Stakes rise as ARU draws a bead on the cap rorters

The Australian Rugby Union investigation into the invoice salary cap rort continues, and several premiership clubs are bound to find themselves in trouble over how they have lured players. The ARU is talking to several clubs over the Herald’s report that an Australian province breached the salary-cap restrictions this year through an elaborate invoicing scheme. The scheme revolves around several players not being directly paid by the organisation, instead the player’s club invoices the province for ”ground hire”. The province then paid the amount in cash to the club, which passed it on to the player. R&M has been told several clubs approached fringe Super Rugby players this season saying they would be able to pay them substantial amounts in cash so they could avoid taxation. The clubs alleged to be involved in this scheme, which is interwoven with the ground-hire invoices, would astound those in control at the ARU. Several powerful officials are determined to stamp out this form of recruitment. So club types should feel nervous, especially those who are using as a feeble defence that the ”ground hire” involves finals matches being played at their home grounds.
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Boks preferred

Former All Blacks coach Graham Henry, who is spruiking a new biography, believes the Springboks would not have been a tougher proposition than the Wallabies if they had met in the 2011 World Cup semi-final. In an interview with New Zealand’s Rugby News, Henry said he thought ”the Australians at that stage were a better team than the Springboks”. ”I was hoping we would play the South Africans, because I thought they would be an easier team to beat, but the players were just bloody delighted we were playing Australia,” Henry said. ”They came through a different frame of reference to me. I was born a bit earlier than them, and South Africa has always been the enemy, but the players saw Australia as the big enemy. They were desperate to play Australia, so I knew we were going to beat Australia, or at least I had a bloody good idea we were going to beat Australia.”

Norm’s big turnout

It was a cavalcade of stars at Norm ”Voice of Reason” Tasker’s 70th birthday bash last Sunday, with a bevy of past Wallabies revelling in the celebrations for the rugby scribe, former Gordon first-grade coach and one-time referee. The birthday function, organised by his wife, Morna, and John ”Fort Fumble” Fordham, attracted Bruce Taafe, John Ballesty, Ross Turnbull, Geoff Shaw and Arthur McGill, while one of the keynote speakers was the great man of Australian cricket – Ian Chappell. Some of the tales included how Tasker, who covered the 1969 Wallabies tour of South Africa for the Sydney Sun newspaper, refereed the curtain-raiser at the Johannesburg Test, whistling away in front of 80,000 Ellis Park spectators before hitting the typewriter. Our spy Mark ”Pinky” Cashman said that of the guests McGill looked in especially great shape, with an impressive pastel jumper draped over his shoulders.

Colourful coach

The best idea of the week came from former Wallaby and renowned good guy James Grant, who suggested the outlandish Peter de Villiers would be perfect as the next Waratahs coach. Yes, it is a relationship made in heaven. It would certainly bring the crowds back, especially if they allow Tah Man to interview de Villiers on the field before each home game. And the ”house full” signs would appear at every press conference, in contrast to the lonely and few who attended this year’s miserable Waratahs media gatherings.

For the rugby rats

Those involved in Walla Rugby are excited about this year’s registration numbers, as they are up 50 per cent. More than 62,000 students from 370 schools have registered for the fourth annual Walla Rugby Week from Monday to next Friday.

Rumours

Dramas between a province and the ARU after a state official described someone at head office as ”Assad”.

Interesting altercation at a tense Sydney premiership match with a Super Rugby player being told by an opponent after the bell: ”You. Me. Car park. Now.”

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Blades of steel: bid to get forwards to raise the standard of set pieces

Clean … Wallabies work on denying the referees a chance to penalise them.TIRED of being penalised for having a suspect scrum, the Wallabies pack this year will try to prove they are faultless up front to ensure a better deal from referees.
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The Wallabies forwards coach, former Test prop Andrew Blades, said yesterday the Australian pack have been working hard on ensuring they are ”squeaky clean” at scrum time. Blades believes that for too long the Wallabies have been unfairly punished because of a perception, especially in the northern hemisphere, that their scrum is poor and often not up to international standard.

”The last few years the 50-50 decisions at scrum time when a scrum collapses will often go against Australia,” Blades said. ”So we’re focusing on trying to take that out of the game by being the ones who work really hard in keeping the scrum up, keeping it square, to fight through those things. It can’t be a case of saying, ‘The scrum feels as if it is going down, I’ll let it go and let the referee make the decision’, because we know from a historical point of view we’ll come out on the wrong side of the ledger.

”We have to take the initiative. What is important is taking the referee out of it by doing whatever we can to keep scrums up. If we have that mentality, it will make it more blatant when opposing teams are trying to milk penalties.”

Blades said the performance of several Australian provincial packs during the Super Rugby tournament had improved their chances of getting on the right side of referees.

”The players have more of a fighting mentality and believe it is important that you don’t give up easily,” he said. ”You’ve started to see that in the Super Rugby, such as the Waratahs having a great result up front against teams like the Crusaders. That gives the guys confidence to compete physically at that level. The guys know they can do it. It’s now about having your mental attitude right on the day, and that we don’t concede anything.”

Educating the players is also occurring with the other crucial set piece – the lineout. The Wallabies management are aware that second-rower Nathan Sharpe won’t be around forever, and want to teach the next generation what is required to be a lineout leader.

”What we have tried to do is broaden the scope,” Blades said. ”We’ve had Hugh Pyle, Kane Douglas and Dave Dennis sitting in with Nathan Sharpe and Rob Simmons when they explain what is involved in being a lineout leader. We’ve also been doing it at training sessions, such as yesterday where Kane had to call all of the defensive lineouts.

”You don’t want to be in a situation where someone may be out of form but you are forced to pick him because he is calling the lineouts. The more guys who have that base understanding the better.”

Blades joined the Wallabies coaching staff in June, after being involved for a short period as forwards coach when Eddie Jones was in charge. The former Waratahs tight-head prop said his opening months with the forwards this time around was aimed at ”getting consistency”.

”In regards to scrum and lineout work, each of the Australian franchises do things very differently. So during this period we have been trying to get the simple things right.

”From a scrummaging perspective, we concentrated on our ball in the Wales Test series and we were quite effective. We delivered virtually all of our ball, and there were almost no penalties or free kicks.”

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Queensland on another page as Baillieu gets behind state writers’ award

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IF DICKENS hadn’t already claimed the phrase, you would be tempted to call it the tale of two cities.

In Brisbane, Premier Campbell Newman unceremoniously dumped the Queensland Premier’s Literary Awards as part of his policy to save money. In Melbourne, Premier Ted Baillieu remains committed to the state’s equivalent, which for the second year running now offers the richest writing prize in the country, the Victorian Prize for Literature, worth $100,000 to the winner.

Mr Baillieu reiterated his commitment to the literary community and its work at yesterday’s announcement of the five category shortlists for this year’s Victorian Premier’s Literary Awards.

The winners of each section receive $25,000 and are then considered for the big one.

The Premier said that he had no desire to criticise Mr Newman because he had been starting from a different position when he took office in Queensland. ”Campbell Newman had no money,” Mr Baillieu told The Age.

”Victoria puts great store on the arts and literature and it’s what gives us the edge in making this such a liveable city. Anyone who places any value in words knows the importance of prizes.”

And he told the shortlisted authors present at the announcement at the Wheeler Centre that he took the prizes, now in their 27th year, very seriously. ”Literature and arts and culture are important parts of what we do in Victoria.”

Wayne Macauley, listed for his novel The Cook, a biting satire of society’s obsession with food and the excesses of capitalism, told The Age he was particularly happy to be listed in the context of what had happened in Queensland.

”That was unfortunate. The idea of supporting books and writing is critical. It’s hard to make a living and these prizes matter. Essentially the Queensland awards have been subject to summary execution.

”Yes, some alternative awards have been established so there will be prizes, but they have no money and what Campbell Newman did sends the wrong signal to everyone.

”In general, the premiers’ awards – particularly in Victoria – have established a strong reputation. These prizes are well respected, valued and have a flow-on effect in alerting readers to new books and writers. Have a look at my career.”

The winners will be announced on October 16.

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Roxon puts web surveillance plans on ice

Attorney-General Nicola Roxon … has put web surveillance plans on ice.A CONTROVERSIAL internet security plan to store the web history of all Australians for up to two years has been stalled by the federal government until after the next election.
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Security bureaucrats have drafted legislation to expand internet surveillance and security powers, but Attorney-General Nicola Roxon decided to first refer a discussion paper to a parliamentary committee.

Senior intelligence officials, who have been pushing for the increased powers, complain the legislation will be delayed until after the election due next year.

The national security discussion paper released last month by Ms Roxon canvasses proposals for compulsory internet data retention, forcing people to give up computer passwords, streamlining telecommunications interception approvals, and enhancing stop and search powers for the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation.

A senior national security official told Fairfax Media yesterday that Ms Roxon’s decision to refer the proposals to the parliamentary joint committee for intelligence and security was symptomatic of ”the risk adverse character of the government”.

“These reforms are urgently needed to deal with a rapidly evolving security environment, but there isn’t much appetite within the government for anything that attracts controversy,” the official said.

National security community dissatisfaction with Ms Roxon comes as Prime Minister Julia Gillard yesterday announced a long delayed review of federal and state counter-terrorism laws introduced after the 2005 London terrorist bombings.

Prime Minister Julia Gillard said yesterday a committee led by retired NSW judge Anthony Whealy, QC, would review legislation governing control orders, preventative detention and ”certain emergency stop, question and search powers held by police”. The review had originally been scheduled to commence in 2010.

Attorney-General’s department briefing papers released under freedom of information legislation show that when Ms Roxon took office as Attorney-General last December, her department had already prepared an “exposure draft” of amendments to Australia’s security and intelligence laws.

Subject to Ms Roxon’s agreement and consultation with the security watchdog, the Inspector General of Intelligence and Security, it was proposed by her department that the draft legislative package be considered by the National Committee of Cabinet in February, and the full cabinet in May.

However, the department also warned that amendments to surveillance powers “usually draw media and public attention” and that “the scale of changes being developed will mean that it is highly likely that there will be significant public interest”.

In a recent interview, Ms Roxon said she was “not yet convinced” about the merits of the proposal for compulsory data retention that would enable intelligence and security agencies to examine a person’s internet usage.

A spokesman for Ms Roxon has confirmed she rejected the approach of her predecessor, former attorney-general Robert McClelland, who had approved the development of the legislative package.

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Wu and Broden right in the mix for 10m diving medals

AUSTRALIA’S Melissa Wu and Brittany Broben will be diving for Olympic medals on Thursday night in the women’s 10-metre platform final – and Wu denies the gold is already sewn up by China’s Chen Ruolin.
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Broben and Wu placed third and fourth respectively in the semi-finals and are confident they can improve in the 12-woman decider.

But they face a huge task to outpoint China’s Chen, the 19-year-old defending champion from Beijing.

Chen’s score of 407.25 was nearly 48 points clear of her nearest rival, Canada’s Meaghan Benfeito (359.90), followed by Broben (359.55) and Wu (355.60).

Wu, who collected a 10m synchronised silver medal in Beijing, said her only aim in the final was to produce five good dives.

But asked if everyone was diving for minor placings, Wu replied: “It [gold] is never sewn up, I don’t think.

“But, yeah, I’m not focusing too much on medals.

“I just want to got out and dive well and be happy with that.”

Broben is the youngest member of the Australian Olympic team and will not turn 17 until November.

She has the perfect role model in Wu, who was the ‘baby’ of the Aussie team four years ago.

The pair dived one after the other in the semi-final, and while they are close friends, it is strictly business on the pool deck.

“I think it’s amazing for her,” Wu said.

“She’s diving really well and she seems really confident and really enjoying the experience. I’m so happy for her . . . we say ‘good luck’ before, and we want the other person to do well, but we don’t tend to speak too much [during competition].

“There’s too much happening.”

Broben said she had ‘a lot of nerves’ heading into her first Olympics but would try to relax in the final.

“I’ve been controlling them pretty good, so hopefully I can do that tonight,” he said.

Broben said reaching the final was “definitely” a goal but was unsure if anyone could beat Chen.

“I have no idea,” she said. “I’m just going to go out there and give it my best.”

China have already won four of the five diving gold medals in London.

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