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HALF TIME WITH MATT: Giving back

One of the great things about rugby league is the support and opportunities it gives you.  And even though my professional footy career is really just starting, there have already been an amazing number of people who have selflessly given their time and energy to help me get where I am today.

I have been fortunate enough to be employed by a company that has committed to support me with work, mentoring and a traineeship to ensure that whatever happens with my footy, I’ve got skills I can fall back on.

Billy Moore and Jeff Vaughan have been mentors for me since day one here at Gold Training. The leadership they show, advice they give and generosity to me is something I will always be thankful for. It has really helped me both at work and on the footy field.

Billy Moore is a Youth Ambassador and part of the leadership program here at Gold. Billy always takes time out to chat to me about how I’m going – at work, with footy and life. One of the things he strongly believes is that you can never learn too much. In every part of life, always try to learn as much as possible.

So when Gold Training offered me a traineeship and the opportunity to complete a qualification in Youth Work, I jumped at it. Youth work is something that has always interested me. Working with young people and helping them make the most of their own opportunities will be so rewarding.  I hope to participate in some of the amazing programs the NRL offer in the community and give back to a game that has given me so much.

Through my own experience of being mentored by Billy and Jeff, I’m motivated to make a difference and be a positive influence for the next generation.

So thanks to Gold Training for all your support. I can’t wait to get started.

usman

Why no Usman?

No matter what the sport is that we so passionately follow, we have all been guilty of becoming an armchair selector at times. Many of us believe we know far better than those charged with the responsibility of selecting our favoured teams. The most obvious selection quandary in cricket over the past week or so has been the non-inclusion of Usman Khawaja in the Australian short form teams in the One Day and T20 International series against India.

Now, Khawaja has been in scintillating form all summer and is making runs in all formats of the game every time he walks to the wicket. He has plundered New Zealand and the West Indies in the Test matches and made hundreds at will in the recently completed Big Bash League playing for the tournament champions the Sydney Thunder. Yes he has certainly been very impressive to watch. Unfortunately for Usman, this lack of selection maybe due to not making the most of his opportunities way back in October. Khawaja made his return from a long absence from the game with a knee injury when he played for Queensland in the Matador Cup just over three months ago. In Three matches in the One Day format he was only able to muster 90 runs at an average of 30 and a strike rate of 81. October may seem a long time ago but in fairness to the selectors they need to do their research and take these numbers in to account when making any selections.

If Khawaja is selected, then who misses? Is it Travis Head, the youngest and least experienced of the batsmen in the group? I would hope not as he had a very impressive Matador Cup (306 runs at a strike rate of 121), lit up Adelaide during the BBL and is clearly a player of the future on the Australian cricket landscape in all forms of the game. Chris Lynn? Well, there would have been a stampede throughout Queensland if he was left out after his performances during the BBL where he hit some of the biggest sixes on record. Is it Shane Watson who has a very impressive career in the shortest format, bats and bowls and has been a regular big game performer for all of the teams he plays for throughout the cricket world? Is it Maxwell, is it Shaun Marsh? It certainly can’t be Smith or Warner, so who is it that we move aside to make room for another?

The main point is that while we all agree that Khawaja would be a very worthy addition to our batting order, there is always the flip side of selection and for all of us armchair critics as we must find someone to leave out if we are to introduce a new / different player. In this case there has been a happy ending for Usman as he has been called in to the team for the recently injured Aaron Finch for the 3rd T20 International v India but the question still remains, if you want to select Usman in the short form team for the upcoming World T20, who is it that you leave out?

shaun tait

Three things we learnt from cricket this week

1. The Australian selectors have got it right.

Hats off to the Australian selectors for the decisions made for the upcoming Test tour of New Zeland and the T20 International.

The selection of Chadd Sayers is due reward for his outstanding record over the past four seasons and his wicket taking abilities. “Chaddy”, who has a heart equal to Pharlap’s, is often regarded as being too small, too slow and unable to get good players out on flatter wickets. Guess what? He has done it time after time on the flattest wicket in the land (Adelaide Oval) and has been one of the top three bowlers in the Sheffield Shield over that time. What Chadd continues to do is put the ball in areas that batsmen don’t like, ball after ball and over after over. He is able to bowl long spells, and most importantly gets the ball ‘off the straight’ by continually finding swing or seam in conditions other bowlers cannot. I am so pleased that Chadd has been rewarded for the years of hard work and most importantly his many wickets in all formats and levels of the game. New Zealand conditions should suit his bowling type and he may surprise a few by appearing very innocuous at first but then deceiving some of the best New Zeland has to offer. He will not let the team down and will be a very popular tour squad member.
While I am on the back patting, let me say well done on the selection of Shaun Tait for the upcoming T20 series v India was outstanding! Yes a few injuries to players made the selection a little easier, however the fact that Taity is still the fastest bowler in the land shows that if you are the best at any stage of your career then age doesn’t matter! Selectors should pick the best player available at that time, young or old.

Two other great T20 selections were that of Travis Head and Chris Lynn. Indeed it was obvious from the amount of runs they have made throughout the BBL tournament that they should be picked, however the selectors still need to find a position for them in the squad and I congratulate them on doing so.
Next Tuesday will be a massive Australia Day in Adelaide. Hopefully both Shaun Tait (Nairne, Adelaide Hills) and Travis Head (Gawler, North of Adelaide near the Barossa Valley) will be representing the country in the T20 v India at the picturesque Adelaide Oval. If this is the case we can expect two very quiet townships while they watch their local legends on the big stage and after expect one hell of a party to celebrate. Both townships, and both players love a cold beer and deserve to enjoy the achievements. Good luck lads!

2• Umpire safety gear should be taken seriously.

I applaud umpire Gerard Abood for having the courage to say “I will be the first umpire to wear a helmet”.

It is only a matter of time before we see an umpire get seriously injured from a ball struck by a batsman. The umpires are only one pitch length away from the batsman who are trying to launch the ball as far and as hard as they physically can. To add to this batsman are also often looking to hit the ball straight back over the bowlers head. There is the possibility of a ricochet off the bowlers hand or the stumps and they stand very little chance of getting out of the way in time.
I witnessed first-hand the danger of umpiring a few years back when the Redbacks were having a centre wicket practice. I was stand-in umpire at the bowlers end with head coach Darren Berry directly behind me watching proceedings. Aiden Blizzard, who is renowned for his T20 exploits belted a ball hard, flat and very fast back past the bowler that was zeroing in on my rib cage. Luckily I was able to fly out of the way of it a find safety. Unfortunately Chuck, our head coach wasn’t quite as nimble and while attempting to exit the scene copped the ball flush in his chest. As you can imagine there was quite some pain, gasping for air and possibly a couple of broken ribs. What it did do that day was show quite a few people in the training session just how dangerous watching from close proximity can be. What it lead to was me at times using a helmet while coaching / throwing balls to batsman in T20 mode. The coaching staff are regularly seen throwing balls in preparation to batsman from about three quarters of a pitch length. The batsman are rightly practicing belting the ball as far and as hard as they can, as they are expected to do this come game time. I wisely chose to wear a helmet and a box during these “fun” sessions (fun for the batsman, scary for the coach).
We saw Richard Kettleborough get hit on the leg in the recent ODI in Canberra and have to leave the field. He was lucky that his injuries turned out to be minor and I am sure that he, as well as the umpire fraternity have opened their eyes to the ‘what if’. In the near future I really hope to see more, if not all umpires, wearing helmets and whatever protective equipment required to remain safe.

3• The BBL was once again a success.

There is no doubt that the Big Bash League is great for the game of cricket. It has been an amazing success by attracting new people to our great sport, getting plenty of coverage on TV, putting spectators in the stands, and generating lots of discussion around backyard BBQ’s and cricket matches over the Christmas holiday period. I applaud all who have been involved but at the same time ask and encourage that we don’t tamper with the concept too much in years to come. I believe there may be a slight increase in the amount of games being played next year and / or beyond and can gather that the ideal draw would be a home and away match for all teams against each other. However we must be careful, as we do not want the season to be too long or too drawn out. At the moment every single game is vitally important to a teams season. If we see some teams with still three to four games remaining not able to play in the finals that would create boring and irrelevant matches. This to me would see some people tuning out and we run the risk of them never returning. We all know that this happens in the footy codes throughout winter and I really hope that we don’t reach that stage in the T20 format. We have a wonderful tournament full of excitement and intrigue. Let’s hope we keep it that way.

Enjoy the T20 Internationals!

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5 things we have learnt from cricket this summer

In the latest of our Cricket reviews, Jeff Vaughan reflects on the Cricket season thus far and gives us something to look forward to. 

1• How disappointing was the Sydney Test due to inclement weather and how poor were the West Indies during the Test series?

The West Indies have been poor all summer and it is really sad seeing the current state of the game in this once very exciting team of quality skilled players. It must break the hearts of former players like Richardson, Ambrose and Walsh to be involved with and to see the current day players delivering so poorly.  They show no real excitement, passion or enjoyment for the great game. It is a poor state of affairs indeed. The big question is, when, and if we will see the West Indies compete in another Test series in Australia? I really hope it is very soon and that they can once again be at the top of the game playing the cricket we all know they can deliver.

Also, I was incredibly sad for all involved in the McGrath foundation to see the entirety of Day 3 rained out and no ability to truly celebrate what a wonderfully giving charity this has become. No doubt people will still show support by offering donations and bidding for the Pink “Baggies” but unfortunately some supportive cash was definitely lost that day due to no play.

2• The Big Bash League has been potentially the biggest injection of excitement to Cricket for the public and the players ever!

It seems that it is at a perfect time of year for people to attend, everyone seems to be watching it every night on the TV, and it brings new people to the game every day. People who go 11 months of the year not really thinking about cricket really get into this format and enjoy all it has to offer. Well done to all involved for making it such a wonderful spectacle!

3• Is Chris Lynn the most unlucky player to miss selection for the Aussie One Day team?

Lynn is in scintillating form at the moment. He has hit more 6’s than any other player in the history of the BBL and seems to be getting runs every time he goes out to bat. Surely he will play a big part in our T20 World Cup team to be played in India in a few months time. I would have loved to have seen him in the middle order of the Aussie line up for the One Dayers’ but as is always the case, if you want to put another player in the selectors would need to leave someone out.

4• I hope everyone was able to see the Innings from Travis Head from the Strikers on New Year’s Eve.

If you haven’t yet seen it, do yourself a favour and have a look at the innings up online. Quite simply it was some of the cleanest hitting you could ever wish to see. The Strikers were completely gone from the match, not looking like they would get within 30 runs of the target that the Sydney Sixes set them. This was until Travis (along with some poor “length” bowling) stole the match quicker than a blink of the eye! It was some truly awesome hitting and it would be wise to keep your eyes on this young man. I have mentioned before that we will see Travis in Australian colours very, very soon and he will quickly become a fan favourite.

Trav is a very down to earth young man from the Gawler area North of Adelaide. He is laid back, loves chilling out with his mates and having a good time. What people don’t see underneath this laid back exterior is an incredibly gifted, extremely tough and driven young man who is honing his craft as well as his leadership qualities at great speed. Trav is on track to take the cricketing world by storm. Remember the name!

It is a a great result for Australian cricket to have players like Head and Lynn putting real pressure on the big boys for spots in the team. We will see a lot more from both of these players for many years to come.

5• The most exciting part of the summer is still ahead of us.

Whilst we have seen plenty of Test cricket this summer, there is still the One Day series as well as the T20 Internationals to come. India are very strong in the shorter form of the game so expect some stiff competition from them. Along with some quality opposition we also get to see some new names injected into the Australian team. Any time there are debutantes and youngsters around, we as spectators love to sit and watch them, learn about how they play the game, decide if we rate them and their skills and get excited about what may come in the future.

With the ball in the hands of names like Kane Richardson, Joel Paris, Scott Boland there will be plenty of that excitement over the next few weeks. Whilst I am very much keen for the One Day thrillers I am however looking forward to the Test series in New Zealand through February. For me, that is our real test and what I am most looking forward to for the remainder of the summer.

Enjoy the Cricket!

voges

5 things we learnt from the Hobart Test

1. How sad is the state of West Indies cricket.

I mean that sincerely. They were completely outplayed by the Australian team and beaten by more than an innings , and given that we declared at only four wickets down the margin could have been far greater! Something needs to happen and cricket needs to help this once great nation regain their deserved place in the upper echelon of World Cricket. We as a game need to use the T20 format to our advantage and ensure that ALL nations remain strong, financially sound and continue to produce players for the next generation to witness.

2. Poor preparation is costly.

Far too often we see teams come to Australia and go into the Test matches with little preparation in our conditions. It then takes the visitors the first Test match to adjust and start to perform. Once again the Windies were under prepared with only a two-day game against a very inexperienced Cricket Australia team to prepare them for the rigours of the Test arena. Then, the first session bit once again! So often we say how important the first day, the first session, the first hour is to a series. Well, would you believe the match started with…… yes you guessed it, a no ball. It did not just occur in the first over, but the second as well with each Roach and Taylor bowling illegal deliveries. What followed were deliveries that were too full and too short on both sides and plenty of boundaries from some nice batting from the Aussie openers. This resulted in Australia reaching the 50 mark in just 7.4 overs which included ten boundaries in 35 minutes! Game, Set and Match Australia.

3. Smith declared too early.

Who else wanted Steve Smith to delay the declaration at lunch on day two to allow Adam Voges to continue his epic innings and push towards 300 and possibly beyond? I certainly was! There was still plenty of time left in the Test match and we were almost certainly not going to bat again. Therefore I would have loved Voges to have had the opportunity to do something special. It is exciting for the game to have players achieve records and let’s hope that someone has a chance to do something special in the next couple of Test matches and Smith allows them an extra hour or two to thrill the crowd.

4. Big names need to stand up!

All teams from all sports rely on the senior players to stand up, lead the way, direct the other players and to win games for their team. Unfortunately the West Indies had none of that in the first Test and it seems none in the warm up match and very little of recent times in any big matches. Marlon Samuels is one of the most frustrating players to watch on the planet. He clearly has some talent and some skill and should really be performing more than his 34 average suggests, however the outward appearance of being “too cool for school”, or “I better not be seen to be trying too hard” really gets under my skin. His yawning in the field, jogging after balls while fielding and general lack of outward enthusiasm would be incredibly tough to endure as a team mate or as a supporter watching in the crowd. Kemar Roach and Jerome Taylor are in a similar boat in my opinion. They had a massive role on day one of the series and they both appeared to go missing when their team needed them the most. The pair bowled poorly in the opening overs and got hit to all parts of the ground. When they were finally asked to return by the skipper the damage was already done and the Test and the series had already eluded them.

5. It’s time to look forward!

The rest of this series seemingly has little interest, but make no mistake there is plenty on the line for many current players who are striving to forge a long term spot in the Baggy Green. Does Khawaja come straight back in? If so, who is it for? Does Shaun Marsh make way? Is it Burns that gets dropped? Do we continue to play Mitchell Marsh as the all-rounder? And most importantly, how will this Australian team go on the road with the first real challenge being New Zeland in February? Winning on the road is the challenge that Darren Lehmann and Steve Smith have spruiked to this team and will determine how they will be truly judged. Our selections need to mirror the thoughts and plans of the team for the next 12 – 18 months. In my opinion I think the selectors will show faith in Burns and that Khawaja will come back in to the team using the old “last man in, first man out” mentality. Unfortunately this then leaves an unlucky Shaun Marsh on the sidelines.

In saying that I am really looking forward to see what happens and I will be a very interested spectator in the stands of the magnificent MCG come Boxing Day!

Merry Christmas to all!
Jeff Vaughan