NRL 2020, news: Rugby Australia, Joseph Suaalii contract, South Sydney Rabbitohs, Tim Horan column


The cross-code feud that’s emerged over the prized signature of teenage prodigy Joseph Suaalii has taken another turn.

Suaalii’s reported backflip on his bumper $1.7 million deal with South Sydney to play rugby has led to some feisty back-and-forth between the NRL world and the 15-man code.

Now Suaalii, just 16 years old, is the subject of a reported $3 million contract from Rugby Australia to pick the Gilbert over the Steeden.

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Round 17



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Ben Stokes is the world’s best cricket player and a true leader for England: Michael Vaughan column


Great all-rounders have a habit of knowing how to keep the attention on themselves. They are that kind of personality. They love it. This week all the talk will be about whether Stokes will be fit enough to bowl. He will be happy with that attention because he knows he can deliver. There are only a few who can do that.

I just wonder whether he was helped this week by there being no crowd. In that first innings when he strolled out three down, normally the ovation would have been huge. Would he still have been patient enough to leave the ball time and again with a sell-out crowd behind him? Would his emotions have taken over and would he have played the big shot?

Ben Stokes hits out on day five of the second Test against the West Indies.Credit:Getty Images

I always used to think when Flintoff walked out to bat, “How do you play when you know you can smack a ball for six whenever you want and the crowd is expecting you to do so? How can you play with all that noise?”

But Ben has such composure; he knows how to play each situation. That is what makes him such a fine batsman. Most of our great all-rounders, such as Sir Ian Botham and Flintoff, batted from gear three to six. Very rarely did those two bat in gear one or two, like we see Stokes doing.

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“Freddie” was a bowling all-rounder. He hated that description, but he was. “Beefy” was an all-rounder who batted at six. I have heard that Stokes could one day be ranked the best batsman in the world. Can you be regarded as the best batsman in the world batting at No.5? I think you have to be in the top four facing the new ball. He has the ability to bat in the top four and it would not surprise me if, in time, that happens and he bowls less. He could bat anywhere.

Five is the perfect position for Stokes while he is bowling. He plays spin, seam and pace. There is no part of his technique that you think could be targeted. Perhaps the West Indies should have bounced him more. A top-edged pull at Southampton went down to fine leg, but they did not try it in Manchester. They bounced England more in the second innings in 19 overs than they did in the entire first innings.

If you look at every England win over the past 18 months, Stokes has been pivotal in almost all of them. It would not do England any harm if he was to have a dodgy third Test and they still won. For the development of the team, that is required because there will come stages against better teams where Ben will not be able to pull them out of every hole.

I really think he makes a difference by about 15-20 overs with the way he can accelerate. Even in the first innings, he suddenly started to hit the ball and was able to set up the game, giving his team more time to win.

He must be a calming influence on others. I have a huge amount of respect for the way Dom Sibley played. You want stubbornness and a selfish nature. All great openers have that. But he would have been helped by Stokes saying “Carry on”. Stokes was also digging in so that made it OK for Sibley to carry on in his natural way.

The message from Root is to bat as long as possible in the first innings. It ensures you do not lose the game. That might sound negative, but if after a day-and-a-half you cannot lose, you are saying to the opposition, “You have to fight for 3½ days for the draw”. It is like a boxing match … eventually you keep jabbing away and your opponent falls over.

Stokes is pivotal for England with bat and ball.

Stokes is pivotal for England with bat and ball.Credit:Getty Images

To play for 3½ days knowing you can only draw is very difficult, so that is what this first-innings approach is achieving for England. The question is whether they can do it when they have to bat second and the opposition have 300-350 on the board. That is the next step, but with Stokes in the side, anything is possible.

One of the frustrations with this England team is they lose games even with this incredible player in their side who provides balance.

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For them to have produced a performance like they did in Southampton is hard to understand. The West Indies are a delightful team to watch – they are brilliantly led and squeeze every ounce of ability out of themselves. But this England side should be doing to them what they have just done in Manchester every week.

That is why it makes the third Test so fascinating. We know this England side can have a week when things go badly. We know they could collapse, which in a funny way makes them great to watch.

Telegraph, London

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Heather Knight column: England captain on training, cooking & gardening


I never thought I would be so happy to have a blister on my hand, but it means one thing – cricket is back.

I went back to training on Monday, along with 23 other England players, and I am currently training three times a week at the Bristol County Ground.

It is still a bit strange. Before we leave for training, we have to do a temperature check, fill in a questionnaire on coronavirus symptoms and then drive to the ground.

Once we are at the ground, we have another temperature check, follow the one-way system and use hand gel at every stop point.

We can use the gym, but you have to wipe down everything once you have used it.

It feels pretty normal actually, apart from the coach sometimes having to wear a latex glove when they are touching the ball.

We also have our own set of balls. The one weird thing is if you are having a net and the coach is throwing at you, it is his ball, so you can’t pick it up and throw it back to him. I have had to stop myself a few times.

The stiffness the next morning has not been fun – and I got cramp in my hand from gripping the bat for so long.

The DOMS (delayed onset muscle soreness) from bowling was not my favourite feeling, but it is quite nice to have them from cricket for a change, and not from any home fitness routine.

You can’t really replicate that feeling of having a bat in your hand. I have been like a kid at Christmas, waking up on Monday morning and being able to get back to a bit of normality.

Thinking about life after cricket

I have been trying to really have a break – which I am not the best at – and switch off from cricket, as this amount of time off is really rare.

I tried to use the time to think about a few things outside cricket and what I might do when I retire. But after a month of that, I was ready to get back to cricket.

I have been able to do a bit of work, fitness-wise, which will hopefully help to prolong my career, although I am not sure how well that has worked.

When you are going from game to game, you have to be in rhythm. You are thinking about scoring runs and you don’t always get a block of time to work on your game.

That is going to be quite interesting when all the players are together again, seeing how the break has affected people’s games and if it can lengthen a few careers.

A break sometimes reinvigorates a bit of love for cricket. When you are in the monotony of international game, you can sometimes forget how lucky you are.

Missing out on it for a few months makes you appreciate what you have got.

Heather Knight and Lauren Bell are training in Bristol

Big shops and cookery classes

You realise how strange being an athlete is in a situation like this – the novelty of doing a big shop, for example.

I never used to do one because I would be away at Loughborough during the week and I love going out and eating.

BBC presenter and former England player Isa Guha has been using lockdown to try and perfect her mum’s recipes. Her mum sadly died last year and Isa has been making loads of Bengali dishes that her mum taught her.

I joined her for the British Asian Trust Big Curry Night In and we cooked a prawn curry together.

It was really good. The only slight problem was I didn’t have all the ingredients and then I realised there was no coconut milk in the house, so the curry ended up being pretty hot.

I won’t lie, though – the rarity of cooking has worn off now and I am ready to eat out again.

Danni Wyatt has been sending me videos of her tomato plant. We are both growing one – hers has got some little green tomatoes on it and mine is absolutely pathetic.

It is just a little shrub. It’s nowhere near flowering! Any advice would be great…

A landmark in women’s cricket

Finally, I am absolutely chuffed for Clare Connor, who will become the first female president of the Marylebone Cricket Club (MCC) next year.

Clare has done so much in her career and had so many firsts, but this one – the first female president in the club’s 233-year history – is pretty cool.

She was very close to Rachael Heyhoe-Flint, who was a pioneer in our game, and it is amazing for Clare to achieve such a huge landmark.

It is so important that different voices and female voices are involved in our game.

That is the only way women’s sport and equality is going to get a push – this is a great move for Clare and for women’s sport.



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Press council rules against Andrew Bolt’s Greta Thunberg column


Crikey‘s letter to Andrew Bolt, after the press council found his columns on Greta Thunberg breached its standards.

Andrew Bolt (Image: AAP/Mick Tsikas)

The Australian Press Council has ruled that a column in which Andrew Bolt called a teenage girl with autism “deeply disturbed” and a “strange girl” with “so many mental disorders”, amazingly, did not treat the issues of mental heath and disabilities appropriately.

In the column, “The disturbing secret of the cult of Greta Thunberg” online and, “Time to doubt Greta’s dogma” in print, the well-paid News Corp columnist takes aim at the young climate activist.

Bolt has, as he always does, doubled down on the offending language, now coated in the syrup of self pity common to all bullies.



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