Qld cricket club may have known of abuse

Allegations of child sexual abuse by Queensland cricket coach Bob Ross may have been made known to a club member as long as 30 years before charges were laid, an inquiry has been told.

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The club treasurer, known as BMX, told the abuse royal commission on Wednesday that he heard rumours last week that a member was possibly made aware of the claims against Ross in the 1980s.

Ross took his own life in November 2014 after being charged with 50 child sex offences, two months after he notified the club he was being investigated by police.

At the time the club canvassed former members to see if anyone had knowledge of the allegations, but no-one admitted knowing anything.

BMX told the commission that changed last week, though he had not asked who that individual was.

“The president told me that there was a rumour that a past member of the club had been made aware that there had been abuse committed by Bob,” he said.

BMX, who is also a former player for the club, said he was not aware of the allegations until Ross notified the club, and had only two days ago found out about allegations by more than the initial three survivors.

At the time neither he nor the club made attempts to find out more details about the allegations or to contact the survivors.

“We didn’t feel it was appropriate to ask questions about a live police investigation,” he said.

“I wouldn’t have thought they’d be forthcoming with any information.”

Now that the club is aware of the names of some of those people, BMX said he would like to talk to the rest of the management committee before agreeing to meet with any of them while they are in Sydney for this week’s hearings.

He indicated the club had also planned a response for any future allegations, through the implementation of a Cricket Australia Member Protection Policy.

BMX said he believed one had been in place in the mid-2000s but the most recent one was only implemented in March 2015, after the club became aware of the claims against Ross.

BMX admitted that while older club members were notified and asked about their knowledge of alleged abuse he could not be sure whether junior members, of which there are about 70, or their parents had been told.

Ross, who was a groundsman and club patron, still had involvement with young children until the club was made aware of the police investigation.

He said he believed Ross’s charges were brought up at a general meeting as a way of making club members aware, but this did not occur until after he died.

Queensland Cricket chairman James Holding is expected to give evidence later on Wednesday.

* For support and information about suicide prevention call Lifeline on 13 11 14.

Council warns campers back on Perth island

There will be no softening of the stance by authorities clamping down on campers occupying Heirisson Island in central Perth, where tents have returned only hours after forceful evictions.

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Angry scenes erupted at the Swan River site on Tuesday, when more than 100 mostly indigenous people were forced to leave by police and council rangers.

At least one man was arrested and two move-on notices were issued, and tents and other possessions were seized.

A handful of newly-donated tents were again erected overnight, prompting the City of Perth to warn it would continue to monitor the island for breaches of local government law, and prosecutions could follow.

“Heirisson Island is local government property under Local Law and a valued recreational reserve,” the council said.

It said it had taken care while taking away the campers’ possessions and recorded the goods, which could be collected once the costs of removing, impounding and storing them had been paid.

But some of the campers say they’re homeless and have nowhere else to go.

“It was pretty awful yesterday – we’ve just got nowhere to go and no-one will help us. No-one from the government will help us,” one camper told 6PR radio.

The council said it continued to work with agencies such as The Salvation Army and Department of Housing to assist those who were truly homeless, adding three to four family groups had met the relevant agencies’ criteria and were being case managed.

It also claimed more than 80 per cent of tents removed from the island on Tuesday were vacant, while one stolen vehicle, several unregistered vehicles and one vehicle fitted with stolen number plates had been seized.

The island has been continuously occupied for about a year, initially as a protest against the planned closure of certain indigenous communities in remote parts of WA, but was also used in 2012 as the Nyoongar Tent Embassy.

The embassy says the island, known as Matagarup, is of great cultural significance and is registered with the WA Department of Indigenous Affairs as a meeting place, plant resource, camp and hunting place.

Westpac says public trust hit by scandals

SYDNEY, April 6 AAP – Westpac chief executive Brian Hartzer acknowledges public trust has been damaged by allegations of misconduct, but has rejected suggestions there should be a royal commission into the banking sector.

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Mr Hartzer, whose bank this week became the second of Australia’s big four to be accused of interest rate manipulation, instead backed a call by Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull for banks to clean up their own acts.

“We don’t support the idea of a royal commission: there have a very large number of inquiries – including a major financial system inquiry in the last couple of years – that have looked at many issues,” Mr Hartzer said in Sydney on Wednesday.

“We acknowledge that some of the incidents that have been described in the press do not reflect well on the reputation of the industry and the industry needs to do better.”

The corporate watchdog issued Federal Court proceedings against Westpac on Tuesday, alleging illegal manipulation of the bank bill swap rate that dictates the terms on which banks lend each other money.

The Australian Securities and Investments Commission has also alleged ANZ Bank engaged in manipulation of the swap rate.

Mr Hartzer said Westpac had done nothing wrong and would defend itself in court.

The bank boss spoke outside a function, held to launch a $100 million Westpac scholarship fund, that was attended by the prime minister.

Mr Turnbull said bank leaders needed to prioritise customer service and public wellbeing.

“The singular pursuit of an extra dollar of profit at the expense of those values is not simply wrong but it places at risk the whole social licence, the good name and reputation upon which great institutions depend,” he said.

Mr Turnbull called on banks to acknowledge taxpayer support received during the global financial crisis by making their conduct irreproachable.

“Many Australians are asking today: `have our bankers done enough in return for this support?'” he said.

“These questions are legitimate. Dismissing them as bank bashing misses the point.”

ASIC has named Westpac trader Colin Roden in a statement filed to the Federal Court, alleging trading in a manner intended to create an artificial price for bank bills on 16 occasions between 2010 and 2012.

The statement included transcript excerpts from what are said to be phone conversations between Mr Roden and a Westpac colleague.

The quotes appear to show Mr Roden claiming to have bought $14 billion of bank bills to drive down the bank bill swap rate and make a $12 million profit.

“I knew it was completely wrong but f*** it, I might as well. I thought f*** it. We’ve got so much money on it, we just had to do it.”

Mr Hartzer said Mr Roden remained employed by Westpac and had done nothing wrong.

“There are a lot of perfectly valid reasons why different kinds of trading go on at different times,” Mr Hartzer said.

“We think ASIC’s got it wrong and we will be vigorously defending it.”

Westpac shares closed down 45 cents, or 1.5 per cent, at $28.68.

Foreigners involved in deadly Philippine urban battle: Government

President Rodrigo Duterte imposed martial law across the southern region of Mindanao on Tuesday, hours after gunmen loyal to the Islamic State group rampaged through Marawi city in response to a raid on one of their safe houses.

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“What is happening in Mindanao is no longer a rebellion of Filipino citizens. It has transmogrified into an invasion by foreign fighters,” Solicitor General Jose Calida, the government’s chief lawyer, told reporters in the southern city of Davao.

He said Malaysians, Indonesians, Singaporeans and “other foreign jihadists” were fighting in Marawi, one of the biggest Muslim cities in the mainly Catholic Philippines with about 200,000 residents.

Philippine military spokesman Brigadier-General Restituto Padilla said six foreign fighters are believed to have been killed in the Marawi fighting, including Malaysians, Indonesians and another nationality which he did not specify.

Duterte declares martial law in southern Philippines

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Calida said these foreign fighters had heeded a “clarion call” of IS to travel to Mindanao to put up a “wilayat” or IS province, if they could not go to fight in Iraq or Syria.

Padilla said 11 soldiers, two policemen and 31 militants had been confirmed killed in the fighting, which has involved the military bombing buildings where the militants have been hiding.

Two civilians were also killed inside a hospital that the gunmen had occupied on Tuesday, and the military was investigating reports that nine people had been murdered at a checkpoint the militants had set up, authorities said.

The fighting erupted on Tuesday after security forces raided a house where they believed Isnilon Hapilon, a leader of the infamous Abu Sayyaf kidnap-for-ransom gang and Philippine head of IS, was hiding.

The United States regards Hapilon as one of the world’s most dangerous terrorists, offering a bounty of $5 million for his capture.

The raid went spectacularly wrong as dozens of gunmen emerged to repel the security forces, then went on a rampage across the city while flying black IS flags.

Authorities said ending the crisis was proving extremely hard because the militants were moving nimbly through homes, had planted bombs in the streets, and were holding hostages.

They said militants had also occupied higher ground in the city, enabling them to slow down or stop assaults from the security forces.

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Chinese fighter jets intercept US Navy surveillance plane

Two Chinese fighter jets intercepted a US Navy surveillance plane over the South China Sea earlier this week, with one coming within 180 metres of the American aircraft, US officials told Reuters.

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The officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, said initial reports showed that the US P-3 Orion surveillance plane was 240 km south-east of Hong Kong in international airspace when the Chinese aircraft carried out the unsafe intercept.

One Chinese aircraft flew in front of the American plane, restricting its ability to manoeuvre.

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The Pentagon confirmed that two Chinese jets had carried out the intercept on Wednesday, saying it was “unsafe and unprofessional”.

“We continue to review the facts of this incident and will convey our concerns through appropriate channels with the Chinese government,” Pentagon spokesman Navy Commander Gary Ross said in a statement.

A US Navy warship sailed within 12 nautical miles (22 km) of an artificial island built up by China in the South China Sea, US officials said on Wednesday, the first such challenge to Beijing in the strategic waterway since President Donald Trump took office.

China is deeply suspicious of any US military activity around its coastline, especially in the resource-rich South China Sea, parts of which are disputed by China and its smaller neighbours, including the Philippines, Vietnam and Malaysia.

Incidents such as Wednesday’s interception are not uncommon.

Earlier this month, two Chinese SU-30 aircraft intercepted a US aircraft designed to detect radiation while it was flying in international airspace over the East China Sea.

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Rejection of constitutional recognition raises questions over Recognise campaign

Aboriginal Australia’s rejection of constitutional recognition in favour of an elected parliamentary advisory body and a treaty has raised serious questions over the future of the Recognise campaign.

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A major rebranding may be needed for the government-sponsored marketing campaign that has received millions of dollars in funding since 2012 to build community support for the cause.

On Friday hundreds of indigenous leaders at Uluru abandoned the prospect of a symbolic statement of acknowledgement recognising Aboriginal people as the original owners of the land.

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Instead they demanded fundamental constitutional reform.

Recognise, which is a part of Reconciliation Australia, says it looks forward to seeing further detail when a final report is presented to Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and Opposition Leader Bill Shorten on June 30.

“The principles that Recognise has always focused on are around recognition in the constitution and dealing with the discrimination in it,” a spokesperson said in a statement.

“It is clear that the proposal for constitutional change outlined at Uluru – that is the call for an indigenous voice in the constitution – is designed to secure both recognition and provide a counter to the discriminatory elements in the constitution.”

The proposal was delivered on the eve of the 50th anniversary of the groundbreaking 1967 referendum that included Aboriginal Australians in the census.

1967 campaigner mentors next generation

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“In 1967 we were counted, in 2017 we seek to be heard. We leave base camp and start our trek across this vast country,” the statement said.

A working group will be set up as grassroots campaigners try to bring Australian voters with them.

Indigenous Health Minister Ken Wyatt and federal Labor MP Linda Burney have both said the most well-crafted proposal will mean nothing if it’s not winnable, making pragmatism an imperative.

But Cape York indigenous leader Noel Pearson says putting an “acknowledgement plaque” at the top of the constitution was never going to be enough.

“I don’t at all believe there’s justification to have low expectations here. There’s a groundswell and a ready constituency for support,” he told AAP.

And although only eight out of 44 Australian referendums have succeeded since 1901, Mr Pearson is confident a referendum can be won within the next year.

He believes the next stage of the process – convincing the parliament – will be the most difficult hurdle.

Hundreds march for National Sorry Day

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“I think the Australian people are the easy part, if we have the requisite political leadership who will be able to capitalise on that willingness,” Mr Pearson said.

“(And) I’ve found more substantial bright lights of support on the conservative end. I actually think it’s the sagging, timid middle that is our greatest challenge.”

Both Mr Turnbull and Mr Shorten were tight lipped on whether they would endorse a new permanent indigenous representative body and didn’t want to pre-empt the final recommendations.

“We will consider them with the greatest of respect and gravity as is appropriate to accord to them,” Mr Turnbull told reporters in Sydney.

“I have no doubt that we need to have a greater voice in decision making in this country for our First Australians, but the form of that, I’m not going to start speculating on,” Mr Shorten said in Melbourne.

Referendum Council Co-Chair Pat Anderson said although governments had ignored the demands of the Aboriginal community for decades, she’s determined to bring an end to disadvantage.

“It’s this generation’s turn to have a run at it and we’re going to run at it head first,” she said.

“Our very survival in fact depends on it. We won’t be around in another 50 years.”

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Ariana Grande plans charity concert for Manchester attack victims

Pop star Ariana Grande has promised to return to Manchester to play a charity concert following a suicide attack at her show, as she urged fans to respond to the tragedy with love.

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In her first substantive comments since Monday’s tragedy, the singer said she felt “uplift” by seeing fans’ compassion after the blast which killed 22 people and was claimed by the Islamic State group.

The 23-year-old, who suspended her tour and returned to her Florida home to rest, said she planned a concert as “an expression of love for Manchester.”

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She said that the concert would raise money for the victims of the attack and their families. The date has not yet been set.

“Our response to this violence must be to come closer together, to help each other, to love more, to sing louder and to live more kindly and generously than we did before,” she said in an essay posted on her social media accounts.

“We won’t let this divide us. We won’t let hate win,” she said.

Grande, whose fan base is dominated by girls and young women, said she had seen a “beautiful, diverse, pure, happy crowd.”

She said she viewed her concerts as places for her fans “to escape, to celebrate, to heal, to feel safe and to be themselves.”

“This will not change,” she said.

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‘Everyone on Earth can share’ music

Grande wrote that her concert, by bringing people from varied backgrounds into the 21,000-capacity Manchester Arena, showed the power of music to unite.

“Music is something that everyone on Earth can share,” she wrote.

“Music is meant to heal us, to bring us together, to make us happy,” she said.

In the wake of the attack, Grande had faced criticism from some commentators in Britain, notably Piers Morgan, who said she should have stayed and visited hospitalized survivors rather than return home.

Grande in her statement said she has been focused “non-stop” on the victims and that “I will think of them with everything I do for the rest of my life.”

Grande canceled two weeks of concerts, including two shows in London, after the attacks. She flew home on Tuesday after releasing a brief message saying she felt “broken.”

She plans to resume her “Dangerous Woman” tour in Paris on June 7.

Despite the name of her tour and accompanying album, the former television child star turned bubblegum pop singer has rarely triggered controversy. 

She has only occasionally shared personal views, including criticizing double-standards for women in entertainment, voicing support for gay rights and advocating a vegan diet to prevent animal cruelty.

Grande is not the only artist who plans a charity gig. Oasis frontman Liam Gallagher, a Manchester native, said he will perform his first-ever solo show on Tuesday to support a Red Cross-backed appeal.

Manchester Games continue despite terror attack

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Trump’s disputes shadow ‘most challenging G7 summit in years’

G7 leaders on Friday found common cause on combatting terrorism after the bloodshed in Manchester but failed to bridge a gulf between Donald Trump and US partners on trade and climate change.

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On the opening day of a two-day summit, the leaders endorsed a British call urging internet service providers and social media companies to crack down on the dissemination of jihadist content online, after 22 people were killed in the concert bombing in northwest England this week.

But US partners hit deadlock in their attempt to persuade Trump to keep the world’s biggest economy inside the framework of the 2015 Paris Agreement on curbing carbon emissions to reduce global warming.

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Tensions over trade also flared. Unusually for such a set-piece event, leaders made no effort to hide their divisions in Sicily’s ancient hilltop resort of Taormina.

The choice of venue overlooking the Mediterranean reflected the Italian hosts’ desire for the summit to showcase cooperation against deadly flows of illegal migration from nearby Africa.

But discussions on that subject also hit stalemate because of differences with the US at what EU president Donald Tusk called “the most challenging G7 summit in years”.

Trump berates NATO for dodging defence dues

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Italian Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni acknowledged there had been no breakthrough on climate change, describing the future of the Paris pact as “still hanging”, as Trump reviews the arguments for and against ditching the global deal.

Gary Cohn, Trump’s economic advisor, said the president’s views were “evolving”.

“He came here to learn,” Cohn said. “His basis for decision ultimately will be what’s best for the United States.”

‘Bad, very bad’

British Prime Minister Theresa May led the discussion on terrorism, and won backing for her demand that extremist content should be quickly taken offline by platforms like Facebook and YouTube – although details of what this will mean in practice were left vague.

“Make no mistake: the fight is moving from the battlefield to the internet,” May told her colleagues.

In a joint statement on terrorism, the G7 powers also vowed a collective effort to track down and prosecute foreign fighters dispersing from theatres of conflict such as Syria.

Transatlantic tensions on trade resurfaced after reports that Trump had described the Germans as “bad, very bad” and vowed to stop them selling millions of cars in the United States, during a meeting with senior EU officials in Brussels on Thursday.

Also in Brussels, Trump had fired an extraordinary broadside at NATO allies for failing to pay their fair share of the transatlantic defence bill, and notably did not endorse the group’s commitment to collective defence, as his predecessors have done.

Both US and EU officials confirmed the outspoken president had raised the auto trade issue but sought to play down the language used, as Trump shared friendly words with German Chancellor Angela Merkel and other leaders at the G7.

Trump talks ahead of the G7 Summit

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Merkel said that Trump’s criticism was “not really something new”.

“The surplus is also a sign of the good quality of German goods,” she said.

Trump rode to power on an “America First” platform but has yet to implement any significant protectionist measures, as the EU had feared he would.

“We are going to continue to fight for what we believe is right, which is free, open and fair trade, which the president has been very clear on what that means,” Cohn said.

Russia row

For Trump, the talks were the final leg of his first presidential foray overseas.

The gruelling week-long trip briefly diverted attention from domestic concerns focused on alleged campaign collusion with Russia.

But that issue reared up again overnight as it emerged the FBI is examining his son-in-law Jared Kushner’s contacts with the Russian ambassador in connection with the probe of alleged interference in the election campaign by Moscow.

Trump has refused to commit the United States to extending sanctions imposed on Russia over its 2014 annexation of Crimea. But Cohn said neither would the sanctions be curtailed, as Moscow hopes.

“If anything we would probably look to get tougher on Russia,” the economic aide said.

In other talks, France’s new president, Emmanuel Macron, gave short shrift to May’s request for Brexit-bound Britain and the EU to negotiate their future trading relationship at the same time as they thrash out the terms of their divorce.

Japan meanwhile was using the summit to air its concerns about North Korea. Meeting Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in Sicily, Trump bullishly promised the problem posed by North Korea’s missile and nuclear programmes “will be solved”.

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Hawks coach marvels at Roughead, Buddy

Jarryd Roughead’s match-winner at the SCG is going to take some beating as far as feel-good stories go this AFL season.

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Roughead converted a set shot from beyond the 50m arc with 80 seconds remaining on Friday night, handing Hawthorn a six-point win over Sydney.

He celebrated jubilantly. And rightly so.

The clutch captain’s goal came almost a year to the date he was diagnosed with a recurrence of melanoma, with cancer having spread to his lung.

Roughead successfully recovered and has led the Hawks to four wins this year; the most recent no doubt being the sweetest.

“It’s been a tough road for him,” Hawthorn coach Alastair Clarkson said.

“Whether it’s injury or illness, this game teaches you to build character and demonstrate resilience. The really mentally tough can withstand the rigours of the game.

“But (Lance Franklin) had that little tough patch in his life too. Those two lads, they’ve enjoyed a lot of success in the game but also had tough periods in their lives.

“It’s pleasing that they’ve come out the other side and become stronger and better people.”

Franklin took time out of the sport and missed the 2015 finals because of mental health issues. The champion forward was back to his best in 2016 and continues to shine.

Franklin booted five goals against his former side on Friday night, dished off a couple and created plenty of headaches with his frenzied pressure.

Clarkson admitted he had mixed feelings about the form of Franklin, who won the Goodes-O’Loughlin medal for best on ground.

“Sometimes it’s a little bit hard to admire when you’re an opposition coach,” he laughed of Franklin, who won two flags and played 182 games with the Hawks.

“He just consistently does brilliant things. He’ll probably continue to do that for a long time for the Sydney footy club.

“He’s a great servant of both clubs. I’m pleased to see him doing well, pleased to see he’s really content and happy in his life.

“He’s still really close to a lot of people at our football club, particularly the players … we wish him well.

“It made it all the more pleasing in a sense, that he was able to have a significant contribution but we were able to still win.”

Franklin now sits 10th on the list of VFL/AFL goalkickers, having lifted his career tally to 819.

“He was enormous,” Swans coach John Longmire said of his star charge.

“He was very rarely beaten in one on ones, one on twos, one on threes.”

Maguire savages "unacceptable" Souths

The door might just be back on the hinges by the time South Sydney players return from their bye in a fortnight following coach Michael Maguire’s almighty spray on Friday night.

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The week off couldn’t have come at a better time for Rabbitohs players, if only to get themselves a few days away from their seething coaching staff following Friday night’s 22-16 NRL loss to Parramatta.

Maguire ordered his players to have a good hard look at themselves. He was furious after they fumbled their way through the first half and to a 4-8 record to leave their season in tatters before their round 14 clash with Brisbane.

“It was unacceptable for what we expected,” Maguire said.

“We need to have a good hard look at ourselves.

“Look in the mirror and see what we need to do, what we can for our teammates. We’re a team that can knock out a reasonable performance five days ago and we end up tossing up that.”

In the end, the scoreline flattered the Rabbitohs on Friday night.

They stumbled to just 40 per cent of possession in the first half to go to the break down 18-0, and only scored two tries in the last 10 minutes through winger Alex Johnson to make it look respectable.

If anything though, that just made Maguire more frustrated as he refused to blame the short turnaround from last week’s Perth trip.

“The last five minutes or so we showed some good footy,” Maguire said.

“So it’s got nothing to do with what a lot of people keep asking me about with short turnarounds.

“Players play Origin and then turn around three days later and play. I think they’re poor excuses.

“I don’t wear that.”

The Rabbitohs were their own worst enemies on Friday night at ANZ Stadium.

They missed 25 tackles and made 12 errors, while fullback Cody Walker let bombs bounce three times and fumbled another ball in the in-goal to gift the Eels a try.

But despite their 14th position on the ladder, Maguire insists the Rabbitohs’ season isn’t yet over.

“The No.1 thing is probably hanging onto the ball. We’ve got to fix it. The team has got to fix it. Because we’ll end up in the exact same spot if we keep doing it. We need to make sure that we look after the ball and complete. It’s been in the game since it started.”

Gutherson presses case in Eels NRL team

Parramatta coach Brad Arthur has an almighty selection headache coming up next month.

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What does he do with a talent like Clinton Gutherson?

Gutherson was back to his best on Friday night in the Eels’ 22-16 win over South Sydney, setting up two tries and breaking the line once in a dominant first half.

However his stint in the halves is almost certain to be limited, with star five-eighth Corey Norman set to return from a knee injury in round 17 to partner new recruit Mitchell Moses.

And Arthur on Friday remained coy on how he would fit one of his team’s most versatile players into a consistent starting spot in the backline.

“We’ll worry about that when Normy comes back,” he said.

“Gutho is a footballer. And we know exactly what we’re going to get from him every week. He’s such a competitor.”

The 22-year-old arrived at Parramatta as an outside back in 2016, but has been used in a number of positions by Arthur.

He began on the wing last year, but spent time in the centres before finishing the year at five-eighth.

He has also filled in at fullback this year for a five-game stint, while fullback Bevan French was also out with a knee injury.

“He’s a runner of the football,” Arthur said.

“He went back to fullback and was really good there. Then we moved him to five-eighth and it’s a different game.”

Arthur admitted Gutherson had been unhappy with his performance in last week’s loss to Canberra, but was far better on Friday night.

“He probably tried too much to play the role of a five-eighth instead of just playing his game – that’s probably a bit my fault.”

Meanwhile the Eels coach said it would take more time for the team to fully gel with Moses.

The former Wests Tigers playmaker had a hand in two of the Eels’ tries, while his kicking game bamboozled South Sydney’s Cody Walker at the back.

But Arthur said his connection with the team would only get better and reap more rewards once they became accustomed to his style.

“We had a bit of a mentality to work over a few defenders and play with the eyes up (on Friday night),” Arthur said.

“Mitch just responded to what the defence was doing and put himself in a position.

“You could see a lot of our boys weren’t used to it and were in front of him on a pass or a kick.”

Stop-start Pies must fire against Lions

Collingwood’s maddening inconsistency has been a constant source of frustration for Magpies fans this AFL season but that stops on Sunday.

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Quite simply, it has to.

Nathan Buckley’s men haven’t managed back-to-back wins this season as they’ve stumbled to a 3-6 record.

Last week’s stunning come-from-behind win over Hawthorn might have given the Pies’ season and Buckley’s coaching career a shot in the arm, but it won’t count for much if they slip up against last-placed Brisbane at the MCG.

“It’s vital for us because we’re so far behind the eight ball as it is,” Pies assistant coach Robert Harvey told AAP.

“We need to just keep chipping away and try to get some wins under our belt.

“We’ve got some games to catch up on that we’ve given away early in the season, so this is a really big game for us.

“We’ve just got to win and anything it takes to do that we will. We’ve got to start to claw back that win-loss ratio.

“We’ve obviously been really inconsistent this year so we need to see more consistency in our game both on offence and defence.

“But there’s enough good that you can see each week with us to think that we’re not far away.”

Former No.6 draft pick Matt Scharenberg will play his first game since round 23 of the 2015 season after overcoming a second knee reconstruction.

The 21-year-old was included in the line-up along with Tim Broomhead, with James Aish (concussion) and Henry Schade (omitted) departing the side that defeated the Hawks.

On the face of it an encounter with the last-placed Lions appears a timely opportunity for the stop-start Pies to build some confidence.

Chris Fagan’s side carry an eight-game losing streak into Sunday’s clash, but Harvey has been impressed with aspects of their game.

“Nearly every match they’ve played they’ve looked likely in patches,” Harvey said.

“When they get their running game going, even against Adelaide last week (in an 80-point loss), they looked dangerous early.

“So they’re going to have their moments but it’s a matter of us putting up a bit more of what we saw in the second half against Hawthorn for the whole game.”

Fagan made five changes bringing in Tom Cutler, Daniel McStay, Ryan Bastinac, Rhys Mathieson and Archie Smith.

Dugan’s best NRL in front of him: Flanagan

Cronulla coach Shane Flanagan is adamant high-profile recruit Josh Dugan’s best form is ahead of him as the Sharks aim to build a dynasty around him when he arrives next NRL season.

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Speaking for the first time about the club’s smash-and-grab from rivals St George-Illawarra, Flanagan also insisted there was no guarantee over what position Dugan would play in 2018.

“I just said to Josh in our meetings that I’m not guaranteeing that he’s playing fullback. He might play fullback, but he might play centre,” Flanagan said.

“All I said to him was, ‘I want good players at my club and you definitely fit that category.

“‘You’re a Test player and just come to our club, you’ll enjoy it, play first grade, and hopefully play semi-finals in the next four years back-to-back. That’s what we’re trying to achieve.”

Dugan’s signing means the club could boast arguably the best roster in the competition next season, with six former or current Kangaroos representatives.

Flanagan recalled how he had long desired luring representative players to the Shire since taking over as head coach seven years ago.

“I want Australia and Origin players at our club. For us to recruit the current Test centre and Origin centre is fantastic and a great scoop for the club,” he said.

“We’re looking forward for him to come next year. Where he’ll play, we’ll see how it goes in the off-season but he’ll definitely be in our team and we’re going to be a better team for it.”

Flanagan also believes that, at 27 years of age, Dugan’s heading into the prime of his career.

“Josh Dugan at Canberra, Josh Dugan when he started at the Dragons, and Josh Dugan now at the Dragons, he’s a leader. He’s in their leadership group,” he said.

“He’s a completely changed man and I think his best footy’s in front of him as well.”