‘I know how to win’: Mark Renshaw to make most of Mark Cavendish’s absence and go for broke

Interactive: Pull of the pelotonTour indexLive coverage

LILLE: Mark Renshaw never ceases to be amazed by the vagaries of cycling, especially when he looks at his position in the Tour de France where he is now his team’s lead sprinter.

Now the NSW rider’s opportunity has come, with British teammate and star sprinter Mark Cavendish sidelined by his injuries, including a dislocated collar bone, sustained in a crash at the finish of stage one at Harrogate, Britain.

Renshaw smiles when asked how his career has changed – from being Cavendish’s lead-out rider, to trying his hand at being another team’s main sprinter, to returning to Cavendish’s side in his old role, and now facing the chance to win again.

Since his elevation, Renshaw has placed third in Monday’s third stage from Cambridge to London and seventh in Tuesday’s 163km fourth stage from Le Touquet-Paris Plage to Lille – both won by German Marcel Kittel (Giant-Shimano).

The win by Kittel on Tuesday, in which he beat Norway’s Alexander Kristoff (Katusha) and French champion Arnaud Demare into second and third places respectively, took his career tally of Tour stage wins to seven from two Tours.

“It’s really crazy, a cyclist’s career. Things can turn on their head pretty quick,” said Renshaw (Omega Pharma-QuickStep).

“I’ve seen both sides of the coin – the good and the bad of last year [as protected sprinter on the Belkin team], two years ago having a big crash in the Tour of Turkey.

“Now ‘Cav’ is on the other side of the coin and is looking to come back. But that gives me an opportunity. I’ll take it with both hands and see what I come up with.”

Renshaw, whose opportunity to race for himself in bunch sprints should last beyond the Tour and into the second half of the year as Cavendish rehabilitates, said he had been in regular contact with the Briton since he left the Tour.

“We have spoken a lot since he stopped,” Renshaw said. “[The Tour was] the season goal for him, so obviously he is finding it quite hard watching the [race on] TV, but we have all been there.”

Renshaw also realises that beating Kittel, who now has three stage wins, will be a “big ask”, especially as he is not gifted with the German’s speed.

However, the Australian believes a stage win is still possible should the stars align – and there is no shortage of opportunity, with Thursday’s sixth stage followed by stages 7, 15, 19 and 21 into Paris suited for the sprinters on paper.

“The tactics are simple. We need to catch him offguard and we need some luck,” Renshaw said, adding that believes more time in the role as his team’s sprinter can only help.

“I didn’t have the preparation to beat Kittel in the sprint [on stage there], but I have the experience for the positioning,” Renshaw said.

“I know how to win, but this year has been dedicated to Cavendish – and more about me leading him out with a progressive long sprint rather than a short and sharp effort.

“I think I can beat Kittel but luck needs to swing my way and he needs to be unlucky.

“So a lot of things need to happen for me to win a stage, but I’ll keep trying. I know where I am in relation to these guys, but it’s a big ask to win a stage.”

Renshaw is candid about saying that for him or anyone to beat Kittel, they will need the German to make an error – or his teammates in their lead-out for him in the sprint.

“We need Giant-Shimano to make a couple of mistakes to have him out of position,” Renshaw said.

THEATRE: Trench angels saluted

TOUGH TIMES: Kate Skinner as Sister Florence Whiting in Through These Lines.WHEN writer and producer Cheryl Ward toured NSW last year looking for venues to stage her World War I play Through These Lines, her immediate Newcastle choice was Fort Scratchley.

She walked into a casemate, a vaulted concrete chamber beneath the late 19th century fort’s gun emplacements that was intended for use in sheltering troops and stores.

It was a perfect setting for the play’s story, which shows an Australian nurse moving from one battlefront to another to care for wounded soldiers between 1914 and 1918.

The nurse, Sister Florence Whiting, is stationed at various times in concrete bunkers and on hospital ships, interacting with her nursing colleagues and the military men she meets and treats. Florence and a soldier who was wounded at Gallipoli fall in love while he is hospitalised.

Through These Lines is being staged at Fort Scratchley from July 24 to August 5 as part of the Civic Theatre’s subscription series.

While the Civic’s subscription works are generally staged in its 1500-seat theatre or the adjacent and smaller Playhouse, Cheryl Ward submitted her Through These Lines script to the management and received the go-ahead to use Fort Scratchley.

Many of the NSW seasons will be in RSL clubs, but other historic buildings with a military connection will also house the play.

The Trial Bay Jail at South-West Rocks, near Kempsey, where German nationals were interned during World War I, is a venue. The Lithgow Small Arms Factory, like the jail now a museum, is another. Brought into operation in 1912, the Lithgow facility manufactured rifles and bayonets for Australian forces during World War I.

Cheryl Ward was inspired to write Through These Lines after former concrete munitions tunnels at Sydney Harbour’s Middle Head were opened to the public in 2008.

Ward grew up near the locked tunnels and, with other teenagers, managed to climb into them on occasions.

When they became available for public arts works, she looked for a theatre subject, with photos of nurses in a concrete-walled room in France during World War I leading her to research their lives and work and to develop the first version of Through These Lines.

The play had a sold-out three-week season in one of the munitions rooms in 2010, with audience members often in tears as they heard the nurses talking about their experiences in words taken verbatim from letters World War I nurses had written.

Ward has reworked the script since that initial staging and, in her words, ‘‘it has become a much more personal journey for Sister Florence Whiting’’.

‘‘It is a more human story,’’ she said.

‘‘The nurses behind the battlefronts were almost anonymous people. They treated thousands of patients, but half the time they didn’t know their names.’’

The cast is led by Kate Skinner as Florence Whiting, with the other actors playing three or more roles.

Cheryl Ward is one of the actors, with her characters including the matron in charge of the story’s nursing team. The other players are Rebecca Barbera, Gareth Rickards, Gary Clementson, and Christian Charisiou. Mary-Anne Gifford directs.

The Fort Scratchley casemate will hold 60 audience members.

Ward said the 80-minute work, which is played without an interval, makes extensive use of stretchers and has props including tents, wooden huts and ship features as the story moves between a troop ship taking soldiers and nurses to Europe, Cairo, a hospital ship, Lemnos and the Western Front.

The audience will be greeted at the casemate door by the actors at the starting time and brought into the venue. Latecomers won’t be admitted.

Through These Lines, a co-production by Turnaround Productions and No Rest for the Wicked, has a preview at 7.30pm on Thursday, July 24. There will be performances from Friday, July 25, to Tuesday, August 5, with shows each Friday at 7.30pm, Saturday and Sunday at 3pm and 7.30pm, Monday at 7.30pm, Tuesday at 3pm and 7.30pm, and Thursday at 7.30pm. Tickets: $38, concession $32, subscriber $28, with a preview price of $25. Bookings: Civic Ticketek, 49291977.

The Lorica gladiator suit takes the pain out of armed combat

“Creating an entirely new sport:” The Lorica suit. Photo: Unified Weapons MasterMany would say the allure of Game of Thrones lies in the blood and gore, the swords and staffs and the battles in armour.

These days weapons-based combat in television, film and gaming leaves fans mouth-watering and blood thirsty for the next hyper-violent battle scene.

So it was only a matter of time before someone developed the technology to physically step inside the armour, brandish a weapon and feel those blows.

Australian start-up, Unified Weapons Master, has created the Lorica; a gladiator-style combat suit built to withstand and record the full force of martial arts weapons.

“Our vision is to reignite interest in weapons-based martial arts that have been practised and developed over thousands of years,” said Unified Weapons Master CEO, David Pysden.

He said the Lorica suit is the first opportunity to see some of the most ancient weapons-based martial arts showcased in the modern era.

“These arts are slowly dying because they can’t be practised for real because of the dangers. We wanted to create a forum for martial artists to be able to showcase their skills,” he said.

The carbon-fibre suit has in-built sensors which track and store data on the impact of martial arts weapons to an unprotected body.

In recent battle testing the most forceful strike recorded was a blow to the head from a tomahawk with almost 600kg of force.

The data is recorded in the 40 sensors placed near the head and torso which measure the force and location of strikes to the armour in real time.

Whilst Pysden said their core application for the suit is in weapons-based martial arts, there are always long term goals, such as in military and law enforcement training.

“It is going to be possible for us to look to training armour, and we’ve already received an overwhelming response online, from people into gaming, average people, and professionals. People just love the idea of putting on a suit of armour and fighting with weapons.

“In the longer term we could see this even going into gyms,” he said.

Research and development of the Lorica suit have been funded by private investors. At what cost, Pysden would not say, though he said the price tag to date was not insignificant.

With a plan to launch the first competition battle events using the suits by next year, Pysden said the most exciting part will be seeing different weapons from different cultural histories in competition.

“There are 96 weapons-based martial arts and we are putting together a forum where they can all compete.

“What we’re excited about seeing is who comes out on top; for example a Japanese Samurai sword champion, versus a Chinese Shaolin staff master,” he said.

OPINION: Governments divide into leaners, lifters too

JOE Hockey wants to classify Australians as either lifters or leaners, but how should we classify his government?
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A leaning government turns the boats back so that the Indonesians have to deal with refugees. A leaning government refuses to settle boat people in Australia and somehow expects Manus Island to cope with those found to be genuine refugees. A leaning government puts private contractors in charge of asylum detention centres so it is not directly accountable for their welfare.

The Minister for Immigration then leans on dozens of public relations flacks to protect him from criticism of – and adverse publicity for – the consequences of government policy. A leaning minister refuses to give the public the information it needs to judge that policy.

On the other hand, a lifting government would take its international obligations for asylum seekers seriously and ensure the fair treatment of all those seeking asylum in Australia.

A leaning government puts the burden of balancing the budget deficit on the most disadvantaged in society: the poor, the old, the sick, the disabled and the unemployed. A lifting government would tackle tax avoidance on the part of transnational corporations and wealthy citizens. It would reduce subsidies to the well-resourced mining industry. It would examine the fairness of superannuation tax benefits for the well-paid.

However a leaning government prefers not to antagonise the influential and powerful when it can lean on the weak and vulnerable and use an army of spin doctors to persuade people that it is for their own good.

A leaning government raises quick money by selling off government assets that previous lifting governments built up over decades, even though this means forgoing dividends and losing money long term. A leaning government assumes that private ownership and competition will be more efficient, without examining the evidence of past privatisations. A leaning government hands responsibility for pricing of essential services to the private sector and blames the carbon tax if prices escalate.

A lifting government would tackle global warming head on with direct regulation that spells out the necessary reductions and time lines in each industry. A leaning government hands over responsibility to the polluters and hopes financial incentives – whether a carbon price or subsidies – will motivate them to do the right thing. A lifting government would seek to lead rather than follow when it comes to greenhouse gas reductions. It would not wait till poorer, developing nations commit to reductions.

A lifting government would reduce coal exports rather than bludging off a polluting resource and building more coal export infrastructure in the hope that the coal will keep on flowing. A lifting government would seek more sustainable industries to support and subsidise, and ways to transition from coal to renewable energy within Australia.

A lifting government regulates and builds the nation and protects the vulnerable. A government of leaners deregulates and allows the nation to collapse into the shambles of a free market.

Professor Sharon Beder, School of Humanities and Social Inquiry, University of Wollongong, herinst上海后花园/sbeder

OPINION: Time to cap CBD towers and let light shine bright

RETAIL SUPPORT: A new hotel on the harbour will add to the already substantial catchment. TOO often state and local politicians and officials, and a few developers, put a ‘‘take it – or leave it and get nothing’’ attitude to Newcastle’s future. This is patronising rubbish and should be rejected. We deserve better.
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Mystery and a lack of transparency surround the plan for high-rise in inner-city Newcastle. These proposals, a public/private partnership of the state-owned UrbanGrowth NSW and GPT, include three 15 to 20-storey towers that are excessively tall. They are far in excess of the existing height limits – by a factor of three.

The 2012 draft Newcastle Urban Renewal Strategy (NURS) has worthwhile objectives and strategies for encouraging co-ordinated and appropriate development in the city, which everyone wants. It supports sensible development initiatives for the West End and Civic parts of the city, and kept low-rise in the heritage inner-city areas of the Hunter Street Mall and East End.

The community was shocked when a proposal seeking amendments to the NURS was released in March, allowing only two weeks for community consultation. These amendments were proposed simply to look after just two developers: GPT/UrbanGrowth NSW and the University of Newcastle.

In response to the revised NURS, high-rise residential use has replaced low and medium-rise mixed commercial and commercial development as the dominant proposed use of land in Newcastle’s heritage inner city.

Neither the developers, nor the NSW government, have provided a clear and compelling explanation of why high-rise towers are needed in the mall and East End. What is the financial modelling being used to determine their heights? Why 20 storeys and not 50, or 15, or 10? Why not retain the Newcastle LEP (2012) height limits of around eight storeys?

Development is booming in inner Newcastle within the existing planning controls of the 2012 Newcastle Local Environmental Plan and in accord with the 2012 NURS – and without excessive high-rise. The inner city has many beautiful low-medium rise buildings that can be, indeed are being, adaptively redesigned and sold to people who want to live in them, and enjoy the unique Newcastle vibe.

As well, a considerable number of unrelated developments have been completed within walking distance of the GPT/UrbanGrowth NSW site. These include numerous mixed-use and exclusively residential developments on the harbour, on the beach and in Newcastle city. There are two substantial new hotels about to start construction (one on the harbour, one on Newcastle beach). All of these developments add to the substantial catchment that will support quality retail in the area.

A question many people ask is: Will the high-rise tower proponents do the building themselves? Or do they intend cutting a special deal with the NSW government to change planning controls, maybe get their hands on taxpayer funds to grout the mine tunnels beneath the land, use their considerable muscle to clear the way for approved DAs – and then on-sell the project as a ‘‘shovel-ready’’ financial jackpot?

Newcastle has seen too many shonks do a midnight flit. Too often we have seen local businesses and local initiatives overlooked. There is a real risk that the region’s capital will be degraded by low quality high-rise apartment blocks that become high-rise slums owned by absentee landlords.

The planning instruments of the past 30 years, embodied in the NURS 2012, have given great weight to preserving this city’s remarkable inheritance and are the foundation for a prosperous future for the whole community.

The community group co-ordinating the campaign for sensible development in Newcastle’s heritage heart, the Newcastle Inner City Residents Alliance (NICRA), has members from throughout the Hunter. We ask a simple question: Why is it necessary to overturn successful existing planning laws to allow high-rise development that risks the special character of the capital city of our region?

Pru Goward, the Minister for Planning and also the minister responsible for UrbanGrowth NSW, appears to have a conflict of interest as both the lawmaker and approver of developments (wearing her Minister for Planning hat), and as beneficiary (wearing her UrbanGrowth NSW hat).

Many residents and businesses in Newcastle feel pushed aside by outside developers, and by the current political culture of the city. It’s hard for ordinary community members to meet with Pru Goward, but she has the opportunity to break the trend of secret deals that plagues NSW politics, to listen to the community, to stick with the current building height limits that keep our city great.

Dr Geoff Evans teaches, researches and consults on sustainability in Australia and internationally. He is a member of the Newcastle Inner City Residents Alliance (NICRA). NICRA has organised a public Q & A forum on July 25 at the Newcastle City Hall

Could you give up Facebook for 99 days?

Could you handle a 99-day Facebook fast? Photo: JustSo you’ve tried Dry July, Ocsober and maybe you even give up sugary temptations through Lent.
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But could you give up Facebook for 99 days?

“99 Days of Freedom” is a challenge set by Just, a Dutch creative agency, in direct response to Facebook’s controversial mood experiment which was made public last month.

Facebook’s experiment tested the theory that an individual’s happiness could be affected by the content they see online.

“99 Days of Freedom” turns the experiment on its head and asks whether people would be happier without Facebook.

Just art director Merjin Straathof said the initiative was spawned from an office joke.

“As we discussed it internally, we noted an interesting tendency … everyone had at least a ‘complicated’ relationship with Facebook. Whether it was being tagged in unflattering photos, getting into arguments with other users or simply regretting time lost through excessive use, there was a surprising degree of negative sentiment.

“Then someone joked, ‘I guess that the real question is, ‘How do you feel when you don’t use Facebook?’,” she said.

The non-profit initiative asks users to give up Facebook for a 99-day period, completing anonymous happiness surveys on days 33, 66 and 99.

Straathof said there was some debate about how long the experiment should be.

“If it’s too extended, participants will lose interest. If it’s too short, there’s no meaningful behavioural change to assess. In the end, we landed on a 99-day, hoping that such interaction will serve as a support group of sorts,” she said.

According to Facebook, the average user spends 17 minutes a day sharing, posting, liking and poking.

While giving away the social network may sound tough to some, the group says every participant will recieve something in return: more than 28 hours or 1683 minutes that would have been spent trawling the site.

“Our prediction is that the experiment will yield a lot of positive personal experiences and, 99 days from now, we’ll know whether that theory has legs,” said Straathof.

New Real-NRL structure dumps 23s

THE Newcastle Rugby League has handed down its vision for the next three years, a blueprint that chief executive officer Matt Harris hopes will increase player participation.
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The league’s board endorsed the recommendations on Tuesday night and the manifesto was distributed yesterday to the nine Real NRL clubs.

It follows a long process in which all clubs were interviewed about the challenges facing the competition.

Under the new structure, the unpopular under23s competition has been scrapped and open age will return to complement firsts and reserves.

‘‘There were a handful of players who were not able to get games at clubs because they weren’t at that reserve-grade level and were too old to go into the under23s,’’ Harris said.

‘‘There were a number who were lost to Newcastle and to Hunter [Newcastle and Hunter Rugby League] or had to sit out.’’

An under19s competition will replace the under18s.

Under17s will be reinstated at junior level.

Real NRL clubs will have to field sides in all four grades or face expulsion.

The pre-season competition has been scrapped after it failed to gain widespread support over the past two years.

The most radical change involves the relationship between the Real NRL clubs and their NHRL affiliates.

To improve what has been at times a frosty relationship between first- and second-tier teams, Real NRL clubs will be required to have representation from senior and junior affiliate clubs on their board.

Similarly, Real NRL clubs will be required to appoint a delegate to their affiliates.

For the first time the draws for the top flight and second division will be developed together so Real NRL clubs’ home games are not on the same day as their affiliates’.

Most Real NRL clubs have indicated a willingness to play home games on Saturdays.

That means most second-division games will be played on Sundays, and Harris hopes that promotes sharing of players and resources.

‘‘If the affiliate and their district club play on the same day in the same area, they’re in competition with each other, and that’s not in the best interests of football,’’ he said.

What is not addressed in the restructure is a plan to return to a 10-team competition.

Asked if the new structure, which covers the next three years, meant the league would not be unable to introduce a 10th team until at least 2018, Harris said: ‘‘Not necessarily, but in reality you could expect it will be closer to that than next year.

‘‘The soonest would be in maybe two years.’’

State of Origin LIVE: Qld v NSW

Blues fans show their support before game three of the State of Origin series at Suncorp Stadium. Photo: Getty Images Don’t expect the Queensland fans to stick around for the trophy presentation tonight if 2005 was any guide when Blues skipper Danny Buderus held the shield aloft in front of many empty seats. Photo: Steve Christo
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Can NSW make is a clean sweep?

State of Origin


Maroons fan Matthew Prentice poses for a photo before game three of the State of Origin series between the Queensland Maroons and the New South Wales Blues at Suncorp Stadium. Photo: Getty Images

State of Origin LIVE: Qld v NSW

Good evening folks. Welcome to our live coverage of Origin III from Suncorp Stadium. They say there’s no such thing as a dead rubber, although that’s a complete fib become I’m staring at one right now. However, we can probably tweak that to suggest most Origin dead rubbers are above the average dead piece of rubber. Remember 2009? I was only watching that this afternoon, carefully shielding the eyes of the children when I saw Brett White about to wind up and lay out Steve Price. Fiery encounter…. will we see anything like that tonight? With the ‘no punch’ rule, maybe not. But I just have a feeling all that rubbish, annoying little niggling throughout the series could really erupt tonight the first sign of a forearm to the face.

Weather report…. lovely night, chilly for Brisbane but that’s anything under 15 degrees. Not sure if it’s a complete sell out but I’d say there will only be a few hundred seats left. My predictions have been completely useless all series but I may as well try to shoot another fish with my last spear. I’ll say Queensland by 12 tonight, mostly on the back of Cooper Cronk’s return. Kid goes good.

Shout out to anyone reading from exotic destinations around the world. Let us know if where you are…. Dubbo doesn’t count as ‘exotic’, for the record.null

Who will win game three of the State of Origin series? http://t上海后花园/yaf4aJ6umNpic.twitter上海后花园m/XzWQsJ4BwX— SMH Sport (@SMHsport) July 9, 2014

Not long to go now folks. The Brothers Madden are singing for our/your/everybody’s pleasure now. At least it’s not Justice Crew, although they may as well be Bruce Springsteen if you happen to be my eight-year-old daughter. And if you are my daughter, go to bed. Back at the footy, we’re getting closer to the finale of the 2014 series. Game one here was a flat-out all-timer. Game two was, well, I’m not sure. Great outcome for NSW but the game never really soared I didn’t think. I’m just hoping we see some running rugby league here to ice the cake for the year.

Predictions? First one that says ‘pain’ wins one of the books from my desk. Not Juiced though.

Drama! Joel Madden tells the crowd he supports NSW. Benji? Wait for it… Queensland! That’s a serious conflict right there. I wonder if they have a ‘no punch’ rule? I was good mates with twins growing up and they used to punch on all the time. Great fun.null

Here is a walk down memory lane me with the boys after NSW last origin clean sweep #stateoforigin#NRLpic.twitter上海后花园m/oZwnjwahvX

— Adam MacDougall (@adammacdougall5) July 9, 2014

Not many spare seats at all here tonight. Maybe 51k and change? I got up to 49,000 and then the pies came out so I had to start again. Snap predictions right here:

Man of the match: Jarryd Hayne

Player that played well and you didn’t even realise he was out there: Ryan Hoffman

Player responsible for lighting the most fires in the village: Cooper Cronk

Did you know? James McManus is playing for NSW. IRL.

Most predictable step that nobody seems to predict: Justin Hodges (it’s off the right, if any players are reading)

G’day to Parso81 who is in Vietnam and watching from Vung Tao. Not riding a chinook, I presume. Maybe after the game. Enjoy mate! Weather update from your part of the globe?

The @LeagueHQ1 expert panel (two members pictured below) have their say on #Origin III http://t上海后花园/nRFTmoTFFZpic.twitter上海后花园m/jvX1ZEMZ36

— LeagueHQ(@LeagueHQ1) July 8, 2014

Family first as PJ Ellis plans to hand over coach role

UNCERTAIN FUTURE: Maitland Pickers captain-coach PJ Ellis at training. Picture: Stuart ScottMAITLAND captain-coach PJ Ellis appears likely to hang up the clipboard at the end of this season.
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While the veteran hooker is not 100per cent certain about quitting, he said family commitments with three young children made coaching difficult.

The 37-year-old had planned on retiring from playing but remaining as coach next season. He said he was now more likely to continue as only a player.

‘‘I probably won’t have the time to coach, and you don’t have that down time a player might have with the kids,’’ Ellis said. I’m still undecided. I’m not 100per cent.’’

■ Matt Lantry has a handshake agreement to continue coaching Central next season, which is expected to be signed off on next week.

Butcher Boys secretary Terry Bryden and Lantry made the verbal agreement a fortnight ago and have been formulating the club’s budget for next season.

‘‘It’s a handshake agreement and we’re rolling forward for next season, there’s just a few things to tidy up before I sign on the dotted line,’’ Lantry said.

Once Lantry signs, retaining most of his squad is his top priority.

‘‘One thing I have noticed in the last six weeks, that obviously winning helps, but the culture among the club has really galvanised as a team on and off the field,’’ he said. ‘‘That always takes time to happen, your successful teams stay together for a long period of time.’’

■ As expected, Cessnock five-eighth Riley Brown has withdrawn from the NSW Country tour of Hawaii due to family commitments.

Brown’s place is taken by Berkeley Vale’s Alex Moore.

The Country squad fly out for Honolulu tomorrow, with Brendan Hlad, Chris Adams (Cessnock), Jake Finn, Callan Richardson, Simon Williams and Peter Mannion (Wests) the Newcastle representatives in coach Jamie Feeney’s squad.

Knights tip crowd will rise for Alex McKinnon

KNIGHTS officials will be hoping the #RiseForAlex round can prove the catalyst for a much-needed reconnection with the Novocastrian community.
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Newcastle’s home clash with the Gold Coast on Sunday week will signify the first time Alex McKinnon has returned to Hunter Stadium since the terrible accident that left him with a career-ending broken neck.

While it has not been decided if the 22-year-old Aberdeen junior will appear on the field before the game so that fans can pay their respects, a bumper turnout is anticipated nonetheless for what shapes as one of the most emotional days since the Knights were founded in 1988.

A host of other activities, including a post-match concert headlined by Jessica Mauboy, will ensure it is a special occasion and a season-high attendance is expected.

The Knights would welcome a revival in home-ground support.

In six games at Turton Road this season, their average crowd is 17,151, which represents a decline of 9.8per cent on last year’s average of 18,836.

Last year’s attendances were down 9.9per cent on their standard 2011 turnout of 20,919.

So, in the space of three seasons, Newcastle’s home crowds have slipped by an alarming 17.5per cent.

Poor performances have undoubtedly been a contributing factor, but many believe the Knights also lost touch with their traditionally loyal fan base during the three tumultuous years under Nathan Tinkler’s ownership – despite Tinkler’s initiative to cut the price of season tickets.

Knights officials felt the NRL draw did them no favours earlier in the season, but they apparently have no complaints about the scheduling of their final four games, which was confirmed last week.

A statement on the club website said ‘‘the Knights are overall pleased’’ with home fixtures against Melbourne (Saturday, August 9, 5.30pm), the Warriors (Sunday, August 17, 2pm), Parramatta (Saturday, August 30, 3pm) and St George Illawarra (Sunday, September 7, 2pm).

Barring horrendous weather, it is hard to imagine their crowd figures will not improve significantly over the last third of the season, starting with the #RiseForAlex round and finishing with the annual Old Boys reunion day at the last home game.

■ Never before has there been such a disparity in the experience of two rival coaches.

Veteran Knights tactician Wayne Bennett will control his 700th top-grade game – a competition record – when Newcastle face Cronulla at Remondis Stadium on Sunday.

His opposite number will be interim Sharks coach James Shepherd, who made his NRL debut in last week’s miraculous win against the Roosters.

Incidentally, NRL chief executive Dave Smith has thrown his support behind the retention of Bennett, whom he described as ‘‘a wonderful man and been a wonderful part of the Newcastle team’’.

“Hopefully he chooses to stay, but ultimately that’s up to Wayne. We need to make sure we do all the right things to make [Newcastle] stronger,’’ Smith said this week.

■ The debut of former Canberra prop Sam Mataora was a rare highlight for Newcastle’s NSW Cup side in their 26-0 loss to Illawarra Cutters last weekend.

Mataora (114kilograms) is a comparative lightweight compared to coach Rick Stone’s starting props Toka Likiliki (134kilograms) and Pat Vaivai (120kilograms).

Last week’s result left the Knights clinging to eighth and they will be hoping to bounce back against struggling Manly at Brookvale Oval on Saturday.

■ Newcastle’s under20s can take a further step towards the National Youth Competition minor premiership with a win against the Sharks on Sunday.

The Knights are joint leaders with Brisbane after both teams have posted 11 wins, one draw and three losses from 15 games, but Newcastle have a superior for-and-against record.

Cronulla are third last and are winless in their past five starts.

The Knights have won three successive games. They also have the best away record (7-2) in the competition.

SEVEN DAYS: July 3-9

PERSUASIVE: Tariq Sims’s partner and model Ashleigh Sudholz.TODD Carney’s reputation might be mud on the east coast of Australia but on the other side of the Nullarbor, the punters are cheering his name in absolute delight.
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In remote Pinjarra, a town with a 4255-strong population situated 86kilometres south of Perth, Carney – a three-year-old bay gelding – wins a 1400-metre maiden and delivers a dividend of $5.70.

Apparently Carney wins by three-quarters of a length.

There is surely a double entendre in that, just waiting to be exploited, but it would be in poor taste. A bit like urinating in your own mouth.

THE Knights confirm the NRL’s worst-kept secret by announcing they have signed North Queensland forward Tariq Sims to a two-year deal.

This is a great boost and Seven Days fearlessly predicts Sims will realise his potential in Newcastle and represent NSW and Australia next season.

But there is one aspect of this coup I find slightly confusing.

A number of media outlets have reported that Sims asked the Cows for a release because his partner was ‘‘unsettled’’ in the tropical north and wanted to move nearer to family after the birth of their first child.

It gets me to wondering who wears the pants in this relationship – the big, fiery back-rower or his better half?

A quick trawl through the internet soon solves the mystery, shortly before my computer overheats and short circuits.

Sims’s partner just happens to be Ashleigh Sudholz, the Ralph Australian Swimwear Model of the Year in 2008 and the 2009 Miss Indy winner.

If Ashleigh reckons Newcastle is the best place to work on her suntan, I’m not surprised Tariq agrees with her.

Meanwhile, I read with interest where Robbie Farah declares ‘‘it hurts every time when people say [Cameron Smith] is a better hooker than me’’.

Given Farah apparently rates himself the greatest dummy-half of all time, he is not surprisingly still filthy about suggestions he was lucky to be picked for last year’s World Cup tour ahead of premiership-winning Roosters rake Jake Friend.

‘‘Some people didn’t even think I should have been in the last [Kangaroos] squad,’’ he says. ‘‘Some dickhead journalist in Queensland … I’d love to see him for a couple of minutes on a footy field.’’

Yeah, good one, Robbie.

I’d love to see a dickhead footballer trying to file a 600-word match report within minutes of full-time to meet a Friday-night deadline.

THE hapless Cronulla Sharks defy their basket-case reputation to somehow secure a major sponsor for the rest of this season and possibly next year.

The new backer is a company called Labour Health, whose website claims: ‘‘We implement rigorous substance abuse checks … to ensure your workplace remains alcohol and drug free at all times.’’

Hopefully this will ensure Cronulla players are squeaky clean and nobody makes the mistake of taking horse steroids on the advice of some blow-in sports scientist.

Rumours that the recently unemployed Todd Carney has been offered a job as sample collector – no beaker required – are unable to be verified.

Buoyed by the good news, the Sharks produce their second rope-a-dope stunt in as many weeks to stun the Chooks 30-28.

Following last week’s successful game plan of giving the Broncos a 22-0 head start, Cronulla let the Roosters rack up leads of 24-0 and 28-6 before stiffing them 30-28.

The result is a triumph for James Shepherd, who in the space of a week has upgraded his LinkedIn profile from ‘‘Remondis Stadium security guard’’ to ‘‘NRL super coach’’.

In a triumphant Shire, people rejoice in the streets with a stirring rendition of the time-honoured Psalm: The Shepherd is my Lord.

THE Sunday Telegraph reveals the NRL’s plan to ‘‘clean up the game’s grubby image’’ by appointing at least one female director on every club board.

‘‘The best companies I have worked with have had females at senior and board levels because they bring genuine skills to the table,’’ NRL boss Dave Smith says.

‘‘Having more female representation will also enable clubs to better grow the game.

“We want more women at games, we want more women to play the game – and we recognise that will only occur if we have more women making decisions.’’

Seven Days is 100per cent behind this proposal, and the Knights are the ideal club to test the waters, given that they are still in the process of assembling a new board.

The obvious candidate, in my humble opinion, is our own Jennifer Hawkins.

Glamorous, well connected, an astute businesswoman … and able to fill in at short notice if any of the cheerleaders pull a hamstring.

If our Jen is unavailable, perhaps Ashleigh Sudholz would suffice.

Or why not both?

CRONULLA are becoming so confident in their new guise as the NRL’s miracle men they are boldly eyeing the greatest escape of them all.

Last on the NRL points table after four wins from their first 15 games, the Sharkies reckon they are still in the race for the playoffs.

‘‘Anything’s possible in this comp,’’ fullback Michael Gordon declares.

In normal circumstances, this would be laughable but, given their past two results, maybe the $51 on offer for Cronulla to make the top eight is worth a flutter.

Mind you, there is still plenty of smart money riding on them at $2.20 to collect the wooden spoon.

DISGRACED former Canberra and NSW centre Blake Ferguson seems determined to drag his public image even deeper into the gutter.

If it is not enough that Ferguson has been convicted of an indecent assault and likes hanging around with Anthony Mundine and Josh Dugan, news breaks that the wayward star has completed a referees course.

‘‘He performed really well and showed a real interest in it … refereeing isn’t the most glamorous of things to be involved in, but it’s a very crucial part of the game,’’ former ref Greg McCallum says.

All I can think is that by hanging around refs – the only people in rugby league more unpopular and maligned than Ferguson is – it somehow bolsters his self-esteem.

McCallum reveals John Hopoate undertook a similar course several years ago after he was involved in an incident at a junior match.

The mind boggles.

Hoppa as a referee. That’ll do me. Talk about lunatics running the asylum.

NSW collect the State of Origin shield for the first time since 2005 and I am reminded of why they no longer sell beer in cans at sporting arenas.

It was at the same venue – Lang Park – in 1987 that the locals started lobbing tinnies on the pitch when King Wally Lewis was sent to the sin bin.

No doubt the Cane Toad faithful would love to have showered Paul Gallen and company in XXXX just as they collected the spoils of victory.

Plastic cups don’t quite have the same impact.

Prabowo Subianto and Joko Widodo both claim victory in Indonesia’s presidential poll

Joko Widodo decisively asserted his claim to Indonesia’s presidency in a speech to supporters last night which repudiated his opponent’s tactics and warned him not to tamper with the count.
Shanghai night field

Mr Joko and opponent Prabowo Subianto have both used quick counts of ballot papers carried out by private companies to claim victory in the poll.

Mr Prabowo again refused to concede in a late evening appearance on the TV station owned by his coalition partner. But he urged his supporters to “exercise patience, cool down” and respect the final count of the Electoral Commission.

ANU academic Ed Aspinall said Mr Joko’s claim to victory was legitimate, whereas Mr Prabowo’s was based on numbers from survey organisations that were “rather disreputable outfits” which had “a history of inflating” Mr Prabowo’s numbers.

As evening fell on election day, Mr Joko went to the symbolically important Proclamation Monument, built on the site where Indonesia’s first president Sukarno declared republic independent of the Dutch in 1945, and announced his victory to screaming supporters.

He began his speech by saying that all the six survey organisations which showed him as the winner — by around a 52 to 48 per cent margin — were “accurate” and had been accepted by all parties in the past.

Then he spoke as the president-elect.

“Today, Indonesia has decided its course. All of us want a better Indonesia. An Indonesia in which people are healthy, people are smart, civilised, prosperous, and enjoy justice,” he said.

“Today, a new history has been made: a new chapter for Indonesia … this is a victory for the Indonesian people.”

Mr Joko, who has spent most of the campaign avoiding any criticism of Mr Prabowo, then subtly criticised his opponents campaign tactics, which involved paying large numbers of people to attend rallies, and offering financial inducements, or even ministries in his government, to groups in return for expressions of support.

“The real victory is of the people and has been achieved through participation, not through mass mobilisation. It was achieved through hard work, day and night, not by promising rewards,” Mr Joko said.

He urged his supporters not to relax, and to “guard” the rest of the counting leading to the announcement of the official result, which the election commission has said will be available on July 22, in case anything left a “stain” on the will of the people.

Mr Joko thanked his opponents, saying Mr Prabowo and running mate Hatta Rajasa were “patriots” who would “still contribute to Indonesia”.

In his speech, Mr Prabowo again hinted at a xenophobic thread running through his campaign, saying, “The truth cannot be bought by any nation … our power cannot be hired out to foreign powers”.

He said his supporters should maintain their strength, but “be patient, abide by the law, try to be polite”.

“We don’t need to show off; the real patriot does not need to show off. A strong man does not need to show off,” Mr Prabowo said.

Earlier in the day, Mr Joko and his political patron, Megawati Sukarnoputri, of the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle, had declared less than two hours after polling booths closed that they were confident of victory.

Mr Joko’s mother Sujiatmi Notomiharjo came on shortly afterwards saying in the Javanese language, “Do your duties wisely, now that you’ve become president, son”.

But about an hour later, Mr Prabowo, more equivocally, also claimed victory.

Mr Prabowo told supporters: “We are grateful that from all the incoming data, we … received the support and mandate of the people. But we will wait until all the data comes in, and after 90 per cent of the data comes in, we will declare our position”.

Worryingly for those who hoped the election might produce a clear result and a peaceful process, both men asked their supporters to “guard” the voting process.

“We ask all members of the coalition parties, the red and white coalition, to guard this victory until the KPU [the election commission] announces the official result,” Mr Prabowo said.

Local reports suggest Mr Prabowo has trained more than 1000 paid scrutineers at his ranch near Jakarta, and deployed them around Indonesia this week.

Dr Aspinall said it was a “major concern” that Mr Prabowo might try to manipulate the count and “bribe or coerce their way into power”.

However, he said with the release of credible polls, that would be difficult to achieve.

Mr Prabowo’s supporters made the best of their claim to victory, but, in contrast to the unrestrained joy at Mr Joko’s speech, Mr Prabowo’s supporters looked grim-faced.

A quick count by company, LSI, showed Mr Joko and running mate Jusuf Kalla with 53.38 per cent of the vote against opponent Prabowo Subianto and Hatta Rajasa with 46.62 per cent. CSIS had Mr Joko up 52.2 per cent to 47.8 per cent. On the streets of Jakarta earlier in the day, voters said they had picked either Mr Prabowo for his toughness, or Mr Joko as the man of the people.

“Jokowi is for the people, a leader who is born from the people and he’s for the people,” said Hery Wijaya, sitting with friends in inner-city Glodok.

“I voted for Prabowo because I know Prabowo follows Suharto,” says Tanah Abang market stallholder Eti. “He’s firm, he’s military. I want Indonesia to revive, be spirited, not just lame, so I want a firm leader, not a lame one.”

Brad Scott hopeful elusive winning streak

North Melbourne coach Brad Scott says there is no need for him to remind his players of the importance of notching consecutive wins for only the third time this season when the team faces St Kilda in Hobart on Saturday.

The seventh-placed Kangaroos’ bid to snare a top-four birth were boosted last weekend when three teams above them lost, one of them (Hawthorn) beaten by the Roos.

The club’s consistency has criticised because its winning streaks this year have been limited to three matches between rounds two and four and back-to-back wins in rounds 11 and 12.

Of the Kangaroos’ last seven opponents, only one, Geelong, is in the top eight.

Scott acknowledged expectations of North may have risen after it knocked over reigning premier Hawthorn and Port Adelaide and Collingwood lost, but downplayed the significance of its improved standing in the eight.

“Top four is going to be talked about for the next seven games I imagine, but we can only hold up our end of the bargain and try to gather some momentum in the back half of the year – and certainly search for the consistency that’s so far eluded us this year. That’s our primary focus,” he said on Wednesday, before the club trained at its Aegis Park headquarters.

“As soon as we start looking at potential ladder positions, I think we take our eye off what’s really important.

“I still don’t regard us as a genuine top-four side, one, because we’re not there, and two, because top-four sides consistently back up good performances, and we haven’t done that yet.”

The coach said his players were “well aware of” their inability to string victories together regularly this season, and as such did not need to be reminded of the importance of doing so in the final third of the season.

While last-placed St Kilda has endured an awful run of form and injury this season – influential midfielder Jack Steven has ruled out for a month – Scott insisted the club would do its “usual [level of] due diligence” on the Saints.

“Lenny Hayes is probably likely to come back in, and he’s still playing at an elite level in my view. (David) Armitage runs through their midfield, (Leigh) Montagna [too], (Nick) Riewoldt is still probably in the top one, two or three key forwards in the competition, so we’ve got respect for what they’re capable of doing.”

Scott said Jack Ziebell, who missed the Hawks’ match with a knee injury, “ran really well” on Monday and he was optimistic he would return against the Saints, provided he passed a fitness test likely to be held on Thursday.

The match on Saturday will be North’s first at Blundstone Arena since round six last year, and its first there against a Victorian team. While a single-figure temperature is forecast, Scott disagreed the cold, drizzly training conditions on Wednesday were an fitting preparation.

“We’ve played four games in Hobart since the deal was struck and the weather’s been pristine every time we’ve been down there. In the middle of July, you expect some pretty average weather in the southern states,” he said.

Scott said untried draftees Trent Dumont, 19, and Mason Wood, 20, were “closer” to senior selection based on VFL form. He said Dumont, a midfielder from Norwood taken with North’s second pick in last year’s draft, was in contention to debut as early as this weekend, depending on Ziebell’s availability.

Defender Aaron Mullett was also rated a chance to play after a good showing in the VFL.

Scott said long-term injury victims Daniel Wells (foot) and Nathan Grima (foot) were “closer” to returning, but was unable to give a more precise indication of when that was likely to occur.

“They’ve still got some hurdles to jump, but both [are] improving week by week,” he said.

“I feel a bit for our medical guys because everyone in this industry wants a return date and a lot of the time they’ve got to guess. Once they’re in full training we can put a return date on them.”

He said Wells, who has not played since round five, had been “very frustrated, but he sees light at the end of the tunnel now … feels like he’s in the home stretch and not far away from joining full training”.

Scott welcomed the tribunal’s decision on Tuesday night. It wiped the 125 carry-over points levied on Drew Petrie by the match review panel, for contact to the face of Hawthorn’s Brian Lake as the pair scuffled last weekend.

“I think it was pretty important in the whole context of the incident,” he said. “We wanted to defend Drew at the tribunal and make sure that he went into the back half of the year without points hanging over his head, so the result was good for us.”

Asked about the four-match penalty given to Lake for grabbing Petrie’s throat, Scott replied: “I’ll reserve my opinion – for once, keep it to myself.”