McKeon stamps himself as contender for world title

A year ago, David McKeon burst from obscurity to win the Australian 400 metres freestyle title and secure a berth on the London Olympic team. On Friday night at the national titles, he stamped himself a contender for this year’s world titles in Barcelona when he notched the second-fastest time of the year to defend his title in three minutes, 43.71 seconds. It is behind only Chinese superstar Sun Yang, who leads the world with 3:42.96.

It was a drop of almost three seconds from his previous best and with Beijing gold medallist and London silver medallist Park Tae-Hwan skipping Barcelona, the time has McKeon eyeing a possible medal at the world titles. He said he had worked hard to build his strength since London so that he could take on the bigger bodies of Sun, Park and co. ”I put on a lot more muscle than I had before the Olympics,” McKeon said. ”[I’m] so much stronger, I’d say 100 times stronger than I was.”

McKeon became the first swimmer to qualify for the world championships team, finishing more than two seconds ahead of Jordan Harrison, who qualified for his first long-course national team in 3:45.85.

Thomas Fraser-Holmes, one of the pre-meet favourites, was disqualified when he false-started in his morning heat, bringing back memories of Ian Thorpe’s tumble in the same race in 2004.

Harrison said he realised his training partner’s misfortune had opened an opportunity to snare a berth on the team, which he did by substantially dropping his personal-best and edging out London Olympian Ryan Napoleon (3:46.26.)

”I was so shocked because he [Fraser-Holmes] never breaks in training. He does everything right, so it was just such a shame to see,” Harrison said. ”You never like to see someone of that calibre fall in, it’s like Thorpie all over again. As bad as I felt for Tom, I knew he was faster than me, so seeing him out of the competition really boosted my mindset and I just went fully more aggressive, knowing that I could have a shot of making the team.”

Bronte Barratt added a third 400 freestyle national title to her resume when she comprehensively beat long-time rival Kylie Palmer. Barratt won in 4:03.52, the fastest time in the year so far. Palmer also secured her place on the team.

Olympic silver medallist Christian Sprenger, 27, has set the three fastest times of the year, and was the top qualifier for Saturday night’s 100 breaststroke final with a time of 59.05 seconds. He said he would look to edge towards Cameron van de Burgh’s world record of 58.46, which the South African swam to beat Sprenger in London last year.

Asked if he felt he had developed into a stronger swimmer since London, Sprenger said: ”I finally sort of worked out how to swim breaststroke I think.”

London Olympic bronze medallist Alicia Coutts was the fastest qualifier for Saturday’s 100 butterfly final, winning her semi in 57.93.

Matt Targett says he has made contact with Coutts’ coach and plans to apologise to Australia’s best performer in the London pool for his behaviour towards her at a meet in Perth in January. Targett was reprimanded by Swimming Australia for his conduct and Coutts has been disappointed that he has not apologised to her. ”I asked John Fowlie about a good time to talk to her and that was this morning and [it] hasn’t happened yet. She’s pretty busy, she’s got a lot of races. I don’t want to get in the way. But we will talk,” said Targett, after showing the controversy has not affected his form by posting a sharp time of 23.22 to be top qualifier for Saturday’s 50 butterfly final.

Gant welcomes return to No.8

MINE: Southern Beaches’ Bleddyn Gant thunders for the line at Passmore Oval last year. Picture: Jonathan Carroll NCH SPORTNHRU at Passmore Oval, Wickham. Hamilton, in blue and yellow stripes VS Southern Beaches in dark blue. OUTA MY WAY! Picture shows Southern Beaches player Bleddyn Gant thunders over the line for a try.28th July 2012 NewcastleNCH SPORT PIC JONATHAN CARROLL

NCH SPORTNHRU at Passmore Oval, Wickham. Hamilton, in blue and yellow stripes VS Southern Beaches in dark blue. OUTA MY WAY! Picture shows Southern Beaches player Bleddyn Gant thunders over the line for a try.28th July 2012 NewcastleNCH SPORT PIC JONATHAN CARROLL

BLEDDYN Gant is looking forward to returning to No.8 and the extra freedom it provides.

But the Southern Beaches Welshman is not expecting life to get any easy against The Waratahs at Allen Davis Oval, Gateshead, on Saturday.

After spending most of his career, including the 2011 season at Eastwood, in the engine room, Gant made the switch to the back of the scrum on returning to Newcastle and Southern Beaches last year.

The move proved a masterstroke. The bull-neck metre eater was one of the dominant forwards in the competition, with strength from the scrum base a feature.

He finished second in the Anderson Medal voting and was the leading forward. But the arrival of Va Talaileva at Cahill Oval this season forced a change in plans.

Gant had stuck his hand up to play tight-head prop for Newcastle at the Country championships, where he was outstanding, and stayed in the No.3 jumper on returning to club level.

But with Talaileva in Melbourne for NSW Country’s clash against the Rising Rebels development squad, the opportunity arose for Gant to turn back the clock.

“It will be good to get the running game going again,” Gant said. “At No.8 I have a bit of freedom to do that.

“I had no dramas in the front row. I played a fair bit of tighthead back home.

“Scrummaging wise it takes a fair bit out of you. By the time you have two or three scrums you are blowing and it makes it harder to have an impact running.”

Gant could not have asked for a tougher first-up assignment. The Tahs, one of his former clubs, are sitting pretty at the top of the ladder with three bonus-point wins and boast power-packed No.8 Pala Palupe.

Palupe, one of five new Kiwis at the Tahs, including former Beaches fullback Tim Riley, has been a stand out in the opening three round.

The former captain of Auckland club East Tamaki, Palupe has picked up six points from three games to lead the Anderson Medal race.

“I am always up for a good battle,” Gant said.

“If we can get our set piece going and put pressure on them in the scrum, hopefully we can tame their No.8 a bit.”

Beaches have lost enforcers Adrian Sutter and Mark O’Brien from last season, but Gant has no doubts they have the size and power to match it with any pack in the competition.

“Every game is won up front first of all,” Gant said.

“We have a similar size pack to last year so I think we can give anybody a run.”

After beating Wanderers 25-21 in the first round, Beaches have dropped back-to-back games against Lake Macquarie (30-24) and Maitland (39-29).

Though disappointed with the results, coach Tim Chidgey said they were not totally unexpected.

“We are still probably four weeks away from being at our best,” Chidgey said. “It is a long season and we decided to take a different approach after our performances in the semis for the past two.”

Tahs coach Hayden Pedersen said it was no secret Southern Beaches would aim most of their traffic through the forwards.

“Their game is based around their pack,” he said.

“They have a lot of good players there and like to keep it tight. It will be a good challenge for the boys.”

TOPICS, VIDEO: How to dance like everyone is watching

TOMMY Franklin didn’t always have the moves.

For a guy best known as the Dancing Man, he used to be self-conscious. But then something clicked.

‘‘I decided that what people think of me is their business,’’ Franklin, in town for the King Street Hotel’s 10th anniversary, told Topics.

‘‘Dancing is about having a dig.’’

The Byron Bay native has spawned a cult following. Videos of him cutting loose have had thousands of hits on YouTube, and he didn’t need much persuading yesterday to do his thing on Darby Street.

And here’s the thing about Tommy Franklin: he dances, and they come. All kinds of them.

One chap interrupted the dancing to ask for change. Another spontaneous fellow, Nick Nyoni, from Mayfield, busted out some moves of his own.

It was a strange afternoon for your humble correspondent.

Gone barking mad

‘‘BARK’’ doesn’t capture it. Neither does ‘‘yap’’. Both are too rich, too melodic to describe the noise that comes out of this dog.

It’s more like a ‘‘yipe!’’. It rings out across Merewether, like guerilla gunfire.

‘‘Yipe, yipe, yipe!’’

Topics wants to be clear: the barking isn’t constant. In a way, that would be more bearable. This unseen canine banshee, a couple of houses away, strikes when you least expect it.

You sit down to have dinner.


You’re drifting off to sleep.


You’re watching a movie, and you’ve invested two hours, and the killer’s about to be revealed.

‘‘Yipe, yipe, yipe!’’

We mention this because Newcastle City Council has released a cost-cutting plan. Some of it makes chilling reading.

‘‘Restrictions in resources will impact on response times,’’ says a council document, ‘‘particularly to less critical complaints … and response to cat and barking dog complaints.’’

A line comes to mind from Lord of the Rings, when King Theoden contemplates the approaching hordes of Mordor.

‘‘How did it come to this?’’

In the Anzac spirit

TONY Brown, of Cooks Hill, reports an Anzac Day coincidence.

His daughter Clare, 19, is living in Brussels. Thursday morning, local time, she joined a bus-load of expats on a visit to Tyne Cot war cemetery in Passendale, West Flanders.

From the cemetery, Clare linked up with her dad via the video-conference tool Skype.

‘‘She was trying to find the grave of local Victoria Cross winner Captain Clarence Jeffries that I visited last year,’’ Mr Brown said.

‘‘After a video treasure hunt and [live] instructions and directions from me, she found it just before the bus departed.’’

The coincidence? A cemetery staff member handed Clare a small wooden cross to place next to a grave.

‘‘They were unaware she is from Newcastle,’’ says Mr Brown.

‘‘You won’t believe she was given one from Newcastle Grammar School.’’

The cross is nestled safely next to Captain Jeffries’s grave, thanks to Clare.

IN THE ZONE: Internet dance sensation Tommy Franklin grooving to the music on Darby Street.

PAY RESPECT: A picture of Captain Clarence Jeffries and his Victoria Cross medal on display at Newcastle’s Christ Church Cathedral.

Buderus eager to get back in saddle

CHAMPION Knights hooker Danny Buderus vowed to be back for the business end of the NRL season and with no self-doubt lurking in the back of his mind.

HOPEFUL: Danny Buderus

“I’m confident I’ll still get a dozen games in,” said Buderus, who is recovering from his second bout of spinal surgery in three months.

“I’ll hopefully get around 12 games. That’s what I’m focused on – finishing the year off.

“Hopefully I can lift the boys coming back around then. This is definitely my last year, and that’s why I’m definitely keen to finish off on some sort of good note.”

The 35-year-old says that when he is eventually cleared to resume, possibly for the round-14 clash with premiers Melbourne, he plans to “get stuck into it” from the outset.

“There’s no other way, there’s no way of thinking about self-preservation on the field,” he said.

Buderus said his specialist was confident there would be no further relapses and had assured him he was in no danger of suffering any long-term damage.

“The doctor’s been doing it for 25 years but he’s never operated three times on the same disc,” he said.

Having been through the same rehabilitation process in February and March, which allowed him to play in Newcastle’s wins against North Queensland and Canberra, Buderus said he knows what to expect and feels ahead of schedule.

He has mapped out a recovery time of six to eight weeks and will train alongside back-rower Beau Scott, who is recovering from groin surgery.

“The stitches and that need to settle down and then I can start getting in the pool and get it moving,” he said.

“I’m doing a lot of core work. About the five- to six-week mark, you can get things going.”

Injury-hit Knights must dig deep

Join Brett Keeble at theherald苏州美睫培训.auSunday as he live blogs the Knights v Gold Coast game.

MEMORIES of a victory earlier in the season will bolster a depleted Newcastle Knights line-up as they chase their first away win of the season against Gold Coast at Skilled Park tomorrow.

The Knights have more than 750 games of first-grade experience sidelined in the form of injured Danny Buderus, Beau Scott and Anthony Quinn and the suspended Jeremy Smith.

Skipper Kurt Gidley (back) and bench forward Neville Costigan (knee) will also need to pass fitness tests on Saturdayif they are to board the flight to Coolangatta.

But it was a similar story in round three, when veterans Gidley, Willie Mason and Timana Tahu were all unavailable and the Knights stunned North Queensland 34-6.

“I think it was against the Cowboys we got questioned there a little bit – but we held up then and played pretty well,” Knights forward Alex McKinnon said.

“That’s what we’ve got to do this week as well. We’re a pretty tight group and we’ve got good depth in the squad, so we’re pretty confident.”

Centre Dane Gagai, who will return from an ankle injury, echoed those sentiments.

“That’s the greatest thing about this year, is our depth,” he said.

“It’s obviously disappointing missing those experienced players . . . but we’ve got a lot of depth this year and that’s going to be one of our strong points.”

Gagai and McKinnon are bracing themselves to contain maligned Gold Coast forward Dave Taylor, who is named on the bench after being stood down for two weeks over disciplinary issues.

Taylor, one of the most devastating players in the NRL when he is in the mood, is expected to line up on the Gold Coast’s left edge and target Jarrod Mullen, Gagai and McKinnon.

“I’ve had him a couple of times and he’s pretty hard to get hold of, obviously,” Gagai said.

“He’s a big man. He tends to run down the edges and at the centres, so I’ll have my work cut out for me there a bit.

“I’ve got Jarrod Mullen inside me and I’ve got a lot of confidence in him.”

Asked about his plans to combat Taylor, McKinnon replied: “How do you tackle everyone else? Go as hard as you can. If you come off second best, work on that.”

Another Gold Coast player with a point to prove is halfback Albert Kelly, who played briefly in Newcastle’s NSW Cup team last year before the Knights sacked him for alcohol-related indiscretions.

McKinnon played alongside Kelly in the NSW under-16 and under-18 teams and said the Aboriginal playmaker was a special talent.

“I rate him as a great player,” McKinnon said.

“I played a lot of junior rugby league with him, a lot of NSW stuff, and . . . I remember as a junior he was always a star coming through.

“He could do everything.

“I still think he can do that at NRL level. We’ve seen in the last few weeks he’s been going pretty well.”

Tomorrow’s showdown shapes as an intriguing tussle between two evenly matched teams, both of whom have won four of six games this season.

Even their point-scoring statistics are very similar. Newcastle scored 128 and conceded 85, compared with Gold Coast’s 130 and 90.

But the Knights are still searching for their first win against a top-eight opponent and will be $2.40 outsiders to achieve that on Sunday.

Kurt Gidley will need to pass a fitness test on Saturday. Picture: Anthony Johnson

Former Jets in team of the year

SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA – JANUARY 01: Nikolai Topor-Stanley of the Wanderers watches on during the round 14 A-League match between the Western Sydney Wanderers and the Melbourne Victory at Parramatta Stadium on January 1, 2013 in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Mark Kolbe/Getty Images) WESTERN Sydney Wanderers star Nikolai Topor-Stanley said yesterday that “leaving Newcastle was the best thing that has ever happened to me” after being named in the Professional Footballers’ Association A-League team of the year.

Topor-Stanley and prolific Wellington Phoenix striker Jeremy Brockie, both let go by the Jets after the 2011-2012 season, were named in the PFA’s starting side, voted on by players.

With only a handful of players, a rushed preparation and a rookie coach in former Socceroo Tony Popovic, the Wanderers were tipped by all and sundry as wooden spoon favourites.

Fast forward to now and the Wanderers are the fairytale of Australian sport, claiming the Premiers’ Plate and building a passionate fan base previously unseen in this country.

As for Topor-Stanley, the 27-year-old Canberra product has found a home at his fourth A-League club and is in discussions for a Socceroos recall in time for June’s World Cup qualifiers.

“When I left I didn’t know what was going to happen, but from what I knew about Poppa and the other players he had already signed, I knew we were going to be competitive no matter what and at least capable of giving it a shot,” he said.

“I wasn’t sure how the fans were going to embrace us, but obviously that is out of this world.”

No more true than the incredible show of support at a street parade in down-town Parramatta on Tuesday.

Despite going down to the Central Coast Mariners 2-0 in the grand final 48 hours earlier, the Red and Black Bloc came out in their droves in a sign of the great strides the club has made in its short existence.

“It was a very humbling experience to see so many people turn up and it kind of put the loss of one game into perspective,” Topor-Stanley said.

“The connection between the fans and the club is something that will last a lot longer than the loss of one game.

“As a community, we’ve embraced each other and we can go to another level.”

The same can be said for the powerful central defender, who is signed with the Wanderers next season.

Having fallen off the radar for national selection in recent years, Topor-Stanley’s resurgence after stints at Sydney FC, Perth Glory and the Jets has him in Socceroos calculations.

The last of his three caps came in 2008, and the former Tuggeranong United junior says he would relish a call-up if it came his way.

“I was a lot younger then, and at the time it didn’t really sink in that I was representing my country and playing for everyone here,” he said.

“Now that I’ve kind of matured as a player and as a person, I know it’s a true honour and a pinnacle of a footballer’s life.

“I’m really happy that I have experienced it, but I’d love to do it again.”

PFA A-League Team of the Season (4-3-3): Ante Covic (Wanderers); Jerome Polenz (Wanderers), Trent Sainsbury (Mariners), Nikolai Topor-Stanley (Wanderers), Adama Traore (Victory); Shiji Ono (Wanderers), Mark Milligan (Victory), Michael McGlinchey (Mariners); Jeremy Brockie (Phoenix), Alessandro Del Piero (Sydney), Marco Rojas (Victory). Bench: Eugene Galekovic (Adelaide), Michael Thwaite (Glory), Marcelo Carrusca (Adelaide), Archie Thompson (Victory), Daniel McBreen (Mariners).

Coach: Tony Popovic

Melbourne mecca will ‘G up Liverpool

Ian Rush smiles as he looks out on the vast expanse of the MCG and says with understatement: ”I don’t think it’ll be hard to persuade the lads to want to come and play on this.”

Rush is in town to promote Liverpool’s historic visit to Australia, where it will play its first game in this country at the famous old stadium against Melbourne Victory in July, and is genuinely impressed by the huge arena.

He has played in many of the great stadia in the world, and, as befits a man with his legendary nose for goal, scored in most of them.

The Welsh international justifies his status as an Anfield legend, having bagged 346 goals in 660 appearances in two stints for the Reds, punctuated by a disappointing season in Turin with Juventus in the late 1980s.

Rush went on to have spells with a number of other clubs in the twilight of his career – most notably Newcastle and Leeds United, where he knew the young Harry Kewell, as well as a three-game cameo with Sydney Olympic in the old National Soccer League.

But it is for his time as Liverpool’s feared No.9 that he will always be remembered.

Rush joined the Merseyside club from lower league Chester City as an 18-year-old for a then record transfer fee for a teenager of £300,000, with Liverpool manager Bob Paisley determined that no other club should get a chance to sign the precocious youngster.

”We had a great side then. Today it’s in a transitional period, but when we played no one really knew [it was transitional] because the players that came in did exactly the same job as those they replaced. Bob Paisley was that good he managed to change the team around three times with no one really noticing,” Rush said.

”It was great but a bit daunting when I first arrived. Kenny Dalglish, Alan Hansen and Ray Clemence were there and it was daunting, as they were like superstars. For me to go into the dressing room with them – it took me a bit of a time to adapt.

”After six months I realised I was good enough, but the problem then is getting the chance to prove you are. At a club like Liverpool you have to take your chance when it comes along. You don’t get that many chances to even be at the club, so when you do you have to take it.”

He did in a way few others ever have. For seven years Liverpool boasted the remarkable statistic that it didn’t lose a game in which Rush scored. That record was finally broken in the League Cup final of 1987, when Rush scored but Arsenal went on to take the trophy – something he remembers with a rueful grin. ”It was a great record while it lasted, anyway.”

Rush has been through some great times with Liverpool, winning two European Cups (as the Champions League was then known), five League Championships, a similar number of League Cups and three FA Cups.

He also endured the biggest heartbreak the club has ever known, the Hillsborough disaster of 1989, for which justice for the 96 victims has only now been delivered, and the nightmare of the Heysel Stadium when 39 Juventus fans were killed in crowd trouble at the 1985 European Cup Final between the Italian club and the Reds.

”Hillsborough was terrible, Heysel also. We weren’t really sure what was happening at the Heysel. That was probably the only game we played when we weren’t bothered whether we won or lost because we just wanted to see our families. It most probably shouldn’t have been played,” he said.

”At Hillsborough, I was on the bench that day, so much went on,” he says before falling momentarily silent.

”The thing I most remember afterwards is the cup final, which was a massive Merseyside occasion.

”People talk about atmosphere, but for me the 1989 cup final was the best atmosphere that you will ever get.

”It was Liverpool v Everton again, and normally when you walk out you see the crowds in the stands on both sides, the red of Liverpool and the blue of Everton, but all round Wembley it was all red and blue together, so nobody knew which end was theirs. They were all shouting Merseyside and that it was a city united.”

Of the recent inquiry verdicts on the Hillsborough tragedy, he says: ”Justice is the right thing. You don’t take on a city like Liverpool. Even Everton supporters got behind. It was great to see a city get behind them all together and they have slowly and surely got their rewards.”

Rush played with and against some wonderful talents, but when asked to name the standouts, a number of names come rapidly off his tongue.

”Kenny Dalglish was probably the best player I played with … he was fantastic. We had a very good team at that time [Liverpool won the European Cup in 1981 and 1984].

”You look at players like Ronnie Whelan who would most probably walk into Liverpool sides now, but they were seen as average players when we played. But they weren’t. They were special but when you had people like Kenny Dalglish, they were extra special.

”When I was at Juventus I played with Michael Laudrup. He was a great player, too.”

Defenders always knew they were in a game when they had to try to shut out Rush, who nominates two – one Irish, one Italian – as the toughest he faced.

”Paul McGrath for Manchester United. He was an excellent player, very quick. He never said a word on the pitch. And Franco Baresi [AC Milan and Italy legendary centre-back]. He didn’t really have pace, but his reading of the game was so good it didn’t really matter. That’s what makes them so good, players like him, they have a football brain.”

Rush says he looks back happily on the three matches in which he turned out for Sydney Olympic 13 years ago, right at the end of his career.

”I played a couple of games for them with a soccer school in Sydney. I scored the winning goal against Marconi, Brett Emerton scored the other goal,” he said.

”I have fond memories.”

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Australian frisbee fanatics put city in a spin

Don’t let the equipment fool you… they may be playing with Frisbees, but the sport of ultimate is serious stuff.

This weekend around 600 people from across the country and New Zealand have descended on Bendigo for the 35th National Ultimate Championship. And it was the Huntly Recreation Reserve that brought them here.

“We came because of the fact that there’s 16 fields here and we have the ability to play 16 games at once,” said tournament director John Hempel.

Over four days 16 simultaneous games lasting 90-minutes each occur three or four times a day.

“It’s really good, the weather has been perfect, we couldn’t have asked for any better,” Mr Hempel said.

He said the tournament was great for Bendigo – both financially and for introducing locals to a little-known national sport.

“There are some players who came early on Thursday who went to the dawn service and had a look around and there are definitely people staying on after the tournament as well,” Mr Hempel said.

Even though Bendigo is the base this year, only three of the 560 players are from the region.

But that could all change after this weekend.

As part of the fun there will be free come and try sessions today at 10am and 12pm and tomorrow at 10am for anyone wanting to learn about ultimate.

“We’ve done quite a bit of promotional stuff to get some interest in the local community,” Mr Hempel said.

“People can come and look at how we play and try to learn how to play ultimate for themselves.”

He said anyone interested in witnessing some gruelling competition should call in for the women’s final at 10am on Sunday and the men’s final at 12pm.

To find out more about ultimate, and the three local players, turn to page 4 and 5 of today’s Weekender.

Ultimate players warming up.

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