FRISCO, Texas – The Southland Conference has promoted Thomas Samuel to the position of associate commissioner for compliance services, league Commissioner Tom Burnett announced Monday. Samuel has served the past year as assistant commissioner.“We are very pleased to announce this promotion of Thomas Samuel to associate commissioner,” said Burnett. “Since joining our staff last year, Thomas has expertly managed the compliance needs of the Conference, and has provided legislative expertise and excellent service to the athletic programs of our member institutions.” Samuel joined the Southland in July 2017 after serving on the compliance staff at Texas State University since 2013. The Ruston, La., native earned his bachelor’s degree from Centenary College in 1997, and later earned a master’s degree from Middle Tennessee State. He earned a juris doctorate in 2013 from the University of Memphis Law School. In his role, Samuel oversees all NCAA legislative services for the Southland, serves as a liaison to campus compliance contacts, athletic administrators, coaches and student-athletes, is the staff conduit to the NCAA Academic and Membership Affairs staff, and administers the Conference’s National Letter of Intent and NCAA Coaches’ Certification programs.
The Southland Conference will continue to serve as host of the Division I Football Championship title game, and Commissioner Tom Burnett said the conference is excited to continue the partnership.“The Southland Conference and its member institutions are thrilled to maintain our valued position as the host conference of the NCAA Division I Football Championship game,” Burnett said. “Along with our Team Frisco partners, we’ve been very proud to build a premier national championship event over the past nine years and look forward to continuing to provide FCS institutions and game participants a rewarding and memorable postseason experience.”“We’re honored to have the opportunity to crown national champions in Frisco through 2025,” Mayor Jeff Cheney said. “The FCS community has become family to Frisco. That’s why it was important to the Frisco City Council to reinvest in Toyota Stadium in the form of improved locker rooms, seating, video boards and media accommodations. This game is estimated to have a regional economic impact of more than $8.1 million. But just as important, it helps promote our brand as Sports City, U.S.A.”In partnership with Toyota Stadium and FC Dallas, City of Frisco and the Frisco Independent School District, a $58 million construction project in the south end zone was completed and opened this past October at Toyota Stadium, which directly benefits the NCAA Division I Football Championship title game. The new facility is home to the National Soccer Hall of Fame and includes more than 17,000 square feet of two separate game-time hospitality areas; 3,290 premium covered seats; two 100-person locker rooms; a news conference room; five high-definition LED video boards; a new distributed sound system; and other additions for the enhancement of the NCAA FCS championship.?? Excited to announce the @NCAA_FCS Championship will stay in @CityOfFriscoTx through 2025, with option for 2026.https://t.co/L6KJVTRrTe pic.twitter.com/eBhQrlZOFf— Toyota Stadium (@ToyotaStadiumTX) January 4, 2019 INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. — The NCAA has agreed to a five-year extension with Frisco, Texas, to continue holding the Division I Football Championship title game at Toyota Stadium, hosted by the Southland Conference, the City of Frisco and Hunt Sports Ventures.The extension will keep the championship game in Frisco through 2025 (for the 2024 football season), with an option for the 2026 championship.Brad Teague, chair of the NCAA Division I Football Championship Committee and the director of athletics at Central Arkansas, expressed strong support for the extension.“The Division I Football Championship game has been warmly embraced and supported by the City of Frisco for nearly a decade, and the committee has consistently received positive feedback from past student-athletes, coaches and fans,” Teague said. “We look forward to continuing our relationship with the City of Frisco, Hunt Sports Ventures and the Southland Conference.”Happy to call you home! #FCSChampionship will stay in Frisco through 2025, with an option for 2026.Thx @SouthlandSports @ToyotaStadiumTX @CityOfFriscoTx pic.twitter.com/ZHZ1d9E0PD— FCS Football (@NCAA_FCS) January 4, 2019 More than 150,000 fans have attended the championship game in Frisco over the past eight years, with an average crowd of nearly 19,000. The championship game for the 2018 season is set for 11 a.m. CT Saturday at Toyota Stadium.
SANTA ANITA SINGLE TICKET RAINBOW PICK SIX JACKPOT CARRYOVER OF $631,496 INTO SATURDAY; FIRST POST TIME FOR 10-RACE CARD IS AT 1 P.M.NO SINGLE TICKET WINNER, BUT 11 CONSOLATION WINNERS EACH PAY $6,354.30ARCADIA, Calif. (March 29, 2019)–With the resumption of live racing today at Santa Anita, punters directed $130,845 in “new” money to the track’s popular 20 cent Single Ticket Rainbow Pick Six Jackpot, helping to create a total Rainbow Six pool of $732,385.Although there were 11 consolation tickets with six winners, each worth $6,354.30, there was no single ticket winner, resulting in a Rainbow Six Jackpot carryover of $631,496 into Saturday.With a 10-race card on tap for Saturday, the Rainbow Six will begin with race five, which has an approximate post time of 3:17 p.m. PT.The Grade I, $400,000 Frank E. Kilroe Mile, for older horses at one mile on turf, has been carded as race five, while the Grade I, $400,000 Beholder Mile, for older fillies and mares, will go as Saturday’s ninth race.First post time on Saturday is at 1 p.m. For additional information, please visit santaanita.com or call (626) 574-RACE.
William Spawr11 57% $634,079 Geovanni Franco36 $523,445 AT THE END OF TODAY’S ‘RAINBOW’ PICK 6 33% 5 3 SANTA ANITA STATISTICS J. Keith Desormeaux15 JockeyMts Steve Knapp18 $260,477 7 $501,385 George Papaprodromou13 Money Won $164,257 4 $142,753 47% 8 53% $606,915 HARD WORK PAYS OFF WITH WIN FOR IGGY PUGLISI 11 13% 36% 27% 2 9 8 10 8 Money Won 0 0 $459,506 $124,733 0 12 22% 11 2 $370,520 27% 11 9 Andrew Lerner7 3 9 7 11 5 Kent Desormeaux27 3 $567,394 2 4 19% 40% Edwin Maldonado30 68% 17% 7 2nd Drayden Van Dyke45 7 4 STREAKING DANUSKA’S MY GIRL SET FOR DESERT STORMERDanuska’s My Girl seeks her fourth straight victory and her second stakes in a row Sunday in the Grade III Desert Stormer Stakes for fillies and mares at six furlongs.All three triumphs, including the Grade III Las Flores Stakes last out on April 7, have come under jockey Geovanni Franco.“He’s made a big difference,” said Jerry Hollendorfer assistant Dan Ward of Franco’s presence in the saddle. “She’s been on the lead all three times he’s ridden her and been further in front at the wire than at any point in the race.”Albeit a five-horse field, there is ample speed with the likes of Selcourt and Yuvetsi, in addition to Danuska’s My Girl, but Ward is optimistic.“Some in the race are coming off routes which may have dulled their speed a little bit,” he said, “but I think we can adapt to any situation.”The field: Selcourt, Joe Talamo, 7-5; Yuvetsi, Drayden Van Dyke, 4-1; Smiling Tigress, Tiago Pereira, 20-1; Danuska’s My Girl, Geovanni Franco, 8-5; and Show It N Moe It, Rafael Bejarano, 7-2.VANTASTIC SHARP, GETS PRAT FOR LAZ BARRERAVantastic has been firing bullets for tomorrow’s Grade III Lazaro Barrera Stakes for three-year-olds and up at seven furlongs, but must adjust from turf to dirt for Peter Eurton, who trains the Florida-bred colt for Ciaglia Racing, Sharon Alesia and Paul Van Doren.“It’s been nothing but turf his last five races, but he’s trained really well on the dirt so we thought we’d give it a try,” Eurton said.Vantastic was an eventful seventh going a mile on grass last out on April 4, beaten only three lengths despite steadying at the 6 ½-furlong point.“It was not a good trip,” Eurton said. “He got away a touch slow and got a bit a rank after that, but we have the Kentucky Derby-winning jockey on Saturday (in Flavien Prat).”The Laz Barrera, race eight of 10 with a 12 noon first post time: Mucho Gusto, Joe Talamo, 4-5; Sparky Ville, Victor Espinoza, 5-2; Principe Carlo, Ruben Fuentes, 12-1; Vantastic, Flavien Prat, 5-1; Manhattan Up, Tiago Pereira, 6-1; and Synthesis, Rafael Bejarano, 12-1.SCOTT STEVENS TO RECEIVE WOOLF AWARD SUNDAYIn what will surely be an intensely emotional moment, veteran jockey Scott Stevens will be presented with the 2019 George Woolf Memorial Jockey Award in a Winner’s Circle ceremony following the sixth race Sunday at Santa Anita.A winner of more than 4,800 races in a career that has spanned 43 years, Stevens will be joined by family, friends and colleagues, including the 1996 Woolf Award winner, retired Hall of Famer Gary Stevens, as the pair thus become the first brotherly tandem to win the prestigious award in its 70-year history.The winner via a vote of jockeys nationwide, Stevens placed first among a list of five finalists that included Joe Bravo, Kerwin Clark, John Davila, Jr. and Julien Leparoux.“I know I was there when Gary won, but honestly, it’s been so long ago, I don’t remember,” said Stevens from his base at Turf Paradise in Phoenix. “This award is so special and I was honored just to be nominated. When you think about all the great riders and the great people that have won it and to be selected by a vote of your peers . . . It’s really more than I can describe.”Born Oct. 6, 1960 in Caldwell, Idaho, Stevens is the son of a former trainer, Ron, and rodeo queen, Barbara. Steeped in the ways of the horse-world from infancy, Stevens, who has more than 32,400 career mounts, broke his maiden on May 30, 1976 at Les Bois Park in Boise, at the age of 15.A member of both the Idaho and Canterbury Park (MN) Halls of Fame, Stevens has been a helpful, guiding influence to scores of young jockeys for decades.A nine-time leading rider at Turf Paradise, Stevens, who resides in Phoenix with his longtime partner Pam Isles, has two grown children, a daughter Jessica and a son, Jake, as well as five grandchildren, four of whom will join him on Sunday.Named for the legendary Hall of Fame jockey George Woolf, who died at age 35 following a spill on Santa Anita’s Club House turn on Jan. 3, 1946, the Woolf Award can only be won once, and it is intended to recognize riders whose careers and personal character earn esteem for the individual and the sport of Thoroughbred horse racing.The Woolf trophy is a replica of the life-size statue of George Woolf which adorns Santa Anita’s Paddock Gardens Area.OHIO ON COURSE FOR GRADE I SHOEMAKER ON MEMORIAL DAYMichael McCarthy is looking for another upset with Ohio when he saddles the bargain claim in the Shoemaker Mile on Monday, May 27, one of three Grade I races on the Memorial Day holiday card along with the Gamely Stakes and the Gold Cup at Santa Anita.The Shoemaker Mile will be run on grass and is a Breeders’ Cup “Win and You’re In” Challenge Race, giving the winner a fees-paid berth to the Breeders’ Cup Mile on Nov. 2.At 9-1, Ohio nosed out odds-on favorite Catapult in the Grade I Frank E. Kilroe mile on turf March 30. “These races are always tough for a half-million dollars and being a Grade I,” McCarthy noted of the Shoemaker. “Ohio is doing very well. I’m very pleased with his works. He’ll come back and work again tomorrow and we’ll go from there.”RAINBOW PICK SIX JACKPOT CARRYOVER REACHES $523.445Santa Anita’s popular 20 cent Single Ticket Rainbow Pick Six Jackpot proved elusive again on Sunday, resulting in a Jackpot carryover of $523,445 into Friday.With $254,311 in “new” money wagered, Friday’s total Rainbow Six pool reached $719,530, and although there were no single ticket winners, 26 consolation tickets with six winners each paid $5,276.10.First post time for today’s eight-race card is 1 p.m., with post time for the fourth race, the first leg of the Rainbow Pick Six, approximately 2:30 p.m. PT.VETERAN COMEDIAN TIM CONWAY DEPARTS AS BELOVED FIGURE AT SANTA ANITAWhen news of comedian Tim Conway’s passing at the age of 85 became known Tuesday morning, fond memories of the comedic giant were rekindled among the many people in the racing industry whose lives he touched, perhaps none more so than the hundreds of jockeys with whom he interacted and advocated for.In a Winner’s Circle appearance on the occasion of Santa Anita’s Tim Conway Stakes, for two-year-olds at six furlongs on Oct. 6, 2012, Conway, who was alongside his son, Tim Jr. and retired Hall of Fame jockey Eddie Delahoussaye, deadpanned, “They (jockeys) used to give me a lot of tips. None of them ever won. Amazing.”On the serious side, Conway and his wife Charlene were tireless in their efforts to raise money for disabled riders through the Don MacBeth Memorial Jockey Fund, which was co-founded by their close friend, Hall of Fame jockey Chris McCarron, in 1987 and assisted more than 2,000 jockeys over a 25-year run.“He was as classy a gentleman as he was funny,” said McCarron. “He was generous with heart, spirit, generous with his time and he was just a class act through and through. He could not have been more generous, especially with his time.”When asked why he thought Conway was able to connect so well with jockeys, McCarron responded, “Well, first and foremost, he had the utmost respect for riders. He understood what’s involved. You know, he tried galloping horses for a little while when he was very young in Cleveland, so for the rest of his life, he had the utmost respect for riders and trainers and owners . . . He had a deep love and respect for the industry as well.“When he was on tour with Harvey Korman, Tim used to tell his tour manager to book them in cities where they had races going on, so he could go to the races when he wasn’t on stage. That’s how much he loved the sport.”World famous as a result of legendary television roles on “McHale’s Navy” in the early 1960s, “The Carol Burnett Show” throughout the 1970s and various big screen appearances, Conway won six Emmy Awards and one Golden Globe trophy and was also widely acclaimed for playing the character of a hapless jockey named Lyle Dorf. Conway was hilariously funny as “Dorf” in appearances on The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson and in many other television and film opportunities, including a comedic sketch during the 1987 Breeders’ Cup telecast on NBC from Hollywood Park.McCarron recounted a real-life mishap with Conway that provided a window into his comedic depth as well as his genuinely self-deprecating humor.“Tim and Charlene were at my house for Christmas, 1986,” said McCarron. “I was recuperating from a broken leg that I suffered at Oak Tree, right before the Breeders’ Cup. My wife Judy, had purchased an Equicizer from Frankie Lovato and it was in my living room. My book shelves were loaded with trophies and Tim got on the Equicizer and he says, ‘McCarron, if I was a jockey, all these trophies would be mine.’“So, he got on, leaned forward and pushed on the horse’s neck and the neck snapped back and hit him right in the nose and actually broke his nose. He couldn’t stop laughing, even though he was bleeding right away. Charlene took him to the Encino Hospital . . . Tony DeFranco (a close mutual friend) and Tim’s daughter Kelly took a video camera into the emergency room, which was against the rules, but Tim talked the doctor into letting them do it.“So Tony sets it up like he’s reporter and a jockey has been injured and they’re on-scene to find out his condition. The doc starts examining Tim and he asked him, ‘So tell me. What time did this incident happen?’“Tim goes, ‘Let’s see. It was the third race. That would’ve been about 1:30.’ Even though he was in serious pain, he couldn’t keep from laughing and he couldn’t keep us from laughing . . . That’s the kind of guy he was. He was a wonderful human being and I feel a terrible sense of loss for Charlene and all the kids.”And, the same can be said of all those who knew the legendary Tim Conway here at Santa Anita and throughout the racing world.Tim Conway is survived by his wife, Charlene, and seven children, including Tim Conway, Jr., who hosts “The Tim Conway Jr. Show” weeknights from 6 to 10 p.m. on KFI AM 640 in Los Angeles.LATEST CONTENT FROM XBTV:Cistron works 6 furlongs. (Sadler) 5-17-19Pricing works 5 furlongs. (Proctor) 5-17-19Juggles works 4 furlongs. (O’ Neill) 5-17-19Ashleyluvssugar works 5 furlongs. (Eurton) 5-17-19Friday’s at Shady works 4 furlongs. (Bonde) 5-17-19Weekend Watch: Highlighting weekend action at Santa Anita Park Starting May 18th, 2019Stronach 5: All-Star Ticket for May 17, 2019.Improbable galloped at Pimlico Race Course. 5-17-19 (Baffert)Anothertwistafate on the track at Pimlico Race Course. 5-17-19 (Wright)Brill galloped at Pimlico in preparation for the Black Eyed Susan Stakes. 5-16-19 (Hollendorfer)Elliott Walden talks about Improbable ahead of the Preakness Stakes.Bob Baffert discusses his pair of stakes contenders this weekend at Pimlico.Jimmy Barnes assistant trainer to Bob Baffert on Improbable.Preakness Memories: Kent Desormeaux recaps Real Quiet’s win in 1998.Preakness Memories: Victor Espinoza highlights War Emblem as his favorite Preakness Victory.Preakness Memories: Gary Stevens talks about Silver Charm in 1997.Kittyhawk Lass works 4 furlongs. 5-16-19 (Pupye)Caribou Club works 5 furlongs. 5-16-19 (Proctor)Bowl of Soul (outside) in company with Dark Prince worked 4 furlongs. (Baffert) 5-15-19FINISH LINES: Trainer Jack Carava was more than pleased after jockey Iggy Puglisirode Bouncing Around to a 4 ¼-length victory at a $21 payoff in Sunday’s sixth race for $30,000 maiden claimers at 6 ½ furlongs. It marked the first win for the 45-year-old rider since November 2017. “Iggy’s always been a good friend and he’s really been helping me by breezing a lot of horses in the morning,” Carava said. “He breezed Bouncing Around two or three times, and the owners, Tim and Jed Cohen, who race as Red Barons Barn, told me Iggy had helped them a couple years ago breezing some of their young horses and to help him out anytime I could. They were nice enough to let him ride this horse, and it all worked out well.” . . . Condolences to family and friends on the passing Wednesday of owner Louis Figone at age 92. Figone, who grew up in El Cerrito and ran the majority of his horses over the years at Bay Area tracks, raced as Frankfort Stable and owned 1987 Santa Anita Derby winner Temperate Sil in partnership with Charlie Whittingham, who gave Bill Shoemaker a leg up for the victory. Figone’s Billy Ball, trained by Ross Brinson, was a multiple stakes winner at Bay Meadows and Golden Gate Fields . . . Congratulations to Debby Baltas on her 40th birthday today. In addition to assisting at the barn with husband Richard, the meet’s second-leading trainer, she also serves lip-smacking fare in Santa Anita’s track kitchen . . . Eric Kruljac is considering the Grade I Beverly D. at Arlington Park on Aug. 10 for Causeforcommotion, smashing nine-length winner of last Saturday’s Grade III Santa Barbara Stakes. At 1 3/16 miles on turf, the Beverly D. is a Breeders’ Cup “Win and You’re In” Challenge Race awarding the winner a fees-paid berth to the Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Turf on Nov. 1 . . . Apprentice J.C. Diaz Jr. has been suspended three days (May 19, 24 and 25) for causing interference on Spanish Channel in last Friday’s first race, resulting in a disqualification of his mount from third to fifth . . . Preston Simms, winner of $327,000 in the 2019 Pegasus World Cup Handicapping Tournament, will be Tom Quigley‘s guest Saturday, 10:50 a.m., in the XBTV studios . . . Senior Citizen Superfecta: Silver Summer (age seven); Crown the Kitten (also seven); Play Hard to Get (age eight) and Kristi’s Copilot (another seven-year-old) captured the first four placings in Sunday’s second race to produce a $70.73 superfecta . . . The popular spring carnival at Santa Anita offers three days of exciting rides, games and entertainment on Memorial Day weekend, Saturday May 25 through Monday, May 27. For details, please visit santaanita.com/events . . . Special early first time at Santa Anita Preakness Day tomorrow is 12 noon. Paddock Room doors will open at 7 a.m. for Early Bird action on Pimlico’s 14-race program, while Santa Anita’s restaurants, bars and Infield Area open at 9 a.m. $566,248 38% 14% 14% 3 Victor Espinoza29 4 $315,505 58% Rafael Bejarano66 23% 25% 4 68% 3rd $149,724 $466,903 VANTASTIC GOES FROM TURF TO DIRT IN BARRERA $302,365 57% Win% 6 2 14 7 3 7 3 4 67% 2 Heriberto Figueroa29 29% $108,065 50% (Current from April 12 through Sunday, May 12) 11 John Sadler27 3 $459,244 Mario Gutierrez31 45% 1 1st $213,620 6 11 45% 0 7 $243,291 $223,979 3 4 19% 3 Martin Garcia28 TrainerMts Doug O’Neill42 Aaron Gryder47 57% 3 Flavien Prat44 60% 4 5 SANTA ANITA REMEMBERS RACING FAN TIM CONWAY 23% 7 18% 26% 16% Philip D’Amato34 9 $345,918 Ruben Fuentes67 2 Joseph Talamo57 44% 51% 8 12 Richard Baltas35 1 4 32% $315,014 Jerry Hollendorfer23 31% Tim Yakteen11 Richard Mandella15 2 4 8% 63% 8 3 4 THREE GRADE I’S HEADLINE MEMORIAL DAY CARD 53% $143,256 $218,364 10 2 0 16% 6 1 17% 0 ITM% 18% 36% 40% 1 61% Win% 6 ITM% 57% SCOTT STEVENS RECEIVES WOOLF AWARD SUNDAY $111,020 $71,30 2 2 49% 47% 50% 64% John Shirreffs12 56% 14 14% 12 4 23% DANUSKA’S MY GIRL EYES FOURTH STRAIGHT WIN Mark Glatt36 33% 7 27% 2nd 4 18% 3 1 20% 4 Tiago Pereira62 $129,902 $468,223 $601,840 1st 7 6 3rd J. Eric Kruljac16
It was the soundtrack of summer as hundreds of thousands of Sharks fans across the country celebrated a maiden premiership that was 50 years in the making.But as the celebrations have continued the threat of a monster premiership hangover has loomed large with the loss of talismanic hooker Michael Ennis and then the exit of troubled fullback Ben Barba.Fullback-elect Valentine Holmes suffered a minor hamstring strain in their opening trial which could see him miss the season opener against the Broncos while youngster Jayden Brailey and Nu Brown were taken to England as the hooking options for the 22-6 World Club Challenge loss to Wigan.The roster may still be largely the same but they are two big outs for a team that has to summon the energy and desperation in order to do it all over again.Gains and lossesGains: Manaia Cherrington (Wests Tigers), Tony Williams (Bulldogs), Jeremy Latimore (Panthers), Daniel Mortimer (Titans)Losses: David Fifita (released), Mitch Brown (Leigh), Josh Cleeland (Bulldogs), Michael Ennis (retirement), Connor Tracey (Rabbitohs), Jesse Sene-Lefao (Castleford Tigers), Ben Barba (released), Jacob Gagan (Knights), Matt McIlwrick (Wests Tigers), Junior Roqica (London)What we knowPremierships are hard to defend. Although the Roosters were minor premiers the year after winning in 2013 and the Cowboys made the Preliminary Final last season, no champion team has qualified for the grand final the year after their success since Melbourne in 2008, who were thumped 40-0 by Manly. Coaches and players will tell you that there is the same hunger in the squad and a willingness to improve on how they performed in their title-winning campaign but the intangibles such as desperation and commitment rarely function at the same high level. A new No.9 will necessitate an adjustment in playing style and with three of the oldest players in the NRL on their books the sense of destiny that defined their 2016 season will be noticeably absent. Last year the Sharks won eight games by five points or less; they could very well turn into losses 12 months on.Rookie watchGiven his elevation into the squad for the World Club Challenge and the need to replace Ennis at hooker reigning Holden Cup Player of the Year Jayden Brailey looks set to play a significant role in the Sharks’ title defence. Also keep an eye out for towering prop forward Malakai Houma, who earned an NRL contract after impressive performances for Newtown in the Intrust Super Premiership last year. If he earns a debut he’ll be hard to miss; he’s the 189-centimetre, 112-kilogram monster charging onto the ball at a million miles an hour in the middle of the ruck.DepthSeventeen of the 24 players the Sharks used last year played at least 20 games, providing the stability that premiership charges demand. The additions of experienced first-graders in Jeremy Latimore and Tony Williams provides welcome depth in the forward pack and the likes of Jack Bird, Gerard Beale and Daniel Mortimer can cover a number of different positions if injuries hit hard in key positions. There are a raft of exciting young outside backs ready to step up if the three-quarter line suffers a couple of injury blows led by Jesse Ramien and James Tuitahu.Fantasy bankersHe doesn’t come cheap but with an average of 63 points per game (second highest in 2016) there’s good reason to pony up the money to purchase Andrew Fifita at his $601,000 asking price. Paul Gallen’s retirement from rep footy opens up the possibility of more regular high-scoring games through the Origin period while Valentine Holmes could prove an astute pick-up at $301,000 if he becomes Cronulla’s first-choice fullback.Crystal ballSharks aren’t accustomed to being the hunted but that’s the reality Cronulla players will have to come to terms with on a weekly basis in 2017. Hosting a strong Broncos team in the opening game of the season will give us some indication of their headspace and with trips to Canberra and Melbourne in the opening six weeks Cronulla are looking at a challenging start to their defence. The loss of Ennis cannot be underestimated and with the mental letdown that comes with a drought-breaking premiership a top four finish looks unlikely.
The Kukis trailed 12-0 after 20 minutes but fought back to draw level by half-time.Two second half tries from man of the match Stargroth Amean inspired the Kumuls to a 32-22 triumph but Cook Islands coach Tony Iro was proud of the way his young team stayed in the contest for 80 minutes.”I thought the boys did pretty good to drag ourselves back into the game by half-time,” he said.”We did have two tries disallowed previously so we created enough opportunities and at 12-all I was reasonably confident.”We generally dominated possession in the first half and I thought they were wavering a little bit – they scored two good tries but I thought our boys were on top.”Then basically in the second half we made a few errors, lost our fullback and our halfback after 20 minutes of the second half and then I was really proud of the way the boys hung in actually…and I thought the Kumuls played pretty good footy as well.”Tony Iro said says many of the young Kukis players will form the backbone of the national team going forward as the seek to qualify for the 2021 World Cup.”We’ve got a lot of guys who are just out of Under 20s footy – a few guys who I know will make their mark in the NRL over the next 12-24 months – who are here currently training at NRL clubs and just waiting for an opportunity,” he said.”So I’m confident they enjoyed the experience, – obviously they will be better for it.”The big thing about Cook Islands footy is just getting them in and around the culture and experience a different feel to what they normally do week in week out.”Tony Iro said the Cook Islands enjoyed being a part of the Pacific Test for the first time would love to remain involved.”The game has given our team a bit of profile and we’ve got to build our national side and find some more fixtures,” said Iro.”At this stage I think the next world cup qualifying will be in 2019, which isn’t that far away, so we’ve got a two year period in which we can start to build some depth in numbers and quality in player.” Photo: Facebook / Cook Islands Rugby League (The Cook Islands team for the 2017 Pacific Test v Papua New Guinea).
Photo by: SCOTT BARBOUR/GETTY IMAGES (Kieran Foran hasn’t clocked out early, says coach Steve Kearney). Former Kiwis coach Frank Endacott said on Tuesday he didn’t think Foran had played well recently because he was already thinking about the Bulldogs, who he will join next year.However, Kearney was not impressed with the implication.”I think there’s been stages where everyone hasn’t been at their best and to single out Kieran is pretty ordinary,” he said.”Has he been at his best? Absolutely not. But he’s not by himself there, so I don’t think he’s clocked out early.”I think he did some OK things early in the contest and I’m not going to be really critical because it’s a team performance.”My expectation is you will see a better performance this week.”While Foran was only in his second game back from a quad injury, the Kiwis playmaker had an uncharacteristically quiet performance during last week’s defeat to the Panthers.With halfback Shaun Johnson ruled out for six to eight weeks with a knee injury, much of the burden will fall on Foran to step up in his absence.But Johnson, who has been replaced by reserve grade halfback Mason Lino for Saturday’s crunch clash against the Cowboys, believed that was unfair on his teammate who he praised for his work organising the attack.”‘Foz’ (Foran) will continue to do what he’s been doing,” Johnson said. “He’s the voice of our team and he does a terrific job at getting boys into position. “I don’t expect ‘Foz’ to step up, I think he’s been doing a great job and we just need him to keep building on his performance.”
The Boks went down late in the game against New Zealand on Sunday after dominating much of the game at Ellis Park. It was a similar scenario last week in Brisbane when Wallaby centre Tevita Kuridrani scored after fulltime.On that occasion, Kuridrani’s touchdown just made it over the line, while on Sunday the Boks were denied a try by the TMO when it was adjudged Lood de Jager had failed to plant the ball in the desired area.”It’s been millimetres in both games. It went against us in Australia, and it went against us today,” said Meyer after Sunday’s 20-27 defeat.”These three teams are so close now. Last week it was two millimetres [when Kuridrani scored] … I really thought it would go our way this time when I thought Lood scored, but the referee is always right.”It could have been a game-changing try, because after that we won a penalty and kicked it; we could have had a 10-point lead.”We had other chances as well, but didn’t take them. It’s frustrating because our plan worked well, we were brilliant at the breakdowns [with Heinrich Brussow and Francois Louw dominating on the ground] and we played some positive rugby.”Injuries at crucial times though – as was the case in Brisbane – set the Boks back. On this occasion Jannie du Plessis, Vincent Koch, De Jager and Louw suffered misfortune and had to leave the field just when the Boks looked to be taking control.With both specialist tighthead props off the field referee Jerome Garces had no option but to call for uncontested scrums. “Trevor Nyakane has played on both sides, but he was not listed as a tighthead. The law’s there to protect the players and we abide by that.”The Boks lost plenty of momentum, and power in the set-piece after the withdrawal of Du Plessis and Koch, and it allowed the All Blacks to get back into the game and eventually seal their comeback with Richie McCaw’s late try.Meyer though, while disappointed, looked on the bright side.”We played some great rugby and have now scored some great tries in our last two games. We know we can beat anyone. The confidence is there and there’s plenty of self-belief in the players.”We’ve come so close in two games … we’re millimetres away. We’ve had to play with a lot of youngsters who’ve done brilliantly and I’ll take a lot of heart from the fact that up to 10 players are set to return from injury, and they’ll be fresh and fit.”We’ve only been together again for three weeks now and after the Super Rugby competition no one gave us a chance. We’ve made big strides in this time and have another four to five weeks together before the World Cup and we’ll just get better.”With the youngsters pushing hard, no one is guaranteed a position in the team, so I know we’ll have the best 31 at the World Cup, and a good few others who’ll stay behind who we’ll be able to call on at any stage.”
The third consecutive win put them in the driver seat as the preliminary finals draws near in two weeks’ time.In the other round three results, in the plate division Aroma Coast East and Rigo Magani forfeited Hallsound Bay and Mekeo Hawks, while AZB Seagulls defeated Bereina Stars 18-0.And in the Cup challenge, Hisiu Knights outplayed Tauruba Blacks 30-0, Aroma Coast West defeated Goilala Karukas and Trekkers went down to Bulldogs 14-6.Caption: File picture
This was confirmed this week by the PNGNRL after a board meeting to decide on the time, date and venue for the preliminary final of the Digicel Cup.Kick off for the game will be at 3pm. Tickets will be sold at all Stop N Shop outlets in Port Moresby.The winner of the Gurias and Eagles game will go on to meet the Snax Lae Tigers in the grand final of the 2016 Digicel Cup next week Saturday.