30 May 2020

Today's sports news: What you need to know

12:05 pm on 30 May 2020

Latest - Tall Blacks captain Mika Vukona has signed up for this year's new-look National Basketball League.

Tall Blacks captain Mika Vukona.

Mika Vukona Photo: PHOTOSPORT

Vukona, 38, has registered for the upcoming draft which will decide the rosters of the seven teams to make part in the six-week competition in Auckland.

The former Breakers forward lives in Australia so will have to enter two weeks of quarantine before tip-off.

Vukona says it will be tough to be away from his family for two months, but they support the decision to play.

"It's always hard every time you leave your family. Obviously coming over and getting the blessing by the family was a huge thing. But quarantine will be something new and I'm always up for new challenges."

Vukona has been following the news about the reformatted competition and says he likes how 2020 League has come together. He says he wants to get back to where his career began in 2000 when he was still a student at Nelson College.

"Just watching [the League's plan] unfold and the amount of hours and energy that people have put into it, it looks pretty awesome. With everything that's unfolded in the last couple of weeks, I just thought it would be fun to go back to the roots and enjoy playing. I love playing, it's a bit of an addiction.

"This is where I made a living, this is where I got discovered, playing in this League."

Reigning premiers open their 2020 account

The latest instalment of the oldest and fiercest rivalry in Australian rugby league ended in a 28-12 victory for the Sydney Roosters over the South Sydney Rabbitohs but it was quite unlike any of the 246 derbies that preceded it.

The third match after the resumption of the National Rugby League (NRL) saw action return to Sydney with the Roosters, champions for the last two seasons, taking on the Rabbitohs on neutral ground in Parramatta.

Australia might have made great strides in containing the spread of COVID-19 in the nine weeks since the league was suspended but social distancing restrictions remain and the Western Sydney Stadium was empty.

The few media allowed in along with the teams and officials had their temperatures checked and were required to answer a questionnaire about their recent movements before they entered the 30,000-seat arena.

The Rabbitohs, part owned by Hollywood actor Russell Crowe, are among the most popular teams in the country but the only support visible on Friday were a few dozen cardboard cutouts that fans had paid to have propped up on empty seats.

- Reuters

Cowboys continue winning run against Gold Coast

The North Queensland Cowboys have scored six tries to one to beat the Gold Coast Titans 36-6 in their first National Rugby League game at their new stadium in Townsville.

It's North Queensland's 10th straight win over Gold Coast.

Tonga forward Jason Taumalolo again led the way for the Cowboys, running for 274 metres.

Cronulla premiership winner Valentine Holmes had his best match since returning from a 2019 NFL sojourn, setting up three tries and running 113 metres.

It's a third straight defeat for new Titans coach Justin Holbrook in a nightmare start for the Super League premiership winner with St Helens.

New dates for FA Cup

England's Football Association has announced the FA Cup final will be played on August 1.

It comes a day after the Premier League announced it would restart on June 17.

The quarter-finals of the FA Cup will be held over the weekend of June 27-28, with the semi-finals earmarked for the weekend of July 18-19.

The knockout competition, like the rest of English football, had been put on hold due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The FA said that the dates for the games, which will be played behind closed doors, were "provisional" and dependent on all safety elements being in place for the games.

Defending champions Manchester City are scheduled to visit Newcastle United in the quarter-finals, while Leicester City will host Chelsea, Norwich City will entertain Manchester United and Arsenal will visit Sheffield United.

- Reuters

Neutral venues only a contingency for Premier League

The Premier League, which will resume action on June 17, says its aim is for the remaining games to play on the usual home and away basis but that they have a contingency plan for neutral venues.

The initial suggestion from the UK government had been for the closed-door matches to be played at neutral venues but some clubs have expressed opposition to that idea - views that have been put to the government by the league.

Some media reports have suggested that select games which may have a risk of fans gathering outside grounds, such as the Merseyside derby between Everton and Liverpool, would still be held at a neutral venue even if most games are held on a home/away basis.

"The Premier League's ambition is to complete all of our remaining fixtures this season home and away, where possible," the league said in a statement on Friday.

"We are working with our clubs to ensure risks are assessed and minimised, while co-operating with the police at a local and national level.

"Discussions with the National Police Chiefs' Council and UK Football Policing Unit have been positive and are continuing. We are prepared for all outcomes and have a neutral venue contingency," the statement concluded.

- Reuters

Another Premier League manager reveals he had coronavirus

Leicester City manager Brendan Rodgers says he "had no strength" after contracting the coronavirus in March.

Rodgers is the second Premier League manager to confirm he has had Covid-19, with Arsenal boss Mikel Arteta also testing positive in March.

The 47-year-old says he suffered with "breathlessness" before fully recovering from the virus.

"I could hardly walk and it reminded me of walking up Mount Kilimanjaro," he told BBC Radio Leicester.

"We had a week off when we were supposed to play Watford [14 March] and then the week after that, I started to struggle.

"For three weeks I had no smell or taste. I had no strength, and a week after, my wife was the same. We were tested and both of us were detected with the virus."


La Liga season to restart next month

Spanish football's top-flight will resume after a three-month pause due to the coronavirus pandemic on June 11 with the local derby between Sevilla and Real Betis, the government's department for sport (CSD) said in a statement.

"At a meeting of the contact group they form alongside the CSD, the Spanish football federation (RFEF) and La Liga have agreed to the format of the final 11 rounds of fixtures of La Liga and the second division," said the CSD's statement.

The statement added that the season would finish by July 18, "depending on the evolution of the virus".

La Liga will be the second of Europe's top five leagues to resume action after the pandemic paralysed all major sporting competitions around the world last March, following Germany's Bundesliga starting up earlier this month.

England's Premier League will recommence on June 17 while Italy's Serie A is set to continue on June 20, although France's Ligue 1 was cancelled last month, with Paris St Germain declared champions.

- Reuters

MotoGP events cancelled

This year's British and Australian MotoGP races have been cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The British Grand Prix was scheduled for Silverstone on Aug. 30 while the Australian round had been due at Phillip Island on Oct. 25.

The season is yet to get underway after the season-opening Qatar Grand Prix was cancelled in March as the novel coronavirus outbreak shut down world sport.

Races in Germany, Finland and the Netherlands which were to be held in June-July were also removed from the revised calendar.

"We're saddened to have to announce the cancellation of these iconic events after finding no way through the logistical and operational issues resulting from the pandemic and rearranged calendar," Carmelo Ezpeleta, chief executive of the commercial rights holder Dorna, said in a statement.

Earlier this month, MotoGP had proposed starting its season with two races on consecutive weekends in July at the Jerez circuit in southern Spain, with the government yet to approve the proposal.

- Reuters

Renault committed to Formula One

Renault will stay in Formula One, interim Chief Executive Coltilde Delbos said on Friday after announcing the carmaker's restructuring measures including plans to cut 15,000 jobs worldwide.

"We confirm that we intend to stay in Formula One," she told a conference call.

"The new regulations, new cap in term of investments, because we had less investment than some of our competitors who are spending a lot of money, so F1, we are here, and we stay in Formula One."

Formula One has moved to reduce costs, with a $USD145 million budget cap due to come in next season.

Some of the top teams are spending significantly more than that, although they also get a bigger share of the revenues and attract more sponsorship.

A major package of technical and sporting rule changes is due in 2022 which the sport hopes will narrow the gap between the top teams and the rest and make racing more sustainable.

- Reuters

Federer becomes world's highest paid athlete

Roger Federer is the world's highest-paid athlete for 2020 as the COVID-19 pandemic knocked Lionel Messi off top spot, according to the annual Forbes list.

The Swiss tennis great, owner of a men's record 20 Grand Slam singles titles, earned $USD106.3 million in the last 12 months, including $100 million via endorsements, to move up four places and become the first player from his sport to top the list.

Footballers Cristiano Ronaldo ($105 million), Messi ($104 million) and Neymar ($95.5 million) and American basketball player LeBron James ($88.2 million) rounded out the top five.

"The coronavirus pandemic triggered salary cuts for football stars Messi and Ronaldo, clearing the way for a tennis player to rank as the world's highest-paid athlete for the first time," said Kurt Badenhausen, senior editor at Forbes.

Japan's Naomi Osaka ($37.4 million), who was ranked 29th on the list, surpassed fellow tennis player Serena Williams ($36 million) as the world's highest-earning female athlete.

Osaka and Williams were the only women on the list.

- Reuters