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Cleary goes from Origin fan to dream maker

After attending NSW’s 2014 win as a fan, Nathan Cleary has a chance to lead NSW to Origin success.Nathan Cleary still has June 18, 2014 marked down as one of the best nights of his life.
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Dressed in light blue shirt and donning a dark blue wig, a 16-year-old Cleary watched from the concourse at ANZ Stadium with the Blatchy’s Blues supporter group as NSW looked set to squander another series.

Then with one dummy and go, Trent Hodkinson crossed the tryline and ended eight years of misery.

“That was one of the best experiences of my life seeing Hodko go over there,” Cleary told AAP.

“I was at the game and in Blatchy’s Blues.

“It was unbelievable seeing them get the win and the crowd was going off. It was unreal.”

Four years on, Cleary now has the chance to join Hodkinson as one of only two Blues halfbacks to have tasted Origin series success since 2006.

In that time, some seven others have tried and failed. That list includes the likes of Craig Gower, Brett Kimmorley and James Maloney.

But Cleary is determined to make sure he doesn’t join it, instead dreaming of sending Sydney into the same kind of drought-breaking delirium of 2014 on Sunday night.

“Hopefully we can replicate something like that,” Cleary said.

“(Jarryd Hayne’s crowd surf) was right in front of us and that was awesome.”

Cleary wouldn’t have been alone in his excitement on that night some four years ago.

Had it not been for that victory, up to 16 of the 17 Blues selected for Origin II wouldn’t have seen NSW win a series in their adult life.

Five of the squad were still in primary school when the Blues tasted victory previous to that in 2005, with most still clinging onto faint memories of Andrew Johns’ heroics.

But all that can end on Sunday night, where the NRL is expecting a packed house and the Blatchy’s Blues allotment is rapidly approaching its capacity of 12,000.

Australian Associated Press

Slick West Coast not scared of the wet

Midfielder Elliot Yeo says West Coast will be ready to face Essendon if it’s a wet-weather contest.They’ve played some sizzling football in the sun, but West Coast will equally embrace the rain if Thursday night’s clash with Essendon turns into a wet-weather slog.
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The Eagles sit second on the ladder following their 10-2 start to the year, with the team averaging 97 points per game this season.

That average improves to 106 at their new home ground Optus Stadium, where the Eagles have enjoyed mostly dry conditions this year.

That could change on Thursday night with rain forecast for Perth.

However, if the rain does eventuate, West Coast players will be ready.

“There’s plenty of times there where as you see throughout the week we have the footies out in the wet water,” midfielder Elliot Yeo said, referring to the team mimicking wet-weather conditions at training.

“If it is (raining), we’ve done our homework during the week and hopefully we’re able to implement that in the game.”

Yeo said the six-day break between games was a good thing, given the players were keen to atone for last week’s 15-point loss to Sydney.

“Personally I hate losing,” Yeo said.

“I’m not a big fan of it. But having the six-day turnaround, it gives you the quick turnaround to rectify.”

Essendon (5-7) enter the game fresh following their recent bye,

But despite winning three of their past four matches, their finals hopes are still hanging by a thread.

“They’ve been a bit up and down with their form,” Yeo said.

“But they had a good spurt not so long ago.

“Their midfield is one of the things that’s a bit of a danger.

“Once they get going, if they get the ball in their hands quite early, they can be quite damaging.”

Australian Associated Press

NSW budget surplus comes in at $3.9b

The NSW treasurer had revealed a budget surplus of $3.9 billion and promised to use “the holy grail of numbers” to address cost-of-living pressures across the state.
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Despite losing more than $5.5 billion in stamp duty revenue the surplus for 2017/18 exceeded expectations by $600 million off the back of increased mining royalties and GST receipts.

Nine months out from the March 2019 state election, Treasurer Dominic Perrottet on Tuesday promised his 2018/19 budget would help ease cost-of-living pressures for families while maintaining a record $87 billion infrastructure spend.

NSW Treasurer Portrait of Dominic Perrotet. Photo: James Brickwood

The treasurer’s message focused on the hip pocket but more than half of government expenditure is flowing to the transport portfolio next financial year, including $4.3 billion for the Sydney Metro.

The controversial WestConnex motorway will receive $1.8 billion in 2018/19 while $258 million will kickstart the first stage of the Parramatta Light Rail.

In total, the coalition government will spend $51 billion on road and rail over the next four years.

Despite lacking any big ticket items for struggling families, the government has extended universal education access to three-year-olds, saving parents an average of $825 per year.

It has also cut certain parking fines and streamlined Service NSW, which it says will help residents to find the best energy deals.

“This is a budget that puts people first, it builds for tomorrow and delivers for today,” Mr Perrottet told reporters.

A $740 million upgrade to Liverpool Hospital headlines health spending with the government committing $8 billion over four years on upgrades and new facilities.

Some $17 billion will be spent on education in 2018/19 while $6 billion will be committed over four years to address a big increase in enrolments.

A sovereign wealth fund will also be created next year, starting with $3 billion, with 50 per cent of the interest generated each year going toward community projects.

Australian Associated Press

Gargasoulas fitness jury battling to agree

A Melbourne jury is struggling to come to a unanimous decision on whether Bourke Street driver James Gargasoulas is mentally fit to stand trial for murder.
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Gargasoulas, 28, is accused of running down pedestrians in the city in January 2017, killing six people, including two children, and injuring many others.

He is facing an investigative Supreme Court hearing to decide if he is fit to face trial on six counts of murder and 28 of attempted murder.

A jury of 12 retired to consider their verdict on Monday, but on Tuesday afternoon sought guidance from Justice Lex Lasry, saying they were torn.

“I have been informed that you have not been able to reach a decision,” the judge said.

Justice Lasry said he could dismiss the jury without a verdict if they could not reach one but he was not yet ready to do so.

“Experience has shown that juries, given more time to discuss, can reach a verdict,” he said.

“That’s what I’m going to ask you to do. Come back in the morning, hopefully fresh.”

Justice Lasry urged the jury to share their feelings and listen to others, as their views may shift.

But he said they can’t change their minds simply for the sake of reaching a decision.

“To do that would breach your duty to the court,” he said.

Medical experts in the case have been divided over the question of Gargasoulas’s fitness.

Two psychiatrists believe he is unfit for trial but one psychologist disagrees.

The defence argues he is “profoundly psychotic”, believing he is the “Messiah” sent to save the world from a comet, and should not stand trial.

But prosecutors say Gargasoulas should face trial, claiming he understands his case and can make decisions about his defence and plea.

“(He) has the presence of mind to know that if it’s his lot in life to be saving the world, he wants to be doing that from the relative comfort of Thomas Embling Hospital, rather than the 23-hour lockdown of prison,’ crown prosecutor Andrew Tinney SC said.

The jury will continue deliberations on Wednesday.

Australian Associated Press

Farmers want better access to EU market

PM Malcolm Turnbull (left) and EU Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmstrom at Parliament House.Australia wants farmers to get better access to the European Union’s huge market when negotiations on a free trade deal start within weeks.
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The nation’s top agricultural exports to the EU are canola, wine, greasy wool, beef and veal, and almonds, but that could expand once a deal is signed.

EU Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmstrom met with Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and other ministers in Canberra on Monday to officially launch negotiations on a free trade deal.

The sticking point, as it has been for years, will be European producers unhappy with Australian companies using European names, and farmers worried about competition.

“Agriculture and what we call geographical indicators are very important to us,” Dr Malmstrom told reporters.

“I think this is probably the chapter that would be the most difficult one. But we are well-prepared.”

Agriculture Minister David Littleproud said the EU was Australia’s fourth-largest agricultural export destination, and reduced tariffs would only make it bigger.

“More high-quality Australian produce on EU dinner tables is a win for EU consumers and a win for our farmers, our rural and regional communities and our nation,” Mr Littleproud said.

National Farmers Federation president Fiona Simson said Australian farmers were ready to compete on a fairer playing field in the EU.

“Australia exports about 75 per cent of its agricultural produce and our farmers are amongst the least subsidised in the world,” she said.

Trade Minister Steve Ciobo hinted that high-quality agricultural products could be a big winner.

“I want to see more Australian premium produce on plates from Prague to Paris,” Mr Ciobo said.

The trade talks come as EU and Australia have become concerned about rising protectionism, especially in the United States and China.

Dr Malmstrom said the “predictability” of rules-based free trade had served Australia and the EU well.

“I think it sends a very strong political signal that we’re launching these negotiations today,” she said.

A free trade pact would open a market of half a billion consumers and a GDP of $23.2 trillion, making it one of Australia’s biggest agreements.

The first round of negotiations will be held in Brussels in early July.

Australian Associated Press

Jail urged for Wilson despite poor health

The most senior Catholic official in the world to be convicted of concealing child sex crimes must be jailed to send a message that institutional cover-ups will no longer be tolerated, a NSW court has heard.
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Adelaide Archbishop Philip Wilson stood aside but refused to resign after he was found guilty in May of failing to report to police the repeated abuse of two altar boys.

Magistrate Robert Stone on Tuesday said the archbishop would be sentenced in early July.

Pedophile priest James Fletcher indecently assaulted Peter Creigh on multiple occasions in the NSW Hunter region during the 1970s but when the child reported it to Wilson the clergyman did nothing.

Prosecutor Gareth Harrison said there was a “breach of trust” between the vulnerable youngster who – along with another altar boy – came forward in 1976.

“A 15-year-old boy came to him for help … this wasn’t a split-second decision,” the prosecutor told Wilson’s sentencing hearing at Newcastle Local Court on Tuesday.

“He thought he’d gotten away with this for all those years.

“He lied and the root of each of those lies is the unflinching loyalty to the Catholic church and protecting it at all costs.”

Mr Harrison argued the 67-year-old should be locked up to deter other religious leaders, to denounce the conduct and to recognise the harm done to the victims.

Defence barrister Ian Temby QC argued Wilson may not survive being jailed which would likely worsen the senior cleric’s many chronic illnesses and put him at risk of violence from fellow inmates.

Wilson suffers from diabetes, heart and Alzheimer’s disease and depression, which would further deteriorate behind bars and “may even threaten his survival”, Mr Temby said.

But Mr Harrison noted there was no evidence to suggest Wilson would be attacked in jail and his medical condition wasn’t an excuse for him to escape punishment.

“Ill health cannot be a licence to commit a crime,” he said.

The archbishop’s legal team argued he should instead be given a good behaviour bond. The offence carries a maximum two-year jail term.

Mr Temby stressed Wilson was a trailblazer in introducing church police checks and compliance systems in Australia.

“The offender is not just a man who has no prior convictions but is, in fact, a man of prior positive good character with particular reference to the general field of prevention of child sexual abuse,” Mr Temby said.

Fletcher was found guilty in December 2004 of nine counts of child sexual abuse. He died in jail of a stroke in January 2006.

The magistrate rejected claims by Wilson that he could not remember the children’s allegations.

Wilson stood aside from the Adelaide archdiocese following his conviction in May and said if it became necessary for him to resign he would do so.

The hearing continues with Mr Stone to reserve his sentencing decision until July 3.

Australian Associated Press

Burston comfortable with Clive Palmer

Former One Nation senator Brian Burston (L) says he is comfortable joining Clive Palmer’s party.Former One Nation senator Brian Burston says he is “very comfortable” joining Clive Palmer’s new political party, despite his new leader’s chequered history.
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Senator Burston officially quit Pauline Hanson’s party on Monday and immediately announced he would be part of Mr Palmer’s rebadged United Australia Party.

“We will unite Australia and we will bring integrity back into the Senate,” Senator Burston told reporters in Canberra on Monday.

At a chaotic press conference at Parliament House, Labor MP Cathy O’Toole heckled Mr Palmer about former Queensland Nickel workers who say he owes them money.

“I don’t owe anyone anything in north Queensland,” Mr Palmer said.

Mr Palmer blamed the liquidators for any missing money, and said he planned to reopen his Townsville nickel refinery.

He is also facing criminal charges in Queensland, which he did not comment on.

Senator Burston said he was “very comfortable” standing next to Mr Palmer, even with his former workers complaining about not being paid.

“That issue is before the courts and I am not in a position to comment and I won’t comment,” Senator Burston said.

Mr Palmer later confirmed he was interested in running for the north Queensland seat of Herbert, which Ms O’Toole won in 2016.

He previously held the seat of Fairfax from 2013 to 2016.

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull did not comment on Senator Burston’s defection.

“As far as Mr Palmer is concerned, I guess all I can say is we have seen that film before,” Mr Turnbull told reporters.

Australian Associated Press

Heat on Qld’s Wallace after second chance

The heat is on Jarrod Wallace to step up after being given a “second chance” for Origin II.The heat is on Jarrod Wallace to step up after Queensland gave the maligned prop a “second chance” in Sunday’s must win State of Origin game two in Sydney.
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Gold Coast forward Wallace came under fire after an underwhelming display in the Maroons’ 22-12 game one loss in Melbourne, registering just 43m from five runs according to NRL南京夜网.

There was speculation Wallace would even be axed from a rejigged Maroons pack with Melbourne’s Tim Glasby and Brisbane’s Joe Ofahengaue knocking on the door.

Selectors kept the faith when they named Wallace in the Maroons’ 18-strong game two squad on Monday.

However, it came with a warning.

“Jarrod has a second chance,” Maroons selectors’ boss Gene Miles said.

“We all know what his (game one) stats were – it’s not ideal. We expect a lot more from our front rowers.

“I said before game one if our front rowers don’t play well we don’t win and that certainly hasn’t changed.”

Miles hoped Wallace responded in game two just like he did in the Titans’ match two days after the Gold Coast prop’s Origin I fizzer.

Spurred on by his Origin frustration, Wallace ran 168m and made 40 tackles in the Titans’ 18-16 NRL round 14 loss to South Sydney.

“He went out a couple of nights after Origin and played the house down for the Titans,” Miles said.

“Let’s just hope he can repeat that performance because that is what we are expecting of him.”

There was speculation Maroons lock Josh McGuire may be injected into the starting front row to add mongrel but Queensland coach Kevin Walters defended Wallace’s series-opening effort.

“There was some criticism around Jarrod Wallace which I thought was unfair,” Walters said.

“Sure, he only had the five carries and needs to do more there but defensively I thought he was really good.”

The Maroons are sweating on Wallace’s front row partner, fiery prop Dylan Napa (ankle), who must prove his fitness by Wednesday.

Glasby is on standby.

“Obviously we would miss his aggression and you want to throw a little bit of fear into NSW forward pack,” Miles said of the prospect of losing Napa.

“But let’s just be on the positive side and say we are very hopeful he can pass that test and be in the team.”

Australian Associated Press

Maroons turn to hardman Gillmeister

Jacob Lillyman (left) talks to Trevor Gillmeister, Queensland’s ‘Minister for Defence’.In his playing days, Trevor Gillmeister was known as The Axe.
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But Queensland have given him a new moniker ahead of Sunday’s must-win State of Origin game two in Sydney – the Minister for Defence.

The Maroons have turned to former hard man Gillmeister to plug their defensive leaks after Queensland missed a staggering 55 tackles in their 22-12 game one loss in Melbourne.

Ex-Queensland skipper Gillmeister earned his colourful nickname for his uncanny ability to chop down opponents and his tackling style will be drilled into the Maroons from their first training session on Wednesday.

“We won’t win a game if we miss 50 tackles,” Queensland selectors’ boss Gene Miles said.

“I think the emphasis early on at camp will be defence.

“But we’ve got the Minister for Defence Trevor Gillmeister in relation to tackling technique and positional play so he will obviously play a fair role in our preparation this time.”

Queensland coach Kevin Walters was confident Billy Slater would also help revamp their defence by marshalling the troops from fullback after returning from a hamstring injury.

Slater is set to play Origin No.30 after pulling out just days before game one at the MCG due to the injury.

Walters said Melbourne’s Tim Glasby was another potential solution to their defensive woes.

Glasby is on standby for prop Dylan Napa (ankle) who must prove his fitness by Wednesday.

Glasby impressed in the final two games of last year’s series, helping Queensland stiffen their defence and bounce back from a record home loss to claim yet another series win.

“We need to stop NSW from scoring points and I couldn’t think of a better man to do that than Tim Glasby in the middle of the field,” Walters said.

Walters said the Maroons were confident of shutting down game one man of the match – NSW fullback James Tedesco – after doing the same to Blues forward Andrew Fifita last year.

Fifita inspired NSW’s record 28-4 game one triumph at Suncorp Stadium before the Maroons muscled up to claim their 11th series win in 12 years.

“After Andrew Fifita ran through us in game one…we fixed it up in game two last year and that has to be our mentality for this team as well,” Walters said.

Australian Associated Press

Belgium pushed before rolling over Panama

Unlike the other World Cup favourites that struggled through their opening matches, Belgium looked every part the title contender.
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Having Dries Mertens and Romelu Lukaku capable of scoring the way they did against Panama helps.

“People know I am supposed to score goals,” Lukaku said. “The most important thing to me is to win matches.”

Lukaku scored twice in a six-minute span in the second half after Mertens’ perfectly struck volley gave Belgium the lead, as the Red Devils beat overmatched Panama 3-0 to top Group G.

Saddled with massive expectations and a line-up of talent the envy of other teams in the tournament, Belgium showed flashes of being a team worthy of being world champions.

A shaky first-half performance by Belgium was replaced by a confident, attacking group in the second that was finally able to find gaps in Panama’s defenve and convert those chances into goals.

“In the World Cup you have to play 90 minutes,” Belgium coach Roberto Martinez said.

“You have to be aware that in any game you go into, if you don’t score early on, you have to be prepared to work hard and go through periods in which you are tested.”

The two goals from Lukaku came shortly after Mertens scored from about 18 yards in the opening moments of the second half, finally relieving some pressure after Belgium was unable to break down Panama for the first 45 minutes.

Lukaku’s first goal came 20 minutes later, but the pass from Kevin De Bruyne made it possible. Rather than shooting through a crowd of Panama defenders, De Bruyne cut a pass with the outside of his right foot onto Lukaku’s head and into the net.

Lukaku added a second on a breakaway minutes later, chipping Panama goalkeeper Jaime Penedo as he left his net.

“For me it’s important to have the right line in the box,” Lukaku said. “Usually I’m in the right position at the right time.”

Panama played their style – physical, aggressive, sometimes looking more like wrestling than soccer – and managed to hang with the Red Devils for longer than expected.

They were called for 18 of the game’s 35 fouls and shown five yellow cards of the eight dished out.

But they never created threatening scoring chances and eventually Belgium took complete control.

“We are a team that is very organised, we play tactically,” coach Hernan Dario Gomez said.

“Sometimes we may look tough but the other teams are tough and physically strong as well.”

Panama need a result against England, who edged Tunisia 2-1, in their next game to keep their tournament hopes alive.

Belgium will be favoured to account for Tunisia as the group’s big guns eye off a battle for top spot in the final group game.

Australian Associated Press