Titans jump into NRL top eight

Gold Coast have jumped into the NRL top eight after beating Canterbury 28-14 in a thriller on Sunday at cBus Super Stadium.

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After a first-half arm wrestle, the Titans dazzled their home crowd of 10,645 with a stretch of three unanswered tries to run away with the game and book their second straight win.

Canberra-bound pivot Aidan Sezer had a huge hand in the result, continuing what must feel like an excruciating farewell season on the tourist strip for Titans fans.

Not only did he kickstart their surge with a brilliant 40-20 just before the halftime buzzer that resulted in a try to Kevin Gordon, he helped set up their next four-pointer and converted four of five attempts in a tireless performance.

Coach Neil Henry described Sezer’s 40-20 as the turning point for the Titans, who are clinging onto eighth spot on the ladder by points differential.

“It was a real boost for us – it had been a bit of a grind until then,” Henry said.

“It was one of those games where you couldn’t really rest in defence, they’re a hard team to contain.

“It’s good to get that one done and in the end be reasonably comfortable at the back end of the game, which is fantastic – but every week’s a new battle.”

Boom youngster James Roberts also celebrated his two-year contract extension with the Titans by scoring two tries to take him to 13 for the season.

But the win came at a cost for the Titans, with their shortage of hookers exacerbated by a medial ligament injury to Kierran Moseley.

With fellow rakes Beau Falloon (wrist) and Matt Srama (ankle) already sidelined, Moseley was the player that the Titans could most ill afford to lose.

“I don’t know how bad it is – he’s in a brace, and he’ll get some scans done,” Henry said.

“I imagine he’ll be out for a few weeks.

“We’ll be looking at the Q-Cup to get another hooker.

“We might have to be creative again.”

The Bulldogs were 10-4 up at one stage after Sam Kasiano rode an offload from Tim Browne to go over just before the half-hour mark.

Canterbury coach Des Hasler said his side “butchered” their chance to win the game with handling mistakes.

“We were just really sloppy with the ball, it’s been an issue for us all year,” Hasler said.

“The game was there for the taking for both sides, they capitalised on our errors we turned up.”

Canterbury’s Corey Thompson had a night to forget, with his two glaring errors under the high ball in the 40th and 59th minutes both punished by tries to Gordon and Josh Hoffman.

The visitors attempted a late comeback with Curtis Rona crossing for his second of the afternoon but it was quickly snuffed out, as Roberts responded in kind and then came off the field to a warm round of applause.

Dalai speaks of peace despite WA protest

As the Dalai Lama spoke in Perth about happiness and peace, protesters stood metres away desperately trying to gain attention about the plight of minority Shugden Buddhists.

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About 14,000 people gathered to hear His Holiness Tenzin Gyatso, the 14th Dalai Lama of Tibet, speak at Perth Arena on the final stop of his Ocean of Wisdom tour of Australia.

The 79 year old spoke about having the right “mental attitude” to balance a healthy mind and body, adding that he had always found his best adviser to be his heart and mind.

He joked you could not walk into a shop and buy peace of mind – you had to achieve it within yourself.

“From the birth, we all want a happy life, even in the mother’s womb,” he said.

“We all have the right to be a happy person.”

His Holiness also spoke in detail about science and the importance of education.

About an hour into the event, His Holiness had only answered one question despite host Rick Ardon having two pages full of questions from people seeking spiritual guidance.

But his lengthy speech did not seem to deter the audience, who listened intently to his wise words and laughed with every joke he made.

The Dalai Lama also talked about respecting all religions and non-believers, adding that compassion was important for happiness.

But since arriving in Australia, the spiritual leader has been followed by protesters calling for an end to the persecution of Shugden Buddhists.

At a peaceful rally before and during his talk, about 50 protesters held signs that read “False Dalai Lama. Stop Lying” and “Give religious freedom”, while his followers stood on the other side of the road with their own signs of support.

The Shugden Budhists have repeatedly asked the Dalai Lama for equality, but feel he has ignored their plight.

Tibetan monk Sonam Lama told AAP he was forced to leave India in 1996 and now lived in New Zealand.

International Shugden Community spokesman Nicholas Pitts told AAP the group was seeking freedom.

“We want everyone to have the freedom to practice the faith of their choosing without being at risk of repercussions,” he said.

“At the moment, anyone who practices Shugden openly is immediately rendered a pariah, they’re thrown out of their community, they’re completely ostracised.”

The Dalai Lama will wrap up his tour of Australia on Monday.

Hasler blasts NRL over Origin scheduling

Canterbury coach Des Hasler has implored the NRL to fix the scheduling issues surrounding State of Origin after a depleted Bulldogs side crashed to the Gold Coast Titans on Sunday.

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In a canny post-game deflection that would have made Wayne Bennett proud, a fuming Hasler said the NRL has been rendered “irrelevant” during the Origin period.

The Bulldogs were without representative stars Trent Hodkinson, Josh Morris, Brett Morris, Josh Jackson and David Klemmer, while skipper James Graham is injured.

They put up a strong first-half fight against a Titans side missing only one player – captain Nate Myles – to Origin duty, but fell away as the hosts turned on the dazzle in the second half and won 28-14.

Hasler said it was “embarrassing” for the competition to be “ravaged” with 34 of its best players unavailable.

“We all know the reason why – it’s the broadcasters and it’s this and it’s that,” he said.

“Well the NRL, that’s their job. That’s what they’re on the big money for, to come up with the solution, and they haven’t.

“All you hear about is how they’re at loggerheads and in blues with their 16 stakeholders.

“They’ve got to get their act together.”

Calls for State of Origin to be played on standalone weekends have come year after year, but the NRL is reportedly nearing a solution.

NRL head of game strategy Shane Richardson is conducting a whole of game review, with the intention of an entirely new structure for the rugby league calender when the next broadcast deal begins in 2017.

That may not be quick enough to please Hasler.

“I know people talk up Origin, it’s a great event and a wonderful thing,” he said.

“We’re not the only side to be victims.

“This year it’s us, in the years past it’s been the Broncos and the Storm and other sides.

“Everything has to stop for it.

“We’ll leave it to the powers that be but the sooner they fix the format up the better.

“But that’s not the reason why we lost today.”

Manus Island refugee ‘in hiding’: report

A refugee is reportedly in hiding on Manus Island after allegedly being tricked by Papua New Guinea immigration officials into making an advertisement promoting resettlement.

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Haider Khan, 33, told the ABC other refugees have threatened his life after he appeared in a newspaper ad holding a sign saying: “Thank you for helping us.”

Mr Khan said he did not agree to the campaign and asked PNG officials not to use his image publicly.

“Many refugees said, ‘Everyone witness, if I see his face, we are kill him’,” he told the ABC.

He has been in hiding with a local resident since he fled the Australian funded transit centre three days ago, and has been subsisting on biscuits and bread.

Mr Khan said PNG immigration officials paid him $303 and promised him a meeting with the immigration minister, as well as refugee status, if he agreed to go on a trip to Port Moresby for the photo.

An advertisement was later published in two national newspapers, and reportedly included his name, nationality and occupation.

“The government of PNG has permitted refugees to live and rebuild their lives in PNG,” the advertisement said.

“Let’s give them a positive start.”

No refugees have been resettled in PNG in the almost two years since it signed the deal with Australia, nor does the Pacific island nation have a resettlement policy.

A spokesman for Immigration Minister Peter Dutton declined to comment.

Earlier this month an Iranian refugee was allegedly beaten up and threatened with death by three PNG immigration officers after he missed a 6pm curfew.

The trio have been charged and are expected to appear in Manus Island district court on June 26.

Swifts too strong for Magic

NSW Swifts set up a trans-Tasman netball league grand final re-match with Queensland Firebirds when they closed out the Magic 60-52 in a see-sawing semi-final on Sunday.

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The Swifts, who lost 44-55 to the Firebirds in last week’s elimination semi-final, secured their first trans-Tasman league grand final in seven years with the patchy win in Hamilton.

Neither side managed to deliver a consistent performance, but the Swifts’ variety and pace on attack and accuracy in the shooting circle proved decisive.

Swifts skipper Kimberley Green, who played only the last quarter as she continued her comeback from a calf injury, was satisfied with her team’s overall effort.

“We always knew the Magic had a lot of heart – they’re a classy outfit and we knew they were going to keep pushing us,” she said.

The Swifts would have to step up again against the Firebirds in Brisbane next Sunday, she added, after the Queenslanders thumped Northern Mystics 60-44 in the other semi-final.

“They went really well today – we had a little bit of a view of that. They’re a classy outfit as well, so it’s going to be really tough.”

Magic captain Leana de Bruin said her team had done well to battle back from a significant half-time deficit.

“When you’re 10 down, you’ve got nothing to lose so you might as well just play the game,” she said.

“I think we did that well, but unfortunately we couldn’t do it again in the last quarter.”

Strong circle defence from Julie Corletto and Sharni Layton featured throughout for the Swifts, particularly in the first quarter.

Jo Harten shouldered most of the shooting responsibilities, sinking 14 from 16 while goal attack Malia Paseka was restricted to one successful shot from just two attempts.

But while the danger signs were there for the Magic, they maintained composure and timing on attack lead 15-14 at the first break.

The Swifts stepped up the defensive pressure in the second spell, dominating the quarter 17-6 to lead 31-21 at halftime.

Magic coach Julie Fitzgerald, who coached the Swifts to the league’s inaugural title in 2008, benched Paseka at the break and the introduction of Ellen Halpenny at goal attack changed the game’s dynamic.

Between them, Halpenny and Harten sunk 19 from 19, hauling back the Swifts’ lead to 42-40 at the three-quarter mark.

Swifts coach Rob Wright’s tweaked midcourt, with Stephanie Wood now at wing attack and Paige Hadley at centre, couldn’t recapture the pace and flow of the opening half and Wright again rejigged his line-up for the last quarter.

With Clarke back at centre and Green at wing attack, the Swifts looking more composed in the attacking third, delivery better quality ball for Caitlin Thwaites (33 from 36) and Susan Pettit (27 from 29) to convert.

Qld’s Boyd to get more help from Inglis

Darius Boyd is expected to be a significant beneficiary of revitalised Queensland centre Greg Inglis during State of Origin II in Melbourne on Wednesday night.

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Off the field, Boyd said he’d already helped more than the South Sydney star knew.

When Boyd was battling depression last year, missing the last two months of the NRL season as he sort treatment, Inglis visited him.

He was one of only a few players to do so.

“GI visited me in the clinic which was a bit of a shock – it really meant a lot to me,” Boyd said on Sunday.

“It just shows the guy he is. He is a good friend.”

Boyd reckons his mate will be a big help on the field come Wednesday night.

The barnstorming Maroons centre was a shadow of himself in Origin I after spending three nights in hospital battling tonsillitis in the lead-up.

Winger Boyd hopes to resume his devastating combination with Inglis on NSW’s right side in game two.

“GI is a class player and I don’t think he played as bad as everyone thought,” he said.

“We watched a lot of tape and he made over 20 tackles, had over 100m (but) he didn’t score a try or set up any himself and people think he has a bad game.”

“I think it was a pretty amazing game to be honest.

“He’s having a good prep and I am sure that will put him in good stead.”

Boyd and Inglis share the Origin try scoring record with 15 each in an indication of the damage they have caused to the Blues on that right edge.

Queensland coach Mal Meninga is expected to switch Inglis to the wing at times to ensure the Maroons great gets more ball.

But Boyd said Inglis would cause damage wherever he played.

“He demands that respect. You see it time and again, they (defenders) come in and worry about him and it leaves me open – I am very lucky to play outside of him,” Boyd said.

Boyd himself is impressing after making a remarkable recovery from an Achilles injury a month earlier than expected.

“I think I had my best game (back) against Manly last week (for Brisbane),” he said.

“I am just going to get better and better with confidence.”

Meanwhile, Maroons prop Matt Scott (knee) resumed Maroons training on Sunday.

Blatter may seek to stay as FIFA boss, source tells Swiss paper

However, Domenico Scala, the official overseeing the process of choosing a new president, said that Blatter’s departure was an “indispensable” part of planned reforms to football’s governing body.

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Blatter is under pressure to step down for good as U.S. and Swiss authorities widened their investigations into bribery and corruption at the sport’s global governing body. EU lawmakers are among those calling for his immediate departure.

But according to the Schweiz am Sonntag newspaper, Blatter had received messages of support from African and Asian football associations, asking him to rethink his decision to step down.

Blatter was honoured by the support and had not ruled out remaining in office, the newspaper said, citing an anonymous source close to him.

Blatter said on June 2 he would step down as FIFA president in the wake of the corruption investigation, having led football’s world governing body since 1998,, although he would stay on until a successor was elected.

FIFA, in an emailed statement, referred Reuters to the speech Blatter made on June 2 and said they had “no further comment to make”.

In his speech, Blatter said: “I have decided to lay down my mandate at an extraordinary elective Congress. I will continue to exercise my functions as FIFA President until that election.”

He also added: “Since I shall not be a candidate, and am therefore now free from the constraints that elections inevitably impose, I shall be able to focus on driving far-reaching, fundamental reforms that transcend our previous efforts.”

But Scala, head of FIFA’s audit and compliance committee, said in a statement that Blatter needed to stick by his pledge that he would not stand again.

“For me, the reforms are the central topic,” he said, without referring to the interview directly.

“That is why I think it is clearly indispensable to follow through with the initiated process of president’s change as has been announced. “

Blatter has changed his mind in the past. When he began his fourth mandate in 2011, he said it would be his last, but he later backed down, stood again and was re-elected in May.

FIFA is expected to pick his replacement at an extraordinary congress in Zurich between December and February.. The exact date will be decided by an executive committee meeting on July 20.

Blatter’s renewed interest in the job was also a reason for the departure of Walter de Gregorio as FIFA’s director of communications, since he had argued for a completely new start and advised Blatter to go, the Swiss newspaper said.

De Gregorio declined to comment to the newspaper.

(Reporting by Tom Miles; Additional reporting by Brian Homewood in Bern; Editing by John Pickering and Raissa Kasolowsky)

Market looks to Aust, US rates guidance

Investors will be watching for guidance on future interest rate moves from both the Reserve Bank of Australia and the US Federal Reserve this week.

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The RBA on Tuesday releases the minutes of its June meeting, when it left the cash rate at a record low two per cent following May’s quarter of a percentage point cut.

RBA governor Glenn Stevens provided little guidance on any future moves with that June 2 decision but last week made it clear further rate cuts are feasible.

“We remain open to the possibility of further policy easing, if that is, on balance, beneficial for sustainable growth,” Mr Stevens told the Economic Society of Australia on Wednesday.

“I think it’s quite some time before we even think about interest rates going up.”

AMP Capital chief economist Shane Oliver said Mr Stevens’ speech had laid to rest any doubt the RBA retains an easing bias.

“Of course there were numerous qualifications around this – in particular the risks around low interest rates – but the clear message is that another rate cut is under serious consideration,” Dr Oliver said.

CommSec chief economist Craig James believes the standout event for investors this week is the meeting of US Federal Reserve policymakers, with their interest rate decision due to be handed down at 4am (AEST) on Thursday.

“No one expects the interest rate `normalisation’ process (rate hikes) to begin just yet, but investors will be hoping for future guidance,” he said.

Dr Oliver expects the Fed will signal that it remains on track to hike rates later this year providing economic data continues to improve.

Australian shares should start the week lower after US stocks fell 0.8 per cent on Friday.

The market will also monitor speeches by RBA assistant governors Christopher Kent and Guy Debelle on Monday and Tuesday for any clues regarding the outlook for interest rates.

Azerbaijan success vital for successful event – organisers

On the shores of the Caspian Sea, and with a vociferous home crowd roaring them on, the Azeris won three gold medals, one silver and three bronze in an impressive start to the competition.

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The hosts trail only Switzerland, who have also won three golds but more silver medals.

“Obviously we are naturally delighted with the success of the Azerbaijan team,” Clegg told reporters on Sunday.

“The success of the host nation early on in the games is a very important component of delivering a successful Games.

“On the back of a fantastic opening ceremony it’s then really important to start the competition well for the host nation and we are delighted with the results the Azeri athletes secured yesterday.”

Critics had suggested the event would struggle to attract interest in the Azeri capital given the absence of many of the continent’s high-profile athletes, particularly in swimming and athletics.

Organisers, however, said they were impressed by attendances on the opening day with 17,044 spectators present during nineteen sessions in seven venues across the city.

The Mountain Bike Velopark was the setting for the European Games’ first ever medals and the women’s cross-country event, won by Swiss Jolanda Neff, attracted a 98 percent attendance.

The Baku Sports Hall, venue for table tennis and badminton, attracted a 91 percent attendance and 90 percent at the Baku Aquatics Centre though the volleyball event was sparsely attended despite the hosts’ participation.

Clegg said ticket sales were buoyed following the success of the extravagant opening ceremony which featured an appearance from the American six-time Grammy Award Winner Lady Gaga.

“I am pleased to say as a result of the success of the opening ceremony there is significant interest in the city,” he added.

The inaugural European Games runs to June 28 and the closing ceremony was expected to sell out, Clegg said.

(Editing by Sudipto Ganguly)

Titans target Maloney and Hodkinson

Gold Coast will focus their attentions on snaring Trent Hodkinson and James Maloney to ease their halves woes after ruling out making a play for Chris Sandow.

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With Manly’s Daly Cherry-Evans reneging on a deal to join the club and versatile No.6 Aidan Sezer set to join Canberra, The Titans have been left to source a playmaker for the 2016 NRL season.

Titans CEO Graham Annesley confirmed the club had held preliminary negotiations with Hodkinson and Maloney but said neither were close to signing.

Coach Neil Henry also drew a line through Parramatta playmaker Sandow, who is on the outer with the Eels after this week making controversial comments that the team’s play was too structured.

The Titans say they will be big players in the transfer market with significant room in their 2016 salary cap after Cherry-Evans’ backflip.

“We’re not going to be in a rush,” Annesley told AAP.

“We’ve got a fair amount of cap space available next year but we’re not going to pay overs or be forced into signing people we don’t believe are a good fit. That’s no way to recruit.”

When Henry was asked if the club had any interest in Sandow, he said they were focusing their efforts elsewhere.

“We haven’t made an inquiry about Chrissy,” Henry told Triple M.

“I’ve worked with him in the All-Stars and I like the kid but at the moment I think we’d be moving in a different direction.”

NSW halfback Hodkinson is tipped to leave the Bulldogs with the club to invest in emerging half Moses Mbye instead.

Sandow has reportedly been told he will not be re-signed by the Eels after this week saying the club would win more matches if coach Brad Arthur allowed him to play the way he wanted.

On Sunday, the Titans were given a glimpse of what they will be missing next season when Sezer led the side to a 28-14 win over Canterbury at cBus Super Stadium.

Sezer ignited the Titans’ surge with a 40-20 which led to Kevin Gordon’s try before setting up Brad Tighe.

Maloney proved his worth against the Warriors on Saturday night, coming up with two clutch plays as the Sydney Roosters overran the Warriors 25-21 at Mt Smart Stadium.

In a frantic final stanza, Maloney crossed and then kicked a field goal before a returning Blake Ferguson grabbed a last-gasp try to sink the Warriors.

The Wests Tigers rebounded with an important upset win over South Sydney on Friday night with Martin Taupau leading the way.

While James Tedesco and Luke Brooks were also leading lights in the Tigers’ 34-6 mauling of the premiers, it was Taupau who laid the foundation and was rewarded with two tries.