Best of the rest: Arnold has talent in the bank for semi

Central Coast remain positive as they prepare for their semi-final clash against the Victory on Sunday, despite the despair of letting three valuable points slip from their grasp midweek and the fatigue of a 26-hour return flight home from China.

The Mariners conceded two late goals to lose to Guizhou Renhe in the Asian Champions League on Tuesday night, and their woes were compounded by a gruelling return trip. But the players say the difficult schedule and result have not affected their focus.

Coach Graham Arnold rested seven senior players from the squad that travelled to China.

”Obviously it’s a long trip but we’ve got plenty of days to recover. There are seven boys at home who are nice and fresh so we’ll have a nice relaxing day today and get back into training tomorrow, and look forward to a big game on Sunday,” Mariners defender Zach Anderson said. ”We’ve done it for a few weeks now, and Arnie’s been strategic in the way he has rested a few players … It affects different players in different ways.”

The likes of Patrick Zwaanswijk, Mike McGlinchey, Nick Montgomery, Mile Sterjovski and Daniel McBreen remained in Gosford to rest, but striker Mitchell Duke believes those who did travel will still be fit to play on Sunday. Arnold named a preliminary match squad on Thursday evening, and included all players who played against Guizhou Renhe.

”All the boys are looking forward to getting back home and resting in our own bed,” he said.

”It will be a nice recovery day before [going] back to business tomorrow. We’ll be fine, we like to not have any excuses.”

Duke scored the Mariners’ only goal of the game against Guizhou with a first-half penalty that ended the club’s woes from the spot. The Mariners missed four straight penalties in the latter stages of the season but Duke’s spot-kick followed a successful Daniel McBreen penalty in their final A-League game of the season.

The 22-year-old is hopeful that his goal has relieved his teammates of pressure because the prospect of a penalty shoot-out could define their season.

”[McBreen] scored one a few weeks ago against Melbourne Heart so it was good to add on top of that, and basically keep it going and not putting any pressure on the team, especially when coming into the possibility of games going to penalty shoot-outs,” Duke said.

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2013 AFL round three teams

Jack WattsFREMANTLE v ESSENDON, Patersons Stadium, 8.40pm AEST, Friday 12 April

FREMANTLEB: L.Spurr Z.Dawson M.JohnsonHB: N.Suban L.McPharlin D.PearceC: T.Mzungu R.Crowley C.PearceHF: H.Ballantyne M.Pavlich N.FyfeF: K.Bradley C.Mayne M.WaltersFOLL: J.Griffin D.Mundy S.HillI/C: M.De Boer P.Duffield M.Barlow C.SutcliffeEMG: T.Sheridan J.Hannath H.CrozierIN: H.Ballantyne OUT: H.Crozier (omitted)

ESSENDONB: M.Hibberd C.Hooker D.FletcherHB: D.Myers J.Carlisle C.DempseyC: D.Heppell J.Watson B.GoddardHF: B.Stanton S.Crameri T.ColyerF: A.Davey P.Ryder M.HurleyFOLL: T.Bellchambers B.Howlett H.HockingI/C: D.Zaharakis J.Melksham E.Kavanagh N.KommerEMG: J.Merrett L.Jetta D.HilleIN: T.Colyer , E.Kavanagh OUT: M.Baguley (ankle) , J.Merrett (omitted)

NORTH MELBOURNE v SYDNEY SWANS, Blundstone Arena, 1.45pm AEST, Saturday 13 April

NORTH MELBOURNEB: McMahon Thompson Firrito                       HB: Mullett Grima Atley                            C: Wells Bastinac Anthony                         HF: Cunnington Tarrant Hansen                      F: Thomas Petrie Adams                            FOLL: Goldstein Swallow Ziebell                                        I/C: Wright Hine Macmillan Gibson                   EMG: Garner Harper Daw                              IN: Wright Hine                                    OUT: Harper Jacobs                                  NEW: Taylor Hine, 21, Gold Coast

SYDNEY SWANSB: Mattner Grundy Smith                           HB: McVeigh T Richards Malceski                    C: Everitt K Jack Jetta                           HF: O’Keefe Reid McGlynn                           F: Pyke Goodes Hannebery                          FOLL: Mumford Kennedy Bolton                                         I/C: Armstrong Bird Parker Roberts-Thomson          EMG: Morton Rampe White                             IN: Armstrong                                      OUT: Shaw (abdominal strain)

MELBOURNE v WEST COAST, MCG, 2.10pm AEST, Saturday 13 April

MELBOURNEB: Jetta Frawley Terlich                          HB: Trengove McDonald Garland                      C: Evans Grimes Viney                             HF: M Jones Clark Howe                             F: Davey Sellar Byrnes                            FOLL: Jamar Sylvia  N Jones                                        I/C: Toumpas Pedersen Tapscott Bail                 EMG: Watts Rodan Spencer                            IN: Bail Tapscott Jetta Pedersen Evans             OUT: Rodan Gillies (groin) Blease Watts Nicholson

WEST COASTB: Schofield Glass A Selwood                      HB: Hurn Brown Waters                              C: Gaff Priddis Masten                            HF: Embley Kennedy Hams                            F: Darling Hill LeCras                            FOLL: Cox S Selwood Shuey                                          I/C: Butler Cripps Kerr Sinclair                    EMG: Brennan Dalziell Wilson                        IN: Kerr LeCras                                    OUT: Dalziell Sheppard (shoulder)

GWS GIANTS v ST KILDA, Manuka Stadium, 4.40pm AEST, Saturday 13 April

GWS GIANTSB: Kennedy Mohr Gilham                            HB: Bugg Davis Hampton                             C: Hoskin-Elliott Ward Whitfield                  HF: Scully Cameron Coniglio                        F: Giles Patton Smith                             FOLL: Brogan Treloar Greene                                         I/C: Plowman Reid Shiel Sumner                      EMG: Darley Frost Miles                             IN: Reid                                           OUT: Palmer (calf)

ST KILDAB: Wright Fisher Roberton                         HB: Geary Stanley Gilbert                          C: Newnes Hayes Dal Santo                         HF: Montagna Riewoldt Milera                       F: Milne Lee Saad                                 FOLL: McEvoy Armitage Steven                                         I/C: Jones Siposs Blake Maister                     EMG: Ray Simpkin Dunell                             IN: Lee Wright                                     OUT: Schneider (hamstring) Dempster (hand)          NEW: Nathan Wright, 19, Dandenong U18; Tom Lee, 22, Claremont (WAFL)

GEELONG v CARLTON, Etihad Stadium, 7.40pm, Saturday 13 April

GEELONGB: T Hunt Lonergan Enright                        HB: Corey Mackie Taylor                            C: Duncan Bartel Chapman                          HF: Stokes Podsiadly Motlop                        F: West Hawkins Varcoe                            FOLL: Blicavs Selwood Johnson                                        I/C: Christensen Smedts Caddy Murdoch               EMG: Horlin-Smith Stringer Thurlow                  IN: Johnson Murdoch                                OUT: Kelly (calf) Brown

CARLTONB: C.Yarran M.Jamison L.HendersonHB: Z.Tuohy D.Armfield B.GibbsC: K.Simpson A.Carrazzo M.RobinsonHF: C.Judd A.Walker J.GarlettF: D.Buckley S.Hampson S.RoweFOLL: M.Kreuzer M.Murphy B.McLeanI/C: A.Joseph K.Lucas H.Scotland M.DaviesEMG: T.Bell J.Bootsma L.CasboultIN: A.Joseph , S.Hampson , D.Buckley , H.Scotland OUT: J.Laidler (omitted) , L.Casboult (omitted) , T.Bell (omitted) , J.Bootsma (omitted) NEW: D.Buckley

GOLD COAST SUNS v BRISBANE LIONS, Metricon Stadium, 7.40pm AEST, Saturday 13 April

GOLD COASTBacks:         Wilkinson Warnock Hutchins                     Half-backs:    Shaw Thompson Broughton                        Centres:       Rischitelli Ablett Harbrow                     Half-forwards: Bennell May A Hall                             Forwards:      Brennan Day Matera                             Followers:     Dixon Hunt Swallow                                        Interchange:   Smith O’Meara Russell Allen                    Emergencies:   Horsley Cameron Taylor                         In:            Broughton Allen                                Out:           Murphy (shoulder) Prestia (hip)

BRISBANE LIONSBacks:         Golby Merrett Raines                           Half-backs:    Adcock Patfull Yeo                             Centres:       Redden Rockliff Hanley                         Half-forwards: Zorko Brown Green                              Forwards:      McKeever Martin McGrath                        Followers:     Leuenberger Rich Moloney                                        Interchange:   Polec Bewick Polkinghorne Mayes                Emergencies:   Harwood Karnezis Lester                        In:            Polec McKeever Mayes                           Out:           Karnezis Lester Beams (knee)                   New:           Sam Mayes, 18, North Adelaide (SANFL)

RICHMOND v WESTERN BULLDOGS, Etihad Stadium, 1.10pm, Sunday 14 April

RICHMONDB: Morris Rance Chaplin                           HB: Grimes Petterd Houli                           C: Newman Cotchin Conca                           HF: Deledio Edwards Jackson                        F: McGuane Riewoldt Vickery                       FOLL: Maric Martin Tuck                                           I/C: Ellis King Grigg Batchelor  EMG: Knights Nahas VlastuinWESTERN BULLDOGSBacks:   Goodes Morris Picken                          Half-backs:    Cooney Roughead Young                         Centres:       Lower Cross Smith                             Half-forwards: Wallis Jones Giansiracusa                     Forwards:      Murphy Minson Dickson                          Followers:     Cordy Griffen  Liberatore                                     Interchange: Dahlhaus Higgins Wood  Stevens  EMG: Macrae Johannisen MarkovicIn: Wood                           Out: Johannisen                                                     COLLINGWOOD v HAWTHORN, MCG, 3.15pm AEST, Sunday 14 April

COLLINGWOODB: Brown Toovey Reid                              HB: Clarke Shaw O’Brien                            C: Sidebottom Swan D Thomas                       HF: Elliott Cloke Lynch                            F: Sinclair Goldsack Dwyer                        FOLL: Hudson Pendlebury Blair                                          I/C: Fasolo Russell Johnson FrostEMG: Macaffer J Thomas SeedsmanIN: D Thomas Hudson Frost Fasolo          OUT: Jolly (ribs) Maxwell (wrist) Macaffer Seedsman                 NEW: Ben Hudson, 34, Brisbane Lions

HAWTHORNB: Gibson Schoenmakers Guerra                     HB: Hodge Stratton Birchall                        C: Shiels Mitchell Hill                           HF: Rioli Franklin Breust                          F: Hale Roughead Puopolo                          FOLL: Bailey Burgoyne Lewis                                          I/C: Anderson Duryea Smith GunstonEMG: Grimley Savage Cheney  IN: Duryea Gunston                  OUT: Sewell (hamstring), Savage                             NEW: Taylor Duryea, 21, Murray U18

PORT ADELAIDE v ADELAIDE, AAMI Stadium, 4.40pm AEST, Sunday 14 April

PORT ADELAIDEB: Jonas Carlile O’Shea                           HB: Pittard Trengove Stevenson                     C: Cornes Boak Broadbent                          HF: Monfries Westhoff P Stewart                    F: Wingard Schulz Neade                           FOLL: Lobbe Brad Ebert Hartlett                                       I/C: Heath Mitchell Renouf WinesEMG: Gray Cassisi Moore        IN: Renouf                     OUT: Redden

ADELAIDEB: Brown Rutten Otten                             HB: Jaensch Talia Reilly                           C: van Berlo S Thompson Mackay                    HF: Petrenko Walker Sloane                         F: Douglas Jenkins Porplyzia                      FOLL: Jacobs Dangerfield Wright                                         I/C: Crouch Henderson Johncock VinceEMG: Callinan Kerridge Lynch       IN: Johncock                        OUT: Callinan

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Warning as Tuiali’i gets his breath back

Former All Blacks No.8 Mose Tuiali’i wants to build on the momentum of his first game in New Zealand since 2008 when the Highlanders seek to break their Super Rugby duck against the Brumbies in Dunedin on Friday. Tuiali’i, 32, was a standout player for the winless Highlanders in last week’s loss to the Blues in Auckland, having answered a SOS call from coach Jamie Joseph to reinforce the injury-hit franchise. It had been two months since Tuiali’i had played for his Japanese club, Yamaha. ”The lungs were burning a bit,” he said. ”I was surprised how well I lasted.”Thorn tells Highlanders to do a Broncos

The ”granddaddy” of Super Rugby is drawing inspiration from the 1999 Brisbane Broncos to lead a Highlanders revival and Brad Thorn (pictured) is confident his team can stun the Brumbies on Friday night. The Highlanders are languishing at the bottom of the ladder and searching for their first win of the season, despite boasting All Blacks talent on their roster. The Broncos won one of their first 10 games in 1999 but stormed home to make the finals with a young Thorn in the second row. Now the 38-year-old says the Highlanders can go on a similar run. ”It’s a good test of character,” he said.

Chris DuttonMcAfee welcomed to RUPA board

The Rugby Union Players’ Association has opened its doors to women members for the first time and appointed World Cup-winning former Australian captain Cheryl McAfee to its board. RUPA chairman Bruce Hodgkinson, SC, said rugby had not looked after women players well enough. ”When you look at their achievements, the world cups they’ve won and the tournaments they’ve won, they have been great ambassadors for Australia and for the sport, and they deserve to be looked after in a proper way,” Hodgkinson said.

Georgina Robinson1234

The number of metres the Waratahs lead the Super Rugby competition by after seven games.Cooper denies rift with Deans

Quade Cooper has denied any continuing rift with Wallabies coach Robbie Deans after his surprise omission from a 30-man planning camp ahead of the British and Irish Lions series. Cooper is out of Deans’ prospective squad for the blockbuster three-Test series in June but he’s taken the non-selection on the chin. Preparing to fly to Hamilton for the Queensland Reds’ clash with the Chiefs, the 38-Test playmaker downplayed his omission. ”It’s no big issue, really, because we have a big season ahead of us,” Cooper said. ”The major issue is turning up in the Waikato and having a good game.”


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Change at the top for struggling Rebels

Regime change is under way at the Rebels, with chief executive Steve Boland set to announce his resignation. Boland, who took over from former chief executive Ross Oakley in 2011, will return to the corporate jungle, where he occupied senior roles at corporate giants Visy and Veolia before making a foray into rugby administration. And while Boland’s departure is not quite the ”death spiral” some of the club’s detractors would like it to be, there is more change in the works for the struggling club. Whispers of an ARU takeover grow stronger, with some senior figures in favour of the idea in some form. Which form that will be is the sticking point but the ARU has developed a couple of different bailout models over the years, saving the Reds in 2010 and stepping in to run the Waratahs for three years in 2000. ARU boss Bill Pulver has also paved the way for such a move, telling News Ltd a week ago that the Rebels and the Force ”are deserving of a unique amount of help”.Manly unhappy

Rebels coach Damien Hill, meanwhile, has drawn the ire of Sydney club Manly by following in the footsteps of Brumbies coach Jake White and quarantining some of his players. Manly players Eddie Aholelei, Pat Leafa, Jordy Reid and Cadeyrn Neville have been told they may be kept in Melbourne to play club rugby and will not be able to return to Sydney to play in the Shute Shield. The Rebels confirmed this move had been flagged but would be imposed on a case by case basis and not take the form of a blanket ban, as was the case in Canberra. Marlins president David Begg raised the issue at the club’s season launch last week and told the Breakdown he was extremely disappointed. ”We don’t understand how playing club football in Melbourne will develop them as players,” Begg said. ”In fact it will, in my view, prejudice their development. Until this year we had worked very well in partnership with the Rebels. The fact they have done this, and the timing of the decision in the week before Shute Shield started, is most unfortunate.” Hill was unapologetic, saying he would take the option that would best suit the individual. ”It’s a balance of performance, development and welfare of the player,” he said. ”In saying that, there is a responsibility to contribute to growing the standard of the local competition in Victoria.”Centre search

Waratahs coach Michael Cheika has been hard at work looking for a centre to replace the departing Berrick Barnes and an announcement from Moore Park could come as soon as next week. Barnes is due to join Japanese club Panasonic Wild Knights after the third Bledisloe Test in late October and while Test centre Rob Horne was moved to No. 12 early this season, we hear Cheika wants another quality No. 12 with a strong kicking game. Centres are in short supply at the moment, with most contracted around Australia. The Force, who announced the signing of Reds outside back Luke Morahan this week, are also chasing Brumbies centre Zack Holmes as well as his teammate, halfback Ian Prior.Plan ‘unrealistic’

As the National Women’s Sevens Championship gears up at St Ignatius College, Riverview this weekend, there is talk of centralising both the men’s and women’s national programs this year. Brisbane is on the cards for the men, while Canberra is another option owing to the close working relationship the ARU enjoys with the Australian Institute of Sport. And while centralisation is crucial for talent development in the lead up to the Rio de Janeiro Olympics in 2016, not everyone thinks it is a good idea for the women’s program. Sevens Rugby World Cup-winning former Australian captain Cheryl McAfee says the women’s program is not ready to be centralised. ”I think it’s really unrealistic, [the sport] is not professional and the girls juggle careers and training,” McAfee said. ”When you’ve got girls who have spent years establishing themselves at work it’s a bit much asking them to drop everything and move states for rugby that does not pay you a lot of money and does not put food on the table and a roof over your head. If it was professional they could look at doing that.” The tournament includes two teams each from NSW and Queensland, one each from the ACT, Northern Territory, South Australia, Victoria and Western Australia.

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Ono declares himself the proud product of the boss

Big in Australia: Marquee man Shinji Ono (centre) leads the way at Wanderers training on Thursday. Photo: Brendan Esposito Western Sydney Wanderers are just 180 minutes away from clinching one of the more spectacular fairytale stories of Australian sport. But the A-League’s greatest prize means much more than glory and sentiment for Shinji Ono.

Just nine months ago, sections of the Japanese media boldly stated that Ono’s decorated 15-year career was over. The former star of the Blue Samurai struggled to finish games and spent lengthy spells languishing in the physio room at his hometown club, Shimizu S-Pulse. With his eminence deteriorating at a faster pace than the condition of his knee, Ono decided to roll the dice once more when he was presented with the opportunity to move to Australia. Now, with the Premiers’ Plate in one hand and the other within reach of the A-League ring, Ono has no doubts that the faith of coach Tony Popovic saved his career.

”In Japan, some people say ‘Shinji Ono is already finished’ … because I didn’t play for five, six months,” Ono says. ”I just believe in myself all the time that I can do more. At the time, Tony Popovic called me and [asked] if I want to, to come to our team to play. I was very happy, he saved my life.”

Ono assured the Wanderers boss that the worst of his injury woes were in the past but he was still struggling to regain match fitness. With a new team, in a new league, in a new country, Ono had little information to predict his performance. His task of guiding the Wanderers became all the more difficult when he was immediately branded one of the three poster-boys of the competition. Arriving only a matter of days after Alessandro Del Piero and Emile Heskey, Ono was warned that his reception at Sydney was not going to be a quiet affair. The 33-year-old was still unprepared for the fanfare and subsequent pressure that greeted his entrance.

”[There] was big pressure because before five, six months I didn’t play before I came here. Not one game. So I don’t know how I can do, how I can help, I didn’t know,” Ono says. ”Because Del Piero and Heskey score a lot before I score, I have also big pressure … The people like big names, but I told you all the time, I’m not big player like the other two players. I have some big pressure but also the same time, I always thought when I score one, the next goal comes so quickly. I knew that. I always try to have patience and just believe myself to try to have hard work every day.”

Twenty-four games, seven goals and one premiership later, Ono relieved the burden of expectation and attributes his success in the A-League to a coach he says is the best he has ever played for.

”First thing, I believe him, I just didn’t know about this team,” Ono says. ”I have been together with this team, training with the boys and I believe. After more time training with the team, I believe more.”

After shaking off a niggling groin injury and declared fit to play in Friday night’s semi-final against Brisbane Roar, Ono reiterates his disinterest in the Japanese media’s opinion of him. Although there’s no hiding his desire to prove a point to some of his doubters in his homeland. The Wanderers have already secured their path to next year’s Asian Champions League, and while the group stage draw remains some time away, Ono has his hopes set on only one outcome.

”I hope to play any Japanese club,” he says. ”It doesn’t matter which … We have confidence to beat them. Already we’re excited to play Asia but now we have play-offs, we want to achieve more with the club. We want to get another title.”

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