You can’t blame the FFA if Tuesday’s A-League season launch doesn’t pack the knockout punch of the same event a year ago.
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That was the first time three of the biggest names to grace Australian football were present in one room. The kaleidoscope of flashing bulbs was blinding.

Alessandro Del Piero, Emile Heskey and Shinji Ono, signed within a code-altering few weeks, were fawned over by a bedazzled media scrum at Parramatta Stadium.

That euphoric start gave the A-League such a huge shove in the right direction that the momentum lasted an entire season.

Curiously, neither the Italian nor the Englishman played in the finals, but it mattered not. By then the story had become about the Western Sydney Wanderers, themselves eclipsed at the final hurdle by another great tale, that of the Central Coast Mariners.

Let’s face it: as we arrive on the cusp of the new season, it will be hard to top the 2012-13 campaign. Perhaps even impossible.

But forward momentum is a must. After troubling times, not least in the days of hasty expansion, bungled World Cup bids and financial turmoil, the game has finally rebounded. Now it’s reinvigorated.

When he gives his speech to open the launch at Sydney Football Stadium, FFA chief executive David Gallop will have a lot to trumpet from the lectern.

Del Piero, Heskey and Ono are all still here, and the benefit of a year of adjustment – not least pre-seasons that lasted longer than a few days – should offset the fact that they’ve all aged another year (and by January will have a collective age of 110).

The publicity and mainstream attention needs consolidating, and thanks to SBS putting the game on free-to-air TV at last, that seems a given. Fox Sports certainly won’t be backing away from their commitment to a league they have effectively subsidised since 2005. Their pre-season advertisement created global media attention and will even have head office nervous about topping it.

Playing standards, having improved as much as any league anywhere in the past three years, will surely rise again. Primarily, soaring coaching levels, driven by Ange Postecoglou, Graham Arnold and Tony Popovic, have reached new heights.

There’s also great hope, for example, about the change in style at Perth Glory under Alastair Edwards. That Adelaide gambled on the relatively untried Josep Gombau, because of his indoctrination within FC Barcelona’s mythical walls, shows the risks clubs are willing to take to for an edge.

Member numbers are headed for an all-time high, and seeing the Wanderers literally run out of available memberships is unheard of in any code for a club in their second season.

Gallop may not say it, but those inside the FFA won’t have minded seeing the other codes battling some tougher-than-expected campaigns.

Rugby league boosters boasted their game would swell to spectacular heights on the back of a television cash-tsunami, yet NRL crowds actually shrank.

They got off lightly. Ask followers of rugby union or AFL and they’ll tell you – for eminently different reasons – that 2013 ought to be consigned to the dustbin of history as quickly as possible. Even cricket had a stinker.

With a bit of luck, the biggest controversies in the upcoming A-League season will be cooked up on the field, not in laboratories or the all-night Hungry Jacks kitchen.

And given there’s a World Cup now just eight months away, in the sport’s most spiritual of homes, the round ball will be on many new lips yet again.

Added to last season – rather than pitted against it – this period might well be remembered as the turning point for football.

Never have we been so collectively eager for the new season to arrive. Friday night can’t come quickly enough.

The original release of this article first appeared on the website of Shanghai Night Net.Read More →

Life in a bubble: Sonny Bill Williams is a big fish in the small pond of the NRL. Photo: Anthony Johnson Sonny bill
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Sonny Bill Williams playing for the All Blacks against England in Twickenham in 2010.

Brad Walter: SBW drew on past struggles to overcome poor start

Rugby league has many qualities, and rugby has been smart enough to quietly steal a few of the best.

It is not just the offloads (see All Blacks No.8 Kieran Read’s expanded skill portfolio over recent years), but the fitness work too.

Repeat efforts in defence is the prerequisite for rugby defences these days, a mirror of the tough work of getting back into the defensive line that league’s hard men have been mastering for years.

More broadly, league remains the game of the working man: egalitarian and championing the qualities of hard work.

At its best, it has echoes of boxing’s best storylines. (We all know what it looks like at its worst, but that discussion is not for this column.)

But there was a game of rugby in Johannesburg at the weekend, between the Springboks and All Blacks at Ellis Park, that showed why Sonny Bill Williams will be feeling rugby tugging so persistently at him even as he celebrates with the Roosters.

Often, rugby’s appeal as a global sport can be a little overplayed. It is not as if league players are forced to hand in their passports. They can still see the world if they choose.

But in sporting terms, the superb Johannesburg Test, won 38-27 by the All Blacks, had significance well beyond the national borders in which it was played.

Northern hemisphere nations, still buoyed by the British and Irish Lions series win, watched a classic Test match unfold, assessing the size of the challenge that’s coming their way in spring. In Argentina, the Wallabies were watching and took it as their cue to get their act together.

There is quite simply a stage open to rugby players that the NRL cannot match in scale and significance.

Another way of looking at it is this: had Williams not been loyal to his handshake deal with Nick Politis, on Saturday he would have been playing on the same turf that Nelson Mandela and Springboks captain Francois Pienaar graced in their act of kinship at the World Cup final in 1995, which helped heal the wounds of a nation. Instead, he was at Homebush.

It was also clear from the All Blacks’ win – and elements of the Wallabies’ performance against Argentina – that the idea that rugby cannot offer athletes an opportunity to express themselves in the same way as league is a myth. In the Springboks v All Blacks game, the ball was in play for 38.31 minutes, at altitude.

Possession often shifted once or twice in the same passage of play, causing wonderful havoc with defensive structures. The game has no need to justify itself to critics from other codes when such a beautiful template is delivered.

Nods, winks and perhaps some wishful thinking have invaded the vacuum created by Williams’ lack of comment on his future.

My own hunch is that Williams will return to rugby in 2014 for the reasons mentioned above, his connection with the Chiefs in New Zealand and perhaps even a cautionary tale associated with the performance of his friend Liam Messam in Johannesburg on Saturday.

Messam scored two tries in a wonderful and physical performance in the All Blacks’ No.6 jersey. Two years ago that garment was owned by Jerome Kaino, much more than Williams has ever had possession of the All Blacks’ No.12.

Now, after a spell in Japan, the 30-year-old Kaino has returned to New Zealand and has a battle on his hands to regain it. The longer Williams delays a return, the more he risks.

And there is a significant chapter that remains blank in Williams’ tale, a central role in the 2015 World Cup in England (for all the talk of the 2016 Olympics, that’s the dessert, not the main course).

In England, in Test midfields, await the giant Welshman Jamie Roberts, England’s monster Manu Tuilagi, the Frenchmen Wesley Fofana and Gael Fickou and, possibly, Israel Folau of the Wallabies.

If Williams wants to write the sort of legacy that the world knows about, he’ll have to pack his heavy heart and, for all its qualities, leave rugby league.

The original release of this article first appeared on the website of Shanghai Night Net.Read More →

Beat that: Composer Ben Walsh and orchestra with Fearless Nadia in Diamond Queen on screen. Photo: SuppliedFearless Nadia cracked whips, jumped trains and threw bad guys on the scrap heap. Australia’s first Bollywood icon, who spoke and sang in Hindi, was a long way from her beginnings as Mary Ann Evans, of Perth. Born just over a century ago, Evans was the daughter of a British soldier father and Greek mother. She relocated as a child to Bombay when her father was stationed there.Full movies coverage
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The precociously gifted girl eventually joined the circus but soon found one of the world’s biggest movie markets was hers to conquer. The Indian cinema-going public loved their blonde, blue-eyed Nadia and she even survived the transition from silent movies to talkies.

To celebrate a century of Indian cinema, Oz Fest and South Australia’s OzAsia Festival co-commissioned Australian composer Ben Walsh to write a new score for a Fearless Nadia film.

Walsh viewed several of her more than 50 titles – the best known, Hunterwali, in 1935, had her cracking the whip – and chose Diamond Queen, from 1940, to be played on a big screen while his eclectic orchestra of 14 Indian and Australian musicians play his score. He will conduct the orchestra while playing drums.

Diamond Queen has stunts, romance, political content, bad guys and action. ”I instantly heard music when I saw it,” Walsh says.

Alas, the original film sound was almost inaudible and the original music very minimal. Some of the chase scenes had no music at all. Some scenes were also too long for today’s short attention spans. But Walsh re-edited the film into a shorter, slicker version. The movie has been transferred from its nitrate original to digital.

His orchestra combines western and Indian classical music, which he describes as ”an improvised discipline with completely different rules and structures”. Walsh’s task was to knit the two, the western musicians reading scores and the Indian musicians left to interpret the music in their own notation and language. The musicians help dramatise the film. A viola player leaps into the air on a harness and spins furiously during his solo. Dancer Shruti Ghosh performs live and there will be a live vaudeville routine.

Evans died in Mumbai in 1996. ”It’s a real shame she’s not better known in Australia,” says Walsh, ”because she was not only a female icon as a stuntwoman. She was also a strong feminist icon in India.”

Fearless Nadia plays Riverside Theatre, Parramatta for Parramasala Festival on Saturday and Sunday.

The original release of this article first appeared on the website of Shanghai Night Net.Read More →

Dale Thomas is confident of becoming a Blue this week. Photo: Pat Scala Dale Thomas.
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Dale Thomas

Dale Thomas says he has endured a “tough couple of years” at Collingwood but looks forward to reinvigorating his career at Carlton next season.

The Blues lodged paperwork on Monday afternoon to secure the restricted free agent on what is understood to be a four-year contract worth almost $3 million. The Magpies will have three days to match the offer, but Thomas’ shift to the Blues is all but a done deal.

Having battled ankle problems in the past two years, including managing only five senior matches this season and none since round seven, the dashing ball carrier and 2010 premiership star said he was keen to again link with Carlton coach Mick Malthouse, his former Collingwood mentor.

“I’ve obviously had a tough couple of years and when this opportunity arose with the free agency and the like, I thought it was just the right time to move on,” he said at Melbourne Airport on Monday, before flying out for a holiday.

“I’m very excited, (to) get back with Mick obviously, getting to Carlton, a team on the improve, and hopefully I can play some good footy there.”

Thomas said his ankle had been “sweet” for a month, while the Blues are confident it will hold up and allow him to again be a midfield force with the ability to conjure goals.

Thomas, who bypassed the Magpies’ best-and-fairest count last Friday, said he had no ill feelings towards his former club where he played 157 matches.

“No, not at all. Not from my end anyway,” he told Fox Sports.

“If everything had’ve worked out and if the last two years hadn’t have gone the way they did … but these things happen and we move on and as I said, I can’t wait.

“It’s obviously really tough (leaving Collingwood), I’ve got some mates coming on this trip with me from the Pies (but) my friends are still going to be my friends.

“I’ve had a great time at Collingwood, I’m thankful to all the supporters, they’ve been fantastic. I’ve had a great ride but I’m looking forward to this next chapter.”

Thomas said Magpies’ coach Nathan Buckley had accepted his decision.

“I called him up and then obviously went in and had a meeting with him. Bucks has got no hard feelings. I explained my decision to him and he was happy with that,” he said.

“He’s obviously got a fantastic group there at Collingwood and he’s going to steer them in the direction he wants. Hopefully it won’t be too good against Carlton but I wish those boys all the best of luck.”

Thomas, 26, is one of four so-called “rat pack” members to have left, or be leaving, the club in the past year. Ben Johnson retired through the season, Alan Didak has been delisted while Heath Shaw will traded, should a suitable deal be done.

Blues’ football manager Andrew McKay said on Monday it was unclear how long it would take for the Magpies’ to let the deal go through.

Thomas’ defection means the Blues have ultimately secured the top two picks of the 2005 national draft. Skipper Marc Murphy was taken as a priority pick at No.1, with Thomas also a priority at No.2. The Magpies went for Thomas ahead of Scott Pendlebury (No.5) that year.

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A HUNTER Valley Catholic parish priest, Father James Fletcher, has been charged with sexually assaulting a child.
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Father Fletcher, 61, faced Maitland Local Court yesterday on seven counts of having intercourse with a minor without consent and one charge of indecent assault.

Magistrate Richard Wakely granted Father Fletcher bail on condition that he have no contact with children younger than 16 without adult supervision and that he give his residential address to the officer in charge of the case’s investigation, Detective Peter Fox.

Mr Wakely ordered that nothing be published to identify the alleged victim or the alleged place and date of alleged offences, other than to say they referred to a time that was “not recent”.

Father Fletcher did not enter a plea to any of the charges.

Police prosecutor Daniel Maher said Father Fletcher had stood down from his church duties.

Sergeant Maher unsuccessfully asked for a total suppression order so nothing at all could be published until the Director of Public Prosecutions took charge of the matter.

Sergeant Maher said the case would get media attention due to the current Australian political climate and other cases that had received publicity.

He said he felt uncomfortable about suggesting the court apply a total suppression, but was concerned that Father Fletcher would not receive a fair trial.

Sergeant Maher said that while Father Fletcher had no prior police record and a presumption of innocence applied, Father Fletcher may suffer victimisation if his address was publicly known.

When granting bail and adjourning the case to Newcastle Local Court on May 23, Mr Wakely said he would not grant a total suppression order.

Mr Wakely said there was public interest in such matters, the community would be aware that the case only involved allegations at this stage and he expected the public to maintain an open mind.

NO PLEA: Father Fletcher.

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On the up and up: the Redfern semi. The Collaroy property.
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David Vaughan, Christine Olliffe and Audette Vaughan. Photo: Janie Barrett.

The last time this Collaroy property was sold, Ben Chifley was still prime minister. And while much has changed in the world since the 1940s, the views from its front rooms have not. You can still take in the sweeping vista that extends from North Head to Barrenjoey – something David Vaughan and his sister Christine Olliffe never tired of when they were growing up. Their great aunt lived there before their parents, who moved there in the 1970s. Their mother, Audette Vaughan, who is in her 90s, only moved out a few weeks ago.

”It was a wonderful place to be, even as a teenager, because you really appreciated the view,” Vaughan says. The three-bedroom house has jarrah floors, three-metre ceilings and stone fireplaces. It is on a 650 square metre block with a large rambling garden and steps leading down to Long Reef beach. But it is the property’s position, high on the headland in Lancaster Crescent, that has been winning over potential buyers. It is due to be auctioned on October 26 through Steve Witt, of Century 21 Read Essery & Witt, who is expecting interest of $1.5 million and above.

Capital gainers

”If only” stories are gathering pace, as buyers pay what seem to be ridiculous prices. A former owner of a tiny two-bedroom Redfern semi wished he had held onto it after learning of the $1.01 million paid ahead of auction through Belle Property Surry Hills. ”It’s madness,” said Finlay Crawford, who sold the property for $223,000 in 1995 and moved his family to Randwick.

”I should have kept it by the look of it.” He paid $180,000 for the Charles Street pad five years earlier. The current owners paid $600,000 in 2002 and did little apart from a paint job and styling but had smartly offered the property with approved plans for an extra floor.

Pre-auction blitz

This is but one example of a growing number of properties selling before their auction date, as buyers look to get a jump on the seemingly inexhaustible competition. The proportion of these sales is now more than 40 per cent of total auction sales, according to figures from Australian Property Monitors. In his latest newsletter, industry guru Bob Guth, director of BradfieldCleary, notes these pre-auction sales have reached ”ridiculous proportions due to a lack of stock in the market”.

While most are selling for an above-market price, Guth reckons vendors could be getting even higher prices if they cooled their heels and waited until auction day.

The original release of this article first appeared on the website of Shanghai Night Net.Read More →

DID the Hunter pedophile priest Father Vince Ryan ever confess his crimes in the Catholic Church’s confessional?
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At any time from his first known sexual assault of a boy in 1971 until his arrest 25 years later did Fr Ryan seek his church’s absolution from any of the 73 child sexual offences he’s since admitted?

That question raises difficult issues for the Catholic Church, the community and Fr Ryan’s 29 victims, issues that have become especially difficult in South Australia since a state parliamentarian introduced a bill last month that would require priests to report child abuse.

Nick Xenophon, the No Pokies MP, wants ministers of religion included in laws that require people such as teachers, doctors and psychologists to report suspicions of child abuse to police immediately.

NSW’s mandatory-reporting law makes no mention of clergy or religious services, even when they’re dealing with children, although the Crimes Act’s offence of “Concealing serious indictable offence” and child abuse is an indictable offence does not exclude clergy.

However, the NSW Attorney-General’s Office tells me that the exclusions are preserved in common law, which is the term used to describe law set by precedent in the courts. I understand that specific legislation would override common law.

Mr Xenophon’s bill would cover clergy who hear confessions, and that is its most sensitive aspect. Catholic priests hear confessions, called reconciliation these days, and issue absolution in a formal structure, and reconciliation is an important, even vital, part of the religion.

The risk of dying with unforgiven mortal (serious) sin, and thus taking the descending rather than ascending stairs, is no slight matter.

Anglican ministers hear confessions in a much less formal way, and while the confidentiality of Catholic reconciliation is sacrosanct it is not always so in the Anglican case.

In 1997 the Anglican Church’s Sydney diocese overturned a 1993 church rule preventing clergy breaching confessional confidence under any circumstance, reverting to an arrangement that allows Anglican ministers to report confessions of criminal acts.

There appears to be some onus on these ministers to report criminal acts if they believe the community is at risk.

Risk to the community has no weight in the Catholic Church’s guarantee of secrecy, which maintains that the confession is to God, not to the priest.

But the priest does hear the confession, and he may discuss the sin and its circumstances before issuing absolution. He may not know the identity of the person making the confession, and sometimes reconciliation is in a group setting without the disclosure of sins.

In one-on-one reconciliation the priest may hear that the member of his flock has murdered someone, sexually abused a child, or spoken ill of a friend, and with absolution and perhaps penance of prayer that person will emerge unburdened by sin.

It is likely that this absolution helps serious offenders live with their guilt, that it allows, for example, a priest to live with his recurrent pedophilia. Why cannot a priest make it a condition of absolution that the offender report the crime to police?

The church says that the secrecy of reconciliation is a church member’s right, which has the church putting that individual right above the community’s rights and the rights of victims. It will say, too, that mandatory reporting would discourage serious offenders from seeking absolution, a possibility that will matter little to the wider community.

But why cannot the priest offer God’s absolution and call the police? Both God and the community can then require penance.

Like Mr Xenophon, I can’t see how confidentiality for people who sexually assault children, and for that matter commit serious crime, is a matter for any group other than the entire community.

[email protected]上海夜网m.au

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CALLS have been made for the sacking of the Catholic Bishop of Newcastle/Maitland Michael Malone for failing to stand down a priest accused of child sexual assault.
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Bishop Malone acknowledged allowing Father James Fletcher to continue ministering for nine months after the allegation was first levelled against him and a police investigation was in progress.

He said a stroke four years ago and declining health meant Father Fletcher was not considered a risk.

Father Fletcher has now been stood aside after being charged by police, but the church’s failure to act for nine months has caused controversy.

Bishop Malone also acknowledged he failed to comply with an Ombudsman’s Act requirement to report allegations of sexual abuse within a 30-day period.

The case has angered the Melbourne-based Broken Rights group, which represents the

victims of church sex abuse, and has prompted calls for Bishop Malone’s removal.

“If it was good enough for the Archbishop of Sydney George Pell and the Governor-General to stand aside while these sort of allegations are investigated why didn’t Father Fletcher?” Broken Rights spokesman Michael Cosgrove said.

“Bishops don’t take responsibility when it doesn’t suit them and this is just another case of them avoiding their responsibility to their people.

“I think a bishop’s primary responsibility is to children in their care.”

But Bishop Malone said Father Fletcher’s stroke and his age (61) rendered him not a risk.

Bishop Malone said he made his decision in consultation with his Council of Priests, the vicar general of the diocese Father Jim Saunders,and the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference’s NSW Professional Standards Group.

He also consulted the director of Catholic schools.

“Should he stay or go, that was part of the conversation but not the entire conversation,” Bishop Malone said.

“Based on the advice I received and an assessment of the potential risk as per NSW child protection legislation, I decided to leave Father Fletcher in place, aware also of his poor health and near fatal stroke a few years ago.”

On the requirement to report to the Ombudsman within 30 days, Bishop Malone said he was not aware of the need and neither were other bishops he consulted.

“In fact, when I mentioned it to the bishops as I did in conference (Australian Catholic Bishops Conference) yesterday they were all surprised to learn it,” he said.

Bishop Malone said he had complied with the Catholic Church’s “Toward Healing” guidelines, which sets out how church authorities should deal with allegations of sexual abuse.

The executive officer of the church’s National Professional Standards Group, Sister Angela Ryan, said a priest accused of sexual assault would be removed from carrying out duties only if they were deemed to pose an “unacceptable risk” to the public.

Father Fletcher has been charged with eight offences relating to child sexual assault and will answer the charges in court.

He has not been required to enter a formal plea, but has denied the allegations.

BISHOP MICHAEL MALONE

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Source: The Examiner
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When Frances signed into Facebook for the first time she was more worried about the technology than her past.

But the foray into social media returned the 50-year-old to the cruel world of her Hobart schoolyard.

Frances, not her real name, grew up the victim of “intense” bullying at high school.

“When I graduated I thought I’d finally escaped and disappeared into the wider world,” she said.

But venturing on to the social network quickly smashed her long held anonymity.

Before long her old tormenters from school found her online.

“(They) came after me again” she said.

“I was just horrified that they were still doing those things.”

Frances acted to avoid a second round of something which had “affected my entire life”.

She quit Facebook and took the extreme step of changing her name to again escape the bullies.

Frances’ cyberbullying experience is just one example of a problem Greens MP Paul O’Halloran says is outpacing legislators.

“Absolutely we need to toughen up,” he said.

“It’s an issue which is so new, we need to find ways to deal with it because so many people are getting hurt.”

Until recently the state government had argued current laws were sufficient.

In August, Attorney General Brian Wightman said Tasmania had clear laws which prevent bullying, whether it occurred by use of technology or face to face.

However following the tragic suicide of a 15-year-old Hobart school girl in September, Mr Wightman has called for a review of the state’s anti-bullying laws.

The reviews of the criminal code, which received tri-partisan support, will see if the laws around cyberbulling need strengthening.

Difficulties on legislating against digital harassment are common around the world. In the UK, which is facing many of the same problems with young people and online vilification, has no legal definition of cyberbullying.

Like Australia it continues to rely on laws that predate internet operators like Facebook to counter the online behaviour on those services.

In the US, some states are including specific online language into the statutes to help enforce bullying laws.

A similar approach may help Tasmania Police which is often “unable to assist” when it comes to material posted on social media.

Unless it’s a physical threat police said “less serious complaints” should be reported to social media sites.

•Ifyou need help contact Lifelink Samaritans 1300364566, Lifeline 131114, Kids Helpline 1800551800, MensLine Australia 1300789978, StandBy Response Service 0408133884, or beyondblue 1300224636.

When Frances signed into Facebook for the first time she was more worried about the technology than her past.

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