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Josh Childress unable to lift Sydney Kings in 100-90 loss to Melbourne United

Josh Childress scored 27 points in his comeback game for the Sydney Kings but was unable to single-handedly weave his magic and steer his side to victory as they went down 100-90 to Melbourne United.

Childress – returning from a fractured hand – was individually on song, scoring the most points of anyone on court, but a perfect shooting game from United captain Daniel Kickert proved the difference in front of 3,446 fans, many of whom deserve credit for sticking by the bottom-of-the-ladder Kings.

Kickert led from the front in the most emphatic fashion. He made eight from eight baskets in the first half for 20 points and continued his exemplary shooting, finishing with 26 points.

Marcus Thornton spoke during the week about how beating Melbourne in Melbourne a fortnight ago gave the squad belief they could do it again. That Thornton flew his parents out from the US for the game corroborated his comments and showed he was being deadly serious.

Childress is an infectious man. His teammates relish being alongside him, and to stick by the struggling squad when he could easily pack his bags for greener pastures, says a lot for what he adds and thinks of the guys he shares the court with.

Sydney have now won just one of their last nine games, and if their body language was anything to go by in yet another disappointing second half, they will do well to improve on that figure in their final nine contests left in the season.

It was déjà vu for Kings fans on the stroke of quarter-time when Ben Knight, an emergency replacement for the injured Julian Khazzouh, found himself under the hoop with no one around him.

He made the easy jump shot, offered a small smile, before having to run back and watch Nate Tomlinson slice through a flimsy Kings defence to put Melbourne up 28-23 at the first break.

Sydney weren’t by any stretch of the imagination out of the contest – they lead briefly in the second quarter but poor shooting and some questionable refereeing decisions that didn’t go their way saw them trail by two points at the end of a high-scoring half in which 106 points were scored.

Coach Joe Connelly is an animated guy at the best of times, but there were some calls that had him literally jumping up and down, questioning the men in charge. When things are going bad, everything, it seems like, goes against you.

The State Sports Centre is considerably smaller than the Sydney Entertainment Centre, but cramming more fans has resulted in a more lively atmosphere – similar to 15,000 people at ANZ Stadium, compared the same amount at a smaller ground, such as Parramatta Stadium.

Jason Cadee nailed back three-pointers in the warm up like they were going out of fashion. When it mattered though, Cadee, who is becoming a more reliable attacking weapon, missed his first four from range. When the fifth went in, he put his hands in the air – a look of exasperation appearing on his face.

Tom Garlepp was the Kings’ equal best, with Childress, from the field, shooting at 60 per cent, but it was Kickert’s sharp-shooting that got Melbourne, the second most proficient offensive side in the league, home in the end.

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No option left but to rip up Kensington track at Randwick

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

The much-maligned Kensington track at Randwick will not host another race meeting until it is ripped up and resurfaced after another disastrous performance during a set of barrier trials on Tuesday.

Racing NSW chief executive Peter V’landys said it is not a case of if, but when, the track will be resurfaced, following reports from just five trials on Tuesday.

“There is no doubt that Village Green [grass] is not suitable as a racing surface,” V’landys said. “It looks good but its performance is not up to standard and there is only one option left available to us.

“We have given it every chance to perform and it doesn’t. It looks magnificent and the grass is healthy, it is just not suitable for racing according to our experts.”

Racing NSW took control of the supposed all-weather track from the Australian Turf Club to give it every chance to perform but has come to the conclusion the club had reached at least six months ago.

The Kensington track has been Sydney racing’s white elephant since opening two years ago and will not be ready to hold a meeting until at least next summer if resurfaced.

However  the track, which has cost more than $2.5 million in construction and upkeep cost, would be good enough for trackwork and limited barrier trials until the winter, which is the ideal time to do construction work and put down a new grass surface.

“We will be able to manage it to have grass gallops about once a week and maybe some barrier trials but it wouldn’t hold together for a race meeting,” Randwick track manager Nevesh Ramdhani said.

“The grass just hasn’t knitted and binded with the mesh and it just rips out and the damage takes a long time to repair because of the lack of a roots system.”

Racing NSW and the ATC will meet next month to make a final decision on the Kensington track.

“We have to work through the detail but we’ll be looking to resurface it. The kikuyu surface at Newcastle has worked well and we would look at something similar to it but everything will be done in conjunction with the ATC,” V’landys said.

The Kensington track was opened using the Village Green grass in October 2013 but initial compliments gave way to complaints and criticism. The surface failed to get its roots system through the mesh system and ripped out each time it was used.

Racing NSW chief steward Ray Murrihy surveyed  the damage on the home turn after Tuesday trials and was once again disappointed.

“It is what happens every time we use the track, they just get into it and rip it out,” Murrihy said.”It hasn’t improved in the past 12 months. It could be used for some trials and trackwork but I can’t see it being able to hold a race meeting as it is now.

“If it is there it should be used by the industry in some way until time comes to replace it.”

ATC chief executive Darren Pearce said the track would be used for barrier trials again on January 12 before a decision is made on its future.

“The turf could not be healthier, but the performance is still not where it needs to be for a full race meeting,” Pearce said.

“Given the investment into the Kensington made over a long period, we will continue to work with Racing NSW to see if the surface can be improved for racing, but on what we have seen to date, the outlook is not promising.”

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

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Canberra rider Chloe Hosking to bypass Olympics and focus on world championships

Chloe Hosking has decided to focus on the world championships over the Olympics next year. Photo: Melissa Adams Canberra cyclist Chloe Hosking will bypass a chance at Olympic redemption to focus on world championship glory as she continues her return from a serious hand injury.

Hosking finished outside the allowable time limit in the road race in horrendous conditions at London in 2012, but the sprinter won’t seek Rio selection as she believes the hilly course will not suit.

She will instead target a rainbow jersey at Qatar in October, a goal she believes is realistic after a strong season for Belgian outfit Wiggle High5, whom she has re-signed with for next year.

The 25-year-old’s season was cut short in late July when she suffered tendon and nerve damage after putting her hand on a broken glass. It ended her hopes of selection for the world championships at Richmond, US in September.

After a few months of rehab she returned to action in October and the defending champion will only ride in two criterium legs of the Mitchelton Bay Classic, which begins on New Year’s Day.

Hosking has finished second overall twice as well as a third at the Ladies Tour of Qatar in the past three years.

That successful track record has convinced her the world championships is a wiser option than the Olympics.

Hosking finished sixth in her only world championships appearance in 2011 at Copenhagen.

“Rio is not on my radar,” Hosking said. “It’s super hilly and I would rather go to Qatar and have a realistic chance of bring home the rainbows, then go to Rio and get dropped [by the field].

“It [Qatar] is going to be flat and windy and that’s right up my alley.

“I’ve proven I can do really well there and I think Australia has, after the Dutch, some of the best cross wind riders in the world.

“I have to get selected first, but unless we go over bridges there’s not going to be any hills that crop up anywhere.

“I know everyone is focused on Rio but I’m focused on the world championships.”

Hosking is yet to regain full feeling in her hand but insisted it isn’t having any impact on her riding.

She credited the Australian Institute of Sport for helping accelerate her recovery and her next goal is the national road championships at Ballarat from January 6.

“I had micro surgery in Paris and had three months of really intense rehab, I still have to do a lot of exercises for at least two months,” she said. “It was a bummer because I was definitely gunning to be selected for the Richmond team, but as an athlete you need to roll with the punches.

“I know they’re really happy with my rehab and the range of movement I’ve got back in my hand, I don’t feel impeded or anything by it.

“I was lucky I got a lot of help from the AIS, without their support I wouldn’t have been able to get back as quickly, or get as much strength and movement as I have.”

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Canberra sporting icon Lauren Jackson’s Capitals career nearing its end

Lauren Jackson of the Canberra Capitals drives at the basket. Photo: Matt Bedford She is a Canberra sporting legend, but basketballer Lauren Jackson’s career in the capital appears over with her release from the final months of her landmark $1 million deal.

Almost 20 years after starting as a shy and lanky teenager at the AIS, Jackson has likely played her last game for the Canberra Capitals due to a new knee injury that also threatens her Rio Olympics hopes.

Fairfax Media can reveal Jackson has been released by the club after having more knee surgery, ending what was a record-breaking domestic contract for an Australian female athlete but during which she only took to the court six times.

Jackson was unavailable for comment on Wednesday, but is understood to be devastated by the likely end of her stellar career with the Capitals.

But the four-time Olympian isn’t prepared to give up the fight to play for Australia again, telling friends and teammates she’s determined to regain fitness in time for the August Olympics in Brazil.

Jackson will stay in Canberra to continue her rehabilitation with the Australian Sports Commission and Basketball Australia after her 10th knee operation in two years. She will also have to manage arthritis in her problematic knee for the rest of her life after playing through pain to train and play for at least the past five years.

Jackson’s release by the Capitals comes four years after she signed a deal constructed by third-party sponsors ActewAGL, TransACT, Basketball Australia and the ACT government to offer her almost $1 million to play three seasons between 2012 and 2016.

The fact she only played six matches in that time would suggest she pocketed $160,000 per game. However it is not known how much of the $1 million was made up of bonuses and it is believed she earned less than the full contract value.

The champion can stand comfortably alongside some of the capital’s greatest sporting icons including Canberra Raiders Mal Meninga and Laurie Daley and ACT Brumbies George Gregan and Stephen Larkham.

At her peak she was the best player in the world, winning WNBL titles with the AIS and Capitals before conquering the WNBA with Seattle, claiming world championships, most valuable player awards and Olympic silver and bronze medals.

But her body has been screaming at her after a career of travelling the world to competitions in the United States and Europe on her way to becoming one of Australia’s greatest female athletes.

As unlikely as a WNBL return would be given her injury history, Jackson desperately wants to repay Canberra for the $1 million deal and it’s believed she still holds onto a faint hope of returning for the Capitals if her body makes it through the Olympics.

It’s understood Basketball Australia and the Capitals will release a statement next week about Jackson’s future after her latest knee operation.

Jackson was so desperate to play for Canberra that she pushed herself too hard. She had fluid drained off her knee during games and after training sessions, as well as having stem cell and plasma injections in a bid to end her injury woes.

It did little to help as she played and trained through excruciating pain following 10 knee operations and major hamstring surgery in the past three years as the toll of a superb career caught up with her body.

Jackson did not want to comment on her WNBL future, but said on 3AW radio in Melbourne: “By March I’ll know [about my prospects of playing at the Rio Olympics]. At this stage, God, it’s been setback after setback.

“It’s so disappointing with the way my career has come around. But looking back I’ve been so fortunate to achieve and have done what I’ve done. I’m still trying, I’m still hoping for the best.”

The 34-year-old carried the Australian flag into the opening ceremony at the London Olympics in 2012 and will work with AIS and Basketball Australia medical staff to chase one last crack at gold.

Having to watch Canberra’s demise has made her injury pain even worse, with the Capitals slumping to last place on the ladder and 15 consecutive defeats.

Jackson helped guide the Capitals to their inaugural title in 1999-00 and transformed the club from competition strugglers to powerhouses.

Canberra business rallied and joined forces with the Capitals four years ago to put together a deal to help Jackson extend her career by playing in Australia’s WNBL competition.

The original plan for her deal with the Capitals was for her to play three of the four seasons between 2012 and 2016 to allow her to avoid having to play overseas and still maximise her earning potential.

However, a hamstring injury in 2012 followed by a knee problem suffered while playing in China have been the constant cause of pain and frustration for the veteran.

The Capitals return to WNBL action against the Bendigo Spirit in Victoria on Saturday.

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Maitland and Cessnock have become blackout hot spotsPOLL

POWERLESS: One former Ausgrid employee says the company’s downsizing might be the cause of more frequent blackouts in the area.Ongoing power disruptions in the Maitland area have affected thousands of premises recently.

There have been at least sixblackouts across the Maitland and Cessnock area in the past three weeks, as recently as Wednesday when power failed for about 1400 premises in Cessnock, Bellbird and Wollombi.

The worst on recent record affected 3500 homes in the Thornton, Tenambit and Metford area on December 18 following a fault at the substation.

Morpeth resident and cafe owner, and former Ausgrid employee Andrew Fitzgibbon said he believed ongoing maintenance issues in the Lower Hunter were to blame for the power problems.

He said he worked for the company for 17 years, most recently as a ­procurement officer before he took a redundancy in August.

Mr Fitzgibbon said there had been about five blackouts in Morpeth in little more than a month.

“On one occasion [the power] was down for about 40 minutes. Everything in the café is electric, so we lost 40 minutes of trade,” he said.

“The slightest bit of thunder and the network goes down. It’s really frustrating.”

Seventy Ausgrid employees at its Wallsend operation were made redundant in August as the company cut 553 jobs across the state.

Mr Fitzgibbon said he believed maintenance of the power infrastructure was slipping as the company downsized.

Since moving from Wallsend to Morpeth earlier this year, Mr Fitzgibbon said he had “never seen so many blackouts in all my life”.

“I worked for Ausgrid for 17 years and had to listen to people call it a gold plated network,” he said.

“My frustration now is I wonder whether [blackouts] are starting to become a maintenance issue because there has been a dramatic reduction of staff.”

The Mercury contacted Ausgrid’s media unit for comment on Wednesday, but had not received a response before going to print.

UPDATE: An Ausgrid spokesperson sent the Mercury a statement on Thursday afternoon in response to questions posed on Wednesday. The statement says:

“During December there were four sustained blackouts affecting homes and businesses in different locations around Maitland, including two caused by extreme weather or thunderstorms. Another was caused by a tree coming down on power lines.

“The fourth interruption lasted for approximately 17 minutes when workers were undertaking maintenance on the network.

“There were two blackouts affecting homes and businesses in different parts of the Cessnock area, including one lasting for 55 minutes caused by a fault on equipment which connects underground and overhead power lines.

“Ausgrid carried out almost 400,000 maintenance tasks across its network last financial year, including the Hunter region. These tasks are designed to help prevent blackouts. Maintenance issues were not identified as the cause of these recent outages in the Maitland and Cessnock areas.

“We understand that any interruption can cause inconvenience to our customers, including small business owners like Andrew Fitzgibbon. Mr Fitzgibbon was not employed at Ausgrid as a field worker, overseeing or undertaking maintenance on the network. He was formerly employed in Ausgrid’s back office purchasing operations.

“Ausgrid has hundreds of skilled front line electricity workers based in the Hunter, who work to get power back safely during storms and other interruptions. Their priority is to work as safely and quickly as possible to get power back on for our customers.

“About 45 per cent of all outages on Ausgrid’s network are caused by external factors such as storms and lightning, trees coming down on power lines and third party damage from car accidents and cable strikes.

“During 2014/15 Ausgrid improved its reliability performance, with the average duration of interruptions falling to 71 minutes and the average number reducing to 0.69 per customer, down from 77 minutes and 0.83 interruptions in 2013/14.”

Read what the Mercury has to say here

Recent blackouts in the Maitland/Cessnock areaDec 30: 1400 premises – Cessnock, Bellbird, Wollombi

Dec 29: 1100 premises – Cessnock, Abermain, Abernathy

Dec 27: 1700 premises – East Maitland

Dec 18: 3500 premises – Thornton, Tenambit, Metford

Dec 16: 1700 premises – East Maitland, Morpeth, Raworth

Dec 10: 1100 premises – Aberglasslyn, Bolwarra Heights

Source: Ausgrid

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