart said.

The Phoenix came under criticism from many fans demanding to know the status of their licence application. Through a post on their Facebook page, Wellington Phoenix said a deal was yet to be finalised and ruled out publicly discussing licence talks.

“The negotiations for a license extension are continuing but the Wellington Phoenix have not and will not conduct these negotiations via the media,” the post read.

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