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Locker Room: Murderball man Daniel Savage urges birth of Canberra team

Four years ago, Canberra's Daniel Savage fell from a balcony and his world changed. But quadriplegia hasn't stopped the former snowboarder from pursuing his sporting ambitions. The 25-year-old and fellow Canberran Ben Ackland competed in the fourth round of the Sydney Slam Series of wheelchair rugby at ANU Sports Centre on Saturday. "When I was 21 I was at Thredbo for the University Winter Sports Games and fell off a balcony and landed on my head,'' Savage says. "It shattered my spine and my neck, I'm technically a quadriplegic.'' Dubbed Murderball, the aggressive sport of wheelchair rugby has helped him move on from his accident. "Most of the guys are young and once played rugby or league, or had an accident surfing or in a car,'' Savage said. "It gives you that outlet, everyone else treats you with cotton wool but once you get on the court, no one really cares.'' Australia is a world heavyweight in the sport, claiming gold at the 2012 London Games. Savage hopes Canberra will one day field its own Sydney Slam Series team, with a view to the city forging its own league in the future. "From the outside it looks like a lot of bashing and crashing into each other, but once you watch a game or two you realise there's actually quite a complicated strategy as well,'' he said. "Myself and Ben travel up to Sydney every second week to compete, we want to get the word out in Canberra so hopefully we can field a whole team.''

Brumbies fed to the lions

Brumbies back Pat McCabe enters the lions den in South Africa.
Brumbies back Pat McCabe enters the lions den in South Africa. Photo: Chris Dutton

Tiger urine, rusty nails ... and the cure for Super Rugby heartbreak. Just hours after the Brumbies had lost to the Free State Cheetahs last week, they went to a lion park outside Bloemfontein before flying back to Johannesburg. It was a trip designed to break up the rugby workload. But the team got so much more. They were shocked when the park owner got in the cage with a large male lion, then kissed him on the nose. The best was to come. Ben Alexander was filming a tiger as it walked past him. “It turned around, lifted its tail and I knew what was coming,” Alexander said. The tiger sprayed Alexander with urine, but the Wallabies front-rower showed quick feet to make sure he wasn’t soaked. Brumbies doctor Kate Gazzard, meanwhile, stepped on an old nail. It went through the sole of her shoe, and through her foot. The result was a trip to the hospital and some medical treatment before being back on deck at the Brumbies-Bulls game on Saturday morning.

Mowen tackling French

Australian fast bowler Ellyse Perry has been giving tips to boyfriend, Brumbies flyhalf Matt Toomua.
Australian fast bowler Ellyse Perry has been giving tips to boyfriend, Brumbies flyhalf Matt Toomua. Photo: Ken Irwin

The Wallabies will be tackling the French in a three-Test series next month, but incumbent captain Ben Mowen is taking on the language instead. This time last year Mowen was bursting with excitement at the prospect of making his Wallabies debut against the British and Irish Lions. He would end 2013 with the Wallabies captaincy. But after quitting Australian rugby to sign a contract with French club Montpellier, Mowen was left out of the Wallabies squad last week. Instead, he was in his Johannesburg hotel room studying French so he can speak the language when he moves over at the end of the year. How is the Brumbies skipper going after five months of hitting the books? "Oui, je suis en bonne voie." That's: "Yes, I'm making good progress."

Dunemann's Doomben quinella

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He lost the Canberra Raiders coaching gig to Ricky Stuart, but Andrew Dunemann won't have any trouble paying the bills after two horses he part-owns filled the quinella in the group 1 Doomben 10,000 on Saturday. In what could be his last race before retirement, Spirit of Boom got the better of his sibling, $26 outsider Temple of Boom, in the final strides of the $650,000 sprint. It was Spirit of Boom's second group 1 win this preparation after winning the William Reid Stakes at Moonee Valley in March. If not for star sprinter Lankan Rupee, he would have also collected the Oakleigh Plate and Newmarket Handicap. It's fair to say Dunemann and his co-owners would have painted Brisbane red on Saturday night to celebrate a massive payday. Dunemann owns a sports management company and is also a video referee after he filled an interim coach role with the Raiders for the final four games of last year. He has invested in only a handful of horses, but clearly he's invested wisely.

Toomua keeps pace with Perry

Canberra's Daniel Savage (right) takes on Simon Bartlett in wheelchair rugby on Saturday.
Canberra's Daniel Savage (right) takes on Simon Bartlett in wheelchair rugby on Saturday. Photo: Jamila Toderas

Dual international star Ellyse Perry was in Canberra recently, and peppered ACT Brumbies and Australian Wallabies flanker David Pocock in the cricket nets. It seems her fierce pace has inspired her partner, ACT Brumbies flyhalf Matt Toomua. Toomua and Perry have been together for the past two years, juggling their rising sporting careers with a relationship. It appears they’ve also been sharing cricket secrets. Toomua boasted in Johannesburg that he had been learning trade tricks off Perry as she prepared to go to England to play in a World XI against the MCC. Toomua ripped into his teammates off a long run-up, claiming a couple of wickets in a post-training warm-down game. Given the Wallabies don’t see Toomua as Test flyhalf, maybe there’s a cricket career waiting.

Goulburn's divided loyalties

Ben Mowen is tackling French lessons instead of French Tests.
Ben Mowen is tackling French lessons instead of French Tests. Photo: Jeffrey Chan

Goulburn is currently swept up in Mitch Cornish fever as the classy young Canberra Raiders halfback prepares for his NRL debut against North Queensland on Sunday. But his debut won't help the finances at Canberra Raiders Cup side Goulburn Bulldogs. The Bulldogs play a home game against West Belconnen from 3pm on Sunday, the exact time the Green Machine will run onto the field at Canberra Stadium. The Raiders have given Cornish and his extended family around 40 tickets for the match. Jarrod Croker, Todd Carney and Dayne Weston are among other Goulburn products running around in the NRL.

Spike needed in ticket sales

Former Canberra Raiders interim coach Andrew Dunemann has had some luck at the track.
Former Canberra Raiders interim coach Andrew Dunemann has had some luck at the track. Photo: Katherine Griffiths

Australia is returning to the World League of men’s volleyball after a 15-year absence, but officials are frustrated by a lack of interest from Canberrans. The Volleyroos play their first World League match on Australian soil against Finland at AIS Arena on June 7-8, but ticket sales have been dreadful. Volleyball Australia president Craig Carracher said Canberra needed to step up. “The hopes of a generation of Olympic athletes are at risk in Canberra, which is proving to be the toughest spectator market in Australia to garner public support,” Carracher said. Canberra ticket sales are well below sales in Adelaide, where the Volleyroos will play the return leg against Belgium in late June, and Sydney, where the Volleyroos will meet the Canadians and host the World League Finals at Sydney Olympic Park in July. Canberra was chosen as a venue because the Volleyroos consider it their Australian home.