Often touted as Australia’s next great batsman, Will Pucovski is on the cusp of a Test debut

Will Pucovski has long been touted as Australia’s next great batsman.

And now, the 22-year-old is on the cusp of a Test debut, called up to Australia’s squad to face India this summer.

It comes as the Victorian batsman scored 255 not out in his first Sheffield Shield innings of the summer for Victoria as part of a record opening partnership with Marcus Harris.

He backed it up with another double century (202) — the third of his short first-class career — against Western Australia in Adelaide.

He joins fellow youngster, 21-year-old West Australian Cameron Green, to be named in the 17-man extended squad.

Selectors today said they could not ignore Pucovski’s recent form.

“His ability to show such patience is something which stands him in good stead for Test cricket and he is in rare company with two double centuries to start the summer,” National selector Trevor Hohns said.

Will Pucovski leaves the field after being dismissed for 243 runs against WA in 2018.(AAP: Richard Wainwright)

However, his career has not been short of its challenges since he made his first class debut in 2017.

Pucovski has battled multiple concussions from blows to the head, and has been open about the mental health issues that led to his withdrawal from Test selection last year.

In 2018, when Pucovski was just 20, he also took a mental health break from the game amid speculation he would get a Test call-up.

Selectors said Pucovski had given them every indication that he’s ready to play for Australia.

“Obviously we do checks on players’ health and wellbeing. Will’s good to go, hopefully he’ll be there all the way through [the series],” Hohns said.

Australian greats say ‘he’s ready’

Pucovksi is one of only nine players, including Sir Donald Bradman and Ricky Ponting, to score a Shield double century before turning 21.

Australian cricket greats, including Ian Chappell, were among those recently to call for the youngster’s inclusion against India.

“What’s that now? Six or seven first-class centuries? That includes a couple of double [centuries]. He’s ready,” Chappell told ABC Sport on Sunday.

An old-fashioned manual scoreboard that reads "PUCOVSKI 226, HARRIS 226, 0 WKTS 465"
Will Pucovski and Marcus Harris made a record shield partnership against the Redbacks.(AAP: James Elsby)

His recent record partnership of 486 runs with Marcus Harris also passed the 30-year-old Sheffield Shield partnership of 464 runs set by Steve and Mark Waugh for NSW in 1990.

It stands as the highest Australian first-class partnership since the competition started in 1892.

‘I’ve been backing my instincts’

After reaching his second double century in as many games, Pucovski this week said he was pleased he has been able to perform after working hard on his craft in pre-season.

“Obviously you don’t get a chance to make 200 very often so when you’re in that kind of position it’s sort of that inner burning competitiveness that’s in you,” he said.

“The more I can do that more regularly, I think the results will hopefully come.”

And while the pressure of an Australian Test call-up remains, he said he has learned to deal with the outside noise.

“I’ve deleted pretty much every cricket app and most social media things off my phone,” he said.

“It’s probably something completely out of my control so all I can do is sort of present myself everyday and hopefully do well.”

Australia will take on India at Adelaide Oval in the first day/night Test on December 17 with selectors to make the call on who starts in Adelaide closer to the game.

Squad: Sean Abbott, Joe Burns, Pat Cummins (vc), Cameron Green, Josh Hazlewood, Travis Head, Marnus Labuschagne, Nathan Lyon, Michael Neser, Tim Paine (c), James Pattinson, Will Pucovski, Steve Smith, Mitchell Starc, Mitchell Swepson, Matthew Wade, David Warner.

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Three key forwards touted as likely top-10 draft prospects

AFL Talent Ambassador Kevin Sheehan has tipped three key forwards to go inside the top-10 at this year’s National Draft.

One of those forwards is Oakleigh Chargers prospect Jamarra Ugle-Hagan who is tied to the Western Bulldogs through the Next Generation Academy.

Despite being touted as the No.1 pick, Ugle-Hagan is expected to join the Bulldogs who have priority access to the 194cm talent.

“There will be three (key forwards) in the first five or six,” Sheehan told SEN’s Dwayne’s World.

“But one is locked away, it’s a case of when the bid will come. We’re talking about the much-publicised Jamarra Ugle-Hagan.

“He’s a left footer, has the traits of a Buddy (Lance Franklin), he’s Indigenous but he’s a tall forward of about Buddy’s size and he does move like him.

“He’s been a star in his 16th and 17th year. He’s a Victorian boy from South Warrnambool, plays at the Oakleigh Chargers and kicked 11 goals in the finals series last year.”

Sheehan also expects Riley Thilthorpe and Luke McDonald to go early in the first-round with the latter drawing comparisons to St Kilda champion Nick Riewoldt.

“The two other boys are Riley Thilthorpe; 201cm, is over 100kg and he’s played all year at West Adelaide and has been a star emerging now for a couple of years since he made All-Australian at the under 16s,” Sheehan said.

“He is right there as well with Logan McDonald.

“He’s likened to a Nick Riewoldt with his running patterns. He’s a boy of 196cm, had a terrific first year in the WAFL competition, plays at Perth and kicked over 20 goals.

“He can run like Nick in terms of his endurance, he presents like him, he’s a boy that really came onto our radar at the under 16s – he kicked six against Vic Metro, that’s making a statement straight away.”

The 2020 National Draft commences on Monday December 7.

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Coronavirus update: WHO says efficacy of plasma therapy, touted by Donald Trump, still ‘inconclusive’, French nudists encouraged to cover up

The World Health Organization said using plasma from the recovered to treat COVID-19 is still considered an “experimental” therapy, following US President Donald Trump approving an emergency authorisation of convalescent plasma for coronavirus patients.

Meanwhile a French nudist resort has seen a sharp rise in infections, leading to nudists being told to cover up… their faces.

This story will be updated throughout Tuesday.

Tuesday’s key moments:

WHO cautious on COVID-19 plasma as US issues emergency authorisation

US President Donald Trump approved an emergency authorisation of convalescent plasma last week,(AP: Alex Brandon)

The World Health Organization says using plasma from the recovered to treat COVID-19 is still considered an “experimental” therapy and that the preliminary results showing it may work are still “inconclusive.”

Over the weekend, US President Donald Trump approved an emergency authorisation of convalescent plasma for COVID-19 patients.

WHO’s chief scientist Dr Soumya Swaminathan said convalescent plasma therapy has been used in the last century to treat numerous infectious diseases, with varying levels of success.

Dr Swaminathan said the WHO still considers convalescent plasma therapy to be experimental but it should continue to be evaluated as studies have provided “low-quality evidence”.

She added that the treatment is difficult to standardise because people produce different levels of antibodies and plasma must be collected individually from recovered patients.

Dr Bruce Aylward, a senior adviser to WHO’s director-general, said that convalescent plasma therapy can come with numerous side effects, from a mild fever and chills to more severe lung-related injuries.

French nudist resort sees spike in infections

The gate to the Village Naturiste in Cap D'Agde, France.
Cap d’Agde is one of France’s oldest and biggest naturist resorts and draws tens of thousands of visitors per day in summer.(Wikimedia Commons: Martin Lindner)

A naturist resort on France’s Mediterranean coast has seen a sharp spike in coronavirus infections and nudists have been ordered to wear masks and practice social distancing, health authorities said.

Tests had shown a 30 per cent infection rate in people who had visited Village Cap d’Agde — which advertises itself as a village for naturists and libertines — a health authority said.

That was more than four times higher than the 7 per cent rate recorded in other people in the area who had not visited the centre, the health authority added.

Cap d’Agde, set in a huge circular modernist building by the beach, is one of France’s oldest and biggest naturist resorts and draws tens of thousands of visitors per day in summer.

Officials at the resort, which is about 60 kilometres down the coast from Montpellier, did not respond to calls seeking comment.

On Sunday, France reported nearly 5,000 new coronavirus infections, a new post-lockdown record.

Italy begins human testing of potential COVID-19 vaccine

Women wearing face mask disinfect their hands in central Piazza Venezia.
The potential vaccine called GRAd-COV2 was developed by a company in Rome.(LaPresse/AP: Alfredo Falcone)

Italy kicked off human trials of a potential COVID-19 vaccine, joining a global effort to develop a response to the virus which has shown signs of a resurgence throughout parts of Europe.

Rome’s Lazzaro Spallanzani institute, a hospital specialising in infectious diseases will conduct trials on 90 volunteers over the coming weeks, with the hope a vaccine may be available by spring of next year.

Francesco Vaia, health director of the Spallanzani hospital, told Reuters the first patient will be monitored for four hours before being allowed to go home where he will be kept under observation for 12 weeks.

The potential vaccine, called GRAd-COV2, was developed by ReiThera, a company based in Rome.

The Lazio region, around the Italian capital, said in a statement early trials, including on animals, had delivered positive results.

Japan defends pandemic tourism campaign

Looking across Tokyo Airport's runways, you see a Japan Airlines plane taxiing with a snow-capped mountain in the distance.
Officials said only 10 cases of COVID-19 were found at hotel lodgings during the month-long campaign.(Flickr: Kagami)

The Japanese Government has defended the nation’s GoTo campaign, which encourages travel within Japan by offering discounts at hotels and inns.

The campaign has come under fire as a risk for spreading the virus.

Chief cabinet secretary Yoshihide Suga said that the government-backed campaign was a success, having been used by 2 million people in the last month.

He said only 10 cases of COVID-19 were found at hotels and other lodging during the month-long campaign, and just one of those people had used the campaign discount.

The tourism business in Japan supports 9 million jobs, Mr Suga said, adding that “its importance to the economy can’t be emphasised enough”.

Japan, which has already sunk into recession, has confirmed more than 1,100 deaths and 62,000 coronavirus cases so far.

Daily cases are rising gradually to about 1,000 people lately.

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American tennis phenom Amanda Anisimova touted as the ‘next Maria Sharapova’

Although she is yet to qualify for a Grand Slam singles title, American tennis phenom Amanda Anisimova is already being touted as the sport’s next Maria Sharapova.

Anisimova enjoyed a breakthrough 2019, where she made the fourth round of the Australian Open and qualified for the semi-finals at Roland Garros, where she was defeated by Australia’s Ash Barty.

The 18-year-old also paired with Australian bad boy Nick Kyrgios during the 2020 Australian Open mixed doubles tournament, the duo reaching the second round in January.

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Before the coronavirus epidemic brought the sporting world to a standstill, Anisimova had her sights set on breaking into the top 20 of the WTA rankings.

Agent Max Eisenbud has labelled Anisimova the “next Maria Sharapova” of tennis, and he should know, having also managed the recently-retired Russian superstar.

Both come from Russian descent, both are tall, both are blonde — the only thing separating the duo is Sharapova’s five Grand Slam singles titles.

Growing up, Anisimova idolised to former World No. 1, along with American superstar Serena Williams.

“Obviously, there are similarities, it’s hard to go away from that,” Eisenbud, head of IMG Tennis, told CNN Sport.

“I am the agent, they’re both very attractive, they both have Russian roots, all that kind of stuff.

“There are those similarities that will always be there. But they are very different personalities.”

Currently sitting at No. 28 in the world, the talented teenager signed a lucrative endorsement deal with Nike last year as the sportswear giant recognised her potential to be the pin-up girl for the sport’s next generation. In October, the New York Post reported the deal was worth a similar amount to Sharapova’s AU$100 million eight-year deal.

Although he would not confirm what the Nike deal was worth, Eisenbud conceded it was “probably one of the biggest clothing deals out there.” He believes the increasing prevalence of social media will contribute to the growth of Anisimova’s personal brand.

The 18-year-old already boasts over 161,000 followers on Instagram, and has also signed mammoth deals with Gatorade and Therabody.

“She’s got Russian blood, so I am not too worried about (the endorsements). She’s pretty tough, and very driven and very professional,” Eisenbud said.

“When Maria won in 2004, there was no social media, and now there is. That’s a big difference.

“The brands want different things. It’s all about what we’re doing on social.

“She is just really down to earth … That personality trait can be attractive to a lot of brands

“But I think in the end, she is going to be a real big winner, and brands want to be associated with that.”

Last year, Anisimova was derailed by personal tragedy. Her father and former coach, Konstantin Anisimova, passed away suddenly of a reported heart attack in late August, at 52, just days before the US Open and a week before her 18th birthday.

“It was the worst thing that ever happened to me,” Anisimova told the New York Post.

“It was very tough.

“It took a little bit of time for me to enjoy the game again.

“But I am now finally getting back into it. I am doing it for myself and also for my dad.”

Last week, Anisimova rejected calls to abandon the US Open as players remain split on whether the grand slam should go ahead.

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Marinus Link touted as ‘national recovery’ project, but questions linger as to who pays

The Federal Government is promising to fast-track the Marinus Link project — a second underwater energy cable across Bass Strait — but plenty of questions remain about the $3.5 billion project, including who will pay for it.

Marinus Link was one of 15 projects that Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced would be prioritised and have its approvals fast-tracked during a speech at the National Press Club on Monday.

The fast-tracked projects are expected to support 66,000 jobs nationally.

The proposed 1500MW Marinus Link would require a $3.5 billion capital spend to get up and running by 2027 — cash that, so far, no-one is offering to stump up.

According to the business case released last year, the plan stacks up. It would be commercially viable and could deliver a $1 billion boost to Tasmania’s economy through construction and operation.

It would run from Burnie to Victoria’s Latrobe Valley, and would include converter stations in Tasmania and Victoria and about 220 kilometres of transmission lines through Tasmania’s north-west.

But, it would be mainland energy users who would primarily benefit.

Proposed route of the Marinus undersea cable between Victoria and Tasmania’s north-west coast.(Supplied: TasNetworks)

Energy expert Marc White’s company has reviewed the project, and is not convinced that going forward would be in the best interests of consumers.

“It’s a potential wealth transfer from consumers to wind farm developers and potentially hydro developers in terms of pumped hydro storage,” Mr White said.

Mr White said there was concern that Tasmanian users could end up paying for Marinus Link, which was really designed to solve energy problems on the mainland.

He said new and nimble technology options such as solar and batteries should be more closely examined first.

“We think more work needs to be done on the alternatives, we’re concerned that this sort of asset is a 40-year asset and there may well be better uses for that sort of money.”

Mr White said there was a risk of Marinus Link becoming a stranded asset in 15 to 20 years and not generating the expected benefits because the market has moved on.

The Tasmanian Government remains committed to the project, arguing it would bring forward renewable energy investment in Tasmania, and improve the state’s energy security.

Energy Minister Guy Barnett said the Government would not be proceeding with the project if it did not stack up.

Work has been underway to negotiate who will pay for the link with other states and the Commonwealth Government since last year, but six months on from the release of the business case there are still no answers.

Mr Barnett has repeatedly said Tasmania would only pay its fair share for the project, but he has never said what a fair share would be.

TasNetworks has though — chief executive Lance Balcombe last year said a fair share would amount to next to nothing for Tasmanians.

UPC/AC Renewables is developing projects across Australia to deliver energy into the National Electricity Market, including a proposed wind farm at Robbins Island in Tasmania’s north-west.

Chief operations officer David Pollington said the progression of Marinus Link would be crucial in allowing the Robbins Island wind farm to expand past 500MW of production.

Mr Pollington said his company was keen for certainty around how the cable would be funded.

‘Balloon full of hot air’, Greens say

The Labor Opposition wants more information about who will pay for the project, how it will be delivered and whether it will remain in public hands.

“Will a fast-track process mean that the project will end up in endless court cases?” Labor energy spokesman David O’Byrne asked.

“What are they actually fast-tracking? There is no development application, so there is nothing to fast-track.

“Labor supports more renewable energy jobs but the objective must be for Tasmanians to pay less for power, not more.”

Greens leader Cassy O’Connor said the announcement was a “massive balloon full of hot air” from Prime Minister Scott Morrison.

“If the Prime Minister wanted to help Tasmania and if he really believed in the Marinus Link he would have provided some money,” Ms O’Connor said.

“Instead, what we’ve got is hot air and not a single brass razoo for Tasmania, and a whole lot of questions now about what the Federal Government’s plans are for our environment laws.”

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Snowy Hydro 2.0 touted as economic saviour to bushfire-ravaged region

Snowy 2.0 is being touted as the economic saviour to an area of the Snowy Mountains ravaged by bushfires and COVID-19.

The plan for a new underground power station and 27 kilometres of tunnels linking Talbingo and Tantangara dams received New South Wales Government approval on Thursday.

The State Government said Australia’s biggest energy storage project would inject $4.6 billion into regional New South Wales and create up to 2,000 jobs at the peak of construction.

The local business community has welcomed the announcement and said it was extremely important after the catastrophic impact of the fires on the forestry industry.

“The Tumut Regional Chamber of Commerce has been pushing for Snowy Hydro to employ locals where possible,” president Natalie Randall said.

“I’m confident that will happen. We really don’t want to see people moving away from the area.”

A woman stands by the side of the road in the main street of a country town.
Natalie Randall says the local business community welcomes the project.(Supplied)

A lifeline: ‘We’re not staying down’

Member for Wagga Wagga, Joe McGirr, said while the logging industry is busy at the moment, jobs will go and this is a chance for those affected.

“I’ve spoken to the Deputy Premier about ensuring the training is there for people to make that transfer so they can stay here where they love living and keep contributing to our community.”

Deputy Premier John Barilaro announcing Snowy 2.0 main works have been approved by the State Government.
Deputy Premier John Barilaro said the latest approval will see the creation of an extra 2,000 jobs during the construction phase.(ABC Riverina: Verity Gorman)

Deputy Premier John Barilaro said the economic boost from Snowy 2.0 will provide a lifeline to industries that have been brought to their knees.

“We are lucky enough in this region to have a once in a generation project on our doorstep and that’s Snowy Hydro 2.0,” Mr Barilaro said.

Snowy Hydro spokesman Dean Lynch said many locals are among the 500 people employed to date.

“If we can employ locals, it’s cheaper and it’s actually a better way of making the project come to fruition,” he said.

Snowy Hydro hosted meetings this week for any locals interested in working on the project.

“We probably had 200 people walk through the door, and out of those, the indications are that 60 per cent of those will be offered work straight up,” Mr Lynch said.

Third-generation worker excited

James McMahon’s grandfather helped build the original hydro-electric scheme and his father worked at Cabramurra — the Snowy Hydro town almost wiped out by fire in January.

He said it has created a buzz in Tumut and everyone wants to be a part of it.

“It’s a good feeling knowing that something big is going on up there,” Mr McMahon said.

Environmental impact

The National Parks Association of NSW said it still had concerns about the environmental impact of the project and the State Government’s approval marks a new low.

“Approving a massive industrial construction in Kosciuszko National Park sets appalling environmental and legal precedents and reduces Australia from an international leader in national park management to the bottom of the pack,” executive officer Gary Dunnett said.

The State Government said there are strict conditions to minimise environmental impacts.

A dam with dead trees in the foreground.
Snowy Hydro will spend almost $100 million on biodiversity and environmental offsets in the Kosciuszko National Park.(ABC News: Mark Moore)

Mr Lynch said any talk of detrimental damage was “absolute rubbish” and compared the impact of the proposal to the damage caused by pulling one hair from a beard.

“We’re in a minute part of that park, so when anybody talks about us doing any sort of detrimental damage that is absolute rubbish,” Mr Lynch said.

“We are so conscious of the pristine environment — we’ve protected that environment for 70 years and we will into the future.”

As part of the project approval Snowy Hydro will spend almost $100 million on biodiversity and environmental offsets to protect threatened species and deliver long-term conservation and recreational benefits in Kosciuszko National Park.

Federal Government approval is still needed before the Snowy 2.0 main works can start.

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Malaria drug Trump touted as ‘game changer’ for coronavirus treatment fails in new study

A malaria drug that was touted by U.S. President Donald Trump and widely used as a potential treatment for patients with Covid-19 failed to help those with infections stay off ventilators or live longer, according to a study published in the New England Journal of Medicine.

Researchers at New York-Presbyterian Hospital and Columbia University Irving Medical Center in New York City evaluated 1,376 consecutive patients who showed up at the emergency room with symptoms of coronavirus, comparing the fate of those who received the medication, hydroxychloroquine, to those who didn’t. Nearly 60% of the patients were given the drug, typically within 48 hours, and they were more sick on average.

There were no significant differences between the groups in the number of patients who needed to be put on a ventilator or who died, even after taking into account the differences between them, the researchers said.

Additional study, including more scientifically rigorous trials that randomly assign patients to treatment groups, is needed to confirm the findings, they said.

The results shouldn’t be used to rule out either a potential benefit or harm from the drug, though they don’t support use of the medication outside of clinical trials, the researchers said. The medical center updated its clinical guidance to remove the suggestion that patients with Covid-19 should receive it.

When Trump began touting the drug as a “game changer” for Covid-19 in March, a frenzy ensued as hospitals, patients and doctors raced to secure supplies. The president has stopped talking about hydroxychloroquine as the tide has now turned against the drug, with regulators and scientists raising concerns about potentially serious side effects.

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Fox News Stars Touted a Malaria Drug, Until They Didn’t : Health

“In fact, since April 13, hydroxychloroquine has been mentioned about a dozen times on Fox News, compared with more than 100 times in the four previous weeks, according to a review of network transcripts.”

Maybe it has something to do with the Veterans Health Administration report that recently came out: About 28% who were given hydroxychloroquine plus usual care died, versus 11% of those getting routine care alone.


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