A sneak preview of a Keneally bloodbath

A sneak preview of a Keneally bloodbath

Picture: ANDREW MEARESThe swing of almost 7 per cent against Labor across NSW continues a voting trend likely to overwhelm the Keneally government at the election in March.While the Premier, Kristina Keneally, was clinging for comfort to narrow Labor victories in two central coast seats and in the southern seat of Eden-Monaro, the results across greater Sydney, the Hunter and the south coast hold grave implications for Labor-held state seats.Byelections since late 2008 have produced state swings of between 10 and 25 per cent.The loss in Macquarie - based in the Blue Mountains and the Hawkesbury - suggests defeat in the state electorate of the Blue Mountains. The big anti-Labor swings in Lindsay and Greenway bode ill for the state electorates of Mulgoa, Londonderry, Riverstone and even Toongabbie. Calls for Bitar's head after inept campaign Voters censure Labor's lack of principlesThe Gillard government's failure to win Hughes in the south-west, nominally Labor under new boundaries, is bad for Labor in at least three state seats - Menai, Heathcote and parts of East Hills.Another nominally Labor federal seat, Macarthur on Sydney's south-west fringe, fell easily to the Liberals, putting on notice the state Labor MPs for Wollondilly and Camden.A third federal seat that had been redistributed in Labor's favour - Gilmore on the south coast - went comfortably Liberal, in a sign of likely defeat for the Keneally government in the electorate of Kiama.In the federal seat of Reid, in the inner-west, the Labor MP John Murphy, long considered an ideal parish-pump MP, suffered an 8 per cent swing, which should terrify the state Labor member for Drummoyne, Angela D'Amore.The Keneally government's prospect of holding the state seat of Coogee in Sydney's east also weakened, given the 10 per cent swing to the Liberals' Malcolm Turnbull in Wentworth and the 8 per cent swing from Labor's Peter Garrett in Kingsford-Smith. Coogee straddles the boundaries of Wentworth and Kingsford-Smith, and the Greens also polled strongly in both federal electorates.The huge Greens vote of 25 per cent-plus in the federal seat of Grayndler almost guarantees they will take the state electorate of Marrickville in March. Neighbouring Barton delivered an 8 per cent swing to the Liberals - a worrying portent for state Labor in the seats of Rockdale and, possibly, Kogarah.In regional NSW, the 8 per cent swing to the Nationals in Calare and the 5 per cent swing to the Liberals in Patterson - which Labor had targeted as a possible pick-up - will be gloomy results for the Keneally government as it fights to retain Bathurst and Maitland.While the Labor machine argues the Keneally government could withstand a uniform 7 per cent swing, the ABC election analyst, Antony Green, told the Herald: ''State Labor was not on the ballot at this election. The Keneally government should not be thinking about 7 per cent but about the 25 swing against it at the recent Penrith byelection.''
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DRAGONS BLOG: Why I hate the Raiders

DRAGONS BLOG: Why I hate the Raiders

Okay, maybe that’s a bit extreme. I mean, I can’t totally hate the place – my wife came from the city. And the in-laws still live there.It’s probably more accurate to say I hate part of the city. The part that wears awful lime green jerseys and hangs around in the vicinity of Bruce Stadium.I hate them because we’ve only beaten them once in roughly 712 games. I hate them because we haven’t won in Canberra since dinosaurs roamed the earth. I hate them because, even when their season is over or they’ve exhibited very ordinary form and it seems like a win over them should be the easiest thing in the world, it turns out to be anything but.Yesterday afternoon was supposed to be different. Yesterday afternoon was supposed to be the time we ended the hoodoo. We were in the ascendency on the back of two very good games while the Raiders were supposed to be feeling the pressure of having to beat the Dragons to keep their finals hopes alive.And, of course, we were supposed to inflict an enormous defeat that would see the Raiders fans leaving at half-time. Okay, to be honest, I’d have been happy if we only inflicted a small defeat. Even by a field goal in golden point. And I hate golden point. But I hate the Raiders more.All that was supposed to happen. In fact, I was so sure of things that I was really excited about watching the game. That lasted for half the game, where while we could only score a single try, we denied the Raiders 74 of them (yes, that’s correct. I counted each one). But then the second half came along and a different Dragons team came out.Actually, I reckon if you made the teams swap jerseys for the second half, their performances would fit what everyone expects of both teams. Everyone expects the Dragons to dominate the completion rate, starve the opposition of good field position and run in some tries. And everyone (except those who live in Canberra) expect the Raiders to perhaps score a try or two in the back 40 but generally get overwhelmed and lose.Yet the two sides reversed their roles in the second 40 – the Raiders came out ready to smash and score while our players seemed to have the hoodoo in our heads more than they might admit. And we got beaten by a scoreline I decline to mention here (but I think it was the most amount of points we’ve had scored on us this season. Which would be one more reason to hate the Raiders).While I am certainly incredibly irritated at the loss, it’s not the end of the world. Coming into the last three rounds, I would have loved to win them all but would settle for two out of three.And it’d also be nice if the Raiders didn’t make the semis. Because, if they do they’ll most likely finish in eighth spot and, with us most likely in first, that means we’d play them in the first week of the finals.And we all know how the Dragons go against Canberra.
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Rivals try to poach top Stingrays

Rivals try to poach top Stingrays

Grand final goal-scorer Ash Connor, plus Trudy Camilleri and Sam Muscat could be lost to the Stingrays in 2011 after rivals Marconi dangled cash in front of the trio before yesterday's decider.Coach Brett Wallin made the startling revelation just moments after Illawarra completed back-to-back doubles by defeating Inter Lions at Balls Paddock.Wallin, who has been with the Stingrays since their formation in 2006, is confident the lure of more silverware, rather than money, will keep the influential threesome in Wollongong. Stingrays celebrate grand final victory"A few of them have received money offers to go elsewhere," he said."I'm pretty angry about the timing, but if they can get money elsewhere that they can't here they're going to go with my blessing."This team doesn't want to split up. They love each other and work for each other. I think we have a very good chance to keep them."Players were offered cash to go elsewhere this year and they didn't go."Wallin declared his side could complete a hat-trick of top-flight titles next season if its core remains intact."If we stay together as a group I can't see any reason why we can't keep going," he said."We proved that this year when we lost some quality players and didn't miss a beat."Wallin pin-pointed hard work - not loot - as the reason why Illawarra could call themselves the best side he has seen at this level."That's a good call; it's the best team I've seen since I've been in the comp and that's seven years," he said."I don't know if we want that tag yet, but we're right up there as a great side."We're a good team on the training paddock as well."I've played in semi-pro teams and even the men didn't do that. They're unbelievable."We're where we are because we are the hardest working side."Although Illawarra had to battle hard for their third consecutive grand final victory - including the 2008 Super League triumph - Wallin believed the title was never in danger."It was unreal, the result could have come a bit earlier, their goalkeeper did very well in the first half," he said."We controlled the game and picked up where we left off in the major semi against Manly."They only had a couple of chances on the break - our two best performances of the year came at the right end."
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Wayne Bennett’s take on latest Raiders loss

Wayne Bennett’s take on latest Raiders loss

Danielle Vidot gets a late ball away. David Shillington comes under pressure from the Dragons. Pictures: KARLEEN MINNEY
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Coach Wayne Bennett has promised there will be no psychological fallout from another loss by St George Illawarra to Canberra in the national capital yesterday.Stretching their Canberra Stadium winning streak over the Dragons to 10 years and eight consecutive wins, the Raiders piled on six second-half tries in an emphatic 32-16 victory.Last year the Green Machine were full of grit and barge in a strong-arm performance that derailed the Dragons' premiership campaign. Full coverage of the Dragons Yesterday, it was an effort full of breathtaking skill that delivered four tries in eight minutes to deny the competition leaders victory and stop them from securing the minor premiership, at least for now.But Bennett dismissed comparisons to last year's devastating loss, declaring the Dragons had suffered an intensity let-down on the back of rugged recent victories over Manly and the Roosters."I expected a flat spot," Bennett said."You can't go and play Manly last week and the Roosters the week before [without one]."And [we had] the Broncos the week before that up in Brisbane, the list just goes on for us in the last five weeks."We've been on our game and we've been trying extremely hard."We were a bit off the pace here today and we hung in good and we were gutsy to half-time, but they played just about the perfect second half."Canberra trailed 4-0 at the break, only because of some desperate Dragons defence which denied them on several occasions, but winger Daniel Vidot put the Raiders on the board when he scored in the corner on 49 minutes.It signalled the start of a Raiders onslaught which saw them score four tries in eight minutes, including breathtaking runaway efforts from fullback Josh Dugan and second-rower Joe Picker.The floodgates had suddenly opened, after the Raiders went to half-time wondering how they were going to break them.St George Illawarra produced a mini-revival when Mark Gasnier (70th minute) and Neville Costigan (72nd) crossed to close the gap from 22 points to 26-16.But replacement hooker Glen Buttriss darted over with three minutes left to seal victory for Canberra.The heat remains on the Dragons in the minor premiership race with two rounds remaining, after Wests Tigers hung on to beat Parramatta yesterday at Parramatta Stadium.And the Gold Coast have the chance to join the Tigers on 32 competition points, two behind the Dragons, if they beat the Roosters in Sydney tonight.Bennett said St George Illawarra's focus would be on regrouping for Saturday night's showdown with Newcastle and not capturing the JJ Giltinan Shield for a second successive year."It would be nice [the minor premiership], but we're in a great position," he said."We've just got to go home and get ourselves refocused a little bit and recognise the things that work for us."And not the things that make us look like any other team and that's what we were in the second half today, just another footy team," he admitted.

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Albion Park campaign to win Miss World crown

Albion Park campaign to win Miss World crown

Miss World Australia Ashleigh Francis at Tecnica salon in Albion Park with Felice Colarusso. Pictures: SYLVIA LIBER Ashleigh Francis shows the style that won her the Miss World Australia title.
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Is Ashleigh Francis, 23, the young woman who can bring the Miss World crown back to Australia for the first time since Belinda Green won in 1972?Albion Park hair and beauty salon owner and national Miss World Australia judge Felice Colarusso thinks she has a great chance.In fact, Mr Colarusso and hairdresser Zarrette Sheil are keen to help Ms Francis prepare in any way they can to be the first Australian in 38 years to win the international title.They talked her into choosing Albion Park for her first public appearance since she was named Miss World Australia, on August 3.It didn't take too much to convince the former McDonalds' College of the Performing Arts student and budding fashion designer to visit the Illawarra.Ms Francis lives at Rushcutters Bay with her Jamaican father and Scottish mother, but once lived in the Macarthur region and spent many a summer's day visiting Bulli."I used to go to Bulli for the dogs and I would sit under those big palm trees and get fish and chips across the road," she said."Bulli was awesome."Ms Francis' visit to Albion Park on Saturday was an important part of her preparation for the Miss World judging in China in just over a month, where she will contest the title with 119 other young women from around the globe.The contestants won't have hairdressers or beauticians on hand during their four weeks in China, so Ms Francis was invited to the Tecnica salon for tips and advice on how to manage it all herself.She said she was also using her contact with Mr Colarusso, who has also judged in Italy, to help get herself mentally ready for the month away from home."It will be very intense but I am up for the challenge," she said."We will be constantly watched. It is very exciting."The pressure to go there and do your best is a challenge in its own right and that is what I have promised myself and Australia that I will go and do."It is 38 years since Australia has won the title ... I believe it is our time."

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