Netball Australia to put lack of diversity in spotlight


“We’ve made a commitment to Sharon [Finnan-White] and Marcia [Ella-Duncan] that we are not comfortable with the fact we haven’t seen Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander Diamonds for a while … we want it to be better.”

On Wednesday, Swifts coach Briony Akle urged Netball Australia to create more pathways to increase diversity and said it was time for an Indigenous player to again represent Australia.

It is clear there is an impediment for these [Indigenous] girls.

Marne Fechner

In response, Fechner said the governing body was unsure whether a lack of pathways was the problem. Netball Australia is hoping the reasons for the lack of diversity will be revealed in its State of the Game review.

“We don’t understand what the blockages are,” she said. “It is clear there is an impediment for these [Indigenous] girls. It’s not a question of they are not talented, that’s like saying women aren’t good enough to be CEOs, it’s illogical and it’s not true.

“What is it in our high-performance pathways that obviously isn’t nurturing and providing an opportunity for Indigenous athletes to thrive?”

The State of the Game review was announced in July with the aim of resetting the sport’s strategy after the effects of COVID-19.

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The review will be undertaken by an independent panel chaired by Liz Ellis and will look at growing strategies before the next home World Cup, which will likely be held in 2027.

In July, Queensland Firebirds star and Jamaican shooter Romelda Aiken said she was disappointed by the game’s lack of support for the Black Lives Matter movement, arguing players of colour had to push the code to take a stand on the issue.

Fechner said netball “had to own” its lack of understanding in the area and recognise “where in the system we are breaking down”.

“Netball, in its roots, is about belonging and team and celebrating what is happening in our community, and that shouldn’t be closed off to anybody,” Fechner said.

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Conor McKenna’s criticism of Melbourne’s AFL media puts its integrity under the spotlight


The now former Essendon footballer Conor McKenna is from what AFL recruiters like to call a “non-traditional football background”.

This is the catchphrase for the diminishing number of players who were not identified by private school scouts playing for their local under-12s, awarded scholarships aimed at promoting lavish sports programs then drafted a few months after skolling their first legal drink.

Those who undergo this process are groomed from an early age to adhere to, and publicly advocate, the expectations that come with their apparently privileged and lucrative position.

This includes a relatively strict behavioural code, the contractual obligation to go to the club that picks them rather than one they might favour and a tacit agreement they will become public property subject to the harsh judgement of fans and the constant scrutiny of the media.

This is why McKenna’s uncomfortable experience in the AFL this season and his strident sentiments upon retirement were significant. Occasionally, it is illuminating to see what we have come to take for granted through the eyes of an outsider.

McKenna, a 24-year-old from County Tyrone, Ireland, grew up playing Gaelic football, which is the subject of obsessive media coverage and ferocious fan debate despite not offering the same substantial wages available in the AFL.

So when McKenna came to Australia he was at least partly prepared for the constant thrumming media noise created by the AFL in the heartland states.

Unlike his “traditional pathway” teammates, however, McKenna did not expect to be subjected to the kind of public vilification that occurred when he had the audacity to record what turned out to be a false negative test for COVID-19 in June.

That McKenna’s test led to the postponement of Essendon’s game against Melbourne saw him portrayed as an almost comic book villain in some sections of the media, particularly after it was revealed he had visited his former host family while in quarantine.

McKenna’s advocates believed there was a strong case this visit was valid on compassionate grounds, given his isolation and homesickness.

But he accepted a one-week ban that allowed the AFL to demonstrate it was taking a tough stance on quarantine infringements to the various states with whom it was negotiating about hubs.

Yet even allowing for what was, at worst, a minor infraction and the ongoing concerns for his health, McKenna was subjected to scathing criticism, constant intrusion and false reporting before, and even after, his negative test was revealed.

‘Why would they change?’

Some more obsessive elements of the AFL media, in the now popular guise of the amateur epidemiologist, literally studied the saliva as it came from his nose at a training session.

This experience clearly left the already homesick McKenna rattled and disillusioned; although his beef was not with the right of the media to report on his case but the lack of integrity by a section of it.

Conor McKenna holds a red AFL ball in both hands
McKenna wants the AFL media to come under greater scrutiny.(AAP: Michael Dodge)

“No matter what job you have in life there are always repercussions, but the way the media works in Melbourne there doesn’t seem to be,” McKenna told ABC reporter and Offsiders panellist Catherine Murphy this week.

“There’s just a free-for-all to say whatever you want. If there are no repercussions, they’ll just continue to do that and treat players like a piece of meat.

“If there are no repercussions, why would they change? I think it’s something that the AFL should look at.”

The idea that the AFL might fine journalists for intrusive, unflattering or even misleading reporting is obviously far-fetched.

As much as some reporters like to consider themselves part of the “football industry”, they work for their media companies, not the game.

Then there is the AFL’s complicity. By seeking to dominate every conceivable date on the sports calendar it has encouraged and even driven the frenzied reporting of the competition without apparent consideration of the less fortunate implications for players.

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McKenna’s playing brethren were also complicit, with North Melbourne’s Luke McDonald mocking the Irishman’s plight by raising his hands over his face as if wearing a mask, a gesture for which he later apologised.

But McKenna’s parting words still make it worth considering how the proliferation of AFL reporting has contributed to the sometimes-punitive coverage of the stars of the show, and the consequences for their wellbeing.

“The reality of it is I had a deadly disease … but people were more worried about the AFL being put off than my actual life,” McKenna told Murphy.

Significant boundaries now exist between athletes and media created by clubs fiercely guarding their “messages”, some outlets adopting a “get it first even if you don’t get it right” approach and the sheer size of the media itself.

The result has been a steady decline in the amount of meaningful personal contact and a subsequent lack of mutual understanding and empathy. The athlete is that “piece of meat” and the media the predator.

This is not to say there is no place for reasoned and even harsh criticism of those athletes who might compromise an entire season by seriously and wilfully breaching COVID-19 protocols — rather than merely by apparently suffering from COVID-19.

But you can’t help feeling McKenna is making a wise decision to return to Ireland, at least for a time, where his performance for County Tyrone will be fiercely debated but not his very motives.



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Tasmania’s Child Safety Service under inquest spotlight over children’s deaths


The drowning of a seven-month-old baby left alone in the bath by her young mother is one of seven deaths being investigated in an inquest exploring to what extent, if any, the actions or inactions of Tasmania’s Child Safety Service played a contributing role.

The three-day inquest before coroner Olivia McTaggart is examining the deaths of seven children in north and north-western Tasmania from 2014 to 2018.

The children ranged in age from two months to 16 years, and all bar two — a teenage mother and her infant son— died in separate incidents.

But all the children or their families were known to, or involved with, Child Safety Service (CSS) prior to their deaths.

The inquest is attempting to identify whether systemic failures in CSS contributed to their deaths and what reforms and recommendations could be made to prevent similar deaths.

Three deaths from co-sleeping

Of the seven deaths, three children died suddenly overnight from co-sleeping, another died from sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) while sleeping on his mother’s couch, one baby drowned in a bathtub, while a teenage mother and son were killed in a car being driven in an “erratic” manner by the child’s father.

The first day of the inquest focused on evidence from social work professor Robert Lonne, who identified a number of deficiencies in CSS’s dealings with the children, although they were rarely connected to the children’s death.

He criticised the service’s lack of contact with one family who had open and closed cases over a number of years in regards to their older children.

At the time of their three-month-old’s death, the service had not been in contact with the family for “quite a period” and was not aware of the child’s existence, with the department’s own internal review describing its work with the family as “disordered in approach”.

A suppression order prevents the naming of the children and families.(Pixabay)

Professor Lonne did, however, note the family had been suspicious and reluctant to engage with services, which he said was not unusual for Indigenous families due “not least to the Stolen Generations and removal of children”.

In the case of the deaths of the teenage mother and her infant son, who died after the child’s father crashed their car into a truck, he said the department “could’ve been assessed as having contributed to their deaths”.

Both the 16-year-old and the child’s father had a long history with CSS.

Professor Lonne said it was clear the father had a propensity for violence and “presented a real and ongoing risk to the children [being the mother and her son]”.

He said the department ought to have assessed the risk and merits of relocating them somewhere safe and said the lack of intervention was a “key failing”.

Expert says CSS could not have foreseen drowning

In other cases, he noted there was a workforce issue or pointed out more detailed assessments should have taken place, but he said these assessments would not have always alleviated risk.

In particular, he said the service could not have foreseen the seven-month-old drowning in the bath.

He said while he believed CSS should have thoroughly investigated allegations the mother was abusing drugs and the child was being left in the care of inappropriate people, intervention was unlikely to prevent her drowning.

“Everybody should know you don’t leave a child unattended in a bath — three months, seven months, 18 months. You just don’t do it. You don’t do it because things can happen in a heartbeat.”

In summary, he said there was “some steady improvement” in CSS’s dealings over the years, and while it was not a huge turnaround, it was encouraging.

He cited significant improvements in the way the department responded to cases, with improved communication internally and with other departments, and a greater focus on safety plans for families identified as high risk.

In all bar the case of the teenage mother and her infant son, Professor Lonne said he could not attribute part of the children’s deaths to department deficiencies.



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Poor fresh food quality in north-west Queensland put under the spotlight by health professionals


Mould-ridden vegetables, 200 per cent mark-ups on food, and food trucks getting bogged are the norm in the Gulf of Carpentaria, a hearing has been told.

The hearing, which was launched in June this year, investigates food prices and food security in remote and Indigenous communities compared with those in the city.

Inquiry chairman Julian Leeser said consumer protection laws and regulators such as the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) would also be assessed for their effectiveness in regulating remote pricing.

“We want to know how much of this is just a supply to remoteness issue, and how much of this is regulatory failure,” Mr Leeser said.

Representatives from Indigenous health service Gidgee Healing met with the panel in Brisbane via a video link last week and gave examples from Doomadgee, Burketown and Mornington Island.

Comparison of pricing between Mount Isa and the lower Queensland Gulf to Brisbane.(Supplied: Gidgee Healing)

The submission, now open to public, found spoilt food was displayed and common items such as vegetables, rice, and milk were either double the price of city produce or sometimes not available at all.

Transportation was also presented to the committee as an issue, with the example of bogged trucks that prevented resupply to north-west Queensland during the summer of 2019.

truck rolled over in mud
A food truck in Burketown becomes bogged in late 2019 as the wet season cuts-off communities.(Supplied: Gidgee Healing)

Patients ‘in tears’ for fresh food

Clinical dietician Kiri Woodington said it was disheartening to recommend nutritional goals to patients when they were impossible due to their location.

“I have more than enough accounts of clients completely in tears because they know the problem with their diet is a lack of fruit and vegetables,” Ms Woodington said.

woman and man standing in hallway
Chief medical officer Marjed Paige and clinical dietitian Kiri Woodington.(ABC North West Queensland: Kemii Maguire)

Kalkadoon-Waanyi descendant and chief medical officer for Gidgee Healing Marjed Paige said patients often declined referrals to see a dietitian due to the poor access to fresh produce in their community.

“There’s some shame going with it,” he said.

“Because I refer them to a dietitian [but] they already know they can’t afford [fruit and vegetables] and sometimes it’s better not to go.

The hearing will continue this week as 110 submissions from across Australia are investigated before the committee submits its findings to the Federal Government on October 30.



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Bodybuilding.com Fit Employee Spotlight: Niranh Saniranh


Niranh Saniranh was a skinny, acne-prone kid who felt alone in the world and awkward at school. Then, at age 17, he started lifting weights. The change was immediate and positive. With each bit of muscle and strength gains came matching gains in confidence, but also in spirit. Whereas he’d once lived in a dark, isolated mental spot and was an easy target for other kids, Saniranh quickly came into his own.

By 18, he had transformed his body and was already prepping for his first competition, and he hasn’t stopped since. A classicist at heart, he follows the exact programs of iconic, 1970s-era bodybuilders. He likes their simplicity, technique, and of course, their results.

But it’s more than just technique and momentum driving him forward. Saniranh and the weights have “become one,” he says.

Today, Saniranh is one of our brilliant customer service representatives, a first responder to the calls for supplement guidance and training and nutritional help. Here’s what he had to say about working with his Bodybuilding.com team, working out by himself, and learning alongside our customer base.

Snapshot: Niranh Saniranh

  • Height: 5′ 11″
  • Weight: 175 lbs.
  • Occupation: Customer Service Representative
  • Location: Boise, Idaho

Contest Highlights:

  • 2015 NPC Idaho Cup: Men’s Physique, 4th place
  • 2018 NPC Idaho Muscle Classic: Men’s Physique, 3rd place, and Classic Physique, 4th place

Social Links:

When did you get into fitness?

I was athletic when I was a young kid, playing basketball all the time, but when I got to high school I had a hard time with my physicality for a while. I was really skinny, I had bad acne, and people made fun of me, so of course I became introverted and shy, which made everything worse. I had a really hard time socially. I didn’t fit in, and I didn’t like what I saw in the mirror every morning. Things were rough.

But when I was 17, a junior in high school, I had a friend encourage me to work out. He told me that gaining muscle would change a lot of what I was dealing with, that it would make me feel better about myself and would also put my mind in a better place, and he was right. I started going to the YMCA with him, using his guest passes and then buying day passes, and I got bigger really quickly. After a few months, I joined a Gold’s Gym and I haven’t stopped working out since.

Has your fitness regimen changed over the years?

It hasn’t much! In the first few months of working out, my arms got really big and people at school were like, “Dude, your arms are huge, like a bodybuilder.” Because people were saying that, I would go home and look up bodybuilders on the Internet. I found Ronnie Coleman, and I was just fascinated by the lifestyle. I started watching videos nonstop. I fell in love with the sport, and was kind of addicted. I’ve been doing what bodybuilders do ever since.

Maybe one thing that’s different today is that I really like to work out by myself. I put in my headphones, clear my thoughts, and it’s just me. It releases all the stress.

And there’s a sort of next-level connection I have with the actual weights themselves. Something happens when I pick them up. It’s hard to explain, but me and the weights have a connection. I owe thanks to them because they saved my life, and I’m in touch with that when I lift them.

I don’t know if anyone ever says that, but it’s a spiritual experience, you know? It’s like Bruce Lee says, something like, “Empty your mind, be formless. If you put water in the cup, it becomes the cup.” That’s kind of how I feel when I pick up the weights, that the weights and I are one. 

Fit Employee: Niranh Saniranh

When did you start competing?

I signed up to do my first show at age 18, actually. I’d gotten really big in the past year. I weighed 185 pounds, so I had to diet down. I actually got under 150 and was pretty shredded, but I got scared. I was worried that I wouldn’t be able to win, and if I couldn’t win then I didn’t want to do it. I don’t know what that was about. Just fear and nerves, I guess, so I backed out.

Then, when I was 23, in 2015, I finally did my first show, the NPC Idaho Cup, and I placed 4th in the Men’s Physique class. This year, I did my second show, the NPC Idaho Muscle Classic, and placed 3rd in Men’s Physique and 4th in Classic Physique.

What’s it like working for Bodybuilding.com?

It’s awesome man, because you see pretty ripped and jacked people walking around, and it motivates you. Since I’m on the phones, I’m talking about fitness, nutrition, and supplements constantly, so it helps me stay on the right path, and to stay with my regimen. It’s a really good environment.

What are your co-workers like?

My co-workers are like friends and family, to be honest. It’s one of the few places I’ve worked where everyone has a really good vibe and aura, and we all just mesh really well. Nobody freaks out when you’re eating tilapia every day, stinking up the kitchen, because everybody just gets it, and it’s nice to be somewhere people really get you.

Fit Employee: Niranh Saniranh

What’s your favorite feature on the Bodybuilding.com site?

I like the articles. When I’m working with a customer and they ask me something I don’t know off the top of my head, like maybe they want a product to help with shuttling or nutrition partitioning, I’ll look it up on our site and find an article and learn about it with the customer. I actually learn a lot that way, from customers needing to know something I might not know, and we have all the articles that help with that.

What’s in the big picture for you?

When I was younger, like I said, I wasn’t happy with my image, and I got made fun of. When you’re that young and you don’t feel like you fit in, you go to a really dark place. But bodybuilding improved my confidence and improved my personality, and I just want to support that message and use my influence to tell people that living a healthier lifestyle really does help your overall life. It really does improve a lot of things. I want to spread that message.

Fit Employee: Niranh Saniranh

Also, I want to compete as a professional men’s physique and classic physique bodybuilder. I’ve got a long way to go, but I think there’s only one road for me right now. I think that I just want “Plan A,” you know? So, all the way to the end on that one, for me.

What’s your diet and supplement regimen?

I’ve been doing intermittent fasting for about three years now and it has been effective for helping me build muscle and maintain low body fat. Alongside this, my body reacts really well to carb cycling. So, I will normally fast 4-5 days out of the week with carb cycling. I fast for about 16 hours and have an 8-hour feeding window. If I have more fat to lose, I like to up my fasting time to around 18-20 hours with an eating period of 4-6 hours. I keep protein intake to around 200-250 grams, carb intake to 50-100 grams on low carb days, 150-200 on moderate days, and up to 400 on high carb days. I tend to keep fats at under 100 grams.

My main sources of protein are chicken, tilapia, salmon, lean ground turkey, and eggs. My main sources of carbs are white rice and brown rice. I like to get my fats from places like peanut butter, almonds, avocado, and coconut oil.

I don’t take too many supplements, as I believe more in perfecting my diet. However, I do like to take creatine and a whey protein, and I like the Bodybuilding.com Signature supplements for those.

What’s your training split like?

I’m really into following the old-school bodybuilders. Right now, I’m big into Serge Nubret, a French bodybuilder who was in his prime back in the 1970s. His training split is a little different than what’s considered normal today. Basically, I work out six days a week. The first day is mainly chest and quads, the next day is back and hamstrings, then shoulders and arms the next day. And then it’s a repeat, with a rest day breaking it up on the seventh day.

Fit Employee: Niranh Saniranh

I’ve been doing it like this for the past five or six months, but even before Serge Nubret’s training, I have always liked to do opposing sides of the body in one workout, like chest and back on the same day or quads and arms.

Nubret’s main goal was to force as much blood into the muscle as possible for as long as possible. I try to do moderate weights, and, with every workout, I’ll do 3-4 exercises for each muscle group, 6-8 sets, and 10-12 reps. Since I’m working with moderate weight, my rest time is cut down to 30-45 seconds.

Here’s a breakdown of my week:

Monday and Thursday: Quads, Chest, and Abs

1


+

6

more exercises

Sunday: Rest (abs only)

On ab day, I will do sit-ups, bicycle crunches, and leg lifts for 30-45 min



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Joseph Suaalii ‘spooked’ by media spotlight; delays decision on future


He told the Herald the teen prodigy would not be rushing into any decision – though it’s expected he will eventually sign with Souths.

“He was spooked by the amount of media attention,” Nasteski said. “He needs some time to think about it now. When he’s ready he will make that decision but right now, he hasn’t made that decision.

“It’s his decision and his family’s decision, 100 per cent. We’ve just left it up to them and they can take as much time as they want now.”

Nasteski made a point of thanking both Souths and Rugby Australia for giving the star teen space to make a decision, given the impact the amount of recent media attention has had on both Suaalii and his family.

“Souths are giving him the time that he needs and he can take as much time as he wants,” Nasteski said. “He’s with Souths until October 31. No other clubs can talk to him until November 1 and he can’t play rugby without getting a release. There is no rush.”

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Souths chief executive Blake Solly confirmed the club had not heard from Suaalii since he turned 17.

While Rugby Australia officials have privately conceded they have all but lost the race for the prized recruit, some hope must remain given Nasteski insisted no decision has been made.

Wallabies coach Dave Rennie – who has not had any contact with the talented teen since January – told the Herald on Monday he simply hoped Suaalii made an “informed decision”, conceding RA could not match the financial clout of the NRL.

“He’s an impressive young man and I was impressed with his parents, certainly mum talked a lot about wanting what’s best for him and it wasn’t about money,” Rennie said.

“They’re quite different situations from a decision point of view for him. Financially we’re poles apart, so really what’s important for us is to be in the conversation.

“You just want people making informed decisions. That’s key. It’s easy to be on one side of the argument and try to convince people to select you guys because of this or because of that.

“But you put your best foot forward, you talk about what’s great in the game and the support you’re going to give them.

“We’re going to lose a lot of those battles financially but we are going to keep some kids. Because our emphasis is not just on the finance it’s on the whole person.”

As Suaalii continues to ponder where his future lies, he has an AAGPS rugby season to prepare for.

The King’s School have two trials coming up before kicking off their season against St Joseph’s on August 22, a match which is sure to draw many curious eyes given Suaalii’s name has been plastered across newspapers and televisions across Sydney for weeks.

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COVID-19 spotlight prompts calls for genomics roadmap


Illumina has a market cap of $US53.8 billion ($80 billion) on the Nasdaq and last year generated revenue of $US3.5 billion globally selling its genetic sequencing kits, hardware, software and research support products.

The business has had a team on the ground in Australia since 2008 and over the past fews years has solidified its ties with the local research community. It inked a partnership with the University of Melbourne last year which saw the company move some of its operations to the biomedical precinct at Parkville.

Ms Weightman estimates about a third of Illumina’s global research efforts have pivoted to the coronavirus pandemic in recent months.

This has included the development of a rapid diagnostic test for Sars-COV-2 as well as helping researchers across the world with sequencing projects to gain better insights into what role genetics may play in susceptibility to the virus.

In Australia, Illumina has been lending support to research including the BRACE project, a trial that is looking to collect a large sample of frontline healthcare workers and track how they interact with the virus when given a vaccine designed for tuberculosis.

Ms Weightman said Illumina, which has 75 staff in Australia, was attracted to the country’s output of world-leading research. “We see the Australian market as extremely favourable,” she said.

Gretchen Weightman is vice president and general manager of Asia Pacific and Japan for Illumina.

The local life sciences sector is calling for more research support post-pandemic in recent months, particularly around commercialisation.

Ms Weightman said the country needs to put policy attention towards speeding up commercial “translation”. This means having a stronger national plan for bringing genomic research from the lab into hospitals for patients.

“Do things that work [end up] living in research land forever? How do they make their way across to the healthcare system?” she said.

Ms Weightman said she hoped the COVID-19 pandemic had given Australians greater insight into why research is important. “It opened people up to realising that genomics is a thing, for example, and it can be applied,” she said.

In May the government committed $33 million to genomics research projects focused on understanding paediatric cancers for more personalised treatment processes.

The overall attractiveness of cities such as Sydney and Melbourne to multinational biotechs may be waning, however. On Friday, innovation data firm Startup Genome revealed Sydney had dropped four places in the rankings of the world’s best startup cities, coming in at 27th place.

Melbourne was praised for its life sciences talent and came in 36th place, however, it was eclipsed by cities such as Seattle and Silicon Valley, which still lead the pack for turning research into commericialised treatments.

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Gold Coast Suns’ winning return to football puts the spotlight on young gun Matt Rowell


This year, the Gold Coast Suns had a strong preseason, thumping Geelong and beating Adelaide — but then they came out and were pumped by Port Adelaide in round one, to the tune of 47 points.

Even in a team well beaten, draftee Matt Rowell managed 19 disposals — 11 contested — four tackles, three clearances and two inside 50s. On debut.

Three months later in round two, he and his team went out and left that all completely in the shade.

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The Suns beat the West Coast Eagles — who won the small matter of a premiership 27 games ago — by 44 points, and were by no means flattered by the scoreline.

Rowell won the Rising Star nomination for his 26-disposal, two-goal performance, and on early evidence, it would take something superhuman for someone else to win the award later this year.

The positives were many: his poise, his gut-running and stamina, his sheer strength to stand in tackles and handball or break free and keep the Suns moving, his ability to burst through on the ball and slot a goal or two, his quick hands … the list goes on.

But even if he was a large reason why Gold Coast dispatched West Coast at home, it was far from a one-man performance.

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Charlie Ballard and Sam Collins were brilliant down back, Hugh Greenwood and Lachie Weller showed in the midfield why the Suns had gone hard for them in recent trade periods.

Touk Miller shut down Tim Kelly after half-time, while Sam Day had his best night up forward in 10 years for the Suns.

The new draftees who weren’t Rowell — Noah Anderson and Connor Budarick — both impressed in different roles.

Jarrod Witts more than held his own in the ruck with Nic Naitanui.

Ben Ainsworth had a familiar burst, kicking two goals in five minutes. And Ben King and Alex Sexton, Gold Coast’s two best forward options had quiet matches — and the team still won comfortably.

These were pieces in a puzzle, and for the first time in a long while, the Suns fit together perfectly.

They gave a four-quarter effort, had the resilience to fight back after West Coast surged in the second quarter, delivered fierce pressure and took most of their chances.

The Suns had 50 more disposals and three more inside 50s than the Eagles. They broke even at the clearances, won the stoppages and improved their efficiency inside forward 50 by 10 per cent on last year’s average.

They looked capable in attack, and booted 14 goals — only the third time they had managed that since the start of the 2018 season.

Don’t get too excited

But before everyone gets too excited, there are a number of fairly large asterisks to put after this result.

The 12-week break thanks to the coronavirus means it has been like starting the season again, so there is little to compare to.

It is a totally unprecedented situation in AFL/VFL history, where a team has had to fly across country and base themselves in another unfamiliar state for at least a month.

The public comments of the Eagles, calling for the AFL to minimise the length of time they spend in the Queensland hub do not exactly inspire confidence about where their heads are at right now, either.

In addition, the dewy conditions at Carrara made handling difficult and were not conducive to West Coast’s kick-and-mark style.

The Suns have had breakout games — and strong starts to the season — before, as well.

The Suns made some waves early in 2019, before losing the last 18 games of the season.(AAP: Hamish Blair)

Look no further than last year, when Gold Coast knocked over Fremantle, Western Bulldogs and Carlton to be 3-1 after four rounds, lying in sixth spot.

And then? Eighteen straight losses — average margin 44.8 points, eight of them by more than a 60-point margin.

Cue the drums beating from Victoria with stories about St Kilda waiting to pounce on key forward King in the trade period to reunite him with his twin brother Max.

That didn’t happen, and looking more widely, the Suns have quietly gone about their business re-signing their young talent.

Suns build draft around mates 

The two elephants in the room with Gold Coast since its inception have been their over-reliance on Gary Ablett, and their inability to keep the high-end talent at their disposal.

Charlie Dixon, Jaeger O’Meara, Dion Prestia, Josh Caddy, Harley Bennell, Tom Lynch, Jack Martin, Steven May and Adam Saad all departed for various reasons before the Suns could break through.

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Gold Coast has tried to turn this trend around with draft strategy.

In 2016, the Suns had four picks in the top 10, and they took Ainsworth, Jack Bowes, Jack Scrimshaw and Will Brodie — all signed with the same management agency.

Scrimshaw left to join Hawthorn, but the other three are still there.

In 2018, Gold Coast looked for closer ties. Along with King (at pick six), the Suns went for Adelaide pair Jack Lukosius and Izak Rankine, who were classmates at Henley High School, at two and three.

Lukosius was drafted as a forward, but is impressing more and more at half-back.

The exciting Rankine has been hampered by soft-tissue injuries, but if and when he gets on the park he will add another dimension to the Suns’ attack.

In 2019, Gold Coast again went for two mates, taking Rowell and Noah Anderson at one and two.

It already looks to have paid off. Rowell dominated against the Eagles and Anderson — a more outside player than the Suns’ number 18 — also looked confident.

The pair appear to be a package deal, making it harder for a Victorian team to prise them away from Carrara.

So how good is Rowell?

Some people appear ready on the basis of eight quarters of football — and particularly the last four — to pencil in Matt Rowell for at least one career Brownlow Medal.

It is, one suspects, more than a little early for that. The point is that most draftees spend at least a year or two getting used to the speed and intensity of AFL football and building their bodies to cope with the physicality of the game.

Rowell, in contrast, has turned up apparently fully formed.

A smiling Matt Rowell is congratulated by Lachie Weller
The Suns will hope to see much more of these scenes if Rowell can cope with extra attention from teams.(AAP: Dave Hunt)

He has the build, the stamina, the determination, the knowledge and a willingness to challenge opposition players without fear.

Will he be an absolute superstar? Or does he have a lower ceiling than other draftees given how advanced he is now? Who knows, at this point.

What his display — and that of the rest of the Suns — does do is to allow a club that has been in the doldrums for so long to think about rising up the ladder instead of forever battling to avoid the spoon.

The only way to break the cycle at the Suns is to make the young talent want to stick around and build a team that could make club history and reach finals.

If they can’t put more wins together, history tells us the talent will be picked off, sooner or later.

But with games upcoming against the Crows and the Dockers — before a trip to Kardinia Park to face the Cats, there is an opportunity for Gold Coast to make a point.

If this playing group can start replicating Saturday’s performance more often, then Rowell and his teammates might have a few more moments in the Sun before long.



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Charles Sturt University’s new medical school venture in spotlight after revealing $80 million revenue hit



A NSW Nationals MP has questioned why a regional university that revealed an $80 million revenue loss was able to enter into an agreement to build a new medical school two years ago.

Charles Sturt University is under pressure to explain how it ended up having the revenue shortfall.

The university’s management cited the effects of the coronavirus pandemic and a loss of international students as major contributors to the loss.

It also confirmed that a restructure of courses was in the works and that job losses could not be ruled out.

But New South Wales Nationals MP Paul Toole was sceptical of the explanation, labelling it as a likely “scapegoat”.

“They are saying that COVID-19 has created the $80 million deficit. Well I have asked the board to be transparent,” Mr Toole said.

He wanted the university’s board to provide its 2019 annual report figures.

Mr Toole said the numbers from reports he had obtained did not stack up.

“[In 2015] they had a $38 million net operating result, in 2018 they had a $250,000 net operating deficit,” he said.

“This is something that doesn’t creep up overnight.”

‘Where is the business case?’

The first sod was turned at the Orange-based medical school campus in December last year.

The institution was one of a number of universities that were given money in the 2018 Federal Budget to build regional medical schools to train undergraduate doctors with the hope it would entice them to practice in the bush.

The member for the federal seat of Calare, Andrew Gee, said there was no turning back on the medical school, despite the university’s revenue loss.

In a statement to the ABC, Mr Gee said he believed CSU had sufficient reserves to “weather the storm”.

But Mr Toole said he wanted CSU to make assurances it would not scrap the Bathurst campus’ key courses, including those for paramedics, teaching, and journalism.

He also wanted to know how the uni was able to be involved in a multi-million-dollar medical school network.

He said it was unfair to let other campuses take the hit for what he claims was an example of “empire building”.

“Don’t go and rip the guts out of a university like Bathurst to try and make it viable,” he said.

The ABC has sought a response from CSU.



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