International captain Price struggling for answers

With the United States team already leading 8-2, only a massive turnaround in the eight matches on Saturday will leave any suspense heading into Sunday’s 12 singles at Liberty National.

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“These guys are trying their arses off,” Price said. “I don’t know what the recipe is. This is my third time (as captain) and I’m still trying to figure it out.”

The International team, comprised of players from around the world except for Europe, have lost nine of the 11 competitions and Price said it was difficult to come together as a team.

Price’s task has become harder with his top-ranked player, Japan’s Hideki Matsuyama, struggling to the point he was dropped for Saturday morning’s foursomes.

“I think we’ve got some strong teams out there tomorrow. So hopefully we can turn it around,” said Price, who will send out Australians Jason Day and Marc Leishman against Jordan Spieth and Patrick Reed in the first match.

U.S. captain Steve Stricker was not quite ready to deliver his victory speech, but said the team was one of the strongest he has been involved with.

“I’ve been on some pretty special teams. This reminds me a lot of the 2008 Ryder Cup team there when we finally were able to win at Valhalla.

“But this team is even I think better than that. They are young, they are explosive, they have a lot of fun with one another.

“We’re getting along great in the team room and they are playing great golf.”

Stricker’s toughest decision was deciding which four players to leave out on Saturday morning with their depth such that Charley Hoffman and Kevin Chappell were benched, despite their runaway 6&5 victory on Friday.

Saturday morning’s four alternate-shot foursomes will be followed by four four-ball (better ball) matches in the afternoon.

FOURSOMES MATCHES ON SATURDAY AT PRESIDENTS CUP, (U.S. NAMED FIRST):

Jordan Spieth/Patrick Reed v Jason Day/Marc Leishman

Dustin Johnson/Matt Kuchar v Adam Scott/Adam Hadwin

Phil Mickelson/Kevin Kisner v Jhonattan Vegas/Emiliano Grillo

Justin Thomas/Rickie Fowler v Louis Oosthuizen/Branden Grace

(Editing by Greg Stutchbury)

Catalans occupy polling stations ahead of contested vote

In one of the biggest crises to hit Spain since democracy was restored after the death of Franco in 1975, the referendum has pitched the wealthy north-eastern region against central government and sown divisions among Catalans themselves.

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Authorities in Madrid have instructed police to ensure no votes are cast in Sunday’s vote.

A court on Wednesday ordered police to prevent the use of public buildings “for the preparation and organisation” of the referendum.

But as classes ended for the day, small groups of activists, including parents with their children, on Friday peacefully occupied several schools in Barcelona where voting is scheduled to take place.

“I am going to sleep here, with my oldest son who is a student here,” Gisela Losa, a mother of three, told AFP at Reina Vionant primary school in Barcelona’s fashionable Gracia neighbourhood, where pro-independence sentiment runs high.

The occupations appeared to be partly coordinated by a platform of “schools open for the referendum” which distributed a manual via social networks with instruction on how to occupy buildings and guarantee they are available to serve as polling stations.

0:00 Spain says Catalans can celebrate and demonstrate but not vote Share Spain says Catalans can celebrate and demonstrate but not vote

Cinema and dance classes

On Friday evening, around 10,000 supporters of the referendum gathered off Barcelona’s Placa d’Espanya, or Spain Square, as separatist leaders closed their campaign for the vote.

“In these hugely intense and hugely emotional moments, we sense that what we once thought was only a dream is within reach,” Catalan leader Carles Puigdemont told a cheering crowd.

Many of them waved the “Esteleda” — the separatists’ flag of red-and-yellow stripes with a white star on a blue chevron.

But quite a different scene played out just six kilometres (3.5 miles) away in the town of L’Hospitalet de Llobregat.

There, some 2,000 people who oppose separating from Spain rallied at a meeting called by Ciudadanos, Catalonia’s main opposition party.

They waved Spanish and EU flags, as well as the “Senyera” — the official Catalan flag of plain red-and-yellow stripes.

“This is a dead end, they want to destroy the state, Spain and Catalonia,” said Dolores Molero, a 53-year-old secretary from Tarragona, a city further south.

People gather during a rally called by Ciudadanos Party against the independence referendum the upcoming 01 October, in L’Hospitalet de Llobregat, CataloniaAAP

Madrid has repeatedly warned those who help stage a referendum which the courts have ruled unconstitutional that they face repercussions.

On Friday, Spain’s education ministry said in a statement that school directors in Catalonia “were not exempt from liability” if they cooperated.

But Jordi Sanchez, the president of the Catalan National Assembly, an influential pro-independence organisation, told AFP the court order said public spaces could not be used for the referendum on Sunday “but it did not say anything about leisure activities today and Saturday.”

“We have proposed that citizens organise activities, that they put in place a lot of activities to give life to these spaces which on Sunday should host the referendum.”

Barcelona’s Joan Brassa high school, for instance, advertised a series of activities for Friday and Saturday, including movie screenings, football matches and Zumba dance fitness classes.

Catalan government spokesman Jordi Turull said there would be “2,315 polling stations all over the region” for the vote. It was not immediately clear how many potential polling stations were being occupied.

Police have for days been seizing electoral items such as ballot papers as they follow orders to stop the referendum while prosecutors ordered the closure of websites linked to the vote and the detention of key members of the team organising the referendum.

0:00 Spanish authorities confiscate Catalan referendum voting papers Share Spanish authorities confiscate Catalan referendum voting papers

Travel warnings

Polls show the 7.5 million people of Catalonia are split on independence, but a large majority want to vote in a legitimate referendum to settle the matter.

With firefighters and farmers vowing to protect polling stations, Catalonia’s regional police force, the Mossos d’Esquadra, have warned of the risk of “disruption of public order” if they try to prevent people from casting ballots.

In case they resist, Madrid has sent thousands of extra police officers from other forces to Catalonia — which accounts for one fifth of Spain’s economy — to help suppress the referendum it deems illegal.

Central government spokesman Inigo Mendez de Vigo said he was “completely certain” that the Mossos would “obey the law and the judge’s orders” because they “are subject to the law like everyone else”.

“I insist that there will be no referendum,” he said.

Concerned, though, several European countries, including Germany and the Netherlands, urged their nationals in Catalonia to exercise caution ahead of the referendum.

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Richmond Tigers triumph to break 37-year AFL flag drought

Richmond have banished their 37-year AFL premiership drought with a 48-point grand final triumph against favourites Adelaide.

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Just 12 months after the Tigers were in disarray, their relentless pressure was too much for the Crows in their 16.12 (108) to 8.12 (60) victory on Saturday.

Dustin Martin won the Norm Smith Medal as best afield, making history as the first player to win a premiership and achieve the Norm Smith-Brownlow Medal double in the same season.

Fans continue to pour in to the MCG as the #AFLGF edges closer to the opening bounce @SBSNews pic南京夜生活,/EQXipqH7Pn

— Manny Tsigas (@mantsig) September 30, 2017

The Tigers claimed their 11th flag in front of a rapturous pro-Richmond crowd of 100,021 at the MCG.

The popular thinking was that if the game was to become one-sided, it would be the Crows who would prove too good.

Instead Adelaide chose the worst-possible day to produce their worst performance of the season.

After a promising start, the Crows went goalless in the second term – the first time in 36 matches between these two clubs that Adelaide have failed to kick a goal in a quarter.

This time last year, the Tigers were reeling after they plummeted out of the top eight, having lost elimination finals in the previous three seasons.

There was an unsuccessful board challenge and the heat was on Damien Hardwick.

Crowds have saddled up to watch the #AFLGF on screens at Richmond’s Punt Road oval @SBSNews pic南京夜生活,/kdkux3ZWP4

— Manny Tsigas (@mantsig) September 30, 2017

But the Richmond hierarchy kept faith with Hardwick and he repaid them with his first flag as an AFL senior coach.

“Who would have thought we finished 13th last year, beaten by (113) points in the last round and now we’re … premiers,” Tigers forward Jack Riewoldt told Channel Seven.

Martin shone with a team-high 27 disposals, several of his signature “don’t argue” fend-offs and two goals.

“I honestly cannot believe it. This is a dream come true,” Martin said.

“This is the best thing in the world mate. I’m proud of each and every player that played today.”

Defenders Alex Rance and Bachar Houli were also outstanding, while teenager Jack Graham starred with three goals in just his fifth AFL match.

The signs were excellent early for the Crows and they led by 11 points at quarter time.

Adding to Richmond’s woes, Riewoldt had started with three behinds.

Slowly, but surely, the Tigers then took control.

Rance’s spoil on Taylor Walker four minutes into the second term gave Richmond possession and Riewoldt soon marked at the other end.

Riewoldt kicked his first goal from an acute angle, the Crows could not respond and the Tigers ramped up the pressure.

Lines around the block at Punt Rd oval as the countdown to the #AFLGF continues @SBSNews pic南京夜生活,/T4BvhOulp1

— Manny Tsigas (@mantsig) September 30, 2017

Richmond kicked the only four goals of the second term to take a nine-point lead at the main break.

Martin was now dominating and captain Trent Cotchin was a battering ram at the stoppages.

Adding to the Crows’ dramas, Luke Brown (knee) and Hugh Greenwood (calf) were among hurt players.

Graham, the youngest player in the match, kicked two goals in the third term.

Even more importantly, he quelled Sloane’s influence after the Adelaide vice-captain’s influential start.

Rory Atkins and Josh Jenkins missed gettable shots late in the term that would have given Adelaide hope.

Instead, Richmond kicked the opening two goals of the last quarter and it was time to party.

 

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Feldt fears golden-point NRL GF finish

The prospect of a golden-point finish should excite North Queensland winger Kyle Feldt ahead of their NRL grand final clash against runaway favourites Melbourne.

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Instead it fills him with dread.

By rights Feldt should have only fond sudden-death memories.

Feldt’s most memorable grand final moment is the last gasp try off a miraculous Michael Morgan flick that forced the 2015 decider against Brisbane into extra time.

History shows the Cowboys went on to become the first to win a title in golden-point extra time, sealing their maiden premiership off Johnathan Thurston’s boot.

Yet the thought of going through it all over again sends a shiver down Feldt’s spine thanks to his biggest grand final regret six years ago.

In 2011 Feldt had the chance to kick the winning conversion for North Queensland after the siren in the under-20s grand final but missed.

“The Warriors ended up winning in golden point. I was devastated,” Feldt told PlayersVoice website.

“I remember Andrew Johns coming up to me after fulltime and saying ‘kickers will always have that pressure, you just have to learn from it and move on’.

“It took a little while to get past that.

“In hindsight, that was a good learning experience for me – having to fight back from that feeling of letting people down. I reckon it ultimately made me a better player.”

Feldt admits he still feared the worst when Thurston missed a sideline conversion to win the grand final after the winger’s buzzer-beating try tied the scores in 2015.

“Johnno’s conversion attempt hit the post and bounced back into the field of play. I thought to myself ‘not again. I can’t lose two grand finals like this’,” Feldt said.

Suffice to say Feldt isn’t looking forward to another nail-biting finish in Sunday’s decider.

“All we have spoken about is that we have three wins to get to a grand final and one more to lift the trophy,” he said.

“People wrote us off before we even made it into the finals. We’ve showed everyone we have the ability.

“The Storm are the best team in the comp and have been all year.

“It should be a great game. I just hope, for the sake of my ticker, it doesn’t go to golden point again.”

Then again Cowboys fans wouldn’t say no to a tight finish.

The injury-hit North Queensland haven’t been given a chance against dominant minor premiers Melbourne despite launching a giant-killing run since relying on other results to scrape into the top eight.

The Cowboys are expected to clear injury worries Ethan Lowe (eye), John Asiata (hand), Coen Hess (knee) and Antonio Winterstein (ribs) at Saturday’s captain’s run at Kogarah Oval.

Iraq cuts Kurdistan’s air links with outside world after referendum

The Iraqi government cut autonomous Kurdistan’s direct air links with the outside world indefinitely on Friday, partially isolating the northern region after it voted a massive “yes” in an independence referendum.

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The move increases the pressure on the Iraqi Kurds amid soaring regional tensions following Monday’s non-binding but deeply contentious vote.

Washington said it did not recognise the “unilateral” referendum and urged all parties to reject the use of force and engage in dialogue.

“The vote and the results lack legitimacy and we continue to support a united, federal, democratic and prosperous Iraq,” US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said in a statement.

The central government in Baghdad had ordered the halt to all foreign flights to and from the autonomous Kurdish region from 6:00pm (1500 GMT) on Friday.

0:00 Iraqi Kurds facing air and land blockades Share Iraqi Kurds facing air and land blockades

Foreigners scrambled to fly out of the region’s capital Arbil and its second largest city Sulaimaniyah before the ban took effect.

Iraqi Kurdish transport minister Mawlud Bawa Murad told AFP at Arbil airport that the ban would “negatively impact all international businesses in the Kurdistan region, in addition to all civilians, from all nations”.

It would “negatively impact our daily life,” he said. “We will do our best to find a viable alternative, or succeed to bring back international flights.”

Arbil is a key gateway for humanitarian aid workers helping Iraqis affected by the battle against the Islamic State group (IS).

Washington said earlier it would be willing to facilitate talks between the Iraqi Kurdish authorities and Baghdad to calm escalating tensions over the 92 per cent “yes” vote.

Neighbouring Turkey and Iran also strongly opposed the vote, fearing it would inflame the separatist aspirations of their own sizeable Kurdish populations.

Ankara has threatened a series of measures including blocking lifeline oil exports from the region via Turkey.

The Kurds, whose borders with Turkey, Iran and Syria remain open, have condemned the flight suspension as “collective punishment”.

Iraq’s Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi said it was not “punishment” but a legal measure that would be reversed if the transport authority was transferred to Baghdad in line with the Iraqi constitution.

The ban saw people, many of them foreigners, flock to Arbil airport to avoid being stranded.

0:00 Putin and Erdogan in talks over Iraq and Syria Share Putin and Erdogan in talks over Iraq and Syria

Kurds rush back

Iraqi Kurdistan is home to a large international community, most of whom enter on a visa issued by the regional authorities that is not recognised by the central government, so they cannot travel elsewhere in Iraq.

On Friday, around 100 passengers waited eagerly for their planes in Arbil, where the last flight out was to Vienna at 4 pm.

“We were supposed to go back to Brazil next Saturday but we rescheduled our flight,” said Isidoro Junior, a 32-year-old volunteer for an NGO providing medical assistance to Iraqis displaced by the war against IS.

The director of Arbil airport, Talar Faiq Salih said humanitarian, military and diplomatic flights were excluded from the ban.

Earlier, the UN humanitarian office OCHA said it was working to ensure aid could continue to reach tens of thousands of needy Iraqis.

In Sulaimaniyah, foreigners and others needing to leave sped to the airport before the ban took effect, while Kurds who were abroad for business or tourism rushed home.

“There have been masses of people for two days,” said airport spokesman Dana Mohammad Said, adding that the airport remained open for domestic flights.

0:00 Iraq launches operation to liberate Hawija Share Iraq launches operation to liberate Hawija

‘Help facilitate’

Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, Iraq’s highest Shiite religious authority, called for all sides “to abide by the Iraqi constitution and to appeal to High Federal Court to solve the Kurdistan crisis”.

“The latest political developments should not have a negative impact on the strong relationship between sons of the homeland, Arabs, Turkmen, Kurds and others,” his representative said. 

Washington said it would be prepared to “help facilitate a conversation” between Arbil and Baghdad.

“We would like to see some calm on all sides,” US State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said, noting that the US had opposed the referendum “because we thought it would be destabilising”.

On Thursday, the spokesman for the international coalition fighting IS in Iraq and neighbouring Syria said the referendum had taken focus away from the war against the jihadists.

French President Emmanuel Macron invited al-Abadi to visit Paris on October 5 to discuss the referendum and offered France’s help in calming tensions.

“Faced with the priority of fighting Daesh and the stabilisation of Iraq, Iraqis must remain united,” the presidency said in a statement, using another name for IS.

Iraqi forces meanwhile launched an assault on the northern town of Hawija, one of the last IS bastions in the country along with a stretch of the Euphrates Valley near the border with Syria.

Kurdish forces have been key allies in US-backed offensives against IS in both Syria and Iraq.

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Munster and Morgan battle for Roos No.6

For Michael Morgan and Cameron Munster there is more than just a premiership ring on the line during Sunday’s NRL grand final.

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The future of the Queensland and Australian No.6 jerseys are also at stake.

The two halves have been earmarked as generation next by their state and country and will go head-to-head in a tantalising battle when North Queensland, led by Morgan, meet Munster’s Melbourne.

With Cowboys chief playmaker Johnathan Thurston out for the rest of the season with a shoulder injury, Kangaroos coach Mal Meninga has a big call to make as to who will fill the five-eighth role during the upcoming World Cup and beyond.

Munster appeared to have the inside running after he was selected at five-eighth for Queensland during State of Origin three and Morgan was shifted to the centres.

He also has a ready-made combination with clubmate and Australian halfback Cooper Cronk.

However in Thurston’s absence, Morgan’s form has been irresistible and over the past four weeks has led the competition in most major attacking stats including try assists (four), linebreaks assists (seven) and forced dropouts (six).

“He’s a class player, he’s been playing some great football,” Munster said of his Maroons teammate.

“There’s a lot of good players in that position at the moment. You’ve got James Maloney in six, you’ve got Michael Morgan, you’ve got Anthony Milford as well. There’s three other people there going for that six position.

“I’m looking forward to playing against him.

“I just love watching the way he plays mate. He’s just a footballer, he plays off instinct and I really enjoyed playing inside him in Origin three.”

Munster put himself firmly in the frame as the country’s best young playmaker when he was selected ahead of Morgan and Daly Cherry-Evans for this year’s Origin decider.

After the Maroons leadership group, in particular Storm captain Cameron Smith, convinced coach Kevin Walters that Munster was the man for the job, he repaid the faith by playing the house down and helped Queensland to a series upset.

Munster said there was no acrimony between the pair and Morgan had taken Walters’ selection decision in his stride.

“Michael’s a great player but also a good bloke,” Munster said.

“He just wanted to do what’s best for the team, the same with me.

“Smithy and the leadership group at the time and Kevvie decided who should play in that postition. He took that decision and accepted it and said ‘whatever’s best for the team’.

“I would have done the same if I was in the same boat.”

TALE OF THE TAPE

How Michael Morgan and Cameron Munster have shaped up over 2017

*Morgan

Games: 26

Tries: 11

Try assists: 24

Linebreaks: 12

Linebreak assists: 18

Tackle busts: 81

Kick metres: 6,646

40/20s: 3

Forced dropouts: 21

* Munster

Games: 20

Tries: 1

Try assists: 13

Linebreaks: 7

Linebreak assists: 23

Tackle busts: 66

Kick metres: 1000

40/20s: 0

Forced dropouts: 5

Source: Fox Sports Stats

Hamilton on pole again for Malaysian GP

Lewis Hamilton has snatched pole position for the Malaysian grand prix by the narrowest of margins.

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His title rival Sebastian Vettel will start last on the grid after suffering an engine problem.

Vettel needed an engine change to his Ferrari after the last practice at Sepang on Saturday and immediately suffered a problem which could not be fixed in the first qualifying session.

Hamilton, whose Mercedes struggled with balance in practice, set the pace with a lap of 1min 30.076sec for the 70th pole of his career.

He edged Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen by 0.045sec.

“We had no idea what was going to happen today. I’m sorry for what happened to Sebastian and it is a real surprise to be up here with these guys,” Hamilton said.

The Red Bulls of Max Verstappen and Australian Daniel Ricciardo were next, followed by Valtteri Bottas in a Mercedes and Esteban Ocon in a Force India.

Three-time world champion Hamilton goes into Sunday’s race with a 28-point lead over Vettel, who was out of the points two weeks ago after crashing shortly following the start of the Singapore Grand Prix.

It was Hamilton’s fourth successive pole in Sepang and his fifth in the past six races on the circuit, where his only win came in 2014.

Vettel’s Ferrari had limped into the pits in the first qualifying session. He had already needed an engine change after a problem experienced in the day’s earlier last practice.

The Ferrari engineers were unable to repair the problem before the session ended, meaning Vettel will be last on the grid in Sunday’s race.

“It was a bad day but the race is tomorrow,” Vettel told Sky Sports.

“We need to see now what the problem is but we managed to do the change in time. It was a miracle and the guys were amazing.

“It was a shame that I couldn’t get it out.”

Stoffel Vandoorne in a McLaren, Nico Huelkenberg in a Renault, Sergio Perez in a Force India, and Fernando Alonso in a Mercedes completed the top 10.

Gale overcome by Tigers’ AFL flag win

As Richmond chief executive Brendon Gale cried in the MCG stands on Saturday alongside club president Peggy O’Neal, his thoughts drifted away from his club’s historic AFL success.

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Two flashpoints went through Gale’s head, himself a 244-gamer at the Tigers.

First, there were the trying weeks of last season, when he grappled with coach Damien Hardwick on how to transform Richmond from also-rans to a competitive team.

The Tigers’ decision to stick with Hardwick – without a finals win in seven years at the club – has become the stuff of legend.

Gale maintained he never contemplated getting rid of Hardwick, opting instead to tinker and back in their man.

He wasn’t proud of the way the Tigers ran out the season – with two wins in nine games – but said he saw the start of something during the torrid run.

“Once (our chance of playing finals) was done mathematically, we fell off a cliff,” he said.

“We had to play kids, play guys in different positions. We started to see (Dan) Butler, (Jason) Castagna, (David) Astbury. We did fall away but there were green shoots.

“I was confident we could rebound strongly but I would never have thought we could get to a preliminary final and win a premiership, I’ll be honest.

“My heart is bursting with pride.”

Gale was also thinking of May this year.

Richmond began the season with five-straight wins before collapsing as winter set in.

Somewhat ironically, it was Adelaide who started a run of four-consecutive Richmond losses, with a 76-point win in South Australia.

Tight defeats to the Western Bulldogs, Fremantle and Greater Western Sydney followed for the Tigers but Gale saw leadership in the manner of the defeats.

“They became extremely resilient,” he said.

“Those three games in succession we lost narrowly, I just thought ‘wow, there’s something in the way they keep coming back’.

“(Our leaders) went through a period of self reflection last year.

“The captain (Trent Cotchin), (Alex) Rance, (Jack) Riewoldt … they all stood up today .

“And look at young Jack Graham, kicking three clutch goals. That’s leadership.

“I’m proud of the coach, I’m proud of the players and I’m full of joy for our fans. They’ve flocked to this club to support it. It’s just incredible.”

Premiership Tiger salutes late grandfather

As the Tigers faithful began to celebrate their first AFL flag in 37 years, Richmond youngster Daniel Rioli was thinking of his late grandfather Maurice.

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The spectre of the Tigers great had loomed large over Punt Road in the build-up to their grand final triumph.

It had been 35 years since Richmond last played on the final Saturday in September, with Carlton prevailing by three goals in the 1982 premiership decider.

Maurice Rioli made history in that game by becoming the first player from a losing side to win the Norm Smith medal.

The similarities in style between the pair were obvious, and many speculated 20-year-old Rioli could follow in his grandfather’s footsteps by being among the best-on-ground contenders despite only being in his second season.

It wasn’t to be for the Tigers goalsneak but he managed to win something his grandfather never gained – a premiership medal.

Speaking after the game, Rioli said his thoughts instantly went to his beloved grandfather as the Tigers’ achievement dawned upon him.

“It was in the last quarter, for sure,” he said.

“I was on the bench and I could hear the players and coaches saying ‘there’s only three minutes to go’.

“I just thought of my grandfather first up.

“He won the Norm Smith, so playing in the grand final, and wearing the No.17 … I just thought about him.”

The Tigers’ turnaround from finishing 13th last season after only eight wins to premiers this year has been nothing short of remarkable.

Rioli, who plans to return to the Tiwi Islands during the off-season to celebrate with his family, said it was a testament to the closer bonds formed between Tigers players.

“There’s a big connection now,” he said.

“I think last year we weren’t that connected as a group. Now we’ve certainly come together.

“We go to dinner together and celebrate special occasions together, and we’re a tight unit.”

Rugby hooker Baldwin sorry after lion bite

Welsh hooker Scott Baldwin has apologised after being bitten on the hand while trying to pet a lion in South Africa.

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The incident has resulted in him missing the Ospreys’ Pro14 defeat to the Cheetahs on Friday.

The 29-year-old was described as “stupid” by Ospreys coach Steve Tandy after suffering the wound, which needed stitches, during a pre-match visit to a game park.

Baldwin took to social media on Saturday to apologise.

“Sorry all Ospreys fans for letting you and the team down by missing the game through the bite!” he wrote on his verified Twitter account.

“Should (have) known he wouldn’t be impressed with me stroking his lioness before introducing myself to him first.

“And for those asking, my hand is on the mend thankfully and should be up and running round soon enough, thanks for your support and concern.”

Baldwin came in for a ribbing from his coach after the 44-25 defeat at the Free State Stadium, where Tandy explained the incident to the media in candid terms.

“There was an incident with a lion, but in fairness it was nothing to do with the lion,” he said.

“He did bite Scott but when you put your hand in a fence where there is a lion, then you will get bitten.

“It was pretty stupid on Scott’s behalf and he is pretty lucky… I don’t know what sort of wildlife show Scott has been watching where you can pat a lion on the head as if it’s a kitten.

“It’s probably one of the silliest things I’ve ever been involved in, but thankfully he is OK and hopefully he will be back up and running in the next couple of weeks.”

The club confirmed that Baldwin had suffered the injury on Wednesday and said he was treated at the scene by the team doctor before being admitted to a local hospital in Bloemfontein on Thursday for further treatment to prevent infection.

He was released on Saturday to travel home with the rest of the squad as planned.