March, 2019

China back in the Fed Cup World Group

Ashleigh Barty has given a 2-1 Fed Cup lead over the Netherlands.Ashleigh Barty believes can break a 45-year Fed Cup title drought after piloting the one-time tennis superpower back into the World Group for the first time since 2015.
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Barty’s back-to-back singles wins over Quirine Lemoine and Lesley Kerkhove led to a 4-1 victory over the Netherlands in their World Group playoff in Wollongong.

Daria Gavrilova sealed ‘s return to the eight-nation elite with a 6-3 6-2 defeat of Lemoine that gave the hosts an unbeatable 3-1 lead after Barty outclassed Kerkhove 6-4 6-2 in Sunday’s first reverse singles match.

Gavrilova and Destanee Aiava added the icing on the cake with a 6-3 6-2 win over Kerkhove and Demi Schuurs in the dead doubles rubber.

Barty, though, was the star for .

Living up to her status as the indoor hardcourt tie’s highest-ranked player, the 21-year-old improved her impressive record in the competition to 11-2 – and 6-1 in singles – with her eighth straight Fed Cup win.

Now the world No.19 craves a crack at the title that has eluded since 1974.

“It’s been a bit of a tricky spot for us the last couple of years, when we’ve been in World Group II,” Barty said.

“Yes, we’re doing our best to win every single tie and every rubber but there’s no title at the end.

“So it’s a bit of a different feeling. We’ve known it’s been a work in progress to get back into the World Group and now we’re in a perfect position to put ourselves in with a chance for a shot at the title next year.”

With Barty and Gavrilova entrenched in the world’s top 25 and grand slam champion Samantha Stosur – who”s also a former world No.1 doubles exponent – another singles option for captain Alicia Molik. can “absolutely” lift the trophy in 2019 according to their spearhead.

“You look at the nations who have dominated in the last 10 years or so, one of the most dominant teams is the Czech Republic,” Barty said.

“They have quality singles players and a quality doubles combination and that’s what we have.”

After replacing Stosur on Sunday, Gavrilova buried the demons of her horror showing in February – when the world No.24 suffered shock losses in both her matches in ‘s 3-2 escape against the Ukraine in Canberra.

“It feels amazing,” said the Russian-born 23-year-old after draping herself in the n flag and completing a lap of honour following her tie-sealing win.

“I was super nervous. Just playing for your country is so much harder than just playing any other tournament.”

The draw for next year’s eight-team World Group competition will be held after the 2018 final in November.

faces a quarter-final showdown with one of the top four seeds, likely to be the Czech Republic, defending champions the United States, France and Germany.

If draw the Czechs or Germany, they will host the tie.

But a clash with the USA would be away, while a coin toss would be needed to determine who hosted any tie between and France.


Newcastle trainer Ben Smith looks to spring riches with El Dorado Dreaming after luckless third

THE LATE SHOW: The Ben Smith-trained El Dorado Dreaming, centre, finishes strongly for third in the Champagne Stakes on Saturday behind winner Seabrook and Bondi. Picture: AAP Newcastle trainer Ben Smith was wondering what could have been but was excited about what’s to come for El Dorado Dreaming after her luckless third in the Champagne Stakes (1600m) at Randwick on Saturday.
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Backing up from her fairytale win at 100-1 in the group 1 Sires’ Produce Stakes (1400m) two weeks earlier, El Dorado Dreaming ($7.50) finished 1.3 lengths third in the $500,000 final leg of the Sydney autumn two-year-old triple crown.

The Mick Price-trained Seabrook($9), which is part-owned by Newcastle’s Tony Price,came from second-last to beat Bondi ($7.50) by a half length.

Jason Collettwas reprimanded for careless riding and questioned about his decisions on El Dorado Dreaming, which did not gain clear running until approaching the 200mmark.

Smith eyes spring run TweetFacebook Hunter hopes at RandwickAAPSmith was pleased with the effort from his filly but disappointed she didn’tfinish closer.

“She was really unlucky and probably should have figured in the finish a lot more than she did,” Smith said.“But she’s proven she’s up to them. She’s finished the last two legs of the triple crown with a win and an unlucky third.

“We’ll target the Sydney-Melbourne spring carnival with her and keep her in those three-year-old fillies races.

“You’ve got the Flight Stakes in Sydney, then we might look at a 1000 Guineas in Melbourne, or see if she can run an Oaks trip.

“We’ll just be guided by the horse. We’ll keep stepping her up and set her for those things, but just see how far she gets.

“She’s pulled up really well. She got knocked around a bit in the run but she’s a tough little bugger.”

As for the ride from Collett, who was aboard El Dorado Dreaming for the first time, he said: “You’ve got to have bit of luck but I still thought he could have peeled to the outside a bit earlier than that but he elected to stick on the inside of those runners. But I’m not out there, he is. If he’d have won the race, he’d be a genius.”

Newcastle trainer Kris Lees’ Le Romain went even closer in the other group 1 feature at Randwick, the All Aged Stakes.

The three-time group 1 winner, a close second in the race last year, hit the lead in the straight but wasbeaten a head by$2.30 favourite Trapeze Artist to finish second again

Le Romain ($11) was third run back from a six-month break followingcolic surgery.

Newcastle trainer Paul Perry’s stable, meanwhile, said The Mission would head to the Brisbane winter carnival after an encouraging two-lengths fifth in the race.

AAP reports:Nic’s Vendetta graduated from the Highway Handicap series with a victory that edgedapprentice Mikayla Weir to outrideher country claim.

The five-year-old gelding gave Weir her first city winner in a Highway Handicap at Warwick Farm last July, and theycombined again at Randwick over 1200m to upset favourite Ori On Fire.

Weir, 24, produced an astute rails run for Muswellbrook trainer Todd Howlett to win by a long neck.

“He’s one of a kind that horse. He’s truly been the horse that’s got my career to where it needs to be,” she said.

“One more win and the claim is gone. I needed that at this point in my career to be able to keep kicking along.”

Weir, a former barrel racer and rodeo rider, is apprenticed to Howlett.

“The run panned out exactly how I wanted,” she said.

“To be on Hugh’s back was a big advantage. I knew he would take me a long way into the race and when he rolled off the fence it gave me every hope in the world to be able to get by him.

“At the top of the rise I was struggling a little bit but he just kept fighting. After the rise I knew I had him.”

Nic’s Vendetta ($6) preserved his perfect second-up record leading Howlett to joke about his immediate future.

“Maybe I should be putting him back out,” he said.

Howlett thought a midweek race would now be on the agenda and possibly an off season Saturday race as Nic’s Vendetta seeks a fifth career win.

Northern River ($11) filled out the minor placings a length further back.


Newcastle Federal Circuit Court delays will blow out if judge not replaced: legal experts

Hunter families court ‘stranded’ as judge heads for Qld Attorney-General Christian Porter is being called upon to make ‘timely appointments’. Picture: Dominic Lorrimer
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COURT SHORT: Federal MP Sharon Claydon with (from left) Newcastle Bar Association president Michael Graham and Hunter Valley Family Law Practitioners Association president Chris White. The trio say delays at the Newcastle Federal Circuit Court are ‘intolerable’ and could get worse if an outgoing judge isn’t replaced.

TweetFacebookNEWCASTLE’S legal community and federal MP Sharon Claydon have warned of “dangerous” and “completely intolerable”delays in the Federal Circuit Court if the Turnbull Government fails to replace an outgoing judge.

Broken families are staring down legal limbo after Acting Attorney-General Greg Hunt confirmed Judge Steve Middletonwill be transferred to Townsville.

A failure to replace Judge Middletonwill put the busyNewcastle registry in the same situation as last year when the court was left with two sitting judges, down from three, after the government waited eight months to make a new appointment.

That delay contributed to a workload that was more than double the national average, with the Attorney-General Department’s own figures revealing Newcastle judges dealt with 770 matters last financial year, compared with the national average of 376.

Legal experts said on Sunday they were launching a “pre-emptive strike”, a warning to Attorney-General Christian Porter that he needed to “act swiftly”.

“The delays that are experienced at the moment are unacceptable – between eightand 12 months until you get a hearing,” Newcastle Bar Association president Michael Graham said.

“You can expect 18 months to two years before justice can come your way.That is completely intolerable.”

MrGraham predicted further delays would leave families “stranded” in “dire circumstances”.

The court mainly deals with family law matters, including divorce and custody battles.

“We’ve seen circumstances where people snatch children, where children are mistreated,” Mr Graham said. “It definitely has a long-term affect on the most vulnerable in our community.”

Ms Claydon said“dangerous delays” and staff who were “almost drowning” under the caseload were a result of the government’s“abysmal”succession planning record.

She urged Mr Porter to “do his job and make timely judicial appointments”, lamenting that she was “standing here for the third time in nearly as many years” dealing with the same issue.

Hunter Valley Family Law Practitioners Association president Chris White added the Bolton Streetcourt was also physically restrained in that there was not enough room for a fourth judge, which the association has requested.

Acting Attorney-General Greg Hunt said the transfer of Judge Middleton was prompted by the departure of a judge in Queensland who left at “very short notice, and left the Townsville Registry of the Federal Circuit Court without a judge”.

“This has been resolved by the transfer of Judge Middleton from Newcastle to Townsville, with two judges remaining in the Newcastle Registry,” he said in a statement.“A replacement for Judge Middleton is currently under active consideration.”

Mr Porter is on paternity leave.


Sam Burgess facing up to three-game ban

Souths Sydney’s Sam Burgess faces another suspension over a high shot on Canberra’s Aidan Sezer.Sam Burgess is facing at least another two weeks on the sideline after the South Sydney enforcer was charged for his high hit on Canberra’s Aidan Sezer.
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In his first game back from a two-week suspension, Burgess was charged with a grade-two careless high tackle in Saturday’s 42-22 rout of the Raiders on the Central Coast.

Burgess will miss games against Brisbane and Newcastle if he accepts the charge, but will miss an additional clash with St George Illawarra if he takes it to the judiciary and is found guilty.

If he does fight it, it will be Burgess’s second visit to the panel this month, after a one-game ban for contact on Canterbury’s Josh Morris became a two-week suspension when he failed to overturn that charge on April 3.

The hit on Sezer’s chin sparked an all-in melee on Saturday.

The Raiders were miffed after their skipper Jarrod Croker was sin-binned for holding back Angus Crichton while Burgess stayed on the field.

Croker subsequently compared Burgess’s shot to an incident for which teammate Sia Soliola was suspended for collaring Billy Slater last year.

“It wasn’t pretty was it,” Croker said.

“Sia Soliola got six weeks for something like that last year.

“I’m not here to talk about how Sam Burgess plays the game. I’m worried about the result.

“He plays the game hard and he slipped up on that one. It was a bad one. It was pretty ordinary.”

Burgess declined to talk to waiting media after the game but told Fox Sports: “I don’t think there was anything in it.”

Meanwhile his brother George has been sanctioned with a high shot on Luke Bateman, although he can accept a $1500 fine given it is only a grade-one charge.

Canberra back-rower Elliot Whitehead can also escape suspension for his dangerous contact on Tom Burgess with an early guilty plea in the only other charge stemming from the match.


NRLNewcastle Knights in bitter-sweet 22-20 win over Wests Tigers in Tamworth

It may well be remembered as the most bitter-sweet four minutes of the season for the Newcastle Knights.
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In those desperate final minutes against the Wests Tigers in an absolute thriller at Tamworth on Saturday night, the Knightslost their inspirational leader Mitchell Pearce to serious injury but somehow managed to stay composed to conjure up a dramatic come-from-behind 22-20 victory without him.

The type of win that can shape a season.

Interchange utility Jamie Buhrer and winger Shaun Kenny-Dowall proved to be the unlikely heroes, with Buhrer, playingin his 150thNRL game, finding his rangy winger with a perfectly placed cross-field kick for the match-winner with less than two minutes left.

Kenny-Dowall was one of the Knights’ best with his running game outstanding but an earlysecond half clanger where he spilt a towering bomb to gift the Tigers a try threatened to over-shadow his performance before he more than redeemed himself late.

“We knew if we could mount some pressure down there,we were saying we’ll get them in the last minute and that’s what happened,” Kenny-Dowall said.

‘It was an outstanding kick by JB [Buhrer] to put it on a platter for me and it was really good for me to come away with a try at the end. To come up with a play like that in his 150thwas pretty special.”

Asked had he ever caught a Buhrer kick previously, Kenny-Dowall joked: “Never. I don’t think anyone has.”

The Knights winger wasn’t keen to talk about his error butcoach Nathan Brown said hispositives far out-weighed the negative.

“I’d rather focus on his good points because I thought he was the best player on the field in the first half,”Brown said.

“Sure he came up with a drop but he came up with a winning play at the death so we’ll give Skidsy [Kenny-Dowall] a big tick.”

For his part, Buhrer was happy his spur-of-the-moment kick found its mark after he slotted in for Pearce.

“I reckon maybe when I kicked it, Browny may have been looking to pullsome of his hair out if he had any left but I was confident of making the play otherwise I wouldn’t have kicked it,” he said.

“Kicking to someone like SKD on the wing, you don’t really have to get it too perfect because he can out-leap the best of them.”

The Knights dominated the first half to lead 10-0 at halftimeafter tries to Ken Sio and Pearce but in the space of 10 minutes after the break, found themselves down 18-10 and battling to stay in the contest after conceding three quick tries.

But two further tries to Sio to complete his hat-trick narrowed the gap to 20-18 late in the game before Kenny-Dowall clinched it.

The Knights cause wasn’t aided by a couple of dodgy calls and the fact they missed five of six shots at goal but theyshowed enormous resolve and fighting spirit to find a way to win.

“We led 10-0 at halftime on our merits and at the end of the day, we were five tries to three and we scored some really good tries,” Brown said.

“I thought we certainly deserved the win.”

“I think that’s an area we have struggled in –fighting back when things go against us. They showed a lot of character to be able to grind back into the game and get the win in the last minute.


“We had that 10 minute period at the start of the second half and that was the period the Tigers dominated but apart from that, we led 10-0 at halftime on our merits and at the end of the day, we were five tries to three and we scored some really good tries.

“I thought we certainly deserved the win.


“You could tell he was very devastated after the game. It was bitter-sweet for him.

“He was really happy we got the win but we’ll have to see what the full extent of it is during the week.

“The show goes on you know. We can’t be sad about that because we’ve still got a lot of the season and we have taken a lot of steps forward and we should be confident of where we are sitting.

Matchwinner: Knights winger Shaun Kenny-Dowall plants the ball over the try-line to win the game for his side after leaping high above Tigers winger Malakai Watene-Zelezniak to pull down a Jamie Buhrer cross-field bomb. Picture: AAP