Tassie stars chasing big prizes
Tasmanian athletes are in the running for several of world sport's big prizes in coming weeks.
- Cyclist Richie Porte is one of the fancied team leaders in this month's 2018 Tour de France.
- Boxer Luke Jackson will face Northern Ireland's Carl Frampton for the WBO interim world featherweight belt in Belfast on 18 August.
- Footballer Ben Brown looks set to top the AFL's individual goal-kicking contest, the Coleman Medal, and will be hoping to help his North Melbourne team into the finals.
- Hockey star Eddie Ockenden has been auditioning in the Netherlands for the captaincy of the national team, the Kookaburras.
Porte, 33, won the Tour de Suisse in June to top off his preparations for the world's most prestigious bike race.
The Tasmanian is the lead rider for the BMC Racing Team in the Tour de France which started in Noirmoutier-en-l'Île in France's Vendée department on 7 July and concludes in Paris on 29 July.
A former triathlete, Porte has been outstanding on the European road circuit in recent years but suffered a major setback in the 2017 Tour de France.
He began the race as one of the leading contenders for the yellow jersey but crashed out on a steep final descent during the ninth stage.
The Launceston-born rider suffered a fractured collarbone and pelvis and took months to regain racing fitness.
Now he feels on track to make amends after securing the biggest victory of his career in Switzerland.
A strong performance in the final time trial helped the Tasmanian clinch the week-long event from Denmark’s Jakob Fuglsang and Colombian Nairo Quintana.
“This was a big goal. Let’s not beat around the bush,” Porte told journalists. “It’s a very important race and I think it’s disrespectful to say it’s a ‘lead-in’ race for the Tour de France as it means a lot to win it.
“I’ve won races like Paris-Nice, Catalunya and Romandie, but this race is so special.
“I’m ready for the Tour de France. I did a good race here. I’m not at the top of my form just yet so I am excited for July.
“I hadn’t raced since the Tour de Romandie,” Porte said. “I was at home for the birth of my son two weeks ago...hopefully, I’ll be better at the Tour de France.”
Boxer Luke Jackson, also 33, is in training camp in Sydney preparing for the biggest fight of his unbeaten professional career.
When asked by Irish journalists during a promotional trip to Belfast in June for his impressions of local hero Carl Frampton, Jackson said: “As a fighter he doesn’t do anything great but he does everything very, very well.”
Frampton, former world super-bantamweight and featherweight champion, declared the comment “very disrespectful”.
“He took it the wrong way, but I don’t care how he takes it," Jackson said.
"He is going to punch me in the head anyway, and I’m going to punch him in the head. It doesn’t really matter what I said to upset him."
Jackson won 113 amateur bouts and was a Commonwealth Games bronze medallist before turning professional in 2013.
He holds the WBA Oceania, WBO Oriental and Australian Featherweight titles.
The Tasmanian has never lost a professional fight and if he can overcome Frampton he will be the State's first world champion since Daniel Geale, who beat German Sebastian Sylvester in Hamburg in 2011.
Geale briefly unified the global welterweight division, winning IBF, WBA and IBO middleweight titles.
Footballer Ben Brown, a relatively youthful 25, kicked five goals against the Western Bulldogs in June, maintaining his lead in the chase for the Coleman Medal.
But it was a 10-metre toe-poke that earned Brown the loudest applause at Melbourne's Etihad Stadium.
With about 45 seconds on the clock and North Melbourne trailing by four, the Kangaroos swept from one end to the other.
As the ball reached him, Brown realised he would be tackled if he bent down to pick it up, so he soccered it to skipper Jack Ziebell who drilled the winning goal 20 seconds before the final siren.
Brown had 11 touches and six marks, kicking 5.1, and remarkably covered more distance than any other player on the field with 15.3km.
“I’m a bit of a plodder, so I just keep moving the whole time,” he told reporters. “I don’t have much speed on me, but that’s the one thing I can do, is keep going.
“I play a high amount of game time, which helps when the other guys are rotating as much as they do — you can’t run far when you’re on the bench.”
Brown had kicked 40 goals after that and held a five-goal buffer over GWS forward Jeremy Cameron, whose hopes of a challenge seemed to have vanished in late June when he was suspended for five matches.
Hockey star Eddie Ockenden, 31, has been co-captain of the Kookaburras national side that competed for the Champions Trophy in the Netherlands during June.
Ockenden is the second Tasmanian to be appointed this year to lead a national side, with Tim Paine captaining Australia’s Test and ODI cricketers.
Ockenden and West Australian co-captain Aran Zalewski have been auditioning in the Netherlands for the outright captaincy. A permanent, single appointment will be made ahead of November’s World Cup in India.
Ockenden is the long-term captain of the Tassie Tigers and led them to their first Australian Hockey League title in 2014.
He is the fourth most capped Kookaburra player with 319 appearances, including 68 goals, and was named Kookaburra's Player of the Year in 2015.
The former Friends School pupil has won World Cup, Champions Trophy and Commonwealth Games gold medals.
June didn't go as planned for Paine or Tasmanian rugby celebrity Adam Coleman.
In England on his first overseas assignment as ODI captain, Paine led Australia to a disappointing 5-0 series whitewash.
It was the nation's first 0-5 loss to England in any format of cricket and Paine could not rescue the depleted Australian team with his bat.
The 33-year-old wicketkeeper-batsman, who assumed the Australian captaincy after the ball-tampering scandal in South Africa, told journalists at Old Trafford after the team's fifth loss that he was unsure about his one-day captaincy future.
“All I know is I was coming here to do this series and I’ve said a few times before, when you are my age it’s a bit foolish to look ahead," Paine said.
“Certainly, I am really looking forward to captaining the Test team and continuing how I have been playing in that format.
“But where I go with the rest of my cricket is something we will discuss in the coming weeks.”
In Sydney, Coleman, a great brute of a Tasmanian sportsman who is admired across the rugby-speaking world but little known in his State of birth, was part of a Wallaby squad that lost a titanic struggle against European champions Ireland.
In the deciding game of a three-Test series, Coleman was forced off by a leg injury and obliged to watch from the sidelines as Ireland cemented its No 2 world ranking at a sold-out Alliance Stadium.
Coleman, 26, had played Super Rugby with a cracked sternum to win a place in the national team for the series.
The Tasmanian had also shrugged off a grotesque facial injury to start in the third Test.
At 204cm and 122kg, Coleman is 4cm taller and 21kg heavier than AFL big boy Ben Brown.
Coleman's next opportunity on the biggest stage will be the Rugby Championship in August when Australia plays New Zealand, South Africa and Argentina.
Image courtesy of CyclingTips
11 July 2018, Edition 196