Rodgers salutes disciplined Balotelli

Brendan Rodgers has revealed Mario Balotelli has already shown signs of a new-found maturity as the eccentric Italian made his Liverpool debut in a 3-0 win at Tottenham.

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Balotelli played for 61 minutes of the Reds’ romp at White Hart Lane on Sunday following his STG16 million ($A29.2 million) move from AC Milan on Monday and delivered a wholehearted performance with glimpses of his vast talent.

The 24-year-old striker has a well-earned reputation as one of the sport’s most combustible characters and he has frustrated many managers with his lacklustre attitude throughout a controversy-marred career, but Rodgers took heart from the way he accepted the responsibility of helping out defensively against Tottenham.

Rodgers admitted Balotelli had been shocked earlier in the week when he asked the former Manchester City star to mark opposing players at corners, yet he fulfilled the task with gusto.

“He’s at an age when he has to show responsibility. I’m giving him that,” Rodgers said.

“For the first time in his life he marked at a corner. He’s an international with a Premier League title and three Italian league titles, but when we were doing the defensive corner routines in training I told him he had to mark and he said he didn’t mark at corners.

“I said you do now. And today he went in there and won a header.”

Although Balotelli missed several chances to cap his debut with a goal, the Italian linked up well with team-mates Daniel Sturridge and Raheem Sterling at times.

And Rodgers is confident he will prove a major asset if he can be kept out of trouble.

“He’s a good guy and if you control the background noise, take away some of the situations he has found himself in, you can see he is going to be a real handful for defenders,” Rodgers added.

“You’ve seen his appetite today, his work, pressure, strength and quality. He has a wonderful touch for a big guy. He was excellent.”

Liverpool prove life after Suarez in Spurs masterclass

The Merseysiders’ 3-0 win at White Hart Lane on Sunday was achieved in the same swashbuckling manner as the run of 11 successive victories that took them to within two points of the Premier League title in May.

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After a disappointing defeat by Manchester City, this was Liverpool’s reminder to the Premier League that they remained a potent force, but also a clear sign of life following the departure of last season’s star attraction.

Although Suarez has gone, it seems so has the fear that Rodgers’s side may struggle for goals in his absence, with Sunday’s haul taking their tally to six in three games.

“We have risen to every challenge since we have been here. It was the same last year – will we score enough goals and how can we improve?,” the Liverpool manager told reporters.

“The beauty of this group is that they’re very hungry… We played very well and probably clicked back into where we were last season – which was great to see. Hopefully people enjoyed watching us as well.”

For Rodgers, Sunday’s win was a personal milestone, bringing up his 56th victory in 100 games as Liverpool manager, putting him level with Bill Shankly and only behind Kenny Dalglish (62).

There was perhaps no better place to show that the departure of a top player need not have an overly detrimental effect – coming against a Tottenham team who were in the same situation last year.

Whereas Tottenham never quite recovered from Gareth Bale’s move to Real Madrid, Rodgers can look at his squad and be satisfied with the attacking options at his disposal.

Debutant Mario Balotelli was effective if unspectacular and Daniel Sturridge had an uncharacteristic off day, but Raheem Sterling confirmed his rising stature and importance with a goal and a man-of-the-match display that delighted his manager.

Playing at the tip of Rodgers’s diamond formation before switching to the more accustomed wing role, he showed the kind of tactical flexibility that managers love.

“He was fantastic today again and got another goal,” the Liverpool boss said.

“His pressure and tactical awareness in the game is improving and, for a kid of 19, he has been great.

“He’s flexible – we’ve tried to develop him to be able to not only be a wide player, but to have the freedom and awareness to play on the inside…

“It’s important for me that they have the intelligence to play in a number of positions and I think he is developing that well.”

(Editing by Ed Osmond)

Burgess keeping a lid on his frustrations

Sam Burgess has put his sensational form for South Sydney this year down to not getting involved in personal battles with rival players.

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The Rabbitohs’ superstar is in the running to become the first forward to win the Dally M Medal since Cronulla’s Gavin Miller 1989, and credits this to keeping a lid on his frustrations.

The Englishman, who will return home to play rugby at the end of this season following a hugely successful four-year stint in the NRL, had earned a reputation of the wrong sort following some incidents in 2013.

His infamous ‘squirrel grip’ on Melbourne’s Will Chambers earned him a two-match ban and widespread condemnation.

He was also involved in a running battle with Sydney Roosters five-eighth James Maloney last year where he appeared to deliberately poke his finger in the playmaker’s eye.

There were also signs of his temper boiling over earlier this year when Burgess and his brother George became embroiled in a running battle with Wests Tigers forward Aaron Woods in a round three defeat.

Woods claimed after the game that Souths could be beaten if the Yorkshire siblings were provoked.

Burgess revealed that a heart-to-heart with coach Michael Maguire got him back on track.

“We talked through a few things that make me do some silly things on the field and why some battles might have got the better of me,” Burgess said.

“I’ve just relaxed and just tried to work hard for my teammates.”

Burgess dismissed the perception put forward by NSW prop Woods and said players at every club stand up for their teammates.

“This year I have taken personal battles out of my game and it’s worked for me,” he said.

“I had to be careful this year as my record has a few loading points on there.

“There are perceptions of everything – I never really bought into it. Everybody likes to say it’s about the Burgess boys.

“But it’s about the team really, we’re a tight-knit group and look out for each other.

“I think there was only one occasion where me and George have got involved.”

Teammate Greg Inglis was mildly critical of Burgess last season and the Queensland and Test star said he has noticed a rise in his performances as a result of his keeping his cool.

“You can see that Sam is enjoying his footy,” Inglis said.

“He’s not going into games thinking about personal battles. It’s unfortunate it took him probably after pre-season to notice that.

“Sammy is one of those players who loves those battles, but you can see now that he is really enjoying what he is doing and it’s out of his game now.

“He’s always been a great player but to take it to the next level you have to put all that stuff aside and the last month or so he has really come into his own.”

Port allowed to don the black and white

Port Adelaide captain Travis Boak doesn’t regret sledging Richmond’s Troy Chaplin, but insists there’s no bad blood with his former teammate.

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Boak bristled at Chaplin’s overt celebrations when the Tigers beat Port by 20 points in round 17.

At the time, Richmond were finals long-shots and Boak said of his ex-teammate: “I hope he’s enjoying the year that they’re having.”

But the Tigers snuck into the finals with nine consecutive wins and Boak conceded his remarks will attract attention ahead of Sunday’s elimination final at Adelaide Oval.

“I’m sure he’d be pretty happy with his season, the way they’re going,” Boak told reporters on Monday.

“It was just a bit of banter after the game.”

Boak, however, remains let-down by Chaplin, who when leaving Port in 2012 sent an email to players critical of their culture and work ethic.

“At the time it was pretty disappointing,” Boak said of Chaplin’s email.

“But we have both moved on … that is all in the past.”

Port finished fifth and host the eighth-placed Richmond, yet was ordered by the AFL to wear their away strip in the sudden-death final.

Port’s chief executive Keith Thomas challenged the decision and on Monday night the AFL agreed the Power could play in their ‘prison bar’ guernsey with white shorts.

“Collingwood is the club that has the right to wear black and white stripes within the AFL competition,” AFL football operations boss Mark Evans said in a statement.

“They have agreed for Port Adelaide to wear its heritage … guernsey … as a pragmatic resolution to produce the best outcome for this final.”

Port coach Ken Hinkley and Richmond counterpart Damien Hardwick had baulked at buying into the issue.

Hinkley said there was no reason why Port can’t become the first club to win the premiership from outside the top four.

“I’m going to have a go and these blokes (players) are going to have a go with me,” he said.

“It’s going to be a bit of fun trying.

“At some stage, somebody is going to be able to do it. And we’re going to have first crack.”

Buyout offer from Blavatnik sends Perform shares surging back to flotation price

LONDON (Reuters) – Len Blavatnik’s investment group Access Industries made a bid to take sports rights group Perform <PER.

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L> private on Monday, sending Perform shares soaring back to their flotation price after a bumpy three-year ride.

Perform buys online rights to major sports events and supplies video clips, live action and sports news and data to media groups and bookmakers. The bid values the company, including Access’s existing 42.5 percent stake, at 700 million pounds.

Shares of Perform surged on news of the offer, which at 260p per share matches the price at which the company was floated on the London stock market in 2011. That means those who bought stock three years ago would get their money back after enduring sharp swings in the share price.

Perform shares were up 26 percent to 257.3p by 10:50 AM BST.

“We continue to have confidence in Perform’s management and in the company’s future potential,” said Lincoln Benet, CEO of Access Industries, which was founded by billionaire Blavatnik.

“Consequently, a member of our group is launching an offer at 260 pence per share, a 27.6 percent premium to the current price, to allow those shareholders who seek an exit to do so at a significant premium to the current trading level.”

RISE AND FALL

Perform initially established a reputation as a growth stock as it doubled its market capitalisation, before crashing in December 2013 when it issued a major profit warning and saw its shares plunge more than 50 percent in one session.

Access Industries, a privately held industrial group with investments in natural resources, chemicals, real estate and media, including Warner Music Group, said the offer was final.

The group was founded in 1986 by Blavatnik, an American citizen who grew up in Russia.

In an initial response, Perform advised shareholders to take no action for the moment.

“The board reiterates its confidence in Perform Group’s standalone strategy and growth prospects as detailed in last Friday’s interim results statement,” it said.

Perform said on Friday that it was on track to meet revenue and profit targets for the year.

Core profit was 15.6 million pounds in the first half of 2014. Analysts forecast that figure will double in the next six months as cost cuts take effect.

(Reporting by Kate Holton and Keith Weir; Editing by Michael Urquhart and Susan Fenton)

I cannot see myself losing: Mundine prepares for fight of career

In an exclusive interview with NITV News, Mundine said he is still young in the sport and won’t be hanging up the gloves any time soon.

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Mundine announced his return to the ring last week, with a bout scheduled for November against undefeated knockout master Rabchenko.

“I cannot see myself losing, I seriously can’t,” he said.

“So I’m looking forward to the next stage in my career, this fights going to set up the mega fights that I yearn for so it’s do or die.”

At 39, Mundine is 11 years his opponent’s senior, but he says age is just a number.

“Don’t talk about age, I don’t want to hear that,” he said.

“You tell me I’m too old and I’ll keep doing what I do and that’s how it’s going to be.”

He has left the country, en route to Las Vegas for three weeks of intense training as he dismisses rumours that his health might be at risk.

“I don’t get hit, I’ve never been beaten up,” he said.

“The only scratches I have are from elbows. I mean look at me, I’m looking and feeling 25.”

In his most recent fight against Joshua Clottey, Mundine was knocked down five times. He says this was due to a lack of mental preparation.

“There has been three times where I haven’t turned up mentally prepared in my career and that was one of them,” he said.

“I’ve got to be a lot more attentive and do things over and over to make sure my defence next time is impregnable.”

He says the loss has brought him one step closer to a battle against undefeated American boxer Floyd Mayweather.

“When the Clottey fight knocked me off course I fell into this predicament and now I have an opportunity that better,” he said.

“Floyd won’t fight me but i would like to fight Alvarez and after I beat him I will have earned that right to fight the very best.”

Mundine told NITV News he won’t consider retirement until that opportunity arises.

Malaysia refuses Sydney protester entry

Natalie Lowrey, a New Zealander who calls Bondi home, arrived in Kuala Lumpur from Bali on Sunday night to observe the court hearing scheduled for Tuesday of 15 Malaysians who were arrested along with her in June outside the plant of Australian miner Lynas Corp.

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They have been charged with illegal assembly and rioting and if found guilty could be jailed for up to two years.

Sydney-based Lowrey was refused entry to Malaysia on the grounds that she was blacklisted by police. She was detained at Kuala Lumpur International Airport for almost 15 hours before being put on a flight back to Bali early Monday, activists said.

Rights group Voice of the Malaysian People (Suaram) and anti-Lynas movement Himpunan Hijau in a joint statement condemned Lowrey’s exclusion and criticised immigration authorities for allegedly denying the 40-year-old water for 13 hours.

Lowery was held by police for almost a week in June but escaped criminal charges.

Immigration authorities and police could not be reached for comment.

Activists say the rare earth plant in the eastern state of Pahang produces radioactive waste that threatens the environment and local people.

Environmentalist groups have staged a series of protests against the plant. Lynas insists it is safe, saying any radioactive waste would be low-level and safely disposed of.

Rare earths are vital for many industrial and hi-tech processes such as the production of smartphones, hybrid car batteries, wind turbines, steel and low-energy light bulbs.

The Australian miner hopes the plant can help break the Chinese stranglehold on the market for rare earths.

Lynas started processing rare earths in an industrial park outside the state capital, Kuantan, in late 2012 after a delay of more than a year because of strong local opposition.

ICAC hears of betrayal in Labor’s ranks

An apparent own goal by fallen NSW Labor powerbroker Joe Tripodi in his government’s dying days was the “ultimate act of betrayal”, former premier Kristina Keneally says.

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The long-running Independent Commission Against Corruption’s (ICAC) cash-for-favours probe on Monday diverted its attention from alleged corruption in Liberal ranks as Mr Tripodi, Ms Keneally and ex-NSW Labor Treasurer Eric Roozendaal followed one another into the witness box.

The ICAC has heard claims Nathan Tinkler’s Buildev funded a smear campaign against sitting Newcastle MP Jodi McKay because she opposed a proposed coal-loader that would have been worth a fortune to the company.

Central to the alleged plot was the distribution of a pamphlet, headed ‘Stop Jodi’s Trucks’ which claimed a rival plan favoured by Ms McKay would clog suburban streets with 1000 trucks a day.

Mr Tripodi has admitted contributing to the leaflets but denies he was doing Buildev’s bidding to try to set up a career after politics.

He said any assistance he gave Buildev was because “I’m an obliging type of person.”

Giving evidence on Monday, Ms Keneally said she had a good idea what she might have said had she learned of Mr Tripodi’s manoeuvres.

“I’m not entirely sure the language I would have used should be repeated in this room,” she said.

“It is an ultimate act of betrayal for a member of the Australian Labor Party to campaign against or work against an endorsed member, an endorsed candidate.

“It just is unthinkable.”

She said she confronted another high-powered Labor figure, Mr Roozendaal, about the damaging leak of a treasury document to Ms McKay’s local paper but he “emphatically” denied having a hand in it.

“He was furious that he appeared to be implicated in that,” Ms Keneally said.

Mr Roozendaal himself has finally had his turn in the ICAC witness box after spending weeks in the public gallery.

Under questioning from counsel assisting, Geoffrey Watson SC, he said Mr Tripodi had approached him as early as September 2010 about Buildev’s plans for a coal-loader at Mayfield, on the Newcastle foreshore.

“He was advocating, in a sense, for their proposal,” he said.

“I believe he thought it had some merit and it was worth investigating.”

He believed the Buildev proposal did not preclude the development of a container terminal at the same site, he said.

But Mr Tripodi never floated the possibility of another company being involved.

Mr Watson asked Mr Roozendaal whether it was good government policy to only consider a medium sized local company for a major infrastructure project.

“Well they were the only company that had the lease on that particular site,” Mr Roozendaal replied.

He denied destroying email records of his discussions about the Mayfield site, and is expected to be questioned further on the subject when he returns to the witness box on Tuesday.

Due to give evidence on Tuesday is Chris Hartcher, one of the former Liberal MPs forced onto the NSW Parliament crossbenches over corruption allegations.

Former NT deputy wants backing or will go

The former deputy chief minister of the Northern Territory has characterised his parliamentary colleagues as a back-stabbing “nest of vipers”, and says if he is disendorsed from the deputy role he may leave the party.

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Dave Tollner was forced to resign last Friday when homophobic comments he made to a gay staffer son of his colleague were made public.

“With such a lack of support I had no choice,” he told Mix 104.9 radio on Friday.

“Members of my own team were out there attacking me publicly.”

He said more than one person leaked his comments.

“There are (newcomers) in that team … that I feel extraordinarily sad for; they’ve come into what can be best perceived as a nest of vipers,” he said.

Mr Tollner said he wanted his Country Liberal Party colleagues to vote for his reinstatement at a parliamentary wing meeting on Monday afternoon that will determine the next deputy.

However, he said he is resigned to the fact that won’t happen.

“Because while I’m sitting there working my butt off… I’ve got a bunch of colleagues sitting behind me throwing knives in my back.”

He said that when he asked Attorney-General John Elferink on Friday morning if he could expect the support from a majority of colleagues in the ballot he was told “not a hope in hell”.

But Mr Tollner has shown no contrition over his comments, saying that the staffer was not angry with him and that he shouldn’t be publicly punished for joking comments made in private.

“Contrition for what? What have I done wrong?” he said.

“The reality was, I was doing a damn fine job… why wouldn’t they want that to continue?”

The government currently holds 13 seats in the 25-seat Legislative Assembly, and if Mr Tollner leaves the party it could be forced into a minority position.

“What’s become very clear is that Dave Tollner is the one-man wrecking ball of the CLP government,” said Ken Vowles, Labor’s shadow minister for government accountability.

“(Chief Minister) Adam Giles didn’t have the numbers to keep his deputy chief minister – his best mate – in the job; that means he’s desperately trying to hold on to his own leadership.

“I would not be surprised if come Monday we have a third chief minister in the NT in two years.”

Chief Minister Adam Giles said Mr Tollner’s possible departure was a matter for the former minister to decide.

“Nobody wants to see us govern with a gun to our head, doesn’t matter who that is,” he said.

“People need to grow up and stop looking at themselves and start looking at the rest of the Territory.

“I’ve had a gutful and so has everyone else.”

Batts staffers saw rollout as inflexible

Bureaucrats involved in Labor’s botched home insulation program were under the mistaken impression the scheme’s tight rollout date was non-negotiable, a royal commission has found.

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But the 300-page report contains few direct criticisms of the actions of former prime minister Kevin Rudd.

During his testimony to the inquiry, Mr Rudd blamed public servants for the program’s rushed rollout.

He accepted ultimate responsibility for the “deep tragedy” of the deaths of four young insulation installers.

The inquiry heard public servants were given just five months to devise the program in early 2009.

Public servants were already working at 100 per cent capacity when given the enormous job, witnesses told the commissioner.

The inquiry also heard staff were forced to work until 10pm and on weekends.

But Mr Rudd insisted the July 1 rollout date could have been changed if any bureaucrat raised serious safety concerns.

“I’m confident in saying the reaction of ministers would have been to say, `This has to be dealt with’,” he told the commission.

“And if that involved a delay, then that would have been the response.”

In his report, Commissioner Ian Hanger QC agreed the formulation and implementation of the program was “unduly rushed”.

He said he was satisfied there was a genuinely held belief, within both the environment department and the office of the co-ordinator general, that the rollout date could not be altered.

He speculated that public servants were unaware of the possibility of an extension.

“… there appears to have been either a miscommunication of that flexibility to DEWHA [Department of Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts] and OCG [Office of the Co-ordinator General] officers or an unwillingness by those officers to ask” the report read.

Mr Hanger also stated that exactly how the July 1 date was reached remains unclear.

He pointed out that no public servant put in writing concerns about the government’s ability to meet the date.

The inquiry report says it was conceived “without proper thought being given to the practicality or achievability of that date”.

Four installers died under the scheme, which Mr Hanger said was rushed out, with planning and safety sacrificed for speed under a stimulus plan aimed at easing the economic pain from the global financial crisis.