Diana ‘best mum in world’

Rather, it was an image of Diana at her most intimate and unguarded – the princess as a doting mother of William and Harry.

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"To us, just two loving children, she was quite simply the best mother in the world," 22-year-old Harry says.

"She kissed us last thing at night. Her beaming smile greeted us from school.

“She laughed hysterically and uncontrollably when sharing something silly she might have said or done that day," Harry says with a mixture of princely composure and deep feeling.

Week of mourning ends

The memorial service yesterday organised by Prince William and Prince Harry climaxed a week of recalling her life and reviving old battles, albeit in a far lower key than the emotional tidal wave that swept over Britain following her death 10 years ago.

In his eulogy, Harry says it is important "that we remember our mother as she would wish to be remembered, as she was: fun-loving, generous, down to earth and entirely genuine."

The service went off with customary royal dignity, just days after published criticism from one of Diana's friends that persuaded Prince Charles' second wife, Camilla, to abandon plans of attending.

‘End the sniping’

To the princess, her close friends and legions of Dianaphiles, Camilla was the other woman who destroyed the marriage.

Richard Chartres, the bishop of London, called for an end to the sniping.

"Still 10 years after her tragic death there are regular reports of 'fury' at this or that incident and the princess' memory is used for scoring points. Let it end here," Mr Chartres says.

"Let this service mark the point at which we let her rest in peace and dwell on her memory with thanksgiving and compassion."

That may be wishful thinking.

Diana still icon

Diana's face still sells magazines and newspapers, and her story inspires an unending stream of books.

A formal inquest into her death opens later this year.

Mohamed al Fayed, whose son died with Diana in the car crash in Paris, has hired a high-paid legal team to argue that the couple were the victims of an Establishment conspiracy led by the queen's husband, Prince Philip.

A poll commissioned by Channel 4 television suggested that one in four Britons believe Diana was murdered.

Diana's admirers, many of them suspicious of the cause of her death and resentful of Charles, tied bouquets, poems and portraits to the gates of Kensington Palace, her former home.

Tribute to ‘Mum’

For Harry and his older brother William, it was a simple tribute to an adored mother.

"When she was alive, we completely took for granted her unrivalled love of life, laughter, fun and folly," he says.

"She was our guardian, friend and protector. She never once allowed her unfaltering love for us to go unspoken or undemonstrated."

Harry, who was 12 when Diana died, said losing a parent at such a tender age "is indescribably shocking and sad."

Crowd of VIPs

Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip were among the 500 people in the chapel.

Prince Edward, Charles' younger brother, and his sister, Princess Anne, also were there, as were Prime Minister Gordon Brown, former prime ministers John Major and Tony Blair, and representatives of 110 charities Diana supported.

Mr Al Fayed observed his own two minutes of silence at Harrods, his department store, an hour before the memorial service.

In the past, the royal family had refrained from any public remembrance of the anniversary of the princess' death.

This year, however, William and Harry took the lead in organising the memorial service, as well as a rock concert on Diana's birthday, July 1, which drew 70,000 paying fans.

The Reverend Frank Gelli, who has led an informal service outside Kensington Palace every year, said yesterday's probably would be the last.

"It would be good if the princess was allowed to rest," he says.


Mortar kills 12 in Baghdad

A mortar barrage has slammed into a mainly Shi'ite east Baghdad neighborhood, killing 12 and wounding 31.

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A major battle also raged north of the capital where residents of a Shi'ite city were fighting what police said was a band of al-Qaeda in Iraq.

Women and children were among the dead and wounded in the Baghdad mortar attack and some houses in the neighbourhood were damaged, police said.

The victims were taken to Ibin al-Nafis and Sadr hospitals.

Witnesses said US helicopters were hovering above the attack site.

Al-Qaeda counteroffensive

In Khalis, 80km north of Baghdad, police said more than 1,500 people including sheiks and dignitaries had gathered near city hall to launch the counteroffensive against al-Qeida fighters who have been regularly firing mortars into the town and kidnapping residents at illegal checkpoints.

At least seven people were killed and 18 wounded in a mortar attack on Khalis yesterday.

Police said the city militia also said they were determined to push al-Qaeda fighters out of the nearby town of Hibhib, where the terror organisation's former leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi was killed in an US air strike.

In central Baghdad, gunmen driving several cars waylaid a minibus headed for Sadr City, the capital's Shi'ite enclave, and abducted 13 passengers.

Interfactional talks

Meanwhile, Iraq's fractious leaders have agreed on the agenda for a political summit called by embattled Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki in a bid to salvage his crumbling unity government.

The breakthrough came on the second day of preparatory talks involving the country's most senior political leaders, Vice President Tareq al-Hashemi said in a statement.

In a bid to shore up his government, Maliki announced the formation of an alliance grouping his Shiite Dawa party and Supreme Iraqi Islamic Council and the Kurdish factions of Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) and Kurdish Democratic Party (PDK).

But the National Concord Front slammed the new tie-up as a "futile" exercise.

Mr Maliki is under growing pressure from Washington to end the infighting, concerned that it could torpedo efforts to reconcile the warring factions and undermine the work of 155,000 American troops trying to end the conflict.

The US has pushed around 30,000 extra troops as part of a "surge" into Baghdad and surrounding flashpoint provinces in a bid to stamp out the sectarian violence which has killed thousands of people in the past 18 months.

Displaced

Meanwhile, several families are displaced following suicide truck bombings that killed up to 500 people in Northern Iraq last week.

The coordinated suicide truck bombings were the worst terrorist attack since the beginning of the war.

The victims of the attack, which the US blamed on al-Qaida, were members of the Yazidis, a small Kurdish sect that has been the target of Muslim extremists who label it blasphemous.


Sudan 'overlooked rapes'

The UN's top human rights office has released new details of the rapes, reportedly carried out by soldiers and government militia.

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"The abuses may also constitute war crimes," said the report by the office of Louise Arbour, UN high commissioner for human rights.

Members of the Sudanese armed forces and allied militiamen allegedly subjected around 50 women to multiple rapes and other forms of violence in an attack on the village of Deribat in late December, it said, adding that they abducted many children.

Deribat was one of nine villages attacked in the eastern Jebel Marra region of Darfur at the time, it said, adding that 36 civilians were killed and many people were driven from their homes.

"Interviews indicate that the abducted women were systematically raped," said yesterday's report, which was compiled by a team of UN human rights investigators.

Armed forces blamed

Testimony from victims indicated that the attacks were committed by members of the Sudanese armed forces and affiliated groups, the report said.

Ms Arbour's office urged the Sudanese government to "establish an independent body to investigate abduction, rape and sexual slavery committed in the region," and said the suspects should be brought to justice.

The office said in a report last April that the military and its allies have been using rape as part of a wider assault on people belonging to the same ethnic group as some Darfuri rebels.

The report said UN representatives presented the initial findings to local authorities in Darfur, but "no investigations were carried out by the authorities," it said.

Sudanese government reaction was not immediately available.

Daughter witnessed rape

The report said a woman who had been abducted from Deribat with her 16-year-old daughter described how the women were raped in front of each other.

Those who resisted would be beaten with sticks, the report said.

The women suffered physical injuries and psychological trauma from the repeated rapes by many of the attackers, the report said.

"A number of women became pregnant as a result of the rape," posing a further health risk to them, it said.

The women were forced to cook and serve food to their abductors, but received only leftovers to eat, according to the report.

Darfur has been the scene of a bloody four-year conflict between government-backed militias and rebel forces that has so far seen more than 200,000 people killed and at least 2.5 million driven from their homes, according to UN estimates.


Rebels rue missed chances in Super loss

The Melbourne Rebels will look to pounce on a weary Sharks outfit to try to rescue their South African tour with a win in Durban next week.

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The Rebels blew a solid chance to gain their first ever Super Rugby victory on South African soil with a frustrating 31-15 loss to the Stormers at Newlands.

Despite having 67 per cent of possession, they were at times their own worst enemy.

Hooker Pat Leafa had a costly brain explosion after the half-time siren that gifted the Stormers a try and swung momentum back the Cape Town side’s way.

Instead of booting the ball into touch while they were on their own tryline, he passed the ball straight into the arms of Stormers winger Dillyn Leyds, who strolled across for the first of his two tries and pushed the margin out to 18-7.

After that blow they scrambled to score two second half tries through centre Dom Shipperley and winger Tom English but couldn’t close the margin on the Stormers, who moved to top of the South African conference and third overall.

Rebels skipper Scott Higginbotham lamented their high error count and said a video review of the match would be painful to watch.

“It’s going to be a tough one to review because our errors would have been through the roof and that’s disappointing,” Higginbotham said.

“We played some great football but credit to the Stormers, they really kept it in play for 80 minutes.”

Rebels coach Tony McGahan said there was still a lot to like about the performance ahead of their clash with the Sharks next Sunday (AEST).

“We take a lot of positives out of that performance despite the result, however a lack of composure at our end provided them with some easy points,” McGahan said.

“It’s a very tough place to come and play and with finals on the horizon, it was a really important game for them and they’re a quality side.”

Like Melbourne, the Sharks are out of the running for the finals – fourth in their conference and one place behind the Rebels in 11th overall.

The Rebels will be hoping the Sharks will find the going tough after returning from a disappointing Australia and New Zealand trip that only yielded one win.

They are coming off a scrappy 21-14 win over the lowly Reds in Brisbane which was their sole victory of their four game tour, losing to the Waratahs, Hurricanes and Highlanders.

The Rebels should have their three injured players, centre Tamati Ellison, winger Sefanaia Naivalu and prop Toby Smith, available.


Campbell backs Magnussen swim return

Back to her best after her own shoulder surgery hell, Cate Campbell has tipped James Magnussen to repeat the feat by the Rio Olympics following his devastating world titles withdrawal.

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Magnussen’s quest to become the first person to win three straight 100m freestyle world titles has been shattered after being ordered to undergo immediate shoulder surgery.

The sprint king will be a glaring omission at July’s world championships in Russia and place enormous pressure on him to be fully fit by the 2016 Rio Games.

Fellow world 100m champion Campbell knew exactly what lay ahead for Magnussen and did not try to sugar-coat it.

“I wouldn’t wish it on my worst enemy and certainly not a teammate,” Campbell told AAP.

“Shoulders are very tough to come back from.”

But Campbell is proof a stunning comeback is possible.

Campbell admitted she was willing to sacrifice her world title defence at Kazan this year and concentrate on the Rio Olympics when she underwent shoulder surgery last August.

But during a slow recovery she feared she may have ruined her Olympic dream and possibly prematurely ended her career.

However after bouncing back at April’s national titles, Campbell is again suddenly the one to beat at the world titles and Rio.

“I think it is a very wise decision,” Campbell said of Magnussen opting for surgery.

“Ultimately everyone’s focus is on Rio and I think it is wise that he gets the surgery done now so when the Olympics roll around he will be as close to 100 per cent as he can be.”

Magnussen will have surgery in June after it emerged damage to his left shoulder had caused it to lose 70 per cent of its strength.

Campbell said Magnussen had already shown the mental strength to overcome the huge hurdle.

Magnussen bounced back from a horror London Olympics where he bombed in the relay and was denied 100m gold by American Nathan Adrian’s fingernail by defending his world title in 2013.

“He has already shown he is a tough competitor, that he is willing to do whatever it takes,” Campbell said.

“That will serve him well over the next few months.

“If anyone can do it, James can.”

Magnussen was trying to stay positive.

“We, as a team, have explored every possible avenue to allow me to compete but unfortunately surgery is the only viable option if I am to be fit for the 2016 Rio Olympics,” he said in a statement.

“I will now focus all my time and effort on preparing for the Olympics next year.”

Australian head coach Jacco Verhaeren is yet to decide who replaces Magnussen in the 50m and 100m events and the 4x100m freestyle relay.


Maroons boast bigger Origin firepower

Queensland head into Wednesday’s State of Origin opener with far superior firepower and with questions dangling about NSW’s ability to put points on the board.

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NSW go into Game I at ANZ Stadium with the Origin shield in the trophy cabinet however statistics show the Maroons boast a far better attacking arsenal, especially in the absence of Jarryd Hayne.

According to Fox Sports Stats, the Blues backline has just eight Origin try assists to their credit from their cumulative 47 games.

The Queensland backline, which features many who have been touted as future Immortals including Greg Inglis, Billy Slater and Johnathan Thurston, boasts a lethal strike rate.

While the Maroons’ outside men have played nearly three times more Origin games (135 to 47), they have set up 46 tries at interstate level – six times more than their Blues rivals.

Thurston alone has set up more than three times more tries than the entire Blues backline during his Origin career having put his teammates over on 25 occasions.

His Blues opposite number Mitchell Pearce has been one of the competition’s best halves at club level this year, he goes into the game unproven at representative level with four try assists from 12 games.

The Blues won last year’s series, however they scored just four tries and across all three games and were defeated by a cumulative points total of 44-26.

Half of NSW’s tries last year were set up or scored by former fullback Hayne, who is in America pursuing an NFL career.

While the Queenslanders have Inglis and Darius Boyd, who share the record for the highest number of Origin tries with 15, Hayne’s absence leaves a hole in the Blues line up.

Hayne’s departure to the US will heap pressure on his NSW No.1 successor Josh Dugan, who has been touted as a match-winner by those on both sides of the Origin fence.

Inglis described the St George Illawarra fullback as the Blues’ biggest danger while former NSW coach Phil Gould said Origin I was his time to stand up.

“(Dugan) has been a little bit quiet which is good for Duges, he know he’s got a big job at hand and he’s got that confidence as well,” Dugan’s NSW and Dragons teammate Trent Merrin said.

“He’s tapering for Wednesday night.”

GIVING THE ASSIST

Statistics for State of Origin try assists for the NSW and Queensland backlines for Game I

* Johnthan Thurston – 25

* Cooper Cronk 7

* Greg Inglis – 6

* Mitchell Pearce – 4

* Justin Hodges – 3

* Billy Slater – 3

* Darius Boyd – 2

* Josh Morris – 2

* Josh Dugan – 1

* Trent Hodkinson – 1

* Will Hopoate – 0

* Daniel Tupou – 0

* Michael Jennings – 0

* Will Chambers – 0


Golden State destroy Rockets in NBA

It was billed as a must-win for the Houston Rockets on their home court, but in the first six minutes of the game Golden State Warriors’ centre Andrew Bogut did something critics thought was beyond him.

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The 213cm tall Australian centre was unstoppable on the offensive end.

In that six minute opening period on Saturday Bogut, just days ago named one of the NBA’s best defensive players, scored 10 of the Warriors’ first 17 points.

The Rockets never recovered from that opening burst and the Warriors went on to a 115-80 blowout victory.

The win gave the Warriors a 3-0 lead in the Western Conference Finals and one more victory will book them a place in the NBA Championship series for the first time in 40 years.

“Bogut was terrific,” Warriors coach Steve Kerr said.

In a 23-second stretch in the first quarter Bogut hit a sweet hook shot, drew a charging foul on Dwight Howard and then dunked a lob pass from teammate Draymond Green.

With his job done and the Warriors’ shooters Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson stepping in and virtually ending the game early in the second quarter, Bogut sat out most of the second half.

The Australian finished with 12 points, on five from eight shooting, and 12 rebounds before fouling out in the fourth quarter.

Curry pulled off another spectacular performance, scoring 40 points, including sinking seven of his nine three-point attempts, while Thompson had 17 points.

A seething Howard told reporters he was surprised his teammates did not put up a fight in a game that was important to keeping their playoff hopes alive.

“We have to man up and not quit on each other,” Howard, with 14 points and 14 rebounds, said.

Howard didn’t point any fingers, but the Rockets’ runner-up to Curry for this year’s NBA MVP award, James Harden, made just three of his 16 field goal attempts.

The Warriors led 30-18 at the end of the first quarter, at half-time steam-rolled to 62-37 and in the final quarter the 18,282 fans who packed into Houston’s Toyota Center expecting a home win were in their cars driving home or deathly quiet in their seats.

“We got hammered on the boards and we got beaten in the paint,” Rockets coach Kevin McHale said.

“We had no answer to that.”

Kerr, who won three NBA Championships with the Chicago Bulls and two with the San Antonio Spurs as a player, was one of the NBA’s best three-point shooters.

He gave Curry the ultimate praise.

“I don’t think we’ve ever seen anyone shoot the ball like Steph,” Kerr said.

The Warriors can close out the series in Houston on Monday.

Their likely opponent will be the Cleveland Cavaliers who hold a 2-0 lead in the Eastern Conference Finals against an injury-depleted Atlanta Hawks.

If the Cavaliers do eliminate the Hawks and the Warriors finish off Houston it will pit Cleveland’s Australian point guard Matthew Dellavedova against Boomer teammate Bogut for the NBA title.

The Cavaliers play the Hawks in game three on Sunday (Monday AEST) in Cleveland.


Shorten has no time for welfare cheats

Welfare cheats give everyone legitimately receiving assistance a bad name, says Opposition Leader Bill Shorten.

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Mr Shorten was responding to reports that the Abbott government intends to appoint a senior federal police officer to crack down on welfare fraud.

Human Services Minister Marise Payne says the task force will focus on recovering money from those on income support payments like Newstart, Youth Allowance and pensions who have underestimated or lied about their income.

The government estimates the task force will recoup about $1 billion.

“This measure will allow the department to uncover overpayments, recoup debts and investigate deliberate welfare fraud,” Ms Payne said.

Mr Shorten said Labor will carefully consider measures to improve compliance because the party has no time for anyone defrauding the system.

“It is illegal to do this,” he told reporters in Ballarat on Sunday.

“But … if we are talking about making sure that the AFP has a role here, government needs to explain why they are cutting the number of AFP officers by 115.”

Greens senator Rachel Siewert said the government is deliberately trying to smear all income support recipients with this latest “tough cop on the beat” approach to welfare.

She said appointing a senior police officer to target welfare fraud implies the problems are related to deliberate fraud rather than administrative errors resulting from a complex and unwieldy system.

“Government should be pursuing with the same vigour those at the big end of town who are deliberately avoiding paying tax,” Senator Siewert said in a statement.


Waratahs Latu and Skelton cited

NSW Waratahs forwards Tolu Latu and Will Skelton and one of their potential Super Rugby opponents next week, have all been hit with alleged foul play citings after being involved in lifting tackles.

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Hooker Latu and lock Skelton were both cited for their involvement in a tackle on Crusaders lock Sam Whitelock in the 17th minute of Saturday’s match at ANZ Stadium.

Latu was given a yellow card at the time and Skelton went unpunished, but upon review the citing commissioner deemed that the alleged action of both men met the red card threshold for foul play.

Any suspension would rule them out of at least the first game of the Waratahs South African trip against the Lions in Johannesburg next weekend.

A few hours after the game in Sydney later, Lions hooker Robbie Coetzee was hit with the same alleged foul play citing as Latu and Skelton following an incident in the match against the Cheetahs in Bloemfontein.

Like the two Waratahs, Coetzee was cited for contravening law 10.4 (I) which refers to lifting a player from the ground and dropping or driving that player into the ground whilst that player’s feet are still off the ground such that the players head and/or upper body come into contact with the ground is dangerous play.

Coetzee was given a yellow card at the time.

If Latu was banned it would mean the Tahs might have to resort to starting with their third-string hooker, Hugh Roach and pluck someone out of club rugby as his backup.

Last week Waratahs coach Michael Cheika said their leading hooker Tatafu Polota-Nau would not be taken to South Africa to give him another couple of weeks to recover from his second bout of concussion this season.

News of Latu and Skelton’s citings could have been an unpleasant surprise for Cheika, who after the game felt neither man was likely to get into trouble.

“The match officials were all there and they took a long look.” Cheika said.

“He (Whitelock) didn’t land on his head.

“It was an awkward combination of the two, they were trying to hold him up for the maul, one was up top.

“Sometimes it just happens, so I wouldn’t expect that anything was going to happen.

If Skelton is suspended, Cheika will have another quality lock to call upon, with former Wallaby Dean Mumm linking up with the Waratahs in South Africa.

Mumm is heading there from Europe after completing his English club commitments.

Skelton and Latu will each appear before a SANZAR judicial hearing conducted through a video conference on Monday at 3.30pm AEST.


Hoffman hails Blues’ new Bash Brother

Ryan Hoffman says NSW debutants Josh Jackson and David Klemmer are ready to fill the shoes of `Bash Brothers’ Paul Gallen and Greg Bird and does not expect them to miss a beat at ANZ Stadium on Wednesday night.

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The Bulldogs pair have been called into the Blues line up for Gallen (hip) and Bird (suspension) for the first game of NSW’s Origin shield defence.

As the Blues wrapped up their training camp at Coffs Harbour on Sunday, Hoffman nominated the two debutants as being among the most impressive.

“Josh Jackson has got a very, very simple role but you know he’s going to do that role well,” Hoffman said.

“That’s what we require. All the new guys have impressed me. I guess that’s the benefit of having kids who are debuting who are really confident in their abilities. They just come into this Origin scenario and they know they’ve got what it takes.

“It’s all about putting it all on the field and `Klem’ is the same.

“He’s running hard in training, just as I’m sure he’s going to be running hard on Wednesday night and that’s what we want to see.”

After completing a training run at their Coffs Harbours base on Sunday, the team will fly to Sydney in the afternoon as they ramp up preparations for Origin I.

While Queensland has had to deal with several headaches, including question marks over the fitness of Billy Slater, Greg Inglis and Justin Hodges and the withdrawal of Daly Cherry-Evans, it has been smooth sailing for the Blues at Camp Coffs.

The team has had an almost ideal preparation for Game I so far with few hiccups and the laid-back coastal city providing a settled backdrop and few interruptions.

“We’re confident in what we’ve done and we’ve put the right steps in place,” Hoffman said.

“We have two more sessions including today’s session to put that final polish on and we’ll keep on building.

“We’re not trying to be perfect today, we just want to make sure we’ll be perfect on Wednesday night.”


Knights not taking Baby Broncos lightly

Newcastle say they are more worried about ensuring they have not presided over a false dawn rather than the returning Wayne Bennett and his undermanned “Baby Broncos”.

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The Knights are favoured to wrap up back-to-back wins against Brisbane on Monday night after snapping a five-game losing streak against the Wests Tigers last week.

The Knights will be missing just one player because of State of Origin in Beau Scott, after Dane Gagai was released from Queensland camp when Greg Inglis was cleared of tonsillitis.

The Broncos will be without Corey Parker, Justin Hodges, Sam Thaiday, Matt Gillett, Josh McGuire and Darius Boyd however they are not suffering a dearth of experience.

Dale Copley, Daniel Vidot and David Stagg slot back in while their spine remains pretty much intact, with their halves and hooker remaining the same.

The Broncos have been ordinary without their Origin stars in the past three seasons, winning just two of five games, however they will field just one debutant in Joe Boyce against the Knights.

“I don’t think you can view them any differently,” Knights winger James McManus said.

“It’s been the same story for the Broncos for years and there’s always young and enthusiastic guys getting their opportunity at this time of year … And they’ve still got some great players in their team, we certainly can’t take them any differently.”

Monday night’s match will mark Bennett’s first visit to Hunter Stadium since quitting the Knights and returning to coach Brisbane this season.

McManus said the Knights’ most pressing priority was getting their NRL finals push back on track after looking strong early in the season when they won their opening four.

“There’s always room to improve and regardless of the win we certainly have a lot of things to work on,” McManus said.

“The determination we showed in our (defence) and we just dug in for each other on the weekend and that’s what we need is that desperation.”

STATS THAT MATTER

* The Knights have won just 13 of 43 matches against the Broncos.

* Last year the Broncos beat the Knights by a cumulative margin of 80-12 across three games.

* Brisbane is the only team Newcastle has not defeated at Hunter Stadium since 2011.

* Newcastle has busted the most tackles of any team this season, and has made the fourth most linebreaks.


Pendlebury up forward a growing trend

He played alongside him for two seasons and has coached him for the previous four, making Collingwood coach Nathan Buckley the perfect judge of Scott Pendlebury’s AFL career to date.

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The Magpies skipper brought up 200 games in style against the Suns, crafting out 35 quality touches and booting three goals in Collingwood’s 20.12 (132) to 9.9 (63) victory at the Gold Coast’s Metricon Stadium on Saturday night.

Jamie Elliott (five goals) and Jesse White (four) also starred for the Pies alongside defender Marley Williams (33 disposals), while key midfielder Steele Sidebottom returned from a thumb injury with 32 touches.

Pendlebury appeared to be sluggish during the opening minutes of the 69-point win, but any doubts of the 27-year-old’s effectiveness were alleviated when the 2010 Premiership winner kicked his first goal in the 3rd minute.

Collingwood’s number 10 set up Travis Varcoe before kicking his second inside the final 20 seconds of an inspired first quarter where he started in the forward line.

Having had the rare pleasure of coaching Pendlebury and also having him as a teammate during the midfielder’s fledging years as an AFL footballer, Buckley says it’s the little things his captain does which make him a complete professional.

“It looks like everything’s been plain sailing for ‘Pendles’, he’s been robust, he backs up every week, but I think what that hides is he’s been challenged, he’s probably been vulnerable, he’s had to reinvent himself,” Buckley said.

“He’s had to face self-doubts; he’s had to push the little man off his shoulder that’s saying ‘maybe not today, maybe I don’t have to do these extras, maybe I can give this one per-center a miss, the ice-bath or the diet or the sleep’, but he’s pushed through those.

“We all have them, but he’s pushed through them. It looks like it comes naturally to him, it looks like it’s easy, but it doesn’t happen that way.”

Collingwood’s midfield depth allowed Buckley to start the five-time All-Australian up front against the Suns, with the move paying off immediately as Pendlebury took four marks, including three inside the forward-50, while raking up 11 disposals during the opening quarter.

Buckley says the versatility of his skipper means he can continue nurture his younger midfield brigade.

“Pendles is damaging wherever he goes. If he’s being sat on we can use him in different places to our advantage,” he said.

“We know if we want to continue to develop a side that can challenge the best sides, we need to develop (19-year-old) Jordan de Goey, his ability to go through the midfield, Jamie Elliott (22), his ability to go through the midfield, Alex Fasolo (22) at times, Jarryd Blair (25), Tim Broomhead (21) we’re looking to develop our youth in the right doses.”

The Magpies currently sit fifth on the ladder with a 5-3 win-loss record and will be full of confidence heading into their round nine clash against North Melbourne next weekend.


Real heavyweight Ronaldo backs coach Ancelotti

Perez is widely expected to make Ancelotti the scapegoat after Real ended the season without winning a major trophy but the intervention of dressing-room heavyweight Ronaldo may make him think twice.

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Ronaldo netted a hat-trick in Real’s final game of the campaign on Saturday, a 7-3 drubbing of city rivals Getafe at the Bernabeu, taking his tally at the top of the La Liga scoring chart to 48 goals.

It was his best single-season haul in Spain’s top flight since he joined from Manchester United in 2009 and two short of the record of 50 set in 2011-12 by Barcelona forward Lionel Messi, who scored 43 this term.

After the match, Portugal captain Ronaldo posted a message on his Twitter feed with a photograph of himself and Ancelotti.

“Great coach and amazing person,” Ronaldo wrote. “Hope we work together next season.”

Ancelotti, who led Real to a record-extending 10th European title and a King’s Cup triumph in his debut year in Spain in 2013-14, has made it clear he wants to carry on but said on Saturday if Real do let him go he would take a year out.

His contract runs until the end of next season and he said he expected to meet with club officials early next week to discuss his future.

Media reports in Italy have suggested the 55-year-old could return to former club AC Milan, with whom he won the European Cup as both a player and coach.

Napoli’s Spanish coach Rafa Benitez is the frontrunner to replace Ancelotti at Real, where he had a stint as a youth trainer, according to local media.

Real’s Colombia midfielder James Rodriguez also backed Ancelotti after Saturday’s game.

“He arrived two years ago and he knows the team, he knows how we are and how we go about things,” he told Spanish television. “But it’s not my decision and it’s not my place to talk about it.”

(Reporting by Iain Rogers, editing by Amlan Chakraborty)