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St George Illawarra lose again and by a convincing margin. Nothing new here, next sport story!

Sadly for proud and expectant Dragons fans, this is too common of a storyline.

Success has been as rare as hens teeth at Kogarah and Wollongong since the Wayne Bennett era. For Dragons fans, anything less than being a premiership threat will never be accepted.

St George fans demand success and will no doubt ask the club’s administration why it has accepted such lean returns in the past five or six years. Why has this once great club fallen so far considering the plethora of talent at its disposal?

A small part of the answer is that other NRL clubs have lifted their game and are operating in a far more sophisticated manner than they ever have before. The NRL standard of excellence has never been higher. The level of professionalism on the playing field and on the training field continues to evolve. Any club that does not evolve and adapt to these rising standards will perish.

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Paul McGregor has had a solid career as an NRL coach, though at times through his tenure he has been unlucky. His win-loss record of 49 per cent is certainly not the worst in the NRL.

The man can coach. He has taken the Dragons to the top of the ladder, but the team found ways to not stay there.

McGregor’s win-loss record would be enough to get a contract extension at most clubs, but not at St George – not as far as their fans are concerned.

Therein lies the problem. The current culture at St George Illawarra and the expectations of their fan-base are poles apart.

Mediocrity will never be accepted by fans of the red V. The Dragons fan-base is the hardest in the NRL to keep happy. Being in charge of the St George Illawarra Dragons is a pressure cooker environment.

A blindfolded bat could see that extending the contract of a coach who has not taken the Dragons to the third or fourth week of a final series with such a talented player roster was a bad move by management. It was also perceived as an endorsement of a culture of mediocrity.

Dragons fans embrace mediocrity as much as Donald Trump embraces climate change.

If McGregor resigns or is sacked, whoever comes in to replace him will be stepping up to arguably the toughest coaching job in all of Australian sport.

There is one thing for sure. McGregor’s days at the helm at the Dragons are certainly numbered.

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I have many childhood memories of watching Test cricket on television and at the SCG – there’s just something about the long form of the game that makes the stakes feel so much higher.

Bragging rights would usually go to the country that wins a Test series, not T20 or one-day internationals matches, as important as they are.

However, there is one fact nobody can deny: Test cricket is on the decline. It’s a slow decline, but its demise is inevitable.

If you look at Test matches over the past five years, there are two common features: lots of empty seats and shrinking television audiences.

With modern living, none of us has the time to devote five days of our lives to following a game, especially given there’s a chance of there being no result. There is little or no television and streaming audience when a match is played while we’re all at work.

It’s time for change. I know that many people will say that there have been changes, such as night-time matches for instance. Sure, this is a good move; however, it is not the silver bullet.

(Albert Perez – CA/Cricket Australia/Getty Images)

Cricket is now all about setting totals, run rates and exciting run chases. It is about batsmen fighting to preserve their wicket while finding innovative ways to keep the scoreboard ticking. It is more about bowlers finding creative ways to limit scoring and less about getting dismissals, although that is of course the bowling team’s primary objective.

It is about having a winner and a loser, not having matches drawn.

Test cricket is not about any of these things. It has become irrelevant to the modern paradigm of cricket. It is time to shorten the length of the matches, ensure every Test gets a result and make Test cricket more relevant to other forms of cricket in the 21st century.

It pains me to imagine any forced changes made to Test cricket, a form of the sport that has existed since the 19th Century. It is the conduit that connects Donald Bradman, Garfield Sobers, Richard Hadlee, Viv Richards and Shane Warne to modern-day players.

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Nevertheless, I would prefer to have something from the traditional form of cricket than nothing at all to live on.

So with all that said, here is my idea.

A three-day Test format featuring 100 overs per day. Each team gets two innings. The first innings is 100 overs each over the first two days. The second innings is 50 overs for each team on the third day.

The winner is the team that has accumulated the most runs.

My model is not perfect, I know. What if it rains? What if there is bad light? Isn’t this just a longer version of one-day cricket?

Perhaps a fourth day could be played in these circumstances, or there could be provisions to play extra overs across the three days to make up for lost time.

Think of the possibilities. The Australian players would have fewer commitments to national duties and may be available for more of the Big Bash League. Three days is much less strenuous for fast bowlers, prolonging their Test careers instead of making more attractive the money of lucrative T20 tournaments around the world.

Imagine the selection debates and dilemmas. Do you pick a Glen Maxwell-type player? Do you choose Alex Carey over Tim Paine? It creates intrigue.

Cricket is at a crossroads. It can either stand by and watch Test cricket continue its slow decline, or it can redefine the long format’s relevance as the No. 1 form of cricket we all love.

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The Wallabies will look to launch into The Rugby Championship for 2019 with a bang as they get set to square off with South Africa on the road.

The match is scheduled for kick-off at 1:05am (AEST) on Sunday, July 21 with it to be held at the Ellis Park Stadium in Johannesburg.

While the Rugby World Cup is the primary focus for all nations this year, The reduced Rugby Championship provides a good opportunity for high level warm-ups in a still very important competition for the four biggest rugby nations in the Southern Hemisphere.

Key game information: The Rugby Championship 2019 Round 1, South Africa vs Australia

Date: Sunday, July 21 (Saturday, July 20 local)
Kick-off: 1:05am (AEST) – 5:05am (local time)
Venue: Ellis Park Stadium, Johannesburg
TV: Live, Fox Sports 506 and Channel 10
Online: Live, Kayo Sports, Foxtel App, Foxtel Now, TenPlay
Betting: Springboks $1.58, Wallabies $2.40
Referee: Paul Williams (New Zealand)

Teams

South Africa
15. Warrick Gelant, 14. Sbu Nkosi, 13. Jesse Kriel, 12. André Esterhuizen, 11. Makazole Mapimpi, 10. Elton Jantjies, 9. Herschel Jantjies, 8. Francois Louw, 7. Pieter-Steph du Toit, 6. Rynhardt Elstadt, 5. Lood de Jager, 4. Eben Etzebeth (captain), 3. Trevor Nyakane, 2. Bongi Mbonambi, 1. Tendai Mtawarira.

Replacements: 16. Schalk Brits, 17. Lizo Gqoboka, 18. Vincent Koch, 19, Marvin Orie, 20. Marcell Coetzee, 21. Cobus Reinach, 22. Frans Steyn, 23. Dillyn Leyds.

Australia
15. Tom Banks, 14. Dane Haylett-Petty, 13. Tevita Kuridrani, 12. Samu Kerevi, 11. Reece Hodge, 10. Bernard Foley, 9. Nic White, 8. Isi Naisarani, 7. Michael Hooper (captain), 6. Lukhan Salakaia-Loto, 5. Rory Arnold, 4. Izack Rodda, 3. Sekope Kepu, 2. Folau Fainga’a, 1. James Slipper.

Replacements: 16. Jordan Uelese, 17. Harry Johnson-Holmes, 18. Taniela Tupou, 19. Rob Simmons, 20. Jack Dempsey, 21. Will Genia, 22. Matt To’omua, 23. Kurtley Beale.

Don’t forget to tune into The Roar from 12:50am (AEST) on Sunday morning for our live coverage, including a blog and highlights, of all the action in this opening Rugby Championship match from Johannesburg.

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The Western Sydney Wanderers will get their official start to the new A-League season when they play their first ever match at Bankwest Stadium in Parramatta against the touring English club, Leeds United. Here you can find all the information you need to know about the big match.

Kick-off in the friendly fixture is scheduled for 7pm (AEST) on Saturday, June 20.

The match is anticipated to finish shortly before 9pm (AEST).

After a couple of painful seasons at Homebush while the new Parramatta venue was built, the Wanderers will finally return home, with a match against one of England’s Championship clubs in Leeds.

This will be the first hit out for Wanderers, with their first competitive match in the FFA Cup just weeks away, while the Leeds club are coming off a thumping at the hands of Manchester United in Perth.

Key game information: Football friendly, Western Sydney Wanderers vs Leeds United

Date: Saturday, June 20
Kick-off: 7pm (AEST).
Venue: Bankwest Stadium, Parramatta
TV: Live, BeIN Sports
Online: Live, Kayo Sports, Foxtel App, Foxtel Now, BeIN Sports Connect, Fetch TV via Optus
Betting: Leeds $1.65, Wanderers $2.40

Squads

Western Sydney Wanderers
Daniel Lopar, Dylan McGowan, Daniel Georgievski, Kosta Grozos, Jordan O’Doherty, Radosław Majewski, Bruce Kamau, Mitchell Duke, Tass Mourdoukoutas, Mathieu Cordier, Keanu Baccus, Pirmin Schwegler,Vedran Janjetovic, Tarek Elrich, Kwame Yeboah, Fabian Monge, Daniel Wilmering, Tate Russell, Patrick Ziegler, Nicholas Suman, Danijel Nizic

Leeds United
Kiko Casilla, Kamil Miazek, Barry Douglas, Liam Cooper, Stuart Dallas, Gaetano Berardi, Bryce Hosannah, Clarke Oduor, Adam Forshaw, Pablo Hernandez, Jack Harrison, Kalvin Phillips, Jordan Stevens, Mateusz Bogusz, Kemar Roofe, Patrick Bamford

Broadcast information

The match will be shown exclusively in Australia on BeIN Sports, which is available through Foxtel.

You can also stream the match online through Kayo Sports, the Foxtel App, Foxtel Now, BeIN Sports Connect or Fetch TV.

We will also cover the game here at The Roar with live scores and a blog from 6:45pm (AEST).

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Round 18 NRL action began at the Warriors’ second home, Wellington’s Westpac Stadium, and the ‘cake tin’ played host to a wet and slippery encounter between two desperate teams.

Off the back of four straight losses, another defeat for John Morris’ Sharks threatened to make semi-final football highly unlikely in 2019.

Despite the Warriors living another inconsistent and frustrating season, they sat just one point behind the Sharks leading into the match, knowing a win would keep their somewhat remote finals chances alive for at least one more week.

A penalty goal to Issac Luke had the Warriors in front early before a ninth-minute try to Briton Nikora proved the perfect response for the visitors.

When Matt Moylan scythed through the Warriors defence just moments later and Chad Townsend supported through the centre to score, the favoured Sharks looked set to take control.

Shaun Johnson converted both tries and the floodgates appeared likely to open. To the Warriors credit, they didn’t and, when Blake Green crossed after a great solo run in the 24th minute, the conversion saw the visitors back within four points and down 12-8.

What followed was a flow of possession and pressure for the Warriors and how the Sharks kept them scoreless in the lead up to half-time is something of a mystery. Going into the break, the home side looked well on top and the Sharks were staring down the well of a fifth consecutive defeat.

After the break, the Warriors kept brewing and a questionable decision to kick a penalty goal in the 55th minute brought them within two points.

As is often the case with penalty goals that sacrifice field position and have the conceding team pleased their line remained intact, the momentum swung quickly and Sosaia Feki crossed in the corner for the Sharks within minutes.

Johnson’s precise conversion stretched the lead to 18-10, yet the teeter-totter nature of the match was to continue when Kodi Nikorima burst through some poor Cronulla defence to score a converted try in the 63rd minute.

With 15 minutes remaining and the Sharks ahead 18-16, the proverbial grandstand finish seemed likely.

And then, from nowhere yet somewhat predictably, the ill-disciplined footballing goose struck again. Andrew Fifita produced a needless late and shoulder driven hit on a Cronulla decoy runner to gift the Warriors two points and condemn himself to ten minutes in the sin bin.

Andrew Fifita had another brain snap. (AAP Image/Joe Castro)

That was all the momentum the Warriors required and despite a few hairy moments, Blake Green iced the game in the 76th minute with a successful field goal attempt. The Sharks had a late chance to level through Townsend, yet his field goal attempt drifted wide and the Warriors condemned the Sharks to yet another loss.

In the later game, Penrith jumped the Dragons early at Panthers Stadium after a dubious try to Brian To’o and a Brent Naden four-pointer set up an early 10-0 lead for the home side.

Losing three from their last four, things began to look familiarly ominous for the Dragons. However, after a poor James Maloney kick crossed the sideline on the full, they managed to swing the tide of possession.

Mikaele Ravalawa scored in the corner almost immediately and Josh Kerr stormed over the line after excellent lead-up work from Cameron McInnes in the 35th minute. The Corey Norman conversion sent the Dragons to an unlikely 12-10 lead before To’o beat appalling defence from Kerr and Korbin Sims to cross late in the half and re-establish the Panthers’ lead prior to the break.

Seeking their seventh win on the trot and holding a 16-12 lead, the second half presented a season-defining opportunity for Penrith.

They came to the party and parlayed the late first-half points into a quick start in the second. Tries to Moses Leota, Nathan Cleary and Naden’s second saw them skip clear to a 34-12 lead after 57 minutes.

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Reagan Campbell-Gillard crashed over in the 61st to further embarrass the Dragons and holding a 40-12 lead, Penrith were well and truly home in front of a raucous home crowd.

New South Wales forward Paul Vaughan did manage to cross the line late for the Dragons to pull the Red V back within 22, yet his try came against 12 men, as Penrith forward Viliame Kikau sat in the sin bin after a seemingly harsh decision to remove him from the field of play.

The losses condemn both the Sharks and Dragons to a season of lament and one without finals action. Given their rosters, their fans are entitled to ask some serious questions.

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The abbreviated Rugby Championship starts this weekend, Argentina host New Zealand in what is set to be a very tantalising match-up in Buenos Aires.

The Pumas will be looking to build on the success the Jaguares had in Super Rugby. Their team has a large contingent of Jaguare players and been boosted with flyhalf Nicholas Sanchez returning.

They will have the belief they can claim their first victory over the All Blacks in their 29th clash.

The All Blacks will have a slightly under-strength team with experienced players such as Kieran Read and Sam Whitelock staying back in New Zealand after being part of the victorious Crusaders Super Rugby team.

There are five players making their debut, with Sevu Reece starting on the right wing. The other four (Atu Moli, Luke Jacobson, Josh Ioane and Braydon Ennor) will be on the bench.

Here are four key match ups for the fixture.

1. Augustin Creevy versus Dane Coles
The two veteran hookers with contrasting styles of play will both be key figures on the weekend. Creevy always has a large involvement with strong ball carries close to the ruck and the ability to be a nuisance at the breakdown.

His presence and experience is always missed when the routine substitutions are made early in the second half. The Pumas are a better team when is on the field.

After missing a large amount of the international season last year due to injury, Dane Coles will be firing to get regular Test match rugby again.

The dynamic hooker offers great speed and mobility around the field and will challenge the Argentine defence if he is able to roam free. Coles will be an experienced head in what is a relatively new forward pack for the All Blacks for this Test.

2. The lineout
The Puma duo of Guido Petti Pagadizaval and Tomas Lavanini were key components in disrupting opposition lineout ball in Super Rugby. Their brilliant defensive reads for the Jaguares against the Brumbies was a major influence in advancing to the Super Rugby final.

Petti Pagadizaval led lineout steals with 11 during the Super Rugby season. Both locks are also prominent in general play. Lavanini shows great physicality (when it is done within the rules).

Petti is a great athlete with his long strides can make effective line breaks.

There will be a big ask on the world-class Brodie Retallick due to not having his long time locking companion Sam Whitelock with him for this test.

Retallick will need to shoulder more responsibility in the lineout as the senior second rower. Having Vaea Fifita at blindside flanker gives the All Blacks an athletic lineout option. Fifita took 43 lineouts during Super Rugby season.

3. Pablo Matera versus Ardie Savea
These two exceptional loose forwards may not directly mark each other on the weekend but expect both to have a large influence on this game. Both players can easily put a case up as the best player in Super Rugby this year.

Puma skipper Matera was named man of the match in the Super Rugby final for his ability to making large runs with ball in hand and quality work on defence. Matera showed his complete array of skills with 34 tackle busts, 18 offloads and 492 kick metres this year in Super Rugby.

Savea will start at number eight as he did against the Pumas in 2018. His acceleration off the base of the scrum and ability to make metres in contact will be important for the All Blacks to play with front foot ball.

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He will also work in tandem with Sam Cane to dominate the breakdown.

4. The midfield
The established pairing of Jeronimo de la Fuente and Matais Orlando will have great synergy after playing together for the Jaguares this season.

Both are skilful players who can challenge defences on attack with their great running lines and Latin flair. Orlando scored nine tries in Super Rugby (eighth overall).

Anton Lienert-Brown and Ngani Laumape will want to make the most of a rare starting opportunity in a black jersey. This combination is well balanced with Laumape’s powerful direct running style being supported by the all-round game of Lienert-Brown.

Laumpae will be utilised to get over the gain line and attack the try-line in close. He will need to be mindful of the Argentine pairing as they exposed his defence when the Jagaures beat the Hurricanes.

Lienert-Brown is New Zealand’s form midfielder where he was in the top five in carries (third), defenders beaten (fourth) and offloads (second) during Super Rugby.

These four areas will determine the outcome of what will be an enthralling fixture. A confident and cohesive playing group will be up against a New Zealand team that is trying new combinations and has an inexperienced reserve bench (25 combined caps).

I am expecting a close game with the All Blacks big-name players leading by example for a victory of 12 points.

Roarers, what is your prediction?

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Something is happening with the team from Tullamarine.

It appears Essendon are developing composure in the final quarter each week and intelligent football-playing minds besides the run and dash off half-back for three or fewer quarters a game.

Let’s put the season in perspective as there have been several Roar Gurus questioning Essendon’s form and top eight credentials.

At the start of the season, an article was posted with such sentiments and last week another article was posted along similar lines, but these writers may need to revise their thought processes.

Without their key full forward (Joe Daniher), without their all-star tackle wizard (Devon Smith), without all three first-team ruckmen, without Orazio Fantasia’s forward goal poaching brilliance and without their All Australian defender (Michael Hurley), Essendon did something remarkable last night by beating Adelaide away from home soil – their first away win this season.

With Dyson Heppell nursing a fractured foot of sorts, playing through the pain barrier no doubt, and Essendon falling 30 points behind Adelaide halfway through the second quarter, who would have bet on the Bombers coming from behind to win their fourth game in a row?

Yet they did just that to win another finals style match given the ladder positioning.

Essendon won by playing aggressive football on the break off half-back, which they are widely known for, but they also won via highly contested football at the stoppages and winning their way forward via the outside corridor for the most part.

More importantly, Essendon won the game via a composed team effort with some thoughtful football and that’s what may be changing. They often picked out their players and delivered kicks with more accuracy and forward-thinking, in addition to their quick runs off half-back.

Players like Conor McKenna are now using their mind to find targets after running off half-back with dashing speed, instead of just kicking bombs forward to the opposition.

Midfielders like Zach Merrett and Dylan Shiel decided to kick for goal on the 50-metre line instead of passing short to forward line mayhem. They backed themselves in and actually kicked set shot goals. Many of them.

Perhaps someone got them all drilling kicks from set shots in the last month?

Players like Jake Stringer have adapted to play relentless teamwork-oriented football alongside their outrageous skills and tackling. The young defenders have stood up without Hurley, allowing Hooker to go forward and transform another football game with key forwards missing for the second or third game in a row.

And what can we say about mercurial Anthony McDonald-Tipungwuti? He played a different role, playing deeper and running down every player in sight after his match-winning goal last week.

At the start of the season, I said Essendon were a five-to-seven placed prospect. It was another rough start to the season, which had Dons fans reaching for the headache pills.

On top of that, there was a rather unfortunate umpire memory lapse about the clear rule that concedes a free kick where any opposition team member climbs the goal post when a player is kicking for goal, and some very questionable umpiring in the Anzac game against Collingwood, where Essendon lost by four points yet won three quarters of football.

(Photo by Paul Kane/Getty Images)

It was clear the Bombers looked to be unlucky on top of the poor start. Those eight points (or, at least four points) could have seen Essendon sitting second on the AFL ladder this morning or inside the top four.

We cannot dwell on such misfortune, as results cannot be changed – especially when relying on the AFL to do the right thing and overrule such a huge breach of umpiring and player madness.

I have never seen a player climb a goal post so high and never seen the AFL write such an insipid explanation for such a major error in umpiring. I digress.

The results from these games onwards leave me to think Essendon are a solid top-eight team, especially given their injuries over the course of the season and, in particular, the last half a dozen games.

We can confirm Essendon have work to do against top four teams that beat them well after the season got rolling properly, namely the likes of Geelong, West Coast and Richmond. The Bombers like dry ground for their elite running style and pace and gave Brisbane a good beating which seems like a pretty good result now.

I realise the season is not done yet and Essendon’s percentage is one of the lowest in the top eight, which means they may need to make the final eight by one outright win, making their job a tad more difficult.

It could be very close still if they can’t finish on level points with the teams placed fifth to eighth with inferior percentage.

I don’t believe the club can finish top four either, but this is a team with a core of young players only getting better in McKenna, Mason Redman, Martin Gleeson, Matt Guelfi, Mark Beguely, Aaron Francis, Darcy Parish, Andrew McGrath, Jordan Ridley, Brandon Zerk-Thatcher and hopefully a new agile ruckman in Sam Draper.

There are more as well. For the first time in over a decade or more, Essendon has depth emerging in the squad and plenty of time with them.

These are in essence baby Bombers. Remember that team anyone?

Sure they may still lack an inside midfielder that has eluded them since Jobe Watson left.

We can confirm Essendon is decimated with key injuries and the Gold Coast game must not be taken lightly after four huge finals-style matches.

Funny results have happened all season but a win up at Vegas on the beach would give Essendon a big chance before another round of finals-style matches with Port Adelaide, the Bulldogs and Collingwood.

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Not to mention another two matches interstate after last night’s trip to Adelaide.

If only Essendon could have a seven-game run-in at the MCG like Richmond instead of playing at five different grounds in the last seven games going interstate three times.

We can’t make excuses as that’s football thanks to the wonderful fixture planning by the AFL.

The injuries still make it difficult for Essendon but maybe everyone can start to acknowledge that Essendon are a top-eight team even if they have not reached the heights of a top-four team without their full complement of elite players available consistently all season let alone the exodus since Hurley, Fantasia and all three ruckmen went down let alone Heppell hanging missing a few games as he soldiers on.

Let’s hope Gold Coast don’t provide another 50 to 1 upset this season which seems to happen each round this year.

Let’s also hope Heppell can keep playing through the pain barrier with a genetic foot disorder. Maybe he should have the operation immediately at the end of September as next year Essendon will need its captain to enjoy pushing those baby Bombers to the top four.

You never know, Essendon could win a finals game and silence the doubters, let alone win two of them, but it’s hard to predict with the long term injured players they have probably not coming back to play this season.

Next season could get very interesting Bombers fans.

Dear Santa, please let Essendon re-sign Sam Draper so we can have an agile young ruckman for the first time since Paddy Ryder left – even if Draper needs more experience and is a gamble.

Icing on the cake. Please find an elite inside midfielder. Nat Fyfe would be fine. Result from cake baking with these requests granted is a premiership flag. Happy for this note to go to Adrian Dodoro.

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As the Dragons capitulate to another thumping, the calls for head coach Paul McGregor to leave are now almost unanimous.

This, however, leaves Dragons fans shifting approach from should McGregor go to the much more open-ended: who replaces him?

A valid question indeed, as not many coaches are on the market right now and those that are, Anthony Griffin, Geoff Toovey and Jason Taylor to name a few, are not names that inspire any significant hope.

Then there are always the calls for a new contender to be given their chance, with Craig Fitzgibbon and Jason Demetriou’s names coming up.

A choice with more risk but perhaps a higher reward threshold than the established options, this would seem possible as the Dragons have shown a penchant for giving new coaches their big break.

However, neither of those pathways looks especially promising for a fan-base that has long been known to bay for the coaches head rather quickly. Dragons fans expect excellence and sometimes this expectation is justified and sometimes it is misguided.

At this point in the joint venture’s history, the expectation of results is justified.

As highlighted in last week’s article, the Dragons boast a roster many would kill for, yet on game day they look like a reserve grade squad. They need a good coach to right the wrongs of the past and they need one now.

Enter Craig Bellamy.

As a match it is a perfect fit. Bellamy’s best qualities as a coach are getting his team to play to their potential and transitioning young players into fully-fledged first graders.

These are the two areas the Dragons desperately need help with, especially with a slew of promising youngsters who aren’t quite performing the way the club would like.

But how do the Dragons get Bellamy up to Wollongong? Firstly, it must be pointed out that it is not an unattractive offer for Bellamy. Much of the legwork has already been done in the club’s recruiting, unlike at a similarly coachless team in the Titans, they just need someone to make all the pieces fit.

If Bellamy wants to cement his position as an all-time great coach among the likes of Wayne Bennett and Jack Gibson, he still needs to win a premiership with more than one club, as those two before him have done.

That will no doubt be in his mind as he considers his next professional move and the Dragons could be the perfect route to immortal status.

The biggest hurdle would seemingly be extrapolating Craig Bellamy from Melbourne, as he just signed a new contract that would carry him through to 2021 and the southern club would no doubt fight ferociously to keep him.

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This is where the Dragons board would need to be ruthlessly pragmatic. If recent reports of the club’s cash windfall are correct, St George leagues club has around $12 million in the bank and their new investors, WIN Corporation, are far from cash strapped.

To lure Bellamy out would eat up quite a lot of this money, as would the budgeting for the tax on spending over $5.93 million on support staff that comes into effect in 2020.

We know that clubs are willing to do this, as the Ivan Cleary situation last year proved, but no doubt snaring Bellamy away from Melbourne would be another level up.

That is where the Dragons have to decide what sort of club they will be for the next five to ten years.

Are they going to be satisfied with mediocre results with Mary? Hope that a new, but unproven, coach will be their savior? Or, will they dig deep and do everything they can to be winners?

The Dragons need Bellamy and Bellamy could use the Dragons. The Saints are as rich as they have likely ever been and their corporate partners will no doubt be willing to pay for success.

The only question is: will they have the courage to even attempt making an offer at Bellamy? Recent history would suggest not, but maybe the prayers of a few thousand Saints could change the fortune of the struggling club.

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I’ve been told that there are certain stories or moments in a journalist’s life that shape how they report on the world. I’d thought this was a bit extreme, a bit too serious.

The other night, staring at the end credits and listening to Paul Kelly, it clicked. Following a restless night of internal debate on the ground-breaking documentary The Final Quarter, I thought I’d learnt something.

Then I had a look at social media, and a different lesson shone through in brutal coldness.

The reflection on the latter stages of Adam Goodes’ career had severely challenged me. I remember the incidents mentioned. I remember hearing he was ‘staging’, acting, sliding in with the knees. A pitiful excuse for a tirade of boos. Is there a more negative sound than an aggressive and hostile boo?

But at the time, I knew no better. I agreed that some of his actions weren’t great, and I was blinded by a nation of hatred. Watching the documentary, guilt racked me. Took me over. Despite being barely a teenager, I was a part of an ignorant collective who provided no respite.

Throughout the remaining hours of the night, questions and answers flickered through my mind like an intense press conference. Why did no one think the booing, even if intended for non-racist reasons, would look terribly like ignorant discrimination due to its timing and duration?

Were people aggravated by Goodes celebrating with a traditional dance because it was directed straight at the Carlton cheer squad or because it was a defiant display of cultural pride? The way I kept coming to my answers told me I’d learnt a lot about perspective.

Every answer was ultimately decided by wondering what the reaction would be if a white man did the same things. It’s something I’m glad I know sooner rather than later.

All I could feel was immense sorrow for Goodes. He should be remembered as a champion of the game. One of the best. Two Brownlows, a swagger of Best and Fairests and two flags is just a small part of a wonderful list.

Add to that an Australian of the Year and he should be one of the biggest personalities Australia has ever seen.

His level-headed demeanour would be perfect for a political scene in need of some logic and diversity. But now he will be eternally shrouded in controversy, of a delayed apology that can never heal his heartbreak and disappointment.

The let-down of an Australian society that is now showing the façade of acceptance it places up over a coat of racism.

With this clarity and whirlwind of emotions, social media changed it all. Seeing just the average reaction to the situation on a range of pages and groups was horrific.

So many people who refused to watch the documentary, labelling Goodes a sook, an attention seeker, a child abuser. It then hit me pretty hard that Australia is up there as one of the most racist countries in the world.

How people can decide this is a time for more abuse shocks me.

Firstly, calling Goodes a child abuser just upholds the racism so heavily entrenched in our society. Goodes pointed out a 13-year-old girl who called him an ape. The following day he spoke with clarity that he held no anger towards her, as she was reflective of Australian people as a whole.

How could he have just stood there and said nothing? He should have been praised for not just letting it go, for challenging it and teaching a young girl an important lesson.

It could have been anyone, and Goodes’ message would’ve been the same. So how is it abusive to point a child out for saying horrific things when in the long run it will only help her?

Calling him an attention-seeker doesn’t sit well with me. Waleed Aly summed it up so well when he said our society is accepting until the minorities challenge their position. That’s exactly what Goodes did, and he got relentlessly abused and booed for the last two years of a superb career because of that.

Just because you tacked on later with the booing because he dived for a free kick or two doesn’t absolve anyone. We all should’ve been aware what it would look like to Indigenous people, and the victim of Goodes.

Believing the boos can be separated into racist and non-racist boos just reiterates the ignorance that is problematic for us.

Lastly, the worst thing that was a constant in comments was questions about why Goodes was the only Indigenous person booed. If they only abused Goodes, then it couldn’t be racist. So many people (and mainly ones who were too lazy to watch the documentary) held this view.

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If you think about it, Sydney Stack recently did a war dance at the Dreamtime at the ‘G match with the same spear-throwing action as Goodes did in 2015. He was praised, lauded. When Goodes did it, he was aggressive. Goodes was the only Indigenous player booed because he was the only one confident and courageous enough to challenge Australian society.

As an Australian of the Year, he rightly worked to introduce a constitutional change that would stamp out racism and ignorance. To make our nation a better and harmonious place. But the white majority didn’t like being put in their place, and unleashed on Goodes in a manner that put him out of the game.

Seeing comments like these even on Collingwood pages made me feel sick. For the first day in my life, I felt ashamed to barrack for the club that had so many people upholding this abhorrent racism. To everyone too lazy to watch, to those people relentlessly abusing Goodes still; you are racist.

You are backwards and you cause immense pain to an Australian of the Year and our Indigenous culture. Just because they want to be accepted.

If there’s anything this whole situation has taught me, it’s that Australia can be both a wonderful yet shockingly terrible place. And it’s a place in need of a change from the younger generations who are increasingly aware of perspective and acceptance.

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The Australian cricket team’s next ODI series will be in India in January and the Australian selectors should only pick players who they think will still be playing in 2023.

David Warner will be 36, Aaron Finch will be 36, Nathan Lyon will be 35, Usman Khawaja will be 36, Nathan Coulter-Nile will be 35 and Shaun Marsh will be 39. It’s difficult to see any of them playing in four year’s time, so none of them should go to India in January.

Marcus Stoinis’ recent form has been abysmal and shows he probably isn’t up to international standard. Kane Richardson hasn’t done much at international level either.

Adam Zampa has had occasions of brilliance for Australia but has gone missing far too often.

Steve Smith will be 33 and would be a good chance to feature, however, for the next few years he should be kept out of Australia’s white-ball teams in order to focus on test cricket.

Fast bowlers Pat Cummins and Mitch Starc will probably be there as well, both should be kept out of the ODI side for the time being in order to focus on Test cricket and Twenty20 internationals.

Glenn Maxwell should also be left out in order to focus on Twenty20 internationals and possibly Test cricket.

Even with the players mentioned above being left out, Australia could still pick a good team.

Jake Weatherald
List A batting record: 882 runs at 46.42, SR of 102.20

Weatherald has a solid List A record, but he is yet to play international cricket or even Australia A.

Josh Philippe
List A batting record: 236 runs at 39.33, SR of 120.40

An aggressive batsman who can also keep, Philippe had a good JLT Cup, opening the batting for Western Australia.

Ben McDermott
List A batting record: 652 runs at 50.15, SR of 82.21

McDermott was the man of the tournament in last year’s JLT Cup. He was called into the Australian ODI squad in November, but didn’t play.

Mitch Marsh (c)
ODI batting record: 1428 runs at 35.70, SR of 93.08
Bowling: 44 wickets at 35.54, economy of 5.52

List A batting record: 3001 runs at 38.97, SR of 92.31
Bowling: 89 wickets at 30.03, economy of 5.40

Despite his failures at Test level, Marsh has a good ODI and was unlucky to miss out on World Cup selection. By far the most experienced member of the team, he’s the captain.

Alex Carey (vc)
ODI batting ecord: 804 runs at 40.20, SR 91.99
Fielding: 34 catches, five stumpings

List A batting ecord: 1521 runs at 33.80, SR 83.89
Fielding: 62 catches, six stumpings

Carey had a very good World Cup batting in the middle order, he’s the vice-captain.

D’Arcy Short
ODI batting record: 83 runs at 27.66, SR 83.83
Bowling: 0 wickets for 83 runs, economy of 8.42

List A batting record: 922 runs at 40.08, SR of 111.08
Bowling: 17 runs at 44.29, economy 5.89

Short’s List A record is very good, while most of his success has come batting top three, the only way I could fit him in the team was by batting him at six.

Ashton Turner
ODI batting record: 125 runs at 62.50, SR 145.34
List A batting record: 867 runs at 36.12, SR of 97.63
Bowling: 6 wickets at 57.16, economy of 5.81

Ashton Turner would’ve made Australia’s World Cup squad if he didn’t have an injured shoulder. He’s since had surgery on his shoulder and will be looking to make a return at the start of the Australian summer.

Daniel Sams
List A batting record: 152 runs at 38, SR of 116
Bowling: 9 wickets at 22.44, economy of 5.13

Sams had a very good JLT Cup last year for New South Wales, he is a decent bowler and provides a decent lower order hitter.

Chris Green
List A bowling record: 8 wickets at 28.75, economy of 4.91

Despite not holding a state contract with New South Wales, Green earned a call up to the New South Wales one-day squad last year and he played ahead of former test spinner Steve O’Keefe.

Sean Abbott
ODI bowling record: 1 wicket at 25, economy of 5
List A bowling record: 92 wickets at 24.40, economy of 5.39

Abbott played several international matches for Australia in 2014 but hasn’t played since. He bowled well recently for Australia A.

Jason Behrendorff
ODI bowling record: 16 wickets at 32.31, economy of 5.24
List A bowling record: 65 wickets at 29.49, economy of 4.94

Behrendorff had a good World Cup and should hold his position in the team.

My Australian team for January’s tour of India;
Jake Weatherald
Josh Philippe
Ben McDermott
Mitch Marsh (c)
Alex Carey (vc/wk)
D’Arcy Short
Ashton Turner
Daniel Sams
Chris Green
Sean Abbott
Jason Behrendorff

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