Benji starts bright in new code

Benji Marshall has made an encouraging start to his Super Rugby career, getting through 40 minutes for the Blues in his first game of rugby union in more than a decade.
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The former West Tigers and Kiwis rugby league star played the opening two quarters at five-eighth in the Blues’ 38-35 pre-season loss to the Hurricanes on Saturday in Masterton.There was no sign of nerves from Marshall, who distributed the ball well, made the odd run at the line and took on the responsibility of re-starts and kicking for touch.Marshall tried his trademark sidestep once – and met the considerable force of Hurricanes flanker Ardie Savea – but mostly, he was content sticking to basics and getting a feel for his new position.

‘‘I didn’t set the game on fire but, in terms of trying to get control and feel for playing 10, everything I wanted to get I got out of it,’’ said a happy Marshall.‘‘It wasn’t about being the best player on the field. It was just trying to get through what we practised and get a feel for the game.’’

Marshall didn’t shy away in defence, although he failed to hold on to Tim Bateman in the build-up to the Hurricanes’ third try. He even opted to get stuck into a couple of rucks, with mixed results.

Blues coach John Kirwan was pleased with Marshall’s first hitout and ruled out a switch to fullback.

‘‘I think (first-five) is his position,’’ said Kirwan. ‘‘He certainly put his hand up today so we’ll put him out there again next week and we’ll just keep working on him. It was a good start.’’

The match, in front of a sold-out crowd of 6000, was an entertaining one, which produced 11 tries – six for the Hurricanes and five for the Blues.

The Blues recovered from a 19-0 deficit to lead 21-19 at halftime, and 35-24 at three-quarter time, but more direct running from the Hurricanes in the final spell produced the rewards and lock James Broadhurst scored the winning try with eight minutes to go.

AAP

Fatal crash closes Sturt Highway near Hay

SUNDAY 12.30pm:THE condition of a female involved in yesterday’s horror crash near Hay is improving.
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Initial reports indicated the passenger was taken to Hay Hospital with life-threatening injuries.

She has since been transferred to Griffith Base Hospital, where a spokeswoman said she remained in a stable condition.

Police are yet to provide any further information aboutthe crash and the ages of all involved remain unknown.

The Sturt Highway reopened shortly before 1am this morning.

The scene of a fatal crash between a car and truck on the Sturt Highway east of Hay. The accident, which occurred shortly before 5pm on Saturday forced the closure of the highway. Picture: Daisy Huntly

The scene of a fatal crash between a car and truck on the Sturt Highway east of Hay. The accident, which occurred shortly before 5pm on Saturday forced the closure of the highway. Picture: Daisy Huntly

The scene of a fatal crash between a car and truck on the Sturt Highway east of Hay. The accident, which occurred shortly before 5pm on Saturday forced the closure of the highway. Picture: Daisy Huntly

The crash scene near Hay. Pic: Daisy Huntly

The crash scene near Hay. Pic: Daisy Huntly

The crash scene near Hay. Pic: Daisy Huntly

SATURDAY 9pm:A FEMALE is deadand another is fighting for their life after a car and truck collided near Hay this afternoon.

Emergency services were called to the crash on the Sturt Highway, about 10km east of Hay, just before 5pm.

A female passenger of the sedan died at the scene.

Another female passenger was taken to Hay Hospital with life-threatening injuries, while the male driver suffered minor injuries.

Their ages are not yet known.

The truck driver was not injured but taken to hospital to undergo mandatory blood and urine testing.

Police from Deniliquin Local Area Command have launched an investigation into the crash and are appealing for any witnesses to come forward.

The highway is still closed in both directions.

SATURDAY 5.30pm:The Sturt Highway is closed in both directions 10km east of Hay due to a serious car and truck accident.

Westbound motorists can detour via Murrumbidgee River Road, then take the Mid Western Highway to Hay to then rejoin the Sturt Highway.

Eastbound motorists are advised to use the Mid Western Highway to Goolgowi, then take the Kidman Way to Griffith to then rejoin the Sturt Highway.

Emergency services are on site working to clear the accident and reopen the highway.

There is no forecast at this stage as to when the highway will be reopened.

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Who is the Labor candidate, asks Jay Weatherill

IN an embarrassing moment for embattledSouth Australian Premier Jay Weatherill, the Labor leader admitted while in in Crystal Brook on Saturdayhedidn’t know who the local Labor candidate was for theMarch 15 state election.
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The seat, seen as crucial for Labor to retain office, is to becontested by candidate Marcus Connelly, the nephew of a late former Speaker inthe Don Dunstan era.

MrWeatherillwas visiting a command station for the Country FireService atCrystal Brook,near Port Pirie, when hewasasked by Fairfax Media aboutMrConnelly’s absence.

He replied: “Who isMarcus Connelly?”

After being told he was the local candidate MrWeatherillcontinuedthat hewas on a “flying visit so we’re justpopping in here”.

He praised the dedication and skill of firefighters involvedin the marathon Bangor blaze then inspected the incident control room.

When he emerged the said to the Premierhe was surprised he didn’tknow who the candidate was. MrWeatherillsmiled and said “yes”.

He said Mr Connelly was probably not available and reiterated thathe was “just coming through this big area”.

Later, talking to another reporter, MrWeatherillmentioned that theLabor Party was seeking to promote “our Labor Partycandidate” but did not mention Mr Connelly by name.

Earlier, when contacted by Fairfax Media, Mr Connelly said he wasunaware of the Premier’s visit.

This incident comes barely 24 hours after Mr Weatherill said he was prepared to do “whatever it takes” to present a unified government ahead of the March 15 state election.

The newly-created ‘faceless man’ in Port Pirie politics, Marcus Connelly said he was ‘disappointed’ that the Premier had not known who he was.

“I can understand that he is extremely busy and that there are a lot of new candidates, but that is disappointing,” he said.

“He has probably only met me once.

“Coming through my region, he should have some idea who the Labor candidate is.

South Australian Premier Jay Weatherill.

“I had a phone call about it later in the day. To be fair to them, there was a courtesy phone call.”

Labor candidate Marcus Connelly

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Voter fatigue won’t dull Labor’s chances of Griffith victory

If anyone in Australia can lay claim to a solid case of voter fatigue, it’s the good burghers of Griffith.
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On Saturday, many in the electorate will be voting in their fifth election in less than two years.

”Intuitively, it must fatigue voters,” said Paul Williams, a Queensland political expert and senior lecturer at Griffith University.

”It must … have a dampening effect on people’s enthusiasm to engage electorally.”

Granted, two of those elections – the 2012 Brisbane City Council poll and the byelection in retiring premier Anna Bligh’s seat of South Brisbane – fell on April 28.

But both those came hot on the heels of the March 2012 state election and, since then, there has been last year’s federal election.

”Given that areas within Griffith are generally heavily populated with university students, people with at least one degree and possibly double degrees, or have high incomes, you’d expect voter fatigue to be less of a problem than it would be in more outlying areas on the fringes of the city,” Williams said.

”There’s no doubt there will be some people in Griffith who won’t turn out on polling day, despite having turned out last year in the general election, simply because they’re over politics.”

The Griffith byelection will be the first real test of leadership for both Prime Minister Tony Abbott and Opposition Leader Bill Shorten.

But it is also a hard electorate to pigeonhole, with a demographic ranging from young, broke share-houses to some of Brisbane’s most wealthy.

Based on last year’s election results, the north-west of Griffith is Glasson heartland. He easily outpolled former prime minister Kevin Rudd in the affluent suburbs along the eastern stretch of the Brisbane River, such as Hawthorne, Bulimba and Balmoral, despite (or perhaps because of) Rudd’s signature appearances along the famed Oxford Street cafe strip. That is offset by the southern and western parts of the electorate, such as Dutton Park, Carina and bohemian West End, which are firmly in the red column.

Williams is hardly Robinson Crusoe in predicting a Labor victory.

With Labor winning each of the aforementioned elections, not many are rating the LNP’s chances. Indeed, one online booking company has Labor’s Terri Butler at almost even money to win, with an ALP victory paying just $1.08 last week.

History suggests those odds are justified.

The last – and only – time a federal government has gained a seat from an opposition in a byelection was in Kalgoorlie, Western Australia, in 1920. This, coupled with some missteps by the new government has many observers thinking Glasson’s best chance came and went last September.

”The Abbott government hasn’t got a record to run on. It’s got four months of accidents,” Williams said. ”It hasn’t got anything it can point to, to say ‘This is what we’ve done since the election.”’

But don’t tell Glasson’s supporters that. Campaign insiders point to Griffith’s moderate nature and are predicting a very close race, perhaps even a narrow Glasson victory, by as much as 1.5 per cent.

”Griffith isn’t a Labor or a Liberal electorate, it’s a moderate electorate,” said a source on the Glasson campaign.

It was that moderation, he said, that made Rudd, a member of the middle-of-the-road Labor Unity faction, so popular with voters within the electorate.

”When all is said and done, I think this is a toss-up. It won’t be the walkover that’s been suggested by many.”

While Williams agrees the final margin may be tighter than expected, he pours water on the Glasson optimism.

”Clearly the Labor brand is not as damaged as people suspected and that’s been reflected in a couple of federal polls,” he said.

”My argument has long been that the Labor brand wasn’t the problem. It was the Gillard/Rudd feud that was the problem. Take those two actors out and a lot of the damage has been repaired.”

Williams is tipping a swing towards the ALP that, given the party’s existing 3 per cent margin, would result in a solid victory for Butler – and Shorten.

But Glasson isn’t going down without a fight. It was hard to fault his performance in the general election, or his impressive grassroots campaign.

But there have been some subtle differences. LNP headquarters has taken more control of this campaign. Media queries are directed through party HQ, which is a departure from last year when the candidate handled most queries himself. That increased control of head office has also been felt by campaign staff and volunteers on the ground.

Things have changed on the Labor side, too. The ALP is taking the fight to Glasson much more aggressively that it did last year. And having a candidate on the ground for the duration of the campaign, as opposed to Rudd who jetted across the country in his role as prime minister, does tend to sharpen a campaign’s focus.

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Lead-footers hit the highway in NT

Low traffic: Peter Styles said there were no speeding deaths on the highway for 10 years. Photo: David McCowen Peter and Chris Jackson with their Aston Martin V8 Vantage on the Stuart Highway. Photo: David McCowen
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Northern Territory police have hit out at drivers who exceeded 200km/h during the first hours of a trial of open speed limits.

The territory has removed speed limits on a stretch of the Stuart Highway north of Alice Springs as part of a 12-month study. The road was not subject to speed limits until 2007, when 130km/h maximums were introduced.

Northern Territory Transport Minister Peter Styles said he had not seen any irresponsible drivers on the highway but was disappointed when told people had driven at more than 250km/h on public roads.

”This is a long section of road with very low traffic volumes,” he said.

”This road is not an autobahn. If people want to do those speeds, then I suggest they go to Germany.”

Mr Styles said the road was selected for a trial without speed limits because it ”has not had speed-related deaths on it for a 10-year period”.

Assistant Commissioner Jamie Chalker, of Northern Territory police, said increased patrols would operate in the trial zone.

”We will be encouraging people to drive safely, to drive to the conditions,” he said. ”Don’t try to push the boundaries … we will not accept stupidity on our road. Please do not come here to treat this as a racetrack. Don’t treat this as a place to drive recklessly.”

Critics of the trial, including the Transport Workers Union and the Australian Automobile Association, say it increases risk and will threaten life on the roads.

Fairfax Media spotted several high-performance machines on the stretch of road at the start of the trial, including a classic Ferrari F355, a supercharged Chrysler coupe and a 1000cc Yamaha superbike.

Dozens of motorists hit a 200-kilometre section of the road in the first hours of the trial on Saturday, including Aston Martin owners Peter and Chris Jackson.

”It was beautiful,” Mr Jackson said. ”The car was built for it so I pushed it over 250km/h. I’ll have to go home and wash the bugs off it now.”

Alice Springs residents have been split by the decision to trial open speed limits.

Gary Partridge used to work in roadhouses in the bush and said it was ”about bloody time” the government reinstated open limits.

”No one really speeds on that road anyway, most people do 130 or 140km/h,” he said.

Other residents said they appreciated being given the opportunity to decide what was responsible on the road.

But many do not support the trial, including Rob Manning, a travelling salesman who spends many hours on outback roads.

”I used to drive on that road when it was on an open speed limit … many times over 200km/h,” he said. ”But I don’t agree with it – 130km/h is enough.”

Richard Giltrap drives 50-metre-long triple road trains out of Alice Springs, often having to avoid ”idiots on the road”.

”They overtake when it is unsafe all the time,” he said. ”[The trial] shouldn’t happen, shouldn’t be allowed … There will be one accident and that will be the end of [it].”

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What went wrong with the Nintendo Wii U?

With sales of more than 100 million, Nintendo’s original Wii easily won the last round of the console wars. Like Mario jumping over a man-eating flower, the Wii’s sales leapfrogged both the Playstation 3 and Xbox 360, ushering in a golden age of mainstream gaming. Key to this success was the revolutionary Wii remote, a gesture-based controller that removed the complex controls of other consoles. Combined with a family-friendly range of games, it captured the imagination of the masses, from six-year-old girls to 60-year-old grandfathers. So how did Nintendo get it so wrong with the Wii’s successor, the Wii U, which has crashed and burned like an out-of-control Mario Kart?
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Released in November 2012, early sales of the Wii U were strong despite a relatively soft range of launch titles. The first shipments quickly sold out, but the happy story ended there with sales rapidly declining. The Wii U sold a mere 2.8 million units in the whole of 2013 – less than the new Sony PlayStation 4 and Microsoft Xbox One sold in just two months. It’s also a fraction of the number of original Wiis sold over the same length of time when it was first released.

As a result, Nintendo’s share price has taken a beating, profit fell 30 per cent, and top company executives have taken major pay cuts. The Wii U is in dire straits. Even Nintendo’s president Satoru Iwata – whose salary has been halved – hasn’t beaten about the bush, admitting the company’s sales suffered ”a huge gap from their targets”.

Issues have included the Wii U’s name, which sounds very similar to Nintendo’s earlier console, and an advertising campaign that failed to convey the Wii U was actually a new console. Many gamers mistakenly believed the Wii U was just a new controller for the older Wii.

According to Marla Fitzsimmons, marketing manager at Nintendo Australia, the company quickly realised this. “One of the challenges was to explain to consumers that Wii U was a new console and new controller, and not just a controller for Wii.”

The biggest physical difference is the new gamepad, which combines a standard control pad with a large touchscreen. While the Wii U still uses the Wii remotes, the new gamepad is central to the Wii U experience and requires the dexterity of an experienced gamer on twin control sticks and buttons. Many see this as the biggest flaw of Wii U, reintroducing the barrier the original Wii successfully removed.

But Nintendo doesn’t see it that way. When asked if upcoming games would place emphasis on the remotes instead of the gamepad, Fitzsimmons says: “Our job continues to be to get out there to consumers and show them the entertainment and fun that the Wii U offers, and that includes showing them all the great things you can do with the gamepad.”

It appears mainstream gamers will need to adapt to the gamepad if they hope to enjoy upcoming games, but with so few Wii U consoles out there, software publishers are loathe to invest. Electronic Arts announced an “unprecedented relationship” with Nintendo at the launch of the Wii U, but a year later had no Wii U titles in development. Key 2013 titles from other publishers, such as BioShock Infinite, Grand Theft Auto V and Tomb Raider, all skipped the Wii U. This leaves Nintendo relying on its internal studios to deliver the bulk of Wii U games. But based on known releases for 2014, it seems Nintendo plans on releasing fewer games than it did in 2013.

Despite this, Fitzsimmons claims 2014 will see a resurgence in sales resulting from games sales, saying that “we feel there’s more momentum with the upcoming line-up”. Australia’s top physical gaming retailer EB Games echoed this, saying “Nintendo is definitely stepping up to the plate when it comes to the software on offer”.

Now that the Playstation 4 and Xbox One are available – both delivering raw performance exponentially more powerful than the Wii U, and both selling like hot cakes – Nintendo faces an even tougher time as casual gamers flock to the increasingly high quality games offered on smartphones and tablets.

Nintendo HQ in Japan is responding with a management shake-up and share buy-back, while Nintendo Australia remains slightly more optimistic. ”Our upcoming line-up is incredibly strong,” Fitzsimmons says. ”We feel that the Wii U is in a much better position in 2014.”

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Smart light bulbs: Belkin v Philips

Plugged in: Philips’ smart light bulbs.The simple light bulb is looking like the cornerstone of the smart home, with the ability to turn your lights on from across the room or around the world.
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At the recent Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, Belkin unveiled its new WeMo LED light bulbs as part of its home automation range, while Philips touted its latest BR30 downlight bulb.

These smart light bulbs are designed to work with a normal light socket, although the Philips Hue is only available with a screw fitting (you can buy bayonet adaptors). The Belkin bulbs will be available with either bayonet or screw fittings.

Both support the ZigBee short range wireless protocol, which looks destined to become the backbone of home automation and is already built into some smart meters. Both starter kits come with a central ZigBee hub which connects the lights to your home Wi-Fi network, letting you control them from your Android and Apple gadgets.

The new Philips Hue BR30 is a 630-lumen downlight, joining the original 600-lumen Philips Hue bulbs. You can choose from millions of colours to suit any mood, set timers, use GPS-based geofencing and take advantage of the If This Then That online automation service.

You can’t adjust the colour of the 800-lumen Belkin bulbs. Their selling point is tight integration into the Belkin WeMo ecosystem which already includes smart light switches, power adaptors and motion detectors. You can also set timers and tap into If This Then That.

The writer travelled to Las Vegas as a guest of LG.

The verdict

Philips’ coloured lights are great for setting the mood but Belkin’s wider WeMo ecosystem makes it the more practical choice for people looking to really embrace home automation.

Belkin$US129 (2 bulbs + hub)belkin南京夜网/au

Philips$US199 (3 bulbs + hub)philips南京夜网.au

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AFL drafts top crime fighter

Veteran detective Gerry Ryan. Photo: Jason SouthThe AFL has recruited one of Victoria’s highest-ranking detectives to work as an anti-corruption investigator as part of a major revamp of its integrity department.
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He is expected to work in the areas of match fixing, illegal betting, improper associations, supplement abuse, and performance-enhancing drug use and trafficking.

The move comes as professional sports in Australia have been targeted by international illegal betting syndicates as potential areas for expansion, and follows warnings from the Australian Crime Commission that some codes are vulnerable to corruption.

Detective Superintendent Gerry Ryan from Victoria Police’s crime department will move to the AFL with a brief to liaise with Australian and international law-enforcement agencies that specialise in sports-related crime.

He oversaw last year’s investigation into allegations that a series of Melbourne soccer games were fixed as part of an international betting scam. It resulted in six arrests.

The appointment is part of an investment by the AFL in anti-corruption measures following the Essendon supplements scandal that immersed the competition in controversy throughout the 2013 season.

New measures put in place include:

■Bans on injecting players other than for a specific medical condition.

■Tougher gambling restrictions for AFL players and officials.

■Broader integrity examinations for club officials and employees.

■Bans on undesirables from entering changing rooms and coaches’ boxes.

■Mandatory reporting of anti-doping claims.

■Witness protection rules.

■Wider anti-tanking rules.

Superintendent Ryan, a 40-year police veteran, has long been involved in top-level football and has been president of VFL club Sandringham since 2006. He will resign that post with his AFL appointment.

He told Fairfax Media: ”We have seen from what has happened around the world that sport is at risk. People said match fixing would never reach Australia, but we know with the recent soccer investigation that it has.

”Asian betting is massive and Australia sits in a vulnerable position because of time zones.

”I am looking forward to working with the AFL’s integrity team to protect the game and the industry.

”The supporters need to have faith in the standards maintained in the competition.”

Australian Football League general counsel Andrew Dillon said Superintendent Ryan’s investigative skills and experience would be strong assets in the integrity area.

”Gerard Ryan is uniquely suited to this important role. He has a deep understanding of the Australian football environment and also an intimate knowledge of the risks that Australian sport faces from corruption, drugs and organised crime,” Mr Dillon said.

”In addition to many significant achievements at Victoria Police, he was more recently senior investigating officer in Operation Starlings, which investigated allegations of match fixing within the Victorian Premier League, and he has managed Purana taskforce’s collaboration with Victoria Police’s sporting integrity intelligence unit in relation to a number of sport-related investigations for Victoria.”

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Andy Flower steps down as England coach

The latest casualty of England’s woeful tour of Australia is head coach Andy Flower, and former Australian fast bowler Jason Gillespie has been mentioned as a possible candidate to replace him.
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England has now lost five Tests, four one-dayers, two Twenty20 matches, two senior players, one struggling fast bowler and a head coach during its three months down under, and the future of self-obsessed batsman Kevin Pietersen is still up in the air.

Twenty20 captain Stuart Broad admitted after England lost a third series to Australia on Friday night that the end of the tour couldn’t come quickly enough, and that was hours before Flower – the respected Zimbabwean who in five years in the job guided England to three Ashes triumphs, a series win in India and (briefly) the No.1 Test ranking – announced his resignation.

”Following the recent very disappointing Ashes defeat it is clear to me that this is now time for England cricket, led by Alastair Cook, to rebuild with a new set of values and goals,” said Flower, who added that the next team director should coach England in all three formats.

”The opportunity to start with a clean slate and to instil methods to ensure England cricket is moving in the right direction will be an incredibly exciting challenge for someone but I do not feel like I am in a position to undertake that challenge.

”This has been a very difficult decision and I remain committed to England cricket and would like to wish Alastair Cook and [incoming managing director] Paul Downton every success. I will remain in my position as a selector for the time being and am exploring possible roles within the ECB.”

Ashley Giles, who coaches England in the short formats, has a chance to establish himself as frontrunner to take over from Flower if the team does well on the forthcoming tour of the West Indies and at the World Twenty20 tournament, but the ECB is expected to advertise the role or hire headhunters to find the right candidate. Contenders may include former India and South Africa coach Gary Kirsten, former New Zealand captain Stephen Fleming (who has coached the Chennai Super Kings in the IPL), former Sri Lanka coach Tom Moody and Gillespie, who has coached Yorkshire to County Championship promotion and a runners-up finish in the Championship in his first two seasons with the county.

Gillespie could not be reached for comment. The former Test quick is a close friend of Australian coach Darren Lehmann and is said to have instilled a similar sense of enjoyment in his players as Lehmann has in the Australians since taking over from the sacked Mickey Arthur last June.

Former England captain Michael Vaughan wants a coaching dream team of Kirsten and Paul Collingwood, the retired batsman who has just helped coach Scotland to qualification for the World Cup.

”I guess Ashley Giles will have the first opportunity to stake his claim. I would get Paul Collingwood into the fold as soon as possible. He has too good a cricket brain to allow it to be put to service by someone else. If England have become a bit robotic, a bit dependent on computer information, then Colly is ideal to counter that,” Vaughan wrote in a column for the Telegraph. ”But, if they want the best – and only the best should be good enough – I would be tempted to do whatever it takes to bring in Gary Kirsten … Look at what he achieved in India and South Africa, getting his teams to play with calmness and mental strength.”

ECB chairman Giles Clarke gave his unequivocal support for Cook to continue as captain despite his personal capitulation against Australia but refused to be drawn on the future of Pietersen.

A clearer indication will come on Thursday when England names its squad for the one-day series in West Indies and World Twenty20 in Bangladesh. ”I have spent zero time on him or whatever he or the selectors are choosing to do,” said Clarke, who described Giles as a strong candidate. ”He played a lot of cricket for England and is respected in the game. It may well be that other outstanding candidates emerge as Paul Downton leads the process.”

Flower’s resignation amounts to another scalp for the Australians. Mitchell Johnson took Jonathan Trott way out of his comfort zone before he went home with a stress-related illness while the batsmen hit Graeme Swann into retirement. And Steven Finn regressed to the point he could not be selected.

”I think a few of the guys are looking forward to having two weeks at home in their own bed and not thinking about cricket for a while,” said Broad.

With aap, Telegraph, London

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Pre-season has whiff of 2010: Swan

Having secured a two-year contract extension, Collingwood champion Dane Swan says this pre-season has reminded him of 2010, when the Magpies ultimately delivered a breakthrough premiership.
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As supporters lapped up the intra-club action at the club’s family day at Olympic Park on Saturday, Swan and teammate Heritier Lumumba were given strong ovations when their new deals were announced.

Swan will be a Magpie for life, his contract continuing until the end of 2016, while Lumumba was given a one-year extension until the end of 2015. After a tumultuous 2013 campaign, when he feuded with coach Nathan Buckley, walked out of the club, and later changed his name from Harry O’Brien, Lumumba thanked the Magpies for maintaining faith in him.

Swan had flagged that his current deal, expiring this season, could have been his last, even though he only turns 30 this month.

While that may have been said in jest, he has been warned by former teammates, such as Ben Johnson, about the realities of retirement.

”I was obviously close with a few boys that have finished their career over the past few seasons,” Swan said. ”Just speaking to them, even though they are having a good time retired, they say, ‘You are a long time retired, and while you can, make the most of it’.

”I was always going to keep going if they [the Magpies] wanted me. Thankfully, they did, so here I am.”

But he joked that has meant he has ”been interviewing for friends over the pre-season. I have been getting them all in, one by one, asking what they can bring to the friendship”, as the likes of Johnson, Alan Didak, Dale Thomas and Heath Shaw – all part of the so-called Rat Pack – have left the club.

”I have been walking around like a new kid at school looking for friends to talk to,” he said.

Swan, who had off-season wrist surgery, said his passion for the sport remained strong, despite the not-always-favourable off-field attention he receives.

”I love the game and I love being around my mates. That was probably the main thing that drives me,” he said. ”Obviously, success and premierships. I enjoy coming to work every day and being around my mates and having a laugh.

”If I wasn’t good enough, the club would have said: ‘No, that’s it.’ I certainly would go and play locally with my friends, because that’s what I love to do.”

The hard-running midfielder said he sensed the Magpies were fortified after a shock elimination-final loss to Port Adelaide last season and an off-season clean-out.

”The memories [of 2010] are close and fond, but it does feel a little bit ago. There is a little bit of feeling of 2010 I think this pre-season.

”The boys have got close and we have had a really good pre-season. We are under no illusions, it’s going to be pretty hard to get back to where we want to be, but we certainly think we have the group to do what we want.”

Swan said he would likely spend more time up forward this season but he didn’t think the new interchange cap would affect the burst-style game he enjoys. He was the sixth-most benched player in the league last season and ranked No.1 for disposals per minute.

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Leigh Matthews warns Hawthorn of back-to-back mindset

AFL legend Leigh Matthews has warned Hawthorn that last year’s premiership will not give it a psychological edge as the Hawks take aim at becoming the first team in more than a decade to claim successive flags.
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Matthews was the last coach to take his team to such lofty heights, guiding the Brisbane Lions to three straight flags from 2001-03.

The Hawthorn great, who played in four premierships as a player with the club, said Alastair Clarkson’s men could go back-to-back but this required a specific mindset.

”I know it’s partly a psychology, but Hawthorn have got no better or worse chance in 2014 than any other team,” he said.

”In other words, of course you won it last year, but it doesn’t give you any advantage or disadvantage for the following season. That’s the reality that you have to get through your skull and everyone has to accept.

”And if you happen to win two in a row, that’s two separate campaigns that you have won. But the two things aren’t really related.

”There is no sense of entitlement … You just have to accept it’s a new year.”

Determined to avoid the dramatic slump that ruined their back-to-back bid in 2009, the Hawks have returned to training in mint condition.

The players agreed in the days after last year’s premiership to immediately turn their focus to this season, while club management have been happy with the mindset of all parties.

Matthews said he had yet to settle on his favourite to claim this year’s flag but said the Hawks were well positioned to challenge despite losing superstar forward Lance Franklin.

”Can is easy, of course they can win it. That’s gone on for every team that has won a premiership forever. They clearly can go back-to-back,” he said.

”They have certainly done a fantastic job in terms of their selective recruiting. [Brian] Lake was just fantastic for them and [Ben] McEvoy should be fantastic for them.

”Losing Franklin is obviously going to be a blow because he is such a good player. But as people have noted, they have done very well when he was not playing.”

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Brett Goodes: all about the greater good

Loving what he does: Brett Goodes at training at Whitten Oval. Photo: Paul JeffersStarting an AFL career at 28 with a playing CV that resembled darts thrown at a map of Australia gave Brett Goodes an uncommon launch pad. Yet it was his most recent job, pre-fairytale, that prepared him best when eventually he fell back to earth.
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At Launceston in round 17 last year, Goodes laid an arm’s-length tackle on Hawthorn’s Shane Savage that went wrong with a sickening crack as teammate Liam Picken got in between them, and Goodes’ left forearm was the casualty of their combined momentum. He can laugh now that he was simply the latest ”Picko victim”, but there was nothing funny about it at the time.

”I had this picture in my head that my arm was in half, that was all I could picture until I hit the ground,” Goodes recalled of the time-stands-still feeling that accompanies disasters of any degree. ”I looked down and it wasn’t, thankfully. I picked it up, knew I was gone, and just ran straight off.”

He returned to Melbourne on an early flight, a sling supporting two snapped bones, president Peter Gordon and club doctor Gary Zimmerman his solemn companions. Immediately he was in the purgatory of the long-term injured, a footballer removed from his flock.

This is territory he already knew – if not personally, then professionally. As the Western Bulldogs’ welfare officer prior to his 2012 rookie listing, Goodes had worked closely with Dale Morris and his family as the defender negotiated a cruel, prolonged recuperation from a broken leg. He had counselled others, too, unaware they would one day be his teammates.

”It certainly helped,” Goodes says. ”I can imagine the mental stresses a young guy would have to deal with going through a long-term injury. Even me to an extent – I’ve only got a one-year contract, I’ve just broken my arm, that all comes to mind.

”Having worked in that area certainly helped me get through the rest of the season.”

He was left in no doubt the limbo was only temporary. The coaches and list manager Jason McCartney assured him another one-year deal would be offered, and with two plates and a dozen screws in his forearm he was able to resume running, join in certain drills and throw himself into another quirk of the season-over player’s world: training hard to go on holiday. Already he can feel the benefits.

”I think I’m much fitter this year, having started pre-season fit and ready to go,” Goodes says of how he can be a better player than the one who slotted into the Dogs defence for 13 games in 2013 like he had been there all along. ”I’m just looking forward to being that creative running half-back flanker, getting up the ground a bit more instead of just playing on my man and beating him. Be more creative and help our team surge forward.”

Watching the team win four of its last six was a mixed blessing, rapt to see progress but, with the likes of Shaun Higgins, Clay Smith, Tom Williams and Jason Johannisen , fighting back feelings of jealousy at not truly being part of it. Still, Goodes could reflect on a debut season that met his own expectations, and exceeded those of anyone who had been sceptical about his drafting.

”I played all the games I could physically play,” he says of a season blighted by a suspension, a wrist injury and the broken arm. ”For me that was a good year, a great year – my first season, to have played every game I could possibly have played.”

He never felt out of place and thinks his previous occupation helped here, too. ”There was never anything negative, never, ‘Do I belong?’ It was all positive, ‘What a great opportunity, I’m going to train my backside off and make the most of it’.”

He loved the constant education, that despite having seen up close the workload and stresses that accompany the cherished life of a footballer, he was still taken aback by just how hard it was. He found the training was only part of it, the mental load – criticism, scrutiny, feedback – was much more onerous. ”It’s not a normal life, but I love what I do. I’ve always wanted to be involved in AFL footy in one way or another, working or playing. You know what you sign up for when you walk in the door. This is me now for however long I’ve got left in me.”

Being Goodes by name and nature increases his value as a teammate, still bringing to the change rooms the qualities of his previous role, someone whose make-up is to extend a hand if he sees someone in need. ”I think that’s why I loved my old job so much at the time, it was so natural for me.”

There is one significant difference this year to last: no longer is he Adam’s brother, rather the brother of the Australian of the Year.

Goodes was with friends in Anglesea when Adam accepted the award from Prime Minister Tony Abbott on Australia Day, and delivered a stirring speech on the lawns of Parliament House. He thinks only becoming a father – or seeing the child of brother and father-to-be Jake – could make him prouder.

”For my whole family, watching Adam, his speech, seeing mum in the crowd, it was a really fulfilling moment. It was great to see mum there sharing it with him after all the hardship she’s had. It’s never been an easy track for any of us.”

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How all things tight and beautiful took giant strides

Model Nathan Waring shows off the latest fashion statement – meggings, or leggings for men. Even pop star Justin Bieber is said to be in on the meggings craze. Photo: Steven Siewert Nathan Waring
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Luke Sales likes his trousers bright and tight. “I often wear leggings because I don’t like wearing pants,” he says.

The co-designer of the fashion label Romance Was Born is known for wearing boldly printed leggings, which he teams with shorts, worn over them, to preserve his modesty.

“It’s not for me to go the whole hog, and it’s definitely not a look for everyone,” Sales says.

But leggings for men are definitely on the rise. Justin Bieber wears them, Russell Brand performs in them, and international labels ranging from Givenchy – whose leggings cost up to $US595 ($680) – to Asos and Uniqlo are now manufacturing dedicated “meggings”, as what began as a fad moves closer to the mainstream.

“This time last year we had no jersey bottoms for men, today we have over 40 styles, and we will have 150 jersey styles next year,” said Asos’ head of design, John Mooney.

“We have everything from true meggings and skinny jogging bottoms to tailored shorts with built-in meggings.”

Americans Adam Freck and Andrew Volk went one step further when they launched an entire company devoted to meggings, named Meggings Man, in December. In Australia, Jac+Jack, Bassike and Zanerobe are among the brands that now manufacture drop-crotch style meggings for men. “There is a really strong sportswear influence taking place in menswear,” said David Jones’ general manager of menswear and childrenswear, Deborah Foreman. “A few years ago men were quite staid, but now they are really experimenting and we are seeing a lot more drop-crotch and softer-style trousers.”

Asos sells meggings from $20.27, for its own brand, to $91.23 for the Bjorn Borg brand.

Businessman Paul Connor sees meggings as the evolution of black skinny jeans.

“The meggings I wear now have that skinny-jean look, but because they are stretchy they have a brilliant comfort factor,” Connor said.

“I buy mine from Uniqlo and I would wear them twice a week.”

Men were wearing leggings long before women turned them into a fashion trend in the 1980s. Shakespeare practically lived in them, although they were called stockings then, and Henry VIII wore silk knitted versions.

Mooney believes the beauty of the megging is versatility. “There is so much variety that the appeal is broad,” he said. “Everything from a true megging for a late teen or early 20s fashionista, through to more detailed styles you can dress up with shirts and more.”

But Foreman says the look is not for everyone. “You have to have a bit of confidence about you and you have to know how to put it together,” she said.

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