Kicking the game-winning field goal in a man-of-the-match performance to guide his side to a stirring 23-22 extra-time win without their Origin stars over a gutsy North Queensland Cowboys, there were no words for Croft and his parents to explain the moment either.In the sheds after the game, the three of them took turns tightly embracing each other in stunned silence as Croft enthusiastically nodded his head, as if he were saying ‘yes we did it, we made it and this is our moment to share’.Croft’s parents flew down from Queensland to cheer their son on proudly but only in their dreams could they have expected a fairytale finish that they will be boasting to friends and family when they return home.”Mum was stoked and seeing them off the field was one of the proudest moments of my career so far,” Croft said. “I was thinking the other day that it has been 364 days since my last NRL game. “It’s a fairly long time between drinks but I kept slogging away and the coaches gave me belief that my time would come and to be ready to put both feet forward. “When it went into golden point I though this is definitely that moment I’ve been practicing all week and it was my time to shine.”You visualise it, you dream about it and to go out there and put it into practice was an incredible experience.”What makes it all even more remarkable for the 19-year-old is the stunning resemblances to NRL superstar Cooper Cronk on and off the field.Despite a 14-year age gap, Cronk and his protégé are virtually doppelgangers. They share the same position and play the same style. They share a similar poise and maturity and even sound the same with deep insight and thoughtfulness. And for intrigued NSW fans, he is a Queenslander too.There’s little wonder Croft is known as Cronk’s clone in rugby league circles.”Early on I didn’t know how to take it as it’s a positive but you want to make a name for yourself,” Croft said.”It’s not a bad nickname to have, the boys give me a bit for it but that’s one of the prime reasons I came down to Melbourne in the first place, to learn off someone like that and certainly with how things have unfolded for next year I’m certainly pushing my case and doing what I can to build up to the player I want to be.”He is definitely my mentor and the main reason I came down here was to learn under him and hopefully one day possibly take his place.”In the meantime, I want to learn as much as I can from him as statistics show he got the golden boot last year and is the best player in the world. There is no better player to learn off both on and off the field.”He’s been great guidance to me.”Croft’s feats to date are impressive and why so many are excited by the blossoming youngster who captained the Junior Australia Kangaroos against New Zealand earlier this year. Before he was named in the 2017 NRL Auckland Nines Team of the Tournament, Croft moved through the Queensland ranks, representing the Maroons under-18s and -20s sides.Storm coach Craig Bellamy shared his excitement for Croft after the match for his game and hard work in his preparation.”We don’t just give a jersey to everyone, they’ve got to earn it,” Bellamy said.”After tonight Croft will be hungry to play a lot more I’d imagine.”He’s been playing Queensland-Cup, playing against men and handling it really well.”Croft’s field goal never looked like missing, he has been working hard on that at training all week.”There is one more trait that Croft’s parents hope their son continues with: that he decides against any impulses to get a tattoo, body piercing or other flamboyant item.”Mum wouldn’t approve of that so I’ll keep to the clean boy image,” he joked.But there’s definitely no joking Croft has serious game as he continues to follow in Cronk’s footsteps and is destined to make his own name.
Photo: PHOTOSPORTCrusaders first five-eighth Richie Mo’unga (right) tries to prevent James Lowe offloading during the Super Rugby semifinal at AMI Stadium. The Crusaders first five-eighth embarrassed the Chiefs winger when he dislodged the ball from his grasp in the 49th minute of the Super Rugby semifinal at Christchurch’s AMI Stadium, forcing it to ping into the hands of Israel Dagg and guaranteeing him one of the easiest tries of his career.Some commentators suggested Mo’unga, having failed in his first attempt to tackle Lowe a split-second earlier, had timed his second lunge to perfection because he instinctively knew his opponent was going to shape to kick off his powerful left foot.Not exactly, admits Mo’unga.”I just went to tackle him – I just hit the ball,” he said following the 27-13 victory. “Some of those moments went our way. Things could have been different if Tim (Chiefs wing Tim Nanai-Williams) had scored that try, it was a big momentum change.”Closely-fought matches are often decided by freak incidents.A horrified Lowe immediately launched a protest to referee Glen Jackson following the gaffe near his own line, but his argument was full of holes. He had simply been surprised by Mo’unga’s decision to attack his blind spot.It was a crucial moment in the game. Dagg’s five-pointer pushed the Crusaders out to a 15-6 lead, helping set-up the victory in front of a paltry crowd of around 13,000 fans.Earlier Nanai-Williams thought he had scored, only for TMO Glenn Newman and Jackson to rule he had lost possession as he slid across the line.Now Mo’unga is shaping for one of the biggest games of his career. Although he has won provincial titles with Canterbury, trying to stick it to the Lions at altitude in front of their own supporters at Ellis Park is in a different ball park altogether.The Lions impressed with the way they reversed a lacklustre start to beat the Hurricanes 44-29 at Ellis Park in their semi; they tapped into their forward drives to swing the momentum and were cunning enough to go wide and exploit the depleted defence when Beauden Barrett was controversially yellow carded.The Crusaders will have studied footage of the second semi while flying to Johannesburg, and the fact the Canes wilted so badly in the second 40 minutes emphasises how much the long flight from Down Under can affect players’ energy levels in such high-intensity fixtures.Mo’unga will again be loaded with the responsibility of kicking for field position, and varying the tactics will be vital if the Crusaders struggle as they did against the Chiefs; because too many kicks were simply gifts for fullback Damian McKenzie, whose running game was again a feature of the visitors’ game plan.”We sort of thought we could do what we did last week, and kick the ball and build pressure,” Mo’unga said in reference to the 17-0 win over the Highlanders in terrible weather in the quarterfinal.”What they (the Chiefs) did was hold on to the ball for long periods of time and we actually felt under pressure, defending for long periods. So, we changed that in the second half and held on to the ball a bit more.”Mo’unga wants to be a part of history. He could recall the evening when the Crusaders last won a title, beating the Waratahs 20-12 at Lancaster Park in 2008.”I was working for Vbase and got a photo with Dan Carter as he was walking out of the stadium. That was pretty special. It is pretty surreal to be in a good position to be in … to be able to make the final and give something back to the city is pretty important for me.”
Up-and-comer Brodie Croft looks set to beat a host of worthy candidates to the vacant No.7 jersey while returning fan favourite Ryan Hoffman looks a straight swap for Harris.NRL.com expert Jamie Soward says:”This could be the year we finally see someone go back-to-back. Everyone will talk about the change from Cooper Cronk to Brodie Croft but you’ve still got Cameron Smith and Billy Slater, around them guys like Will Chambers and Ryan Hoffman coming back, and they pick up a guy like Sam Kasiano. There’s no real weakness in this side.”The only change from week to week is around the bench if someone’s not performing. Croft will obviously have questions asked of his early on in the year but from everything we’ve seen of him he’s a Cooper Cronk clone. Melbourne are looking formidable heading into the 2018 season.”This year they handled the Origin period really well – can they handle that again? I know Slater isn’t playing but these young guys will be playing a full season this time, not just coming in for three or four games.”NRL.com’s predicted Round 1 team:1 Billy Slater, 2 Suliasi Vunivalu, 3 Curtis Scott, 4 Will Chambers, 5 Josh Addo-Carr, 6 Cameron Munster, 7 Brodie Croft, 8 Jesse Bromwich, 9 Cameron Smith, 10 Tim Glasby, 11 Ryan Hoffman, 12 Felise Kaufusi, 13 Dale Finucane. Interchange: 14 Nelson Asofa-Solomona, 15 Kenny Bromwich, 16 Sam Kasiano, 17 Christian Welch. Reserves: 18 Joe Stimson, 19 Patrick Kaufusi, 20 Cheyse Blair, 21 Tui Kamikamica.
The Barras have the momentum coming off two wins against Nepal in round two of the World Cricket League Championship.The Barras beat Nepal by two wickets on Monday and again by three wickets on Wednesday.The match will start at 9:45am (3:45pm PNG).
The plan, drawn up by the Head of Game Strategy and Development, Shane Richardson, is designed to improve player welfare and pathways, upgrade and strengthen the second tier and assist in protecting elite players from burnout.The strategy will reduce costs for clubs, further grow the game outside the current reach and provide a new level of awareness regarding player welfare as they progress through the elite pathways.Mr Richardson said Rugby League has an opportunity to extend its reach beyond its current footholds to country Australia, Affiliated States, New Zealand, Pacifica and ultimately internationally.He said the strategy takes a “whole of game” approach to the challenges of the future.The key recommendations include:- Increasing the size of NRL squads to 36 players – including six rookies- Restricting players from making their NRL debuts until the year they turn 19. No player to be signed with an agent until he is 17 – and contracts for these players should be for a maximum three-year term- Restructuring the National Youth Competition into a state-based under-20 competition- Introducing rookie contracts for the start of the 2018 season with each club allowed to sign three rookies each year on two-year contracts- Revamping and upgrading the State League into a Platinum League to spread the footprint of the competition into all the areas that play Rugby League- Easing player welfare by considering additional leave, creating a formal International window over an eight-year period and reducing the number of five-day turnaroundsMr Richardson said the phasing out of the NYC and payments for under-18 players – along with a new business model for the second tier – would result in a $20 million saving for the NRL clubs.There would be a significant increase in expenditure in the pathways and in particular the second tier by the NRL.”We are looking to improve and extend the pathways not detract from them,” Mr Richardson said.Mr Richardson said a committee representing the State bodies would help determine the teams which take part in the Platinum League.He said the models being shown during consultation for 11 teams in NSW competition were only examples to demonstrate how far the game could reach if the new League was established. But no determination had been made on the final makeup of the League. “We want to give everyone the opportunity to play in the NRL – whether they come from the country, New Zealand, the Affiliated States, Pacifica or anywhere else in the world of Rugby League,” Mr Richardson said.”This strategy is not intended to squeeze anyone out of the game – it is designed to include more participants than ever before.”Mr Richardson rubbished suggestions that there had not been sufficient consultation on the blueprint.He said meetings had been held with all stakeholders and that consultation was on-going.”Further consultation with the RLPA and other interested parties will be held before any final decisions are made,” he said.”This is an exciting time for the game…we have an opportunity with the new broadcast rights deal to stretch our vision and allow the game to break out from some of the restraints of the past.”Most importantly, we have started a discussion about the way forward and that has to be a positive start for the game.”
Opening the round three match in a restructured rugby stadium formerly known as the Lloyd Robson Oval (now the National Football Stadium), the hunters are keen for a better challenge after winning two of their away games and currently running second on the Intrust Cup ladder.The Tweed Heads, on the other hand, have won their first game and lost the second to the top team – Burleigh Bears.Seagulls will make their training for this week count before taking on the sturdy Hunter’s side this weekend.However, the Hunters are proud to host the match at their home under the well refurbished stadium, for the first time in front of their fans and family, as they promise to make this game count despite being down with some key players.Tickets for the game are now available as of this afternoon at all Stop N Shop outlets in the city.
Amazon has reached football. This weekend will resume the Bundesliga after the winter break with an unexpected novelty: the American giant It will be the technology provider of the German championship. It will offer real-time statistics for fans to enjoy the games not only on television, but also on their mobile devices. The collaboration with the Bundesliga it’s Amazon’s first foray into football, an unequivocal sign of the potential of the sports industry. The program developed by Amazon is very complete. Will not offer only historical statistics on Bundesliga matches, but also specific data of each game and each player, all in real time, and even future projections on the goal taking into account variables such as the number of occasions of each team. The project is presented as something new and surprising.The technology industry has fully entered football. Until now it was small or medium-sized companies that dealt with this business niche, but Amazon’s entry into the Bundesliga is the unequivocal sign of the landing of large corporations in the sports business. FIFA and UEFA are already negotiating to incorporate them not only as technology providers, but also as technical sponsors.
After the session, Setién will give the list of summoned. In principle some important news is expected as the inclusion of the quarry Riqui Puig, especially thinking that the Dutchman Frenkie de Jong will not be able to play the game against Granada for sanction after his expulsion in the derby against Espanyol.The summoned ones have to appear at 19 hours in the Camp Nou, that is, two hours before the game. In this sense there are no differences regarding Valverde.Another routine change is that the team will not exercise in the afternoon in the previous match but the session will be on Saturday at 11 am and later Setién will appear in the press room to make his first press conference of the season.Since the arrival of the veteran coach at the club, the team has not yet had a holiday, since the break was called on Wednesday to prepare a session at 11 am. So that, The players are learning the Setién method at well-charged doses: work and humility. The team is summoned at 11 am in the Sports City to carry out an exclusively tactical session, where the concepts worked during the week will be worked, as well as the ball games. This is a different training than a normal day because it starts from a different need, having the players to make a maximum effort a few hours later. Quique Setién has started his run at FC Barcelona with momentum. In its first week of work the team will have completed eight workouts: one with Ernesto Valverde and seven with Setién. An unknown workload in the Blaugrana locker room, at least in recent years. In fact, the Cantabrian coach returns to an old custom used by Luis Enrique and before by Pep Guardiola: training the same day of the game and later list of summoned.
Does it look favorite?How favorite? From the beginning we have heard for the Cup, for now we are fine, when we touch the draw we will think about that; We are fine, that Barcelona is not beaten every day.What has been the key?The team’s work was enormous, there was a moment in the second half that was imposed, we lost a little punch in the pressure, but we are not an easy team that surrenders. Although the team had bad times, it is replenished until the end, we do it well. We are not easy to beat. He has come here with us three times and they have not scored any goals.The qualifiers are over, more difficult could not be put in these qualifiers …In League we have made matches to win and we have not had that bit of luck. In the Cup when it has to be for them or we fall on our side. As in the penalties in Elche and Tenerife …This result reinforces the philosophy of Athletic.I’m happy for the people, it’s a shot for everyone, for everyone who feels Athletic, beyond winning or losing. Nights like this reinforce the philosophy we have. It is getting harder every day to compete with these teams, but we have that people’s pride. How was the dressing room?Well, it is a party, with a victory these are very happy I am very happy for the kids. The team makes a lot of expense and we are not finding victory in the League. We went up to pressure them and we managed to win.What can you say about the character of the group that you didn’t say?All teams have some characteristics, some have more quality and others go up, from the front to the end, we do not leave, I had a lot of fun watching the game. They wanted to play from behind and we went for them.What preference do you have in the semifinals? The real?I like that Basque teams always reach the end. Touch who plays. It will be difficult, when you spend many qualifiers you find yourself in many difficulties, it is mental strength. We have lived all that and the team is very strong mentally and in football it is very important.Aduriz did not clash.This type of matches … San José, Aduriz and Ibai … these matches are for soccer players and it shows when they are in the field. Every time I see him better, I’m calm, the important thing is that he doesn’t get injured again. It takes two minutes, to see if it does not relapse.Dani finished cast.There are two or three key players and one is Dani. The balance it brings is important and it is the prolongation of the coach in the field. I’m putting everything in, it’s a little melted. When it has not been, the team suffers, we lose the axis, the balance.Do the semis condition the Sunday derby at the Reale Arena?I said yesterday that the most important thing is the Cup and now, the League. We play in Anoeta and we will think about the game plan based on the players, some are cast, but we have to have a block that can compete there. Yuri has ended up loaded again. What did you feel when Iñaki scored?Joy … we had enough people touched. In the extension there was one more change but we were short. Maintaining the pressure intensity for 90 minutes is very difficult. Taking the goal short … are risks, but we have also done so by pulling the pressure in the opposite field.
Miami Heat forward Derrick Jones Jr. has been proclaimed champion of the NBA’s All-Star weekend math contest, which is being held in Chicago (United States), in a controversial final against the player of Orlando Magic Aaron Gordon, while Bahamian escort Buddy Hield reigned in the triple contest and power forward Bam Adebayo, in the skills competition.Jones, who in his second participation became the second player in the history of his franchise to win recognition after Harold Miner (1993 and 1995), slipped into the United Center final with Gordon, after a first round Almost without failures.In that first phase, the Los Angeles Lakers pivot Dwight Howard fell, with remembrance of Kobe Bryant and Superman costume included, and the Milwaukee Bucks escort Pat Connaughton, who made a particular tribute to the movie ‘The Whites Can’t Get It’ .The show remained in the final round, where each player executed a pair of mates that received the maximum score of 50, perhaps some too inflated, so they had to perform two extra dumps to unpack. Derrick Jones, during the math contest. Image: UsaToday Buddy Hield reigns in the triple contest and Bam Adebayo, in the skills contest Before the tie-breaker, Jones and Gordon met some first mates to ensure, before the one in Miami performed their best performance again using the ball between the legs. To this the eaves of the Magic responded with an action that should have been worth it to win the contest: Markelle Fultz helped him against the basket to, after a 360º turn, crush the hoop.Thus, we had to solve with two more mates. After two first that did not serve to unpack, everything would be decided in the last for each player. After a 48-point Jones grinder run, Gordon wanted to risk and asked for Tacko Fall’s help.The one in Orlando jumped the 2.26 meters of the Senegalese pivot – who slightly bowed his head – and offered a show that, however, only served for Dwyane Wade, Scottie Pippen and Chadwick Boseman to put a 9 each, a 47 that It made him lose and it unleashed his anger. “It’s over, I’m not coming back, I think I should have two trophies. My next goal will be to win the triple contest,” said Gordon, who also lost in 2016.Hield reigns in triples and Adebayo in skills Meanwhile, Sacramento Kings guard Buddy Hield was proclaimed champion of the triple contest in a final in which he beat Devin Booker by adding 27 points, for the 26 of the Phoenix Suns escort. The third place of the podium went to the Latvian power forward of Washington Wizards Davis Bertans, with 22 points.In the first round, Trae Young (Atlanta Hawks, 15), Devonte ‘Graham (Charlotte Hornets, 18), Duncan Robinson (Miami Heat, 19), Zach LaVine (Chicago Bulls, 23) and Joe Harris (Brooklyn Nets, 22) fell.Bertans 22 to start the final was canceled by the 26 goals of Devin Booker, who still had to see how the Bahamian Buddy Hield, after a start with some failure, made two last cars perfect to take the win.Meanwhile, Miami Heat forward power forward Bam Adebayo was crowned in the skills contest, after winning the Lithuanian power forward of Indiana Pacers Domantas Sabonis.Adebayo did not miss a single pass or a single tray and was fine from the line of three, a performance that has earned him the second Heat player to win the event after Dwyane Wade (2006 and 2007).