Month: August 2019


2014 Knights Bennett’s ‘finest hour’

He’s won seven premierships across two clubs but Wayne Bennett says his 2014 season with 12th-placed Newcastle may have been the “finest hour” of his coaching career.


Bennett’s Knights gave him a strong send off with a 40-10 thrashing St George Illawarra at Hunter Stadium on Sunday, before he returns to coaching Brisbane where he won six of those titles.

The veteran’s three-year tenure didn’t produce the level of success anticipated following his big money signing by ex-owner Nathan Tinkler, with just one finals campaign – the thrilling run to the preliminary finals in 2013.

But Bennett said a 2014 season which included losing Alex McKinnon to a career-ending spinal injury, Russell Packer to a jail cell, Darius Boyd to a mental health institute and then overseas and Jeremy Smith and Kade Snowden to suspension following the ASADA scandal, could be his greatest achievement in the game.

Asked to reflect on his time at Newcastle, Bennett said: “Well maybe in my coaching career it may have been my finest hour this year.”

The remark drew a snicker from the media, but ever-stoic Bennett insisted he was serious.

“You laugh because I know I’m in a result-driven business, but no one knows what we’ve been through this year except those who have been part of that action.

“These guys who keep every week having to turn up under a lot of different situations.

“Lot’s of times I wasn’t coaching here, I was just managing situations and making sure it was holding together so we could finish the season with a bit of credibility, which we managed to do and we finished as a team which is more important to me than anything else.”

When asked if the season was proof there was more to coaching than just wins and losses Bennett replied: “It shouldn’t be, but it was here”.

Bennett said he did not feel especially emotional about his last day on the job at Newcastle.

“No,” he said. “I made the decision three months ago. It’s not my last game in the game itself. I’ll miss the guys, but I’ve done it before, it’s not new territory for me.”

The Knights did finish their season on a high, claiming their final five home games and winning seven out of their last nine.

They outplayed and out-enthused the Dragons, who were knocked out of finals contention a week earlier.

The Knights took a 24-4 lead into the break thanks to tries to Joey Leilua, Jarrod Mullen, Timana Tahu and Sione Mata’utia.

Leilua was his dominant best until a head knock forced him out with concussion.

Tahu, unwanted by the Knights in 2015, took his place and scored a try double, dunking the ball over the crossbar after his first.

The Knights ran away with the match in the second half as Mata’utia and Tahu each notched up doubles and Dane Gagai touched down following some bizarre play in the in-goals.

Dragons coach Paul McGregor said inexperience and lack of motivation may have contributed to his team’s disappointing showing.

26/08/2019 0

US strikes hit Iraq Sunni Arab heartland

Washington says it has carried out air strikes against jihadists in Iraq’s Sunni Arab heartland, expanding its month-long air campaign and its involvement in the conflict.


Sunday’s strikes were a significant escalation for President Barack Obama, who made his political career opposing the war in Iraq and pulled out US troops in 2011.

Previous strikes since Obama launched the US air campaign on August 8 had been mainly in support of Kurdish forces in the north.

US warplanes bombed Islamic State (IS) jihadists around a strategic dam on the Euphrates River in an area that the jihadists have repeatedly tried to capture from government troops and their Sunni militia allies.

“We conducted these strikes to prevent terrorists from further threatening the security of the dam, which remains under control of Iraqi security forces, with support from Sunni tribes,” Pentagon spokesman Rear Admiral John Kirby said.

“The potential loss of control of the dam or a catastrophic failure of the dam – and the flooding that might result – would have threatened US personnel and facilities in and around Baghdad, as well as thousands of Iraqi citizens,” he added.

It was the first time that Washington had carried out air strikes in support of forces including Sunni Arab militia in the current conflict.

Late last month it gave limited air support to the army, Shi’ite militia and Kurdish fighters in breaking an IS siege of the Shi’ite Turkmen town of Amerli north of Baghdad.

Dams have been a key target for the jihadists, and there has been major fighting around Iraq’s largest dam on the Tigris River north of militant-held second city Mosul, which has been a major focus of the US air campaign.

US officials have previously expressed concern about the integrity of both Haditha and Mosul dams, which require constant maintenance as a result of under-investment.

The two dams are important sources of both power and irrigation water for farmers.

Western governments have come under mounting pressure to take strong action against IS, which controls a swathe of neighbouring Syria as well as significant territory north and west of Baghdad.

The jihadist group has carried out a spate of atrocities in areas under its control, some of which it has videotaped and paraded on the internet.

The United Nations has accused IS of ethnic cleansing in northern Iraq, detailing a campaign of mass detentions and executions in Christian, Turkmen and Yazidi Kurdish areas.

The beheading of American journalists James Foley and Steven Sotloff has added to the pressure on Western leaders.

Western governments have voiced mounting concern that nationals who have gone to Syria or Iraq to fight with IS will return home to carry out attacks.

26/08/2019 0

Williams confirm Bottas and Massa for 2015

“It was easy to make that choice,” acknowledged deputy principal Claire Williams ahead of the Italian Grand Prix at Monza.


“I think they have both shown they can deliver what we need them to.”

Massa joined Williams from Ferrari at the end of 2013 while Bottas has been with the team for five years, making his race debut last season, and emerged as a standout performer in a championship that has seen Williams back among the leaders.

The former champions were fourth overall in the championship ahead of Sunday’s race with 150 points after scoring just five last year.

Bottas, 25, is fifth in the drivers’ standings and has finished on the podium in four of the last five races. He and Massa qualified together on the second row of the grid on Saturday.

“The team is having a much improved 2014 season and the skill of our drivers and their feedback to our engineers has proved crucial in this,” said team founder Frank Williams, who described Bottas as an ‘investment’ for the future.

“This announcement gives us excellent stability for 2015, but of course we are very much focussing our attention on maximising the full potential of the FW36 in the remaining seven races of this season.”


Claire, his daughter, felt the drivers were capable of mounting a championship challenge if Mercedes-powered Williams could provide a car good enough.

“One hundred percent,” she said. “That is the goal, to win that championship and of course you are going to put the drivers in your cockpits that you believe can do that.”

The team are the second most successful in terms of constructors’ titles after Ferrari, with nine between 1980 and 1997, and last won a grand prix with Venezuelan Pastor Maldonado in 2012.

Their last drivers’ title was with Canadian Jacques Villeneuve in 1997.

“We want stability at Williams,” said Claire Williams, when asked whether other drivers had been considered. “We went into this season wanting stability into the long term and that’s what we have now.

“I think we’ve got one of the strongest lineups on the grid, they’ve got really complementary talents – Felipe with all his experience and having worked in a big team and Valtteri who’s got this amazing natural talent.”

The deputy principal said the objective, as ever, was to get back to the top and that remained a tough challenge.

“It’s relatively easy to turn around a team that’s ninth and take it up to fourth but when you are in fourth and want to start challenging for a championship it’s a whole different piece of work,” she said.

“I think we’ve still got work to do and a lot of it inevitably depends on where the competition is. Mercedes this year have done a great job, I think we are closing the gap, probably you can see that here this weekend.”

The new contract is likely to mean a substantial pay rise for Bottas, even if Williams would not disclose any financial details, with the Finn already firmly on the radar of rival teams.

Massa, runner-up in the 2008 championship, brings with him important backing and has been reinvigorated after years at Ferrari largely in the shadow of world champions Michael Schumacher, Kimi Raikkonen and Fernando Alonso.

“They are an amazing team, fantastic people, it’s like a family as well,” he said on Sunday. “We are making this team stronger and stronger and bigger and bigger.”

(Reporting by Alan Baldwin, editing by Amlan Chakraborty)

26/08/2019 0

Scottish independence campaign ahead in poll for first time

The YouGov/Sunday Times poll gave the “Yes” camp 51 percent support compared to the “No” camp’s 49 percent.



Although the two point lead is within the margin of error, the findings dramatically up the stakes ahead of the vote on September 18, handing valuable momentum to First Minister Alex Salmond’s Scottish National Party (SNP).

They come as those fighting to keep the 300-year-old union, who include Prime Minister David Cameron, are reportedly set to announce key concessions in a bid to fight back.  

The Better Together campaign, which backs Scotland staying in Britain, has been ahead in opinion polls across the board for months but its lead has narrowed in recent days.

In response to the poll lead, Alistair Darling, the leader of Better Together, said it showed the referendum “will go down to the wire”.

“We relish this battle. It is not the Battle of Britain — it is the battle for Scotland, for Scotland’s children and grandchildren and the generations to come. This is a battle we will win,” he said.

As recently as a month ago, on August 7, YouGov polling put the “No” camp on 61 percent and “Yes” on 39 percent – a gap of 22 points.

But another YouGov survey for the Times newspaper on Tuesday showed a marked narrowing of the gap, with 47 percent saying they would vote “Yes” and 53 percent “No”.

Any vote for Scotland to leave Britain would be a landmark event and could raise a string of questions about Britain’s standing in the international community.

Scotland represents one-third of Britain’s landmass and is home to Britain’s Trident nuclear deterrent, which the SNP has said must be out of Scotland by 2020 in the event of independence.

In response to the narrowing polls, the “No” campaign is reportedly set to announce measures to devolve more powers to Scotland.

The Observer newspaper reported that an announcement was expected within days on plans to let Scots decide on a federalised future for their country after intensive cross-party talks.

“Watch this space. You can expect something in the next few days,” it quoted an unnamed senior government minister close to the “No” campaign as saying.

26/08/2019 0

Australia honours former East Timor President Ramos-Horta

Dr Ramos Horta has been recognised for his leading role in East Timor’s independence movement, as well as helping maintain a strong relationship with Australia.


“You’re an eminent global citizen, a champion of democracy, a great man of your country, a true patriot and a great friend of Australia,” Governor General Sir Peter Cosgrove said during a ceremony in Sydney’s Admiralty House.

“I congratulate you most warmly on this high honour from our nation to a great representative of Timor-Leste.”

Bilateral relations between Australia and East Timor came after Dr. Ramos-Horta’s decades-long struggle to secure international support for Timor-Leste’s fight for independence from Indonesia.

Dr. Ramos-Horta told SBS he was overwhelmed by the recognition.

“I worked with Australian politicians, government, civil society, the media promoting the cause of Timor-Leste and Australia played a critical role in the liberation of Timor Leste,” he said.

“I was doing my duty as foreign minister, as prime minister, president to foster this relationship which continues.”

The ceremony comes just days after East Timor marked 15 years since its historic referendum, when more than 80% of the population voted in favour of independence.

But it hasn’t been easy since. With the focus now on roads and infrastructure, Dr. Ramos-Horta says other steps include eradicating poverty and securing more investment in health and education.

“TAFE I think is one of the best experiments in Australia,” he said. “I’d like to see more Timorese come and do TAFE in Australia, and TAFE instructors going to Timor Leste. I know is it being done.”

Dr. Ramos-Horta is also pushing for more discussions on sharing resources from the Greater Sunrise gas field.

He’s welcomed the decision by both countries to try and settle their differences outside the International Court of Justice, where East Timor is demanding the return of sensitive documents seized by Australia surrounding a controversial oil and gas treaty.

“The relationship is too strong and it will be able to survive, to move on despite occassional differences that we have,” he said.

“(The) next step could be for Australia to see how in the medium to long term can better help Timor Leste by agreeing to a maritime boundary that is acceptable to all.

“What Australia needs is to be surrounded by stable, prosperous countries.”

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