Football won’t collaborate with AFL: Gallop

Football Federation Australia boss David Gallop has issued a blunt warning to new AFL chief executive, Gillon McLachlan: hands off the Western Sydney Wanderers.

The runaway success of the Wanderers – formed virtually overnight in 2012 and on a fraction of the GWS Giants’ mammoth budget – has been the source of amazement among those at AFL House, not least from the game’s highest office.

But instead of fighting the rival sport – currently in the midst of unprecedented growth – the AFL has instead held out the olive branch in the hope of joint growth in western Sydney.

However, Gallop told Fairfax Media that the suggestion the two codes could work together seemed implausible in the current environment.

“What would that [working with the AFL] entail? At the end of the day, we are in a competitive environment,” Gallop said. “We want people to choose our game to play and watch.

“Our popularity is booming and we are going to concentrate on our sport – and the business of our sport.”

Speaking at a western Sydney business lunch hosted by the Giants last Friday, which was attended by Wanderers’ chief executive John Tsatsimas, McLachlan said he liked the idea of the two clubs working together, hailing the Wanderers’ success as good for the Giants.

“I think it’s great for us. I think the success of the Wanderers is actually incredibly exciting for the Giants – a community binding behind one team,” he said. “I think if we can collaborate and partner with the Wanderers ongoing, I think that’d be fantastic. This is a very big market.

“I think seeing teams being successful out here is great for us and what we think we can achieve with the Giants.”

Apart from the Wanderers’ week-to-week success, the AFL remains envious of the popularity of the A-League Sydney derby, which has ascended into the pantheon of the nation’s must-attend sporting events.

Remarkably, of the seven times the Wanderers have played Sydney FC, six times the match has sold out.

Matches between the Giants and the Sydney Swans have never sold out; nor have they ever come close. While the Giants finally defeated their older brothers in round one this season, the relative disparity between the two teams has dented the credibility of the rivalry.

However, speaking at a school visit in Auburn Public School in Sydney’s west on Monday, McLachlan said the east-west rivalry would soon be replicated in the AFL.

“Some ask if we’re concerned about the success of the Western Sydney Wanderers. Quite the contrary – we are delighted by what they have achieved as it only further enhances Western Sydney’s status as one of the great sporting regions in Australia,” he said.

“I’ve also got no doubt that it won’t be long before the Giants’ rivalry with the Swans is akin to that between Sydney FC and the Western Sydney Wanderers: clubs from the east and west fighting for bragging rights in front of packed stadiums across the city.”

Privately, the FFA is still fuming at the way the AFL has responded to its requests to find a suitable venue for the A-League grand final, should Melbourne Victory or Melbourne City – two of the favourites for this year’s title – win the rights to host the event.

The FFA is looking to secure either Etihad Stadium, which has already hosted three A-League grand finals, or the MCG. The date it is looking at is Sunday, May 17, which is later than usual because of the break for the Asian Cup in January.

However, the AFL claims Victory and the Docklands stadium management approached it in July about keeping May 10 free and says it was only alerted to the request for a change in dates a fortnight ago.

Should a suitable venue not be found in Victoria, and the opponent be from NSW, the Victory is even contemplating shifting the match to ANZ Stadium to capitalise on a blockbuster pay day.


Jets coach Phil Stubbins defends Mark Birighitti after Wellington setback

SUPPORT: Mark Birighitti.

JETS coach Phil Stubbins appears certain to back goalkeeper Mark Birighitti despite the likely availability of Ben Kennedy for Saturday’s clash with Perth at nib Stadium.

Birighitti has attracted criticism from fans after his unconvincing display in Sunday’s 4-1 loss to Wellington.

The return of Kennedy, who has been cleared to resume flying after overcoming an ear infection that has ruled him out of Newcastle’s past two games, presents Stubbins with a selection dilemma.

Stubbins said Birighitti and Kennedy were ‘‘both great goalkeepers’’ and any A-League coach would be delighted to have two glovemen of their ability at his disposal.

While Newcastle’s squad will not be named until Thursday, Stubbins voiced his support for Birighitti and hinted that he would be retained.

‘‘I’m not going to discuss any player selections prior to the game, but the good thing is that we’ve got two very good goalkeepers and obviously it’s a bonus that Ben is back,’’ Stubbins said.

‘‘But Mark is an Australian international goalkeeper. He’s been someone that always gives his best for his club and his country.

‘‘He’s perhaps had a couple of moments [against Wellington] that he could have done slightly better with, but we all know how much potential Mark has. He’s 23 years of age and it’s a learning curve.

‘‘He shouldn’t be beating himself up over a mistake or something he could have done better.

‘‘That’s all part of the learning experience for a young goalkeeper.’’

Stubbins said it would be unfair to pin the blame for last week’s setback in New Zealand on individuals, declaring Newcastle were collectively below their best.

‘‘I’m not going to single any player out,’’ he said. ‘‘We’re a team.’’

While Birighitti seems likely to get a chance to redeem himself, Stubbins said he also had confidence in Kennedy, who has appeared in 91 A-League games but only six since Birighitti’s arrival three seasons ago.

‘‘I’ve got enormous faith in Ben and I want these goalkeepers to be fighting for the position,’’ he said.

‘‘Although they’ve got intense rivalry, and that’s a good thing, they’re still a team within a team.

‘‘We’ve got two goalkeepers there who most clubs would take in an instant.’’

Lowy flags expansion, Page 44


Norfolk Island leaders argue against rule by Canberra bureaucrats

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Federal bureaucrats in Canberra should not be left to run Norfolk Island, says the Speaker in Norfolk Island’s Legislative Assembly, David Buffett Mr Buffett said the federal government’s intention to abolish the island’s nine-person assembly was unprecedented in Australian history.

He said the Department of Infrastructure and Regional Development had “at this stage not demonstrated the capacity” to run the island.

“The bureaucracy is grabbing the limelight,” he said.

Mr Buffett travelled to Parliament House in Canberra on Wednesday with the island’s Chief Minister, Lisle Snell to lodge a petition of more than 740 signatures advocating the island’s residents have a say in how their 35 square kilometre home is governed.

The petition, signed by the island’s residents and descendants of the original settlers, called for a referendum or plebiscite before the island’s assembly was abolished.

Federal Territories Minister Jamie Briggs was coy last week about his plans for Norfolk, simply saying that “a range of options” were on the table.

Repealing the Norfolk Island Act 1979 and with it self-governance has been put on the agenda because of the island’s dire financial state, particularly following the global financial crisis.

Since 2010 Norfolk Island has not been raising enough taxes to pay for services for its 1670 residents and the island’s finances stay afloat on federal government subsidies of up to $8 million a year.

A quarter of the island’s population has left since the economic downturn and proposed changes would replace the existing 12 per cent GST on the island with Australia’s tax system.

Mr Buffett noted the Queensland Legislative Council voted itself out of existence 90 years ago to form that state’s unicameral Parliament but that it was not forced on the state.


Trainer Robert Smerdon hopes Politeness will be on best behaviour in Myer Classic

Enough pace: trainer Robert Smerdon is happy with Politeness heading towards Saturday’s Myer Classic. Photo: Anthony Johnson Enough pace: trainer Robert Smerdon is happy with Politeness heading towards Saturday’s Myer Classic. Photo: Anthony Johnson

Enough pace: trainer Robert Smerdon is happy with Politeness heading towards Saturday’s Myer Classic. Photo: Anthony Johnson

Enough pace: trainer Robert Smerdon is happy with Politeness heading towards Saturday’s Myer Classic. Photo: Anthony Johnson

Wizard of Odds: Live Odds, Form and Alerts for all Racing

A middle draw for Politeness in Saturday’s Myer Classic will give her the chance to run out a strong mile. Trainer Robert Smerdon had targeted the group 1 and had been pleased with her  progress until her fifth behind Sweet Idea in the Tristarc Stakes at Flemington. “They stopped and started and it didn’t suit her,” he said. “We have had this race in mind for the whole preparation and we are going to have her at her best on the day. She has only had the one go at a mile and over-raced, but there looks to be enough pace for her on Saturday.  We really understand her well now and she is a much better horse, so we’ve got some hope in her.”

Small fields alarm ATC Australian Turf Club racing manager Matt Rudolph has opened a review of Saturday field sizes in Sydney after  disappointing acceptances for Rosehill on Saturday. There were only 71 acceptors, already reduced by two with scratchings. “We are looking to find out why we can’t get runners on a Saturday,” Rudolph said. “The small field without each-way betting is costing us turnover and it is not a good sight.”  The news was better for Randwick on Melbourne Cup day with 172 nominations for the nine races, where prizemoney is $40,000 instead of Saturday’s $85,000.  “Everyone seems to want to have a runner on Melbourne Cup day, I’m not sure if that has an effect on the Saturday races but it is something we will look at,” Rudolph said.

Something special for KeysKen Keys added another success to his sensational spring when Bring Something won the Bendigo Cup on Wednesday. Keys will hunt his first group win with Rich Enuff in the Coolmore Stud Stakes on Saturday, but Bring Something could be the horse to bring him back for the Melbourne Cup next year. “I don’t think I want spring to stop, it’s wonderful,” Keys said on TVN. “It’s crazy, we have got 18 [horses] in work and we are playing with the top end of the level.  We know it has to stop but it will be fun when it does. I think he can, with credibility, go to the Queen Elizabeth Stakes and then that will be put away time and I think we have got an exciting horse to look forward to next year.” Bring Something grabbed Massiyn to win by a half-head with favourite Order Of The Sun almost two lengths away.

Messara gets a kick out of price Paul Messara wonders what price Scissor Kick would be in the Coolmore Stud Stakes if he had won five straight. The  colt was  one of the standouts of the early spring in Sydney and the $16 on offer at Ladbrokes  surprised his trainer. “I think he has the best form in the race,” Messara said. “Won three in a row then was wide all the way in the Golden Rose, before having no luck in the Stan Fox behind  Caulfield Guineas winner [Shooting To Win]. If he had won five on the trot, he would be favourite.”

The ultimate racing guide with the latest information on fields, form, tips, market fluctuations and odds, available on mobile, tablet and desktop.


Bradman honours bowl over legends

Old foes: Sachin Tendulkar and Steve Waugh at the Sydney Cricket Ground on Wednesday. Photo: Cole BennettsThey are universally regarded as two of the greatest cricketers of all time but Sachin Tendulkar says when he and Shane Warne visited Sir Donald Bradman for his 90th birthday they were so daunted they couldn’t decide who should speak first.

“I remember Warnie was with me in the car and we were discussing who was going to ask the first question,” Tendulkar said on Wednesday night. “I said, ‘You are from Australia, so you should start’. And he was like, ‘No, you’re a batsman, so you can relate to him much better than what I can’.”

It turns out Warne was probably right. Test cricket’s world record run scorer was speaking in a visit back to what he declared his favourite ground, inducted alongside Steve Waugh as the latest Bradman Foundation honourees at a gala dinner at the SCG.

The Indian maestro scored three centuries in five Tests at the ground at an average of 157, none better than the unbeaten 241 in 2004 in what also happened to be Waugh’s final Test.

“The SCG is my favourite ground. I have always maintained that. It brings back all the memories,” Tendulkar said, speaking publicly in Australia for the first time in six years. “I was just outside in the car and I said it feels great to be back. It’s been a very social venue to me. Right back to 1991, which was the first time I played here.

“[It’s] just the feel of the ground. Whenever I walked in I felt I could go on and on batting. I just enjoyed the atmosphere, and the pavilion especially. It’s a fabulous pavilion with a lot of history. It is the heritage and the impact all the players have left on this ground. Performing against Australia always gave me a lot of satisfaction because I knew if you perform against the leading side that everyone takes notice of your performance. It is a different kind of satisfaction.”

Waugh, describing Tendulkar as “probably the modern-day Bradman”, was also honoured at a venue in which he enjoyed no shortage of highlights, in particular his final-ball ‘Perfect Day’ century against England in 2003. “It was one of those balls where it just came off the bat perfectly, it didn’t feel like I hit it hard, and all of a sudden it was like someone turned the volume up,” the former Australian captain said. “It was an amazing experience.”

It was Tendulkar who took the catch at the SCG a year later that spelled the end of Waugh’s Test batting career.

Tendulkar said there was a strong mutual admiration between him and Bradman when they met 16 years ago. “One thing was just to be able to meet the great man but also to know the funnier side of him,” Tendulkar said of their meeting at his Adelaide home in 1998. “I asked him a question: ‘what would you have averaged in today’s cricket?’ He thought about it and said ‘Maybe 70’. The natural reaction was ‘why only 70 and not 99?’ He said, ‘C’mon, that’s not bad for a 90-year-old man’.”

Twitter @ChrisBarrett_


Muhammad Ali, George Foreman and the Rumble in the Jungle 40 years on

Fight time … Muhammad Ali and George Foreman during the Rumble in the Jungle Fight time … Muhammad Ali and George Foreman during the Rumble in the Jungle

Muhammad Ali with adoring fans in Zaire before the fight.

Fight time … Muhammad Ali and George Foreman during the Rumble in the Jungle

Fight time … Muhammad Ali and George Foreman during the Rumble in the Jungle

Back in the day, it was everything you ever wanted in a sporting event: the power and the passion, the agony and the ecstasy, the staggering saga with the twist in the tale and the staggering denouement.

See, it was 40 years ago today, that the boxing world reached its pinnacle of world interest, when the legendary “Rumble in the Jungle” took place in Kinshasa, Zaire, in the early hours of the morning, perfectly suited for American prime time television, carried by new-fangled satellites to 100 countries around the world.

In the blue corner, the most beloved if controversial man on the planet, the one-time heavyweight champeen champion of all the world, famous and infamous alike – Muhammad Ali – who had become a Muslim, changed his name, and refused the Vietnam draft, only to be stripped of his titles and be sentenced to jail, then saved on appeal.

In the red corner, the incumbent World Champion, George Foreman, pretty much the hardest hitter that ever lived – legendary for his “anything punch,” because “anything I hits wit’ it, I breaks.” Joe Frazier could have told you about it, but after being knocked down a staggering six times in two rounds before the ref stopped the fight to make Foreman champion, he probably wouldn’t remember.

But Ali is not intimidated.

“George Foreman is nothing but a big mummy” he told the press before the fight. “I’ve officially named him ‘The Mummy.’ He moves like a slow mummy, and there ain’t no mummy gonna whup the great Muhammad Ali.”

Few experts give Muhammad a chance for all that, but the Zairean crowd is with him from the first, as the man who “floats like a butterfly, stings like a bee,” dances around the ring in the steamy night.

“Ali bomaye!” they roar again and again. “Ali, kill him!”

But from the second round on, it looks like it’s Muhammad that’s getting killed. For as the crowd groans, Ali leans back on the ropes, his forearms covering his head and much of his torso, as Foreman unleashes punch after punch . . . not realising that it is those very ropes that are taking much of the force. For in a deliberate tactic, as brilliant as it is innovative, Ali is doing “rope-a-dope,” inviting to Foreman to expend all his energy. To encourage him to keep going, Ali keeps taunting his opponent: “Didn’t hurt, George.” “Try again, George, I barely felt that one.” “Hit harder! Show me something, George,” and “That don’t hurt. I thought you were supposed to be bad.”

After seven rounds, both fighters are exhausted and retreat to their corners, but in a moment of inspiration, Ali jumps up and away from trainer Angelo Dundee, to stand on his stool and lead the crowd in the chant!

“Ali . . . bomaye! Ali . . . bomaye!”

Foreman looks up, and groans. Where is this man getting the energy from?

At the beginning of the 8th round, Ali comes out, and after the first few exhausted punches from Foreman, leans in close and says, “is that all you got, George? Is THAT all you got? You done now?”

“Yup,” Foreman told me he replied to Ali, “that’s pretty much it.”

And so it is. Ali unleashes.  After a flurry of blows right on Foreman’s noggin, finally, the denouement, as so evocatively described by the great American writer, Norman Mailer, in his book, The Fight. Tell ’em what happened then, Norm.

“Then a big projectile exactly the size of a fist in a glove drove into the middle of Foreman’s mind, the best punch of the startled night, the blow Ali saved for a career. Foreman’s arms flew out to the side like a man with a parachute jumping out of plane, and in this doubled-over position he tried to wander out the centre of the ring. All the while his eyes were on Ali and he looked up with no anger as if Ali, indeed, was the man he knew best in the world, would see him on his dying days. Vertigo took George Foreman and revolved him. Still bowing from the waist in this uncomprehending position, eyes on Muhammad Ali all the way, he started to tumble and topple and fall even as he did not wish to go down. His mind was held with magnets high as his championship and his body was seeking the ground.”

Foreman fell, and Ali won, a greater legend than ever before.

Forty years on, however, the true twist in the tail.

While Foreman, amazingly, seems all but untroubled by his long years in the ring, and remains as a preacher and flogger of barbecue grills, still one of the most charismatic people I’ve ever interviewed, Ali is the most tragic figure in world sport – a man the rest of us loved to near-death, as we so loved seeing him box, he kept going to the point of being a shambling wreck.

And yet no-one is a bigger fan than Foreman himself.

“Ali transcends boxing,” Foreman said last month. “Muhammad Ali has always been bigger than boxing. I say Ali was the greatest man because there has never been a man so young and so good at what he did, give up so much. I say boxing is too small for Muhammad Ali. He changes the very world. No other boxer could do that.”

True enough. One of the strangest and saddest sagas in sport.

Twitter: @Peter_Fitz


Young Jets defy age gap to make Asian qualifiers

BRIGHT FUTURES: Young Matildas Hannah Southwell, left, and Kobie Ferguson at Adamstown Oval on Thursday. Picture: Jonathan CarrollNEWCASTLE Jets women’s coach Peter McGuinness believes teenagers Hannah Southwell and Kobie Ferguson will not be just making up the numbers when they travel to Vietnam with the Young Matildas next week.

The 15-year-old Jets W-League players were named on Wednesday in Australia’s squad of 23 for the Asian Football Confederation under-19 championship qualifiers in Hanoi between November 5 and 9.

Having already represented Australia’s Mini Matildas at the AFC under-16 women’s championship qualifiers in Malaysia last month, Southwell and Ferguson spent last week in a training camp in Canberra as part of a 26-player Young Matildas squad.

That group was trimmed to 23 for the AFC qualifiers against Hong Kong on Wednesday, Singapore on November 7 and host nation Vietnam on November 9.

‘‘For a couple of 15-year-olds making it into the under-19 national side, it’s a great achievement for them, and I would envisage that both of them will get game time,’’ McGuinness said.

Young Matildas coach Ante Juric included Southwell and Ferguson alongside Mini Matildas teammates Ellie Carpenter, Alex Chidiac and Princess Ibini-Isei.

‘‘We’ve had a number of high-quality training camps in Canberra recently, with the majority of players currently involved in the Westfield W-League,’’ Juric said.

‘‘In addition, I have included a number of the mini-Matildas who recently performed well at the AFC under-16 championship qualifiers in Malaysia.

‘‘We are all looking forward to the challenge of the upcoming three matches with the ultimate goal of qualifying for the AFC under-19 women’s championship next year,’’ Juric said.

‘‘I am very confident that this group of players have the necessary qualities to be successful.’’

Southwell made her senior debut in Newcastle’s 5-1 victory over Western Sydney Wanderers at Marconi Stadium on October 19 as the youngest goalkeeper in W-League history.

She was listed to back up against Brisbane Roar at Magic Park last Saturday but was ruled out in the warm-up due to tight hip flexors and fatigue after last week’s Young Matildas camp.

A central midfielder, Ferguson is yet to play a W-League game, but McGuinness has been impressed with her performance and attitude at training against more experienced players.

‘‘Kobie has got very good feet, a very good passing range and understands the game quite well, and she’ll fit in quite nicely,’’ he said.

‘‘She trains with our group and is doing quite well in and around and against some of the more seasoned players.

‘‘She’s a train-on player, so she’s not registered, but she can be called on if required.’’

The top team from the qualifiers in Hanoi advance to next year’s AFC under-19 women’s championship in Nanjing, China, from August 19 to 30.


NHRU: Newcastle Hunter Rugby Union boss Phil Payne stands down

BREAK: Phil Payne.NEWCASTLE and Hunter Rugby Union will start next season with a new president and general manager after Phil Payne’s decision not to seek re-election.

Payne told the board this week that he was standing down as president after 14 years at the helm.

The former Hamilton second-rower will also relinquish his position on the NSW Country Rugby Union board.

Payne’s decision follows the sudden resignation of general manager Shelley Youman in September after less than five months in the job.

Her predecessor, Fenton Coull, who retired in April, has been acting in a caretaker role.

The board will advertise the position, which is primarily an administration role, from this weekend.

Payne was one of four board members up for election.

Board members serve two-year terms with half the board up for election each year.

Greg Sellers, Ray Warry and John Tate are expected to stand again.

Nominations for the board, including president, close on Friday. Club delegates will vote on the board positions at the annual general meeting at No.2 Sportsground on November 24.

Payne was elected as president in 2000 after serving as vice-president of the Newcastle Wildfires before their axing from the Sydney competition.

‘‘I have had 14 years in the job and I think it is time to hand over to someone else,’’ Payne said.

‘‘Adding to the decision is that fact I am travelling overseas for three months from January. You can’t be president and be away for a quarter of the season at an important time of the year.

‘‘I have offered to assist in any way.

‘‘At the moment I am acting GM because Fenton is away.

‘‘In terms of the board I will be taking a total break. Same with Country.’’

Payne was ‘‘proud’’ of the growth and improved financial position of the union under his charge.

‘‘We have achieved an enormous amount of things,’’ he said. ‘‘The first Test match in Newcastle, the redevelopment of No.2, the British and Irish Lions visit, six straight Country championships, we have an increase in sponsorship, the introduction of a full-time general manager … all those sorts of things are the positives which I am proud of.’’

The low point of Payne’s term was the board’s four-year battle with Easts over their relegation from Premier Rugby in 2009, eventually resolved in 2013 through court-ordered mediation.


Three new directors walk onto Real NRL board


NO ballot was required for the Newcastle Rugby League board on Tuesday night after only three nominations were received for the 10-person committee.

Former Cessnock president Kane Bradley, ex-Lakes United president Jason Allen and Newcastle league life member Brad Morgan nominated for the board to join existing directors Trevor Crow, Mal Graham, Anthony Rodwell, Mark Singleton, John Crooks, Mark Hanlon and Charlie Haggett.

Former general manager John Fahey considered nominating for the board but opted out due to work commitments.

Three vacancies were created by the loss of vice-chairman Steve Doran, Doug Gall and Matt Harris.

There has been a casual vacancy since Harris stood down late last year to apply for the chief executive’s position, which he was appointed to.

Asked if he was disappointed to receive the minimum three nominations for the board, Harris said: ‘‘There’s a couple of different ways to look at it. I’ve been very happy with the current board and they’ve obviously embraced the need to move forward and make some change.

‘‘I would have been disappointed if there had been too many changes, obviously, because there was one vacant position and we had another two guys who were not standing again.

‘‘There was always going to be potentially three new faces on the board, which I think is a good number.

‘‘The three guys that will join the board have plenty to bring.’’

The new board of directors will be officially appointed at the annual general meeting on November 18.

Bradley won a premiership with the Goannas in 2003 and later captained the club and served as president.

Allen was a two-try hero in Lakes’ 2006 premiership victory over Nelson Bay and also later became club president.

The centre or fullback earlier played with Western Suburbs and in the lower grades at the Knights.

Morgan has had more than 40 years of involvement in Newcastle Rugby League as a player, coach and junior administrator.


Darius Boyd deal crucial to Knights’ new crew

GOODNIGHT: Darius Boyd won’t be in Knights livery much longer. DARIUS Boyd is expected to be an ex-Newcastle Knight before the end of the week, sparing him from joining them at pre-season training on Monday and freeing him to link with Brisbane.

Knights chief executive Matt Gidley was reluctant to comment yesterday, other than to confirm there have been further negotiations with Boyd’s management and he was hopeful of a resolution ‘‘within coming days’’.

Asked whether Boyd would be required at training on Monday if no release had been granted, Gidley replied: ‘‘We’re working through that.’’

The Test and Queensland representative has appeared certain to part company with Newcastle since a much-reported dispute over a $200,000 shortfall in his salary, widely attributed to a defunct third-party sponsorship.

He has one more year to run on his deal with the Knights but has a contractual option in his favour that entitles him to a release.

After the return of his long-time mentor Wayne Bennett to Brisbane, it has been seemingly inevitable that Boyd would follow him, but his management have been at loggerheads with the Knights for the past two months, seeking a parting payout.

Reaching a settlement with Boyd is crucial for Newcastle because their hopes of retaining and signing other players hinge on the cash his departure would free up.

Experienced Knights forwards Chris Houston and David Fa’alogo remain out of contract and in limbo.

Fa’alogo is on duty with the Samoan side at the Four Nations tournament but Houston’s appearance at training on Monday is likely to depend on whether he has re-signed.

The Knights are also poised to announce the signing of young prop Jack Stockwell from St George Illawarra.

Newcastle’s pre-season preparations will be overseen by English sports science expert Colin Sanctuary, who for the past two years has headed the club’s junior high-performance unit.

Sanctuary will replace Jeremy Hickmans, who has followed Bennett back to Brisbane.

Meanwhile, Bennett has continued his cleanout at the Broncos with front-rowers Martin Kennedy and David Hala released from their existing contracts.

The Broncos announced on Wednesday that Kennedy, who arrived at Red Hill 12 months ago as a big-money recruit, and bench weapon Hala were permitted to seek out new deals with rival clubs.

Kennedy is reportedly eyeing a return to the Sydney Roosters, and is also in English Super League sights, while the Gold Coast Titans are interested in signing Hala.

‘‘Both Martin Kennedy and Dave Hala have been given permission to explore other options through a mutually-agreed release requested by their respective managements,’’ the Broncos said.

The news, which further depletes the Broncos already-thin forward stocks, comes as Brisbane prepare to start their 2015 pre-season training under Bennett next week.

Brisbane have lost representative prop Ben Hannant to North Queensland, while fullbacks Josh Hoffman and Ben Barba may also move on to make room for Boyd.

The Broncos have added former Melbourne Storm player Mitch Garbutt and ex-Wests Tiger James Gavet to their forwards with least another signing expected to beef up the pack. – with AAP

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