May 09

Bushfire closes Pacific Highway: photos

AN orange glow of flames beneath a thick haze of smoke signified the official start of bushfire season had come a day early.
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Water-bombing helicopters were called in to help more than 15 NSW Rural Fire Service crews battle a blaze at Doyalson on Monday.

The fire, which started near Ruttleys Road, quickly spread through more than 20 hectares of grass and fire during the afternoon, with thick smoke forcing the closure of the Pacific Highway in both directions for several hours.

As traffic was diverted, Rural Fire Service crews worked to get on top of the blaze, which crossed the road north of the Lake Munmorah power station.

Crews began gaining the upper hand as the sun set and conditions eased, employing back burning in an effort to contain the flames.

The blaze was being controlled last night and had spread to more than 20 hectares of grass surrounding the highway.

RFS spokesman Brendan Doyle said no residential properties had come under threat.

The blaze comes just a day before the official start of bushfire season, with the RFS and Hunter Water calling on residents to ensure they are properly prepared for the threat.

NSW has already faced more than 2500 grass and bushfires this year with more than a thousand of those occurring within the last month.

At the official launch of the state’s bushfire season on Monday, NSW Rural Fire Service Commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons said that weather forecasts had been ‘‘dramatically revised’’ and indicated a tough season ahead.

‘‘We’ve gone from an 85 per cent probability of above average rainfall down to about 35 per cent in some parts of NSW,’’ he told reporters.

Hunter Water CEO Darren Cleary urged residents to ensure their water hydrant was clearly marked so in the event their house was under threat of fire, fire fighters could access the hydrant without delay.

The statutory bush fire danger period runs from 1 October to 31 March.

Helicopters dropping water on a fire at Doyalson on the Pacific Highway as the sun goes down. Picture: Simone De Peak

Firefighters backburning to prevent a bushfire from further spreading at Doyalson on the Pacific Highway as the sun goes down. Picture: Simone De Peak

Firefighters backburning to prevent a bushfire from further spreading at Doyalson on the Pacific Highway as the sun goes down. Picture: Simone De Peak

Firefighters backburning to prevent a bushfire from further spreading at Doyalson on the Pacific Highway as the sun goes down. Picture: Simone De Peak

Firefighters backburning to prevent a bushfire from further spreading at Doyalson on the Pacific Highway as the sun goes down. Picture: Simone De Peak

Helicopters dropping water on a fire at Doyalson on the Pacific Highway as the sun goes down. Picture: Simone De Peak

Helicopters dropping water on a fire at Doyalson on the Pacific Highway as the sun goes down. Picture: Simone De Peak

Smoke from a bushfire at Doyalson on the Pacific Highway as the sun goes down. Picture: Simone De Peak

helicopters dropping water on a fire at Doyalson on the Pacific Highway as the sun goes down. Picture: Simone De Peak

Smoke from a bushfire at Doyalson on the Pacific Highway as the sun goes down. Picture: Simone De Peak

Smoke from a bushfire at Doyalson on the Pacific Highway as the sun goes down. Picture: Simone De Peak

Smoke from a bushfire at Doyalson on the Pacific Highway as the sun goes down. Picture: Simone De Peak

May 09

Julia Gillard defends legacy, criticises Kevin Rudd in first public comments since her defeat

Anne Summers with former PM Julia Gillard before the event at Sydney’s Opera House. Photo: Ben Rushton julia-gillard
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Julia Gillard has thrown a thinly veiled barb at Kevin Rudd for disloyalty and for destabilising her prime ministership, declaring the difference between her behaviour and his was that she always worked for the re-election of the Labor government.

She said while it was difficult to accept the outcome of the ballot which returned Mr Rudd to the prime ministership, she had quickly concluded the best course was to give her party “the gift of silence” deciding not to make any public comments before the election.

In the only public comments she has made on the explosive events of June and Mr Rudd’s role in eventually replacing her, she justified her original move on Mr Rudd in June 2010 as “legitimate”.

“To ask your leader to have a leadership ballot, that’s legitimate, to do things continuously that undermine the Labor Party and the Labor government, then of course that shouldn’t be done by anyone,” she said.

“The key difference is every day I was deputy prime minister, I spent all of my time doing everything I could to have the Labor government prosper.”

She also used the opportunity to hit out at media reports that she had split with her long-time partner Tim Mathieson, declaring the rumours completely untrue and claiming the original report in the Woman’s Day magazine had been written without contacting her.

In her first serious interview since her removal from office on June 26, Ms Gillard told a sell-out audience at the Sydney Opera House that she was all too aware of the sexist treatment of her on the internet and elsewhere but chose not to engage despite a feeling of “murderous rage”.

However, she expressed the view that it would hopefully be easier for a woman to follow in the future, all but endorsing Tanya Plibersek as a future female prime minister describing her one of the nation’s most gifted communicators.

She said there was “an underside of sexism, really ugly, violent sexism” in Australia but it was not clear that it was merely a function of the new media age.

“I would have thought we were beyond that and it’s kind of depressing that it’s not,” she said.

Ms Gillard also spoke of the difficulties of managing the minority parliament revealing she had needed to have the Prime Minister’s office rewired to have the division bells ring when a vote was on in the House of Representatives because the numbers were so finely balanced the government could have been defeated at any time.

Ms Gillard said she regarded her April trip to China culminating in a new special relationship between Beijing and Canberra to establish annual meetings at prime minister level as her biggest foreign policy achievement.

The good natured exchange also brought out an admission that her first meeting with US President Barack Obama almost went awry when she asked him if he was “mad” for expressing jealousy about the parliamentary tradition of Question Time.

While the questions were almost universally friendly, it was a question from a boy not even tall enough to reach the microphone, that stumped her.

Why, he asked, did she oppose gay marriage?

As she had done during her prime ministership, Ms Gillard fumbled her way through an answer that ultimately went nowhere, and singled itself out as the only question for the night that received a qualified applause.

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.

May 09

Fa’aoso takes bad luck in stride

Character: Richie Fa’aoso at Manly’s media day at Brookvale Oval still manages to give the thumbs up despite missing the grand final with a broken neck. Photo: Marco Del GrandeGrand final week: Read The Manly Mirror
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Richie Fa’aoso didn’t realise he had broken his neck when he ran headfirst into the teeth of the South Sydney defence. Or while he was throwing his children around after being discharged from Concord Hospital.

It was only when he drove himself back to get further tests the next day that the Manly prop realised this wasn’t your garden-variety football injury.

”They’ve released me and then I’ve driven for the MRI in the morning then went in for the CT.

”And they’ve said, ‘Don’t move, you’ve got a broken neck’,” Fa’aoso said. ”When they said I had a broken neck I thought, ‘It can’t be too bad, I’ve been walking around and throwing the kids around’.

”I just thought, ‘You’re kidding me’. Obviously I was in pain but, to be honest, I thought I was carrying on a bit.”

But not even a fractured C7 vertebra was going to stop Fa’aoso from attending Manly’s media session on Monday. The journeyman prop was the beneficiary of a Jason Ryles injury, which allowed him to play in last year’s grand final-winning Melbourne side.

However, the chance to go back to back at two different clubs ended when he ran into what he described as the ”Samoan wall” of Jeff Lima and Roy Asotasi.

”Basically, I took a short ball and got absolutely lifted,” Fa’aoso quipped. ”I was more upset that I dropped the ball. That’s the way footy goes, mate.

”I obviously wanted to keep going, I didn’t realise how serious my neck was. I knew it wasn’t right but I didn’t think I broke it. What do you do? Shit happens.

”My luck had got to run out some time. It’s unfortunate it had to run out now, but life goes on.”

Wearing a neck brace and his football gear, Fa’aoso surprised many with his presence at Brookvale Oval. He has a year remaining on his contract and is hoping to again run on to the ground in a playing capacity.

”I’ll be back,” he said.

”I’m missing out on a World Cup but I’ll get to spend time with my family over the off-season.

”I’m sweet. Hopefully everything goes all right, it all heals properly and I’ll be back. I’ve got to pretty much take it easy, which is hard in such a big week. There will be some full-on stuff going on but I’ll try to stay calm.”

Fa’aoso has carved out a reputation as one of the hardest men in the game during stints at the Eels, Roosters, Panthers, Raiders, Knights and Sea Eagles. He is also one of its greatest characters, always up for a chat or a joke, even after what appeared a catastrophic injury.

”I’m jumping on the bandwagon,” he quipped upon his arrival for the team photo. ”I’m a bit of a journeyman, I’ve been to a few clubs before I ended up here.

”We’ve got a great bunch of boys and a great team and coach.

”Thanks to everyone for their support, but I’m good as gold.”

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.

May 09

Even as skinny schoolboy, SBW was destined for top

Early days: Main pic, Williams (front row, centre) and Matai (middle row, second from right) at Mount Albert Grammar. Photo: SuppliedSteve Matai will tell you Sonny Bill Williams was always destined for greatness – as long as the skinny high school boy put on some size.
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Well, he hasn’t failed in the greatness department, and the fact the Roosters stop him from doing excess weights so he doesn’t get too big is a reflection of the specimen he is.

Matai and Williams, as well as Warriors five-eighth Thomas Leuluai, played schoolboy football together at Mount Albert Grammar School in Auckland. The Manly centre was a grade above Williams and had already been playing in the school’s first grade side for two years before the Roosters back-rower was called up to the top side, however Williams and Leuluai made an immediate impact.

”I’m a bit older than the boys, so I was playing in the First XIII before them,” Matai said on Monday. ”But they came straight into the team and were named captain and vice-captain. Sonny was the captain. I was like, ‘C’mon man I’ve been playing here for two years’. But they played for New Zealand all through the grades. They were the ones with all the experience. I think they deserved it.

”We were close … it’s good to see us playing in the top level.”

Matai insists there was never any doubt over Williams’ ability, with everyone at the school aware of what he would likely achieve as a professional.

”He was a gun, he made all the teams,” Matai said. ”We knew he was going to be big, he was a bit skinny but we knew if he started doing a bit of weights he was going to be a machine. You can see that now.

”He was here with the Bulldogs when I first came [to Manly]. We hung out a lot and met up to have a few beers. He was at my 21st. We lost contact when he went back to rugby but I’m just glad we’re playing first grade and we’re here for the big game. We message each other every now and then, we haven’t had heaps to do with each other. We just say g’day and how you going after the game.”

Williams has managed to gain a large posse of admirers since returning to rugby league this season. The Roosters enforcer has rebuilt a reputation severely tarnished after he walked out on the Bulldogs in 2008 to play rugby union. But Matai is adamant it came as no surprise to see Williams achieve success in both codes.

”It’s not hard with him, he’s an athlete, and athletes can fit straight into anything,” he said. ”He went to boxing and fit in there, he went to rugby and fit in there. It just shows what an athlete he is. Hopefully we can do a job on him on Sunday.

”They adore him here [in Australia] and it’s nothing different back home.

”They love him there and I’m sure they want to see him back in rugby over there. But hopefully we can keep him here.”

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.

May 09

Sky still looks blue as Farina shrugs off form

Sydney FC coach Frank Farina insists his team will perform in their A-League season opener despite finishing their preseason campaign with four successive defeats.
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The Sky Blues ended their preparations for the new campaign with a 3-0 loss to Perth Glory on Sunday, which raised questions over their readiness for their opener at home against Newcastle Jets on October 11.

The defeat left the club still searching for their first win since returning from their six-game tour of Italy in late August and have since conceded 10 goals and scored just two in their final four friendly games.

However, Farina shrugged off concerns regarding their form and said their gruelling preparations affected the players in recent matches.

”Players are probably a little bit flat from a long preseason but, as I said, the important thing is from when we start,” Farina said. ”Nobody remembers preseason results. It’s always nice to go in with a bit of momentum but the season is what is important.”

Sydney’s coaching staff prioritised solving their defensive woes from last season and signed four new defenders during the break, but Farina is disappointed with the manner in which his team leaked goals in recent friendlies.

He lamented individual errors in their 4-1 defeat against Brisbane and Sunday’s loss to Perth but hopes those mistakes served as lessons for his new-look back line.

”Three or four of them were schoolboy errors, bad mistakes, that’s not structural,” Farina said. ”It’s decision-making, decision-making more than anything.

”Everyone’s going to make mistakes at some stage but, as I said, you hope to get them out of the way early.”

Captain and marquee player Alessandro Del Piero played his first game since returning from Italy and emerged unscathed after lasting the full 90 minutes against the Glory.

The Italian showed a few moments of brilliance, including a classy long-range strike late in the first half, in his new role leading Sydney’s attack but otherwise struggled to break through Perth’s defence.

Del Piero is expected to start against the Jets and Farina says he is close to finalising his starting line-up. Midfielders Terry Antonis and Peter Triantis are the only players ruled out through injury at this stage. Goalkeeper Vedran Janjetovic is in doubt due to a ligament injury in his foot and will have scans on Monday evening.

Farina has not yet confirmed his first-choice goalkeeper for the season but his decision could be made for him should Janjetovic be forced to withdraw, paving the way for Ivan Necevski to start between the posts for the second successive season.

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.