Moment of truth for Larry Davidson

Larry DavidsonWollongong Hawks free agent Larry Davidson has undergone tests on his troublesome knees to prove he can cope with the rigours of a 28-game NBL season.Davidson (pictured) had a history of knee problems before arriving at the Hawks two years ago and suffered another setback when he spent most of last season on the sidelines with a knee injury.The 206cm centre has worked hard in the off-season and put himself through daily work-outs and scrimmages with the likes of Hawks luminaries Glen Saville and Mat Campbell.Davidson has avoided any recurrence of the injuries which have diminished his potential to excel in the NBL and is confident of remaining healthy.If the 26-year-old can convince Hawks coach Gordon McLeod and chief executive Wayne Morris he can stay injury-free, Davidson will almost certainly return for the 2009-10 campaign which starts in less than two months.”Obviously we’re a bit concerned about Larry’s knee, but he’s had a really good pre-season and he’s working extremely hard,” McLeod said.”We’re just waiting to get some medical reports and then we can finalise all those situations.”Morris said the Hawks were in discussions with Davidson and guard Rhys Martin and hoped the pair would return to the fold.”Larry and Rhys are well and truly in contention. The scrimmage sessions for Larry are really important. He’s undertaken some medical tests for us and working hard on the court, and we’re all keen to see something happen, but it’s got to be done at the right time for the right reasons,” Morris said.McLeod brought in an insurance measure in the form of 208cm Alex Opacic, a 24-year-old former West Sydney Razorbacks development player who has been playing with a United States college for the past four years.”He was a development player with the Razorbacks a few years ago and I had a bit to do with him then. I’ve been following his progress at college for four years, so it’s been really good to get a look at him and Larry going together in the scrimmages,” McLeod said.
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Dapto tread finals tightrope

Canaries coach Dean CallawayDapto kept their finals hopes alive by downing Helensburgh 36-34 in an Illawarra Carlton League thriller at Dapto Showground on the first weekend of the split round last Saturday.When teenage centre Simon Maslanka dived over in the corner for the winning try off a Ben Condon pass, it was a season-defining moment for the Canaries.A loss virtually would have meant the end of their 2009 campaign. The win moved the Canaries into equal fifth place with the Tigers.”It was good to be on the right end of one of these close ones for a change,” Canaries coach Dean Callaway said.”It doesn’t get any tougher than Thirroul at Thirroul (in the last round of the regular season on August 8). I guess we’ll still have to wait and see what happens with Collies and Helensburgh (on the same day) anyway. There may be a bit of for and against come into play.”It’s just been great to win our last home game for the year.”With two games of the split round 15 andround 16 remaining, the composition of four of the top five positions remains delicately balanced.On the second weekend of the split round, finals contenders Collegians and Thirroul clash in a crucial game at WIN Stadium on Saturday and winless Berkeley host competition leaders Wests at Berkeley Sports Ground on Sunday.In the last round the following weekend, Corrimal play Berkeley at Ziems Park, Helensburgh are at home to Collies at Rex Jackson Oval while Thirroul host Dapto at Gibson Park followed by Shellharbour against Wests at Ron Costello Stadium.Points: Wests 24*; Corrimal 18, Shellharbour 18; Thirroul 15*, Helensburgh 14, Dapto 14; Collegians 13*; Berkeley 0*.* Split round game left.
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Ryan Gregson to run at world titles in Germany

Ryan GregsonBulli athlete Ryan Gregson will run at the world titles in Germany next month after he was included in the Australian squad yesterday.At just 19, Gregson is the second-youngest member of the Australian team and will be one of three athletes named to contest the prestigious 1500m event.Gregson has yet to run an A qualifier, but countries can include three athletes for an event if at least two have run A times and the third has a B qualifier.The teenager smashed the Australian under-20 record earlier this year, taking two seconds off the old mark.His personal best is only a second outside the A mark and he will continue to prepare for the titles when he runs in the London Mile tonight (AEST).Gregson’s mother, Sue, said her son was “over the moon” when told he was part of the team and was looking forward to running in London.”He’ll be hoping to do a PB and possibly break another Australian record. I don’t think there’s any pacemakers in there, which means a lot of times the race is slow.” Gregson then won’t run again until the world championships begin on August 15 in Berlin.The 1500m heats are on day one, with semi-finals two days later and the final on day five. To survive the first round at such a tender age would be a massive achievement.”I think the selectors feel he deserves a spot and want to blood him for the London Olympics (2012), when he’ll be a bit older and more competitive,” Sue said.
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Beware the fur seals ‘hauling out’ on South Coast beaches

As tired fur seals return from fishing to rest on our shores, rangers have warned beachgoers their bark is not worse than their bite.The NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service said many seals are “hauling out” in Jervis Bay after travelling from as far as Bass Strait, but people should appreciate them from a distance.”They can give a nasty bite,” senior public affairs officer Stuart Cohen said.”Unless they’re distressed, leave them alone.”Mr Cohen said seals found on the sand were recuperating from long fishing trips before returning to sea.”Seals can’t float around indefinitely in the water.”The vast majority of occasions people see a seal (is) because it’s having a rest.”Mr Cohen described fur seals as large, dog-like and exceptionally playful in the water.However, he said people should not forget they are wild animals.It was rare to see a distressed seal on the beach, but people should contact the nearest National Parks and Wildlife Service office if this occurred, he said.The service advises beachgoers to stay at least 40m away from seals at all times.”They can allegedly outrun us on sand over 40m,” Mr Cohen said.There was no way of predicting where seals would haul out, but Montague Island, 9km off Narooma, seemed to be a popular location for them.”On occasion you can see 1500 seals there,” Mr Cohen said.
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2300 get in the swim

FUN IN THE SUN: Kristina Campbell-Smith and daughter Emily-Jane, 6, enjoy the family fun day at Windmill Hill yesterday. Picture: PAUL SCAMBLERRoyal Lifesaving Society State director Jamie McIntyre was thrilled by the response to the event, which marked the end of Water Safety Week.
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“Yesterday we expected under 1000, so it was a huge day,” he said.

REPORT AND PICTURES: PAGE 7

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Porte dashes ahead of Pentland

OUT OF THE SADDLE: Hadspen’s Richie Porte prepares to end his bike leg and start the run leg on his way to victory in yesterday’s second race of the Cycle Torque Multi-Distance Triathlon serie58.
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Launceston’s Clinton Pentland, winner of the first race in the series, finished second in 55.19.

Porte has been in excellent form leading into the event, winning the State series race at Devonport two weeks ago.

“I was pretty happy with my win despite making it harder for myself with a mistake in the swim leg which cost me some time,” Porte said.

“I was able to pull away from Clinton, who is my training partner, in the running leg, which was good.”

Porte acknowledged his coach Mark Matthews after the race and the training assistance he received from the TIS.

He said that he would concentrate on preparing for a qualifying race in Penrith NSW on January 30 and then the Hobart International event in February as his next main events, with State racing in between.

Launceston’s Danika Greenhalf was the first woman across the line.

“I was really pleased with my effort today because I haven’t been doing much swimming or running and conditions were good,” she said.

Greenhalf, 27 and an ambulance officer, said that she had been competing in triathlons for about five years but had to juggle work commitments with racing.

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Jamie Soward, Hazem El Masri in point-scoring duel

While the Dragons and Bulldogs fight it out for top spot on the NRL ladder, St George Illawarra five-eighth Jamie Soward is locked in his own personal duel with the greatest point-scorer of all time.In a watershed season, Soward has surged to the top of the point-scoring list on 171, with nine tries and 66 goals.Soward’s three field goals separates the playmaker from Bulldogs winger Hazem El Masri, who has amassed 2204 points in his decorated career, including 10 tries and 64 goals this year.El Masri is 20 points clear of Test halfback Johnathan Thurston in the top point-scorers race with seven rounds remaining. While sharpshooter El Masri’s accuracy (84 per cent) shades Soward’s (79 per cent), the Dragons impressive statistics extend beyond when he’s putting points on the board.Soward has proven himself as the game’s leading general play kicker, making 277 kicks and 9901m in 17 games this year.His tally is 53 kicks higher than Melbourne Storm halfback Cooper Cronk, and almost 2900 more metres.Soward’s success comes as Dragons flyer Brett Morris closes in on the leading tryscorer title, proving just how potent the St George Illawarra attack has become.Morris, who has scored 15 tries in as many appearances, is level with Tigers winger Taniela Tuiaki.However, Morris has been put on notice by his brother Josh, who scored a double for the Bulldogs against the Gold Coast in Brisbane, just days after playing his second State of Origin game for NSW.He’s also mindful of team-mate Wendell Sailor – at present on 11 tries – making a late-season charge at him.
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Dragons desperate for home semi-final

A home semi-final – and not the chance to create history by winning the club’s first ever minor premiership – is the burning motivation for St George Illawarra centre Matt Cooper.With five of their remaining seven NRL games against teams outside the top eight, the competition-leading Dragons have a golden opportunity to finish the regular season on top for the first time.But Cooper believes there are too many pitfalls involved in focusing on staying ahead of the chasing pack. Full coverage of The St George Illawarra DragonsInstead, the 30-year-old claims the team has set a goal to finish in the top four and play the first week of the finals series on home turf at WIN Stadium or Kogarah’s WIN Jubilee Oval.”It’s a big chance for us,” Cooper said.”Obviously we’ve wrapped up a semi-finals spot, but we’ll just be concentrating on the week-by-week.”We don’t want to get too far ahead of ourselves, but it’s a goal of ours to make the top four, it’s very important come semi-final time to have a home semi.”The Dragons narrowly missed out on winning the minor premiership when Parramatta edged them out on points differential in 2005.But a fresh optimism has swept over the club since the arrival of coach Wayne Bennett this season, as they attempt to consign the preliminary final failures of 2005 and 2006 to the past by winning a breakthrough title.While the Dragons’ only battle with a top-four rival before the play-offs comes next weekend against 1999 grand final conquerors the Storm, the path to the minor premiership is far from clear.The Bulldogs are just two points behind them and their only remaining confrontation with a top-eight team is against North Queensland.The Titans also haven’t given up hope of finishing first in their third season, while Melbourne can open up the minor premiership race by beating St George Illawarra at Kogarah on Friday.Newcastle – even after the drama surrounding coach Brian Smith’s announcement he will join the Roosters next season – will also have designs on the top four, with the Cowboys, Penrith, premiers Manly and Brisbane locked in a scramble for the remaining finals places.It is the Dragons’ and Bulldogs’ superior for-and-against of plus 181 and plus 123 respectively which provides them with a major boost for a top-two finish.Securing first or second means the Dragons would only have to win their first final at Wollongong or Kogarah to go straight into a preliminary final. The Dragons barely skipped a beat as they marched through the representative period without the likes of Justin Poore, Ben Creagh, Darius Boyd, Neville Costigan and Michael Weyman, as well as a number of other injury concerns.The Dragons welcome back their State of Origin stars tomorrow against the Warriors following last weekend’s bye, with only Mickey Paea (virus), Matt Prior (glandular fever) and Jason Nightingale (broken hand) left sidelined.All three are expected to be available come finals time.Cooper believes victories over Penrith and Manly without their Origin stars shows they are more ready than ever to handle the upcoming finals series, regardless of what obstacles fall in their way.”It’s a credit to our younger blokes who stepped up, we’ve got a team here of 25-plus players, not just 17,” he said.
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