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Exclusive: Fittler's honest conversation with benched star



#Fittler039s #honest #conversation #benched #star

No mind games, no misdirection, no train-offs during camp – a brief conversation with Brad Fittler was all it took.

Damien Cook has revealed Fittler gathered he and new starting hooker Api Koroisau to clear the air as the first order of business in camp for Origin II.

“Once we got into camp, the next morning he just grabbed Api and myself and was pretty straight up about what we’re doing,” Cook told Wide World of Sports.

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ULTIMATE GUIDE: State of Origin Game II

“We’re going to go with two hookers and Api was going to start, and that’s all that was really spoken about.

“We both just moved on with what we need to get done for this week and what our jobs will be to work together for whatever it takes to get the win.”


Cook was moved to the bench to accommodate Penrith’s Api Koroisau in the starting team, with the Blues opting for a two hooker rotation in Perth.

“I was more than happy for Api – he’s been playing some really good footy and he’s been nothing but supportive of me while we’ve been in camp,” Cook said.

“I love training alongside him, he’s someone I watch as a hooker and love what he does as well – I know he’s going to go out there and do a good job and it’s my turn to back him up whenever I can.

“He’s got great deception around the ruck. He plays with a lot of time and I feel like he’ll manipulate the markers a lot and he’ll have combinations out there to start the game with Yo-ee (Isaah Yeo) and the halves as well.”

The addition of Koroisau means that three-quarters of the playmaking positions are now Panthers, along with James Tedesco.

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“Between that spine, with Teddy as well, I think we can get off to a really good start and hopefully when I come on we’re in a good position, which I’m sure we will be,” Cook said.

Changes were always going to come after a disappointing loss in the Origin opener, but Cook is remaining upbeat.

“It’s been pretty spoken about how we just lost the ruck. We fought hard the whole game, just running out of time there – who knows what could have happened with even five extra seconds?” Cook said.

“So there’s some good signs there but we need some improvements, and the big one’s the ruck. They did really well and that’s why the likes of Ben Hunt and Harry got to have some joy off the back of that.”

Both Andrew Johns and Paul Gallen backed Cook to come on and play the ‘Craig Wing role’ for the Blues – a part he said he’d gladly play.

“We’ve got best-case scenarios [for when I come on] that we can work off but you never know how that game’s going to go. There could be injuries in other positions, but hopefully not,” Cook said.

“For me coming off the bench it’s just going to be really important to come on and change the game, bring that energy for the big boys and make sure they get good service.”


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It’s worth nothing that he’s got plenty of experience coming off the bench – before he was Damien Cook, Origin and international hooker, he was the change-of-pace option at the Rabbitohs behind the likes of Cameron McInnes and Robbie Farah. He finally locked down the No.9 jersey in 2018.

“One thing you learn from coming off the bench in a few games is that you don’t want to overdo things and overplay your hand,” he said.

“You want to make sure you stay calm and still make the right decisions while making an impact at the same time.”

Cook made his Origin debut that same year in Brad Fittler’s first series as coach, and along with Tedesco is the only man to play in every Blues team since.

“It’s crazy to think that I’ve played all those games under him, and I’m very grateful that he’s put that trust in me to be here – but you still pinch yourself every time you get asked to come back in here, no matter what jersey number you’re wearing.

“This is the fifth season now and it’s pretty special – I still don’t get much time to look back on it and reflect.”

For any Origin calibre player, health and fitness is critical, and Cook revealed he has a secret weapon to keep him in tip top shape.

“Nutrition’s really important for me – in camp you’re very well looked after so at home I’m lucky I’ve got those My Muscle Chef meals, you just put them in the microwave for 90 seconds and you’re ready to go,” Cook said.

“But other than that I’ve just got to prep as best I can to come out the other side of this Origin period, still playing really good footy.”

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Exclusive: Galtier to end PSG´s rotation of Donnarumma and Navas –




Flamengo part company with former Poland boss Sousa

#Galtier #PSGs #rotation #Donnarumma #Navas

New Paris Saint-Germain coach Christophe Galtier has pledged to end predecessor Mauricio Pochettino’s practice of rotating between goalkeepers Gianluigi Donnarumma and Keylor Navas. 

Galtier was announced as PSG’s new head coach on Tuesday, with the former Lille and Nice boss signing a two-year deal with the club.

The man who beat PSG to the Ligue 1 title when in charge of Lille during the 2020-21 season takes over a squad containing two world-class goalkeepers in Italy’s Euro 2020 hero Donnarumma and three-time Champions League winner Navas.

Pochettino used both goalkeepers often during his one full season in charge of the Parisian giants, with Navas making 26 appearances in all competitions and Donnarumma featuring 24 times.

Donnarumma managed one clean sheet more (nine) than Navas did (eight) despite making two appearances fewer, while the two goalkeepers posted similar save percentage figures (Navas saving 75.76 per cent of shots faced compared to the Italian’s 75.27 per cent).

Speaking at his unveiling, Galtier argued having a nominated first-choice shot stopper would provide greater clarity.

“I always work with a number one and a number two,” he said. 

“It’s easier for me and for them to know their position within the squad. I haven’t met them yet, but I will do it very quickly.”

PSG conceded 36 goals when winning Ligue 1 last season, the joint-fewest in the league alongside Galtier’s former club Nice, who registered one more clean sheet (14) than the champions.  


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Exclusive: Records tumble as Root leads insane run chase –




#Records #tumble #Root #leads #insane #run #chase

A pair of unbeaten fourth-innings centuries to Joe Root and Jonny Bairstow has led England to a record-breaking run chase in the fifth Test against India.

Root (142 not out) and Bairstow (114 not out) combined for an unbeaten 269-run stand as England chased down a total of 378 with just three wickets down to tie the five-match series at two games apiece.

Root and Bairstow’s unbeaten 269 was the fourth-highest in the fourth innings of a Test match and the second-highest unbeaten fourth-innings stand since Gordon Greenidge and Larry Gomes.

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In chasing down 378, England smashed its old record chase, the famous 359 it ran down against Australia in the 2019 Ashes when Ben Stokes single-handedly rescued a victory from the jaws of defeat at Headingley.

It was a bitter pill to swallow for India, who had looked poised to win the series for the majority of the Test. It was the first time India had failed to defend a total of over 350 in its Test history.

The chase was England’s fourth in excess of 250 in 2022, having run down totals of 279, 299 and 296 against New Zealand in a three-Test series last month.

All four chases have come since England appointed former New Zealand captain Brendon McCullum as its Test coach after disastrous tours of Australia and the West Indies, with the team’s aggressive approach mirroring that of their Kiwi coach during his playing days.


Bairstow was named the Player of the Match for his remarkable twin centuries, with the right-hander having scored 589 runs off 578 balls at an average of 196 in his last five Test innings.

“It’s about having the enjoyment factor, not afraid of failing, putting the pressure back on the opposition,” Bairstow said of the team’s fresh mindset under McCullum.

Kohli’s raucous celebration after big run out

“We’re going to lose games along the way, but the positive brand is fun to play.”

“It’s down to the players, making my job easier,” England’s Test skipper Stokes said.

“When you have clarity like we do in the dressing room it makes totals like that easier. 378 five weeks ago would have been scary, but it’s all good.

“We are trying to rewrite how Test cricket is being played, in England in particular.

“We know that we want to give new life to Test cricket, and the support that we’ve had has been incredible. We are bringing a new set of fans to Test cricket. We want to leave a mark.”

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Exclusive: PBA Player of Week Ato Ular continues solid showing for Blackwater –




Ato Ular Blackwater PBA

#PBA #Player #Week #Ato #Ular #continues #solid #showing #Blackwater

Ato Ular Blackwater PBA

Blackwater rookie Ato Ular during a game against Terrafirma in the 2022 PBA Philippine Cup. PBA IMAGES

MANILA, Philippines–Blackwater’s early success in this PBA season is largely due to the steady play of its rookie Ato Ular.

Ular has been a huge revelation for the Bossing, who have won four out of their five games so far in the 2022 Philippine Cup.

A second-round pick, Ular may just be the biggest steal of the draft averaging 14.4 points on 57 percent shooting from the field and 7.2 rebounds.

He played his best game yet on Thursday, helping Blackwater stun Meralco, 90-89, delivering 19 points and 15 rebounds.

Ular also hit the game-tying basket with under a minute left that paved the way for Baser Amer’s last-second winner.

His performance certainly didn’t go unnoticed as he was named Cignal Play-PBA Press Corps Player of the Week.

“I already prepare hard every game. I always arrive on the court very early, shooting and working out. I always see to it that I’m ready,” Ular said in Filipino.

The 6-foot-4 forward out of Letran is the first rookie to receive Player of the Week honor this season.


Ular edged TNT’s Mikey Williams, San Miguel Beer’s CJ Perez and other candidates for the weekly citation.

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