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School’s out when Tuivasa-Sheck faces up to giant idol Vatuvei

Written on September 21, 2019 at 17:18, by

Roger Tuivasa-Sheck first saw the sizeable frame of Manu Vatuvei in the flesh when the New Zealand Warriors’ legend visited his old school in South Auckland.
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He was overwhelmed in the classroom at Mayfield Primary in Otara although Vatuvei’s NRL career was in its infancy, and now the 20-year-old is hoping he doesn’t get taught a lesson when he marks one of his idols for the first time at Allianz Stadium on Sunday night.

The outside back concedes 14 kilograms, 11 centimetres and 143 games’ worth of experience to the Warriors’ record try-scorer but was trying to put on a brave face when quizzed on how to combat a recharged Vatuvei who appears to be running into form – and over any obstacle in his path.

Tuivasa-Sheck had to contend with Bill Tupou when the Sydney Roosters ventured to Eden Park in round two so realises he faces a different assignment defending the left edge alongside Vatuvei’s occasional Kiwis teammate Shaun Kenny-Dowall.

”I’ll have a chat with Robbo [coach Trent Robinson] and strategise. You definitely try and get two on one with him,” he said.

”They call him The Beast for a reason. He’s all muscle and power. He’ll try and use that to run over me and score tries. He’s even really powerful in the air, which is another thing I’ll have to work on.

”Shaun Johnson and [Thomas] Leuluai will be putting it up [kicks] for him. I’ve just got to get up and take them.” Thinking back to that school visit nine or so years ago, Tuivasa-Sheck confessed: ”I was star-struck at the back.”

And although he has only played 18 NRL games, the composed rookie won’t experience the same emotions when Vatuvei charges in his direction. ”I’ve been practising heaps with all our stars here,” he said, before another training session with Sonny Bill Williams, Michael Jennings and the NSW halves pairing of James Maloney and Mitchell Pearce.

”I’ve just got to go out there and do my job. It’ll probably be good to mark Manu, we’ll see. I can’t wait,” he said, with an unconvincing grin.

Tuivasa-Sheck should be smiling considering the strides he has made since former Roosters coach Brian Smith promoted him from the under-20s last year.

He made six appearances – sufficient to be anointed as captain Anthony Minichiello’s successor at fullback; this season he made the Kiwis squad for April’s Anzac Test in Canberra as a non-playing reserve and has experienced every minute of the Roosters’ 12-game campaign.

”Second year syndrome” is a common affliction for professional sportspeople after they caught opponents unaware first time up but so far Tuivasa-Sheck seems immune.

He finally recorded his first tries for the club – a hat-trick against Parramatta in round four – and has six for the season, often as the beneficiary of a Williams cut-out pass.

”He’s helped me with a few techniques, how to run my lines … he’s good at distributing the ball, he throws me those cut-outs,” he said.

Naturally there have been curve balls as well to keep Tuivasa-Sheck from getting complacent.

South Sydney’s Nathan Merritt scored three times down the Kiwi’s flank, for starters.

”I’ve been taught a few lessons. In round one Nathan Merritt … he floats around the park and then he surprises you by being back on the wing.”

Manly’s Jorge Taufua, meanwhile, was more in the Vatuvei mould: ”He’s pretty big and strong. He got over me a few times.”

Tuivasa-Sheck does just not have his game in order – off the field life is also going smoothly, especially as his parents and three siblings relocated to Sydney at Christmas.

As the Arthur Beetson Medal winner – for the Roosters’ under-20s player of the year – Tuivasa-Sheck and his mother travelled to Europe during the off-season. They went to Oxford University and recognised the set locations for the Harry Potter movies, ticked off Big Ben, rode the Millennium Wheel and crossed the Channel to see the Eiffel Tower.

The original release of this article first appeared on the website of Shanghai Night Net.

Roosters centre seeks inner warrior

Written on September 21, 2019 at 17:18, by

Shaun Kenny-Dowall. Photo: Brendan EspositoRoosters centre Shaun Kenny-Dowall picked a tough assignment when he vowed to use Sunday’s match against the Warriors to atone for what he called his most disappointing defensive effort of the year.
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Kenny-Dowall, a Kiwi international in his eighth year at the Roosters, said it was tough to watch footage of the victory over the Eels because it showed the kind of defensive lapses he’d worked hard to eliminate from his game this season.

At the beginning of the season, Kenny-Dowall said new coach Trent Robinson had demanded more defensive crunch from him. He responded and was pleased with his progress, until the Eels game. ”I’ve had my ups and downs,” Kenny-Dowall said when asked for thoughts on his defence. ”Obviously you saw on the weekend, that was probably the worst I’ve defended. It was a reality check and I have to go back to working hard and defend how I know we can and how we defended at the start of the year. [Defence is] obviously a lot of decision making … It’s not just out on the edge, it can start from out in the middle, the ruck and all sorts of things.

”They’re the sort of things we go through in the video [sessions] and try to rectify throughout the week in time for the next game.”

Kenny-Dowall said this year’s Roosters had benefited from the ”connection” between the squad’s players but he conceded the Warriors would have noted last week’s defensive deficiencies on the tricolours’ edge. While the Auckland-based club’s three-quarters possess plenty of strike power – and muscle – courtesy of Manu Vatuvei, Konrad Hurrell, Glen Fisiiahi and Dane Nielsen, Kenny-Dowall said his mission this week would be harder due to the presence of Feleti Mateo, the skilled ball-player who learnt his craft in the Parramatta juniors. ”Our defence [on the edge] was obviously noted,” he said of last week’s showing. ”We’ve been working hard on that at training and it’s something we’ll need to fix up with Feleti on that side … we’ve been working hard.”

Kenny-Dowall made it clear that apart from shutting down Warriors halfback Shaun Johnson and Mateo, he and his teammates would need to stick to Vatuvei like glue. He offered 20-year-old Roger Tuivasa-Sheck, the man charged with the job of stifling the big winger, a vote of confidence. ”[Tuivasa-Sheck] has a fair idea of what’s coming up, but I think he’s more than capable,” he said.

The original release of this article first appeared on the website of Shanghai Night Net.

Lang confident Gower can do the job for Newcastle

Written on September 21, 2019 at 17:18, by

Old boys: Recruit Craig Gower, right, chats with Willie Mason at Knights training this week. Photo: Max Mason HubersJohn Lang combined with Craig Gower to win the Panthers’ most recent premiership and Gower’s former mentor believes he can still do a job in the NRL.
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The former Australian representative is expected to be rushed into the Newcastle side to play his first NRL game since 2007 after signing a short-term deal. He has represented Italy in rugby union and captained the London Broncos in the English Super League since his last appearance in the NRL.

Now, as part of an 18-man Knights squad, Gower has travelled to Melbourne to play the defending premiers on Sunday afternoon. Lang coached the Gower-captained 2003 Penrith side to grand final success against Sydney Roosters.

Lang said Knights coach Wayne Bennett knew exactly what he was looking for when he recruited Gower at the age of 35.

”Wayne would have been looking for a tough professional who can do the job for him,” Lang said.

”He won’t be looking for someone to star.

”I don’t think Wayne is looking for him to have a big impact but someone who will do the job. I think it’ll be unfair to expect too much of him.”

Gower, who made his NRL debut in 1996, played 238 games for the Panthers. While Lang said he hadn’t spoken with him or seen much of Gower play recently, he said he could see parallels between Gower’s return and Bennett rushing Allan Langer from England to star for Queensland in the 2001 State of Origin decider.

”Craig was a guy who led by example,” Lang said. ”He is a doer and that’s him in a nutshell. He had good skills. He is a guy who loved the game and while your body holds together, well, why not [keep playing].

”He is a tough competitor … He has had a lot of injuries over the years.”

His comeback eventuated following long-term injuries to key Knights players Kurt Gidley and Danny Buderus. Gidley is not expected to return from a foot injury for at least another two weeks and Buderus is a week-to-week proposition with his back. With Gower declaring his time at hooker had passed, it is expected he’ll move to the halves when he comes in with Tyrone Roberts relieving Travis Waddell of the hooking duties.

”I wouldn’t know what his form is like,” Lang said. ”There’s a lot of players that I’ve coached in the past that are still playing and you’re always interested in how they are going.”

Gower won’t be the only change to a Newcastle side which has lost its past three. He is expected to replace Adam Clydsdale on the bench with Adam Cuthbertson to come in for the injured David Fa’alogo. Winger Akuila Uate is an outside chance of making an early return from rib-cartilage damage and is in Melbourne with the team.

The original release of this article first appeared on the website of Shanghai Night Net.

Inglis wary of Titans’ in-form halfback

Written on September 21, 2019 at 17:17, by

Gold Coast five-eighth Aidan Sezer was targeted by Souths superstar Greg Inglis before Sunday’s so-called Rumble at the Reef in Cairns, as the man the premiership leaders needed to zero in on.
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Sezer, a Canterbury junior who played for the East Hills Bulldogs, has formed a strong halves combination with Inglis’ cousin Albert Kelly. While Kelly’s return from NRL purgatory after being cut last season by Cronulla and then Newcastle’s NSW Cup team for disciplinary breaches has been well documented, Inglis took time out to acknowledge the threat Sezer posed.

”It’s good to see ‘Albie’ there, but I want to give a quick mention to you about Sezer,” said Inglis. ”He’s a young kid but he looks like he has a 30-year-old head on him … and I don’t mean by the way he looks. It’s the way he thinks and the way he slows the game down. The Gold Coast has strike power right across [the field] and [Sezer] is playing well and so is Albert Kelly. We have to be on our high alerts and go out there and hopefully get the job done in front of a packed stadium.”

Kelly, who starred for the Australian Schoolboys and Parramatta National Youth Competition side before being recruited – and then cut – by Cronulla after a series of problems, has sparked the Titans back line this year.

Inglis said he was ecstatic to see the little cousin, who lived across the road from him at Bowraville on the NSW north coast, fulfil his potential.

”He’s a great little talent, and he always has been,” said Inglis. ”He’s obviously hit his straps at the right time and we have to go up [to Cairns] with alerts around us. He’s a game-breaker.”

Inglis viewed Albie’s story as one that emphasised why the NRL’s top-graders needed to follow strict demands.

”I think he always knew he had great talent, I think it was just the disciplinary things away from footy,” Inglis said. ”You can see anyone with talent on the field, it’s the way they go about their business off the field. It’s great to see him shining now.”

The Rabbitoh pitted directly against Sezer, Adam Reynolds, said the halves have been scrutinised in the game’s build-up.

The original release of this article first appeared on the website of Shanghai Night Net.

A fine romance that’s keeping it real

Written on September 21, 2019 at 17:17, by

Married glitch … Julie Delpy and Ethan Hawke in Before Midnight, directed by Richard Linklater.Before Midnight is the sequel to Before Sunrise and Before Sunset.
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June 16, 1994, on a train travelling from Budapest, 23-year-old Sorbonne student Celine sits near Jesse, a heartbroken backpacker on his way to Vienna to catch a flight home to America. He’s reading Klaus Kinski’s memoir All I Need Is Love, she’s holding a collection of erotic short stories by French intellectual George Bataille. The seemingly innocuous start to Before Sunset has spawned an unlikely movie trilogy. There may be no explosion or superheroes, or even a plot – just a couple talking about love and relationships – yet it’s kept audiences enthralled for two decades.

”We always say they are the lowest grossing films to spawn sequels,” director Richard Linklater says. ”And certainly the lowest grossing films to be a franchise or whatever we are now – a trilogy!”

Before Sunrise, Before Sunset and now Before Midnight have become key works in the careers of director Richard Linklater and actors Julie Delpy and Ethan Hawke. On the two sequels, director and actors have received equal screenwriting credit. A collaboration that grows stronger with each film.

”Just like the characters our relationship is deepening,” 42-year-old Hawke says. ”I mean it gets more complex the more we know each other. We’ve now written three films together, that’s an incredibly intimate thing to do.”

”Nineteen years ago when I was casting that first film, I was looking for the two most creative people I could find,” Linklater says. ”I knew this whole film relied on those two people. There wasn’t anything else. That script ended up being an outline with ideas sprinkled throughout that we built on.”

”In the audition he asked me, do you write?” Delpy recalls. ”I was like, ‘Oh, I wrote a screenplay.’ So he wanted that.”

The series that the films are most compared to is Franois Truffaut’s films about Antoine Doinel. ”But those films are all so totally different,” Hawke says. ”Each film is unique … these ones are almost turning into one long film. Which is very different.”

It’s funny to revisit the argument Jesse used to persuade Celine to spend the night with him in Vienna. ”Jump ahead, 10, 20 years, and you’re married. Only your marriage doesn’t have that same energy it used to have. You start to blame your husband. You start to think about all those guys you’ve met in your life and what might’ve happened if you’d picked up with one of them. I’m one of those guys.”

It’s the plot to both sequels. The first inkling of a sequel came in 2001 with Linklater’s rotoscoping animation Waking Life. Jesse and Celine are in bed analysing a conversation from Before Sunrise but as with everything in that movie, it turns out this was a dream.

Before Sunset takes place nine years after Celine and Jesse agreed to meet again in Vienna. Despite the lack of plot, Before Sunrise had left us with a cliffhanger ending, do the pair who refused to exchange numbers meet as they promise six months later? Romantics and cynics had something to argue over.

When environmentalist Celine shows up at married author Jesse’s book reading in Paris it’s soon clear they did not meet in Vienna. Roaming the streets, catching up, the walk has another ambiguous ending with Jesse in Celine’s apartment threatening to miss his flight home.

”We have to watch the films every time we do a new one,” the actress says. ”I mean, we haven’t done that many, but on Sunset we had to watch this one, and on this one we had to watch both.” The actors met up and did a double bill in one night.

A further nine years down the line and Before Midnight casts Celine and Jesse as that frustrated married couple. There is an inevitability that they would get together – after all, June 16 is ”Bloomsday”, the date that James Joyce first went on a date with his wife-to-be Nora Barnacle. In fitting with their status, the formula of the films has been remodelled.

Hawke says, ”The two most difficult things about the third one are no ticking clock, and the fact that they’ve now known each other for so long, why would they be telling the other person?”

For the first time we see the couple interact with friends and their focus is on maintaining a relationship. Fans will not be disappointed. Once again, the strength is that the dialogue and events feel like we’re eavesdropping on friends. It feels too real to be fiction.

Hawke jests, ”She says to me in this movie, ‘You have sex the exact same way every time,’ you know, and that’s something that my wife has said to me.”

Linklater is full of praise for the naturalism of his collaborators, ”It’s a tribute to Ethan and Julie how well rehearsed and what good actors they are. It’s the kind of acting they don’t really give awards to because people accept it as real. It’s kind of like the apes at the beginning of 2001 – they didn’t win best costume because they thought they were real.” There’s a rule that there has to be unanimous agreement on the script.

”We write each other’s lines all the time,” Delpy says. Ultimately, in the editing room Linklater has the final say.

”So many directors have this dictatorial attitude,” Hawke says. ”’It’s my film.’ His whole thing is he wants everybody in the movie to feel like it’s our film.”

Linklater is a director who is often credited with putting his home-town of Austin, Texas – where Hawke was also born – on the filmmaking map. So it’s ironic that it’s these films set far from Austin are the works for which he will most fondly be remembered.

”We were thinking about setting this one in the US,” Linklater says. ”Maybe in a town like San Francisco. We have to think, where would she be able to get a job in her field that is fulfilling to her? And where would he maybe, as a writer/teacher, where would he be? So, you think of places that could work. We’d pick up with them on a Thursday – she’s at her job, he’s doing his thing, they’d meet in the evening – what life is for a lot of people, domestic. And then we were like, ‘That’s kind of depressing’ but we thought about it for a while and the final film reflects some of those things but the idea was he’s on this writer’s retreat.”

In the end they chose Messenia, Greece, where Jesse and Celine are holidaying with their family.

One of the great beauties of the series is that practically everyone can relate to the idea of the one that got away. At the end of Before Midnight, there is a dedication to Amy Lehrhaupt. Linklater met her in a toyshop in Philadelphia just after he’d made his directorial debut Slacker. They spent the night walking and talking and this became the inspiration for the series. In reality they swapped numbers, but after a few letters and phone conversations, they lost contact. It was back when Mark Zuckerberg was still in his long shorts. Three years ago, Linklater discovered Lehrhaupt had died in a motorcycle accident on 9 May, 1994. Just one month before Celine and Jesse met.

The Independent

■ Before Midnight is in cinemas now.

The original release of this article first appeared on the website of Shanghai Night Net.