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Thursday, 14 March 2013
Page: 2226

Mr EWEN JONES (Herbert) (09:43): Two stories in Townsville have dominated the sporting headlines over the last month. First, the Townsville Fire. If you draw a line from Perth to Brisbane, there is only one women's national league team in any sport in the northern half of the country, and that is the Townsville Fire women's NBL team. They were beaten in last week's grand final by the best team in the league, Bendigo, but that is not the story. The story lies in the club that all but folded, and in a coach who was able to get a bunch of girls from around the country and make them into a team. No one gave them a chance of beating Adelaide or Dandenong in the semi-finals, but they did so by maintaining pressure all game, every game as a team.

It is also important that they do it basically for love. There was a story in the paper last week that the girls have had to do a lot of travel and have had to drop hours and income from their part-time jobs to play these finals. That takes commitment. To Jessica Foley, who leaves the sport at the very top of her game to become a doctor, I wish you all the best. To the captain, Rachel Flanagan, who was knocked senseless in the semi-final, you are a hero of mine for the way you have continued to maintain a super-high standard when the future looked so gloomy. To the rest of the girls, Mia Newley, Nicole Romeo, Olivia Thompson, Michaela Cocks, Casey Lockwood, Kayla Standish and our star import, Jessica Adair, I say thank you for making sport sport again. To coach Chris Lucas and assistant coach Peter Sinclair, thank you for making a team here and for believing. They will celebrate their season with a red and black ball on Saturday night, and so they should. They are everything that is good about sport.

In the other story, the Cowboys will run out this weekend in the first home game for 2013, and they have still not received an apology from this government after being accused as drug cheats. I know high-performance coach Paul Bowman very well. I would suggest that Minister Clare not come to the training, because the coaching and administration staff would tear him to pieces even before any of the players got to him. How dare this government simply put it out there that they were considered to be drug cheats, when there was no evidence at all. How dare they cast a pall over Australian representative players like Johnathan Thurston, Matt Bowen, Brent Tate, James Tamou, Dallas Johnson and Matt Scott and insinuate that they may be drug cheats, and then just walk away when nothing could actually be found.

The Prime Minister stood in this parliament yesterday and said we should not mix politics with sport—too late, Prime Minister, too late by half. Your government owes the North Queensland Cowboys an apology, both to the club and to every individual player.

Drug cheats should be banned from our game, but can we get some evidence first and not just a rumour? Then charge someone and get a conviction before besmirching the lives and reputations of so many good people. This government should be ashamed of itself in this instance. At a time when we should be celebrating the re-signing of Thurston, Scott and Tamou and preparing for a great season, our players and supporters have had to deal with rumour and innuendo from government minister who should know better. Go the Fire. Go the Cowboys. Both those teams know that there are no shortcuts. Both teams are taking that hard road and making the right choices all the way through.