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May 29, 2009

Ricky Ponting remains Aussies' most marketable star

Ricky PontingTest cricket skipper Ricky Ponting remains Australia's most marketable sports star but teammate Andrew Symonds has lost his luster with sponsors, a survey has found.

Ponting, who is preparing to lead the Australian team in defence of the Ashes in England over the coming months, has held his place at the top for the third successive year of the Sweeney Sports Report.

The Aussie skipper tops the list ahead of recently-retired Olympic swimming champion Grant Hackett and semi-retired cricketer Adam Gilchrist.

But while Ponting is in favour, the contentious Symonds is on the nose with the marketers and has tumbled to 36th in the survey after reaching a high of 10th position in last year's report.

Symonds last week missed selection for the Ashes tour following his struggle to recover form after a series of off-field incidents.

The problems started when Symonds was cleaver from the national team after his 'gone fishing' episode in Darwin last year, while he was also fined for a well-publicised alcohol-fuelled rant in a radio interview.

"His fall from favour continues a consistent attitude among Australians that sports stars involved in controversial behaviour are not regarded as highly marketable," Sweeney Sports general manager Todd Deacon said.

Fellow cricketer Shane Warne and tennis stars Jelena Dokic and Mark Philippousis have in the past suffered similar falls, Deacon said.

Another sportsman to fall from grace was Sonny Bill Williams, who generated headlines last year following his controversial departure from Australia's National Rugby League to play rugby with Toulon in France.

The Kiwi international, who left the Canterbury Bulldogs in the lurch, is listed at 78th in the survey, a fall of 34 positions.

Triple Beijing Olympic swimming gold medallist Stephanie Rice debuted in seventh place in the latest survey and is the highest-ranked sportswoman, ahead of former Olympic 400m champion runner Cathy Freeman, in eighth.

Fellow Olympic champion swimmers Leisel Jones and Libby Trickett climbed the list to 12th and 13th positions respectively, up from equal 20th position last year.

Two-time grand slam tennis champion Lleyton Hewitt slumped to 32 in the survey after an injury-hit year.

The survey's findings are based on 1,000 interviews conducted with the public between October 2008 and March 2009.

The survey's top ten are: 1. Ricky Ponting (cricket)
eq2. Grant Hackett (swimming)
eq2. Adam Gilchrist (cricket)
4. Glenn McGrath (cricket)
5. Pat Rafter (tennis)
6. Ian Thorpe (swimming)
7. Stephanie Rice (swimming)
eq8. Cathy Freeman (athletics)
eq8. Steve Waugh (cricket)
10. Casey Stoner (motorcycling).

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