Alex Wilkinson can’t wait to play at the SCG for Sydney FC.Sydney FC stalwart Alex Wilkinson has given the SCG surface a big tick of approval and declared the Sky Blues have a mental edge going into Saturday’s derby with Western Sydney Wanderers.
Central defender Wilkinson expects a special atmosphere for the first A-League match at the famous ground.
The SCG hasn’t been used for a football game for three decades and will host four Sydney FC matches this season, with their traditional home venue next door at Allianz Stadium being rebuilt.
“We’re looking forward to being at the SCG. We had a run there last week and the pitch is beautiful, it’s fantastic,” Wilkinson said.
“They are fixing the middle part of the cricket pitch and they are assuring us that will be fine as well, which is great.
“I’m really looking forward to getting 30,000-plus there for the derby and really experiencing that atmosphere, it’s going to be special.”
Unlike several of his teammates, Wilkinson couldn’t recall witnessing a sporting event at the SCG.
“A few of the boys are telling me they go to the cricket quite often and have been to a few events there, but myself I haven’t attended one that I can even remember,” he said.
Sydney will also use Jubilee Stadium and Leichhardt Oval as home venues.
“We’ll be looking to make all three grounds a fortress and be very hard to beat (at home) as usual,” Wilkinson said.
Sydney have lost just one of their last 14 clashes against the Wanderers and thumped them 3-0 in a FFA Cup semi-final earlier this month.
“Obviously the belief when we come up against the Wanderers is very good at the moment because of the record we’ve got, so that gives us a little bit of a mental edge there I suppose,” Wilkinson said.
“Obviously after beating them a couple of weeks ago we’ll go into the game very, very confident.”
Wilkinson said preparation was a key to Sydney’s excellent derby record, but stressed that wasn’t just reserved for the Wanderers.
“It’s not a magic formula just against them,” Wilkinson said.
“I think the last two seasons we’ve been quite good against a lot of teams.”
Wilkinson said Sydney’s defence was quite good in their opening round 1-1 away draw against Adelaide and they just needed to use the ball better this week.
TESTING TIMES: Rio Olympian Mariah Williams is aiming for next year’s FIH Pro League. Picture: Josh CallinanA hamstring strain has halted Mariah Williams’ return to international hockey as the Rio Olympian aims to be back fully fit for next year’s inaugural Pro League.
Williams, who has been staying with her parents at Teralba during the Australian Hockey League (AHL) this month, will more than likely skip the Hockeyroos’ campaign atthe Champions Trophy in China in November.
Instead, the 23-year-old strikerwants to be right for eight Tests on home soil in the space of six weeks, starting against world No.1 the Netherlands in Melbourne on February 2.
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“My next goal is the Pro League,” Williams told the Newcastle Herald.
“That’s an important one [tournament] now, because it’s also an Olympic qualifier.
“If the hammy was ok, then yes I’d want to be back playing [earlier]. But because of the hammy, I just want to take it easy and not rush back.
“It’s a little hard after being out [of the Hockeyroos] for a year. This way, having the rest of the year off, I geta few months of preparation under my belt and be right to go come February.”
Williams, who has 63 caps and seven goals for the Australian women’s team, missed this year’sGold Coast Commonwealth Games and recent World Cup in London following groin surgery in February.
The former Hunter Sports High School student has since played someclub hockey for Hale in Perth, first returning to the field in August, but sustained the hamstring injury training with the national squad last month.
She was named to representNSWin round two of the AHL in Tasmania less than a fortnight ago, but hasn’t yet played a game.
Williams was due to train with the Arrows in Sydney on Tuesday night, but remains an uncertain starter for the interstate finals serieson the Gold Coast.NSW meetWestern Australia in the quarters on Thursday.Semis follow on Saturday and medal matches on Sunday.
In the men’s competition, NSW also have WA but the Waratahs are winlessfrom the opening three rounds. NSW have included four Hunter Coast Premier Hockey League players –Simon Orchard, Ky Willott, Hayden Dillon and Ehren Hazel.
Beauden Barrett has made a habit of terrorising the Wallabies just before and after halftime.They’re the coach killers that have Michael Cheika demanding his Wallabies toughen up and take the fight to the All Blacks for the full 80 minutes in Saturday’s final Bledisloe Cup duel of the year in Japan.
Damning statistics reveal the All Blacks are continually blowing the Wallabies away in the crucial five minutes each side of halftime, crushing any hope Cheika’s men can return the prized trans-Tasman trophy to Australia.
In the Wallabies’ nine Tests against New Zealand since Cheika took the helm in 2015, the All Blacks have out-scored them 79-15 between the 35th and 45th minutes of matches.
The recurring nightmare – featuring Beauden Barrett as chief tormentor – began in Cheika’s very first trans-Tasman showdown in charge – New Zealand’s World Cup final triumph over Australia at Twickenham no less.
A devastating 18-point blitz shot the All Blacks from 6-3 after 35 minutes out to 24-3 and all but game-over two minutes into the second half of New Zealand’s 34-17 victory.
The alarming trend has continued for three years, with the Wallabies leaking 21 unanswered points in the make-or-break few minutes before and after halftime of their latest defeats in the first two Bledisloe clashes in 2018.
Cheika’s men led 7-0 until the shadows of halftime in Sydney before the All Blacks assumed control after Barrett put Aaron Smith over for their first try.
A week later in Auckland, the Wallabies were in the fight at 7-7 until Barrett again struck with a try in the 37th minute as the world champions stretched their lead to a match-turning 21-7 in a twinkling after the break.
Cheika has warned his charges there can be no repeat of the costly lapses on Saturday when the Wallabies bid to salvage some trans-Tasman pride with victory over the All Blacks in Yokohama.
Tellingly, Australia’s lone victory over New Zealand under Cheika came when Israel Folau’s 39th-minute try – the game’s only points in the pressure minutes either side of the break – proved the difference in a 23-18 win in Brisbane last year.
“Some of the numbers around scoring movements both pre and post halftime, we just need that extra bit of concentration and focus on how we can manage those periods better,” Cheika said.
“We have to try to maintain – and take – control when we need to in those times and have that resolve so that if something does go against us we’re straight back into it and not putting our heads down at all.
“That comes with having a good plan there so believing in that and making sure you’ve prepared mentally for those situations.
“Then, who knows, maybe we’ll own the last five or last 10 in the match on Saturday.
“But you’ve got to understand how to do that as opposed to just hoping it happens.”
APOLOGETIC: Prime Minister Scott Morrison and Opposition Leader Bill Shorten during an address to survivors in the Great Hall after the National Apology to Victims and Survivors of Institutional Child Sexual Abuse. Picture: Alex Ellinghausen THE elephant in the room made an appearance as Prime Minister Scott Morrison neared the end of his apology to thousands of Australians sexually abused as children in institutions over decades.
A man in the public gallery stood up and displayed his sign -“Fix Nauru then apology”–in a direct line of sight from Mr Morrison on the floor of the House of Representatives.
“Too right,” said the man sitting next to me, wearing the royal blue t-shirt of a Care Leavers Australasia Network member, whose childhood included sexual, physical and mental abuse in an Australian children’s home.
Security removed the man with the sign with practised efficiency.
In the GreatHall after the speeches Mr Morrison and Opposition Leader Bill Shorten had Nauru hurled at them again by adults who disclosed their own sexual abuse as children, so that children in future couldbe protected.
“How can we have all this for children sexually abused in institutions and be blind to what we’re actually still doing with the children of asylum seekers?” said sexual abuse survivor and retired Hunter Uniting Church leader Wes Hartley, who did not yell at the political leaders but understood those who did.
“It’s a different style of abusebut people realise, how can you do all of this -the royal commissionand the national apology–for all these known victims of child abuse, living and dead, but we as a nation are still allowing these things to happen on Nauru because it’s a political inconvenience?”
READ MORE: Abuses of power don’t occur in a vacuumIn the half hour before the national apology Denison MP Andrew Wilkie and Mayo MP Rebekha Sharkiespoke to a sea ofempty seats on the floor of parliament, after giving notice of a private member’s bill tobring children and their families on Nauru to Australia for medical treatment.
The witnesses were survivors, their families, the child abuse royal commissioners and others who had filed in to take their places before the formal proceedings.
“I would hope that everyone in this place would understand and agree that you don’t play games with children’s lives,” Mr Wilkie said.
“You don’t use them as pawns in some political debate in this place. You don’t use them as some sort of deterrent against people smugglers. You don’t have a punitive arrangement like we obviously have, as much to punish people for daring to think they could flee for their lives and seek refuge in Australia.”
In other words, you don’t put child protection second if you’re a government with responsibility for children’s lives, even if it’spalmed off to a smaller nation.
The overwhelming response to the formal speeches was relief.
FAMILY TIES: Ross Eatt affixes a ribbon for his sister to a tree sculpture on the front lawn of Parliament House. Lifeline: 13 11 14; 1800 RESPECT National Sexual Assault and Family Violence Counselling Service: 1800 737 732. Picture: Alex Ellinghausen
“I thought they were good,” said abuse survivor John Ellis, who sat in the public gallery just days after NSW Parliament passed legislation to abolish the so-called “Ellis Defence” –the 2007 legal decisionby which the Catholic Church blocked child sexual abuse survivors from taking legal action, namedafterMr Ellis’ unsuccessful compensation case. The royal commission later condemned the church for fighting Mr Ellis despite acknowledging his abuse.
Mr Morrison’s tone was solemn andmeasured, the booming former tourist chief’s voice mercifully left outside. His emotion was genuine while describing his meeting with Victorian woman Chrissie Foster, whose two daughters were sexually abused by a Catholic priest and whose late husband Anthony became a champion for abuse victims.
“I also met with a mother whose two daughters were abused by a priest the family trusted. Suicide would claim one of her two beautiful girls and the other lives under the crushing weight of what was done to her,” said Mr Morrison, his voice breaking.
“As a father of two daughters, I can’t comprehend the magnitude of what she has faced. Not just as a father but as Prime Minister, I am angry too at the calculating destruction of lives and abuse of trust, including those who have abused the shield of faith and religion to hide their crimes, a shield that is supposed to protect the innocent, not the guilty. And they stand condemned.”
His speech brought anumber of Labor MPs to tears.
Bill Shorten’s speech punched when it was clearly informed by direct contact with survivors and their testimony to the royal commission.
“Coaches, scoutmasters, priests and pastors, predators and manipulators, they all knew the buttons to push with parents. It was that flattery of attention, the praising their particular child’s potential, to secure more private time. If you were in an orphanage or foster care, or an Aboriginal child on the mission, the machinery of state was geared against you,” he said.
“Some of these people were supposed to be the pillars of our community. They had the power, the status, the authority – but they wielded these as weapons.”
In the public gallery, not far from where the man with the Nauru sign was ejected, two women held each other and sobbed quietly.
Shorten’s speech also hit home with the reminder that “too many Australian children are still living unsafe lives, at risk”.
The national apology became a surprisingly democratic day, in spite of therules, procedures and security checks of the Federal Parliament building that reminds visitors their tenure is temporary. For a short while the building on the hillreflected the aim of architect Richard Thorp, who said: “We built an example of democracy where the people who visit the place are as important as the politicians within.”
In the House of Representatives Mr Morrison and Mr Shorten delivered their speeches and there was respectful silence. The House then rose,politicians left the floor and the public galleries emptied.
But later in the Great Hall the two leaders were roughed up by many of the hundreds of survivors who yelled their views across the speeches.
“Why do the institutions still get public money?” yelled a man as Mr Morrison talked about the need for politicians to do better.
Mr Shorten was heckled by survivors throughout hisspeech, never more so than when he ventured “We use a lot of words in this place, and you can be forgiven for thinking words are cheap.”
The two men responded to the yelling by not responding, and gracefully conceding the floor to people who for so long had been denied power.
It was Australia’s first woman prime minister Julia Gillard who earnedcheers and standing ovations as the leader who established the royal commission.
“I do want to take this opportunity to record my thanks to all of you for your courage, your determination, for your stoicism. It took many years to get to this moment but we are only at it not because of me, but because of you,” she said.
The national apology was a long time coming. And in the heckles and jeers survivors got to speak truth to power.
Surfer Morgan Cibilic eyeing higher honours after hot run on qualifying series | photos WILD WEST: Morgan Cibilic is chaired up the beach after winning the Mandurah Pro, his first senior World Surf League title, last week. Picture: WSL / Justin Majeks
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1234567 – Merewether surfer Morgan Cibilic started this year on the qualifying series, his first full season, hoping just to break into the top 200 and get a start at home in Surfest in 2019.
After a memorable West Australian trip, the 19-year-old has already cracked the top 100 and has had to lift his sights to winning an Australia/Oceaniatitle.
Cibilic arrived home on Monday after winning the Mandurah Pro and making the semi-finals of another 1000-point contest, theCape Naturaliste Pro.The results pushed Cibilic up 38 places to 99th on the QS after three top-10 efforts had already put him well ahead of schedule.
“I’m pretty frothing still. I can’t really believe it,” Cibilic said.“I couldn’t even get into the bigger events, I could only compete in the smaller ones, and I’mstill in the top 100, so I’m stoked.I’m not sure I’ll stay there but I’ll be close to it.”
The natural-footer will bypass the Hawaiian QS leg and turn his attention to winning the Australia/Oceania title. He sits third on 2145 points behind Merewether clubmate Jackson Baker (2697) andSheldon Simkus (2350) with 1000-point events left at Phillip Island and Port Stephens.
Baker, who sits 60thoverall on theQS, will travel to Hawaii for the 3000-point Sunset Beach event and the final two 10,000-point contests.
“I just miss out on the big Hawaiian events because you have to be top 70ish,” Cibilic said. “I could have made the 3000 but Idecided I’m just going to finish the Australian leg and try to win the Australasian title.I just need to beat a couple of guys who are just behind me and Sheldon Simkus.But even if I finish second I’ll probably qualify for 10,000s next year, so that’s my goal.”
Cibilic’s rise is part of an amazing season forMerewetherSurfboard Club’s malecontingent. Baker has won three lower-ranked QS events and Ryan Callinan has all but booked a full-time return to the championship tour for 2019 after 6000-and 10,000-point victories lifted him to second. He also became the talk of the surfing world with his giant-killing run to the Quiksilver Pro France final as a wildcard this month.
“To have threein the top 100, that’s pretty sick,” Cibilic said.“That was another one of my goals this year, after seeing Ryan and Jacko win comps, I wanted to win one as well, so all the boys can get up there.I definitely look up to those guys …It should be good in the next couple of years.
“I was going to put off uni for a couple of years.If I couldn’t crack the top 100 by the time I was 21, 22, then I would give surfinga miss, I guess, and carry on with my life, but I’m doing pretty well at the moment so I don’t think I’m going to stop anytime soon hopefully.”