Former refugee warns Cambodia not ready to accept asylum seekers

No fond memories: Youhorn Chea fled Cambodia more than 30 years ago when the Khmer Rouge was in power. Photo: Wayne TaylorLike it was yesterday, Youhorn Chea recalls being crammed into the back of a truck by people smugglers and making the dangerous 300-kilometre journey across the Cambodian border into Thailand.
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It has been more than 30 years since he fled the Khmer Rouge regime, which claimed both his parents and five of his siblings, but he still remembers every detail; navigating landmines, armed gangs swarming the jungle, soldiers indiscriminately shooting refugees in the night.

After a year in a Thai refugee camp, Mr Chea eventually made it to Australia with his family. Now president of the Cambodian Association of Victoria, he has condemned the federal government’s plan to resettle refugees in Cambodia, saying the south-east Asian country is still plagued by human rights atrocities.

”They shoot their own people there,” he said. ”The treatment for the refugees would be very bad. If they don’t listen, they will just eliminate them. They will shoot a refugee.”

Mr Chea said news of the controversial deal was designed to scare asylum seekers from coming to Australia.

”I think it will work,” he said. ”The Cambodian people still do not have any real freedom, so how can they give freedom to the refugees? There is corruption, no freedom of speech, and they discriminate against poor people. Contacts in Cambodia tell me the government is almost like the puppet of the Vietnamese regime again. The Australian government just wants to close their eyes.”

Mr Chea said the Australian-Cambodian community was “disgusted” by news of the plan. ”They all say the same thing, they can’t understand why Australia would send refugees there. No one wants to go there.”

Mr Chea escaped Cambodia with his wife, their four young children, and two other family members. ”There were a lot of landmines so a lot of people died,” he said. ”We each carried one of the children, but if we did not have help to carry them we would not have been able to escape.”

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Easier ways to fix budget than ‘deficit tax’

Tax credits: Dr Nicholas Gruen of Lateral Economics. Photo: Rodger Cummins Other options: Saul Eslake from Bank of America Merrill Lynch. Photo: Pat Scala
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The federal government’s budget deficit could be paid back more easily, and without the political pain, if it considered alternatives to its controversial “deficit tax.”Some of Australia’s most respected economists have suggested simple policy ideas that would help the Abbott government to return the budget to surplus.Some were considered by the Henry Tax Review in 2010, which reviewed the taxation side of the federal budget.Others would affect the expenditure side of the budget, which is being considered by the Commission of Audit.“There are a few big changes we can make,” Dr Nicholas Gruen, of Lateral Economics, said.“There is a very strong case against dividend imputation (tax credits paid to shareholders).”Dr Gruen said the government could abolish dividend imputation and use the money to fund a gradual reduction in the company tax rate, to 19 per cent.He said dividend imputation is not recorded as a tax expenditure, but its cost would be well over $20 billion a year.“It would immediately solve the budget deficit problem,” Dr Gruen said.“Over time you could then phase company tax down to fully reflect the additional revenue that it brought on as the budget position gradually improved with fiscal drag and economic growth,” he said.Saul Eslake, the chief economist of Bank of America Merrill Lynch, said the Abbott government could abolish negative gearing, broaden the base of the income tax system, and stop taxing trusts as companies.“This last idea was something Joe Hockey advocated soon after becoming shadow treasurer, only to be slapped down by many of his colleagues,” Mr Eslake said.“I’d also eliminate the seniors tax offset, and I’d reintroduce indexation of the petroleum products excise.”This  proposal was backed by Chris Richardson, the director of Deloitte Access Economics.“It’s now 13 years since we stopped indexing the petrol excise,” he said.”It’s been frozen at 38.1 cents a litre for 13 years now and there is no possible word to use for that other than ‘dumb’.”That is because we are making the decision every day as a nation to reduce fuel tax as a share of our purchasing power, he said.“And I would prefer that they adopted Henry Review-style treatment of superannuation, so the biggest benefits do not go to the highest income earners”.Mr Richardson supported the Commission of Audit, because it was looking at ways to reduce spending and the “biggest mistakes of the past decade” have been in spending.He said Australian governments “overdid it” with family benefit payments, with baby bonuses, and the increase in corporate welfare.“This happened under both sides of politics,” he said.Mr Eslake said one of the ideas from the Henry Tax Review – to introduce a minerals resource rent tax – was laudable in principle.“[That review] recommended a minerals resource rent tax, and while I am, in principle, in favour of such a tax I never was in favour of the form of it that Henry recommended, he said.“But clearly that’s not going to happen anyway”. 

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Decision to quit vindicated: White

DURBAN, SOUTH AFRICA – APRIL 24: Jake White, Director of Rugby of the Sharks during the Sharks captain’s run at Growthpoint Kings Park on April 24, 2014 in Durban, South Africa. (Photo by Steve Haag/Gallo Images) Photo: Gallo ImagesFormer ACT Brumbies coach Jake White says he has no regrets about quitting the club last year, adding the timing of his departure was “win-win” and has been vindicated by the Canberra team’s ongoing success this year.
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White is back in Australia preparing to lead the Durban Sharks on a four-game Australia-New Zealand tour, which includes a potential top-of-the-table blockbuster against the Brumbies in Canberra on May 10.

White’s abrupt departure last year, two years into a four-year deal, shocked Brumbies players and fans.

The South African mentor hoped he wouldn’t be subjected to a backlash from Canberra supporters, the Brumbies toying with plans to encourage fans to wear white to the game as part of a “White-out”.

But with the Sharks and Brumbies first and second respectively on the Super Rugby ladder, White felt both camps had benefited.

“I genuinely thought it was a win-win situation for everybody,” White said of his departure from the Brumbies. “In a lot of ways that has been vindicated now by the way the Brumbies have continued their success.

“From the bottom of my heart I believe the Brumbies are in a great place. [Leaving] was never done with any bad intent.

“[New coach] Stephen Larkham is doing a great job … I really believe everything I set out to do [at the Brumbies] is coming to fruition.

“I can’t emphasise how much I loved my time in Canberra, it was one of the highlights of my coaching career. I don’t have any regrets. It would be sad for me if I arrive and it leaves a bitter taste.”

White said the changing landscape of Australian sport was part of his decision to return to South Africa.

He was in contention to coach the Wallabies when Robbie Deans was sacked, but the ARU opted for Ewen McKenzie. ARU chief executive Bill Pulver had admitted one of McKenzie’s key advantages was coaching to “play the Australian way”.

“When I arrived in Canberra there were three foreign coaches in charge of national soccer, cricket and rugby union teams and the ARU always made clear there would be opportunities,” White said.

“That landscape changed, there was no reason and it’s not right or wrong. But it had a significant impact on whether I wanted to stay miles and miles away from my family.

“I want to coach internationally and anywhere in the world but you need opportunity. I would have loved to have finished my contract [at the Brumbies] but I really believe it was the right decision, despite how difficult it was.

“[In 2011] the Brumbies fired a coach [Andy Friend] two games into the season. For me, clubs can’t have their cake and eat it.”

White rebuilt the Brumbies when he started as coach in 2012, beginning with just three Australian Wallabies players on his roster. That has grown to 15.

The Brumbies narrowly missed the finals in his first season before charging to the grand final last year, losing to the Waikato Chiefs.

White hopes his knowledge of Australian rugby will help the Sharks to become the first South African team to win abroad this season, playing the Melbourne Rebels on Friday night.

The Brumbies fly to Christchurch to play the Canterbury Crusaders on Saturday, aiming to break a 14-year drought against the Crusaders in New Zealand.

The Sharks are basing themselves in Sydney during the two-week tour. White will only bring his team to Canberra on the eve of the May 10 match against the Brumbies.

“When is the right time to leave? I did what I thought was the right thing. If there are people that aren’t happy, I understand that. You can never make everybody happy.

“It’s easy to look back in hindsight … I know in my heart there was a decision that had to be made. Whether it suited the Brumbies, probably not.

“Coaches leave clubs, it happens. [NRL coach] Des Hasler left Manly. Ricky Stuart is now coaching Canberra. Timing is never easy, it’s about understanding where you want to be and where you want to go.”

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Chris Lilley shares a bit in common with Jonah

Pushing boundaries: Chris Lilley (centre) in Jonah from Tonga.Recently, Chris Lilley was conversing via Twitter with Paris Hilton.
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”You get ridiculously famous people following you and then you follow them and then they private-message you,” says the comedian and television hyphenate. ”I had Paris Hilton send me a private message saying, ‘I can’t believe you follow me, you’re amazing, I love you’, and we had this chat. It’s weird, because a few years ago you’d have to call someone’s agent, but now Lindsay Lohan and I chat privately.”

If it sounds like Lilley is living out the fantasies of one of his characters, such as narcissistic schoolgirl Ja’mie King, then the instigator of polarising successes such as Summer Heights High and Angry Boys is taking it all in his stride. Even as he’s built the Lilleyverse – an interconnecting web of memorable characters that is about to launch his latest production, Jonah from Tonga – and attained an international profile, the 39-year-old has remained productively holed up in Melbourne, shunning the spotlight and retaining control.

”Everyone is like, ‘Why don’t you go to Hollywood and get in some big show like Modern Family?’. But to me that’s boring,” says Lilley. ”Why would I want to read someone else’s lines when I can write my own, then edit them, and decide what happens?”

The six episodes of Jonah from Tonga, a mockumentary that extends the impertinent antics of schoolboy tearaway Jonah Takalua from 2007’s Summer Heights High, will screen on the ABC, the BBC in Britain and the cable network HBO (Game of Thrones, Girls) in North America (the first two broadcasters will also stream the entire series between May 2 and May 4). If it sounds logistically complex, the end result is that Lilley has leveraged prior success into creative freedom.

”The arrangement is that there’s no input from anyone. The ABC and government funding bodies and HBO are paying for it, and the ABC check for their editorial policies, but I don’t get notes,” Lilley says with some satisfaction. ”HBO have this great policy of finding creative teams and letting them do their thing. They read the scripts and are supportive, but there’s no interference. I’m getting away with it.”

When Lilley is in Los Angeles to liaise with HBO, he sometimes meets American comedy producers and stars who invariably ask him how many writers he has working on his show. They usually assume the answer is 10 to 12, but as Lilley explains, it’s just him. He writes by himself, and only about the characters that excite him. If he wants to return to a character, as he’s doing with Jonah, he will.

”Certain characters, I finish a show and I think, ‘There’s no way I’m leaving them there’. I love them too much and I want to come back and explore their world,” say Lilley. ”Jonah was always going to come back – he’s a great character and I’m obsessed with that whole culture he’s from.”

This time the 14-year-old is first seen in Tonga, where he’s been banished by his disapproving father. The second line of dialogue, courtesy of Jonah’s aggrieved uncle, is that ”Jonah is like a f—ing idiot”, and he’s not wrong. Foul-mouthed, interested in daft boasts, bullying and graffiti, and seemingly allergic to authority, the dim adolescent is a raw nerve of obnoxiousness. Brought back to Australia and enrolled at a Catholic co-education high school, Jonah’s soon diverted into a stream for problem pupils, alongside his new crew of fellow Pacific Islander students, where he manages to aggravate his teacher, burly former soldier Mr Joseph, to the point of violence. Jonah pushes the boundary of comic offensiveness, testing both his teachers’ and the audience’s capacity for his incessant retorts and ludicrous attention-seeking.

”Most of my characters never change as [a series] goes along,” says Lilley. ”There’s a familiar structure to television where the character is a certain way and then they go through a certain experience and they become different, but I like the idea that people don’t change. That represents reality more.”

The idea that a character has to be likeable on an audience’s terms, or ultimately be redeemed, doesn’t interest Lilley. His younger protagonists, such as Ja’mie or Jonah, can sometimes sense their failings, but awareness doesn’t help them address their problems.

”Jonah’s not the brightest kid. He doesn’t think things through. Watching him make the wrong decisions is fascinating,” Lilley explains. ”The show doesn’t have the cues of a normal sitcom, so some people feel uncomfortable because that hits close to home, but that’s cool and what I like about it.”

In his own school days Lilley was, like Jonah, in the bottom class and in the hands of various remedial specialists, but his issues stemmed from an anti-authority stance. ”I didn’t like being told what to do,” recalls Lilley, and he remembers sitting in class thinking to himself, ”You’re all a bunch of idiots”.

His revenge was to impersonate his teachers at Hornsby’s Barker College on Sydney’s North Shore whenever he got the opportunity. In year 12 he spent months rehearsing a performance, instead of studying, where he played five different teachers, complete with drag for his female subjects, and even alluded to an affair between two of the academic staff.

Two decades on and Lilley is intrigued by how television creates its own version of the truth. He was obsessed by glossy LA reality shows such as Laguna Beach and The Hills. He prefers to cast amateurs that fit a character’s description, as opposed to actors, in supporting roles on his show. Several of Jonah’s Fobba-liscious gang were students Lilley found at the school he used as a location in Hopper’s Crossing.

”Actors are much harder for me to edit together to appear real, as they give away the game too much,” admits Lilley. ”The framework for the show is that’s a fake documentary, so it’s meant to seem like it all really happened.”

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Development body’s concern for refugees resettled in Cambodia

Would not elaborate on what rights refugees would have in Cambodia: Immigration Minister Scott Morrison. Photo: Alex EllinghausenRefugees who are resettled in Cambodia by the Australian government will be unlikely to gain employment rights, get an education or be given permanent residency, according to a peak international development body.
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The Australian Council for International Development said Australia had entered “uncharted territory” by resettling refugees in a developing country, renowned for its questionable human rights record and political instability. It also said it was improbable refugees would be given fundamental rights.

“Cambodia does not have any capacity to provide resettlement for refugees such as employment, access to land. They can’t even provide land titles to their own people, let alone refugees,” said Marc Purcell, the group’s executive director.

A report on human rights in Cambodia published by the US government said Cambodia’s national asylum system had limited capacity, which had resulted in lengthy delays for some asylum seekers.

“According to an NGO, individuals without proof of nationality often did not have access to formal employment, education, marriage registration, the courts, or the right to own land,” the report said.

Immigration Minister Scott Morrison would not elaborate on what rights refugees would have in Cambodia.

“The government is continuing its discussions on these issues and welcomes the receptive and positive response from Cambodia that has been provided to date,” a spokeswoman for Mr Morrison said.

Mr Morrison has continually stated any resettlement deal was not a ticket to a “first-class economy”.

“It’s not about whether they are poor, it’s about whether they can be safe,” Mr Morrison said last week. “That’s the issue. The [refugee] convention was not designed as an economic advancement program.”

It is likely the 1177 asylum seekers who are found to be refugees in the Nauru detention centre will be relocated to Cambodia.

The Greens have attacked the potential resettlement deal, questioning whether money to fund it will be plundered from the federal government’s $4 billion overseas aid budget.

“What agreements have they entered into with Prime Minister Hun Sen in order to be able to dump Australia’s responsibility on one of the poorest countries in the world?” Greens senator Christine Milne asked.

Mr Purcell said if the agreement was to be paid for by Australia’s overseas budget, it would be an “extremely poor use of taxpayers’ money”.

“It skews limited resources away from the people who need it most,” he said. “It’s not based on need and merit. It’s based on a political fix.”

Labor’s spokesman on immigration Richard Marles said it was “concerning” the Coalition government found it so difficult to be upfront with the Australian people.

“If the Australian government are legitimately pursuing an arrangement with Cambodia, then the very least they can do is be upfront with the community about the proposal,” Mr Marles said.

Over 9 million people have no access to adequate sanitation in Cambodia, and over 10,000 Cambodian children die each year from diarrhoea caused by unsafe water and poor sanitation, according to Water Aid Australia.

Cambodia is rated 138 out of 186 countries on the United Nations Human Development Index, which rates countries on their access to development and standard of living.

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Mirvac sells Westpac building share to Blackstone for $435m

Property developer and manager Mirvac has sold its half share of Westpac’s headquarters at 275 Kent Street to the US giant Blackstone for $435 million.
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Blackstone is exepected to place the property into one of its current fund, possibly the pan-Asia real estate fund.

The sale is another step in the growth of Mirvac’s ”capital partnering” plans, whereby Mirvac’s single asset risk is diluted and cash is unlocked from the balance sheet and used to develop other parts of the business.

As part of the deal, Mirvac has also granted Blackstone interdependent call options  over a portfolio of seven non-core office and retail assets in NSW, Victoria and Queensland, for $391.4 million, and will provide $156 million in vendor financing as part of the transaction.

The deal, brokered by JLL and CBRE, comes on the eve of Mirvac’s third quarter investor update.

It is said the new Blackstone Real Estate Asia fund will target investors from China, Korea, Singapore and possibly Japan.

Mirvac’s chief executive, Susan Lloyd-Hurwitz, said the transactions are key capital management initiatives for Mirvac, which will allow the group to deploy capital across the group and into opportunities that align with its strategic criteria.

”In total, over $826 million will be released from sale proceeds over time to be re-invested into the growth of the business,” she said.

It follows the partnership deal that Mirvac struck with the US financial services group TIAA-CREF for the sale of a 50 per cent stake in 699 Bourke Street in Melbourne for $73 million.

Blackstone’s Head of Real Estate Asia, Chris Heady, said 275 Kent Street represented a unique opportunity to invest in a high quality, strategically located building in the Sydney CBD, as well as partner with Mirvac.

”This transaction also underscores our long term commitment to investing in the Australian real estate market,” he said.

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How McLachlan got to be the AFL’s No. 1

Gillon McLachlan.Gillon McLachlan’s journey to the AFL’s top job can be charted back to the day some 18 months ago that he sat opposite his old boss Andrew Demetriou with his head in his hands unable to speak.
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Demetriou too chose to say nothing and says now that the silence seemed to last five minutes but in reality was more like two.

“Say something,” McLachlan finally implored, “just say anything.”

It was a Monday morning in the spring of 2012 and McLachlan knew that D-Day had arrived. The NRL had offered him the role of chief executive and the opportunity to oversee the restructured NRL under a newly appointed commission.

Key members of McLachlan’s wider family believed he should take the plunge and take the job after so many years as the AFL’s unofficial and later official No. 2.

Although Demetriou was clearly closer to the end of his reign rather than the beginning, he had set no departure date and McLachlan had received no guarantees.

The man who on Wednesday officially became the AFL’s fourth CEO was genuinely torn between two codes.

Finally, Demetriou spoke and instructed McLachlan to imagine a wintry Saturday afternoon scenario where his beloved University Blues would no longer be an option, let alone the MCG, but rather McLachlan would be travelling to Sydney’s west to watch Penrith take on Wests Tigers.

The son of the Pascoe Vale fish and chip shop owner told the South Australian former polo playing silver tail that McLachlan, ironically, was more connected to, and passionate about, grassroots community football than Demetriou. He reminded him of his personal mantra that job satisfaction and success required passion.

McLachlan would not confirm on Wednesday that the Panthers-Wests Tigers’ scenario had swayed him, but it is accepted fact among his colleagues that immediately after Demetriou had invoked that image, McLachlan stood and stated he had reached his decision.

The relieved AFL chairman, Mike Fitzpatrick – mindful of just how formidable a foe McLachlan would have proved to the AFL’s expansion strategies – granted him a pay rise, but again no guarantees. Soon afterwards, McLachlan was handed the poisoned chalice of the Melbourne tanking investigation and then, more recently, the Essendon drugs scandal – two messy and damaging sagas that harmed his reputation and that of the AFL.

While the job appeared destined to go to McLachlan – he confirmed he would have left the competition had he missed out – he had been genuinely stressed in recent weeks as the AFL Commission completed its executive search. Two others ultimately presented for the job – Richmond boss Brendon Gale and Geelong chief Brian Cook, who was also a candidate 11 years ago when Demetriou was appointed.

Both club chiefs knew they were outsiders but last week did not waste their hour-long presentations, challenging the AFL board as to the problems confronting the game and delivering the odd home truth. Fitzpatrick called both on Tuesday night to tell them they had missed out, but would not confirm McLachlan had won the job.

Fitzpatrick had told McLachlan 24 hours earlier that the position was his.

Demetriou, who would have been shattered had McLachlan been overlooked, was at his local vet on Monday night with his injured cat when he called McLachlan to congratulate him.

On Tuesday morning, Fitzpatrick and his new CEO finalised McLachlan’s new contract. Cook and Gale messaged their congratulations to McLachlan early on Wednesday.

Demetriou will remain to oversee the final and still contentious details of the AFL’s official attempt to close the ever-widening gap between the rich and poor clubs and leave after the Australian Football Hall of Fame presentation on June 4.

He stood at the back of the room during Wednesday’s announcement, looking every bit the proud elder brother. Two of McLachlan’s three younger brothers – Hamish and Will – stood nearby.

McLachlan promised he would remain accountable to football fans, the game’s community, its clubs and its players. He said he had a clear direction of where the game needed to go and indicated he had a clear strategy for some cultural change, specifying a more diverse AFL hierarchy was a priority.

But his appointment was a recognition of his already formidable achievements as the game’s long-time strategist and unofficial heavy lifter, along with the fact that the AFL did not see the need for radical change.

While Fitzpatrick attempted to deny a dearth of quality external candidates, the fact his commission only interviewed three very familiar football faces would indicate a strong show of faith in the Australian game’s own backyard.

GILLON McLACHLAN ON…

His background of more than 240 matches in amateur and country football

“I have had my share of cold showers and freezing committee meetings.”

On a night grand final

“My simple answer on that one is I like a day grand final.”

On leaving the AFL should he not have been made CEO

“I think the reality is I would have had to have left. The short answer is yes. I think everyone understands and accepts that. That wouldn’t have been in a fit of pique, that’s just a reality.”

On the AFL buying Etihad Stadium early

“They are very aware that we would like to buy it. They are very aware that we think we are the only possible buyer. But we are a way (off) on price at the moment. It’s not that sufficiently an imperative to pay the wrong price.”

On fears going to matches has become too expensive

“We will be addressing the cost of going to the football. Cost is more than just ticketing. It is ticketing charges, it is food and beverage, it is the total cost.”

On Tasmania

“My vision for Tasmania is that we have a one-state approach. That means the north and the south working together to come in behind one team. Whether that’s possible, it’s a very challenging proposition but … Tasmanians ultimately need to become one team and that’s an aspiration.”

On his role in brokering a deal with Essendon

“With respect to me specifically, I am sure there was some skin taken off me. There was skin taken off a lot of people. It was an incredibly tough period… We ended up in a position that I don’t think was edifying for a lot of people and it certainly wasn’t great for the game.”

On the future of the centre bounce

“I am not making a guarantee about anything, but I like the centre bounce.”

AFL CHIEF EXECUTIVES

1986-1993 Alan Schwab

1994-1996 Ross Oakley

1996-2003 Wayne Jackson

2003-2014 Andrew Demetriou

From 2014 Gillon McLachlan

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Gotta Take Care rewards trainer’s judgment with Galleywood

Darren Weir once gave the owners of Gotta Take Care a choice – get rid of the horse or send him jumping. Their persistence through 52 flat starts over six years for 11 wins was rewarded yesterday when the nine-year-old claimed a famous victory in the feature Galleywood Hurdle at Warrnambool.
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In a remarkable training feat, Gotta Take Care won the $101,000 Galleywood just five days after winning a staying race on the flat at Flemington. The Galleywood win was Gotta Take Care’s seventh victory over jumps from 15 starts, taking his career prizemoney to more than $871,000.

Weir laughed as he recounted his advice to Melbourne brothers, Ian, Graeme and Philip Wood, who bred the gelding from a dam they paid $10,000 for 15 years ago.

“He was a slow horse until he went jumping,” Weir said.

“True story. He won an 1800 metre maiden at Mildura (in March 2009) and I said ‘you’ve got two options, you either get rid of him or jump him’. He went jumping. That’s what jumping does to them. It makes them faster, better and maybe got him switched on. That’s a terrific advertisement for jumps racing that horse.”

Gotta Take Care is now a favourite of Weir’s. His career victories are the most by any horse the Ballarat-based trainer has prepared.

“Eighteen, it’s a good effort, obviously to stay sound as well. He’s just an absolute ripper to have around the joint.”

Weir said Gotta Take Care was popular in his stables, especially with foreman Angela Taylor-Moy, who treated him like a pet.

He said the win, his second in the Galleywood, eight years after his first, meant a lot because of the horse’s spot in the hearts of people like Taylor-Moy, Irish jockey John Allen and the Wood brothers.

“He’s a ripper, he’s bomb proof, he’s got a great girl looking after him in Angela. She would have got a big thrill out of that. And a good bunch of owners.

“They have been with us for years from day dot when I was at Stawell. It’s great to return a good favour for them and get a nice horse. It’s an absolute pleasure to train this horse, and he’s just a winner.”

Weir said Taylor-Moy painstakingly cared for Gotta Take Care’s troublesome feet and did all the early morning work on him while Allen did all the work over jumps.

“Angela and Johnny, they do all the work, I just watch them.”

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Leave without the A-League trophy? Ono Shinji won’t

The curtains are closing on Shinji Ono’s two-year tenure at Western Sydney Wanderers and for all his success and moments of brilliance in the A-League, he feels it will count for little if he departs without leading his club to the title.
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The former Japan international is not familiar with a competition that hinges on a finals series but after witnessing the pain of defeat first hand in last year’s grand final, Ono is determined to deliver the only prize that counts.

He scored arguably the two best goals of last season and twice struck a dagger in the hearts of cross-town rivals Sydney FC this campaign but the man they call “genius” still feels he needs to issue a final statement before returning home. Despite lifting the premiers’ plate last season and providing many goals, assists and tricks, there’s a sense the determined veteran feels his time in Australia will not be fulfilled without one grand final win in two attempts.

When asked whether he feels he still has a point to prove, he said; “Yeah I think so, but if we play as a team, we will win.”

Ono is reluctant to talk about his imminent departure for J-League 2 club Consadole Sapporo but revealed the lack of public recognition for winning the premiership rather than the grand final has spurred him on to add to his legacy with the Wanderers.

“I don’t want to think about leaving Australia. Anyway, I still have a grand final and ACL against Hiroshima so I’m focused about just the final and I’m thinking just about that,” Ono said. “I’m really hungry to get this championship in the grand final because we achieved the premiership in the regular season last year but people just think about the grand final winner. I’m very hungry to win the title and of course, I want to leave a memory here before I leave.”

The Wanderers are yet to beat their grand final opponents in three previous attempts this season but Ono denies the Brisbane Roar have a mental edge over his team. The last time they travelled to the Queensland capital, a youthful Roar scored a commanding 3-1 win over Western Sydney and Ono is itching to claim their first win at the expense of the newly crowned premiers.

“I’m looking forward to playing against Brisbane Roar because I think we didn’t win against them this season,” Ono said. “They have big confidence but I think we have confidence for just one game to decide for us, heaven or hell. I want to prepare good for this week and I want to give a hundred per cent and show what I have on the pitch.”

When the Wanderers met the Roar in a finals series last year, Ono produced arguably the best goal in the history of the competition as he outwitted goalkeeper Mike Theo with a sensational lob from outside the box to seal their passage to the final. It was a moment to savour for Ono but he’s determined to snare another after the disappointing end to last season.

“I will do my best, of course I want to show my experience in a big moment, I want to show everything on the pitch,” he said. “We do the same as usual, we can’t do anything [different] just show what we do this weekend in this game.”

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Kiwis defend handling of scandal

Ultimate League: It’s not too late to sign up for our Fantasy NRL game 
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New Zealand Rugby League chief Phil Holden has defended the Kiwis’ team selection for Friday’s Test against Australia and their handling of the Stilnox scandal that rocked their World Cup campaign last year.

Stephen Kearney’s side will take the field at Allianz Stadium missing a host of their leading players, including Sonny Bill Williams, Kieran Foran, Issac Luke, Jared Waerea-Hargreaves and Shaun Kenny-Dowall, because of injury or the indifference of selectors.

While Williams was never going to be considered because he is switching back to rugby next year, the omission in particular of Sydney Roosters teammate Waerea-Hargreaves came as a shock to the player, his club and the opposition.

The make-up of the Kiwis’ line-up has increased calls for the midyear international to be scrapped, and triggered suggestions they aren’t taking the trans-Tasman Test seriously.

That is vehemently rejected by NZRL boss Holden, who says New Zealand don’t want the annual contest to be reassessed.

‘‘We want to play more international football, not less,’’ Holden said on Wednesday. ‘‘For us, international football has been a cornerstone of the commercial base of New Zealand rugby league for a long time.

‘‘Right now for us, this game, the midyear fixture, is hugely important because we don’t play enough international football. We want to play more.’’

New Zealand also enter Friday’s Test in Sydney with the spectre of last year’s controversial episode after their quarter-final win over Scotland – when some players mixed sleeping pills and energy drinks, leading to an internal investigation – lingering.

Williams and Foran are said to be angry that they were implicated in the scandal via reports in the New Zealand media after the World Cup, and there was continuing intrigue about the impact of the incident on the New Zealand squad for Friday. The snubbing of 25-year-old Waerea-Hargreaves led to queries over whether he was linked to last year’s controversy before Fairfax Media’s report on Wednesday revealed he had instead been dropped on the strength of previous performances for New Zealand.

The absence of the front-rower robs the Test of another genuine drawcard amid fears of a poor crowd, but Holden defended the selection bombshell.

‘‘We’re just dealing with the reality of what we’re dealing with,’’ he said. ‘‘But I can assure you that the selectors have the total backing and support of NZRL. They’re never going to pick a team or an individual that they didn’t think would deliver. So I’m very relaxed about it.’’

Holden is comfortable with how the Kiwis had dealt with the Stilnox investigation, which found their preparation for the World Cup final against Australia was compromised by up to six players mixing the sleeping pills with energy drinks.

After forwarding on the findings of their inquiry to Rugby League Central in Sydney, Holden plans to meet with NRL chief operating officer Jim Doyle on Thursday to discuss what lessons that can be learnt in the NRL from the Kiwis’ experience.

The NRL is finalising plans to begin testing in midyear for two classes of prescription drugs as part of a study to examine the extent of their abuse by players.

‘‘We had to engage with them because … basically all our players are playing in the NRL,” Holden said. “We’ve shared some of our findings in that space and I’ve actually got a meeting with them tomorrow to talk specifically about some of that stuff.’’

‘‘For us it’s always been about player welfare. There [can be] unintended consequences of some of that activity because no one really understands what the long-term effects might be. We’ve been very clear it’s never been about naming players or finger pointing, it’s all around player welfare and how do we support them.

The NRL’s testing will initially be for data-gathering purposes only this year, and any player testing positive will be counselled rather than reprimanded.

“The use of prescription drugs is spoken about anecdotally, but we want to understand whether there is an issue in the game,” NRL head of integrity Nick Weeks said. “By the end of the year, we will know if prescription drugs are a problem and then we can take steps to remedy this.”

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