Morrow brief return before retiring

Tough season: Veteran ABC sports commentator David Morrow. Photo: SuppliedVeteran ABC broadcaster David Morrow will return to the airwaves next week before joining long-time colleague Warren Ryan in retirement at the end of the season.
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Morrow was stood down following an on-air incident during the Roosters-Bulldogs clash on May 23, which was effectively Ryan’s last shift with the station.

The ABC launched an investigation into allegations Ryan had made a racist remark, while Morrow was being investigated for finding the remark humorous. Ryan sensationally handed in his resignation to his long-term employer, fast-tracking retirement plans and effectively ending an association with rugby league that had stretched over five decades.

“The ABC has suspended me pending an investigation, so I have resigned to save them the trouble of conducting it,” Ryan said last month.

Morrow had to wait exactly two months for the result of the inquiry into his conduct, with the outcome allowing him a final farewell to listeners.

“The ABC has completed its investigation into a broadcast by Warren Ryan and David Morrow aired on Friday 23 May 2014,” an ABC representative said.

“The ABC has reviewed Mr Morrow’s responses to the investigation and accepts that he does not condone or endorse terms that are offensive and racist. The community holds the ABC responsible for everything it broadcasts and Mr Morrow understands the standards required of ABC commentators in this regard. As a result, the ABC confirms Mr Morrow will now return to his usual duties as a commentator with ABC Grandstand.

“Mr Morrow has advised the ABC of his decision to retire in November at the end of this broadcast year. Mr Morrow has made a significant contribution to the sporting community through his broadcast work and the ABC wishes him well.

“Warren Ryan chose to end his association with the ABC when the investigation was instigated. The ABC acknowledges his longstanding service to the sports community and public broadcasting and wishes him well.”

Morrow, who was also briefly stood down last year over allegations a conversation he referenced with an Atlanta police officer were racist, could not be contacted for comment.

“I’d like to congratulate David on an outstanding career. He has been a phenomenal broadcaster,” Ryan said.

“We have enjoyed a great friendship over the years and that will continue when he retires.”

Generations of rugby league fans have grown up with Morrow, who has been a part of the ABC’s radio and television coverage of the game since 1980. He covered his first Olympic Games in 1984 and his first Commonwealth Games two years later. In 2005, he was awarded an OAM for services to sport, sports broadcasting, the community. The ABC is in the process of finding replacements for Morrow and Ryan for next year’s sports coverage.

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Manly set to keep grip on star duo

Manly are on the verge of offering disgruntled duo Anthony Watmough and Steve Matai contract extensions that would keep them at the club for the rest of their careers as teammate Kieran Foran has broken ranks and declared there are multiple “issues” engulfing the competition leaders.
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It is understood preliminary discussions with Watmough have begun – the representative back-rower is set to be offered a $1.2 million two-year extension on his deal, which expires next year. Watmough, 31, has also sounded out post-career opportunities to remain with the club when he retires.

Matai has already had his requests to join the Warriors denied. Manly now want to extend his contract, which ends next year.

There have been reports a player split has emerged at the Sea Eagles following news of Glenn Stewart’s departure at the end of the year. This led to suggestions Watmough and Brett Stewart could follow Matai’s lead in wanting to leave the club.

Foran said Matai deserved to be released from the final year of his deal to join the Warriors on a lucrative contract. He also took aim at the club’s management.

“I think the club underestimated Glenn Stewart’s departure,” Foran said. “We said all along that “Gift” [Stewart] was a massive part of building this culture here. As players, we felt that he deserved a contract put in front of him. I guess as all the boys are mates with him [they] are disappointed.

“I can’t really comment on individual situations. I guess the underlying fact is there are issues that need to be sorted.

“I’m not too sure [if the playing group will be split next year]. Everyone is contracted until the end of next year and others beyond that. We’ll just have to wait and see.

“I believe there are issues higher up than just the playing group.”

The Manly board moved on Wednesday night to assure Sea Eagles fans that it “fully supported” the honouring of contracts, declaring it would not grant any requests for early releases from the NRL club.

Foran said he understood that salary cap restrictions could have forced the club’s hand but wasn’t sure if that was the sole reason for Stewart’s departure.

“I understand that,” he said. “It always forces players out. It happens at every club. Whether or not that was the reason he was forced out I’m not too sure.

“I think in Stevie’s situation I believe he has taken unders for a lot of a years now to stay at this club. If he can now set his family up and get a big money contract elsewhere, then the club should assess it.

“I know there have been a lot of boys that have [taken less money to stay]. There’s been a lot of sacrifices from a lot of those older and senior boys to keep the group together.”

Teammate Daly Cherry-Evans – who is expected to command about $1 million per season when his deal expires at the end of next year – said he backed the club’s stance on not releasing players.

“That’s great,” Cherry-Evans said. “We’ve got a great roster. There is no secret in the success this side has had. To keep everyone involved for as long as possible that’s great.

“I’m very happy [here]. There’s been adversity in this club for a long time but we always find a way to get out the other end. This is just another speed bump in the club. We’ll continue to move forward and continue to go out there and be successful in the field, which is what matters most.”

New Zealand host Manly on Sunday.

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Rugby union, the NSW Waratahs and the Wallabies are back – or at least headed in the right direction

Are you sitting down?
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I hope so, because what you are about to read is massive. I mean, really big.

Rugby. Union. Is. Back.

Well, sort of.

Now, the mungos out there will be laughing into their happy hour schooners at Northies at the mere thought.

And the Swans types will be readjusting their newly bought scarfs and beanies, chuckling as they order another piccolo from their eastern suburbs cafe with a barista who is so serious you’d think he’s about to find a cure for cancer.

And the football types, well, they will point to the world game, and the Socceroos’ unbridled, winless success in Brazil. Sleeping giant and all that jazz.

But with the Waratahs taking on the Brumbies on Saturday night, with a place in the Super Rugby final on the line, with a Tahs record crowd of more than 40,000 at Allianz Stadium looming, there is renewed, if not cautious, optimism about the code.

Make no mistake, ARU and rugby types in general were furious at a story and picture on the back page of The Sydney Morning Herald last week revealing a coffee between Israel Folau, his manager Isaac Moses and NRL head of football Todd Greenberg.

They were angry that, despite two Australian teams qualifying for the finals, the focus was now on whether Folau and teammate Kurtley Beale would be playing rugby league in the near future.

Not that long ago, this column and many others would have scoffed at the outrage. In other words, rugby should be thankful for the coverage, so irrelevant had it become. The days of Wendell Sailor, Mat Rogers and Lote Tuqiri hogging headlines for switching to rugby are well behind us. Take what you can get.

But to suggest the 15-man game is still dying a slow death is nonsense. The NRL wishes. It wishes it had its time again and had signed Folau, instead of seeing him plastered over the back of almost every Sydney taxi in a Waratahs jumper. So why is rugby back? I’m glad you asked.

First, the so-called “rugby recession” might just be over. You will notice ARU boss Bill Pulver has stopped talking about the game’s precarious financial state. The Wallabies still command corporate dollars from the really big end of town: Qantas, HSBC, Lexus.

Also, don’t underestimate the inclusion of rugby sevens at the Olympics in Rio de Janeiro from 2016. Play rugby and you can possibly win an Olympic medal. Some incentive. Of course, everything hinges on the Wallabies, and whether they can beat the All Blacks.

It’s that simple, and Ewen McKenzie has us on the right path. Robbie Deans is gone as Wallabies coach. So too is the “toxic culture” cultivated by Gen Y’ers Quade Cooper and James O’Connor. A new generation of Gen Y’ers in Matt Toomua, Bernard Foley and Michael Hooper has been ushered in.

Some say the ARU has erred in letting Nick Cummins take the big bucks in Japanese rugby. Some perspective, please. He’s a winger, who created headlines around the “Honey Badger” nickname. The future of Australian rugby hinges on more than that.

There is a long way to go, but McKenzie has given purists faint reason to believe we might see another Dave Brockhoff moment, when he ran around the perimeter of the SCG in 1979 clutching the Bledisloe.

Then there are the Tahs. This week, I’ve heard coach Michael Chieka described as a “lunatic”, “madman” and “genius”. Whatever he is, he’s got the Waratahs not only winning, but with a style of running rugby that suggests rugby is back.

If not back, headed in the right direction.

BENNETT WON’T BE WELCOMED BACK BY EVERYONE

Wayne Bennett will make a stunning return to Brisvegas next year, but do not expect a homecoming parade at Red Hill.

The senior players are furious at the treatment of current coach Anthony Griffin, who showed utmost class at the media conference confirming his termination.

Then there’s chief executive Paul White, who is making the right noises but is said to be livid about Bennett going around his back to News Corp chief executive Lachlan Murdoch to seal the deal.

(We talked to Murdoch’s peeps about him commenting, but he’s overseas).

Bennett’s statement on Tuesday claiming the Broncos “weren’t in the equation until the board recently contacted me” is also curious.

This column has been told that a group of influential businessmen, who have sway with the board, has been agitating for months for Bennett’s return – with former general manager of football operations Andrew Gee central to negotiations.

Gee resigned from the club after a 25-year involvement in the wake of the NRL’s salary cap investigation.

The last time I saw Gee and Bennett together was three years ago, when I was a guest in Bennett’s coaches box during the Indigenous All Stars game.

Gee was running the interchange alongside the master coach.

MICK POTTER AND THE CHAMBER OF SECRETS

Oh, to be an NRL coach in this trigger-happy day and age.

At the start of the week, the tip was the Tigers board was going to basically ignore the report it commissioned from Brian Smith and keep coach Mick Potter. A 12-month contract extension appeared certain.

But then, on Thursday, it emerged that Potter was now tipped to be sacked, with assistant coach David Kidwell expected to get the job.

FASTER, HIGHER, CHEAPER

Channel Seven is set to host the Rio de Janeiro Olympics in 2016 … from a car park in Sydney or Melbourne.

The network is yet to announce it will be hosting the next three summer and winter Olympics.

It might be because head of sport Saul Shtein has been in Rio this week attending a briefing of official broadcast partners for the games.

The word out of Copacabana Beach is that Seven will do exactly what it did for Athens in 2004 – host the five-ring circus from a temporary studio in Australia, in order to save costs.

SCG TO HONOUR MEDIA GREATS

The hard-working members of the sporting media will be honoured with a hall of fame in the SCG’s new MA Noble, Don Bradman and Dally Messenger Stands.

There will be 15 inaugural inductees, announced at a lunch function at the SCG on August 26, and there are some shoo-ins: Fairfax photographer John O’Gready (who took the Gladiators pic that features on the NRL trophy), former cricketer Bill O’Reilly, legendary radio caller Frank Hyde, and Channel Nine’s Ray Warren.

An expert panel of trustees, sporting historians and leading journalists has been consulted to whittle down the inaugural inductees.

“The Hall of Honour will pay tribute to the men and women of the media who have excelled in their careers covering sport at the Sydney Cricket Ground, Allianz Stadium and the Sydney Sports Ground before it,” SCG Trust chief executive Jamie Barkley said.

“It will acknowledge the rich history of the press and broadcasters who have reported from the grounds, recognising their role in etching into history the countless famous sporting moments that have taken place here.”

THE QUOTE

“I can’t guarantee I’ll be here. Rugby league is a crazy, crazy game.” – In this crazy, crazy old world, thank heavens for Manly coach Geoff Toovey.

THUMBS UP

Yeah, Rory McIlroy won this third major by holding on for victory at the British Open. But the REAL winner was his father, Gerry, who had the foresight a decade ago to bet $180 at the odds of 500 to 1 that his son would win the tournament before he turned 26. The payout: $90,000.

THUMBS DOWN

The easiest whinge in town is that the Commonwealth Games are irrelevant, they’re a relic of the former British Empire, we should get rid of them. This column is not a monarchist by any means, but as long as young types are aspiring to be their best, is it really that bad?

IT’S A BIG WEEKEND FOR … playing against your old joint. First up, Benji Marshall, who comes up against Wests Tigers – as a St George Illawarra Dragon – at ANZ Stadium. It’s weird seeing him in the Red V. Imagine when it’s against the Tigers.

IT’S AN EVEN BIGGER WEEKEND FOR … Lance “Buddy” Franklin, as he returns to Melbourne and the MCG to take on his former side, Hawthorn – as a Sydney Swan. He can’t drive, but he has the Swannies purring like a Maserati as they head into the pointy end of the AFL season.

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Tower plans lowered to protect Cathedral

CUT: The tower at the right will be smaller than planned. NEWSof the government’s ruling – to lower by two stories a towerproposed to be built as partof a planto redevelop Newcastle’s city centre -has done nothing to appease a city residents’ group.
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The group opposses changes to building height limits on the city centre site owned by UrbanGrowth and GPT.

Newcastle Inner City Residents Alliance described the move as ‘‘farcical’’.

‘‘This morning’s announcement by the minister is a cynical approach to appease community concerns while maintaining an abuse of planning policies to satisfy the ambitions of developers,’’ NICRA spokesman Brian Ladd said.

‘‘We are taking the risk of having our unique historical section of Newcastle destroyed for future generations. And it will at the taxpayer’s expense as we have already paid for UrbanGrowth – a state government-owned legacy – buying out GPT for its failed investment in inner city land.

‘‘The minister’s cynical announcement solves nothing,’’ he said. ‘‘But the community will continue to fight.’’

THE tallest tower in a proposal to redevelop Newcastle’s city centre will be lowered by at least two storeys in new plans to be announced today – but the heights of other buildings could be increased.

Christ Church Cathedral will remain the city skyline’s tallest building under revised planning controls the state government will issue today.

The maximum building height for the GPT/Urban Growth redevelopment in the Hunter Street mall precinct has been reduced from a proposed 69.5 metres, about 20 storeys, to 58.9 metres, about 17 storeys.

Its buildings won’t exceed the height of the parapet of the cathedral’s nave, which the government said would ensure the iconic building was protected as the city’s prominent feature.

The new Local Environment Plan and Development Control Plan follows more than 200 submissions to the original plans, with the pitch for three tall towers in the East End for the GPT/Urban Growth site provoking the most controversy.

The trimming of the tower plan comes on the same day the Newcastle Inner City Residents Alliance will hold a public meeting on the redevelopment at City Hall.

The towers had been proposed as 19 storeys on the old David Jones car park site, 15 storeys in Wolfe Street and 14 storeys corner of King and Newcomen streets, but the tallest will now have to be reduced.

The buildings will still soar above the current height limit of about seven storeys.

Other changes from the draft documents include more floor space for the University of Newcastle’s inner city campus, up from a 4:1 ratio to 5:1, and increased heights for some other buildings.

Planning minister Pru Goward said the community’s concerns about high rise had been listened to ‘‘and we now have planning controls that provide the framework for the delivery of a long-term vision for the future – planning for a growing Newcastle’’.

The controls would ‘‘help shape the city centre to take advantage of the significant investment in new public transport’’, specifically light rail, she said.

Newcastle’s population is expected to hit 190,000 by 2031, with an extra 10,000 jobs and 6000 homes forecast for the city centre by 2036.

Newcastle MP Tim Owen welcomed the reduced East End maximum heights.

‘‘It is possible to protect the things we value while providing the housing and jobs we will need into the future, and that’s what I’m very pleased to have seen happen here,’’ Mr Owen said.

Lord Mayor Jeff McCloy, a vocal supporter of increase heights and higher density living, was also on board.

‘‘I want to make sure that our city is prepared for the future and a modern set of planning controls for the city’s centre is an important first step in helping the city realise its full potential,” Cr’’ McCloy said.

The changes are separate to potential uses for vacant rail corridor land when the heavy rail is truncated, beginning later this year.

The government is still conducting public consultation for those potential planning measures, with Urban Growth to hold a summit to hear ideas for public space over the weekend.

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State consideringmedicinal marijuana trials

CLINICAL trials of medicinal cannabis could happen in NSW, but Premier Mike Baird is waiting on details about regulation and supply before making any commitments.
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Under a private member’s bill to be introduced next month by Nationals MP Kevin Anderson, terminally ill people and their carers will be legally able to carry up to 15 grams of cannabis.

Mr Baird indicated his support after meeting Daniel Haslam, a 24-year-old who in 2010 was told he would only live for a few more months.

When asked if he would support a clinical trial, as proposed by the Australian Medical Association, Mr Baird said “it may well be something we have to do”.

“I’m open to that,” he said on Thursday.

Mr Haslam began taking cannabis to relieve his symptoms and help deal with the side effects of chemotherapy.

His retired nurse mother Lucy and father Lou – former head of the drug squad in north-west NSW – are now asking politicians to legalise the controversial drug.

“I was struck with Daniel and the battle he’s in. It’s heart-wrenching,” Mr Baird said.

“I’ve got deep sympathy and empathy with their position.”

But Mr Baird is waiting to see details of the bill and whether it will address his concerns about the sale and regulation of the drug.

“I’ll be looking closely at that,” he said.

“Let’s get to the details of what comes forward.”

He wouldn’t say whether government MPs would be given a conscience vote on the proposal, which is supported by the Greens and has provisional backing from the opposition.

But if the bill satisfies Mr Baird, it seems likely Daniel and his family won’t have to break the law for much longer. AAP

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