Month: June 2019

Panthers turn to rookie half Smith

Penrith coach Ivan Cleary has turned to rookie NRL playmaker Will Smith to help solve the Panthers’ halves injury crisis and arrest their late season form slump.

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Former Newcastle under-20s player Smith will make his first grade debut at five-eighth in Friday’s round 21 clash with Canterbury at ANZ Stadium, after Peter Wallace was ruled out for the rest of the season with a knee injury.

Wallace joins other halves options for Cleary Tyrone Peachey (pectoral muscle) and Isaac John (Achilles) as casualties for the remainder of the year.

However, winger Josh Mansour (ankle) is a welcome inclusion for Penrith.

Considered one of the fastest players at the Panthers, the 22-year-old Smith can cover fullback, centre and halfback or five-eighth, and signed a two-year deal with Penrith starting this year in a move from the Knights.

Smith’s first NRL assignment will be coming to terms with the Bulldogs’ NSW playmaker Josh Reynolds, who returns from suspension for the vital top four clash.

Captain Michael Ennis said Reynolds’s return was a welcome boost for the Dogs who, like Penrith, have lost their past two matches to slip from the competition lead.

“Josh is a wonderful guy to play with, he brings so much to the sides that he plays in,” Ennis said.

“He will be a real welcome bonus back into our side.”

Josh Morris hasn’t been named to return from his knee injury suffered in State of Origin I but is a chance to play.

North Queensland’s late-season resurgence has been boosted by the return of Australian prop Matt Scott from a cheekbone injury he suffered in Origin I.

Scott has been named alongside James Tamou, for Saturday’s match with Gold Coast in Townsville after his fellow representative bookend overcame a neck injury scare.

Winger Jorge Taufua has been named to return from a foot injury for top-of-the-table Manly’s clash with Brisbane at Brookvale Oval on Friday.

Paul Gallen is still two weeks away from a return from a biceps injury for Cronulla, who host Parramatta at home for Fui Fui Moi Moi’s 200th NRL game.

NSW centre Michael Jennings returns from a back injury sustained in Origin II for the Sydney Roosters match against St George Illawarra at Allianz Stadium.

Shaun Johnson (groin) and Feleti Mateo (calf) are back for the Warriors trip to Canberra on Sunday.

South Sydney are yet to name a replacement for captain John Sutton (knee) who will miss their home clash against Newcastle in Cairns.

Kurt Gidley will replace Jarrod Mullen (stomach muscle tear) at five-eighth for the Knights.

Chris Lawrence (ankle) hasn’t been named for Wests Tigers fixture against Melbourne at Campbelltown Stadium on Monday but could be a late inclusion.

Another Qld tiger handler bitten at work

A tiger has bitten a handler at a Queensland zoo for the second time in eight months, with the latest puncture incident occurring on International Tiger Day.

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Juma, the biggest tiger at Australia Zoo, bit Mark Turner, 42, on his left leg as the animal was being moved to a new area.

The 10-year-old, 130kg male Sumatran tiger, named after the Indonesian word for mountain summit, is described on the Sunshine Coast enclosure’s website as “a fitting name for an animal equally as powerful and stunning”.

However, the tiger born in captivity in NSW is also described as having a “very laid-back personality”, making him ideal for filming.

Mr Turner is in a stable condition but is reportedly undergoing surgery following the incident shortly before noon on Tuesday.

It is the second biting incident involving a tiger and a handler at Australia Zoo since November last year.

That’s when a 114kg Bengal tiger, Charlie, became “over-excited” and bit his handler Dave Styles on the neck and shoulder during a tiger show, keeping him away from work for several months.

Australia Zoo, owned by the family of the late crocodile hunter Steve Irwin, announced the incident on Twitter.

“Keeper has tooth puncture wound but is fine,” it said.

“First-aid protocol was followed, the same as Australia Zoo renders all staff, and the keeper is going to be fine.

“Juma the tiger is fine as well.”

A Queensland Ambulance Service spokesman said the tiger handler was taken to Nambour Hospital, on the Sunshine Coast, in a stable condition.

Nine News reported that he was undergoing emergency surgery.

Vickery happy with four-week AFL ban

Richmond’s Tyrone Vickery expressed relief after the AFL tribunal gave him a four-week ban for clocking Dean Cox.

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Vickery’s striking charge was referred directly to the tribunal, whose members retired for six minutes on Tuesday night before agreeing on the penalty.

Both AFL legal counsel Andrew Woods and player advocate Michael Tovey QC had agreed a ban of five weeks, reduced to four with a guilty plea, was correct.

The 24-year-old pleaded guilty at the start of proceedings, while the three-man tribunal panel were given a transcript of his public apology to the iconic West Coast ruckman on Sunday.

Vickery was given a penalty of 495 demerit points, meaning 95 carryover points will be hanging over his head when the Tigers play Sydney at ANZ Stadium on August 30.

The forward will miss matches against GWS, Essendon, Adelaide and St Kilda before being available for selection in the final round of the season.

Vickery, who knocked out Cox while the veteran was watching the ball at a boundary throw-in, was happy with the result.

“I got a fair trial and a fair hearing. That (four weeks) was the conclusion and we accept it,” Vickery said.

“Very happy to now have a conclusion to it. I’m able to train hard for the next four weeks and give myself a chance to potentially play in the last round.

“I’m thrilled to have the opportunity to potentially play again this season.”

Vickery said he was glad the incident was over and pledged to “play hard and aggressive, but not overstep the mark which is what I owe – especially to my teammates”.

Speaking on radio station 3AW, 1988 Brownlow medallist Gerard Healy suggested Vickery could consider himself “a very lucky man”.

“For mine, five weeks was the minimum, six wouldn’t have surprised,” Healy said.

Vickery joins Brian Lake in copping a four-week suspension – the sternest punishment handed out by the tribunal this season.

But as opposed to Lake’s case, when the Hawthorn defender unsuccessfully argued he was trying to grab Petrie’s guernsey and not his throat, this time it was all very agreeable at the tribunal.

Tovey made the point no bones were broken and that the incident was on the lower scale of severe impact.

But both he and Woods agreed the blow was intentional, severe impact and high contact – and Vickery was not called on to testify.

Earlier on Tuesday, Sydney’s Jeremy Laidler accepted a reprimand and 70.31 points towards his future record for striking Hawthorn’s Jack Gunston during Saturday night’s MCG clash.

West Coast’s Luke Shuey and Mark LeCras both accepted $900 fines for engaging in misconduct when they remonstrated with Vickery.

Aust police abandon MH17 site attempt

Australian and Dutch police have been forced to abandon a third attempt to reach the MH17 crash site because of escalating tensions between Ukrainian forces and pro-Russian militia.

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However, Prime Minister Tony Abbott is still hopeful they will soon be able to reach the Donetsk area toward Ukraine’s eastern border where the Malaysia Airlines passenger jet was downed on July 17.

The 200 strong unarmed police contingent was on Monday forced to turn around for the second day running due to shelling and gunfire.

Mr Abbott was briefed on Tuesday afternoon about talks to provide a safe corridor for investigators.

“We were optimistic,” the prime minister told Fairfax Radio.

But in the end, investigators didn’t get to set out on Tuesday.

“The team decided not to attempt to travel to the site as fighting had intensified in recent days and had led to the mission being aborted on both previous attempts,” the Australian Federal Police said in a statement.

“The mission will again attempt to enter the crash site when suitable arrangements are in place to provide an appropriately secure area.”

Mr Abbott on Tuesday attended a meeting of the national security committee of cabinet to discuss the “confused situation on the ground”.

He pointed to a commitment by the Ukraine government and pro-Russian separatists fighting on the eastern border to use “their best endeavours” to make the site safe enough for the Dutch-Australian team.

“And it’s high time those commitments were honoured,” Mr Abbott said.

Alexander Hug, the deputy head of a monitoring team from the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe, expressed the his team’s frustration and anger after the second turnaround.

“We are sick and tired of being interrupted by gunfights, despite the fact that we have agreed that there should be a ceasefire,” he said.

Dutch police chief Gerard Bouman believes the chances the police can recover all the remains and evidence is “not very good”.

Mr Abbott spoke with his Malaysian counterpart Najib Razak on Tuesday afternoon and the leaders agreed on their “absolute determination and commitment” to gain access to the site to fulfil a “moral mission” to bring home the bodies of the dead.

The Ukrainian military has seized back a number of villages in the Donetsk region but a spokesman for Ukraine’s national security council has denied Ukrainian forces were fighting within the 20km radius around the crash site in the Donetsk region and blamed the shelling on pro-Russian forces.

Foreign Minister Julie Bishop and Australia’s special envoy Angus Houston have met Ukrainian president Petro Poroshenko to push for an exclusion zone and humanitarian corridor.

Ms Bishop also wants the Ukrainian parliament to this week ratify a deployment agreement she’s signed with her counterpart, Pavlo Klimkin, that would allow Australia to send in armed police or soldiers.

Ukraine and the 11 countries which lost 298 citizens – including up to 39 Australian residents – have also agreed to set up a joint team of prosecutors to examine possible criminal charges against those who downed the plane, which is believed to have been shot down by pro-Russian separatists using a surface-to-air missile launcher.

Europe’s judicial cooperation agency Eurojust will be involved in the process.

Dutch investigators are expected to release an initial report on the plane’s black box recorders this week.

US President Barack Obama and European leaders are considering toughening up sanctions against Russia, particularly in the areas of access to capital markets, defence, dual-use goods and technology.

Qantas sticks to flights over Iraq

(Transcript from SBS World News Radio)

Qantas is reassuring its passengers that it’s still safe to fly over Iraq, despite network partner Emirates’ deciding to reroute its fleet away from the conflict-torn nation.

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The Dubai-based airline says it’s made the decision over fears that militants Iraq may have surface to air missile capabilities.

Abby Dinham reports.

(Click on the audio tab above to hear the full report)

“The tragedy of flight MH17 has changed everything.”

Those are the words of Emirates Chief executive Tim Clark.

The airline is expected to re-route its fleet out of Iraqi airspace within the next ten days.

But Qantas says it has no plans to change the routes of its planes, a decision that’s angered some in the security industry.

Roger Henning is founder of the private company, Homeland Security Asia-Pacific.

He disagrees with Qantas’ decision.

“Deciding the risk is out of bounds in eastern Europe, but OK in the Middle East it’s Russian roulette.”

Qantas’ Dubai to London flight enters Iraqi airspace.

An airline statement says there is no information to suggest that there’s a risk to commercial aircraft passing over Iraq, particularly at the altitudes its planes fly.

But Mr Henning suggests passengers should be vigilant about researching their airline’s flight paths.

“Anyone flying to Europe from Australia should think very carefully about getting on any airline that is openly flying over a warzone between Australia and London.”

Emirates is reportedly considering longer routes over Saudi Arabia and Egypt, instead of Iraq.

But some aviation experts say Iraqi airspace could be a better option.

Airspace author Geoff Thomas says avoiding conflict areas in the Middle East is a tough ask.

“If you don’t fly over Iraq you’ve got to fly over Syria, or got to fly over Lebanon, or you got to fly over Gaza. The other side you have to fly over Iran, you have to fly over Afghanistan, you have to fly over Pakistan, the whole area is what you would call a turbulent zone.”

Other major airlines including British Airways, Etihad, Lufthansa and Qatar Airways also continue to fly through Iraqi airspace.