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Simmons optimistic after positive start with Windies

“It is a cause for optimism, you are talking about winning a test match where we weren’t fancied to do anything in the series,” Simmons told Reuters in a telephone interview on Wednesday.

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“It gives them good confidence that they were part of it. The biggest part of winning that game is what the youngsters and the team take from that.” The former Ireland coach, who played 26 tests for West Indies, clearly made a swift impact on a team which was credited with showing a renewed focus and discipline in the series.

“The key message was that there is the ability there to play test cricket and do well at test cricket and we have to start looking and making sure we know exactly what we are doing and what direction we are going and all the players are part of that,” he said. “I think application is a really big thing and it was something that we had talked about. It is a big game, a game of patience, like a chess game and everybody had to understand what application meant — and I think everyone came to the party as far as that was concerned,” added Simmons.

It was a youthful team which beat England at Kensington Oval.

The opening batting pair of Kraigg Brathwaite and Shai Hope are 22 and 21-years-old respectively while all-rounder Jason Holder and key middle order performer Jermaine Blackwood are both 23.

With other young players emerging in the first class regional competition, there is a rare sense of positivity about the future in Caribbean cricket, but Simmons says having the raw talent isn’t enough.

“The talent becomes unimportant if you are not working. But if you have the talent and you are hard working then you are going somewhere. I think the talent is there with a lot of them, we just have to make sure that we work hard with that talent,” he said. The bowling attack has benefited from having Curtley Ambrose, who took 405 wickets in 98 tests before retiring in 2000, in his role as a consultant, with the former paceman giving animated instruction to the bowlers before key sessions. “He has been very important. He is a giant in the game when it comes to bowling and he has been huge in the dressing room with the bowlers and with everyone in general. His role is very important for the team,” said Simmons. West Indies have had false dawns throughout their near two-decades of decline and it will be tough to maintain the momentum in tests in Dominica and Jamaica against Australia next month.

“No disrespect to England but it is going to be a bigger test, especially for the batsmen. Their quality of bowling and the bowling lineup that they possess is a better one than England have. You are going to be tested more,” said Simmons.

“That is a good thing because playing the top teams early in your career teaches you what you need to be successful at this level. If they do well, they know that they are up there, if they don’t do well against Australia then they know they have things to work on.”

What has often undone progress in the past has been the frequent fall-outs between the West Indies players and their board, the WICB. Last year, after a dispute over contracts, West Indies players went home midway through a tour of India prompting a threat of legal action against the board. Simmons says he has asked his players to keep any problems they might have with the WICB out of the dressing room when it comes to business time. “The players and the board have their issues, I try to make sure that those issues don’t come into my team when it is time to go and play cricket. You try to get them to make sure that they have all their issues sorted out before it’s time to go to cricket.

“I am not involved in that, it is not part of my job to be a mediator. I can just make sure that when it comes to cricket that they are doing the right things as players and the right things as a board for the team.”

(Reporting by Simon Evans; editing by Toby Davis)

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Giants’ Cameron brave but needs awareness

Fearless Greater Western Sydney forward Jeremy Cameron could do with increasing his awareness on the field when the Giants face a physical Hawthorn side on Saturday, coach Leon Cameron says.

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Cameron has been cleared to play against Hawthorn at Spotless Stadium on Saturday, despite injuring his nose in the side’s embarrassing loss to West Coast last weekend.

The 22-year-old suffered a heavy knock in a marking contest with Will Schofield and Shannon Hurn during the first term at Domain Stadium, but played out the rest of the game.

Back at training on Wednesday ahead of the Giants’ first Sydney home match at Spotless Stadium, the talented youngster said he wasn’t sure whether his nose was actually broken, though doctors had straightened and stitched it up.

Leon Cameron praised the young star as a courageous player, but wanted him to be conscious of not turning that fearlessness into recklessness.

“I would probably say he needs to have a better awareness at times, and he knows that as well,” Leon Cameron said.

“Obviously the number one thing is for his safety, but also for the safety of his teammates.

“But it’s very hard to take that out of a player that’s just got eyes on the ball.

“And you want that because he’s a very brave player, and he just loves that sort of physicality to his game.

“But at times he needs to have more awareness of what’s around him.”

For Jeremy, to take away the more physical aspects of the game on which he thrives would dampen his ability.

“When he speaks to me about that sort of stuff it’s normally in pre-season when we’re playing against our own teammates, to make sure I don’t hurt the boys,” he half-joked.

“But that’s the way I play my football, and sometimes it’s a good way to get into the match.

“The contests are something I really like and I enjoy in football, so I’ll just keep doing them things.

“Sometimes you can get pretty big bumps with that sort of stuff so I think there’s a little bit of commonsense involved as well.”

Cameron will be in his element against Hawthorn, whose outing against North Melbourne last Saturday was so physical both captain Luke Hodge and vice-captain Jordan Lewis are both sidelined with three- and two-game bans.

“I think Hawthorn’s a very physical side, so like all the good sides – like Fremantle and the (Sydney) Swans – the Hawks definitely bring a lot of aggression to the footy field,” he said.

“They tackle hard, create a lot of pressure, and that’s why teams falter under that.

“We know they’re going to come strong, and we want to try and match that.”

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Emery ready to step up for Highlanders

Jason Emery has played only a small part in the Highlanders’ campaign so far but his versatility will be important as they prepare for three Super Rugby matches in South Africa and Australia.

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The Highlanders play the Lions in Johannesburg on Sunday morning, the Cheetahs in Bloemfontein the following weekend and then the Force in Perth before they return home to face the Chiefs in Invercargill on May 30.

Emery has played in all 10 matches, but has started only two as he has been unable to break the established midfield combination of Malakai Fekitoa and Shaun Treeby.

Remarkably, Emery, just 21, is in his third season with the Highlanders and his aim is to be ready for when the chances do come.

“I’ve been pleased with my form off the bench but I haven’t done enough to displace the regular midfielders when I’ve started,” was Emery’s frank assessment.

“I enjoy playing 12, you get a lot more ball, and there are some great players outside. You just try to feed them the ball and hope they do the rest.

“Malakai has No.13 sewn up, Shaun Treeby has been here five years and Richard Buckman has also played well but we try to feed off each other and make sure our wings (Patrick Osborne and Waisake Naholo) get some decent chances.”

Emery has been much more physical in defence this season after a “kick up the butt” from coach Jamie Joseph.

“It’s also helped that I haven’t had any shoulder injuries, which have troubled me in the past two years.

“I think I’m more mature now. I’m more comfortable around the boys and that helps me to play better. I used to be the youngster but now I’m trying to help some of the new guys who have come into the squad.”

The Lions have been vastly improved this year with six wins and five losses, and will be formidable at Ellis Park.

“They are one of the form South African teams, a really sticky team to play so we will have to work hard to acclimatise when we get over there,” Joseph said.

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Spanish RFEF to suspend competition over TV law

The law was approved in cabinet last week with the backing of the professional football league (LFP) and aims to create a more level playing field for clubs in Spain’s top two divisions by sharing out TV cash more equitably.

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However, both the RFEF, and its influential president Angel Maria Villar, and the players’ union (AFE) have come out against the new rules and the two organisations have backed halting competition right across Spanish football.

The final two matchdays in La Liga would both be affected as well as the King’s Cup final between Barcelona and Athletic Bilbao at the end of the month unless agreement can be reached to avert the action.

After a board meeting on Wednesday, the federation published a statement on its website (南宁夜网.rfef.es) in which it accused the government of a “lack of respect” and complained it had not been consulted properly on the TV law.

The federation, which has been bitterly complaining in recent months of what it sees as government interference, believes the regulations will rob it of some powers and is also unhappy at what it says is the use of money from football for activities that have nothing to do with the sport.

A total of 17 regional federations would be affected by the suspension, including more than 600,000 players and 30,000 matches, the RFEF said.

“At the same time, and yet again, we reiterate the offer of dialogue to the Spanish government,” the federation added.

Spain’s government sports council (CSD) defended the TV rights law in a statement later on Wednesday responding to the RFEF’s announcement.

The law would end the current system under which rights are sold by individual clubs and would potentially pave the way for a sharp price increase.

The current system favours big teams such as Real Madrid, the world’s wealthiest club by income, and rivals Barcelona.

Poorer teams, especially those with big outstanding tax bills to pay, have called for rights to be pooled to help them make ends meet.

The CSD said the new law was an “historic achievement” and guaranteed “that Spanish football can reach levels of exploitation, profitability and sustainability that were unthinkable up to now”.

The statement added that the CSD could not understand why the RFEF and the AFE were now opposing a law they had previously supported.

“The rest of the reasons put forward today by the RFEF are a series of excuses to justify continued conflict, which is based purely on the interest of the RFEF in not returning public money and not submitting itself to audits required by law,” the statement said.

(Reporting by Iain Rogers, editing by Pritha Sarkar)

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Bishop announces $24m aid for Pakistan, ‘deeply concerned’ about rise of IS

Visiting Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop has announced $24 million aid package for Pakistan that includes help for border areas hit by conflict and natural disasters.

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The aid package includes $8 million to help restore infrastructure damaged by floods and conflict in the restive northwest and southwest.

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Ms Bishop made the pledge during a two-day visit to Islamabad, where she’s holding talks with her Pakistani counterpart on efforts to counter militancy, the future of Afghanistan and the reported rise of the Islamic State group in the region.

“In relation to Daish, we are deeply concerned about the rise of this terrorist organisation that appears to be more dangerous, more complex, more global in its ambitions and reach than perhaps we’ve seen before,” she said.

“The declaration of a Caliphate of parts of Syria and Iraq is a rallying cry for extremists around the world,” Bishop said, referring to Islamic State by the Arabic acronym Daish.

The ultra-radical insurgents have killed at least 2,154 people off the battlefield in Syria since the end of June when the group declared a caliphate in territory it controls, a Syrian human rights monitor said in April.

The killings of mostly Syrians included deaths by beheading, stoning or gunshots in non-combat situations, the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said, urging the United Nations Security Council to act.

Bishop also said that Islamabad and Canberra were working closely in order to counter extremism.

“Australia is not immune. In fact we believe that there are about 100 foreign terrorist fighters from Australia currently in Iraq and Syria supporting this brutal, barbaric, murderous terrorist organization known as Daish. We have implemented a range of new laws in Australia, and are bolstering resources to our security, law-enforcing and intelligence agencies. We are doing what we can to stem the flow of foreign terrorist fighters and finance to these organisations” she said.

It is Bishop’s first visit to Pakistan as Australia’s Foreign Minister.

She is set to meet Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and army chief General Raheel Sharif during her trip, to emphasize the importance of Australia’s ties with Pakistan.

 

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