Sharni Layton balances her roles with Australian Diamonds and NSW Swifts

Sharni Layton says she is finally injury free.After getting her one injury a year out of the way, NSW Swifts defender Sharni Layton is balancing her team’s ANZ Championship aspirations with helping the Australian Diamonds win Commonwealth Games gold. Layton is one of four Swifts players in the 18-strong Diamonds squad alongside teammates Kimberlee Green, Canberra-born Susan Pratley and Caitlin Thwaites for a selection camp at the AIS from May 5-7. Before then, the Swifts will play the inaugural ANZ Championship match in Canberra, when they take on New Zealand side Southern Steel in a historic Anzac Day encounter at the AIS Arena. Layton had two stints at the AIS, in 2007 and 2009, in a career in which she has borne the brunt of her physical play. A fractured thumb this year that forced her to miss two games is the latest chapter to an injury history that includes a dislocated elbow, a slipped disc in her back, shoulder surgery and ruptured ligaments in her ankles. “I generally go on one a year, so hopefully I’ve got it out of the way,” Layton said. “That’s just how I like to play just because I wouldn’t be the player I am if I pulled out on balls and things like that. “It just comes with me being a bit unco-ordinated, unfortunately.” The 26-year-old Melbourne native is in her first season at the Swifts after playing a key role with defending champions Adelaide Thunderbirds for the past four years. She is relishing the challenge of making her mark on a new team but faces the unusual situation of going into camp with the national squad next month while the domestic season is still in progress. “It’s quite strange this year because it’s never been during the season before, so it’s really bizarre being a part of the Swifts working towards a premiership and at the same time having this in the background,” Layton said. “I’ve always believed if you put your best performances as a team you give yourself the best chance to make that. “Although the Commonwealth Games is in my sights, it’s the premiership that is closer.” The third-placed Swifts will be looking to bounce back from last weekend’s 56-50 loss to the top of the table Melbourne Vixens when they take on the Queensland Firebirds in Brisbane on Sunday. After that, their next challenge is in Canberra on Anzac Day, a game Layton is looking forward to, having been a regular for the Collingwood and Essendon AFL blockbusters. “It’s amazing to be at the MCG and it’s a really moving experience,” Layton said. “To be able to play my own sport on Anzac Day and to remember the men and women who have served this country is really special.” The Diamonds are eager to end the run of arch rivals New Zealand and claim their first Commonwealth Games gold medal since Manchester in 2002. Australian coach Lisa Alexander will trim her squad from 18 to 12 following next month’s camp in Canberra. ANZ Championship: NSW Swifts v Southern Steel at the AIS Arena on Anzac Day. Game starts at 1.48pm with doors open from 1pm. Tickets from www.ticketek南京夜网.au
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Jesse Wagstaff backs Canberra NBL bid, but keen to stay with Perth after win

Wildcats forward Jesse Wagstaff with the NBL trophy.The confetti has barely settled after another NBL championship, but Perth Wildcats forward Jesse Wagstaff says he wouldn’t rule out ending his career back home should Canberra be readmitted to the league in 2015-16.  A syndicate led by former Canberra Cannons player and coach Cal Bruton met with NBL officials in Sydney on Tuesday.  Bruton also had breakfast with NBL hierachy in Perth, before handing out the championship rings to Wagstaff and the Wildcats after their decisive game three win over Adelaide on Sunday.  Canberra product Wagstaff, 27, is one of many Wildcats now off contract, and he is keen to stay at a club where he’s featured in two championships and four grand finals in five seasons.  “I’m off contract now but we haven’t even discussed it yet, it’s all a bit too soon,” he said.  “There’s probably six or seven guys off contract and I’d love to stay.” Wagstaff played a sole game for SEABL’s Canberra Gunners before moving to Perth, but didn’t completely rule out playing for the city again.
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Asked if he would consider eventually playing for the Cannons should their bid to re-enter the league be successful Wagstaff said: “I would.”

“I always call Canberra home, and I love the city, a Canberra team would be phenomenal,” he said.

“I remember back in the day going to ‘The Palace’ as the AIS and watching them, they got good crowds and the basketball community there is supportive and quite large.”

Perth regularly attracts 10,000-plus crowds at its new stadium, but most other clubs are struggling to attract fans.

The NBL wants to expand from eight teams to 12 in 2015-16. While unsure if it was viable, he said it would give the league a massive boost.

“It’s widely touted basketball has huge participation rates across the country, if we can translate that to bums on seats, that’s the challenge,” he said.

“Obviously Brisbane is huge and to not have a team there is pretty disappointing, I’m sure people behind the scenes are working pretty hard to get it up and running.

“There’s talk of a few teams coming in, if they could get that up and running it would be huge for the league, and basketball in general.” Wagstaff said the pain of consecutive grand final losses to New Zealand made this year’s triumph all the more sweeter.  “My first year [2009-10] I won one, and being young I kind of thought it would happen every year,” he said.  “This one is definitely sweeter on the back of two losses in the grand finals.” He said he felt for fellow Canberran and Adelaide star Anthony Petrie, who again fell short of a maiden NBL championship ring.  The pair played alongside each other for Belconnen Ramblers as youngsters.   “I was in that situation the last two years and I know what it’s like to work eight months and fall just short,” he said.  “He was a legend in those Belconnen Rambers days, that was probably 15 years ago and I was half my weight.”  

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Wests Tigers pack aim to make Darcy Lussick’s Easter a nightmare

Powerful Wests Tigers forwards Keith Galloway and Martin Taupau warned the pack that had bullied the likes of Manly’s Jason King, the Burgess brothers from Souths and North Queensland’s Test props Matt Scott and James Tamou they planned to make Easter Monday miserable for Parramatta enforcer Darcy Lussick.
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Lussick, who will return to action after a four-week suspension for his swinging arm on Sydney Roosters forward Jared Waerea-Hargreaves, was viewed by the Wests Tigers duo as an opponent they needed to stop and Galloway even invited him to bring his aggression to ANZ Stadium.

“If it’s on, it’s on,” Galloway said when Lussick’s ability to dominate opposing packs was raised by the media on Tuesday. “It’s a physical game, there’s blokes like that in every club and we just have to match that – and take it to him.”

Taupau, who admitted he’d watched a lot of Parramatta on television this season to watch their forwards, did not blink when quizzed what he expected from Lussick.

“Not much  …  just run the ball,” he said. “We’re a pretty good defensive team, I reckon. We’ll just wait for them to run at us and we’ll dominate their ruck.”

Lussick, 24, said he was well aware the Tigers pack – boosted by Galloway, Taupau, James Gavet, Adam Blair and Aaron Woods – had talked themselves up this year but he duly noted that they’d so far delivered on their word.

“They’re confident, I guess that’s one thing they are,” Lussick said. “The thing is they’re talking a big game but they’re also taking it onto the field, so you can’t knock them for that.”

“It’s a test for our forward pack and I guess some of us should take it as a personal test as well. [They] probably have some of the form forwards in the competition.”

Taupau said while Wests might be regarded as a team unafraid to back themselves, he stressed they were not arrogant.

“If you talk the talk, you’ve got to walk the walk, and that’s what we’ve been doing,” he said. “You don’t want to get over-confident; there’s a big difference between confident and cocky. I think we’re being confident and we’re backing it up.”

Lussick, a former Manly forward, conceded while the Waerea-Hargreaves tackle was a result of poor technique, he had no intention to tone down his full-bore approach.

“I worked on my technique the last four weeks,” he said. “I’ve had plenty of time to work on it but I’m not really going to change too much.”

While Parramatta and Wests Tigers have defied the pre-season expectations of many experts by flying high on the premiership ladder, Lussick made it clear that the Eels were just as tight-knit a unit during last year’s wooden spoon season.

“It’s always good winning games,” he said. “We had a long year last year but the main thing is we all stuck together, we all got through it. But it’s a nice change to be winning.”

Taupau said the Tigers were not a team waiting for the bubble to burst.

“I think we can keep improving, that’s what we’ve been doing,” he said. “We don’t really think about when the next loss is going to happen – we’re just thinking about the positives and how to get better.

“At the start of the year everyone wrote us off, both clubs, but I think we’ve used that as motivation and come away with four wins,” he said.

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Video referees to count down final seconds in bid to avoid Melbourne Storm late try repeat

Video referees will be forced to count down the final seconds of each half as the NRL looks to revamp its communications process to avoid any repeat of Melbourne’s after-the-siren try on Monday night.
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Referees’ boss Tony Archer announced the new measure and is pushing for it to be in place before this week’s round after he admitted his referees had incorrectly allowed play to continue only for Melbourne to score a match-winning try against St George Illawarra.

Archer said referee Matt Cecchin had erred by the smallest of margins when Storm winger Young Tonumaipea played the ball after the siren. Tonumaipea would end up scoring the try to help Melbourne to a dramatic 28-24 win.

While Archer said he was “disappointed” the call was wrong, he has kept Cecchin in the top grade this weekend.

“The siren and the play the ball were all but simultaneous,” Archer said. “But, technically, the siren sounded a split second before the Melbourne player heeled the ball. So, in that sense, the referees call was wrong and the final play should not have proceeded.

“We were only able to work this out by going through the final moments of the game frame by frame, so you can appreciate how difficult it would be for a referee to make a call with so much to consider with that degree of accuracy out in the middle.”

Because the ball had not been played, the referee was unable to check with the video referee about the decision. Archer said he would consider altering this limitation, too, but his first priority was the video referee counting down the final moments – up to 10 seconds – of each half into the ear of the on-field officials.

“We are implanting a countdown process as a first point,” Archer said. “We are working on mechanisms for the timekeeper and the video ref to count down the time to alleviate the problem in the future.

“I have spoke to [Dragons coach] Steve Price and indicated that we got the decision wrong and that it was a very difficult decision in live time. He understood the enormity of the decision and where I was coming from.”

While the Fox Sports clock showed the 80th minute had expired well before the final play, the NRL-appointed timekeeper uses an independent watch. The NRL is also exploring ways to synchronise the official time clock and that used by the television stations.

Archer agreed there was insufficient evidence to rule Josh Dugan was in front of the kicker leading to Trent Merrin’s try for the Dragons.

“I was comfortable with the process,” Archer said. “The touch judge called the chasers onside, the video referees ruled that as the ball was kicked Dugan’s foot was above the line.

“I am comfortable that there was insufficient evidence to overturn the decision.”

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Coach John Longmire urges Swans to roll up sleeves

Sydney coach John Longmire faces several big decisions before the round-five clash with Fremantle – including whether to rush Kurt Tippett into the side.
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But he said even the most inspired tactical and strategic decisions would count for nothing without Swans players ”putting the overalls on” and working harder.

Tippett will play this week after recovering from knee tendonitis, either in the reserves or seniors. Weighing on the minds of the coaching staff will be the fact the key forward was able to slot into the side successfully after missing nearly the first three months of last season. However, balancing that will be advice from medical and conditioning staff, who might suggest Tippett be eased in more slowly.

”We’ll make those decisions based on what’s good for the team, but also what’s good for Kurt,” Longmire said. ”We can’t let where we sit as far as our win-loss [goes] influence those decisions.”

It would be tempting to look for easy fixes. But there are none, the coach said.

Amid the fallout from the dismal loss to North Melbourne – the Swans’ third loss in an alarming opening month of the season – Longmire hit back at suggestions the inclusion of two ruckmen in the wet was a tactical error. He conceded the coaching staff was always looking to ”do things better” but listed numerous areas in which most of the playing list was ”not up to scratch”, including contested football, clearance rates, tackles inside the forward 50 metres and overall consistency.

”Last year we played three wet games here at the SCG with two ruckmen and won all three,” he said, responding to questions over playing Tom Derickx in soggy conditions.

”What can happen in the wet is you can get a lot of stoppages and actually two ruckmen is pretty useful. We’ve done it in the past and it worked for us and that’s why we did it on the weekend.

”It gets highlighted, obviously, when it doesn’t work – and it didn’t work out on the weekend. There is no denying that.”

However, he added, regardless of who was wearing the guernsey, with the same poor effort the result wouldn’t have changed.

”That’s the challenge for us, no matter who plays or what the structure is, we need to make sure we work hard. We need to work harder at all the things we pride ourselves on as a football team,” he said.

”Those things we pride ourselves on we haven’t been good at. We take responsibility for that and we need to take responsibility for fixing it.”

Longmire said there was still a ”lot of faith” in the senior players who were struggling for form but floated the idea of changes against the Dockers when he names his team on Thursday.

”That’s the balance, I guess – how long do we stick with them and give another week or two weeks or three weeks and hope their form turns around? Or at what time do you need to make those decisions?

”If we think on the weekend that we’ll go with a different structure, then that’s what we’ll do. We’ll certainly take the responsibility to make those decisions when we need to. But it’s always a collective. Whether it’s coaches or players, it’s never one or the other. It’s about how we can get better as a group. That’s what our review focuses on every week. Whether we’re sitting at the top of the ladder or trying to find some form, that’s what we’ll continue to focus on as a group of coaches and players. There’s no easy solution to it other than working really hard and getting the decisions right on and off the field.”

Longmire said Fremantle would serve as a good example to the Swans this week, having been thrashed by Hawthorn only to bounce back with a 53-point win over Essendon.

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