Hackett wraps up comeback meet

Olympic gold medal winner Grant Hackett has made an encouraging start in his bid to qualify for Australia’s swimming squad for the 2016 Rio Games.


Hackett swam in three events at a qualifying meet at the Brisbane Aquatic Centre on the weekend – his first competitive outing since the 2008 Olympics in Beijing.

The triple Olympic gold medallist swam the 200m, 400m and 100m freestyle events at the meet, with his 400m time suggesting his Rio ambitions are more than just false hope.

The 34-year-old clocked an impressive 3:55.68 in the start-to-finish victory, a time which would have been enough to qualify for the final at last year’s Australian titles.

“I couldn’t have pictured thinking about making a final and then (coach Denis Cotterell) told me that my 400m would’ve made a final and I will be swimming a lot faster than that in three weeks,” Hackett told News Corp.

“I’m actually a bit taken aback my body can still do it as well as it can in the timeframe.”

Hackett, who has only been in serious training for his comeback for six months, then backed up with second-place finishes in the 200m and 100m.

He finished behind 2012 Olympian David McKeon in the 200m, clocking a 1:50.68 while McKeon finished in a 1:47.86.

Both of Hackett’s 400m and 200m times are expected to be ratified as world records in the Masters 30-34 age group previously held by Daniel Kowalski, taking his career tally to 17 world records.

In Sunday’s 100m, Hackett was pipped by another member of the London Games team with Ned McKendry winning in 50.56 seconds with Hackett in second with a 51.38.

Hackett will return to action on the Gold Coast next week before heading to the National Championships in Sydney from April 3.

Ricciardo laments ‘boring’ Mercedes F1 win

Daniel Ricciardo is among the drivers fearing for Formula One’s future after labelling as “boring” Mercedes’ one-two procession in the Australian Grand Prix.


Winner Lewis Hamilton and his runner-up teammate Nico Rosberg lapped all but three drivers at Albert Park in Melbourne in a Sunday drive that turned a race into a glorified Mercedes parade.

“I feel a bit for the fans,” said Australia’s Ricciardo, who finished sixth.

“It was a boring race. It was frustrating.”

Hamilton, from pole position, and Rosberg, from second spot, were never challenged by a field of just 15 cars, which third-placed Sebastian Vettel said damaged the sport.

Two more cars retired before completing a lap and only 11 drivers finished the season-opening event.

“For sure it’s not great for the people,” Vettel said.

“(Formula One) is a difficult challenge. It is complicated – maybe it got a bit too complicated.”

Vettel, on debut for Ferrari, conceded that bridging the gap – he finished more than 34 seconds behind Hamilton – would be “difficult but not impossible” this season.

“It’s a big gap – 34 seconds down the road is a lot for everyone else,” he said.

“It can turn around a little bit for the next grand prix but it could be even worse.”

Even Mercedes’ victors wished for a greater challenge from the likes of Ferrari.

“I hope you can give us a challenge because it’s important for the sport and for the fans,” Rosberg said.

“And a part of me thinks about the show because I want to give people a great time at home watching on TV or at the track.”

But Vettel scoffed at Rosberg’s sentiment.

“You really hope so, seriously?” Vettel said.

“You finish 30 seconds in front of us and … you hope you slow down?

“A suggestion, if you don’t mind, is your garage becomes public for Malaysia and everyone can have a look.”

Mercedes last year won the drivers’ and constructors’ titles and set a record 16 race wins in a season.

Hamilton won 11 of those races as Mercedes set a record 11 one-two finishes in a season. The team also equalled Red Bull Racing’s 2011 record for most pole positions in a season with 18.

Little has changed.

On Sunday, England’s reigning champion Hamilton easily won his 34th career grand prix: within six laps he was already 2.6 seconds ahead of Rosberg.

“Once you get a two-second gap you try and manage that. There is no need to eke out more,” Hamilton said.

“It was a phenomenal race for both of us.”

Massive win lifts Vics into Shield final

Victoria are into their first Sheffield Shield final in five years after topping the competition ladder with a thumping 400-run win over Tasmania inside three days in Alice Springs.


Leg-spinner Fawad Ahmad ripped through the Tasmania batting line-up, taking 5-35 as the Tigers were bundled out for just 134.

It was Victoria’s third-highest winning margin by runs in their history.

Bonus points earned in the match means Victoria have an unassailable lead at the top of the ladder and earn hosting rights for the final.

Tasmania had no answer to Victoria’s spin attack on the Alice Springs wicket losing wickets at regular intervals, with left-arm spinner Jon Holland (2-27) adding to his six wicket haul in the first innings to claim player of the match honours.

Victoria resumed the day at 1-47, and there were half centuries from Chris Rogers and Marcus Stoinis who added 112 runs, before the former retired hurt with a hip injury on 69.

Stoinis was bowled by Clive Rose just before lunch for 62, with Victoria’s highest run-scorer for the season having now scored five 50s in his past four matches.

David Hussey (47no) and Dan Christian (37no) continued the run-fest before the Vics called a halt to their second innings at 2-230 midway through the afternoon session after dominating the Tasmanian attack scoring at five an over.

Victoria had established a massive 304-run lead on the first innings after bowling out Tasmania for just 145 on Saturday.

Veteran Test opener Rogers strained a gluteus muscle while batting but is expected to be fit for next weekend’s decider, with the Vics to meet the winner of the match between leaders Western Australia and third-placed NSW in Perth.

Mercedes enjoy laugh last on day of high farce

World champion Lewis Hamilton may have finished only 1.


3 seconds ahead of team mate Nico Rosberg in winning Formula One’s season-opener but the pole-sitting Briton crossed the line an astonishing 34 seconds clear of third-placed Sebastian Vettel.

As if to compensate for the lack of a contest on a sunny day at Albert Park, film actor and former California governor Schwarzenegger was drafted in for the podium ceremony, where he conducted some amusing, if slightly awkward, interviews.

The awkwardness was to continue in the post-race media conference where Hamilton and the equally diplomatic Rosberg were at pains to deny the Formula One season was not just a two-horse race.

“I think the Ferraris have taken a huge step forward and have made one of the biggest steps,” Hamilton said generously as Ferrari debutant Vettel, sitting on his left, wore a wry smile.

“I anticipate we might have a good fight with them at some stage this year.”

Rosberg, runner-up in the championship last year, was a bit franker when he said Mercedes would “be leading the way for sure” for the first couple of races.

“But it would be good if they can come a bit closer… as long as they don’t get too close,” the German said.

His comments drew a snort from Vettel, a four-times world champion with Red Bull, who had plenty of experience defending the dominance of his former team.

“Be honest, do you really hope so?” he interjected, raising roars of laughter. “Seriously? You finish 34 seconds ahead of us and you hope it’s going to be closer? You hope you’ll slow down?”

Hamilton and Rosberg commandeered 16 out of 19 race wins in last year’s championship and 18 out of 19 poles.

The duo dominated qualifying again in Australia with the Briton lapping nearly 1.5 seconds quicker than Felipe Massa’s Williams in third place, times that suggest the Silver Arrows have actually widened the gap to their rivals and raised immediate fears the season will be a foregone conclusion.

Mercedes motorsport boss Toto Wolff said his team had met all their targets, or almost achieved them.

“The pace of the car is incredible and then to have a faultless weekend with both drivers immaculate in the car without any problems. This is the result you can achieve,” he said.

(Editing by John O’Brien)

SA look to set target for Qld in Shield

Timely centuries to Mark Cosgrove and Callum Ferguson have given South Australia a chance to avoid the Sheffield Shield wooden spoon.


Cosgrove (103) and Ferguson (107) both reached triple figures against Queensland on day three at the Gabba.

The pair flipped the match on its head, turning a big first innings deficit into a 197-run lead at stumps.

An aggressive South Australia closed the day at 4-357, leaving them in prime position to set Queensland a target and push for a result on day four.

The Redbacks require a victory in the final game of the season to leapfrog Tasmania into fifth spot on the ladder.

“Hopefully we can push on tomorrow and set a good game up,” Cosgrove said.

“We want six points from this game… it’s a new ball wicket, we’ll get through that in the morning and reassess a target.”

Peter George (2-76) claimed the wicket of Ferguson in the final hour but the day belonged to the visitors, who travelled at a run rate of more than four per over.

South Australia conceded a 160-run first innings deficit but Cosgrove’s quick-fire ton wrestled the ascendancy from the Bulls.

He brought up his first Sheffield Shield century of the season in just 93 balls with 13 fours.

“We had to get in front of the game and knock those off as quickly as we could,” Cosgrove said.

“Our batting order is pretty dangerous, we probably haven’t fired as much as we should have this year … but today we did.”

The left hander shared a 156-run partnership with Ferguson before being dismissed by Ben Cutting (2-57) to a running Matthew Renshaw at deep point, the only wicket to fall in the second session.

Ferguson, South Australia’s highest Shield run scorer this season, moved past three figures after tea, sharing a 110-run stand with Tom Cooper (54).

Earlier, Queensland were bowled out for 390 with debutant Nick Benton (4-95) and Joe Mennie (2-105) taking the final two wickets.