Dockers primed for AFL flag assault

Fremantle coach Ross Lyon has declared his team will fear no one during the AFL finals series after they secured a top-four berth with a fighting eight-point win over Port Adelaide.

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The Dockers’ flag hopes were hanging in the balance after they fell 12 points behind early in the third quarter of Saturday’s clash at Patersons Stadium.

But nine unanswered goals from Fremantle turned the match on its head, with the home side running out 16.9 (105) to 14.13 (97) winners to lock down a coveted top-four berth.

The result means Fremantle will now play an away qualifying final in the first week of the finals, instead of an elimination final.

Last year, the Dockers beat Geelong in a qualifying final at Simonds Stadium to set up a dream run to the grand final.

Lyon says his team is well placed to again thrive in the finals cauldron – even for the away games.

“Everyone has been on a long, hard, arduous season and the reward at the end is we get a double chance,” Lyon said.

“We’ve won a significant amount of games. It’s pleasing for the playing group that they get to have a genuine assault again.

“We go into (the finals) in good form.

“We’ve beaten Hawthorn, we beat Port, we ran Geelong to a kick and we haven’t played Sydney for a long time.

“We respect everyone, but nothing really holds any fears for us.”

Fremantle lost to Sydney by 17 points at the SCG in round five this year, but the Dockers beat the Swans in last year’s preliminary final in Perth.

The Power’s fifth-placed finish means they will now face a sudden-death elimination final against the in-form Tigers at Adelaide Oval next week.

Richmond shape as the ultimate dark horse of the finals series after producing a nine-game winning streak to snatch eighth spot.

Under the current finals format, no team has won the flag from outside of the top four.

But Power coach Ken Hinkley has urged his team to give it one mighty crack in an attempt to buck that trend.

“As we know now, she’s cutthroat. One mistake and you’re gone – season over,” Hinkley said.

“I would say right now we are playing as good a footy as we have played all year.

“I think we have prepared ourselves pretty well.

“We know what finals are about. We had a little taste of it last year.

“Today is perfect preparation.”

Fremantle defender Michael Johnson was clearly hampered by a sore back against the Power, but Lyon said the All-Australian would be fit to play next week.

The Dockers will also welcome back star midfielder Nat Fyfe from a two-match suspension.

Fremantle midfielder Michael Barlow, who was thrust into the side just two weeks after breaking his thumb, tallied 27 possessions against the Power in a brave effort.

But it was ground-level forwards Hayden Ballantyne, Michael Walters and Chris Mayne who kicked the Dockers into gear, with the trio combining for seven goals during their side’s nine-goal blitz.

Power forward Jay Schulz stood tall with six goals, while Robbie Gray (33 possessions, two goals) was also influential.

Eels not giving up on NRL season

Parramatta coach Brad Arthur defiantly declared his side’s NRL season was not over despite a 42-12 thumping at the hands of Newcastle at Hunter Stadium on Saturday.

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Needing wins in their final two games to guarantee a place in the top eight, the Eels led 12-8 at halftime but were blown away in the second half by the 14th placed Knights.

Newcastle took the lead in the 50th minute when five-eighth Jarrod Mullen went through some flimsy defence to run 20 metres to score.

It sparked a five-try blitz from the hosts in the space of 16 minutes as they added Parramatta to their list of recent victims at home which already included the Warriors, Melbourne and Sydney Roosters.

Winger Chanel Mata’utia grabbed a hat-trick, first scoring in the 53rd and 59th minutes before Beau Scott and Joey Leilua exposed woeful Eels defence in front of a crowd of 18,558.

Mata’utia then showed great agility in the 79th minute to bring down a bouncing ball just inside the deadball line to seal his treble.

The loss leaves Parramatta needing to beat Canberra on the road next Saturday and require other results to go their way if they are to make the finals.

Newcastle had the advantage of a strong breeze in the second half but Arthur said his side lacked intent throughout and paid the price.

The ninth-placed Eels will be 10th on 28 points after this weekend if the Warriors beat the Titans on Sunday.

The Broncos and the Cowboys, who host the Sharks on Monday night, are also on 28 points but Parramatta have the worst for-and-against of the group by a fair margin.

Arthur was confident they could bounce back in Canberra and give themselves a chance of making the play-offs.

“I don’t think I’m going to have to do much this week,” he said.

“The boys’ pride is hurting and they realise it was a lost opportunity.

“We don’t want to finish the season with a performance like that.

“Our season’s not over.”

Knights captain Kurt Gidley said it was enjoyable to watch everything go right for his side after a season of setbacks and distractions.

“We haven’t had too many of those days,” Gidley said.

“We’ve been on the other side of it a few times.

“I thought we were under the pump a bit in the first 20 minutes, they were coming at us hard and fast.

“But we were prepared to roll up our sleeves and work really hard into the wind.”

Parramatta forward Ben Smith was put on report in the 78th minute for a crusher tackle on Chanel Mata’utia.

Groth hoping for Davis Cup call-up

Sam Groth is awaiting a phone call from Davis Cup captain Pat Rafter after showcasing his credentials and competitive fight in a respectable second-round US Open loss to Roger Federer.

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Groth went down swinging in a 6-4 6-4 6-4 defeat at Flushing Meadows on Friday night before putting his hand up to potentially replace the injured Bernard Tomic for next month’s World Group playoff against Uzbekistan in Perth.

With Tomic quitting the Open with a hip problem and saying he’s uncertain if he’ll be fit for the September 12-14 grasscourt tie, Rafter is weighing up his options.

Groth’s explosive power game is tailor made for grass – as was evident by the 26-year-old reaching his maiden ATP semi-final last month in Newport.

He and teenage prospect Thanasi Kokkinakis are the frontline contenders for a promotion.

Davis Cup coach Josh Eagle was among the first in the Flushing Meadows locker room to congratulate the world’s fastest serve on his breakthrough Open campaign.

“I think there’s a chance. Josh’s got to speak with Pat, so they’ll come up with a decision together and hopefully I’ll hear from Pat in the next day or so,” Groth said.

Tennis Australia said Rafter had already left New York to return to Australia to begin preparations for the playoff, but Groth hoped he’d already shown the skipper enough to warrant inclusion in the four-man team.

Groth has won six doubles titles in 2014 with Chris Guccione, who has routinely played with Lleyton Hewitt in Davis Cup, while also breaking into the world’s top 100 in singles.

“I want to be in a position that I can play both so I’ve made that an option for the team,” Groth told AAP.

“I’d love to be a part of things and, if they feel like I fit into the team, then I’ll make myself available to be a part of things.

“There’s four guys out there and you want to have options over the three days.”

Groth earned rave reviews from Federer and tennis great John McEnroe for his daring serve-volley game and the strapping one-time Australian rules footballer vowed to continue playing in such an entertaining fashion.

“I grew up idolising Pat (Rafter) and Mark Philippoussis, who were the two guys coming through at the top of the game at that stage,” he said.

“I grew up on grass in Australia. I always sort of serve-volleyed, came to the net.

“Ever since I was young, I always rushed the net. It hasn’t always worked for me, but I think I’m getting better at it.

“I think it’s what I’ve got to do. I’m a big guy. I’m never going to be the quickest guy around the court.

“”I’ve got an aggressive style of game. I think that’s the best way for me to play, and I’m going to keep doing it.”

Crows wants fast AFL start against Saints

Adelaide coach Brenton Sanderson wants just one thing: a fast start against St Kilda in Sunday’s AFL encounter at Adelaide Oval.

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The Crows are out of the hunt for the finals, but Sanderson is demanding his outfit finish their season in style against the likely wooden spooners.

“Our focus will be to start well against St Kilda no matter what,” he said.

Adelaide’s finals aspirations hinged on Collingwood, Richmond and West Coast losing.

The Crows had the first leg of that trifecta, with the Magpies losing to Hawthorn on Friday night.

But Richmond’s gallant three-point triumph against minor premiers Sydney on Saturday night consigned to Adelaide to being finals spectators, irrespective of the result of West Coast’s away game against Gold Coast on Sunday.

Sanderson’s desire for a quick start comes amid sluggish opening from his Crows, who have won just nine opening quarters this season.

That statistic galls the third-year coach, given only four clubs – flag fancies Sydney, Hawthorn, Fremantle and Port Adelaide – have won more quarters overall than Adelaide.

“The trouble is, when we have a bad quarter, we get scored heavily against,” Sanderson said.

“Defence is an area we have to improve.”

Sunday’s fixture will be St Kilda great Lennie Hayes’ final AFL game, with the respected Saint retiring.

Hayes is the hero of Adelaide’s acting captain Rory Sloane, who supported the Saints when a lad.

Sloane will chalk his 100th AFL game against his childhood idol.

“There’s a bit of romance in that it’s Lenny Hayes’ last game, Rory Sloane’s 100th,” Sanderson said.

“I think Sloaney will jog over and shake his hand before the game because he does love him.”

Australia’s terror alert remains medium

Australia’s terror alert will remain at medium despite the United Kingdom increasing its assessment of risk from substantial to severe, the second-highest level.

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The alert level is regularly reviewed by authorities and would be increased to high “if it were deemed that a terrorist attack is likely to occur,” Attorney-General George Brandis said in a statement on Saturday.

Senator Brandis said the government was seriously concerned that about 60 Australians were fighting in Syria and Iraq and another 100 were believed to be involved.

“We remain in close contact with the United Kingdom and other partners about the threat from terrorist groups active in Syria and Iraq, and from returning foreign fighters,” he said.

The UK’s terror level was on Friday boosted to severe but Home Secretary Theresa May said there wasn’t any specific threat.

“This move by the United Kingdom indicates the significance of the threat posed by the Islamic State and other terrorist groups in Syria and Iraq,” Senator Brandis said.

The medium terror alert means that a terrorist attack could occur.

It’s still safe to travel to the UK, Deputy Prime Minister Warren Truss said.

“So long as Australian people abide by any warnings or suggestions they have in place, they should be able to travel there quite safely,” he said.

“We will continue to monitor the situation and when there is a need to make a change we will. But at this stage we will take the advice and act when or if it becomes necessary.”

Mr Truss said Australians have been shocked by what they’re seeing on their TV screens.

“And any suggestions that this kind of activity could come to Australia absolutely appals our country, and so we do have a responsibility to take action and make sure that doesn’t happen.”