Victorian young gun mounts a strong claim to a place in Australian XI top order
Young Victorian Will Pucovski is mounting a strong case to make his Test debut in the upcoming series against India.
Pucovski, 22, has thrived since being elevated in the batting order by Bushrangers coach and former Test opener Chris Rogers, peeling off an unbeaten career-best 255 in Victoria's opening Sheffield Shield game against South Australia and following up with another big innings against Western Australia.
His superb form at the top of the order is putting huge pressure on incumbent Test opener Joe Burns, who has made only 46 runs in his four Shield innings this season at an average of 11.5.
Pucovski started slowly after Victoria was sent in to bat by WA, but quickly got into stride to build another impressive opening partnership with Marcus Harris.
The talented right-hander almost made his Test debut nearly two years ago when he was selected in the squad to face Sri Lanka in a two-Test series, but was overlooked for in-form New South Welshman Kurtis Patterson.
Pucovski has taken breaks from the game in the past two years because of mental health issues, but the Victorian insists he is in a good place and the results are reflecting that.
Pucovski is 22, the same age at which the great Greg Chappell made his memorable Test debut, with a sparkling ton in the 1970-71 Ashes series.
Chappell has no doubt about the credentials of Pucovski and West Australian all-rounder Cameron Green as players with the ability to step into the top six of the Test team.
Green, who was on the receiving end as Pucovski tore into the WA attack, has also started the Shield season in promising fashion. He has already been selected in the one-day and T20 squads for the series against India.
Watching Pucovski and Green perform together in the Test arena this summer against the Indians is a tantalising prospect.
Viney likely to return as co-captain
Melbourne is set to have co-captains again next season. Sources close to the Demons say Jack Viney, who re-signed a five-year deal last month, will share the captaincy with ruckman Max Gawn.
Viney, 26, has made no secret of his disappointment of relinquishing the captaincy of his beloved Demons and retains a passionate desire to return to a leadership role.
The tough midfielder shared the role with Nathan Jones in Simon Goodwin's first three seasons as Melbourne's senior coach before the Demons decided to appoint Gawn as sole captain in 2020.
Jones, who will be 33 in January, has also re-signed for next season, giving him the opportunity to become only the second Demon to play 300 AFL/VFL games.
Jones sits on 294 matches, 12 behind the club's games record-holder David Neitz with 306.
Far from a carnival atmosphere
This year has presented challenges for every sporting organisation and the latest to be affected has been the Victoria Racing Club.
The four-day VRC carnival, usually an annual highlight on the Australian sports calendar, was marred by no crowds, disappointing TV ratings on Channel 10 and a few controversies, capped off by the disastrous nationwide TAB computer shutdown over the weekend which infuriated punters and cost the industry an estimated $120 million in lost turnover.
With the amount of money invested in the TAB every year and especially during the spring carnival, you would think there would have been a back-up system in place. But then again the TAB's computer technology is not advanced enough to accommodate the addition of emergencies in the Melbourne Cup.
Ideally, there are 24 runners in the Cup each year, but if there is a late scratching the race has no emergencies because the TAB computer is unable to cope.
This year the field was reduced to 23 after one of winning owner Lloyd Williams' three hopes, Adelaide Cup winner King Of Leogrance, was scratched only hours before the great race after showing signs of lameness in the off foreleg.
It was just bad luck but you have to feel for those people around the country in Cup sweeps who were left without a horse and once-a-year punters whose money was returned after placing an early bet.
There are emergencies in other big races such as the Caulfield Cup and surely in 2020 the TAB could make this happen. But first the computer has to be functioning to accept punters' bets.
Question of the week
Craig Reid of Fairy Meadow, NSW, asks: What is going on at Collingwood with several senior players, notably Adam Treloar, on the trade table?
The Magpies have been keen to secure new deals for long-term assets such as Brodie Grundy, Darcy Moore, Josh Daicos and potentially Jordan De Goey and it is clear there are problems with their salary cap.
There is confusion around Treloar's situation - he is a prolific midfielder who wants to stay at Collingwood, but is he worth a reputed $900,000 a year?
Mason Cox, Tom Phillips and Jaidyn Stephenson are also reportedly up for trade as the Magpies seek to balance their books, but let's see how it plays out in the coming days.
- This article is supported by the Judith Neilson Institute for Journalism and Ideas.