Monthly Archives: July 2019

Gerrard feels the Liverpool love as he bows out

Even if Crystal Palace denied him a fairytale ending, with Gerrard unable to perform any heroics in a 3-1 defeat, the famous Kop end rose to salute one of their own in a match where the result was secondary.

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“I’ve been dreading this moment,” he told the crowd over the public address system. “I am going to miss it so much.

“I’ve loved every minute of it and I’m absolutely devastated I’m never going to play in front of you supporters again.”

The pre-match music set the mood — ‘Simply The Best’, ‘Heroes’, ‘Nothing Lasts Forever’, ‘The End Of The World As We Know It’, and a nod to his Los Angeles Galaxy future with ‘Kids In America’.

Even if the former England skipper has heard the chant of ‘You’ll Never Walk Alone’ more often than he can remember, the fans gave him an unforgettable rendition as he stood with his three daughters on the field.

The refrain was echoed on countless banners, the supporters thanking him for some of their greatest memories including an unforgettable 2005 Champions League success, as the 34-year-old midfielder emerged from the tunnel to a guard of honour from both sides.

High-fiving each Palace player as he moved down the line, Gerrard applauded the stands on his 354th appearance at Anfield in all competitions.

“The first time you ever play for Liverpool Football Club is a dream come true,” he said later. “Everything else after that was a bonus for me.

“Before I go, before the tears come…I’ve played in front of most supporters around the world but let me tell you, you are the best,” he told the crowd as the cheers rose to a crescendo.

Manager Brendan Rodgers promised it would be a match players would tell their grandchildren about and there could be no doubt about that, even if much of the action was far from memorable.

“I asked members of staff if they could describe Steven Gerrard in one word, what word would that be,” he added. “It’s Liverpool. Not just Liverpool as a football club but Liverpool the supporters and Liverpool the city.

“He’s a wonderful symbol for the people here and is an icon of the club.”

(Editing by Tony Jimenez)

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Young gun Parker fires the Swans

One of Sydney’s youngest guns, Luke Parker is stamping himself as a captain-in-waiting at the AFL club.

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Parker earned more plaudits after he ensured Sydney go into Saturday’s AFL grand final rematch against Hawthorn on a positive note, providing the inspiration, energy and big plays in Saturday’s 43-point home victory over Geelong.

The 22-year-old midfielder was the third youngest member of the team, but he displayed the savvy and composure of a seasoned veteran as he did it all, notching career-bests in goals (5), kicks (20) and marks (11) and laying five tackles.

Parker proved a steal at No.40 in the 2010 draft and Swans coach John Longmire, who isn’t renowned for lavishing praise on individuals, labelled him a “beauty.”

“His will is enormous, he just makes himself become a good player and wills himself to the contest,” Longmire said.

Rated “a gun” by Geelong coach Chris Scott, Parker is already a premiership player and best and fairest winner,

Promoted to the Swans leadership group this year, it’s surely a matter of when, and not if, he ascends to the status of captain or co-captain.

Teammates recognise and relish his leadership.

“He was just doing all he could to try and will us along and he was able to do it,” said swingman Sam Reid on Swans TV after the game.

“Parkesy leads from the front every week,” added midfield colleague Tom Mitchell.

Parker insisted the Swans hadn’t yet given much thought to avenging last year’s crushing 64-point grand final loss to the Hawks but he made it clear they were up for the challenge.

“I think it’s going to be really tight at the end of the year and if you can win these big games like last night and next week, then hopefully it puts you in good stead for the end of the season,” Parker said on ABC Radio’s Sunday Huddle.

Mitchell 21, the second youngest member of the team that vanquished Geelong, also had a career night.

Mitchell, who has battled to cement a place in the team, notched a career-high 33 disposals against the Cats and equalled his best top flight goalkicking effort with three majors.

It seems Mitchell has convinced his teammates and coaching staff he has added the defensive starch to his prolific possession-getting.

“He’s been able to pick up on that massively over the pre-season and get that right,” Parker said.

“Now with him coming in, we all have full trust that he’s playing his role and he’s going to put his head over it when he needs to.

“The main thing is we want to be the hardest two-way team. It’s good to see the young boys are buying into it.”

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Richmond AFL boss calls for calm

Richmond president Peggy O’Neal has sought to calm rumblings about the AFL club, pointing to how far they have come in the last five years.

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A season of great expectations for the Tigers has started with a 2-4 win-loss record and growing unease about whether they can make the finals again.

Speaking before Sunday’s crucial match against Collingwood at the MCG, O’Neal said the club remained determined to build sustained success.

She said the media or fans baying for blood would not distract the Tigers hierarchy.

“No matter if you’re flying or failing on the field, we don’t make reactive decisions based on the latest view in the media or the vocal minority,” O’Neal said.

“Every part of our business looks at the facts – we ask hard questions and collectively, we find a way forward.

“That’s been critical to the narrative that’s been Richmond over the last five seasons and these first six games.”

O’Neal noted that in 2010, Richmond started the season with nine-straight losses.

They had a debt of $5 million and were playing “home” games in Cairns.

She said their Punt Rd facilities were an embarrassment and membership was stagnant.

“Critically, the underlining philosophy was that no one person was going to fix the club – there was no messiah,” she said.

“It would require all of us to be single-minded in pursuing success and we acknowledged that it was a strategy that would require us to stay the course for a very long time.”

O’Neal said the Tigers are now debt-free, have full control of a redeveloped Punt Rd headquarters and are at record membership.

“I’m not recounting this to congratulate ourselves – we’re not satisfied (and) there’s much more to do,” she said.

“We have gotten enough right to ensure the club has a solid foundation upon which to build its future.

“That’s what only stable, united football clubs do.”

O’Neal said it is critical that the Tigers stay the course and do so rationally.

“One of the greatest challenges for those within the club is to make decisions that are not driven by emotional outbursts, to not rise to the bait, to not be volatile,” she said.

“In my legal practice, I came to realise it was rare for a good business decision to be made once emotion ruled the day.”

O’Neal acknowledged the only antidote to losing is winning.

“But that (win-loss) record doesn’t detract from where we started and where we hope to be,” she said.

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Manly out to continue Monday form

Manly will be out to continue its strong NRL record in Monday night football when they host Penrith at Brookvale Oval.

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The Sea Eagles have won their past five Monday night clashes, and since 2013 have lost just two of their past nine matches when playing in the final fixture of the round.

“Monday night’s traditionally have been very good for us,” coach Geoff Toovey said.

“The two years we had seven Monday night games were the two years we were in the grand final.

“Monday nights do seem to suit us and if we can take advantage of that this Monday it’ll be a positive for us.”

In contrast, the Panthers have lost both their Monday night clashes so far this season – to the Roosters in round three and the Cowboys in round five.

In fact, the mountain men haven’t won a Monday night game away from Penrith since 2010.

The real issue for Panthers coach Ivan Cleary will be how his side backs up for their next game against Parramatta in round 12 having lost 10 of 11 after playing the last game of the weekend.

However it’s this week’s opponents that will be the most pressing matter for Cleary, having watched his side fall to a heartbreaking 8-5 loss to Brisbane last start.

Key playmaker Jamie Soward came through unscathed after returning from a long-term back injury last week, while hooker James Segeyaro has also recovered from an elbow problem to make his first appearance in a month.

Toovey identified Penrith’s spine as their major threat this weekend.

“They have some senior players coming back in the side in the likes of Soward,” he said.

“I think [Matt] Moylan’s grown another leg from last year. He’s looking dangerous out the back there.

“And also with Segeyaro back playing, they can create something from nothing. He’s a big danger from dummy half.”

For Manly, centre Steve Matai returns from suspension, while Tom Symonds take the place of injured five-eighth Kieran Foran.

STATS THAT MATTER

– Brett Stewart scored tries 150 and 151 last week to equal Steve Menzies as the all-time leading tryscorer for the Sea Eagles. Stewart is 10th on the all-time tryscoring list and needs just one to equal Harold Horder in ninth.

– Stewart has scored 22 tries in his past 22 matches at Brookvale. Over the course of his career Manly has won almost 85 per cent of its matches at the venue when Stewart has scored. He needs seven tries to equal Menzies’ record of 88 tries at Brookvale.

– The Panthers have missed more tackles than any other team this season, missing more than 31 per game. Last week they missed their equal most this season (42) despite conceding just eight points.

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Storm building NRL title hopes on defence

Melbourne believe a renewed focus on goal-line defence is responsible for putting them atop the NRL ladder ahead of “rough waters” over the State of Origin period.

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The Storm put their pre-season training to good use as they held on in the face of a second-half onslaught by defending champions South Sydney for a 16-12 win at AAMI Park on Saturday night.

Late in the first half, the home side showed their grit by repelling three goal-line drop outs and four consecutive sets with Souths unable to penetrate.

The Rabbitohs big pack shifted up a gear in the second half and pumped the Storm up the middle but, despite playing with 70 per cent of territory, they couldn’t find the necessary third try.

Storm skipper Cameron Smith, who led by example with a game-high 41 tackles, said they had identified goal-line defence as an area to improve.

“It’s probably been the best part of our game, our goal-line defence,” Smith said.

“That’s what we’ve turned around and we’ve worked extremely hard over the pre-season in that area.

“It brings confidence and energy when you turn a quality side away three or four times from your goal line.”

The Storm are perfectly positioned with a bye next week before losing Smith, Billy Slater, Cooper Cronk and Will Chambers to Queensland’s Origin campaign.

Coach Craig Bellamy said regardless of their ladder position he felt the team was in better shape than last year.

The Storm only has one more win than after round 10 last season but he felt they were playing with much more effort and consistency.

“What buoys us is that most of our guys are playing reasonably well and are putting plenty of effort in and I perhaps couldn’t have said that at the same time last year,” Bellamy said.

“I don’t like saying that but that’s what it looked like.”

But Bellamy said that with his key quartet about to go missing, it wouldn’t be all smooth sailing.

“It’s a nice position to be in but there’s going to be some rough waters ahead through Origin so we’ve just got to get through it.”

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