Monthly Archives: January 2019

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Hodkinson ready for second chance

Trent Hodkinson was the forgotten man of the Bulldogs’ remarkable charge to the grand final last season.

An injury in the opening month of last season meant he lost the No.7 jersey to his close friend, Kris Keating, but the shoe is on the other foot this year, with an injury to Keating opening the door for Hodkinson to regain his position and push for a new contract.

Hodkinson is a free agent at the end of the season and is yet to be approached by the Bulldogs about a new deal. The former Manly halfback admits he was in limbo a month ago but is adamant the future is now in his hands.

”I didn’t know what was going to happen a month ago,” he said. ”But I just have to concentrate on footy and see how I go and push my claims for a new contract given the fact I’m coming off contract. I just have to concentrate on footy and keep ticking the boxes and see what happens.

”They [Bulldogs] haven’t said too much at the moment. I knew I had to play a few games before I go to them. I have a few games under my belt now so hopefully something starts to occur soon. I’d love to stay here and I found a home here. I love all the boys and we have a great coaching staff. There’s a great vibe around the club so the ideal situation would be to stay.

”I knew I had to go back to NSW Cup and play well there. I knew that it would pay off. Kris got injured and it was unlucky for him but I got my opportunity and I have to grab it with both hands.”

While Hodkinson missed the majority of last season, he said it had not been difficult adjusting to the style of football the Bulldogs developed under the watch of coach Des Hasler. ”I was still watching them closely and I was in among the video sessions because Dessie had me in there,” he said.

Hodkinson said his side was wary of the Knights after their embarrassing defeat at the hands of the Raiders last week. ”They’ll be ready to go and fired up this week after last week’s performance,” he said. ”They won’t be happy with that. Sunday arvo at home, they’ll be really keen to put on a good performance in front of their crowd.”

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Phil Gould: Dugan’s attitude defeats bullies

 Earlier this week, new Dragons recruit Josh Dugan was sitting in a Bondi Junction cafe with a friend. Just after dinner time they’re relaxing, enjoying a coffee.

From a nearby restaurant a group of young men emerge. They notice Dugan sitting in the coffee shop. Then it starts.

For the next several minutes these blokes direct a barrage of abuse at Dugan. The mob mentality kicks in and these morons proceed to yell obscenities and insults of the most disgusting nature.

I doubt any of the individuals would be game enough to confront Dugan one-on-one. Together though, they grow in confidence and for some reason find this celebrity invective entertaining. The abuse is vile. It’s disgraceful. Judging by his level of self-control, it’s not the first time Dugan has been confronted with such a scenario.

I guess every fibre of his competitive nature would have been urging him to get out of his seat and confront these gutless hoons. But, then again, what could possibly be gained by such a reaction? Dugan sits quietly, not even acknowledging the group hurling this tirade of abuse.

After a while, this band of reprobates realise they’re getting no reaction and move on.

Maybe they’re supporters of a rival club or code. Maybe they’re not supporters at all. These brain dead, good-for-nothings walk away cheering as though they’ve achieved something they can one day boast to their grandchildren.

Remember too, these morons are the same types as those bullying your son or daughter in the playground at school, through social-media platforms, or wherever they can make contact with your kids. I hate bullies. They are weak individuals who find safety in numbers or hide behind the skirt of anonymity.

Once the mob has gone, Dugan continues as though nothing has happened, but undoubtedly with the words of these degenerates ringing in his ears. It is a tremendous show of restraint. But should Dugan, or anyone else for that matter, have to put up with this sort of treatment? Is it our expectation that Dugan, or any person with a public profile, should have to endure such personal attacks in silence and without reaction?

The abuse doesn’t always happen in public. Anonymous prank calls on mobile phones, or postings on web forums and social-media platforms like Facebook and Twitter are the new playgrounds of these bullies. Most people in the public eye have been at some time or another subjected to abuse just as Dugan experienced, or through digital and social-media forums.

Sporting fans these days have become more demanding in terms of access to their favourite players and teams. Many believe the club, coach or player should be on call 24 hours a day to the fans. NRL clubs have significantly expanded their staff numbers to cater for the demands of members and service their thirst for information. Some of the stuff these officials and staff are subjected to from fans goes way beyond fair play.

The majority of fans who use social media and web forums are great people. They’re friendly and supportive. Many have great knowledge of the game and like to share their opinions with other supporters. It’s all good fun.

However, there are those who take advantage of this access and get their kicks out of delivering nothing but vile abuse. It’s the small and unruly minority who spoil it for the majority of people who just want civilised interaction.

Many will say the celebrity sportsperson or club staff member should just ignore the abuse. Yes, of course – sticks and stones.

However, it doesn’t make it right.

In the instance with Dugan, such a display of aggression from the public gives us a taste of what these players face on a daily basis. If such abuse had taken place in a nightclub and the player being baited was with a group of friends, I think you know how these things could escalate. If the player retaliates, you can bet your life it will be his face on the front page of the newspaper, not the instigator.

We stress to players the importance of turning the other cheek and walking away from such situations – just as we tell our kids to ignore the bully in the playground and to report them to the teacher or their parents.

That’s why most players no longer socialise in public. They know they are targets. The best way to avoid such incidents is to not go out in the first place. I find that very sad. I don’t believe cutting themselves off from society completely is healthy for their personal development.

I think it’s bad enough that our players don’t have regular jobs. The workplace environment is vital to developing communication and social interaction skills. Many of our full-time footballers have no idea what it is like to work with other people. Pretty much the only people they interact with these days are family members and their fellow players in their football club.

If they stop going out in public altogether, how will they ever get a rounded education in life? I don’t know Dugan. I’ve never met the lad. From the outside looking in, though, it’s easy to be judgmental of him.

I’ve been critical of his antics at Canberra that eventually led to his sacking. I can’t justify what he did. However, he has only hurt himself. He hasn’t hurt anyone else. He doesn’t deserve to be abused in public in this manner. No person does.

When told of this latest incident, I honestly felt sorry for Dugan. Sure he’s been something of a dope, but maybe we need to look closer at the causes of such behaviour. I guess it’s easy to pigeon-hole such conduct as arrogance or a lack of respect for authority. Too quickly we are guilty of labelling alcohol abuse, drug or gambling addictions as irresponsibility or weakness. Ben Barba walked away from the game. Rugby player Kurtley Beale is in rehab.

In recent times we’ve seen a couple of young players sink to the depths of walking away from life to free themselves of whatever pressures they have built up in their own minds. In my lifetime, I’ve known six rugby league players to do the same; all of them without warning.

The sad thing is, I probably only notice this when it happens to a footballer. Unfortunately, this is happening too often in all walks of life. Depression, anxiety, loneliness, stress, pressure – these emotions are extremely damaging and, sadly, all too common. Many people just don’t have the tools to deal with them.

For what it’s worth, I hope Dugan does well for his new club and for the rest of his playing career. I hope the disciplines and camaraderie help shape the rest of his life as well.

As for the boofheads who abused him at the Bondi Junction coffee shop? Well, good luck to you too. Hopefully, some time in the near future, you grow a brain.

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Power, Briscoe looking for their moment in the Indy fun

Passing the baton: Wayne Gardner with son Luca. Photo: SuppliedTwo Australians – Will Power and Ryan Briscoe – are among the 32 drivers named in the 33 entries lodged for next weekend’s 97th annual Indianapolis 500, the race with a shaky claim on being the greatest spectacle in racing. A few decades ago, Indy would routinely kill an average of a driver every May. Not so, in this faster, yet safer era. The entry list screams quality. IndyCar Series champions assigned to cars are reigning champion Ryan Hunter-Reay, Dario Franchitti (2007, 2009, 2010, 2011), Scott Dixon (2003, 2008), and Tony Kanaan (2004).Though from a road-racing background in European motor sport, Power – runner-up in the IndyCar standings for the past three years – is increasingly competitive on the high-speed ovals. His experience on road courses is an asset at Indianapolis, a flat, four-kilometre circuit with four distinct turns. Power qualified second in 2010, and has a fifth place (2009) to his name. Briscoe, cast aside by long-time employer Penske at the end of last season, has grabbed a lifeline with the Ganassi team, a five-time winner at Indy. The versatile Briscoe, who claimed pole last year and went on to finish fifth, is part of a four-driver Ganassi line-up which also includes Franchitti, Brisbane-born Kiwi Dixon and Charlie Kimball.


Formula one’s clumsy efforts to spice up its racing by instructing tyre supplier Pirelli to create two very different compounds for every grand prix descended into farce in Spain last Sunday as most drivers, struggling with rubber degradation, were forced to make four pit stops. Mark Webber has long shown his dislike of the contrived unpredictability. Pirelli says it will have better-lasting compounds ready for the Canadian Grand Prix on June 9. Meanwhile, the Suddeutschen Zeitung newspaper in Munich has reported that the Bavarian public prosecutor’s office has completed its investigation into F1’s little big man Bernie Ecclestone and will indict him later this month for allegedly bribing former BayernLB executive Gerhard Gribkowsky, a state official. Ecclestone, who steered F1 from a motley assortment of race folk to one of the grandest shows in global sport, has indicated he will resign if charged. The court case, rumoured to start in July, could have serious implications not only for Ecclestone but for the planned flotation of the formula one group in several months’ time. Ecclestone, 82, maintains his innocence.


Chip off the old bloke is Luca Gardner. The younger son of the 1987 world 500cc champion Wayne Gardner scored a big win in round two of the pre-Moto3 Campeonato Mediterraneo de Velocidad category at the Circuito de Navarra in Spain last weekend. “It’s a long year ahead, but I’m so proud of Luca’s results so far this season,” said Gardner snr (pictured with Luca) who moved to Spain last year with wife Toni to give Luca, 13, and his brother Remy, 15, the chance to seriously pursue their road-racing careers.


Though never a round of the world championship, the annual Macau Grand Prix is coming up for its 60th anniversary, its longevity due to the dramatic, exotic setting on the streets of the former Portuguese protectorate. The temporary circuit of more than six kilometres and a mix of claustrophobic sections and wide-open straights was a favourite of Ayrton Senna, one of many champions who raced formula three cars there. A free exhibition, Macau Grand Prix: 60 Years of Motorsport History will be held in the Lower Exhibitions Hall at Sydney Town Hall from May 23-26 with three different-era formula cars, historic photographs, video coverage and other memorabilia.

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Kelly will tough it out in Texas

Character-testing struggle: Rick Kelly qualifying for the inaugural Austin 400 in his Nissan Altima. Photo: SuppliedAustin: The only thing that could make former champion Rick Kelly happier than finally getting to race in the United States would be to score Nissan’s first V8 Supercars victory at the inaugural Austin 400.

It’s unlikely to happen because the Japanese car-maker is early in its freshman year in V8s and still a long way from catching up to Ford and Holden, which have dominated for 20 years.

But while he faces another character-testing struggle to threaten the top 10 in V8 Supercars’ first event in the US at the Circuit Of The Americas just outside Austin, Texas, on Sunday and Monday mornings (Australian time), Kelly is fulfilling a fantasy by racing in the Lone Star State.

”Racing a V8 Supercar over here is a dream come true,” he said. ”I can do what I love in America, which is a place I really like. I’ve always loved coming over here.”

Kelly, 30, once had ambitions to pursue a career in American stock cars, visiting NASCAR teams in 2007 – the year after he won the V8 title – in search of an opportunity to compete in a starter series.

Even though fellow former V8 champion Marcos Ambrose had successfully graduated from truck racing to NASCAR’s second-tier stock car competition, there was no interest from NASCAR teams in giving another Australian road racer a chance.

Kelly’s disappointment at not being able to get his foot in the NASCAR door will be forgotten when he races his Jack Daniel’s Racing Nissan Altima in the four-race Austin 400, which he regards as ”a big moment” for V8 Supercars.

Kelly’s enthusiasm for the States meant he had no qualms about coming over early for a two-day promotional tour in Tennessee for his team’s major backers, Jack Daniel’s and Nissan, both of which have major operations outside Nashville.

After accepting that his American dream wasn’t going to come true, Kelly joined his brother Todd – also a leading V8 driver – in the even more ambitious goal of establishing their own V8 Supercars team.

They became teammates in their own operation in 2009 and this year are running Nissan Australia’s return to racing, fielding four Altimas under the new Car Of The Future regulations that have opened the sport to new makes.

It’s been a struggle for both Rick and Todd as they try to fast-track the development of their all-new Altimas while spending most of the races battling to finish in the top 15.

In the first four events, they routinely qualified in the bottom third of the 28-car field, a rude awakening for former factory Holden drivers who have, between them, won a V8 championship, three Bathurst 1000s and made regular appearances on the podium.

Rebranded Nissan Motorsport, the family-owned Kelly Racing team’s best result so far this season was a strong seventh for Rick in one of the four races at Pukekohe, near Auckland, last month.

The Altima V8 racer – which uses a production-based V8 against the bespoke competition engines of Ford and Holden – is trailing in straightline speed in the early stages of its development.

While Kelly accepts that qualifying near the back of the grid and racing in the mid-field is inevitable in the early stages of the development of a brand new entry, he says the experience has been frustrating.

”I built myself up mentally to go out and have a shot at being at the front,” he said.

”And so when the reality hit that we were behind in a couple of areas and needed to develop the engine, it really hit me hard personally.”

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Goss at ease with review of team doping protocols

CHERASCO: Matt Goss has welcomed the handing down of the report on an independent review of his Orica-GreenEDGE team’s anti-doping processes.

He also said he found assisting the investigation was no different to undergoing a dope test, except ”they just see less of your body”.

”I’ve always been on teams with anti-doping systems. You are always under scrutiny. We are always being tested. Answering a few questions is no different to doing a [drug] test I guess … they just see less of your body,” Goss said before Friday’s 13th stage of the Giro d’Italia from Busseto to Cherasco.

Asked about the report soon after its release in Australia on Friday, Goss said he had yet to absorb all the report’s findings submitted by anti-doping consultant Nicki Vance, who was commissioned by the Australian team late last year to carry out the inquiry.

It was launched after the United States Anti-Doping Agency’s findings in the case involving Lance Armstrong, who has been banned for life, and included evidence from former Orica-GreenEDGE head sports director Matt White, who admitted to doping as a rider. White lost his job with Orica-GreenEDGE, and with Cycling Australia as the national men’s road team coach. Recently, White revealed that the Australian Sports Anti-Doping Authority had handed him a six-month retroactive ban dating from October 13. With the ban having expired on April 13, he is free to resume work in the sport, although his future at Orica-GreenEDGE hinged on the Vance report.

Vance’s findings recommended he be reinstated to his position on the team, while also recommending that sport director Neil Stephens be kept on and not be penalised for his involvement as a rider in the 1998 Festina doping scandal.

As part of her probe, Vance interviewed all Orica-GreenEDGE’s riders, staff and management. Although, how many of her recommendations are actually implemented depends on a meeting between her and team owner Gerry Ryan and general manager Shayne Bannan in Australia next week.

Goss is focused on trying to win a stage at this Giro, despite again missing out on the action in Friday’s 13th stage won British sprinter Mark Cavendish (Sky) from Italian Giacommo Nizzoli (Canndondae), Slovenian Luka Mezgec (Argos) and Australian Brett Lancaster (Sky).

But Goss knows with his recovery from a virus incomplete, and the Giro to finish in Brescia next Sunday, there are really only two more chances left for him – stage 17, 214km from Carravagio to Vicenza, and stage 21 from Riese Pios X to Brescia over 197km on Sunday.

”I’m not feeling that great, but I’m getting through. I’ve been sick since the start of the race,” Goss said after finishing 167th at 16 minutes 32 seconds to the first group.

”I wasn’t too bad, but then three days ago, I just blew up and buckled. And the last few days I have been on antibiotics, just trying to get rid of it so I was better before here [stage 13]. I was really fatigued in the muscles when I wanted to go [for the sprint].

”I feel I’m getting better. I just have to wait for my body to recover a little bit. There are two more stages in the last week that can be opportunities.”

Watch stage 15 of the Giro d’Italia – 150km from Cesana Torinese to Col du Galibier – live on Eurosport, Ch 511 Foxtel from 10.30pm on Sunday, or on SBS 2 from 10.45pm. Rupert Guinness is covering the Giro d’Italia as a guest of Eurosport.

Twitter: @rupertguinness

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