Daily horoscopes: Saturday, May 18

Read Alison Moroney’s daily stars for Saturday, May 18, 2013.ARIES: You’re a touch confused about some aspect of your life during Saturday and Sunday, paralysing action. It’s good to stop and think about the problems at hand.
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TAURUS: Taurus has doubts about something they are striving to attain during May 18, 19: a financial vulnerability exists or there is a weak link in a chain of communication or line of thought.

GEMINI:Gemini natives tend to stumble as they climb that career ladder during May 18, 19, so youneed to ensure you fully comprehend any situation you are about to tackle: place yourself in context.

CANCER: Information you are receiving may well be misleading during May 18, 19, even if it seems to come from an authoritative source. All people make mistakes so, if in doubt, double check.

LEO: You need to make yourself fully aware of the fine print in any policies you hold as they may well be problematic during May 18, 19: the same goes for any financial communications.

VIRGO: With your eyes set on something personally important to you, it is possible that misunderstandings could arise between yourself and your partner during May 18, 19: don’t make assumptions.

LIBRA: A vulnerability exists in the Libran constitution during May 18, 19, so try avoiding excessive use of alcohol, cigarettes and other toxins; minimise exposure to contagions.

SCORPIO: Uncertainty associated with a child or romance can raise anxiety levels during May 18, 19. It’s important to make sure of your facts then and keep track of children.

SAGITTARIUS: It seems that misunderstandings disturb domestic quietude during May 18, 19. Sagittarius needs to clarify plans and ideas with other family members.

CAPRICORN: Don’t believe all you read and hear during May 18, 19, as there is an element of fantasy or illusion around it. Situations need to be put into perspective.

AQUARIUS: Flawed communications tend to give rise to misunderstandings over money during May 18, 19. Take the time to clarify important details, for losses may occur otherwise.

PISCES: Piscean individuals are prone to flights of fantasy making it difficult, sometimes, for others to reach you. Such a situation arises during May 18, 19: come down to earth.

LUCKY NUMBERS: Aries: 1, 3, 4, 9; Taurus: 5, 8; Gemini: 6, 7; Cancer: 3, 4, 7, 9; Leo: 1, 3, 4, 9; Virgo: 6, 8; Libra: 5, 7; Scorpio: 2, 3, 7, 9; Sagittarius: 1, 3, 4, 9; Capricorn: 5, 6; Aquarius: 5, 6; Pisces: 2, 4, 7.

Inside Berlusconi’s bunga bunga parties

Berlusconi_HPL_2Silvio Berlusconi’s private disco featured not only aspiring showgirls performing striptease acts as sexy nuns and nurses, but one woman dressed up as President Barack Obama and a prominent Milan prosecutor whom the billionaire media mogul has accused of persecuting him, according to the first public sworn testimony by the Moroccan woman at the center of the scandal.
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Karima el-Mahroug’s testimony Friday (local time) at the trial of three former Berlusconi aides accused with procuring her and other women for prostitution confirms a sexually charged atmosphere at the “bunga bunga” parties of the then-sitting premier.

The trial is separate from the one in which Berlusconi is charged with paying for sex with a minor – el-Mahroug when she was 17 – and trying to cover it up.

El-Mahroug, now 20, said she attended about a half-dozen parties, using her nickname Ruby, and that after each, Berlusconi handed her an envelope with up to 3,000 euros (NZ$4775)  in denominations of 500. She said she later received 30,000 euros cash from the then-premier paid through an intermediary – money that she told Berlusconi she wanted to use to open a beautician salon despite having no formal training.

But she denied that Berlusconi had ever given her 5 million euros ($6.43 million). She said she told acquaintances and even her father that she was going to receive such a large sum “as a boast,” but that it was a lie to make her seem more important.

The three Berlusconi aides – Emilio Fede, an executive in Berlusconi’s media empire; Nicole Minetti, a former dental hygienist, showgirl and local politician, and talent agent Dario “Lele” Mora – are accused of recruiting women for prostitution at the parties and abetting prostitution, including of a minor. They deny the charges.

El-Mahroug has made carefully orchestrated statements to the media since the scandal broke, but has never publicly given sworn testimony. Both she and Berlusconi deny having had sex.

Dressed soberly with her hair pulled back, El-Mahroug said she first made contact with Berlusconi’s inner circle when she participated in a beauty contest organized by Fede in Sicily when she was 16.

After that she made her way to Milan, hoping to find work. She said she tried to get work through another defendant’s talent agency but didn’t have proper identity documents, and wound up landing a job as a hostess in nightclubs, earning around 100 euros a night.

She frequently changed accommodation during that time, staying for periods of days with people whose names she no longer recalls.

Eventually, she ran into Fede at a restaurant, where she reminded him of his promise in Sicily to help her. Shortly thereafter, she was invited to a dinner party, at Berlusconi’s villa outside of Milan.

She testified that she met the premier that night – on Valentine’s Day in 2010 – and that he gave her an envelope of 2,000 to 3,000 euros ($2,600 to $3,900) as she was leaving, saying it was “a little help” and asking for her telephone number, which she gave him. Ad Feedback

At that party, she said, she introduced herself as Ruby and told other guests a fake tale that she was Egyptian, that her mother was a famous Arab singer and that she was related to then-Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak. She was 17 at the time but had passed herself off as being 23 or 24.

El-Mahroug confirmed Friday what other witnesses have testified previously: that at some of the soirees, young female party guests had dressed up like nuns and danced for Berlusconi and then stripped down to their underwear.

The parties took place in a disco in Berlusconi’s villa equipped with a lap dance pole. El-Mahroug told the court that there was sometimes a singer who is close to Berlusconi at the parties, but most of the guests were young women. While she went home in a taxi alone the first night, other times, she testified, she slept in a guest room by herself. Since she only had the dress she was wearing, she was given a track suit in the morning to have breakfast, and sometimes stayed for lunch, leaving in the late afternoon.

El-Mahroug said Minetti, one of the defendants, had dressed up like a nun at that February 14 party and lifted her costume to show off her legs as she danced in Berlusconi’s in-house disco. El-Mahroug demonstrated from her seat how Minetti had raised her hemline. She said Minetti eventually took off her costume and was in just her lingerie.

She said another young woman dressed up alternately as Obama or a Milan magistrate who is leading the prosecution against Berlusconi in the sex scandal, donning a red wig and the black robes worn by magistrates in Italy.

“The girls who were dressed in costumes approached him in a sensual way as they danced. They raised their skirts,” El-Mahroug testified. She added: “I never saw contact.”

On the stand, El-Mahroug denied ever having acted as a prostitute, and repeated her denials that she ever had sex with Berlusconi.

However, when the presiding judge pressed her on wiretaps in which she appears to be referring to acts of prostitution, she said that her statements then were just “stupid things.” It was the same phrase she used to explain away her statements that she was about to receive 5 million euros from the then-premier.

At one point, the judge admonished her that she was testifying at a trial aimed at ascertaining the facts, not appearing on a televised interview, when she appeared to criticise prosecutors, then backed down.

Prosecutors in Berlusconi’s separate trial have said El-Mahroug’s testimony is unreliable and are relying on her sworn statements. The defence had initially called her as a witness, but then changed its strategy and didn’t call her. That trial is nearing a verdict and will reconvene May 24.

– AP

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New car review: Honda CR-Z

On the surface, Honda’s latest CR-Z coupe seems like a masterstroke, combining the performance of a sports car with the efficiency of a hybrid.
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Add to that an arsenal of accessories befitting a luxury vehicle and a price tag of less than $40,000, and you should be onto a winner. And a worthy successor to sporty Honda predecessors including the NSX, S2000, Integra and Prelude.

Unfortunately for Honda the latest iteration CR-Z has efficiency and sportiness in the wrong doses.

Honda recently streamlined the CR-Z range to just one luxury model. At $38,490 plus on-roads ($40,790 in automatic), the CR-Z is more expensive than a Toyota 86, Ford Focus ST, Volkswagen Polo GTI and Hyundai Veloster Turbo.

As before, the two-door CR-Z gets a 1.5-litre four-cylinder engine, combined with a lithium ion battery. Honda engineers have extracted some extra performance from the teaming, boosting power to a combined petrol-electric output of 99kW and 190Nm in automatic form. The CR-Z comes with a choice of a six-speed manual or CVT auto. We drove the latter, fitted with paddle shifters for increased driver involvement.

From the outside, the CR-Z lives up to Honda’s sporty past. There’s a striking resemblance to the 1980s CR-X, from which it takes its styling inspiration. A prominent grille and LED lights punctuate the car’s swoopy and slightly revised front end, with a sharply tapered rear and two-tone 17-inch wheels complementing the aggressive stance. Owners won’t appreciate the CR-Z’s extra-long driver and passenger doors in tight spaces, though.

Inside, the CR-Z’s cabin is very much focused on the driver, with a cockpit feel to the instrument panel and a driving position that is low and laid-back, with white-stitched leather front seats. The instrument read-out is a highlight, changing colour depending on the driving mode you choose. Hit the Eco button and it turns green, go to sport and it glows red. The only let-down is an abundance of hard plastic on the dash and doors.

By comparison, the cloth-trim seats in the rear are virtually redundant and are among the worst for practicality in the new-car market. Teens would struggle to squeeze into the rear pew because of negligible leg room and the sharply tapered roofline, and even little ones will feel claustrophobic. Honda has fitted the CR-Z with two anchor points for a baby capsule, but they’re virtually useless because of the poor layout. The shallow 225-litre boot (despite getting a tyre inflation kit instead of spare to conserve space) is hard to access, while the two-piece rear glass makes rear vision a chore.

Driving through Sydney’s outskirts, the 1199-kilogram CR-Z felt surprisingly agile, but only when it was fixed to Sport mode. A new Plus Sport (S+) button supposedly provides further engine and electric motor assist power, but the gains felt negligible. Switching from Sport mode to the Normal and ECON mode, the CR-Z turned its hand to efficiency, dimming power and handling characteristics to more docile levels. Honda claims fuel usage figures of 5.0L/100km; our reading was closer to 7.0L/100km in a mix of driving.

The CR-Z’s engine is helped along by a fairly adept, albeit buzzy, CVT gearbox. The combination, while undernourished, worked well enough. The CR-Z works its way up to 100km/h in circa-10 seconds and, once there, springs no nasty surprises with road and engine noise.

The steering in the CR-Z is razor sharp, accurate and well-weighted, giving terrific feedback through turns. Impressively, the car suffered very little front-end scrub, though the Michelin tyres tended to lose grip in the rear fairly easily with enthusiastic driving.

As a result of the sporty steer, the CR-Z tended towards firm in its handling, bouncing over all but the smallest of bumps and even crashing in the rear over larger obstacles. Tyre noise is also intrusive.

The CR-Z is fitted with a swag of fruit to match the $40,000 price tag, including sat-nav, reversing camera, DVD player, auto-stop function, Bluetooth phone audio streaming, a six-speaker stereo, USB connectivity, climate control and sun-roof.

The CR-Z gets a five-star safety rating (six airbags, stability control) and a three-year, 100,000-kilometre warranty, but isn’t offered in Australia with capped price servicing.

There is plenty of merit in combining performance with hybrid efficiency. But unfortunately for Honda, the CR-Z is neither overtly sporty or impressively efficient.

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.

Jake King: Tiger tough

Centre of attention: Jake King has his say at Tiger training. Photo: Paul RovereRichmond’s Jake ‘Push Up’ King has been integral to the Tiger resurgence. But he wants more.
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MATTHEW LLOYD: How would you rate the Tigers’ start to the season?

JAKE KING: Four and three you’ll take it because you are in the positive, but we still have a lot of things we need to work on … as long as we keep improving we’ll be happy.

What were your expectations at the start of the season?

It’s always a funny one when people ask that, because if you say you don’t want to play finals, you’re kidding yourself. So every team wants to play finals football. I guess for us we needed to improve on last year and to improve then we have to play finals; and as a group we believe we’re good enough and we’re ready to take that next step.

What did you make of the criticism directed towards Jack Riewoldt, Brett Deledio and Trent Cotchin leading into the Port Adelaide game?

With all AFL footballers, they’ve all got a big ego and when you don’t play to the standards that you believe that you’re capable of playing, you get very upset. The boys were just disappointed. And I guess as their teammate, you’re OK with that because they’re only going to get better and they’re only going to bounce back the next week. I didn’t have a problem with them showing their emotions or feelings.

How much was the Age article written by Robert Walls mentioned among the boys?

I think Jack brought it up at the start and wasn’t too impressed. But we all had a bit of a laugh about it, you know, it’s someone’s opinion and so be it. The thing is that it’s not about sitting and dwelling on that one week of football and the boys were just rapt that they could actually stick it up him a little bit.

You were ranked 18 for tackling. Was that something Damien Hardwick made a focus of leading into the match?

Yeah, it was. We’ve always said that we have to get our competitiveness up a hell of a lot, and a lot of people judge it all on competitive footy and contested possessions but tackling’s also a big part of it. It’s something that we’re going to continue to work on because we want to be known as one of those ferocious sides like the Tigers of old.

On the subject of your coach, how would you describe Dimma?

He’s a ripper, to be honest. He’s one of the boys when it’s not football, but in saying that, when push comes to shove, he’s the boss and he makes that clear. Dimma’s a big believer that to have a strong football club, you must have good people, and he’s really driving that, and I think he’s doing an outstanding job.

Do you think he sees a bit of himself in you?

I’ve never asked him, to be honest. Everything that relates to me and him I’m a bit worried because he gets a bit nasty and tells me to go away.

You didn’t make your debut until you were 23. Tell me about your football journey before then.

Growing up during under 18s football, I kept hearing that I wasn’t good enough, I wasn’t tall enough, skills weren’t clean enough, so for me it just drove me further and made me compete even harder. From 16 to 18 I was getting told I wasn’t good enough for under 18s footy, which hurt. I then went back to playing local football at North Heidelberg and I had a lot of good people around me. I had Robbie Powell, Jason Heatley and I had my brother and my uncle sitting there helping me out as much as they could with my local footy. I was just lucky enough that Essendon’s recruiting manager Adrian Dodoro rang me when I was 21 after we won the grand final and said ‘come down and do a pre-season’. I went down and did the pre-season with the Bombers and then I got told that I was probably a little bit too old for them but I had to take the next step and play VFL the following year. I was lucky enough that Coburg took me in, and Andrew Collins pretty much started my career there and helped me out enormously, and I was lucky enough to then get a chance as a rookie at the Tigers.

You’re a plumber by trade, was playing AFL something you wanted from a young age?

I guess it’s always someone’s dream but when you get told that you’re not good enough and you’re not going to make it, it’s a bit of a kick

in the guts … Most people wouldn’t dream of being drafted at the age of 22 and I guess when that happened for me, things took a turn for the better. When I had to choose between digging a hole and kicking a footy, it was a pretty easy decision.

In your first three years at Richmond you played 41 games for eight wins, three draws and 30 losses. It must have been tough going in the back pocket during that time?

Yeah, it was quite difficult. Although we didn’t win many games, we were very tight and the boys always stuck together. We had good leadership in Kane Johnson, Troy Simmonds, Nathan Brown and

Matthew Richardson who were always up and about and making the boys laugh. There wasn’t a day where you’d think that you didn’t want to be there. We were hurting but the players are like a second family, so we stuck it out, which was good.

Is 2013 the most confident you have been in the Richmond playing group?

I guess so, yeah. When you’re playing, you can have all the skill in the world and you can go out there and be as fit as you can possibly be, and we believe we’ve had those things over the last couple of years. The next biggest one is belief – and that the boys have a strong belief of what’s in front of them, and what

they can achieve. Richmond’s a good place to be right now.

Tell me how your move to the forward line came about.

That was made by Jade Rawlings when he took over from Terry Wallace in 2009. Jade said he wanted me to play a defensive forward’s role on Sydney’s Rhyce Shaw. It was a real defensive role that I had to play and I ended up kicking a few goals, and I played there for Jade from that moment on. Then when Dimma Hardwick came as coach, he said, I like the way you go about your defensive work and continued to play me there.

You average two goals a game this year and you’ve laid the most

tackles inside forward 50 of any Tiger this season. You must be happy with your own form?

Yes I am, but in the end I just like winning as a team. It’s funny because one of my most enjoyable games was against the Bulldogs. I actually didn’t kick a goal in that game but we had won the previous two games so it was an important game for us to win. We had a game plan to beat them on the inside and it worked. The four points is more important to me than anything individual.

You’ve got a hard image and you’ve been suspended a fair few times but is it true that you’re very conscious of it now?

Definitely, as you get older you get a bit smarter and a bit more mature in the way you go about things. Everyone gets frustrated but I guess it’s just the way you’re channelling it, and I guess I’m learning to channel everything in the right way now. When you’re missing games it hurts the team and you start to realise that and you see it. I get frustrated just like anyone else, but you don’t see Trent Cotchin doing anything silly, or Dustin Martin or Brett Deledio, so why should Richmond accept it from someone like myself.

How do you think Trent Cotchin is handling the captaincy this year?

I think he’s stepped into it quite well. Chris Newman’s been outstanding helping him and was able to direct him in the pre-season, and Trent’s now taken the reins and he’s leading the way. His leadership with training has been outstanding, and then on game day he always stands up when he needs to, but then also verbally will let the boys know what he thinks. He’s got a good presence about him and the boys have huge respect for him.

You’ve captained a few NAB Cup games and practice games yourself. Is leadership something you want to be part of?

I believe that everyone’s a leader in their own way. My issue is that I hate meetings and I hate sitting down with paperwork and everything like that. But I love the physical training and I love helping out my teammates and trying to get the best out of them. So if I lead, I try and do it in the ways that I know best.

Is it true that you only ever eat steak and potatoes? So on the night before a game, everyone gets pasta, you get steak and potatoes?

Oh, I do have a bit of a weird diet. I do like my red meat, yes. But the night before a game I have been known to have a fair few steak and potatoes on the interstate trips. It’s just easier to cook and it fills the stomach so it makes me happy.

Where did the tag ‘the push-up king’ originate?

We did a gruelling boot camp several years ago with the SOG boys that a few clubs have used. We had to do a whole heap of push-ups and the winning team won Mars Bars and I think some soft drink. My team needed about 270 push ups to win and I was lucky enough to actually pump those push-ups out and ended up getting 303 and the boys ended up calling me ‘push-up’ after that. Then James Brayshaw took it to the next level.

How would you like to be remembered when your career’s done and dusted?

To be respected by the blokes that I’ve played with and all of the Richmond supporters. Also that no matter the circumstance, I always had my teammates back and that I was a hard-working, honest bloke, I guess.

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.

Goss: report showed less skin, more transparency

Australian sprinter Matt Goss has welcomed the report of an independent review into his Orica-GreenEDGE team’s anti-doping processes. He also said he found assisting the investigation was no different to undergoing a doping test, except ”they just see less of your body.”
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”I’ve always been on teams with anti-doping systems. You are always under scrutiny. We are always being tested so answering a few questions is no different to doing a [drug] test, I guess … they just see less of your body,” Goss told Fairfax Media before Friday’s Giro d’Italia 13th stage, from Busseto to Cherasco.

The inquiry was launched late last year in the aftermath of the US Anti-Doping Agency’s findings in the case involving Lance Armstrong, who has been banned for life. It included evidence from former Orica-GreenEDGE head sports director Matt White, who admitted to doping as a rider.

White lost his job with Orica-GreenEDGE and also with Cycling Australia as the national men’s road team coach. He recently revealed an inquiry into his case by the Australian Sports Anti-Doping Authority ruled he be handed a six-month retroactive ban dating back to October 13. With the ban having expired on April 13, he was free to resume work in the sport, although his future at Orica-GreenEDGE hinged on the report by anti-doping expert Nicki Vance.

The findings have recommended he be reinstated to his position on the team, and that sport director Neil Stephens be kept on and not penalised for his involvement as a rider in the 1998 Festina doping scandal.

How many of the recommendations are actually implemented depends on a meeting between Vance and the team’s owner, Gerry Ryan, and general manager Shayne Bannan in Australia next week.

Despite the wait for Vance’s findings, Goss said he understood why the probe was carried out and lauded it as trouble-free for riders.

”If it makes the team a more respected team in the cycling community because of it, I’m happy to do it,” Goss said. ”It took a few minutes out of the day to talk to Nicki. Like all the [riders] on the team, I have nothing to hide, so it was no drama to talk to her. Hopefully it does some good in resolving the issue in the sport and gives another option of a team that they know is abiding by the rules.”

Goss is focused on trying to win a stage at the Giro, despite again missing out on the action in the 13th stage, which was won British sprinter Mark Cavendish (Sky), with Australian Brett Lancaster (Sky) fourth. But Goss knows with his recovery from a virus incomplete, and the Giro to finish in Brescia next Sunday, there are really only two more chances for him – stage 17, 214 kilometres from Carravagio to Vicenza, and stage 21 from Riese Pios X to Brescia over 197 kilometres. ”I’m not feeling that great, but I’m getting through,” he said.

Rupert Guinness is covering the Giro d’Italia as a guest of Eurosport.

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Brereton: time to tackle ‘blight on the game’

Angst about players buckling in tackles to ”stooge” umpires into paying free kicks resurfaced after West Coast’s dramatic win over North Melbourne.
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Dermott Brereton has implored the AFL to stamp out what he described as a ”blight on the game”.

Confusion reigned over the free kick to Adam Selwood just before Nic Naitanui’s spectacular mark and after-the-siren goal won the game by two points on Friday night. Selwood appeared to fall backwards into his tackler to draw high contact.

The umpire said at the time he had paid the free kick because ”the second one was high, on the ground”. Brereton said if this was the case, the umpire had made an ”unforgivable” mistake.

AFL umpires’ boss Jeff Gieschen will not make a judgment on the decision until after he has viewed all available footage on Monday.

An earlier free kick to Luke Shuey, which allowed the Eagles to keep the ball in their forward arc, was paid when Shuey dropped forward from the knees, and an opponent crashed into his back.

Brereton said players could not be blamed for exploiting a loophole, saying he had done the same thing during his career. ”I disliked the fact that I did it. It meant that I didn’t have the creativity to get out of the situation so I would try to stooge the umpire. It was a get-out-of-jail card.

”You can’t blame someone for exploiting a loophole that is there. It’s up to the rule makers and the umpires’ department to become a cohesive unit and strike at the heart of this,” he said.

”I hope something can be done about it before next year because it’s an absolute blight on the game.”

The former Hawthorn star said the principle was no different to the one that underpins free kicks against players who have the ball and put their heads down to initiate contact with an opponent. ”Close the loophole,” he said. ”These rules are put in place to protect the ball carrier, and by slipping the tackle and flailing your arms out slightly, lowering your body and putting the tackler’s arms on your neck to gain a free kick, players are deliberately putting themselves in danger.”

North Melbourne coach Brad Scott did not blame umpires for the loss, the Kangaroos’ third defeat by four points or less this season.

”There were some mistakes that we made defensively as well. I don’t know if they were mistakes, the umpiring decisions,” Scott said.

”I will focus on our mistakes and let the umpires’ directors coach up their umpires.”

Last season, he turned the spotlight on the controversial tactic of ducking to elicit frees, but there was no subsequent change to the head-high interpretation.

”The onus is on the tackler to get as low as he can to make sure the tackle is legal,” Gieschen said in March.

Naitanui relived his leaping mark on Saturday morning, and revealed he was emotional afterwards because of a family tragedy. ”My girlfriend’s little cousin passed away. Being a young little baby it’s pretty sad. The funeral was yesterday.”

Still, he seized the moment. ”There was a pretty big pack. I think I was a few deep. I felt if there was a chance to go for the mark, to fly for it, I was going to do it. I just backed myself in.” He backed himself to kick the goal, too.

■ AFL Hall of Fame legend Kevin Bartlett insisted there was no reason for him to stand down from the laws of the game committee because of a perceived conflict of interest with his role as an outspoken radio host. ”Why would I do that?” he said on SEN.

A column by Age chief football writer Caroline Wilson said Bartlett had angered clubs and coaches by blurring the line between commentator and committeeman.

”I speak for myself, I’m not a sheep,” he said in response. ”When I’m on a committee I will give my opinion, and it can be agreed upon or not.”

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.

Kelly has an American dream

Excited: Rick Kelly is fulfilling a fantasy by racing his Nissan Altima at the Austin 400 and is hoping he can ”sneak into the top 10” . Photo: SuppliedThe only thing that could make former champion Rick Kelly happier than finally getting to race in the United States would be to score Nissan’s first V8 Supercars victory at the inaugural Austin 400.
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It’s very unlikely because the Japanese car maker is early in its freshman year and still a long way from catching up to Ford and Holden, which have dominated for 20 years.

But while he faces another character-testing struggle to threaten the top 10 in V8 Supercars’ first event in the US at the Circuit Of The Americas in Austin, Texas, on Sunday and Monday morning Australian time, Kelly is fulfilling a fantasy by racing in the Lone Star State.

”Racing a V8 Supercar over here is a dream come true,” he told Fairfax Media. ”I can do what I love in America, which is a place I really like. I’ve always loved coming over here.” Kelly, 30, once had ambitions to pursue a career in American stock cars, visiting NASCAR teams in 2007 – the year after he won the V8 title – in search of an opportunity to compete in a starter series.

Even though former V8 champion Marcos Ambrose had successfully graduated from truck racing to NASCAR’s second-tier stock car competition, there was no interest from NASCAR teams in giving another Australian road racer a chance.

Kelly’s disappointment at not being able to get his foot in the NASCAR door will be forgotten when he races his Jack Daniel’s Racing Nissan Altima in the four-race Austin 400, which he regards as ”a big moment” for V8 Supercars.

”It’s extremely exciting. It really is a dream come true to have an international race in America. I love the place.”

Kelly’s enthusiasm for the US meant he had no qualms about heading over early for a two-day promotional tour in Tennessee for his team’s major backers, Jack Daniel’s and Nissan, both of whom have operations in Nashville.

”It’s a little bit like a home event for us because it’s our sponsors’ home turf,” he said of racing in the country of origin of the whiskey maker and the roadgoing version of the Altima, which will be launched in Australia at the end of the year. After accepting that his American dream wasn’t going to come true, Kelly joined his brother Todd – also a leading V8 driver – in the even more ambitious goal of establishing their own V8 Supercars team.

They became teammates in 2009 and this year are running Nissan Australia’s return to racing, fielding four Altimas under the new Car Of The Future regulations that have opened the sport to new makes.

It’s been a struggle for both Rick and Todd Kelly as they try to fast-track the development of their all-new Altimas while spending most of the races battling to finish in the top 15.

In the first four events, they routinely qualified in the bottom third of the 28-car field, a rude awakening for former factory Holden drivers who have, between them, won a V8 championship, three Bathurst 1000s and made regular appearances on the podium.

Rebranded Nissan Motorsport, the family owned Kelly Racing team’s best result so far this season was a strong seventh for Rick in one of the four races at Pukekohe, near Auckland, last month.

The Altima V8 racer, which uses a production-based V8 against Ford’s and Holden’s bespoke competition engines, is trailing in straight-line speed in the early stages of its development.

While Kelly accepts that qualifying near the back of the grid and racing in the midfield is inevitable in the early stages of the development of a new entry, he admitted that the experience has been frustrating.

”I built myself up mentally to go out and have a shot at being at the front,” he said.

”And so when the reality hit that we were behind in a couple of areas and needed to develop the engine, it hit me hard personally. It really, really hit hard to know that I’d turn up to the events and only sneak into the top 10 if I did a fantastic result. That was tough.

”That knocked me down for probably six weeks. It was just hurting because you want to win. It’s a great sport when you have the opportunity to win, but when you haven’t – if you really, truly give a shit about it – that definitely hurts.

”I’m not capable of just shrugging it off. It really did hit hard. You just have to go back and reassess everything and make plans to turn it around. It took a little time to get back my A-game.” Although a breakthrough top-three result is unlikely at the Circuit Of The Americas, which features a horsepower-dependent steep climb to the first turn, Kelly is confident the Altima’s sharp-handling chassis will be in its element in the twisting second half of the 3.7-kilometre track.

”If we do a good job, we should be able to sneak ourselves into the top 10 – and, really, for where we’re at in the early stage of our development program, that’s pretty good,” he said.

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.

Hawks coach praises GWS

Hawthorn left Aurora Stadium with a winning margin over Greater Western Sydney – 83 points – that indicated a thrashing, although both coaches were united in declaring it did not portray how effective the tenacious Giants were.
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The Giants never threatened a boilover against the Hawks although they were strongly in contention to keep the final margin within 10 goals, especially after they shaded their mighty opponents in play – and almost on the scoreboard – in the third quarter.

But GWS’ efforts were undermined by its concession of the last six goals of the match – mainly because its defenders were too exhausted to clog their defensive zone as they had for the rest of the clash – which Hawthorn coach Alastair Clarkson reckoned was ”a pretty locked-down, dull affair really”.

”The scoreboard probably flattered us a little bit in the end because I thought the Giants were pretty competitive throughout the course of the day,” Clarkson said of the win, the Hawks’ seventh from eight games.

”They out-tackled us by a long way, we couldn’t get control of the clearances as much as we’d have liked, and with them clogging up our front half it made it difficult for us to be able to get fluency in our game.

”You’d think that our game went pretty smoothly today, having an 83-point win, but there was aspects … particularly in the third quarter, we weren’t really pleased with. All we can do is keep refining those things.”

GWS coach Kevin Sheedy, asked whether he too thought the margin overstated the Hawks’ dominance in the match, replied: ”I think most people would think that, but that’s the score.”

The tackling advantage cited by Clarkson – the Giants led that statistic 82 to 57 – was considered by Sheedy to be a positive sign of both his players’ attitude and development in their second season in the AFL.

”We’ve worked hard in that area. We saw what the Swans were able to achieve in last year’s grand final [against Hawthorn with] over 100 tackles and were up about the mid 80s. We just don’t have the skill to actually own the ball and get the benefit of it.”

Hawthorn’s Sam Mitchell was peerless overall in the match with 35 possessions, four of them inside-50 thrusts, although the dominant player in close was teammate Jordan Lewis, who had a game-high 11 clearances and 14 contested possessions.

The Hawks were also well served by key-forward trio Jarryd Roughead (five goals), Jack Gunston (three goals) and Lance Franklin (two goals), while Jeremy Cameron kicked four for the Giants.

Clarkson said the Hawks would regain Bradley Hill, a late withdrawal with a corked thigh, and Josh Gibson (ankle) for next week’s match at home to Gold Coast, a match he stressed they would approach with their usual level of intensity.

”They’ve improved a lot and their midfield is … one of the more potent going around.”

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.

Wickers no basket case

Memorable win: Creswick slammed on 10 goals in the last quarter to defeat Daylesford last Saturday. Photo: SuppliedThe Creswick footy club, which is located 20 kilometres north of Ballarat, spent more than two decades trying to move away from its much-maligned former home ground, Hammon Park.
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”It was a bit of a dung heap, but I think the best way to describe it would be dated,” club president Peter Considine said. ”The fences weren’t far enough back from the playing surface and the rooms were tiny – no more than 10 feet across.

”The ground was too small as well. It was probably 20 metres shorter than most others around here. The 50-metre arcs were only 45, and they were almost on top of the centre square. And the ground was prone to flooding.

”A big problem was that the drains ran into the Creswick Creek. I remember matches getting called off in the ’70s and ’80s because the creek got up and therefore the oval wouldn’t drain.”

Although the idea was first considered in the 1980s, it wasn’t until the mid-2000s that the Hepburn Shire Council developed plans for a new football oval and community centre to be built at Creswick’s Doug Lindsay Reserve, which is on higher ground and was already home to netball courts and soccer pitches.

Still, many locals considered the plans a pipedream until the federal government announced in 2009 that it would commit $2.24 million in funding from its Regional and Local Community Infrastructure Program. Other funds were subsequently contributed by the ‘Wickers’, the Bendigo Bank and the local community, taking the total beyond $3 million.

Construction began in 2010, but when time came for the club to leave its old oval behind, the break-up was not as clean as had been hoped.

In August 2011, Creswick hosted what was supposed to be the last match at Hammon Park. The ground, on which games had been played since 1869, was given a low-key farewell. Six months later, in round two of the 2012 season, the ‘Wickers’ celebrated a milestone when they hosted their first game at the Doug Lindsay Reserve. But things turned sour when players began finding chunks of quartz scattered across the playing surface.

”The council just put the wrong materials on it,” Considine said. ”They got slack. They decided to use some topsoil from somewhere that wasn’t sieved properly.”

The oval was declared unsafe in July, so the ‘Wickers’ had to stage their last home fixture at Hammon Park. Such dramas overshadowed what was a remarkable 2012 campaign for Creswick’s senior team, which made the Central Highlands league finals for the first time since 1987. It was a particularly special achievement for stalwarts Tim Reiniets and Mick Griffin, who have spent their entire careers with the club, notching more than 200 games each, but had never previously played in a senior final. Although Creswick went down to Waubra by nine goals in week one of the finals, its performance gave many locals a reason to be hopeful about the club’s future.

Later that year the footballers found themselves at Hammon Park yet again for pre-season training, but things began falling into place when the new ground was resurfaced during December and January.

Creswick has played three games at the Doug Lindsay Reserve this year and has won them all. The most impressive performance by the ‘Wickers’ at home came last weekend when they trailed reigning premier Daylesford by 16 points at three-quarter time, then booted 10 goals to two in the final term.

The victory over the Bulldogs came a week after Creswick slumped to a five-point loss to Carngham-Linton. In the days after the defeat, the players and senior coach Len Watson had a heart-to-heart and pledged to turn things around.

One key change prior to the game against Daylesford was the return of Damian Lubeek. A Creswick local whose old man Laurence is a club legend, Lubeek played for North Ballarat in the VFL and Redan in the Ballarat league before returning to the ‘Wickers’ as coach for the 2011 season. He guided Creswick into the finals last year, then relinquished the coaching position due to work and family commitments.

Despite his lack of match-practice, Lubeek was listed as the ‘Wickers” third-best player in the big win over Daylesford. He was expected to suit-up again in Saturday’s game against Ballan, and if he plays most weeks Creswick will be well placed to make the finals for just the second time in 26 years.

”We’ve got a mostly young side, … but you never know what might be possible,” Considine said.

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.

Lads, it’s time for greater respect

When I was a schoolboy, the mums served afternoon tea at Friday afternoon footy games. The dads would file in, the ladies would hand out party pies and curry puffs and the captains would thank them in their speeches. Later, at club level, there were porn nights, footy trips and half-hearted initiations.
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Some coaches banned girlfriends from after-match functions – others would hit on your sister given a five-second window of opportunity. There were always wives, student physios and canteen mums. But it was a belching, clamorous and decidedly male bubble.

For anyone that’s played football, Anna Krien’s Night Games, which follows the rape trial of a young Victorian footballer, is concussing. Personally, there were regular flashes of recognition and an unremitting unease, one that occasionally morphed into shame.

It elicited a certain defensiveness too. It’s tempting to channel your inner Sam Newman and say Krien picked low-lying fruit – that she took the biggest game in town and ran with a sure-fire bestseller. It’s easy to say that this is a man’s game and that men need space – to bond and to let off steam. It’s easy to point out that coded conversations and male hierarchies are everywhere, whether it’s on construction sites or in corporate corridors of power. But there’s nothing easy about this book.

Unlike the film Blinder, which sought safer ground and made a right royal hash of it, Night Games treads the grey zone between rape and treating women like dirt. Though football is central to the narrative, it is jock culture that stands accused. Whether you’re a bunk-bedding basketballer in the Olympic village or a leg spinner with strand-by-strand plugs and a giant inflatable penis, the same themes apply. For sportspeople, they’re questions of entitlement, groupthink and a self-indulgent, Peter Pan existence.

I grew up with footy and for better and probably worse, it helped define me as a man. It both stunted and elevated me. It propped up my strut. It introduced me to my closest friends and to total scumbugs. I played football with and against hundreds of guys like Krien’s blank, unremarkable protagonist. In the dark recesses of my mind, I know I have put myself in similar positions to him, navigated similar grey zones.

Growing up, footballers weren’t exactly role models but their cultural clout was greater than today. It was a curious time for AFL footballers – an era when players embraced full-time professionalism while persisting with their herculean social lives. The stars were far more visible and subject to greater adulation than those of today. They were given carte blanche to pretty much do as they pleased. Many are now inclined to preach from the puritanical pulpit whenever a scandal breaks. Back then, their currency was the drink card. Men like John Elliot ran clubs and the two biggest on-field names were ”God” and ”The King”. The brightest off-field star was Ricky Nixon. All three would soon be revealed as all too human and all too male.

Potential draftees are now more carefully screened, better educated and on a tighter leash. The stars are essentially unknowable but come across as far more humble and grounded.

As fans, we are nonetheless tougher on them than ever before. Commentary has become tart and cynical. Supporters are less star-struck and more inclined to sledge and vent via social media. The fan base has also changed markedly. Whether it was born of commercial necessity or courtesy of their obsession with PR and sanitising the game, attracting more women has been one of the AFL’s great triumphs.

Increasingly, men and women attend matches, watch at bars and discuss the game at water coolers as equals. But footy always sleepwalks its way back to sexism. Witness the way the chief football writer of this newspaper is pilloried, the indignation when a woman dared enter the commentary box and the casual contempt for females on panel shows. The dearth of women in meaningful roles persists. The Footy Show, with its sneering, leering patriarch, splutters into its third decade. On Brownlow night, WAGS have been spun around a lazy susan and scrutinised like they’re at a yearling sale. Football, by virtue of its heft, swagger and blokey brio, is an easy target but a deserving one. The game has come a long way but it was miles behind to begin with.

As it currently grapples with everything from homophobia to tanking, Krien poses a more pressing question – how does an often brutal and very male game find a place for women, one that doesn’t stink of servitude and goes beyond mere bums on seats?

Night Games explores what young men and women struggle to articulate, what the legal system still cannot comprehend and what the AFL could never assuage with a snappy advert or commemorative round. For every superstar, club CEO, boundary rider, bar-propper and park footballer, it should be mandatory reading.

Jonathan Horn is a freelance writer.

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.

Players fend off rants over drugs

When, in 2005, the AFL Players Association agreed to have its players randomly tested for illicit drugs, it was permitting the opening of a Pandora’s box. The depth of mischief lying therein continues to emerge.
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At the time, there were strict limits to the process, the most fundamental being that – barring a third offence by a player within a four-year period – the identity of those returning positive tests would remain confidential.

Almost immediately there was outrage, much of it born of confusion. Other sports don’t conceal the identity of their drug offenders, went the stereotypical rant, why are AFL footballers being protected?

This, it’s now better – if not totally – understood, was to confuse the testing for illicit drugs with the global sporting practice of performance-enhancing drug-testing. But the three-strike aspect of the illicit drug code has continued to attract critics like bees to the proverbial honey pot. Jeff Kennett, as president of Hawthorn, trumpeted against it. He spoke of running any player found to have used illicit drugs out of his club.

Ironically, and sadly, it was Hawthorn’s Travis Tuck who was the first – and thus far only – player to record three strikes.

The then federal government of John Howard sought to smash the policy in 2007 but a pair of confused ministers, George Brandis and Christopher Pyne, were given short shrift at a meeting with AFL boss Andrew Demetriou. Beyond grandstanding politicians, World Anti-Doping Agency president John Fahey has described the three-strikes policy as soft and accused the AFL of setting a bad example. The prominent News Limited columnist, Patrick Smith, denounced from day one what he considers an overly liberal policy and is maintaining the rage eight years on.

The criticisms kept coming but, one by one, were stared down by the collective strength of the AFL and the players’ representative body. A deal was a deal – particularly one that permitted an invasion of individual privacy – and, as uncomfortable as the AFL may have been with the negative publicity, it couldn’t renege.

Lately the ante has again been raised. There have been suggestions of players abusing the self-reporting loophole, enabling them to avoid a strike by owning up before a positive test result was confirmed. Collingwood chief executive officer, Gary Pert, described the activity of some players during the off-season as ”volcanic”, thus adding a new word to football’s lexicon.

There was a summit, and – with the heat rising – the players’ association gave some ground. Curiously, given that Demetriou has said the self-reporting condition may have contributed to the saving of two lives, it has been tightened. It will now offer a player just one get-out-of-jail card in a career. Another modification allows for club CEOs to be given notification of the identity of players who appear to be behaving contrary to the spirit of the policy. Also, there will be more target testing and an increased level of hair testing of players during what is spoken of as the ”high risk” off-season.

As well as a three-strike policy the illicit drugs code has become a thin-end-of-the-wedge policy. With every passing year there comes pressure for the AFLPA to compromise further. There is no reciprocity in the deal and the politics are such that there is no escape. This makes it an evolving and recurring nightmare. Matt Finnis, the chief executive of the players’ body, must fear by now that the unceasing demands will only grow. And some he will have to accept.

His intractable problem is that the public’s understanding of the issue is limited and its response is emotional. It is based on revulsion towards one word and one issue: drugs. The widely held view is that any liberties granted to footballers, within a policy dedicated to the fight against drugs, is shameful. There is little, if any, recognition that the players made the code possible in the first place.

Season by season – and out of season too – the illicit drug code has been scrutinised and savaged. With Thursday’s release of figures showing a 400 per cent increase last year in positive tests (amplified by the previous year’s low base number), the rhetoric has again been ramped up. The recent joining of dots by Victoria Police Deputy Commissioner, Graham Ashton – of illicit drug use to organised crime to match-fixing – takes the pressure to a new level. Ashton’s view is that this link is a greater threat to the integrity of sport in Australia than the issue of performance-enhancing drugs.

If such a link was ever materially confirmed, the pressure on players to accept unqualified scrutiny on illicit drugs would be overwhelming. Given that the three-strike policy has never gained broad acceptance, imagine the problem if the public linked it to crime and the corruption of games.

That could conceivably be checkmate for Finnis and the players’ association . What was always a well-intentioned, but ill-considered, agreement may be nearing end game.

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.

Langford controls Rodan as Hawks down Casey

Will Langford has spent more time on the sidelines than on the footy field during his three seasons at Hawthorn but the father-son prospect became a notable improver during Box Hill’s rise in its 60-point win over the Casey Scorpions at Casey Fields on Saturday.
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Langford, the son of former Hawthorn champion defender Chris, followed his father, playing in defence, but has changed it up as part of the on-ball brigade this season.

Langford’s role on Saturday in quelling the influence of Melbourne veteran David Rodan was one of the many reasons Box Hill got on top in the second quarter.

The Hawks kicked eight unanswered goals before Dom Barry finally gave Casey a reprieve on the scoreboard. It was Box Hill’s most damaging 20 minutes of footy this season with Jed Anderson getting two of those goals.

But Langford, who has had a terrible run with injuries since arriving at the Hawks as a rookie, appears to be finally on the cusp of senior selection after a fine start to the season, according to development coach Damian Carroll.

“I think he’s as close as he’s ever been,” Carroll said.

Meanwhile, Collingwood’s upset 13-point win over Geelong at Victoria Park wasn’t a magic performance, according to coach Dale Tapping.

The win perhaps was a surprise because of the different methods both stand-alone clubs use the VFL format for. The Pies admittedly say that development is their large focus, while the Cats focus more on winning. Former Werribee Tiger Ben Moloney has been one of the X-factors for Collingwood this season and again was best on ground along with Jackson Paine.

In other matches, Port Melbourne won by 12-points over Essendon with Chris Cain following up on last year’s best on ground performance for Victoria. Werribee smashed Coburg by 89 points with Ben Brown and Ben Warren kicking five goals each, Northern Blues won by 44-points over North Ballarat and Sandringham won by 76-points over Bendigo.

VFL Sunday: Frankston v Williamstown, 2pm at Frankston Oval

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.

Beams out another month

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Collingwood star midfielder Dayne Beams’ return from a quad injury is expected to be delayed for at least a month, according to Pies development coach Dale Tapping.

Beams, who has spent the past two months recovering from a torn quad muscle, has only just returned to training. There had been speculation he would return next week.

“I’d probably think he’s [Beams] still about four or five weeks away,” Tapping said.

The extension of Beams’ time on the sidelines is a further blow for the Pies. Alex Fasolo has been ruled out for the season with a foot injury, while doubt surrounds Dale Thomas’ ankle injury.

In better news for the Pies on Saturday, defender Ben Johnson got through his return from a calf injury.

Tapping said the 32-year-old had 25 touches and played a stellar leadership role – along with Alan Didak and Ben Hudson – in Collingwood’s upset 13-point win over Geelong at Victoria Park.

Johnson had been a late withdrawal from the previous two VFL matches because of his calf.

“He’s just been a bit sore and like any of the older guys, you’ve just got to make sure they’re right to play,” Tapping said.

“It’s great to see him back playing and he did really well. Johnno, Dids and Huddo, being the three experienced guys we’ve got in the group … their leadership and influence among the group was really good.”

Didak, who was named as an emergency for Saturday night’s AFL match against the Cats, kicked three goals in the second half.

“Didak has been pretty good at VFL level, he’s got his body in good shape. I thought today he was good in the second half and he hit the scoreboard. He’s just a quality player,” Tapping said.

Geelong ruckman Nathan Vardy managed just one goal against the Pies, with defender Corey Gault playing impressively on him.

The return of Josh Walker from injury helped strengthen the Cats’ forward half.

Fellow tall forwards Mitch Brown and Shane Kersten kicked seven goals between them.

“I thought Nathan [Vardy] presented well at times but certainly some of our delivery into our forward line wasn’t too the best of our advantage,” the Cats’ VFL coach, Matthew Knights, said.

”I thought Corey did a good job because ‘Vards’ is a hard match-up.”

George Burbury played only the first half, acting as a carry-over player for the AFL clash.

■Hawthorn forward Jed Anderson was prolific for Box Hill in its 60-point win over the Casey Scorpions. Anderson made his return from a hamstring injury.

Hawthorn development coach Damian Carroll said: “He made an impact on the scoreboard, but just his energy around the ball and around the contest was terrific.

”He brought a lot of hardness and strength around the contest. He got through well.”

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