Panthers let themselves down; Titans seize chance

The final score shows Gold Coast Titans 28, Panthers 10.

It looks on the surface like a comprehensive victory for the visiting team. However, it was strange game of football out at Penrith yesterday afternoon.

Don’t get me wrong; it was very entertaining. It’s just that most of the entertainment was provided by the losing side.

The Panthers played more of the good football, provided more of the better moments and created by far the most scoring opportunities, but ended up well behind on the scoreboard when the siren sounded.

Gold Coast won because they played with greater attitude, control, confidence and composure – not to mention a few brilliant defensive saves.

They also had the luxury of playing from in front on the scoreboard for most of the game. They were patient, defended their points and waited for the Panthers to try to force the pace and play beyond their means. When the errors came, the Titans pounced.

It didn’t seem there was much between the two teams in the general run of the contest. Only eight points separated them with less than five minutes left on the clock.

The home side did have three tries disallowed. The first of these was crucial because it would have given them the early lead, which would have had a vastly different effect on their mentality. It shouldn’t affect their thinking but in the Panthers’ case, it often does.

The home team did get across the line a couple more times but were denied by resilient Titans defence.

Just when it looked like something good was about to happen, the Panthers snatched disappointment from the jaws of pleasure.

To be honest, that’s about where the Panthers seem to be at as a football team. Again yesterday they were their own worst enemies.

The Panthers can produce great passages of attacking football and go close to scoring on a number occasions, but seem to come up short time and time again. They end up with one pass too few or drop the ball for no reason, all at the least opportune times. Half-back Luke Walsh and centre Wes Naqaima were both over the try line and it seemed only a formality they would score, but both had the ball knocked from their grasp.

In general play, the Panthers created a lot of second phase with some well-timed offloads, but often the man receiving the ball looks shocked and then confused about what to do next.

Even in their set-play situations, they can get you to the edge of your seat in anticipation as they threaten to break free, but too often it all fizzles out because they are one pass or one support player short of what’s needed.

To the Titans’ credit, their defence held solid against repeated goal-line raids, and great scrambling chases denied the Panthers when they looked certain to score.

The Panthers have similar mental or concentration problems in defence. They can go through great passages of play, dominating with a fast-moving, hard-hitting defensive line. They look to be totally in control and forcing opponents backwards and into errors. The next moment, they will concede the softest of tries out of nowhere.

The first two tries to the Gold Coast yesterday were terrible defensive lapses by the Panthers. They were not the result of great attacking play. Certainly they were too soft for this level of football.

On the positive side, the Panthers have recruited some terrific players who have brought fight and a never-give-up attitude to the team.

James Segeyaro has become a real crowd favourite. Some of his defensive plays in the opening month have been astonishing. The kid has a big motor and a big heart. There is no doubt the Panthers do keep trying and the crowd at Penrith have always cheered for triers. But professional football is about winning. By tomorrow, no one cares or even remembers how the game played out. Only the result is recorded in history.

The things that beat the Panthers last week, and the week before that, beat them again yesterday – and will beat them again next week unless they can find the mental application.

I have written the same thing about the Panthers for many years now. My feeling is that members of this team lack genuine self-belief. Until that changes, results won’t improve.

The Gold Coast beat them yesterday on attitude, not football.

Phil Gould is the general manager of the Penrith Panthers.

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No.13 proves lucky for Ashley-Cooper

1. Adam Ashley-Cooper is growing each week in the No.13 jersey.

It has not been said much recently but the Waratahs were indebted to a few individual performances from outside backs on Sunday. Ashley-Cooper carried strongly, worked hard at the breakdown and ran some great lines. And Israel Folau – despite a kicking technique that explains his earlier aversion to the boot – was all brilliant footwork and deceptive acceleration. His growing understanding with No.10 Bernard Foley took another step forwards, too. And it needed to. For much of the game, it was the Force that looked like the pack stacked with recent Wallabies. Hugh McMeniman was the pick of the of the tight forwards, while even the tireless Michael Hooper needed a few late turnovers to win a head-to-head with Matt Hodgson. The Force can count themselves a little unlucky.2. Scott Sio has all the raw materials.

The powerful Brumbies loosehead found the going at the scrum much harder against the Stormers but his immense physical power helped dismantle an uncharacteristically shaky Bulls set-piece in Canberra on Saturday. Sio is the sort of young prop Wallabies fans can attach dreams to – strong, aggressive, low to the ground – and while the Test arena is completely different, there is no doubt that he is putting down some serious markers about his future promise. It is not often you see Sio’s ball-carrying ability and set-piece potential.3. Will Genia deserves all the plaudits.

British and Irish Lions coach Warren Gatland told Fairfax last week: ”I think Will Genia is the best in the world in his position. He’s still a very young player but his influence on the game and the way he reads it – whether he is going forward or going back, the way that he positions himself – is absolutely outstanding and he does have a big influence on that Australian team.” The Reds’ No.9 confirmed his pre-eminence with a peerless display on Friday against the Highlanders. He makes better players of those around him – compare the form lines of Jake Schatz and Scott Higginbotham so far – and his ability to orchestrate a pack hasn’t been seen since Fourie du Preez left for Japan.4. Lineouts are there to be contested, even Andries Bekker’s.

Taking pot shots at the New Zealand conference is a bit like poking a big bear with a short stick but there might have been a few lining up to do so after 20-odd minutes in Cape Town. The Crusaders – already minus Dan Carter, Richie McCaw, Kieran Read and Israel Dagg – were trailing 11-0 and had lost Owen Franks and winger Johnny McNicholl to injury. It appeared the Kiwi conference’s moderate early-season results against overseas opposition would continue. But the Crusaders remarkably turned that tide and, crucially, they went after Bekker at the lineout from the very first throw. Sam Whitelock, in particular, completely dominated the Stormers’ set-piece to the stage that they were reduced to throwing short lineouts to prop Pat Cilliers. And keep an eye out for the Crusaders’ replacement No.8, Jordan Taufua. It won’t be long before the bruising youngster is causing some very nervous glances from a lot of attackers and defenders alike.5. There is a way back for Kurtley Beale.

In the last seconds of that 19-14 Crusaders win against the Stormers, the home side were throwing everything they had. Joe Pietersen found himself with a chance down the left touchline and the man who desperately tackled him into touch was Zac Guildford. The Crusaders winger has had more than his share of troubles with the bottle and his fists but that moment will have cheered those who have championed the rehabilitation route. But with Beale’s future in limbo, the Rebels have a decision to make at No.10, because Angus Roberts is finding the step up to Super Rugby a giant one.Team of the week1. Scott Sio (Brumbies)2. James Hanson (Reds)3. Dan Palmer (Brumbies)4. James Horwill (Reds)5.Hugh McMenamin (Force)6. Peter Kimlin (Brumbies)7. Michael Hooper (Waratahs)8. Jake Schatz (Reds)9. Will Genia (Reds)10. Bernard Foley (Waratahs)11. Henry Speight (Brumbies)12. Christian Lealiifano (Brumbies)13. Adam Ashley-Cooper (Waratahs)14. Dom Shipperley (Reds)15. Israel Folau (Waratahs)

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Top cop’s warns outlaw bikies, ‘we have a gang too’

Superintendent Brett Guerin. Photo: Wayne TaylorPolice Chief Commissioner Ken Lay describes Brett Guerin as a ”hard-nosed investigator”, which is just as well because he is about to stick it into places where it will be most unwelcome.

Superintendent Guerin has been moved from the Crime Department to take over the Razon liquor taskforce with one instruction – ”Take on the bikies.”

”We are going to let him loose on the nightclubs to get a far better understanding on the security side of things and links back to organised crime. You will see some fire-works down there in four to five weeks,” Mr Lay told Fairfax Media.

For years the Razon taskforce has tried to work hand in hand with licensed premises to deal with problems such as violence, underage drinking and the serving of intoxicated customers.

But now with Mr Lay’s back-to-the-future order, Razon will rigorously enforce the law rather than send licensees to the ”naughty chair” over infractions.

The reason for the change of approach is growing evidence that outlaw motorcycle gangs are dominating key sections of the nightclub security business.

They may not be registered crowd controllers, but police say bikies are effectively controlling the doors, and this has nothing to do with earning the going rate of $30 an hour and everything to do with creating a drug monopoly. Those who decide who enters a club can dominate the drug flow inside – bikies on the door inevitably means bikie drug dealers on the floor.

”When people go to a licensed premise and see a bikie on the door, then there is something wrong. This flags to me there needs to be a change of approach. This is simply not acceptable,” Mr Lay said.

So Superintendent Guerin has been given licence to chase the unlicensed inside licensed premises.

While the team has yet to earn the moniker ”Guerin’s Guerillas”, Mr Lay expects them to have a door-busting impact when they are up and about.

Superintendent Guerin is a man with an engaging laugh and a quick wit but his background is at the sharp end of criminal investigations, and Mr Lay has identified him as the right man for the job.

”We have a message to any bikie gang members who want to be involved in nightclub security. We have a gang too – it is called the Victoria Police. And I’ll give you a tip. Our gang is bigger than your gang,” he said.

Superintendent Guerin will have access not only to his own troops but also to a large number from the Operational Response Unit.

”If bikies say they are not working the door and we see them controlling who comes in, then that just won’t wash,” he said.

”If we find a licensed premise that uses bikies as unlicensed security, we will have 50 cops there today and 50 cops there tomorrow. We will pester and annoy until they see the error of their ways.”

Increasingly, nightclub owners are telling police they are being forced to employ bikie-connected bouncers as part of the strategy to dominate the illicit pill market. Some owners say they are considering leaving the business as intimidatory tactics increase.

”We think our intervention will be welcomed by most licensees,” Superintendent Guerin said. And those who don’t can expect little sympathy.

Police say the nightclub industry is chronically flawed and they are the ones left to deal with the fallout.

They say the root problem is that there are too many clubs serving too much alcohol to too many patrons over too many hours.

According to Superintendent Guerin, those who fill patrons full of grog and then shovel them out onto the street for police to deal with will find themselves under increasing scrutiny.

”This is a public health and public order issue. Some people are making a great deal of money out of this and expecting the taxpayer to pick up the bill for the sometimes disastrous consequences,” he said.

Part of the Razon taskforce’s brief is to develop business profiles of the companies running Melbourne’s nightclubs, strip clubs and security companies to identify links to organised-crime identities.

Police have long suspected some strip clubs and nightspots are owned by senior outlaw motorcycle members, whose financial interests are concealed through front men and Trojan-horse companies.

Areas to be targeted include King Street, Chapel Street and parts of the Mornington Peninsula where bikies have been seen controlling bar doors.

As one senior investigator said: ”I spend half my time chasing them during the week. They are the last thing I want to look at while having a beer on a Sunday afternoon.”

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Lend Lease ban risks costly legal wrangle

The Victorian government has left itself exposed to a large damages claim from builder Lend Lease over its handling of the $630 million Bendigo Hospital tender.

The senior public servant in charge of the tender, Anthony Lubofsky, in an email to another public servant, has warned that possible breaches of legal process by the government in the tender risked a claim from Lend Lease for loss of profits.

Internal government documents obtained by Fairfax Media point to the tender process being in disarray after the state government banned Lend Lease from bidding for new government work late last year.

The ban followed Lend Lease signing a union-friendly deal in September 2012 with the Construction Forestry Mining and Energy Union, the type of deal forbidden under tough government rules that took effect in July 2012.

The ban on Lend Lease was towards the end of the tender for Bendigo Hospital – Victoria’s biggest ever regional hospital project – in which Lend Lease was ranked ”materially ahead” of its rival, the Federal Court heard last week.

The government responded by extending the tender for some months.

Health Minister David Davis, in a December 24 letter to then premier Ted Baillieu, said extending the bidding process could ”jeopardise” finishing the project on time. Any further delays ”will likely result in the 2016 completion

date not being achieved”. The documents emerged from a Federal Court case in which the CFMEU had taken legal action against the government, arguing it was breaching the federal Fair Work Act by either threatening to or banning Lend Lease from the tender.

Mr Lubofsky, in a December 19 email to Cathy Cato of the government’s Construction Code Compliance Unit, warned of possible legal action, including Lend Lease suing for loss of profits.

”As I indicated to you, there is a very well established legal principle that when government conducts a tender … government has a legal obligation to conduct the tender strictly in accordance with any process it has set out in the tender documentation,” he wrote.

Mr Lubofsky noted that adherence to the government’s industrial relations rules was just one sub-criteria out of 27 and that the government did not have the ”legal right” automatically to ban Lend Lease for scoring poorly against it.

Bendigo East MP, Labor’s Jacinta Allan, said the admissions from Mr Davis were a ”massive betrayal of all the Bendigo community” as part of an ”anti-worker industrial relations game they’re playing”. Every day the hospital was delayed meant local patients had to wait longer, she said.

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Community dives into the deep end to save pool

Ken Hamilton at the pool. Photo: Pat ScalaFor five summers, Ken Hamilton’s four children had unrivalled access to their local public pool. Every year, the Hamiltons bought a family pool pass and access to the pool was absurdly easy – the back fence of their Bendigo property doubled as the pool fence.

One parent would go with the children to supervise, while having the second parent on the other side of the fence at home proved helpful.

”They’d give us a phone call and we’d pass the odd towel or something to eat over the fence to them,” Mr Hamilton said, reflecting on the days when the family lived next to Bendigo’s Golden Square pool.

But despite the warm sunshine and blue skies, today is not one of those swimming days. The gate is locked, the grass unmown and the water green. The Golden Square pool is closed. In fact, it was closed for the entire 2012-13 summer after Bendigo Council decided to permanently close the venue.

Unsurprisingly, the decision to close the pool – agreed to by all nine councillors – caused an uproar in the city. Elsewhere, many communities have fought long and hard against a decision to decommission an ageing outdoor swimming pool. But few have done what Golden Square has. For the locals have persuaded the council to hand over the pool to them. In return, the Golden Square Save Our Pool Group has pledged to operate the pool from December this year, and to fund any necessary (and in all likelihood expensive) repairs.

Now, Mr Hamilton – who no longer lives next to the pool – is not just the father of four swimmers. He is the inaugural president of Golden Square Pool Inc, as well as the owner of a small business and a hobby farm. He is indeed a busy man.

”We’re over the moon,” he said. ”Council voted twice to keep it closed. And third time lucky we actually got a unanimous vote to keep it open. We know we’ve got a huge amount of work to do … but with so many people behind us we’re really confident we can get it up and running in time … We’ve got 60-70 registered volunteers.”

Committee member Courtney Owen is one of those volunteers. ”I learnt to swim here, as did all my friends, my brother, my dad learnt to swim here when he was a little kid – but that’s before it was a concreted pool, it was basically like a dam. So it’s been a big family thing,” she said.

Bendigo Council chief executive Craig Niemann said he admired the group’s passion.

The council, he said, was willing to contribute $25,000 to $30,000 towards the pool’s annual operating costs, provided the group met some key conditions. Money must be raised, repairs completed, trained lifeguards must be used and pool staff must have ”working with children” checks, he said.

He said the cost of required ”physical works” alone, was about $300,000. Mr Hamilton, however, hopes it is less than $100,000.

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