Star batsman expects a last day BIg Bash explosion from Glenn Maxwell


Five balls could determine whether the Melbourne Stars make the finals or miss out, and Marcus Stoinis is happy to take responsibility either with the bat or the ball.

Last year’s Big Bash runners-up have to take down their conquerors from last season in an Australia Day showdown with the Sydney Sixers that could shape the entire finals series.

The MCG clash will be the last game of the regular season, giving both teams all the information needed to know what will be required to keep their title hopes alive.

The Stars, who have only missed the finals once in the previous nine BBL seasons, sit seventh on the table, three points out of the top five but with a positive net run rate in their favour.

The Sixers are second but could jump to first with a win and a Scorchers loss earlier in the day.

Losses in the past two games have put the Stars on the edge, but Stoinis said in any T20 game the difference between winning and losing could come down to the finest of margins.

And as his team’s leading run-scorer again this year, last year’s player of the tournament said he enjoyed the “responsibility” that could come with shaping those make-or-break moments for his team.

“In T20 it’s usually five balls with the bat and five with the ball that can change the game,” Stoinis said on Monday.

“It’s only little things. It’s never something big. It’s going to be important to stay calm and clear with what we want to do and look to take the game on. There’s no point playing safe.

“It’s all or nothing. It’s not the ideal position to be in. It’s still in our hands, we win this game, pretty much we go through.

“Personally, I enjoy the responsibility. You have to see it like that. Me batting to win the game, to take the game on, gives the team the best chance and myself the best chance to succeed.”

With just one run in his past two innings, Stars captain Glenn Maxwell needs to find his best. Stoinis said his skipper knew that.

“He’s one of the best in the world in T20 cricket. He’s every chance to come out tomorrow night and make 100,” Stoinis said.

“He’s as eager to do well as everyone in the team. He’ll be fine to put on a show.”

Stoinis said his team would “keep an eye” on the other final-round games that could determine the Stars’ future.

But the simpler scenario is the only one in his mind.

“None of it matters if we don’t put on a good performance. We just look after that. We are the last game, so we’ll know what’s going on when we rock up to the ground,” he said.

“Yes, it is a big game, but what an opportunity to put on a show, get a win, march into the finals and then see what you can do.”

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Eddie Jones learns from cycling boss


England head coach Eddie Jones admits to being embarrassed by the brilliance of Sir Dave Brailsford when talking to the cycling supremo in advance of rugby union’s Six Nations.

Ex-Wallabies metor Jones recently attended coaches’ meetings alongside Brailsford and former Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger and while each provided valuable insights into performance at the highest level, it was the former who really stood out.

Brailsford is general manager of cycling outfit Ineos Grenadiers, formerly known as Team Sky, and has presided over an unparalleled era of British success both on the road and in the velodrome.

“I’ve been lucky enough to have a couple of conferences with Dave Brailsford and Arsene Wenger, particularly Brailsford,” Jones said.

“I feel embarrassed being at the same table as him. His thought pattern and the way he thinks about preparation and how to take a team forward were absolutely outstanding.

“I have been lucky enough to learn from those two guys. Arsene – he has got a wealth of experience in how you manage teams and how the longer you stay in the job, what you have got to do to keep your team growing. I picked up a couple of ideas from him.”

England open their Six Nations title defence against Scotland at Twickenham on February 6, by which point they will already have been in their bio-secure environment for 10 days.

‘Bubble fatigue’ has caused difficulties in cricket and with Owen Farrell’s champions facing long chunks of the next eight weeks in camp under stricter coronavirus protocols than in the autumn, Jones will carefully observe his players’ wellbeing while acknowledging the good fortune of still being able to take part in the competition.

“It’s an important point and we will continually have to monitor that,” said Jones, who is currently self-isolating after his forwards coach Matt Proudfoot tested positive for Covid-19.

“You can see in most elite sports at the moment that fatigue is a factor. A lot of players have come off no pre-season.

“They’ve had back-to-back seasons and it’s quite oppressive conditions, but we have got to have a smile on our faces because we are lucky to be able to play our sport, to play at elite level. We are just so grateful to play.”





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UFC 257 Conor McGregor knocked out by Dustin Poirier, wife’s golden reaction, Jolie Poirier, interview


Plenty of people in the fight world were happy to see Conor McGregor get knocked out on Sunday — but none more so than Dustin Poirier’s wife.

The American floored McGregor in the second round of their lightweight clash at UFC 257, doing so much damage earlier in the bout The Notorious left the arena on crutches.

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The crowd — albeit a smaller one in these COVID-19 times — went wild when Poirier’s left hand rocked McGregor but after the referee jumped in to stop the action there was one voice that stood out most.

Poirier’s wife Jolie was straight up out of her seat and headed cageside to deliver a forceful message.

“I told you! That’s the last time you’re going to doubt my husband, I swear to God,” she said as the cameras followed her.

The couple have been together since they were teenagers and an emotional Poirier paid tribute to his better half in the aftermath of the biggest win of his career, gaining revenge for his 2014 defeat to McGregor.

Asked about his wife by an interviewer who said “I’ve never seen anybody so happy, literally doing laps of the Octagon, screaming and shouting”, Poirier took a moment to reflect on what his relationship means.

“I heard her. As soon as I hit that last shot and turned away I heard my wife,” Poirier told BT Sport. “She ran straight to the cage and said, ‘I told you so!’.

“(When I was young) I didn’t have a car. She’d drive me to shows (fights), we’d use her car, she’d stay in the broken down hotels and motels with me.

“Man, I don’t want to get emotional here but that’s my girl, she’s stuck it out with me, this win is as much hers as it is mine.

“I wouldn’t be here without her, that’s for sure.”

Dustin and Jolie have a four-year-old daughter together, Parker Noelle, and she was in their thoughts after the big win as the UFC stud kissed a photo of his baby and promised he’d be home soon.

RELATED: Backstage photo exposes McGregor truth

RELATED: Conor hits back as rival twists the knife

Meanwhile, in the opposition camp, McGregor’s fiancee Dee Devlin had a simple message for her squeeze after suffering a third loss in his past six fights — and the most brutal of his career, having never been knocked out in the Octagon before.

The couple embraced after McGregor left the Octagon and Devlin took to Instagram to show her support for the Irishman.

“I love you,” she wrote over the top of the UFC star’s post thanking people for their support.

McGregor faces an uncertain future, with a blockbuster rematch against lightweight champion Khabib Nurmagomedov now off the cards. Instead, there is talk about a trilogy fight against either Poirier or nemesis Nate Diaz, after the rivals shared the spoils across two bouts back in 2016.

Poirier dismissed suggestions he would fight Michael Chandler next after his incredible KO of Dan Hooker on debut in the co-main event at UFC 257, and instead hinted at his interest in a third and deciding fight with McGregor.

“Conor took this result very professionally, he’s a pro, nothing but respect, we’re one and one, maybe we’ll have to do this again,” he said.

Poirier also named Charles Oliveira as a possible candidate, with the Brazilian in the middle of an unbeaten eight-fight streak.

“I think he has more (of a case for a title shot),” Poirier said. “I’ve been watching that guy for 10 years in the UFC, two different weight classes. He’s fought the best of the best, over and over again. And, he’s been knocked down and gotten up, and he’s proven what MMA and perseverance is.

“I respect that. Not that I don’t respect Michael Chandler. I just think there’s more work for him to do than beat a guy I just beat.

“Khabib reiterates he doesn’t want to fight any more — dude, I’m the champ. I’m not going to fight, some — and like I said, respect to Chandler — a new guy to the UFC who just beat a guy that’s coming off a loss that I just beat for the belt. That’s not exciting to me.”

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VR Fitness Is a Serious Workout, Seriously


In the last days of 2020, Oculus quietly rolled out a fitness tracker, called Oculus Move, that lives inside its Quest headsets. Users who download the software can watch the calories they burn in virtual reality, along with their physically active minutes, climb on a ticker floating above or below their field of view. With a deeper dive into the tracker’s dashboard, they can also set goals and track their progress over time.

Move appears to be an acknowledgment from Oculus that fitness is a primary reason for many people to use VR. That’s certainly the case for me. I’m not much of a gamer in general, but for the past couple months, I’ve exercised nearly every day in virtual reality. And despite what you might think about the incompatibility of video games and exercise, these are serious workouts. Some end with me gasping for breath and wringing sweat from my beard.

In that sense, VR has saved me from bodily neglect. It’s helped me grasp the motivation that’s been threatening to slip through my fingers since the start of this godforsaken pandemic.

During the spring, summer, and fall seasons of COVID, I managed a couple 20-mile bike rides each week. On weekends I occasionally found strength for longer rides, and on one hot Saturday, I logged 100 flat miles on Long Island. But it was always a struggle to get moving, and as winter arrived in New York, my rides petered. After a couple inactive weeks, I decided to see what I could accomplish inside a Quest 2 ($299), the entry-level headset Oculus released in October.

Initially my plan was to use VR for a few minutes of movement on particularly cold days. But then I started building a library of games and programs, some of which I considered warm-ups that helped vault me into more serious cardio. Now, every day, I piece together a workout based on my mood and energy level. Video games are part of my daily routine, and I feel lazy without them.

What does a VR workout look like?

There are dozens of virtual reality programs you can use to burn a few calories, but as of now, there are only a few specifically focused on exercise. By far my favorite is the subscription-based program Supernatural ($19/month, or slightly less for annual memberships).

Workouts typically run 10- to 30-minutes, and they roll out fresh daily. After a quick stretch with a trainer, music kicks on and triangles and targets begin flying toward you. Your job is to squat through the former and smash the latter with the virtual batons in your hands.

It’s simple enough, but the game moves fast, especially with workouts labeled “hard.” You’ll struggle to hold a squat inside a triangle tunnel that forces you to stay low while swinging your arms. Then you’ll explode upward to swat an overhead target, side-lunge left then right to thread the off-kilter scalene triangles, and then attack a dozen more targets before dropping back down into a squat.

The movements burn, but they don’t immediately register as exercise. Not in the strictest sense, anyway, because Supernatural feels more like a sport than a workout. You run your score up by hitting targets, and with more powerful swings, you amass more points. You can track your progress on a leaderboard, and if you want to jump the person ahead of you, you’ll either have to work harder or longer.

To help break the monotony of exercise, each workout takes you around the world. You might start out on an arctic tundra, move to the edge of an Egyptian pyramid, and then end on the lip of a volcano in Ethiopia.

Supernatural VR fitness game summary screen

And each location pairs with a new song, which dictates the intensity of the workout. Supernatural invests heavily in licensing fees, and its programmers have delightfully diverse tastes. I’ve worked out to hip-hop, Southern rock, top 40. Some particularly motivating tracks have come from the New York Dolls, Violent Femmes, Kendrick Lamar, and one Skrillex track that threatened to detach my arms from my body.

The other program I use often is FitXR ($29.99), which fills my urge for head-to-head competition. With each workout, six other VR users join me. They appear as silhouettes to my left and right, and I do everything I can to make sure I score more points than they do.

FitXR workouts come with less novelty than Supernatural’s—there are only two environments, and the music isn’t anything I recognize. But it does offer workout variety, with either boxing or cardio dance classes. I prefer the former, which much like Supernatural, functions with moving targets set to the beat. Only this time, you’ll have to toggle between jabs, crosses, hooks, and uppercuts, depending on the target.

BoxVR fitness boxing game

A streak counter tells you how many consecutive targets you’ve hit, and a power meter gives you a real-time score on each punch. Both metrics—accuracy and power—play into your position on the leaderboard.

The cumulative effect of scorekeeping and instant feedback available in both Supernatural and FitXR amount to what researchers call gamification. “You’re earning awards and leveling up,” says Tumay Tunur, Ph.D., a kinesiologist who studies virtual reality at California State University San Marcos. “It’s very rewarding, and it definitely helps with adherence.”

Consistency, says Tunur, is the most critical component of any workout routine. And that’s what makes gamification potent: It gives you goals that numb the pain, and it keeps you coming back for more.

Tunur’s VR fitness game of choice is the rhythm-based Beat Saber ($29). “When I play, I’ll say, ‘I’m gonna go in for 20 minutes to get a quick workout,’” she says. “Then 40 minutes later, I’m still playing.”

I can relate. When I’m feeling lethargic, I delay my serious workout by playing a first-person shooter like Pistol Whip ($24.99) or scaling cliffs in The Climb ($29.99). Both games get my blood pumping, and after a couple rounds, I’m eager to log in to Supernatural or FitXR.

According to Oculus Move, the built-in tracker, I’m burning 200-400 calories per workout, and in one 49-minute session, I clocked 549. I suspect the numbers are inflated, however. I’ve worn both Garmin and Fitbit trackers during my VR workouts, and they registered 24 percent and 35 percent lower, respectively.

But I don’t particularly care about calories. The more important metric for me is exertion, and the trackers told me I was keeping my average heart rate close to 130, with a peak near 170. Those are legitimate numbers, and they provide context for research on VR fitness.

Last year, kinesiologists at the University of Minnesota reviewed 15 studies on the subject. Among those that looked at physical outcomes such as body composition, fitness level, and muscular strength, two-thirds showed positive results from VR workouts. And that’s despite relatively short study periods and outdated technology. (The oldest study in the analysis is from 2003, which is ancient in tech years.)

But perhaps the more interesting finding comes from the studies that looked at VR’s psychological effects. According to the research, virtual workouts can reduce fatigue and symptoms of depression.

Again, I can relate. Virtual reality isn’t reality, but it does transport me somewhere outside my apartment. That’s valuable given that my local restaurants, bars, and gyms are all inaccessible due to the pandemic. VR is a small bright spot—a healthy one, at that—in what could otherwise feel like a yearlong, pandemic-induced Groundhog Day.

Virtual workouts and the future

If you’ve been paying attention to VR, then you’ve been hearing for a decade that Oculus was on the verge of making the technology mainstream. So what’s different about now? That’s easy: Accessibility.

Until recently, affordable consoles were just plastic or cardboard holsters that strapped a smartphone to your head. There wasn’t much you could do with them. And even today, high-end goggles require cables to keep you tethered to an expensive gaming computer.

The Oculus Quest, released in 2019, was the first to bridge the divide. It was wireless and had a $399 price tag. It wasn’t cheap, but it wasn’t four-figures expensive, either. And 17 months later, Oculus released the Quest 2, an update that improved significantly on the visuals (frame rate and resolution are both higher), weight (it clocks in at just over one pound), and price ($299). It stands to reason that as the technology continues to improve, so will the fitness applications.

My one overarching complaint of the Quest 2 comes not from Oculus, but from its parent company, Facebook. With the second-generation console, the social-media company began requiring its virtual-reality users to log in using a Facebook profile.

That probably won’t phase the site’s billions of active users, but I deleted my account a couple years ago. Facebook found a way to force me back on, and the strong-arm mandate confirms my suspicion that it cares more about harvesting my data than winning me back as a loyal customer.

Regardless, VR fitness has officially landed, and I’d wager that goggles will soon be as common as treadmills.

Consider Holodia, a company that began making VR workout software in 2018. Originally, Holodia targeted gyms with virtual jungles and rivers that members could accelerate through using rowing machines, ellipticals, and exercise bikes. But in January, Holodia launched a subscription-based program for the Quest 2, presumably to jump on the at-home VR fitness trend.

Users can run the program, called Holofit ($10.75/month, less for longer memberships), using smart rowing machines or bikes and ellipticals with cadence sensors attached. But more tellingly, they can now also run it by doing crunches or jogging in place—no heavy equipment required.

That seems to provide a clue to where VR fitness is headed. While it began as a novelty, it’s now capable of serving as the centerpiece to your home gym. It costs less, takes up less space, and incentives you with game-like elements and daily updates.

Truth is, I don’t always feel like working out. But these days, I’m always down for a break from reality. It’s wonderful that VR can offer both.

 

 

 


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Ford star Cameron Waters targets V8 crown, Kayo freebies


Supercars championship runner-up Cameron Waters has declared he has the “whole package” behind him this year as he sets his sights on departing triple-champion Scott McLaughlin’s throne.

Coming off a career-best 2020 when he claimed a podium finish in the Bathurst 1000 to elevate himself to second in the drivers’ championship behind fellow Ford ace McLaughlin, Waters looms as the heir apparent to the Supercars crown.

The 26-year-old Tickford Racing star had not finished higher than seventh in the drivers’ standings, but started to capitalise on his talent last year when he claimed nine podiums to emerge as a serious title contender.

After three consecutive Supercars championship wins, McLaughlin has left the V8 series to race IndyCar for Team Penske in the United States.

Ahead of the season-opening Bathurst 500 next month, which will be available to stream live and free on Kayo Sports, Waters said he was determined to go one step further in the championship this year.

“If you come second you only want to get better so for me it’s to try and go for the championship,” Waters said.

“I don’t really see it as ‘Scott leaving – that’s an opportunity’. You have to beat everyone. “Triple Eight are going to be really strong this year and I think Walkinshaws as well will step up and DJR (Dick Johnson Racing) are always going to be fast.

“It’s still going to be a tough year if Scott was there or not.

“For me it’s just keep trying to improve and do a better job in the car … do that and hopefully get to the other end of the year with a trophy.”

Waters, entering his sixth full season with the Ford squad, finished second in the Bathurst 1000 last year with Will Davison behind Triple Eight’s Shane van Gisbergen and Garth Tander after claiming pole position in the top-10 shootout.

He felt the team, which has downsized from four to three cars for 2021, took major strides forward last year and was ready to take another step this season

“It was a great year for us, a good step up from previous years,” Waters said.

“Previous years we qualified well but just couldn’t really convert to race results and I think that’s something that we did great in 2020 and found a little bit of a happier spot with the car.

“Our second half of the year was really good and Bathurst was awesome, we had a lot of car speed there. It really puts us in a good spot for 2021 I think.

“Tickford probably had a little bit of a lull in 2016 and ‘18 and we have really rebuilt from then. The team at Tickford are really on song now and we are all as motivated as ever to try and get out there and win. I feel like we have got the whole package.”

Waters will have a new Mustang for the start of the 2021 campaign, which roars to life at Mount Panorama on February 26-28.

“It’s going to be different going there in February, obviously it’s going to be a lot hotter. The track temp is really critical there,” Waters, promoting the launch of Kayo Freebies, said.

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“When it’s cold it’s really fast and when it’s hot, it’s super greasy. So being the first event, I feel like there could be a few mistakes up there and a few crashes.

“So it will be really critical to get through that first event with some points and get onto the next one.

“It will be cool to go to Bathurst with that format and see what the racing is like and how we all handle it. I don’t think it will take anything away from the 1000 that’s for sure.

“It’s awesome Kayo are bringing out the freebies so you can watch Bathurst (500) without a subscription which is absolutely awesome and it will be the first of many.”

KAYO FREEBIES

* Kayo Sports has announced the launch of Kayo Freebies, making a selection of live sports, entertainment shows and documentaries available for free.

* Kayo Freebies will launch with the season-opening Supercars event at the iconic Mount Panorma circuit – the Bathurst 500 – starting on February 26.

* Selected A-League and W-League games will also be available as Kayo Freebies with more Freebies to be announced in the coming weeks.

* Freebies will have new live events each month, regular live games from selected sports together with replays, Kayo Minis and special events featuring documentaries and classics matches.

* Kayo Freebies are available to stream online through kayosports.com.au and the Kayo Sports App. Sports fans can access Kayo Freebies by downloading the Kayo App and creating an account.

* Kayo Freebies are free and no credit card details are required to sign up and start streaming.

Sign up to Kayo here

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Richmond COVID-19 breach before Port Adelaide loss, Jack Riewoldt


Richmond forward Jack Riewoldt has revealed players at the club were privately worried about getting busted over a COVID-19 protocol breach that went unreported last year.

Riewoldt and teammate Dylan Grimes have spoken of the situation publicly for the first time in a video series on YouTube where it was revealed Richmond’s Adelaide hotel may have exposed the entire team to a biosecurity protocol breach before the team’s loss to Port Adelaide at the Adelaide Oval in Round 11.

Richmond experienced one of the most turbulent seasons in recent memory with a series of off-field scandals, but it did nothing to stop the club powering to another premiership.

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Richmond was last year issued with a series of wrist-slaps by the AFL, including a $100,000 fine for the Gold Coast strip club protocol breaches by Sydney Stack and Callum Coleman-Jones.

Richmond were also busted when the wife of Trent Cotchin, Brooke Cotchin, broke the strict COVID-19 protocols by attending a beauty spa on the Gold Coast.

The list of breaches may have been even longer than first thought after Riewoldt’s surprising YouTube admission — which suggested the Tigers may have unwittingly broke the rules again just two weeks later when their hotel welcomed homeless visitors to stay at the same accommodation as part of the South Australian government’s emergency accommodation COVID-19 program.

“It (hotel) felt like a hospital which had been abandoned. It was really old and it was like, ‘This is weird’,” Grimes said.

“We came down from a meeting or a team walk or something and the hotel lobby was filled with homeless people.

“In Adelaide, if it gets above or below a certain temperature the hotel opens up as a homeless shelter.

“I don’t know how this never got out and the AFL have done an amazing job of covering this up (because) at this stage we were wearing masks coming out of the airport, to the airport, to the bus.

“We weren’t allowed to come into contact with anyone, but next thing you know we were crammed like sardines into a lift.

“We were like ‘How does this happen?’.

“We were so sterile for so long and now we are staying in a homeless shelter right before a game.”

He said the club was expecting the situation to play out as another headline-making drama – but nothing eventuated.

“We had just been done for the Brooke Cotchin thing, there was something else, and they (AFL) were all over us,” Grimes said.

“I was like ‘The AFL are going to cop it for this. Sit back and wait and watch the media roll in (because) Richmond was staying in a homeless shelter’ but crickets, (there was) nothing (about it).”

The Tigers have continued to make headlines off the field during their summer break with coach Damien Hardwick’s separation from his wife, Danielle.

Hardwick’s new relationship with an employee of the club was confirmed last month after reports the marriage breakdown “rocked staff within the club”.

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Australia Day 2021: Scott Morrison controversial photos, David Pocock hits out, reaction, Cricket Australia, BBL


Wallabies great David Pocock has joined the chorus of athletes hitting out at Scott Morrison for controversial claims made about Australia Day and sport’s role in debating the significance of the date.

After consulting with Indigenous leaders, Cricket Australia decided to omit any reference to Australia Day ahead of its Big Bash League games on Tuesday, instead referring to them as “January 26” matches in promotional material.

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That prompted an angry rebuke from Morrison, who called it a “pretty ordinary” decision from cricket’s governing body.

“A bit more focus on cricket, a little less focus on politics would be my message to Cricket Australia,” he told Queensland’s 4RO Radio on Thursday.



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Scott Morrison incriminating photos, Australia Day 2021, David Pocock, sports world erupts, Cricket Australia decision, BBL


Wallabies great David Pocock has joined the chorus of athletes hitting out at Scott Morrison for controversial claims made about Australia Day and sport’s role in debating the significance of the date.

After consulting with Indigenous leaders, Cricket Australia decided to omit any reference to Australia Day ahead of its Big Bash League games on Tuesday, instead referring to them as “January 26” matches in promotional material.

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That prompted an angry rebuke from Morrison, who called it a “pretty ordinary” decision from cricket’s governing body.

“A bit more focus on cricket, a little less focus on politics would be my message to Cricket Australia,” he told Queensland’s 4RO Radio on Thursday.

Morrison also angered many when he said: “You know on Australia Day, it’s all about acknowledging how far we’ve come. When those 12 ships turned up in Sydney all those years ago, it wasn’t a particularly flash day for the people on those vessels either.”

Cricketers Usman Khawaja, Dan Christian and Megan Schutt were among high-profile athletes to criticise Morrison, while Olympic icon Cathy Freeman and boxer Anthony Mundine also hit out.

Now rugby star Pocock has joined in, posting photos of Morrison on Twitter in an attempt to point out what he says are double standards.

The 78-Test veteran uploaded pictures of the Prime Minister wearing his Cronulla Sharks hat and polo shirt at a public event, talking to the Australian cricket team, posing with the Prime Minister’s XIII rugby league team and running drinks out to the Prime Minister’s XI cricket side.

RELATED: Cricket photo comes back to haunt Morrison

RELATED: ScoMo deeply offends Cathy Freeman

Pocock said on social media it was unfair for political leaders to tell sport to stay out of politics, when they regularly use sport for their own gain.

“If you’re a young or aspiring athlete: here in Australia we hear a lot of talk — often from our Prime Ministers — that sport and politics shouldn’t mix,” Pocock wrote on Twitter.

“That’s just not true and politicians know it — that’s why they use sport for their own political agenda.

“Australia even uses it for diplomacy.

“Politics is about our shared life together, about who we are and who we want to be. You have as much right as anyone to be part of the conversation, many issues at hand will affect your life and future more than the politicians making the decisions

“The issues our generation faces are real and serious and the decisions our politicians make today will affect what kind of future we have. We all have a role to play.”

Morrison later tried to dispel criticism of his Australia Day comments after the fierce backlash, saying it was “false” to suggest he was comparing the experience of Indigenous Australians to that of the first settlers.

“I’ll simply say this — Australia is more than 25 million stories,” Morrison told reporters in Brisbane.

“Each of us can trace our stories back into our own Australia, Indigenous Australia, First Nations Australia. All the stories are important. All stories should be respected.

“Australian stories are unique in this country. But the thing they celebrate most about Australians, despite the hardship, whether that be that of dispossession and the terrible disease and destruction faced by the First Nations or whether it was the convicts who came, all those stories are important.

“They’re not competing with each other. They’re just part of who we are.”

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Australian Open, Spain backflip, UK strain, quarantine complaints


The Royal Spanish Tennis Federation (RFET) has backflipped from the criticism of the Australian Open quarantine measures after a Spanish player tested positive for COVID-19.

It comes after Spain’s Paula Badosa apologised after revealing she tested positive for coronavirus while in quarantine ahead of the Australian Open.

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She is the first female tennis player on the tournament’s roster to have a confirmed positive test and is one of 10 cases linked to the Australian Open.

“I have some bad news. Today I received a positive COVID-19 test result. I’m feeling unwell and have some symptoms,” the world No. 67 tweeted. “But I’ll try to recover as soon as possible listening to the doctors.

“I’ve been taken to a health hotel to self isolate and be monitored.

“Thanks for your support. We’ll be back stronger.”

Badosa had earlier complained about being forced to quarantine when nobody in her team had tested positive, but changed her tune when taking to social media again on Friday.

“Please, don’t get me wrong. Health will always come first & I feel grateful for being in Australia,” she tweeted. “Quarantine & preventive measures are pivotal right now.

“I talked about rules that changed overnight but I understand the sad situation we are living. Sorry guys. Stay safe.”

On Saturday night, The Age reported that COVID-19 Quarantine Victoria, who are in charge of Victoria’s hotel quarantine scheme, had confirmed three positive cases linked to the Australian Open UK virus variant which is more highly transmissible.

Two men in their 30s and a man in his 50s were revealed as carrying the strain. None of the three are tennis players reportedly.

The news put egg on the faces of the RFET who called out the Australian Open organisers and said Tennis Australia should change the rules specifically for their players.

“(Players) were not informed about the possibility that they would be severely confined if they travelled on the same plane with a passenger who tested positive, without taking into account the physical proximity of the players affected with that positive,” the statement read.

“Mario Vilella and Carlos Alcaraz are confined in a room without being able to leave for 14 days when they have both performed multiple PCRs that have been negative.

“It is evident that these two players … will not be able to compete on equal terms with the rest of the players. And it is no longer only a strictly competitive problem of this first Grand Slam. The point is that his season could be seriously damaged by a 14-day lockdown.”

However, just over 24 hours later and after Badosa’s positive test was revealed, tennis journalist Jose Morgado shared the second letter, with a much softer language.

“First of all, we apologise to Tennis Australia if our statement has at any time been interpreted as a criticism of their working methods, nothing is further from our intention,” the new release read.

“The RFET thanks Tennis Australia for the effort to organise, in these times so complicated by the global pandemic, the first Grand Slam of the season, something vital for our tennis players who are going to compete again and generate resources.

“The Australian Government has demonstrated the effectiveness of its measures against COVID-19, as reflected by the evolution of the disease in this country, which is setting an example for the world.

“The RFET wants to reiterate its solidarity with all the players who have tested positive. He also wants to support Spanish athletes who, due to different circumstances, are undergoing strict 14-day confinement.”

The week has been filled with tennis stars unhappy with the quarantine measures in Australia.

Serbian David Cup captain and former World No. 12 Viktor Troicki was one of the latest.

Speaking to Sportski Zurnal, a Serbian daily sports newspaper, the 34-year-old World No. 202 slammed the lockdown as he attempts to resurrect his career.

“If I knew, I wouldn’t come,” Troicki told Sportski Zurnal.

“Total chaos, horror as far as everything is concerned. I’m locked up for 14 days, I can’t leave the room. No training, nothing. My Grand Slam is failing, I can’t get ready for five sets in the room.

“All preparations are failing. Two weeks of lying in bed, it is certain that I will have to get back in shape for the next month and a half. All this is creating chaos in my career.”

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Desert Flame ‘knocking on the door’ to break maiden for David Payne


David Payne is credited with the understatement of the year when he says that his Wyong-bound filly Desert Flame is ‘knocking on the door’.

Hammering more like it, and if ‘form’ counts for anything, Payne will have to start looking for a suitable Class 1 for the daughter of Pride Of Dubai come Monday.

Desert Flame is back in class (and how) after her last start third at Warwick Farm when although well behind, she refused to yield any ground in the run to the line.

“I think he (the jockey) would have been better off letting her stride,’’ Payne said.

“If you look, she was pulling a bit and then she had to be held up a while. She likes a firm track too, the firmer the better for her.

“She is fit so we will let her jump and roll along.’’

Payne has always had a decent opinion of Desert Flame, and rightly so, given she ought to perhaps be a city winner before now.

The filly took on recent Magic Millions 3YO Guineas winner, Aim, on debut before a luckless resumption at Canterbury almost two years to the day before Sunday’s mission.

“I think Glyn (Schofield) rode her that day and she should have won,’’ Payne said.

“I gave him the wrong instruction, I said sit behind something when she would have been better off striding.

“We want to get that win out of the way. She is fit and well and she is ready to go and now we have just got to hope.’’

If Desert Flame were able to win, the flag of the ‘Rainbow Nation’ will be at full mast given she will be ridden by former top South African hoop, Keagan Latham.

Latham has followed in the foot print of his countrymen Glyn Schofield and Jeff Lloyd, as South African expats who have made a serious impression in Australia in recent times.

“Keagan has ridden a couple of winners for me,’’ Payne said. “His first winner in town was for me on a horse called Silent Explorer who had to survive a protest.

“He is a very capable rider.

“He has dominated the provincials and he should be riding in town actually.

“He does the form and speed maps which is essential for the jockeys because you have to know what is going on,’’ Payne, a trainer of over 100 Group winners said.

Payne’s other runner at Wyong today is Crown Affair who lines-up in the Royal Hotel Handicap over 2100m. Crown Affair is bred to be winning Group 1’s being by Snitzel out of Payne’s former bonny mare Gallant Tess who has thrown (him) stakes performers Rock Hero and All Too Soon as well as last week’s blowout Warwick Farm winner, Gallant Lad.

“From 11 draw we will have to ride Crown Affair a bit quieter because he is not a very good starter and you have to hunt him all the way,’’ Payne said.

Grafton preview Saintly success a given

– Adam Sherry

While Plonka may be his headline horse, Coffs Harbour trainer Warren Gavenlock believes Saintly Sunrise is his best chance for success this afternoon.

The gelding will appreciate an easier assignment than recent starts as he drops from a Benchmark 66 back to a Class 1 and Maiden Plate over 1700m.

“He should be at his best in this grade,” Gavenlock said.

“He’s dropping down in class and up in weight but should race well.

“Barrier 8 is not the greatest alley but you have a reasonable run from the 1700 metres start at Grafton before you start turning.

“He should position about third or fourth, one off the fence and be ready to pounce on the turn.”

The son of Dawn Approach returned from a lengthy, injury-interrupted spell in early December and has been good in his four runs back.

“After finishing well back in a Highway at Rosehill in 2019, Tommy Berry wasn’t that happier with him so we spelled him,” said Gavenlock.

“We brought him up and gave him his first good gallop but I wasn’t happy with him so we had him X-rayed and found a bone chip.

“We had that removed and he went back to the paddock.

“His first-up run at Coffs Harbour was sensational over 1300 metres.

“We then went to a Highway and he got too far out of his ground but hit the line good.

“His next two runs have been okay in higher grade.”

At his most recent start, Saintly Sunrise boxed on well behind Predictable Miss in the Benchmark 66 over 1900m at Ballina last week.

“I’m not concerned about the drop in distance. It doesn’t worry me when they are fit enough,” he said.

“The important thing is he is down a long way in class.

“If he can win this afternoon, I’ll definitely look to taking him back to Sydney for another Highway.”

Country Championship placegetter Plonka begins his quest for a shot at this year’s edition when he resumes in the Open Handicap (1000m).

“There’s going to be a little bit of speed in this race so drawing barrier 4 will allow him to get into a nice spot,” he said.

“The 1000 metres is probably going to be too short for him but I’d just like to see him running on nice and strong at the end of the race.

“It’s an ideal lead-up race to where we are going.”

The five-year-old turned in an unbelievable effort in last year’s Championship Final when racing wide throughout and finishing a head third to Gracie Belle and Al Mah Haha.

He was given a three-start campaign in the spring before Gavenlock turned his attention to his autumn goal.

“We were trying to qualify for the Kosciuszko but that wasn’t to be,” he said.

“He spelled really well and his work has been very good. He did everything asked of him in his trial at Ballina and I’m looking forward to another shot at the Country Championships.”

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