World Cup ‘Lewandowski sets an example – Nawalka talks up Bayern star as one of world’s best Jon Fisher 02:58 6/19/18 FacebookTwitterRedditcopy Comments(0) Getty Images World Cup Poland Poland v Senegal Senegal Robert Lewandowski Poland begin their World Cup campaign against Senegal on Tuesday and will be looking towards a prolific frontman for inspiration in Russia Adam Nawalka hailed the professionalism of Robert Lewandowski with the Bayern Munich striker set to spearhead Poland’s World Cup challenge.Lewandowski was the top scorer in the European qualifiers with 16 goals and scored a Bundesliga-best 29 times to propel Bayern to another German title last season.The 29-year-old has never played at a World Cup following Poland’s failure to qualify in 2010 and 2014 and coach Nawalka is delighted Lewandowski will now be rewarded for his continued excellence. Article continues below Editors’ Picks Out of his depth! Emery on borrowed time after another abysmal Arsenal display Diving, tactical fouls & the emerging war of words between Guardiola & Klopp Sorry, Cristiano! Pjanic is Juventus’ most important player right now Arsenal would be selling their soul with Mourinho move Speaking ahead of his side’s Group H opener against Senegal in Moscow, he said: “I believe the scale of his talent is immense but it’s supported by a lot of work and a professional attitude.”He is one of the best players in the world and Robert sets an example to other players on how to run a career.”That’s not to say Poland are over-reliant on Lewandowski, though.”I’ve said it many times, Lewandowski is a very important player, he’s the captain, he’s the star but we always take an approach that’s it’s the team that counts,” Nawalka added.”Every player contributes to what the team is capable of. Robert is an excellent captain and an excellent player.”Nawalka’s main selection headache for the Senegal clash is defender Kamil Glik.The Monaco centre-half injured a shoulder shortly after being named in the 23-man squad and it was initially thought he would miss the tournament but he has made a remarkable recovery.Glik trained with the squad on Monday evening at Spartak Stadium and will be assessed before Nawalka names his starting XI.His absence would be a blow for Poland but Nawalka insists there are other options.He said: “From the beginning of my work, we’ve been trying to prepare the team so that in the case of injuries, or suspensions, we have other solutions and this is also the case of Kamil.”He is suffering from a serious injury and we don’t know if Kamil is going to play in the first match.”He’s going to participate in the training session tonight and we’ll see how he feels. Kamil is a very tough guy, he has done everything he can to recuperate from his injury, he trains a dozen hours or so a day but whether Kamil is going to play tomorrow is unknown.”We have prepared other solutions. That’s the way football is and we have been working very hard on this.”Winger Jakub Blaszczykowski could win his 100th cap on Tuesday but is focused solely on helping Poland off to a winning start.The Wolfsburg man said: “Each game for Poland is an honour and every player thinks the same way.”My individual achievement is not the most important, what is most important is the team.”I don’t know if I will start, it will depend on the coach’s decision and I respect that. We will do everything we can to win.”
Queensland Touch Football (QTF) has appointed Mr Gavin Shuker as Chairman of the QTF Board following the recent resignation of Ian Haig from the role.Mr Shuker was identified as the logical candidate to continue the work undertaken by the Board over the past year under Haig’s leadership.Shuker has a significant history with the sport as an elite player and coach; captaining both the Queensland and Australian Men’s Open teams in the past as well as most recently leading the Australian Men’s 30’s team to victory at the FIT World Cup.“QTF is undergoing some change at the moment, as we have done for the last couple of years and the opportunity to be a part of the ongoing transformation is exciting. I am looking forward to the challenges that lie in front of us,” Shuker stated following his appointment.QTF CEO Jamie O’Connor said he was equally excited by the appointment and the prospect of working with the new Chairman and noted the different approach that Mr Shuker would bring to the role.“Gavin will bring a different skill set to the position to what the organisation has had previously. His background in the sport is practically incomparable but it is his unique view, his business sense and ability to develop relationships that are his greatest strengths I believe,” O’Connor said.Shuker will take the chair ahead of this weekend’s QTF Board meeting.For more information contact QTF CEO Jamie O’Connor on 0419 574 052.Related Filesqtf_appoints_shuker_as_chairman-pdfRelated LinksQTF Chairman Announced
About the authorPaul VegasShare the loveHave your say Watford boss Gracia explains holding back goalscorer Doucoure for Newcastle drawby Paul Vegas10 months agoSend to a friendShare the loveWatford managed to secure a point after a late equaliser for their 1-1 draw with Newcastle United.Salomon Rondon put Rafa Benitez’s Newcastle ahead just before the half-hour mark, but they could not hold out for all three points as Abdoulaye Doucoure popped up to make it 1-1 eight minutes from time. Asked initially about the decision to rest Doucoure, Gracia said: “I have to choose in all the games different players and in this moment playing every three, four days I have to give the chances for all of my players.“I’ve many times said all my players deserve the chance to play because they are working very well. We are a good squad, not only a good team and if I don’t do it in this moment when can I do it.“It was the moment to change the players because some of them need rest and today if you see Doucuore this season he is the third player with the most minutes (played).”Pressed further on if six changes was too many, the Hornets boss responded: “If you see the result you can say that but I don’t agree.”
So that’s the reality of the Pelicans’ situation for the moment. They have one of the game’s great talents and play at an annoying, breakneck pace. New Orleans has good individual defenders who are perfectly fine as a unit during the regular season. The club might even fare decently against a juggernaut like Houston because the Rockets are guard-oriented, much like the Blazers.But if there’s a ceiling on these Pelicans, and there still seems to be one, it’s that their arms can stretch only so far when trying to contest a Durant fall-away jumper. And until New Orleans acquires a couple of wing stoppers the way Houston did last season, a team like the Warriors will likely continue to give the Pelicans headaches come postseason. Few NBA teams in recent memory have been on the sort of roller coaster the Pelicans are just getting off of.There was the excitement that accompanied the shocking deal for DeMarcus Cousins (while the 2017 All-Star Game was being played in New Orleans, no less). A year later, there was the January night in which the Pellies carried a six-wins-in-seven-games streak into a nationally televised contest with the Rockets, only to have the eventual victory marred by Boogie rupturing his Achilles tendon. The club, perceived by many as unable to contend without Cousins, reeled off 10 straight wins — tied for the best in franchise history — from mid-February to early March. A month and a half later, Jrue Holiday went Super Saiyan in the first round of the NBA playoffs and helped the Pelicans sweep No. 3-seed Portland in eye-popping fashion. Then their season ended in May at the hands of the Warriors, who not only won the title but also shocked the entire league by signing Cousins away from the Pelicans for just $5.3 million.With the dust settled now, it’s fair to wonder where the Anthony Davis-led squad stands. Is New Orleans anywhere near as great as it looked during its win streaks, or during that domination over the Blazers? And if so, what’s the team’s ceiling after putting Cousins in the rear-view mirror for good?A handful of things will definitely be worth watching with the Pelicans — some of which we saw for decent stretches after Boogie’s injury. In particular, the pace of play picked up considerably, and New Orleans finished the season as the fastest team in the league — something that likely wouldn’t have happened with a healthy Cousins in the lineup each night. And the Nikola Mirotic pickup undoubtedly meant that there was more space available in the lane, which Davis took full advantage of in the postseason. (Davis managed to take about 47 percent of his shot attempts from the restricted area in the playoffs while sharing the floor with Mirotic, according to NBA Advanced Stats. That number shrank to just 33 percent of his shots when Mirotic was on the bench.)The Mirotic-Davis pairing is one the Pelicans are looking forward to based on the vast success it had toward the tail end of last season, when the team’s net rating with Davis on the court went from plus-3.8 per 100 possessions without Mirotic to plus-10.3 per 100 possessions with him.1Davis played about 600 minutes in each setting after the trade for Mirotic. For some context, Davis and Cousins together produced a net rating of plus-4.2 in 2017-18, which was a decent improvement from the plus-2.5 they logged the season before.Still, it’s impossible to overlook what would have seemed unthinkable back in January: that the Pelicans would let a player of Cousins’s caliber walk, even after a devastating Achilles injury that often spells the beginning of the end for many of the best NBA players. New Orleans is a small-market franchise — one that has a front office desperate to win but is also capped out and, for the meantime, has no other means of landing a superstar to pair with Davis. The club needs to keep Davis happy, given that he’s entering his prime and is eligible to sign a supermax deal next summer, which could keep him under contract until 2025. Cousins, who’s about to turn 28 years old, had found a rhythm and comfort level playing next to Davis and was logging 25 points and nearly 13 rebounds on career-best true shooting and assist numbers. There hadn’t been any reports of problems with him in the New Orleans locker room, and prior to suffering his own injury, Cousins provided something of a security blanket in case Davis got hurt — a constant concern for the franchise.Boogie’s inside-out game is something that few players in the league can replicate. Still, the Pelicans likely will benefit by moving on from him. First, it’s unclear when, or in what condition, he will return. But on the floor, New Orleans figures to save a handful of possessions a game without him: Cousins turned the ball over five times a night, which was the highest rate in the league — more than either James Harden or Russell Westbrook, who in 2016-17 rewrote the NBA record books with how many miscues they committed. (At 6.7 giveaways per 100 possessions, Cousins lost the ball more than the next two-highest rotation Pellies in usage — Davis and Holiday — did combined last year, per Basketball-Reference.com.)Beyond that, the club signed former Laker forward Julius Randle, who’s capable of plugging some of the gaps that Cousins left behind. By no means is he the shooter that Cousins is, but he’ll almost certainly fit the team’s uptempo style far better. Randle is highly aggressive in transition, often calling his own number after grabbing a defensive rebound and taking possessions coast to coast in a matter of seconds. Only a handful of elite players — Kevin Durant, LeBron James, Giannis Antetokounmpo and DeMar DeRozan — have scored more efficiently2In terms of quantified Shooter Impact, which measures the value a player adds to shots above what an average player would be expected to accomplish on the same attempts. in the first seven seconds of a transition possession,3At least 100 plays since 2015-16, with three or more dribbles, on an unassisted two-point attempt. according to data from Second Spectrum.The Pelicans have a made a few other alterations around the margins this summer, losing veteran Rajon Rondo and replacing him with Elfrid Payton, another guard known for his inability to shoot (and, until recently, his hair). But the question facing this club — one it didn’t address despite being exposed on this front during the playoffs — is whether the team has anywhere near enough defensive wing depth.New Orleans is decent defensively — both Davis and Holiday were on the All-Defensive First Team. But in a league where length is being more and more prioritized, the Pelicans often played lineups with three guards who were shorter than 6-foot-5. Rondo, Holiday and E’Twaun Moore played 1,146 minutes together during the regular season and then logged 203 more minutes in just nine playoff games, according to NBA Advanced Stats.As such, New Orleans — which may have fewer rotation wing players between 6-foot-6 and 6-foot-9 than any other club in the NBA — was essentially dead on arrival when it drew the Warriors. The Pelicans had no one to match up with Durant, who not only shot better than 50 percent for the series but also took a whopping 19 shot attempts in which he enjoyed at least a 5-inch height advantage, per Second Spectrum. (Aside from James, who took 26 such shots in the playoffs, no other player had as many shot attempts with such mismatches in the entire postseason as Durant had in those five games against the Pelicans.) The club trotted out 6-foot-7 Solomon Hill and 6-foot-8 Darius Miller in hopes of adding some length against the Dubs, but they combined for just 40 points on 38 shots in the series.4The team originally had Tony Allen — a player Durant has historically struggled against — on the roster. But he struggled to stay healthy, and the Pelicans eventually traded him to the Bulls as part of the deal for Mirotic. Chicago then waived Allen, and he is currently a free agent.
This year’s Thanksgiving slate of NFL games is … not great. Only the game between the Detroit Lions and Minnesota Vikings has some juice to it. As you’ll see in the video above, that’s surprising! The Lions are usually the team holding Thanksgiving football back, not making it exciting.Check out our latest NFL predictions.
92016Baker MayfieldOklahoma91.8 12018Tua TagovailoaAlabama97.8 For years, Alabama’s offensive blueprint seemed like a relic from the 1980s: Run the ball on the first few downs, attempt a short- to moderate-length pass, and move the chains or punt to play the field-position game. It was a Ritz Cracker offense that, at times, appeared premeditated to suck the entertainment out of the sport entirely. It worked: Alabama has had 11 running backs/fullbacks and 13 offensive linemen drafted over the past 12 years. RKSeasonPlayerTeamTotal QBR Tagovailoa vaulted into Alabama lore last season when, as a freshman, he was inserted into the national championship game after halftime and led the Tide to a come-from-behind win over Georgia in overtime. Now the front-runner for the Heisman Trophy, Tagovailoa has performed like a video game character in his sophomore campaign, accounting for 1,033 passing yards, 14 total touchdowns and zero interceptions. He can feather a ball onto the chest of a full-sprint receiver 40 yards downfield and Houdini his way around would-be tacklers bearing down on him in the pocket — execute and improvise. ESPN has been calculating Total Quarterback Rating, which seeks to value quarterback play on a 0-to-100 scale while adjusting for the strength of opposing defenses faced, since 2004. The left-handed Hawaiian is in line to produce the top single-season figure ever — by nearly four points. 82008Sam BradfordOklahoma91.9 52018Dwayne HaskinsOhio State93.7 32011Russell WilsonWisconsin94.1 72017Khalil TateArizona92.0 22018Kyler MurrayOklahoma95.6 Source: ESPN Stats & Information Group Tua is on historic paceSingle-season leaders in Total Quarterback Rating, 2004-18 The engine powering college football’s pre-eminent outfit over the past decade has typically been a blue chip-laden, pressure-oriented, versatile defense. In Tuscaloosa, where Nick Saban has helmed the Alabama Crimson Tide since 2007, that engine has only gained steam in recent years. The winner of 87.2 percent of its games and five national titles since the diminutive kingpin’s arrival, Alabama is the only program to qualify for the College Football Playoff in each of the first four years.Much of that sovereignty is attributable to the historically great fortresses that Alabama closes off its end zone with. There have been six instances since 2007 of a team holding opponents to five or fewer rushing touchdowns over an entire season. Alabama accounts for four. Some have even claimed the team’s stockpile of 18- to 22-year-olds could be competitive on Sundays. Baseless claims notwithstanding, the Tide have sent more talent to the NFL than any other team over the past decade. Since Saban’s arrival, 41 members of the Crimson Tide have been selected in the first two rounds of the NFL draft. More than 60 percent of that pool came from the defensive side of the ball. All 11 defensive starters in Alabama’s 2016 season opener were selected in the past two drafts.However, four games into the 2018 season, all anyone can talk about is the Crimson Tide offense — and for good reason. Saban, it would appear, finally has an offense as ostentatious and dynamic as his defense, a horrifying development for the rest of the country.Spearheaded by starting quarterback Tua Tagovailoa and under the direction of first-year offensive coordinator Mike Locksley, the Tide offense is crashing down on its competition like a tsunami. Alabama has outscored its four opponents by an average margin of 41 points. The Tide have played 16 quarters of football and failed in just two to put more points on the scoreboard than their opponent, and in both cases it was the fourth quarter of a blowout.1A 7-7 fourth-quarter tie against Louisville when Alabama led 44-7 entering the fourth, and the final frame of its blowout win over Texas A&M, when it ceded a touchdown while leading 45-16.Locksley’s offense has been so devastatingly effective that Saban, a well-established curmudgeon who cares not for style points, beseeched the press to “look at some of the things we didn’t do so well” following Saturday’s 22-point win over then-No. 22 Texas A&M. One can only be so sated by a unit averaging 53.8 points and 539.5 yards, after all.Alabama’s offensive efficiency — a metric graded 0 to 100 that controls for quality of opponent and “garbage time” — scores a 98.02. That’s the top mark of any team measured by ESPN Stats & Information since Saban’s arrival. Its defensive efficiency of 94.24 ranks a lusterless fourth since 2007, behind the current Georgia team and two other versions of Bama. According to College Football Reference’s Simple Rating System, Alabama is 49.71 points better than the average Football Bowl Subdivision team this season. However, in Saban parlance, “our team needs to do a lot of things to improve.” 102014Marcus MariotaOregon91.3 42010Andrew LuckStanford93.8 2012Johnny ManzielTexas A&M91.3 62017Baker MayfieldOklahoma92.3 However, that bland cadence hasn’t manifested under Locksley. Considering the second half of Alabama games have largely been a formality — the Tide have outscored opponents 148-20 in the opening 30 minutes — let’s assess first-half play calling. Alabama is taking to the air on 53.9 percent of plays, which ranks 38th nationally. That mark is 13.9 percentage points higher than last season’s average, which ranked 110th nationally. On first and second downs, Alabama’s pass percentage is 40.5 percent, up from 34.5 percent a season ago. Compared with previous seasons under Saban, this year is a clear aberration, like the Indiana Pacers suddenly learning the value of the three-point shot.“(Locksley) really is doing a good job of mixing up the run, the pass, the play-action screens,” tight end Hale Hentges said. “And he’s making a very natural flow to all of our plays and that’s what has made us have success. … He’s an offensive genius.”What once were almost always Mark Ingram carries on second down have been replaced by deranged sequences of Tagovailoa evading a pass rush to heave a cross-body rocket to the back of the end zone for a touchdown.Alabama has already attempted 17 passes that traveled at least 20 yards downfield, in line to finish the regular season with 51, according to data provided by TruMedia. Last season, the team accounted for 50 in 14 games. Only Hawaii (with 27) has accounted for more passing plays of 20-plus yards this season than Alabama’s 25. In turn, the Tide rank third in expected points added on passes (79.34) and second in adjusted offensive expected points added (98.2), according to data provided by TruMedia.“We feel like as a group, collectively, when we go out, we’re unstoppable,” wide receiver Henry Ruggs III said.Unstoppable isn’t far off. Alabama has scored a touchdown on 48.1 percent of its drives, the top mark of any SEC team. Locksley’s unit has only gone three-and-out eight times, in line to produce the lowest three-and-out percentage (15.4 percent) by an Alabama offense since Saban’s arrival by nearly three percentage points, according to data provided by ESPN Stats & Information.The onslaught of points hasn’t gone unnoticed by pundits like Kirk Herbstreit and Tim Tebow, who knows a thing or three about leading an explosive offense in the SEC. Both have posited that this year’s Alabama offense has the makings of the best in program history. Alabama no longer just suffocates its opponent with defense; in 2018, its offense brings the reckoning.
The Columbus Blue Jackets fired head coach Ken Hitchcock Wednesday in the midst of a disappointing season that has seen Columbus fall from a playoff contender to an also-ran.Hitchcock, who assumed head coaching duties mid-season in 2006, compiled a 125-123-36 record in his time with the Jackets.Addressing the media, new interim coach Claude Noel, who looked poised and eager, sat next to Jackets general manager Scott Howson, who looked very much like a man who had just fired someone.“We’re all responsible for the performance of this team,” Howson said. “It has become clear, that despite the efforts of ‘Hitch,’ the coaches and the players to find a solution, it wasn’t working. The team was not responding to the message.”When asked about the timing of the firing and whether or not it could have come earlier before the season was lost, Howson rejected the notion that he had given up on the playoffs.“We don’t consider the season lost. We’re going to play hard and see what happens,” Howson said. “We all felt that ‘Hitch’ deserved the opportunity to try and work out of this. We wanted to be patient and we kept hoping he’d find the solution.”It was clear that Hitchcock’s job security was tenuous at best for some time now. The change started to manifest itself right after Christmas, according to Howson.“That’s when I started really thinking seriously that this isn’t going to happen for us, but you keep hoping,” Howson said. “If you look at the [Los Angeles] game and you look at Wednesday night (a 5-1 loss to the Colorado Avalanche), there just wasn’t much pushback.”‘Not much pushback,’ corporate-speak for a lack of heart, nearly always falls on the coach’s shoulders.Much was made about the young players on the club and Hitchcock’s tendency to not allow them to play through mistakes. His gruff style was often at odds with a younger team supposedly finding its way.“The young players have to take some accountability,” Howson said. “Claude is going to try to get them to do that. Try to get them excited because some of them have lost confidence and the hope that they had coming into the season.”Noel has a tough job ahead of him. He has been an assistant coach with Columbus since 2007, after spending four seasons as head coach of the Milwaukee Admirals in the American Hockey League.He sounded up for the task.“At the end of the day, you want to be proud of the way of you play,” Noel said. “The players are going to want to give me their best, because I’ll be making assessments. I can’t wait for training camp, I have to look at each day who didn’t play well and who’s coming out.”