Fast-bowling find agrees to lay down the hockey stick and hit the nets

CRICKET’S find of the summer, fast bowler Trent Copeland, has made his first major sacrifice as a professional: he’s accepted a Cricket Australia ban on playing hockey.Before he broke into the NSW team, the 24-year-old played for the famed St George club. However, a clause in his prized contract prevents him from engaging in dangerous pursuits – and the risk of injury while playing hockey ranks the sport alongside the likes of skydiving.”It would be good to still play hockey purely for fitness,” Copeland said. ”It’s disappointing in the sense I really love the game but I appreciate it’s necessary for me to stop so I can further my cricket. And cricket-wise I have things to do that take time during my days; things like working on improving my batting.”Copeland, who took 35 wickets at 17.57 in only five games of his first season in Sheffield Shield, will press strongly for selection in the Australia A team to play Sri Lanka A in Queensland next month.The A team is used to blood Cricket Australia’s next generation of frontline players. Copeland knows he can’t afford to relax despite taking more wickets than Glenn McGrath, Brett Lee, Doug Bollinger and Stuart Clark in their debut seasons.”Has it sunk in? Definitely not,” said Copeland, who announced his arrival with 8-92 on debut against Queensland in January. ”It’s been significant, but if I’m really serious about playing for Australia or Australia A or even cementing my place for NSW I can’t rest on my laurels. It’s been a great start but I have to back it up, and that means hard work.”Copeland, who only started bowling four years ago because he was tired of suffering broken fingers as the wicketkeeper for St George’s third grade XI, realises he’s now a marked man. However, he scoffs at cricket’s so-called ”second year” syndrome – a term describing the struggle some rookies encounter in the following year at the elite level.”I imagine people are going to watch vision of me from this season but … second year syndrome, it doesn’t really affect me.”I will keep it simple. The best advice I’ve ever been given is that you can’t focus on the ball after your next one. It’s about me bettering myself by doing the work to ensure I continue to take wickets and that I add new dimensions to my game.”Copeland hopes his decision to recruit Glenn McGrath’s manager Warren Craig as his agent will help form an association with Test cricket’s most successful fast bowler.”If my association with Warren means I could talk to [McGrath] about what he did when a batsman started to get on top of him, or when to bowl a bouncer and how he prepared, it would be a valuable asset.”
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KP admits: I’ll walk off mid-match

ST LUCIA: Kevin Pietersen says he will walk off the field mid-match during the World Twenty20 and fly home if his wife goes into labour with their first child.The key England batsman must hope any volcanic explosions are limited to his time at the crease if he is to get back to London from the Caribbean in an emergency as his wife, pop star Jessica Taylor, is due on May 16 – the day of the World Twenty20 final in Barbados.”As soon as she goes into labour, I’ll be off,” Pietersen said. ”No matter where it is in the tournament, I’ll be off – and it’s been cleared with the management to do that.”If I’m in the middle of a match, I’ll obviously get off the field and then I’ll be on the next plane that flies into London Heathrow.”Pietersen, 29, rubbished critics who believe his departure would spoil the team’s campaign – they haven’t made the final of an ICC tournament in six years. ”I think it’s pretty sad that if you have your first child people criticise you for wanting to be there, whatever walk of life,” he said.England start their campaign on Monday against hosts West Indies in Guyana and will rely heavily on Pietersen, the highest-paid Indian Premier League player, who topped the run-scoring in the recent edition of the tournament.Meanwhile, Australia begin their quest to win the World Twenty20 for the first time by taking on defending champions Pakistan here (from 3.30am Monday, Sydney time) and look certain to omit specialist spinner Nathan Hauritz on a slow deck.Captain Michael Clarke said: ”Playing Pakistan, we need to have a look at how they play spin bowling, which they face a lot of. Also having David Hussey in the team, who can bowl some off-spin probably makes it harder for Haury.”Hauritz failed to take a wicket in the week’s two practice matches but, should he be left out, Australia would be the only side in the tournament not fielding a specialist spinner.Australia’s match is the second of the day at Beausejour Cricket Ground and Clarke said if the pitch had deteriorated to the point where more spin was predicted, Hauritz would come back into calculations. Otherwise, all-rounder Steve Smith would shoulder the spin burden, assisted by Clarke and Hussey.”I’ve seen how well [Hauritz has] bowled in one-day cricket, and how well he’s performed in Twenty20 cricket,” Clarke said. ”If conditions suit that extra spin option, he could definitely play a big part.”Opening batsman David Warner has already made a strong case to be favourite as the tournament’s leading run-scorer following successive half-centuries in the practice games and has been likened to Matthew Hayden.”With Davey you have to give him the freedom to play his way,” Clarke said. ”He’s got no restrictions on the way he plays. He plays a huge part, like Matty Hayden used to for us.”
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Brumbies discover their mojo and bring Reds thudding back to earth

THE Brumbies kept alive their quest for a finals berth with a 20-point bonus-point win over the new darlings of the competition, the Queensland Reds, at Canberra Stadium last night.The most pressing question after their glittering performance, however, was: where has this form been all season?The Brumbies secured their fourth try in the 73rd minute when prop Ben Alexander crashed over for his second five-pointer.The win kept the Brumbies in sixth position on the Super 14 ladder – two points behind the Crusaders and Reds in third and fourth – with matches against the Highlanders at home and the Crusaders away to close out the regular season. Coach Andy Friend believes his side is destined to qualify for the play-offs. ”One-hundred per cent,” Friend said. ”I firmly believe we can do it. We need to play like that again the next two weeks, play with that belief and energy for each other. I’m now not standing here saying, ‘We’re getting close’. I saw it click tonight.”Captain Stephen Hoiles refused to get carried away with the performance. ”It just means we’re alive, that we live to fight another week. It doesn’t make the run home any easier or any harder though,” he said.”But against the form side of the competition tonight, to score four tries was very pleasing.”As has been the case for most of the season, the Brumbies controlled possession for most of the contest, which was played in front of a crowd of 18,025. However, last night they were able to turn that early dominance into points through a Mark Chisholm try.The Brumbies had a sense of urgency at the breakdown and the Reds struggled to handle the pressure. In their defence, though, the Reds lost both starting second-rowers, Adam Byrnes (knee) and Rob Simmons (jaw), in the first quarter of the match. The Brumbies capitalised, stealing lineouts at will and ruling at scrum time.The Reds’ front row also desperately missed the scrummaging power of injured prop Laurie Weeks.The Brumbies’ ascendancy in the forwards set the platform for two first-half tries and a 14-6 lead into the break.Josh Valentine’s 56th-minute try gave the Brumbies 24 minutes to score the all-important fourth try – a mission they accomplished.The Brumbies will be boosted for their must-win match against the Highlanders by an emotional farewell planned for club legends Stirling Mortlock and George Smith at Canberra Stadium.Meanwhile, the Hurricanes defeated the Chiefs 33-27 in Wellington last night.BRUMBIES 32 (Ben Alexander 2, Mark Chisholm, Josh Valentine tries Matt Giteau 3 cons 2 pens) bt QUEENSLAND REDS 12 (Quade Cooper 4 pens) at Canberra Stadium. Referee: Chris Pollock (NZL).
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Matthews lambasts Folau offer as ‘obscene’

LEIGH MATTHEWS has labelled talk of luring Israel Folau to the AFL on a million-dollar-a-year contract as ”obscene” and disrespectful to other potential young recruits.Folau became a free agent on Friday after declining to renew his contract with the Brisbane Broncos. The 21-year-old has been closely linked with new Super 15 franchise the Melbourne Rebels, but is understood to also be weighing up an offer from Team GWS.Matthews, a Hall of Fame legend and four-time premiership coach, yesterday acknowledged the value of having a player with Folau’s profile to market a new AFL team, but said it was ”ridiculous” to pay him anywhere near the money earned by the best players in the competition.”It’s disrespectful to all the kids who play footy as teenagers,” he said on 3AW.”We ask them to operate under a salary cap [and] there’s no free agency, so you can’t go to a different employer if you want to – then you see someone from outside the sport [who has] never kicked an AFL football being offered the same money as Jonathan Brown and Chris Judd.”He said the league provides ”all the money for all the AFL initiatives around Australia” and allowing a player without experience to join the ranks of the AFL on such a wage would be in conflict with those initiatives.”We might as well recruit all around the world now because you don’t have to know anything about the game.”Poaching someone from another sport by offering them a Godfather million-dollar offer – to me, it’s embarrassing.”Recently retired Richmond star Matthew Richardson, who was on yesterday’s pre-game talk show with Matthews, said Folau would not be able to make the transition from the NRL to the AFL.”He’s absolutely no chance of making it,” Richardson said.”I don’t think you can pick up the game at the age of 22 and suddenly go out and play AFL football.”GWS chief executive Dale Holmes told The Sun-Herald yesterday the new club (under ex-Essendon coach Kevin Sheedy’s on-field leadership) was not going to comment on speculation about Folau.
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Blues better off without Fevola, says Walls

FORMER Carlton premiership player and coach Robert Walls believes the Blues’ decision to offload troublesome Brendan Fevola is starting to pay off, and could eventually help return the club to glory.The Blues will try to back up their huge upset of premiers Geelong last Monday when they take on arch-rivals Collingwood at the MCG today.Walls believes Carlton’s resurgence has been helped by their bravery in trading Fevola to Brisbane – just before the twin bombshells of the Lara Bingle nude photo scandal and his gambling addiction dropped.The 1987 premiership coach believes a Blues side without Fevola as the attacking focal point is more unpredictable and promises more now they have unearthed a wider variety of routes to goal.”All the eggs in one basket – and a shaky basket at that – is not the way to go,” Walls said of Fevola.”They did a really strong act in getting rid of Fevola last year and that means the forward line has options, and you saw that last week with the three indigenous boys [Eddie Betts, Chris Yarran and Jeff Garlett] kicking seven between them.”Lachie Henderson’s a work in progress up forward, [Matthew] Kreuzer can be a part of it up forward – they’re on the right track, no doubt about that.”Collingwood assistant coach Nathan Buckley agreed Carlton’s forward line presented new dangers without Fevola and has also nominated tall Irishman Setanta o’hAilpin as a vital component.”There’s been a lot of talk from the outside about Fevola not being there, but they haven’t had any trouble scoring goals,” Buckley said.”Yes, they have a small forward line but o’hAilpin’s been a very hard worker for them. He’s playing a very important role forward of the ball.”While Walls is bullish about Carlton’s future, he still believes the Blues will take time to become legitimate flag contenders.”I don’t think they’re anywhere near top four at this stage, but they are one of the youngest teams in the competition,” he said.”This Carlton team that’ll play on the weekend is one of the three youngest teams in the 16 going around. It’s all in front of them.”The Blues have elevated young ruckman Sam Jacobs to replace axed Robbie Warnock against the Magpies, while defender Paul Bower returns from a quadriceps injury.He comes in as a straight swap for luckless Andrew Walker, who fractured his collarbone in the win against Geelong. The Magpies are unchanged from their Anzac Day win against Essendon.AAP
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