No word on Smith as Storm collect award


Barely a month before they start pre-season training Melbourne are still waiting on skipper Cameron Smith to divulge his 2021 plans.

While Smith is doing the rounds in Queensland promoting his autobiography, assistant coach and former teammate Ryan Hoffman stepped up to collect the Storm’s latest award – Australasia’s best sporting team for the second successive year.

The NRL champions pipped Super Rugby Aerotoa titleholders and 2018 winners, the Crusaders, while AFL premiers Richmond finished fifth among 152 teams analysed from 18 sports competitions.

Melbourne donated $10,000 in prize-money for the award to the Starlight Foundation.

While it’s expected the 37-year-old Smith will retire, with his profile already removed from the Storm’s website, Hoffman joked they would need an answer before training resumed on January 4 or there would be penalties for the veteran hooker.

“We need to know whether to expect him here or if we’re going to need to fine him for not being at training,” Hoffman said on Tuesday.

“We’re ready for a decision when he’s ready – it’s a personal decision for him and as an organisation we’ve planned for both ways.

“Whatever happens with Cameron in the upcoming weeks we’ve put ourselves in good stead for 2021.”

The State of Origin players, including new superstar Harry Grant, will get a couple of extra weeks with the club still able to lock in two months of solid preparation before hosting the NRL season-opener against South Sydney on March 11.

In terms of the award, Gain Line Analytics – headed by former Wallabies prop Ben Darwin – combine with Platinum Asset Management to analyse sports teams, including e-sports, using a criteria that includes consistency in performance.

The results are also impacted by factors such as the size of the competition and the stability of the league and are based on rolling five-year outcomes.

“It’s really an award for governance,” Darwin said.

“Melbourne have done an amazing job in making sure that the club is sustainably successful – it’s not just about winning today but winning consistently.”

Darwin said a trend had emerged among the most successful teams.

“What we’ve found through our research is that clubs that are more development focused are far more successful,” Darwin said.

“We call that TWI (Team Work Index) and the No.1 TWI team won the NRL, AFL, the NBL and English Premiership Rugby and Super League.

“It tends to be the club that focus more on the long-term view rather than buying a good player, who then doesn’t perform.”





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When Steve Smith said he’d found his hands, it was a masterful understatement


“That was one of the best innings I’ve seen in one-day cricket from Steve … not only Steve but from anyone,” Labuschagne said. “The way he batted was superb. It almost felt like he didn’t give an opportunity, didn’t take a risk. When someone is doing that, it’s scary.

“Towards the back end, Steve really took the game on. There’s been two very big scores in the past two games, thanks to Steve.”

Where do you bowl to Steve Smith when he’s in this sort of form?Credit:Getty Images

Smith is a noted tinkerer at the best of times but was especially motivated to change up parts of his game after an Indian Premier League stint with the Rajasthan Royals that saw him dismissed for under 10 six times in 14 appearances.

The 31-year-old has any number of experts he can access for assistance with his game, not the least of them being Australian coach Justin Langer. But time spent shadow batting in hotel quarantine provided him with the solitude to troubleshoot his own technique, and who could be better qualified?

“Steve is the best coach of himself and that’s what sets some of these guys apart. He knows his game better than anyone, so he knows how he needs to feel,” said Trent Woodhill, the batting coach who has worked closely with Smith over the years.

And it’s all about the hands. Late, fast, being pulled through the line of the ball like a catapult. And when Smith finds an early one to his liking when he’s in that sort of mood, it can well be curtains for the attack, regardless of where they put the ball.

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“There’s nothing better than the on-drive he hit early in his innings. He hit it straight down the ground and he nailed it. That’s an indication where he talks about his hands being in a very good place,” Woodhill observed.

“I think it’s just a mindset with Steven. He’s different to most, I keep comparing him to [Kane] Williamson and [Virat] Kholi, but the last few knocks have just been out of this world.

“That means he’s even later on the ball, which means his momentum and weight transfer is perfect. Where do you bowl to him? What length, what line, what speed…how do you deal with a threat when he’s like that?

“His focus can be a little off centre and he still does well. But when he’s in this zone, you literally can’t bowl to him.”

The third ODI will be played at Canberra’s Manuka Oval on Wednesday.

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Smith twins leave Super Rugby for US deals


The United States has emerged as the latest threat on Australia’s Super Rugby stocks after Queensland Reds identical twins Ruan and JP Smith’s exit to play in Los Angeles next year.

The forwards will play for the Venice Beach-based LA Giltinis in their inaugural season from March next year in what will be the competition’s fourth instalment.

The USA Rugby-sanctioned competition has swollen to 13 teams split between two conferences, defying the governing body’s claim for bankruptcy earlier this year and significant behind-the-scenes dramas for a host of clubs after their third season was cut short by COVID-19.

The Giltinis are named after a yet-to-be released cocktail and owned by Australian Adam Gilchrist – a gym tycoon, not the cricketer – who also owns the Austin Gilronis.

The competition has already lured former Wallabies great Chris Latham, to coach Utah, while Stephen Hoiles is an assistant coach at LA and Drew Mitchell (New York) was poised to come out of retirement before the delay.

Springbok Tendai Mtawarira (Washington DC), All Black Ma’a Nonu (San Diego), France’s Mathieu Bastareaud (New York) have all featured while Matt Giteau and Adam Ashley-Cooper have been linked to the LA club run by former Wallabies hooker Adam Freier.

But the signing of the 30-year-old Smith twins shows there is interest among active, established Super Rugby players too.

And AAP understands more could follow them in a move that would put the privately owned United States competition alongside Europe and Japan as suitors for Australia’s best talent.

Ruan said playing in the USA was a “bucket-list thing” while his brother JP said “playing with a new club in one of the sporting capitals of the world has massive appeal”.

“Away from playing, I’m really interested in player development and coaching and I’d like to take any opportunity in that area in LA to help rugby keep growing in the local community,” JP Smith said.

The pair grew up in South Africa before moving to Australia, where they now boast citizenship and run a South African meat operation specialising in boerewors and biltong.

“JP and Ruan are both very good, experienced rugby players and popular off the field in their past teams,” Hoiles said.

“It’s a significant part of the way we’ve structured our squad that they will really help guys like Blake Rogers and Mafi Seanoa, two of our talented American props.”





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David Warner injury sours Steve Smith masterclass


A Cricket Australia spokesman confirmed Warner had sustained an adductor injury and had been sent for scans, the results of which Australia will be sweating on.

David Warner is helped from the field on Sunday night. Credit:Getty Images

“I haven’t heard anything or haven’t seen anything from Davey but hopefully the scan comes back and it’s OK. But it didn’t look good,” Maxwell said.

“He seemed liked he was in a bit of pain. Hopefully the scans come back and it’s not too bad and he can rest up and get himself right.”

Warner’s absence for the remaining four matches of the white-ball campaign against India over the next week in Canberra and then back in Sydney looms as a significant setback for the home team, breaking up his highly successful partnership with Finch.

However, the consequences could be felt even more if his involvement in the main event of the season, the four-Test Border-Gavaskar Trophy series, is affected. The first match begins in Adelaide on December 17, with Australia looking to hit back after losing the series 2-1 in 2018/19 when Warner and Smith were serving suspensions for the ball-tampering affair.

The agony Warner expressed indicated he must be in serious doubt for the first Test, if not a longer period.

If he is missing, it would leave a huge gap to fill at the top of the order for Australia.

David Warner goes down injured at the SCG.

David Warner goes down injured at the SCG.Credit:Getty

Warner scored three Test hundreds against Pakistan and New Zealand last summer including a signature unbeaten 335 against Pakistan in Adelaide, emphasising how invaluable he is, particularly in home conditions. With an out-of-sorts Joe Burns and the untried Will Pucovski the other two openers in the 17-man Australian Test squad, Tim Paine’s side would look very different without the 34-year-old.

Aside from being stood down for the first two Test of the Ashes tour in 2013 over an altercation with Joe Root at the Birmingham Walkabout, and then being banned for a year after the sandpaper incident at Newlands, Warner has been a mainstay of the Australian XI for the best part of a decade.

So with Virat Kohli to head back to India after the first Test to be with his wife for the birth of their first child, a lengthy injury lay-off for Warner could effectively be a levelling of the equation.

The former Test vice-captain had appeared on track for a 19th ODI century on Sunday, serving as the chief aggressor in a 142-run stand with Finch (60 from 69 balls) before being run out for 83 from 77 balls while pushing for a second run with Smith.

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While Warner’s evening ended in unfortunate circumstances, it was another day out for Smith (104 from 64) while Marnus Labuschagne (70 from 61) and Maxwell (63 not out from 29) also cashed in as the cool change arrived to take the sting out of a weekend of extreme heat in Sydney.

Having fielded in a sauna after losing an important toss, India faced a monumental assignment to give Australia’s total a shake. Kohli (89 from 87) at least put on a show, stopped only by an acrobatic catch by Moises Henriques at midwicket as Josh Hazlewood (2-59) claimed the touring captain’s wicket for the second time in two games.

Henriques also collected a wicket in his first appearance for Australia in more than three years and Pat Cummins (3-67) was on a hat-trick at one point as India could reach only 9-338 on Sunday night despite the best efforts of KL Rahul (76 from 66).

The teams will complete the ODI series at Manuka Oval on Wednesday.

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Kris Smith on fatherhood and the magic of Christmas


Kris wears M.J. Bale top and Polo Ralph Lauren shorts, from Myer.
Sarah wears Scanlan
& Theodore bodysuit and skirt. Weber “Compact Kettle” charcoal barbecue. Mila and Frankie wear Country Road.
Credit:Kristoffer Paulsen

Fatherhood has reignited his love for Christmas, Myer ambassador Kris Smith tells Sunday Life. He plans to spend the big day at home celebrating with his family, as well as getting in some time at the beach.

What’s your favourite childhood Christmas memory?
Leaving Santa a sherry and a mince pie on Christmas Eve. I also left carrots for the reindeers and I now continue that tradition with my kids. I think I looked forward to that more than getting the gifts.

How will you be celebrating Christmas this year?
This year is going to be bigger than Christmas! We have missed so many events throughout the year: birthdays, Mother’s Day, Father’s Day and other important celebrations. We can’t wait to make up for it on Christmas Day with friends, family and lots of delicious food and drinks, of course. This Christmas we will be at home and hopefully spend some time on the beach.

Kris wears Polo Ralph Lauren from Myer. Sarah wears Scanlan & Theodore top and Country Road shorts. Mila and Frankie wear Country Road.

Kris wears Polo Ralph Lauren from Myer. Sarah wears Scanlan & Theodore top and Country Road shorts. Mila and Frankie wear Country Road. Credit:Kristoffer Paulsen



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Ice or fire, how will Steve Smith respond when the short balls begin?


International teams have tried for years to dismiss Smith the traditional way: through line and length. It has cost them time, effort and plenty of runs.

I don’t necessarily see Smith as being any more vulnerable to the short stuff than any other player but teams will use this tactic because he is so strong elsewhere.

New Zealand’s Neil Wagner had great success with the short ball to Steve Smith.Credit:AAP

As well as Neil Wagner bowled against him last year, it should be pointed out Smith still averaged 43 and Australia won the series 3-0. Teams will have taken note that his strike rate of 34 was well below usual, so at the very least they can dry up his runs.

To me, it comes down to attitude for Smith. I recall an Ashes Test at the SCG in 1995 where we were chasing 449 over about a day and a half. Devon Malcolm, who was one of the fastest bowlers in the world, was posing many concerns to me with his short-pitched bowling.

I decided to take him on as I would rather go down swinging than popping one up to bat pad or the man they had set up around the corner. After I nailed a few hook shots and got off to a flyer – it was one of the few times I scored faster than Michael Slater – England adopted a more conventional line and length strategy. This aggressive approach helped Slats and I: we both made centuries and we saved the game.

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Or he could adopt Steve Waugh’s strategy. Waugh, who was dubbed the Ice Man for his steely resolve, stopped playing the hook shot, opting to wear a few instead. A lot of us thought in the dressing room: ‘How can you keep going like this?’, but he was mentally strong and extremely determined. His record suggests it worked for him.

I don’t have any doubts over Smith’s courage but I suspect he will want to take it on.

That said, Smith has the temperament to absorb the blows as he is one of the few players I’ve seen who is not bothered if his score is not ticking along. Some players feel the pressure and get out to rash shots but Smith just keeps batting and batting – probably because he loves it so much.

The Test series is the main prize but if India are to retain the Border-Gavaskar Trophy they will need to play well in the one-day internationals and Twenty20s.

If they struggle and negativity pervades the camp this could be big trouble for them, especially with captain Virat Kohli to leave after the first Test.

I won’t do a Glenn McGrath and declare a whitewash but it becomes a distinct possibility if Australia can maintain their perfect record in the pink-ball Test and go one up in Adelaide.

India need to stamp their authority in the white ball games and show the Australians they are up for the challenge. It could be trouble otherwise.

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Steve Smith in for Mitch Marsh when Australia plays India on Friday


Steve Smith in for the injured Mitch Marsh looms as the lone change to the Australian team to take on India on Friday at the SCG in the international summer opener as coach Justin Langer labelled his squad’s depth a “tactical advantage” over the tourists.

Twenty-seven Aussie players are training in two groups in separate quarantine hubs in Sydney, and the ODI squad won’t come together until the morning of the clash with the Indians amid a preparation like never before.

Langer said Aussie great Ricky Ponting’s arm had “fallen off” he’d been throwing that many balls to Smith in their training hub, where he’s also been facing fast bowlers Pat Cummins and Josh Hazlewood every day since their return from the IPL.

On Tuesday at the SCG seven of Australia‘s 18-man ODI squad, including batsman Marnus Labuschange and boom all-rounder Cameron Green, trained under the watchful eye of Langer, who has been in Sydney since Sunday.

Langer said Green “had to be bowling” to be any chance of making his ODI debut on Friday, and the exit of the injured Marsh potentially opened up a spot for the extra all-rounder the coach wanted in his team.

But it’s more likely Marcus Stoinis and Glenn Maxwell will share the bowling, and Smith, who missed the entire ODI series against England in September with concussion, would be the straight swap.

“We’ll probably lean that way. We’ve talked about in our foundation for one-day cricket going forward, we really like that extra bowling option,” Langer said on Wednesday.

“In England we had Marsh, Maxwell and Stoinis being able to get us at least 10 overs. We like that combination.

“Stevie will come straight in, but there are some headaches, but they are good headaches. We’ve got great depth … there is lots of competition, that’s exactly how we want it, keep the guys in the first XI on their toes.

“It’s one of our competitive advantages.”

Langer said they were being extra cautious with Green, who returned to bowling in the Sheffield Shield earlier this month after suffering from back issues.

“If we are going pick Cameron Green he has to be bowling, in one-day cricket specifically, not so much in T20 cricket or Test cricket,” Langer said.

“We’re very sensitive to his physical health, he’s had two stress fractures in the past. He‘s up and running, he’s bowling well and gives us another option at the selection table which is exciting.”

While the Aussie are training separately, the entire Indian squad is preparing as one unit for the three-match ODI series that is followed by three T20 internationals in quick succession.

But Langer is happy his players are getting enough competition to be ready for the showdown with a team the Aussie coach considers his biggest rivals.

“If you ask guys like David Warner and Maxy, Steve Smith, they are facing Pat Cummins and Josh Hazlewood. The guys in the SCG nets, they’re batting against Starcy (Mitchell Starc) and Sean Abbott. They’re getting plenty of competition,” Langer said.

“They’ll know they are in the contest when they walk out on Friday against India. The boys will be ready.”



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Council to sell off surplus Wynnum Road, Kingsford Smith Drive land


The total value of the land is redacted in council documents as commercial-in-confidence.

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Acting lord mayor Krista Adams told the council chambers on Tuesday the land would all be sold as it was surplus to the council’s need.

Greens councillor Jonathan Sri, in whose ward part of the Wynnum Road corridor upgrade was in before boundary redistributions, said congestion had not eased after the project’s completion and all of the land resumptions on Lytton Road had not been necessary.

Cr Sri said the council should retain the land for public housing, and noted some residents who had been forced to give up their homes had to leave the area as they could not afford to buy again in the same suburb.

Cr Adams said the council always resumed land at market value.

“Today we’re seeing those sites are being sold back to the private sector in a neighbourhood that has a dire need for public space and public housing,” Cr Sri said.

Cr Sri said he was concerned the money collected from the land sales on Lytton Road would not be put back into the local neighbourhood but rather redistributed across citywide projects.

Another parcel of land at 605 Kingsford Smith Drive in Hamilton will also be sold off, previously the location of the road upgrade’s site office.

The 2571-square-metre site is split zoned for industrial investigation and emerging community, but its total value has also been redacted.

Opposition leader Jared Cassidy said that while the total value of the land to be sold off by the council was redacted, it was “quite significant”.

Cr Cassidy moved an urgency motion calling for the council to commit to spending the money from the proposed land sales on reinstating kerbside collection, which was paused for three years as a cost-saving measure by the LNP administration.

“This is urgent because we need to direct and assign this money before the lord mayor wastes it,” Cr Cassidy said.

“We know what residents want, they want kerbside collection back and it should never have been cancelled in the first place.”

The motion was defeated.

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Council to sell off surplus Wynnum Road, Kingsford Smith Drive land


The total value of the land is redacted in council documents as commercial-in-confidence.

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Acting lord mayor Krista Adams told the council chambers on Tuesday the land would all be sold as it was surplus to the council’s need.

Greens councillor Jonathan Sri, in whose ward part of the Wynnum Road corridor upgrade was in before boundary redistributions, said congestion had not eased after the project’s completion and all of the land resumptions on Lytton Road had not been necessary.

Cr Sri said the council should retain the land for public housing, and noted some residents who had been forced to give up their homes had to leave the area as they could not afford to buy again in the same suburb.

Cr Adams said the council always resumed land at market value.

“Today we’re seeing those sites are being sold back to the private sector in a neighbourhood that has a dire need for public space and public housing,” Cr Sri said.

Cr Sri said he was concerned the money collected from the land sales on Lytton Road would not be put back into the local neighbourhood but rather redistributed across citywide projects.

Another parcel of land at 605 Kingsford Smith Drive in Hamilton will also be sold off, previously the location of the road upgrade’s site office.

The 2571-square-metre site is split zoned for industrial investigation and emerging community, but its total value has also been redacted.

Opposition leader Jared Cassidy said that while the total value of the land to be sold off by the council was redacted, it was “quite significant”.

Cr Cassidy moved an urgency motion calling for the council to commit to spending the money from the proposed land sales on reinstating kerbside collection, which was paused for three years as a cost-saving measure by the LNP administration.

“This is urgent because we need to direct and assign this money before the lord mayor wastes it,” Cr Cassidy said.

“We know what residents want, they want kerbside collection back and it should never have been cancelled in the first place.”

The motion was defeated.

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Steve Smith finding ways to feel good about batting in hotel quarantine ahead of India ODI series


The way Steve Smith speaks about batting can be as unique as his style of batting.

Playing so far away from his body and using his wrists and arms to sometimes play balls from well outside off to the leg side, Smith is more handsy than most batsmen.

And the message from Australia’s foremost French cricketer should serve as a warning to India, ahead of two months’ worth of ODIs, Twenty20s and Tests between the teams.

“I’ve found my hands,” Smith said on Tuesday, ahead of Friday’s one-day international against India at the SCG.

The 31-year-old said it was all about feeling comfortable with everything from the way the bat comes down behind his toes to his ability to work the angles of deliveries and find different areas of the field.

“It’s taken me three or four months to do it but I’ve found them now, which is pretty exciting,” he said.

“I had a big smile on my face after training and walked past [assistant coach] Andrew McDonald and said ‘I’ve found them again’.”

Smith has just returned from the Indian Premier League (IPL), where he struggled to reach his usually lofty standards, dismissed in single digits six times in 14 games and finishing with his lowest batting average from eight IPL seasons.

His Rajasthan Royals were also knocked out early in the tournament, playing their last game on November 1, meaning Smith will have gone almost a month without playing a competitive match by the time Friday’s match arrives.

He admitted he was getting toey in Sydney hotel quarantine despite a smaller squad meaning he doesn’t have to share time in the nets quite so much.

“I’ve done a bit of shadow batting [in my hotel room],” he said.

“I copped a few messages [from teammates] last night saying stop tapping the bat down.”

It all comes after barely playing cricket during the coronavirus pandemic, with an almost six-month gap between Australia’s last ODI against New Zealand in March and a three-game Twenty20 series in England in September.

But even going back to last summer, before COVID-19 shut things down, Smith’s form dipped after his astronomical away Ashes series in 2019.

Steve Smith struggled against the short-pitched bowling of Neil Wagner in last year’s Test series against New Zealand.(AAP: Scott Barbour)

He barely contributed with the bat in two Tests against Pakistan and toiled against New Zealand, particularly in the face of a Bodyline-style attack from left-arm seamer Neil Wagner.

Coming into a series against an Indian pace attack of Jasprit Bumrah, Mohammed Shami and Umesh Yadav — who helped the tourists score their first series win in Australia in 2018/19 — Smith said they are welcome to try the same tactics.

“Neil Wagner got the better of me; he’s pretty good at what he does. He possesses a set of skills that not many people do,” he said.

“If others want to take that approach then great, but there’s not many others who can do what he does for a long period of time.

“There’s not too many players who can run in and bowl bouncers all day. He’s incredibly accurate and he’s got an ability to change his pace — he’d bowl one ball at 135kph, then 128kph, then 130kph, then 135. He’s done it to plenty of batsmen around the world. That’s what he does.

“In a way it’s a bit of flattery, if people believe that’s the only way they can get me out because they’ve exhausted all other options.”

Australia’s four-match Test series against India starts on December 17 after three ODIs and three T20s from November 27 to December 8.



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