Monthly Archives: September 2019

Australian Open 2016: All-Australian contest between immense talent and elite work ethic

Showman versus the journeyman: Bernard Tomic and John Millman. When Bernard Tomic was spending time in a Miami lock-up, sharing his cell with a television thief back in July, his next opponent John Millman was helping his Australian Davis Cup teammates prepare for their tie against Kazakhstan in Darwin.
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Millman was the hitting partner for the others. He wasn’t picked to play. Tomic was barred from participating by Tennis Australia.

While Tomic was rising up the rankings early last year, after reaching the fourth round at Melbourne Park, Millman was contemplating whether he should quit the circuit. In late August 2014, as he recovered from shoulder surgery, Millman was ranked 1192; a year later, he’d reached No. 71. Today’s he’s No. 95.

When Tomic was emerging from junior ranks, everyone knew all about him. He was another prospective Aussie saviour, who would play Davis Cup and reach the third and fourth rounds of a grand slam event as a teen.

When Millman was a junior, he attracted little attention, wasn’t touted as the next anyone. Unlike precocious Bernie, Millman was a late bloomer. Just as he began to emerge, shoulder surgeries set honest John back.

Bernie, by his own admission, hasn’t always worked hard. He’s coasted on immense talent. Millman, conversely, is said to have an elite work ethic, but wasn’t blessed with Tomic’s elite ball-striking and court craft.

On Saturday, Tomic and Millman meet in a rare all-Australian third-round match. This is the fifth time Tomic has progressed to at least the third round. Millman, needless to add, has never seen the last 32 of a major.

Both Tomic and Millman grew up and reside in south-east Queensland, but their experiences are a world apart. Millman, 26, is the tennis version of the batsman who was playing only district cricket 18 months ago and has just made the Test team. Tennis folk who know him say he has absolutely no sense of entitlement.

Millman knew Tomic growing up, even though he was three years older. He called Bernie “the benchmark” in Australian men’s tennis. “On the flipside, I feel I can go out there and have nothing to lose. He plays Davis cup every tie, just about … he’s our number one player.” Millman has never played on any of the three major courts at Melbourne Park. He’s a show court man, not a showman. Last year, he qualified for Wimbledon, won his first-round match and then led Marcos Baghdatis two sets to love before succumbing.

If it’s a test of skill, sublime Bernie will prevail. If it’s a test of will, dogged Millman will be dangerous. “When it comes down to a test of willpower and tenacity, he’ll back himself,” said Millman’s coach, Mark Draper.

Draper called his man “a bit of grinder” whose hard training and preparation meant he would fare well in tough, four or five set matches. “If it goes the distance, he’s got a good chance.” Draper said Millman had to “be aggressive” and “get him (Tomic) moving” around the court, affording him less time to use his magic.

Millman led Roger Federer one set and 3-1 in Brisbane last year, and has pushed Murray to a deciding set. He could match with the best players, Draper said.

Millman, who outlasted Gilles Muller in five sets to reach this match, said of his prospects v Tomic: “For me on paper he should win. But tennis is a funny game. You start off at zero all … on a given day, anyone can win.” If Tomic is worn down or has one of those attacks of disinterest, this 26-year-old “anyone” will suddenly become someone to talk about.

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WBBL: Lisa Sthalekar excels as Sydney Sixers win ninth in a row to seal derby WBBL final

Big hitting: Alyssa Healy smashed 32 off 22 balls as the Sixers cruised into the WBBL final. Photo: Robert CianfloneSydneysiders had rare cause to compliment the Melbourne weather on Friday when rain held off long enough at the MCG for the Sydney Sixers to extend their astonishing Women’s Big Bash League winning streak to nine to earn a berth in Sunday’s final against Sydney Thunder.
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Veteran Lisa Sthalekar, who came out of retirement for the tournament, was chiefly responsible for Hobart struggling to 8-86 in their 14 overs. She claimed 3-9 from her three overs, removing three of the Hurricanes’ top four.

A further rain delay reduced the Sixers’ target to 55 from eight overs which they reached with all 10 wickets and 10 deliveries to spare, thanks to an unbeaten opening partnership from Alyssa Healy (32 off 22 deliveries) and captain Ellyse Perry (21 off 16).

The Hurricanes chose to bat. They were only 1-6 after two overs but managed to salvage a decent powerplay, which was reduced to four overs in line with the rain reduction, by hitting four boundaries in the next two overs.

Sthalekar’s impact began with her first delivery, when she claimed a sharp return catch to remove England vice-captain and Hurricanes captain Heather Knight to begin the fifth over.

The Hurricanes’ best partnership came when Amy Satterthwaite joined Erin Burns. New Zealand international Satterthwaite was particularly strong down the ground, finding the long-on boundary three times.

At 2-65 after 10 overs the Hurricanes were well placed to surge in the last four overs. They were denied by Sthalekar, who removed both Satterthwaite (24 off 24 deliveries) and Burns (26 off 27) in her final over.

The only thing that did not go perfectly for Sthalekar in the field was dropping a catch in the final over, although by that stage it was of little consequence given how much the Hurricanes battled to score after that key partnership was broken.

Rain which arrived just as the Hobart innings ended caused a further delay. Had it persisted the Hurricanes would have progressed as the higher-ranked team. Thankfully – and deservedly – for the Sixers the rain cleared.

Healy made the most of the reduced powerplay of two overs by hitting two fours and a six to take her team to 0-20, needing just under a run-a-ball for the remaining six overs. Her crisp hitting meant Ellyse Perry barely had to get out of gear early.

The only time the Sixers showed a hint of vulnerability in the chase was Healy was given a life on 17 in the third over, courtesy of a dropped catch at square-leg by Brooke Hepburn.

Perry then scored boundaries in each of the next two overs to reduce the target to a leisurely 12 off 18, with all 10 wickets in hand. It would have been nine had it not been for another life for Healy, a missed stumping by Emily Smith off Knight.

The Sixers scored boundaries off all but one over, which allowed them to coast to victory and set up a Sydney derby for the final.

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Australia Day 2016: the barbecue goes low and slow

Celebrity chef Adam Liaw says today’s Aussie barbecue embraces global influences. Photo: Nic Walker Celebrity chef Adam Liaw says he loves the simplicity of the Australian barbecue. Photo: Nic Walker
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Australia Day is approaching and as cooks all over the country prepare to fire up their barbecues in celebration, the burnt snag is definitely off the menu.

The Aussie barbecue has evolved. These days tong-wielding enthusiasts are embracing global influences, turning down the heat, and transforming the humble backyard barbie into another excuse to pit mate against mate in healthy competition.

“We’ve probably been brought up with the burnt sausage and well-done steak off the barbecue,” Australasian Barbecue Alliance co-founder and general manager Adam Roberts said. “Whoever was doing the barbecue probably said ‘That’s the way I like them’, when in reality they’ve just buggered it up.”

The alliance was formed to promote and develop traditional barbecue and meat-smoking culture, and is the sanctioning body for competitions such as The Big BBQ, being held on Australia Day at Parramatta Park. Its members advocate the “low and slow” style of barbecuing – less heat, more time – usually using smokers and wood-fire barbecues. It’s part culinary movement, part sport.

“It’s vastly different to chucking a steak or sausage on the barbie and burning it to a crisp,” Mr Roberts said. “You have a large piece of meat – a whole brisket, or the whole back end of a pig – cooking for a longer period of time. You end up with a much more tender, flavoursome piece of meat.”

Celebrity chef and Sunday Life columnist Adam Liaw​ said cooking over coals was another way to enhance the flavour of meat, and was increasingly popular as people looked to bring out the best in their barbecue.

“You’re seeing more emphasis put on the quality of meat and less on marinades,” the MasterChef winner said. “When I was growing up, there wasn’t a piece of meat that went onto the barbecue that wasn’t heavily marinated the day before.”

Liaw said he loved the simplicity of the Australian barbecue “and the fact that it does bring in other influences from around the world. You might have Asian salads on the side, you might have American-style barbecue sauces.”

Chef Ben O’Donoghue, author of The BBQ Companion and star of TV show Aussie Barbecue Heroes, said Australians had grown “more adventurous in terms of cuisines they’re doing on the barbecue”.

“People are putting together a culturally refined menu,” he said. “If they’re doing an American-style one they’ll do a funky slaw, a potato salad, sides that match the style of cuisine. Korean barbecue is very popular … [with] marinades and ferments.”

Food media and social media were also having an influence, he said. “There’s a greater competitive element to cooking these days,” he said. “Between mates, between friends, they’re having barbecue-offs.There’s some backslapping going on across social media.”

O’Donoghue said he loved lamb on Australia Day: “a whole leg of lamb tied in a swaddle of rosemary that’s been caressed on the inside with an olive tapenade and anchovies. That’s always a real winner”.

Sales of lamb lifted more than 35 per cent in the week before January 26 last year compared to the weekly average, no doubt helped by Meat and Livestock Australia’s annual Australia Day lamb ad, which this year sparked an avalanche of complaints with a scene in which a SWAT team torches a vegan’s kale.  Adam Liaw’s five Aussie barbecue tipsIt’s important to rest meat when it comes off the barbecue. Keep a resting tray next to the grill and scatter it with fresh herbs and olive oil to give the meat extra flavour while resting.Hit your potato salad with an umami punch by mixing in a few tablespoons of finely grated parmesan.Cook in courses. There’s no need to throw everything on the barbecue at once. I like to start with seafood, then other meats, before finishing with sausages. Cooking for a crowd? Try the reverse sear method for perfect steaks. Slow-cook a tray of steaks in the oven at 125°C for 45 minutes or until the internal temperature reaches 55°C for medium rare. Rest them well then finish them with a couple of minutes on the barbecue. Forget lemons, scrubbing with newspaper or ice. The best way to clean a barbecue is to let it burn on its highest heat for 10 minutes then brush it with a stiff wire brush.  

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The hazards on Turnbull’s high road

Comfortable on the international stage: Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull with US President Barack Obama in Washington this week. Photo: Andrew Harrer Illustration: Jim Pavlidis
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Malcolm Turnbull did more in Washington this week than put his stamp on Australia’s most important alliance. He articulated an approach to leadership that is likely to define his prime ministership this election year.

“This is a time for creative pragmatism and a recognition that difficult compromises will be required,” Turnbull declared in an address that combined thematic continuity with his predecessors and nuance with personal authenticity.

Turnbull coined his “creative pragmatism” in the context of finding a political settlement in Syria, but he could have been addressing any of the myriad challenges that lie ahead at home, from fixing the budget and reforming the tax system to workplace reform and ending the suffering of asylum seekers on Nauru and Manus Island.

Now he is back on home soil and, it seems, intent of taking the high road to political judgment day: going full-term and seeking a mandate for substantial change in the form of a blueprint for jobs, prosperity and growth that will be cast as fair but involve shared pain.

It’s a dangerous path because Turnbull would be assured of winning if he went to an election early and eschewed risk; because many who have watched their superannuation nest eggs take a hammering have already reached their pain threshold; and because it exposes Turnbull to the kind of negative scare campaigns that helped propel Tony Abbott to power.

Underpinning the high-road intention is the Prime Minister’s belief in his power to persuade and his conviction that this is the approach the country needs and the people want.

This is demonstrated in his insistence that “every option should be on the table”, including a 50 per cent hike in the GST, and encapsulated in the Martin Luther King quote Turnbull used to conclude his speech in Washington to the Centre for Strategic and International Studies. “The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience,” King declared, “but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.”

This is such a time. Huge difference between perceptions and reality

One hazard for Turnbull is the huge difference between perceptions and reality in Australian politics as the year begins. The perception is that Turnbull’s ascension marks the return to what used to be the norm, with new prime ministers given at least a couple of terms to prove their worth.

The reality is that the problems that bedevilled his predecessor in the first two years of this government have only intensified since Turnbull was sworn in on September 15. The ability to fund initiatives to boost growth or even sustain living standards is even more constrained, just as the will of his colleagues to be brave on tax or on even modest workplace reform is even more drained.

In one sense Turnbull is a casualty of his own rhetoric. His central proposition is that adversity, volatility and disruption can be transformed into opportunity, so long as they are approached with confidence, agility, imagination and enterprise. It invites high expectations that will be extremely hard to realise when one of the principal drivers of prosperity, the Chinese high-growth era, is running out of steam.

The contradiction is reflected in qualitative research by Ipsos which shows that, on the one hand, Australians feel pessimistic about the future, believing that the country may have peaked and, on the other, that they have great faith in Turnbull to turn things around.

Laura Demasi, research director of the Ipsos Mind and Mood Report, says a constant theme of group discussion over the past four years has been that Turnbull’s business background and wealth are strong positive attributes, prompting comments such as, “If he can do that for himself, what could he do for the country?”

“There’s a sense of confidence in him as an economic manager and a general belief that, if anyone can turn things around, it’s him,” Demasi says. “It’s going to take a lot to erode all of that goodwill, expectation and hope.” The Abbott factor

Another hazard on the high road is the propensity of some in the Coalition to seek out any opportunity to undermine the leader who is ideologically closer to the US Democrats contending to succeed Barack Obama than any of the Republican candidates, especially by painting him as weaker than Abbott on terrorism.

Then there is Abbott himself, who is expected to announce his intention to re-contest his safe Sydney seat, but has a bigger decision to make. Does he take the high road back to a serious contribution? Or does he opt instead to be a lightning rod for conservative disaffection inside the Coalition partyroom?

If Abbott wants to be considered for a return to the ministry, the onus is on him to tell Turnbull that he intends to be a team player and to contribute to the return of a Turnbull government. That would not mean forsaking his conservative views, or even the ambition of one day returning to the leadership (however fanciful that ambition might now seem), but it would mean submitting to the discipline Abbott demanded of others and generally was afforded when he was Liberal leader.

The alternative path is the one Abbott appeared to be setting before the Christmas break: to position himself as the champion of conservatism at home and abroad, especially in the context of debates on asylum seekers, terrorism and Islamic extremism.

Any notion that this could be a path back to the prime ministership is, frankly, preposterous and Abbott’s recent silence suggests he understands that, if there is one lesson from recent history, it is that the vast majority of voters don’t like political infighting and recoil from radicalism, whether on the right or the left.

The reality of Turnbull’s first four-and-a-bit months in office is that there has been plenty of activity but little in the way of big decisions. He has been assured in Parliament and comfortable on the international stage; has prevailed on one minister to quit and another to stand down; has re-positioned in some areas and presided over the release of the royal commission report on union corruption and a new policy on innovation. But that’s about it.

Assuming he is intent on taking the high road to re-election, the journey has only just begun.

Michael Gordon is political editor of The Age.

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Malcolm Turnbull extends huge lead over Bill Shorten in first poll for 2016

Opposition Leader Bill Shorten Photo: Alex Ellinghausen Opposition Leader Bill Shorten has spent the first fortnight back at work for 2016 visiting marginal electorates. Photo: Graham Tidy
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Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull’s lead over Bill Shorten as voters’ choice as better prime minister has grown a whopping 19 per cent over the Christmas and New Year break, with the Opposition Leader plunging to his lowest ever rating in a ReachTEL poll conducted for the Seven Network.

Asked who they thought made a better prime minister, 80.8 per cent of voters nominated Mr Turnbull and just 19.2 per cent nominated Mr Shorten, whereas on November 26, 71.3 per cent of respondents had nominated Mr Turnbull and 28.7 per cent chose Mr Shorten.

A Fairfax-Ipsos poll conducted in November found that Mr Turnbull led Mr Shorten as preferred prime minister 69 per cent to 18 per cent.

The Coalition’s 10 percentage point lead over Labor in the two-party preferred vote has not changed, according to the poll of 3116 people conducted on January 21, with the same 55-45 result as the last ReachTEL poll conducted on November 26 last year.

The primary votes of the ALP, the Liberal Party, the Greens and the Nationals have barely shifted in the last two months.

Mr Turnbull has largely remained out of the political spotlight over the last month – though he did emerge to deal with the resignations of junior ministers Jamie Briggs and Mal Brough – and he has been in Iraq and then the United States in the last week.

He is due to return to Canberra on Sunday, cabinet will meet next week and Parliament is due to resume in 11 days time in a year that promises a tax reform package, other major policy announcements from both sides and an election likely in the second half of the year.

Back on September 15, after Mr Turnbull first took the nation’s top political job from Tony Abbott, 38.3 per cent backed Mr Shorten and 61.9 per cent backed Mr Turnbull, underscoring the precipitous fall in the Opposition Leader’s support.

Against Mr Abbott on August 28, Mr Shorten had led 57.9 per cent to 42.1 per cent.

Asked to rate the Prime Minister’s performance, 53.6 per cent of voters said it was good or very good, 33.8 per cent said it was satisfactory and 12.5 per cent said it was poor or very poor.

But just 13.8 per cent of respondents said Mr Shorten was doing a good or very good job, 28.8 per cent said they were satisfied and 57.4 per cent said his performance was poor or very poor.

The findings will add weight to the argument of a small core of critics of Mr Shorten inside the ALP that a change of leader may be necessary in the election year to shore up support for the party.

However, at the moment, there is a clear view within the ALP that the party must repair its reputation after the tumultuous Rudd-Gillard-Rudd years and stick with its current leader.

In addition, many Labor MPs question whether another leader – be it Anthony Albanese, Tanya Plibersek, Chris Bowen or someone else – would make any difference.

Mr Shorten has been campaigning around the country against an increase in the GST – a policy which has not yet actually been announced by the federal government and which may not be – and conducting a series of town hall meetings around the country.

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