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Defending champion Juan Martin Del Potro knocked out of Sydney International

Juan Martin Del Potro’s Sydney International title defence is over after with Kazakhstan’s Mikhail Kukushkin outmuscled the Argentine with a straight-sets victory on Thursday.
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Del Potro, who was playing only his third match in nearly a year after a career-threatening injury to his wrist, lost in two tie breaks against the world No.66.

The former US champion, whose ranking slipped to 338 while he was recovering from major surgery, had enjoyed an encouraging first two rounds on the comeback trail, taking down Ukraine’s Sergiy Stakhovsky and the top seed Italian Fabio Fognini.

But Del Potro could not find a way to get ahead of Kukushkin, with neither player’s serve broken and no break points, during their quarter final clash on the showcourt in Sydney Olympic Park.

Both players traded holds in the opening set, forcing it to a tie break. Del Potro took the mini-break after a volley error from Kukushkin but lost it by hitting a forehand well out. Kukushkin pulled ahead and with a celebratory first pump took the opener 7-6 (5) in just under an hour.

The second set progressed as a mirror image of the first with the players again dominating their serves and neither managing a break. In the nail-biting tie break, a Del Potro error gave Kukushkin the edge he need as he seized the lead 3-2.

Despite an enthusiastic cheer squad rallying from the stands for Del Potro, Kazakhstan’s top player stormed ahead taking the game on a service winner and the set 7-6.

The two had crossed paths on the professional tour only once, with Del Potro defeating Kukushkin in the quarter finals of the Davis Cup in 2011.

The former world no 4 has made a remarkable return to professional test this week but said his wrist had hurt during the match against Kukushkin.

Del Potro said Kukushkin played “very smart” targeting his backhand, and playing slices.

“I served well, but my wrist hurts a little bit more than yesterday, and I couldn’t hit harder than my last match,” Del Potro said.

“I got lucky playing three matches in this tournament against good players. I’m still here, I’m still alive. I feel tired, but okay.”

The Tower of Tandil, as Del Potro is nicknamed, entered the tournament as the wildcard after winning the final the previous year against Australia’s Bernard Tomic.

Following on from that win he had a second round exit in the Australian Open last year and played in two more tournaments before being sidelined by his wrist injury.

Del Potro said he was still building towards full fitness but will not lighten his training load ahead of the Australian Open on Monday. The 26-year-old still has to undergo lengthy treatments on his injury and rehab regimes before and after matches.

“I need to keep training, and training hard every day,” Del Potro said.

“I don’t have a magic solution. Just be patient, stay calm, and do my best every day to do a big effort to come back. This is my biggest challenge on my new career again.

“We go day by day. It’s dangerous for me if I’m looking forward for the next tournaments or the next month.”

Del Potro said he was at least looking forward to catching up with some old friends in Melbourne.

“I want to meet also Federer, Djokovic, these guys, because I miss them when I was at home. I only speak with them on WhatsApp or by phone. Now I will meet the biggest players of this sport again.”

Kukushkin, who reached the second round in the Brisbane International, will play in the quarter finals on Friday.

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The past 35 Cup winners

2009 winning driver David Butcher
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1980: Deans Special

1981: Taronga

1982: Popular Alm

1983: Copper Way

1984: Thor Lobell

1985: Henry Bruce

1986: Bag Limit

1987: Bag Limit

1988: Quite Famous

1989: Rowleyalla

1990: Empire Fella

1991: Aim First

1992: Lord Muckalee

1993: The Unicorn

1994: Dark Paul

1995: Knight Rainbow

1996: Brabham

1997: Anvils Star

1998: Captain Rufus

1999: Hushed World

2000: Tailamade Lombo

2001: Bancoora Next

2002: Mother Courage

2003: Sokyola

2004: Robric Jonboy

2005: Scruffy Murphy

2006: Regal Dash

2007: Sting Lika Bee

2008: Safari

2009: Changeover

2010: Sammy Maguire

2011: Smoken Up

2012: Decorated Jasper

2013: Sushi Sushi

2014: Im Corzin Terror

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City United plan to rebound in top of table clash

City United will want to recapture that winning feeling at Robins Oval this weekend when they meet Kurri Weston in a top-of-the-table clash which could go a long way to deciding the Maitland district cricket first grade minor premiership.
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City United bowler Paul Brownlee is congratulated by teammates after taking a wicket in their loss to Eastern Suburbs. City hope to bounce back from their first defeat of the season in the weekend’s top of the table clash against Kurri Weston.

Competition frontrunners City (41) lost their first match of the season on Saturday with a 110-run loss to Eastern Suburbs.

Second-placed Kurri Weston (36) recorded a comfortable 53-run win over Western Suburbs to close the gap to just five points on the ladder.

It means the result from the upcoming double header, a two-day fixture played over Saturday and Sunday, will be critical in determining which team finishes on top of the standings at the end of the regular rounds for 2014-2015.

Both teams will be close to full strength. City welcomes back skipper Matthew Trappel, opening bowler Ben Davies and Andrew Mullard.

Kurri Weston are largely unchanged, with Daniel Chapple included in a 12-man squad.

City were successful when the teams last met in round two, a 54-run triumph in a one-dayer at Kurri Central after defending 204.

In other round nine encounters, five-time defending minor premiers Northern Suburbs (31) host sixth-placed Thornton (17) fresh from the bye at Lorn Park. Fourth-placed Western Suburbs (22) are at home to winless Raymond Terrace (6) at Coronation Oval.

Play starts at 12.30pm each day.

Eastern Suburbs (21) have the bye.

In other cricket news, Maitland juniors Josh Trappel and Josh Geary will go head-to-head at the Sydney Cricket Ground on Sunday.

The Maitland duo line up for Hamilton Wickham and Merewether respectively in the SCG Cup final.

The decider starts at 10am.

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Robinvale housing crisis worsens

GROWING PROBLEM: Robinvale councillor John Katis says State Government help is needed to alleviate the region’s growing housing problem.ROBINVALE councillor John Katis says the district’s entrenched housing crisis is only becoming worse.
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The Swan Hill deputy mayor said repeated requests to the Victorian Government for more public housing had gone ignored for a decade.

Cr Katis said the town had been hit by a double whammy.

Itinerant workers and migrants from Asia and the Pacific Islands arrive seeking work in Robinvale’s burgeoning horticultural industry while the town’s established population also continues to grow.

Not enough new homes are being built to cope with demand and anything on the market is snapped up immediately.

“I know one young couple who have just had a baby and they’ve got nowhere to live,” Cr Katis said.

He said he could drive around Robinvale and point out several modest family homes crammed with people.

“Overcrowding is the biggest issue. I know properties that have two caravans in the backyard,” he said.

“Council can only do so much.”

Cr Katis said the district’s true population was very difficult to estimate.

“Coming into Robinvale you’ll see a sign which says there’s a population of 4000 but, if you were a local, you’d know damn well we’re talking 6000 plus,” he said.

“It has to be anything from 6000 to 7 or 8000.”

Demand for housing in Robinvale has far outstripped supply with those seeking public housing facing a wait of years.

“God knows how long the list is,” Cr Katis said.

“We need residential properties opened up as soon as possible.”

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Fans roll in for country music festival

JUST CHILLING: Amelia Way, 4, Alyssa Way, 6, Jaycob Dean-Wallis, 8, Harry Way, 9, and Joseph Way, 11 from Newcastle at Tamworth’s Riverside camping ground ahead of the festival.HUNDREDS of campervans and tents have set up and organisers at Tamworth’s main riverside grounds expect scores more ‘big rigs’ to roll into town on Friday as the 43rd Tamworth Country Music Festival prepares for its official kick off.
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Already long snaking lines of traffic are clogging the roads in town and more roads will close from Friday as the Country Music Capital of Australia prepares to host up to 20,000 visitors over the next 10 days.

Two out of three people on the street are wearing boots, nearly everyone has a hat on – and the party, according to the Tamworth mayor, is just about to begin.

Councillor Col Murray has missed only one festival in those 43 years – he went camping to Nambucca Heads – but has sworn ever since he won’t let one go by without joining the biggest hoedown in the southern hemisphere.

Hundreds of Newcastle and Central Coast fans join him every year too.

The mayor, along with 14 country music Queen entrants officially kick it all off Friday evening – literally, with their linedancing boots on.

Superstar songstress Kasey Chambers headlines the opening concert in Bicentennial Park in the middle of Tamworth where a crowd of more than 10,000 people is an annual institution too.

Tamworth has moved in hundreds of portaloos for the camping grounds that will see up to 4,000 people, another 20 green spaces like footy fields and school grounds take touring nomads and musical fans, and extra staff are rostered into the hospital emergency services unit to handle what becomes the walking wounded of strains, sprains and dehydrated patients.

Two hundred extra police began arriving Thursday – they become the beat police in the special country music blues brigade – patrolling on foot and on bikes to not so much try to keep the peace but make sure the music is sweet.

Antisocial behaviour is generally below the norm – and local police chiefs think that is set to continue this year if all goes to form.

The festival sees some 500 advertised musical acts playing a couple of thousand gigs across some 80 venues – and organisers expect up to 600 more busking acts to line the main drag that is the country music boulevard, Peel St.

The festival continues over the next 10 days and culminates with the red carpet industry night of nights – the Golden Guitar awards on Saturday night January 24.

Darren Smith to be a test case before further cobalt announcements in NSW

Testing times: Racing NSW chief steward Ray Murrihy Photo: Jenny Evans Testing times: Racing NSW chief steward Ray Murrihy Photo: Jenny Evans
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Testing times: Racing NSW chief steward Ray Murrihy Photo: Jenny Evans

Testing times: Racing NSW chief steward Ray Murrihy Photo: Jenny Evans

Racing NSW stewards will proceed with what appear to be test cases against trainers Darren Smith and Paul Murray before revealing whether any other horses returned elevated readings last year in what is feared to be a cobalt epidemic in Australian racing.

Big-name trainers Peter Moody, Mark Kavanagh and Danny O’Brien are this week helping Racing Victoria with investigations after returning horses with elevated cobalt readings during the spring carnival. Racing Queensland announced on Thursday it had also found cobalt irregularities, some during the winter carnival, which would undergo further testing.

However, Racing NSW chief steward Ray Murrihy said he would would not discuss whether there had been any other irregularities uncovered in the state until the Smith and Murray cases were concluded. He did, though, confirm that since April last year, when testers began screening for cobalt in NSW, no horses had returned elevated readings of the fad drug, apart from the 16 samples taken from Smith’s horses.

“Intelligence had made us aware there was a problem that existed regarding cobalt,” Murrihy said. “There have been no elevated findings since the population survey, which was conducted in April and May, involving some 400 samples, other than the ones already on the public record. However, we have hundreds of frozen substances and we have the ability to test them. We would not be making any more announcements until we have finished the investigations that are currently opened.”

Stewards have given Smith until January 23 to make submissions before making any determinations about whether to proceed. Smith’s case does not concern whether the trainer’s horses returned samples above the cobalt threshold. That is because there was no threshold in place at the time of the alleged offence. Instead, stewards are investigating whether he can be charged under the rules of racing for using a prohibited substance, namely cobalt.

One of the rules stewards are looking to is Australian Racing Rule 178B, which states “substances capable at any time of causing either directly or indirectly an action or effect, or both an action and effect, within one or more of the following mammalian body systems”.

Much of the evidence heard in the inquiry last month was about the definition of whether cobalt fell under these rules. It is up to Smith and his legal team to make submissions to that fact.

The Murray case has been adjourned to a date yet to be fixed.

Meanwhile, Racing Queensland general manager of stewarding and integrity Wade Birch has indicated some samples in the sunshine state had been sent for further analysis in regard to cobalt irregularities.

“Our trainers were then made aware that Racing Queensland would be testing for cobalt in October 2013 and a number of samples from both thoroughbred and harness horses have been frozen since then in anticipation of the new threshold, which came into effect on January 1 this year,” Birch said.

“These samples are in the process of being split to obtain a B-sample for further testing, in accordance with state legislation, which includes the need for the process to be filmed in its entirety.

“Queensland legislation is very stringent in relation to testing methods. However, this ensures all sampling activity is conducted with the utmost integrity in the interest of Racing Queensland as the [controlling] body and the trainer.”

Birch said any samples found to exceed the threshold, could see trainers face lengthy bans.

“We make no apologies for this stance and trainers have had ample warning that as soon as the testing capabilities were in place, we would pursue this course of action,” he said. “The underlying principle of racing integrity is to ensure the sport is carried out in a fair and just manner in the interest of the punter, the participant and most importantly the horses themselves.”

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Share the Anzac spirit

STIRRING: Essendon run onto the MCG on Anzac Day last year. Picture: Wayne TaylorCARLTON coach Mick Malthouse wants every AFL player to have the chance to play on Anzac Day.
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Malthouse will be involved in an Anzac Day clash this year for the first time since 2011, when St Kilda host the Blues in Wellington.

It will be the third time the Saints have played in New Zealand to mark the day.

Malthouse coached Collingwood from 2000-11 and was a staunch supporter of the Magpies’ annual match against Essendon at the MCG, the biggest game outside the finals.

Saints coach Alan Richardson played for the Magpies in the first Anzac Day match 20 years ago.

Anzac Day is on a Saturday this year and the AFL has scheduled five matches to mark the 100th anniversary of the Gallipoli landing.

But most AFL players go through their careers without playing on the day.

“The disappointing thing with football, and this will cause a little bit of controversy, is that Alan has played in it, I’ve coached in it and played on Anzac Day – it was a fluke of nature, way back,” he said.

“But not every player will have that opportunity.

“It is the grandest day in Australian history. It is a great opportunity to experience that feeling when you play or coach or be part of it. It should never be regarded as just a right . . . it’s a real privilege.”

Speaking at Melbourne’s Shrine of Remembrance on Thursday, Malthouse also hoped the St Kilda-Carlton game could become an annual Anzac Day fixture.

The two clubs will honour St Kilda player Claude Crowl and Carlton’s Fen McDonald.

The pair made their VFL debuts in the same 1911 match and were both understood to have died in the initial April 25 landing at Gallipoli.

“It’s quite incredible and humbling to think that 100 years ago to the day when we play our game in NZ, those two young men and many others were killed at Gallipoli,” Richardson said.

“They were just 22 and 23 years of age, which is the average age of an AFL player.”

Malthouse has always tried to make his players more aware of the significance of Anzac Day. AAP

George Bailey: Australian players ‘do not agree’ with Jonathan Agnew’s comments on Phillip Hughes

Diplomatic: George Bailey kept it short and sweet on Thursday. Photo: Brendan EspositoA diplomatic George Bailey says Australia do not agree with comments about their on-field conduct made by English commentator Jonathan Agnew, who maintains that an opportunity has been missed to curb abuse and sledging following Phillip Hughes’ death.
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The BBC caller and former England cricketer on Thursday sought to clarify the remarks made in an interview with Radio Times penning a column explaining his rationale. 

He had said initially that he had Michael Clarke’s eulogy from Hughes’ funeral “tucked away ready to throw at the Australians”, indicating they had failed to properly honour their late teammate’s spirit by continuing with their aggressive tactics in the Test series against India. There was not the same inflammatory tone in Agnew’s subsequent explanation, but he did not retreat from his general position.

Bailey, who will lead Australia at the World Cup if Clarke does not make his injury deadline, was reluctant to fire back at Agnew on Thursday. The stand-in captain said simply: “We don’t agree with his comments.” And when asked whether the Australians had been upset by them, he added: “No. He is entitled to his opinion.”

Privately, though, many in Australian cricket from players to the administration were angered.

There is disappointment at what has been received as a judgment made from the other side of the world that seemingly showed little appreciation for how raw Hughes’ death seven weeks ago remains, particularly with his former teammates. There is also bemusement at the focus on Australia’s behaviour when their rivals in the Border-Gavaskar Trophy Test series had more players reported by the ICC over the succession of flash points throughout the summer.

Agnew, for his part, claimed his argument had not been presented appropriately, but made no apology for bemoaning the continuation of what he regards as unnecessary confrontations.  “I wish to clear up any misunderstanding from my recent comments regarding sledging,” Agnew wrote in his column for the BBC website.

“These were picked up and presented out of context from an interview I gave to a non-sports magazine. I accept that, presented as such, they look clumsy and in need of explanation. The first thing I need to make clear is that my remarks are not critical of Michael Clarke, Australia’s captain. In fact, I have absolute admiration for his powerful and emotional speech at Phillip Hughes’ funeral, both in its presentation and content.”

Agnew referenced Clarke’s clash with James Anderson during the first Ashes Test last summer, in which the Australian captain warned him as he prepared to face Mitchell Johnson: “Get ready for a broken f***en arm”. He did not mention that Clarke’s barb had been made after Anderson threatened to punch Bailey in the face.

“Would Clarke feel as comfortable saying that now as he did then? I wonder what the eavesdropping television commentators might say now. Is this not the time, therefore, for the game to take a long, hard look at itself?” Agnew wrote.

“In his outstanding tribute to Hughes, Clarke talked about the spirit of cricket that binds us all together. He spoke of Hughes’ spirit being a custodian of the sport we love. We must listen to it, we must cherish it, we must learn from it,” he said.

“Clarke appeared to be acknowledging that cricket might be played differently from now on: more respectfully, at least. That was how it was interpreted by those who wish to see an end to on-field abuse.

“Hence my comments regarding the recent Test series between Australia and India. The verbal abuse, the posturing, the unnecessary gesturing appeared to be every bit as bad as ever. I am not interested in who started it or who was responsible (Clarke missed most of the series so he is hardly to blame]) The fact is that nothing changed, and that is disappointing.”

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GPs welcome backflip

IN a win for patients and general practitioners across the country, the government yesterday overturned its plans to cut Medicare rebates due to start on Monday.
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Federal Health Minister, Sussan Ley

Federal Health Minister Sussan Ley made the announcement following a week of uproar over the move that would have seen the rebate for consultations lasting less than 10 minutes drop from $37.05 to $16.95.

However, Ms Ley said the government would still make changes.

“I will be undertaking wide ranging consultation on the ground with doctors and the community across the country in order to come up with sensible options to deliver appropriate Medicare reforms,” Minister Ley said.

Mildura-based general practitioner Dr Mehdi Sanati said he was “very pleased” and appreciated that the government recognised the changes to Medicare were “not helpful for patients or the general health care system”.

But Ms Ley said she was still committed to another rebate cut that would see all non-concession patients charged a $5 co-payment beginning July 1.

She said doing nothing was not an option, and Medicare would not be sustainable if changes weren’t made.

Dr Mehdi Sanati believed GPs provided patients with a very high standard of practice, and the government should be investing in GPs, rather than targeting them.

“I’m hoping that this co-payment won’t happen,” he said.

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Etheridge sets sights on podium at Aussie under-21 speedway title

Buttai’s Jye Etheridge has fast-tracked his speedway development this year and has firmly set his sights on a podium finish at Saturday night’s Australian Under-21 Solo Speedway Title at Kurri Kurri.
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Buttai’s Jye Etheridge has a strong chance at the Australian Under-21 Speedway Solo title.

Etheridge and Pelaw Main’s Josh Pickering are among 16 riders in the qualifying event on Friday night for the 12 unseeded spots in the final.

Reigning under-21 Aussie champion Max Fricke, NSW senior and NSW under-21 cham­pion Brady Kurtz, Jack Holder and Jake Allen have all been seeded.

Only Kurtz didn’t take part in the recent Australian senior title series, preferring to ­concentrate on the under-21 title.

While Etheridge didn’t take part in the Aussie series, he has had a sensational start to the season, beating Newcastle’s international riders Jason Doyle and Sam Masters, who finished one and two in the national senior title along the way.

“It was a massive confidence boost to beat Doyly and Sam and Josh Grajczonek at the Phil Crump Invitational,” he said.

“I want to follow Jason Doyle’s footsteps.

“I’m good mates with both of them[(Doyle and Masters]. They give me a hand with a few things around the pits.”

On paper, part-time rider Etheridge faces a tough battle to overcome professionals Fricke and Kurtz, who both ride in the UK leagues.

“Top four is where I want to be and I’ve got a good chance,” Etheridge said.

Jye Etheridge is advancing along the road to a professional career in speedway.

“Starts will be everything. Once I’ve got the start I’m just as quick as anyone on the track.

“The professional guys are racing three times a week. I’m racing twice a month.

“That amount of racing gives you a real advantage in the reaction times at the start.”

Etheridge plans to go professional in 2016 after he has finished his apprenticeship.

“I’ll be going over (to the UK) in June this year to have a few rides and sort out a professional deal for 2016.

“I want to finish my last year as a fitter machiner before I commit myself fully.”

Etheridge admits it will be a long year waiting to make the move but he was committing all his efforts into making the move to the professional ranks.

“I’m living with mum and dad and got a room out the shed,” he said.

“When I open the door I’m in my workshop.

“I’m eating, training, sleeping doing everything I can to make racing my job.”

But it’s not a cheap venture, Etheridge said riders needed two bikes and there was little change frokm $40,000 to run them each season.

“The stock bike cost $10,000 each and when you fit them out with all the GP material it’s at least $16,000,” he said.

All Action Motorsports sponsor my tyres and Heffernan (speedway motor parts supplier) have been helping me outa bit.

“But the majority of the money needed comes from me and my family.”

The Australian Under-21 Solo Speedway Championship is at Kurri Kurri Speedway, Loxford, on Saturday. Gates open at 1pm, practice at 4pm and racing from 7pm.

The qualify series is on Friday with practice from 4pm and racing from 7pm.

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