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The AFL’s opening round has plenty of selection shake-ups but nowhere more so than Melbourne, which will field seven new players against the Gold Coast on Saturday.
Headlining the changes are great goalkicking hope Jesse Hogan and former Magpie Heritier Lumumba, who will make a milestone 200th AFL appearance in his first match in a Demons guernsey.
Joining the pair are former Giant Sam Frost, ex-Blue goalsneak Jeff Garlett and No.3 draft pick Angus Brayshaw.
Essendon will place great faith in their sidelined stars, with captain Jobe Watson leading a pack of players that will play against Sydney despite missing the NAB Challenge.
Every AFL club has at least one new face for the season-opening Easter round, though none face as daunting a task as Dayne Beams or Jack Crisp.
Beams faces his former Collingwood teammates in his first match for Brisbane, joining Allen Christensen and Mitch Robinson as players to start their new AFL journeys in round one.
The Magpies will field ex-Lion Crisp after he escaped a suspension for gambling on AFL markets this week, alongside Travis Varcoe and No.5 draft pick Jordan de Goey.
Sydney will hand a debut to academy product Isaac Heeney, while Adam Cooney will make his first Bombers start against the Swans.
There’s a Western Bulldogs debut for Tom Boyd, who comes from GWS with high expectations and a price tag to match.
Former Bulldogs captain Ryan Griffen, who headed in the opposite direction as part of the Boyd deal, will debut for the Giants against St Kilda.
The Saints will give Ahmed Saad his shot at footy redemption against GWS after the forward completed his 18-month ban for a positive drugs test.
Melbourne football boss Josh Mahoney said milestone man Lumumba had made his presence felt at the Demons already.
“We would consider him to be our best player over the NAB Challenge period and we look forward to him continuing that into the season proper,” Mahoney said.
“The impact he’s had off-field to be voted into the leadership group and the passion that he shows in helping our younger players has been impressive.”
Lumumba said he was “really excited” about lining up alongside Hogan.
“He’s been spoken about a lot but from day one I’ve loved the way he’s gone about his football, he said.
“His preparation, his professionalism, his desire and competitiveness … all those things make up a good footballer.”
Gold Coast coach Rodney Eade said Ablett would be playing as a midfielder and not as a forward.
“Obviously there’s been some conjecture about Gary with his shoulder, but his training has been really strong for a long time and he’s done a lot of competitive work the last two or three weeks,” he said.
A West Australian doctor acquitted of 12 counts of inappropriately touching patients while conducting medical examinations is disappointed a jury failed to reach verdicts on other charges.
Ranjit Kumar Panda had been on trial in the WA District Court accused of committing 25 offences, including indecent assault and sexual penetration without consent, against 10 women in Bunbury in 2012.
On Thursday, a jury found Dr Panda not guilty of 12 offences but was undecided on 11 counts after deliberating for more than two days.
Judge Michael Bowden had previously ordered verdicts of not guilty on two other charges during the trial due to a lack of evidence.
Outside court, Dr Panda’s lawyer Simon Watters told reporters his client would fly home to Sydney either later on Thursday or on Friday.
“Dr Panda’s relieved that he’s been exonerated on certain counts,” he said.
“He’s obviously disappointed that the matter hasn’t been resolved completely.
“He’s been suspended from practice as a doctor since August 2012 and hopefully now the matter can be resolved in the short term.”
Most of Dr Panda’s complainants were aged in their early 20s but one was 17.
During the trial, the court heard the general practitioner offered patients Pap smears and breast examinations, despite some of the women coming to him for other health problems.
A pregnant woman, a mother with a three-month-old baby and a teenager with eczema who came to see Dr Panda with her mum were among those who testified.
The defence claimed the women had made up stories about Dr Panda after making contact on Facebook and other doctors at the practice were jealous of him.
A couple who were patients of Dr Panda testified that he never behaved inappropriately around them but they noticed staff had a negative attitude towards him.
The federal government is seriously considering scaling back access to pensions for wealthy Australians.
Social Services Minister Scott Morrison is in talks with crossbench senators and the welfare sector to pass laws which would ease spending on pensions over coming decades.
If nothing is done, the intergenerational report projects the government will spend 3.6 per cent of GDP annually on pensions by 2055.
Under the government’s current plan being blocked in the Senate the bill would be 2.7 per cent of GDP, or $14.4 billion a year less, Mr Morrison says.
The Australian Council of Social Service has asked the government to cut the asset test threshold from $1.1 million to $794,250, excluding the family home.
ACOSS chief executive Cassandra Goldie describes the proposal as fairly modest, arguing the pension should target people who really needed it.
Mr Morrison says the proposal is a “real option” which he would cost alongside a plan by South Australian independent senator Nick Xenophon.
The minister met with Senator Xenophon on Wednesday to discuss the idea of a tapered assets test, which existed under the Keating and Howard governments.
The taper rate under the Keating government was about $3 per fortnight cut from the pension for every $1000 of assets held over the threshold.
“That to me seems a sensible starting point to look at some pragmatic changes that are fair to pensioners and ensure the long-term viability of the pension,” Senator Xenophon said on Thursday.
However, he is certain the government’s proposed change to pension indexation would never get through the upper house.
Mr Morrison said big spending items such as the national disability insurance scheme – due to cost the federal government an extra $10 billion over a decade – would be at risk if the pension could not be made sustainable.
The minister declined to comment on another suggestion, to bring back the pension bonus scheme.
However, Prime Minister Tony Abbott said it was worth looking at the scheme, in which people who work past their retirement age are paid a benefit through the pension system.
The pension bonus scheme, which has been closed to new applicants since July 2014, paid a lump sum of up to $49,000 to people who deferred claiming the age pension and stayed in paid work.
Shadow treasurer Chris Bowen – who convened a meeting of peak superannuation bodies, business, unions and community groups in Sydney on Thursday – described Mr Morrison’s position as “the latest in a long line of thought bubbles”.
National Seniors chief executive Michael O’Neill said the government had not made the case that there is a pension crisis.
Recent OECD figures showed Australia spent 2.5 per cent of GDP on pensions while the OECD average was 8.7 per cent, he said.
Much of the pressure on the budget was the fault of the government having dropped billions of dollars in savings.
“Pensions are being targeted as low-hanging fruit,” Mr O’Neill said.
A Chinese tourist dumped by her Australian lover sobbed hysterically as she faced court accused of murdering his wife and grandson with garden shears.
Cai Xia Liao, 45, did not meet the eyes of more than a dozen family members of Mai Mach, 60, and Alistair Kwong, 4, who were fatally stabbed at their Melbourne home on Tuesday.
Liao, wearing a black tracksuit, cried loudly and became increasingly hysterical throughout a short hearing on Thursday before Chief Magistrate Peter Lauritsen, who remanded her until July 22.
Her lawyer, Sarah Pratt, said this was the first time Liao, who is in Australia on a tourist visa, had been in custody.
Liao needs blood pressure medication and has suicidal thoughts, Ms Pratt said.
Supported by Alistair’s father Andrew Kwong, his mother Amy Mach held a toy and tiny photo of their only child during the hearing.
A dozen other relatives watched Liao from the back of the court.
Late on Wednesday night, after Liao was charged with murder, Detective Leading Senior Constable Tony Harwood told an out-of-sessions court hearing Liao had allegedly bound and gagged Giangwa Mach, 61, before the alleged murders in suburban Albanvale.
The court heard Mr Mach had recently ended a three-year relationship with the accused killer.
A post mortem revealed Alistair, who was regularly babysat by his grandparents, was stabbed 18 times and had tried to defend himself from the attack.
It’s alleged Liao waited up to 10 hours for Mrs Mach to return home before stabbing her 23 times in the backyard, Det Leading Snr Const Harwood said.
Liao is also charged with intentionally causing injury, assault and false imprisonment in relation to Mr Mach.
She will return to court for a committal hearing on July 22.
In an unprecedented move for an international sports organisation, the IOC said it had approved the IOC Ethics Commission’s proposal and demand to make it public as part of its Agenda 2020 reforms process.
The announcement will no doubt pile pressure on other sports organisations, including world football’s governing body FIFA, which has staunchly refused to publish the salaries and bonuses of top staff including under-fire President Sepp Blatter, also an IOC member.
The IOC Ethics Commission, which had urged the IOC to immediately publish its approved compensation policy also called on other Olympic sports organisations to follow suit.
Under the policy, the IOC president, who does not get a salary, will be compensated with a flat annual amount of 225,000 euros ($243,540) to cover his expenses.
“According to the obligations and rights attributed to him in the Olympic Charter, the IOC President has the function of an Executive President. Therefore, the President is on a mission for the IOC 365 days a year,” the Ethics Commission said.
“The President will receive neither the fixed annual support nor the daily indemnity related to all commission meetings or other missions that he is entitled to as IOC member,” it said.
“Instead of this, to cover some of the President’s personal costs related to the execution of his function, the ethics commission is fixing a single annual fixed amount linked to inflation of Euro 225,000 — as indemnity.”
IOC Executive Board members and commission heads will receive $900 (607 pounds) per day with simple IOC members $450 a day. An annual administrative support of $7,000 is added for each member, while travel and accommodation is covered by the IOC.
The IOC Ethics Commission chairman, in a separate letter to all IOC members, said the new indemnities policy would further increase transparency.
“Your wish for greater transparency has been reflected in the IOC’s presentation of its finances using the highest international standards,” Youssoupha Ndiaye said in the letter.
“It must also be reflected in all other aspects of the IOC’s management, particularly with regard to the policy on the indemnities allocated to IOC members.”
“The IOC Ethics commission invites all sports organisations of the Olympic movement to establish a similar policy and make this public, in order to increase transparency within the sports movement.”
The IOC’s Agenda 2020 reforms, approved back in December, aim to make the Olympics more attractive, reduce cost of the Games, change the sports programme more quickly to keep the event relevant to younger audiences while also making the IOC more transparent.
(Editing by Sudipto Ganguly)
The Western Force remain hopeful they’ll be able to retain the services of powerful forward Ben McCalman, but stand-in skipper Sam Wykes has confirmed he’ll be leaving Australian rugby at the end of the Super Rugby season.
Wykes will join winger Nick Cummins at Japanese club Red Sparks, where he has signed a two-year deal.
The 26-year-old told coach Michael Foley of his decision after the Force’s round-one win over the NSW Waratahs, before informing his teammates on Wednesday.
McCalman will also spend time in Japanese club rugby after this year’s World Cup.
However, the 27-year-old won’t be lost to Australian rugby if the ARU grants him one of their new sabbatical contracts.
Under the ARU’s new policies, selected elite players can sign a lucrative one-season deals overseas if they commit long-term to Australian rugby.
The Waratahs are believed to be interested in poaching McCalman in order to replace the departing Wycliff Palu, who will leave for Japan after the World Cup.
But the Force are aiming to lock down McCalman on a long-term deal.
Force fullback Dane Haylett-Petty has re-signed for a further two years, tying him to the Perth-based franchise until the end of 2017.
Wykes was thrust into the Force captaincy role when regular skipper Matt Hodgson tore his hamstring during the pre-season.
The Force started their season with a bonus-point win over the Waratahs, but have since crashed to 13th spot on the back of a six-match losing run.
After this week’s bye, the Force play six of their next eight matches at home, starting with the April 11 clash with the Cheetahs at nib Stadium.
David Pocock faces a mouth-watering clash with South African breakdown maestro Heinrich Brussow when the Brumbies meet the Cheetahs in Canberra on Saturday night.
Ex-Wallabies skipper Pocock takes over at openside flanker, with highly-regarded Jarrad Butler moving to No.8, among three changes to a Brumbies team which fielded the same starting XV in the previous four matches.
Pocock has come off the bench for the Australian conference leaders in recent matches since overcoming ankle syndesmosis but his return to starting is timely with ball-pilferer Brussow sure to put huge pressure on the breakdown area.
With Wallabies centre Tevita Kuridrani facing two months on the sidelines with a shoulder injury from the last-start loss to the Waratahs, Henry Speight moves from the wing to outside centre and James Dargaville earns his first career Super Rugby start on the left wing.
“Henry (Speight) has covered for us at outside centre a number of times since he’s been at the Brumbies,” said Brumbies coach Stephen Larkham.
“Whenever our outside centres have gone off the field, he always puts his hand up to play there. He’s very keen and we’re very confident in his ability there.”
Larkham also opted to rest promising young lock Rory Arnold, giving Blake Enever his first start.
Cheetahs coach Naka Drotske made eight changes to his starting side, after their 37-27 loss to the Chiefs in Hamilton last weekend.
Springboks Willie le Roux and Coenie Oosthuizen return after being rested last week in accordance with SA Rugby planning for the World Cup.
BRUMBIES: Robbie Coleman; Joe Tomane, Henry Speight, Christian Leali’ifano, James Dargaville; Matt Toomua, Nic White; Jarrad Butler, David Pocock, Scott Fardy; Sam Carter, Blake Enever; Ben Alexander, Stephen Moore, Scott Sio. Reserves: Josh Mann-Rea, Allan Alaalatoa, Ruan Smith, Jordan Smiler, Ita Vaea, Michael Dowsett, Lausi’I Taliauli, Nigel Ah Wong.
CHEETAHS: Willie le Roux; Cornal Hendricks, Johann Sadie, Francois Venter, Raymond Rhule; Joe Pietersen, Tian Meyer; Willie Britz, Johannes Prinsloo, Heinrich Brussow; Francois Uys (C), Carl Wegner; Coenie Oosthuizen, Torsten van Jaarsveld, Danie Mienie. Reserves: Stephan Coetzee, Burrie Gildenhuys Uys, Nicholas van Dyk, Steven Sykes, Tienie Burger, Sarel Pretorius, Willie du Plessis, Rayno Benjamin.
Two people have been charged as investigations deepen into the discovery of a mass dog grave in Queensland containing the carcasses of more than 50 greyhounds.
A man and a woman have both been charged with unlawfully possessing a firearm after a police search found a rifle and ammunition in a home in Bundaberg on Thursday.
The 71-year-old man and 64-year-old woman, both from Bundaberg, will appear in the Bundaberg Magistrates Court on Friday.
A Queensland Police and RSPCA taskforce, set up after the greyhound racing industry was rocked by the live baiting scandal in February, found ammunition shells from a .22 calibre gun at the bush site in nearby Coonarr.
Local speculation suggests the site is a common dumping ground for `wasted’ dogs used by people in the industry.
Police haven’t been able to confirm reports that microchips were also discovered.
The shocking scene was, in the words of Detective Superintendent Mark Ainsworth, “nothing short of abhorrent”.
And it’s unlikely to be the last horrific sight he and his colleagues are met with.
“We’ve not even tipped the iceberg yet,” he said on Thursday morning.
With the help of Racing Queensland, he said a number of trainers and owners in the area had been identified.
It’s also believed the animals were killed prior to the ABC’s live baiting expose, judging by the level of decomposition.
Racing Queensland’s own probe into the use of live piglets, possums, rabbits and other small animals to train race dogs has resulted in more than 30 trainers being banned or stood down pending an internal review.
It’s not yet known if any of those banned or suspended are those operating around Bundaberg that have been identified by police.
But Queensland Greyhound Breeders, Owners and Trainers Association president Tony Zammit maintains the wider industry has been tarnished by the action of a few “villains and rogues”.
While horrified to learn of the mass killing, he said comments it foreshadowed even more revelations of animal mistreatment were premature.
“To me, it’s an exaggerated statement,” he said.
“We haven’t heard the full story yet.”
As he came off following his first stint on the field during North Queensland’s Monday night clash with Melbourne in Townsville James Tamou had had enough.
Enough of being scared. Enough of doubting whether his neck could handle the brutal life of an NRL prop.
Instead the NSW and Australia representative took in mind the words of Cowboys’ coach Paul Green and decided to get back to doing what made him one of the game’s most damaging players during his stellar 2012 campaign.
“Coming off from my first stint I wasn’t too happy with how I was going,” Tamou told reporters on Thursday.
“The whole week leading up to the game Greenie has been talking to me and just saying `get it into your head you’re 115kgs, you’re going to be hard to stop, just run straight and skittle blokes’.
“I knew that had to be done for me to contribute to the team.”
In that second half Tamou showed the first signs since undergoing surgery on his damaged neck in the off-season that he can get back to his barnstorming best.
Time and again the 26-year-old battered Melbourne’s defensive line, providing the go-forward the Cowboys needed to secure a thrilling come-from-behind 18-17 golden point win.
Tamou said coming through the game unscathed and full of confidence could be the key to rediscovering his rampaging best.
“I think personally I needed that game, or that feeling, just for my confidence especially after major surgery,” he said.
“It’s just, to come off feeling pretty good with my body and for the way I contribute for the team, it’s a good feeling. Good to take into another Monday night game down in Penrith.”
Tamou’s display has reignited the possibility of the New Zealand-born star retaining his spot in the NSW line-up though the man himself says keeping hold of his Blues jersey is a long way off.
“I’m just slowly getting bit-by-bit out of it,” Tamou said.
“Origin will likely come a bit more down the road, I’m just trying to get more minutes out and just trying to play good footy.
“It’ll be in the back of my mind but right now just focused on myself.”
Reports had also emerged that Tamou was seeking a release from his deal with the Cowboys, in a bid to start afresh somewhere else.
Reports that are absolute rubbish in the words of the man himself.
“No idea. Obviously some people seem to know more than I do about my life,” he said.
Many of the men and women standing before Ashley Johnston’s flag-draped coffin had never met him.
But the deep gratitude they felt for the sacrifice he made was evident in the tears rolling down their faces.
Dressed in the green, yellow and red of Kurdistan’s flag, mourners streamed into a Sydney chapel to bid farewell to the 28-year-old Australian army reservist on Thursday.
Mr Johnston was killed in February while fighting in Syria with the Kurdish YPG, also known as the People’s Protection Units.
He was shot in a clash with Islamic State (IS) forces in Rojava, near the Turkish border.
His family believe he arrived to take up arms in the conflict in late 2014.
He’d told his mother Amanda he was simply heading to the Middle East to do humanitarian work.
Mr Johnston’s body finally arrived home in Canberra last week, leaving Mrs Johnston to face the grim task of identifying him.
Sitting with hundreds of mourners, many with pictures of her son and a YPG star pinned to their chests, she listened on Thursday to the story of his legacy.
“We came from different lands, different cultures, different religions and different languages” Saadet Ozdemir, a Kurdish community member from Sydney, said.
“A young man from Canberra by the name of Ashley Johnston brought our communities together not just in Australia but globally.”
The service heard Mr Johnston was among eight fighters in a broken-down truck confronted and outnumbered by IS.
His comrades said he sacrificed himself to draw enemy fire, a move that saved them.
Mrs Johnston fought tears as she reflected upon her son’s actions.
“Ashley put his life on the line to stand up for what is good, for what is just, to protect and defend not just innocent people caught up in this war but you and I and people everywhere,” she said.
Kurdish Association of Sydney president Gulfar Olan said Mr Johnston would be remembered as the “great Australian human rights activist”.
“You gave your life so that our children and our community might live in peace and hope,” she said.
Men and women in khakis carried Mr Johnston’s coffin out of the chapel and into a waiting black hearse as mourners chanted “They are alive forever” in Kurdish.
Although fighting against IS, Mr Johnston could have faced prosecution for serving with a foreign irregular force.
It was a notion a representative from the Kurdish Association of Victoria labelled an absurdity.
“It cannot be emphasised enough that although Ashley did not die for Australia, Ashley did die fighting for values that we Australians call our own,” she told the service.
Mr Johnston will be buried in a private ceremony.