AFL Origin game lacks support: McLachlan

AFL supremo Gillon McLachlan would love to see a State of Origin comeback but concedes it’s unlikely to win the support of protective clubs.

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Almost 20 years have passed since the last Origin clash, with Victoria’s nine-goal win over South Australia in 1999 only attracting 26,063 fans to the MCG.

But with rugby league’s flagship series drawing strong crowds and television ratings, many AFL fans remain hopeful of seeing a return to state-based footy.

A recent AFL website survey found 92 per cent support from 76,000 respondents for an Origin return, and a number of players – led by Essendon skipper Dyson Heppell – have said they’d be eager to represent their state.

But the key question – how an Origin series would fit alongside a season which already spreads across 28 weeks, including the finals series – remains unresolved, and McLachlan admits he can’t see a comeback happening.

“I would love to (see it), as a guy who grew up in South Australia watching Tony Hall kick a checkside on the run from 50 metres,” McLachlan told 3AW radio on Friday.

“I know a lot of our supporters would. I get it – we’d love to do it, too. (But) our clubs are so strong and so tribal and so powerful that they protect their players.

“And if you don’t have every player available for State of Origin, as soon as you have one or two of the best guys not playing … I think it’s hard.”

An Origin return would be particularly tough to sell to Western Australian clubs, who already have a significant travel burden.

Heppell earlier said it would be “unreal” to represent Victoria in an Origin clash but admitted it would be difficult to squeeze it into the schedule.

“It’s a tough one trying to fit (a game) in, but I think that it would be something that players really get around,” he told SEN radio.

“I guess clubs may differ, and it may not be seen in the future.”

North Melbourne coach Brad Scott said he would relish the chance to watch the game as a fan but would be reluctant to risk his players being injured.

“I think it’s a real challenge to fit it into the current fixture, and the players will tell you that the demands of the game are higher than ever,” he said on Thursday.

“I know the players would really like two evenly spaced byes throughout the year.

“State of Origin is always going to be driven, or mostly, by what the players want to do and, while they’re pushing for an extra break, it’s hard to schedule in another game.”

Moylan can make Lockyer change: Brandy

The last time club great Greg Alexander took a Penrith prodigy under his wing, Craig Gower and the Panthers went all the way to claim an unlikely NRL premiership.

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Now, more than a decade after pulling the plug on his coaching career, the Penrith legend has again volunteered to hold a clipboard as he aims to guide their young halves to stardom.

In the same week coach Anthony Griffin opted to move Matt Moylan to five-eighth, Alexander donned the club colours and took to the training paddock with the captain and Nathan Cleary.

And he hasn’t shied away from predicting success for Moylan, admitting he can see similarities in Darren Lockyer’s famous move from fullback midway through his career.

“I can. If I say no, it’s diminishing what I think of Matt. Lockyer played fullback and moved to five-eighth and was successful. I think Matt can do the same thing,” Alexander told AAP.

“Most of the fullbacks have the skills to play five-eighth. It’s just whether they can handle the frontline defence. I think Matt’s worked enough on his strength and his body shape.

“He’s much stronger than what he was a couple of years ago. I know he’s excited about it, so that’s the main thing. He’s certainly got the skills to make a great five-eighth.”

The skipper, who led the Panthers to their maiden premiership in 1991, Alexander revealed how he approached club boss Phil Gould to help Moylan and Cleary fulfil their potential as a pairing.

Moylan has already played for Australia and NSW but is still relatively young at 25, while 19-year-old Cleary only made his first-grade debut at exactly the same stage one season ago.

Despite living on the northern beaches, Alexander continues to play a significant role at the foot of the mountains as a deputy chairman, but wants to dip his toe again on the field.

“I spoke to Gus about it and I spoke to Anthony about it. It was just a general chat and something I wanted to do. I said I’d be happy to work with them,” he said.

“I said to Anthony I’d like to have a couple of sessions with Matt and Nathan and analyse their kicking from the previous week, look at their kicking, look at what we needed to focus on.

“It’s nice to be back and involved with the on-field stuff. We’ll have a session or two a week and just work on making sure that both of them feel comfortable in any situation.

“It’s been 10 years since I’ve done anything. When I first retired, I did those first five or six years with Craig Gower, basically, and our wingers Luke Rooney and Luke Lewis.”

Researchers examine time-restricted eating

Instead of fasting every second day, what if people enjoyed their food just over a shorter period of time and still loose weight?

Australian researchers are leading a study exploring how the timing of when people eat can influence the body’s natural body clock and impact their health.

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A recent UK study published in journal Current Biology found eating your meals a bit later can help reset your body clock due to changes in metabolic tissues that control blood sugar levels.

Dr Evelyn Parr from the Mary MacKillop Institute for Health Research at Australian Catholic University says it’s believed disruptions to the body clock through a lack of sleep, physical activity and diet can be detrimental to overall health and contribute to obesity and diabetes.

The expert in exercise science is studying hundreds of overweight and obese men to measure the impact time-restricted eating has on their metabolic health.

Instead of eating breakfast at 7am, they will eat it at 10am and then cease all eating at 6pm.

This equates to a time window of eight hours as opposed to the average 12-15 hours a person could be consuming food.

“If you think of someone who gets up for work and is eating at around 6.30am and then maybe snacking late into the night before going to bed, there may not even be a very long period, longer than six hours, people aren’t consuming food for,” Dr Parr said.

The researcher will analyse metabolites, or molecules, in muscle samples taken from the participants every four hours for 24 hours to see the impact of the diet.

“We think that from animal research that the longer time of fasting will turn on what they call some fasting genes that may then improve metabolic health,” Dr Parr said.

It’s thought this diet approach may be easier and more enjoyable for some rather than restricting them to only 500 calories a day, every other day.

Intermittent fasting diets, such as the 5:2 diet, have been shown to work and are increasing in popularity.

In fact, the CSIRO has launched a new ‘Flexi’ fasting diet.

A 16-week trial of the weight loss program resulted in an average weight loss of 11 kilograms, improvements in cholesterol, insulin, glucose levels and blood pressure.

In addition to weight loss, psychological improvements were also observed, said CSIRO Research Dietitian Dr Jane Bowen.

However concerns have been raised by dietitians that intermittent fasting is hard to maintain long term and won’t suit everyone.

The Dietitians Association of Australia (DAA) says intermittent fasting is no “magic bullet” and in reality any diet that encourages eating fewer kilojoules than you burn through exercise and daily activities will result in weight loss.

But for lasting, long-term health benefits, the DAA recommends finding an eating pattern people will enjoy and can stick with

School funding faces Senate examination

Unions, religious school representatives and parents will tell senators how the Turnbull government’s plan for school funding will affect them during an inquiry hearing.

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But the Senate committee isn’t expected to hear from state and territory education departments on Friday – despite them running about seven in 10 of the nation’s schools.

The government’s plan will put an extra $18.6 billion into schools over the next decade and move commonwealth funding to a consistent level for all non-government or public schools.

It needs to win 10 extra Senate votes to pass legislation setting up the plan.

Greens education spokeswoman Sarah Hanson-Young said more money was needed and a tighter time frame than 10 years for its delivery.

She’s asked education department officials to look at the cost of moving all public schools to the federal government’s planned 20 per cent of the per-student standard within five years instead.

Nick Xenophon, who leads a team of three senators, said a time frame of eight years would be preferable.

The inquiry hearing in Melbourne will hear from religious school representatives from Jewish, Christian, Lutheran and Adventist sectors on Friday.

It will also hear from a group of parental organisations from both private and public sectors, and the Australian Education Union which represents public school teachers.

In the inquiry’s second hearing, on Monday, it is expected to hear from the independent and Catholic sectors, school principals and the federal education department.

Labor education spokeswoman Tanya Plibersek was outraged the state and territory governments appeared to have been banned from giving evidence.

“How can you have an inquiry into schools funding without speaking to state and territory governments that run around 70 per cent of schools?” she told AAP.

Queensland, Tasmania, South Australia and the Northern Territory made written submissions to the inquiry.

Pregnant diabetic women ‘safe’ to express

A landmark study has shown it’s safe for diabetic women to express breastmilk during late pregnancy, dispelling fears it can lead to early labour.

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Nearly half of all babies born to a mother with diabetes will develop potentially dangerously low blood sugar levels, known as known as hypoglycaemia, soon after birth.

This can affect a baby’s brain development and lead to seizures and even brain damage.

The best way to stabilise blood sugar levels is feeding the baby breast milk, says Professor Della Forster from La Trobe University’s Judith Lumley Centre and the Director of Midwifer and Maternity Services Research at the Royal Women’s Hospital.

However for many women who experience diabetes during pregnancy their milk comes in late.

Despite widespread enthusiasm for antenatal expressing, previous studies had suggested the practice posed potential harm for the baby and mother.

But Professor Forster says they can now “confidently” say it is safe for low-risk diabetic pregnant women.

“Our research fills a significant global gap in knowledge and provides much-needed guidance to pregnant women around the world and those providing maternal care,” Prof Forster said.

According to the study published in The Lancet, most of the 600 participants safely expressed milk from 36-37 weeks of pregnancy and produced enough milk ahead of the birth to feed their baby adequately.

The mothers expressed an average 20 times before birth and on average produced 5mls of milk each time in total for the whole time of expressing.

Expressing also led to an increased proportion of mothers who exclusively used breast milk to feed their child for the first seven days after birth.

This is very positive, says Professor Forster, because it reduces the child’s risk of developing diabetes later in life.

“If your mother’s had diabetes during pregnancy then your’re more likely to develop diabetes later in life and if you have exposure to formula early in life that makes you more likely to develop diabetes later in life,” she said.

Sue Walker, Professor of Maternal Fetal Medicine at the University of Melbourne and Director of Perinatal Medicine at Mercy Hospital for Women, says the findings allay any fears the practice puts the mother or their baby at risk.

“These findings do not apply to higher risk women, but provide invaluable data that could be used for further research,” Prof Walker added.