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Finals draw in a nutshell for Swans, GWS Giants

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The Swans have emerged as the team to beat but a tricky finals draw is the price to pay for a terrible start to the season.

First up is Essendon, who pushed them to the final kick of the game when they last met at the SCG. Although they were lucky to win, in the end they should have had the game iced in the third quarter had they showed more poise in front of goal.

After that is a date with the loser of the Richmond-Geelong qualifying final at the MCG. They comfortably beat the Cats a few weeks ago at Simonds Stadium and trounced them last year in a preliminary final. The Tigers might be a trickier proposition after their close shave in round 13, when they came back from 35 points down.

Awaiting them in the preliminary final would be either Adelaide or Greater Western Sydney. The Swans will not be daunted by a trip to Adelaide, having won there two weeks ago, but the Crows were wasteful. A Sydney derby for the right to play in a grand final would take the Swans/Giants rivalry to another level. GREATER WESTERN SYDNEY

As costly as the weekend loss in Geelong was, it could have been much worse for the Giants, who are still favoured to reach the preliminary final. It just depends which route they take.

An upset win over Adelaide in week one will send them straight to the final four with a play-off at home for a grand final berth, possibly against the Swans.

A loss sets up a home semi-final with either Port Adelaide or West Coast, two of the less fancied sides in the eight. They have beaten both teams this season and would start warm favourites.

They would then face Richmond or Geelong at the MCG. They have lost to both this season but the bye proved a curse 12 months ago.

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What a Dee-saster – Eagles pinch finals berth on dramatic day

Melbourne has fallen agonisingly short of ending an 11-year finals drought, unceremoniously dumped from the top eight in a stunning climax to the 2017 home-and-away season.
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The West Coast Eagles, having begun the last match of round 23 outside the eight, leapt into September with a 29-point win against the top-of-the-ladder Adelaide Crows at Domain Stadium.

The Demons had squandered their chance to rubber-stamp a finals berth by losing to lowly Collingwood on Saturday. This meant they had to rely on Essendon losing on Sunday or West Coast, also equal on 48 premiership points, losing, or winning by less than four goals. The Bombers booked their first trip to the finals since 2014 with a 15-point win over Fremantle at Etihad Stadium.

This left the clash between the Crows and Eagles to determine the finals make-up, and the enigmatic Eagles – having, at times, limped through the season – to pinch the final spot by 0.5 per cent. In a pulsating final term, the Eagles led by 23 points with five minutes to go after Lewis Jetta, brilliant in the final term, snapped a goal. When Jack Darling followed up minutes later with a courageous mark on the goal line, and converted, the Eagles were home in what was the final AFL game at Subiaco.

This will be their third straight finals campaign under coach Adam Simpson, and gives retiring veterans Sam Mitchell and Matthew Priddis the send-off they had hoped for. They will meet a free-flowing Port Adelaide, fresh from pounding a listless Gold Coast, in an elimination final at Adelaide Oval on Saturday week.

“The finals certainly started a week early,” Mitchell said.

“We thought if we could win by a goal a quarter that would get the job done.”

While the Demons remain a club on the rise, and are set to notch their first $1 million profit, missing the finals this year is a blow to the blue-print of expectations set when new management took charge in late 2013. They will hope the pain of missing September will act as a major spur for 2018.

The league will take a breath this weekend during the pre-finals bye but what shapes as an explosive finals series begins on Thursday week.

Three clubs carry the hopes of Victorian fans, with Geelong and Richmond the best positioned. The Cats and Tigers have each secured the double chance and will meet in what is likely to be a fiery qualifying final on Friday week at the MCG.

The two clubs have been at odds over fixturing issues this season, namely the Cats’ staging a home game at Simonds Stadium in round 21, and calling for their opening final to be held at the revamped venue. Tigers coach Damien Hardwick even claimed Cats’ supporters, the overwhelming majority at that round-21 clash, had influenced the umpiring.

However, Hardwick will not have to worry about that issue this time, with the AFL scheduling the clash at football’s spiritual home.

The Cats have held only one final at Simonds Stadium, losing to Fremantle in the 2013 qualifying final. Their recent finals record has been poor, winning only two of eight matches since the 2011 premiership.

The Tigers secured their first top-four berth since 2001 with a 41-point win over St Kilda on Sunday, spoiling Nick Riewoldt’s 336th – and last – game for the Saints.

Superstar Dustin Martin, best on ground with 36 disposals, acknowledged the benefits of having the double chance. He will spend time with his father in New Zealand this week pondering whether to sign a contract extension or accept the riches on offer from North Melbourne.

Had the Tigers lost, they would have been consigned to an elimination final, having lost three straight from 2013-15. Buoyed by a new game plan built on manic pressure inside attacking 50, they now have their best chance of vaulting into a grand final since 1982.

Essendon will return to the finals for the first time in three years, and will meet a surging Sydney Swans in an elimination final at the SCG on Saturday week. The Swans have become the first side to start a season 0-6 but rebound to make the finals.

“It was clearly a start that we didn’t want, but the players have been able to turn it around and play some fantastic football for a fair while now,” coach John Longmire said.

Seeking to erase the pain of recent years as a result of the supplements scandal, the Dons rubber-stumped their spot with a tight win over the Dockers.

The Bombers, having been forced into a late change with Heath Hocking replacing a sore Cale Hooker, began with urgency, signalling their desperation to be alive come September. The Dockers fought back but the Bombers, with Zach Merrett having 31 disposals and four goals, rallied, and now eye their first finals win in 13 years.

“I think finals are a bit overdue. A win in finals would be enormous,” Merrett said.

“It’s extremely exciting to be playing in two week’s time but it will be tough. We can’t wait to get ready and go.”

The Bombers will sweat on having Hooker (calf) and Michael Hurley (calf) fit in time.

The Crows will host Greater Western Sydney in the opening qualifying final at Adelaide Oval on Thursday week. The Crows will sweat on the fitness of skipper Taylor Walker (toe) and Daniel Talia (ankle). The two teams have met only once this year, when the Crows prevailed by 56 points in the season opener.

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Experience beats chutzpah in big fight

The fight of the century lived up to its hype with mixed martial arts superstar Conor McGregor shocking experts by winning the first four, and possibly five, rounds in his boxing debut against pound-for-pound champion Floyd Mayweather, only to be finished in the tenth when the referee intervened.
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It was one-way traffic in the opening four rounds with the Irishmen McGregor successfully connecting with more punches than the undefeated Mayweather and outboxing his more experienced opponent. But after establishing a substantial lead, McGregor quickly fatigued in the middle of the contest.

The 29 year old McGregor has historically had problems with his aerobic endurance, which led to his first UFC loss against Nate Diaz that he subsequently avenged. McGregor may have also been surprised that Mayweather withstood his initial four round barrage, which the Dubliner had predicted would result in a knock-out.

In his 50th and final fight, the 40 year old Mayweather could be seen carefully watching McGregor gasping for air between rounds, and from the fifth onwards the famous counter-puncher adjusted to a much more aggressive, Mexican style of boxing that involved stalking McGregor around the ring.

Overwhelmed with exhaustion the UFC champion, who was contesting his first professional boxing match, slowed and started dropping his hands, which allowed Mayweather to land. A sizeable difference in the two fighters’ successful shots emerged thereafter with Mayweather dominating the sixth, eighth, ninth and tenth rounds.

After Mayweather landed heavy head shots in the tenth McGregor staggered back against the ropes, convincing the referee to call an arguably quick end to the fight, which gave Mayweather the technical knock-out.

“I thought it was close and a bit of an early stoppage,” a disappointed McGregor remarked. “I was just a little fatigued.” While McGregor dismissed Mayweather’s speed and power, he was impressed with his “composure”.

In his ten rounds McGregor landed 30 more punches on Mayweather than Manny Pacquiao did over 12 rounds in boxing’s last super-fight.

The now record-breaking 50-0 Mayweather was graceful in victory, conceding that McGregor was “a lot better than I thought he’d be”. “He’s a hell of a fighter standing up. It kind of shocked me.”

In entertainment terms the see-sawing fight was one of the best of Mayweather’s career, and is expected to have generated the largest pay-per-view revenues in history.

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Malcolm Turnbull calls Lodge cost ‘staggering’

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and Lucy Turnbull hosted a morning tea for the Australian of the Year finalists at The Lodge in Canberra on Monday 25 January 2016. Photo: Andrew Meares ELECTION 2013: Opposition Leader Tony Abbott in discussion with his Chief of Staff Peta Credlin (carrying the blue tie he will wear for the campaign launch), along the corridor of their hotel in Brisbane, ahead of the Federal Coalition Campaign Launch in Brisbane, on Sunday 25 August 2013.Photo: Alex EllinghausenAFR 26-08-2013
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The Lodge in Canberra on Monday 25 January 2016 January Photo: Andrew Meares

Malcolm Turnbull has declared blow outs on renovations at The Lodge “staggering” and says new “adult oversight” will prevent the situation ever being repeated.

His first comments since the release of a critical audit report into the renovation nightmare at the Prime Minister’s official Canberra residence, Mr Turnbull told Channel 10 the $12 million project was completed before his time in the top job.

The report, ordered by Mr Turnbull as the scale of the costs and delays became clear, blamed the Abbott government for more than 40 contract changes which saw the initial $3.2 million price tag reach a near $12 million bill to taxpayers.

The review was ordered amid reports senior government figures had repeatedly ordered changes to the contract and size of the works.

“Not in my time,” Mr Turnbull said on Sunday.

“But the amount that was spent on the renovations on The Lodge, which was about 12 million bucks – staggering.

“You could have built several, two new houses of that size.

“It won’t happen again. I’ve made sure we’ve got some adult oversight on any further works that are done on those residences.”

Originally expected to see the ageing roof replaced, electrical rewiring and removal of asbestos, the project morphed into a much needed property-wide refurbishment for the 1927 home.

Started during Julia Gillard’s tenure as prime minister, the eventual three-year timeframe denied Mr Abbott the chance to live in the historic Deakin home.

The report released this month found nearly $4.5 million in contract blow outs, or 80 per cent of the cost increases identified by the review, were caused by changes ordered by the government.

They included delays in choosing floor tiles and carpets, improvements to the billiards room, new storage and walk in robes, necessary occupational health and safety upgrades and an $83,000 specialist luggage lift.

The report was released by the Department of Finance after a long running freedom of information appeal by Fairfax Media.

It coincided with Mr Turnbull’s announcement of a new official residences advisory panel to oversee future work at The Lodge and Sydney’s Kirribilli House.

Chaired by environmental and planning lawyer David O’Donnell, the panel is made up of architectural and heritage experts including daughter of former Liberal prime minister Malcolm Fraser, interior designer Angela Marshall.

Mr Turnbull and his wife Lucy contributed $130,000 of their own money to The Lodge project, including for restoration of historic furniture dating back to the 1930s.

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Dugan apologises to Dragons teammates for missing the bus

Josh Dugan addressed his St George Illawarra teammates after Sunday night’s victory to apologise for failing to adhere to the club’s strict new disciplinary policy enforced over the past month.
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Dragons veteran winger Jason Nightingale has admitted some ill-discipline has crept into the Dragons’ preparations over the past month with coach Paul McGregor making several attempts to put his players on notice.

That is why the decision to drop Dugan for Sunday’s do-or-die clash with the Panthers in Penrith for missing the team bus was made without hesitation, declaring it as a line-in-the-sand moment for the joint venture.

“I think it was a very swift decision,” Nightingale said.

“We mentioned and pointed out recently to everyone that lateness wouldn’t be tolerated. People were told to make sure you’re on time. We stressed it many, many times. It was a swift decision from ‘Mary’ [McGregor]. He spoke to Gareth [Widdop] and that was that. The decision was made on the bus. The amount of focus we have been putting on discipline lately, that probably made the decision for Mary a lot easier.

“There’s been a little bit of ill-discipline creeping in at the place for the last four or five weeks. We have drawn a line in the sand to make sure we do have our heads screwed on for what is potentially a finals series. You can’t have ill-discipline. Mary did mention it many times – not to Josh specifically – but how important it was for us to prepare right.”

Dugan is bound for Cronulla next season and has been at loggerheads with club officials at different stages throughout the year over his future.

However, Nightingale insists his heart is still with the Dragons as he approaches his final weeks at the club.

“He was very apologetic when he spoke to the boys,” Nightingale said.

“I have all the trust that his heart is still with us. I know that for a fact. I spent a lot of time with him. He’ll be back and give it his all. Just during the week he was saying to myself and Tyson [Frizell] that it would be premature for him to end. His heart is still definitely here at the Dragons.”

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Families continuing to struggle up Melbourne’s property ladder

Properties with spacious backyards and strong appeal to young families prompted the hottest bidding duels at auctions in Melbourne at the weekend.
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The Domain Group reported a solid clearance rate of 74.8 per cent from 732 reported auctions on Saturday. This was lower than the previous weekend’s season-high 78.3 per cent result and also lower than the 77.9 per cent reported over the same weekend last year.

Even so, low turnover in many inner and middle suburbs is helping to push up selling prices for larger houses.

The upward pressure on prices showed at the auction of a tired former housing commission house at 392 Williamstown Road, Port Melbourne.

Advantage Property Consulting managing director Frank Valentic said the four-bedroom duplex home drew spirited bidding from six upsizing families, with the property selling for $1,642,000 or 31 per cent above the $1.25 million reserve.

“The beauty of these houses is that they come with a bit of dirt,” he said. “This one had 440 square metres of land, whereas in most parts of Port Melbourne and Albert Park, little terrace homes are on 150 to 200 square metres of land.”

He said the bidders were all trading up from a smaller property and the Buxton-listed house was in need of a $300,000-plus renovation.

For growing families, climbing the property ladder to the next level is becoming increasingly problematic. Related: Toorak tennis court nets $7.8 millionRelated: Click here for Saturday’s auction resultsRelated: Click here for the Market Snapshot

That’s because suburbs within 20 kilometres of the CBD are experiencing unusually high levels of market inactivity in two key demographic age groups. Families opting to stay put and build up or out and reluctant downsizers are both restricting the supply of larger homes for sale, contributing to the escalating trend of less stock being available in popular areas.

Domain Group data shows that auction listings in Melbourne are 20 per cent up on last year but most of the new listings are in the outer suburbs.

It’s little wonder that real estate agents active in inner Melbourne say they see more prospective buyers looking for properties priced between $1.5 million and $2.2 million than they do people with a lower or higher budget.

In addition to the 732 reported auction results on Saturday, agents did not report the results of another 191 scheduled auctions.

Domain Group chief economist Andrew Wilson said Saturday’s mid-70 per cent clearance rate was a healthy market indicator for sellers that pointed to a vibrant spring selling season.

“In Melbourne, prices are growing quite sharply and clearance rates are now pushing up to 80 per cent,” he said. “That really is quite strong in a market that hasn’t had recent interest rate cuts. There is only one weak link and that is the inner east. And there is a lot of stock coming into the inner east, so that market is going to be very interesting to watch over spring.”

One south eastern-located house in the $1.5 million-plus price band that fared well at the weekend was an Edwardian property lacking a contemporary extension, at 4 College Street, Elsternwick.

Offered by Biggin & Scott, the three-bedroom house drew offers from three parties. On the market at $1.6 million, it sold for $1,725,000 to a young family from Elwood looking for larger digs and a decent-sized backyard.

Meanwhile, a double-fronted, three-bedroom house at 81 Erskine Street, Middle Park, also did well when offered by Chisholm & Gamon.

The property had a reserve of $1.85 million but sold for $2,090,000. According to the buyers’ advocacy firm Property Mavens, two bidders competed and the strength of demand for scarce Middle Park real estate helped to push both bidders over the $2 million mark and return about $10,000 per square metre to the vendors.

Other top sales reported at the weekend included a four-bedroom home at 16 Bailey Avenue, Armadale, which sold for $4,060,000 through Marshall White, and a three-bedroom house at 2 Thanet Street, Malvern, sold by Kay and Burton for $3,610,000.

Added to this, a number of high-end houses sold before their scheduled auctions on Saturday, including a four-bedroom extended Californian bungalow at 6 Carson Street, Kew. It sold in the middle of last week for $3.3 million through Jellis Craig.

Melbourne’s outer eastern suburbs assumed the top spot for regional results at the weekend although all areas recorded healthy results for most sellers.

Dr Wilson said the strength of the outer-suburban, lower-priced markets probably reflected increased activity by first-home buyers keen to take advantage of the recent cuts to stamp duty for this group.

The south-east produced a robust result at the weekend with an 85.3 per cent clearance rate with the outer east also strong at 81.5 per cent. The next highest region was the inner city with 77.8 per cent followed by the west with 77.3 per cent, the north-east with 73.2 per cent and the inner east with 71.7 per cent.

Somewhat surprisingly, the northern suburbs were down at the weekend to 71.4 per cent and the inner south was also down with a 70.7 per cent clearance rate.

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First Test: Lyon surpasses Benaud, before late Australia collapse

Dhaka: A shambolic run out was the lowlight for Australia as the tourists’ top order collapsed late on day one of the first Test in Dhaka.
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Having claimed five Bangladesh wickets after tea, Australia were left with nine overs to face in what was their first Test against the Tigers in 11 years, but slumped alarmingly with the loss of three wickets inside two overs to 3-18 at stumps, 242 runs in arrears.

Spinner Mededi Hasan Miraz – who destroyed England late last year – ensured David Warner’s poor record on the subcontinent continued, removing the Australian vice-captain LBW for eight.

Usman Khawaja – whose return to the Test side has started horrendously – was caught short of his ground after pursuing a mindless single, adding to the early-innings woes of the tourists. Khawaja was out for one, before Shakib Al Hasan dismissed nightwatchman Nathan Lyon for a duck, leaving Australia in trouble, with not out batsmen Steve Smith and Matt Renshaw tasked with a recovery mission.

It capped off an eventful and topsy-turvy day in which the hosts had posted 260.

Part-timer Glenn Maxwell struck to end a fighting 155-run Bangladeshi fourth wicket partnership, one which had threatened to undo the early work of Pat Cummins. It proved to be the innings’ turning point, allowing Australia’s new spin twins Lyon and Ashton Agar to clean up the tail.

Tamim Iqbal and Shakib are the two leading run scorers in Bangladesh’s Test history, and on Sunday they became just the fourth and fifth players to play 50 Tests for the Tigers. But so infrequent have meetings between Bangladesh and Australia been that it also marked the first time either had played a Test against the Aussies.

The occasion was arguably worth the wait though, as the milestone men combined to haul their team back from 3-10 after captain Mushfiqur Rahim won the toss and elected to bat at the Shere Bangla National Stadium.

Tamim and Shakib played aggressively, challenging the tourists’ mettle in humid conditions. Both men went hard at Lyon, with Tamim blazing Australia’s No. 1 spinner for three sixes through the off side on his way to 71 before being removed by Maxwell. Shakib lived dangerously at times but the world’s top-ranked all-rounder showed his class on either side of the wicket before falling to Lyon for 84.

Playing his first Test in more than four years, Agar took three wickets in a rain-affected final session, dismissing both Mushfiqur (23) and Nasir Hossain (18) LBW, with both decisions coming after video review, and had Shaiful Islam, caught slogging for 13.

Lyon meanwhile reached 250 Test wickets after removing Mehedi (18) and Taijul Islam (four). The wicket of Mehedi, who gifted a simple catch to Peter Handscomb at short leg, meant Lyon moved past Richie Benaud as Australia’s second most prolific Test spinner, behind only Shane Warne.

While much of the build up from an Australian perspective had surrounded Agar’s return to the Test side, it was Cummins – another to make a stunning Test debut as a teenager – who stole the show early.

Bowling first on an overcast morning in Dhaka, Cummins’ impact was almost immediate. With just his third ball of the day, he was close to removing Soumya Sarkar, who streakily edged a bouncer over the head of third slip for four. The opener was not as lucky two balls later as he clipped a Cummins delivery straight to Handscomb at gully to depart for eight. There was more damage in Cummins’ next over as the quick found an inside edge to remove Imrul Kayes caught behind for a duck.

Things looked even more ominous a ball later as wicketkeeper Matthew Wade took another catch, with Shabbir Rahman not adjusting to Cummins’ late swing. The batsman reviewed the decision however replays showed a clear edge, leaving the Tigers precariously placed inside the first half an hour. Shabbir’s golden duck further riled those Bangladeshis who criticised the call to overlook Mominul Haque, whose Test batting average is more than 46.

But Shakib comfortably defended the hat-trick ball at the start of Cummins’ next over, and the resistance gained strength as the sun emerged. Not ideal. #BANvAUSpic.twitter南京夜网/sdK7NW7t9T??? cricket南京夜网419论坛 (@CricketAus) August 27, 2017This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.

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Gary Harley’s Newcastle racing wrap-up

VICTORIAN jockey Thomas Sadler wasted no time in booting home a winner for his new bosses when he steered progressive stayer Social Element to victory in the 2000-metre Maiden Plate at Saturday’s Beaumont track race meeting.
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WINNER: Thomas Sadler scored with Social Element in race two at Newcastle.

Sadler, a former crack Victorian apprentice, has ridden 215 winners and he jumped at the chance to join the Gai Waterhouse-Adrian Bott stable when Australian racing’s first lady offered him a position with Tulloch Lodge two weeks ago.

After riding his share of trackwork, Sadler was booked for his first ride for the Waterhouse-Bott stable on Saturday. Social Element, a New Zealand-bred four-year-old, put the writing on the wall with placings in his only two starts, at Newcastle and Hawkesbury.

It was the gelding’s first run over a middle distance and, after an opening price of $1.50, he drifted to $1.85 at barrier use.

Social Element didn’t jump well but 22-year-old Sadler made a mid-race move to sit outside the leader and he controlled the race from then on. He dashed clear in the straight and was strong to the line to win by 1.65 lengths.

It was Sadler’s first ride for the day and he was rapt.

“I couldn’t have wished for a better result,’’ he said. “Mrs Waterhouse offered me a full-time job riding trackwork and I am grateful.

“I had a number of suspensions in Victoria and I took a long break. I am around 57 kilograms but can probably get down to 55.

“Social Element is a lovely horse and a promising stayer.

“I walked the track before the meeting and I thought the best part of the track was at least six or seven horses off the rail in the straight.”

Sydney trainer Mark Newnham enjoyed a cracking start to the new season with Mission Tycoon ($5.50), a $50,000 buy at an Inglis Melbourne yearling sale.

She was never in danger in the 1150-metre Maiden, cruising home by close to two lengths.

Kris Lees’s former New Zealand mare Karavali resumed from a five-month spell to win herfirst race in this country on Saturday.

She firmed from $4.80 to $3.20 on Saturday and won the Class 2 Handicap (1350 metres) by two lengths.

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Victorious Dragons drop Dugan to ‘make statement’ on standards

Paul McGregor has refused to guarantee Josh Dugan’s place in St George Illawarra’s team for the final round of the regular season after they courageously kept their finals tilt alive without him.
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Dugan watched the Dragons’ two-point win over Penrith in cold and windy conditions from the sideline on Sunday, having been dropped for missing the team bus that collected players from the Sutherland Shire for the journey to the foot of the mountains.

What appeared a huge call – to scratch your State of Origin and Australian centre only hours before a sudden-death match – ended up being the making of the Dragons’ finest performance of the year and one that means they can almost certainly clinch a semi-finals berth if they beat Canterbury at ANZ Stadium next Sunday.

Ivan Cleary, at Pepper Stadium to watch son Nathan go around on Sunday, has made plenty of noise about Wests Tigers players having to be metaphorically on the bus. This time it was McGregor and he meant it literally.

“He missed the bus,” the Dragons coach said of Dugan. “Discipline is important to our footy team and on game day especially. He didn’t arrive on time after he spoke about what is needed only recently.

“It doesn’t matter if it’s round 25. I know the conversation with being round 25, season on the line. But if you want to drive standards and discipline, it doesn’t matter what round it is. Our club needed to make a statement, whether it be Josh or any other player.”

Cronulla-bound Dugan drove himself to Penrith after being late for the departure of the team bus and apologised to teammates after their gutsy victory to snap a seven-match Panthers’ winning streak.

Asked whether Dugan would be recalled to the side for their round 26 clash with the Bulldogs, McGregor said he would think about that next week.

“Let’s worry about celebrating tonight, hey,” he said.

The decision to stand down Dugan was made with the support of senior players including captain Gareth Widdop, although McGregor was insistent that it was his call.

???”We’ve got standards in our playing group. I fully support the decision,” Widdop said.

In Dugan’s absence, the ninth-placed Dragons caused an upset that has left four teams in the race for the last three positions in the NRL top eight.

They are two points behind the three teams at the bottom of the eight – Penrith, North Queensland and Manly – but the Panthers and Sea Eagles are drawn against each other at Lottoland in the final round and the Dragons have superior for-and-against to those rivals.

In rapidly deteriorating conditions that convinced several thousand spectators to rush out of Pepper Stadium at half-time, the Dragons jumped to a 12-8 lead at the break after a late reorganisation of their team. Josh McCrone, used to braving the elements from his days with Canberra and about to experience even chillier conditions when he joins Toronto Wolfpack, was promoted to halfback as Kurt Mann shifted to cover Dugan at centre. Both would play above themselves in a brave all-round display.

The sun was still beaming when Dragons prop Paul Vaughan took the ball one off the ruck and proved too much for Nathan Cleary to handle in the 10th minute. By the time fullback Matt Dufty had dived over out wide in the 38th minute to restore their lead – young Penrith five-eighth Tyrone May, having sold a dummy and scored in the meantime – it was raining sideways.

Penrith, with the wind at their back, edged ahead again via a weaving Josh Mansour but with their season on the line, St George Illawarra would not roll over.

Nothing underlined their desperation to live another day like the look on Tariq Sims’ face after he managed a one-on-one strip on Dallin Watene-Zelezniak with 24 minutes left on the clock. Sims had no right to hold off the quickly closing Mansour but pinned his ears back for the 40-metre dash, covering the final few with a leap to the line.

Almost from then on the Dragons were under siege but showed immense commitment to hold on.

If only the same could be said of Dugan.

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Cooks Hill win Northern League One grand finalphotos, video

Cooks Hill win Northern League One grand final | photos, video [email protected] after winning @NNSWF league one Gf. @[email protected]南京夜网/gFxxxgIRcW
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— Michael Parris (@mhparris) August 27, 2017

“They’re a baby club. They’re massive in terms of size, but we’ve got a lot of stuff to get right off the park.We have a very good committee that will get there.”

The former Adamstown Rosebud NPL coach said results like Sunday’s were important to keep volunteers and players motivated and to position the club as well as possible.

“A lot of people have been speaking today,‘Oh, it’s disappointing you’ve not went up.’ It is what it is. We knew at the start of the season we weren’t going up.

“I keep saying to the boys it’s a three-year window, but you never know what could change.

“Next year they might go,‘Right, you’re ready.’ And it might suit them to have a level [even-numbered] comp. It might not.

“All we can do is position ourselves to structurally on and off the park be the team that goes up.

“It’s a big club, and it’s only going to get bigger.There’s clubs going this way [down], really big, proud clubs. I’m not saying any names,but they’re going that way, and this club’s going the other way.

“Ambition, numbers, the right people off the park. The days of selling sausage rolls and lollies are gone. To be successful, you need business people, and we’ve got that.”

Cooks Hill were in control from the outset against Belswans and took the lead in the ninth minute when Johnson curled a corner over keeper Ben Parmeter and inside the far post.

Yaxley doubled the lead eight minutes later when Belswans were slow to react to a loose ball in the box and the former Rosebud winger stabbed it home.

The first two goals were soft, but the third was a superb team effort in the shadow of half-time.

The impressive Ashton started it with some neat footwork near the right sideline and finished it off by burying Yaxley’s cut-back from the byline.

Lewis joined the party just after half-time when Nick Russell outpaced the defence and slid a ball across the six-yard box for the former Magic and Jaffas man to ram home.

“I feel fortunate to have a squad like this, but I take it as a compliment they want to come and play for me,” Law said.“These guys put on a show today, and I imagine I’ll be missing a few of them next year.”