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BREAKING: Australia and New Zealand pull the pin on league World Cup

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Australia and New Zealand have withdrawn from the Rugby League World Cup due to be held at the end of the year in England, citing player welfare and safety concerns.

In a joint statement on Thursday afternoon, the Australian Rugby League Commission and NZRL urged the tournament to be postponed until 2022 to avoid the risk of a player catching COVID-19.

It comes just a week after tournament officials confirmed the event would go ahead with or without defending champions Australia.

FULL STATEMENT BY THE ARLC AND NZRL

The Australian Rugby League Commission (ARLC) and New Zealand Rugby League (NZRL) today informed the International Rugby League (IRL) and Rugby League World Cup (RLWC) organisers that Australia and New Zealand will not compete in a 2021 World Cup because of player welfare and safety concerns.

The ARLC and NZRL has again requested the RLWC2021 be postponed until 2022 to minimise risk of players contracting COVID-19 and ensure the best outcome for player wellbeing.

The decision to withdraw from the RLWC2021 comes after considering the risk of COVID-19 infection in the United Kingdom, the worsening environment in Australia and the time a majority of NRL Premiership players will spend away from home under strict biosecurity conditions prior to the World Cup.

The ARLC and NZRL have resolved, that in the present environment the risks to athletes and officials travelling to the UK to participate in the tournament this year are too great, and it is unable to endorse Australia and New Zealand participating in the RLWC in 2021.

ARLC Chairman Peter V’landys AM said player wellbeing and safety must come first.

“Not participating in this year’s World Cup is not a decision the Commission has taken lightly, but we must put the best interests of our players and officials first. Protecting them is our absolute priority,’’ he said.

“In the current environment, the risks to the safety, health and wellbeing of the players and officials travelling from Australia to participate in the tournament this year are insurmountable. The majority of NRL players are currently living away from home under difficult biosecurity protocols. They would then be required to remain under protocols and away from home for the duration of the tournament before again quarantining on return to Australia. This is too much to ask our players and officials to do

“We have again requested the IRL and Rugby League World Cup consider postponing the event until 2022 to enable all players to participate.”

NZRL CEO Greg Peters said the decision to withdraw was in the best interests of players and officials.

“The safety and wellbeing of our people is the main priority, and unfortunately, that cannot be guaranteed to our satisfaction,” he said.

“There are stark differences between how the pandemic is being managed in the UK compared to Australasia and recent developments have highlighted how quickly things can change.

“The tournament organisers have moved heaven and earth to make this work, so it is not an easy decision, but the Covid-19 situation in the UK shows no sign of improving, and it’s simply too unsafe to send teams and staff over.

“We understand how disappointing this is for fans and those involved; however player and staff safety remains paramount.”

© AAP

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Harness racing selections: Sunday, August 1

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Two meetings to look at on Sunday, with my attention at Marburg and Cranbourne.

The best bets for the respective programs are down below.

Marburg

Best bet: Race Two Number 1 Mustang Dude
The best on the card, and quite comfortably too. His recent runs have come at Redcliffe, placing three back after getting the box seat sit. The last couple have been plain but he hasn’t been helped by barriers. He gets the inside gate this time around and has enough early speed to hold up and prove hard to get past.

Next-best: Race One Number 1 The Last Starfire
He gets a perfect set-up here to bounce back into the winners’ list. He hasn’t won in a tick under 12 months, but the set-up here looks ideal with the lead his for the taking with a positive steer. He led and felt the pinch at Redcliffe last time but he does get such an ideal scenario here. A soft lead on a track where if you lead, there’s a good chance you’ll win.

Value: Race Three Number 6 Okanes Devil
I’m happy to have a small speck each way on this mare. She hasn’t exactly set the world on fire in recent times, but she did run a game fourth here three-back when attempting to lead throughout. She draws inside the second row and follows out a fast beginner, so should she land leaders back, she’ll be dangerous.

Cranbourne

Best bet: Race Four Number 2 Ultimate Me
He went 2/2 at Cranbourne and I’m confident he makes 3/3 with Chris Alford to steer. He spanked them two-back at Melton before going to Maryborough and was game in defeat when second in a fast mile rate. I suspect he finds the front and will take a power of beating from there.

Next-best: Race Seven Number 7 Here Comes Kyvalley
He’ll need luck in the run from outside the front row, but he’s a smart trotter that will take beating on current form. He snagged back last start at Kilmore and worked to the line well when second in a race dominated on speed. If he gets the right run in transit, he’ll take beating.

Value: Race Three Number 1 Mister Macedon
A lightly-raced four-year-old that has done little wrong in his career to date, placing in 11 of 14 career outings. His latest run came last Friday night at Tabcorp Park Melton when wide with cover late and working to the line strongly. He can hold a forward spot from the pole and each-way at double figures appeals.

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David Blough, Lions rooting on Melissa Gonzalez will warm your heart

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David Blough and Detroit Lions teammates cheer on his wife Melissa Gonzalez

This is the type of viral social media content we are here for. Obviously, the whole global pandemic has made things especially difficult for the Olympics to happen in the first place. They were postponed by a year. Even though we have a vaccine for COVID-19, many of the same health restrictions are in place, as the virus mutates and impact the livelihoods of everyone involved.

Though Blough is not excepted to play much in his third season out of Purdue, it is not like he can travel across the world in the latter part of July. He has a football season to prepare for. While he would have loved nothing more than to have been in Tokyo in-person, it is great to see he and his teammates root on Gonzalez, as she tries to fulfill her lifelong dream of winning Olympic gold.

Here is to Gonzalez being one step closer to becoming an Olympic medalist for Colombia this year.

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Blue Jays’ Manoah to start Saturday vs. Royals after activation from IL

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Toronto Blue Jays rookie pitcher Alek Manoah has been activated from the 10-day injured list and will start Saturday’s game against the Kansas City Royals, the team announced.

In a corresponding move, the Blue Jays optioned Trent Thornton to triple-A to make room for Manoah.

Manoah had been placed on the 10-day injured list with a bruised back on July 21 after he slipped and fell down rain-soaked dugout steps at Sahlen Field in Buffalo. He successfully completed a simulated game and is hopeful to start against the Royals in the Blue Jays’ first home game at the Rogers Centre since 2020.

The rookie hurler was also out at the end of June due to a a five-game suspension he received after an ejection against the Baltimore Orioles on June 19.

Manoah, Toronto’s first-round pick in the 2019 MLB Draft, has thrived in his first season, boasting a 2-1 record with a 2.90 ERA and 52 strikeouts across 40.1 innings.

Live coverage of Blue Jays vs. Royals begins at 3:07 p.m. ET on Sportsnet.

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