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Steve Smith’s time out of the game has not improved him much

And isn’t that the very best of sport? So often it is so easy for huge chunks of the country to wave a blindly dismissive hand when it comes to various minorities, gays, Muslims, refugees, people with disabilities etc, simply because they’re easy to pigeonhole and say you never cared for pigeons anyway. And wonderfully, it is so often sport that is directly instrumental in breaking down barriers to help with wonderful integration from both sides.

A case in point, see, is this young fellow Yool Yool, who thirteen years ago came to Australia as a refugee from war-torn southern Sudan when he was just seven years old and wound up in Orange with his mother. They had a shocking story to tell but spared the locals most of it. Not long after arriving, Yool made friends at primary school with a kid called Hunter Ward, who played junior rugby with the Orange City club, and one thing led to another.

South Sudanese refugee Yool Yool is a booming rugby talent.

South Sudanese refugee Yool Yool is a booming rugby talent.Credit:Janie Barrett

At Hunter’s behest, the club invited Yool along to training, got him his first set of boots and all the rest, and before long “Yool Yool” was the name on everyone’s lips as he shone from the first. So strong were the bonds he formed through the rugby club, school and the Orange community that when his mother – for complicated reasons – had to move elsewhere, Yool stayed on, moving in with Hunter’s family and being looked after by Hunter’s parents, Kate and Deryck, as if a son. Yool and Hunter went off to St Stanislaus College as brothers, and both boys played great rugby, Yool continuing to get ever stronger as adolescent and player – mostly on the wing and fullback. But with school finished, perhaps he needed a wider stage for his skills? Yes.

Yool is currently playing rugby with Manly colts and is studying at International College of Management under a scholarship awarded through the club, living in a share house with Hunter and three mates from Orange, watched over by Kate and Deryck’s extended family in Fairlight.

But the now beloved club figure Yool Yool is not just playing. He’s BLITZING it! So far he’s scored 22 tries during the rugby competition rounds and is the leading try scorer in first grade Colts, with the next best four tries behind – a particularly good effort after missing five games due to a broken bone in his hand. Last Friday night he won the award for being Manly’s best Sevens player. Hunter, meantime, was Manly Marlins Colt of the year and he and his brother from another mother Yool Yool both played for NSW U/19s.

In sum? In sum, Yool Yool is a young man who, through his own character and skills, aided by good people and two very welcoming communities, has come a very long way. Gotta love Yool Yool, Hunter, the Wards, Orange, St Stanislaus College, Manly and this game – whatever happens in the Bledisloe tonight.

Knock-out blow

Listen up. Please have a look at the footage of Matt Moylan being hit with a swinging arm by Sam Burgess last week, and watch closely as Moylan goes down like a sack of spuds. Can anyone doubt he is concussed as he goes down? Not me. And not Brad Fittler, who you’d think would be a fair judge.

Tell ’em what you said, Brad: “I thought it was obvious that Matt was knocked out straight away. You didn’t have to go too far to see that. You can see on the second replay, he closed his eyes as soon as [he was hit]. He was gone before he hit the ground.”

Bravo for speaking out. And you’d think Dr Adrian Cohen, a concussion specialist, would have a fair clue. He emailed me: “Moylan was knocked out. Eyes closed. Rag-dolled to the ground. Unable to protect his head (from a second impact). This is textbook Category 1 injury, ‘immediate removal from play and no prospect of return that game’.”

 Matt Moylan makes a run against the Bunnies.

Matt Moylan makes a run against the Bunnies.Credit:AAP

Dr Cohen’s point is that HIAs are only to be conducted for a “Category 2” impact, as in when there is some doubt about whether or not the player is concussed. But when he’s clearly been knocked motherless, and everyone can see he is concussed, it is a Category 1, and he should be immediately whisked from the field.

And yet, somehow, despite the fact that Moylan was so obviously a Category 1, he was allowed to play on for thirteen minutes and then given a HIA, and THEN allowed to play on!

The initial delay, we were told by the NRL, was due to a “technology malfunction”, what an NRL spokesperson described as “an issue with the Sideline Surveillance technology.” Tell that to the judge. She will tell you that it is your job not to have such malfunctions on such an important issue.

And she will also say that while you might get away with such an excuse once, there is no way it can be excused when it is part of a general pattern of behaviour of not taking concussions seriously enough. And there is still no explanation, however, for how the hell even after seeing the footage, anyone could have thought there was any doubt that he was concussed, that an HIA was required, and go back on? It was morally wrong to let Moylan play on. But I say again, it was legal insanity.

The NRL needs to get this right, or the eventual cost will cripple them. You heard it here first. (Ok, and second and third and fourth, etc )

Role reversal

How very delicate, Malcolm Knox!

“Uneven bounce and spin,” my cricket correspondent colleague wrote in the wake of the first Ashes Test, “would be the key to the fifth-day assault [by the Australians]. Teams accustomed to playing on these dry, lifeless pitches around the world used to develop reverse swing as their tactical response, but that seems to have vanished from Test cricket (in all nations) since March 2018 . . .”

Whatever could he be referring to. Why did reverse swing so suddenly disappear around the world? Curiouser and curiouser.

Vale, Micky Markham

The Herald and journalism lost a very loyal servant to illness this week in Micky Markham, a wonderful sub-editor from New Zealand who worked at the SMH for two decades.

His time here included many years on this column, fact-checking, straightening out twisted sentences, and doing such careful surgery you couldn’t even see the stitches! A stickler for detail, he never let a story go unless he had checked it once, twice, thrice and yes . . . I miss him!

All of us at Herald Sport sends our deepest condolences to his wife Bev, and family. Vale, Micky.

Another innings, another century for Steve Smith.

Another innings, another century for Steve Smith.Credit:AP

What they said

Steve Smith after scoring 144 and 142 in his first two digs of the Ashes: “I love Test cricket and I love playing against England. I’ve loved these last four days. It’s felt like Christmas morning every morning.”

London Daily Telegraph sportswriter Paul Hayward on the English team and their fans after Smith’s brilliance: “Their sole comfort is knowing the nemesis is vulnerable in the 140s.”

Mack Horton on taking a stand by not getting on the stand: “What is most frustrating … is that the system allows for people to sneak through on technicalities … I’d rather just get in the pool and swim my race and not have to worry about all this stuff, but when nobody’s doing anything the athletes have to take over.”

Dragons coach Paul McGregor on his side’s ordinary season: “It’s tough, mate. I’m not going to hide the fact that when you’re not winning games of footy, everyone wants to know why and the reasons behind, and everyone wants to come out and attack you. As a coach, you just have to make sure you’re comfortable being uncomfortable.”

Nick Kyrgios after winning the Washington Open: “This has honestly been one of my favourite weeks of my life, to be honest. I’ve made massive strides … It’s great to get the win, but I proved to myself and a lot of people backing me that I still have it, and can still produce at the highest level.” Two days later he lost in Montreal in the first round after throwing something of a tantrum about the tournament towels.

Alejandro Bedoya scored for Philadelphia Union against DC United on Sunday night, then ran to an on-field microphone and shouted: “Hey Congress, do something now! End gun violence! Let’s go!” I like it.

Hinako Shibuno, a rookie on the Japan LPGA Tour playing for the first time outside her country, on winning the British Open: “Now that I’ve won, I think a lot of the Japanese people will know me, but in actuality, I just wanted to live a quiet life.”

Team of the week

Sally Pearson. The great one retires after a golden career. You did us proud, Sally.

Steve Smith. Hopefully he will change neither his routine, nor underwear, nor socks, nor attitude, nor anything before the second Test, after he put England to the sword with twin centuries to help Australia win at Edgbaston for the first time in 18 years.
Wallabies. Battle the All Blacks in Perth tonight.

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RIP Damien Lovelock 1954-2019. The Celibate Rifles frontman, who became a quirky and beloved soccer pundit – not to mention the best-known man at Newport beach – passed away this week from cancer. Vale.

Michael “Monkey” Munro. After moving to Sydney from Port Macquarie in 1971, he started playing for the Mosman Whales rugby union club and today runs on for his 600th game at the Back To Mosman Day. Next season will be his 50th.

RIP Sir Brian Lochore 1940-2019. Captained New Zealand in 18 Tests during their golden era of the 1960s and coached the All Blacks to the inaugural World Cup title in 1987. A great man I was proud to know well.

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