Meninga hailed as Qld Origin saviour

A day after being accused of not doing enough for State of Origin, Mal Meninga has been hailed as the man who can claim sole responsibility for Queensland’s record eight-year run.

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Maroons captain Cameron Smith also encouraged Meninga to keep the Queensland reins beyond his 2015 contract, saying his influence was still cherished despite being on the verge of their first whitewash in 14 years.

Meninga rubbed the Blues’ faithful the wrong way when he opted not to front the media on Monday, leaving it to NSW coach Laurie Daley to promote Wednesday night’s Origin III in Brisbane with 6000 tickets still unsold.

By late Tuesday, around 1000 tickets were still available.

NSW great Ben Elias baulked at calling Meninga a sore loser but said he had a “responsibility to represent your state through good and bad”.

Meninga missed Monday’s media call due to other commitments but unexpectedly fronted the cameras as Queensland trained on Tuesday.

“You guys right? You’re not still sooky?” Meninga laughed.

No offence appeared to be taken by an upbeat Meninga but Smith jumped to his coach’s defence when the “no show” was mentioned.

Smith claimed Meninga could claim responsibility for their remarkable eight-year streak snapped this series.

“I would love Mal to coach for as long as he would like to,” Smith said.

“He is the guy who can really put his hand up and claim those eight series victories.

“Because before he came in, we were struggling a bit for self confidence.

“But as soon as he joined the squad (in 2006), he instilled in every individual the belief in yourself and each other that we can go out and beat NSW.”

And he claimed Meninga was as influential as ever.

“He is by no means past his (due) date of finishing up,” he said.

“I think he is a tremendous coach, a tremendous man who we all look up to and respect – I would like to see him go on.”

Smith said Meninga was still trying to spark the side moments after NSW sealed a rare series win with a 6-4 Game II victory in Sydney.

“The one guy who was extremely positive was Mal,” he said.

“He was extremely proud of not only the last eight years but what we had gone out and tried to do in the first two matches.”

Smith said it was typical of Meninga’s behind-the-scenes influence few witnessed or appreciated outside of their camp.

It ensured questions about Meninga’s media no-show left Smith unimpressed.

“I had no idea about that. I don’t know whether he didn’t want to talk to you,” he said.

“But I know he has been very busy with working with the media throughout this camp and series – and he is quite a busy man.

“People only see what we do on the field or the training paddock but, behind the scenes, he is doing a lot of stuff for (charity) luncheons, junior footy clubs, etc that no one sees.

“I think he has done his fair share.”

Dank defends Essendon supplements program

Controversial sports scientist Stephen Dank continues to insist there was nothing wrong with the supplements program he oversaw at AFL club Essendon.

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Dank also claims the Essendon players knew and understood what supplements they were taking.

He says other unnamed people at the AFL club knew what substances were involved in the supplements regime as well.

Dank has refused to cooperate with the AFL and ASADA investigations into the 2012 program at the club.

He says he will only divulge what he knows in court.

But Dank has no doubts he is in the right.

“There’s a lot more depth and complexity to this investigation than what’s really at the surface,” Dank told FIVEaa radio in Adelaide.

“I reiterate that we’ve done nothing wrong.

“I reiterate that I wouldn’t have done anything differently in terms of the program.

“If things play out in the respective court and certain information we bring to light, let’s just say you’ll see why I believe I shouldn’t have had to have done anything different and we should have been allowed to manage this and execute this the way we did.”

The AFL hit Essendon with several severe penalties last year over the supplements regime.

ASADA last month also sent show-cause notices to 34 current and former Essendon players, prompting Federal Court action from the Bombers against the anti-doping body.

That hearing will go ahead next month.

One of the central issues in the supplements saga has been that no one is quite sure what the players took.

But Dank denies that is the case.

“I would say it would be very unusual for the players to say they didn’t know what they were taking,” he said.

“In my personal opinion, they not only knew what they were taking, but they understood what they were taking.”

He added others at Essendon also knew what the supplements regime involved.

“It’s pretty fair to say I’m not the only one who knew what was administered to the players,” he said.

“But I’m certainly not going to name those people.”

Asked if he would reveal what those substances were, he replied: “Of course and, more importantly, I need to.”

But he will only do so in court.

“Obviously I can’t, because of impending court action,” he said.

Dank said he wanted to go to court to put the burden of proof on ASADA.

“I’m prepared to take these guys on in court, where the burden of proof, of course, (will) be on them to produce the evidence,” he said.

Dank is also angry at Dr Peter Harcourt, after last week’s emergence of strong comments the AFL medical officer made about the Essendon supplements scandal during an anti-doping conference late last year.

“I didn’t receive it very, very well and my barristers received it even less well,” he said.

“Let’s just say that, obviously, my barristers are reviewing our position on his public comments very, very strongly as we speak.”

He also blasted the Ziggy Switkowski report that Essendon commissioned on the supplements program.

“That was absolute rubbish,” he said.

“Obviously, I believe that was quite contrary to what really did happen.

“From the information that’s been given to me from a couple of sources, it was a very, very finite, small, select group of people that he interviewed.”

Asked if he would have done anything differently at Essendon, Dank simply replied: “no”.

Injured Suns star Ablett staying positive

The waiting game continues as AFL star and Gold Coast skipper Gary Ablett considers what to do about his shoulder injury.

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Ablett was in Melbourne on Tuesday to meet specialists.

There is speculation he could undergo minor surgery on the left shoulder and be back by round 20 or 21.

But that would still appear to carry a risk that the shoulder could pop out again.

Gold Coast are expected to announce the decision on Wednesday.

“Ablett met with specialists in Melbourne this morning to assist in determining the most appropriate way to treat his injured shoulder,” the club said in a statement released late on Tuesday.

“Ablett and GC Suns medical staff are in the process of assessing the options available to treat the injury.”

Ablett was upbeat after meeting leading surgeon Greg Hoy on Tuesday morning.

“Hopefully, I’ve got an answer by the end of today,” he told reporters.

“Just playing the waiting game.

“It is a little bit frustrating, but that’s the way it goes.

“I’m still positive. It’s part of footy.

“I’m hoping that I can get back and play this season, but I can’t control that.”

Ablett injured his shoulder in the third term of the Suns’ win over Collingwood on Saturday night, in one of the biggest moments of the season.

Scans on Monday cleared the dual Brownlow Medallist of any bone damage, but Gold Coast want more advice on the injury from Hoy and other specialists in Melbourne.

Hoy has previously operated on Carlton star Chris Judd’s shoulder.

Ablett’s availability through the rest of this season is massive for the Suns, who are on track for their first finals appearance, and for Brownlow Medal betting.

Before Ablett’s left shoulder popped out in a crunching tackle from Brent Macaffer, he was the clear favourite to win his third Brownlow.

Nervous bookmakers suspended Brownlow betting and, when their markets resumed on Monday, Ablett’s odds had gone out from around $1.60 to $3.00.

The consensus is that, at best, Ablett will miss three to four weeks.

No player has missed more than four games in a season and won the Brownlow.

Crown pays $100 million for casino licence

The NSW government has granted James Packer’s Crown Resorts a 99-year licence to operate a casino within its planned hotel development at Sydney’s prime Barangaroo South site.

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In return, Crown will pay the government $100 million within five business days, not including a $5 million deposit paid last year.

Under the restricted licence, no poker machines will be permitted at the Crown Sydney Hotel Resort complex, on the southern end of Sydney’s Harbour Bridge, once it begins operations after November 15, 2019.

There’ll also be minimum bet limits and only members and guests will be able to play, with no access to the general public.

But smoking within the restricted gaming area will be allowed, pending the installation of international standard air quality equipment.

In a statement after the stock market closed on Tuesday, Crown said that during the first 15 years of what will be Sydney’s second casino, the state government will receive at least $1 billion in taxes.

Crown Resorts chief executive Rowen Craigie described the approval as an important milestone for the planned complex.

“Crown and its chairman, James Packer, are committed to building a truly iconic six-star hotel for Sydney that will be recognised globally,” Mr Craigie said.

“Crown Sydney will help bring additional international and domestic tourists to Sydney, create over 1,200 jobs and generate significant economic growth for New South Wales.”

Crown won the rights to build and operate the Barangaroo Point complex after a bidding war with the owners of Sydney’s existing The Star casino.

At the close on Tuesday, before the announcement Crown’s shares were 10 cents lower at $15.79

Typhoon Neoguri: Japan braces for worst typhoon in decades

Japan is bracing for one of its worst storms in years as typhoon Neoguri heads towards the southern Okinawa

island chain, with the national weather agency issuing its highest alert and nearly half-a-million people urged to take shelter.

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The top-level warning means a threat to life, as well as the risk of storm surges, landslides and massive damage from the typhoon packing gusts of up to 250 kilometres an hour.

The Japan Meteorological Agency late on Monday issued the alert for Okinawa’s main island, home to about 1.2 million people, as well as the outlying Miyako islands.

Waves could reach as high as 14 metres, a weather agency official said on Tuesday, as schools across the sprawling archipelago south of Japan’s main islands were closed while air and sea traffic services ground to a halt.

About 6500 Okinawan households had no power early on Tuesday.

“There are fears about violent winds, high waves and tides and torrential rain that we have never experienced before,” Satoshi Ebihara, the Japanese weather agency’s chief forecaster, told an evening news conference Monday.

“We are in an abnormal situation where serious danger is imminent,” he said, advising Okinawans to stay in secure buildings or seek out a safer location if they fear their homes could not withstand the powerful storm.

The Kadena Air Force Base, the biggest US Air Force base in the Pacific, located on Okinawa’s main island, has evacuated some of its aircraft as officers stressed that Neoguri may be deadly.

Authorities have now urged about 480,000 people across Okinawa to take shelter in their homes or evacuate to facilities such as community centres and town halls.

“The rain is becoming heavier as the typhoon approaches,” a municipal official of Nanjo told AFP by telephone.

“We have urged residents to evacuate when they see any danger.”

The typhoon, which has been downgraded from super typhoon status, was about 90km northeast of Miyako Island as of 10.00am (1100 AEST), according to the weather agency.

The storm was moving north at about 20km/h, it said. The storm could reach the southern main island of Kyushu as early as Wednesday, with the weather agency warning that the amount of rainfall by Thursday could reach as much as 400 millimetres, posing a serious risk of landslides and flooding.

Kyushu – next to the main island of Honshu, where major cities including Tokyo and Osaka are located – was already seeing heavy rain.

Latest cuts to cause Qantas delays: union

Qantas is cutting 167 jobs from its engineering division as part of its ongoing turnaround plan, prompting the union to warn the move will lead to flight delays.

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Qantas staff were told on Tuesday of the job losses in Sydney, Adelaide and Melbourne.

The cuts are the latest in 5000 jobs the airline announced in February it was shedding as part of a $2 billion cost-cutting program over three years.

Qantas Domestic chief executive Lyell Strambi said the airline did not need as many engineering staff as it was retiring older aircraft and buying new planes that required less maintenance.

One example was that the airline’s fleet of older Boeing 767 aircraft had been reduced from 20 to 12, and the remainder were to be retired by early 2015.

“The simple fact is as we are retiring our older aircraft, aligning our maintenance systems with Boeing recommendations and implementing process improvements, we need fewer engineering employees,” Mr Strambi said.

However, Australian Licensed Aircraft Engineers Association federal secretary Steve Purvinas said sacking the engineers would result in Qantas being “drastically undermanned” and place pressure on maintenance crews to “cut corners” to get Qantas planes out on time.

“Our members will not jeopardise safety and allow that to happen, so more than likely we are going to see in the future there is going to be quite a few delays on Qantas aircrafts,” he told reporters in Melbourne on Tuesday.

He predicted staff shortages would require the company to defer repairs on aircrafts and force planes to be grounded.

The company’s turnaround plan has so far led to the loss of 2200 jobs, including catering, freight and air and ground crew positions.

The latest cuts will affect 73 licensed aircraft maintenance engineers, 58 engineers in components maintenance services and 36 support and administration roles.

A total of 4000 jobs, including 1500 management roles, are set to be shed by the end of June 2015.

The national carrier posted a $252 million half-year loss in February, mainly driven by a domestic battle with rival Virgin Australia, fierce competition on international routes and problems with Jetstar.

Lambie opens fire with first question

Jacqui Lambie continues to live up to her fiery reputation, using her first question in parliament to blast the coalition over its economic “incompetence” in Tasmania.

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The Palmer United Party senator on Tuesday threw the Abbott government a curly one during question time, demanding it provide $5 billion to her struggling home state.

It was a tough one for Government Senate Leader and fellow Tasmanian Eric Abetz to handle diplomatically, given the government needs the three PUP senators to pass its legislative agenda.

He politely informed Senator Lambie that Tasmania’s economic woes were the result of Labor’s poor policy decisions and the coalition government could not afford an extra $5 billion at this time.

Senator Lambie was not impressed, and went for the jugular the second time around.

“Can the senator explain why the poor, sick, needy and unemployed of other countries are more important to him than those in his own home state,” she asked.

Labor relished the moment, jibing Senator Abetz as he tried to placate the PUP senator a second time.

But his response fell on deaf ears, with Senator Lambie yelling “spare me, spare me!” as he waved about the government’s economic plan for Tasmania.

The PUP newcomer overstepped the mark on her third question, going beyond her allocated time.

But Senate president Stephen Parry agreed she could finish, with the caveat that leniency would not be extended next time.

The former military police officer only started her Senate term a week ago, but she has already created waves with attacks on the government and on Prime Minister Tony Abbott in particular.

She has since met with Mr Abbott, whom she described as a “political psychopath” and someone more willing to put his own career ahead of his daughters’ safety by “parading” them around during the election.

She continued her spray during the debate on the carbon tax repeal bills, and this time neither Labor nor the Greens was immune.

The two parties deceived the public by forcing their unfair carbon tax on them, she said.

“Tasmanian pensioners, families, workers and business were told the fib that if they paid more for their energy and power, then they could stop world climate change,” she said.

“This proposition is obviously wrong, ridiculous and absolutely absurd.”

Australians now had a voice in the form of the Palmer United Party, which would ensure savings from the repeal were passed on to customers, she said.

“Australians do not have to rely on just a nod and wink from our prime minister,” she said.

She also managed to squeeze in a reference to former US vice-president Al Gore, who the party says supports its plan to create an emissions trading scheme.

Hawthorn’s Lake receives four-week ban

Hawthorn’s star fullback Brian Lake will serve a four-match ban after he was found guilty of making intentional contact to the throat of North Melbourne’s Drew Petrie.

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The 2013 Norm Smith Medallist, who has played only five games this season because of injury and suspension, looked shattered as he departed AFL House. Lake faces an uphill battle to regain fitness and form for the finals series following his 410-point penalty.

The second-placed Hawks have seven matches remaining in the home-and-away season.

“It’s been a tough couple of days for myself and my family,” the 32-year-old Lake told reporters after a hearing of more than 90 minutes.

“I respect the jury’s decision on the four weeks.

“Leading into the finals I’ve got three game to get my match fitness and look for a big September.”

Lake’s case had been referred directly by the match review panel to the tribunal.

The veteran defender said in evidence he had been simply trying to grab Petrie’s jumper around the collarbone area.

Player advocate Chris Townshend said Lake denied putting Petrie in a “choker-hold” and was instead guilty of a lesser offence of aggressive wrestling.

Legal counsel Andrew Woods said the video footage showed Lake attacking Petrie’s throat.

“It was an intentional application of force to the throat,” Woods said.

Lake was shown footage of the incident and when asked if his hand was on Petrie’s throat, he said it was in the collarbone area.

“I have no recollection of him crying out. I could see he was in discomfort, yes,” Lake said.

“I don’t think it was significant force, no.

“I had a very good grip of his jumper.

“I probably should have let go …,” Lake added.

Townshend argued for a penalty of two to three games and Burns said a minimum of three matches was suitable.

Earlier, Petrie avoided a suspension despite pleading guilty to a misconduct charge for attacking Lake’s face while Lake was on top of him.

The North forward said he acted in self-defence and successfully argued an appropriate penalty was a reprimand with no carryover points.

Petrie could have accepted a reprimand and 93.75 carryover points with an early guilty plea and was risking a one-game ban.

Petrie argued he was in a potentially dangerous position and he simply pushed upwards to get his opponent off him.

“My hand was on his face for about two seconds. As soon as I realised I’d made contact with his face, I pulled my hand away,” Petrie said.

The jury deliberated for three minutes before finding a reprimand with no carryover points was an appropriate penalty.

Essendon acting captain Brendon Goddard, Brisbane midfielder Tom Rockliff and West Coast key forward Josh Kennedy have accepted one-game suspensions.

North Melbourne youngster Luke McDonald, Greater Western Sydney ruckman Shane Mumford and Gold Coast defender Rory Thompson took reprimands, while Brisbane’s Claye Beams received a fine.

Give Japan fair go, says Abbott

Prime Minister Tony Abbott has urged the international community to give Japan a “fair go” as it seeks to take on a broader military role and expand its economy.

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Signing agreements to boost trade and defence ties, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on Tuesday became the first leader of his country to address the Australian Parliament.

The Canberra visit came a week after Mr Abe announced a reinterpretation of his nation’s pacifist constitution to allow Japanese armed forces to come to the aid of friendly nations under attack.

Previously the constitution only allowed armed forces to act in Japan’s self-defence.

It’s feared Japan’s decision could inflame tensions with China and South Korea, which have competing claims for territories and resources in the East China Sea.

But Mr Abbott stood up for Japan, saying it had been an “exemplary international citizen” since the end of World War II.

“Give Japan a fair go,” Mr Abbott said.

Mr Abe told parliament – in only his third official speech in English since becoming prime minister – that a deal to transfer defence equipment and technology would only be the first part in “engraving the special relationship”.

The relationship would also involve Australia and Japan “joining hands with the United States, an ally for both our nations”, as well as boosting joint defence operations and training.

“We want to make Japan a country that will work to build an international order that upholds the role of law … to make the vast seas from the Pacific Ocean to the Indian, and those skies, open and free.”

While not directly referring to China’s concerns, Mr Abbott told the parliament that Australia’s renewed ties with Japan was “not a partnership against anyone”.

“It is a partnership for peace, for prosperity and for the rule of law.”

Mr Abe told reporters later that Japan’s door was open to China, but its near neighbour should not “unilaterally alter the status quo”.

Mr Abe and Mr Abbott signed the Japan-Australia Economic Partnership Agreement, which is expected to enable more than 97 per cent of Australian exports to enter Japan duty free or with preferential access.

Australian consumers will benefit from cheaper imported cars and electronics.

The Japanese leader gave his strongest hint yet that his country would resume “scientific” whaling despite an international court decision against it.

Mr Abbott said the two nations would “agree to disagree” on whaling.

Mr Abe, whose country will host the 2020 Olympics, paid tribute to former Olympian Dawn Fraser who was in the parliament’s public gallery for his speech.

“To me, you are Australia,” he said.

The charismatic leader also singled out from the gallery, Rob McNeil, who led a rescue team in the aftermath of the 2011 tsunami disaster.

The Japanese leader opened his speech pledging his country would never again follow the path of aggression.

“We will never let the horrors of the past century’s history repeat themselves,” he said.

Mr Abe paid tribute to the fathers and grandfathers who fought in places like Kokoda and Sandakan.

The two leaders will visit the Pilbara region of Western Australia on Wednesday.

Israel launches new air strikes on Gaza Strip

Israel has carried out more air strikes on the Gaza Strip, following dozens of rockets fired by the Palestinian Islamist movement, Hamas.

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Tension has spiked in recent days over deaths of of three young Israelis and the killing of a Palestinian teenager in an apparent revenge attack.

Rachel Fraenkel, whose son, Naftali, was one of three Israeli teenagers kidnapped and killed last month, has urged against vigilante action.

“No mother or father should ever have to go through what we are going through, and we share the pain of Mohammed’s parents,” Ms Fraenkel said.

The burnt body of 16-year-old Palestinian Mohammed Abu Khudair was discovered in a Jerusalem forest last week.

Israeli police have apprehended six suspects in the Palestinian teen’s death. Three reportedly have confessed.

 “Alongside the pain of this terrible act, we take pride in our country’s zeal to investigate, to arrest the criminals and to stop the horror…”

On Tuesday, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Natanyahu spoke to the family of the Palestinian youth over the phone.

“I wish to express my shock and the shock of Israel’s citizens over the despicable murder of your son,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told the father, according to a statement.

He also promised that those responsible would be brought to trial and prosecuted to the full extent of the law.

Mr Khudair’s death followed the kidnap and murder of three Israeli teens on June 12. Israel has blamed Hamas militants for the deaths

Ms Fraenkel said the legacy of the three Israeli teens “is one of love, of humanity, of national unity, and of integrity. Alongside the pain of this terrible act, we take pride in our country’s zeal to investigate, to arrest the criminals and to stop the horror, and we hope that calm will return to the streets of our country,” she said.