Big Demon looms large for Cats AFL clash

Melbourne are backing star ruckman Max Gawn to adapt and thrive no matter what Geelong throw at him at Etihad Stadium on Saturday.


Cats coach Chris Scott has tried a few different tactics as he looks to improve in the key area.

His side has been smashed in ruck contests over the first two rounds and are ranked 18th in the competition for hitouts.

Geelong didn’t bother to nominate a ruckman at times during their thrilling one-point win over North Melbourne, with Scott reacting by dropping Rhys Stanley in favour of former Gold Coast player Zac Smith.

Gawn, who has 77 hitouts on his own compared to the Cats’ 39 over the opening two games, looms as a key figure in the clash of undefeated sides.

“Maxy has worked really hard on his game … he wasn’t happy to just rest on his laurels,” Demons assistant coach Ben Mathews said of the 2016 All-Australian ruckman.

“He’s added some voice to his game and leads out on the park, which has become really significant for our group.

“It’s not by fluke that he keeps elevating his game.”

After wins against St Kilda and Carlton, Melbourne will face their biggest test of the season to date without banned pair Jesse Hogan and Jordan Lewis but regain Bernie Vince from suspension.

Key forward Tim Smith will play his first AFL game and Dean Kent is in for his first game of the season.

Melbourne will need to find a way to effectively counter the vaunted midfield double act of Patrick Dangerfield and Joel Selwood if they’re to get off to a 3-0 start for the first time since 2005.

“I think they complement each other very well and if you focus on one the other gets away,” Mathews said.

“So we’ll take a team approach on both of them.

“We’ve added some more midfield depth this year … and it’s going to be a big challenge for our whole midfield rather than just specific players who might line up on them at a stoppage.”

Geelong midfielders Sam Menegola and Cam Guthrie come in for their first games of the season, while elevated rookie James Parsons will debut.

NRL signs ominous for Roosters: Robinson

Two weeks after looking like NRL contenders, the signs are suddenly ominous for the Sydney Roosters.


Alarms bells are ringing for livid Roosters coach Trent Robinson afte a lacklustre defensive display in their 32-8 loss in Brisbane on Thursday night condemned his side to a second straight defeat.

Overall the Roosters missed a staggering 47 tackles – including 18 in the first 15 minutes.

A fortnight ago the Roosters looked every inch the pre-season favourites championed by bookmakers by starting the year with four straight wins.

Now Robinson doesn’t like what he sees at all.

“There were signs that I definitely didn’t like – that was poor,” he said of the five-tries-to-two loss at Suncorp Stadium.

“I haven’t seen that in a long time, even at training.

“Some signs were disappointing and we will have to change it pretty quickly.”

Asked about their missed tackle count, Robinson said: “I put it down to the Broncos playing really well and us being unacceptable the way we went about our tackling.”

Before the match, the Roosters had the league’s fourth best defensive unit after conceding less than 16 points a game in the first five rounds.

“It was frustrating when we pride ourselves on that sort of stuff,” Roosters co-captain Boyd Cordner said of their defensive display in Brisbane.

“The game was in the balance early in the second half but we beat ourselves with the missed tackles.

“We know that is nowhere near our best and we will have to turn it around quick smart.”

Defence is clearly a concern but Robinson also had a problem with their attack.

The Roosters are the only team not to have won a second half this season, losing their last 15 games while trailing at halftime.

Despite having just 35 per cent od possession in the first 15 minutes, the Roosters had locked up the scores at 8-8 by the 21st.

Five-eighth Luke Keary laid on two tries in four minutes combining with NSW Origin aspirant Mitchell Pearce to square the ledger.

They didn’t score again in the match, trailing 14-8 at halftime.

“I thought we handled them poorly early, they got the jump on us,” Robinson said of his side’s fourth consecutive loss in the Queensland capital.

“It was an open game and in the second half we couldn’t handle it.

“We couldn’t offer the same attack that we offered in the first half to get back into the game.”

Cyclone Debbie: The overall cost

The overall cost of Cyclone Debbie

– Queensland –


* Currently at five with three still missing.



* 650 residences in northern Qld ruled uninhabitable.

* 38 homes inundated by floodwaters in the southeast.

* Central Qld still bracing for worst flooding since 1954.

* 230,000 lost power.


* More than 1000 volunteers have registered to help residents in southeast Queensland whose homes were inundated by floodwaters.

* Emergency services and SES crews also remain on the ground.


* Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk estimates it to be in the billions.

* More than 25,000 applications for Immediate Hardship Assistance grants.

– NSW –


* Six


* Lismore, Tweed heads, Murwillumbah and Mullumbimby hardest hit.

* 1000 people were left stranded in the lower Richmond Valley.

* Evacuation order for Tumbulgum.

* Worst floods to hit northern NSW in 40 years.


* More than 500 emergency personnel still working on damage assessment.

* SES preparing to hand over clean-up coordination to local councils and NSW government as emergency subsides.


* Surpassed the $200 million mark this week, and is expected to rise.

– New Zealand –


* 0


* Widespread flooding on North Island.

* Thousands evacuated from their homes.

* 10,000 home without power in Auckland.


* State of emergency declared in two cities.

* Water pumps brought into Edgecumbe, which has been under water for two days.


* Still unknown

Insurance fraud syndicate allegedly rorting taxpayers $400m a year

NSW Police say they are stamping out an insurance-fraud syndicate cheating taxpayers and have issued a blunt warning for any past and potential fraudsters.


Detectives working at part of Strike Force Ravens, established last August, have executed a number of operations to crack down on the scheme, which involves reporting minor or fake crashes to insurance companies or police.

In Sydney’s south-west, police divers dragged a car believed to have been used in a scam from a river. Raids also took place on several offices in the western Sydney suburbs of Auburn and Bankstown.

Watch: NSW Police crack down on insurance fraud syndicate

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NSW Police detective superintendent Arthur Katsogiannis said police have uncovered documents and electronic-storage devices that will be forensically examined.

“Through our investigation, we’ve identified a very sophisticated, organised criminal syndicate who are involved in defrauding the CTP (Compulsory Third Party) scheme, the taxpayers of New South Wales and the NSW Government,” Mr Katsogiannis told reporters outside Gladesville Police Station.

“It costs the economy millions of dollars every year.”

Claims often include post-traumatic stress disorder, soft-tissue damage, and injuries to young children.

Costly rort

Police say it is a 400 million dollar a year scheme. NSW Finance Minister Victor Dominello added that costs people $75 for every premium they pay.

“The way that the scheme has been in place for over 16 years means that the scheme design favoured the fraudsters because they could get away with it,” he said during the joint press conference.

NSW Finance Min @VictorDominello & @nswpolice speak about $400m CTP insurance scams. @SBSNews pic.twitter长沙桑拿按摩论坛,/JB4qT06NK0

— Omar Dabbagh (@Omar_Dabbagh) April 7, 2017

NSW has a unique system where drivers go through a private insurance company for their compulsory third party insurance. Mr Dominello said the new state government wants to change the system.

“This reform is seriously one of the biggest reforms to green slips that you’ve seen in probably two decades. And you will see a reduction in the premiums by the end of the year as a result of the reforms passed by the Berejiklian government,” he said.

“The reform that the government brought into place in the last few weeks will bring an end to insurer super profits. We have now provided the regulator with far more powers to essentially claw back insurer super profits.”

Who are involved?

Dodgy doctors and lawyers have been blamed for being complicit. But Detective Superintendent Katsogiannis refused to confirm reports asylum seekers were involved.

“We don’t discriminate against any ethnic backgrounds. We are guided purely by what the evidence tells us,” he said.

“It doesn’t matter what the ethnicity (is). We’re not targeting ethnic backgrounds. We’re targeting individuals and criminal syndicates ripping off the CTP scheme. That’s our priority.”

Police have also insisted insurance companies be more diligent when claims are made. Many arrests in the coming weeks are expected.


Russia, Iran condemn US strike on Syria

Russia and Iran have condemned a US strike on a Syrian airbase as Australia, Britain and Turkey gave their support, with Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull calling it a “proportionate” response to the use of chemical weapons.


US President Donald Trump ordered missile strikes against a Syrian airfield from which a deadly chemical weapons attack was launched, declaring he acted in America’s “vital national security interest”.

In a sharp escalation of the US military role in Syria, two US warships fired dozens of cruise missiles from the eastern Mediterranean Sea at the airbase controlled by President Bashar al-Assad’s forces in response to the poison gas attack in a rebel-held area on Tuesday, US officials said.

Russian President Vladimir Putin believes the strikes broke international law and seriously damaged US-Russia relations, news agencies cited the Kremlin as saying on Friday.

Iran denounced the “destructive and dangerous” strike, the Students News Agency ISNA quoted a Foreign Ministry spokesman as saying.

“Iran strongly condemns any such unilateral strikes … Such measures will strengthen terrorists in Syria … and will complicate the situation in Syria and the region,” ISNA quoted Bahram Qasemi as saying.

Britain gave its backing.

“The UK government fully supports the US action, which we believe was an appropriate response to the barbaric chemical weapons attack launched by the Syrian regime and is intended to deter further attacks,” a government spokesman said.

Turnbull said the strikes sent “a vitally important message” that the world would not tolerate the use of chemical weapons.

“The retribution has been proportionate and it has been swift,” he told reporters in Sydney. “We support the United States in that swift action.”

Turnbull called on Russia to do more to ensure peace in Syria.

Turkey viewed the strikes positively and the international community should sustain its stance against the “barbarity” of the Syrian government, Deputy Prime Minister Numan Kurtulmus said.

In an interview with Turkish broadcaster Fox TV, Kurtulmus said Assad’s government must be fully punished in the international arena and the peace process in Syria needed to be accelerated.

French Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault said Russia and Iran needed to understand that supporting Assad made no sense and that the escalation of the US military role in Syria was a “warning” to “a criminal regime”.

“Use of chemical weapons is appalling and should be punished because it is a war crime,” Ayrault told Reuters and France Info radio in the Mauritanian capital, Nouakchott, where he is on a diplomatic visit.

$A firming, bonds cool after Syria strike

The Australian dollar is recovering from a sharp dive and bonds price are easing back from strong rallies as calm returns to markets following the US military missile strike on Syria.


The local unit was sitting at 75.30 cents at 1530 AEDT on Friday, from 75.38 cents before the news broke at about 1100.

News of the attack shook the markets with traders selling off the risky Aussie and piling into safe-haven assets like bonds.

By 1211 the currency had plummeted to a one-month low of 75.17 US cents.

Westpac senior currency strategist Sean Callow said the market hadn’t expected the attack on a Syrian airbase as US President Donald Trump had been dining with Chinese President Xi-Jinping when it occurred.

“The markets weren’t ready for the dinner to be wrapped up quickly so the missiles could be fired,” he told AAP.

“The swing in Trump’s rhetoric (about Syria) wasn’t expected either.”

Meanwhile, local bond prices turned in the opposite direction, hitting their highest levels since rolling over in December.

By noon on Friday the June 2017 10-year bond futures contract had jumped to 97.445 (implying a yield of 2.555pct), while the June 2017 3-year bond futures contract was up at 98.210 (1.790pct).

However, the bond contracts had eased back to 97.430 and 98.190, respectively, by 1530 AEST.

National Australia Bank senior currency analyst Rodrigo Catril said the Australian dollar and bond prices would likely remain under pressure amid uncertainty about what President Trump’s plans are for Syria and more importantly how Syria’s ally Russia would respond to the attack.

“The best outcome for the Aussie right now is that Russia doesn’t step in,” Mr Catril said.

ThinkMarkets senior market analyst Matt Simpson noted that even before the attack the Aussie had been drifting lower amid investor concerns over the domestic economy, particularly the housing market, bank lending, high household debt and weak employment.

“The Australian Dollar has already been under broad pressure this week after their central bank (RBA) expressed further concerns over financial stability and weaker employment,” he said in a note.

Wave of attacks across southern Thailand after new constitution signed

Bomb blasts were among 23 coordinated attacks that rocked Muslim-majority southern Thailand early on Friday, a security officer said, just hours after King Maha Vajiralongkorn signed a new constitution as a step towards ending military rule.


Police reported no casualties in the region, site of a recent upsurge in a decades-old Muslim separatist insurgency that had voted the most strongly against the new constitution at a referendum last year.

“The incidents are aimed to create disturbances,” Pramote Prom-in, a spokesman for regional security forces, told Reuters. “They want to destroy the government’s credibility and create fear among people.”

There was no immediate claim of responsibility and security forces said they could not yet identify which insurgent group was to blame.

The attacks were scattered across 19 districts in the southern region, grouping the provinces of Yala, Pattani and Narathiwat, and the nearby province of Songkhla, he said.


A large number of co-ordinated attacks in the region is unusual. Complete details were not immediately available, but they ranged from bomb explosions at 52 electricity poles, triggering widespread regional power cuts, to several tyre-burning incidents, Pramote added.

On Thursday, Thailand’s king signed into law a military-backed constitution, an essential step towards an election the ruling junta has promised will restore democracy after the 12th successful coup in little over 80 years.

The new constitution is the Southeast Asian country’s 20th since the end of absolute monarchy in 1932, and critics say it will still give the generals a powerful say over Thai politics for years, if not decades.

Voters in the most heavily Muslim parts of Thailand were among the few to reject the draft constitution in last year’s referendum.

The timing of the attacks just hours after the constitution was proclaimed was curious, said Defence Minister Prawit Wongsuwan, but there was no conclusive evidence it was a motive.

A Malay Muslim separatist insurgency in the three southern provinces has killed more than 6,500 since it escalated in 2004, independent monitoring group Deep South Watch says.

On Monday, police reported what they called the biggest insurgent attack in the south in years, when about 30 people fired more than 500 shots into a police booth.

In February, the government of the Buddhist-majority country struck a deal with MARA Patani, an umbrella group that says it speaks for the insurgents, but other separatists rejected it. 

Watch: Thailand’s dangerous and divided south

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Trump, Xi begin key first talks in Florida

They are the leaders of the world’s two biggest economic powers, and they have sharply different visions and personalities.


As United States president Donald Trump sat down for dinner with Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping, he told the waiting media it was the beginning of a special relationship.

“It’s an honour to have you in the United States. We’ve had a long discussion already. And, so far, I have gotten nothing, absolutely nothing. But we have developed a friendship, I can see that. And I think, long-term, we’re going to have a very, very great relationship, and I look very much forward to it.”

But just a few hours earlier aboard his Air Force One presidential plane, Mr Trump was more than a little less cordial in tone amid the static.

“We have been treated unfairly and have made terrible deals, trade deals, with China for many, many years. So that’s one of the things we’ll be talking about. The other thing, of course, is going to be North Korea. And, somehow, they will mix. They really do mix.”

It is being called the most consequential meeting of Donald Trump’s presidency so far.

Just a few kilometres away from his Mar-a-Lago resort in the state of Florida, where the talks are being held, Chinese imports continue to be unloaded from container ships.

But the amount of US goods going the other way is not anywhere near as much, prompting Mr Trump to threaten to introduce tariffs – which could spark a trade war.

The mayor of local Miami-Dade County, Carlos Gimenez, says that needs to be avoided.

“The President would like to see more of a balance in the exports and imports, but I don’t think we’re going to get into a trading war with China. Again, it would not be good for the United States, and it wouldn’t be good for China either.”

A director of the Washington-based research centre the Brookings Institution, Thomas Wright, says some members of the Trump administration have conflicting views about China.

He points, in particular, to Donald Trump’s chief strategist, Steve Bannon, and secretary of state Rex Tillerson.

“Steve Bannon, in particular, believes that China’s only succeeded economically at the expense of the United States, and President Trump has sort of said very similar things. And that view, and the idea that the US only really succeeds if China fails economically, is a pretty fringe view and, I think, would have grave consequences for the global economy and for the US economy. So that’s a risk. But Secretary Tillerson and some others are sort of making more of a case for engagement and a more traditional and balanced approach.”

It is an approach Mr Tillerson once again adopted ahead of President Xi’s arrival.

“Today will be a time to exchange candid views on the nature of the US-China relationship, and we look forward to additional discussions in the future on topics of mutual importance. As President Trump has said, the chief goal of our trade policies is the prosperity of the American worker. To that end, we will pursue economic engagement with China that prioritises the economic wellbeing of the American people.”

As for foreign policy, another pressing issue shared between China and the United States is the instability coming out of North Korea.

Mr Trump says China should be doing more to discourage Kim Jong-un’s nuclear program and has even threatened to deal with North Korea alone if he has to.

The Brookings Institution’s Johnathan Pollack warns that would not be a wise move.

“We’re going to do a lot better at it if we are doing this in conjunction with China and with the Republic of Korea than if we’re trying to do it separately.”

But Zhao Tong, from Beijing’s Carnegie-Tsinghua Centre, says he believes, while President Xi has little trust in Kim Jong-un, he has even less for President Trump.

“China believes that the US is using North Korea as an excuse to deploy aggressive, strategic military assets close to China and is using those military assets to contain China militarily.”

The official talks are set to begin later tonight.


Pint-sized Crow looms large for Port

Port Adelaide coach Ken Hinkley hasn’t had any volunteers to stand Adelaide dangerman Eddie Betts in their top of the ladder showdown on Saturday.


“They’re not really queuing up for that job. I don’t blame them,” Hinkley told reporters on Friday.

The 172cm-tall Betts will be the smallest player on Adelaide Oval when the arch rivals meet but he looms largest in Hinkley’s pre-game plotting.

The brilliant Crows forward has revelled in Showdowns since crossing from Carlton – in six games against Port, he’s kicked 24 goals, only once being held to three or less majors.

Betts and his Adelaide attacking colleagues formed the highest-scoring side last season and have shown no signs of slowing down in two wins this season – the Crows recorded 147 points in round one and 113 last start.

“We have spent a lot of time thinking about Eddie … and Tex (Taylor Walker) and all the boys up there,” Hinkley said.

“They are a great forward line group. We know what we’re up against. We know how challenging it will be.”

Yet Hinkley resisted any temptation to summon experienced defenders Jasper Pittard and Nathan Krakouer for their first AFL games of the fresh season.

Instead, Hinkley recalled half-back Hamish Hartlett from illness to replace injured defender Jack Hombsch (knee).

“We have got great faith in the young blokes that have been out there playing at the moment,” Hinkley said.

“And we get to bring Hamish back in, a really important and experienced player.

“We are happy with the way that (defensive) group have been performing so we feel less disruption is best.”

US missiles hit Syria over Chemical attack

The United States has fired cruise missiles at a Syrian airbase from which it said a deadly chemical weapons attack had been launched this week, the first direct US assault on the government of Bashar al-Assad in six years of civil war.


US President Donald Trump ordered the step his predecessor Barack Obama never took: directly targeting Assad’s military with air strikes in punishment for the chemical weapons attack, which killed at least 70 people, many of them children.

That catapulted the United States into a confrontation with Russia, which has military advisers on the ground assisting its close ally Assad.

“Years of previous attempts at changing Assad’s behaviour have all failed and failed very dramatically,” Trump said as he announced the attack from his Florida resort, Mar-a-Lago, where he was meeting Chinese President Xi Jinping.

“Even beautiful babies were cruelly murdered in this very barbaric attack,” he said of Tuesday’s chemical weapons strike, which Western countries blame on Assad’s forces. “No child of God should ever suffer such horror.”

The swift action is likely to be interpreted as a signal to Russia, and also to other countries such as North Korea, China and Iran where Trump has faced foreign policy tests early in his presidency.

The Syrian army said the US attack killed six people at its air base near the city of Homs. It called the attack “blatant aggression” and said it made the US a “partner” of “terrorist groups” including Islamic State. Homs Governor Talal Barazi told Reuters the death toll was seven.

A spokesman for Russian President Vladimir Putin said the strike had seriously damaged ties between Washington and Moscow. Putin, a staunch ally of Assad, regarded the US action as “aggression against a sovereign nation” on a “made-up pretext”, spokesman Dmitry Peskov said.

Russian television showed craters and rubble at the site of the airbase and said nine aircraft had been destroyed.

US officials said they had taken pains to ensure Russian troops were not killed, warning Russian forces in advance and avoiding striking parts of the base where Russians were present.

Western allies of the US spoke out in support of the decision to launch the strikes. Several countries said they were notified in advance, but none had been asked to take part.

US officials and allies described the attack as a one-off that would not lead to further escalation. It signalled Trump’s determination to take “decisive action”, US officials said.

For years, Washington has backed rebel groups fighting against Assad in a complex multi-sided civil war under way since 2011 that has killed more than 400,000 people. The war has driven half of Syrians from their homes, creating the world’s worst refugee crisis.

The United States has been conducting air strikes against Islamic State militants who control territory in eastern and northern Syria, and a small number of US troops are on the ground assisting anti-Islamic State militias. But until now, Washington has avoided direct confrontation with Assad.

Russia, meanwhile, joined the war on Assad’s behalf in 2015, action that decisively turned the momentum of the conflict in the Syrian government’s favour.