Month: July 2019

Wimbledon semis run motivates Raonic

Reaching his first Grand Slam semi-final earlier this month at Wimbledon left seventh-ranked Milos Raonic disappointed in his effort and more motivated to capture his first major title.

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The 23-year-old Canadian begins his push to the US Open, what he calls “a very important Slam for me”, this week at the $US1.9 million ($A2.1 million) ATP and WTA Washington Open.

“I felt I could have done much better in that situation,” Raonic said of his 6-4 6-4 6-4 loss to Roger Federer in the Wimbledon semi-finals.

“It has been a lot of frustration, anger and disappointment with the semi-final. It has been transformed into a lot of motivation.

“I hate losing. The stinging stays with me.”

That pushes Raonic, the second seed at Washington behind fifth-ranked Czech Tomas Berdych, as the huge server looks forward to the US Open on his favourite hardcourt surface and coming off his best Slam efforts, his Wimbledon breakthrough and a French Open quarter-final run.

“I can play better than I did at Wimbledon,” Raonic said.

“That doesn’t put me very far away from being able to win the tournament (US Open).”

Raonic looks forward to testing how his game has evolved and how to better exploit his tremendous serve, which has him ranked second in ATP first serve points won on 82 per cent and third in aces with 567.

“I believe I have a better understanding of the damage I can do,” Raonic said.

“People don’t like to play me. I better understand how to use that to my advantage and get more wins from it.

“I have improved in a lot of areas, whether that be technically in shots or as an athlete.”

Raonic sees a major chance to make a jump into the top five for the first time in his career, although he admits French Open winner Rafael Nadal and Wimbledon champion Novak Djokovic remain a class apart.

“The biggest barrier is the threshold that Novak and Rafa have on the 1-2 spots. The rest I think, specifically, are up for grabs.”

Final can be decided in a flash: McCaw

Crusaders flanker Richie McCaw knows from past experience, both sweet and bitter, that a crucial moment can decide Saturday’s Super Rugby final result against the Waratahs in Sydney.

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“When it comes down to one or two moments, the teams that are good enough to take those opportunities are the ones that win,” the All Blacks captain said.

“If you drop your guard for one or two moments, you’ll come second.”

He will be making his eighth Super final appearance, the first being in 2002 against the Brumbies when the Crusaders won the competition for the fourth time.

McCaw can recall some of the key moments in the finals he’s played.

In 2011, when they lost against the Reds in Queensland, it was when halfback Will Genia scored a try out of nowhere.

In 2008, the last time the Crusaders won a final, also against the Waratahs, it was when they thought they’d scored a try, but the referee pulled play back because of an earlier punch thrown by Brad Thorn.

McCaw said he could see the opposition lift after that.

“That was probably the moment that could have really cost us, but it didn’t.”

The Crusaders displayed their characteristic resilience on that occasion, partly honed by thorough pre-match preparation.

“Everyone says, ‘y’know, you’ve got to go through the process of the week like you always do’ and I think that’s true,” McCaw said.

“I think we’ve got to turn up on Saturday with all the detail of how we’re going to play sorted.”

McCaw admits that even with his years of international experience he still gets nervous ahead of big games.

“It’s a good sort of nervous though,” he said.

“These are the moments that you want to be involved in and the games you want to play in.

“You go through all the hard work for three or four, five months to give yourself a shot at this game.”

The Crusaders have gone five seasons without a title, and are desperate for there not to be a sixth come Sunday.

McCaw said this side were different from recent ones that had made it to the semi-finals then hadn’t performed.

“At least this year we’ve given ourselves a chance and now the big job is to perform when it really counts.

“That’s what champion teams do, and that’s what we’re really keen to do.”

$800 spent on doorknob in unused government room

Construction and fit-out costs for the high-tech theatrette totalled almost $235,000 while the annual cost of having it on stand-by is running at about $100,000.

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The government is leasing the premises, next to the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade’s aid office in Canberra, until June 2016.

It is also paying $10,000 a month to hire audio visual equipment on top of a $30,000 bill for rented stage lights, according to documents obtained by AAP under Freedom of Information.

The heavily-redacted documents reveal the facility was ready for media briefings in October 2013, but it has never been used for that purpose.

It is understood the room was intended for Operation Sovereign Borders media briefings presented by Immigration Minister Scott Morrison until late last year.

Instead, the weekly briefings were held at commonwealth offices in Sydney.

The briefings ended in December, coinciding with reports of asylum-seeker boat turn-backs which the government refused to discuss.

In Canberra, Mr Morrison has mostly used Parliament House facilities for border protection-related press conferences.

In mid-July, he launched a national border targeting centre at the Customs Border Protection headquarters, located across the road from the briefing room.

He addressed reporters after the launch in a Customs room.

The unused media centre has large LED monitors, a projector, spotlights, two podiums with microphones, audio splitters and space to fit four television camera tripods and seating for 20 journalists.

Invoices show $800 was spent on a single door knob.

Mokbel ‘helped pay’ for Hodson murders

Former drug kingpin Tony Mokbel paid $50,000 to have a police informer killed on behalf of a Victorian detective, an inquest has been told.

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Terence Hodson and his wife, Christine, were found shot dead at their Kew home in May 2004, months before he was due to give evidence in a criminal trial against drug squad detective Paul Dale.

A man, known only as witness M, told the inquest into the Hodsons’ deaths that hitman Rodney Charles Collins had once boasted of getting rid of “brain tumours” for a police officer.

Witness M said he later understood that removing brain tumours meant shooting the Hodsons in the head.

Mokbel later told him he had put in $50,000 towards “Dale’s medical costs, if you know what I mean”, witness M told the Victorian Coroners Court on Tuesday.

He said Mokbel told him he had known the detective for a long time and was confident of extracting information about police investigations.

Mokbel then said “Skinny” – meaning gangland killer Carl Williams – had contributed the rest of the money for the hit, witness M said.

Witness M said the Hodsons’ names were never mentioned in the conversations, but he was left with a clear inference about who Mokbel and Collins had meant.

Detective Senior Sergeant Sol Solomon said witness M’s story had checked out, rejecting a suggestion from Mr Dale’s barrister, Geoffrey Steward, that it was fanciful.

“That’s more than plausible in relation to witness M. It happened,” Det Sen Sgt Solomon told the inquest.

Mr Steward accused Det Sen Sgt Solomon of being “completely blinkered” in relation to his client’s connection to the murder.

“Absolutely I disagree – 240 people were spoken to,” Det Sen Sgt Solomon replied.

“Paul Dale was spoken to on day one, gave us his alibi and we never went near him for three-and-a-half years.”

Mr Dale and Collins were charged with the Hodsons’ murder in 2009, but the charges were withdrawn the following year when Williams was murdered in prison.

Williams claimed Mr Dale paid him $150,000 to have Mr Hodson killed.

Both Collins and Mr Dale have denied involvement.

Det Sen Sgt Solomon said police did not believe that a criminal who had been implicated by Mr Hodson was responsible for his murder.

“I never got the impression that they harboured that amount of ill feeling towards him because of his informing,” he said.

“There was never any outward angst or hostility expressed.”

Det Sen Sgt Solomon said the crime was committed by someone with “supreme proficiency in the art of killing people”.

Mokbel is serving a 30-year jail sentence with a minimum 22 years for drug crimes.

Collins is serving two life sentences for the murder of Dorothy and Ramon Abbey, who were shot dead at their Melbourne home in 1987.

The inquest, before State Coroner Judge Ian Gray, continues.

Waratahs have seized their destiny – Cheika

The Waratahs host the Canterbury Crusaders in the Super Rugby title-decider on Saturday, bidding for a maiden trophy in their first final on home soil.

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The most consistent and entertaining team in the southern hemisphere competition, the Waratahs have come a long way since their ‘annus horribilis’ in 2012, when they managed just four wins and were jeered off the ground by their own supporters.

Cheika, who took over in the wake of that dismal season, doubled the Waratahs’ wins in his first year in charge and has been credited for turning a once-demoralised roster into an industrious and joy-filled team that prides itself on hard work.

The 47-year-old, who guided Irish team Leinster to their first Heineken Cup trophy in 2008-09, is reluctant to take credit for the team’s transformation but said his players had absorbed one lesson from his staff – the need to take responsibility for the club’s fortunes and failures.

“I don’t know if I turned the morale around,” Cheika said in a phone interview. “I think what we just did, we got in there and said ‘let’s take a bit of ownership as to what’s happening’.

“Everything goes a bit better if someone owns it. We’ve got some skin in it. Let’s take some sacrifices and take ownership.

“Because it’s not like a privately-owned team. There’s no owner standing there saying ‘come on, you’ve got to do this and that or whatever’.

“We as players and coaches have got to take ownership and take it personally and live it. I think that’s what we’ve tried to do.

“If you do that, you get more involved and it becomes more a part of you so you feel everything a little bit more and you get more attached and therefore you give more effort and it’s a bit of a circle in that way.”

Though having reached the 2005 and 2008 finals, both times beaten away by the Crusaders, the Waratahs did appear to suffer a ‘tragedy of the commons’ in the final years of coach Michael Foley, with a talent-laden playing roster seemingly unable to translate abundant resources into on-field success.

FUTURE SPECULATION

Slammed by local media for playing an unappetising brand of rugby, Sydney fans stopped turning up for games amid reports of dire financial troubles at the club.

Saturday’s clash may surpass an Australian record for a Super Rugby match and the fans have returned in droves this year as the Waratahs, powered by a sometimes breathtaking running game, stormed to the top of the standings at the end of the regular season.

Like fullback Israel Folau and his Wallabies team mate Kurtley Beale, hot properties in world rugby and wooed by Australia’s National Rugby League competition, Cheika’s future at the Waratahs is also a matter of speculation.

Reports have linked the former Randwick number eight with a role at French giants Toulon, though he has laughed them off.

Winning the title for long-suffering New South Wales fans might be the perfect send-off, but Cheika said his vision for the Waratahs extended far beyond Saturday’s final siren.

“I’m very circumspect about the word ‘dynasty’. There’s a bit of thinking about ruling over an empire with that type of thing,” he said.

“What’s important is that we’re leaving something for the next season’s team, something around our behaviour, our culture if you like. About our play, our identity, all those things.

“Last year’s team worked hard on leaving something good for this year’s team to build on.

“And (it’s the same) for next year’s team to build on. It’s about not just working for the short-term. A lot of guys come into the game wanting a professional contact (anywhere) but we want guys coming through wanting to play for the Waratahs.

“We can do that by keep pushing our identity and making it very clear for anyone that if you want to play here, this is what you’re going to get.”

(Editing by John O’Brien)