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Weddings and babies blessing for Brumbies

They’re about to start their quest for a Super Rugby championship but three ACT Brumbies had more pressing matters before starting pre-season training on Monday. With a hectic schedule of training and playing about to start, Ben Alexander and Andrew Smith took time out to get married to their respective partners Jen and Bianca while Jordan Smiler celebrated the birth of his first child with partner Stacey. The Brumbies will resume pre-season training this week after being given a brief holiday for Christmas. The two-week break from training opened the perfect window for Alexander, Smith and Smiler to attend to duties other than rugby. Smith and Bianca were married last weekend. Smiler’s partner Stacey gave birth early last week and the rookie will be beaming when he returns to training. Wallabies prop Alexander and Jen got married at Royal Canberra Golf Club on Saturday afternoon. And to make sure the wedding had a full rugby, Brumbies and Wallabies flavour, Alexander recruited teammate Pat McCabe to be the MC for the night. The Brumbies will be hoping a trio of celebrations to start 2014 is a good omen. They have six weeks of training before the first game of the season against the Queensland Reds on February 22.

A Murray Marathon legend

He was exhausted, had stiff legs and battled extreme conditions, but Canberra’s Kiaran Lomas has been dubbed a Murray Marathon “legend” after being the first person to finish the 404 kilometre race on a stand-up paddle board. Lomas and the Burley Griffin team finished the brutal race down the Murray River on Tuesday after five days of non-stop action. There were 454 paddlers and 164 boats in the race, but Burley Griffin president Lomas was the only one on a standing paddle board. Day two of the race was cancelled because of extreme fire danger and snakes tried to jump into people’s boats. But “I’m Still Standing” Lomas rolled across the finish line with ease. The Murray Marathon will be back later this year, but organisers will change the schedule to have the race in November instead of starting on Boxing Day in a bid to boost numbers.

Abbott wants Test cricket in Canberra

Prime Minister Tony Abbott has endorsed Manuka Oval of a venue capable of hosting a cricket Test, but he stopped short of declaring it should be on Cricket Australia’s schedule for the future. Cricket ACT officials and ACT Sport Minister Andrew Barr will meet with Cricket Australia in Sydney on Saturday to discuss Canberra’s future as an international venue. A revamped Manuka Oval is getting continual upgrades and wants to host a Test if Cricket Australia decides not to play in Perth or Hobart. “It’s certainly a pretty classy ground now,” Abbott said in a guest commentating stint on ABC Radio. “I guess it’s a matter for Cricket Australia whether they play a Test there. But I know the people of the ACT would love a Test match in Canberra.” The PM’s XI team will be named on Wednesday. Former Australian pace bowler Brett Lee will captain the team. “The team as it’s currently proposed, has maybe three or four old hands and a lot of youngsters,” Abbott said. Locker Room understands there will be at least one “old hand” who will be a shock selection. Stay tuned. Retired Australian skipper Allan Border said the PM’s XI fixture was a perfect “springboard” to international cricket.


Bunton Knechts for love

Forget Wozzilroy, Canberra’s got Knechton! Former Canberra Cavalry outfielder Marcus Knecht is Down Under visiting his girlfriend Canberra Capitals centre Alex Bunton during the festive season. Knecht is part of the Toronto Blue Jays organisation and  played for their high-A team Dunedin in 2013, with current Cavalrymen Jon Berti and Michael Crouse. He spent last summer playing for the Cavalry in the Australian Baseball League to help his development. Meanwhile, Bunton was playing in her first season for the Caps in the WNBL. Obviously it wasn’t just their careers that   started to bloom. Knecht, pronounced connect, started his time with the Cavs wearing No.51, but some cheeky fans got together and approached the club to get him changed to No.4 and a cult hero was born. Bunton has represented Australia at junior level.

New Brumbies doctor arrives

Still on the Brumbies and they’ve appointed a new club doctor. Kate Gazzard will join the Brumbies when pre-season training resumes at the Australian Institute of Sport on Monday. Gazzard has worked with the Western Force, Brisbane Broncos, Australian sevens rugby team and Brothers in Brisbane. She replaces Angus Bathgate and comes with an impressive recommendation from Wallabies and former Brumbies doctor Warren McDonald.

Speight’s Test future still unclear

Brumbies winger Henry Speight’s international career is still in limbo as IRB officials take their time assessing his eligibility case. Fijian-born Speight faces more time in the Test wilderness and a three-man panel is still deliberating on when he will be free to play for the Wallabies. Speight arrived in Australia at the end of 2010 to join the Brumbies. IRB eligibility laws state that he must live in Australia for three years to qualify for Wallabies selection. However, a Super Rugby off-season-playing stint in New Zealand for Waikato at the end of 2011 has delayed his Australian qualification. The Brumbies and Speight have given the IRB bill statements to prove Speight was based in Canberra despite playing in New Zealand. The Brumbies and Speight have not been told when the issue will be resolved. Best case scenario is Speight will be free to play in the mid-year Tests. However, he may be forced to wait until the end of November. The uncertainty could affect his decision making for his next contract. Speight is one of several Brumbies who will be trying to negotiate new deals for 2015 and beyond.

Jones turns to Raiders legend for help

He’s facing the most uncertain period of his career battling a serious wrist problem, but golfer Brendan Jones has taken solace from Canberra Raiders legend Jason Croker and his ability to bounce back from injury. Croker has played the most games in Raiders history with 318 matches. But he had to overcome his fair share of injuries before becoming the club’s most-capped player. Jones is a Raiders tragic and talking to Croker has given him comfort as he battle the longest layoff of his career. “He’s had elbows done and broken arms, you name it he’s done it,” Jones said. It’s good to hear how someone who’s had a lot of injuries has handled things. He told me to not come back until it’s ready, blokes like him know all about it.”