Schoolboy Kangaroos not up to scratch

North Melbourne coach Brad Scott says his players need to graduate from their schoolboy errors before they can call themselves a good side.

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The Kangaroos were given a lesson in the art of skill and pressure in Saturday’s 73-point loss to premiership favourites Fremantle in Perth.

The result leaves North Melbourne precariously placed at 4-4 heading into tough games against Collingwood, West Coast, Sydney, and GWS.

North Melbourne reached a preliminary final last year, and were expected to challenge for the premiership this season.

But Scott says his side are way off the mark at the moment.

“We just got killed in terms of errors,” Scott said.

“Good sides don’t give up. I think we conceded 13 goals from turnovers – really soft goals – and good sides don’t do that.

“We’re not in the good side category yet because we are not defending well enough and producing consistently enough.

“Just some schoolboy stuff at times.”

Scott said the absence of prime movers Daniel Wells (Achilles tendon), Nick Dal Santo (hamstring), and Andrew Swallow (thumb) couldn’t be used as an excuse for their poor display.

“I thought the effort for the most part was ok, but we left too much to too few,” Scott said.

“We’ve got some guys that need to stand up and start playing an AFL brand of footy.”

Forward Jarrad Waite is in some doubt for Sunday’s clash with Collingwood at the MCG after hurting his foot early against the Dockers.

Waite was able to play out the match after receiving treatment, with Scott revealing the injury was a flare-up of a past complaint.

Fremantle (8-0) remain two wins clear on top of the table following their best ever start to an AFL season.

Nat Fyfe (37 disposals, 11 clearances) boosted his Brownlow medal chances with another best-on-ground display, while Michael Walters (four goals) produced his finest game of the season.

Skipper Matthew Pavlich was subbed off early in the last quarter as a precaution, but coach Ross Lyon expects the 33-year-old to play in Saturday night’s clash with the Crows in Adelaide.

“He came in with a slightly tight abductor, and it was a greasy night,” Lyon said.

“We were in the position to choose between Aaron Sandilands, Matthew Pavlich, David Mundy, Michael Johnson and Luke McPharlin (as the sub).

“Pavlich was the one tonight.”

Fremantle have been able to keep the majority of their best 22 out on the park this season.

Lyon knows injuries will come at some point, and he’s urging his charges to make the most of their good run while the sun is shining.

“It’s a long hard year, it’s a marathon,” Lyon said.

“We’re a third of the way through. Anything can happen from here.”


Abbott focuses on passing budget

Small business and Australian jihadis will be on the federal government’s mind as parliament returns for a fortnight-long sitting.

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The opposition intends to highlight the “sneaky cuts” hidden in the federal budget.

Labor will pursue this theme both in the lower house where budget bills are up for debate and during estimates hearings when senators get the chance to quiz ministers and senior government officials.

Prime Minister Tony Abbott indicated on Sunday the government will put new counter-terrorism laws to parliament this week.

It’s anticipated these will give the government the power to strip dual nationals of their Australian citizenship if they join terrorist organisations.

The government is also understood to be considering ways to restrict the rights of foreign fighters who only hold Australian citizenship.

But Mr Abbott said it wasn’t his priority to get these new laws passed straight away.

“The priority this week is getting the budget bills through … unleashing the latent creativity of the small businesses of Australia,” he told reporters in Brisbane.

The key measure he wants Labor’s immediate support on is a $20,000 instant asset write-off for small business.

Immigration and national security issues will also come under scrutiny at legal and constitutional affairs committee hearings over the week.

Agriculture department officials are likely to face questions about their handling of the saga involving Hollywood star Johnny Depp’s dogs.

Labor and the Greens will also ask how Barnaby Joyce’s department is handling concerns about Australian cattle being mistreated in Vietnam.

Clive Palmer will introduce a private member’s bill to the lower house aimed at preventing the disclosure by police or other agencies of information that could lead to the death penalty being imposed on Australians overseas.

On Wednesday, the parliament will receive a visit from New Zealand Governor-General Sir Jerry Mateparae.


Force must learn to covert chances: Foley

If they can get past their propensity to throw games away the Western Force might be able to upset the apple cart for other Australian Super Rugby franchises in the run to the playoffs.

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Having again thrown away chances, this time against the Highlanders, the Force will take on the struggling Reds, the Brumbies and the Melbourne Rebels in the final rounds of the regular season.

After all, the Force have been able to defeat the Waratahs twice and were competitive in their previous losses to other Australian sides, positive thinking decrees wins could be just around the corner.

In losing to the Highlanders 23-3, the Force allowed the NZ team to climb above the Brumbies on the ladder, but coach Michael Foley was optimistic they learned a valuable lesson about what they need to do to convert their opportunities.

“It’s not a new lesson but I think when we bring that great enthusiasm and aggression to our defence and create chances, you have to make the most of them,” Foley said.

“Against really good sides you’re not going to get a hell of a lot of chances and we saw that against the Waratahs as well when we only got a couple of chances. Against the Waratahs, we finished them off and this week we didn’t quite do that.

“I thought there was enough there for us to potentially win that game if we take those chances early, but the couple of tries that we were probably a pass away from making we missed.”

Now the Highlanders can move to second in the New Zealand conference and box seat for a finals appearance by beating the currently second placed Chiefs this Saturday in Invercargill.

Coach Jamie Joseph was proud of his team’s efforts to beat the Force and is looking forward to getting home after three weeks in South Africa and one in Perth before preparing for the Chiefs.

“I take my hat off to the Force because they had to work really hard and they made us earn it, but our boys had a lot of incentive with our captain (Ben Smith) playing 100 games and one of their best mates (John Hardie) playing 50,” Joseph said.

“We’ve got three matches to go and for us if we beat the Chiefs and get up against those guys we will slip ahead of them. That really boils down to being a massive match in Invercargill and we are really looking forward to that.”


Stosur emerges as French Open challenger

A year after almost quitting tennis in despair, a revitalised and resurgent Samantha Stosur has emerged from the darkness to be a French Open challenger once more.

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Stosur is spearheading Australia’s 12-strong singles assault in Paris as the country’s top-ranked player for the sixth straight year.

But unlike last year when the fallen former grand slam champion arrived at Roland Garros fighting mental demons and a desperate urge to give the game away, Stosur “couldn’t be happier” entering the claycourt major.

A reunion with former long-time coach David Taylor last month has yielded instant success.

In her first match in 20 months back under Taylor’s wing, the 2010 French Open runner-up returned from a calf injury to snap the 11-match, two-title claycourt winning streak of German Angelique Kerber in Madrid.

Stosur was back in the game again and, a month on, the one-time US Open champion and world No.4 crowned her comeback on Saturday (Sunday AEST) with a first WTA title since last October.

“I couldn’t be happier,” Stosur told AAP following her Strasbourg International triumph.

“I’m doing all the things I want to be doing heading into a grand slam.”

Stosur’s positive mindset is a far cry from when she questioned her future in the sport following a demoralising first-round loss to Swiss qualifier Timea Bacsinszky at last year’s Portugal Open.

Tired of blowing one-set leads and throwing matches away, the usually upbeat Queenslander had, had enough.

“In Portugal last year, it (retirement) was front and centre,” Stosur said ahead of her first-round French Open clash with American Madison Brengle.

“I wasn’t in a good place and I wasn’t enjoying my tennis at all. All the way up to the French Open I struggled.

“There was still a long way to go before making that decision, but it wasn’t fun being on court for a long time.”

It’s fun now, though, and Stosur credits Taylor with freshening up her game and restoring the optimism.

After unsuccessful stints with Andy Murray’s former coach Miles Maclagan and Nick Kyrgios’s ex-mentor Simon Rea, Stosur turned again to Taylor, just as she did after battling career-threatening Lyme disease in 2007.

During a six-year partnership, Taylor was in Stosur’s corner not only for her charge to the 2010 final in Paris and her stunning victory over Serena Williams in the 2011 US Open final, but also for runs to the last four in Paris in 2009 and 2012.

“It’s only been four or five weeks but it was a pretty easy transition. Dave knows my game and what to expect and it’s kind of like it never stopped,” Stosur said.

Reuniting with Taylor wasn’t all straightforward.

He has two young daughters and has also been busy coaching Croatian-born Australian Ajla Tomljanovic since the end of 2013.

But after convincing him, Stosur and Tomljanovic joined Taylor at his Liechtenstein base after Australia’s Fed Cup tie last month in the Netherlands.

“I had to make sure Ajla was okay with it and thankfully she was,” Stosur said two days after edging Tomljanovic in a three-set quarter-final in Strasbourg.

“Obviously there’s less time and if you’re both on court at the same time, it can be difficult.

“Even for our match (last Thursday), he sat in the players’ lounge and watched it on TV.

“Yeah, it’s unique. But so far it’s working.”

Stosur, Tomljanovic and fellow Australians in the bottom quarter of the women’s draw – Casey Dellacqua, Daria Gavrilova and Jarmila Gajdosova – all launch their Open campaigns on Monday.


Indonesia begins search for migrant boats

Indonesia has begun search and rescue operations for stranded migrant boats carrying Bangladeshis and ethnic Rohingya from Myanmar, after it dropped a hardline policy of refusing them sanctuary.

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Jakarta sparked international outrage by turning away vessels filled with desperate migrants, among thousands stranded at sea since a Thai crackdown on human-trafficking in early May threw the illicit trade into chaos.

Along with neighbouring Malaysia, the government changed approach on Wednesday with an announcement that they would take in boat people provided they could be resettled or repatriated within a year.

While Indonesian fisherman have helped hundreds of stranded Rohingya and Bangladeshis to shore, so far there has been no official rescue effort from Jakarta.

But four naval ships, two pontoons and a patrol aircraft have now been deployed in a search which started Friday evening, Indonesian military spokesman Fuad Basya told AFP.

“We have officially received an order from President (Joko Widodo) to carry out search and rescue operations, whether in the Indonesian territory or international waters,” he said.

“We will save the migrants and take them to shore,” he said, adding that as of Saturday evening, no new boats had been sighted.

The Malaysian government announced on Thursday that its navy and coastguard would be mobilised for search operations but so far it has not reported any rescues either.

More than 3,500 migrants have swum to shore or been rescued off the coasts of Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand and Bangladesh since the crisis erupted earlier this month.

Boatloads of starving Rohingya and Bangladeshis have been abandoned by smuggling syndicates and left to fend for themselves.