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Blake Ferguson is set to become the hottest property in the NRL after David Furner’s shock sacking by Canberra on Tuesday.
The troubled NSW star has a clause in his contract allowing him to leave should Furner depart and the 42-year-old’s axing will fuel speculation Ferguson wants out of the Raiders.
Former Canberra coaches Neil Henry and Tim Sheens are the early favourites to fill the position along with Sydney Roosters assistant coach Jason Taylor and Trent Barrett.
On an eventful evening in the nation’s capital, Furner, whose brother Don is the club’s chief executive, was sacked with immediate effect.
Assistant coach Andrew Dunemann will take charge for the final three games of the season with the team sitting one place outside of the top eight on points differential.
Furner was with the team in camp in Batemans Bay on the NSW south coast when he received the news and becomes the first coach in the club’s 31-year history to be sacked.
“It’s obviously a results driven game and we have lost our last three games,” Furner told News Corp Australia.
“It’s still terribly disappointing after all the work I’ve put in.”
His downfall comes amidst rumours of a squad mutiny with several players believed to have confronted the board claiming they were unable to work under him any longer.
The decision ends a long association with the club for the former Test and NSW star who is also Sheens’ assistant with the Kangaroos side.
He made 200 appearances as a player between 1992 and 2000 and his father Don senior was the coach for the club’s maiden season in 1982.
Since replacing Henry as coach in 2009, Furner has reached the finals just twice, despite having a powerful squad and some of the best crop of youngsters in the NRL.
However, he has been forced to deal with a number of thorny issues involving some of his best players.
The club were forced to sack both Todd Carney and Josh Dugan following a number of off-field indiscretions.
And Ferguson was the latest player to be in trouble following his arrest for indecent assault in June after an incident at a south Sydney nightspot.
The Raiders were also rocked after being named as one of the clubs of interest to ASADA’s investigation into the use of prohibited substances on the eve of the season.
It has subsequently been cleared of any wrongdoing but the season has been far from plain sailing for Furner who was under contract until the end of next year.
“The board made the tough decision feeling the team’s inconsistent performances were not reflective of the talent within the squad and have decided to pursue a different direction for the future of the club,” a statement said.
“The board noted the wonderful service over many years that David Furner has made to the club from his days as a player and more recently a coach.
“He will leave his tenure at the club as one of the Raiders most loyal and respected figures.
“They noted the difficulty in the decision and said it was one of the saddest days in the club’s history.”
Club chairman John McIntyre and chief executive Don Furner did not respond to calls from AAP.
A Sydney judge has rejected an application to throw out the “unusual” case of a young medical student accused of murdering his father.
Joshua John Ravindran, 21, is on trial for murdering his dad, Ravi Ravindran, whose body was found in his Blue Mountains home on April 23, 2011.
The Crown alleges Ravindran murdered his father by striking him with a baseball bat and strangling him with a length of rope.
But Ravindran, who has pleaded not guilty to murder, submits he found his father hanging from a beam in his bedroom.
After laying him on the bed, Ravindran says he hit his father to the head at least twice with a baseball bat in a fit of anger because he believed his dad had abandoned him through suicide.
Ravindran is being tried in the Supreme Court before a judge alone without a jury.
Earlier this week, defence barrister Stephen Russell urged Justice Stephen Campbell to terminate the trial and acquit Ravindran of murder.
He argued the Crown could not exclude beyond reasonable doubt the possibility that Mr Ravindran attempted to hang himself.
The court has heard two forensic pathologists now agree that a large proportion of the injuries that led to Mr Ravindran’s death could have resulted from him trying to hang himself.
Justice Campbell noted, the case “certainly has some unusual features” which would require careful consideration.
“(But) I am not satisfied that the Crown case is so lacking in weight and reliability that a conviction could not reasonably be made on the basis of it,” he said in a judgment handed down on Monday.
In expressing this view, the judge said he was exercising no judgment “one way or the other” on the critical issue of whether Ravindran is guilty of murder.
The trial continues.
ANZ is the last of the big four banks to pass on the Reserve Bank of Australia’s quarter of a percentage point interest rate cut.
ANZ’s standard variable rate will fall to 5.88 per cent, from Friday August 16, which will see a borrower on an average $280,000 loan save $58 a month.
The announcement comes three days after the Commonwealth Bank and National Australia Bank said they would match the RBA’s 25 basis point easing, taking their loan rates to 5.9 per cent and 5.88 per cent respectively.
Westpac went further, cutting its standard variable rate by 28 basis points, but to a higher level of 5.98 per cent.
ANZ chief executive Philip Chronican said economic circumstances warranted the latest cut to mortgage rates.
“In making our decision this month, we took into account our cost of funding, our competitive positioning and the impact of economic conditions on our customers,” he said in a statement.
Westpac’s cut does not come into effect until August 19, while NAB’s is effective from August 12, while Commonwealth’s starts on August 14.
The official cash rate has fallen to an all-time low of 2.5 per cent.
Other lenders to announce 25 basis point rate cuts included St George, which is owned by Westpac, Bank of Queensland and ING Direct.
Bendigo and Adelaide Bank has also announced a 25 basis point cut, taking its variable home loan rate to 6.01 per cent, from August 26.
“When setting interest rates our bank needs to take into account a wide range of factors and carefully consider its key stakeholders including borrowers, depositors, staff, shareholders, partners and the wider community,” managing director Mike Hirst said in a statement.
The AFL and Essendon are now at war over the club’s supplements scandal.
Six months of official investigations, back-room negotiations, media leaks and public posturing exploded into open conflict on Wednesday afternoon after the league released details of its charges.
Essendon coach James Hird and chairman Paul Little quickly hit back, slamming the AFL and again stressing they would mount a vigorous defence.
It is the greatest crisis in the game’s history.
Court action seems inevitable and surely there is now no chance that Essendon’s top-eight status can be confirmed by the AFL Commission before the finals.
Next Monday, the commission is supposed to hear the charges against Essendon, Hird, club doctor Bruce Reid, senior assistant coach Mark Thompson and Bombers football manager Danny Corcoran.
But that hearing is now highly doubtful, meaning the Bombers go into the finals with the charges unresolved.
Commission chairman Mike Fitzpatrick has called a special meeting of club presidents on Thursday afternoon to brief them on the crisis.
Eight days after the AFL announced it had laid charges against Essendon and the four individuals, chief executive Andrew Demetriou went ahead with the league’s intention to release the details.
Even though many of the particulars were already confirmed or alleged, the 34-page document made for extraordinary reading.
The AFL notes the statement of grounds are charges only, with their correctness or otherwise still to be determined.
In them, the league said the Bombers either allowed players to be administered substances that were prohibited by the AFL Anti-Doping Code and the World Anti-Doping Code, or, alternatively, the club was unable to determine whether players were administered substances prohibited by the two codes.
The AFL charged Essendon after receiving an interim report from the Australian Sports Anti-Doping Authority, who are still investigating the club.
No anti-doping charges have been laid so far, with the AFL charges relating to allegations of conduct unbecoming and bringing the game into disrepute.
The charges contain in full a letter from Reid to Hird and then-football manager Paul Hamilton in January 2012 expressing Reid’s concerns about the supplement program.
In the letter, Reid said he had “fundamental problems being club doctor at present”, as players had been receiving injections of AOD-9604 without his knowledge.
He described the use of the drug as ludicrous, said the fact that it was marketed for body builders should “raise a red flag” and questioned whether Hird or Hamilton would want their children injected with it.
Hird and Little were furious when they fronted the media a couple of hours after the AFL’s statement.
Hird said the publication of the Reid letter was a breach of due process.
They said the charges are not supported by the evidence and accusing the AFL of trying to intimidate the club.
Hird and Little did not mince their words, with the chairman accusing the league of reprehensible behaviour and adding the AFL was determined to punish the Bombers are drug cheats.
The Bombers coach, the central figure in this saga, said the AFL was running a trial by media against him and decried the announcement of the charges as an ambush.
Hird stressed Essendon would defend the charges vigorously.
“Throughout the course of this exercise, I have been denied natural justice and today’s ambush is just another example of that,” Hird said.
Hird did not address an allegation in the charge particulars that he received vials of Melanotan II and syringes from Essendon’s former high performance manager Dean Robinson.
Hird was never warned about potential adverse reactions, but suffered “significant side effects”, the AFL says.
Little acknowledges Essendon will have to accept some sort of penalty from the league for the supplements program.
“However, we maintain our belief that no player was administered either harmful or prohibited substances and assert there is insufficient evidence upon which any such allegation should have been made,” Little said.
Little called for Fitzpatrick to intervene, saying he had lost faith in the AFL executive.
Hird said Demetriou and the AFL have conflicts of interest. He wants the case heard by an independent arbiter.
AFL Players’ Association chief executive Matt Finnis said the league’s charge details were shocking and distressing.
“It is shocking to see that the concerns of health professionals can be ignored in a club that seems intent on pushing the boundaries regardless of their potential impact,” Finnis said.
Keeping it simple is the key for Australian Kim Mickle, who is in great shape to win a javelin medal for Australia on the final day of the world athletics championships.
After missing out on a spot in the top eight at the Olympics last year, Mickle left London convinced she was “the most unlucky person ever”.
A chat with sports psychologist Brian Miller soon set her straight.
Miller was stunned to learn that Mickle spent most of the competition watching the other throwers do their thing.
“Little did I know that as I was watching them, I was critiquing them and then popping that into my throw and way overloading my own brain with 101 different technique points,” said the 28-year-old Mickle.
“I didn’t realise I was doing that until Brian said ‘why are you doing that? That’s crazy’.
“And I was like ‘yeah, I was clapping them in and all sorts of things’.
“Now this year I’ve adopted a new approach where I don’t watch one throw.
“I have my back to every single thrower and it’s just worked a treat.”
The next step in the remaking of Mickle was to focus on only two technical points before every throw.
“Hit it flat and keep your hand back – they’re the two points I’m thinking of,” said Mickle.
“Now I can’t go back.
“If I watch someone else throw I realise how much I think about it.
“It’s a big realisation.
“Just chuck some blindfolds on me or something.”
The new approach worked a treat in the qualifying round in Moscow, with Mickle moving up two spots to second on the Australian all-time list with a huge personal best of 65.73m.
Only defending champion Maria Abakumova of Russia (69.09m) threw further in the qualifiers.
They will be joined in Sunday’s final by leading German hope Christina Obergfoll and Australian Kathryn Mitchell, who was thrilled with her third biggest throw ever of 62.80m.
“It’s going to be the Kath and Kim show,” quipped Mickle.
“She’s put in the hard yards as well so it’s awesome to have two Aussies in there and actually in it with a bloody good chance.”
Now that she’s through to the decider, Mickle plans to simplify her pre-throw routine even further – from two specific thoughts down to none.
“I hit that point very nice but I definitely didn’t unleash,” said Mickle of the 65.73m PB, which she is confident of bettering again in the final.
“I’ve got this boom tactic that myself, my coach Grant Ward and Brian (Miller) have been adopting.
“That will probably come out in the second, third, fourth and fifth throw on Sunday night.
“It means ‘just smash it’.
“I the have two points that I normally think of … and boom is don’t think about those two points – just go for it.”
Mickle also has consistency on her side, having finished on the podium in each of last 10 events.
Multicultural and indigenous players will be among the targets of the new community engagement manager, Sam Amaliki, who experienced an unusual introduction to the game.
Luke Waters reports.
Sam Amaliki embarks on day one of what he describes as the job of a lifetime.
“I love the game as much as anything in my life because it’s been central in my life and I’m incredibly passionate about it because I know it’s a force for good.”
Colleagues at Cricket Australia offered a warm welcome but their paths to cricket headquarters could hardly be more different.
Sam Amaliki left war-torn Iraq as an 8-year old and was introduced to the game as a child while in immigration detention.
“It was at Villawood that I saw cricket being played by Tamil detainees and from there took a loving for the game.”
At just 15, he set up a winter cricket competition in Sydney and says he’s now ready for his next challenge.
“Through this role I’ll be able to ensure we engage more female, Indigenous, multicultural and all-ability cricketers and ensure their dreams come true.”
And recent results are encouraging.
Afghan asylum-seeker Fawad Ahmed last week joined the Australia-A team in England.
Gurinder Sandhu, of Indian heritage, is showing promise for New South Wales.
Nick Hatzoglou presides over the multicultural Sunshine Heights Cricket Club in Melbourne’s west.
The club boasts almost 40 ethnicities including Australia’s first Sudanese-born senior turf cricketer.
Mr Hatzoglou says cricket has been slow to embrace the multicultural market but applauds the new position.
“If you’re going to remain to be the most popular sport in Australia you need to have a conversation with the rest of Australia.”
And the proof – partially, at least – will be in the “baggy greens” of the future.
“For example more Singhs in our national team, more Chins, would certainly see that dream come true in terms of engaging all Australians.”
Mourinho, who said he had gone from being the ‘Special One’ to the ‘Happy One’ when he returned in June for a second spell as coach at his spiritual Stamford Bridge home following spells at Inter Milan and Real Madrid, has made no secret of his desire to sign the England striker.
Rooney also seems keen to end his nine-year spell at Manchester United for a move to Chelsea but can United afford to allow their prize asset to reinforce the title claims of one of their leading Premier League rivals?
Mourinho has already had two sizeable bids for Rooney rejected and former United and England captain Bryan Robson believes he will need to wave a huge financial carrot in front of the Old Trafford hierarchy in order to seal the deal.
“The thing that makes me laugh is I’ve been told it (the latest offer) is 25 million pounds to 30 million pounds,” Robson told Talksport radio.
“For Wayne Rooney? A 27-year-old who is probably in the top six strikers in the world? What are United going to have to pay to replace him? I’m amazed at that – it’s an insult to Wayne Rooney.”
Insult or not, Mourinho is prepared to play a waiting game, content in the knowledge he can already call upon three good strikers in Fernando Torres, Romelu Lukaku and Demba Ba.
Torres has often flattered to deceive since joining Chelsea for a record fee of 50 million pounds from Liverpool two and a half years ago although he showed signs of improvement last season.
The Spain striker bagged 23 goals in all competitions including a dazzling run from the halfway line to score the equaliser in the 2-1 Europa League final victory over Benfica in Amsterdam in May.
Mourinho believes Torres, who is at his best when balls are played beyond the opposition defence for him to use his pace, is capable of flourishing if his team mates utilise his strengths.
“When we see Torres with his back to goal surrounded by two or three opponents we know he is not going to produce a piece of magic,” said the coach who led Chelsea to back-to-back Premier League titles in 2005 and 2006.
“But this is Torres. We want the team not to learn how to play with him but to improve how to play with him,” said Mourinho who is adored by the Chelsea fans and will get a special welcome at his first game back at home to Hull City on Sunday.
“It is impossible to re-model his game but we want to adapt the team and teach the team how to use his best qualities. He is what he is and he is very good with the qualities he has got so we need to learn and support his game.”
Chelsea, who finished third in the Premier League under interim coach Rafael Benitez last season, have been boosted by the signing of Germany forward Andre Schuerrle from Bayer Leverkusen.
Mourinho also swooped for young Dutch international midfielder Marco van Ginkel in the close season while midfielder Michael Essien, winger Kevin de Bruyne and utility player Nathaniel Chalobah have returned after loan spells elsewhere.
It is the return of the charismatic Portuguese coach, however, that has attracted so much attention to 2012 European champions Chelsea.
“The Premier League requires a Jose Mourinho character more than ever,” said former United and England defender Gary Neville. “He is the biggest signing of the summer for English football.
“You can’t ignore him, the way he challenges people, works the media or celebrates on the touchline like a fan. Whoever you support you should be delighted to have Jose Mourinho back for the new season.”
(Editing by Martyn Herman)
A road project in the Brisbane suburb of Geebung has unearthed information about the area’s past that has scientists excited.
It’s information that goes back tens-of-millions of years, when the area was both warmer and wetter.
And though that was a long time before the arrival of the first humans, there were crocodiles.
Laura Murphy-Oates has the story.
Construction on a new overpass was underway and the workers were drilling 15 metres below ground level, when there were calls to suddenly halt.
An engineer had noticed something unusual in the spoil, or excess dirt.
A collection of 50 million year old fossils, including crocodile vertebrae, fish and frog bones as well as shells, plants and pollen.
CEO of the Queensland Museum Network, Professor Suzanne Miller, says this is a highly significant find for Australian paleontology.
“That’s very unusual to be able to find such diversity and such richness. Practically every piece of rock you turn over has fossils in it, so that gives us an incredible snap shot back 50 million years in time and allows us to build up a picture of what the environment would have been like and what animals had evolved by that time”
Scientists at the Queensland Museum have identified the fossils as belonging to the Eocene Period, about 100 million years after the extinction of the dinosaurs.
So what was Australia like when these fossils were alive?
Well, Australia was still attached to Antarctica and we were closer to the Equator.
Professor Miller says it was also much warmer.
“The area that is now Queensland where these fossils have been found would have been much warmer and wetter 50 million years ago so it would have been very much like rainforest with rivers flowing through, very swampy but an incredible ecosystem of different animals all living an coexisting together.”
Brisbane Mayor Graham Quirk thinks residents of the Queensland capital would be surprised at the discovery.
“Well I think that’s the fascinating part about this- you just don’t know what’s below the Earth’s surface. The last thing we expected was to find fossils of this consequence and significance. The people that have seen these fossils advise that advised that these fossils are of global significance. We know in other parts of the Queensland there have been dinosaur finds.”
Construction has continued on the overpass, but it’s believed there may be more fossils within the excess dirt, now donated to the Queensland Museum.
Queensland Transport Minister Scott Emerson says the construction has not harmed the fossils, but rather aided the process.
“It’s a great outcome that this project can proceed but also we are getting a great scientific discovery. The reality was is that if this project had never occurred we never would have been digging down to those 15 metres below the ground and we never would have discovered these fossils”
The Queensland Museum is calling for community volunteers to assist with sorting through the dirt to find more historic remains.
The AFL players’ association says those investigating the Essendon supplements saga have recognised that while players were caught up in the situation, those guiding them are culpable.
AFLPA chief executive Matt Finnis says while he can’t guarantee players won’t be sanctioned, he has heard nothing to suggest they will be and players can take encouragement from the ASADA interim report.
“There’s been a recognition amongst the people involved in the investigation that the players, through their own testimony, have indicated how they were caught up in something where they placed enormous trust and faith in those around them,” Finnis told reporters on Thursday, before meeting with Bombers players.
“Players come out of high school into footy clubs and it’s their job to put enormous trust and faith into those who have got a responsibility and an expertise to get these things right.
“There’s a recognition that culpability must lie with those that are most responsible.”
Finnis’ confidence on the players’ behalf echoes that of the Bombers, whose president Paul Little said on Wednesday night that Essendon believed players would be cleared and were urgently seeking AFL confirmation on that point.
“We’re working very hard to make sure that that confirmation – one way or the other, we believe positive confirmation – will be received,” Little said.
Port Adelaide coach Ken Hinkley expressed similar confidence on Thursday that the Power’s ex-Essendon forward Angus Monfries would escape penalty.
There remains strong speculation the Bombers will be heavily penalised, including being stripped of premiership points, which would cost them their finals berth.
The Bombers would reportedly challenge such a sanction.
Finnis said that would still amount to a punishment for the players, as it would effectively wipe out a season’s worth of effort.
Coach James Hird, who is yet to learn whether he faces sanction for his role in the saga, remains adamant it won’t cause him to resign.
But he also said the players were the top concern.
“Our priority has always been in clearing the players. When they’re cleared we’ll go to the rest of it,” Hird told reporters.
Despite being the remaining figurehead at the Bombers following the resignations of chief executive Ian Robson and chairman David Evans, Hird said he is yet to view a copy of the ASADA report although has been briefed on its contents.
“I don’t have a copy of the report,” he said.
“That would be a stretch to say I’ve seen it. I’ve heard what’s in it but haven’t seen it.”
Despite being democratically elected, and the first Egyptian president to be democratically elected, the ascension of Mohamed Morsi was far from universally recognised as legitimate.
His troubled year as president was marked by increasingly vocal protests, even from those who once instigated the toppling of dictator President Hosni Mubarak in 2011.
But Mr Morsi had, obviously, millions of supporters, too.
In Australia, Egyptian Australians reflect the divided opinions of their home country, and the dramatic events yesterday have deepened those divisions.
The Australian Coptic Association’s Samir Habashy says the crackdown on supporters of ousted president Mohamed Morsi was warranted.
Mr Habashy says the protesters were given fair warning to leave, and as they were preventing residents near the camps from leading a normal life, it was time for them to be dispersed.
He also claims the Muslim Brotherhood has been inciting violence against the minority Christian population in retaliation.
“They went around Egypt and they have received orders from the leaders of the Muslim Brotherhood to do a lot of troubles around. So they’ve burned now 23 churches, two Coptic schools and they’ve killed six Copts in Egypt,” says Mr Habashy.
“But I believe that those Muslim Brotherhood, they cannot last too much in front of the population of Egypt because the Egyptian people believe quite well that those fanatics haven’t got to rule Egypt and they are behind the army and the police,” he says.
Lending weight to Mr Habashy’s claims are media reports that Morsi supporters burnt Christian-owned businesses as well as schools and churches after the security force crackdown.
But other Egyptian Australians say the army and police action against pro-Morsi demonstrators was a massacre.
Dozens of protesters gathered at Lakemba railway station in Sydney last night demanding international condemnation of the Egyptian military action.
One of those present at the protests was Mohammed Helal, who told the ABC it was a spontaneous protest to voice their concerns about the death of democracy in Egypt.
“That is a process of killing any opposition to this new interim government that came out by the military coup. Anyone who voices their opposition is being jailed or killed. And even all the media that opposes them is closed down, and this is the unfortunate thing that is happening in Egypt now,” says Mr Helal.
WATCH: Egyptian Australians protest against Cairo violence in Lakemba
According to Samir Habashy, he believes the Muslim Brotherhood camps in Cairo were filled with arms.
He says the Egyptian security forces were attacked by Muslim Brotherhood supporters and had no choice but to go in hard to disperse them.
“For sure because they had a lot of different arms and they are being supported by al-Qaeda groups and they have been supported by Hamas groups, from Palestinian Hamas groups, and they have some of them among them, it was a bit hard for the army and the police to vanquish them quickly,” says Mr Habashy.
But Mohammed Helal dismisses that argument.
“Really the interim government or that temporary government is lying all the way and they can fabricate anything to justify their brutal crackdown to a peaceful demonstration and sit-in,” he says.
The Foreign Minister, Bob Carr, says the Australian government is sending a strong message through its embassy in Cairo that the violence in Egypt must stop.
Senator Carr says the government shares the concerns of Egyptian-Australians.
“My message to all Australians with an interest in this is simply that the Australian government unreservedly condemns violence, the loss of life. We urge a return by the government of Egypt to a peaceful engagement with the demonstrators. And we want minorities in the country to be protected, ” says Mr Carr.
Bob Carr claims he is not aware of any Australians being caught up in the bloodshed.
But he has reiterated a Department of Foreign Affairs travel warning issued following the latest violence.
“The advice for Australian tourists is reconsider your need to go to Egypt. For those there, we recommend that Australians in Egypt return, it’s as simple as that. Certainly while they’re there they ought to avoid scenes of demonstrations or protests. But given the capacity of the situation to deteriorate quickly, our advice to Australians there would be to take a path back to Australia as soon as possible.”