Geelong has shocked the football world, putting in the most dominant first half of any side this season before coasting to an easy 68-point win over Collingwood.
The strong crowd in Brisbane were stunned, with the Cats piling on five goals to zero in the second quarter before restricing the Pies to just one behind in the third quarter to take complete control of a contest which they dominated right from the outset.
Geelong’s trademark kick and mark game was on full display, as they took a whopping 120 uncontested marks compared to Collingwood’s 38.
Patrick Dangerfield was his side’s best player, kicking four goals including two memorable efforts from the boundary line.
After Collingwood’s thrilling one-point Elimination Final win last week, Saturday night’s finals smashing will be a bitter pill for the Pies to swallow over the summer, while the Cats will now take on Brisbane for a spot in this year’s Grand Final.
“That’s the best performance I’ve seen the Cats put together this year”
The stats: The numbers behind Collingwood’s shocking first half
Collingwood’s first half score of just 1.0 (6) was barely believable, setting multiple unwanted records the process.
It was Collingwood’s lowest half time score since Round 22 1981, while it was just the second time in AFL/VFL history that they’ve had just one scoring shot at half time, with the other time coming in the 1960 Grand Final.
The miniscule half time score was the lowest score of any side to half time since Melbourne’s one goal against West Coast in the 2018 Preliminary Final.
It was also the club’s second-worst half time deficit (54 points) in a final, with Collingwood 84-point margin against Essendon in the 1984 Preliminary Final the only other time they’ve trailed by a greater margin.
Unfortunately for Nathan Buckley, it was a night of unwanted record breaking and a poor way to end a season of fluctuating form.
Under the NRL rules, players are prohibited from making their first-grade debut until they are 18, meaning Suaalii wouldn’t be eligible until August 1 next year.
However, ARL Commission chairman Peter V’landys has indicated the rule could be altered to ensure one of Australia’s most exciting young footballers isn’t lost to the code.
That change could now potentially benefit the Roosters, who could add Suaalii to an already star-studded backline if they can offload a player to free up the salary cap space required.
Given James Tedesco is considered the best fullback in the game – he is the reigning Dally M medalist and is also the NSW and Australian custodian – Suaalii could expect to begin his first-grade career on the wing of coach Trent Robinson’s side.
Leota’s potential selection comes 24 hours after Fittler left NSW and Australian prop incumbent David Klemmer out of his 27-man squad, opening the door for Leota to join the likes of Junior Paulo, Payne Haas and Daniel Saifiti as the front-rowers in the Blues fold.
Auckland-born Leota played his junior football for St Marys and was named in Fittler’s Emerging Blues squad last year alongside Kotoni Staggs, Victor Radley and Mitchell Moses.
Leota used to live in a caravan out the back of his cousin’s house while working for $15 an hour at a dealership car wash. He would send the money to his family in New Zealand.
He was part of the premiership-winning 2015 Panthers National Youth Competition team, which also featured Jarome Luai and Cleary. He edged out his halves to win the team’s player of the year that season.
Leota has played 79 NRL games since his debut in 2016, 62 of those coming off the bench for the Panthers. He has averaged nine runs a game for a total of 107 metres in 2020.
The Herald can also reveal Newcastle officials will meet with Ponga on Tuesday to decide whether he will withdraw from this year’s Origin campaign after suffering a labral tear in his shoulder that has hampered his football in the back half of the season.
Queensland are expected to name the first members of their 27-man squad on Tuesday but are still waiting on confirmation on Ponga’s availability. The series kicks off at the Adelaide Oval on November 4.
The Knights are leaning towards sending Ponga under the knife as soon as possible to avoid disruption to their pre-season but will speak to the fullback to see if he still wants to represent Queensland.
Knights players are expected to return to training on Tuesday for a review and medical assessment. Surgery could force Ponga into at least four months of rehabilitation. If he opts to delay the procedure and play Origin in November, he would miss the start of the 2021 NRL season.
Ponga’s potential withdrawal could open the door for Titans livewire AJ Brimson’s Origin debut at fullback, as the Cowboys’ Valentine Holmes is unavailable for game one due to suspension.
Queensland’s incumbent fullback clutched his shoulder during Sunday afternoon’s loss to the South Sydney Rabbitohs at ANZ Stadium, where the Knights were bundled out of the finals after surrendering a 14-0 lead.
Ponga’s fitness problem is another speed bump in a turbulent Origin lead-up for the Maroons. Wayne Bennett has taken over as coach after Kevin Walters accepted a two-year deal with the Brisbane Broncos. Michael Morgan has also been ruled out for the series, while Gold-Coast bound David Fifita is unlikely to play a major part in Queensland’s campaign after picking up an ankle injury in round 19. Five-eighth Cameron Munster is also battling a knee injury that may affect his involvement.
NSW BLUES POTENTIAL 27-MAN SQUAD
Backs (nine spots) Safe: James Tedesco, Josh Addo-Carr, Jack Wighton, Zac Lomax* Fighting for five spots: Ryan Papenhuyzen, Clint Gutherson, Nick Cotric, Blake Ferguson, Daniel Tupou, Stephen Crichton, Campbell Graham
Halves and hookers (five-six spots) Safe: Luke Keary, Nathan Cleary, Damien Cook, Cody Walker, Cameron McInnes* Fighting for two-three spots: Mitchell Moses, Api Koroisau
Forwards (12-13 spots) Safe: Payne Haas*, Tyson Frizell*, Boyd Cordner, Cameron Murray, Jake Trbojevic*, Daniel Saifiti* Fighting for six-seven spots: Junior Paulo, Reagan Campbell-Gillard, Dale Finucane, Nathan Brown, Ryan Matterson, Angus Crichton, Liam Martin, Isaah Yeo, Moses Leota
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Michael Chammas is a sports reporter with The Sydney Morning Herald
Crosstown rival Port Adelaide has emerged as a shock free agency suitor for Adelaide midfielder Brad Crouch, according to Michelangelo Rucci.
The 26-year-old is currently a restricted free agent and has a range of suitors, most notably Geelong who are targeting the inside midfielder to play alongside the likes of Patrick Dangerfield and Mitch Duncan.
But Rucci now believes there’s a “genuine chance” Crouch could opt to stay in South Australia and make the bombshell move to the Power.
“I think there’s a genuine chance that Brad Crouch is going to take the free agency path to Port Adelaide,” he said on SEN SA Drive.
“Brad Crouch is a free agent and he’s going to have suitors and we could see a club champion go to a rival.
“We know Adelaide is firm on where they stand on him, be it a three-year contract, but I think (Port Adelaide) would give him greater terms than he would at Adelaide.”
Gerard Whateley spoke at length about Crouch’s value on SEN last week, saying he doesn’t believe the on-baller should command a deal of more than three years.
WELLINGTON (Reuters) – New Zealand’s central bank is likely to keep interest rates steady at record lows and hold off on further stimulus this week, even as the economy faces a deep recession, on signs the fallout from coronavirus pandemic could be milder than expected.
The Reserve Bank of New Zealand (RBNZ) will keep the official cash rate (OCR) unchanged at 0.25% on Wednesday for a fourth consecutive meeting, according to all 11 economists polled by Reuters. The economists said they expected rates to remain steady for the rest of the year.
New Zealand fell into its deepest economic recession on record in the second quarter, data showed last week, but the 12.2% quarter-on-quarter contraction was smaller than the 12.8% decline forecast in a Reuters poll.
Meanwhile, Treasury forecasts showed a milder short-term shock from the coronavirus outbreak, while house prices have defied forecasts and stayed buoyant.
“The recent period of stronger data means the RBNZ won’t see any need to loosen monetary policy further at this stage,” said Westpac Chief Economist Dominick Stephens.
About 97% of the market expects no change in rates this week, but have priced in a move close to zero by April next year, according to Eikon.
In the Reuters poll, three of the 11 economists expected a rate cut in the first quarter of next year and seven expected rates to enter negative territory in Q2 2021.
The RBNZ has held rates steady since cutting them by 75 basis points at an emergency meeting in March.
But in August the central bank expanded its bond-buying programme to NZ$100 billion ($67.7 billion) and struck a dovish tone.
It reiterated its commitment to holding rates until March next year, and said it would consider negative rates and low-cost funding to banks if further stimulus was needed.
On Wednesday, the markets will focus on whether there’s any change to this forward guidance, ANZ Bank said in a note.
“For the short end, any weakening of the commitment to keep the OCR unchanged until March would certainly cause a flurry of excitement, but this is not our expectation,” said ANZ Chief Economist Sharon Zollner.
ELITE defender Harris Andrews has made a rapid recovery from a serious hamstring injury and is now almost certain to play in the Brisbane Lions’ first final.
Andrews tore his hamstring in the third quarter of the Lions Round 15 win over Collingwood on September 4 and was expected to miss up to six weeks, potentially sidelining him until preliminary final weekend.
Brisbane football boss David Noble confirmed Andrews was in the frame to return.
“After the weekend session he has pulled up really well and will move into full training this week, but he needs to get through it,” he told sen.com.au.
“It looks positive and with two weeks to go we are in good shape.”
The All-Australian interceptor is widely-considered the player the Lions can least afford to lose in its pursuit of a premiership.
Yet Andrews has shocked the club with his recuperative powers and is set to provide his teammates with a huge boost ahead of a home qualifying final against Geelong or Richmond.
Andrews trained well on Friday and assuming he completes another solid training block this week, will line-up for Chris Fagan’s side at the Gabba next week.
Minor premiers Melbourne Vixens have experienced a stumble in Super Netball’s penultimate round, going down 64-58 in an upset loss to Queensland Firebirds in Cairns.
The result left the Vixens with only their second loss of the season
Romelda Aiken impressed for the Firebirds with 45 goals
The Firebirds have won three of their past four matches
The Firebirds, last season’s wooden spooners, earned their third win from their past four matches in the Indigenous Round fixture, while handing the Vixens just their second loss of the season.
Firebirds goal shooter Romelda Aiken finished with 45 goals but the victory was built on the defensive efforts of Tara Hinchliffe and Kim Jenner, along with Gabi Simpson’s leadership from wing defence.
“I guess it’s been building all season, it’s great that we can finally get out here and we’re all really connected and doing our own job,” Jenner said.
With the minor premiership firmly in their keeping, the Vixens allowed Liz Watson to sit out for a second-straight match with an ankle complaint, while Caitlin Thwaites started the match on the bench.
Thwaites came into the contest after the Firebirds led 18-12 at quarter-time and swung momentum to the Vixens with a barrage of super shots to cut Queensland’s lead to two points approaching half-time.
A late two-pointer from Tippah Dwan handed the Firebirds a 35-31 advantage at half-time but the Vixens answered with six of the first seven goals of the third term to take the lead.
The Firebirds then steadied to edge ahead 48-44 at three-quarter time then opened the fourth term with five goals in a row to complete the upset win.
They finish their season against Collingwood Magpies in Brisbane on Saturday, while the Vixens face the Lightning on the Sunshine Coast on Sunday in a clash that will determine second spot on the ladder.
The Lightning are holding down second but are only two points ahead of the Fever, who conclude their regular season against Adelaide Thunderbirds in Brisbane on Saturday.
The Fever will secure second spot if they beat the Thunderbirds, and the Lightning lose to the Vixens.
“As a team we’re really happy for Noah,” McKellar said. “He was playing good footy before his setback. He’s done a lot of work to get himself right and trained very well over the last two weeks. We’ve got full confidence and belief in his ability.”
A Test trio of Scott Sio, Folau Fainga’a and captain Allan Alaalatoa will line up in the front row, while Murray Douglas comes in for Darcy Swain in the second row.
Tevita Kuridrani, left out of Dave Rennie’s 46-man squad, has been named at No.13 but there was no room for Wallabies bolter Len Ikitau, who has been squeezed out of the matchday 23.
Meanwhile, the Reds have reshuffled their back line following a groin injury to winger Chris Feauai-Sautia.
The Reds thumped the Brumbies 26-7 in the final round match of the season but haven’t tasted victory in the nation’s capital since 2014.
“Grand final week … this is what it’s all about,” said Reds coach Brad Thorn. “We’re embracing the challenge ahead against a worthy opponent, whom we respect.”
Brumbies (1-15): Scott Sio, Folau Fainga’a, Allan Alaalatoa, Murray Douglas, Cadeyrn Neville, Lachlan McCaffrey, Will Miller, Pete Samu, Joe Powell, Noah Lolesio, Tom Wright, Irae Simone, Tevita Kuridrani, Andy Muirhead, Tom Banks.
Bench: Connal McInerney, James Slipper, Tom Ross, Nick Frost, Rob Valetini, Nic White, Bayley Kuenzle, Solomone Kata.
A year before the pandemic hit, the federal government announced the biggest overhaul of the welfare-to-work system in decades.
The controversial requirement that jobseekers complete 20 applications a month would be scrapped for a more flexible “points-based system” and the most job-ready would be moved on to a government-run digital platform. Job agencies could then focus their efforts on those who most needed help with training, upskilling or just finding jobs.
But the new system wasn’t scheduled to be rolled out until 2022. In the meantime, the government would run a trial in Adelaide and on the NSW north coast.
It’s hard to imagine the Coalition would have made the call to delay the new system if it knew what was coming.
Fast forward 18 months and the nation’s welfare-to-work system is facing its biggest challenge since it was privatised under John Howard in the 1990s, with 1.6 million people on unemployment benefits.
The government has taken three key decisions in response to the pandemic-induced recession.
Mutual obligations – the job-search requirements that people must meet to receive their benefits – were temporarily suspended. At the same time, the government boosted sign-up fees for the private companies and non-profits that run the $1.4bn-a-year jobactive program to shore up the sector.
It means during the pandemic an estimated $360m will flow to providers over six months through these “administration fees”, according to Simone Casey, a policy analyst at Per Capita.
Conversely, and in a move that has angered the industry, the government expanded the digital trial by diverting about 400,000 new jobseekers from across the country to the new online service.
These people will not be connected with a job agency, depriving the sector of an even larger windfall of sign-up fees and bonuses for getting people into work.
The decision is a tentative step closer to the 2022 model, allowing many people to go about their job search themselves.
“The jobactive system was designed for low unemployment,” Casey says. “It was not designed for the unemployment shock we’ve got.”
Before the pandemic, the average consultant to jobseeker ratio was 148, according to one report, up from 94 about a decade ago.
With nearly 1 million more now on benefits, the fear is that providers will ramp up what research has already accused them of doing: “creaming” and “parking”.
“The advantage of the new model is that jobseekers who can self-service online will be left alone by jobactive agencies,” Casey says.
“Only the people who need specific support or who have more complex needs will go to an agency.”
The reason why some jobseekers might want to be “left alone”, as Casey puts it, is that welfare campaigners have long argued the jobactive system is punitive.
While some report positive experiences, others say they have been ignored, bullied, or pushed into “demeaning” or “condescending” personal development courses – sometimes run by the same company – or positions that don’t align with their goals.
Some who have found a job themselves have been hassled to provide payslips so the consultant can claim a fee anyway.
Kristin O’Connell, of the Australian Unemployed Workers Union (AUWU), agrees there are positives to shifting some people away from job agencies.
But she has concerns about a “one-size fits all” digital model that replaces meetings with a jobactive consultant for online tools and a contact centre.
“We don’t think there should be no support for jobseekers,” O’Connell says. “We think jobseekers should be able to access the support they want.
“Give people a choice about whether they need something. And when they decide they do, make sure that support is available.”
For the first time since the Keating government introduced “mutual obligations”, the system during Covid has at least been designed to give jobseekers some choice.
Swelling ranks of jobseekers have filled out a questionnaire that either places them in the online employment services system or with a jobactive provider. Those who want the extra help can “opt out” of the digital program.
With welfare penalties suspended, the government has guaranteed the 1.6 million people on the jobseeker payment – up from 700,000 pre-pandemic – that their Covid-boosted benefits will drop into their bank accounts every fortnight regardless of whether they finish enough job applications or attend meetings with a provider.
Because providers are unable to suspend payments during the pandemic, in some cases, it has created more of a voluntary relationship between jobseekers and their consultants.
Still, in other cases, O’Connell says consultants have threatened to cut off the benefits of new jobseekers unless they agree to attend a meeting. These sign-up meetings trigger a payment for the provider.
Tellingly, there were still 1,301 complaints about jobactive providers between 20 March and 31 July despite the relaxed rules.
While the AUWU has called for a “mutual obligations strike” and wants them abolished, the government is likely to revive the penalties when the pandemic eases.
And it has confirmed the more flexible “points-based” mutual obligations system still won’t be rolled out until 2022.
That is because the system temporarily stopped welfare payments more than 2m times in 2018-19, incorrectly on many occasions. This hasn’t happened at all during the crisis.
“It depends where you are in the country, but you’re going to have a group of people that have potentially significant mental health issues [due to the pandemic],” Siewert says.
“If you look at what works … you provide wraparound, targeted support. The people that are supporting you are not also the compliance person.”
The employment services sector argues Australia spends less than the OECD average on labour market programs. Even critics agree more funding would be welcome if better directed, though they note Australia is one of the few countries where the funding goes to private companies.
Analysis of government tenders since 2012 suggests Max Solutions, the largest jobactive provider, has reaped an estimated $1.6bn in contracts across multiple welfare-to-work programs.
Another, APM, has raked in about $980m, while Sarina Russo has won more than $600m in contracts.
The figures demonstrate revenue, not profit, and there is no suggestion the payments are anything other than legitimate.
In a June financial update, Maximus told investors an “improved outlook in our Australia operations” was among the reasons for “better than expected” earnings.
That was before the government’s decision last month to refer many jobseekers on to the digital platform rather than jobactive.
Although Casey would like the government to move faster on its funding reforms, there is at least a sense that the gravy train could be slowing down.
Sally Sinclair, chief executive of the National Employment Services Association, disputes that providers want more jobseekers on their books to bolster their bottom lines.
“Our concerns are that half the newly unemployed are in an online employment service which was being trialled,” she says when asked about the decision to no longer refer some jobseekers to the agencies.
“We don’t know what will happen to the people in that service, how they are getting the necessary support they might need.”
Sinclair says talk of a windfall through sign-up fees is overstated, arguing the funding payments only “barely cover what providers have to deliver”.
Most of the sector’s funding “outcome fees” paid for getting people into work or training, she says. “This is not about administration fees. It’s about making sure people are supported and assisted.”
For the jobseekers the AUWU represents, it’s about more than that. “People would like flexibility,” O’Connell says. “And support that is available to them when they want it, but not forced upon them.”
Two-time major champion John Daly revealed he has been diagnosed with bladder cancer, but remains hopeful despite what could be a long battle.
The 54-year-old American, known for his outspoken manner, often outrageous behaviour and wild pants designs, told The Golf Channel he had undergone surgery after what he thought was a battle with kidney stones.
“It’s probably going to come back, and then another three months that you don’t know. You just don’t know,” Daly said. “Luckily for me they caught it early, but bladder cancer is something that I don’t know all the details.
“It doesn’t look like it may go away. We will just see what happens. Maybe there’s a miracle.”
Daly won the 1991 PGA Championship after making the field as the ninth alternate when Nick Price dropped out because his wife was about to have a baby. He also won the 1995 British Open by winning a playoff over Italy’s Costantino Rocca at St. Andrews.
Daly said he withdrew from a 50-and-over Champions tour event with kidney stones and after talking to doctors discovered he had bladder cancer.
While surgery to remove the cancer was successful, doctors told him there was a strong chance it would return.
Daly has struggled with weight and alcohol issues throughout his career. He plans to make some changes in hopes of helping his cancer fight.
“I’m cutting way, way back on the Diet Coke and counting minutes before I can have a cigarette. I’m trying to quit smoking,” Daly said.
“The doctors aren’t saying it’s too late. Unfortunately, it’s a cancer that keeps coming back. But I’m going to listen to them, and I’m going to try and quit smoking.
“If it comes back, it comes back. Six months to a year, if it doesn’t go away, I’m going to live my life. I’m going to have some fun.”
Daly last played a PGA Tour event at last year’s Safeway Open, missing the cut. He is able to play in the British Open and PGA Championship until age 60 after winning each.
“I’ve lived one hell of a life. No matter what happens, I’m not scared to die or anything,” Daly said. “It would have been nice to play the last seven or eight or 13 years of my career a little more healthy. But hey, I’m still working, I’m still living life, I’m still doing the things I need to do. I can accept the challenge.”