Archive for

  • Victoria dominates FFA Cup, with NSW and Queensland trailing PFA study reveals

    The FFA Cup has only been going for three years but already it has captured the imagination of the soccer public – nowhere more so than in Victoria.
    SuZhou Night Recruitment

    Two of the three FFA Cup winners – Melbourne Victory in 2015 and Melbourne City in 2016 – come from the state capital, while two National Premier League Victoria clubs, Hume City and Bentleigh Greens, have made the semi final.

    The first winner, Adelaide, came from South . Beaten finalists Perth Glory (2014 and 2015) and Sydney (2016) came from WA and NSW respectively.

    Queensland teams have fared poorly, with not even one side from the Sunshine State making it to the last four, something the ACT achieved last year when Canberra Olympic lost to Sydney.

    Unlike the other footballing codes in which matches invariably are won by the highest quality team or the one that dominates possession, soccer lends itself to more regular upsets.

    It is impossible to imagine a genuine knockout Cup competition in n Rules football or the rugby codes where power, strength and possession invariably determine results. State and second tier teams would have little chance even against the struggling top level teams due to the quality differential in players and the disparity in resources.

    But the nature of soccer makes it much more possible for "mismatches" to provide compelling contests.

    In soccer tactics can play a much greater role, with teams who can organise themselves defensively able to frustrate better credentialed opponents and sometimes score a goal on the break with what might be their only real attack of the match.

    In footy or rugby, if a team has three times the number of inside 50s, entries near the try line or set shots for goal as its opponent, it's not going to lose.

    After three FFA Cup competitions it is possible to mine the data to find evidence of why and how the tournament – outside the obvious romance of a lower team knocking over a so-called superior – is popular, and what trends are emerging in the early years.

    The Cup offers teams from all over the country from every tier of football the chance to progress and meet an A-League side in a knockout game.

    As such it draws a huge entry. Data from a detailed survey of the FFA Cup collated by the players union, the PFA, shows that in year one of the competition 589 clubs entered, with over half coming from Victoria and NSW.

    By the third year (2016) the number had grown by almost 20 per cent, with 700 teams entering from the earliest stages with, once again, the two most populous states providing the greatest number.

    As there are only 10 A-League clubs, the vast majority of entrants come from the FFA's "Member Federations".

    Of those the most successful – if success is measured by performance of second tier sides from the round of 32 onwards, which is when A-League teams come into the draw – is Victoria.

    Teams from the NPL Victoria and lower Victorian leagues have played 30 matches at this stage of the competition and won 14, drawing five and losing only 11 for a win percentage of 47 per cent. Not all those games have been against A-League opposition, of course, but Victorian NPL teams Bentleigh Greens (2014) and Hume City (2015) have both progressed to the semi final, while Green Gully and Bentleigh both made the quarter finals in 2016.

    Perhaps surprisingly the next best percentage performers have been clubs from the ACT and South , both from a much lower sample of seven matches. Teams from Adelaide and Canberra have won three of those encounters, giving them a 43 per cent success rate.

    Teams from NSW have a relatively poor rate in comparison. Clubs affiliated to the Football NSW region won seven out of 26 games from the round of 32 onwards, drawing two and losing 17 for a 27 per cent record. Teams from the Northern NSW area have a much lower success rate than those from Canberra or Adelaide even though they played the same number of matches – seven. Northern NSW teams won only once at this stage of the competition, losing five and drawing once for a 14 per cent strike rate.

    Queensland clubs fared reasonably well in broad terms, winning seven out of 20 for a 35 per cent hit rate, but rarely at the latter stages of the tournament, with none having ever made a semi final.

    Given the nature of the fixtures – where there are teams of various mixed abilities – the scores in games tend to be bigger than on average.

    The PFA data shows that the average FFA Cup goals per game ratio has been around 4.5 per match for the three seasons of the competition, some 50 per cent more than the just under three goals a game averaged in A-League contests in the same period.

    The story is much closer, it should be pointed out, from the round of 32 onwards when the A-League sides enter. Games become tighter and more evenly matched, and although the FFA Cup average is above three, the goals per game ratio is much more in line with the A-League.

    It would seem counter-intuitive to think that the part timers of the Member Federation clubs would have a better away record than the professionals of the A-League, but that's how things have emerged from the statistics of the first three years of the competition.

    Non A-League teams have, on average, won 48 per cent of their away games compared to the 39.2 score for A-League sides on the road. Competition rules state that when an A-League side is drawn against a Member Federation team it has to play its fixtures at the lower ranked club's ground.

    "Despite lacking the fully professional logistical support of A-League teams, Member Federation clubs travelling interstate in the FFA Cup actually outperform A-League away teams. Perhaps the novelty and camaraderie of travelling away together has elevated the performance of these teams for one-off matches," the report suggests.

    Perhaps not surprisingly the average age of Member Federation club players is much lower – at 24.9 years – than that of A-League teams in Cup matches, where the average is 27.1. NPL teams tend to have younger players hoping to make a breakthrough and find a route into the professional game.

    Member Federation clubs are also much likelier to play teenagers in Cup games according to the PFA data: some 13.5 per cent of appearances by players in Member Federation teams were made by teenagers compared to less than 7 per cent by A-League teams in Cup games.

  • The Allan Border medal: Three-way battle for cricket’s highest individual honour

    The battle to be crowned 's best cricketer – and potentially highest paid – is expected to be tight at the Allan Border medal count in Sydney on Monday night.
    SuZhou Night Recruitment

    Skipper Steve Smith, his deputy David Warner and spearhead Mitchell Starc are expected to lead the overall count to claim the Allan Border medal in a year when they have been central to 's fortunes.

    Smith has enjoyed fruitful Test and short-form campaigns, Warner has gorged on runs in the 50-overs format, while Starc has been particularly potent in the Test arena. The weighted voting system towards Tests – they are given three-times the value of Twenty20 internationals and double one-day internationals – ensures the game's traditional format remains key to the overall count.

    The voting period is from January 8 last year to January 7 this year, and includes the Test series victory in New Zealand, the 3-0 Test series loss in Sri Lanka, the 5-0 one-day series defeat in South Africa and a tumultuous home summer where the team rose from the depths of despair against South Africa to crunching Pakistan.

    Smith was the dominant Test batsman, thumping 1162 runs at 68.35, including four centuries. Warner averaged less than 40 with the bat but was brilliant in the 50-overs format, thumping seven centuries at 63.09, and appears certain to be crowned one-day international player of the year. These performances, along with his contributions in the Test arena, may be enough to have him crowned the Border medallist.

    Starc was absent from the tour of New Zealand because of injury but was by far his team's best player in Sri Lanka, claiming 24 wickets at 15.16. He would have a combined 28 wickets in six home Tests, finishing the voting period with 52 wickets at 24.29.

    Smith, Warner and Starc are also set to jostle for the honour of being the No.1 ranked player when the national selectors and Cricket do their next round of lucrative contracts. Test matches hold the balance of power in the list, while claiming the Allan Border medal could also be a pivotal factor. Regardless, the three appear certain to occupy the leaderboard and pocket more than $2 million each when the contracts are announced in April.

    Pay discussions over a new memorandum of understanding between CA and players which have reopened in recent days could mean CA-ranked players enjoy even greater financial spoils from next year should the governing body get its way. CA wants only the best players to share in the set percentage model – with a major raise – despite players at domestic and international level having enjoyed this system since 1997.

    "As a principle for the new MOU, CA believes retainers for international men should increase significantly compared to the retainers that were agreed in the current MOU," CA's submission says.

    Glenn Maxwell and Shane Watson, the latter by way of his strong form in the T20 World Cup, are expected to poll well for the T20 award.

    All-rounder Ellyse Perry has again has been tipped to be named the Belinda Clark player of the year for her efforts in the one-day international and Twenty20 arenas, while Meg Lanning is likely to be crowned best domestic player. The Clark award, named after the former n captain and three-time World Cup winner, has been redesigned into a teardrop-shaped medallion.

    "There is a strong tradition of recognising performances in the n team. However, what we were seeking was to create was something distinct and unique that recognised the level of performance that was being obtained," Clark said.

    "Similarly to the Allan Border Medal with its own look and feel, it's appropriate that this award also has its own identity and we're really excited with what we've come up with."

  • Tim Lane: Nick Kyrgios’ failings play under the spotlight

    Nick Kyrgios: It's crucial for him that his tendency to self-destruct be properly addressed. Photo: Darrian TraynorWhen a live interview is likely to be prickly, an interviewer can feel somewhat apprehensive in the lead-up. As last Wednesday night's match between Nick Kyrgios and Andreas Seppi neared its climax, Channel 7's hired gun, Jim Courier, could be seen waiting in the shadows. A penny for his thoughts.
    SuZhou Night Recruitment

    Would it be Seppi, or would it be Kyrgios? I'd wager Courier was putting more thought into how he'd handle the latter possibility. I'd also wager part of him hoped it would be the former. A brief, and very visible, chat about a performance as complex as that of Kyrgios wasn't going to be easy.

    Alone among the TV commentators in frankly addressing what had been happening on the court, Courier is sufficiently thorough that any such interview would cover all the bases.

    As it turned out, it was Seppi. Which brings to mind an interesting aspect of the television coverage of well-established, highly professionalised events like major tennis championships. For Kyrgios was the story. Yet there are limits to the control exercised by the rights-holding network.

    Which is in contrast to sporting competitions still in the development phase. Later that same evening, during Ten's coverage of The Big Bash League, Shane Watson admitted he was doing an interview under sufferance, having a few minutes earlier lost his wicket in frustrating circumstances.

    Entertainment prevails in the still-developing BBL and the players play the game.

    Leading up to Watson's dismissal, the entertainment mindset was overplayed when the commentators passed statistical information to the Adelaide Strikers' captain, Brad Hodge, live to air. This related to a particular bowler's previous success against Watson. Even in Big Bash this was beyond the pale and cricket officialdom has reminded Network Ten of the integrity issues involved.

    Such is the BBL's nature that its organisers must think hard about how the balance between sport and entertainment is struck. The previous night, there had been media criticism of the fact that Brendon McCullum was prevented from playing for the Brisbane Heat against the Melbourne Stars due to suspension. As the Heat's captain, McCullum had been twice adjudged responsible for overseeing slow over rates.

    In the opinion of some, he was too important a drawcard to be sidelined and organisers owed it to the crowd to let him play.

    The moral of this story? Even where rules clearly exist, it doesn't take long for pressure to mount that they be ignored … in the interests of entertainment of course.

    Back to Kyrgios, and if he continues on his current path he could become the saddest form of sporting entertainment: the John Daly type. If that sounds over-the- top, consider what will be scrutinised more closely when next he plays, his form or his behaviour? It's crucial for him that his tendency to self-destruct be properly addressed.

    While his performance on Wednesday night was irksome to watch, it's important to recognise we don't know the whole Kyrgios story. The morning after the night before, I had a chance encounter with one who does have some insights. He argued strenuously that this isn't a bad young man, pointing to some excellent qualities. Not least of these was the manner in which he conducts his relationship with his girlfriend: a rare and revealing observation by a worldly, older man of a younger one.

    Nevertheless, Kyrgios must take personal responsibility for his serial failings. His refusal to do this probably irritates ns more than anything else.

    In the days before the n Open, he did a media conference wearing a T-shirt which declared "F--- Donald Trump". Here was youth expressing itself '60s-style on a big issue.

    But I wonder if Kyrgios has worked through all the things he abhors about Trump, for one of these might be the new American President's pathological inability to accept criticism. If he gets to this point, Kyrgios might see a similarity between Trump's response to Meryl Streep and his own to John McEnroe.

    Something else Kyrgios might ponder is the observation made long ago of Jimmy Connors, in which a writer imagined the abrasive "Jimbo" as a 50-year-old, "sitting alone in an airport between flights, over a cup of coffee, faced with the shards of his past. He will be a man then and he will wish that as a boy he had done it better." After Kyrgios' meltdown in Shanghai last October, Connors tweeted an offer to mentor the n. Now, in Melbourne at his national championship, and before the eyes of the tennis world, Kyrgios has performed in a way that McEnroe has described as giving tennis a black eye.

    For this pair of erstwhile enfants terribles to recoil at what they're seeing is significant. Since their playing days ended, both McEnroe and Connors have written autobiographies acknowledging the behavioural failings of their competitive years. Each would agree that as a boy he could have done it better.

    McEnroe and Connors won so often, though, that they got away with a lot. Sports fans are invariably more forgiving of winners.

    On Wednesday night, Kyrgios lost and was booed.

    Yet to merely say he lost is an over-simplification. For I suspect that as his contest with Seppi neared its conclusion, something within his psyche wouldn't allow Kyrgios to win. He was like a boy who knew he'd done wrong and that it wouldn't be right – indeed would be embarrassing – to take the prize.

    Thus, among myriad other perverse behaviours, we saw him play one shot so inappropriate to the circumstances as to risk giving the game away. In more ways than one.

    It told the crowd he didn't care whether he won or lost. And it revealed him as a confused young man caught in the spotlight.

  • Wide Gulf between rhetoric and reality over fossil fuels and renewables’ future

    Ali Alzaabi, an engineer at the Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum Solar Park near Dubai. Photo: Peter Hannam Khalid al-Falih, Saudi's oil minister and OPEC chief, speaks at the World Future Energy Conference in Abu Dhabi. Photo: Peter Hannam
    SuZhou Night Recruitment

    Oil's well that ends well? Gulf states hedge bets a bit on oil's future. Photo: Peter Hannam

    Ali Alzaabi could have followed the well-trodden path of other young mechanical engineers in the United Arab Emirates and joined the oil and gas industry.

    Instead, he chose solar energy.

    "We're in a transition – it's whether you adapt to it or stay in the old way," Ali told Fairfax Media during a visit to the 13-megawatt solar photovoltaic plant located among the sun-bleached sands 50 kilometres south of Dubai. "I think this is a place where a person's [career] is going to be built."

    As coal-rich 's federal and state governments bicker over whether even the 2020 renewable energy target can be met, UAE and other Gulf states would appear to be getting on with diversifying their energy output.

    That tilt makes prospects for Ali look bright. Already the size of 33 soccer pitches, the Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum Solar Park where he works is to expand capacity by another 1000 megawatts by 2020 in two phases – the second of which set of a world record low price of 2.99 US cents ($A0.04) per kilowatt-hour last May.

    That record has since been broken twice, including four months later when developers of a 350 MW solar plant in neighbouring emirate Abu Dhabi bid just US2.42¢ per KW-hour to win.

    Those investments make up part of a huge 600 billion dirham ($216 billion) plan to shift half the Emirates' energy consumption to renewables – plus several nuclear reactors . That prompted a local newspaper this week to headline the move: "UAE turns green with new power plan 2050".

    A commitment by oil-rich Gulf states to clean energy got a further boost during this week's World Future Energy Summit in Abu Dhabi, with Saudi Energy Minister Khalid al-Falih declaring the kingdom will introduce 10 gigawatts of renewables by 2023, spending $US30-50 billion to do so.

    "Today we are extending our reach to become the centre of gravity for all forms of energy," Sultan Al Jaber, Abu Dhabi's minister of state and chief of its oil corporation, told the summit.

    Abu Dhabi is also pouring money into research, such as advanced materials and energy efficiency at its Masdar Institute, and hosts the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) with its 150-plus member nations.

    But – and other nations – would be wise to reserve judgement on just how far this self-declared "heart of the hydrocarbon industry" is really tackling climate challenges.

    A reminder of the urgency of the task ahead came this week with confirmation by global weather agencies that 2016 was the hottest year for the planet on record for a third consecutive year.

    The year also included a record temperature for Asia, with a searing 54 degrees reached at Mitribah, Kuwait, on July 21. The following day, Basra in Iraq, went close with 53.9 degrees while Delhoran in Iran touched 53 for a new national high. Drilling down

    Doubts about the Emirates' commitment to cutting carbon emissions extend well beyond their apparent penchant for racing cars at Abu Dhabi's grand prix circuit late into most nights, and local hotels' willingness to heat their outdoor swimming pools to 29 degrees or warmer during the winter.

    It was also no accident that the many purveyors of solar and wind technologies at the summit's accompanying "Abu Dhabi's Sustainability Week 2017" expo had to vie with local and foreign oil giants, such as Exxon and Occidental.

    Thumbing through the Oil & Gas Directory available at the exhibition reveals a telephone book packed with thousands of suppliers that as yet dwarfs the nascent renewables industry.

    Each year, the world spends $US1.8 trillion on energy, Fatih Birol, the head of the International Energy Agency told an IRENA event earlier in the week.

    "I'm sorry to say it, only 16 per cent goes to renewable and energy efficiency," Birol said. "The rest is mainly oil and gas."

    And neither the UAE nor Saudi Arabia plan to have it any other way. Despite largesse towards renewables, both nations have every intention to exploit all their fossil fuel reserves.

    "Renewables and hydrocarbons enjoy a truly symbiotic relationship that is reshaping the economics of energy," Sultan, the Abu Dhabi oil corporation chief, said. "The more solar we deploy, the more available hydrocarbons we will have to drive higher-value products and help meet global energy requirements."

    Saudi's oil chief, Khalid al-Falih, said his kingdom does not recognise the concept that its oil resources might become stranded assets, nor should it leave fossil fuels in the ground.

    "I don't believe we need to do that," the minister, who also serves as OPEC secretary-general, told the summit. "By constraining [fossil fuel] production, you are truly going to have a less sustainable world economy."

    The UAE pumps about 3 million barrels of oil per day and 10 billion cubic feet of gas, while Saudi Arabia's oil output alone exceeds 10 million barrels. Liberating the mercury

    The dilemma, though, is that by "liberating" all the hydrocarbons, fossil fuel producers will likely lift global temperatures far beyond the 1.5-2 degree warming the Saudis, UAE and almost 200 other nations committed to at the Paris climate summit in 2015.

    According to a "toolkit for renewable energy deployment" prepared for G20 nations by IRENA, to keep warming to less than 2 degrees by 2050, 35 per cent of all oil, 50 per cent of natural gas and 85 per cent of coal reserves must remain in the ground.

    By contrast, doubling the current share of renewables in the energy mix by 2030 from about 18 per cent now would "set the world on a path" to limiting warming to 2 degrees, compared with pre-industrial levels, IRENA said.

    Those latter goals strike a chord with Peter Thomson, President of the United Nations General Assembly, who also jetted in for the gab fest.

    "The world's heading to a precipice of unsustainability," said Thomson, a Fijian diplomat who once sought refuge in after being booted out during one of the Pacific island state's coups. "You can't continue to consuming the way we consume."

    "Should you be owning a car, should you still be eating beef ... these are moral decisions we have to make now," Thomson said, shortly before an anxious aide burst in.

    "The Saudis who have the room have arrived," he said, bringing the interview to an abrupt end.

    Follow Peter Hannam on Twitter and Facebook.

    The author was a guest at IRENA's seventh annual assembly and the World Future Energy Summit in Abu Dhabi.

  • Free range operator gets an ‘eggstart’ on the competition

    Farm Pride manager Ryan Peacock at one of the company's farms north west of Bendigo. Benchmark free range production is worth clucking about.
    SuZhou Night Recruitment

    Pride of brand is worth backing says Farm Pride CEO Bruce De Lacy, who last week announced positive proof that every free rangeegg –from farm to shop –was guaranteed to come off company and contract farms.

    The significant investment in scientific authorisation –with statistical testing carried out byNew Zealand company Oritain –comes on the back of a rapidly changing interface between producer and consumer in which the ultimate buyer has increasingpower.

    To date the n Competition and Consumer Commission has successfully prosecuted six so-called free range egg producers for failing to sell the right article. The damage to brand and reputation went well beyond the ACCC fine.

    Celebrating its 80thyear, Farm Pride remains the only listed egg company on the n Stock Exchange but has undergoneseveral face-lifts, starting as an egg board before turning co-operative. These days Farm Pride processes 12m eggs every week generating an annual turnover of $93.8m from company farms and contractors who supply both free range and cage-bird eggs.

    Eggs are booming with the next five years predicted to bring threeper cent annual growth. Last yearfree range eggs madehalf the market’svalue with 40 per cent of the volume.

    The company has responded to increasing demand by building three new sheds this calendar year –two of them stocked at 1500 bird/ha and a third at half that rate. Considering the standard calls for 10,000 birds/ha Farm Pride’snew stocking rates are a selling point but to protectthat reputationthere must be proof of origin.

    Average stocking rate across the group is 6500 birds/ha, well below thenew Federal standard, which became lawlast March. As each farm is upgraded theirrates will fall.

    “For us to feed with eggs at 750 birds/ha, I don’t know if that is possible,”Mr De Lacysaid. “But it may well be that 1500 birds/ha will become the new benchmarkover time and we want to haveflexibility to respondto consumer demand at different density levels.”

    Food testing is the futureA bond between chemists and statistical researchers at Otago University has created pioneer tech company, Oritain, poised to reap the benefits of point of sale proof that the food one eats is the right stuff.

    Oritain, with 25 employees and a global reach that has accelerated since 2013, approached Farm Pride last year with an offer to monitor its supply chain by testing eggs forpoint of origin. They offered 93 per cent accuracy with price governed by the complexity of the task.

    Science and Operations Director Dr Sam Lind said Oritain’s strengths drew on expertise in statistics and chemistry. Product from eggs to grain to honey, meat to fibre, can be analysed anywhere in the world with data emailed to New Zealand where a product’s unique finger print is analysed.

  • Chinan Open 2017: ‘veteran’ Bernard Tomic says tennis has aged him

    Feeling his age ... Bernard Tomic. Photo: Alex Ellinghausen Daniel Evans shakes hands with Bernard Tomic after the game. Photo: Alex Ellinghausen
    SuZhou Night Recruitment

    Bernard Tomic may still be on the "right" side of 25 but he said playing in his ninth n Open had made him feel practically ready to apply for a seniors card.

    The n world number 27, who has peaked at number 17, was beaten by unseeded Briton Dan Evans on Friday night in a close three-set encounter in which Tomic lost two set tie-breaks.

    In his post-match press conference, Tomic said playing at Melbourne Park for the ninth time made him feel much older than his 24 years.

    "I feel like I'm 34. It's amazing, you know. I actually feel like I'm 34, but I'm 24. Nine n Opens. I can't believe it, as well. It's been a long nine years already. Another 10 to go. Jesus," he said, smiling.

    Tomic played his first junior grand slam at the n Open as a 14 year old in 2007 but he already played – and won – other junior titles at 13 years of age.

    It's not the first time his age has been the focus of his post-match interview.

    In 2010, as a 17 year old, Tomic drew the ire of Open officials after he criticised them for scheduling his second-round match, which he lost, at night.

    "I can't see after one [o'clock], two, for a 17-year-old to go out and play. It's difficult … I requested to play during the day, and it didn't happen, I think it's ridiculous," he said.

    His best performance at the n Open was in 2016, 2015 and 2012, reaching the fourth round on all four occasions.

    "Once again I played very well, lost to a quality opponent. So, yeah, I think I'm going to stick to making another 12 years of making fourth rounds, third rounds here," he said, smiling.

    Tomic, who has had a reputation for fast cars and loose lips, has appeared to have found a bit more maturity, drawing an observation from one journalist on Friday night that he seemed "philosophical" about his loss.

    "If a guy beats me like this, then too good. You can't be upset with yourself. I was playing solid. I was competing. I was happy with myself at times on the court. I was really satisfied with what I was doing. He just seemed to do the big points better. He went for them. If you're beating me like that, then too good. I hope he can keep going for himself in this tournament," he said.

    He said he would take the of Davis Cup captain Lleyton Hewitt and play more aggressively.

    "You know, I rely on what's gotten me in the years in this sport. That's my game. I rely on that a lot. I tend to fall back on that when it's tough times on court," he said.

    "I need to be more aggressive, that's for sure, with my forehand, backhand. But, yeah, you need to work on those things ... I need to improve attacking, being on top of the ball, playing shorter rallies. I'm not going to grind for five hours with these guys."

  • The week in pictures: January 21, 2017

    The week in pictures: January 21, 2017 WAGGA: Representative winger Jack Lyons has left Southcity's premiership-winning team to join cross-town rivals Kangaroos for 2017. Picture: Les Smith
    SuZhou Night Recruitment

    BALLARAT: Keith Ward and Jim Waight at Webconna Bowls Club. Photo: Luka Kauzlaric

    BALLARAT: Kingston Rodeo action. Photo: Dylan Burns

    BALLARAT: Local street artists Cax and Tom have done a mural based around mental health recovery with the help of Mind . Photo: Dylan Burns

    BATHURST: NSW Rural Fire Service crews from Eglinton brigade are among those fighting an out-of-control bush fire off the Freemantle Road at Gowan. Photo: NICK MOIR

    BALLARAT: Sean Haren as 'Shae', Lachlan Stebbing as 'Qaaz'urol', Luke Mitchell as Captain Ferdinand and Amy Miller as Arrabella at the Ballarat Sword Craft Group's Kryal Castle meet. Photo: Luka Kauzlaric

    BATHURST: Silva's Newsagency manager Vicki Howard, with staff Sue McMahon and Sarah White, sold the winning Instant Scratch-It ticket. Photo: NADINE MORTON

    DUBBO: Dubbo Regional Council's Jason Yelverton and Phoenix Aubusson-Foley with classic cars at the drive-in. Photo contributed.

    DUBBO: Kurt Barrett and Olliy Brown, both 12, lather on sunscreen before taking part in the first day of the Shaun Brown Cricket Camp in Dubbo on Wednesday. Photo: BELINDA SOOLE

    FORBES: Terry Tweedie with his newly published book on father Don, prisoner of war, father of five and member of Forbes Town Band from 1962 to 2007. Terry was in Forbes last week for his mum Theo's 90th birthday.

    HARDEN: Peter Holding, one of the three men who showed exceptional fire-fighting leadership last week, standing at the Jack Ward Drive site

    HUNTER: 14-year-old Dyllan Hector swings from a rope on the Lorn side into the Hunter River on Tuesday. Picture: Jonathan Carroll

    HUNTER: Novocastrian turned farmer Tom Christie with his daughter Evelyn standing among the flowers at his farm. Picture: Simone De Peak

    HUNTER: Graham Smith stands in his charred backyard workshop, which came under ember attack as fire burned on Northcote Street. Picture: Brodie Owen

    HUNTER: Inglis Classic Yearling Sale 2017, tour of Hunter's top yearlings in search of next turf champ. Picture: Simone De Peak

    HUNTER: Families can do nothing but look on as huge plumes of smoke rise from the deliberately-lit fire to fill the sky. Picture: Simone De Peak

    HUNTER: Kids enjoy ‘Rockpool Adventures’ at Singleton OOSH service

    HUNTER: Murrurundi business eyes influx of visitors during Tamworth Country Music Festival

    HUNTER: Mary Flanagan, described as a "good natured, kind hearted country girl", outside Clarence Town Post Office on her last day as the local postie. Picture: Michelle Mexon

    HUNTER: Rutherford's James "Spud" Murphy was king-hit during a random attack in Hamilton and left for dead

    HUNTER: Solid Engineering director Trevor Reynolds surveys the damage at his Mitchell Avenue business on Thursday. Picture: Jonathan Carroll

    HUNTER: Robert Dobing with nine-year daughter Lily on Northcote Street, where homes came under threat as the Kurri Kurri fire raged. Picture: Brodie Owen

    LAKE MACQUARIE: Michael Chamberlain remembered at Cooranbong church: Final tributes to a gentle, resilient man. Picture: Simone De Peak

    MAITLAND: Babes + Picnics Maitland, from top left in a clockwise direction, Lawson with mum Jessica Jones-Mashman, Lauren Greay with son Bryce and Anne Smith with son Felix. Picture: Jonathan Carroll

    LEETON: Leeton shire's Hamish Johnstone has his own egg "business" at the tender age of 11

    MAITLAND: Rhys Tickle, 15, and Callum Woodbury, 17, attempt to fry an egg on the road at McKeachie's Run in 40-plus degree heat. Picture: Nick Bielby

    MUDGEE: Mudgee was hit by a massive storm, with winds up to 130km/hr, that brought down trees and powerlines. It lasted about 10 minutes. Photo: The Mudgee Project

    NEWCASTLE: Sharon Field tries to work occasionally around Thomas’ needs, but can't return to her former full time role because she is unable to find local disability support workers available at short notice. Picture: Jonathan Carroll

    NEWCASTLE: Emma Zenini and Harry Keating said the Higher School Certificate exams felt longer than three months ago. "It was a pretty stressful time - I would not want to do it again," Emma said. Picture: Jonathan Carroll

    NEWCASTLE: Mathew Gidley addresses the media after Jarrod Mullen is stood down over a positive steroid test. Picture: Brodie Owen

    NEWCASTLE: Knights coach Nathan Brown says team morale remains intact after horror week. Picture: Marina Neil

    ORANGE: Jess Drady, who is currently without the tools she needs for her apprenticeship, with her daughter Laylah. Photo: JUDE KEOGH

    ORANGE: Melissa Hatton, Lorrie Fuller and children Michael Kinchela, Marley McLean and Kellie-May McLean at Edye Park. Photo: PHIL BLATCH

    PARKES: 16,000 people lined Clarinda Street to watch the Northparkes Mines Street Parade on Saturday, which featured 181 entries and 37 floats.

    PARKES: Gary Carter and James Simmons with the NRMA 1947 Gracevan in Cooke Park on Friday during the Parkes Elvis Festival.

    PORT STEPHENS: Anna Bay horse 'Kruzah' is the newest internet sensation

    PORT STEPHENS: Terrace Plaza Newsagency owner, Nicole Smith (right), and second-in-charge Jess Travalos were rapt to have sold the scratchie worth $25,000. Picture: Sam Norris

    WAGGA: Bailey Crane, 9, of Oura takes time out during his school holidays to go to the Wagga sheep and lamb sale

    RURAL: NSW Department of Primary Industries researchers, Drs Harsh and Rosy Raman with DPI technical officer Ollie Owen, inspect this season's canola field trails prior to harvest. Photo: Contributed

    WAGGA: Coffee Niche chef Ryan Dedini prepares his Day feast, which he said is best cooked on the barbecue

    WAGGA: Katherine Pryor with her children Finn, 16 months, and Charlotte, 3. Mrs Pryor is happy a support service that helped her is coming to Wagga

    WAGGA: Maddy Gorham with Murrumbidgee Landcare Inc gets her picnic ready for Movies Under the Stars Series

    WAGGA: Smoke billows from popular main street eatery Cache after a fire broke out on Wednesday

    YOUNG: Cootamundra Local Area Command (LAC) Crime Prevention Officer Senior Constable Peter Guthrie next to an unsecured car.

    WAUCHOPE Angus Gill has beaten nine other finalists in the Toyota Star Maker competition at the Tamworth Country Music Festival.

    WAGGA: Wagga businessman Ilias Konstas is one of a number of people working increasingly longer hours, leading some to call for a "right to disconnect"


  • Donald Trump inauguration: White nationalist Richard Spencer punched on live TV during ABC interview

    Richard Spencer on camera just before he was punched. Photo: ABC A man attacks Richard Spencer during the ABC's live interview. Photo: ABC
    SuZhou Night Recruitment

    Donald Trump Inauguration Live

    One of the most prominent American white nationalists was punched in the face during a live TV interview with the ABC on Friday, shortly after Donald Trump's inauguration in Washington DC.

    Richard Spencer gained an international profile when he led an alt-right conference in calls of "Hail Trump, hail victory" while members of the crowd made Nazi salutes, in footage that made waves in November.

    The Southern Poverty Law Centre, which monitors hate groups in the US, has referred to Mr Spencer as "a suit-and-tie version of the white supremacists of old".

    Mr Spencer was attacked twice just before 3pm on Friday at the site of a volatile protest in downtown Washington DC, the same spot where a limousine was set on fire and activists clashed with police.

    He was hit once off camera, then shortly after he was attacked again, while doing the interview with the ABC's Washington correspondent Zoe Daniel. This was during our interview today. Pretty nasty moment. https://t苏州夜场招聘/7wZ8oFpb2R— Zoe Daniel (@zdaniel) January 20, 2017

    Footage shows a person clad in black and wearing a scarf or cloth pulled up over their face punch Mr Spencer in the ear, just as he was talking about his "Pepe" badge.

    The attacker turns around and heads off to the right of camera, while Mr Spencer immediately walks the other way down the street, holding his head.

    Shortly after the incident, Mr Spencer tweeted: "I was just physically assaulted twice by antifas [anti-fascists]. No serious damage. I can take a punch."

    Later, on Periscope, Mr Spencer said both attacks were by the same person.

    "I was talking to an n public television station and the guy came back and basically punched me with all his might. He came out of nowhere and sucker punched me on my ear," he said.

    A protester then spat on him, Mr Spencer said.

    "I moved over to the side. I didn't know what to do. I was with the two journalists and I was saying 'we need to get out of here'.

    "While I was there a guy came and spat on me," he said.

    Mr Spencer then jumped in a taxi and was driven off. He said he was recording to Periscope from a "safe space".

    Mr Spencer said he was afraid "this was going to become the meme to end all memes and I'm going to hate watching this". Nevertheless, he has shared the footage three times on Twitter.

    Pepe is a cartoon frog which became a symbol of the alt-right, which the Anti-Defamation League denounced last year for often having white supremacist connotations.

    At the conference in November when he gained notoriety, Mr Spencer was quoted in The New York Times exalting the white race. "America was, until this last generation, a white country designed for ourselves and our posterity ... It is our creation, it is our inheritance, and it belongs to us."

  • Chinan Open 2017: Day 5Photos

    n Open 2017: Day 5 | Photos Roger Federer of Switzerland plays a forehand in his third round match against Thomas Berdych of the Czech Republic.
    SuZhou Night Recruitment

    Daniel Evans of Great Britain celebrates match point and winning his third round match against Bernard Tomic.

    Mona Barthel of Germany celebrates winning her third round match against Ashleigh Barty of .

    Mona Barthel of Germany is congratulated by Ashleigh Barty of after winning their third round match.

    Roger Federer of Switzerland plays a forehand in his third round match against Thomas Berdych of the Czech Republic.

    Mona Barthel of Germany celebrates winning her third round match against Ashleigh Barty of .

    Daniel Evans of Great Britain shakes hands at the net after winning his third round match against Bernard Tomic of .

    Thomas Berdych of the Czech Republic plays a forehand in his third round match against Roger Federer of Switzerland.

    Garbine Muguruza of Spain plays a forehand in her third round match against Anastasija Sevastova of Latvia.

    Kei Nishikori of Japan plays a forehand in his third round match against Lukas Lacko of Slovakia.

    Daniel Evans of Great Britain plays a backhand in his third round match against Bernard Tomic of .

    Coco Vandeweghe of the United States celebrates winning her third round match against Eugenie Bouchard of Canada.

    Bernard Tomic of plays a backhand in his third round match against Daniel Evans of Great Britain.

    Kei Nishikori of Japan plays a forehand in his third round match against Lukas Lacko of Slovakia.

    Bernard Tomic of serves in his third round match against Daniel Evans of Great Britain.

    Bernard Tomic of serves in his third round match against Daniel Evans of Great Britain.

    Roger Federer of Swizterland celebrates his win in his third round match against Tomas Berdych of the Czech Republic.

    Mirka Federer, wife of Roger Federer of Swizterland, reacts while he talks to Jim Courier after his win in his third round match against Tomas Berdych of the Czech Republic.

    Garbine Muguruza of Spain celebrates her victory in her third round match against Anastasija Sevastova of Latvia.

    Venus Williams of the United States celebrates winning her third round match against Ying-Ying Duan of China.

    Angelique Kerber of Germany plays a forehand in her third round match against Kristyna Pliskova of the Czech Republic.

    Stan Wawrinka of Switzerland plays a backhand in his third round match against Viktor Troicki of Serbia.

    Svetlana Kuznetsova of Russia celebrates winning her third round match against Jelena Jankovic of Serbia.

    Tomas Berdych of the Czech Republic serves in his third round match against Roger Federer of Swizterland.

    Andy Murray of Great Britain serves in his third round match against Sam Querrey of the United States.

    TweetFacebook n Open 2017: Day 5 Scenes from Day 5 of the n Open at Melbourne Park. Photos: Getty Images

  • Lower turnout and protests usher in Donald Trump’s divided state of America

    A lone silent protester on the sparsely populated National Mall just before Donald Trump's swearing in. Photo: Josephine Tovey Evan Matheson dressed for the occasion at Donald Trump's inauguration. Photo: Josephine Tovey
    SuZhou Night Recruitment

    An aerial view of Trump's inauguration at the White House. Photo: YouTube

    Donald Trump Inauguration Live

    Washington: The bitter divisions that Donald Trump has exposed in the United States were evident on every street corner of Washington, DC on Friday, where supporters decked out in Trump buttons and hats cheering the dawn of a promising new era, mixing with protesters expressing alarm and defiance.

    There were small eruptions of vandalism and clashes with police on some downtown street - smashed windows, a burning limousine that sent black smoke billowing above the capital, and hundreds of arrests.

    Despite relatively high temperatures for January - almost 9 degrees at midday - crowd numbers were way down on previous years for the inauguration of the first president in recent memory to arrive in the White House with a net negative approval rating, and one who lost the popular vote by around 3 million votes. On the vast National Mall, large swathes of grass in the back half of the grounds lay empty.

    Crowd numbers are not yet available but the Washington Metro service said that as of 11am, there had been only 193,000 trips, compared to 513,000 for Barack Obama's first inauguration and 317,000 for his second.

    Outside the perimeter of the viewing area around the Capitol building and National Mall, groups of protesters assembled early and began marching the downtown streets. Most were peaceful, but at least one group turned destructive in the morning - smashing glass and damaging property. DC Metropolitan Police said the cohort was armed with crowbars and hammers. Later, during the inauguration parade, protesters set fire to a limousine and garbage bins just several blocks from the presidential motorcade at Franklin Square. A punk band played and protesters shouted messages of defiance into loud halers.

    By 6.30pm local time, police had arrested 217 people.

    But the protests, lower turnout and the drizzly, cool weather didn't seem to dampen the enthusiasm of cheery Trump fans there to soak up a piece of history.

    Whitney Ruiz and her teenage son Zac watched Donald Trump's inaugural address from the National Mall, wearing Trump buttons, plastic ponchos and smiles.

    "I thought that was powerful," Ruiz, who travelled from San Angelo, Texas, said afterwards. She said she thought he would be a strong president, and "hoped he would be a godly man, and listen".

    "I like the things he says he's going to do - border security, military strength - I think Supreme Court nominations that will come through this presidency will be very important."

    Despite the presence of protesters all over DC, Ruiz believed it would be possible for much of the division in the country to ease during Trump's term.

    "I hope that if conditions in the country continue to improve under his administration, it will calm tempers and make amends."

    The earlier section of Trump's address, with its dark references to "this American carnage", did not seem to stir the crowd. But the new President's emphatic pledge to always put "America first" drew a loud cheer, and the pledge to fight "radical Islamic terrorism" produced an enthusiastic roar.

    Mark, who declined to give his surname and said he was a Gulf War veteran, said Trump's win was a victory for all "the old school red-blooded Americans, who don't allow diversity to happen, don't obey globalists and believe everybody has the right to be sovereign".

    The crowd on the Mall was dotted with protesters making silent statements - holding banners with messages like "Putin's Puppet" and "Keep Your Baby Hands Off My Rights".

    Tom Nason, 26, stood patiently in line for hours alongside Trump supporters with his "Dump Trump" sign waiting to enter the Mall before proceedings began. He said he wasn't at all nervous about being an outsider in the crowd, and was more fearful of the police than anyone else.

    He said there would be a strong resistance to Trump. "It has to start now and not let up," he said.

    Also waiting in line was Mike Shervock, from Virginia Beach, who said thought Donald Trump was going to be an "excellent president", perhaps even another Ronald Reagan.

    Shervock voted for Obama in 2008, impressed with his message of hope and change, and says he still likes him as a person - "I'd have a beer with him" - but doesn't think things changed for the better during his presidency. He hopes Trump will be different.

    "I wanted change," he said. "Democrat, Republican, no - I just wanted overall change from the way things have been in the past."

    He acknowledged how divided America was now about politcs, saying he'd experienced it within his own family, but believed Trump had it within him to turn things around.

    "I want to take him at his word that he wants to heal everybody," he said.

    Evan Matheson, 25,  stood with a group of friends, wearing a Make America Great Again cap and a blue blazer adorned with white stars. While Matheson said he wasn't a fan of Trump's during the primary, he said that when it came down to a choice between Trump and Hillary Clinton - "who is obviously a criminal" - the choice was clear.

    "For a lot of people it will have meant a lot to them, a lot of people do feel left behind," he said of Trump's address.

    Vendors made the most of the opportunity - selling merchandise to both protesters and Trump supporters alike, some even from the same stand. Around the National Mall, Trump hats, flags, badges and teddy bears were all the rage. Over by the protests at Franklin Square, T-Shirts declaring "F-ck Trump" were being offered.

    One vendor, who said this was his third inauguration, said the woolly Trump beanies and plastic ponchos were his biggest sellers.

    Asked how this compared to Obama's first inauguration, he wore a look that seemed to say "are you serious?".

    "There's maybe a quarter the number of the people today compared to Obama," he said.