The last weekend of a super-tight NRL regular season promises to be a roller-coaster ride.

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It’s one Warriors coach Andrew McFadden doesn’t want his players getting on.

The Warriors are back in ninth spot, but a win at Penrith will lift them into a play-off berth.

Their match is the last of the round, so they will know by kick-off on Sunday night if they’re also still a chance to finish as high as sixth and claim a home qualifying final.

But McFadden says his players have to forget all that.

“We have to try to stay away from what happens over the weekend,” he said.

“Our real priority for this game is performance, then we’ll give ourselves a chance.”

McFadden has identified halfback Jamie Soward as one player the Warriors will have to shackle in a Penrith side he sees as having strike weapons across the park.

“He’s a key person and generally their form swings around how well he plays,” he said.

“We will definitely have a plan around him.”

The Warriors kept their season alive with a 42-0 whitewash of Gold Coast.

While it was one-way traffic on the scoreboard, one battle the Titans won was in offloads, their 22 almost double that of the Warriors, who were forced to burn plenty of additional energy.

It’s something McFadden wants his players to be wary of against the Panthers, whose “less structured version of the game” makes them dangerous.

The Warriors’ own noted offloader, back rower Feleti Mateo, is set to make a return to first-grade after a spell in the NSW Cup.

McFadden was impressed by Mateo’s efforts against North Sydney last Sunday, has included him on a five-man bench and indicated he was likely to play.

“He’s got a unique skill set that can win a game,” he said.

“As long as he has the right attitude towards his football, he needs to be in our side.”


Novak Djokovic beat an increasingly frustrated Andy Murray, producing a post-midnight 7-6 (7-1) 6-7 (1-7) 6-2 6-4 win on Thursday to reach the semi-finals of the US Open.

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The world No.1 rode a roller-coaster of service breaks and momentum shifts in the first two sets, the first lasting for more than an hour.

Djokovic won the opener in a tiebreaker after losing a 4-1 lead but found himself level-pegging in the match as Murray managed to take the second set with a similar scoreline.

The Serb broke it open as he claimed the third, leaving Murray screaming both at himself and his player box as he apparently battled the cramping which struck him last week.

Djokovic stands 13-8 in their personal series as the pair played for the first time since March. He marked his 50th victory at Flushing Meadows as he finished off a depleted Murray in the fourth set.

“We both gave our best. At times the tennis was not that nice. But it was a physical battle in the first two and a half sets,” said Djokovic who has made the semi-finals hear eight consecutive times.

“Last five times we’ve gone three-four hours, we get used to it. I’m glad to get through into another semi-final.

Djokovic will play on Saturday against Kei Nishikori, who outlasted Swiss Stan Wawrinka 3-6 7-5 7-6 (9-7) 6-7 (5-7) 6-3 to become the first Japanese man to reach the New York semis since 1918.

The long afternoon-into-evening marathon ended on a low note for Australian Open winner Wawrinka, who fired a double-fault to yield two match points for his opponent.

The third-seeded Swiss saved the first with a powerful serve but slammed a return into the net on the second to go down.

Wawrinka had beaten Nishikori in both of their previous meetings.

Nishikori had to win his previous round 36 hours earlier at 2:26 am, equalling a stadium record for late finishes.

But after playing back-to-back five-setters, Nishikori said he favoured the marathons.

“I always love to play five sets. I have a lot of confidence to play in the fifth. I get more concentration and my tennis is getting better playing in the fourth or fifth sets.

“These two matches are going to help me.”

Wawrinka praised the stamina of Nishikori who has now spent more than 13.5 hours on court at the tournament.

“From outside he looks really dead, but we know on the court he can play,” he said.

“Physically he’s there, even at the end of the match. I still think that I was the fresher on the court, but he handled it well.”


Athletics Australia president David Grace says he does not believe the major problems at AA run further than disgraced former head coach Eric Hollingsworth.

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The ill-fated Glasgow Commonwealth Games campaign was the catalyst for two reviews into the sport – a wide-ranging one instituted by the Australian Sports Commission (ASC) and a separate internal investigation.

But Hollingsworth is under no obligation to contribute to either review after formally parting ways with AA on Wednesday.

His six-year term with AA effectively came to an abrupt end in Glasgow, when he was suspended and sent home in disgrace after publicly lambasting Olympic and world champion Sally Pearson on the eve of her 100m hurdles title defence.

Highly-successful former national cricket coach John Buchanan will head the ASC review, which has similar terms of reference to the one set up to probe swimming after the controversial London Olympics campaign.

Among the key issues for Buchanan will be the failed attempted merger between Athletics Australia and Little Athletics.

Grace remained hopeful the ASC could help broker a merger between the two bodies.

Current AA high performance director Simon Nathan – who was behind the controversial decision to fine Pearson and teammates Alex Rowe and Benn Harradine for skipping part or all of the pre-Commonwealth Games camp in Gateshead – will also fill the head coaching job in the short term.

Hollingsworth’s six-year reign officially ended with his resignation on Wednesday, with Grace noting AA was legally unable to sack him.

The arrangement includes non-disparagement clauses by both parties.

Speaking on Thursday, Grace denied the issues at AA extended beyond Hollingsworth.

“I believe that if you look at our recent performances on the international stage and locally you will see great success and development in our sport,” he said, pointing to the medals won recently at the Commonwealth Games, world junior championships and the Youth Olympics.

But Grace was still supportive of the ASC review, which will deliver its findings in December.

“The Australian Sports Commission invests a lot of money in Athletics Australia,” said Grace.

“They want to ensure that athletics has the best structure, not only in relation to governance and its systems but in relation to its programs to ensure that on the world stage, pursuant to its Winning Edge program, we have the opportunity to compete.

“That’s what we want to achieve.

“We recognise that we don’t have the optimum structure.

“We recognise there are ways we can improve.”

The other members of the Buchanan-chaired ASC review panel are all former athletes – Matt Favier, Melinda Gainsford-Taylor, Lynne William and Mark Bartels.

Favier is also the Australian Institute of Sport director.


Will Genia insists the Wallabies aren’t on his radar but his NRC coach, former Test prop Nick Stiles, says Saturday’s comeback will prove he’s ready for an immediate return.

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Genia will play his first match in three months when he makes a 40-minute NRC debut for Brisbane City against another Australian No.9 contender, Melbourne Rising’s Luke Burgess, at Ballymore.

With Nick Phipps unseating Nic White for this weekend’s Rugby Championship clash with South Africa, the 40-Test halfback can only currently be ranked third in the country.

However, Stiles has no doubts Genia could walk straight back into Australia’s backline in next week’s match against Argentina on the Gold Coast.

The Brisbane mentor and Queensland forwards coach says Genia, who underwent ankle surgery in June, will hit the ground running just like he did last year when he returned six months after a knee reconstruction.

“Will is an incredible trainer on and off the field,” Stiles said. “He is that diligent with his recovery and he’s a student of the game.

“He’s Wallaby-ready. You could put him in this weekend and he would be right to play, that’s his character.”

Genia’s surgery was only supposed to sideline him until mid-August but he’s taken a cautious approach to fully recover and also overcome knee, neck and back niggles which have taken the edge off his game in 2014.

Rated the best halfback in the world 14 months ago, the 26-year-old suffered a shock blow when overlooked by Wallabies coach Ewen McKenzie for June’s three-Test series against France.

He admitted his ankle problem affected his play for the Reds but wasn’t using it as an excuse – pointing to his man-of-the-match display in his last appearance against the Highlanders.

Even so, the chance to freshen up physically and mentally should put him in the best position to return to the match-winning form of 2010-12.

“With the injury I knew it was impacting on my performance because in games I couldn’t accelerate and turn and chase and what-not quite naturally,” he said. “It was inhibiting me in that sense.

“Having the operation I can feel the difference now.”

With Phipps, White and Burgess in the 30-man Wallabies squad for their next two Tests, Genia’s earliest likely return would be for the overseas tour against the Springboks (September 27) and Pumas (October 4).

“It would be nice to get picked for the Wallabies again but it’s not something that I’ve put too much thought into,” he said. “I just want to get out there and play. The NRC looks a whole lot of fun.”

Brumbies flyers Henry Speight and Joe Tomane will also use the NRC as a launching pad for Test selection when they line up for the Canberra Vikings against Queensland Country on Saturday.

The “Fro Bros” have finally overcome lingering hamstring problems which cost Tomane a starting berth in last month’s Bledisloe Tests and put Fiji-born Speight’s long-awaited Wallabies debut on ice.


Shares in Fortescue Metals have outshone those of its peers after the miner hit a new monthly record for iron ore shipments.

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The world’s fourth largest iron ore miner shipped 15.16 million tonnes of iron ore in August, and also broke processing and production records.

The result smashed the miner’s previous record of 13.25mt, set just two months earlier.

“This great team effort started at our mining operations, continued along our world-class rail line and finished at the port where we are meeting the high demand for our iron ore with record volumes of tonnes shipped,” chief executive Nev Power said.

Shares in Fortescue gained five cents, or 1.25 per cent, to $4.05, while shares in other major iron ore miners – BHP Billiton and Rio Tinto – fell.

Fortescue shares were among the most traded on the market.

The company in August reported a 56 per cent rise in full year net profit to a record $US2.7 billion.

At the time, Mr Power said Fortescue expected iron ore prices to remain high as high-cost production is forced out and Chinese demand stays high.

However, iron ore prices have fallen from over $US90 in August to $US85.70 overnight.

When iron ore prices fell sharply in 2012 and tested Fortescue’s profitability, it was forced to secure a $US4.5 billion funding line to avoid breaching its debt covenants.

Its net debt reached a peak last year of $US10.5 billion but has been rapidly cut to $US7.2 billion, with the company planning to repay another $US500 million in October.

Fortescue expects to produce 155 to 160 million tonnes of iron ore in fiscal 2015.

It has cut costs by about $US2 billion since 2012 including 23 per cent in production costs in the last year.

All-in costs are about $US60 a tonne, meaning it can handle further falls in the iron ore price.


The painstaking search for a missing mother and her baby continues in Sydney’s inner west, with firefighters going brick by brick through the rubble of a burnt-out building.

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Rescue workers are searching for Bianka O’Brien and her 12-month-old son Jude after fire engulfed a convenience store in Rozelle and adjoining units at 4am on Thursday.

It’s believed Ms O’Brien, 31, and her baby were asleep in a unit upstairs at the rear of the shop.

A 30-year-old man, who lived in a neighbouring unit, is also missing.

This image shows the Rozelle building hit by explosion. Its been completely destroyed. (Photo from @FRNSW) #SBSnews pic.twitter佛山桑拿,/8aECUL0P4b

— Antoinette Lattouf (@antoinette_news) September 4, 2014

NSW Fire and Rescue (NSWFR) Superintendent Paul Johnstone said rescue teams were going “brick by brick” for the safety of firefighters and anyone still trapped under the debris.

“We may be a quarter of the way through (a search of the area),” Supt Johnstone said.

He said rescue teams were preparing to work through the night.

“We are still working with the hope there is a response, but it is a dire situation,” he said.

Sniffer dogs, cameras, listening devices and cherry-pickers are all being used.

Emergency specialists have been shoring up the walls of the surrounding buildings.

The husband of the missing mother was not home when an explosion shook the street early on Thursday morning.

Supt Johnstone said the blast had blown out windows up to 100 metres away.

#Rozelle fire and explosion #today Before and after pics. Well done to the Fireys, Police and Ambos for their work pic.twitter佛山桑拿,/7m9GPQlcFj

— Andy (@anastasi_andy) September 4, 2014

Two residents jumped from the first storey of the burning building and another man was pulled out of the rubble by hand after being stuck under a refrigerator.

Police Superintendent Clive Ainley said there was a report of a car driving away from the scene when the explosion occurred.

“I don’t know what part that car plays in the investigation at this time,” he said.

Darling St is expected to remain closed for the rest of Thursday and possibly into Friday.

Neighbour Anthony Carroll, who lost everything in the fire, said he was asleep in a unit next door where he lived with his father when he heard a massive explosion.

“Within 30 seconds my room was full of smoke,” he said.

“I just grabbed what I’ve got on and got out of there.

“There were people screaming and yelling and people trapped in the place next door, so it was pandemonium.”

 

 


The Wallabies’ front row is bracing for a South African scrum hellbent on “making them hurt” after the Springbok pack was completely dominated by Argentina.

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The South Africans’ reputation as world class scrummagers took a fierce beating in their last start win against the Pumas in Salta, losing four of their six scrum feeds.

It’s a stat that hasn’t gone unnoticed by either side, with reserve prop Pek Cowan admitting the Wallabies were first cab off the rank to face a Boks’ backlash at Perth’s Patersons Stadium come Saturday.

“Clearly they’ll take that personally,” Cowan said.

“They’ll definitely be coming here to hurt us in that area.”

Yet the Springboks weren’t the only side to face issues at the scrum in their last start, with Cowan admitting it was also a problem area for the Wallabies in their 51-20 flogging from New Zealand.

“Once you have a bad game, you look at areas of improvement and the scrum for both of us is an area we’ll really want to improve on,” Cowan said.

“The South Africans haven’t been as dominant as they’d probably like to be, especially at scrum time, so they’ve clearly picked a scrummaging pack and they’ll definitely be coming here to rustle a few feathers.”

Boks coach Heyneke Meyer has beefed up his pack for the clash with four starting changes in the forwards – and three in the tight-five – bringing in Marcell Coetzee, lineout master Victor Matfield, Adriaan Strauss and Tendai “The Beast” Mtawarira.

Springboks hooker Strauss, who replaces rested rake Bismarck du Plessis, said they’d been hitting the scrummaging machine so relentlessly in the past fortnight that his neck had started to give him grief.

“I must say my neck is a bit stiff,” he said.

“We’ve really worked hard and we want to better our performance from Salta.

“It was a couple of technical things that we didn’t do well on the day. Luckily all of that we can fix.

“We just need to scrum better – and we’re excited to put things right again.”

The added focus on the two sides’ scrums means Wallabies’ hooker James Hanson will face a baptism of fire when he makes his run-on debut.

While Hanson is Australia’s fourth string hooker behind the injured Stephen Moore, Tatafu Polota-Nau and Nathan Charles, Strauss has no doubts his opposite will be more than up to the task.

“It’s dangerous to focus on your opponents too much, but of course we have done our homework – and Hanson’s a good scrummager,” Strauss said.


The way Anthony Griffin sees it, Brisbane’s must-win NRL clash in Melbourne on Friday night is not about him.

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But the man affectionately known as “Hook” will find it hard to stay out of the headlines if the Broncos win and pull off something Griffin’s bosses clearly doubted their coach could inspire – a top eight berth.

Players have made no secret of the fact they will be “doing it for Hook” when their season goes on the line against the Storm.

Especially in Griffin’s 100th game at the helm.

However, they may be tempted to say something else to the Broncos bosses who tapped Griffin on the shoulder in July if they notch a rare win in Melbourne – “I told you so”.

“A lot of players are here because of Hook,” Broncos forward Matt Gillett said.

“He stuck by us so we want to stick by him and do a good job for him.

“I am sure he doesn’t want us to be thinking that way but he is why a lot of players are around here – it’s because of him.”

Griffin could not avoid the spotlight on the eve of a match that could abruptly end his four-year Broncos tenure.

At first Griffin attempted to deflect it by finding the funny side of his “dead man walking” status.

Asked by a reporter on Thursday if it was a do or die clash, Griffin laughed: “That’s a real sharp question.

“You just need to replay (his response from) the last five weeks.”

But the biggest laugh from Griffin came when asked if he sensed that his players were “doing it for him”.

“No, mate, no,” said Griffin of a Brisbane side that had won three of their past four games to keep their finals hopes alive.

“It’s a great time of the year to be playing games like this – that’s my feeling.”

Then Griffin attempted his best impersonation of the man who will replace him next season – Wayne Bennett.

Brisbane must end a seven-game losing streak against the Storm and clinch their first win in Melbourne since round nine 2010 to scrape into the finals.

Still, Griffin tried to convince the media it was just another game.

“We have been in this spot for five weeks, it is nothing new for us,” he said.

The closest Griffin got to touching on his situation was when his 100th game was mentioned.

“I would have been happy with one (game) four or five years ago,” he said.

“It was always an ambition of mine to coach in the NRL. To think I got to 100 is a nice feeling.”


There are early signs the next set of official economic growth figures will be a little more upbeat.

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Consumers appear to have got over their post-budget blues, while exports are on the move again.

Economists believe new figures suggest the economy will be looking healthier in the second half of 2014 after June quarter growth figures proved a bit disappointing.

Retail spending grew 0.4 per cent in July to a record $23.3 billion, continuing a recovery in consumer confidence from the sharp negative reaction to the May budget.

Thursday’s numbers showed that even the ACT, which will bear the brunt of public service job cuts, enjoyed a 2.6 per cent retail surge in July – the first positive growth in the national capital since December 2013.

The strongest growth across the nation was in department stores, dining out and food retailing.

The result provided some optimism for retailers who believe consumers have got over their anxiety about the budget.

“This gives us hope that the trend will continue as the warmer months arrive,” National Retail Association chief Trevor Evans said.

That’s the spring fashion season and the lead-up to the vital pre-Christmas trading period.

Australian Retailers Association boss Russell Zimmerman isn’t getting too carried away, urging the Reserve Bank to keep interest rates low.

After being a large drag on economic growth in the June quarter, exports too rose in July to outpace flat imports.

It meant the monthly international trade deficit improved for a second month in a row to $1.36 billion, after topping $2 billion in May.

RBC Capital Markets strategist Michael Turner said while the trade figures are starting the September quarter on a better note, the ongoing slide in spot commodity prices – especially iron ore – suggest surpluses are unlikely in the near term.


Having already played the longest match of the tournament in the fourth round, a bruising four-hour 19-minute battle with Canadian Milos Raonic, Nishikori had enough left in the tank to get past third seed Stan Wawrinka 3-6 7-5 7-6 (7) 6-7 (5) 6-4 in a four-hour 15-minute test of wills to become the first Japanese man into the last four of a grand slam in 81 years.

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Bidding to reach the Flushing Meadows final for a fifth straight year, Djokovic did not need five sets to tame a valiant Andy Murray 7-6 (1) 6-7 (1) 6-2 6-4 but the big Serb did have to dig deep to see off his longtime rival who was in obvious distress at the end of what had been a wildly enthralling stadium court encounter.

While Murray and Djokovic battled their way through a 73 minute opening set, 32-year-old Williams needed just 63 minutes in total on a sultry evening to breeze past Italian Flavia Pennetta 6-3 6-2 and become the oldest player to reach the last four at Flushing Meadows since Martina Navratilova in 1991.

Russian left-hander Makarova, who will take on Williams for a spot in Sunday’s final, made her best mark in grand slam singles by outslugging Victoria Azarenka, the U.S. Open runner-up the last two years, 6-4 6-2 in a snappy 87 minutes.

While the day presented plenty of intriguing matchups it was the late night clash under the Arthur Ashe Stadium floodlights between Murray and Djokovic, in a rematch of the 2012 final won by the Scotsman, that was always going to be the showstopper.

The pair delivered on the promise, combining for some stunning long rallies until Murray struggled with his movement near the end and required a hot compress for his back midway through the fourth set.

But he produced arguably his best tennis since having back surgery 11 months ago and gave the top seed a real scare.

“I think we played a very physical match in the first two hours,” Djokovic said. “I am very glad to get through to another semi-final.

“We both gave our best. At times, the tennis was not that nice, we made a lot of unforced errors but that’s due to a very physical battle we had in the first two sets.

“I knew coming into the match that he was going to go for his shots and the one who was the most aggressive would win. I am glad I managed to stay fit in the end and pull through.”

UNBELIEVABLE FEELING

Next up for Djokovic will be the tireless Nishikori who is turning into the Flushing Meadows ironman having clocked up eight hours and 34 over his last two matches.

Nishikori arrived at sun-bathed Arthur Ashe Stadium looking fresh despite having played the latest finishing match ever at the U.S. Open a day earlier, when he walked off court on Tuesday morning at 2:26 a.m. local time.

“I don’t know how I finished the game, but I’m happy,” an exhausted Nishikori, who had a medical timeout in the third set to have his right foot taped, told the Arthur Ashe Stadium crowd.

“I feel amazing. I’m very happy to come to my first semi. I hope I can recover again and hopefully I can play 100 percent tennis next round.”

Williams sleepwalked through the start of her quarter-final with Pennetta as the 11th seeded Italian broke twice on the way to a shock 3-0 lead.

But the 17-time grand slam winner awoke from her slumber, storming through the next six games and romping to an easy win.

“It feels so special to be back in the semi-finals for the first time this year,” Williams, yet to lose more than three games in any set this championship, told the Arthur Ashe Stadium crowd.

“It’s an unbelievable feeling. I’m so happy to have done it here.”

(Editing by Patrick Johnston)