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Third bidder likely for AWE

As a bidding war erupts between two firms for n energy junior AWE, a new third bidder could send the price above half a billion dollars.
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December has seen a frenzy of activity for AWE, as it became the takeover target for China Energy Reserves and Chemical Group (CERCG) and Minerals Resources, which are looking to gain access to ‘s domestic gas supply markets through acquisition of AWE’s Waitisia gas project.

CERCG has made two successive bids, with its current, all cash proposal standing at a revised 73?? a share, or $463 million, after it withdrew its initial offer of 71?? a share.

Mineral Resources has made a $484 million, all scrip offer for the gas company valuing it at 80?? a share.

Regal Funds Management, an AWE shareholder, believes another bid is on the horizon.

“There is potential for another bidder to enter the fray,” Regal Funds Management Portfolio Manager Julian Barbarczy said.

Ellerston Capital, AWE’s largest shareholder, was unavailable for comment.

A source close to AWE also said a third bidder could be on the horizon.

“We think there’s a couple of parties looking at the situation closely, [another bidder] is not outside the realms of possibility,” he said.

While Beach Energy, the 50/50 joint venture partner with AWE in the Waitsia gas project, has remained quiet, some in the market believes it may soon make its own bid to wrest control of Waitsia.

“I wouldn’t be surprised if [Beach] got into the action, the bidding isn’t done yet,” Mr Barbarczy said.

A source familiar with Beach Energy told Fairfax Media the possibility of its carrying out another major acquisition, just months after its $1.585 billion acquisition of Lattice Energy, is an unlikely prospect.

“Beach has just acquired Lattice and is going through the integration of it, so its focus would be on this at the moment,” the source said.

Regal Funds Management believes at their current price, neither Mineral Resources nor CERCG’s bid is likely to pass the board as both have undervalued the company.

“Their pencils need to be sharpened,” Mr Barbarczy said.

“We think something closer to $1 is more acceptable to shareholders,” Mr Barbarczy said.

This price point is closer RBC Capital Markets analyst Ben Wilson’s forecasts.

Mr Wilson sees a risked valuation of AWE at 91?? a share – or $550 million – and an unrisked valuation of as high as $1.13, creating an acquisition value of $683 million.

“AWE is currently trading at around a 10per cent premium to the implied Mineral Resources bid which suggests to us that the market is positioning for either a higher bid from CERCG, an upwardly revised bid from Mineral Resources or a possible third bidder,” Mr Wilson said.

“Despite likely capital gains tax rollover relief for eligible investors, we think a cash bid at a similar price to an implied scrip bid should be preferred by shareholders and the AWE board.”

A source close to AWE said an offer above 80?? would make a potential bidder much better placed to gain AWE’s board endorsement.

Mr Barbarczy said shareholders currently have no preferred bid, but did state CERCG’s cash offer, compared to Mineral Resources scrip proposal, provides more certainty.

“The scrip offer would have to be at a premium to be accepted,” he stated.

AWE’s price fell more than three per cent this morning, sending shares slipping to 81??. Why AWE?

What makes AWE such an attractive takeover target?

One word: Waitsia.

The Waitsia gas project is one of the largest onshore gas discoveries in in the last thirty years, and it has the potential to expand its current proven and probable reserves well beyond its current levels.

In its third-quarter results, the group had already lifted its proven and probable reserves by a quarter, to 228 petajoules of gas.

An independent review in November lifted this figure by 78 per cent to 811 petajoules.

This review also lifted AWE’s 3P reserves – that is proven, probable and possible – to 1,219.6 petajoules.

“TheWaitsiaStage 2 development project is planned to deliver 100 terajoules a day for at least 10 years,” AWE chief executive David Biggs said.

This is equivalent to production rates of more than a petajoule a fortnight.

CERCGbelieve this figure could be even higher.

“CERCG acknowledges that the Waitsiagas field, and its increasing proved and probable reserves and future development, has the potential to return value to AWE shareholders in the longer term,” it said.

“It is for this reason that CERCG is prepared to pay such a substantial premium for AWE.”

AWE also recorded a 156 per cent increase in production year on year at itsWaitsiaStage 1 project.

“Suffice to say, Western need gas, and there’s lots of it in this project,” Mr Barbarczy said.

Access to this project was the main driver for similar, and eventually rejected, takeover bids from private equity firm Lone Star Funds and Senex Energy.

In May last year, it rejected an unsolicited $421 million cash takeover proposal from Lone Star Funds, and in 2013 knocked back Senex’s cash and share offer.

Full control of the asset has been hotly contested since Origin announced its intention to divest a 50 per cent holding of the project through its spin-off Lattice Energy, which was eventually acquired by Beach Energy.

While the project is now split 50/50 between Beach and AWE, both Senex and Lone Star are believed to have attempted to gain a foothold in the project through Lattice Energy, while AWE partnered with global equity giant KKR to grab 100 per cent control of the project.

In addition to Waitsia, AWE has domestic gas exposure through its BassGas and Casino projects in Victoria, and an international offshore project in the Natuna Sea, off Indonesia.



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No need for the feel-good stories as Horn prepares for Corcoran

It’s time for the heartfelt narrative of the goodly school teacher-turned-boxing champion to be set aside – for the moment at least.
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Jeff Horn (17-0-1, 11 KOs) doesn’t need to be a Cinderella Man on Wednesday night in Brisbane. He needs to step out like a hardened pro and take care of business against a hand-picked opponent who stands in the way of a big-money US debut in 2018.

Gary Corcoran wasn’t the first option for Horn’s first defence of the WBO welterweight title, which was seized from Manny Pacquiao earlier in the year following a bout that dominated boxing headlines around the globe for weeks.

Nor was he the second, or probably the third. But he’s here, Mr Right Now, and saying all the right things before he steps into the ring at the Brisbane Convention and Exhibition Centre. The kid can fight; that’s all Horn needs to know.

“It’s very tough when you fight these guys that are unknown. You always have to be wary of guys like Corcoran, because they come to fight, he’s come to take the title,” said former light-welterweight champion Amir Khan, who was a keen spectator at Wednesday’s weigh-in.

“This is the biggest opportunity he’s [Corcoran] going to get. It’s going to be a good fight.”

Corcoran and his team have refused to let the hometown fighter and his future aspirations dominate the conversation. They feel they have been completely overlooked, much the same way Horn was against Pacquiao. Ring announcer Michael Buffer calling him “Gary Gallagher” as he called him to the scales probably didn’t help.

His team, notably hirsute co-trainer Frank Greaves, have done all they can to hurl a cat in the pigeon coop. Suggestions that Horn fights dirty – something Pacquiao and Freddie Roach may well agree with – have been seeping out for weeks.

Any pretense was dropped at the pre-fight press conference on Monday, when Greaves producing a video dossier of what they believe is Horn charging in with his head. Horn hasn’t seen the funny side. Their face-off on Tuesday was tense, real and worthy of a bout with much at stake, especially with Terence Crawford waiting in the wings as a mandatory.

Corcoran (17-1, 7KOs) could do with some good fortune, especially since it’s an away game. If referee Benjy Esteves jnr takes note and decides to clamp down on Horn’s head-on-chest style of fighting, it could make for some tricky adjustments. Or, as Jeff Fenech pointed out, they could stop complaining and adjust rather than admonish.

The 27-year-old hails from an Irish traveller family and lives in a north-west London camp, right in the shadow of the arch from Wembley Stadium. He’s one of 12 siblings and all of his eight brothers have stepped in the ring at one stage or another.

He arrived as somewhat of a sacrificial lamb for Horn, plucked from England due to his exciting style and aggression. Since he arrived three weeks ago, there has been a niggling feeling that Horn’s matchmakers have bitten off about as much as they can chew.

With Horn struggling to make weight – he did by just 16 grams – and distracted by impending fatherhood, Corcoran has firmed in betting. His trainer, Peter Stanley, has become more bullish by the day.

“He’s focused, determined. He’s as strong if not stronger. It’s the first time Jeff has been in a live fight,” Stanley said. “He’s got the skills. He’ll show it tomorrow [Wednesday] night.

“We’ve fought away from home before, in front of bigger crowds, more hostile crowds, against bigger boys. It’s nothing new here. I’m very happy and very confident.

“We’ve been completely overlooked since we got here. All this nonsense from the other camp saying they respect us. They picked us. They have picked us. When Gary wins, who’s fault is it going to be?”

And on Buffer’s bungled attempt at introducing Corcoran: “He’ll know his name afterwards, I guarantee that.”

Promoter Bob Arum has arrived in Brisbane, quick to remind both parties of what could be in their immediate future should they hold up their end of the bargain. Even if Crawford couldn’t attend due to visa issues, his shadow looms over the entire contest.

“Terence Crawford will be the mandatory for this fight. Buildings are on hold… the biggest building in Las Vegas, the T-Mobile Arena, is on hold. It’s going to be a tremendous year in the welterweight division and these two participants will be giving it all to see who will go ahead as part of these major programs,” Arum said.

That kind of contest will be salivating for Horn, who only six months ago was the one desperate to make a name for himself. Now he’s the champion, he must deal with hungry contenders like Corcoran, or his prized belt will be on the first plane to back to London.



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Fast-bowling godfather Lillee sees signs of greatness in Cummins

The country’s greatest fast bowler, Dennis Lillee, has opened up on his role in the revival of Pat Cummins’ Test career and branded ‘s bowling quartet one of the best all-round attacks he had seen.
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Cummins, 24, is looking to crown an eye-catching first summer Test series at home by clinching the Ashes with in the third Test against England, starting at the WACA on Thursday.

Glory in Perth would cap a determined fightback from a succession of stress fractures in his back and other injuries that held him out of Test calculations for more than five years.

Lillee, a godfather to n fast bowlers, has played a part in that comeback, having previously helped Mitchell Johnson rediscover his best with ultimately spectacular results in the previous Ashes series in . As a mentor and coach to Cummins, the legendary figure assisted in re-modelling his bowling action, telling him that he could make up for lost time by going on to headline the n attack for another decade.

“I believe Pat is at the stage of his career where he could bowl on anything and bowl well,” Lillee told Fairfax Media on Tuesday.

“The thing that I’ve noticed, and this is the thing with great fast bowlers … batsmen tend to not get onto them. They’ve always got something up their sleeve. They rarely get torn apart and they seem to sort of have this belief and ability to bowl well on any wicket to any batsman in any situation, and he has that.”

Cummins demonstrated he had the brains to match the brawn on even the flattest of tracks in India this year, and his ability to out-think a batsman and heap pressure on the opposition has continued in his first Ashes series.

If he lost any speed in the reshaping of his technique, Cummins has well and truly compensated for it elsewhere.

“That was part of the renovation … that he’d probably go backward in pace to get this slight remodelling,” Lillee said.

“But I said to him that the very, very good fast bowlers always come down in pace at some stage. You’ve got to learn some tricks and learn to be able to bowl a great length at any stage and then you vary it from there.

“Pat had to remodel his action to get it safer, and to do that you often slow down for a while.”

Lillee was first drawn to Cummins by watching his man-of-the-match performance on Test debut as a teenage tearaway against South Africa in Johannesburg in 2011.

Later, when Cummins was on the comeback trail from yet another fitness setback, he was recommended to Lillee by Johnson, who told him: “You’ve just got to see Dennis”.

Cummins took the advice, paid for his own airfare to Perth and accommodation there and flew over to begin an association that continues today.

“From an 18-year-old, when I first saw some highlights of him in South Africa … there are only half a dozen like this in the world who made me go ‘Wow’ when I’ve seen them bowl,” Lillee said.

“I felt quite proud that he asked me to help him, but let me tell you the hard work has been done by him. And much like Mitch Johnson and Brett Lee, the contact is always open and we’ve kept that going.

“When he was probably going through that frustrating period of a few years I said: ‘When you come back in again you’re just going to be a very young man with 10 years left.’ And that’s what he had to have in the back of his mind so he didn’t rush things.”

With Cummins thriving, now have a highly effective bowling unit – also featuring Mitchell Starc, Josh Hazlewood and Nathan Lyon – that is winning rave reviews and matches.

“It’s one of the best all-round attacks I’ve seen for many a day,” Lillee said. “Any of them could lead the attack, any of them could be first change and Nathan Lyon has turned into one of the best off-spinners we’ve seen.

“It’s a pretty potent attack. Any of them can take a bag of wickets. That’s rare.”



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House of the Week: 24 Algona Road, Charlestown

Entertaining options for all year round House of the week: 24 Algona Road, Charlestown
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House of the week: 24 Algona Road, Charlestown

House of the week: 24 Algona Road, Charlestown

House of the week: 24 Algona Road, Charlestown

House of the week: 24 Algona Road, Charlestown

House of the week: 24 Algona Road, Charlestown

House of the week: 24 Algona Road, Charlestown

House of the week: 24 Algona Road, Charlestown

House of the week: 24 Algona Road, Charlestown

House of the week: 24 Algona Road, Charlestown

House of the week: 24 Algona Road, Charlestown

TweetFacebook House of the week: 24 Algona Road, CharlestownIt has an expansive deck overlooking an inground pool and offers year-round entertaining options.Whether it is summer or winter, the expansive deck of this spacious family residence is the place to be.

It has been one of the most loved features of the home for owner Tania Eddon.

“The deck is pretty extensive, it goes along two sides of the house,” Tania said.

“The best thing is sitting on the deck having a cuppa in the morning, getting the morning sun coming up.”

Its L-shaped deck enjoys an elevated position overlookingan inground pool and barbecue area.

It has a separate “man cave” retreat with bar as well as an almost internal outdoor area which adjoins the dining area and offers protection in winter.

The three-bedroom residence was built in 2006 and although“a well-worn family home” is immaculately presented.

“It was aproject home but we changed a few things so it was more spacious,” Tania said. “Instead of four smaller bedrooms we wanted three larger bedrooms and a bigger main bathroom.

“It’s anice family home with plenty of space.”

The home set on 841 square metres is unassuming from the road but once through the front door a hidden sanctuary is revealed.

The master suite, with bathroom and walk-in robe, enjoys position at the front of the house. It adjoins a large living space which can be separated from the rest of the residence.

At the rearis the open plan kitchen, living space and two other bedrooms.

It is located close to schools, Charlestown Square and beaches.

House of the Week

Address: 24 Algona Road, Charlestown

Price: $890,000

Agency: Century 21 Carkeet Johns Smith

Contact:Robert Russell on 4943 6333 or 0423 604 071

Inspect:Saturday, December 16, 11.30am to 12pm



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China’s shopping centre king turns in his crown

Less than week after being knighted by the Queen, ‘s king of retail malls, Frank Lowy, is abdicating this throne – selling his stake in his international empire to European giant Unibail-Rodamco.
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And his timing is impeccable.

Retail malls are by no means dead but the economics of running them is changing thanks to growth in online shopping.

Around 2009, the legendary investment adage went something along the lines of: if you invested $1000 dollars when Sir Frank floated Westfield in 1960, you would be worth about $148 million.

But if you invested in Westfield 18 months ago, you would have lost money even if you accepted the $10-a-share offer now on the table.

In the same way retail has been disrupted by the internet – Lowy the Westfield landlord has already started to feel the same pressure.

The landlord is no longer at the top of the food chain and the legendary tough treatment Westfield dished out to its retail tenants is changing. Instead it is giving way to retailers like Solomon Lew and many others who are closing stores unless rents are renegotiated.

Ultimately the power continues to shift to the customer – who gets to choose whether they shop in a physical store or with plenty of internet-enabled transparency, which gives them the ability to minimise the price they pay.

This is a style of business that wouldn’t suit Lowy.

For more than 50 years, Lowy was the innovator in retail property. Having come to post-war in 1952, he teamed up with another immigrant, John Saunders, to build shopping centres in and ultimately in the UK and Europe.

It was the combination of the smarts, toughness, entrepreneurship and hard work that took them from rags to riches.

He certainly fathered the retail mall model in . And he made himself and his family billionaires, placing them in the upper echelons of the richest in with an estimated wealth of $8.2 billion.

Most of Westfield’s retail centres are at the higher end of the market that has weathered the internet better than strip shopping or smaller, more regional/suburban shopping centres.

And their ability to weather continued digital disruption should be enhanced by the type of massive consolidation – the larger company that will emerge from the takeover of Westfield will span 27 of the world’s biggest and wealthiest markets. And it has already identified ???100 million of cost-cutting measures.

But it won’t have a Lowy around the board table or in its management ranks. Lowy says he will retain an investment but it will be small percentage of shares on issue.

Those malls that do flourish will ultimately evolve into entertainment complexes that cater to a range of activities, theatres, restaurants, sports etc – and some shopping.

Lowy has had plenty of time to see what the future might look like. Back in 2014, the family undertook a major reorganisation of the corporate empire which saw it sell down its ownership of n shopping centres and focus its resources on the international assets – which are primarily in the US and UK.

The n business is now called Scentre and the family owns only about 4 per cent. The Lowys have an interest in the internationally focused Westfield Corp of about 10 per cent and are the largest shareholders.

There has been sporadic speculation for around three years that Westfield was the object of some interest by other international retail property giants.

As the rumour goes, they couldn’t settle on a price with Lowy.

But he is clearly smart enough to see the time won’t get any better if he wants to deal.



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After two dismissals, Hazlewood won’t let Root off the hook

Josh Hazlewood is relishing being Steve Smith’s man for the moment as the giant quick eyes off the scalp of England captain Joe Root in Perth.
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Despite still working his way back to his best after an injury enforced lay-off, Hazlewood has delivered two searing bursts that swung the Brisbane and Adelaide Tests in ‘s favour.

Although Root’s return of 142 at 38 has been steady, former England captain Michael Vaughan believes he needs to make 150 if the visitors are to win the third Test.

Hazlewood has developed a reputation for nullifying star batsmen, having dismissed South African great Hashim Amla five out of six times last summer.

The giant quick identified Root as England’s key wicket before the series and has nailed him twice, both at key moments in games when he appeared set for a big score.

“I think all the bowlers want that wicket and there’s obviously a couple of key ones which we’ve talked about,” Hazlewood said.

“Joe is obviously the key – he can hold the innings together and score runs pretty freely when he gets some poor bowling his way so everyone has to be ready when he comes in and stop that quick 20 or 30 runs early.”

Root’s dismissal on the final day in Adelaide cruelled England’s bid for an unlikely victory.

“The time of that, start of the fifth day when things could have gone either way, so you’re obviously bit more focused and not as much room for error against those better players,” Hazlewood said. “Still the key to him is bowling your best ball more often than not and hopefully keep the runs to a minimum and keep taking his wicket.”

Two Tests into the series, Hazlewood says he is still improving his length having not delivered the consistency that has become the key part of his game throughout his 33-match career.

Although former Ashes hero Mitchell Johnson told the n pacemen to bowl fast and short at England, Hazlewood has been at his best when he has pitched up, surprising batsmen with his extra bounce. He has also been at times ‘s fastest quick.

England’s batsmen have struggled against a relentless n attack that has no weak link. They have passed 300 only once and no player has reached triple figures.

Vaughan believes the time has come to change England’s batting order. Jonny Bairstow needed to move up from seven to six while first drop James Vince and No.5 Dawid Malan needed to switch. Root, however, should stay at four, Vaughan said.

“You look at the best players in this series, they tend to stick at four – Virat Kohli, Steve Smith,” Vaughan, who led England to Ashes glory in 2005, said. “I think England to be the best team they possibly can be they’ve got to find a three. If I was England I’d jig the order. [Malan] bats at three for Middlesex so that’s a position he’s used to. He looks to me the kind of player that I don’t think he’s going to be over-aggressive but he’d fight to get rid of that new ball.

“It would allow Vince to bat a little more freely at five. He is a player that likes to play his strokes and against the Kookaburra new ball, particularly against the quality the Aussies have got you’ve got to fancy they create chances. Also, I’d have Jonny at six.”

Vaughan said Moeen Ali needed to “come to the party” though he is battling a cut on his spinning finger. He has only two wickets at 98 compared to Nathan Lyon’s 11 at 23.

“He’s a senior pro in the side now. If he’s not getting wickets at worst he’s got to hold an end,” Vaughan said. “For England to compete out here and potentially win a Test match, you’d have to say the off-spinner will have to play a role.



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Spy agency ASIS looks for new recruits with virtual reality test

‘s next generation of spy agency recruitsis asked to spot patterns, notice small details and listen carefully in a virtual reality test finding the right peoplefor the nation’s foreign intelligence service.
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The n Secret Intelligence Service, which sends agents overseas, is looking for new spiesto join its ranks with a series of unconventional questions in a test called ‘The Most Interesting Job Interview’ that will stump those not paying attention.

The new online recruitment test for the next generation of spies for ASIS.

In a virtual interviewlasting about fiveminutes, prospective recruits have to figure out the missing number from a series of buttons in a lift, remember information given in background noise and extract details while listening to multiple people speak.

Their interpersonal skills, empathy and knowledge of foreign cities are also put to the test.

“As you’ve probably noticed, ASIS officers are great at noticing small details,” the virtual interviewer says.

“In intelligence, having sharp ears is just as important as having sharp eyes.”

The test is an unusually public recruitment effort from the secretive agency and indicates the qualities it wants in its spies.

Foreign Minister Julie Bishop said that for obvious reasons not many knew of ASIS’ work, making it hard forthe agency to find people cut out for espionage.

“Applicants are invited to take what will be the most interesting job interview they are likely to face, which will identify those smart, perceptive, empathetic individuals with the ‘human intelligence’ to work for ASIS,” she said.

“While these qualities are special, they are not unique. Thesame skills are required for a variety of professions ranging from teaching to customer service. Potential applicants could come from diverse backgrounds.

“Applicants need to show they can build relationships, pay attention to detail and they must be willing to live overseas.They must also be discreet and capable of collecting foreign intelligence from human sources.”

While the test is likely to get people talking about how they fared, Ms Bishop said that the process was confidential and should not be discussed.

A notice at the beginning of the “interview” also asks those taking it to wear headphones to keep it private, and those finishing it are invited to retry or apply for a job.

Take the test RIGHT HERE



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Drained Horn drops 4kg overnight to make weight for Corcoran fight

Drained, quite literally, but relieved, Jeff Horn insists his late rush to make weight won’t have any impact on his energy levels when he meets Gary Corcoran to defend his WBO welterweight crown in Brisbane on Wednesday night.
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Horn had to strip almost four kilograms overnight to get under the WBO limit of 66.68kg, eventually tipping the scales at 66.52kg on Tuesday. A lean, chiselled Corcoran had no such problems, weighing in at 66.47kg.

While his trainer Glenn Rushton later said Horn had made the weight ‘comfortably’, privately there had been concerns given the way he had been tracking. They weighed Horn privately before the media was allowed in and when the official number was called out, Horn couldn’t get out of there quickly enough.

Horn will be closer to 70kg by the time he fights, which his camp feel will be more than enough to combat the taller Corcoran, whose camp insists has a physical advantage over the 29-year-old Queenslander.

“I’m very relieved,” Horn said. “It’s always good to get in nice and close to that weight but not go over it, because it can be stressful.

“It’s always a struggle … [but] I’ve done this plenty of times before. I feel like I’ll be feeling good tomorrow.

“I’m going to have a good feed tonight and just relax, watch a movie, have a nice sleep, get up and do the business.”

Horn’s issues with weight on this occasion could simply be a hangover from his lengthy celebrations after beating Pacquiao. He was ferried to America for the ESPY Awards and has spent endless hours at functions and charity events.

Corcoran’s trainer Peter Stanley was quick to pounce on Horn’s weight issues, while they didn’t appear overly impressed with Horn’s shape as he took off his shirt.

“No doubt, he had to suffer,” Stanley said. “The more times you go to the well the more times you’re going to struggle.

“I’m not saying he’s going to struggle – tomorrow night he’s going to be a big, big boy, another five or six kilos for sure.

“Will it make him suffer in the fight? We’ll see.”

There’s a good chance the bout could get nasty, with relations between the fighters and the rival camps deteriorating during the week. Horn’s camp also have concerns about their fighter opening up old cuts, a number of which are the legacy of a brutal win over Pacquiao.

But Horn’s trainer Glenn Rushton wasn’t having any talk about his champion meeting his physical match in Corcoran, saying he was simply the latest fighter to sell Horn short in the lead-up to a fight.

“Jeff is as big and strong as any welterweight in the division, I have no doubt about that,” rushton said. “It’s a strength of will as much as a strength of body. It’s overwhelming. Gary Corcoran will experience that tomorrow night.”



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One in seven actors and crew sexually assaulted, survey finds

Around one in seven people working in live theatre in has been sexually assaulted, and the perpetrator is usually a fellow cast member, according to the findings of a survey set to be released by the actors’ union Equity next week.
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The startling figures were revealed on Tuesday by the union’s executive director, Zoe Angus, at a forum organised by film and television industry groups in the wake of the Harvey Weinstein sexual abuse scandal.

The Safer Workplace Strategies Forum, held in Sydney and streamed around the country via Facebook live, heard that the industry was sorely lacking in procedures and strategies for combating sexual harassment, assault and bullying in the workplace, in large part because so many of its participants were sole practitioners.

But things will need to change, and fast, if they hope to receive government support, Screen chief operating officer Fiona Cameron said.

“The Screen board has instructed us to develop a code of conduct that obliges those applying for production support to take a pro-active stance,” she said.

“I envisage a code that sets out zero tolerance for sexual harassment in the workplace, that identifies a suitably qualified and experienced sexual harassment contact officer, that clearly spells out what constitutes sexual harassment, that sets out the employer and employees’ rights and responsibilities, that is readily available to all employees, that is talked about on and off set, that is published on and off set, and finally that requires a formal report back.”

Such a code would not be merely box-ticking, she insisted.

“It has to be a genuine process of education, information and changed behaviour.”

And the sting in the tail: “If the code is breached, the government should have the right to refuse further support [no more funding].”

The Screen Producers Association, which represents around 450 independent producers and production companies, is also developing a code of conduct for its members.

SPA’s Mark Donaldson said the work on a workplace safety code began in the wake of the death of stuntman Johann Ofner???, who was fatally shot in the chest while working on a film clip for Bliss N Eso in January, “but we later realised sexual harassment, assault and bullying needed to be included in it. That has now risen to the top.”

It was the Equity figures, though, that best highlighted the scale of the problem.

“The data is compelling,” said Ms Angus.

The survey, which drew an unprecedented 1200 responses, was carried out in the area of live performance “because that’s where we were hearing most reporting and rumours and anecdotal stories, but those themes are also well and truly prevalent in screen,” she said.

The survey found that almost half of all respondents had had “first-hand, often multiple” experiences of sexual harassment, including unwanted familiarity, leering, or unwanted jokes of an overtly sexual nature.

The figures on what she called “the hard face of crime” are stark, she added. “Nine per cent have experienced indecent exposure, 10 per cent have experienced being stalked by someone at work, 11 per cent are talking about physical assault, and 14 per cent sexual assault.”

The current focus on the issue represented a “once in a generation” opportunity for change, noted Ms Cameron.

“The behaviour you tolerate is the behaviour you consolidate,” she said. “It’s time to consolidate a new culture of mutual respect.”

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‘World changed after Stokes’: Cook tells England to smarten up

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Alastair Cook says England have taken too long realise the change in landscape since the Ben Stokes scandal, as another former captain called for a crackdown on the team’s “stupid” behaviour.

On the eve of becoming the first Englishman to play 150 Tests, Cook stridently defended England’s team culture, saying they had been unfairly portrayed in the media in the wake of recent alcohol-related indiscretions.

He also spoke wistfully about the different expectations now placed upon the English side at a time when they are battling to win over a new audience at home.

England have come under intense fire after a third off-field controversy in a matter of months plunged an already unhappy Ashes campaign into further disarray.

Although Jonny Bairstow’s “headbutt” greeting of Cameron Bancroft and Ben Duckett’s dousing of James Anderson with beer are minor incidents in isolation, they have fuelled perceptions of a booze-ridden tour. Bairstow says he feels sorry for coach Trevor Bayliss, who is struggling to control his team.

Those blunders came after Stokes was investigated for his part in a late night fight outside a nightclub in Bristol which forced him out of England’s Ashes squad.

It’s hard to imagine England would have imposed a curfew if not for the Stokes affair, which is looking increasingly like the moment their defence of the urn unravelled.

Cook, who stood down as captain last year, spoke wistfully about how the side’s misbehaviour in was being viewed in a different context because of Stokes’ actions.

“The world’s obviously changed for the England cricket team in September. And it’s probably taken us a couple of months to really realise that,” Cook said.

“These last two incidents have probably proven that. I’ve seen the words written down ‘trivial’, ‘a misdemeanour at best’, ‘very low key’ but since the Stokesy thing in September the times have changed for the English cricket team.

“It’s sad in one sense because, a bit different to football, we’ve always been able to go under the radar a bit and enjoy playing cricket for England and also enjoy seeing the country outside of that.

“At the moment I don’t think we’re getting painted fairly in the media, on our culture. Clearly there’s been – it sounds silly me saying it, but a couple of things in the media that have been brought up.

“But the world’s changed after the September incident, so it’s now down to us to adjust to that quickly.”

English cricket is in a similar position to last decade when it introduced the Big Bash League after realising it no longer captured the hearts and minds of the younger generation.

The England and Wales Cricket Board earlier this year approved of a new eight-team city-based Twenty20 league to start in 2020.

“We can’t afford any more mistakes, because we understand the stakes, with the ECB and with sponsors, trying to make kids play cricket, which is ultimately what we want to do,” Cook said.

“You go back to 2013 when we won an Ashes series 3-0, but the public weren’t that happy. It was a strange one, as the captain of that. There was a big disconnect between the players and the public, and over the last three or four years we’ve made a massive effort to get that connection back.

“I think people have seen that. Clearly over the last couple of months, we’ve damaged that. We have to try and rebuild that a lot, because it’s so important to the players, and we’ve got to understand it quickly.”

While Cook described this England touring party as the hardest working squad he had been part of, Michael Vaughan lashed out at their poor behaviour.

He said the fact a midnight curfew had been imposed showed England had the wrong personnel. He called for the ban to be lifted and urged England to send home the next player who stuffed up.

“If you bring a curfew and release the curfew it is like letting the wolves out, they go nuts, let them be who they want to be, it’s their careers,” Vaughan said.

“Of course they are representing the England team but make it dead simple, if you bring any bad PR for off-field activities you get sent home and you have got to be dead strong with it.”



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