Women’s Ashes 2015: Fast-bowling a great fit for forever-restless Megan Schutt

What type of person would be scared of a desk-bound job and thrilled about the prospect of enlisting in the army, despite the potentially dangerous implications of the latter? One whose whole life has been based around trying to fulfil her need to be always on the go in all aspects of her life.
Shanghai night field

Fortunately for the Southern Stars, cricket was the main thing that grabbed Megan Schutt’s interest as a sporty kid in suburban Adelaide, and has held it ever since.

“I’ve always been a pretty restless kid. Sitting down to watch a movie or anything like that [is a struggle],” explained Schutt, now 22 and coming off a four-wicket haul in her first match in the women’s Ashes series. “The thought of an office job actually scares the hell out of me.”

Schutt’s bowling was honed in the recess breaks at Hackham West Primary School in outer Adelaide, with cricket among “every sport under the sun” that she and her equally sporty mates would compete in.

“I just wanted to beat the boys at every sport,” she explained. “Cricket was the summer sport. I wanted to beat them, and discovered I was alright at it.”

Schutt’s bowling talent saw her stocks quickly rise in South Australia, especially since she was part of a group that was outside the women’s cricket heartland of NSW and, to a lesser extent, Victoria and Queensland, that generally provide the bulk of the national squad.

The right-armer made her international debut in December 2012, just before her 20th birthday. Her elevation was timely, for within two months she was part of a World Cup-winning squad in India, and then later that year was taken on her first women’s Ashes tour. The latter provided what to date has been “probably the most special moment” of her life: earning a baggy green by playing in that series’ Test.

Because the Southern Stars do not play as regularly as the elite men’s team it can mean the likes of Schutt, from smaller states, can spend much of their time having to train and play domestically away from their international teammates.

“It’s a pretty decent standard [in Adelaide]. I think we were always just a few steps behind in terms of the professionalism side, with gym and stuff like that. Now we [at the Scorpions] work hard and have got the resources to support that, as the other states do,” she said.

“It was hard at the time, training alone a lot. But it’s kind of cool that you get to fly the flag a bit.”

SA’s representation in the Stars squad will at least double from the upcoming season, with Sarah Coyte leaving Sydney to move to Adelaide.

Schutt’s 4-47 on Thursday in Bristol, which included bowling England champion Charlotte Edwards, was her second consecutive four-wicket haul in one-dayers. While she was left out of a series-opener – leg-spinner Kristen Beams was preferred – her performance in the second match should aid her goal of being “an assured pick in every game”.

“It was nice to be in the green and gold again playing out there,” she explained after the match.

Since Schutt last played in England two years ago she believes she has developed not only more consistency with her stock ball – inswing is her favourite – but an ability to surprise, and hopefully deceive, batters by deviating from that at strategic intervals.

“There’s a lot more variables in there, adding the slower balls and leg-cutters and things like that,” she said. “I’ve added a fair bit to my attack. It’s just about being able to put it out on the park.”

Schutt’s current study focus, a course in personal training, helps her stave off restlessness. Her primary goal, however, is to serve in the army or possibly the police, because of the two-fold satisfaction she would derive from such a career.

“I’ve always wanted a job that’s really active and, I guess, really helping people . . . something active that benefits the community. I just need something exciting,” she said.

Because of the gradual pay strides being made for women’s cricketers, Schutt is glad she is able to wait until her playing career is “done and dusted” before having to start fully pursuing her longer-term career, unlike many of her predecessors who abandoned cricket early because it was so difficult for them to maintain with so little payment for it.

The reporter is covering the women’s Ashes with the support of Cricket Australia

Read More …

Why I disqualified Ian Thorpe … swimming official opens up about Thorpedo flop

The moment: John Keppie informs Ian Thorpe of his disqualification. Photo: Channel Nine Disaster: Ian Thorpe breaks during the 2004 Olympic trials and is subsequently disqualified. Photo: Craig Golding
Shanghai night field

The moment: John Keppie informs Ian Thorpe of his disqualification. Photo: Channel Nine

The moment: John Keppie informs Ian Thorpe of his disqualification. Photo: Channel Nine

The moment: John Keppie informs Ian Thorpe of his disqualification. Photo: Channel Nine

Then-Prime Minister John Howard called it a “tragedy”. That bizarre moment when Ian Thorpe overbalanced and flopped into the Sydney International Aquatic Centre, plunging himself and the sport of swimming into crisis during the 400-metre trials for the Athens Olympics.

It has been said that Craig Stevens, in deciding to step aside from the national team to give the disqualified Thorpe the opportunity to earn a gold medal in his pet event, made one of the bravest calls in Australian sport. But no bigger than the decision to disqualify Thorpe in the first place. That call was made by veteran swimming official John Keppie, who has never spoken publicly about the incident. Until now.

Keppie, now a mentor to aspiring referees and umpires in a program run by the Australian Sports Commission, has opened up about his role in one of Australian sport’s “where were you?” moments.

“It wasn’t a tough call,” Keppie told Fairfax Media. “We explain to referees coming up that it doesn’t matter who is on the blocks, they are just a person. To me, it was just the athlete in lane four who started before the starting signal. It was the only thing I could do, otherwise I would have lost the respect of my colleagues, I would have lost the respect long term of the coaches, the public and everybody else.

“To me, whether it was a 12-year-old or 14-year-old, the rule would have applied.”

Only a small crowd was on hand to witness Thorpe’s disastrous false start at the Australian swimming trials. It was only the next day, when the aquatic centre was overrun by a frenzied media pack, that Keppie realised the enormity of his decision.

“It never came at me until the next morning when there were people on the pool deck we’ve never had there before,” he said. “Ray Martin, the Channel Nine morning show, all these people on the pool deck doing their bit. I thought ‘oh’.

“But I never read a paper or watched television for three or four days. I’d made my decision, I couldn’t care less what the general public, the media or anyone else thought about it. That was it, I didn’t want to know.

Reminded of Howard’s comments, the Order of Australia recipient said: “It wasn’t a tragedy. Ian Thorpe was going to swim the 400 regardless of whether I put him out or he’d stayed in. In my opinion, there was never any doubt about that.

“[Stevens] is the guy I felt sorry for, I really did. It was a magnificent gesture, what he did. He’s a great guy.”

No sooner had Thorpe fallen in, there were threats of an appeal. Thorpe’s manager claimed the “Thorpedo” had been kept on the blocks for too long, a claim Keppie described as “rubbish”.

“I went up [to Thorpe] and wished him all the best at a grand prix meet in Brisbane before he went over to Athens to swim in the race,” he recalled. “That’s the only time we’ve ever spoken.”

Keppie, who has been involved in swimming since 1972, went more than a decade without ever speaking about that fateful day. However, he finally decided to share his experiences as part of his mentoring role to young officials with the Australian Institute of Sport. Seven of the 10 scholarship holders he has worked with have gone on to be listed as referee’s starters with FINA.

Read More …

Ashes 2015: Band on the run – Australia take changing of the guard in their stride

Clarke scores 44 in tour game
Shanghai night field

DERBY: In the music industry, as in sport, there are smooth transitions and ones that turn ugly. Motley Crue replaced their lead singer and their record sales went backwards. Van Halen did the same and kept selling millions.

The Australian cricket team effectively lost half the band in the first week of January 2007 when Shane Warne, Glenn McGrath and Justin Langer all walked off the SCG for the final time as Test players.

A combined 374 Test appearances, a figure that doesn’t begin to explain their vast contributions, went out the window. A month earlier Damien Martyn had gone as well, and Adam Gilchrist followed in the next summer.

Two decades earlier Greg Chappell, Rod Marsh and Dennis Lillee had all played their last Test together in 1984.

As their Ashes tour winds it way to Birmingham, the site of the third Test starting on Wednesday, the current Australian side finds itself in a significant transition of its own. It was one that was always coming, but no one envisioned it would have occurred quite so quickly.

Unlike in Sydney eight years ago, this particular changing of the guard hasn’t occurred through mass retirement but via other circumstances as well.

First there was Ryan Harris, whose knee played up one last time in the week before the first Test, then Shane Watson, who made way for the next-generation Mitchell Marsh after Cardiff, and Brad Haddin, who sadly had to withdraw at Lord’s and if the tour match in Derbyshire was any indication – he fielded on Friday at point and in the outfield – will not regain the gloves at Edgbaston from Peter Nevill. Chris Rogers, regardless of whether the ear problem he suffered in the second Test impacts him in the remainder of the series, is on the way out by next month, too.

Aside from Watson, whose dropping for Lord’s was form-related, there was fair warning of these departures. But in the cases of Harris and Haddin, should he indeed sit out the third Test and beyond, they have come a little earlier than anticipated.

If they have to date been replaced adequately so far – there is a deep well of fast bowlers to mitigate the impact of Harris’ retirement, Marsh looks the goods to succeed Watson long term and Nevill impressed on debut – Australia must find a suitable newcomer at the top of the order for the ever-reliable Rogers. They hope Shaun Marsh, who has scored centuries in both his innings in England on this tour, will be that man but they won’t know until he gets a decent shot at it.

Amidst all this is the elephant in the room. How long can Michael Clarke go on for? The captain has looked a shadow of the world’s best batsman that he was a few years back since his return to Test cricket in the Caribbean in June. He is undeniably a fighter, as anyone who witnessed his memorable hundreds in Cape Town and Adelaide last year, made in the face of a fractured shoulder and a crook back respectively, will attest to.

But Clarke’s feet appear to have stopped moving and as more than one observer of the game has noted after watching him in England over the past few weeks, the player they call ‘Pup’ all of a sudden looks a bit old.

There is time for him to turn it around: he is just the kind of character who could rediscover his mojo at Edgbaston this week. The advantage Clarke also has, unlike Watson, is that there is no one bashing down the door to take his place in Australia’s top four, and indeed Adam Voges at No.5 is also in need of another score of note after dropping off following his sparkling debut against the West Indies.

And while Darren Lehmann talks about players not having credits in the bank when it comes to selection, 28 Test hundreds surely buys you a little extra wiggle room, particularly when your team is winning.

If Clarke somehow happened to join the exodus, however, and hand the controls over to Steve Smith by the home summer Australia would, as of this minute, be losing a combined 286 Tests in a matter of months when you throw Harris, Watson, Haddin and Rogers into the mix.

That scenario is not on Australia’s doorstep yet. And the positive thing is that if they can cope with the absence of vastly experienced players during an Ashes series in foreign territory, which they did so well at Lord’s, then surely they can do it anywhere.

Right now, this band of internationals is not going back to being booked in theatres because they’ve lost one or two members. They’re still in the stadiums. The challenge, through this Ashes and beyond, is to stay there.

Read More …

Snowfalls give buyers more reason to swoon over Snowy Mountains properties

More Sydneysiders are looking to buy holiday homes near the NSW ski fields, agents say. Photo: Douglas Edwards This property at 3 Crackenback Drive is expected to attract a Sydney buyer. It’s priced at $1.59 million. Photo: domain上海夜网m.au
Shanghai night field

This house overlooking Lake Jindabyne recently sold for a record $2.5 million.

The six-bedroom residence is spread over 42 hectares.

Sydney-based Fenella Cochrane already owns a holiday home in Jindabyne and is thinking of buying a bigger one in the area. Photo: Gordon Jenkinson

This one-bedroom apartment in the Riverside Cabin complex at Thredbo is listed for $337,000.

The big dumping of snow in the ski-fields in the past few weeks has reignited interest in Thredbo apartments with picture-book views and prices that have barely moved in a decade.

It’s been grim times for property sellers in the Snowy Mountains region since the global financial crisis, with Sydneysiders less likely to be buying holiday homes.

But with this week’s news of million-dollar median house prices in Sydney, agents are expecting a trickle effect.

“We’ve never had more inquiries or inspections than we’ve had recently,” says Thredbo-based agent Douglas Edwards, of Mountain High Real Estate.

Most buyers are interested in apartments in the village priced between $300,000 and $600,000, with one and two-bedders in the 54-unit Riverside Cabin complex popular.

“We’ve been selling a few of those, with a couple going over $1 million and $1.2 million.”

He’s expecting a Sydney buyer will snap up a Sydney buyer will snap up a three-bedroom duplex at 3 Crackenback Drive for $1.59 million (See preview, Out of Town, Domain on Sunday).

Michelle Stynes, of Forbes Stynes Real Estate, says good news for homeowners in Sydney means more sales in the mountains.

“When people are feeling comfortable in their Sydney property that generally flows over to us,” Ms Stynes says.

The rental market was “chockers” at the moment.

“From the moment you drive into Cooma you notice it … there’s a lot of people here,” she says.

“We’re full. It’s a busy place.”

All of the agents report few empty holiday homes this weekend. Some say they have nothing available to rent until September.

There’s more movement of property at the foot of the mountains in Jindabyne, too.

“We’ve certainly seen an uplift in sales activity down here,”  agent Gordon Jenkinson, of Kosciusko First National, says

“Over the last three months this office has knocked off the highest and second-highest price ever paid for properties in the Jindabyne area.”

The top sale, at $2.5 million, was for a six-bedroom Kalkite Road residence on 42 hectares that fronted Lake Jindabyne and the Eucumbene River.

The other at nearly $2 million was for four-bedroom house at Crackenback.

Some Sydneysiders love the Snowy Mountains lifestyle so much they’re moving there permanently.

Former vet Fenella Cochrane has her Frenchs Forest house on the market, already owns a holiday home in Jindabyne and is thinking of buying a bigger one before she moves to the town later this year.

She spent three years in US and wants to start her life back in Australia away from the rat race.

“I didn’t want to move back to Sydney and back into the corporate world,” she says. “And I’ve always wanted to live down here. It’s still a country town but is getting a critical mass of people here now.”

The larger, three-bedroom house she is thinking of buying is on two hectares just outside Jindabyne and the vendors are seeking offers from $620,000. It was first listed in December. Mr Jenkinson showed Ms Cochrane through on Thursday.

Figures from Domain Group show that the median house price in Jindabyne has risen 0.9 per cent in 10 years to $383,500, while units have barely changed, inching up 0.1 per cent to $214,000.

With Stephen Nicholls   Domain Read More …

Women’s Ashes 2015: Rain could delay Southern Stars’ decision on misfiring Holly Ferling

An unfavourable weather forecast that threatens the third one-dayer in the women’s Ashes series could save Southern Stars selectors from having to immediately decide whether to keep faith with promising fast-bowler Holly Ferling.
Shanghai night field

The 19-year-old was the Stars’ major inclusion since their preceding series last November, when the Queenslander was yet to fully recover from stress fractures in her back. While her height and pace troubled even England’s elite batters in her first Ashes tour, in 2013, all of the English players this time have seemed much more comfortable against her.

Ferling is the only bowler on either team yet to take a wicket in the series. She went at a run a ball from seven overs in the first match in Taunton and in the second in Bristol conceded just over seven runs an over from her opening – and, ultimately, only – spell.

After that first match Stars selectors dropped the other bowler who, like Ferling, conceded more than a run a ball: leg-spinner Kristen Beams.

Ferling’s radar has also been awry. She has bowled six wides in the two matches, the same as England’s Anya Shrubsole but from 10 overs compared to Shrubsole’s 20.

There were no glaring technical flaws in Ferling’s bowling action that triggered her stress-fractures, the injury instead being put down to being a near-unavoidable risk for a young fast-bowler. She was, however, instructed to overhaul her method of running in to bowl, making it less bouncy, in a bid to help her sustain high pace for longer.

Ferling’s sole spell in Thursday came when England were well on top, and ended after Sarah Taylor struck consecutive fours in her third over. Even when both of England’s most dangerous batters, Taylor and Charlotte Edwards, departed captain Meg Lanning declined to use her again, instead preferring Ellyse Perry, Megan Schutt and Sarah Coyte for seam bowling.

Lanning declared after that second match, which the Stars emphatically won to level the series, she was “not too worried” about England’s handling of Ferling so far in the series.

“She is like an impact bower for us so she’s going to be used in short spells and where I see fit. There wasn’t an opportunity today to bring her back. ‘Coytey’ and Perry were bowling really well. I really just wanted to finish the game off with the bowlers that I picked,” she said.

“‘Ferls’ is coming along nicely and whenever she gets her opportunity she is always very energetic and is really looking to do well so I’m sure she’ll be a very important person for our future tour [matches] as well.”

The Stars have two bowlers outside the XI that featured on Thursday: Beams, passed over for the second match, and veteran fast-bowler Rene Farrell, who is yet to feature in the series.

Support for Ferling after Thursday’s match was provided not only by Lanning but also by one of the players who faced her, England vice-captain Heather Knight.

“Holly’s played a little bit against us and come back from quite a serious injury. I don’t think Holly had a dreadful day, to be honest. She bowled OK,” Knight said.

The one-day component of the women’s Ashes us due to finish on Sunday. If the match is washed out the teams will return to New Road on Monday, which is forecast to have less rain than Sunday. If play is not possible on either day the teams would be given one point each, which would leave them tied on three and vying for the four points on offer for the winner of the Test and two for each of the three Twenty20s at the end of the series.

The reporter is covering the women’s Ashes with the support of Cricket Australia

Read More …