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Tapuai fancied a Rebels move

Queensland Reds inside-centre Ben Tapuai last year seriously contemplated a future as a Melbourne Rebel.
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The Rebels chased him hard and he was tempted to return to the city where he grew up, but in the end he decided to remain at the Reds and take advantage of the start he had been given by coach Ewen McKenzie, when he snared a regular position in 2011 and was part of the championship-winning team.

Tapuai had moved to the Gold Coast after taking up a scholarship to The Southport School.

So the 24-year-old remains part of the cluster of Australian players who grew up in Victoria but are part of rival teams, with the talented back among the Reds team that will play against the Rebels at AAMI Park on Friday night.

Tapuai is contracted to the Reds until the end of next year, and while he has not thought about his future beyond that date, he said the possibility of one day playing for the Rebels held some appeal.

”I just pretty much started, so if I moved again [last year] it just would have felt like I had started again,” said Tapuai, who played rugby at Box Hill.

”I was contemplating going, but at the end of the day I stuck at it and stuck with the Reds … but in saying that it would be awesome to go back to Melbourne and to finish off there, but I haven’t even thought of that.”

Tapuai’s star has risen to the extent that he has now played seven Tests for the Wallabies and is regarded as an integral part of the Reds back line, despite the bigger name players around him, such as Quade Cooper, the injured Will Genia and Digby Ioane. He said a change in attitude before the 2011 season sparked the upward momentum of his career.

”I think it’s commitment and diet. I was pretty bad in the diet situation. I just kind of ate anything and everything and then that pre-season – end of 2010, start of 2011 – that’s when I started to try and take things serious and things worked for me and it paid off.”

But Tapuai’s immediate thoughts are on Friday night’s clash with a Rebels team that he believed would provide more challenges than at any time during the Reds’ previous games this season.

”If they were playing in Melbourne last week against the Tahs, I reckon they would have got away with it … they were up 16-6 at half-time and they let it go in the last 20,” he said.

”But if you look at them from two years ago when they were beaten by the Waratahs by at least 30 points … they’ve improved immensely.”

Tapuai said the Rebels would lose little with James O’Connor replacing Kurtley Beale at five-eighth, with Beale sidelined with a broken hand.

Reds five-eighth Quade Cooper agreed with that assessment, noting that O’Connor had bulked up during his lay-off with injury. ”He’s grown up a lot and he’s a lot bigger. He’s not like a little 18-year-old any more.”

With aap

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Why confessed doper White deserves a chance to move on

Five months have passed since Matt White confessed to doping as a rider on the US Postal Service team then led by Lance Armstrong. While he has been sacked as Cycling Australia national men’s road coach and Orica-GreenEDGE’s head sports director, his future remains in limbo – until there is a ruling on his case by the Australian Sports Anti-Doping Authority, with whom he is understood to have co-operated fully.
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Yet despite White having raised his hand when his name appeared in the US Anti-Doping Agency’s ”reasoned decision” in the Armstrong case, confessed his guilt and, as understood, having been candid with ASADA, the national agency says it still can’t give any indication of when it will judge his case.

All a spokesperson for ASADA could say on Wednesday was: ”ASADA’s cycling investigation is progressing. ASADA is unable to discuss the ongoing investigation or operational matters associated with the investigation until such time as its legislation permits.”

It is still worrying that despite the ASADA probe into cycling continuing, it has taken so long for one case to be decided; especially considering the potential number of cases that could emerge from the Australian Crime Commission’s investigation into doping and corruption in Australian sport.

Is Australian sport set for a line of similar delays? Or is the political weight of ACC and ASADA joint operation so great that the White/cycling dossier has been put on the backburner?

Whatever the answer, the delay by ASADA has left White’s life circling in a frustrating holding pattern. Furthermore, his ability to make amends for his doping hinges on ASADA – if he faces a ban, for how long?

White, it is understood, has not heard any developments on his case since he met ASADA investigators. But he is committed to working for clean cycling – to be part of the solution, rather than the problem. One step he has taken is to join the Union Cycliste Internationale stakeholders’ anti-doping work group that meets next week. But his future involvement in it, or cycling at all, rests on ASADA’s verdict.

Even if White learns that he faces a one-year or six-month ban, he could spend it planning his re-entry to the sport and involvement in future proposals to help cycling go forward.

White hopes for a future in cycling and to show his commitment for clean sport is as strong as before. When he confessed to his doping on October 13, he said in a statement: ”I stopped my racing career because I had the opportunity to be part of something that had the potential to actually change cycling.”

In 2008, the year after his retirement, he took the position of head sports director on the American Garmin team, advocating clean cycling – and a second chance, as other former drug users were on it.

The team introduced ”blood profiling” that was later developed into the athlete biological passport and a no-needles policy. Both were embraced by the UCI and WADA.

White erred in 2009 by referring Garmin rider Trent Lowe for a health check to a doctor later charged by USADA with Armstrong – Luis Garcia del Moral. White lost his job, however, not for a breach of doping protocol, but an internal team policy disallowing the use of doctors not approved by the team. The referral, White and Garmin said, was because Lowe lived in Valencia, where Dr del Moral practised.

When White left Garmin in 2011, he took with him his commitment to clean cycling – as well as a number of Australian riders from Garmin – to the Australian Orica-GreenEDGE team that began last year. Will it end at Orica-GreenEDGE and his sacking? It shouldn’t. White still has much to offer cycling – not just as a wise head who can run a bike team, but as one who has admitted to his past as a drug user and has openly said he wants to help riders – if not the whole sport – make sure they don’t follow the same path.

Twitter – @rupertguinness

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To market, to market: Kitchen crew hit the road to pressure cooker

Tasmania’s Sam is feeling the farming vibe with his checked shirt. Going bananas… just another day in the My Kitchen Rules competition.
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Tonight on MKR it’s Market Madness, as Australia’s most popular reality program turns to social commentary with an unflinching look at the failures of late capitalism.

We begin with the theme song blaring “This is the best night of my life”, a lyric that is by now devastatingly ironic, and then some dramatic action film music as the teams walk purposefully towards Kitchen Headquarters.

“My heart’s thumpin’,” says knockabout bloke Mick in a knockabout way. Is he nervous? No, just really unhealthy.

“Hey guys, the kitchen’s closed,” calls Luke with the sort of naturalistically convincing depiction of surprise rarely seen outside Meryl Streep acceptance speeches. All the contestants are shocked at this unexpected twist – they never saw it coming.

The sign says more information is in the cars. “Go to your cars? I can’t drive!” exclaims Ashlee. Oh no! I guess she’ll just have to stay there then, sitting outside Kitchen Headquarters playing with passing ants, as she was woefully unprepared for this dynamic and utterly unpredictable turn of events.

In the cars they find a letter telling them that Pete and Manu have decided they need time to find themselves, and wishing them all the happiness in the world.

No, actually it’s a letter telling them to drive to Sydney Markets, where they will open stalls and sell their food to the public. The team that makes the most money wins.

This is a great challenge, as there is no more discerning audience for fine cuisine than the patrons of Sydney Markets. It also tests the number one criterion for any aspiring chef: the ability to yell loudly enough at as many people as possible until they give you their money.

The first snag is struck when it is discovered that nobody can reverse a car without putting themselves in mortal danger. Horns honk, Melina screams, the police are called, and we’re off to the markets.

“The first team there gets to start shopping and start cooking before anyone else,” says Luke, his years of study on the linear nature of time having paid off in spades here.

Sophia demands that Craig not let anyone in, playing the Ethel Merman to his Milton Berle in this culinary-themed reboot of It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad Mad World. “Craig’s as competitive as we are, so it’s a good match,” Sophie informs us, although to be honest it seems more like the prelude to a violent in-car murder.

“Such a smooth car,” says Ali, aware of how much Honda has paid for its products to appear in this episode. “Such a good driver!” retorts Sam waggishly, ruining the moment.

Samuel interjects in a cutaway to explain how Sydney is very big, compared to other places that are smaller. Here the markets are far away but in Tassie it takes five minutes to get to the markets. Nobody points out to him that it takes five minutes to get to the markets in Sydney too if you live five minutes away from the markets, because nobody who works on MKR has any interest in exposing the deeper truths of the universe. “From anywhere,” adds Ali, the filthy liar.

In Josh and Andi’s car, tension is rising, and by “car” I mean “relationship”. “Where do I go?” demands Andi. “Just settle down,” says Josh, refusing to answer the question. Andi puts her hands to her head, thereby rendering herself unable to either steer or see.

Everyone else is just stunned by the size of the markets, especially Ali and Samuel, since in Tassie every building is only a metre high.

Pete and Manu are looked for in the throng, and after a quick edit cutting out the four days of searching, they are located. “This is where you’re shopping, this is where you’re cooking!” Manu bellows. Or maybe he said, “Tease it, wear your chopping, tizzle we’re yo cocking.” Or “Underwear’s a-hopping, just beware your booking”. I honestly have no idea any more. Manu explains the teams have 90 minutes to shop (“shoop”?), cook and start selling, a look of abject terror on his face. This cutaway was filmed after the challenge, and you can tell that Manu has seen things this day that he knows he can never un-see.

Pete tells Dan, Steph, Luke and Scott that they were the last to arrive and they had better hurry up. They stand there gazing at him, unable to move, transfixed by his diamond-cutter cheekbones.

In the markets, Mick and Matt are bewildered – the Sydney Markets are actually three times the size of Tasmania itself. “I feel like I’ve just flown into Bangkok,” says Mick, bewildered by the amount of transgender sex being offered to him. A quick series of cuts establish that the market is a) big; b) full of people waving bananas; and c) being destroyed by MKR idiots crashing their trolleys into stuff.

Joanna is insistent she win the people’s choice today, but Jenna is already on her fifth drink of the morning and it looks doubtful. “I just want to make the most money,” says Joanna, as Jenna nods along, blissfully ignorant of her surroundings. Joanna commandeers the PA system to announce she will be providing hotcakes for all. She is besieged by anxious shoppers wondering where their lost child is.

Kerrie and Craig are making gozleme, which is a thing apparently. Kerrie worries that Craig doesn’t know what he’s doing: Craig assures her he has changed. Mick and Matt are making cinnamon chicken, but their shopping is being put at risk by Mick’s intense misanthropy.

Meanwhile, Jake is hitting people with his trolley and harassing an innocent AC/DC fan to bring him some pork. Josh is pushing his way through the throng. He feels like Moses parting the sea, and dreams of drowning thousands. “I think people are going to like our dish, Josh!” Andi shrieks in his ear for no particular reason.

Elsewhere, Manu is ordering Ashlee and Sophia to run, for his own dark motives. Ashlee and Sophia quickly move into top gear, saying “Babe” more than times within a minute.

Ali and Samuel are making spiced chicken with a pumpkin rosti. Samuel explains to Ali that it is a South American dish, delighting in her ignorance. He then explains that it’s actually a multicultural dish, containing “flavours of the world”. He then explains that a rosti is a “Swedish pancake”, as Ali begins to think very seriously about having him committed. “Definitely food fit for this market,” Samuel declares. Apparently the market is full of people who also don’t know what a rosti is.

The teams begin pricing their dishes, and Sophia begins calling Kerrie “Babe”, which is an act of uncalled-for aggression against a foreign power. Elsewhere, peeling these prawns will take Dan an eternity, mainly because he thinks he’s still in bed. Dan and Steph think their dish is multicultural too, unaware of how racist prawns can be. What Dan loves about the dish is that it’s easy to eat: Dan has been burnt by difficult foods before.

Activity is furious, but curiosity begins to grow as to why Jake and Elle have yet to return to their stall. Have they been involved in a fatal trolley pile-up? No it’s just that they need limes and their metalhead pork boy has played them for suckers.

Scott tells us that today’s challenge is all about serving great dishes to the public, even though it’s actually all about sweating heavily and yelling. Pete is explaining the rules of the challenge to Manu, who had no idea because he wasn’t listening to the voice-over before. Manu explains the rules back to Pete. Everyone seems pretty happy.

And Jake and Elle have their pork! Jake begins harassing people forthwith. They’ll need to, because Angela and Melina are making popcorn chicken with hot chips – they’ve been to markets before. Melina shouts “Eat me!” and a popular new ring-tone is born.

The batter is proving difficult, however. “It’s like a five-spice batter party!” Melina yells. “I’ve got batter in my hair!” Angela screeches. It’s all incredibly arousing. But the last thing Melina is thinking is that she’s making a mess – she’s actually thinking about the family of otters hidden inside her hairdo.

Manu yells at Jake and Elle. Jake yells at Elle. The cycle of violence continues. Elle, admirably, does not kick Jake in the crotch.

Over at Sam and Chris’ stall, Sam and Chris are still on the show.

Meanwhile, Joanna is pouring out an industrial bag of flour while Jenna tries to remember how to spell “hotcakes”. Over at Luke and Scott’s stall, Luke makes a pun about corn and therefore is automatically eliminated.

Kerrie is screaming at Craig as yet another mince-related divorce begins to loom. Manu explains to Pete how they couldn’t find any mince, and Pete’s eyeballs leap out of his head and go for a walk around the city.

Andi wants to prove she can handle couscous. Her life goals have really shrunk since she was a little girl.

Pete and Manu continue to talk about things they already know. Pete tells Manu the problem with Mick and Matt is that Mick is really slow, conveniently glossing over all the other problems. Mick is cutting up some vegetables in the rapid-fire, quicksilver manner of a man undergoing a major stroke. Meanwhile, Samuel has spilt peppercorns all over his chicken and become even less likely to get Ali into bed.

At Ashlee and Sophia’s stall they are calling each other “Babe”, but suddenly drama, as the “Babes” subside and begin to be replaced by words too rude for Channel Seven to air. The pressure is getting to them and suddenly Ashlee and Sophia are sniping viciously at each other in the same way everyone else in the world wants to. It’s possible that within a few minutes someone will be disembowelled with tongs.

Sophia tries to mend bridges by calling Ashlee “Babe” a few more times, but Ashlee is having none of it, hurling bleeps back like R2-D2. It’s all very amusing to Jake and Elle, who like nothing more than watching friendships disintegrate.

Speaking of disintegration, Kerrie and Craig now loathe each other. When they were married, Craig never revealed that he was terrible at mincing, and this deception has hit Kerrie hard. But if there’s anything slower than Craig’s mincing, it’s Mick’s chopping, and Matt experiences explicit patricidal fantasies.

Joanna and Chris are making sexual innuendoes at each other and it’s disgusting. Much like Dan’s prawns. Everything Dan and Steph have made, in fact, look like what’s left on the market floor at the end of the day.

Elle is stressed by how many elements are in a Vietnamese baguette: four, apparently. Conversely, Mick is just stressed by the existence of vegetables. He begins making skewers, and at the current rate should be ready to serve by the next series of Celebrity Masterchef.

“Are you having problems?” Kerrie asks Sophia. “Not any more,” says Sophia, strongly suggesting she has murdered Ashlee. But no, happily the Babes are back.

It’s almost time to start selling, as Luke descends into insanity and starts frying up some dog vomit. What’s worse, he’s burnt it! At least he’s not Melina, who is being driven nuts by the tongs situation. Luke’s had to throw his vomit fritters into the bin. “We needed these fritters on plates, not in the bin,” says Luke, savvy businessman.

At the gates, a horde of hungry patrons wait, eager to barge down the aisle and engage in the foodie freak show that awaits. They enter, and it is time for Chris to explain the rules again. Which means it’s time for Ashlee to explain the rules again.

Money is changing hands everywhere but Angela and Melina’s stall, where there is nothing to serve except chips. Which, to be fair, still look better than most of what’s being served. Over at Jake and Elle’s stall, Jake begins shouting about his food, which seems like a major miscalculation of just how annoying Jake’s voice is. Meanwhile, Ashlee and Sophia have upped their “Babe” rate and are five minutes from degenerating into an incomprehensible Smurf-style Babe-language.

Pete and Manu are disgusted with Angela and Melina’s effort. The popcorn isn’t crispy. Manu looks around for a table to flip.

In the battle of the pancakes, Sam and Chris are winning, their ability to quickly crank out large numbers of well-made pancakes proving more effective than Jenna and Joanna’s ability to go a bit cross-eyed from time to time. Manu would have preferred fresh fruit to cooked fruit on J and J’s hotcakes, but you know, Manu, it’s not all about YOU.

Elsewhere, Andi’s couscous is lovely and fluffy and she can die happy. Which she might do soon if the look on her face is any guide.

Dan and Steph’s rice paper rolls are a success. Less successful is Samuel’s tactic of attracting customers by screaming incoherently at them. It seems less likely to earn him money than it is to have him arrested, but maybe it’s a Tasmanian thing.

Ashlee and Sophia have sold out, and so write on their board “SOLD OUT SUCKERS”, because they are just as ungracious and rude in moments of triumph as they are in moments of disappointment. They take the opportunity to wander about the market and say nasty things about everyone else, sticking with their strengths.

On seeing Angela and Melina’s dish, Sophia opines, “It looks like a mess, just like them”, just in case there was anyone left in Australia who didn’t hate her. Jake and Elle have also sold out, but Ashlee and Sophia still find ways to be bitchy about them: they are nothing if not resourceful. “Just because you put coriander in a dish doesn’t make it Vietnamese,” says Ashlee, speaking some bizarre alien tongue I am unfamiliar with.

Manu enjoys Kerrie and Craig’s gozleme, though it could be the cognac talking. He is less impressed with Mick and Matt’s cinnamon skewers lightly dusted with chicken. Mick, though, is “feeling pumped”: he’s so full of energy he’s managing to make up to three skewers an hour.

Closing time, and judgment awaits. One team will gain immunity: one team will go to sudden death. The other teams will just sort of stand there, uninterestingly. Jake expresses the hope that he has not failed: that’s what makes him such a fierce competitor.

Manu tells them they did well: he makes special comment on something or other that I can’t understand. Bad news for Luke and Scott though: Manu hated their mushy fritters. But Pete loved the mushy fritters! Pete and Manu wrestle to decide it.

Dan and Steph’s rice paper rolls are a hit: after all, a rice paper roll is just like a see-through sausage. Mick and Matt, though, were stunningly bad. As for Josh and Andi, Pete says, “what can I say except, yum!”

He then proceeds to say a lot of other things. Ali and Samuel’s chicken was delectable, though Manu found their salsa not wet enough … IF YOU KNOW WHAT I MEAN.

Pete and Manu explain to Ashlee and Sophia that their dish was wonderful apart from the bits that were terrible, and also that they should have been nicer to each other: none of your business, Pete and Manu.

And of course Angela and Melina failed miserably: Manu thinks it was good for the kids, but his childlike sense of wonder was long ago beaten out of him by the misery of the world. And Kerrie and Craig did very well and do not have to split up yet.

Manu tells Joanna and Jenna that he’s been waiting for a great dessert from them … and is still waiting. Jenna begins crying, either because of the harsh judgment, or because a slight breeze just ruffled her hair.

And finally, Sam and Chris: they have nothing to worry about, says Pete. This is an exaggeration, but their pancakes were good. Pete tells them their dish looked “feminine”: everyone immediately starts worrying about Pete.

But who wins people’s choice? Who has exploited the principles of supply and demand most successfully? It is … AD BREAK.

We’re back, and Samuel explains that it’s now time to find out who made the most money, for those who tuned in during the ad break, or those with short-term memory loss. Ashlee and Sophia hope they’ve won, just to upset Angela and Melina, but they can suck it, because Jake and Elle have won. “I’m on the moon right now!” says Elle, so happy she’s forgotten how figures of speech work.

Ashlee is gutted that another Vietnamese dish won, because she has a pathological need to reduce everything to race. Sophia notes that if they had done Jake and Elle’s dish, it would have been “authentic” – several thousand TV screens are at this point kicked in.

Jake and Elle now gain immunity from elimination, and also the chance to choose another team to gain immunity. They pick Kerrie and Craig. Whatever, I guess. Everyone gets unnecessarily emotional.

But what of the most important question: who are the losers? I mean, Ashlee and Sophia obviously, but who lost the challenge? It’s Jenna and Joanna!

Manu thinks of petite and pretty when he thinks of them, and he didn’t believe their desserts were coming from them. Does he suspect them of stealing hotcakes from somebody else? Jenna is devastated, tearful and kind of sleepy. Pete would look at it as another chance to shine, but Jenna and Joanna look at it more as another chance to stab themselves with toasting forks.

And so till next week, when we will return to Kitchen Headquarters to find out who will face Jenna and Joanna in a sudden-death cook-off, and whether they’ll finally have the guts to make “sudden-death” literal … adieu!

Ben Pobjie will be appearing in Let’s Put on a Show at the Melbourne International Comedy Festival from April 9-14.

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Back troubles frustrate Furner as Raiders face fitness race for season start

Feet up: Josh Dugan takes it easy at training. Photo: Colleen Petch Canberra coach David Furner will decide on Thursday whether to gamble on back-line stars Josh Dugan and Jarrod Croker in Sunday’s season opener, with key back-up Reece Robinson also in doubt for the Penrith match.
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Dugan and Croker were both put through fitness tests on Wednesday afternoon. Furner rated both players better than a 50-50 chance of playing against the Panthers.

Their late inclusion would be a massive bonus for the Raiders, especially after Robinson sat out training on Wednesday because of back spasms.

Robinson had been named at fullback in place of Dugan, and was also in line to take over the goal-kicking duties from Croker.

But the Indigenous All Stars representative winger had acupuncture treatment after straining his back in a weights session.

The Raiders took a conservative approach with Dugan and Croker, but both have surprised coaching staff with speedy recoveries.

Croker was put through a tough tackling session at the end of Wednesday’s training to test his injured right knee. But the NRL’s leading points scorer last year did not take part in a session with goal-kicking guru Daryl Halligan.

Having been hospitalised for three days with a lip infection, Dugan ran strongly on Wednesday. If Dugan, Croker and Robinson are unavailable, Blake Ferguson is next in line to kick goals.

Furner said he would make a call on positions on Thursday, giving combinations time to gel before Sunday’s kick-off.

”There’s no excuses,” Furner said. ”I wouldn’t even call it a disruption. I’ve got players there that have been training in the top squad all pre-season. If I have to make changes, I make changes. [Dugan and Croker] have upped the ante from 50-50, both of them. But these games I need them fully fit. I need to see how they pull up.”

Former Kangaroos prop Brett White is almost certain to drop off the Raiders bench and could play NSW Cup with the Mounties. The Raiders want to increase his game time as White continues his comeback from knee reconstruction.

Hooker Glen Buttriss is expected to be given another week off to recover from an ankle injury, while Terry Campese isn’t likely to be fit until at least round three.

Meanwhile, Shaun Johnson’s right elbow might not be 100 per cent, but the star halfback is confident it will stand up to the rigours of the Warriors’ season-opening match against Parramatta on Saturday night.

Johnson, 22, has made an earlier than expected return after hyperextending the joint in a trial in Dunedin on February 23.

”From Monday’s field session to today’s field session, I’m feeling a lot more confident about it,” he said.

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Rawiller to miss Randwick Guineas after suspension

Nash Rawiller will miss Randwick Guineas day after he was suspended for five meetings for careless riding at Newcastle on Wednesday.
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The champion hoop pleaded guilty to shifting in at the 1000-metre mark on Ivanhoe, checking Entirely Platinum ridden by Jay Ford. He made an application to be reprimanded but stewards suspended him.

This leaves the Gai Waterhouse stable without its No.1 rider for the first leg of the three-year-old triple crown, which could be Pierro and Proisir’s next appearance.

Meanwhile, Racing NSW will move towards the model used by Victoria in charging more for premium meetings under the racefields fees, starting from Saturday’s Chipping Norton Stakes meeting at Warwick Farm.

The standard fee of 1.5 per cent of turnover will jump to 2 per cent for premium meetings that carry a race worth more than $150,000. It is the same impost Racing Victoria put on all meetings in October and November.

”This is not unique,” Racing NSW chief Peter V’landys said. “It is only fair that a premium product attracts a premium fee as it does in any other business.”

The first harness meeting to charge 2 per cent was Sunday’s Inter Dominion final at Menangle, which had nationwide turnover of more than $7 million.

“It means an extra $30,000 to $40,000 for the meeting,” Harness Racing NSW chief executive Sam Nati said. “We have set our premium meetings as ones with a race more than $30,000, and it is around 10 per cent of all our meetings.”

The racefields fee earns Harness Racing more than $7 million a year. V’landys puts racing’s product fee at $40 million to $50 million a year.

The increase has angered bookmakers. “Bookmakers will adjust their odds because of the extra costs, and it will hurt punters,” Rob Waterhouse said.

V’landys countered: “This does not affect punters, it only cuts into the profit made by the corporate bookmakers. The argument that it slugs punters is ridiculous.”

Betstar boss Alan Eskander warned that racing might be pricing itself out of the market.

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EDITORIAL: Honour to the peacekeeper

THE Australian War Memorial Council has acted with wisdom and justice by agreeing, at last, to allow the names of fallen peacekeepers to be inscribed on the memorial’s roll of honour.
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After all, few tasks – in or out of uniform – are more honourable than peacekeeping.

Until now the memorial council had stuck to an old edict that only those whose lives were lost in actual theatres of war could be named on the roll. Fallen peacekeepers’ names were relegated to a separate remembrance book.

This discrepancy had caused immense heartache to families of peacekeepers, who garnered the support of many thousands of sympathetic Australians who agreed that their loved ones’ names belonged by right on the great national memorial.

Among the campaigners were the parents of Speers Point reservist engineer Craftsman Beau Pridue, whose life was cut short by a tragic accident in East Timor.

Tradition is important, but there are times when it must be flexible.

The war memorial roll of honour was born almost a century ago, before the concept of military peacekeeping missions evolved.

Those who created the memorial did so with equality of recognition uppermost in their mind.

Those designers would surely have embraced the inclusion of uniformed peacemakers whose sacrifice is no less profound than those slain in battle, or by accident or disease in a theatre of war.

When a person wears the Australian uniform as a peacekeeper, they do so knowing the great risks they may face in course of that task.

It is right and fair that Australia should record their names on its roll of honour if they should happen to fall in the line of this most honourable of uniformed duties.

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Suspensions loom for Cronulla stars

Up to 14 Cronulla players left a meeting at Sharkies Leagues Club on Tuesday night fearing their careers may be in tatters after being told that they should accept a six-month suspension – or risk further sanctions over the use of performance-enhancing drugs.
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A lawyer, hired by Cronulla to negotiate with ASADA in the wake of the drugs body’s investigations into peptide use, had come to the meeting with documents already prepared for the players to sign, admitting to the use of performance-enhancing drugs.

The players were told that if they signed the documents, they would face no further sanctions beyond the six-month ban and would remain employed by the club, but that if they did not sign, they would open themselves to the possibility of longer suspensions. But the players, who attended the meeting with their agents, refused.

It is understood the players were set a deadline to sign the papers. It is believed the same lawyer had previously told players at the club that they had little to worry about, before dramatically changing tack this week following further talks with ASADA.

The investigation into Cronulla has focused on the 2011 season, and the involvement of controversial sports scientist Stephen Dank. The players believe that a former employee has blown the whistle on the use of supplements at the club. That employee refused to comment on Wednesday night when contacted by Fairfax Media.

The ACC and ASADA had come under significant pressure since the release of an unclassified document to name names. But the events of the past few days have brought the focus clearly onto Cronulla, leaving Sharks officials devastated. It is understood that eight players at other NRL clubs have been implicated in the latest ASADA investigations.

Fairfax Media was told that the meeting on Tuesday night was the sixth attended by the Sharks players since the dramatic news conference in Canberra a month earlier to announce the findings of an ACC report into doping and match fixing.

However, it was the first to which player agents had also been invited and rumours quickly began swirling on Wednesday morning of a story that would knock Ben Barba and Sonny Bill Williams off the front and back pages of newspapers. No player is thought to have failed a drugs test.  It is understood that if players do admit to taking a banned substance they would claim to have done so unknowingly.

Fairfax Media has been told that Sharks players were given beta thymosin and CJC 1295 during 2011.  It has been suggested that the substances were not on the World Anti-Doping Agency banned list at the time. Sharks coach Shane Flanagan and football manager Darren Mooney did not return calls.  A club spokesman denied reports that the players had been interviewed by the Australian Sports Anti-Doping Authority on Wednesday.

Instead the players trained as normal to prepare for Sunday night’s match against Gold Coast, but their futures are uncertain amid speculation that either ASADA or the club will stand them down on Friday.

A shopping centre appearance by players on Thursday night was scrapped and an announcement of a new sleeve sponsor has been delayed. The Sharks say they have already lost a deal of up to $2million for the naming rights of their stadium after they were one of six NRL clubs named in the ACC report.

All six clubs – Cronulla, Penrith, Manly, Canberra, Newcastle and North Queensland – have links with sports scientist Stephen Dank, who is at the centre of an investigation into an AFL club, Essendon.

Dank was sacked by Essendon at the end of last season and more than 20 of the club’s players have been interviewed.

The Sharks issued a statement on Wednesday night, announcing they were working with ASADA.

‘‘Sharks fans and all rugby league supporters can be assured the club has been very proactive in fully co-operating with ASADA and taking other measures that prioritise the integrity of our club and the welfare of our playing group,’’ it said. ‘‘While there are strict boundaries around what we can say while the ASADA investigation is ongoing, fans should be assured that as soon as there is an opportunity to provide further information we will do so.’’

NRL officials said they had not been contacted by the Sharks or ASADA over the fate of any Cronulla players.

There were high hopes Cronulla would break their title duck this year but the latest developments have cast a pall over the club.

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Baillieu quits as Premier; Napthine takes charge

Premier Ted Baillieu leaves Parliament House after making his resignation speech. Photo: Joe ArmaoSource: The Age
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Ted Baillieu has resigned as Premier after a Liberals-only crisis meeting on Wednesday night, saying “I do this in the best interests of the government”.

Denis Napthine is the new leader and Mr Baillieu will remain in parliament.

“I love this state, I love the Liberal Party and I love this role that I have had the honour to enjoy over the last two and a bit years,” Mr Baillieu told reporters.

“It is apparent to me that a change of leadership is in the best interests of the government.

“I want to thank the people of Victoria. I wish Denis Napthine the best. He has my full support. He’s an outstanding individual.”

Mr Baillieu said he would shortly visit the governor to tender his resignation. He thanked his family and said the most important thing is the people of Victoria.

Dr Napthine previously led the Victorian Liberal Party in opposition but was deposed by Robert Doyle in 2002.

“Ted has put his heart and soul into the Victorian Liberal Party … for the best part of three decades,” Dr Napthine said.

“He is an outstanding individual. He is not just a colleague, he is a great friend.”

Dr Napthine, who turns 61 today, declared to reporters that he would ”lead the party to the next election”.

Although his press conference was briefly interrupted by division bells, he remained calm. He dodged questions about how the events of the evening had unfolded, saying that was a matter for Mr Baillieu to explain.

He also declared the state’s currents woes should be blamed on Julia Gillard and the federal government.

How it happened: 5.30pm update

Ted Baillieu’s government is in crisis following the resignation of its most controversial backbencher, but the Premier insists he will continue to govern ”decisively” despite losing his one-seat majority.

In an extraordinary day in Victorian politics, the Coalition was rocked by revelations that embattled Frankston MP Geoff Shaw had quit the Liberal Party to sit on the crossbenches as an independent.

Mr Shaw— who is still under police investigation for rorting his taxpayer-funded car — made the shock announcement in a letter to Mr Baillieu on Wednesday morning, but the pair have not spoken since.

His decision means the government is now on the grip of a hung parliament — with Mr Shaw set to become the new kingmaker in a deadlocked Legislative Assembly.

Before today, the Coalition held 44 seats in the 88-member lower house, excluding the Speaker’s.

But Mr Shaw’s exit means the government now has only 43 votes on the floor of the parliament – equal to the number of votes Labor will hold, assuming it retains the safe seat of Lyndhurst, formerly held by Tim Holding, at next month’s bi-election. (The Liberal Party has chosen not to run a candidate).

Shell-shocked government MPs were called into a crisis meeting in parliament this morning where Mr Baillieu delivered the news. But the Premier emerged from that meeting saying he was confident he would continue to govern in Victoria despite his tenuous grip on power now being into doubt.

Asked if he was angry with Mr Shaw — whom the Premier has continued to defend as ”a good local member” despite his past conduct — Mr Baillieu replied: ”My job doesn’t allow me the luxury of emotions.”

”I’d rather not be in this situation, but this is the situation we’re in,” he said. ”The constitution is clear on these matters and we will continue to govern.”

The Coalition will now have to rely on Mr Shaw’s vote to get bills through the parliament, although by late this afternoon it was still not clear what the Frankston MPs voting intentions were.

Mr Baillieu suggested creating a charter arrangement, similar to past minority governments, but added: ”At this stage he hasn’t put … demands in writing, and we will discuss these issues with him.”

Mr Shaw’s resignation follows an appalling week for Mr Baillieu, which included revelations of secret tapes that blew the lid on backroom deals between his chief of staff Tony Nutt, Liberal party state director Damien Mantach, and Tristan Weston, the ministerial staffer who had sought to undermine former chief commissioner Simon Overland.

The tapes, obtained by theHerald Sun, found Mr Weston, a former adviser to Deputy Premier Peter Ryan, was paid $22,500 by the Liberal Party after he quit amid the scandal – a payment Labor has described as ”hush money”.

Mr Baillieu has since referred the matter to the government’s anti-corruption watchdog, but insists there has been no serious corruption involved.

However, the tapes — which come on top of another poor Newspoll this week and Victoria plunging into recession today — has further undermined the Premier’s leadership.

Senior MPs on Tuesday warned that Mr Baillieu is ”one or two more stuff ups” away from a spill, with some agitating for Planning Minister Matthew Guy to mount a challenge.

Labor leader Daniel Andrews said it was clear the government was in crisis, but he would not be seeking Mr Shaw’s vote.

”(Ted Baillieu) is not so much running a government; he is running a complete and utter circus,” Mr Andrews said.

”This government is doing nothing to deliver for the people of this state other than to lurch from one crisis to the next.”

Mr Shaw’s resignation is the latest twist in what has so far been a colorful career. The 45-year-old businessman has been mired in controversy since he won the lower-house seat of Frankston in 2010. In May 2012, it was alleged his staff, as well as Mr Shaw himself, had used his parliamentary car for business related to his hardware factory.

The matter was subject to an Ombudsman’s investigation, and police late last year launched a criminal investigation into the issue.

Despite the scandal — and repeated calls for Mr Shaw to be sacked — Mr Baillieu continued to defend him as a ”good local member.”

Deputy Premier Peter Ryan insisted this afternoon that the government was not in crisis and that ”until the (Lyndhurst) byelection on the 27th of April, the government has the numbers.”

Asked if he supported Mr Baillieu, he said he had ”absolute and utter confidence in the Premier” and insisted he was doing a ”magnificent job.”

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GREG RAY: Our ‘state’ of the arts

WHAT did the NSW arts minister and Upper Hunter MP say when asked this week for $400million to extend an art gallery in Sydney?
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He said: ‘‘The next stage is to conduct the appropriate feasibility studies and then possibly progress to initial design.’’

What did the same minister and Upper Hunter MP say when asked for $7million to match a federal grant to help extend Newcastle Art Gallery?

He said: ‘‘The gallery may be eligible to apply for assistance through the regional capital grant category.

‘‘Please note that funding is limited to $100,000 per project. However, funding of up to $250,000 may be considered in special circumstances.’’

Note the difference?

The minister, George Souris, didn’t promise to cough up $400million for the Art Gallery of NSW, but he wouldn’t rule it out either. And bear in mind, the Sydney extension will also involve an extra $8million a year in recurrent funding.

But when asked about Newcastle’s gallery, the word ‘‘no’’ couldn’t have been clearer if the minister had put it in neon over Hunter Street.

Because, as everybody knows, the only place in NSW that has art or culture is Sydney.

That’s why it makes sense for a government that administers a budget for the benefit of the entire state to spend almost all of its arts allocation in just one city.

The Hunter Region might have almost 10per cent of the state’s population, but that’s bad luck.

Newcastle might have one of the most wonderful art collections in Australia and barely enough floorspace to show a tiny fraction of it. But that’s bad luck too, because as far as the government is concerned, if it isn’t in Sydney, it doesn’t exist.

It’s worth repeating that the O’Farrell government has allocated about $370million for the arts over the coming year.

Almost all of it is for Sydney.

The Sydney Opera House, for example, gets $135.3million. The State Library gets $85.5million, the Australian Museum gets $26.5million, the Art Gallery of NSW gets $29.3million and the Powerhouse Museum gets $33million.

Outside of Sydney, if you aren’t a marginal seat in the lead-up to a tight election, you can just shut up and go away.

And it’s not just the Hunter that cops this bare-faced injustice from this alleged government of NSW.

When Albury put out its hand asking for a lousy $3.5million to match a federal grant to extend its art gallery, the Coalition government told it to nick off too.

No money for hicks in the sticks whose votes don’t matter.

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Martyn slams batsmen

Damien Martyn has accused Australia of lacking fight in its second Test capitulation in India, and queries the methodology behind the selection of a ”bits and pieces” touring party.
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The former Test batsmen was the player of the series in Australia’s historic 2-1 win in India in 2004, scoring two centuries and topping the scoring tally with 444 runs at an average of 55.

Martyn said Australia’s batsmen had failed to heed the lessons about playing in the subcontinent.

”I was more disappointed probably by our second innings – the wicket was hard to bat on, yes, it’s doing a bit more and turning more,” said Martyn, speaking on an online panel, The Cricket Club.

”But to be bowled out in a session – it’s just disappointing in the sense that, where was the fight? I’m not saying we need to make 400 or whatever, but just in our shot selection and running between wickets.

“Batting in India, or batting on any wicket, the harder the wicket is, the longer you bat it becomes easier because you’re used to the conditions, you’re used to the ball coming on.”

Martyn also took aim at the make-up of the squad in India. He said the shortage of depth in Sheffield Shield cricket was a major problem but believes selectors are not picking the best side possible.

“What is Steve Smith there for anyway?” he said. “We have a squad here of players who do bits and pieces. Nothing personal against them. Yes, they might be great one-day players and Twenty20 players, but in that line-up the (Glenn) Maxwells and all these guys, what’s their main thing?

“That’s what I want to know. Is Maxwell going to be our main off-spinner in England? Because if he’s not, then don’t worry about him, get (Nathan) Lyon back in.”

The chances of that happening in Mohali are not high. Australia are likely to revert back to a line-up of three fast bowlers in India’s north on a wicket tipped to favour their seamers more than Chennai and Hyderabad.

Australia head coach Mickey Arthur said Maxwell had been too expensive in the second Test despite taking four wickets. But asked whether Lyon was in contention to be recalled by next week, Arthur was non-committal.

“To answer that truthfully, I’m not sure,” he said. “We will have to have a look and see where he is over the next couple of days. I’m not sure on that, time will tell I guess.

“I think Nathan still has a massive future and he probably he is up there as our best spinner at the moment, but you fluctuate in and out of form and he’s learning the game at international level, which is a really tough gig for him.”

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