Clarkson says Hawks’ resolve is strong

He’s boss at Hawthorn and Alastair Clarkson quoted The Boss as he brushed aside sudden speculation about his AFL coaching future.

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If the Hawks lose to Geelong on Easter Monday, they will have made a 0-4 start to the season for the first time in Clarkson’s time as their coach.

It led to former Port Adelaide coach Mark Williams saying last week that Clarkson should consider leaving the Hawks.

Former Geelong and Essendon coach Mark Thompson also speculated that the four-time premiership coach might consider walking if the right offer emerged.

This comes after Clarkson swung a wrecking ball through their list last October, trading out Sam Mitchell and Jordan Lewis in a stunning bid to stay ahead of the curve.

And on Sunday, Clarkson quoted from Bruce Springsteen’s song Wrecking Ball as the coach said Hawthorn’s only focus was recovering from their slump.

“We’ve worked our way through tough positions before,”: Clarkson said.

“Bruce Springsteen has a great song – hard times come, hard times go.

“We’re going through a hard time at the minute, but we’re really, really strong in our resolve to pull ourselves out of this pickle we’re in and get ourselves back on the winning list.”

Clarkson said he had not read Williams’ column, but a friend had told him about it.

He also noted that after bad starts, Fremantle and Gold Coast have improved to 2-2 after Saturday’s wins.

“Whenever your side is going through a tough patch, there’s going to be external noise and opinion and that’s the game we’re in,” he said.

“All we need to do is bunker down – it’s a collective effort of our footy club, it’s not about any one person.

“As we’ve seen, it’s clearly been demonstrated by a couple of sides in the last couple of weeks in Gold Coast and Fremantle, who have turned their seasons around very, very quickly.”

Despite the new-look side and a barren start to the season, Clarkson also has supreme faith in the Hawks.

“It can happen, as long as we continue to have faith in the processes we have in place here and the people we have in place here,” he said.

“That’s been the case for a long period of time and I don’t expect it to be any different in our approach in the next few weeks.”

Warriors captain disputes no-try call

Jarrod Croker’s stop on Roger Tuivasa-Sheck is being hailed as the try-saver of the year, however, the Warriors skipper has declared he was robbed of a try.

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The Raiders skipper turned the course of Saturday’s win over the Warriors late in the second half when he held up Tuivasa-Sheck and rolled him over when the star No.1 looked certain to score.

The home side ran out eventual 20-8 victors at GIO Stadium on Saturday but the result could have turned out differently had the New Zealand Test fullback not been denied by the video referee.

After he scythed through the line, beating several tired forwards, Tuivasa-Sheck was sailing towards the tryline before being stopped in his tracks by Croker.

However, he suggested that he had got the ball down and he should have been awarded four points.

“I thought I was over just before he got to me,” Tuivasa-Sheck said.

“But they saw otherwise, so it’s gone now.”

Canberra coach Ricky Stuart praised Croker’s effort as representative of the strong bond between his charges, who provisionally jumped in to the top four.

“It was wonderful desire to stop it and it’s right through the team,” Stuart said.

“Covering your mate’s back and the strength of the brotherhood here is what you see in those sorts of actions.

“And when it comes from our captain, I just thought it was an amazing effort and a real turning point.”

Croker said he knew with the likes of Tuivasa-Sheck and Shaun Johnson in the Warriors line up, their scrambling defence was always going to be tested at some point.

“I just chased him. During the week we spoke a lot about guys with good feet, Sheck and Johnson testing our middles,” Croker said.

“He slipped through and I just chased and the 13 other blokes would have done the same for me.”

May hamstrung in Suns’ AFL win over Blues

Gold Coast’s win over Carlton has come at a cost with co-captain Steven May to miss around three weeks with a hamstring injury.

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May chased Blues’ star Patrick Cripps in the last quarter of the Suns’ 26-point win at Etihad Stadium but pulled up suddenly clutching his left hamstring.

He immediately went to the bench where ice was applied and is set for a period on the sidelines.

“Steven May will miss at least two or three (games) … at least three, I reckon, with that hammy,” coach Rodney Eade said.

The news is a blow for Gold Coast, who were already missing centre half-back Rory Thompson (quad) against the Blues and face ladder-leaders Adelaide at Metricon Stadium in round five.

The Suns improved to a 2-2 record with the win but will also monitor David Swallow (ankle) and Michael Barlow (hamstring tightness) ahead of next week’s big test against the Crows.

Co-captain Tom Lynch kicked a career-best bag of seven goals in the 17.6 (108) to 12.10 (82) win that was set up with a stunning seven-goals-to-one third quarter.

“If you were marking (Tom) out of 10 you’d probably give him a nine but he probably could have got a 10 if he’d held (a few more) marks,” Eade said.

“But he was terrific. His leadership was fantastic.

“He’s got a lot of improvement left in him. He’s still young and he’s still got parts of the game he’s got to learn.”

Two-time Brownlow medallist Gary Ablett found plenty of the ball again with 34 possessions, including 11 clearances, and a goal.

Jack Martin, Touk Miller, Braydon Fiorini and Aaron Hall were also important as the Suns cut through Carlton with blistering ball movement in the pivotal third term.

“I thought it was a great way to win … I’m really pleased,” Eade said.

“I thought the first half was a real wrestle and they were probably on top … but I think we hung in there.

“Then after halftime I thought we broke the game open. It certainly wasn’t pretty early but I was pleased with the way that we won.”

Blues skipper Marc Murphy worked hard for his 28 disposals, but he didn’t have enough support in a team who were on the wrong side of a 440-321 possession count.

Sam Docherty was poised in defence with 26 touches and 13 marks, while Levi Casboult and Jack Silvagni kicked three goals apiece.

North Korea missile test ‘blew up almost immediately’: US military

The failure, which is likely to be seen as something of an embarrassment for the regime, came amid soaring tensions in the region over the North’s nuclear weapons ambitions.

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“The missile blew up almost immediately,” the US Defence Department said of the early morning launch which was also monitored by the South Korean military.

Neither was able to determine immediately what kind of missile was being tested.

It came a day after North Korea displayed nearly 60 missiles — including what is suspected to be a new intercontinental ballistic missile — at a parade to mark the 105th birthday of its founder Kim Il-Sung.

WATCH: North Korea ready for all-out war

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The parade was held in front of the cameras of invited world media, who were still in Pyongyang when Sunday’s test failure was detected.

Pyongyang’s rogue atomic ambitions have come into sharp focus in recent weeks, with United States President Donald Trump vowing a tough stance against the North and threatening unilateral action if China failed to help curb its neighbour’s nuclear programme.

The latest missile test attempt comes just hours ahead of a visit by Vice President Mike Pence to Seoul, where the nuclear issue will be top of the agenda at talks with South Korea’s acting president Hwang Kyo-Ahn.

Trump has repeatedly said he will prevent Pyongyang from its goal of developing a nuclear-tipped ballistic missile capable of reaching the mainland United States.

As hostilities in the region surge Trump has sent an aircraft carrier-led strike group to the Korean peninsula to press his point.

The North has reiterated its constant refrain that it is ready for “war” with the US. 

WATCH: Bob Carr on China’s North Korea influence

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Its army vowed Friday a “merciless” response to any US provocation, adding that Trump had “entered the path of open threat and blackmail” against Pyongyang.

Speculation is brewing that the North is preparing a sixth nuclear test, with satellite images showing its main nuclear site “primed and ready,” according to specialist US website 38North.

White House officials saying military options were “already being assessed”.

China, the North’s sole major ally, and Russia have both urged restraint, with Beijing’s foreign minister Wang Yi warning Friday that “conflict could break out at any moment”.

The UN Security Council has imposed six sets of sanctions against the North since its first nuclear test in 2006 — all of which have failed to halt its drive for what it insists are defensive weapons.

US military confirms failed test

ave Benham, a spokesman with the US Pacific command said: “US Pacific Command detected and tracked what we assess was a North Korean missile launch at 11:21 am Hawaii time (2121 GMT) April 15.”

“US Pacific Command is fully committed to working closely with our allies in the Republic of Korea and in Japan to maintain security,” he said.

President Donald Trump was briefed on the development, amid sky-high US-North Korean tensions.

Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis said in a statement: “The president and his military team are aware of North Korea’s most recent unsuccessful missile launch. The president has no further comment.” 

Meanwhile, aides to Vice President Mike Pence, who was en route to South Korea and due to arrive in Seoul early Sunday, said he also had been briefed about the missile launch and was in contact with the president.

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Dragons hold off Cowboys’ big NRL comeback

St George Illawarra have staved off a furious second-half comeback from North Queensland to hold on for a 28-22 victory and cement their spot at the top of the NRL table.

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The Dragons surged to a commanding 28-4 halftime lead on Saturday night before the Cowboys scored three straight tries to get within six points with 16 minutes remaining.

However, in front of a healthy 13,886 crowd at WIN Stadium, the home side held on to secure their fifth victory on the trot and hold pole position for the first time in three years.

Centre Tim Lafai bagged a double, while reborn five-eighth Gareth Widdop continued his stellar start to the season by scoring a try and playing a hand in three others.

Their 28 first-half points were the most in 13 years for the Dragons, and the 24-point halftime lead was their biggest in the post-Wayne Bennett era. In the end, it was enough to claim the win.

But for the Cowboys, without five topliners including Johnathan Thurston, their second straight defeat means they are likely to fall out of the top eight by the end of the round.

Despite Cowboys winger Gideon Gela-Mosby cancelling Nene Macdonald’s ninth-minute opener, a rout was on the cards when the Dragons scored four straight tries in the first half.

Lafai was a man possessed on the Dragons’ left edge, terrorising opposite centre Justin O’Neill to bag two tries, punctuated by a flick pass for winger Kurt Mann.

Widdop also finished off a Russell Packer break to score his sixth try of the year.

But the Cowboys flipped the script in the second half when Ben Spina and Michael Morgan scored in the space of seven minutes to cut the deficit to 12 points.

The unthinkable was then on the cards when Scott Bolton latched onto a spilt Macdonald bomb in the next set, however the Dragons clung on to continue their strong start to the year.

Dragons coach Paul McGregor said the second-half battle was a lesson for a team that was in foreign territory, having gone a long time without having built such a halftime lead.

“We haven’t been in that position, to be in front by that scoreline,” McGregor said post-game.

“I thought our intent was good, I just don’t think collectively we done it together.

“We went one out too much with the footy when we had it and without it we didn’t control any of the tackles.”

Cowboys coach Paul Green rued the 20-minute period in the first half where they gave up the four answered tries and basically handed over the two competition points.

He said not even Thurston would’ve made a difference during that stage of the match.

“We just switched right off on both sides of the footy. It got away from us there,” he said.

“I don’t think (Thurston) would’ve made much difference in that first half, defensively we were off, we made some really basic errors in our own half and put ourselves under a lot of pressure.

“And then they got a couple of tries back to back, which took us a bit to recover from, just played the game down our end far too much in that first half.”

Young Cowboys are learning in NRL: Green

North Queensland’s short-term pain will be worth the long-term gain.

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So says Cowboys coach Paul Green, who took the high road after his NRL side almost pulled off a miracle comeback in a 28-22 defeat to St George Illawarra on Saturday night.

Down 28-4 and without Johnathan Thurston, Jake Granville, Lachlan Coote and Matt Scott in Wollongong, the Cowboys got to within six but fell agonisingly short of a famous win.

Despite the brave effort, the competition heavyweights are likely to finish the round sitting outside the top eight for the first time in almost two years.

Even so, Green remains confident of his team’s premiership trajectory heading into next week’s home clash against perennial battlers Newcastle.

“Very confident, we’ll be right. We’re just having a rough period at the moment. Every season teams go through it. You don’t know when it’s going to be, ours is now,” Green said.

“We’re not winning games so we need to keep trying to jag a few wins and stay in touch with the leaders in the competition, which I’m confident we’ll do.

“And it’ll hold us in good stead at the back end of the year. You’d rather be going through this now than coming into the semi-finals, which happened to us last year.”

The Cowboys were forced to play 102-kilogram forward John Asiata in the halves on Saturday, while little-used Blake Leary started at hooker for just the second time in his five-year career.

Green also conceded winger Kyle Feldt could be playing better after he added two more errors to his competition-high 15 turnovers of the season.

After watching his team almost crawl out of a 24-point hole against the Dragons, Green insists the pain of some early season defeats could provide dividends in the long run.

Coote (calf) is a chance of returning against the Knights, and then Thurston (calf), Granville (leg) and Antonio Winterstein (arm) could be back the following week.

“It’s not just out top-line guys that are injured at the moment. It’s a few of our second-string guys there, that would be good back-up depth, they’re injured also,” Green said.

“We’re throwing some kids in there but as I said, we’ll be better for it down the track.

“They’re learning some tough lessons at the moment but they’ll be better for it down the track if they hang in there and stay tough. We’ll come out the other side a better team.”

Crows thrash Bombers by 65 points in AFL

Adelaide’s attacking aces Taylor Walker and Eddie Betts have gone on scoring sprees in a 65-point AFL drubbing of Essendon.

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The Crows remain top of the ladder after their 24.9 (153) to 13.10 (88) win on Saturday night at Adelaide Oval.

Betts responded to the week’s racism controversy with a six-goal haul.

And Walker slotted five in remarkable first half by the unbeaten Crows.

Walker scored four majors in the first term as Adelaide piled on 9.2, just two points shy of the club’s record highest score for an opening quarter.

And then his sidekick Betts took centre stage in the second term, booting three as Adelaide built a commanding 15.6 to 7.2 halftime lead – both Betts and Walker had five goals each at the long break.

The free-scoring Crows broke the 100-point barrier just four minutes into the third quarter in a power-packed display.

Vice-captain Rory Sloane (34 disposals, two goals), halfback Brodie Smith (33 possessions), Rory Laird (35 disposals) and Matt Crouch (30 touches) ran rampant.

They provided frequent chances for Betts, who was in fine fettle after being involved early in the week in a racism row – there were anti-racism messages on the venue’s large screens and on the Crows’ banner.

By halftime, Betts’ captain Walker had five goals and four score assists against the off-key Bombers, who are with a pair of wins and losses this season.

Essendon’s Anthony McDonald-Tipgungwuti was a standout with four goals and young teammates Travis Colyer (three) and Kyle Langford (two) also hit the scoreboard.

And Zach Merrett (34 possessions) and Brendon Goddard (34 disposals) battled gamely to try to stem the Adelaide tide.

Their feats helped turn the second half into something of a scoring stalemate – Adelaide’s nine to Essendon’s six goals – but the Crows’ job was already done.

Adelaide coach Don Pyke was rapt with his side’s fourth consecutive triumph, particularly their stunning opening half.

“We dropped away in the third quarter but the first half we played some really strong footy,” Pyke said, while praising Betts’ ability to overcome his troubled week.

Essendon’s Conor McKenna faces a report for making head-high contact on Adelaide’s Riley Knight.

“Probably what bothered me the most was .. just how far off the mark we were,” Bombers coach John Worsfold said.

“We couldn’t slow the game down at all.”

Hawks told to lift after AFL basket case

Alastair Clarkson has called last week’s loss a basket case and the Hawthorn coach has gone back to basics for the AFL blockbuster against Geelong.

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But Clarkson says even if the Hawks slump to 0-4 with an Easter Monday loss, their season will still be alive.

He has zeroed in being competitive as the main change he wants to see when they take on the Cats.

After opening the season with four-goal losses to Essendon and Adelaide, Hawthorn slumped to an 86-point capitulation against Gold Coast.

It left the Hawks on the bottom of the ladder and inevitably heightened speculation that their great four-premiership era under Clarkson is now done.

But Clarkson noted that the Suns’ demolition of his team was a massive turnaround from their performance the week before.

Gold Coast and Fremantle are now 2-2 after poor starts to the season.

“The first two (games) were okay in terms of competitiveness – last week was a basket case game for us,” Clarkson said.

“Good teams respond (to) those sorts of situations.

“It can easily turn around – Fremantle were walloped a couple of weeks ago and won their last two games.

“Gold Coast – we saw the difference in them from one week to the next, it was nearly a 200-point turnaround in terms of the fortunes of the side.”

Hawthorn made two unforced changes for Monday’s match and Clarkson said there could have been plenty more.

But he said attitude, not personnel, will be the key to upsetting the unbeaten Cats.

“Really it just comes down to a genuine commitment to the contest and we were really poor interstate last week,” he said.

“We’re not going to get any pardons from Geelong, but we need to make the play.

“On the back of last week’s performance, we probably had two players in the side who could put their hand up and say ‘I went okay for the team’.

“You could make numerous changes.”

Clarkson noted that Hawthorn made the finals in 2010 after a 1-6 start.

“As long as you just have belief and resolve that you’ll work your way out of it, then we’ll be fine,” he said.

The Hawks also lost star recruit Jaeger O’Meara to a knee injury.

O’Meara has a well-documented history of knee problems, but Clarkson is hopeful the midfielder will only be out for one week.

“He had a scan earlier in the week and we thought it was going to be okay,” he said.

“But then it didn’t progress over the next three days … it wasn’t worth fiddling around.

“From what we gather … albeit it’s a knock to the same knee that’s been sore previously, (but) we don’t think there’s anything related.

“So hopefully that will settle down over the next week and he’ll play next week.”