Gavrilova cautious going into Wimbledon

Having learnt the hard way not to set lofty grand slam goals, Daria Gavrilova has modest hopes for Wimbledon.

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Left shattered after suffering a first-round French Open exit last month, Australia’s new No.1 says winning one match on London’s hallowed lawns will be a pass mark.

The 23-year-old is up against dangerous Croatian qualifier Petra Martic on Tuesday and is refusing to take comfort in her first-time seeding at the All England Club.

“Baby steps this year,” Gavrilova said.

“I’ve been heartbroken a few times at slams, losing first round.

“My biggest goal is to finally get through first round. Actually I did here last year.

“It’s always tough to play first round of slams. It’s a different pressure. I’ll give it my best chance again.”

In reality, despite downplaying her prospects, Friday’s draw presented Gavrilova with a golden opportunity to reach the second week.

The first higher-ranked player she is projected to meet is Russian 16th seed Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova in the third round, a rival just five places above her.

“I won’t go and look too far ahead,” Gavrilova said.

“I really believed that I could do really well there (at the French), at least making the second week.

“But, to be honest, the circumstances. I was really tired from playing so much tennis.

“I’m only in my second consistent year on the tour so I’m still learning a lot.”

The former world junior No.1 says she is happy with her grasscourt build-up.

“I’ve had a pretty good few weeks, played some pretty good tennis on the grass, so I’m ready to go,” Gavrilova said.

Victory would set up a second-round clash on Thursday with either Risa Ozaki of Japan or Czech Denisa Allertova.

We can still avoid spoon: Knights

Newcastle remain confident they can still avoid a third consecutive NRL wooden spoon, despite being trampled 33-12 by the Wests Tigers on Sunday.

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The loss dropped the Knights below the Tigers at the bottom of the ladder, and they now need at least two wins from their final seven games to avoid last place.

Billed by players as their grand final, the Knights turned in their worst performance of the season as they completed just 68 per cent of their sets and went to the break down 20-0, from which they never recovered.

The Knights were unlucky to be denied two tries either side of halftime – one from a questionable forward pass call – but they were still completely outplayed by the Tigers.

When asked on Sunday whether they could still avoid the spoon, forward Jamie Buhrer was forthright in his response.

“Of course,” Buhrer said.

“There have been plenty of games we’ve played this year we feel we could have won.”

“I’m certainly confident we can get some wins up over the back half of the year, but we’ve got to be a lot better than that.”

The Knights have a winnable game next week against Canterbury, who will be without three State of Origin players as well as captain James Graham (neck) and lock Greg Eastwood (knee).

They also have the warriors in Newcastle, who have won just one game in Australia this year.

Meanwhile coach Nathan Brown refused to blame halfback Trent Hodkinson, who had an unhappy return to first grade after being dropped to NSW Cup for two months.

Nathan Ross was also disappointing in his second game at fullback, as Brown questioned whether the changes in the spine could have affected the team’s attack.

“Our attack struggled,” Brown said.

“There were some blokes in key positions whose performances really fluctuated a lot which probably didn’t help.

“It was clearly our worst attacking performance for a long time. Why that was? You can’t just blame that one player.”

The loss could have come at a cost for the Knights, after winger Ken Sio injured his shoulder and did not return.

Tough questions await Collingwood in AFL

Many questions remain for Collingwood after their AFL finals hopes were all but extinguished with a 24-point loss to Hawthorn.

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Are the Magpies a good enough team to make the finals? Can they do it without significant list changes?

And is Nathan Buckley the right man for the job?

A top-eight finish is increasingly unlikely this season, with Sunday’s 18.10 (118) to 14.10 (94) defeat to Hawthorn at the MCG condemning the Magpies to the bottom four with a 5-9 record.

The Pies have a horror run to end the season with five of their remaining eight games coming against current top-eight sides.

Buckley’s post-game message was clear: this is a developing side that deserves time to reach its potential.

The Pies coach – who earlier in the year linked his survival to the Pies making the finals – reeled off the names of a dozen young regulars who had yet to reach their prime.

“All of those players will improve, and they all have to improve for us to improve as a team – then 5-9 turns into 9-5,” Buckley said.

“The reality is we are a side coming from a fair way back, with youth, to try and grow and develop.

“We haven’t met expectations in regards to our progress and our growth. Do we just pack up, do we just give up on it?

“Maybe this is part of the journey they need to go through to realise how tough the comp is, and how quickly 5-9 can come about when they don’t take their chances.”

Former Melbourne coach Paul Roos on Sunday took aim at the Magpies’ “appalling” list management in recent seasons.

The decision to hand big deals to injury-prone midfielder Daniel Wells and fringe forward Chris Mayne during the off-season raised eyebrows.

However, two of the Magpies’ best players this year – midfielder Adam Treloar and half-back flanker Jeremy Howe – both arrived via trades,

Jordan De Goey’s best-afield performance against the Hawks meanwhile suggests there’s cause for optimism about the next generation.

But the key question remains whether the Pies will stick with Buckley if they’re unable to pull off a miracle and go a fourth consecutive season without making the finals.

Johnston blames trainer for missed record

South Sydney flyer Alex Johnston has revealed a team trainer was responsible after he narrowly missed out on a club record six-try haul in their demolition of Penrith on Sunday.

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Johnston put in one of the most memorable individual performances of the NRL season as he ran in five tries in the seven-tries-to-two rout.

He fell agonisingly short of setting a new record for the foundation club after on several occasions missing out on a sixth four-pointer.

“They were looking for me,” Johnston said cheekily.

“There was one time when our trainer came on, Benny Gardiner is his name. I want to quote his name because he told me to go to the middle to look for it and the ball went out to where it should have been and I wasn’t there.

“I’m a bit off him at the moment.”

On another occasion Johnston was denied by the video referees after Tyrell Fuimaono knocked on in the lead up.

Had he crossed for a sixth, he would have been the first player to achieve the feat in a premiership match since Newtown’s Jack Troy in 1950.

Instead he will have to be satisfied with sharing the Rabbitohs club record with Nathan Merritt, Eric Sladden, Ian Moir, Johnny Graves, Don Manson, Alan Quinlivan and Harold Horder.

“I didn’t know if it was a record or anything,” Johston said.

“I was just pumped, I scored five, I was keeping count all game.

“I was like ‘come on, pass it to me, one more, one more, give me one more’. To equal the club record, Merritt scored five as well, is pretty special.”

The try-scoring rampage took his season tally to 15 and moved him ahead of Canberra’s Jordan Rapana and Melbourne’s Suliasi Vunivalu to the top of the competition try-scorer list.

He said it was his biggest bag of tries since he first strapped on a pair of boots 13 years ago.

“Not since under 9s, my first year playing,” he said when asked if he’d ever scored five.

“Back then I used to run around everyone, it was pretty easy.

“They made it easy for me out there tonight, the boys, just giving me some good ball.”

SCORING A HANDFUL BAG

Five try hauls by South Sydney players:

* Alex Johnston v Penrith, ANZ Stadium, Round 17, 2017

* Nathan Merritt v Parramatta, ANZ Stadium, Round 22, 2011

* Eric Sladden v Parramatta, Cumberland Oval, Round 16, 1957

* Ian Moir v Parramatta, Redfern Oval, Round 7, 1957

* Johnny Graves v Eastern Suburbs, Redfern Oval, Round 14, 1949

* Don Manson v University, Sports Ground, Round 1, 1937

* Alan Quinlivan v University, Earl Park, Roundd 9, 1936

* Harold Horder v North Sydney, RAS Sydney Showground, Round 12, 1917

* Harold Horder v North Sydney, RAS Sydney Showground, Round 5, 1917

Queensland has no issue with DCE: Cronk

Queensland halfback Cooper Cronk insists there are no issues between Daly Cherry-Evans and senior members of the Maroons team.

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Cherry-Evans was one of three players to assert their push for the Maroons No.6 jersey in the last round of NRL before Queensland name their side for next week’s decider.

After Cameron Munster starred in Melbourne’s 42-12 win over Brisbane on Friday night, Cherry-Evans responded with two try assists in Manly’s come-from-behind 26-22 victory over the Warriors in Perth.

Maroons utility Michael Morgan also scored twice in North Queensland’s 31-18 win over Canberra, as the race to replace Johnathan Thurston surely became a three-way battle.

Cherry-Evans’ career-best form has piloted him into contention after Queensland coach Kevin Walters originally failed to name him as a possible replacement for Thurston.

The Maroons mentor was later forced to deny reports the Manly captain could be overlooked because he doesn’t get along with Maroons teammates.

Cronk became the latest to rubbish those suggestions on Saturday night.

“I’m a little bit disappointed with the articles that have been written about Daly,” he told Fox Sports

“All the senior players have got a great working relationship on and off the field with him.

“He’s been part of the Queensland set-up before and he’s contributed off that bench role on a number of occasions.”

Cherry-Evans’ performance came after Queensland selector Darren Lockyer wrote in a column on Saturday he required a man-of-the-match performance to give his best chance of reclaiming his Origin jersey.

The 28-year-old has lost both games he has started for the Maroons, but Lockyer insisted his cards had not been marked by the selectors.

Cronk said he believes the Manly No.7 is a different player to the one who last played Origin in 2015.

“He’s taken his game to another level this year, he’s playing career-best football,” Cronk said.

It is possible all three could work their way into the Maroons’ 17-man squad when it is announced on Monday.

Walters has previously floated the idea of playing Munster at centre for the injured Darius Boyd, which could leave Morgan and Cherry-Evans to fill the five-eighth and bench utility roles.