Page 3807 - Week 12 - Tuesday, 18 October 2005

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can give them. I hear that even the Prime Minister has some interest in this in relation to the Canberra teams, which is pleasing. I think this is a totally retrograde step. I think the idea of a regional comp has considerable merit.

In a similar vein, the Canberra Vikings, who as the Canberra Kookaburras were not allowed back into the Sydney comp some years ago and have been back now for two seasons, have also been given the heave ho from that competition. They did not even make the four this year. That is probably not a case of jealousy by New South Wales, but in the case of the Blue Devils it might be because in the last four years they have always been in the semifinals. They were club champions and premiers in 2003-04. They got to the preliminary final last year and lost a grand final in relation to a midweek competition. Although the Vikings have not won a premiership, they were certainly very competitive in the Sydney rugby union. That causes them a problem because there is now a gap of two or three months between the super 14 and the start of the new provincial competition in rugby union. Again, that seems to me to be a case of Canberra-bashing.

There are mixed views as to whether the Vikings should be playing there. I know my old second row partner, John McGrath of Tuggeranong, would like to see them play in the purely Canberra comp to improve first grade, but I think the general thrust of teams like the Vikings and the Blue Devils is a career path for very talented young players. Rather than just playing first grade here, they need that additional level before they go to a national competition.

In the case of soccer, the Blue Devils give talented young players the ability to shine in the national arena. If they are very good there, they might be snapped up by a Sydney club or may indeed get a good contract overseas. It is a great stepping stone to the Socceroos. There is also obviously the ability for the talented young players in the Canberra Vikings, playing in the best domestic rugby competition in Australia, to continue to play at that very high level, go on to play super 14 and hopefully, if they are good enough, represent Australia. One of the big problems with this, and one of the reasons I suspect the way New South Wales to make these decisions, is that they hope to get the talented young Canberra players to go and play with clubs in Sydney. That does not do the respective sports any good at all; it is a retrograde step. I think everyone should get behind attempts to assist the Blue Devils and the Canberra Vikings to get back into the Sydney comps.


MR GENTLEMAN (Brindabella) (6.21): On Sunday I was fortunate enough to launch the 2005-06 season for Sailability ACT. Sailability is a nationwide movement that facilitates on-water activities for everybody, regardless of ability. The movement is now active in over 10 countries and is spreading rapidly. The ACT contingent, as members may be aware, is located on Lake Tuggeranong. Attending the launch with me were Amanda Fraser, a former Paralympic swimmer who is now competing in track and field, and Ben Hall, another of our fine Paralympians who competes in track and field. Since 1998 Sailability ACT and their hard-working volunteers have provided the opportunity for people with a disability to experience and enjoy the sport of sailing. A not-for-profit organisation, Sailability relies heavily on volunteers and donations from the community. Sailability ACT has received generous support from the Lions Club of Canberra city, the

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