How Lance Armstrong is a guilty inspiration

Seven-time Tour de France winner Lance Armstrong with his eight-month-old son Max in 2010. Picture: David MariuzIt’s not all bad news for Lance Armstrong. Donations to the cancer survivor’s foundation grew almost 25 times after he announced he was not contesting the US Anti-Doping Agency’s charges. And his sponsors, including Nike, say they are sticking by him.
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Meanwhile, commentators said while the American cyclist “is guilty but in a lot of people’s eyes, he’s still an inspiration”.

“I’m absolutely convinced that he did [dope] but I’m also convinced that he is the victim of a witch hunt,” editor-in-chief of Bicycling Magazine, Peter Flax, told US television network CBS.

Hero or zero?

The apparent contradiction between Armstrong’s amazing cancer survival story and his alleged doping-tainted past has led to soul-searching by commentators and fans in the US and Europe.

Jason Gay, himself a cancer survivor, wrote in The Wall Street Journal of the dilemmas facing the public: “There will always be the moral relativists, outraged by outrage. There will always be those who point to the epidemic of doping, and wonder if the playing field was merely levelled. Don’t be naive, they say – sports is about the furious pursuit of an edge. In full arc of Armstrong’s story, doesn’t the good outweigh any allegation?”

Michael Rosenberg wrote of Armstrong in Sports Illustrated: “He is banking on one thing here: That we don’t care if he used drugs. He is probably right. We don’t care. Admit it: We … don’t … care.

“If athletes who use performance-enhancing drugs are criminals, then Armstrong pulled off the perfect crime. Most Americans only cared about the Tour de France because Armstrong won it; now that those wins are gone, we don’t care about the event anymore. Genius.”

ESPN’s sports writer Darren Rovell echoed the views of other commentators when he reflected on the difficulties in assessing Armstrong’s legacy.

“[J]udging Lance Armstrong is more complex than any athlete we’ve ever had to judge.

“With the prevalence of media and the way we consume it, we as human beings are challenged more than ever before to digest information and give our take. We are challenged by friends at dinner and by co-workers at the office. What do we think about what happened with this person?

“How does the good outweigh the bad? Does it make up for it? Does it lessen his sports or philanthropic accomplishments? In a world of now now now, of 140 characters, that can’t be answered in one conversation.”

Donations up, sponsors stay

Lance Armstrong Foundation chief executive Doug Ulman told ESPN donations rose from an average of $US3200 on Thursday to $US78,000 on Friday after the cyclist’s announcement.

American sporting apparel company Nike, who has sponsored Armstrong since 1996, said it “plans to continue to support Lance and the Lance Armstrong Foundation, a foundation that Lance created to serve cancer survivors”.

“Lance has stated his innocence and has been unwavering on this position,” Nike said in a statement.

Anheuser-Busch and sunglasses manufacturer Oakley were also sticking with Armstrong, AdAge reported, while exercise equipment manufacturer Johnson Health Tech issued a statement “reaffirming” its support of Armstrong and his charitable foundation.

The continuing support of donors, at least for now, appeared to reflect the public’s view that his Livestrong message was more important than the drug allegations surrounding him.

In Armstrong’s hometown of Austin, Texas, residents said they were continue to support him despite the USADA’s decision.

“As far as I’m concerned, Lance Armstrong will always be a hero and this doesn’t change that,” said Austin City Council member Chris Riley, just as he and city officials unveiled a new urban cycling track.

A city worker in Austin told AFP: “It’s very disappointing that they would target Lance for this when it’s clear that there are so many issues with doping in all sports.”

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WorkChoices belongs in the past: Abbott

Former prime minister John Howard with Opposition Leader Tony Abbott. Picture: ANDREW MEARESOpposition Leader Tony Abbott has moved to shut down speculation the Coalition will return to WorkChoices, saying there will be “no going back to the past”.
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Earlier today, the government seized on a call from John Howard to return to individual employment contracts, saying you could ”bet your bottom dollar” that Mr Abbott would bring back WorkChoices.

“Let’s face it: John Howard is two prime ministers ago, John Howard is three Liberal leaders ago. That was then, this is now,” Mr Abbott told reporters in Mackay today.

In a speech given earlier this month but published today in The Australian Financial Review, the former prime minister called on the Opposition Leader to bring back individual contracts and toughen up unfair dismissal laws.

Despite the unpopularity of WorkChoices, Mr Howard said the industrial relations regime was not the ”main reason” the Coalition lost government in 2007.

”I think we have to address this issue again,” he told a forum hosted by Westpac.

”If you’re asking me, there is no reason why this country should not go back to the workplace system we had between 1996 and 2005, where you had individual contracts.”

This morning, Treasurer Wayne Swan said Mr Howard’s comments indicated the Coalition would bring back WorkChoices.

”If Mr Howard, who was a Liberal prime minister for 12 years, is talking about bringing back WorkChoices, then you can bet your bottom dollar that Mr Abbott is bringing back WorkChoices,” he told reporters in Canberra.

But Mr Abbott said the Coalition would not seek to be ideological in the industrial relations arena.

“There will be cautious, careful, responsible change within the framework of the existing [Fair Work] Act,” he said. ”There is no going back to the past.”

This follows Mr Abbott’s often repeated declarations that WorkChoices is ”dead, buried and cremated” and Labor’s long-running argument that the industrial relations regime would return under an Abbott-led Coalition government.

Liberal backbencher Steve Ciobo was more outspoken today, adding his support for individual contracts and a relaxation of unfair dismal laws.

He told Sky News that small businesses were “doing it tough” and needed the “monkey of regulation” of their back.

Mr Ciobo said it was “absurd” that in this day and age individuals could not have a contract with their employers.

The Liberal MP also dismissed Mr Swan’s comments about WorkChoices as a ”tired, old argument” and said the Treasurer should ”get over” himself.

”It just shows what a broken old man Wayne Swan is,” Mr Ciobo said.

Workplace Relations Minister Bill Shorten called on Mr Abbott to reveal his industrial relation policy and ”repudiate his old boss, Mr Howard, or indeed agree with him”.

Mr Shorten said Mr Howard had made the comments in frustration at his protege’s “timidity” on the Coalition’s policy plans.

‘‘We all know the opposition, or at least the strategists in the opposition leader’s office, think that a workplace relations debate is the equivalent of them eating a bowl of rat poison,’’ Mr Shorten said. ‘‘Even though we know that many in the opposition … are itching for that debate.’’

Claiming the Coalition intended to strip workers of penalty rates, Mr Shorten said such benefits for thousands of workers, including hospitality and office shift workers, meant the difference “between making ends meet and not making ends meet”.

“The Coalition has an IR policy in witness protection,” he said. ”We want a debate on industrial relations … We say to Mr Abbott, bring it on. Politics should not be a guessing game.”

Mr Swan also seized on positive comments Mr Howard made about the Australian economy, arguing the former prime minister had ”belled the cat” on the Coalition’s carbon tax ”scare tactics”.

In his Westpac address, Mr Howard said: ”When the Prime Minister and the Treasurer say that the Australian economy is doing better than most, they are right. I agree with them.”

Mr Howard also said there was ”no doubt” the Australian economy was performing relatively well, but added the ”overwhelming” reason for this was found in Australia’s ”geography” or mineral resources.

Describing the Westpac speech as ”remarkable”, Mr Swan said Mr Abbott should follow suit and stop ”trash talking” Australia’s economy.

”If it’s good enough for John Howard to acknowledge the strength of the Australian economy, it ought to be good enough for Tony Abbott,” Mr Swan said.

With Jessica Wright

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DRAGONS BLOG: Beating theWarriors

If you’re going out on Saturday night and you record the footy with the plan to watch it on Sunday, make sure you stay far away from Twitter.
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I learned that over the weekend. We’d gone away for the weekend and I’d done very well to avoid any mention of the game on Saturday.

But then I woke up on Sunday morning and, without thinking, I flicked through my Twitter feed and there they were. Loads of tweets talking about how we’d thumped the Warriors by 38-6.

So when I did sit down on Sunday night to watch the game, there were no nerves or much excitement as I already knew the outcome.

I imagine had I not known the score I’d have been thrilled with the game, especially the second half where we scored 26 points (that’s more points than we’ve scored in all but two matches this season), and stoked at the efforts of our players

But knowing the result allowed me to take a different view. And what I noticed is that I don’t think we played all that well – we certainly bombed a few tries during the game and looked a bit lost from time to time.

Also, what helped us to that high score was the stunningly uninterested New Zealand team. The commentators described the Warriors as looking like they were at a training run and that’s exactly right – especially in defence. So often they looked like they were going at half-speed.

So the scoreline did flatter us a bit – a better team would have cracked the half-century mark against the Warriors team that turned up on Saturday.

I’m not going to ask the question ‘‘why couldn’t we have played like this all season?’’, because I think we actually didn’t play too much better than usual. The big differences were the fact that the players finally seem to have figured out that Trent Merrin can offload the ball, so someone tends to follow him now and Jamie Soward strong kicking game.

The Warriors were so inept that they allowed us to rack up a big score without much effort.

Still, at least Ben Hornby and Dean Young got to leave their home ground for the last time as winners.

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Tip Top trucks rally in protest

Tip Top drivers in the Illawarra a joining a statewide rally today against what their union says is an ultimatum from the company to take a pay cut or quit.
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Drivers are taking their families and their bread trucks to Tip Top’s offices in Oak Flats this morning to protest the company’s recent decision to restructure their runs and cut their rates of pay by up to 30 per cent-plus in some cases.

Transport Workers Union official Lee Lawler said the staff have been given five days to make a decision to either accept the cuts to their pay or lose their jobs.

‘‘It is unfair an unjust to be issuing this kind of ultimatum and telling workers – without any kind of consultation or warning – that you either stay with us on reduced wages or lose your job,’’ Mr Lawler said.

‘‘In plain and simple terms, this is contemptible and deplorable behaviour on the part of Tip Top.

‘‘Many of these workers have already lost substantial cuts to their wages and like ordinary Australians, they have…mouths to feed, bills to pay and other financial commitments.

‘‘Even if they stay, they stay on heavily reduced wages so they are caught between a rock and a hard place – and now face the real prospect of a bleak and uncertain future.’’

A spokesman from Tip Top said the company was “disappointed” with yesterday’s action by the union.

“Tip Top greatly values the service provided by its distributors and it is with regret that a proportion of Tip Top distributors will be adversely impacted by these changes,” the spokesman said.

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Butchers clean, clinical

Thirroul’s Mitchell Bate offloads in his team’s tidy despatch of Helensburgh in the Illawarra Coal Cup semi-final. Picture: DAVE TEASEThirroul advanced to the 2012 Illawarra Coal Cup grand final with a clinical 22-6 win over Helensburgh at WIN Stadium yesterday.
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The Butchers will now play premiers for the past three years Wests in the decider at the same venue on Sunday.

“We wanted that shot in next week’s game against Wests. We’ve been hanging out for that. We knew we had to play well against Helensburgh again today,” Thirroul coach Phil Ostwald said.

“It was a really good team effort. We’re happy.”

In what would turn out to be his last game as a player for Helensburgh, Tigers coach Wade Humphreys said Thirroul deserved their win.

Thirroul led 2-0 after seven minutes when prop Shane Grady kicked a penalty goal.

Resolute defence reigned until the 20th minute when the player of the match, Butchers hooker Joel Johnson, scampered over for a try.

Thirroul stretched their lead to 12-0 when interchange forward Adam Goode forced his way over and five-eighth Ty McCarthy added the extras.

Grady added another penalty goal in the 34th minute for the Butchers to head into the sheds 14-0 ahead at the interval.

The Tigers cut the lead to 14-6 in the 57th minute when hooker Humphreys scored from close range and halfback Andrew Dallalana converted from near the posts.

That was nullified when Butchers interchange backrower Jacob Ling crossed in a handy position but Grady’s conversion attempt hit the upright.

The Tigers conceded a penalty to allow the Butchers to be back on attack, Johnson capped an outstanding performance in the 77th minute with his second try of the match and this time it was McCarthy’s conversion attempt that hit the post.

But that didn’t matter. Unlike in the qualifying semi-final there was no late comeback from the Burgh. The Butchers were grand final-bound.

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High five for Wolves: Every senior team into the semi-finals

Mudgee Wolves are celebrating a historic moment in the club’s history with all five senior teams qualifying for the Bathurst District Football semi-finals.
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It’s possibly the first time in the club’s history they have had five senior teams contest the semi-finals.

Four of the senior teams – men’s first and third grades, and women’s first and fourth grades – had secured their finals spot the week before but the men’s second grade had to defeat Macquarie United on Sunday to advance.

Fortunately for Mudgee, they did.

Goals to James Ford and Bradley Golden saw the Wolves seconds take home a 2-0 win but more importantly, confirmed their participation in the semi-finals.

Wolves’ stalwart Jason Payne said the achievement was a fantastic thing for the sport in the region.

“We had five teams this season and to get all five teams in the top four at the end of the season, I think that’s a tremendous thing,” Payne said.

“Considering, it seems every year we are changing personnel and having to rebuild.”

An ecstatic second grade coach Terry Ford could not hide his excitement.

“That was the first time this side had beaten Macquarie in two years,” Ford said.

“I am very pleased, one, to qualify for the semi-finals, two, to beat Macquarie United and three, to knock Macquarie out. They were the defending champions.”

Ford said his team was lucky not to be down 1-0 after Macquarie were on top in the first half.

But things went the home side’s way and they were able to hold on for a 2-0 win.

The men’s first grade also played Macquarie but the match was a little bit more fiery.

Mudgee were down 1-0 early in the first half but goals to Cal Ruming and Helmut Eichner gave the Wolves the lead.

With 10 minutes remaining, Macquarie had a player sent off but it did not matter as they found the equaliser moments later.

Both sides exchanged shots in the dying minutes of the game but the pair had to settle for a 2-all draw.

“The first 20 minutes of the game certainly the boys were a bit off their game, but once we started to play the ball on the deck and knock it around and got that equaliser, things lifted,” Payne said.

“Certainly it was an ugly sort of a game but to get a draw, I’m happy with that.”

Third grade had a resounding 5-2 win over Bathurst 75s in Bathurst.

It was a convincing win for the Wolves thirds as they only had 11 players for the entire match.

Terry Ford said the team was peaking at the right time.

“They are playing really well at the moment,” Ford said.

“They are right in the mix of it. They are getting some of their regulars back and they will cause a few headaches for other teams.”

The Wolfettes did not have a successful Sunday as the men, first grade losing to Bathurst City Colts (1) 12-0 and fourth grade forfeiting to City Red Tops due to lack of players.

Despite the poor results, coach of the two teams Aaron Lee said he was “over the moon” both sides had qualified for the semi-finals.

“With a little bit more player commitment we can win,” Lee said.

“I was impressed with how the [first grade] girls defended, the score line might not indicate it but they busted their backsides all game.

“We played Cowra on Saturday and won 8-3 then lost 12-0. That shows you what the Bathurst sides are like.”

Unfortunately Lee will most likely be without his two star strikers, Adrienne Lee and Jess Salomoni, for the entire semi-finals because of injury.

ON THE BALL: Bathurst City Colts’ Jade Braun (left) and Mudgee’s Nicole Schneider in action on Sunday. Despite losing 12-0, Mudgee qualified for the Bathurst District Football women’s first grade competition. Photo by SANDY SMITH 260812/sswolfettes/1897

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Two Dragons fire right till the end

Retiring St George Illawarra Dragons legends Ben Hornby and Dean Young did a slow farewell lap of WIN stadium after beating the Warriors 38-6 on Saturday. Pictures: DAVE TEASE Veteran Young (above) cradles daughters Sienna and Elle while retiring captain Hornby (below) and son Axl greet the crowd.
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Dean Young’s distinguished first-grade career will go full circle on Sunday when he shares the field with the club he first debuted against.

Young will run out for his 209th and final game against Parramatta in an emotion-charged finale at ANZ Stadium.

Ironically, it was against the Eels that a fresh-faced Young broke into the NRL ranks in 2003.

“I still remember it – it was against Parramatta in round two in 2003,” the 28-year-old recalled.

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“I had a heap of friends and family turn up. I came off the bench and gave Piggy Riddell a bit of a spell. He needed a bit of a breather back in those days.

“It was a great memory because you grow up always wanting to play for this club. It’s all I ever wanted to do. It meant a lot that day.”

Young and retiring Dragons captain Ben Hornby will have 482 first-grade games between them after the Eels send-off.

The game will also see off two of Parramatta’s greats – Nathan Hindmarsh and Luke Burt.

On Saturday night, the outgoing Dragons pairing bid farewell to Wollongong supporters in a comprehensive 38-6 win over the Warriors.

The victory made for emotional scenes as Hornby and Young completed a slow farewell lap after the game.

“They’re two very good mates of mine and it’s very sad to see them both retiring,” Dragons second-rower Ben Creagh said.

“We’ve got one game left together. It’s sad to think those two guys are going to play their last game of rugby league ever next week because they’re awesome blokes.

“They’ve been captain and vice-captain of our club for a very long time now and they’re going to leave a great legacy behind them.

“There’s going to be big shoes to fill whoever takes their places because they’ve done such a wonderful job.”

Creagh lauded the decision last week to move the Dragons-Eels game from Parramatta Stadium to ANZ Stadium.

Eels powerbrokers opted for the Homebush venue after the original site was overwhelmed by ticket sales. More than 40,000 people are expected to turn out for the game.

“Nathan Hindmarsh and Luke Burt have been wonderful servants for their club. Dean Young and Ben Hornby have been exactly the same,” Creagh said.

“I think Nathan Hindmarsh and Ben Hornby are the most capped players for their clubs and that’s the way they should go out – at ANZ in front of 40 or 50,000.

“I’m tipping there’s going to be just as many Dragons fans as Eels fans wanting to see the four club legends go out on a high.

“It’s going to be a pretty passionate game,” Creagh said.

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Surf clubs plead for more members

Children train at Warilla Beach yesterday at the Surf Life Saving Club’s open day. Evander Windon, 7, takes a ride with Warilla Surf Life Saving Club vice-president Steven Krinks on one of the club’s dune buggies at Warilla Beach. Picture: ADAM McLEAN
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Surf lifesavers are poised for a busy season, with declining membership leaving fewer volunteers to share the workload.

At Warilla Surf Lifesaving Club, volunteers may be required to patrol up to every second weekend unless new recruits can be found to fill the roster, according to club vice-president Steven Krinks.

The club was among more than 70 across NSW to host an open day at the weekend, in a bid to engage with their communities and build membership.

Mr Krinks believes the decline in volunteers is cyclical, with parents bowing out of the club once their children come of age and move on.

He also suspects people don’t have the time to volunteer as they once did.

“I suppose it’s the era we’re in,” he said.

“It does make it difficult for us to retain members when they’re having to volunteer so much.”

The club’s leaders are aiming to recruit another 30 patrolling members before December.

Patrolling members at Warilla fell from around 155 to 95-100 in the past four years.

Club president Alan Beveridge believed the decline reflected changing work patterns.

“People used to work 9-5 and not on weekends – that’s all changed now,” he said.

Yesterday’s open day included live music, children’s activities, a barbecue and surf rescue demonstrations.

Other clubs to host events included Bellambi, Bulli, Coalcliff, Coledale, Fairy Meadow, Helensburgh-Stanwell Park, North Wollongong, Windang and Wollongong.

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Uni win on path to semis

Vikings centre Paulo Falevai unloads under pressure from the Shamrocks’ defence in their clash at Ocean Park on Saturday. The Rocks scored a try on the bell to beat the Blueys 32-31.Picture: GREG TOTMANThey did it the hard way but University clinched third spot with Saturday’s season-ending 22-8 road win over Camden.
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After building a 12-8 half-time lead, the Mallee Bulls did enough in the second half to claim their 10th victory and book a qualifying semi-final clash with neighbours Tech Waratahs this Saturday.

“We made hard work of it,” Bulls coach Shaun McCreedy said.

“Camden played well and it was what we expected because they had nothing riding on it. They had a lot of ball and put us under pressure. It was a physical hitout and it was definitely what we needed going into our game against Tech next week.”

For a team that was not even assured of a top five spot less than a month ago, Uni rose above some of their more fancied rivals to clinch third.

“We sat down five or six weeks and set a goal to finish third. We’ve achieved that and now we’ll take it from there,” McCreedy said.

“It’s given the boys a lot of confidence going into the semis. They know they can give it a good shot.

“We’re happy with where we are, but we’re not satisfied to be in third. We feel we’ve got a lot to offer in the semis.

“We’ll be able to make it hard for Tech next week. In saying that, we know we’ll have to be on top of our game to get the result.”

Meanwhile, Shamrocks scored a match-winning try in the final minute to secure a tense 32-31 win over long-time rivals Vikings at Ocean Park.

The Rocks had three players in the sin-bin at one stage and had to come from behind to beat the Blueys.

“We were running around with 12 players for a while and we also had five players injured, so it was a pretty gutsy effort from the boys,” Shammies co-coach Dion Miller said. “Both teams scored some really good tries.

“It was really tight and it was a good, typical Shamrocks versus Vikings game.”

Miller praised performances of players called in to cover his injured regulars.

“Our second grade has a lot of injuries as well and our depth had been depleted, but some of the kids really stepped up for us,” he said.

“We’re looking forward to the semis.

“Hopefully our five injured guys are right, but either way we’ll give it our best shot.”

Shoalhaven finished fifth with a 93-0 mauling of Bowral and will take on the Rocks in this Sunday’s elimination semi-final.

Minor premiers Avondale tuned up for the playoffs with a 71-13 thrashing of Kiama.

Final standings: Avondale 75, Tech Waratahs 63, University 51, Shamrocks 48, Shoalhaven 47, Vikings 38, Camden 28, Kiama 24 and Bowral 2.

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Braves squeak in for minor title

Pirates pitcher Brendan Lower in action against the Eagles on Saturday. Picture: GREG TOTMANKiama Braves edged out Dapto Chiefs to claim their first top-grade Illawarra baseball minor premiership in the tightest finish to a season on record.
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Braves’ final round 15-3 win over wooden-spooners Shoalhaven Mariners plus Dapto’ s 8-7 away loss to Wests Cardinals left Braves and Chiefs tied at the top of the ladder.

Braves clinched the minor premiership on countback by just .007 on run percentage, with Kiama to face Chiefs in Saturday’s major semi-final at Hector Harvey Reserve.

In a pulsating finish to the season, Chiefs scored three runs in the top of the ninth inning against reigning premiers Cardinals last Saturday to tie the game 7-7.

But Cards scored the winning run in the bottom of the ninth to deny Chiefs top spot – the second straight season Chiefs have missed out on the minor premiership after leading late in the season.

Meanwhile, Berkeley Eagles finished in third spot, despite a surprise 5-3 loss to Northern Pirates at Eagles Field on Saturday.

Pirates have had a disappointing season but proved too good. Starting pitcher Brendan Lower threw a complete game and gave up just nine hits, with eight strikeouts.

Alistair Michaelis went 3/4 for Pirates, while Liam Crilly also had three hits for Eagles.

Berkeley face Cardinals in Saturday’s elimination semi-final at Cringila Park.

The preliminary final on Saturday September 8 will be at North Dalton Park, with the best-of-three grand final to begin on Saturday, September 15, at Fred Finch Park.

Game two of the grand final series is September 16 with game three, if required, on September 22.

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