Maloney praises Catalans teammate Folau


“He’s unstoppable in the air. The only problem is when he gets to the ball, everyone tries to escort him. You have to try and get the ball when opposition teams are not expecting it.

James Maloney (far right) and Israel Folau combining for Catalans against LeedsCredit:Getty

“If you’re one-on-one in the air, nobody in the game here or back home would out-jump him.

“All the backlash there has been about him [possibly returning] was always going to be an obstacle for him.

“But for a player of his quality, you’d probably get him for a lot less, and he’d be a great pick-up for any NRL club.

“I think he would be good for the game, and you want the best players playing in the competition. He’d only make the NRL better.

“All the boys got along with him here, and when he told us why he wasn’t coming back we all understood.”

Top judge ... James Maloney.

Top judge … James Maloney.Credit:Corbis Sport

Maloney said when Folau first signed it was not a distraction because most of the protests about the club welcoming him in after his controversial social media posts came mainly from the Australian and English press. He quipped he could never understand the local bulletins and papers “because it’s all in French”. Maloney said the anti-Folau sentiment quickly passed, helped by the fact he played in front of small or no crowds.

“He’s played at the top level in our game and the top level in rugby, and you don’t do that by accident,” Maloney said.

Premiership-winning St Helens coach Kristian Woolf, who also oversees the Tongan team, was another respected judge who backed Folau to make the most of a potential NRL second coming.

“His ability in the air is still there – he’s a real weapon and strike for your kickers,” Woolf said.

Out of my way ... Israel Folau.

Out of my way … Israel Folau.Credit:Getty

“He was also good at beating the man one-on-one and putting the winger away with his skill set. The more he plays the better he’ll get.

“I thought he made some really good strides last year.

“He’s a guy I’ve had little bits to do with over the years because of my affiliation with Tonga.

“When we first came back from [COVID] lockdown, we did a good job on him, but he got Mark Percival, who is a very good defensive centre, and he got in and away on him and beat him one on one, which was a show of class.”

Catalans owner Bernard Guasch said this week if Folau did find an NRL club, the French club would want proper compensation given the player still had a year to run on his current deal.

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Giants navigate death of a teammate


“Sometimes I would do a running session and think about it and have a little cry and then get on with it but when we are all together it is all out on the table.”

Since new year, the Giants have been together non-stop after border closures and COVID outbreaks sent them home from Sydney a week before Christmas before they hit the road on January 1 for stretches in Albury then Adelaide.

It’s been a tumultuous time for the football club as they prepare to perform in 2021. “Our group has been through a lot,” Dal Pos says.

On Sunday afternoon they will begin their season against the Dockers in Fremantle. Each player will wear a black armband and their jumpers will display the number 34 Barclay wore at the Giants.

Emotions will be raw as many sort through the jumbled thoughts that often accompany such loss.

“We are looking forward to honouring her legacy in the upcoming days and we are looking forward to having her number on our back, but that being said we hate it because she could still be here,” Dal Pos said.

Jacinda Barclay’s death has shaken the GWS side.

“People are very individual about it but when people need to talk about it we talk about it and we also remember Barclay fondly. It’s been hard to talk about her because it means she is not here anymore which is a reminder, but there are numerous, hilarious stories about Barclay that we like to laugh about.

“She went hard in everything she did and sometimes it was a bit wild and we loved her for it.”

Senior coach Alan McConnell, a football lifer who was twice Fitzroy’s interim coach in the ’90s, has been conscious of letting each player find her way through an emotional thicket while trying to prepare them for a strong performance in 2021.

However when COVID-19 emerged on Sydney’s northern beaches midway through December pre-season plans were thrown into chaos.

On December 18, five days before their pre-Christmas break was due to start, Dal Pos awoke to a phone call from the head of women’s Football, Briana Harvey.

As borders shut and parts of NSW went into lockdown, the club decided all players with family outside Sydney should head home immediately to enjoy Santa among loved ones.

Within hours most of the squad had evacuated blissfully unaware how their journey to round one would become a test of resilience few clubs could, or would, endure.

The pace since then has been so frenetic that defender Katherine Smith’s car is still in Yass, having being towed there after she broke down returning to Melbourne, relying on Alyce Parker to double back so she could hitch a lift to Holbrook then Victoria via her brother.

Every day over the Christmas period the leaders met via Zoom as Harvey, McConnell, welfare manager Gail Wykes and others first made arrangements for the team to be in Melbourne, then Sydney before settling on Albury as their base.

“We had a moratorium on Christmas Day, unless absolutely urgent,” McConnell said.

‘Sometimes I would do a running session and think about it and have a little cry.’

Jessica Dal Pos

Thankfully the set-up in Albury was good and stressed players eventually settled. But the skeleton staff who joined them carried a heavy load as many part-timers could not just drop everything and relocate. A practice match loomed, not to mention the season and many players had to have uncomfortable discussions with work.

“The uncertainty and the change created a degree of anxiety,” McConnell said in an understated tone. McConnell estimates that two weeks of the program evaporated and with Albury merely a stopping point before the next stage of the Giants magical mystery tour recommenced nothing was guaranteed.

McConnell used his networks to arrange makeshift support on the Gold Coast, then Melbourne as they became likely destinations but two days out from their departure on January 15 a decision was made to send the group to Adelaide for a practice match against the Crows on January 17. He had not arranged anything in Adelaide.

The Giants arrived in Canberra to fly mid-afternoon but the flight was cancelled so they had to leave the club’s gear at the airport and trudge to a hotel around 8pm to find a bed.

“That was about the 50th thing that had gone wrong so by that stage we were just laughing,” Dal Pos said.

They arrived in Adelaide less than 24 hours before their practice match, having arranged for eight people they had never met to join their staff, no whiteboard or communications to the bench the least of their issues.

When Irishwoman Brid Stack broke her neck in a collision with Adelaide’s Ebony Marinoff they were sent into another spiral, their post-game tribute to Barclay becoming, according to Dal Pos, “super emotional”.

The next day without staff and without a training venue they made certain the AFL was aware support was necessary with Dal Pos admitting that at times only their love of football and care for each other got them through.

“If you want honesty I probably think to myself, ‘God, I’ve had enough of this’ about five times a day, but so does everybody else,” Dal Pos said. “Being together made it better.”

Finally the ball will bounce on Sunday.

“We’ll turn up and have a crack and be playing to win.” McConnell said.

That spirit has kept the Giants going in the most testing of times as they look to honour Barclay’s memory on the field while continuing a discussion off it.

“We want to put forward consistent good footy and on the flipside of that we want mental health to be talked about. It is really important,” Dal Pos said.

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The Dogs teammate Mitch Wallis says will be a “star of the competition”


Western Bulldogs forward Mitch Wallis believes number one draft pick Jamarra Ugle-Hagan can be a star of the competition for a long time.

Speaking on SEN Mornings, Wallis said Ugle-Hagan has commenced training with the Dogs and is looking very good on the track.

“He was one of the poor buggers that got caught out with a COVID test but he’s alright now. He trained Monday and he trained really well,” Wallis said.

“We’ve had a few training sessions together over Christmas with the skipper (Marcus Bontempelli) as well, and he (Ugle-Hagan) just applies himself really well.

“Obviously he’s got a long, raking left boot and can jump. I’m really excited about what he’s going to bring to the team not just this season but for the next 10-15 years.

“I think he’s going to be a star of the competition, he’s just go to find his way at the club and knock the walls down to get into the forward line because a few other big boys are up there as well.

“It’ll be competitive for him to get a game, but I think he’s got it in him.”

Wallis also spoke of the depth the Bulldogs will have in the midfield this year with the recent addition of former Collingwood on-baller Adam Treloar.

“We have got so much depth which is really exciting because it’s going to keep everyone on their toes,” Wallis said.

“I know some of the guys that are going to go through there will have to adapt because you can’t always play guys in only three positions.

“We’ll have to deal with that, but I think it’s going to be a really big positive with how much depth we’ve got and how challenging it’s going to be for the opposition.”

The Bulldogs will begin their 2021 AAMI Community series against reigning premiers Richmond in Albury on February 27.





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Jack Riewoldt not giving up on embattled teammate despite controversial off-season


Richmond veteran Jack Riewoldt is backing embattled teammate Sydney Stack as the small forward prepares to make another court appearance in the coming days.

Stack is currently due in a Perth court next week, after spending the festive period in jail after being arrested on December 19 for allegedy breaking Western Australia’s strict COVID-19 quarantine rules.

Riewoldt said it was disappointing to hear the 20-year-old had been in trouble over the off-season, but wasn’t going to “give up” on the talented forward.

“It’s been hard for the club to be in touch with him because he’s been in jail for the holiday period,” he told reporters on Monday.

“It is disappointing as a senior player when someone finds themself in trouble, but when we engaged Sydney to come to our football club we weren’t under an illusion that he was going to come in and it was going to be a really smooth transition.

“We expected that we were going to have some small issues with him. When you take on a young man like Sydney, who wasn’t and hasn’t been afforded a lot of the luxuries that a lot of Australian children grow up with, you know it’s going to be a project.

“So we’re not going to give up on Sydney Stack. He is a young man that has got a lot of issues, he has a lot of potential, but most importantly now we put the football side of things to one side and we actually want to continue to grow him as a young man because he’s got some fantastic traits.”

Stack has been at the club since early 2019, where he was picked up as a pre-season supplementary player.

He was embroiled in controversy in 2020, where Stack alongside teammate Callum Coleman-Jones was sent home from Richmond’s hub in Queensland after breaking COVID-19 protocols, with both players still having four matches of their 10-game ban to serve in 2021.

Stack has played 26 games for the Tigers in two years.





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Steve Smith’s former team-mate says he was ‘one of many’ who advised him to concentrate on his bowling



When Steve Smith first broke into the Australian Test team as a leg spinner and lower-order batsman, there was little to indicate he would become a run-pillaging record breaker with the bat.

As he notched 81 runs to follow his first-innings century at the SCG against India, his former teammate Stuart Clark revealed in commentary for ABC Sport that even in junior cricket, nothing particularly special stood out about Smith.

Clark and Smith both played for Sutherland District Cricket Club, where the former international seamer said he gave the youngster some advice as he was coming through.

“I knew Steven when he was a 14 to 15-year-old kid, and I was one of the ones that said: ‘Look, if you concentrate on your leg spin … ‘

“I was one of many that said that to him, that if he became a decent spinner he might get into representative teams as a lower-order batsman.”

Smith now averages more than 62 in Tests, second only to Sir Donald Bradman.

“He could bat,” Clark said.

“But you didn’t sit there and think: ‘This guy is going to be averaging above 60 in Test cricket and score 1,000 runs in an Ashes series.'”

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Clark said Smith was always cricket-obsessed and a hard worker, but it was a change in mindset that saw him evolve into a world beater.

“I don’t know what changed, other than his self-belief,” he said.

“He always had his unusual technique, but it’s that mental toughness sets him apart.

“I think he just started to believe in his own ability.

“He’s always been a bit different. And he’s always been able to hit the ball to odd parts of the ground.

“But he’s just become confident in it.”

Fellow ABC Sport commentator Ian Chappell said Smith was clearly going to be a potential match winner at the SCG, despite failing in the first two Tests of the series.

“That was always a plus in his favour, the fact this at the SCG,” Chappell said.

“With a player of that calibre, you always think a big innings is just around the corner.

“Once you let Smith bat as he wants to bat, then you’re in trouble as an opponent.”

Listen to ABC Sport’s live coverage of the third Test from the SCG.

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Macarthur FC star Adam Federici on Socceroos teammate Mat Ryan and the cut-throat world of English Premier League goalkeeping


Free to leave in January if he can find another club, the 28-year-old has publicly committed to fighting to win his place back. Federici knows that’s a lonely road to take, as a bloke who tallied just 16 senior league appearances in five seasons with AFC Bournemouth and Stoke City.

“I’m not surprised, just because I know how things work over there,” Federici said. “I’ve been in England a long time and I’ve been through that exact same thing.

Mathew Ryan has committed to trying to fight for his spot at Brighton but has reportedly been told he’s free to leave in January.Credit:PA

“He’s done so well there. But it’s just goalkeeping. It can change overnight. [If] a manager wants to play someone else, there’s literally not much you can do about it. All you can do is work hard in training.

“The only thing I’ll say with Maty, in my experience, and it’s probably something I look back on and wish I handled it a bit better – he’s handled it extremely well.

“If he doesn’t leave, he’ll definitely get his opportunity again. He’s such a good professional, he’d be ready for that, and he can prove his point.”

In Federici’s case, a late-career retreat to the A-League with Macarthur FC – who face Wellington Phoenix on Saturday – has thankfully broken him out of that vicious cycle.

Seven years ago, the proud South Coast product was a Premier League regular for Reading and a key figure alongside former Sydney FC ace Adam Le Fondre in their promotion from the Championship to the top tier. Since leaving the club in mid-2015, he has barely played.

“It’s tough. Goalkeeping’s a different position – I could talk all day about it,” he said.

“There’s one spot. You don’t get to come on in the 80th minute and prove your worth. Once you find yourself out of a team, it’s very hard to get back into a team.

“You end up training like a madman and trying to prove a point every day in training and it does become really difficult.

“When you do that, you’re pushing yourself into the red zone a little bit. It’s exactly what happened to me. You push yourself and you push yourself and you push yourself and I ended up breaking and having a couple of knee operations.”

Adam Federici has barely played since leaving Reading in 2016, but is relishing his time at Macarthur FC.

Adam Federici has barely played since leaving Reading in 2016, but is relishing his time at Macarthur FC.Credit:Getty

Some players are happy to grind away in those circumstances. But Federici was never that type, and when coach Ante Milicic came calling for him last year, a move to the Bulls made sense for all sorts of reasons.

He was man of the match on debut in Macarthur’s 1-0 win over Western Sydney, an emotional evening that will go down in the fledgling club’s folklore.

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It was one game, but it has already thrust his name back into Socceroos calculations. Federici is hopeful of adding to his 16 caps, but is somewhat doubtful, and believes the country is well covered for goalkeepers, even accounting for Ryan’s uncertain future : Mitch Langerak broke the J.League record for clean sheets last season; Danny Vukovic is back from injury and playing regularly for Genk in Belgium; and a new generation of shot-stoppers is emerging in the A-League.

Federici insists he is not playing to prove a point or remind people what he’s capable of. He’s just playing, which for now is good enough.

“I’m not looking to do anything other than just be the best I possibly can each day,” he said.

“I’ve found it hard to get games the last couple of years, and I’ve come back to enjoy my football. That’s the main thing for me: to set my own standards and enjoy it for myself. I get to define what’s successful, not other people.

“If I’m needed or if they want to play a particular way, there’s no better feeling getting to sing the national anthem wearing those colours on a big occasion. I feel like I’m made for those big games.

“But that position’s well covered, I think. I’m just looking to enjoy my football and do the best I can for Ante and the new club we’re trying to build.

“That’s one of the reasons why I’m here as well. Ante wanted me here, wanted me to play and he wants to play the sort of football I love to play as well.”

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Melbourne Stars skipper Glenn Maxwell impressed with teammate Nicholas Pooran


“If you take away his momentum by letting him spend time at the non-striker’s end it can sort of be to the detriment of the team. To let him face as many balls as possible when he was in that rhythm was key for us.”

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It was 25-year-old Pooran’s first knock with the Stars since signing ahead of the Big Bash League season. Maxwell said the innings had no peer from what he’d seen in BBL history.

“That’s probably as clean hitting as I’ve ever seen in the Big Bash,” Maxwell said.

“To be at the other end, not wanting him to hit a single and just watch him go about his work was pretty cool. I’ve seen him do it I suppose a little bit in the IPL but not as consistently and as clean as that. That was extraordinary hitting. And hopefully that’s just the beginning, because I know how good he is and hopefully the rest of the Big Bash fans can see him go off and keep hitting those massive sixes.

“I don’t think there’s too many wickets that don’t suit him around the world, when you’ve got the pure swing that he has.”

Glenn Maxwell, right, and Nicholas Pooran, left, in action on Saturday. Credit:Chris Hyde

The Stars were ultimately undone by Daniel Hughes’ heroics for the Sixers but have flown to Canberra ahead of Tuesday night’s date with Sydney Thunder at Manuka Oval.

The Stars are set to regain experienced top order pair Marcus Stoinis and Nic Maddinson for the match against the Thunder.

But paceman Nathan Coulter-Nile has headed home to Perth after hurting his left calf in the game against Thunder. The Stars remain optimistic, however, that he will be back by the pointy end of the campaign.

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“He’s still a little bit sore. He’s done a similar injury before. He’s still in good spirits, he thinks it won’t take too long to get back,” Maxwell said.

“Obviously with the loss of Nathan, to have a bit more experience coming back into the side will be handy for us.”

The struggling Melbourne Renegades are also in action on Tuesday night, taking on the Sixers at Metricon Stadium. The Renegades have just one win from four matches and were thrashed by the Sixers earlier in the season, losing by 145 runs in Hobart.

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James Tamou feels for former Penrith Panthers teammate Brent Naden


“My first thoughts, when I found out, was to make sure he was OK.

“Bubble life, I’ve got four young kids at home and I’m always busy. But the young guys who are single and go home to four walls and twiddle their thumbs, mentally it would have been tough. I’m not [condoning drug use], but there were a lot of things going on for ‘Nado’.”

Penrith Panthers centre Brent Naden tested positive to cocaine on grand final night.Credit:NRL Photos

Tamou inked a two-year deal with the Tigers in September, and knew the Panthers would struggle to retain all their talent.

He said Crichton, who is holding out for a better three-year deal, was worth every penny. He also hoped ”freak” Laurie – and Josh Mansour – would be released and given the chance to join him at the Tigers a year early.

“Because of the talent they have out there – I said this nearly the whole time I was out there about how the talent is unbelievable – I’m not surprised what is happening now,” Tamou said.

“It’s a shame because Penrith are such a good club but they can’t keep them all.

It’s about trying to keep the young ones together, which is going to be the problem for Penrith.

James Tamou

“A guy like Stephen Crichton is still so young but he’s definitely worth the money. I know ‘Critta’, he loves the boys and he loves Penrith. It’s not his fault because he deserves the money he can get. It’s about trying to keep the young ones together, which is going to be the problem for Penrith.”

Tamou spearheads a Tigers forward pack that includes Zane Musgrove, Shawn Blore, Stefano Utoikamanu, Alex Twal and Joe Ofahengaue. He soon discovered how powerful some of the younger players were during a Tuesday wrestling session.

A natural leader who skippered Penrith, Tamou has had no discussions about being appointed Tigers captain but was happy to fill the role if coach Michael Maguire wanted him to.

Tamou said the young Tigers reminded him a lot of the Panthers side from a couple of years ago. The two encounters between the clubs last season were ”scary” because you never knew what Maguire’s men would produce.

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“If they were on, you knew you were up for a big game,” he said.

“They’re young, they’re eager for success, and you can tell that from being there just a couple of days.

“I’m excited. I knew a few of the boys already, but I wanted to get to know the other boys’ names, the structures, and by getting in early it will allow me to hit the ground running in the new year rather than doing the intros. I wanted to do right by the Tigers.”

Tamou will remain in the Penrith area and commute each day along the M4 Motorway.

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Adelaide Lightning’s Steph Talbot edges Australian teammate Liz Cambage for WNBL MVP award



Adelaide Lightning captain Steph Talbot has defied a mid-tournament team quarantine to pip her Opals teammate Liz Cambage for WNBL MVP honours.

Talbot also won defensive player of the year and was named in the All-WNBL First Team at a ceremony in Townsville on Monday.

A COVID-19 outbreak in South Australia forced the Lightning off the court and into hotel quarantine after the WNBL season had already commenced in its North Queensland hub.

The Lightning resumed the tournament to finish with a 5-8 record in sixth place, missing the semi-finals which begin on Wednesday.

Talbot tallied 73 votes across a revised 13-game season to win the Suzy Batkovic Medal as MVP ahead of Southside Flyers ace Cambage (67) and Townsville Fire’s Lauren Nicholson (65).

Both coaches and the lead official in each game conducted 3-2-1 votes, with a maximum of nine votes possible.

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Talbot averaged 18.2 points, nine rebounds, three assists and 1.9 steals per game, passing double figures in points on 11 occasions.

“I’m shocked but absolutely honoured to be named league MVP,” Talbot said.

“Both Liz [Cambage] and Lauren [Nicholson] had great seasons, with many people deserving of this accolade.

“But as captain of the Lightning, I couldn’t be prouder of how we conducted ourselves this season and we have plenty of positives to take into next year.”

The Fire’s Shyla Heal, whose father Shane was a Boomers great, won youth player of the year after the 19-year-old averaged 15.2 points per game.

Fire coach Shannon Seebohm was named coach of the year after he piloted the side from last in 2019 to second place on the ladder this season.

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Lewis Jetta content with delisting, thankful for vocal teammate support


West Coast made the surprising decision to delist premiership speedster Lewis Jetta, one that had the football world and even his own teammates talking.

Jetta only added six games to his career tally in 2020, finishing with 202 for both the Eagles and Swans.

West Coast defender Will Schofield was vocal in his support for the 31-year-old, calling his delisting a “poor decision”.

“Looking at specific guys, Lewis Jetta – signing Alex Witherden (will) make it tough for him to get a spot on the list, I think,” Schofield told The West Australian.

“(I’m) unsure where that will put him. Ideally, I’d personally like to see him go around again.

“I’ve been pretty public with my recognition of what he does on the footy field. He’s never been a 30-touch player, but he’s 10 to 15 touches and you’re getting five goals out of every time he touches the footy. I don’t think there’s many guys in the AFL that do that.

“I’ve publicly said he’s the best player I’ve ever played with. I would think it’d be a poor decision, list-wise, to not have him on the list. But we’ll see how that goes.”

Jetta said he was incredibly thankful for Schofield’s support, but is content in life after footy.

“Me and Will Schofield we’re pretty close and we love each other as teammates, but also we’re really close friends off the field as well,” Jetta told SEN’s the Sporting Capital.

“Same with a lot of the Sydney boys that I’m close with, but being at West Coast Will was one of the ones I was closest with and for him to come out and say that means so much to me.

“(He’s) just a good friend, a great bloke and an amazing teammate, not to mention a premiership teammate.

“It almost brought a tear to my eye when I saw that and how much he cared for me.

“In the other sense, with all the talk and stuff, I wasn’t too fazed, I’ve had a bit of free time, swimming lessons at school, my mind was purely busy on waking up in the morning, making the kids’ lunches and getting the uniforms sorted, getting their swimming stuff sorted, going and watching swimming lessons and picking them up from school.

“I wasn’t thinking about it too much. I was just making sure with all this free time to use it to my advantage and just bring a smile to my kids to be honest.”

Jetta says he has more footy in him and will play in the WAFL for Swan Districts in 2021.

“I still think I had a couple of years left, but looking back now, I’m satisfied,” the premiership Eagle said.

“I’m very satisfied, I’m happy and the way I see it, footy’s not everything.

“I’m ready for this new chapter in my life and I’m ready to spend a lot more time with my children and teach them about life, which is probably the biggest excitement that I’m getting at the moment.”

Jetta adds that he is still coming to terms with the career he has put together since being drafted with pick 14 in the 2009 National Draft.

“It’s hard to explain it … I’m just a boy from Bumbry and back in ’09 or ’07, I never thought about making it to the AFL and then having the career that I had, it was just a dream to be honest,” he said.

“Thinking back now, I still can’t believe it. I reflected with my family and a couple of brothers and still can’t believe it.

“Now my son and my daughter are reflecting as well which is even better because all they see is daddy is being dad and being … not a superstar, let’s put half a star.

“At the end of the day that’s all I tried to do, making the family proud and bringing entertainment to a lot of fans.”

Listen to the full chat with Lewis Jetta below







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