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Winning way gives Del Piero broad shoulders

“I have a lot of things to do in two years” … Alessandro Del Piero.NO PLAYER in any domestic football code will know the weight of expectation on Alessandro Del Piero’s shoulders when he makes his debut for Sydney FC next month, but the $4 million man wouldn’t have it any other way.
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As he fronted the Australian media for the first time at the Star casino in Pyrmont, Del Piero said predictions that he could propel Sydney to their third A-League title did not faze him one bit.

“It is clear that there will be a lot of pressure to produce, but I think this is just the first step,” he said. ”I am used to this, and I love that. I played 19 years with Juventus – and in Juventus you have to win every game, every year. Fortunately a lot of the time that happened – but all my life I play for winning. I’m here for winning … I’m here because I trust in the win.”

Few players have revelled in the spotlight as much as Del Piero over the course of his brilliant career. Expectation is something he has grown up with – right back to when he broke into the first team at Padova at just 16.

After all, this is the same player who went on to score in a Champions League final, rammed home 27 goals for the Italian national team and scored a hat-trick on his full Serie A debut in 1993 at the age of 19.

However, when asked about what he hoped to achieve by the end of his two-year stint, at which stage he will be 39, Del Piero did not want to put a cap on it.

”I don’t know now. I have a lot of things to do in two years,” he said. “The most important thing is to stay focused on this moment, the present. It is a big change for me. I want to work in the present because I don’t know what happens later.”

Those involved in the deal to bring Del Piero to Australia have dubbed the move ”Project Sydney”, and the Italian is determined to provide the A-League with the boost it has been missing since it began in 2005.

”It is a very interesting project. Sometimes I decide with my feelings, but this was with my heart, head and feet,” he said. ”First of all I am here for Sydney FC and competing for Sydney FC. Then we hope [it is] about the A-League growing up day by day, and this is hard work.”

Asked how those closest to him reacted to his decision to choose Sydney over other clubs that wanted his signature, including Liverpool, Celtic, FC Sion and Olympiacos, Del Piero said they took some convincing.

”Most of my friends said: ‘OK, you want to change, but there’s a lot of places closer,”’ he said. ”I said, I know, but that I chose the best place.”

The change in conditions from the European winter to the southern hemisphere summer has caused problems for many players coming to the A-League, even Sydney’s Australian marquee signing Brett Emerton said it was an issue, but Del Piero seemed relieved by it.

”It’s different from Italy,” he said. ”It’s not -5 or -10 degrees. There [football in summer] does not happen. This is good for me.”

Convincing the eldest of his three children, five-year-old Tobias, about moving to Australia involved invoking the promise of spotting local wildlife.

”I promised to my son we’ll see kangaroos … my son said: ‘Ok, I’m happy,”’ Del Piero said, declaring he wanted his family to embrace the Australian lifestyle as much as possible. ”We hope to ‘live Australian’ in every part of every situation.”

He said he was aware the country had a rich football history, largely as a result of the postwar immigration. ”I know there has been a lot of Italian, English, Greek, Croatian and Yugoslavian immigrants … [people] from all over the soccer world.”

The reception he had at Sydney Airport on Sunday morning, with more than 500 fans turning out, was unlike anything seen for an individual footballer in this country, and Del Piero said he was delighted by the welcome. ”Yesterday was fantastic, I really appreciated it,” he said. ”The fans, this was perfect for me … It was a surprise but a good surprise.”

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.

Dividend imputation – $20bn for the taking

REMEMBER Kevin Rudd’s mining tax? It needed some tweaking in industry’s favour, but even then it would have hauled in massive revenue without harming investment, which is the holy grail of tax policy. So, the government planned to use it to fund a bonanza of sensible giveaways including lowering the company tax rate from 30 to 25 per cent.
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When the miners invested in a scare campaign with even higher rates of return than their mines, the rest of the business community had to answer that great question in life posed most recently at the Spice Girls’ performance at the London Olympic closing ceremony: ”Tell me what you want, what you really, really want.”

When push came to shove, few businesses and even fewer business associations campaigned for the package even though it was far and away the best break they were likely to get in a good while. It just wasn’t what they really, really wanted.

And so, here we are again, two years on, with business still seeking lower company tax. Government has put the challenge to business again saying it will cut company tax, but only if the Business Tax Working Group, comprising business, unions and tax experts, can identify which business tax concessions should be removed to fund it; the problem is, without ”Mining Tax Mark 1” the choices are much harder.

However, the removal of a single business tax concession could fund company tax reductions down to about 19 per cent. The dividend imputation scheme introduced in 1987 ended the double taxation of company profits by relieving Australian shareholders of personal tax payments on their dividends to the extent that their companies had already paid company tax.

Paying tax twice seems daft and unfair. But it costs a bomb – which raises that Spice Girls question. Is it ”really, really” the best thing we could be doing with more than $20 billion in tax revenue? It would be hard to forgo that kind of money in business tax without doing some economic good by lowering business’s cost of capital, but, by god, dividend imputation does it. Let me explain.

If dividend imputation lowers the cost of capital, it does so by increasing the demand for Australian shares and thus raising their price. But foreigners don’t benefit from imputation credits. So, abolishing dividend imputation to fund company tax cuts lowers tax on foreigners and increases it on domestic shareholders. And because Australian shares are such a small part of foreign investors’ portfolios, foreigners are much more responsive to changes in after-tax returns than Australian investors.

For instance if, in response to the changes, foreign investors raised their allocation to Australian equities from 3 to 4 per cent, that’s a third more foreign investment; while domestic shareholders would be far less responsive. What I’m proposing would even come with its own compensation package for those domestic shareholders that wanted to put their money elsewhere – they’d be able to sell out at new price highs.

This isn’t just theory. Econometric studies of the introduction of imputation in 1987 suggest that it didn’t increase share prices. Conversely, when British pension funds were recently stripped of similar imputation credits, foreign buyers snapped up the few shares offloaded by British funds with negligible price falls.

The BTWG knows all this, observing: ”In small open economies like Australia, the marginal investor is likely to be a foreign investor.” Which calls into question ”whether dividend imputation is likely to significantly lower the cost of capital for Australian companies”.

Put more bluntly, $20 billion of business tax revenue does not stimulate investment. One could do as much good for the economy by dispatching random cheques to Australian households. No wonder that, as they compete to attract each others’ capital, European countries have moved away from dividend imputation.

Then, in the next breath, the BTWG argues that dividend imputation is outside its remit, that its terms of reference seek to quarantine its deliberations to the business tax system. Call me quirky, but I’d say that dividend imputation is part of the business tax system.

So, I’ll tell you what I want, what I really, really want. I want the BTWG to consider these arguments and put them to government – preferably as recommendations, but, failing that, as clear observations rather than asides.

Do I expect our beleaguered government to jump on such an insight right away? No. But in Australian policymaking, such an insight has usually been the foundation for real progress, if not immediately then over a few electoral cycles as the inevitable crises rob governments of politically easy options and as political parties jockey to persuade us they’ve got a serious reform agenda to keep us, ahem … moving forward.

Nicholas Gruen is chief executive of Lateral Economics.

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.

Stocks edge up but volumes well down

THE sharemarket yesterday rose to its highest close since early May, lifted by the miners, as a recent recovery in commodity prices and a flurry of central bank stimulus fuelled hopes for stronger global growth and demand.
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The benchmark S&P/ASX200 Index rose 12.5 points, or 0.3 per cent, to 4402.5, while the broader All Ordinaries gained 11.6 points, or 0.3 per cent, to 4421.8.

The materials sector led the move, rising 1.9 per cent, and goldminers rose 2.2 per cent. Consumer staples and discretionary fell 0.6 and 0.4 per cent respectively, while industrials lost 0.6 per cent.

Meanwhile, the Australian dollar consolidated its gains from last week, trading around US105.4¢. Over the weekend, it jumped past the US106¢ mark, its highest point in six months.

Investors continued to dive into mining stocks on the back of the US Federal Reserve’s third round of quantitative easing to stimulate the fragile US economy.

”It’s probably a two-part story, not only is there a confidence boost from the quantitative easing from the Europeans and the Americans, but also the fact we’ve seen commodity prices rise in the last week or so,” said Darryl Conroy, market analyst at Suncorp Banking.

”Specifically metals have performed very well. Of course, iron ore, popping back over $US100 a tonne, has probably given our mining sector a much needed confidence boost as well,” Mr Conroy said.

BHP rose 84¢, or 2.5 per cent, to $34.15, while Rio Tinto added 92¢, or 1.6 per cent, to $57.50, Iluka Resources jumped $1.06, or 10.2 per cent, to $4.35.

Investors are keenly awaiting an announcement from Fortescue Metals about the restructuring of its debt. The troubled miner entered a trading halt on Friday after spiralling more than 14 per cent on Thursday last week.

Australia’s largest goldminer, Newcrest Mining continued its upward push, adding 76¢, or 2.7 per cent, to $29.12.

Gold traded around six-month highs, at around $US1770 an ounce.

All the big banks posted gains, with Westpac leading the charge, rising 31¢, or 1.3 per cent, to $24.42, ANZ added 16¢, or 0.7 per cent, to $24.39, NAB increased 7¢, or 0.28 per cent and CBA remain flat, adding 1¢ to finish at $55.29.

Retailers dragged on the market, department store David Jones lost 7¢, or 3 per cent, to $2.23, rival Myer fell 2¢, or 1.1 per cent, to $1.83.

Woolworths dropped 30¢, or 1 per cent, to $28.56, while Wesfarmers finished relatively flat, down 2¢ , to $24.53.

Mr Conroy said yesterday’s gains should be taken with a ”grain of salt”, as volumes remained low, indicating investor caution.

Average trading volume for the ASX200 is 820 million shares traded, while on the day, volume was below 680 million.

”One thing that is probably certain: more volatility to come,” Mr Conroy said.

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.

Benchmark index looks set to make a run towards 4800

IT’S been a tough few years for share investors but for the first time in a long time there is some good news coming from the Australian sharemarket.
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As this week’s analysis provided by Alan Clement, an international futures trader and member of the Australian Technical Analysts Association, shows, the

S&P/ASX 200 Index has been trading within the symmetrical triangle formed by the two dashed red lines on the chart since 2009.

In heavy selling in mid-2011 the index was sent tumbling from the upper boundary of the triangle to the lower boundary in one quick move, which ultimately exhausted the sellers and marked the low point for the year.

Following that fall, the market spent seven months consolidating in a tight wedge formation, only to fall through the bottom last May.

Buyers then quickly stepped in following the breakdown and have since pushed the market higher to recover almost all the losses, turning May’s selloff into a “higher low”, which Clement sees as a bullish sign.

At present the index is testing resistance at 4370 and actually broke through this level last Friday. However, we may see a short-term pullback as the market struggles around this resistance point.

“Ultimately, though, the market looks poised to break through the resistance and make for the upper boundary of the triangle, currently at around 4780,” Clement says.

While Australia’s economy is better than its US counterpart, Clement sees two factors holding our market back as Wall Street nears 2007 highs. The first is a high correlation with commodities markets, which are in consolidation phases of their own at present, with many commodity prices weakening this year. The second is the high Australian dollar, which stifles overseas investment by making stocks comparatively more expensive.

Those factors could impede upward momentum in the market. If and when the S&P/ASX 200 reaches the upper boundary of the symmetrical triangle there is more likely to be further consolidation within the triangle between 4700 and 4100 for about the next six months than an immediate move to the upper resistance level of 4900, Clement says.

Keep an eye out for a breakout from the triangle in either direction before the year’s end, as that would demand a rethink of strategy. Investors can gain exposure to the ASX 200 Index via CFDs, the SPI futures contract or exchange-traded funds such as State Street’s STW.

This column is not investment advice.

[email protected]南京夜网

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.

Sea Eagles in hunt for new prop as merry-go-round fires up

THE expected departures of Beau Ryan and Chris Heighington to Cronulla could pave the way for Manly prop Brent Kite to join Wests Tigers next season.
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While all parties were yesterday denying speculation of the NRL’s latest player merry-go-round, the Herald was told that player agents have been advised that the Sea Eagles are looking for a new prop next season.

The Sharks’ signing of Ryan and Heighington is also expected to result in the club releasing Kiwis international Jeremy Smith to join Newcastle next season. Liam Fulton and Lote Tuqiri are also expected to re-sign with the Tigers.

Both Manly and Wests Tigers are rumoured to have salary cap problems, with NRL salary cap auditor Ian Schubert reportedly refusing to register Sea Eagles fullback Brett Stewart’s new contract until the club resolves the problem.

A Manly official told the Herald that Kite was under contract next season, while the Sharks denied they had yet signed Ryan or Heighington.

However, it is understood that deals with both Tigers players are close to being finalised – much to the frustration of disappointed teammates, who were unhappy last year that the club released Bryce Gibbs and Andrew Fifita to make way for the signing of Adam Blair.

Captain and hooker Robbie Farah has also been linked to Parramatta but he is expected to remain at the Tigers for next season at least.

Speculation was rife a year ago about Ryan and Heighington joining Penrith this season but both stayed with the Tigers.

Heighington, now the English representative lock, was on contract with the Tigers until the end of the next season but the club is understood to have baulked at offering him an extension, given the failure of the squad to reach the finals this year.

Heighington was approached about a three-year deal with Cronulla, which he has clearly found difficult to ignore given his future at the Tigers was clouded.

Ryan’s impending departure is peculiar given his announcement on The Footy Show during the season that he had agreed to a new deal with the Tigers. Yet that deal was never formalised, and with Heighington’s future in the air, it appears certain it will not be.

Heighington and Ryan are good friends and are both popular members of the Tigers, which means the playing group will be hit hard by the departures, a year after Gibbs and Fifita left for Cronulla.

Ryan’s manager Wayne Beavis maintained he had signed ”no contract with Wests Tigers”, but that does appear to be a formality.

The Tigers are expected to announce that Tuqiri has agreed to a new deal with the club, which will ensure that his NRL career does not end with a broken arm.

Fulton is also believed to be close to finalising a new deal to remain at the Tigers beyond next season.

Meanwhile, Manly prop Jason King will be named today for Friday night’s preliminary final, despite failing to finish the match against North Queensland due to a shoulder injury. King was forced from the field with the same injury during the previous week’s loss to the Bulldogs.

Sea Eagles coach Geoff Toovey yesterday admitted there was a silver lining to his side being forced to play against North Queensland last weekend. ”It was actually a good thing for us, we ended up finding some form against North Queensland, and I think that will stand us in good stead for Melbourne.”

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.

Traders fear bike lanes could roll businesses

Cyclist numbers along Wellington Street, Collingwood, have been rising 20 per cent every year since 2004.TAILOR Peter Toumbourou has fought off major threats to his business during his many years in the rag trade – the lifting of tariffs and the arrival of cheap imports, and large buyers going out of business as retail conditions sagged.
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But the latest threat to his suit-making enterprise is one he never anticipated – a proposed ”Copenhagen-style” separated bicycle lane outside his factory’s front door.

”The thing that’s going to kill us doesn’t have tariffs, it has two wheels,” Mr Toumbourou says.

He manages Travellers Apparel on Wellington Street in Collingwood, the last major suit manufacturer still standing in Australia, with up to 120 people working for it.

The company tailors suits for several Australian labels, as well as making uniforms for large corporations and government agencies. Many of them collect their orders directly from the factory.

But the proposal to build a separated bike lane along Wellington Street includes the removal of 117 parking spaces and removing parking entirely from one side of the street. Mr Toumbourou stresses that he is in favour of promoting cycling, but says parking is ”the life blood” of his family’s business, with an estimated 60 to 80 trucks a day stopping there.

”Our problem is that we’ve got almost no other access to our building other than people parking in front of our factory,” he says.

The Yarra City Council will hear submissions on the proposal tonight and there is a chance it could vote on the issue. If not, it is unlikely to be decided before elections are held next month.

Wellington Street is a major and preferred north-south bicycle route in Melbourne’s inner north. According to the City of Yarra, the route is booming, with cyclist numbers growing 20 per cent every year since 2004.

This year, the council recorded 416 city-bound cyclists on Wellington Street in the morning peak, compared with 101 cyclists in 2004.

Bicycle Network Victoria’s Garry Brennan says the proposal to build separated bike lanes is excellent, because the street is already choked at the peak, and there is no capacity to increase traffic volumes along there other than by bicycle.

He says the concerns of businesses such as Travellers Apparel regarding lost parking are legitimate, but that the proposal includes options such as accessing parking in nearby back streets, or imposing time restrictions on parking spaces currently available all day.

”If these businesses need parking, there are solutions,” Mr Brennan says.

The Textiles Clothing and Footwear Union is asking the City of Yarra to find a compromise that would not jeopardise the livelihoods of its members who work at the Collingwood factory.

”If you drive out businesses such as Travellers Apparel through the unintended consequences of policies like this one, you actually lose what is part of the great charm and attractiveness of communities like Collingwood,” says Michele O’Neil, the union’s national secretary.

Follow MySmallBusiness on Twitter @MySmallBusiness

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.

Reynolds gives credit to father, teammates

Adam Reynolds’s only regret last Saturday night was that his father, Mark, couldn’t be at ANZ Stadium for the Rabbitohs’ historic finals defeat of Canberra after breaking his foot a few days earlier. ”Unfortunately, he had to watch the game from home but he has told me how proud he was,” Reynolds said of his record-breaking feat of becoming only the second South Sydney player to score 200 points in a season. The NRL rookie of the year crossed for a try and kicked seven goals to take his tally for the season to 204 – second only to Eric Simms, who achieved the feat four times between 1967 and 1971. While unaware of the achievement until after the game, Reynolds said he owed much to his father for the hours he spent with him practising kicking since the Rabbitohs halfback started playing at four years of age. Despite having a strike rate of almost 85 per cent with his goalkicking this season, Reynolds praised his teammates for his points-scoring feat. ”The boys have really made that possible for me to score so many points through all the tries I did and giving me the opportunity to kick goals,” he said.
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THE NUMBERS

115 – Metres Issac Luke makes per game. He has run for more than 100 metres in 16 of his 21 games this year, and is lengths ahead of his final counterparts. Cameron Smith is the next best (68.7m), ahead of Matt Ballin (43.2m) and Michael Ennis (23.5m).

92 – Tackles missed by Josh Reynolds this season. The Bulldogs five-eighth has missed more than any player remaining in the competition, ahead of Anthony Watmough (85), David Taylor (84) and Michael Ennis (82).

1975 – The year Manly last lost a preliminary final. They went down 28-13 to eventual premiers, Eastern Suburbs.

1 – Tries Joe Galuvao, Vic Mauro and George Rose need to score to avoid the end-of-season nudey run.

ODD FACT

South Sydney have only played the Bulldogs in a finals match on two occasions. One of them was the 1967 grand final, which they won 12-10. The other time was a qualifying final loss in 1986.

RUSSELL CROWE

Russell Crowe @russellcrowe – ”17km bike ride, shoulder routine, bench dumb-bells.”

WHAT WOULD DESSIE SAY?

Alessandro Del Piero was yesterday asked how he would cope with the level of expectation on his shoulders at Sydney FC. Here’s what Dessie would say: ”The Western Sydney Wanderers are a very good football side. They’ve signed fellow Italian Adam D’Apuzzo from APIA Leichhardt.”

THE LAST TIME SOUTH SYDNEY WON A PRELIMINARY FINAL…

 Michael Maguire wasn’t born

 Hawthorn won the VFL Premiership

 The top-grossing movie was Fiddler on the Roof

 George Harrison’s My Sweet Lord topped the charts worldwide

 William McMahon was prime minister of Australia

 Evonne Goolagong was named Australian of the Year

 Western Suburbs won the wooden spoon

  The first cricket one-day international was played

 Charles Coody won the US Masters

 Arsenal were English First Division champions

THE BEST OF THE BEARDS

If you were picking a team from the final four sides based on facial hair, this would be the best of it. David Taylor barely qualifies in beard or five-eighth stakes, but he’s as good a No.6 as the North Sydney Beards could afford. Frank Pritchard will lead the side, just shaving Sam Kasiano for the captaincy tag. Jaiman Lowe was the bolter and will make his representative debut. Coach Russell Crowe, who is in New York shooting his latest film, will do his coaching via Skype.

Team name: North Sydney Beards

  1. Brett Stewart

 2. Sisa Waqa

 3. Frank Pritchard (c)

 4. Greg Inglis

 5. Dane Nielsen

 6. David Taylor

 7. Glenn Stewart

 8. Sam Kasiano

 9. Nathan Peats

 10. Jaiman Lowe

 11. Roy Asotasi

 12. Eddy Pettybourne

 13. Anthony Watmough

 Coach: Russell Crowe

 18th man: Matt Gillett – He’s not in the finals and he has no beard but with that name, it’s a no-brainer.

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.

Game basks in the glow of A-League’s newest superstar

The place card at yesterday’s media conference summed it all up: ”Alessandro Del Piero – The Star”.
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That he is, to say the least. Of course, that ”star” technically referred to the hotel where Del Piero was staying, but rarely has there been such a fitting double entendre.

Those outside the game have dubbed it the ”Del Piero effect”, and the moniker looks likely to stick. He is proving a one-man publicity machine like no other.

Wonderfully, and somewhat frustratingly, Football Federation Australia could not engineer a marketing campaign for the A-League half as effective as this signing. Newspapers and news bulletins are bulging with football at the height of the NRL and AFL finals series.

It is an extraordinary scenario, and long-suffering fans are wondering when they will wake up.

We have all sat there, in coffee shops and pubs, staring glumly into our lattes and lagers wondering what could be done to shift the local game from its idle state. That long-craved spotlight, however fleeting, is here.

What stood out about Del Piero yesterday was his impeccable demeanour. Two decades at the height of arguably the world’s toughest league could give rise to all kinds of arrogance, perhaps justifiably.

But his humility was most refreshing. There was no big-noting. The closest was when he offered a gentle reminder that for all the expectations that exist here, they are not even close to what he has had before. Yet even that was delivered so subtly that the reporter who asked laughed.

When pressed about the 2006 World Cup and the infamous last-second penalty earned by Fabio Grosso, groans and jeers were audible from the fans standing at the rear of the room. But Del Piero’s reply appeased all with a mix of humour and honesty.

His English is better than most expected, but even he fist-pumped when the media conference evolved into Italian. This circus will take a bit of getting used to for everyone, not least the man himself. One gets the feeling the first time he will truly be comfortable will come later today when he trains for the first time at Allianz Stadium.

In the midst of such exuberance, it is hard not to be sucked into thinking Del Piero is the panacea for all the game’s ills. If only.

However, while football still battles myriad issues, his arrival is a pointer to the potential within. It is another reminder in the slowly growing showcase that the game has the capacity to go where other codes cannot.

It is a moment in time to reflect on what is possible if the game pulls its collective finger out. What if the next Del Piero is running around in western Sydney? Can we find him? Can we turn him into a star of the A-League and then Europe?

The Australian public is clearly hungry for heroes, perhaps hungrier than it thought. Del Piero should serve to inspire us to find and cultivate our own, not fill us with the dread of what happens when, inevitably, his time is up. Such was the pull of the Italian that at yesterday’s media conference, journalists from all sectors of the media and walks of life were drawn to him. Those media outlets seldom kind to football, oft-defined by repeated, disparaging references to ”soccer”, were among those keenest to embrace Del Piero mania. How the tide can turn.

It was only last month that the game was back on its knees, beholden to dramatic headlines and explosive images about the ”ethnic” problem. Now, parents who might have wondered whether to sign their families up for Sydney FC and Western Sydney Wanderers memberships have been scrambling for tickets.

The worry now is not what will happen if you go to an A-League match. The worry is what you’ll be missing out on if you don’t go.

On that note, tickets go on sale this Friday for Sydney FC’s first home match of the season, against the Newcastle Jets. They are expected to fly out the door. If you want prime position to watch Del Piero unleash his magic, don’t wait until game day. A sell-out is not out of the question.

The spotlight? We could get used to this.

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.

Blown away: Del puts wind up fans over that penalty

SIX years on, a nation still wakes up in the middle of the night. Did Fabio Grosso dive? Or did Lucas Neill bring him down?
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Either way, the decision of Spanish referee Luis Cantalejo to award that penalty in the round of 16 match at the World Cup remains enough to spark heated debate from Australian fans.

Perhaps only Grosso and Neill know whether it was a penalty, but that didn’t stop the question being put to Grosso’s friend, Alessandro Del Piero, at his first Australian news conference yesterday.

”Because we were 10 [men], Fabio said to me: ‘Ale, I am very tired’ – in the last minute of the game, injury time – ‘I’m really tired,”’ Del Piero said. ”And I am thinking probably that’s why, the wind and something else put Fabio downstairs.”

The answer brought universal laughter at yesterday’s press conference before he got serious.

”But I think, after jokes, sometimes there are moments where you have everything. And for us 2006 was the perfect World Cup,” he said. ”Everything goes in the right place, also [in] that match. And that’s why we won.”

Grosso confirmed two years ago that he ”accentuated a little bit” when he felt contact from the Socceroos defender – although he, like Del Piero, believed it was a penalty.

“It’s been a long time since 2006 but I say this with as much sincerity as I possibly can,” Grosso said. “In this instance when Neill slid in, maybe I accentuated it a little bit.

”However, you must remember it was the last minute of an extremely difficult game, and everyone was tired.”

While Francesco Totti would score the resulting penalty to knock Australia out, Grosso would go on to score the first goal of the semi-final win over Germany and then net the winning goal in the penalty shoot-out in the final.

In an interesting twist, Grosso, now 34, has also shown interest in moving to the A-League to finish his career.

SEBASTIAN HASSETT

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.

Once more with feeling: Storm face old finals foes

MELBOURNE coach Craig Bellamy isn’t silly enough to claim there will be no emotion in Friday night’s preliminary final clash against Manly.
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The two clubs have battled regularly and – in the case of last year’s infamous Donnybrookvale clash – violently. They have also clashed in grand finals in 2007 and 2008, giving the feeling that the history between the two sides is incomparable to any NRL clubs over the past five years. Combine that with a grand-final qualifier and Bellamy fully expects emotion. Just not the variety that causes sideline brawls and send-offs.

”You’d hope that we have some emotion about it, because it’s a pretty important game,” Bellamy said yesterday. ”We have to channel our emotion into what we do out there and making sure we’re doing what helps us perform well. That’s all we’ll be concerned about.

”There’s obviously been some things in the past between the two clubs but that is in the past and that won’t matter come Friday night.”

Melbourne beat the Sea Eagles in the 2007 decider, while the Sea Eagles returned the favour in 2008. Both teams went on to win a grand final subsequently, although, as we all know, Melbourne’s two victories since 2007 are followed by a hefty asterisk.

Recent history has been more maroon than purple. The Sea Eagles are the current premiers, while the Storm were bundled out at this stage of the season last year, losing to the Warriors in the preliminary final. That led to suggestions that the Storm could not lift in the finals, that their forwards were too small and that they were too reliant on Cameron Smith, Billy Slater and Cooper Cronk. Bellamy admitted he changed his team’s routine this year in a bid to avoid a repeat of last year’s loss.

”We probably haven’t worked as hard as we did last year [during the break for the semi-finals],” Bellamy said. ”When I say ‘hard’, we haven’t had as many sessions as last year. We just thought ‘we’ve got the week off, so we may as well make the most of it and rest up a little bit’.”

Bellamy sees different circumstances and a different team, too.

”We’d like to think we learnt a few of things from last year. At the start of the year, we thought we needed a couple of bigger bodies in our team and we’ve done that. We just need to make sure that we train well this week and hopefully put a good performance in on Friday night,” he said.

One big difference from last year is the fact that the Storm were the standout team of the qualifying finals stage, in contrast to 2011. And they accounted for South Sydney without five players who could ordinarily demand selection – Jason Ryles (hamstring), Todd Lowrie (pectoral muscle), Anthony Quinn (calf), Will Chambers (hamstring) and Sika Manu (back). All could be set for a return against the Sea Eagles.

”Hopefully I’ll have a few headaches there,” Bellamy said. ”All of them are coming along pretty good. A couple of them, we’ll know [today] whether they’re right to play and a couple of them, we won’t know until Thursday. But we’ll give them until Thursday.

”The guys that have been out have played most of the year. We’ll pick what we think is the best team out of what comes out of our injuries.”

The Sea Eagles have not been at their best through the finals but Bellamy is wary as they historically produce their best football at this stage of the year.

”It was a tough, physical game, which is what you expect from Manly,” Bellamy said of the Sea Eagles’ semi-final win over North Queensland. ”At this time of year, they’ve got a very battle-hardened side … They know what semi-finals are about.”

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.