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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.

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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.

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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.

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“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.”

CHAMPIONSHIP CHALLENGE

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.

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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.

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“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.”


26/08/2019 0

Abbas warns Hamas over Gaza governance

Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas has threatened to break off a unity agreement with Hamas if the Islamist movement does not allow the government to operate properly in the Gaza Strip.

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His remarks came on the eve of talks in Cairo with Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi and a key address to the Arab League nearly two weeks after a ceasefire ended a major 50-day confrontation with Israel in Gaza.

“We will not accept the situation with Hamas continuing as it is at the moment,” Abbas said on arrival in the Egyptian capital late Saturday, in remarks published by official Palestinian news agency WAFA.

“We won’t accept a partnership with them if the situation continues like this in Gaza, where there is a shadow government … running the territory,” he said.

“The national consensus government cannot do anything on the ground,” he charged.

But Hamas denounced his allegations as “baseless.”

“Abbas’s statements against Hamas and the resistance are unjustified,” spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri said in a statement.

“It is untrue, baseless and unfair to our people,” he said, indicating that Hamas representatives would meet “soon” with their counterparts in the rival Fatah movement to discuss fleshing out the reconciliation deal which was inked in April.

Under the terms of the agreement, the Palestinians agreed to form an interim consensus government of technocrats, ending seven years of rival administrations in the West Bank and Gaza.

The unity deal sought to end years of bitter and sometimes bloody rivalry between the Islamist Hamas movement and its Fatah rivals who dominate the West Bank-based Palestinian Authority.

The new cabinet, which is based in Ramallah, took office on June 2, with Gaza’s Hamas government officially stepping down the same day.

Despite the handover, Hamas has remained the de facto power in Gaza, with moves to implement the provisions of the unity agreement put on hold in the face of the deadly offensive which Israel launched on July 8.


29/07/2019 0

Deadly floods hit Indian Kashmir’s Srinagar

Almost 250 people have been killed in the northern Himalayan region and in neighbouring Pakistan since torrential monsoon rains triggered flooding, landslides and house collapses in recent days.

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Troops and other emergency personnel have been deployed in both countries to help with relief operations, with boats and helicopters used to reach those stranded.

The Jhelum river, swollen by days of heavy rain, flooded parts of Srinagar on Sunday and forced frantic residents to move to rooftops, with reports the first floors of several hospitals were underwater and cellular phone networks disrupted.

“I want to appeal to people not to panic,” Kashmir and Jammu state chief minister Omar Abdullah told reporters.

“I know the situation is bad but they should stay above the water level… it may take up to an hour but we will reach them and take them out,” he said.

“We are taking all the measures to ensure that we can reach the maximum number of people.”

Modi arrived to meet Abdullah and emergency response officials and take stock of the situation, described as the worst floods in the region for half a century.

Several thousand villages across the Jammu and Kashmir region have been hit and 350 of them are submerged, the home ministry said in a statement late Saturday.

The military, backed by 22 helicopters and four aircraft, has fanned out across the region to help with relief operations, with 11,000 people rescued so far, it said.

The death toll has reached 116 in northern India, the ministry said, with another 128 across the border in Pakistan.

Some 69 people have died in Pakistan’s worst-hit Punjab province, another 48 in Pakistan-administered Kashmir, and 11 in the northernmost territory of Gilgit-Baltistan, said Ahmed Kamal, spokesperson for the National Disaster Management Authority.

Heavy rains were, however, easing and have stopped altogether in parts of Pakistan following the floods that have hit 108 villages and damaged farmland in that country.

In Srinagar an army headquarters was under water along with some government buildings, while main roads including the one connecting the city to the airport were submerged.

An AFP reporter in Srinagar was forced to the third floor of his house after water flooded the second, with no sign of emergency officials to evacuate him.

“We will have to move to the roof but we are also worried about the building collapsing,” he said.

A police official said continuing bad weather and the floods have knocked out phone services in parts of the region. 

“We are not able to get information from areas which have been cut off by floodwater,” an official in Srinagar’s police control room told the Press Trust of India news agency.

“Exact extent of deaths and destruction over the past 24 hours is not known.”

On Saturday some 30 bodies were pulled from a river in the mountainous Rajouri region of south Kashmir, a senior state official said.

The victims were among at least 63 people aboard a bus swept into a gorge last Thursday by fast-flowing floodwaters. 


29/07/2019 0

Tony Abbott’s triumphs and troubles in first year as Prime Minister

 

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538em;”>Timeline: The Highlights of Tony Abbott’s first year in government 

Prime Minister Tony Abbott – sworn into the top job on September 18, 2013 after almost three years as Liberal leader – has won both praise and criticism for his actions on issues as wide ranging as the economy, foreign affairs and public protests.

According to some, it’s been more up than down.

“Over the first 12 months, you would probably give the Abbott Government and Prime Minister Abbott himself a pass mark,” says John Warhurst, emeritus professor from the Australian National University.

“It’s in many ways been a learning year for him and the government. There have been problems that could have been foreseen, including negotiating with the new senate late in his first year of government, and there have also been unforeseen issues particularly to do with international relations.

‘You would probably give Prime Minister Abbott himself a pass mark’ – John Warhurst

Professor Warhurst describes it as a “settling in year”, a description his academic colleague John Wanna also refers to.

Professor Wanna says the short parliamentary period before Christmas last year did undermine the government in some way, meaning it had little opportunity to push through tough messages ahead of the incoming Senate the following year.

“It’s meant that 2014 has been a more troublesome and more problematic year for the government than it otherwise might have been,” he said.

The Federal Budget

One of Tony Abbott’s biggest tests in his first year of government was the federal budget and, according to former Liberal leader John Hewson, it’s a test he failed.

Mr Hewson, who himself faced significant backlash to his Fightback! economic plan in the early 1990s, said the tough budget sell lost Mr Abbott’s team significant credibility as economic managers.

“They probably stand out in terms of our political history as having burnt an enormous amount of political capital to get to where they are, with little net gain on a number of fronts,” he said.

“In terms of the budget measures, they’ve got the mining tax but they’ve had to pay away several billion dollars’ worth of expenditure in order to achieve that.

“They’ve created a lot of business uncertainty, a lot of uncertainty among consumers and they’ve been distracted from time to time with some silliness.”

‘I think the problem with the budget is it lacked an overall strategy’ – John Wanna

Professor Warhurst drew comparisons to another former Liberal leader, saying the first Abbott budget was received less well than the similarly tough first budget of John Howard’s government.

“The first Howard Government had lots of problems just getting into speed as far as governing was concerned,” he said.

“In fact, I think there are some comparisons with the first Howard Government. It looked at one stage as though the Howard Government was going to be a one term government; it looked that bad in its first year or two. But it recovered.

“It’s always possible that the Abbott Government will be the same.”

Keeping promises

But any recovery will require Mr Abbott to bounce back from the perception that he has broken promises, says Professor Wanna.

He said a number of pre-election commitments – including no cuts to public broadcasters and no new taxes – were “if not broken then certainly bent” in the budget, leaving the Abbott Government in need of a sales plan.

“The government was very critical in Opposition of Julia Gillard for breaking promises and they made that one of their lead motifs of their attack on the Gillard Government,” he said.

“Abbott and his senior ministers have been very careful not to be seen to be breaking promises… There are issues there in terms of how they sell the things they’ve done. The message of why you needed to make the change is important and I don’t see the senior government people making that.”

‘Although Abbott said there’d be no surprises, the surprise would have been if he hadn’t broken some promises on the way through’ – John Hewson

Professor Wanna says a number of significant promises had been kept, including stopping asylum seeker boats reaching Australia, as well as abolishing the carbon and mining taxes.

“They would feel on those big ticket items they tried and eventually delivered to do as they promised,” he said.

The Senate

Mr Abbott’s pre-election commitments have been hindered by the Senate, where the Coalition must negotiate with 18 cross benchers in order to pass any legislation.

His government has come under fire for deals done with balance of power Senators from the Palmer United Party to pass bills such as the repeal of the carbon tax, but for Mr Hewson, negotiations have been more odd than ominous.

“I found their negotiating strategy quite strange,” he said.

“I don’t think they ever really tried to negotiate with the main opposition party, the Labor Party. It’s an interesting question whether they would have got a better deal by negotiating with the Labor Party than they would have from negotiating with a string of minor parties in the Senate.

“There are questions about the effectiveness of that negotiating strategy.”

‘I think they’ve been slow to learn to negotiate’ – John Wanna

Professor Warhurst acknowledges that it has been a difficult task for the government, though it may “fade into insignificance” compared with the troubles faced by the previous minority government led by Julia Gillard.

He says there have been improvements, despite a slow start with Senate relations.

“Initially they didn’t do a particularly good job in negotiating with the Senate and presumed that what they called their mandate would carry them through,” he said.

“That hasn’t proven to be the case. In more recent days, they’ve had some more successful negotiations and it remains to be seen how that will continue.”

The public and protests

While the government battles with a difficult Senate, Mr Abbott and his team have also been facing significant hostility from the some members of the public.

Protests against the government, its budget and numerous policies have been held nationwide, with the burning of budget papers and even a cardboard cut-out of Education Minister Christopher Pyne.

The protesters have come under fire for their sometimes violent outbursts, but Professor Warhurst says that for the most part, the protests are similar to those faced by previous governments.

‘Strong backlash is not unusual in terms of community protests’ – John Warhurst

“There were of course extensive protests against the Gillard Government from very early in her term as Prime Minster,” he said.

“Strong backlash is not unusual in terms of community protests, but I think what’s unusual here is the breadth of the backlash, particularly to the budget. This was a backlash that involved not just left wing protests against an incoming right wing coalition government, but it involved strenuous backlashes from state premiers, most of whom are coalition premiers who were devastated by the consequences of the budget.

“The distinctive feature is its breadth and it’s not just the usual suspects, but a range of other voices, some within the Liberal and National parties themselves.”

Things haven’t been easy for the government in terms of selling it’s proposed new anti-terror laws, which would make it easier to detain people returning from conflict countries such as Iraq and Syria. Some Muslim leaders have denounced the laws as discriminatory.

International affairs

The government did however win some public praise over its handling of international affairs over its first year in power.

With the exception of incidents such as the Indonesian spying revelations, Mr Abbott has been acknowledged as taking a leading role in the international response to issues such as the Malaysian Airlines disasters, the ongoing threat from terror groups in Iraq and he gained praise for signing a Free Trade Deal with Japan.

‘He responded quite decisively to the MH17 disaster’ – John Wanna

Professor Wanna described Mr Abbott’s actions as an “important global achievement”, while Professor Warhurst said international affairs had provided both tests and opportunities for Abbott.

“That’s been a feature of the first 12 months, particularly the last few with the issues of Ukraine and Iraq and the terrible tragedies of the Malaysian Airlines planes,” he said.

“The government has been given an opportunity to play a role on the international stage and I think the jury is still out as to how the community will react to the role that the prime minister has set up the government to play.”

More recently, there has been bipartisan support for Australia’s involvement in the Iraq crisis, which so far has included aid and arms drops. But any escalation of Australia’s role, such as joining a US-led military campaign, would likely be a significant test for Mr Abbott’s leadership.

Looking forward

Professor Wanna said it was likely that the Abbott Government’s second year will likely be better than the first, while his colleague Professor Warhurst warned that issues such as carbon tax and asylum seekers will return “with a vengeance” in the years to come.

Polling as recent as this month showed Mr Abbott’s team trailing Labor 52 to 48 per cent, in the two-party preferred Essential Research results, a slump which Professor Warhurst noted. 

“The opinions polls show that it’s not necessarily a very popular government, nor is he as prime minister particularly popular,” he said.

“But he has a big majority and he was two more years to go before the next election.

“There’s plenty of time to raise that mark from a pass to a credit.”

Explore Tony Abbott’s first year as Prime Minister as recorded in Hansard. The document below is all of Mr Abbott’s recorded entries from November 2013 to September 2014, including 959 references to the Opposition and 834 to Australia, Australian and Australians.


29/07/2019 0

Tigers coach laments miserable failure

Dubbing it a miserable failure, Richmond coach Damien Hardwick says he’ll let emotions subside before making some tough calls.

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Hardwick says Sunday’s 57-point AFL elimination final capitulation to Port Adelaide needs cool dissection, not emotional knee-jerk reactions.

“It was just one of those games unfortunately. And unfortunately it was one of the most important occasions for our footy club,” Hardwick said after Port made the Tigers road kill, winning 20.12 (132) to 11.9 (75) at Adelaide Oval.

Port kicked 7.1 to nothing in the opening 18 minutes as Richmond’s season ended without a whimper.

“You have just got to take the emotion out of it,” Hardwick said.

“We just couldn’t win critical contests and we turned over the ball too much in the first quarter.”

Hardwick said the Tigers “failed miserably” against a red-hot Port side now booked for an away semi-final against Fremantle next Saturday.

Port’s stunning assault – 12 of the initial 13 goals – was hailed by coach Ken Hinkley as the best footy he’s seen from his Power outfit.

“Yes. It was. It was brutal … it was an awesome display by a group of young men who were determined to stick together and play tough footy,” Hinkley said.

While Hinkley admired the “ferociousness” of Port, his counterpart Hardwick said trade and draft tables beckon for the Tigers.

“I know what we need,” Hardwick said, with the rider: “I’m not telling you.”

“It’s simplistic to look at one thing … but we’re short of where we need to be at the moment.

“You give yourself a chance to play finals. But then the reality is you get measured by your finals success … and it’s a long time before you get back there again.

“Our boys are bitterly disappointed with our performance in a big game. We played nowhere near our potential.”

Richmond’s submission alarmed Hardwick, but he took some solace from a nine-game winning streak just to make the play-offs, noting most clubs experience finals heartache before prevailing.

“Most sides, it takes them a couple of goes before they get a crack,” he said.

“It’s a process. I have got a relatively young core group of good players so we will just continue to add to that, continue to get better.

“We have got a few deficiencies. There’s a few areas we will address over the course of the summer through draft and trade but we will work our way back.”

Richmond’s demise came after a bizarre opening: the Tigers took the field in their away strip, with the AFL on Thursday over-ruling their earlier edict to wear their home jumper.

The AFL originally ordered Port to wear their away strip, but the Power instead wore the club’s heritage prison bars guernsey.

A puzzled Hardwick was unaware of Richmond’s late jumper change until he saw players kitted for the game, likening league headquarters to television character the Fonz – having trouble admitting they’re wrong.

“You know, the AFL are like, they’re like the Fonz … w w w wrong,” he said.


29/07/2019 0

Port are AFL finals wildcards

Port Adelaide’s brutal demolition of Richmond confirms their status as the wildcards of this AFL finals series.

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Power coach Ken Hinkley was rapt with Sunday’s 57-point elimination final win, where they kicked the first seven goals in 18 minutes of mayhem.

Hinkley added they had no fear about travelling to Perth to play Fremantle in a knockout semi-final on Saturday.

As former Cats great Cameron Ling observed during halftime at Adelaide Oval, Port Adelaide’s start against the hapless Tigers sent a ripple through the top four.

Adelaide’s unlikely 1998 premiership is the last time a team outside the top four has triumphed in September.

Also this weekend, defending premiers Hawthorn and Sydney confirmed their status as the top two flag favourites and North Melbourne had an outstanding comeback win.

Geelong, who lost their qualifying final to the Hawks, will play North at the MCG on Friday night in the other semi.

Port Adelaide finished fifth this season, but were on top for eight weeks.

While they dropped out of the top four with six losses from their last nine games, they only lost to the Dockers in Perth by eight points two weekends ago.

“Freo are an amazing side. I love the way they play … I know we’re going to go over there and give a real good account of ourselves though,” Hinkley said.

“We certainly don’t go over there with too many fears. We go over there with a bit of a freedom to play the game.”

Hinkley acknowledged that the 20.12 (132) to 11.9 (75) cakewalk on Sunday was the best Port had played under him.

“It was brutal … it was an awesome display,” he said.

The only setback was a suspected broken jaw for speedster Matt White, who went to hospital for scans.

While Port are building momentum, Richmond have lost their second-straight elimination final after reaching the top eight with a nine-game winning streak.

Port’s runaway win completed an opening weekend of finals where all four games went to form.

But it was far from straightforward, with Essendon ruing a blown chance in their elimination final classic against North.

Fremantle also came within 10 points of Sydney in the last quarter of their qualifying final before the Swans, led by two stunning goals from Lance Franklin, kicked clear.

North enhanced their reputation as masters of the strong finish with their 12-point victory over the Bombers on Saturday night at the MCG.

They trailed by 33 points early in the third term, but roared home on the back of four goals from Ben Brown.

Their veteran Drew Petrie kicked the last two goals of the match, giving them a memorable 14.9 (93) to 10.9 (69) win.

It was a galling end to the season for the Bombers, who again paid for patchy form during a match.

At the ANZ Stadium on Saturday, Dockers coach Ross Lyon had a confrontation with a Fremantle fan on the way to the four-goal loss to Sydney.

But Lyon’s far bigger problem was the inability to curb Franklin, who kicked three goals in the 13.15 (93) to 10.9 (69) win.

A scan will decide the finals fate of Swans veteran Nick Malceski after he was subbed off with a hamstring injury.

On Friday night, Hawthorn opened the finals series with a powerful 15.14 (104) to 10.8 (68) qualifying final win over their arch-rivals Geelong.


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