1. As Northampton’s recruiting and retention manager, Paul Shields spends much of his day weathering a storm of spreadsheets and video footage. Every now and then inside the blizzard, he will identify a gold nugget.
Shields remembers when he first laid eyes on Samu Manoa, then an electrician and part-time rugby player. He immediately told then-attacking coach Dorian West to give up whatever he was doing to come and see this Polynesian giant from the back as well. When Manoa left Northampton a few years later he signed a contract for Toulon which made him the highest paid player in the world.
This type of hidden gem is rare because there are so few hiding places in professional rugby but as Shields says “they exist, it’s our job to find them”. Almost every Premiership club will have its own hiring manager who runs through the same markets. And these are sophisticated operations as Shields patiently explains to Telegraph Sport, especially with the squeeze on the reduced salary cap this season. “It’s like a gyroscope that’s always moving in different directions,” Shields said. “The settings are constantly changing.”
Daniel Schofield of The Telegraph meets former Irish player Paul Shields, now recruiting manager at Northampton. (€)
2. Why would The Times spend half a billion dollars to get into sports writing? As Times Director Meredith Kopit Levien said in today’s ad The Times wants to go from over 8 million subscribers to over 10 million, and it has to do it (mostly) without the help of Donald Trump. Perhaps for the first time since former editor Howell Raines tried to boost The Times’ numbers by covering more college football games, management sees the sport as an area of growth.
But The Times has already capitalized on the bleeding of local newspapers in a way the founders of The Athletic could only dream of. “The Times now has more subscribers in Dallas than the Dallas Morning News,” noted a recent New Yorker article. How many more subscribers can a really good group of Dallas sports writers bring in? The purchase has the scent of traditional media hugging a digital outfit, like Condé Nast buying Pitchfork seven years ago.
The Times reports that Mather and Hansmann will stay; Times executive David Perpich will be editor of The Athletic. The second question is: who is going to figure out how to run a horde of beat writers, investigative journalists and editorial experts in an institution like the Times? The founders of the site? Sam Dolnick, who toured as Assistant Sports Editor, and now has a masthead seat? Almost every The Athletic writers I spoke to feared the site would fire writers after a sale.
Then again, I’ve listened to reporters predicting The Athletic would explode like a supernova for years. Mather and Hansmann deserve credit for piloting her to a safe harbor. Now, Athletic’s future depends on how or if he can improve the health of the 170-year-old Times. Welcome to the world of newspapers.
Following his $ 550 million purchase by The New York Times, Bryan Curtis of The Ringer explains how The Athletic set out to destroy newspapers and then became one.
3. “Global change will happen when every individual finds the courage to wake up from mass amnesia. Yes, I have read Novak Djokovic’s wellness guru’s personal manifesto so you don’t have to.
It’s no secret that the world’s No.1 Covid outlaw, currently awaiting his fate in a nice Melbourne hotel, is a longtime student of someone called Chervin Jafarieh, described, on his own website, as “one of the most respected and influential health experts in the world”. Jafarieh is a familiar type, magnetic personality, good looking and piercing spirit guide who accepts all major credit cards and looks like he could smell musk and whale song and concentrated human power as he stands a little too close to you in the elevator.
The manifesto is lush and persuasive, and frankly, it speaks volumes. The guy from Novak is worried about pollution and climate change, as well as “militarism, urbanization, the burning of carbon, the mining of metals and toxic materials, the manufacture of chemicals and of biological poisons ”. He’s mostly obsessed with the intake and the body, and that seems to be the problem with Djokovic’s reluctance to get vaccinated, at least in public. Djokovic hosted his own super-broadcast event, provided an anti-science model, but he also bought ventilators for hospitals, set up a Covid fund, and did generous, charitable, and believing-type things.
It’s not some alien lizard thing. This is not the great human slaughter or the mock demo. Instead, the resistance seems to come from elsewhere, from sunny pagodas where magnetic people in crisp linen gowns talk about their energy, their aura, their yacht, a place of mental power and purity of God. blood, bamboo silica supplements and organic chocolate products. Longevity of mushrooms.
The Guardian’s Barney Ronay gives his take on the man at the center of global anger – Novak Djokovic.
4. It is amazing that this saga has never been allowed to reach such a farce. After all, Australian immigration authorities had approved his visa by the time he began his trip to Dubai. Why did it take until the final checks at Melbourne Airport, involving everyone from Mr Morrison to the President of Serbia, for it to turn into an all-powerful diplomatic uproar that lasted all through night ?
Very few in tennis or beyond are very inclined to view Djokovic as a victim. The popular opinion is that he only has to blame himself, that he could have saved himself the trouble by getting the vaccine, just like most of his peers.
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It is still possible, however, to feel uncomfortable seeing how a nine-time Australian Open champion, a figure who in 2020 donated money to aid relief efforts against the devastating bushfires of the country, is subjected to such ruthless ridicule.
This unease is amplified by the posture of Mr Morrison and his ministers, which suggests that Djokovic is less the architect of his downfall than a pawn in a cynical political game.
And for the Telegraph, Oliver Brown looks at the role of Australian politicians in escalating the Djokovic saga.
5. Ian Wright sits quietly with his head bowed, listening to the stories of the dead. A 17-year-old student from Haringey, who had made an anti-stabbing video, dying of stab wounds. A 16-year-old was murdered while sitting on a park bench in Tottenham, chatting with friends in the afternoon. An 18-year-old student, a refugee from Afghanistan, was stabbed in Twickenham. A 15-year-old was killed on his way to school in Hayes.
The Arsenal legend is silent as he hears about some of the incidents that claimed the lives of 30 teenagers in London in 2021, the worst death toll on record. Some had perished near the Emirates Stadium. A 19-year-old, who dreamed of being a professional footballer, was shot dead near Elthorne Park. A 15-year-old was stabbed near Archway.
All over the capital, parents mourn their slain sons and communities look out for those who are lost. A 15-year-old from Newham shot dead in his school uniform. A 17-year-old autistic boy dies in a machete and knife attack in Sydenham. An 18-year-old law student stabbed to protect his mother from a thief in Walthamstow. A 14-year-old boy dying of multiple stab wounds in Croydon.
Let’s go. “You could go on and on chanting names,” Wright finally replies, considering the immensity of events in his city. “If you’ve only mentioned one of those who died from knife crime or gun crime, that’s too much. We are losing so many lives. My reaction is pure sadness.
As Arsenal prepares to wear a special kit to draw attention to knife violence in London, The Times’ Henry Winter discusses the issue with Ian Wright. (€)