NSW Swifts coach Rob Wright has praised his side’s composure after they held off the Melbourne Vixens to secure a spot in the Australian conference of the trans-Tasman championships.
The match looked won when the Swifts led by eight goals early in the third quarter, but playing at home with captain Bianca Chatfield for the last time, the Vixens rallied and turned the deficit into a two goal lead by midway through the final term.
In the final minutes it was the Swifts who lifted their defensive game when wing defence Abbey McCulloch won a high ball contest creating a turnover on the Vixens goal circle.
As the momentum of the game shifted again, the Swifts ran out four of the last five goals to win 52-48.
“At two (goals) up the game is there to be won and we blew it” said Vixens coach Simone McKinnis.
“I can’t be happy with a nice try.”
The result sealed the fate of both teams.
The Swifts qualified for the finals and the Vixens’ spluttering title defence was finally over.
“We haven’t talked about the finals at all,” said Wright.
“With a road trip to Melbourne, and then a road trip to Perth, it was always going to be tough.
“They are both such good sides and I thought, ‘oh, we could lose both of those and not be there’. So we have never talked about it.”
The Swifts travel to Perth next week to play West Coast Fever, the winner securing second spot on the conference ladder.
“I think it was absolutely the perfect game for us, now that we have actually secured a finals spot. Because you need that tough stuff when the heat was on, and we were composed in the end,” Wright said.
For the Vixens a season marred by a serious knee injury to star wing attack Madi Robinson never found the heights of 2014.
“It is hugely disappointing,” said McKinnis.
“It was great to see girls fight and play well today, but overall it is a very disappointing season and that goes back to the start of the year really.”
Young players Jo Weston, Chloe Watson, Kate Moloney and Lizzie Watson were given more court time and responsibility creating McKinnis’ highpoint of the season, but it was in the end a poor one for the perennial finalists who miss the play offs for the first time since 2011.
But the OCA, headed by influential sports power broker Sheikh Sheikh Ahmad Al-Fahad Al-Sabah of Kuwait, said they were left with no choice but to look elsewhere following its executive committee meeting in Tehran on Friday.
“Amongst the key decisions taken by the OCA Executive Board was the decision to withdraw the 3rd Asian Youth Games in 2017 from Sri Lanka due to problems with the autonomy of the Sri Lanka NOC (National Olympic Committee) and government,” the OCA said in a statement.
“The OCA concluded that Sri Lanka’s sports law was not in accordance with the Olympic Charter and so, in line with the OCA’s commitment to the principles of Olympism, could not accept the country as host of the next Asian Youth Games.”
Thailand, Qatar, United Arab Emirates, Uzbekistan and Indonesia had shown interest in hosting the third edition of the Games before Hambantota bagged it.
Singapore, in 2009, and China’s Nanjing, in 2013, hosted the first two editions as a dress rehearsal for staging the Youth Olympics the following year. The Nanjing games featured more than 2,000 athletes taking part in 16 sports.
Indonesia might be pushed to step in and replace Sri Lanka as they are hosting the 2018 Asian Games following Vietnam’s late withdraw.
Autonomy concerns have plagued other sports in Sri Lanka.
In April, the International Cricket Council decided to withhold its next financial distribution for Sri Lanka Cricket pending an investigation into possible government interference in SLC.
(Writing by Patrick Johnston in Singapore; editing by Amlan Chakraborty)
It may not have been as dramatic as Trevor Gillmeister’s 1995 heroics but Queensland hope Greg Inglis’s emergence from a hospital bed will be just as influential in the State of Origin opener.
The Maroons cut an assured figure when they arrived in Sydney on Sunday night with Inglis safely on board their flight.
However, it appears there were some anxious moments for Queensland before Inglis finally received the green light for Wednesday night’s Origin I at ANZ Stadium.
Maroons back-rower Sam Thaiday revealed Inglis had spent three nights in hospital with tonsillitis before officially getting the Origin thumbs up along with fellow star centre Justin Hodges (foot) on Sunday.
“The doc has been looking after GI very closely,” he said of Inglis who underwent blood tests on Friday.
“He’s been in hospital for three days so it must have been bad.
“(But after) being in the hospital for three days all by himself he’ll be jumping around and keen to get out there and prove a point not just to the boys here but everyone else out there as well.”
Inglis was quarantined last week at Queensland’s Gold Coast camp but finally joined his teammates on Sunday, albeit to watch training from the sidelines.
His return did not quite rival the comeback of Gillmeister who famously risked his life by leaving hospital to lead the Maroons to a 3-0 1995 series win before checking himself back in to treat a blood disorder.
Still, Inglis received a round of applause from teammates when he joined them at their last training session before they flew out to Sydney.
Queensland coach Mal Meninga tried to play down Inglis’s hospital stay.
“The doc’s normally conservative with these sorts of illnesses,” he said.
“There’s been an epidemic of tonsillitis and viral flu at the moment so (he was) just being precautionary to make sure we look after one of our very valuable players.”
In another encouraging sign, Meninga sent standby centre Dane Gagai back to Newcastle for their Monday night NRL clash with Brisbane after Hodges also returned to training on Sunday.
Inglis will only have one training session before Queensland launch their quest for Origin redemption against title holders NSW – not that Meninga was worried.
“Greg’s played 24 Origin games,” said Meninga.
“Our systems don’t change and he knows how we want to play.
“He’s smart enough to tell me that if he’s not 100 per cent and whether he would jeopardise the team.
“We’ll monitor it over the next few days but we’ve still got four days so we’ll be fine.”
Thaiday seemed unfazed by yet another injury-interrupted Origin build-up for Queensland.
“You kind of get used to these things now these days,” Thaiday shrugged.
“You have players that are saved up to the last minute to train and they usually get on the field and play the best game of their lives – hopefully that is the same in this case.”
He’s not talking up his own team’s bright prospects, but Swans midfield star Luke Parker has surprisingly declared he expects cross-town rivals GWS Giants to go deep into the AFL finals.
The Swans and Giants both have a 6-2 record and are running third and fourth respectively after each won their latest game.
The Swans shaded the Hawks by four points in the MCG rematch of last season’s grand final, with Parker kicking the match-winning goal.
A few hours earlier on Saturday, GWS scored a 24-point home victory over Adelaide to clinch their first three-game winning streak.
With less than half the competition played the Giants have already equalled their best-ever complete season haul of wins set last year and may have half the victories needed to make a maiden finals appearance.
“They are doing really well at the moment, I think their list is running out games well,” Parker said.
“They are improving each game and you see their confidence is up.
“Blokes like Jeremy Cameron and Dylan Shiel are really taking their game to another level.
“I think they are a great team. They are going to be a big contender this year and I think they will go definitely deep into finals.”
Although prepared to talk the Giants up, Parker was predictably more circumspect about the Swans’ prospects, despite them notching a third straight win and knocking off the reigning premiers.
Asked about trying to catch unbeaten ladder leaders Fremantle, who are eight points to the good, Parker said: “we don’t look too far ahead.”
He wants the Swans to show the same attitude at home to lowly Carlton on Friday as they did in their intense clash with Hawthorn.
“We knew if we won this game (against Hawthorn) it puts us two (wins) ahead of those blokes,” Parker said.
“It’s really good to set up our season and the main thing is we come out next week and bring that same aggression and same intensity.
“It’s great to win against quality teams so early in the season, it gives you confidence going through the rest of the season.”
Superstar forward Lance Franklin went goalless for the second time in three games.
However, Parker wasn’t expecting Franklin to get another box of doughnuts like he did two weeks ago, after missing out against Melbourne.
“We’ll leave him alone this week,” Parker quipped.