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Beyond The Lead

Looking for the lowdown? Join ESPN's stable of award-winning journalists on Beyond the Lead -- a podcast that goes past the headlines to provide insight into sport’s biggest stories, extraordinary individuals and complex personalities.

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Tim Walsh

History, potentially, awaits Tim Walsh and Australia Women’s Sevens side in the coming weeks. Already the reigning champions of the World Rugby Women's Sevens Series and the recently completed Commonwealth Games in Birmingham, Australia’s women will look to seal a momentous treble when they head to the 2022 Rugby World Cup Sevens in Cape Town next week. In conversation with ESPN’s Brittany Mitchell, Walsh reflected on getting past familiar foes Fiji and New Zealand on the way to winning Australia’s first ever Commonwealth Gold in Women’s Sevens, and how the side is shaping ahead of the World Cup. Walsh opens up on both the evolution and journey of himself as a coach, as well as Australia’s Rugby Sevens apparatus and the players that have made their mark in it. And there’s plenty more beyond that, including an explanation of the phenomena of “Crunning” – crying and running at the same time. 


28 Aug 2022

Rank #1

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Afghanistan Women's National Football Team Special

The Afghan Women’s National soccer team have risen to worldwide fame over the past year but, unfortunately, for all the wrong reasons. A prime example of women showing agency and living their own lives in their homeland, the players were forced to evacuate their homes in terrifying circumstances and leave families behind as they fled for their safety as the Taliban seized control over Afghanistan in August of 2021.After a fraught rescue effort, a significant cohort has since settled in Melbourne, where they play in the local women’s State Leagues under the combined banner of the Afghan Women’s Team and Melbourne Victory. Initially, it was thought that the group would gradually disperse and join various clubs throughout Melbourne, Australia, but their desire to continue to support each other and their desire to one day represent their country on the international stage has led them to stay united. Though groups such as the PFA, FIFPro, Victory, and Human Rights For All continue to supply the team with important educational, vocational, financial, sporting and legal support a year after their forced evacuation from their country, the shared connection between the team, and their shared love of soccer, has been vital. In this special episode of Beyond The Lead, ESPN brings you interviews with Afghan Women’s National Team players Mursal and Bahara, team founder and former captain Khalida Popal, Director Principle of Human Rights for All Alison Battisson, and former Socceroo and human rights campaigner Craig Foster to recall this extraordinary team's extraordinary journey, and how soccer has helped hold them together in their new homes and give them a new sense of hope.


14 Aug 2022

Rank #2

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Kaye Scott

You can’t have women’s boxing at the Commonwealth Games without Australian boxer Kaye Scott. That’s literally, for now at least, with the Sydney-based fighter previously fighting at the 2014 Commonwealth Games in Glasgow when women’s boxing was first introduced and at the 2018 iteration on the Gold Coast – where she took out bronze in the Welterweight division. Now, the 38-year-old is set to make history when she competes for Australia in her third games in Birmingham. And things got off to a fortuitous start when the draw saw her receive a bye through the preliminary round and straight into the quarters. In a wide-ranging conversation with ESPN’s Adam Santarossa recorded before she jetted off to Britain, Scott reflected upon her Commonwealth Games preparations, her career to date which included taking part in the first legally sanctioned women’s boxing match in New South Wales, life at the Commonwealth Games and the importance of mindset and blocking out the noise.She also opened up on her thinking on transitioning into the professional ranks and how working at that level differed from amateur fighting. But first, she touched on the preparations for her third Commonwealth Games, and if it was any easier the third time around. 


29 Jul 2022

Rank #3

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Flynn Appleby

Flynn Appleby will become the latest in the long line of Australian talent making their way to the collegiate system in the United States in the coming months; the former Collingwood AFL representative accepting a scholarship offer to punt for the football team of Big 10 school Rutgers.Appleby played 11 games for the Pies across three seasons -- featuring as an emergency for the 2018 Grand Final after a hamstring injury knocked him out of the senior side -- before being delisted at the end of the 2020 season.This, eventually, led to him joining a collection of former footballers to graduate through the ProKick Australia system and earn a spot on the ranks of a collegiate roster: Appleby himself joining Aussie Adam Korsak on the Rutgers roster and 55 other Australian punters in the NCAA.In a wide-ranging conversation with ESPN’s Patrick Djordjevic, Appleby reflected upon his AFL career and the challenges that he faced along the way, the art of punting, Pro Kick Australia, and much more.


26 Jul 2022

Rank #4

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Kai Kara France

Kai ‘Don’t Blink’ Kara France hasn’t always believed he’s the best Flyweight in the world. But now he does – and he thinks that going to make the difference in the co-main event of UFC 277 in Dallas, Texas. After overcoming a staph infection to down Askar Askarov in March, Kara France set up a meeting with Brandon Moreno for the interim UFC Flyweight Title at UFC 277 – a rematch of their fight at UFC 245, which ended with Moreno winning by unanimous decision. In conversation with ESPN’s Sam Bruce, Kara France talked about the mindset that he has built coming into this fight -- especially the Māori mentality that has helped shape him -- training under Eugene Bareman at Auckland’s famous City Kickboxing gym, how he kept training through New Zealand’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic, and more.


25 Jul 2022

Rank #5

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Grayson Waller

Grayson Waller is the face of NXT 2.0. Or at least he says he is. It’s his Twitter bio and everything. Born in Sydney, Waller is one of a new breed of Australian performers making their mark across the wrestling world; the 32-year-old rising to become a regular star player on NXT 2.0 – doing his bit to show the old NXT guard the door as he did so – and even engaging in a series of pitched battles with the phenomenal AJ Styles across NXT 2.0 and WWE Raw. Speaking with ESPN’s Adam Santarossa, the product of Sydney’s Pro Wrestling Australia promotion talked about his rise through the independents while juggling teaching and reality TV, just how a bombastic Aussie catches the eye of the WWE, what happens when you get to the Performance Centre in Orlando, and how Grayson Waller came to be.


19 Jul 2022

Rank #6

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Jackie Narracott

Jackie Narracott made history this year, becoming the first-ever Australian to win an Olympic medal in a sliding sport -- which also covers sports such as Bobsleigh or Luge -- when she secured a silver medal in women's skeleton on the "Ice Dragon" course at the Yanqing National Sliding Centre in the 2022 Winter Olympics. It was not only a momentous moment for the 31-year-old but also Australia: her medal lifting the nation’s total in Beijing to 4 -- the highest total Australia has ever achieved at a Winter Olympics.In conversation with ESPN’s Marissa Lordanic, the Queenslander discussed her journey to becoming the second-best women’s skeleton racer in the world, as well as the difficulties associated with competing in a Winter Olympics in the midst of a global pandemic, her long and arduous journey to the top in a sport that exists very much below the radar in Australia, and much more.


27 Jun 2022

Rank #7

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Jack Sharkey

The modern football team is an ecosystem in and of itself: thousands of moving parts working in tandem to empower eleven players to go out and put the ball in the net more times than eleven opposition players. And increasingly in the modern game, the role of sports science is taking on an ever-increasing role in this space - physically priming players to be at their best. For the Matildas, this is where Jack Sharkey comes in.   Formerly with English sides Burton Albion, Queen’s Park Rangers and Aston Villa, Sharkey is now on the international stage: entrusted with monitoring the physical wellbeing of players and putting in place regimes so that they are not only able to peak on the next Matildas’ matchday, but on the biggest stage of them all in 2023 when the World Cup comes around. Speaking to ESPN’s Joey Lynch, Sharkey gave an insight into how his day to day work surrounding the Matildas is structured, the nature of sports science itself, and some of the principles that he uses to guide him making sure that not just the likes of Sam Kerr, Steph Catley, and Caitlin Foord are at their best when they get the call, but even players on the fringes. But in the wake of Ellie Carpenter’s unfortunate injury suffered in the Champions League final, the unfortunate cloud of ACL injuries continues to hang over not just the Matildas, but all of women’s sport. Sharkey provided an insight into what he thinks some of the reasoning for the rash of ACL injuries is, as well as delving into how the Matildas, as well as the Young and Junior Matildas, are looking to protect their players.


9 Jun 2022

Rank #8

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Billy Dib

Billy Dib is a superstar of Australian boxing, a former holder of the IBF featherweight title and the IBO super-featherweight title. Across his 18-year professional career, the veteran from Sydney has won 48 professional fights – with 27 coming by KO – compared to just six defeats. He’s ranked the sixth-best lightweight in the world by the IBF and the fourteenth best by the WBO.His 48th win, against Gold Coast fighter Jacob NG, however, didn’t come in a manner that the 36-year-old would have relished. Even though it did end with him securing the IBF International Lightweight and WBO Oriental Lightweight title, Dib won the fight in the sixth when NG was disqualified for an illegal maneuver: throwing Dib to the canvas with a hip toss.In conversation with ESPN’s Adam Santarossa, Dib discussed the aftermath of that fight, the world title opportunity that he had to miss as a result of his injuries and his hopes for what he believes would be a once in a lifetime fight with undefeated Aussie George Kambosos, who will look to become the undisputed lightweight champion of the world when he takes on Devin Haney at Marvel Stadium on June 5.


17 May 2022

Rank #9

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David Pocock

David Pocock was never one to shy away from a challenge – be that on the field with the Western Force, ACT Brumbies, and the Wallabies or in the public square. Throughout his long playing career, which ended in retirement in 2020, the 33-year-old was a loud voice in support of social justice causes and greater action on climate change – even getting himself arrested in 2014 after locking himself to digging equipment at a Maules Creek Mine site.When he retired from Rugby in 2020, the Zimbabwe-born Canberran didn’t have any intention of moving into politics but, after a few years spent on conservation work, announced his intention to stand as an independent candidate for one of the ACT’s two spaces in the Australian senate late last year. In conversation with ESPN’s Joey Lynch, Pocock discussed the genesis of his move into politics, policy creation and his platform, climate change, athletes in politics and much more.


20 Mar 2022

Rank #10