Ashes showdown for gold in team pursuit as Bradley Wiggins hits the velodrome

Australia have set up a mouth-watering gold medal showdown with Bradley Wiggins’ England quartet on Thursday as they look to get their campaign at the Sir Chris Hoy Velodrome off to a flying start.
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In a big opening day the country’s flagbearer and four-time Commonwealth Games gold medallist Anna Meares will be the hot favourite in the women’s 500m time trial and there are medals up for grabs in the men’s team sprint, but the men’s team pursuit final will be eagerly anticipated.

The world champion Australian team were the fastest qualifiers of the six competing nations, with Jack Bobridge, Luke Davison, Alex Edmondson and Glenn O’Shea piloting them into the gold medal playoff in a time of 3.57.939.

England’s Wiggins, Ed Clancy, Steven Burke and Andy Tennant (3.59.249) pipped the other major challenger New Zealand, who blew an opportunity to cancel the Ashes-themed rivalry in the final when a second rider lost pace on the final lap.

The result ensures a gripping late afternoon session in Glasgow’s east end, with all eyes on four-time Olympic gold medallist and 2012 Tour de France winner Wiggins in his return to track cycling for the first time in six years.

It is the 34-year-old’s only event in Glasgow, and he is seeking a first Commonwealth Games gold, and there was a noticeable lift in the first-day crowd as he shot to the front of England’s quartet on Thursday.

Australia, however, are keen to play spoiler for Wiggins and Clancy, who won team pursuit gold together at the 2008 Olympics in Beijing.

They have their own star rider, Bobridge, back in the pursuit train at a major competition after a spell away from the track riding professionally for Orica-GreenEDGE and then Belkin.

It’s the 25-year-old’s first international competition since London 2012, where he claimed silver in the team pursuit, but his time on the road did not appear to have slowed him down one bit in qualifying on Thursday.

Elsewhere on the track, Australian sprinter Matthew Glaetzer claimed a Commonwealth Games record of 9.779sec in qualifying of the men’s sprint, and is through to Friday’s quarter-finals.

Five riders including Glaetzer’s compatriot Peter Lewis went under fellow Australian Shane Perkins’ mark of 10.058 from Delhi in 2010 and Lewis also reached the final eight safely.

England’s triple Olympic champion Jason Kenny scraped into the quarter-finals via the repechage.

Perkins, who sat out the individual sprint, will contest the team sprint later on Thursday, while in an all-Australian playoff for bronze in the women’s Para-sport sprint B tandem Felicity Johnson and Holly Takos will take on Brandie O’Connor and Breanna Hargrave.

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Daly Cherry-Evans silent on prospect of leaving Manly

DRAMA: Daly Cherry–Evans at Manly training yesterday with halves coach Andrew Johns. Pictures: Getty ImagesSUPERSTAR halfback Daly Cherry-Evans is declining to dampen speculation he could exit Brookvale when his contract with Manly concludes at the end of the 2015 NRL season.
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One of the game’s leading players, Cherry-Evans was already linked to a four-year $4 million deal with Parramatta starting from 2016 and a move to Brisbane.

Moves to poach the Queensland playmaker are just part of the drama engulfing the Sea Eagles, with Steve Matai asking for a release to join the Warriors next year and Brett Stewart and Anthony Watmough also reportedly wanting out.

Speaking at training yesterday, Cherry-Evans insisted he was “very happy” at Manly.

Asked about his future beyond next year, the 2011 premiership winner was non-committal.

“I think it’s too far away for me to judge,” he said.

“I’ve still got another year left on my contract so for me to be talking about that a year-and-a-half out is ridiculous.”

Five-eighth Kieran Foran has conceded player contractual issues are afflicting the NRL competition leaders and called for Sea Eagles management to allow Matai to make a big-money move to the Warriors.

DRAMA: Daly Cherry–Evans at Manly training yesterday DRAMA: Daly Cherry–Evans at Manly training yesterday. Pictures: Getty Images

Matai requested a release from the final year of his current contract with Manly to take up a four-year deal with the Warriors starting next season reported to be worth around $2.5 million.

Brett Stewart and Anthony Watmough also reportedly want out of their contracts.

Foran admitted at training yesterday that resentment still runs deep between the playing group and management over their refusal to offer Glenn Stewart a contract extension earlier this year.

Stewart, 30, since signed with South Sydney for next year.

“I guess there are issues to be sorted. I think the club underestimated Glenn Stewart’s departure and we said all along ‘Gif’ was a massive part of building this culture here and as players we probably felt that he deserved a contract put in front of him,” Foran said.

“I guess all the boys are mates with him and they are probably disappointed.

“I wouldn’t say there is disharmony; our results have shown on the field that we are getting on good here.

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

“Whether or not that [the salary cap] was the reason Glenn was forced out I am not so sure.”

Foran was also linked to a move but said he would see out his contract at the club, which ends next year. AAP

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Business as usual, says Bennett, as Knights face premiers

Knights player Willie Mason, left, with Roosters player Sonny Bill Williams. Ready for another face-off. FROM the outside looking in, the Knights have had to deal with another series of disruptions in an abbreviated build-up to their game against the Roosters at Hunter Stadium tonight.
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Since the emotionally charged ‘‘Rise For Alex’’ game against the Titans just five days ago, the Knights learnt coach Wayne Bennett will be returning to Brisbane, and teammate Darius Boyd checked himself into a mental health facility to be treated for depression.

Hardly an ideal lead-in to a game against the defending premiers, but Bennett believed his players had become accustomed to rolling with the punches this season.

Bennett said his decision to rejoin the Broncos was of no consequence, because he announced two weeks ago that he was leaving the Knights at the end of the season and it should matter little to the players where he would be coaching next year.

As for Boyd’s indefinite absence, Bennett said he and the players addressed that issue on Wednesday.

‘‘We got it resolved, and I don’t think it will have a huge impact on the boys. Last time we played the Roosters we played without him, because he was away with Origin duties, so I think we’re all handling it good,’’ said Bennett, who spoke to Boyd yesterday.

‘‘He was pretty settled and happy with what the process has [been] in the past 24 hours and thanked everybody for their well wishes, but he felt that he’d made a good decision and he was in the right place and he needed to be there right now.’’

Bennett said Boyd was aware of the mostly positive response from the rugby league community, and was heartened by comments from his Queensland coach Mal Meninga and Maroons and Australian teammate Johnathan Thurston.

‘‘Overall I’m really pleased with the media,’’ Bennett said.

‘‘I thought yesterday the press conference was really good and sensitive enough to the situation and most of the reporting has been great.

‘‘There’s been the odd one, I would think, that probably hasn’t been, but I just said to him this morning that Mal Meninga had made some wonderful comments about him and Johnathan Thurston – people that he knows and trusts – and I think he was pleased to hear that. But other than that, he wouldn’t have watched the news service and he wouldn’t buy a paper.’’

Bennett believed the support services provided to players by all NRL clubs and the game’s governing body was bordering on ‘‘overkill’’ but it was preferable to bygone eras, when mental health issues were considered a sign of weakness.

‘‘I think we do it pretty well now, to be honest with you,’’ he said.

‘‘There’s so much out there inside the clubs at the moment to help these players, it’s just incredible. It worries me sometimes that we’ve got overkill.

‘‘When they leave us, I don’t know, they’ve got to grow up somewhere in their life, so it’s a fine line, but the game does take their welfare very seriously and I’ve got no complaints about the game and how they treat the players.’’

Boyd, who has been tipped by some pundits to follow Bennett back to the Broncos at the end of this season, could have played his last game for the Knights as he has told teammates and officials he will not return next year.

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T4 opponents, Nobbyssupporters call for Labor vote

The state ALP conference has been asked to consider protecting the public ownership of Nobbys Headland by placing it in the hands of the National Parks and Wildlife Service. THE NSW Labor party has been urged to adopt a policy of opposing new Newcastle coal-loader developments – by some of its own Hunter branches.
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Protecting the public ownership of Nobbys Headland by placing it in the hands of the National Parks and Wildlife Service and easing parking pressures for family members visiting hospital patients are among those motions also submitted for the party’s annual state conference to consider.

It will be held in Sydney at the weekend, is expected to be attended by up to 880 delegates and will hear from federal Labor leader Bill Shorten, state leader John Robertson and former premier Bob Carr.

The Newcastle federal electorate council and the Stockton branch have both urged the conference, which is the party’s binding policy maker, to object “to the construction of a fourth coal-loader [T4] on Kooragang Island”.

The party’s policy committee has recommended only that the conference note the motions.

It suggests giving in-principle support to the Mayfield branch’s motion that the conference oppose the building of a coal-loader and rail line at the former steelworks site at Mayfield, due to the increased environmental impact on Mayfield East.

The Newcastle federal electorate council has also sought the amendment of rules to allow for a rank-and-file ballot of members to select the parliamentary leader, currently Mr Robertson, from among Labor MPs.

However, the conference is expected to endorse a new process of a 50-50 vote of rank-and-file and the state parliamentary party to elect the leader, beginning after the next state election in March.

Newcastle state candidate Tim Crakanthorp said other motions from city branches opposed to TAFE funding cuts recognised the importance of vocational education to the region.

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Preschoolers learn social justice

EMPATHY: Eli Flanagan, 4, left, helps preschool classmates Isabella Machan, 4, and Paddy O’Sullivan, 3. Picture: Peter StoopFOUR-year-old Eli Flanagan is putting his preschool lessons about social justice into practice.
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The KU Maitland Mobile Preschool student could not stop grinning when asked about how he helped other people: “I help pack up toys … I help my mum at home … I teach my sister things … I help the other kids learn.”

The activities are part of a move to help children between three and five learn about fairness, sharing and helping others. This week the children are participating in a charity drive for Carrie’s Place in Maitland, a refuge for women and children affected by domestic violence.

Preschool director Nicole-Brooke Dean said the children helped a charity every year, and the task helped to teach them about having compassion for those less fortunate.

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