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Force’s Sam Wykes to head overseas

Posted on: August 7th, 2019 by
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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.

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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.

Brumbies’ Pocock to battle Brussow

Posted on: August 7th, 2019 by
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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.

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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 charged over Qld mass dog grave

Posted on: August 7th, 2019 by
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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.

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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.”

Cowboy Tamou’s confidence on the rise

Posted on: August 7th, 2019 by
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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.

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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.

Farewell to ‘great human rights activist’

Posted on: August 7th, 2019 by
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Many of the men and women standing before Ashley Johnston’s flag-draped coffin had never met him.

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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.

State of the Premier League championship race

Posted on: July 7th, 2019 by
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With no European prizes left to chase this season, England’s top clubs are focussed on winning the Premier League title, although that goal looks beyond all but Chelsea.

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Arsenal and Liverpool, both in the top five with eight matches left, have the added incentive of trying to win the FA Cup but leaders Chelsea, champions Manchester City and a rejuvenated Manchester United are focussed just on the main prize.

Chelsea are strong favourites to finish as champions for the first time since 2010 as they lead with 67 points, six clear of City with a match in hand.

Arsenal are a point further back after winning nine of their last 10, while United, fourth on 59, have also been in excellent form, winning their last four including a 2-1 win at Liverpool.

Chelsea have led the table since the third week of the season and, despite a slight dip in form with two draws in their last four games, appear too far ahead to be caught.

Coach Jose Mourinho is confident of a third title with the club after successes in his first spell in 2005 and 2006.

Champions League

The other battleground is the one for next season’s Champions League places and, while Arsenal and Manchester United have forged ahead of them, Liverpool, Southampton and Tottenham Hotspur are still hoping for a top four finish.

Europa League

The consolation for Liverpool, Southampton and Spurs if they miss out on the Champions League could be a Europa League place. With League Cup winners Chelsea set to play in the Champions League, their Europa spot will go to the sixth or seventh-placed team depending on who wins the FA Cup.

Relegation

Six clubs — Hull City (28 points), Aston Villa (28), Sunderland (26), Burnley (25), QPR (22) and Leicester City (19) — are involved in the battle to avoid relegation.

Villa’s form has picked up since Tim Sherwood took over as manager six weeks ago, while Sunderland need a quick improvement under their new coach Dick Advocaat to avoid slipping into the bottom three.

Burnley might take heart from their recent 1-0 win over Manchester City, but QPR and Leicester look doomed to an immediate return to the Championship.

Cup

Holders Arsenal face Reading in one FA Cup semi-final while either Liverpool or Blackburn Rovers, who meet in a quarter-final replay on April 8, face Aston Villa in the other semi.

Promotion

The tightest league in Europe has seen the Championship lead change hands throughout the season with Bournemouth, who have never played in the top flight, currently top, a point ahead of Watford who occupy the other automatic promotion spot.

(Reporting by Mike Collett; editing by Toby Davis)

State of the Bundesliga championship race

Posted on: July 7th, 2019 by
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With eight games left to play defending champions Bayern Munich are 10 points clear at the top and with just two defeats and on track to celebrate a 25th German title and their 24th Bundesliga crown, since the top league’s introduction in 1963.

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Coach Pep Guardiola’s team has shown superb consistency despite struggling with a long injury list that has included Bastian Schweinsteiger, David Alaba, Philipp Lahm, Thiago Alcantara, Javi Martinez, Holger Badstuber and Franck Ribery.

They have conceded only 13 goals in 26 games so far, scoring 70 for the best offensive and defensive records in the league.

Champions League

With the top spot all but decided, there are three Champions League qualifying places up for grabs, two of them leading to the group stage and one to the last qualifying round.

Second-placed VfL Wolfsburg are on course to take one of them, having opened up a seven-point lead over Borussia Moenchengladbach in third.

Led by Belgium midfielder Kevin De Bruyne and Dutch striker Bas Dost, the Volkswagen-backed club should comfortably hold on to second place and secure a retur to the Champions League for the first time since the 2009/10 season.

Gladbach, on 47 points, look set to battle it out with Bayer Leverkusen, who are two points behind them, and possibly Schalke 04, on 39, for third and the last automatic group stage spot.

Surprise package Augsburg, who are a further point behind, also have an outside chance of a top-four finish though their form as dipped since the league restarted in January

Europa League

Last season’s runners-up Borussia Dortmund have launched a recovery since the winter break and are hoping for a top six finish and Europa League action next season.

However, competition is tight with Schalke, Augsburg and Hoffenheim, on 37, separated by just two points.

Dortmund have 33, one behind Eintracht Frankfurt and Werder Bremen, another comeback team who imploded during the first half of the campaign but are now eyeing a European spot.

Relegation

A bitter relegation battle has been raging for months with bottom side VfB Stuttgart, champions in 2007, showing signs of a recovery, having lost one of their last four games.

Paderborn are a point ahead on 24, with former European champions Hamburg SV on 25, level with Freiburg. Hanover 96, who have 27 points, and Hertha Berlin, on 29, are also still in the mix, although the capital club have also been improving.

Cup

Dortmund could also secure a European ticket through the German Cup where they face Hoffenheim in the last eight. Holders Bayern take on Leverkusen, ensuring one of the Bundesliga heavyweights will not reach the semi-finals. With Gladbach on track for a Champions League spot, the chances are even higher for Dortmund to grab a plae in Europe via through the Cup.

Promotion

Ingolstadt are edging closer to their maiden Bundesliga promotion as the Audi-backed team dominate the second tier competition with just three league defeats all season and a three-point lead over Kaiserslautern, who have 46.

Darmstadt, another former Bundesliga club, are third, a further point behind, with that place leading to a relegation/promotion playoff with the 16th-placed Bundesliga finisher.

(Reporting by Karolos Grohmann; Editing by Ken Ferris)

State of the La Liga championship race

Posted on: July 7th, 2019 by
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Leaders Barcelona have a four-point advantage over second-placed Real Madrid with 10 games left and are well placed to secure their fifth La Liga title in seven years.

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Luis Enrique’s side have what looks on paper to be a slightly trickier run-in, with trips to champions Atletico Madrid, who are fourth, and fifth-placed Sevilla and a home game against third-placed Valencia.

Real, who have a superior head-to-head record over Barca which is used before goal difference to separate teams with equal points, also have to play at Sevilla and host Valencia.

Champions League

Barca and Real are almost certain to claim Spain’s first two automatic berths in Europe’s elite club competition and Valencia and Atletico Madrid look set to battle it out for the third.

The pair are currently separated by a point, while Valencia have a superior head-to-head record after beating Atletico 3-1 at home and drawing 1-1 at the Calderon.

Sevilla are four points adrift of Atletico in fifth, while Villarreal are a further six points behind in sixth and their chances of Champions League football next season appear remote.

Europa League

If Sevilla miss out on a Champions League spot, they can at least console themselves with a place in the Europa League, the competition they won last season and in which they remain alive this term.

Villarreal have a five-point lead over seventh-placed Malaga and are in a strong position to claim the second Europa League berth. Malaga are five points clear of Athletic Bilbao in eighth.

Relegation

Five points adrift at the bottom and on a nine-match losing streak, Cordoba are almost certainly doomed.

The usual scrap among the teams in the second half of the table to avoid the drop will likely involve all the sides below 12th-placed Espanyol, who have 34 points.

Only six points separate Getafe on 29 points in 13th and Granada on 23 points in 19th, with Eibar, Elche, Deportivo La Coruna, Almeria and Levante in between.

King’s Cup

With Barca almost certain to qualify for the Champions League, their rivals in the King’s Cup final, Athletic Bilbao, are virtually assured of a Europa League place regardless of who wins the showpiece at the Nou Camp on May 30.

Barca are chasing a record-extending 27th Cup triumph, while Bilbao are seeking their 24th and first since 1984.

Promotion

Real Betis and Sporting Gijon are first and second in the Liga Adelante and best placed to claim the two automatic promotion spots.

Las Palmas, Girona, Real Valladolid and Real Zaragoza are currently in line for a place in the playoffs, with the likes of Ponferradina, Llagostera, Leganes, Numancia, Alaves, Alcorcon and Lugo close behind.

(Writing by Iain Rogers, editing by Justin Palmer)

Taiwan’s indoor LED-lit farms

Posted on: July 7th, 2019 by
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Chang Chen-kai is part of Taiwan’s new generation of high-tech farmers that is harnessing the island’s technological edge in light-emitting diodes to grow vegetables indoors under bright LED lights.

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Chang works in an air-conditioned “grow-room” at a plant factory operated by ARWIN, a biotechnology company, where plants grow in nutrient-filled water instead of soil and the temperature and humidity are controlled. LED lights imitate the cycle of night and day.

These high-tech indoor farms yield more crops per area than soil, and don’t need traditional toxic pesticides. Plants grown under LED lights grow twice as fast because the intensity of lights and nutrients provided in the water, growers say.

“To grow vegetables in the water (under lights), you need less land,” Chang said, and “you don’t need pesticides.”

Such plant factories are gaining popularity for raising everything from common lettuce to the exotic ice plant, a thick leafy vegetable from South Africa that looks like it has water bubbles on its leaves and can fetch $US400 ($A527) per kilogram.

In recent years, Taiwanese manufacturers have been able to produce cheaper LED lights that consume less electricity and give off light that mimics the intensity and spectrum of sunlight.

TingMao Agricultural Biotechnology was an early pioneer, starting its plant factory in 2007, and today is the leading producer of LED-grown vegetables in Taiwan. It has also set up its own restaurant using vegetables from its factory to allow consumers to taste the vegetables themselves.

But Lily Chang, a food writer and professor at Innovative Institute of Technology, isn’t convinced that LED-grown vegetables are as nutritious as those grown in soil.

“Natural soil-based plants get nutrients from soil,” she said, that are “extremely difficult for us humans to manufacture.”

Consumers should insist that the government to draw up regulations on the chemicals used in the water of LED-grown plants and hygienic standards, she said.

Dyke’s reform could work if clubs are brave enough – Wenger

Posted on: July 7th, 2019 by
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Dyke has proposed changes to the home grown player rule in English football to help more “top quality” players break through.

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He wants the minimum number of home grown players in a club’s first team squad of 25 to be increased from eight to 12, phased in over four years from 2016.

Frenchman Wenger, who has been working in England since 1996, said on Thursday that while he could see some initial problems with Dyke’s proposals he was happy to contribute to the quality of the England team.

Over the years Wenger has often fielded Arsenal teams with few or no English players but his current squad includes England players Theo Walcott, Kieran Gibbs, Calum Chambers, Jack Wilshere, Danny Welbeck and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain.

“I support every single measure that improves the English national team but it has to be efficient,” he told a news conference before Arsenal host Liverpool on Saturday.

“Sometimes what looks a good solution is not necessarily the right one. What is the heart of the problem?

“First of all between 1966 and 1996 there were no foreign players in England and it didn’t improve too much the performances of the national team.

“I think between the age of 16 and 21 the English youth teams, until now, have not performed. So that’s the heart of the problem.

“Let’s get better at that level, then if there is a problem integrating these players in the top teams, we have to do something about it.

“I think today you have to be very brave to integrate the young players in the top teams because the pressure is very high,” he added.

Wenger’s comments came after a letter by ex-England managers Glenn Hoddle, Kevin Keegan, Sven-Goran Eriksson, Graham Taylor and Steve McClaren was published saying the prospects of winning another World Cup will suffer unless reforms are introduced.

England have only been world champions once back in 1966.

England manager Roy Hodgson used youngsters Raheem Sterling, 20, Harry Kane and Ross Barkley, both 21, and Nathaniel Clyne, 23, in a Euro 2016 qualifier against Lithuania and an Italy friendly in the last week and Wenger said that was encouraging.

“I still believe when the players are good enough, they play. You speak about Raheem Sterling and Harry Kane. Nobody stops the quality, no matter where they are from. So let’s focus on that first,” he said.

(Reporting by Mike Collett; Editing by Ken Ferris)