Tigers struggling again early in AFL

Here we go again – Damien Hardwick’s Tigers have started another AFL season chasing their tails.

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Adelaide made Richmond pay dearly for their turnovers, dominating Saturday’s match at Etihad Stadium and cruising to a 36-point win.

The Crows’ 52-point lead early in the last quarter said far more about the match than the final 19.14 (128) to 13.14 (92) scoreline.

While Adelaide have started the season at full steam ahead, once again Richmond are on the back foot.

Hardwick argues that this time, the backward step is necessary if they are to go forward following three-straight elimination final losses.

“It’s stock-standard for us, isn’t it, starting like this,” he lamented.

“It’s disappointing, but this side isn’t the same as last year.

“We are trialling some blokes in some different positions.

“We might have to take a little half-step back to go two step forwards, but I’m very confident we will take the two steps forwards.”

Since Hardwick took over as coach in 2010, this is the fifth time they have opened with a 1-2 record, or worse.

The exceptions were 2013 – 3-0, then three losses – and last season – 2-1, then three losses.

The sub-standard performance followed a torrid week where Hardwick and the club railed against a harsh media focus on captain Trent Cotchin.

Richmond circled the wagons tighter post-match, taking the unusual step of banning any player interviews in the rooms with print or radio media.

They now play West Coast next Friday night in Perth – a challenge which Hardwick predicts will galvanise his misfiring team.

While not much separated the two teams statistically, one key figure told the story of Saturday’s game.

Richmond calls them 12-point turnarounds, where they look certain to kick a goal, but turn the ball over and the opposition score instead.

Hardwick said they conceded around eight.

“Who do you reckon is the AFL’s No.1 kicking side at the moment? Us,” he said.

“What it is, it’s those unforced errors that are killing us – the blatant ones where we’re just missing targets and they’re going straight to the opposition.”

After scraping through in round one against Carlton, the Tigers inexplicably coughed up a 17-point lead deep in the last quarter and lost to Collingwood by a point.

Two issues that Hardwick spoke about pre-season stood out against Adelaide – the search for a third key forward, and the need for more grunt around Cotchin in the midfield.

Saturday also showed that the spotlight on Cotchin this week was misplaced – it should be on the wider Richmond player leadership.

By contrast, the Crows have started the season with a narrow away loss to North Melbourne, a thumping Showdown win and now a class victory on the road.

Surfers’ great white scare in WA

A group of top surfers has had another close encounter with a shark, less than a year after Mick Fanning’s dramatic incident in South Africa.

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American Kanoa Igarashi has told of the frightening near-miss at Margaret River in Western Australia, the evening before the start of the third event on the world tour.

Igarashi said he and a handful of other professionals were surfing Margaret River’s famed Mainbreak at sunset when the estimated 4.5m-long great white appeared.

“We were in the water about 10 minutes before dark, which was a really bad idea,” Igarashi told Stab Magazine.

“We went over a wave and me and Caio (Ibelli) are looking out and see this fin emerging out of the water – it looked like a submarine – it kept growing,” Igarashi told Stab Magazine.

“Then it was flustering and thrashing, making so much water and then it just shot down and I looked over at Caio and he had the most scared face I’ve ever seen. No one said a word.”

Igarashi said the true size of the shark dawned on him when what he thought was a second marine creature several feet away from the main fin turned out to be its tail.

“I looked over and I’m like ‘wow there’s a dolphin next to the shark’, but it was actually the tail fin. It was seven or eight feet away from the main fin,” he said.

“We turned around and bolted in.”

Last July, Fanning’s J-Bay Open final against fellow Australian Julian Wilson was called off because of their incident.

Fanning had to fight off the shark and Wilson paddled over to help.

The scare is one reason Fanning is not surfing at the Margaret River Pro.

Thursday’s near-miss prompted the World Surf League to outline the shark safety measures in place at Margaret River.

Each competitor has an allocated jetski driver, plus there is a safety boat for equipment caddies and watercraft for all event photographers.

The event is also trialling a new prototype for underwater surveillance.

Mum still detained in Lebanon over kidnap

The Lebanese father of two children at the centre of an alleged kidnapping attempt says he won’t push for charges against their Australian mother, who remains in custody.

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Ali el Amien has been reunited with his children, but their mother, Sally Faulkner, has been detained by local police for allegedly kidnapping them using an international child recovery agency on a busy Beirut street.

A TV crew with the Nine Network’s 60 Minutes program who were in Lebanon to film the attempt have also been detained.

Mr el Amien says he won’t file charges against Ms Faulkner.

“She is the mother of my children,” Mr el Amien told The Guardian.

“I saw her and I was thinking, `Oh what did you do? What were you thinking’?

“I wasn’t angry. I was disappointed. You could have just showed up and said you wanted to see the kids. She knows that.”

Foreign Minister Julie Bishop has confirmed the TV crew, including journalist Tara Brown, a producer and a cameraman, are still being held in detention.

“The question of charges is an issue that will be determined shortly,” she told reporters.

“I cannot understate the seriousness with which the Lebanese authorities are viewing the case, but we’re doing all we can to maintain contact with all of the parties involved.

“Given the sensitivities of this case and the fact children are involved, we are handling this very carefully.”

Mr el Amien has also said he had access to his ex-wife’s emails and knew that a recovery operation was being planned.

It is unknown what charges Ms Faulkner may face from Lebanese authorities.

Mr el Amien has previously told media he believes the recovery attempt put the children’s safety in jeopardy, with security camera footage appearing to show them being bundled into a car by several people in southern Beirut.

Ms Faulkner, from Brisbane, claims her ex-husband refused to bring them back to Australia after taking them on holiday to Beirut.

She has long hoped to get her children back to Australia and in October last year set up a petition calling on Ms Bishop to do more to help.

Reports that Lebanese officials have unconfirmed evidence that Nine paid more than $100,000 for the recovery operation were not confirmed by the network.

Australia’s largest Islamic school defiant despite uncertainty over funding cuts

The future of Australia’s largest Muslim School remains uncertain after $19 million in federal funding was cut off.

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Malek Fahd’s interim board says the school will re-open in term two, following financial management issues.

The last day of the school term is usually a cause for celebration, but for parents at Malek Fahd Islamic School in Sydney’s west, uncertainty remains.

On April 4, Malek Fahd lost an appeal to have $19 million in federal government funding reinstated, after it was found to have failed to comply with financial transparency measures.

The school has lodged an application with the Administrative Appeals Tribunal, but a request for a stay, to allow funding to continue during that process, has been denied.

Rick Mitry is Malek Fahd Islamic School’s lawyer.

“I’m just quite frankly flabbergasted that the government hasn’t given [the school] the opportunity it needs, just a short time more to put the place into shape.”

The representative body, the Australian Federation of Islamic Councils runs six schools across the country.

Malek Fahd and the Islamic School of Canberra have both had their federal funding permanently cut, after a government audit found they failed to comply with Commonwealth regulations.

Malek Fahd was found to be operating for profit and is now working to prove its independence from AFIC.

Although it’s a private school, Commonwealth funding accounts for more than 60 per cent of Malek Fahd’s funding.

Keysar Trad is the newly appointed treasurer of AFIC and says it has complied with government requests.

“There had been some wrongdoings, AFIC acknowledges the wrongdoings and AFIC did everything from this end to satisfy the Minister for Education. The rest of it is between the school and the Minister for Education.”

If Malek Fahd is forced to close its gates, 2,400 students will have to be absorbed into schools in the local area.

In a written statement today, the school’s interim board said it would re-register Malek Fahd as an existing entity to secure the “best chance” of continued funding.

It said the school will continue to operate next term and “will be working hard during term 2 to address outstanding issues and, ultimately, satisfy the Commonwealth that funding should be restored.”

The Commonwealth Department of Education and Training said it’s working to ensure those impacted by the funding decision receive appropriate support.

On Thursday night, two emergency meetings were called by Sydney’s Malek Fahd Islamic School – one for its interim board, and the other for parents to elect a group that will liaise with the board and address concerns about the school’s future.

This parent told SBS about her concerns.

“I’m just upset about the students and about how they’re feeling. Last night a girl almost had an anxiety attack in front of all the parents upset about what’s happening. The situation with the funding. Because it’s not fair. Why should they pay the price?”

 

 

Belgians seize key terror attack suspects

Mohamed Abrini, wanted for November’s Islamic State attacks in Paris, is among five people arrested in Brussels, Belgian prosecutors say, adding that he’s also tied to last month’s Brussels bombings.

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They said they were checking whether Abrini, a 31-year-old Belgian, was the “man in the hat” seen on security footage at Brussels airport on March 22 with two suicide bombers. Belgium’s public broadcasters said it was “more than likely” he was.

The arrests mark a signal success for Belgian security services, which have faced fierce criticism at home and abroad since Brussels-based militants organised the attacks that killed 130 in Paris on November 13 and 32 in Brussels four months later.

The arrests came a day after police issued new images and detail on the “man in the hat”. They follow the arrest in Brussels on March 18 of a key surviving suspect in the Paris attacks, Salah Abdeslam. He was seen driving with Abrini towards Paris two days before the attacks in the French capital.

Four days after Abdeslam was arrested, the brothers Brahim and Khalid El Bakraoui and a third local man, Najim Laachraoui, set off bombs that killed 32 people at Brussels airport and on a metro line running under European Union institutions.

Another suspect held on Friday may be a man seen with Khalid Bakraoui at a metro station shortly before Bakraoui blew himself up on a train on the same line downtown.

Prosecutors named him as Osama K, adding he had used the false name Naim al-Hamed.

Osama K. was identified by police near Ulm in Germany some weeks before the Paris attacks in a car rented by Salah Abdeslam, prosecutors said.

They did not confirm reports he was a Swede named Osama Krayem, a former fighter in Syria who may have returned to Europe along with other militants among refugees who reached the Greek island of Leros in September.

Abrini was arrested in the borough of Anderlecht, local media said, next to the western district of Molenbeek, which has been at the heart of Belgium’s troubles with Islamist militants.

He had been on Europe’s most wanted list since being seen on a motorway service station CCTV video driving with Abdeslam towards Paris from Belgium. The car they drove was used two days later in the attacks, in which Abdeslam’s elder brother was a suicide bomber.

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Abrini and Abdeslam had also rented an apartment used by some of the Paris suicide attackers, prosecutors said. Abrini’s fingerprints and DNA were found in two Brussels apartments, including the one from where three men, including the two bombers, took a taxi to the airport on March 22. It was later found to have been used as a bomb-making factory.

The man in the hat left the airport shortly after the twin suicide bombings and was tracked on CCTV walking into the city centre. On Thursday, investigators released new video footage of him and urged people to look for his discarded coat.

More migrants arrive in Turkey from Greece

A ferry carrying 45 Pakistani migrants has returned to Turkey from the Greek island of Lesbos – the second round of arrivals under a European Union deal with Ankara to stem mass migration to Europe across the Aegean Sea.

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The accord, which came into force on Monday, aims to help end a chaotic influx into the EU of migrants and refugees, most fleeing war and poverty in the Middle East, Africa and Asia, after the arrival of over a million last year.

Nearly 250 people have been sent back from the Greek islands under the new accord.

Another boat carrying a larger group of migrants was due to leave Lesbos later in the morning, Greek state TV reported.

Those who left early on Friday were from Pakistan, it said.

Around two dozen uniformed Turkish police officers lined the boarding plank of the ferry after it docked in the Turkish town of Dikili, accompanied by two Turkish coast guard vessels.

All Pakistanis on board were men, a Turkish official said.

Before the boat departed from Lesbos, at least two rights activists plunged into the water close to the small ferry, dangling from the heavy chain of the anchor in an attempt to prevent the vessel from sailing from the port of Mytilene back to Turkey.

They were plucked from the water by the Greek coastguard.

Activists say the EU-Turkey deal runs roughshod over human rights.

A first group of 202 migrants, most from Pakistan and Afghanistan, were sent back to Turkey on Monday.

Under the EU-Turkey agreement, Ankara will take back all migrants and refugees, including Syrians, who enter Greece through irregular routes in return for the EU taking in thousands of Syrian refugees directly from Turkey and rewarding it with more money, early visa-free travel for its citizens and progress in its EU membership negotiations.

Randwick horses outshine Bollywood royalty

It was the day Bollywood royalty came to Randwick, but India’s megastar Aishwarya Rai Bachchan couldn’t steal the limelight from the kings and queens of the turf.

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The former Miss World, who is a household name in India, was the celebrity attraction for the second and final day of The Championships on Saturday.

Arriving in black BMW convertible, the Bride and Prejudice actress looked every inch the glamorous star as she waved to the 25,000 punters.

But hardly anyone waved back to the 42-year-old Bollywood veteran, who has been described as one of the world’s most beautiful women.

Randwick punters were more interested in collecting their winnings from the race that had finished a few moments before, The Provincial Championships Final.

Race favourite, four-year-old mare Danish Twist, clinched the 1400m event to the delight of punters and her posse of 20 owners who jumped and cheered in celebration.

One owner, Louis Cortazzo, nearly lost his glasses and cap during the celebrations. He gushed about the horse during a TV interview and then excitedly called a friend on his mobile.

But there was little excitement about the Bollywood actress as she spent precisely two minutes posing for photographers in her Tony Maticevski skirt-and-top ensemble, politely complimenting the “beautiful weather” and how “wonderful it is to see everyone celebrating”.

She was brought to Royal Randwick by luxury accessories brand Longines, sponsor of Saturday’s main race, the $4 million Queen Elizabeth Stakes.

A group of five women snapped away on their mobiles as the actress walked by, unnoticed by most other punters.

Another two men who had waited since 7am to catch a glimpse of the megastar were also thrilled when Rai Bachchan stopped to pose for photos and an autograph after presenting a prize at the Myer Fashions on the Field contest.

The actress was then whisked away to a private suite, where she told AAP about her new movie, meeting the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge in Mumbai this week, and how much she appreciates support from her fans in Australia.

She wasn’t keen, however, to discuss how she was among high-profile celebrities and politicians from around the world named in the 11.5 million documents leaked from the secretive Panama law firm Mossack Fonseca this week.

“The statement has already been made,” she told AAP, referring to a previous statement by her media advisor who has branded the documents as false.

The actress was more comfortable returning to the stage to present trophies to the team behind Lucia Valentina, the Kris Lees-trained winner of the Longines Queen Elizabeth Stakes.

The five-year-old mare notched up her seventh win in 27 starts, defeating last year’s winner Criterion who finished in 11th place and will now retire to stud.

Lees summed up Lucia Valentina’s win as “a career best”.

Her victory topped off a great day for Lees, who also trained the winner of the Provincial Championships.

But for the queen of Bollywood, Randwick proved less of star moment.

Prudent budget with no fist full of cash

The Turnbull government’s first federal budget will be prudent and responsible and won’t hand out a “fist full of dollars”.

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The prime minister on Saturday began the task of managing public expectations ahead of the May budget, warning it would focus on living “within our means”.

However, he confirmed his first budget would contain “changes to our tax system” designed to promote investment, innovation and enterprise.

“This budget will not be about a fist full of dollars, it will be about prudence, fairness and responsibility to our future generations,” he told the Victorian Liberal Party conference in Melbourne on Saturday.

The warning came with a similar one for state governments, which recently shot down the prime minister’s proposal to levy their own income tax to pay for schools and hospitals.

“The premiers don’t want to raise taxes to pay for their spending, well neither do we,” Mr Turnbull said.

The decision of the states and territories was a “revealing moment of clarity” for the prime minister and made it clear all governments had to live within their means.

The only way then to create revenue was economic growth, he said.

“Excessive taxes, excessive debt serve as a hand brake on economic growth.”

The prime minister also declared Australia’s transition from a country experiencing a mining boom to a new economy the “one central issue” of the upcoming federal election.

But that may not be how his Labor counterpart Bill Shorten sees it, with the opposition leader spending most of his time this week pushing the Liberal’s cuts to education funding.

His deputy, Tanya Plibersek, repeated that message on Saturday, pointing to the coalition government’s $80 billion cuts to hospitals and schools.

“In contrast, you’ve got an opposition that invests in health and education,” she said.

But Mr Turnbull accused Labor of having no plans to pay for spending announcements.

“That is a fundamental test for Mr Shorten, the numeracy test if you like that he can no longer shirk,” the prime minister told the Liberal conference.

“How is he going to pay? Higher taxes, more debt or both?”

A Labor party led by Mr Shorten was a risk to Australia’s economic advancement, he said.

“His is basically the Gillard agenda, with a new coat of paint.”

Port hammer Essendon in AFL

Prized recruit Charlie Dixon led an early blitz as Port Adelaide hammered Essendon by 61 points in a Friday night AFL fizzer.

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Port banked a second win of the season, 17.10 (112) to 7.9 (51), at Adelaide Oval.

Dixon was instrumental in a fierce Port start, the home side scoring nine of the first 10 goals of a lopsided encounter.

Dixon and Aaron Young booted three goals each while Robbie Gray’s Brownlow medal odds will shorten after 30 disposals, two goals and a dozen clearances.

Halfbacks Matthew Broadbent (27 disposals) and Jasper Pittard (29 touches) and winger Jared Polec (23 possessions) were damaging but Port lost Paul Stewart to an ankle injury – the club stalwart was in his comeback match after falling from selection favour last year.

Essendon’s main attack man Joe Daniher booted two goals – his side’s initial two. But by the time of his second, 10 minutes into the second quarter, they already trailed by eight goals.

After the Bombers began the match with three minutes of missed opportunities, the Power went on a scoring spree: five goals in 14 minutes.

Dixon, lured from the Gold Coast, fed the first to his captain Travis Boak and kicked the second and fourth goals as Port posted 7.4 to 1.4 in the opening quarter.

Before 44,601 home spectators, Port led 65-17 midway through the second quarter and the Bombers were effectively shot.

Essendon’s old hands – James Kelly (29 possessions), David Zaharakis (27 disposals) and Adam Cooney (26 possessions) – battled gamely.

But the Bombers couldn’t pierce Port’s defence, scoring just one point in a dour third quarter before adding three consolation goals late in the final term.

Port coach Ken Hinkley said the victory was far from perfect, but crucial after last week’s heavy loss to Adelaide.

“We played pretty solid football for most part of the match,” he said.

“We had rightly copped a fair bit … we had to recover some belief in the way we play.

Essendon coach John Worsfold said his side was outclassed but praised the effort of his players.

“They are not giving up in terms of talk and attitude on the field,” he said.

Britain urges China to cut steel capacity

Britain has asked China to tackle over-capacity in its steel industry, hoping to stem the flood of cheap imports into Europe which India’s Tata Steel said caused it to pull out of the United Kingdom, putting 15,000 jobs at risk.

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Tata put its entire UK business up for sale last month, including steel works at Port Talbot in south Wales, saying it could no longer endure mounting losses caused by increased imports to Europe from countries like China, high manufacturing costs and domestic market weakness.

“I urged China to accelerate its efforts to reduce levels of steel production,” Britain’s Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond said in a statement after in talks with his Chinese counterpart Wang Yi in Beijing.

“The UK’s focus is on finding a long-term sustainable future for steel making at Port Talbot and across the UK, and I welcomed the potential interest of Chinese companies in investment in UK steel-making.”

The global steel industry is suffering from over-capacity as a slowdown in growth in the Chinese economy has dampened demand.

China, which produces half of the world’s steel, and Russia have responded by diverting more of their steel output to markets like Europe.

The European Union opened three anti-dumping investigations into Chinese steel products in February and imposed new duties on imports after the European steel industry said thousands of jobs were at stake.

China said earlier on Saturday that plans to shut steel mills over the next five years would cut capacity to an estimated 1.13 billion tonnes by 2020, which is still far in excess of the country’s needs.