Ciaran is a Melbourne-based journalist whose writing has been published by numerous outlets including The Guardian and The Age. His work has been recognised by the Walkley Foundation, Melbourne Press Club and the NSW Premier’s History Awards.
The Jaded Newsman’s Editor, Ciaran O’Mahony, has been featured in The Guardian’s final update of the landmark Killing Times project.
O’Mahony conducted a long-term investigation into the Forrest River massacre, crafting a special series on the harrowing discovery of this atrocity and the lives of an Indigenous couple who brought the perpetrators to trial.
Reverend James Noble found charred bone fragments on the banks of the East Kimberley’s Forrest River in August 1926, along with several “improvised ovens” containing further human remains.
Noble had discovered just a fraction of the atrocities carried out in the Forrest River massacre and this evidence would eventually trigger a Royal Commission into the killings.
James and his wife, Angelina, lived extraordinary lives and their Great Granddaughter, Tabatha Saunders, provided crucial insights into the Forrest River massacre as well as the care the couple provided to Indigenous peoples in Anglican Missions across the country.
Ireland may be a small country, but it has punched well above its weight when it comes to sporting achievements on the world stage.
To celebrate St Patrick’s Day, The Jaded Newsman is tipping its hat to some of the greatest athletes produced on the Emerald Isle. This list is sure to spark debate and I must admit, it was extremely difficult to narrow it down to 15 names.
Before any GAA fans come banging on my door, I should mention that I have only included athletes that have competed in international sports. As the furthest thing from a GAA expert, I wasn’t able to judge how the likes of Colm Cooper and Henry Shefflin stack up against the rest of the field.
With that said, let’s dive into the list.
15. Derval O’Rourke (Runner)
One of three track and field athletes on this list (all from County Cork), Derval O’Rourke brings a World Championship in hurdles to the table. She shocked the world in Moscow (2006), clocking a PB and winning the 60m hurdles at the World Indoor Athletics Championships. Although she was unable to recapture the same form, O’Rourke also picked up numerous medals at the European Championships in both the 60m and 100m hurdles.
14. Pat O’Callaghan (Hammer Thrower)
His name may not be familiar to many, but it would be absurd to keep a two-time Olympic Gold medallist off this list. O’Callaghan and his two brothers paid their own travel fares to compete in the 1928 Olympics in Amsterdam. It proved to be money well spent as Pat won Gold in the Hammer Throw. His medal presentation was the first time that the Irish tricolour was raised at an Olympic Games. O’Callaghan defended his title in 1932, firmly sealing his place in Irish sporting history.
Photo: Sean Sexton/Getty Images
13. Carl Frampton (Boxer)
It was tough to split Frampton and his former mentor (now turned enemy) Barry McGuigan, but I’m giving “the jackal” the nod. Frampton was a two-weight world champion in the highly competitive Super-Bantamweight and Featherweight divisions. He gained his first world title by easily dispatching Kiko Martinez – the current IBF Featherweight champion – twice. He later defeated his arch-rival and WBA Super-Bantamweight champion, Scott Quigg, before moving up to Featherweight and upsetting the highly rated Leo Santa Cruz.
12. Padraig Harrington(Golfer)
The epitome of an athlete who performed at his best on the biggest stage. Harrington is a three-time major winner, with two British Opens and one PGA Championship to his name. He won all three between 2007-2008, earning PGA Player of the Year and PGA Tour Player of the Year honours. It’s safe to say that at his peak, the Dubliner was on top of the golfing world.
11. Sonia O’Sullivan (Runner)
Undoubtedly one of Ireland’s greatest sportswomen, Sonia O’Sullivan is an incredibly decorated runner. The Cork woman was definitely at her strongest in the 5000m and 2000m races. She set a world record in the 2000m in 1994, which stood until 2017. In the 5000m, O’Sullivan won Gold at the World Championships in 1995 and Silver at the Olympic Games in 2000. She has plenty more medals in her cabinet, but it’s safe to say that the aforementioned achievements alone, have made her an Irish sporting legend.
10. Conor McGregor (MMA Fighter)
Love him or hate him, it’s hard to deny that “The Notorious” set the UFC alight during an incredible three year stretch. His legendary featherweight run included dominant victories over huge names such as Max Holloway, Dustin Poirier and Chad Mendes. But it’s perhaps that viral 13-second KO of the greatest Featherweight of all time, Jose Aldo, for which he is best known. No one could quite believe that the Brazilian’s 10 years of dominance were undone in the same amount of time it takes us to unlock our phones. A masterful performance against Lightweight champion Eddie Alvarez, silenced any remaining doubters, making McGregor the UFC’s first simultaneous two-division champion.
9. Liam Brady (Footballer)
One of the greatest playmakers of his generation, Liam Brady is a certified Arsenal legend. Brady had everything you wanted in a footballer – silky skills, vision, strength, and an eye for goal. He was a dominant force in the Premier League during the 1970s, picking up the PFA Players’ Player of the Year award in 1978-79, and appearing in the Team of the Season several times. He moved to the mighty Juventus in 1980, winning the Serie A in 1980-81 and 1981-82, before further successful spells at Sampdoria and Inter Milan.
8. Brian O’Driscoll (Rugby Player)
There aren’t enough superlatives in the English language to describe this man’s effortless talent. O’Driscoll was a player who didn’t just do the impossible, but made it look easy. BOD is Ireland’s record cap-holder, a Grand Slam winner, and for many years, was one of the best players in the world. For club, he won three Heineken Cups and three RaboDirect Pro12s. For country, he scored 26 tries in the Six Nations and was shortlisted for the IRB World Player of the Year – three times!
7. Jimmy McLarnin (Boxer)
Contrary to popular belief, Jimmy McLarnin (not Sugar Ray Robinson) was the first boxer to ever be called the best “pound for pound” fighter in the world. “Baby Face” had thunderous power in both hands, which helped him to floor some of the best fighters of his generation. Throughout his career, McLarnin faced World Champions from seven different weight classes, famously defeating five reigning champions in non-title bouts (as well as many future world champions). He finally captured a World Title of his own in 1933, with a vicious first round knockout of Welterweight Champion Young Corbett III. McLarnin would lose and regain the title in a legendary trilogy with the great Barney Ross. The pair contested three razor-close 15-round bouts in one year, with Ross winning the decider in front of 55,000 people at the Polo Grounds. Across 77 professional fights, McLarnin defeated 13 Boxing Hall of Famers.
6. Katie Taylor (Boxer)
The Queen of Irish sport, Katie Taylor is still champion of the world, and it would hardly be surprising if she topped this list in a few years’ time. At 35 years of age, she has already won everything there is to win in Boxing. As an amateur, she won 5 world championship Gold medals (and one bronze), 6 European Championship Golds, and an Olympic Gold. As a pro, she is currently a two-weight world champion and the Undisputed Lightweight Champion of the world.
5. Rory McIlroy (Golfer)
Another sports star who’s not done yet – and we’re hoping he can add some more majors to his resume. Rory McIlroy held Golf’s No. 1 ranking for 106 weeks. Between 2011-2014, he won two PGA Championships, a US Open and a British Open. Throughout his career, he has scooped the following accolades on multiple occasions: PGA Tour Leading Money Winner, PGA Player of the Year, PGA Tour Player of the Year, European Tour Golfer of the Year. Enough said.
4. Stephen Roche (Cyclist)
If not for injuries, Stephen Roche may well have gone down as the greatest cyclist of all time. However, despite persistent knee problems, he is still considered an all-time great. Most professional cyclists hope to win one of the following races throughout the course of their career – the Tour De France, Giro D’Italia and the Road Cycling World Championship. If they’re lucky, they might even win a couple of them. Roche won all three of these races in one year. He is one of only two men to achieve this extraordinary “Triple Crown” and no one has done it since. While he clocked up 58 professional victories overall, and even added a World Championship Bronze medal to his list of accolades, his knee injuries severely shortened his prime.
3. Sean Kelly (Cyclist)
Stephen Roche’s achievements are hard to top, but his former teammate Sean Kelly, finds himself higher on the list due to his sustained dominance. Kelly is widely considered one of the greatest road cyclists ever. Arguably the best sprinter and classics rider of his generation, he won 9 monuments classics and 196 professional races. This included seven consecutive Paris-Nice victories and the 1988 Vuelta a Espana. Kelly won the coveted Green Jersey at the Tour de France four times as well as two Bronze medals at the Road Cycling World Championships. He was also the first cyclist to capture the No. 1 ranking – a position he held for five years.
2. Roy Keane (Footballer)
The man, the myth, the legend. Manchester United’s (and quite possibly the English Premier League’s) greatest captain drove the club to incredible heights for 12 years. Keane is best known as a tough-tackling midfield general, but he was also incredibly skilled. Blessed with pace and an excellent engine, his passing was top class and his finishing was extremely underrated. Ultimately, Keane’s best attribute was his ability to control a game and set the tempo. In 2000, he was recognised as the best player in the Premier League, winning FWA Footballer of the Year and the PFA Players’ Player of the Year. For United, he won 7 Premier Leagues, 4 FA Cups and the Champions League. Keane is also consistently selected in Premier League Teams of the Decade and Teams of the Century by football experts far and wide.
1. George Best (Footballer)
Perhaps the most talented footballer that ever lived, George Best’s story is one of greatness and sadness, in equal measure. In 1961, Manchester United Manager Matt Busby received a telegram from his scout in Northern Ireland, Bob Bishop. It contained just eight memorable words.
“I think I have found you a genius.”
Bishop was watching a 15 year old George Best, who was immediately snapped up. His prediction was proven right as Best carried United to the top of European Football just a few years later. During that period, Best became football’s first true superstar. A player so famous that he transcended the sport and became a pop icon. His silky skills dazzled football fans, while his good-looks and exploits off the pitch, made him a prime target for the tabloids. Who can forget this famous quote:
“If you’d given me the choice of going out and beating four men and smashing a goal in from 30 yards against Liverpool, or going to bed with Miss World, it would have been a difficult choice. Luckily, I had both.”
Thrown into the spotlight at just 17 years of age, Best battled an alcohol addiction that would curtail his career before he’d even reached his mid-20s. It was an addiction that dogged him for the rest of his life.
Nevertheless, his astonishing highlight reels live on and football experts agree that he was one of the greatest players ever. Best spearheaded Manchester United’s European Cup triumph in 1968, winning the coveted Ballon d’Or that season. He also won 2 First-Division titles with United and was the club’s top scorer for 5 consecutive seasons – all whilst battling serious personal demons. He came 5th in the Fifa Player of the (20th) Century vote and 8th in World Soccer’s Greatest Players of the 20th Century list.
But the honour Best cherished the most, was Pele’s confirmation that he was the best player in the world. “George Best until today, is a footballer without comparison and his technical skills will never be forgotten,” said the Brazilian.
In response, Best said “Pelé called me the greatest footballer in the world. That is the ultimate salute to my life.”
Australia’s sunny weather may be the envy of the world, but it is proving to be both a blessing and a curse.
While we soak up more sun in a month than many countries do in a year, we also have one of the highest rates of skin cancer in the world.
New research has shown that this problem is increasing, with non-melanoma skin cancers rising at an estimated rate of 2-6% per year for the last 30 years.
The study, which was published in the Public Health Research & Practice journal last week, estimates that 69% of Australians will have at least one keratinocyte cancer (or non-melanoma) removed from their body in a lifetime.
This group comprises 73% of Australia’s male population and 65% of the female population.
Although numerous “sun smart” campaigns have been implemented over the last decade, many Australians who did not grow up with the familiar “Slip Slop Slap” messaging, are now at high risk.
Associate Professor Catherine Olsen and her colleagues highlighted that the greatest increase in skin cancer was amongst people aged 55 or older.
Photo: kali9 via Getty Images
Professor David Whiteman, a co-author of the study, explained to Guardian Australia that “as our population is living longer and more people move into those age groups that manifest in cancer, they’re now showing the effects of their sun exposure from years and decades before.”
The findings are based on the most recent population-based estimates of keratinocyte cancer incidence in Australia between 2001-2021. The researchers examined data trends over time and calculated the lifetime risk of developing these cancers whilst accounting for competing risks of death.
They also noted that their findings could be an underestimate, given that data on keratinocyte cancers is not recorded in state or territory registries (with the except of Tasmania).
While keratinocyte cancers are less deadly than melanoma, Professor Whiteman urges Australians not to be complacent.
Photo: Carol Yepes via Getty Images
“Keratinocyte cancers kill about 500 people a year, and if not treated they can borrow into nerves on the face and into the head and track back into the brain. People may need to have massive surgery and radiotherapy. So it is a dreadful disease.”
Royal Australian College of General Practitioners (RACGP) Specific Interests Dermatology Chair Dr Jeremy Hudson, told NewsGP that GPs across the country have a pivotal role to play as we manage this threat.
“GPs have an absolutely key role and continue to diagnose and manage the vast majority of skin cancers in Australia, particularly in rural, remote and low [socio-economic] areas,” he said.
“Generation X is coming of age,” Dr Hudson said. “We are planning to see a spike of skin cancers in 10 years’ time unless very robust education and preventive action is taken.”
As doctors across the country prepare for this spike, the Federal Government is set to implement Australia’s first national skin cancer campaign in over a decade.
In the meantime, Professor Whiteman says people of all ages should remain vigilant against the sun.
“The good news is that it’s never too late to use sun protection, and that even people in their 40s and beyond who start using sun protection every single day can reduce their risk of skin cancer and reduce the incidence of new skin cancers forming if they’ve already had it.”
Michael Conlan was less than two minutes from glory. The Irishman’s silky skills had confounded Leigh Wood for eleven rounds, putting him well ahead on the judges’ scorecards.
The situation was clear. Wood, the WBA featherweight champion, needed a knockout in the final round of the fight, while Conlan only needed to stay on his feet to achieve a lifelong dream.
But Boxing is a cruel sport and as the cliche goes, one punch can change everything.
Not only did Conlan fail to stay on his feet, he failed to stay in the ring, as the Champion delivered a savage right hook, when he needed it most.
Wood sent Conlan through the ropes, delivering a dramatic ending to what was surely the fight of the year – so far.
Michael Conlan slumps through the ropes as Leigh Wood completes a dramatic comeback victory. Photo: Zach Goodwin/PA Images via Getty Images.
Conlan dominated the fight early, knocking Wood down in the 1st round, and almost finishing him.
A well-disguised left hook found the Englishman’s jaw and put him flat on his back. In the 2nd round, he ate similar left hooks over and over again. He was dazed, he was wobbly, he looked shot.
It took Wood several rounds to recover from that early damage, eventually findings his legs down the stretch.
By then, he was well behind on the cards and his trainer, Ben Davison, let him know all about it.
A dazed Wood rises from the canvas in Round one. Photo: Zac Goodwin/PA Images via Getty Images.
Conlan had been cleaner, faster and calmer. He made all the right choices, pressing the action and throwing intelligent combinations at the correct moments, and stepping out of range when his heavy-handed nemesis looked threatening.
It was the Olympic Bronze medallist’s fight to lose.
Conlan’s career had been carefully managed up to this point. Despite his ready-made Irish fanbase and amateur credentials, his team avoided rushing him into a world title fight.
Some of the Belfast man’s previous outings left experts questioning if he really had the ability to reach the very top of the professional ranks.
Not tonight, it seemed. They were preparing to eat their words as Conlan gave a gritty world champion a lesson. That is, until Conlan himself was given the most painful lesson of all.
In the 5th and 6th rounds, Wood upped the ante, attacking Conlan with quick flurries, rather than loading up with singular attacks.
Photo: Zac Goodwin/PA Images via Getty Images
The fight was becoming more competitive, but Conlan was still taking the rounds with cleaner and sharper punches.
In the 8th, Wood was hurt again with heavy shots, but he wore them well, continuing to pour on the pressure.
That pressure began to tell in the 10th, when he pinned Conlan to the ropes and began to drain him with aggressive bodywork.
Then came the 11th, where things really started to turn. Wood sent Conlan to the canvas with a big left hook. The Irishman disputed the knockdown, claiming he’d slipped, but it gave Wood the momentum he needed to turn it on in the final round.
Conlan hits the canvas in Rd 11. Photo: Zac Goodwin/PA Images via Getty Images.
With 1:44 left in the 12th, Wood pinned Conlan against the ropes again and let vicious flurries fly.
One of those punches caught Conlan, putting him unconscious against the ropes, before slumping through them, as the referee stopped the fight.
Conlan had failed to put a proud champion away when he was there for the taking – and he paid the ultimate price.
If this was a “Hail Mary”, Wood’s prayers had certainly been answered. It was his second 12th round stoppage in a row.
Photo: Nigel Roddis via Getty Images.
But the way Conlan flew through the ropes was so disturbing, that celebrations were muted.
Watching someone go limp and free-fall out of the ring in such a manner – made you wonder if he would ever be the same. Not Michael Conlan, the fighter. But Michael Conlan, the person.
Can we be certain that he will make a full and speedy recovery? I truly hope so and my thoughts are with him and his family.
The result did not go his way, but he still put on an exceptional performance against world-class opposition. Conlan was almost perfect from start to finish, but almost was not enough.
“Thank you to all the fans. All the Irish travelling fans. First of all I just want to say I hope Michael is ok. I can’t celebrate until I know he’s alright. My thoughts are with him at the minute,” Wood said after the fight.
He said what we were all thinking. Classy words from a humble and worthy champion.
We all hope that both men return to their families safely.
Two medical societies have warned Queensland Health that its Urinary Tract Infection (UTI) Pharmacy Pilot will have serious health implications.
The pilot, which was recently extended until June 30 2022, allows pharmacists to prescribe antibiotics to women for UTIs, without any medical review or investigations.
The Urological Society of Australia and New Zealand (USANZ) and the Royal Australian College of GPs (RACGP) have cautioned that this approach poses numerous health risks, including delayed diagnosis of cancer.
President of USANZ, Associate Professor Prem Rashid, says UTIs are very common, but must be diagnosed through microbiological confirmation on urine testing.
“The importance of the mid-stream urine test in recurrent and chronic UTIs cannot be underestimated,” according to Rashid.
“This defines whether the patient has a bacterial UTI as opposed to other potential causes of similar symptoms and is also fundamental to ensure optimal and accurate treatment with the appropriate antibiotic,” he says.
USANZ President, Associate Professor Prem Rashid. Photo: Twitter.
Vice President of USANZ, Professor Helen O’Connell AO, shares Rashid’s concerns.
“Tracking of urinary white cells and epithelial cells is critical to assessment of patient progress and exclusion of a chronic state,” O’Connell says.
“It does not represent best practice for women to simply attend a pharmacist with symptoms which may or may not be due to bacteria and receive antibiotics which may not treat the bacteria present due to resistance,” she says.
UTI symptoms are similar to those experienced in a wide range of health issues, including bladder cancer.
It is therefore imperative that UTIs are correctly diagnosed to rule out other life-threatening conditions.
Photo: Science Photo Library via Getty Images.
“The symptoms of a UTI are common to a number of serious health issues, including bladder cancer, which is why a correct diagnosis of an UTI is necessary to rule out other potential health serious issues,” says Professor O’Connell.
“Blood in the urine and a burning feeling while passing urine are just two of the symptoms common to both bladder cancer and UTIs. More than 3000 people are diagnosed with bladder cancer each year, a significant number of these are women. This cancer is treatable if detected early but delayed diagnosis and treatment can compromise outcomes, and at worst may mean someone cannot be cured,” she says.
“Why should a common condition in women be redirected from medical care without long term proof of its safety?”
The RACGP says it welcomes an overhaul of the management of UTIs, but argues that the pilot is not supported by evidence and risks doing more harm than good.
RACGP President Dr Karen Price has “deep concerns about moves by the retail pharmacy sector to push through policy changes that put financial gains ahead of patient care and safety.”
“The trial in Queensland of pharmacists prescribing antibiotics for urinary tract infections is concerning,” says Price.
“One of the main problems here is that this trial is effectively an implementation trial. It’s not research on best practice and the results of the trial should be made publicly available.”
While many Australians felt the financial sting of Covid-19 restrictions for the past two years, the collective wealth of our billionaires has doubled.
An Oxfam report has found that although 99% of the global population’s income fell during the (ongoing) pandemic, Forty-seven Australian billionaires increased their combined net worth to $255 Billion.
The Billionaire Club, which includes Gina Rinehart, James Packer and Clive Palmer, made $205 Million a day over the last two years, becoming wealthier than the poorest 30% of Australia’s (combined) in the process.
Mining mangnate, Gina Rinehart. Photo: Matt King via Getty Images
Oxfam Chief Executive Lyn Morgan says this “record-breaking growth”, in the midst of significant hardship for many Australians, should serve as a wake up call.
“While many have been pushed to the brink, billionaires have had a terrific pandemic,” Ms Morgan says.
“Not only have our economic structures made us all less safe in this pandemic, they are actively enabling those who are already extremely rich and powerful to exploit this crisis for their own profit.”
These statistics are consistent with a global trend, as the world’s 10 richest men doubled their fortunes to $1.9 Trillion, according to the Inequality Kills report.
It was therefore, an extremely lucrative period for Jeff Bezos, Elon Musk, Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg, Warren Buffet, Bernard Arnault, Larry Ellison, Larry Page, Sergey Brin and Steve Ballmer.
Jeff Bezos is among the billionaires who increased their fortunes during the pandemic. Photo: Kevin Mazur via Getty Images
Across the globe, 2755 billionaires have seen a greater increase in their fortunes over the past two years than the previous fourteen.
All whilst 163 million people fell below the poverty line.
Their wealth has skyrocketed due to rising stock market prices as well as a reduction in individual corporate tax rates and workers’ wages.
Oxfam argues that this wealth gap amounts to economic violence, estimating that it directly contributes to at least 21,300 deaths per day – or one death every four seconds.
“Inequality at such pace and scale is happening by choice, not chance,” Morgan says.
“Central banks have pumped trillions of dollars into financial markets to save the economy, yet much of that has ended up lining the pockets of billionaires riding a stock market boom.”
Photo: Pamspix via Getty Images
Morgan called on countries around the world to increase tax rates for the rich and tackle major monopolies.
“Here in Australia, and globally, there is a shortage of the courage and imagination needed to break free from the failed, deadly straitjacket of broken economic systems.”
“It’s time for the Australian Government to take this issue seriously and take action to close the gap between the rich and poor.”
Oxfam has calculated that an annual $30 billion wealth tax would have a significant impact on global inequality.
“It could cover close to half the cost of achieving the World Health Organization’s mid-2022 vaccination goal for lower income countries, helping protect all people, including Australians, from further variants and preventing millions of people around the world being pushed into greater hardship and poverty,” Morgan says.
Tennis fans, the wait is finally over. The Australian Open is upon us!
Melbourne Park may be Novak Djokovic’s playground, but his Visa cancellation has given the men’s field a huge opportunity to lift the Norman Brooks cup.
A new men’s champion will be crowned for the first time since 2018, when Roger Federer clinched his 20th Grand Slam.
Federer will also be missing, and as Nadal and Murray battle on in their twilight years, a fresh champion seems likely.
On the women’s side, Ash Barty remains a heavy favourite in her home slam. The World Number one’s stiffest challenge may come from four-time grand slam champion Naomi Osaka, who is aiming to put a turbulent 2021 behind her.
Women’s favourite Ash Barty. Photo: Simon M Bruty via Getty Images
But there are other former champions right on their heels, including Simona Halep, Garbine Muguruza and Iga Swiatek.
It’s a tough tournament to predict, but we’re willing to put our reputation on the line with some bold(?) tips.
Here are the Jaded Newsman’s predicted sleepers, flops and champions for AO22.
I’m taking a huge leap of faith here as Monfils doesn’t always bring his A-game to the biggest stage. His tendency to take unnecessary risks can often result in early round marathons that leave him drained for the big matches. But Monfils has played with a rare discipline of late and he looks like a man who realises his time is running out. A semi final run is definitely achievable for “La Monf”.
One of the most improved players on the tour last year, Fritz has the tools to give anyone problems. His nightmare draw means he could face Tiafoe, Bautista Agut and Tsitsipas in the first four rounds. But if he’s firing, he can beat the lot of them. The talented American was unlucky to lose a tense 5-setter to Djokovic last year, but he will bury those painful memories in 2022.
It might seem odd to call the world no. 9 a sleeper, but few believe he can make a run to the final. I’m going big and predicting just that. He’s a prodigiously talented shotmaker, who is quickly maturing into the full package. When FAA does put it all together, he’s going to do some damage. The young Canadian will go deep in the tournament and knock off at least one of the Top 5 seeds.
Felix Auger-Aliassime. Photo: Elsa via Getty Images.
The Russian had a tough finish to the 2021 season and he is yet to prove he can beat elite competition in the majors. May find a way past Marin Cilic, but unlikely to beat Auger-Aliassime in the 4th round.
Tsitsipas will be aiming to improve on an impressive semi final showing last year, however, he’s arrived in poor form. After coming agonisingly close to French Open glory last year, the Greek suffered a serious slump. He’s also had elbow injury surgery during the offseason. Expect an early exit.
Stefanos Tsitsipas. Photo: Tim Clayton via Getty Images.
Murray’s a great champion and it would be a tremendous comeback story, but his body won’t hold up at Melbourne Park. Although his run to the Sydney final featured some encouraging wins, he did them all the hard way. It’s hard to see him sustaining that sort of effort over 5 sets past the 3rd round here.
I’m not sure how many times I’ve said this ahead of a Grand Slam – it feels like 100 – but this will be the tournament where Alexander Zverev finally fulfils his promise. He was close to winning a pandemic-effected US Open in 2019, but he really seemed to turn a corner at the Tokyo Olympics. That Gold Medal should spur him on to greater things and avoiding Medvedev until the final is a major bonus. Zverev will become the first German to win an Australian Open since Boris Becker in 1996.
Alexander Zverev. Photo: Sarah Stier via Getty Images
Enters the Open with an Adelaide International title under her belt. Keys has the weapons to give anyone problems if she can maintain some consistency. If she gets through a tricky opening match against Sofia Kenin, the momentum should carry her past the quarter finals.
Maddison Keys. Photo: Matthew Stockman via Getty Images.
There are some concerns about Sakkari’s form leading into the AO, but she’ll arrive with huge support from Australia’s Greek community. The world number 6 will ride that wave to an impressive showing.
Swiatek won’t win the tournament, but the 2020 French Open champion should make her first Australian quarter final or better. She’ll arrive full of confidence after a strong showing in Adelaide.
A multiple slam winner, who made the final here in 2018, Halep has a nightmare draw. Add an injury-ravaged 2021 to the mix and it’s hard to see her going far.
When Osaka’s at her best, she’s arguably the benchmark in women’s tennis. But a tumultuous 2021 that included struggles with mental health and serious inactivity, means her preparation has been far from ideal. She’s likely to face Anisimova and Barty in the and 3rd and 4th rounds, where she’ll be eliminated.
Naomi Osaka. Photo: Tim Clayton via Getty Images.
Sabalenka’s confidence is at rock bottom. She’s been bounced in the 1st round at two consecutive warmup events. During those matches, she served a total of 40 double faults. The young Belarussian looks set to struggle in Melbourne.
Last year’s finalist will go one better this year. Muguruza played exceptional tennis to clinch the WTA Finals last season. The 28 year old has two slams to her name and a fairly favourable draw. Barty may be the favourite, but the pressure of playing in her home tournament will weigh on her heavily. Muguruza’s poise and experience will carry her to the title.
Garbine Muguruza. Photo: Clive Brunskill via Getty Images.
The Australian Institute of Sport has committed $257 million in funding for Olympic and Paralympic sports ahead of Paris 2024.
Canoeing, Women’s Rugby 7s, Rowing and Surfing, are among numerous sports that will receive huge funding increases in a bid to create sustainable Olympic success.
It is the first time that the AIS has allocated funds for a full Olympic cycle, as it aims to build on Australia’s medal haul in Tokyo and eclipse it at the Brisbane 2032 Games.
AIS CEO Peter Conde says the long-term funding model will give Australian athletes the best chance of success on the world stage.
“The Tokyo Olympic Games and Paralympic Games inspired us all and we have worked with Government to secure longer-term funding to forward plan and continue building on that success. This is why we are now launching an even stronger platform for Paris,” Mr Conde says.
“This overall commitment to high performance sport furthers the aim of the National High Performance Sport Strategy to create conditions for sustainable success not only for Paris, but Los Angeles 2028 and our home Games in Brisbane in 2032,” he says.
This announcement follows the organisation’s commitment to deliver $14.6 million in direct athlete grants and $82.2 million allocated for wellbeing and high performance programs in the 2021 Federal Budget.
Sports that will receive the biggest boosts include:
Women’s Rugby 7s will receive a 39% increase for a total of $2.5m p.a.
Para and Able Canoe funding will rise to a combined $7.15m p.a.
Para and Able Rowing will receive $10.055m p.a.
Surfing funding to increase by 30% to $2m p.a.
Skating to receive $0.85m p.a.
Para-Table Tennis funding to increase by 74% to $0.9m p.a.
Australia’s Women’s Rugby 7s team were among the big winners in the AIS’ latest funding announcement. Photo: Greg Baker via Getty Images.
Australian Sports Commission Chair Josephine Sukkar described the news as “an exciting time for Australian Sport.”
“Paris is now only two and half years away, and our commitment to longer term success, the green and gold runway to Brisbane 2032, is also front of mind,” she says.
“I would like to thank the Australian Government for sharing the vision of the AIS and recognising the value of allocating funding for a full Games cycle. It is a huge show of support for the Australian high performance system, the sports and our athletes.”
As the dust settles on the 2021 season, a new tennis era beckons.
Yes, I know we’ve said that many times before.
“The Big Three are done, it’s time for them to step aside for the next generation.”
Remember that US Open in 2014? Cilic destroyed Federer on his way to the title, while Nishikori gave Djokovic a lesson to reach his first Grand Slam Final. All while Nadal was absent with a wrist injury.
The spell had finally been broken, we thought. New champions would emerge as Federer, Nadal and Djokovic faded into irrelevance.
But time and time again, these legends have refused to fold, setting new records and re-defining what was even possible.
Thus, my proclamation that a new era has arrived – and I really mean it this time – seems a little premature.
It seems incredibly premature when you consider that Novak Djokovic just came agonisingly close to a calendar-year Grand Slam. He was inches from sporting immortality.
But for my money, a new star emerged in New York and it wasn’t even the man who defeated Djokovic in the US Open final.
His name is Carlos Alcaraz.
To be clear, I mean no disrespect to Daniil Medvedev. He’s proven himself to be a great champion and I have no doubt that he has more Grand Slam titles ahead of him. Medvedev is now the benchmark for the next generation.
It won’t be long before he snatches Djokovic’s crown as world number one.
US Open Champion and world no. 2, Daniil Medvedev. Photo: Matthew Stockman via Getty Images
For so long, we thought Zverev or Tsitsipas would be the first players to break the Big Three’s dominance. They look the part and they have all of the style and tools.
But Medvedev, with his iron will and awkward groundstrokes, has delivered substance over style.
He will go down as a great champion, but there’s a rapidly rising Spaniard who appears to have a higher ceiling.
Why? Well, the kid has just about everything.
Standing at 6’1″, Alcaraz is 3-4 inches shorter than Medvedev, Tsitsipas and Zverev. But what he lacks in height, he makes up for with pure firepower.
The 18 year old already strikes the ball cleaner and more destructively than most of the tour. He rips it with such spin and fury that renowned tennis coach, Patrick Mouratoglu said “I can’t remember who is the last player that I have seen hitting the ball so hard.”
His forehand and backhand are equally lethal, leaving his opponents almost permanently on the back foot, with little chance of relief.
Defensively, Alcaraz is just as sound, using his speed and slices to neutralise his opponents’ attacks.
While Medvedev is easily one of tennis’ most renowned brick walls, I doubt he’d beat Alcaraz in a 20 yard dash.
Of course, that’s not everything. There’s plenty to be said for anticipation and a player’s ability to construct a point. But seriously, look at this hustle below. Not to mention his poise and reaction time.
Note how quickly Alcaraz turned defence into attack in this clip. It’s a skill very few players possess.
Alcaraz’s athleticism is unmatched, with the Spaniard sliding around the court and producing acrobatic forms of defence that would make a gymnast – or even Novak Djokovic – proud.
Still only a teenager, Alcaraz has the physical build of a prime Rafael Nadal. A comparison that will no doubt, be repeated ad nauseam.
When he’s not bludgeoning the ball for clean winners, he’s utilising abrupt changes of pace to change the course of a point.
The Spaniard has enjoyed a stunning breakthrough season, rising from 141 in the world, all the way up to 32.
He’s made plenty of history along the way.
In April, he became the youngest match winner in the history of the Madrid Open, with a win over Adrian Mannarino.
At the French Open, he claimed a major scalp in 28th seed, Nikoloz Basilashvilli, before he was eliminated in the 3rd round.
He rebounded with his first ATP title at the Croatia Open, adding further notches to his belt such as Filip Krajinovic and Richard Gasquet. This victory made him the youngest tour-level champion since 2008.
But it’s at the US Open where Alcaraz really showed his mettle.
He destroyed 26th seed Cameron Norrie in the 1st round, before overcoming the talented Arthur Rinderknech in four sets.
However, his 3rd round clash with Stefanos Tsitsipas gave us a true window into his potential.
We’d seen him beat good players, even hit them off the court. But a Top 3 player at a Grand Slam? In 24,000 seater stadium? This was a different level.
Alcaraz overpowered Tsitsipas early, but the most impressive aspect of the match was that when Stefanos found a new gear, so did the 18 year old.
It was an up and down performance that featured some dips in energy and consistency, but never a drop of the shoulders. He showed the maturity and composure of a veteran.
He was brave and relentless, treating the crowd to some audacious shotmaking.
Over 5 sets, every time Tsitsipas raised the bar, Alcaraz met the challenge, eventually triumphing in a fifth set tiebreak.
Tsitsipas seemed stunned in the aftermath. “[His] ball speed was incredible,” he said. “I’ve never seen someone hit the ball so hard. [It] took time to adjust.”
He went on to become the US Open’s youngest quarter finalist ever, and the youngest player to defeat a Top-3 seed.
When you look at the highlights above, you have to ask yourself. If Alcaraz is this good already, how good will he be in two years?
As he continues to grow into his frame, his strength, fitness and mental fortitude, will only deepen. So too, will his tennis IQ and capacity to perform under pressure.
Many experts have analysed his game and found few weaknesses. He even has brilliant touch at the net.
Andy Murray has called Alcaraz a future world number one, marvelling at his physicality.
“He hits the ball really hard from the back of the court, and I’d probably say like physically, I don’t really like comparing like myself to other young players, but if I think back to when I was 18 in comparison to him, from a physical perspective he is unbelievably strong,” Murray told Chris Oddo.
“It wouldn’t surprise me if he did really well in a Slam and was able to win long matches, like long five-set matches, already. A lot of younger players when they are 18, 19, are not physically ready for that. I’d say that’s probably the thing that sort of stands out, physically he seems, very, very strong.”
“He is obviously an excellent mover around the court as well, so that’s a big positive.”
Former Doubles Champion and Tennis analyst, Todd Woodbridge, provided further insights into the regard with which the tour holds the Spaniard.
“You get one of these players every 15 years. We had Michael Chang in my era, or Lleyton Hewitt a bit later,” Woodbridge said. “This era has been cruel, because the younger players haven’t been able to break through against the Big Three.
“But this young guy has the chance to be the next dominant player, that’s what the whisper is around the tennis community.”
Carlos Alcaraz celebrates his victory at the Next Gen Finals. Photo: TIZIANA FABI/AFP via Getty Images
Under the guidance of Juan Carlos Ferrero, a strong coach and former champion himself, the sky appears to be the limit.
Alcaraz finished the year in style by clinching the Next Gen ATP Finals title, and if I’m any judge, he’ll need to invest in a bigger trophy cabinet soon.
His article examined the impact Education First Youth Foyers are having on Victorian youth at risk of experiencing homelessness.
O’Mahony was honoured that the Council to Homeless Persons and the Lord Mayor’s Charitable Foundation, had recognised his reporting on a significant social issue.
Accepting the award via virtual ceremony, O’Mahony said:
“Wow! Thank you so much, I’m truly honoured to receive this award in a very competitive field. Huge thanks to the Council to Homeless Persons for recognising young journalists who have reported on homelessness, and for all of the important work they do to tackle this issue. I’m also grateful to those who shared their lived experiences and expertise with me regarding Education First Youth Foyers. I hope their efforts continue to be recognised and supported, so they can continue to make a difference for youth who are at risk of experiencing homelessness. Thanks again!”
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Grace Nyinawumuntu lost her parents at just 11 years of age.
It was 1994 and they were among 800,000 people slaughtered when Rwanda’s ethnic Hutus attempted to wipe out the Tutsi minority.
She spent those vicious “100 days of slaughter” in hiding, along with her younger brother and sister.
They knew what would happen if they were found. No men, women or children were spared, until the extremist Government was overthrown by the Rwandan Patriotic Front.
But even when the killings stopped, life was not easy.
“I grew up in the orphanage centre because I lost my parents during the genocide,” Nyinawumunutu says.
“We lost my brother during that time.”
She prefers not to dwell too much on the pain of the past, but she will never forget.
“It was not easy to survive.”
“But I tried my best just to be who I am today.”
For most of her teenage years, Nyinawumuntu grieved in isolation. Distancing herself from the outside world seemed like the safest means of coping with grave trauma and loss.
“Every time, I needed to stay alone. To be alone.”
She may never have dug herself out of this emotional abyss if it wasn’t for her greatest passion – sport.
“Sport gave me happiness,” Nyinawumuntu says.
“After that period of genocide, if there is no sport, I cannot be alive at that time.”
Grace Nyinawumuntu. Photo: Bogarts via Getty Images.
Nyinawumuntu was drawn to football, in particular, from a young age. There was something about it that captivated her, even though her parents discouraged her from playing.
“I was very interested in playing football, something [which] of course my mother never approved, even support[ed].”
“It was forbidden to see a girl or a woman who played.”
“Football was regarded as a boy’s game in our society and a girl was never supported to play.”
At the time, Rwandans believed it was inappropriate for girls to play football, because they were uncomfortable with the idea of them wearing shorts and lifting their legs to kick the ball.
Throughout her childhood, Nyinawumuntu was forbidden from kicking a single ball. Even at school.
She had to settle for more ‘appropriate’ sports such as handball and volleyball. They weren’t football, but they were a welcome distraction from her private sadness.
“I had to participate in the other sports like handball or like volleyball. Because in my life, I didn’t survive without doing sport.”
“It was my blood, it was my life, it was my breath.”
Women’s football finally arrives in Rwanda
One year after Nyinawumuntu finished school, she finally got her chance to play the sport she craved.
An ambitious entrepreneur named Felicite Rwemarika had just established Rwanda’s first football program for girls and women.
Rwemarika created the Association of Kigali Women in Sports (AKWOS) in 2003, to provide an outlet for women to work through their trauma and heal together.
“With the culture [in Rwanda], they could not believe that women can play sports,” says Rwemarika, who is now a member of the International Olympic Committee and President of the Rwanda Women and Sports Commission.
“They would say ‘this woman is crazy, maybe she’s traumatised because of genocide.’”
“I said ‘no, sport is for everyone. Everyone can play sports, everyone can join sports for a creation. For unity, for talking [about] our issues.’”
Word spread across the country of this group of women playing football. When the news reached Nyinawumuntu, she set off without hesitatation, to chase her dream.
“It was a time I finally managed to found [sic] a way I can play.”
“We had only one team [at the time] created by Rwemarika Felicite,” says Nyinawumuntu. “I tried to attend her first team, where I have been selected on my first time to be in the national women’s team.”
Finally getting the chance to play, and cultivate her talent as a Centre-Back, Nyinawumuntu began healing from old wounds.
“Sport helped me so much because I have [been] in the bad situation of losing my parents. [The] bad situation of losing my brother.”
“But after joining the team of Felicite, [that] is the time I started to [be] having happiness from the team.”
UNESCO’s Assistant Director-General for the Social and Human Sciences, Gabriela Ramos, has seen first-hand, the positive effect sport can have on women like Nyinawumuntu.
Ramos says sport provides an escape that helps women overcome hardship and increase their sense of self-worth.
“Early positive experiences with sport, especially in school and community settings, are critical to address three intersecting global crises that girls face disproportionally: physical inactivity, mental health conditions and inequality,” she says.
“Girls’ lack of self-confidence and negative stereotypes hinder their perspective to succeed in life.”
“Programmes delivering quality Physical Education have therefore a real power to provide meaningful change to women’s lives.”
Felicite Rwemarika can attest to this, having given Nyinawumuntu and many other Rwandan women a sporting platform.
“After the genocide, women were the most vulnerable,” she says. “They were worried [and in fear] of [their] life and they are waiting just to die tomorrow.”
Playing football with other women who’d experienced similar trauma helped them to overcome this fear, according to Rwemarika.
Nyinawumuntu did just that. When she was out on the pitch, there was only one thing on her mind.
“When you go to do sport, even if you have different problem[s], you live on the pitch where you practice the sport,” she says.
“That’s why I can say that sport is a good medicine.”
Turning her passion into a career
Huge growth in Nyinawumuntu’s skills and wellbeing fuelled dreams of a career in sport.
But her friends and extended family scoffed at the idea. They told her sports would make her ugly and her legs would become beefy and masculine.
“[They were] telling me you will not get a job, you will be like a man, you can’t give birth, you can’t have a husband.”
While there were many doubters, she still had Felicite Rwemarika in her corner. Rwemarika recognised her talent and urged her to follow her heart.
“After she qualified to go to university, she wanted to do sports and people said how can you go to university to do sports? Sports will do nothing to you. It will not help you in any way,” says Rwemarika.
“She came back to me and I said ‘this is your passion, you need to do sports.’”
Nyinawumuntu went for it, becoming Rwanda’s first woman to complete a Bachelor’s degree in Physical Education in 2004. But just when things were finally coming together, a cruel twist of fate changed everything.
She seriously injured her knee, and it was immediately apparent that she may never play football again.
“It was something I can’t understand in my heart,” she laments.
She wasn’t sure where to go from there, feeling so strongly that she could “never survive without doing sport, especially football.”
The voices that told her to give up on sport grew louder after the injury, but she continued to tune them out – until she found an answer.
“I didn’t see a woman who is [a] referee,” she thought. So why not break new ground?
She decided to become the country’s first female football referee “to show the men and the women, the Rwandan society, even the girl[s], even the woman, can do the same as the men.”
Soon after, she learned of a training program for referees – one that only men attended.
While some may have been too intimidated to approach the organisers, Nyinawumuntu did so with confidence and a determination to go where no Rwandan woman had gone before.
“I don’t fear anything, I am confident of everything I do.”
“I went to the [people] responsible for that training and I request[ed] to be the one of the trainees in the referee training.”
“The first question he asked me, ‘Grace are you ready to be a referee? The first [woman] referee in Rwanda?’”
“I said, ‘I’m ready, very ready.’”
She passed the course with flying colours and was officially employed as a professional referee.
While she’d clinched employment in the sports industry, she didn’t feel like she’d made it yet. She still had a point to prove – that she was even better than the male referees.
It didn’t take her long to prove it, as she explains.
“I did better refereeing than the men because I started in the junior teams [and] women teams. But after 6 months, only 6 months, they promote[d] me in[to] the second division for men.”
“After 2 years they promoted me in the first division [for] men.”
Back to the drawing board
Nyinawumuntu’s rapid rise came to a devastating halt, however, when her knee flared up again. It became particularly bad in 2007 and she knew it was only a matter of time before she’d be forced to stop refereeing.
Once again, she found herself fighting to keep her sporting dreams alive, so she turned to the Rwandan Football Federation for help.
She requested a transition from refereeing to coaching, which they granted.
Nyinawumuntu soon found herself attending football coaching development courses run by the German Football Association (GFA) across Rwanda.
She was among a group of 25 coaches, three of which would be selected for specialist training in Germany.
But in order to be considered for that trip to Germany, Nyinawumuntu would need to run practical demonstrations, training sessions and football matches.
In other words, she needed a team to coach, and fast.
With Felicite Rwemarika’s help, she appealed to the mayor of Kigali city to create Rwanda’s first professional women’s football team.
He accepted their pitch with great excitement and thus, Rwanda’s first professional women’s football team, AS Kigali, was formed in 2008.
Being the head coach of an exciting new team came with weighty expectations, but Nyinawumuntu thrived in her new role, selecting AS Kigali’s first squad, and moulding it into a formidable team.
She had also unlocked another historic achievement in Rwandan women’s sport. She was the country’s first woman to become a professional football coach.
“I started to train that team in order to show the leader[s] of the federation that I am able to be a good coach even if I am a girl,” says Nyinawumuntu.
She was acutely aware that her story could be “a powerful tool to help other women, even out[side] of the country of Rwanda.”
Her efforts were quickly noticed by Rwanda’s Technical Director of Football. After just 4 months of observing her coaching, the Rwandan FA not only named her amongst the top 3 performers in the coaching course, they told Nyinawumuntu to coach a new women’s national team.
She took this team to Germany for a series of friendlies against junior/3rd division women’s teams.
Across six matches, they won 3 and lost 3. It an extremely successful showing given how new women’s football was to Rwanda.
This campaign also demonstrated how rapidly Nyinawumuntu’s coaching skills were growing and the GFA invited her back for further managerial training a month later.
She was there for just 8 months before she was awarded a UEFA B Licence for coaching in Europe and a C-Licence for CAF.
When she returned to Rwanda, it didn’t take Nyinawumuntu long to show the fruits of all this training and experience. From 2009 to 2017, she guided AS Kigali to 9 consecutive national league titles. All of this whilst coaching the national women’s team from 2014-2017.
Her rapid and incredible success was truly inspiring for girls and women across the country, according to Felicite Rwemarika.
“They have realised that women have some potential, women can do it,” says Rwemarika.
“We are having women coaches, we’re having a national women’s coach.”
“At least there has been I can say about 80% of mindsets changed.”
Sharing her success with other women
In 2018, Nyinawumuntu spent some time away from the pitch, working as an Administrator and Financial Manager for AKWOS.
She also trained 100 women to become football coaches, to build on the increasing recognition for women’s sports in Rwanda.
She felt it was important to use her success to create opportunities for other women too.
“I try to be a good role model of other women as a support I need to give our country.”
“Sport is a great tool to help the girls and the women to become confident.”
Ultimately, she hopes to tackle negative stereotypes about women’s presence in sport. Not just in men’s minds, but in women’s.
“My wish is to help other women to be like me, or more like me.”
“I think everything I do, I just need to show the society that even women have ability to do the same as the men.”
“Many women were motivated to be like Grace.”
When a European football giant came calling
The latest chapter in Nyinawumuntu’s coaching career began in 2019, when representatives from the mighty Paris St Germain (PSG) arrived in Rwanda to establish a new football academy.
Nyinawumuntu was invited as one of 22 coaching finalists, to a 3-day workshop run by PSG’s Head of Coaching, Benjamin Houri.
Nyinawumuntu may have been the only female coach there, but that wasn’t the only reason she stood out. She excelled in both the theoretical and practical sessions, beating out all of the competition to become PSG Rwanda’s Technical Director.
It was another incredible triumph not only for Nyinawumuntu, but all Rwandan women, says Ms Rwemarika.
“That will be a motivation for people to see,” says Rwemarika.
“This girl was an orphan, but now she’s doing great. She has constructed her own house, she has her own car. She was the national women’s coach, now she’s the technical director [at PSG].”
Victoria Police have moved to snuff out further Tradie Protests against Mandatory vaccinations in Melbourne’s CBD. Specialist vehicles arrived, with heavy support on foot. Some of those on the march scattered as rubber bullets were fired at them.