Canberra cyclist Alex Nicholls seeks home advantage in National Capital Tour

ACT Suzuki Brumby’s team from left, Alison Rice, Chole McIntosh, Alex Nicholls, Emma Viotto, and Laura Darlington training at the Arboretum ahead of the Canberra Tour that starts on Friday.She juggled schoolwork and illness to make her mark on the world stage, now Canberra cyclist Alex Nicholls wants to teach the locals a thing or two at the National Capital Tour.

Despite battling recurring bouts of tonsillitis and completing year 12 studies last year, Nicholls showed her potential by collecting silver at the world junior time trial championships in Italy last September.

The 18-year-old will start as one of the fancies for the second running of the tour, which begins with a time trial on Friday.

She is one of five Canberrans riding for the ACT Suzuki Brumby’s women’s team, with teammate Allison Rice also tipped to be one to beat.

“It [the silver medal] was a great surprise,” Nicholls said. “I was stoked to be there, let alone get a medal. I had tonsillitis on and off through last year and it made it really difficult to try and stay fresh. 

“It would crop up in stressful situations, because I was studying year 12 and racing overseas, I had to balance everything. It wasn’t great going into competitions, or coming out of races trying to recover.”

Nicholls is still hitting the books part-time at university, studying to be a primary school teacher.

She said the lessons learnt from Canberra stars Michael Matthews, Matt Heyman and Gracie Elvin when training had inspired her.

“Canberra produces a lot of riders at the professional level, it’s the best training ground in Australia,” she said. “It’s so awesome to see those guys achieve, you see them on the bunch rides [in Canberra] over the off-season and they’re so generous with their wisdom.

“It’s nice to see them get some good karma.”

After a tough initiation in Europe last year racing against seasoned pros, Nicholls has stayed in Australia this year to develop into a strong enough rider to compete with the world’s best.

“I’ve just been racing around the NRS [National Road Series], trying to be consistent and getting a few podiums here and there,” she said. “Europe opens your eyes, going from a big fish in a small pond to a small fish in a big pond.

“I loved every minute of it. It’s just a matter of getting stronger so I can be more competitive in that type of environment.”

Rice, 20, believes the race could be won and lost in Friday’s time trial and the gruelling finish to Saturday’s road race.

The tour will conclude with two road races on a flatter course on Sunday.

“The winner of the tour will be someone who can time-trial and hill-climb well,” she said. “Saturday’s race finishes with a 7-kilometre climb, so there’s potential for massive time gaps to open up there. It’s a Canberra-run team and winning our home event is a big goal, and knowing the courses really well is definitely an advantage.

“We know where to put the pressure down, the descents and technical bits of the course, having trained on it before.

“It’s great to have all our friends and family there to support us, so we’d like to come away with a great result.”

Avanti Racing’s Mitchell Lovelock-Fay is Canberra’s standout hope in the men’s event, with Commonwealth Games gold medallists Scott Sunderland and Alexander Edmondson also to compete.


Friday: Time trials (women 10am, men 10am)

Saturday: Road race (women 7.30am, men 1.30pm)

Sunday: Road race (women 7.30am, men 1.30pm); Criterium (women 1.50pm, men 3pm)

For stage maps, visit www.nationalcapitaltour南京夜网

Morris ‘deal’ under investigation

Talented twosome: Josh and Brett Morris during their time in the NSW State of Origin camp. Photo: Steve Christo Talented twosome: Josh and Brett Morris during their time in the NSW State of Origin camp. Photo: Steve Christo

Talented twosome: Josh and Brett Morris during their time in the NSW State of Origin camp. Photo: Steve Christo

Talented twosome: Josh and Brett Morris during their time in the NSW State of Origin camp. Photo: Steve Christo

The NRL is set to investigate St George Illawarra’s claims that a rival club approached Brett Morris despite the winger being contracted to the Dragons for 2015.

The Dragons released a statement earlier this week accusing another club of enticing Morris to break his contract after Fairfax Media revealed the Test flyer had sought a release from the final year of his deal to join twin brother Josh at the Bulldogs next season.

Part of St George Illawarra’s statement read that the Dragons: “are aware that another club has offered Brett Morris more money than his contract sum at the Dragons for the 2015 season”.  The Dragons also said there were “no rules that prevent player managers from talking to other clubs about contracted players”.

While rival clubs are allowed to negotiate with Morris for the 2016 season, they are not able to entice him to break his contract a year early.

An NRL spokesman said they had “noted” the Dragons statement. “We are making inquiries with the Dragons to determine whether the matter needs to be taken any further,” a NRL spokesman said.

Bulldogs officials would not comment about the Morris situation. It is understood the Bulldogs plan to reunite the brothers, offering about $150,000 more per season for Morris to play fullback at the club on a four-year deal. Canterbury have been linked to several fullbacks this season following the controversial departure of former Dally M Medal winner Ben Barba to Brisbane this year. The likes of Wallabies stars Kurtley Beale and Israel Folau, Manly veteran Brett Stewart and Brisbane’s Josh Hoffman.

Recently appointed full-time St George Illawarra coach Paul McGregor has inherited a squad with salary cap woes. McGregor met his playing squad individually for end-of-season reviews last week.  It is expected Morris’ future will be decided by McGregor. He handed Morris the captaincy for two games late in the season when regular skipper Ben Creagh was injured.

Already representative forward Trent Merrin has spoken out as his frustrations at not being able to secure a long-term deal at the club, as the cap bites hard.

Merrin, who is contracted until the end of next season, has had no joy in his quest to ink a long-term deal at the club where made his debut in 2009.

St George Illawarra forwards Jack Stockwell and Dan Hunt, and centre Dylan Farrell are believed to have been told to find new clubs. Cronulla, who are sorely in need of extra firepower in their backline, have been mentioned as a possible destination for Farrell. The Sharks have secured highly rated St George Illawarra’s utility Jack Bird on a two year deal.  Canterbury have been linked to several fullbacks this season following the controversial departure of former Dally M Medal winner Ben Barba to Brisbane. The likes of Wallabies stars Kurtley Beale and Israel Folau, Manly veteran Brett Stewart and 

TONY BUTTERFIELD: If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it

PUSHING IT: Nigglers like Michael Ennis are thriving under the no-punch rule.IN the reflective light of the fading NRL season I would like to revisit a topic from earlier in the year that spoke of unintended consequences resulting from the multitude of rugby league rule changes in recent times.

In pursuit of a commoditised version of the professional game that would maximise mass appeal, have we tampered once too often with the very fabric of the game?

But, I hear you say, without the critical mass of appeal there would be no huge broadcast deals, no major sponsorships, no packed stadiums and no big pay days for the players.

To a large extent this may well be true, but those charged with rule changes should bear in mind their actions are indeed having an impact on the very appeal that has sustained the game for decades.

I expect there are many reasons fans have voted with their feet this year. Some of that, anecdotally at least, relates to the many new rule changes and interpretations.

Take the interchange, the scrums and the no-punch rule as three examples of, on the face of it, commendable, contemporary amendments. But it’s how the players and game exploit and adapt to these changes that has created something of a disconnect between fans, players and referees.

● With 10 interchange options available to a team, endurance and stamina, at least for most forwards, is a thing of the past. This factor alone has a huge impact across the game spectrum from participation to the increase in collision forces.

● The scrums are a joke and are nothing more than gathering points at which players (any players) link arms and chat. Alas, the rule masters have no idea what to do with them so they remain like royal guards outside Buckingham Palace – no idea what we’re doing here but it looks good. There was one bright moment earlier in the year when the Warriors won a scrum against the feed against Parramatta and scored as a result.

● In relation to the no-punch edict discussed last week, we saw how a player defending himself by way of retaliation may also find himself in the sin bin.

Another slant on this enforced armistice sees players now able to take far greater liberties in the heat of an erupting disagreement.

Bravado and jersey grabbing is the order of the day, with the odd short one to the chin the worst you will see.

This new “more bark than bite” trend was on display on Sunday when Bulldogs captain Mick Ennis condescendingly tapped Cameron Smith on the head after a costly and uncharacteristic error.

Howls of disrespect arose from Smith’s supporters.

Others claimed King Cam to be well within his rights to snot the experienced upstart.

But the rules say you can’t punch, and Ennis knows the rules and he sensed weakness, vulnerability, so he did what he had to do to win.

No problem.

I understand the safety aspect of our game and I’m all for eliminating time wasting and less attractive features. But I’m not so sure all of these rule changes have had the positive effect on the game at the senior professional level that the game’s architects envisaged.

Indeed I often wonder if it’s even a better game to watch.

Maybe I’m just getting old and not the target audience any more.

■ Meanwhile, hypersensitivity of another rule change has caused some consternation in the Sims household this week with the NRL citing Cowboys enforcer Tariq for an alleged “shoulder charge” on Broncos fullback Justin Hodges.

Most may disagree, but I think Sims was very hard done by and the Cowboys were completely remiss in not challenging the entire case, much less arguing for a downgrade. In the end, Sims accepted a five-week ban rather than risk seven weeks.

As an aside, what a hopelessly inadequate and crazy system we have where you face a penalty if you dare to challenge the match review committee view of things, and fail.

But I digress.

The outrage from some commentators at the collision was a little over the top but set the mood nicely for the carve-up to follow.

Gus Gould immediately called it a shoulder charge. Matty Johns said it was “a shocking shoulder charge” that left Hodges “unconscious” on the ground. Now, I’m not a doctor and neither is Matt, so only the Broncos trainer and Hodges knew whether he was unconscious, and that has not been reported.

As ugly and awkward as the contact was, it cannot by any objective examination of the footage be called a “shoulder charge”. I’m not even sure it was “reckless” – whatever that means. But the match review committee determined otherwise.

If you have a slow motion look at the action on YouTube you will see Sims’s defensive rush from the back field was beautifully timed. His concentration total and narrowly focused. I bet he could not believe his luck when he thought he had Hodges in his sights.

But Hodges is a dangerously skilful mover and thinker.

Suddenly, all Sims’s calculations went out the window when Hodges, not wanting to be sat on his bum, passed to a support player earlier than normally expected. By this stage, Sims was in no man’s land with milliseconds to re-evaluate and reposition his hurtling frame.

Match review committees would do well to consider that this is not an easy thing to do pulsing 170 beats per minute, 60 minutes into a home semi-final. Where finer motor and cognitive skills are impaired due to blood being diverted into the parts of the brain that control emotion, and the actions that result.

In the event, I think Sims was so wrapped up in his assignment that he nearly missed the fact Hodges had passed. When he did realise, he was only two strides out, closing fast and past the point of no return. Collision was now unavoidable, even though both players attempted last-ditch evasive action.

Hodges’s movement in particular had the effect of thwarting Sims escape plan, and they collided.

Further, immediately before impact you will notice Sims finds himself so inside out and tied in knots that the two players clumsily bumped the sides of their heads anyway. A real botch-up. These things happen.

But no shoulder charge.

More to the point, given the Cowboys’ weak response to the charge, the Knights will inherit the residual weeks left to serve when Sims joins the club next season. This is hardly satisfactory.

When you consider a forward of Sims’s ilk will average perhaps 20 games per season and four of those, or 20 per cent, may be spent peeling oranges, you can see my point.

Should the Knights have had a say in how this matter was managed given they are paying the bills next year? Imagine if Sims faced 10 weeks. The Knights could have lost him for most of the first half of the season.

A shabby outcome all round that does not reflect well on the game’s administrators.

■ The Knights’ NSW Cup team are playing for a berth in a grand final on Sunday and our under 20s are playing to survive into the penultimate week of the season. What an amazing time for these blokes.

For many of the NSW Cup guys, this represents their last chance to feel the satisfaction that few know but every player believes he deserves – a premiership.

For the under 20s, the hubris of youth will ensure they won’t be as concerned about tomorrows.

But I can assure them, for most, it may well also be their final chance at the senior level.

So leave nothing in the dressing room fellas and good hunting.

Tim Chidgey gives underdogs Southern Beaches shot at NHRU title

UNCOMPROMISING: Tim Chidgey at Southern Beaches training last night at Allan Davis Field. Picture: Simone De PeakTIM Chidgey thought it was a joke when told pre-season training at Southern Beaches consisted of a game of cricket.

Beaches had seemed content to tread water near the bottom of Premier Rugby when the two-time premiership winner at The Waratahs was appointed in 2011.

Four years in Premier One had yielded a meagre 13 wins, one in 2007, two in 2008, six in 2009 and four in 2010. Their best finish was eighth.

“The major issue was that they still had a First Division mentality, not a Premier Rugby mentality,” Chidgey told the Herald. “That is not being derogatory to anyone. That is just fact.

“People like saying clubs have a winning culture, but they don’t like to use the term losing culture.

“Losing was acceptable to Southern Beaches. A lot of people won’t like hearing that.

“There was an attitude of, ‘Oh well, we were competitive, or we were competitive up until half-time.’ You don’t get points for being competitive in the first 40 minutes.

“The first thing we had to do was change that.”

Similarly, as big an achievement as it is for the relative new boys, playing Wanderers in the grand final at No.2 Sportsground tomorrow is only half the job.

“Making the grand final is not enough,” Chidgey said.

“You have to win it.”

Chidgey knows how to win.

He guided The Waratahs to a premiership in his first year at the helm in 2003 and backed up with another in 2006. He has also tasted defeat, losing to Wanderers 10-3 in the 2005 decider.

Aside from the premierships, he guided Newcastle to successive Caldwell Cup titles.

Over the years he has crafted a winning formula and rarely diverted from it.

“Being really honest, if you had kids coming through Southern Beaches junior ranks five years ago, you wouldn’t want them graduating into a first-grade team that is losing by 100 points,” Chidgey said.

“The club lost Jay Strachan, Blake Creighton, the Gibson brothers, Brad and Mitch . . . they were Beaches juniors.

“You can’t blame them. As a parent I wouldn’t want my son playing first grade and getting his arse towelled week in week out.

“We had to change that and make sure kids wanted to stay and play for Beaches.

“We put structures in place around training, taught them about the culture of rugby, and said, ‘This is what you have to do to win.”‘

Chidgey also worked the phones. He recruited Charl van Niekerk, Nathan Tule and Kane Quinlan in his first year, adding muscle and experience to a group of talented youngsters headed by Andrew, Michael and Marty Delore, Hayden Gavin and Tyler Ostle.

Bang. They won 12 games and climbed to third, but they went out in consecutive finals games.

In 2012, Welshman Bleddyn Gant, experienced tall timber Mark O’Brien and point-scoring Kiwi Tim Riley arrived and they climbed another rung, but they finished in the same manner.

Undoubtedly the biggest coup has been the addition of two-time Anderson Medal winner and captain tomorrow Va Talaileva.

“You have to attract a few players,” Chidgey said.

“Picking up Va. It is not just what he does on the field – don’t get me wrong, he is a key player – but off the field he comes into his own.

“There are players you want to play alongside and players you want to play for. Va fits both bills.

“He is a hell of a leader and ideal for this club.”

Along with Talaileva came Central Coast quartet Matt Lanzini, Glenn Stone and Marshall and Logan Hemopo.

Long-term injuries to Talaileva and Delore brothers Mick and Andrew meant they missed the finals, but the building blocks were laid.

This season, Chidgey was sidelined after he and president Mitch Ostle copped a three-game suspension for their involvement in then suspended prop Willie Fraser playing in the Gunnedah 10s in the pre-season.

After beating Merewether 10-9 in round one, they dropped three games on the bounce to Hamilton (31-13), Wanderers (42-12) and The Waratahs (31-29).

Since then they have won 14 of 16, including the last eight.

“The pressure was on,” Chidgey said. “There was some self-doubt in the team, and a feeling of, ‘Is it going to be another tough year?’

“But you don’t win a competition in June; you have to be here in September.

“We have done the hard work and can reap the rewards now. I actually think it is harder to make the grand final. On the day it is whoever turns up and handles the pressure better.

“If we turn up and play the footy we can, especially the way we have improved the past three months, I think we can upset them.”

Moseley ready to fire again for Panthers

CLONCURRY’S Kierran Moseley will be out to go one step closer to winning back-to-back premierships with the Penrith Panthers on Sunday.
Nanjing Night Net

LEADING FROM THE FRONT: Kierran Moseley will be counted on to lead his Penrith NSW Cup side around the park on Sunday.

After leading the Panthers to glory in the Under-20s Toyota Cup last year, Moseley will line-up in their NSW Cup side in a preliminary final against the Wentworthville Magpies.

After taking out the minor premiership, the Panthers head into the match as favourites, sporting a host of players with first-grade experience as they aim to earn a grand final berth.

The 20-year-old hooker, who made his first grade debut against Manly a couple of weeks ago, says his team is prepared for the match.

“We all had last weekend off which re-charged the batteries a little but have had a big week on the training paddock starting from Monday,” Moseley said.

“Our coaches have made sure our sessions have been sharp and intense, as to prepare us for the match on Sunday.”

The Panthers and Magpies are the first match at Leichhardt Oval on Sunday starting at 1.10pm, followed by the Newcastle Knights and Illawarra Cutters match.

“We might go into the match as slight favourites but as our first grade side showed against the Roosters last week, that means nothing in the finals,” Moseley said.

“The coaches have emphasised that we can’t become complacent in the match and the importance of going in with a positive mindset.

“If we play to our potential, and in the structure set out by the coaches, we all know we can get the job done.”

With Parramatta’s first grade side out of the finals, many players with NRL experience such as Luke Kelly and Justin Hunt will line up for the Magpies.

“Wentworthville have a few boys coming back into the side this week with NRL experience, which will no doubt help their side,” Moseley said.

“In particular, their forward pack is massive and will be a handful.

“It’s up to our forwards to rise to the occasion and stick it to their forwards, because if they can hold their own, it should go a long way to helping us win.”

Penrith has plenty of first grade experience of their own including Wes and Kevin Naiqama, Nathan Smith and of course Moseley.

“Us younger boys will be looking to the more experienced guys in the team for leadership on the field,” Moseley said.

“Having tasted first grade myself, I know the level of intensity I need to bring each week.”

“The coaches pulled me aside after my debut and told me that now that I have experienced first grade, it’s up to me to prove that I can consistently play at that level, each in week out.”

Moseley was last week named in the under 20’s Australian squad, which will be finalised after grand final day.

“It’s a privilege to be in the squad once again, because anytime you have a chance to represent your country is an honour,” Moseley said.

“It’s not something that I’ll take lightly and one that I’ll grab with both hands.”

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.