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CrownBet ends battle against $11b Tabcorp, Tatts merger

The James Packer-backed online bookmaker CrownBet has dumped a long-running legal bid to thwart the $11 billion mega-merger of Australia’s two biggest gambling companies, Tabcorp and Tatts.
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Tabcorp on Thursday revealed it had struck an agreement with CrownBet under which the digital bookmaker would withdraw its opposition to the mega-merger in the Australian Competition Tribunal in exchange for CrownBet customers being able to stream Tabcorp’s Sky Racing vision.

The development clears an important hurdle for the highly anticipated tie-up, which has been dogged by legal setbacks and delays for months. Tatts shareholders are scheduled to vote on the merger proposal in two weeks’ time.

CrownBet, 62 per cent owned by the ASX-listed Crown Resorts, and the national consumer watchdog have been challenging the Tabcorp-Tatts merger due to the immense market power that the merged entity would command, and concerns over the subsequent lessening of competition in the wagering industry.

The merger would create an $11 billion gaming behemoth encompassing Tatts lotteries, digital betting services and totalisator betting licences in every state and territory except Western Australia.

Challenges in the Federal Court recently forced the merger proposal to be sent back to the competition tribunal for review, but it was again given the green light earlier this month.

The companies hope to have the deal sealed before the end of the year.

In a statement on Thursday, CrownBet said its competition concerns had since been “sufficiently addressed” by an arrangement it had reached with Tabcorp and Sky in relation to the streaming of racing vision to CrownBet customers.

“CrownBet no longer opposes the merger of Tabcorp and Tatts and will not interfere in any way with the implementation of the merger,” a CrownBet spokesman said.

Tabcorp told the stock market it had agreed to supply a digital stream of SKY1 and SKY2 to CrownBet for the personal use of its Australian wagering customers on mobile and desktop computer devices.

One of the main objections to the Tabcorp-Tatts tie-up centred on Tabcorp’s racing broadcast business, Sky Racing, which competitors feared could inflate the merged company’s power.

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission has until December 20 to launch another appeal of the competition tribunal’s approval of the merger, but it is yet to indicate whether it intends to do so.

Also on Thursday, CrownBet agreed not to launch any further proceedings in the NSW Supreme Court seeking a declaration that it was legally able to offer digital wagering services at up to 1200 licensed clubs after winning a tender process.

Tabcorp, which holds exclusives licences to run physical retail betting outlets in pubs and clubs, claimed clubs could be in breach of the Unlawful Gambling Act if they accepted the CrownBet partnership.

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.

David Walliams: ‘It has completely taken over my life’

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British children know David Walliams??? as the author of some of their favourite books, as well as the tall, daffy judge on the TV show Britain’s Got Talent. But to their parents he will forever be Emily Howard, the transvestite from the hit comedy series Little Britain whose shrill refrain – “I’m a laydee!” – became one of the most parroted catchphrases of the noughties.

Walliams admits it can be tricky when he has to cater for both his constituencies: young readers aged seven to 12 and adults hoping for a reprise of the show that made him famous. On a recent visit to a school, a boy asked how he met Simon Cowell, the straight man to the high-camp persona Walliams deploys on Britain’s Got Talent. “On Grindr” was the first answer that popped into his head. It was a good joke but unsuitable for a room of children. “You have to edit yourself as you go along,” he says, “because you don’t want to drag them [children] into the adult world unnecessarily.”

That doesn’t mean young readers can’t be challenged or deal with “grown-up” issues. That belief underpins all of Walliams’ children’s books – 10 and counting – and helps explain their staggering popularity and the frequency with which reviewers compare him to Roald Dahl.

Walliams, who became a devout fan of the British author after “devouring” a copy of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory at the age of 11, is clearly uncomfortable being anointed as Dahl’s successor. He has made it clear that he does not consider himself in the same league. No one is, he argues. “It’s a nice thing to put on a book cover. But beyond that I don’t really think it means anything.”

Walliams hatched the idea of writing a children’s book in the aftermath of the third and final series of Little Britain. One day he received a photograph from an 11-year-old boy – a fan of the show – who had been inspired by Emily Howard to wear a dress to his school’s costume day. Walliams had worn his first dress at a similar age, frocking up for a school play at his all-male grammar school in Reigate, a commuter town on the southern outskirts of London. “I began to wonder what would happen if a boy decided to go to school in a dress,” he says. “It’s one thing if it’s fancy dress, but another thing if it’s something he just wanted to do.”

The result was The Boy in the Dress, his 2008 debut. It was illustrated by Quentin Blake – Dahl’s long time collaborator – and told the story of Dennis, a 12-year-old boy who decides to wear a sparkly dress to school, not as a joke, but because it’s beautiful and feels good. The book is compassionate and includes a cast of great characters and tons of laugh-out-loud jokes, some of them scatological. The Times praised its espousal of “freedom and tolerance”. To young readers it was simply a great yarn that combined sequins, soccer and a stupid headmaster.

The book’s success set Walliams on the road to becoming a publishing phenomenon. Mr Stink, Billionaire Boy, Gangsta Granny and six others followed at the rate of one a year. His global sales now total 20 million – 1 million of them in Australia. He has muscled his way past the likes of J.K. Rowling and Stephenie Meyer to take up what seems like permanent residence at the top of the bestseller lists.

Given its boundary-pushing topic, The Boy in the Dress provoked little controversy. The biggest ripple occurred in Australia a few months ago when its appearance in a supermarket catalogue at the height of the debate on same-sex marriage provoked angry comments on social media from those who accused it of “pushing social agendas”. Walliams responded quickly, saying that he had written the book to change the way people think and feel about the subject, adding “???hard to believe this is 2017”.

He knows, of course, that acceptance takes time. His effeminacy has made him the target of bullies since the days when he pretended to be Wonder Woman in the school playground. Speculation about his sexuality is something of a national obsession in Britain. He is, surely, the only high-profile male guest to be asked point blank on the BBC show Desert Island Discs: “Have you ever had a relationship with a man?” His answer is always the same. He is attracted to women, has never had a relationship with a man, but wouldn’t rule out having one if he fell in love. You might think his candour would stop the tittle-tattle, but it hasn’t. Despite the small army of nubiles he dated as a bachelor and a five-year marriage to the Dutch model Lara Stone that produced his son, Alfred, but ended in divorce last year, many people simply refuse to accept he isn’t gay. “I’m camp, I’ve always been camp,” he says. “That’s who I am.”

Walliams takes pride in the way Little Britain and his first book helped bring topics such as sexuality and cross-dressing into the mainstream. Emily Howard and Dafydd Thomas (aka “the only gay in the village”) were “celebrating difference”, he says and trying to break down barriers via “visibility”. Not that the battle is won. “When I go into schools and tell kids the inspiration for my first book was “what” would happen if a boy decided to go to school in a dress’, a lot of them still giggle,” he says. “So it’s still a difficult or unusual subject for some people.”

The recent publication of his 10th book, Bad Dad – a tale of fast cars, scary criminals and the bond between a father and son – feels like a milestone, he admits. “Writing felt like a second career at first. I’d achieved success with Matt [Lucas, his Little Britain co-star] and writing felt like an offshoot in a way. But it’s not like that any more because it has completely taken over my life.”

He is not exaggerating. As well as writing a book a year he reads the popular audio books and co-writes screenplays for the movies based on the books. The latest film, an adaptation of his eighth tome Grandpa’s Great Escape, stars Jennifer Saunders, Tom Courtenay and er, David Walliams. There are stage productions and rumours of an animation. He enjoys reading to children in classrooms and celebrated World Book Day in 2015 by using a helicopter to visit six schools in a day.

When I ask, at the age of 46, he now considers himself primarily a writer, I sense him bristle. “Yeah, I’d say so, but I was a writer before. People might think that Little Britain was written by pixies and elves, but that’s what Matt and I were doing most of the time – the writing takes a lot more time than the performing. For some reason people don’t see television writing, certainly not sketch writing, in the same way as other writing.”

He continues to write and perform comedy, but so far none of his post-Little Britain ventures – the budget airline spoof Come Fly Me, for example, or the classroom sitcom Big School – have enjoyed the lightning-in-a-bottle success of the show that made him famous. Walliams is experienced enough to take setbacks in his stride. “There are things I’m satisfied with and some things I’m not,” he says with a shrug. “You hope you’re improving and the next thing will be better.”

Not all his energy is devoted to making people laugh. His long-distance swims – he has conquered the English Channel, the Strait of Gibraltar and the 225-kilometre length of the River Thames – have raised millions of pounds for charity and earned him widespread admiration even among those unmoved by his comedy.

Given his crazy workload it comes as no surprise to learn he considers himself “driven, organised and keen to get things done”. “I’m at a point in my life where I’m successful and some people know who I am and there are lots of opportunities. I don’t want to squander them.” You can understand how all this focus and drive might have caused friction with Lucas who is described in Walliams’ startlingly candid 2012 autobiography, Camp David, as a brilliant man with a less-than-dynamic work ethic. To be fair, the book is even harsher on its author who admits to bouts of suicidal self-loathing, sex addiction and a need to be loved by everyone he meets.

Walliams knows there’s a thin line between seizing every opportunity and biting off more than he can chew. “Sometimes I think I do too much,” he says. “You can definitely appear on screen too much. That’s something that you need to consider because people can get bored with you. It’s happened a few times in my life and I’ve regretted it.”

It is tempting – irresistible, perhaps – to see parts of the books as autobiographical. As a camp schoolboy Walliams was a natural target for bullies. So are many of his young protagonists who also experience isolation, loneliness and emotional and financial deprivation.

A recurring theme is the relationship between fathers and sons. Walliams spent years trying to win the affection and approval of his own dad Peter, an engineer who died of cancer in 2008. He seems to believe he failed. But Bad Dad paints a touching picture of a man enjoying a tender relationship with his son. “It’s a kind of wish fulfilment isn’t it,” he says when I raise the subject. “The books might not be autobiographical, but they can’t help being personal. You can’t help pouring yourself and your experiences into them and it comes out in lots of different ways – conscious and subconscious.” He pauses. “It would be bizarre if it didn’t really.”

His children’s books have earned him a fortune – ??7 million in 2014 alone – but it is clear they mean much more to him than that. “I think of writing a book as like trying to remember a film you haven’t seen,” he says. “Although it’s a solitary process it feels exciting. At the end of the day you’re often looking forward to getting up the next day and spending time with these imaginary characters that become like friends.”

And despite all his success, he knows he has more to achieve. “I think the real test with my work will be whether it carries on to another generation,” he says. “Roald Dahl wrote some of his books over 50 years ago and three or four generations have loved them. If one day someone comes up to me and says ‘I read your book when I was a kid and now I’m reading it to my child’, then I’ll know I’ve made it as a children’s writer.”

The Wonderful World of Walliams will be at the Riverside Theatres, Parramatta, on December 8 and at the City Recital Hall, Sydney, on December 9.

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Where in the team does Hayne fit for 2018?

Jarryd Hayne has proven his versatility time and again – but where does he fit into the Parramatta squad for next season?
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The 29-year-old played a variety of positions in his first tenure with the Eels, but with a loaded squad looking to improve on a pretty successful 2017 campaign, it’s not exactly clear where the prodigal son fits into Brad Arthur’s line-up.

Fullback:

Despite this being the position in which Hayne achieved the most success, it’s not a guarantee that he will be handed the number one jersey upon return. Bevan French is clearly a large part of the Eels’ plans for the future, but it was the 2017 form of Clint Gutherson that may prove the biggest obstacle for the returning Dally M winner.

Gutherson was one of the feel-good stories of the season, and like Hayne, can play a multitude of positions in the backline – but of games where he played fullback, the Eels won seven from nine, and four in a row at the back end of the season, before an ACL injury against the Wests Tigers ended his season.

We may well see Gutherson shuffled back to centre to accommodate Hayne, but there’s at least a discussion to be had that at this stage in their respective careers, it’s perhaps the returning Hayne who’d be better served elsewhere in the team.

Wing:

There’s almost no chance this happens – but Hayne played a lot of games on the wing, winning the NRL’s rookie of the year award with the number two on his back, before locking down a flank for the Blues on 13 of his 23 State of Origin appearances, with a few for Australia sprinkled in.

It’s very unlikely that we’d see this, but with Semi Radradra leaving and a cautiousness towards not ruining the chemistry of what was already a very good rugby league team, it seems like this would be the least disruptive move Parramatta could make.

Lethal finisher: A young Jarryd Hayne on the wing for NSW. Photo: Darren Pateman

He doesn’t quite have as much speed or explosiveness that he had in his first stint with the club, but the skill as a pure finisher is still there – and he’d be a great bet for the NRL’s top try scorer award if they did end up sticking him out wide.

Centre:

If he doesn’t play fullback, this seems the most likely secondary outcome – but also probably the least practical, given what we saw from Hayne in the centres since his return to the NRL.

He didn’t exactly set the world on first playing in the three-quarters for the Blues in this year’s State of Origin, and he really struggled to make an impact in his time there for the Titans, looking much more at home in his preferred role at the back.

Parramatta are short on outside backs, but you’d have to think that last year’s fullback Gutherson is the more likely man to make a positional switch – he looked better in the centres than Hayne did last year for their respective teams, and most would agree that the former San Francisco 49ers plays his best rugby league with the number one on his back.

Still, it’s a long season and even if it’s just a couple of appearances as a centre, we could well see Hayne play multiple positions.

Mixed bag: Hayne playing in the centres during the 2017 State of Origin series. Photo: AAP

Five-eighth:

Again, it’s a long shot. The Eels moved to bring Mitchell Moses into the fold mid-way through the 2017 season and the ex-Tiger played arguably the best footy of his career, not just for the blue and gold, but also for Lebanon in the World Cup. They also have Corey Norman in the halves, who was excellent last year, and has continued to impress under Arthur’s tutelage.

Hayne only spent about ten per cent of his time as an Eel the first time around in the six jersey, and played two games there for the Gold Coast in 2016, before not starting a game there at all this year.

Losing the kicking game of Moses or the overall game of Norman would be a massive detriment to the Eels chances of winning the premiership, and on top of that, you couldn’t really argue that either of those players could be re-shuffled to a different position to accommodate Hayne.

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College takes to the stage on Beaumont

CHANGING HANDS: WEA Hunter’s John Radvan and former DAPA Theatre owner Lesly Stevenson outside the venue. The college moves in on Friday. Picture: Meg PurserHAMILTON’S DAPA Theatre, which has doubled as a performance venue and training academy since 2001, will retain those roles after being sold to the not-for-profit WEA Hunter community college.
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The theatre, at 145 Beaumont Street and next-door to the Exchange Hotel, was originally scheduled to be sold at auction in late November, and at least two major Hamilton businesses showed interest in buying the property, with one looking at demolishing the building and using the site as a parking area.

WEA Hunter, which offers courses in creative arts, including a diploma of musical theatre, approached the theatre’s owner, Lesly Stevenson, and negotiated its purchase.

Ms Stevenson, who put the building on the market because she is retiring from full-time work, will be a member of an advisory committee being set up by WEA Hunter to assist in management of the theatre’s operations.

The WEA (Workers’ Educational Association) was established in Britain in 1903 as a charitable group to assist working-class people to develop job skills that would help them to get and maintain employment.

The organisation has operated in Australia since 1913, with WEA Hunter having branches in Cooks Hill, Raymond Terrace, Cessnock and Nelson Bay.

WEA Hunter has increasingly introduced courses in performing arts in recent years.

The courses have mainly been at the organisation’s main premises, the former Cooks Hill Intermediate High School, where facilities, including a school hall, that are used for performance training, are shared with Alesco students, high school seniors who are helped to overcome problems that have interfered with their education.

The WEA will move into the DAPA building on Friday, December 1, with the name being changed to the WEA Hunter Creative Arts Space.

Its first public function there will be Broadway Bites 2017, the final assessment performance by WEA’s graduating diploma of musical theatre and community dance, theatre and events certificate students.

The performance is on Tuesday, December 5, at 7.30pm.

WEA Hunter’s head of compliance and data administration, John Radvan, said the venue would be the hub of the WEA arts development program.

Lesly Stevenson, who established DAPA (the Dance and Performing Arts Academy) in 1988 as the Hunter’s first training company covering most performing arts, bought the venue, then known as the Roxy Theatre, from Newcastle Dramatic Art Club (NDAC) in 2001.

The theatre has several rooms of different sizes behind the stage that can be used for training courses.

WEA Hunter plans to offer hire of the theatre to performing arts groups at several times of the year for reasonable rates.

And on some occasions emerging artists will be able to put on shows free of charge.

The theatre was originally a church housing the Assemblies of God.

After the church closed, NDAC bought the building in 1981 and converted it to a theatre, with the first show opening on October 30 that year.

The company had previously owned another Hamilton theatre known as the Roxy.

A remnant of the church, a baptismal font that was used for full body immersion, lies beneath the stage.

It was not removed because much of the building would have had to be pulled down and rebuilt at considerable cost to take away the sizeable structure.

Summer festival at Lake Macquarie

Sunday, December 10, will be a day of celebration at Lake Macquarie City Art Gallery at Booragulas surf and skate cultures meet contemporary art.
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The gallery will launch its summer exhibition program with a program of events on December 10, including music, a makers market, skate competition, skateboard design competition, free water sports and more. Events at the “All a BOARD” celebration run from 10am to 4.30pm.

The gallery’s three summer exhibitions pay heed to the region’s outdoor culture. They are:

BOARD, featuring contemporary art addressing surf and skate cultures, with works by Nell, Vernon Ah Kee, Gerry Bobsien, Shaun Gladwell, Nancy Kilgour, Brett McMahon, Tracey Moffatt, John Turier and emerging local artists.

Living Cultures, the second of an ongoing series where history, memory and cultures intersect. This exhibition focuses on surf lifesaving, with archival photographs and historic objects sourced from local historical societies and surf lifesaving clubs at Redhead, Catherine Hill Bay, Swansea-Belmont and Caves Beach. In addition, Hunter artist Gavin Vitullo has responded with contemporary artwork.

At the Beach, Students from Five Islands School in Lake Macquarie has created work based on ideas invoked by the “At the beach” theme. The public school is designed to cater to the needs of students with a moderate or severe intellectually disability and has a strong arts program.

All a BOARD program highlights:

10am to 3pm: Free water sports, including aStand-Up Paddle board demo, windsurfing, kiteboarding andfoilboarding.

10am to 11am: Free art demo of surfboard graphics with Marc Adams.

10am to 2.30pm: Makers Market with stalls including surf and skate products and local hand-made gifts.

Noon: Skateboard performance demonstration by Poppy Starr Olsen, one of the top female skateboarders in Australia.

2pm-3pm: Rosemarie Milsom hosts a panel with featured artists and Poppy Starr Olsen.

Please note: last weekWeekenderincorrectly stated that the All A Board Festival would be on December 9.

The artwork pictured isSkate Face(detail) 2017, skateboard decks, installation 80 x 264cm, by Nell, supplied courtesy of the artist and Roslyn Oxley9 Gallery, Sydney © the artist.

Detail from Skate Face 2017, an installation by Nell, in the BOARD exhibition.

Gonna Mish you

END OF AN ERA: All good things come to an end despite our irrational wishes to the contrary.SIMON WALKER: That’s Life archive
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There’s never a good time for a bad time, but when it’s time, it’s time.

Such wasthe reality confronted last week when we called a day on our beloved family cat Mish Mash.

It’s a situation many pet owners face, if they’re lucky enough, and I say that advisably because it’s a bittersweet moment.

The end of a two-decade era.

While the city was revelling in Supercars, and Same Sex marriage equality was passing the Senate, we were at home dealing with another big issue.

Mish arrived in our lives as a five-week-old rescue kitten and grew up with our kids, becoming a fixture over 20 bliss- and hiss-full years, depending on whether you were trying to clip her nails or not.

It’s fair to say she was as much a piece of the family furniture as the pieces of family furniture she spent most of those 20 years sleeping on, when she wasn’t sleeping on us.

It was the second familiar feline we’ve lost this year and a poignant lesson in loss.

The first went in June and was unexpected because at seven he was seemingly full of tomorrows.

Mish was tipped much more likely to cross the rainbow bridge due to miles on the clock but defied ever-advancing renal failure with a devil-may-care attitude to exercise and hitting the kitty litter tray.

Death is a fact of life, however, and like most consumer durables these days, none of us comes with a warranty. Deep down we hoped Mish wouldlive forever becausethe thought of parting seemed beyond sweet sorrow, particularly as that time grew obviously closer.

In the end it wasabout reducing suffering, and I promise I won’t extend yours by going on too much more about this, butmaybe one day our Parliaments will. Victoria’s did this week.

Vets obviously go through it a lot because when we took Mish in last Monday, a checkup nearly becameaput down. The ultimate one. The writing had been on the wall, but not in such big letters that we couldn’t yet cling to the hope of one last course of action. Or rather antibiotics. If they kicked in, and then the appetite, and then the digestive system etc, then maybe we could pushpast pseudo relevant landmarks like clawing past Christmas and New Year.

It’s called clutching at straws. And come Thursday, we were in little doubtthat the inevitablewas at hand, if we so chose.

As mentioned at the start, there’s never a good time for a bad time, but when the vet suggested that now, before puppy pre-school, was probably a better time, the finality of what you are doing strikes home. After all those years, it cameto this.

And with that, and some tissues and kind words and final pats and a paw print, we called time on 20 years.

The nest is now emptier than anticipated at the beginning of the year, reminding us all that nothing lasts forever and that we should always cherish what we’ve got.

Mish will live on in the memory as one of the great family cats but her passing, as does any loss, reallyputs the “purr” into perspective.

Innovative product delivers fatal ticking-off

Summer and more time in the bush brings the inevitable problem for us and our pets: ticks and their removal.
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The latest thinking is to freeze them and flick them off. But how to do that?

Last week I saw a new product on the market, Tick Tox, a small pressurised-can with a fine nozzle and a shielding device to target just the tick to ensure the tick, and not the skin around it, is frozen.

The life cycle of a tick, as it hatches from egg to larva, metamorphoses to nymph, grows to adulthood, mates and lays about 300 eggs, requires three blood meals from its host animal, or indeed any animal or human that might come along at the wrong time.

Our local ticks deliver a potent paralysis toxin that commonly sendspet dogs to the veterinary surgery. It’s less common, but some humans develop dangerous anaphylactic reactions to the tick saliva and some develop allergies to red meat such as beef.

During the long history of evolution, many human and animal bacterial pathogens have adapted to use the tick as a way of passing from one host to another, so a tick bite in Australia can cause disease such as scrub typhus.

Indeed our laboratory showed some years ago that the brown dog tick causes tick fever in dogs through injecting them with a bug, previously not thought to be in Australia, called Anaplasma platys. The symptoms being anaemia and autoantibodies to blood platelets, the target cell of the bug.

Tick Tox is a wonderful example of entrepreneurism. Canberran, Peggy Douglass, after having too many tick bites while working in her aunt’s Palm Beach garden, decided to do something to make it easier to kill ticks, by snap freezing them, thus filling a gap in the market.

Professor Tim Roberts is the director of the Tom Farrell Institute for the Environment, University of Newcastle

Around the world and back to Parramatta – a Hayne timeline

2006: Hayne makes first grade debut
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Bursts onto the scene as a teenager, making his debut on the wing against the Penrith Panthers. He grabs his first two tries in his fourth game and goes on to score 17 in 16 games to win Rookie of the Year. Eels lose in week one of the finals to Melbourne.

2007: Rep jerseys abound

No signs of second year syndrome as Hayne scores a try on his Origin debut as NSW lose the series, but wins NSW Player of the Year honours. Switches to fullback mid-season for Parramatta, who reach the prelim before losing to the Storm again. Represents Australia for the first time.

2008: World Cup dreams

The Eels fall off a cliff and miss the finals – Hayne again plays Origin, but represents Fiji at the 2008 World Cup and reaches the semi-finals before being thrashed by the Kangaroos.

2009: The magic run

Starts the season playing five-eighth and centre, before a switch to fullback ignites the Eels and they make a run to the grand final after finishing eighth. They are once again thwarted by the Storm – his last NRL finals match for 7 years – but Hayne wins the first of his two Dally M medals.

Fairytale run: Hayne’s performances in 2009 were arguably his best in an Eels jersey. Photo: Steve Christo

2013-14: Origin and World glory

The Eels spend several years in the cellar, including wooden spoons in 2012 and 2013. But Hayne shines on rep duty, earning the top tryscorer award at the 2013 World Cup as the Kangaroos easily win the tournament. In the 2014 State of Origin, the Blues win the series for the only time in his career. Claims his second Dally M, joint-winner with Johnathan Thurston.

2015: The switch

Moves to the San Francisco 49ers, and grabs headlines throughout a highlight-filled pre-season. Plays eight regular season games and struggles to make an impact, before retiring from the sport in 2016 when the team hired a new head coach.

Living the dream: Hayne in action for the San Francisco 49ers. Photo: AP

2016: Olympic dream and NRL return

After leaving America, Hayne expressed his desire to go to Rio with the Fijian rugby sevens team. He is left off the final roster for the Olympics as Fiji claim gold. After failing to come to terms with Parramatta, Hayne signs with the Gold Coast Titans for the second half of the 2016 season. They finish eighth and lose in week one of the finals.

2017: homecoming

The Titans finish second last as speculation mounts that Hayne is agitating for a return to Parramatta. The request is granted, as Hayne’s globetrotting career comes full circle.

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.

US teams tailored tactics around Kerr

Former adversaries aren’t surprised that Matildas star Sam Kerr has been crowned the Asian player of the year, having had to base their tactics solely around the threat of the nimble striker for years.
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Western Sydney Wanderers’ midfielder Lo’eau LaBonta spent two seasons playing against the Australian forward in the US National Women’s Soccer League and revealed her team’s game plan would always change whenever it faced Kerr.

LaBonta joined Sky Blue FC in 2015 but parted ways just before Kerr moved to the club, meaning they narrowly crossed paths at the New Jersey side. The American youth international then spent two seasons at FC Kansas City where the Australian forward became one of the most difficult opponents her team would face.

She said it was common knowledge throughout US women’s soccer that teams’ tactics and defensive set-up would be tailored around the threat of a then 22-year-old Kerr and Kansas City was no different. For each game against Kerr’s Sky Blue FC, Kansas would deploy two defenders on the Matildas forward with the sole task of marking her for the entire game.

“I just know that we were always watching her. I know with a lot of teams, their game plans are based around Sam Kerr. You always have to watch for her,” LaBonta said.

Even if that was successful in nullifying Kerr’s threat, LaBonta said that would still pose other problems.

“You always want to have someone on her and have another player close. The great thing about her upfront is she does a lot of the work and they forget about the other forward around her. She creates so much space for others, a lot of teams tend to focus a lot on her,” she said.

Kerr finished last season as the top-scorer in the NWSL with 17 goals and moved to the all-time leading goal-scorer in the competition’s five-year history. Combined with her 11 goals in internationals, her club form in the US and her impressive start to the W-League season made her one of the hottest properties in world football.

At a ceremony in Thailand on Wednesday, Kerr was crowned Asia’s best player, providing some comfort after narrowly missing out on the final three-player shortlist for the world player of the year and LaBonta isn’t surprised having experience her progress first-hand in recent years.

“She’s been improving so much as a player since I first saw her play a couple of years ago. She’s improved so much, she’s really established herself not just here but in the States as well and internationally. She’s gotten overseas prestigious recognition, she’s crushing it. Now she’s doing so well, it brings so much attention to not only her, the league but women’s soccer in general,” LaBonta said.

Kerr will travel from Bangkok to Sydney to play for Perth Glory against Western Sydney on Friday afternoon at Marconi Stadium. The Wanderers aren’t expecting jet lag or fatigue to diminish the threat of Kerr and her clinical striker partner Rachel Hill, who collectively have scored 11 goals this season.

“We have to be just very strict in our defending and focusing on our shape and not leaving them on their own. Hopefully we keep the ball on them. The game plan is to keep the ball so we don’t have to defend,” LaBonta said.

“You always have to keep your eye on her and her finishing, you just saw the finish she had the other day in their international competition but it’s just top of the class.”

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.

Knights banking on million-dollar Pearce to lead club to the finals

Wests Group/Knights chief executive Phil Gardner says Newcastle should be aiming for the 2018 play-offs after confirming that NSW halfback Mitchell Pearce had agreed to their terms for a four-year deal.
Nanjing Night Net

The race to sign Pearce ended early on Thursday afternoon when the former Roosters halfback told the other two clubs with whom he had been negotiating, Manly and Cronulla, that he had accepted Newcastle’s offer.

All that remained was for the Wests Group board of directors to ratify the contract, understood to be worth more than $1 million a season.

Wests’ endorsement is considered a fait accompli, and there is a possibility that Pearce could be in Newcastle as early as Friday to meet his new teammates and face the media.

Pearce will become the highest-paid player in Newcastle’s history, and expectation of the impact he will have was best illustrated by bookmakers immediately winding in the three-time wooden spooners’ premierships odds.

The Knights tightened from $41 title long shots to $31, from $7.50 to $6 for the top four, and from $3.50 to $3 to make the play-offs for the first time since 2013.

Asked if the finals were a realistic goal, Gardner replied: “Absolutely”.

“If you bring in a player of the quality of Mitchell Pearce, you’ve got to have the expectation that the team will go better.

“You don’t go into any competition not to win it. That’s the ultimate goal and what we’re working towards.

“Realistically with regards to next year, even before Mitchell Pearce, we were confident we would improve and be very competitive.

“Now we have to be a bit better than that.”

Gardner was hopeful Pearce would not be the last player Newcastle recruit before 2018 kicks off.

They have already signed his former Roosters teammates Aidan Guerra and Connor Watson, ex-Broncos Tautau Moga and Herman Ese’ese, Kalyn Ponga (North Queensland) and Slade Griffin (Melbourne).

“We think that he is someone who will help us attract other players, because they will want to play with him,” Gardner said. “If there was player that suited the team and was capable of making a substantial difference, we would still be in a position to do something.”

Gardner said Knights coach Nathan Brown and football manager Darren Mooney deserved the credit for the Pearce coup.

“It’s a great vote of confidence in the program we have here at Newcastle,” Gardner said. “Mitchell lives in Cronulla and he’s played with a lot of their players in the NSW team, so the easy option would have been to sign with the Sharks. But he’s backed himself and the players we already have here to be successful, and we believe he can help take the team to another level.”

Gardner reiterated that Newcastle did not want to lose 20-year-old Maitland junior Brock Lamb, who was one of their standout performers last season.

Lamb has another year to run on his contract with the Knights, but there have been suggestions he may seek an early release, amid rumours that Manly are interested in signing him or Trent Hodkinson to replace Blake Green, who has joined the Warriors.

If Lamb stays, he faces a battle with Watson for the right to partner Pearce, and Brown has already stated on a number of occasions that Watson will get first shot at playing five-eighth.

“Brock’s a player of the future,” Gardner said. “He’s a very good prospect and a local junior, and he’s under contract at this club for another year.

“We want Brock to stay and get better. Good sides have depth.

“If Kalyn Ponga was injured, Connor Watson could play fullback and Brock in the halves. So we still see plenty of first-grade opportunity for Brock, and Mitchell Pearce can help make him a better player.”

Pearce’s signing leaves 29-year-old Hodkinson facing a career road block.

It is understood re-joining Manly, his original NRL club, might be an option.

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.