Jack Steele comes to grips with AFL freeze at home in Canberra

St Kilda midfielder Jack Steele has only come to terms in the past few days with the fact the AFL season has halted.

In the whirlwind of events in which the season was postponed less than an hour after the Saints' two-point loss to North Melbourne at Marvel Stadium a couple of Sundays ago, the 24 year old's head was all over the place.

He went to a meeting at Moorabbin where coach Brett Ratten gave the players an emotional send-off, then he arranged to move back to live with his parents, Stuart and Joanne, and his sister Sophie in Canberra, rather than isolate at home on his own.

Jack Steele, left, with Saints coach Brett Ratten, right, last season. Credit:AAP

"A lot of us couldn't really fathom what was going on. It seemed so surreal and it definitely didn't help with losing when we pretty much had the game in the bag," Steele said.

"All of the sudden you walk off the ground devastated and you hear the season is done for now."

"For now" is the crucial part of that sentence because the Saints' season is not done just yet.

They looked good against the Kangaroos, until they didn't, conceding six of the last seven goals to squander a 31-point lead on a low-scoring match.

Steele, who is generally good natured but as competitive as anyone, says he was "pissed off" for days after the Kangaroos' midfield – led by the ever reliable Ben Cunnington – gained the ascendancy in the second half.

Steele was one of the Saints' best, kicking a goal and showing he is ready to take another step forward in his promising career, but he wasn't feeling satisfied.

"At the end of the day we had the game in the bag. We have to learn how to ice it," Steele said.

He is sure their inability to do so was a function of having so many new players in the team after the Saints spent their off-season bolstering their depth and talent. He predicts rapid improvement in time.

Being around family has also helped Steele put the loss in perspective as he sees the impact the coronavirus pandemic is having around the world and on his immediate family.

Ferocious: Jack Steele in action during round seven last year. Credit:AAP

Driving from Canberra to Newcastle on Wednesday to help his sister move, so she can start work as a midwife next week, having graduated with a Bachelor of Midwifery at the University of Canberra, was a quick lesson in the new way the world is operating.

"She has got a job at John Hunter Hospital so she is going up there. She is nervous but in a way it will be a good distraction if she can just get to work and have something to do during the day," Steele said.

It was a good diversion for Steele, too, who had been filling his days playing golf at Gold Creek Golf Club – until the course was shut down – and a reminder that as an AFL footballer in the middle of a temporary break he is not in a bad position.

"A lot of people aren't getting paid at all so it is a good way to look at it and a good perspective to have," Steele said.

Not that Steele has been anything other than aware of his surroundings, a popular player at Moorabbin, who is as admired for his down-to-earth nature as his ferocious attack on the football.

For now he is enjoying being alongside his family in Canberra, a place he enjoys, even if he is restricted in what he can do.

"It's dead at the best of times," Steele joked. "It's actually not too bad, I actually love it."

He also loves playing football for the Saints and can't wait for the chance to reset and re-start their season so the club's long suffering fans can have something to cheer about.

Steele knows that as bad as two-point losses are, they aren't the end of the world, his message to Saints' fans as uncomplicated as his kicking action.

"I hope they are all well," Steele said.

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WrestleMania 36: Night 2 live recaps, results and analysis

Night one of WrestleMania 36 offered a number of big surprises. Braun Strowman steamrolled Goldberg to become the new Universal champion, Kevin Owens jumped off the WrestleMania sign to attack Seth Seth Rollins, and a singles triple threat ladder match for a tag team title repeatedly shocked the viewing audience.

But the biggest headline grabber of all was the Boneyard match that closed out the night, as AJ Styles and The Undertaker battled in a cinematic romp through a graveyard.

Now it’s time for night two. Four titles will be on the line, including men’s Royal Rumble winner Drew McIntyre challenging Brock Lesnar for the WWE championship and Bayley defending her SmackDown women’s title in a five-way match. For the first time ever on a WrestleMania card and NXT title will be defended, as women’s Royal Rumble winner Charlotte Flair challenges NXT women’s champion Rhea Ripley.

In one of the most anticipated matches of the weekend, Edge has his first one-on-one match in nine years against Randy Orton, under Last Man Standing rules. And in what will likely be another unconventional cinematic adventure, John Cena faces “The Fiend” Bray Wyatt in a Firefly Funhouse match.

Marc Raimondi and Tim Fiorvanti are here to break it all down live, with ESPN Stats & Info’s Sean Coyle rating each match on his customized scale of 0-5.

Recaps from the first night of WrestleMania 36 can be found here.

NXT women’s championship: Rhea Ripley (c) vs. Charlotte Flair

Match in progress.

Kickoff show: Liv Morgan def. Natalya

Night two of WrestleMania began with a kickoff show match that had no build and really, no heat. Natalya took advantage of an offered handshake by Morgan to start things off and utilized her strong mat game advantage in the opening sequences. Natalya continued to bring the aggression with a discus clothesline that sent Morgan onto the ring apron. She then locked in a surfboard stretch for a good minute, but Morgan refused to tap. Ultimately Natalya released the hold and opened the door for a comeback.

Morgan worked in some offense which included her version of the codebreaker and a nice looking step-up enziguri. However, it was a less flashy move that made the most impact as Morgan reversed a series of roll-ups into a pinning combination and picked up the biggest win of her career.

This was Morgan’s first-ever WWE PPV win. She was 0-9 entering tonight’s match.

What’s next: Perhaps this builds a bit or momentum for Morgan in the coming weeks and we’ll get a resolution to the rivalry between all three former Riott Squad members that was seemingly put on hold. As for Natalya, it’s anyone’s guess, but she has the ability to continue to help build stars as she did tonight.

Still to come:

Five-way match for the SmackDown women’s championship: Bayley (c) vs. Lacey Evans vs. Naomi vs. Sasha Banks vs. Tamina

Last man standing: Edge vs. Randy Orton

John Cena vs. “The Fiend” Bray Wyatt

Raw tag-team championships: The Street Profits (c) vs. Angel Garza & Austin Theory

Aleister Black vs. Bobby Lashley

Otis vs. Dolph Ziggler

WWE championship: Brock Lesnar (c) vs. Drew McIntyre

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Sagna insists Arsenal must do everything to keep Aubameyang

‘He’s the best striker in the league, someone else of his quality would cost £150m’: Bacary Sagna insists Arsenal must do everything to keep Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and avoid making same mistake as with Robin van Persie

  • Bacary Sagna says Arsenal must keep star man Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang
  • Sagna has hailed Aubameyang as the best striker in the Premier League
  • The former Arsenal man says Gunners must learn from past transfer mistakes 

Former Arsenal defender Bacary Sagna says the club would be making a huge mistake if they sold Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang this summer.

The striker has been linked with a host of top European clubs after apparently growing unhappy with a lack of Champions League football.

Aubameyang has just over 12 months remaining on his deal at the Emirates and could force the club to cash in if he doesn’t commit to a new contract.

Bacary Sagna has urged Arsenal not to sell star man Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang this summer

Sagna believes it would cost Arsenal £150 million to replace the striker if he departed

Sagna says Gunners mustn’t repeat the mistake they made when they sold Robin van Persie

Sagna says Arsenal can’t afford to lose the striker and must avoid selling yet another star player as they did during his time at the club.  

‘He can’t go now because are on the way to building something strong,’ he told Goal. 

 ‘So don’t spend this £150m, just spend £50m and give it to him. It’s the same as van Persie and I think you have to learn from that situation.

Sagna has hailed Aubameyang’s improvement and says he’s now the best striker in England

‘Auba deserves it. I’m not saying that because of his name or because he has scored a few goals. He’s the best striker in the league.’

Sagna has also admitted he was previously reluctant to praise Aubameyang but says he has been impressed with his improvement at Arsenal.

‘One year ago someone asked me if he was world class and I replied no,’ he added.

‘Some people were not happy about my answer, but to me he had the potential to be better and to be more clinical.

‘One year later, yes he is world class because every time he is in front of goal he scores.’

 

 


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England’s Nikita Parris backs Euro 2021 reschedule proposal

England’s Nikita Parris is supporting proposals to push Euro 2021 back a year in order to give the FA more time to make it “the best women’s tournament yet”.

Following the coronavirus outbreak, the majority of European football has been suspended with UEFA announcing the men’s Euros, scheduled to start this June, will be postponed until the following summer.

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And although some want to see the women’s tournament, to be hosted by England and due to begin on July 7 2021, run back-to-back, it could present problems with the Tokyo Olympics also postponed until July 2021.

That could see the potential problem of two women’s tournaments taking place in the same summer with Parris believing a shift to 2022 could be the best solution.

Speaking exclusively to Sky Sports News, the Lionesses’ forward said: “Whatever happens one thing that won’t change is that it will still be our home Euros.

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Gabriele Gravina: Serie A season has to be settled on the field

The head of the Italian FA believes the Serie A season has to be settled on the field if they are avoid an “avalanche of litigation”.

The league season has been suspended since March 9 due to the coronavirus pandemic which has claimed over 15,000 lives in Italy.

And although several club presidents have suggested the season should be called off, FIGC president Gabriele Gravina says it must continue when it is safe to do so.

“The only serious way to handle a serious emergency of this kind is to complete the 2019-2020 season competitions this year,” Gravina told state broadcaster RAI’s Domenica Sportiva programme.

“We are working on a whole series of possible solutions to manage the situation in the best possible way.

“Could it finish in September or October? That is one hypothesis. It’s a way to avoid jeopardising not only the 2019-20 season but also the 2020-21 season.”

Gravina explained that if the current season was abandoned, Italian football could suffer “an avalanche of litigation to which we would be subjected by all those who could be considered damaged in their rights and interests”.

This could include teams who were relegated and those who missed out on European football next season.

He added: “We would really run the risk of the championship taking place only in the courtrooms.”

Last Thursday, UEFA called on leagues around Europe to complete their seasons once football is able to restart.

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Former Man Utd boss Louis van Gaal fumes at Ajax using coronavirus ‘for their own gain’

Louis van Gaal has attacked clubs for using the coronavirus crisis for their own advantage. The former Manchester United manager believes that clubs should be able to play out their seasons in June and July – and that all leagues should be settled on the pitch and not by a vote.

Van Gaal has been angered that leading clubs in Holland, led by his old side Ajax, have advocated shutting down the Eredivisie as it stands.

That would mean Ajax finishing top and AZ Alkmaar ending up in second.

Belgium have already shut down their league, with Club Brugge finishing top – and angering UEFA, who want all domestic leagues completed when it is safe to do so.

But Van Gaal has been left fuming by the clubs’ plans.

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The 68-year-old said to Dutch newspaper Algemeen Dagblad: “If it is established that the coronavirus has been defeated, you first have to finish the current competition.

“Sports exists to find a winner, not to say after 25 matches we cut things off and Ajax is champion.

“But while the government has also been following the experts for weeks, some football clubs suddenly say that it is not possible – Ajax first.

“Clubs that misuse this corona crisis for their own gain and then make it a public health statement – I’m a man who can’t take that.

“If it is established that the coronavirus has been defeated, you first have to finish the current competition.”

Van Gaal, sacked by United after winning the FA Cup in 2016, managed Ajax between 1991 and 1997, winning three Eridivisie titles and the Champions League in 1995.

He added: “You can play the season out in June or July. 

“There is plenty of time this summer with the European Championship off the calendar. 

“If UEFA and FIFA are willing to change rules and provide space, well then get started.”

Earlier this week, Ajax director Marc Overmars had said: “The league is dead, life is more important. Why would it be about money and not people’s well-being at this time?

“I had hoped that the KNVB would take an independent decision, but they are now hiding behind UEFA.”

The Premier League, however, have extended the suspension of their season indefinitely as they seek to conclude the current campaign.

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Liverpool tipped to swerve Ryan Fraser transfer in favour of Bournemouth team-mate

Liverpool are looking to bolster their attacking options this summer and Ryan Fraser has been earmarked as a player who they could pick up on a free transfer. Yet according to pundit Paul Robinson, it’s a deal Liverpool won’t be pursuing.

Fraser is out of contract at Bournemouth in the summer and is therefore already free to negotiate with other clubs.

With Xherdan Shaqiri potentially heading for the exit door, Fraser could be the perfect replacement for the Swiss should he depart.

But Robinson thinks the winger’s Bournemouth team-mate Harry Wilson will be at the forefront of his mind when making any decision over signing another back-up attacker.

“I do not see him fitting in at Anfield,” Robinson told Football Insider.

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“He has been in and out of the Bournemouth team this year and by his own admittance, he has had dips in form.

“Harry Wilson is a more realistic option than Fraser.

“You look at the way Wilson has played at Bournemouth, that type of player I see fitting in better with the set up at Liverpool. The Premier League loan for him has been outstanding.

“Fraser has been fantastic for a while but I just question whether he is a Liverpool player. I expect Klopp to look to Wilson instead.”

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Wilson has enjoyed a valuable loan spell with the Cherries, who are battling to beat the drop.

He has netted seven Premier League goals while gaining valuable experience in the English top-flight.

Yet despite his creditable goal tally, Wilson has not hit the kind of heights that would be expected for him to be able to play for Liverpool.

Speaking ahead of Liverpool’s 2-1 win over Bournemouth at Anfield in March, Wilson laid out on record his desire to make the grade in the Reds’ first team.

“I feel like I’ve got that decision to make in the summer,” he told BT Sport.

“I feel like my last two years of loans have been good and this one has been positive for me as well.

“I’m finally in the Premier League which is what I’ve worked towards.

“In the summer I will be concentrating on Wales [before the European Championships were postponed] but once that is done, I may have a decision to make.”

Wilson is valued at around £25million and Klopp will have to make a decision on the Welsh international’s future once the campaign is eventually completed.

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WrestleMania: How WWE superstars felt about performing amid coronavirus chaos

WWE superstars didn’t mind wrestling at WrestleMania 36 and were even determined to put together an incredible show. Vince McMahon’s promotion decided against following the example of other sport franchises, such as the NBA, Premier League and UEFA, which decided to suspend their season until further notice due to COVID-19.

The attitude among the wrestlers was, ‘Everyone really wanted to work hard and try to make this work’

Wade Keller

The deadly virus has spread in the United States recording 330,263 cases as well as 9,444 deaths but the wrestling giants have insisted on going ahead with the show.

Wrestlers have taken a significant risk by agreeing to perform as they obviously didn’t adhere to any social distancing rules inside the ring.

However, Wade Keller of PWTorch.com claims WWE superstars didn’t treat this whole situation as a chore, like they have reportedly done so during shows in Saudi Arabia.

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But instead they all motivated each other to give it their all in the ring and try to put together one of the greatest WrestleMania shows of all time so that they can help the fans forget about the ongoing pandemic.

Keller said: “From a number of wrestlers who were at the tapings, I did hear that this was not like a Saudi Arabia [feeling of] ‘Let’s just get through this.’ The attitude among the wrestlers was, ‘Everyone really wanted to work hard and try to make this work.’

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“This did come across as a night where the wrestlers were like, ‘We’re here, we’re not here under protest or resentful or we don’t see this as [not] important.’

“I was told the attitude among the crew was ‘Lets surprise people.’ That was the attempt and I think it’s clear they were attempting to work hard and salvage this given the tough circumstances.”

WWE taped WrestleMania last week at the Performance Center in Orlando, Florida behind closed doors due to the coronavirus outbreak.

The wrestling giants undertook some rigorous safety measures as they limited the amount people allowed during filming and wouldn’t let anyone into the PC without undergoing a medical check first.

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WWE aired the first part of the Show of Shows on Saturday night and featured a series of entertaining encounters inside the empty venue.

Braun Strowman defeated Goldberg for the Universal Championship, Becky Lynch retained the RAW Women’s Championship by beating Shayna Baszler and The Undertaker destroyed AJ Styles in the first ever Boneyard Match.

WrestleMania concludes tonight with British superstar Drew McIntyre getting set to headline the Show of Shows by challenging WWE Champion Brock Lesnar.

Edge will battle Randy Orton in a Last Man Standing Match, John Cena will go one-on-one with Bray Wyatt in a Firefly Fun House Match and Bayley will defend her SmackDown Women’s Championship against four other competitors.

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UEFA chief ‘sleepless’ but confident of Champions League restarting before September

UEFA president Aleksander Ceferin has admitted he is having sleepless nights trying to cope with the strain of organising football during the coronavirus crisis.

Ceferin wants to present all the 55 member associations with a new calendar for the rest of the season on May 18.

But the Slovenian, a former lawyer, has admitted that the strain of trying to sort out the mess that football is currently in due to the COVID-19 pandemic, is beginning to tell.

Ceferin said: “I am having many sleepless nights. I wake up at 4 in the morning, and I cannot sleep any more.”

UEFA have set up a working party to sort out a revised calendar for football – and they hope to present that new schedule for domestic competitions and the Champions and Europa Leagues by May 18.

The European governing body have stressed that any plans will depend on government authorisation in each country.

UEFA wants domestic leagues to start up again in June and completed, so that the Champions and Europa league can be played in July and August.

Ceferin said: “It is an extraordinary situation we are in, so we are flexible on dates and kick-off times. If the crisis eases earlier, then we can start sooner.

“The only wrong decision we could make now would be to play in a way that puts the health and safety of players, fans and referees at risk.

“However, if we are in secure conditions, then I don’t see the problem.

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“We are confident that football can restart in the months to come — with conditions that will be dictated by public authorities — and believe that any decision of abandoning domestic competitions is premature.

“The conclusion of the current season must be coordinated with the start of the new one, which may be partly impacted because of the overstretch.

“It is of paramount importance that even a disruptive event like this epidemic does not prevent our competitions from being decided on the field.”

Ceferin added: “It is still better to play the game behind closed doors and have it on TV, which is what the people need and want because it brings positive energy to their homes, than not playing at all.

“That’s what the people want, that brings positive energy, and it will be July or August. We can’t play it out in September or October.”

Ceferin had wrongly been quoted as declaring that the Champions League would need to be concluded by the start of August.

And on Sunday, UEFA said in a statement: “It has been reported that UEFA president, Aleksander Čeferin told ZDF in Germany that the UEFA Champions League must finish by 3 August.

“This is not true. The president was very clear not to set exact dates for the end of the season.

“UEFA is currently analysing all options to complete domestic and European seasons with the European Club Association and the European Leagues in the working group set up on 17 March.

“The primary priority of all the members of the working group is to preserve public health.

“Following on from that, it is to find calendar solutions to complete all competitions.

“Options are currently being studied to play matches in July and in August if needed, depending on restart dates and the permission of national authorities.”

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Olney: Baseball’s potential return is way too complicated to rush

  • Senior writer ESPN Magazine/ESPN.com
  • Analyst/reporter ESPN television
  • Author of “The Last Night of the Yankee Dynasty”

The word from the White House was that the president wanted baseball and other professional sports to resume to help keep the country moving forward, to provide at least a few minutes a day for a devastated nation to think about something other than the consuming horrors and death toll.

In the first days after 9/11, confused athletes gathered at Yankee Stadium and privately wondered whether they could play, given the shutdown of the nation’s air space, and whether it was right to even think about playing games in the face of greater events. Back then, I was a beat writer assigned to the Yankees by The New York Times, and I listened to players fretting about what they should tell their children about what was right and practical.

But baseball executives and officials from other sports kept hearing from the White House: Go. Go. After a week of grieving and reflection, the games continued, and Mike Piazza and others demonstrated almost immediately that President George W. Bush’s instinct to get back on the field was right, for the catharsis, for the healing. For weeks afterward, some people sorting through the desolation at Ground Zero talked about how they welcomed the temporary respite of the Yankees’ postseason push. Just as sports had continued during World War II, with appropriate postponement for D-Day, they continued after 9/11.

The reflex to move ahead in the face of the current crisis is ingrained, expressed by President Trump after his conference call with the leaders of the major sports Saturday. “I want fans back in the arenas,” Trump told reporters in a press briefing. “I think it’s … whenever we’re ready. As soon as we can, obviously. And the fans want to be back, too. They want to see basketball and baseball and football and hockey. They want to see their sports. They want to go out onto the golf courses and breathe nice, clean, beautiful, fresh air.”

But there is one enormous difference between the current situation and those days after 9/11. Nobody can say yet with confidence that in resuming games — even in venues without fans in attendance — many lives won’t be driven into greater risk for infection of the coronavirus: the lives of athletes and the attending support staff, the lives of their families, and the lives of those with whom they come into contact afterward.

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