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Socceroos heading to Sharjah to meet China



China’s inability to play World Cup qualifiers at home means it will ‘host’ the Socceroos in Sharjah later this month.

The Socceroos will return to the Middle East following their Sydney clash against Saudi Arabia, with confirmation their World Cup qualifier against China will be played in the United Arab Emirates.

The Australians will play on home soil for the first time since October 2019 when they host the Saudis – who top Group B in the third round of AFC World Cup qualifying – at CommBank Stadium on Thursday week.

However, while Covid-19 travel restrictions have been lifted to allow the Socceroos to again play at home, it’s a different case in China.

As a result, the Chinese national team must continue to play its home matches on foreign soil.

China will “host” the Socceroos in the early hours of the morning of Wednesday, November 17 (AEDT) at the 18,000-capacity Sharjah Stadium.

The Socceroos will have no qualms about playing the match in the UAE after winning a host of games in the Middle East in the past two years.

However, the timing of the match against China isn’t good for A-League champions Melbourne City, who start their title defence on Friday, November 19 at AAMI Park against Brisbane Roar.

City’s star attackers, Mat Leckie, Jamie Maclaren and Andrew Nabbout, are all expected to be named in Graham Arnold’s latest Socceroos squad, set to be announced on Friday.

Any City players chosen in the squad face a tight turnaround in their bid to play in the opening match of the A-League season.

City faced a similar situation in last season’s finals series, but managed to defy the absence of Maclaren, Curtis Good and Connor Metcalfe – who were on Socceroos duty in Kuwait – to win the title.

Socceroos coach Arnold arrived back in Australia on Monday after a stint of almost six months overseas.

Sydney FC defender Rhyan Grant and Melbourne Victory attacker Chris Ikonomidis – the only two A-League players in the Socceroos squad for last month’s World Cup qualifiers against Oman and Japan – are both out of quarantine and training with their clubs.

The Socceroos, whose 11-game winning streak was ended by Japan, are in second place in Group B, three points behind Saudi Arabia, who have a perfect record of 12 points from four matches.

China has just three points from four matches, with only Vietnam behind them on the Group B ladder.

The top two teams from Group A and Group B will automatically qualify for next year’s World Cup in Qatar.

Originally published as The Socceroos’ road to next year’s World Cup will take them to Sharjah to meet China




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Will Pucovski won’t be ready for opening Ashes Test after being ruled out of Victoria’s clash with NSW



David Warner will have a new opening partner for the Ashes after Will Pucovski’s concussion comeback hit another hurdle.

Batting star Will Pucovski hasn’t yet returned to the nets a month after his 10th concussion and may not be available for Australia until the middle of the Ashes.

Pucovski won’t play for Victoria against NSW at the MCG in a Sheffield Shield clash starting this Friday, which is a “touch too soon” as he continues to recover from the effects of the concussion suffered on October 5 at training.

Victorian coach Chris Rogers said there was a “strong desire” to get the 23-year-old into the Test team, but everyone was taking a long-term view of Pucovski’s cricket future.

Rogers said Pucovski, who was the frontrunner to open with David Warner during the Ashes, could be ready for one of the later Tests in a “best-case scenario” as he returns to full fitness.

“He hasn’t quite recovered as well as hoped. In discussions with the medical team and the national selectors it was felt we would give him a bit more time to select him to play for Victoria,” Rogers said.

“He hasn’t started hitting the nets, I think that was the main concern. It’s really difficult just to walk into one of these games unprepared. All the people who are in these conversations understand we have an immense talent on our hands and we want him to be playing for five to 10 years, so these are the decisions we are going to make in his best interests to set him up to have a long career.

“There’s some symptoms which are just a little too close to the game.”

Pucovski trained on Wednesday and was “positive” about how his recovery was tracking.

But his playing return may not come until a yet-to-be-confirmed third Sheffield Shield game in mid-November or even a Victorian second XI game.

Rogers said that would delay any chance of him playing in the Ashes until mid-series.

“No doubt it’s a setback. I’d say now it’s unlikely he’d play in the first Test,” he said.

“Hopefully, if we play a third Shield game in mid-November and there may be a second XI game for Victoria as well, that might prepare him for one of the matches in the middle of the Ashes series. That’s the best-case scenario.

“He was very positive about how it was all tracking and pretty hopeful of playing soon, but he felt this match was a touch too early.”

Rogers said Pucovski, who hasn’t played a game since injuring his shoulder in his Test debut last January, was “frustrated” by this latest concussion and its lingering effects.

But the young star also knows he has to be fully ready when he makes a playing return.

“He hasn’t played for seven months. You have to walk straight back in the cauldron and perform against very good opposition. That would have been playing on his mind,” Rogers said.

“Of course he wants to play for Australia for a long time to come. There’s a strong desire to get him into that Australian side, he’s such a talented player.

“I think the decision is to look after him and allow him a bit more time to prepare in the right time rather than rush him to matches which are going to have a lot of intensity and scrutiny.”

Originally published as Batting gun Will Pucovski won’t be ready to play for Australia until the middle of the Ashes as he recovers from another concussion




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Vixens hit hard in pocket for refusing to fly to Perth



The Melbourne Vixens have accepted a costly punishment for refusing to travel to Perth last season to play the Fever.

The Melbourne Vixens have called for Super Netball’s “protocols” to be reviewed after begrudgingly accepting sanctions of more than $80,000 in fines and match costs for their failure to travel to Perth last season to play West Coast Fever.

The punishment comes after the completion of a Netball Australia investigation into why June’s round eight game between the teams had to be rescheduled.

The Vixens refused to travel to Perth after three of their players were denied entry to Western Australia after having visited Byron Bay, a Covid-19 “red zone”.

The Fever claimed the Vixens could have replaced the three “compromised” players but decided not to.

“This is not in the best interests of the competition and devastating for our club, members, sponsors and fans,” the Fever said in a statement at the time.

The investigation – completed by the competition’s compliance manager – found that the Vixens had breached Super Netball’s team participation agreement by not travelling to Perth to play the match.

The Vixens have been fined $50,000 – half of which is suspended for two years – and ordered to pay $31,702.92 for the costs to replay the match at Brisbane’s Nissan Arena on July 22.

Netball Victoria, who own and operate the Vixens, have accepted the fine despite their unhappiness with the investigation.

“We are disappointed with the outcome considering the evidence we supplied throughout the review,” Vixens and Netball Victoria CEO Rosie King said.

“We are also disappointed that other options initially presented by the league – such as to delay the game for 24 hours to enable the entire team to travel, or to relocate the game to South Australia or Queensland – were not explored or supported, nor was the league’s ‘Covid-19 decision making process’ enacted which would have provided a framework for teams to follow in such circumstances.

“We understand, however, that the environment in which everyone was working in was extraordinarily difficult with the clock ticking and decisions being made under pressure-cooker conditions.

“The wellbeing and safety of our athletes and staff will always be our priority.

“We hope that the league’s protocols are likewise reviewed as part of a continual improvement exercise.”

Netball Australia CEO Kelly Ryan said while Covid-19 had presented “unique challenges” for the Super Netball competition and that the Vixens had not deliberately attempted to “disrupt the competition”, rule breaches would not be tolerated.

“Netball Australia recognises that clearer processes and protocols are required for the 2022 Super Netball season,” Ryan added.

Originally published as Vixens punished for their refusal to travel to Perth to play the Fever




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Ashes news; Steve Waugh says Pat Cummins should take Tim Paine’s spot as Australian captain



Tim Paine will turn 37 on the opening day of the first Ashes Test and his successor as Australian captain will be a talking point all summer.

Test legend Steve Waugh says “it’s time” for a bowler to be given the Australian captaincy and endorsed Pat Cummins to take over from skipper Tim Paine when he steps down.

Paine, who turns 37 on the opening day of the first Ashes Test at the Gabba on December 8, is racing the clock to be fit for the clash as he continues his recovery from neck surgery.

He was forced to have surgery in September to repair a pinched nerve in his neck and has only just begun light duties. Paine remains hopeful of making his playing return in a second 11 game for Tasmania in mid-November.

But speculation around Paine’s successor as Test skipper is set to linger throughout the five-match series against England, with Australia set to tour Pakistan, Sri Lanka and then India in 2022.

Cummins, who is national vice-captain of the Test, one-day and T20 teams, would be the first fast bowler since Ray Lindwall in 1956 to captain Australia in a Test match. Lindwall only did it for one match against India.

Waugh, who captain Australia for seven years and finished with a 72 per cent winning rate, was one of the mentors brought in by coach Justin Langer during the 2019 Ashes in England and spent time with all the players.

He was adamant Cummins, who was recently made one-day captain of NSW, should get the opportunity to be skipper

“I’d like to see Pat Cummins have an opportunity,” Waugh said on Wednesday

“They say bowlers can’t do it, but they said keepers couldn’t do it. I think we have to find out if a bowler can be a captain of Australia. I don’t see why not.”

Waugh said Cummins, who is now 28 and has played 128 games for Australia across all formats, including 34 Tests, had the right “acumen” to be a successful leader

“I’ve always thought that if he’s bowling the vice-captain could set the field to give him a mental break,” Waugh told SEN.

“He has good acumen, the respect of the players and he’s ready to go.

“I think when Tim Paine steps down, Pat Cummins is the man to step in.”

Originally published as Australian cricket legend Steve Waugh wants Pat Cummins to be Australia’s next Test skipper




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Referees still on strike with A-League season fast approaching



Australia’s top football referees are still on strike, with the start of the new A-League season less than three weeks away.

The Professional Football Referees Association of Australia wants Stephen Lucas reinstated to the A-League panel before ceasing strike action that threatens to derail the season.

PFRA members remain on strike less than three weeks before the start of the 2021-22 A-League season.

During the strike, A-League trials and FFA Cup matches have been officiated by non-PFRA members and NPL referees.

PFRA members went on strike last month in protest against a number of issues. They included the A-League leadership and coaching department not having their contracts renewed when the league separated from Football Australia in July.

The absence of that department has led to match officials having no direction, coaching, instruction, and fitness coaching for more than three months.

The PFRA was also unhappy about the removal of Lucas from this season’s A-League panel and Matthew Cream from Australia’s FIFA list “without any due process or warning”.

However, a contract standoff over improved employment terms and pay for match officials seems to have been resolved.

Interviews have also taken place for the head of referees’ position, with the successful candidate expected to have input in the appointment of the referees’ coaching staff.

However, FA is preparing for resistance from the PFRA about the decisions on Cream and Lucas.

While the battle to have Cream reinstated to the FIFA list could prove too much for the PFRA if FIFA has already filled the spot, Lucas’ dumping from the A-League panel is unlikely to be tolerated by the referees’ union.

Lucas has refereed 54 A-League matches dating back to 2014.

PFRA of Australia president Paul Cetrangolo said reasons for Lucas’ axing had not been provided by FA.

“Stephen wasn’t performance managed last season,” Cetrangolo said.

“This is an issue that remains outstanding.”

PFRA members will meet on Wednesday night to further discuss contract matters and the situations of Cream and Lucas.

Originally published as Referees want Stephen Lucas returned to A-League panel




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T20 World Cup: Australian star set for return after England axing



An Australian all-rounder looks likely to return to Justin Langer’s starting side after he was dropped for the Aussies’ horror show against England.

Mitchell Marsh will “heavily come into consideration” for Australia’s next T20 World Cup clash against Bangladesh as assistant coach Andrew McDonald and the rest of the coaching staff plot a re-jig of the squad.

The star all-rounder was left out of the starting line-up in Australia’s crushing loss to England as Ashton Agar took his place, which McDonald explained was purely for selection purposes and nothing to do with a potential injury to Marsh.

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Agar made the most of his chance, finishing with 20 runs – the second highest total of the Australian batting order – and boasting Australia’s strongest bowling figures for the match of 1/15 off nearly three overs.

While Agar certainly made his case to retain his spot in the line-up, McDonald believes Marsh’s impressive showings in a dismal series against Bangladesh deserve to be taken into account when the coaches sit down and prepare the line-up.

“He’s (Marsh) at full fitness,” McDonald said. “He was available for selection last game.

“There was no injury concerns around Mitch; he was fully capable to play his role in the last game and wasn’t selected.

“He’ll be back on the selection table and if there is a shift back to the structure of the first two games, then it’s probably likely he’ll get the nod among those seven batters.

“He’s been a good servant over the past 12 months, had some great form lines against the West Indies and Bangladesh.

“He’ll heavily come into consideration for the next game, there’s no doubt about that.”

Across Australia’s recent T20 series against Bangladesh, Marsh averaged 31.2 with the bat in five games, which included a half-century in the third match between the two.

However, he failed to fire for Australia in its World Cup opener against South Africa, mustering up just 11 runs from third spot in the batting order.

A slight shift saw the 30-year-old drop to sixth in the order for the Aussies’ win over Sri Lanka, but his services were not required, as Justin Langer’s side won by seven wickets.

With a crucial match against Bangladesh looming, Marsh’s strong numbers against them in their T20 series could prove to be key.

Bangladesh is yet to win a game in the Super 12 stage of the World Cup, but given Australia was on the wrong side of a 4-1 series scoreline when the two sides played a T20 series in August, it would be silly to count them out.

Originally published as Mitchell Marsh set for return to starting line-up after England axing




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AFLW, Deni Varnhagen: Adelaide Crow attends anti-vax rally



An AFLW premiership player has publicly spoken out about not wanted to get the Covid-19 jab after she rallied at an anti-vax protest.

AFLW player Deni Varnhagen has publicly spoken out about refusing to get a Covid-19 vaccination.

The Adelaide Crows defender, who also works as an ICU and anaesthetics nurse, among hundreds of ralliers outside of the Channel 9 studio in Adelaide’s CBD.

They were protesting against the compulsory healthcare worker jab that came into effect on Monday.

Under the directions, all healthcare workers needed to have at least one Covid-19 vaccination by November 1 to continue working in their field.

Varnhagen held a sign that read “I (love) being a nurse” and “coercion is not consent”.

The premiership player told reporters her sign was “pretty self explanatory”.

“No one should be at threat of losing their jobs if they don’t enter a medical experiment,” she told 7 News.

“It’s (Covid-19 vaccines) in its trial phase. It’s only been provisionally approved.”

She said she was scared for herself and all other nurses who didn’t want the vaccine who faced losing their jobs.

“We’re all terrified. We love working,” she said

“Once they finish attacking us, they’re attacking police and they’re just going to keep attacking different fields of work, which isn’t right.

“Everyone should have the right to choose what enters their body … and where there is risk there should be choice.”

Varnhagen was asked if she feared losing her job with the Adelaide Crows but said she was at the protest as a healthcare worker, not as an AFLW player, and didn’t want to comment about her other profession.

Crows AFLW senior coach Matthew Clarke on Friday said Varnhagen was “working through her situation” and was in the process of gathering information about the vaccine.

He said it was her decision to make and the club would respect that decision.

“It’s challenging because we’re dealing with people’s personal medical situations,” Clarke said.

“From a club’s perspective, we’ve been really clear. We’re promoting everyone to get vaccinated and personally it’s my position as well.

“I think it’s important for us as a community. It’s a part of how we’re managing this whole situation and as an industry it’s critical because our business is about bringing people together.”

He said the playing squad, with the exception of one player, was fully, partially or in the process of getting vaccinated.

The Adelaide Crows issued a statement in October after reports that Varnhagen resisted getting the jab, saying it supported the AFL’s Covid-19 requirements and would continue to follow the health advice issued by the government.

“Our club strongly encourages people to get vaccinated and we will work through the league’s requirements with our players, coaches and staff ahead of the upcoming AFLW and AFL seasons,” the club said.

Varnhagen was picked up by the Crows in the 2016 draft.

She played every game for the club in her first three years, which included the two premierships.

She won the Crows’ best defensive player award in 2019.

Originally published as ALFW player Deni Varnhagen protests against mandatory healthcare jab




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FFA Cup: Adelaide City president furious about December date with an A-League team



Adelaide City president Greg Griffin isn’t pleased about the timing of his NPL club’s FFA Cup clash against A-League opposition.

Angry Adelaide City president Greg Griffin says the fabric of the FFA Cup has been lost, with NPL clubs forced to play out-of-season against A-League teams.

City, which hasn’t played since winning last month’s NPL South Australia grand final, must wait until next month to play its Cup round-of-32 clash against the winner of the November 24 playoff between A-League clubs Perth Glory and Melbourne Victory.

While City will have the advantage of hosting the match, Griffin said it was unfair of Football Australia to expect his club’s semi-professional players to keep training in their off-season and play an in-season A-League team.

“We’re at a massive disadvantage,” said Griffin, a former chairman of three-time Cup winners Adelaide United.

“The idea of the FFA Cup was to give NPL teams in-season the chance to play A-League teams not in-season.

“The whole Cup has been comprised this season.”

Due to border restrictions between Western Australia and Victoria, the Glory vs Victory match will be played in Adelaide later this month, robbing Perth of deserved hosting rights after the Glory finished three places higher than wooden spooners Victory on last season’s A-League ladder.

“The Victory are being pandered to. They should have been forced to forfeit the match and then we (City) could have played the Glory this week,” Griffin said.

“Our players can’t take a month off and then come back to play the game.

“I wrote to FA and told them we’d be fielding our under 15 team for the game.

“Of course we won’t do that, but our players all have day jobs and families, and will have to make sacrifices.”

FA refused to comment on the matter.

Originally published as FFA Cup: Adelaide City president furious about December date with an A-League team




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England Test cricket captain Joe Root makes bombshell claim ahead of Ashes



Joe Root has thrown the gauntlet down ahead of the Ashes by making a bold claim about the Australian cricket team.

English captain Joe Root says Australia’s upset loss to India at the Gabba will haunt the side ahead of the Ashes, which begin at the very same ground in just over a month.

Root believes the Aussies lost their stronghold on the Gabba in January when an understrength Indian 11 handed them their first defeat at the venue in 32 years.

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Root said the loss would embolden his side when it arrives down under for the Ashes.

“Look at that India team that won at the Gabba. They were a long way from their first-choice 11 but they had no fear,” he told The Guardian.

“They stood up to Australia and won crucial parts of that Test.

“It will give every player in our squad a huge amount of confidence and just plant a little bit of doubt in Australia’s mind.

“Having to go back there and play again for the first time against us, what with it being such a stronghold for them for such a long period of time. We now know that it’s not.”

Root’s comments were reminiscent of those made by his Australian counterpart Tim Paine ahead of the 2019 Ashes.

In the lead-up to the first Test of that series, Paine was asked whether there was a ground more intimidating than Edgbaston in Birmingham, where England had won 11 matches in a row across all formats.

The skipper enraged the English public with his response: “I could name you 15”.

Australia went on to win that first Test in a 251-run shellacking, but the series ultimately resulted in draw.

Root’s latest jab continued the war of words that has preceded the follow-up series.

No Test side has played more cricket since the pandemic began than the English and when Root expressed concerns with travel and bubble fatigue, he was met with little sympathy from Paine.

“No one is forcing you to come. If you don’t want to come, don’t come,” Paine told SEN.

“The Ashes are going ahead. The first Test is on 8 December, whether Joe is here or not. There will be a squad of England players coming here.”

Injuries have kept Jofra Archer, Olly Stone and Sam Curran from featuring in that squad, but the English have been bolstered by the late inclusion of Ben Stokes.

Stokes, England’s second-highest rated batter in the ICC player rankings, was initially left out of the squad but has managed to overcome injury and mental health concerns and commit to travelling.

“The fact he feels he’s in a place where he’s ready to play cricket again is the most exciting thing,” Root told The Guardian.

Originally published as England captain Joe Root makes bombshell claim ahead of Ashes




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AFL star Fremantle Dockers Nat Fyfe contracts bacterial infection after shoulder surgery



Nat Fyfe’s season was hampered by shoulder concerns but the dual Brownlow medallist isn’t out of the woods just yet.

Fremantle captain Nat Fyfe has contracted a bacterial infection in his shoulder that will require him to take intravenous antibiotics.

The dual Brownlow medallist underwent surgery on an injured shoulder last Tuesday.

In a statement, the Dockers confirmed tests had revealed he had picked up an infection as a complication from the procedure.

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Fremantle’s executive general manager of football, Peter Bell, said the infection would set Fyfe back two or three weeks in his recovery.

“Unfortunately, Nathan’s tests have indicated a bacterial infection, and as a result, he will undergo intravenous antibiotics over the next two to three weeks,” Bell said.

“He won’t be able to do much physically in the period the antibiotics are being administered intravenously.”

Bell confirmed Fyfe, 30, was nonetheless in good spirits.

“Nathan is optimistic and understands in particular the importance of the next two to three weeks to allow the IV antibiotics optimal effectiveness,” Bell said.

“We will advise a return to training date in due course, once there is more clarity around Nat’s recovery.”

Fyfe’s 2021 campaign was cruelled by the shoulder injury, which he initially suffered in the round 12 loss to eventual grand finalists the Western Bulldogs.

He returned to play a month later but was once again sidelined in July and underwent surgery,

After his recovery stalled, Fyfe went under the knife once more in the off-season.

“While it is disappointing, we know that he will be incredibly diligent in his recovery,” Bell said previously.

The Dockers came within striking distance of a finals berth in 2021 but were left to rue two separate losses to Carlton, which ultimately prevented them from featuring at the business end of the season.

Fremantle will hope the addition of new recruits Jordan Clark and Will Brodie, and the repatriation of a fit-and-firing Fyfe, can help the side play finals footy next year for the first time since 2015.

Originally published as AFL: Fremantle star Nat Fyfe suffers fresh shoulder setback




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