Abbott’s daughters back ‘inevitable’ gay marriage

Gay rights advocates have applauded declarations of support for same-sex marriage by Tony Abbott’s daughters, saying they hope the remarks will help the Opposition Leader’s views ”evolve”.

Mr Abbott’s daughters Frances and Bridget said in a weekend interview they strongly supported the rights of same-sex couples to get married – unlike their father.

Australian Marriage Equality national director Rodney Croome said Mr Abbott’s daughters were ”typical of their generation”. Their support showed same-sex marriage was inevitable – though he stressed gay and lesbian couples should not have to wait a generation.

”Children are educating their parents and I’m hopeful that Frances and Bridget can have an influence on their dad … [and] this influence will see Tony Abbott evolve on the issue,” he said. ”If he feels he can’t go so far as to support it, at the very least, he needs to give Liberal MPs a conscience vote.”

Frances Abbott, 21, told the weekend’s Daily Telegraph she had discussed her support for gay marriage with her father.

”I believe it is inevitable,” she said. ”I believe by the time our generation gets into power, I hope and pray something is done about marriage equality and gay rights.”

Bridget, 20, added: ”I just think being gay is a lot more accepted and open for our generation.”

Melbourne lord mayor and former Victorian Liberal leader Robert Doyle has urged state and federal governments to legalise gay marriage. Prominent federal Liberal MP Kelly O’Dwyer also stated her public support recently.

Mr Croome said the next step towards gay marriage would happen on the state level, with legislation being considered or proposed in most states and territories.

Mr Croome predicted same-sex couples would be marrying in one state or another by the end of the year and ”when that happens, it will change this debate forever”.

”The question for Tony Abbott and [Prime Minister] Julia Gillard is, do they want to be remembered as having stood in the way?” he said.

Ms Gillard also opposes gay marriage.

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Sharks close to sealing deal to keep Carney

Cronulla are confident of ending speculation about Todd Carney’s future by finalising a deal with the NSW No.6 by the end of the week.

Carney, who will on Monday get the scan results of a leg injury sustained in Saturday night’s loss to the Dragons, has told Cronulla he wants to remain at the club that took him in after he was dumped by the Sydney Roosters.

Several clubs, including St George Illawarra, are keen to lure the international playmaker to their club for next season.

Interim Sharks chief executive Bruno Cullen will this week sit down with Carney’s manager David Riolo to finalise a deal with the 26-year-old. ”We’ll move on that this week,” coach Shane Flanagan said. ”Todd doesn’t want to go anywhere, so we’ll just get it done.”

When Carney left the field against the Dragons, there were fears he might have re-injured the Achilles tendon he ruptured in last year’s semi-final loss to Canberra. He has been cleared of that but Flanagan still has some concerns. ”We’ll find out about lunch time on Monday just how bad it is,” Flanagan said.

”We had scans [on Sunday] but we have to wait until the next morning. We’re just guessing at this stage, because we have no idea. They are saying a mid-foot strain at the moment but that can be a number of things. There could be a break there, there could be anything.”

Meanwhile, Sharks skipper Paul Gallen has admitted the players are still waiting for phone calls from ASADA for interviews about the drug scandal that has rocked the club. He said each player now had legal representation, allowing them to take their minds off the investigation and focus on the task confronting the Sharks, which in the short term is a showdown with Parramatta on Saturday night.

”Basically, nothing’s changed from the players’ point of view for the past three or four weeks,” Gallen said on Triple M. ”We’ve all been told we’re going to be interviewed. There’s been rumour and innuendo since round one. But there’s been no player at our club who has been interviewed yet.”

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Cheika expects teams to follow the Force’s attack blueprint

Michael Cheika is predicting more tight, direct assaults from opposition teams after the Western Force expertly disrupted the Waratahs’ attacking mojo on Sunday.

Force coach Michael Foley, back in Sydney for the first time since quitting the Waratahs last year, had his team play straight and hard at the Waratahs’ defensive line, slowing down their ball and weakening their impact out wide by sucking in defenders.

The Waratahs ultimately survived the onslaught, notching their second win in a row with the 23-19 result, but Cheika said more teams would look to ape the Force’s strategy to tire and neutralise NSW in attack. ”That is something we’re going to start to encounter because we are putting it out there that we’re going to run and from a lot of situations teams will start to take that approach more and more,” he said.

”We couldn’t get the flow that we needed to dominate the ball, especially from kick-offs. We seemed to lose all type of dominance of the ball after we’d score or they’d score, and then we had to go for long periods without it. They’d try and frustrate us out of it.”

The Waratahs fly to Wellington on Friday for their first away game in three weeks. While the Hurricanes are not afraid to play expansively, Cheika wants the Waratahs to concede less ground in defence.

”You’ve got to get lower than the opposition and say ‘you’re not going any further, stop there’,” he said. ”A lot of times we got low and then they sort of wriggled past us and took another metre, so that brings another guy in and you’ve got to wriggle another metre and go back, and in the end you get shortened up out wide.

”They did it very well so that’s an area you’ve got to get a handle on.”

The Waratahs are building nicely into the season after three confidence-shaking early losses, but Cheika warned there are ”miles” to go on the path to becoming title contenders.

”There’s no finished product coming any time soon,” he said.

”That’s not to say we’re not happy with the way we’re playing … the guys who we want to get the ball are getting the ball and they’re making yards [but] we need to deliver a more consistent platform and be more comfortable to stay on the ball for longer periods of time.”

Foley, meanwhile, was denied a face-saving win over the side he coached, but ultimately left in a storm of controversy at the end of last season.

Refusing to be drawn on how it felt to be back in his old home state, he would only say the Waratahs were ”playing well” and Sydney ”felt like Sydney”.

On field, he was left lamenting his side’s inability to make up a four-point deficit in the final 20 minutes of the game.

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Ablett raises bar to outshine father

Gary Ablett’s latest heroics left some of the best players in the competition breathless and even prompted his coach to say he was better than his old man – and this week he will be Sydney’s problem.

The dual Brownlow Medallist turned in one of the best performances of his career in Gold Coast’s shock victory over St Kilda and threatens to rain on the Swans’ parade on Saturday as they unfurl last year’s premiership flag.

Finding a way to stop the Suns superstar will be at the top of the priority list for John Longmire’s match committee, particularly given Ablett’s dominant record against the club.

The 28-year-old has averaged 32 possessions and polled 15 of a possible 21 Brownlow votes from his past seven games against the Swans. The only time he did not catch the eye of the umpires was in 2011, when he was injured early in the game.

Ryan O’Keefe and Craig Bird are likely to be the leading contenders for the job of shadowing Ablett, whose ability to win the ball inside the packs combined with his explosive pace makes him one of the most difficult midfielders in the competition to tag.

But there could be some relief for Sydney’s midfield – Ablett could be spending more time in attack.

”There’s no doubt as I get older it’s one thing I’m going to have to do – I’m going to move down forward and play more,” Ablett said. ”We’ve got so many guys who can run through the midfield and the more time we can get into those young guys the better we will get as a team. Each game my role is going to change.”

Ablett was keen to deflect praise towards his teammates on Sunday but plenty of others were lining up to pat him on the back after his match-winning effort of 34 possessions and four goals.

Suns coach Guy McKenna believes the two-time premiership winner at Geelong is better than his father – the great Gary Ablett, whom many regard as one of the best players ever to strap on a boot.

”I had the unfortunate pleasure of playing on his father a couple of times and being on the wrong end on those occasions,” McKenna said. ”I’ve watched Gary closely and he’s humble enough to say his old man is better than he is. I would beg to differ.”

McKenna’s thoughts were echoed by three-time Geelong premiership player James Kelly.

”Surely he isn’t still a jnr #topdog,” Kelly tweeted.

Collingwood’s Dane Swan, the 2011 Brownlow winner, and Ablett’s former teammates Joel Selwood and Steve Johnson were among those in awe of the Suns captain.

”Surely everyone hasn’t just worked out now that Gaz is one of the greatest of all time! Has been for 8 years!! #superstar,” Johnson tweeted.

Swans key forward Sam Reid was impressed by the snippets of Ablett’s game against St Kilda.

”I saw half a quarter of it. I heard everyone on Twitter, Facebook and social media going crazy,” Reid said. ”I only saw 10 minutes but he was pretty good in that 10 minutes.”

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SBW to face former teammates

Dangerous: Sonny Bill Williams trains at Moore Park in preparation for Monday night’s game. Photo: Jenny EvansSonny Bill Williams will play his first game against a former Bulldogs teammate in Monday night’s clash with Parramatta at Allianz Stadium.

There are only two players still in the NRL who played alongside Sonny Bill Williams in his last game for the Bulldogs in 2008 before defecting to rugby union.

In Williams’ final game for the Bulldogs in round 18 of the 2008 season against Brisbane at Suncorp Stadium, Reni Maitua and Ben Roberts were his teammates. While Maitua, now Parramatta co-captain, remains close with the dual international, he isn’t treating the showdown any differently to another game.

Asked how the Eels planned to shut down the Roosters back-rower, Maitua said: ”The same way every other team deals with him.

”He’s got a good offload, but there’s plenty of other good players in their side that are pretty dangerous, he’s just one of them.”

The Eels have enjoyed a 10-day turnaround from their round-three loss to the Wests Tigers at Leichhardt Oval. Maitua conceded his side didn’t play up to standard against the joint-venture club but believes the long break will hold them in good stead against the Roosters on Monday.

”We’re feeling good, we’re coming off a big turnaround,” Maitua said. ”We were very disappointing against the Tigers. We’ve had a long turnaround and we’re hopeful of putting in a good performance on Monday night.”

The Roosters forward pack have stood up in the past two rounds to lead their side to victories against the Warriors at Eden Park and the Broncos back at Allianz Stadium.

Kiwi front-rowers Jared Waerea-Hargreaves and Sam Moa have been two of the Roosters’ best in the first three weeks but Maitua is unfazed by the challenge.

”We’ve worked hard in the preseason and we’re not worried about their forward pack,” the veteran forward said.

The Eels welcome back winger Ken Sio, who hasn’t played since injuring an ankle in the round one victory against the Warriors.

Parramatta will also be boosted by the return of five-eighth Luke Kelly, who was also injured in the win against New Zealand in the opening round.

Kelly’s return has forced Roberts back to the bench to play the role of interchange hooker in combination with Matt Keating.

But it isn’t all good news for the Eels, who will be unable to call on experienced centre Willie Tonga for up to three months after the Queensland representative underwent back surgery on Friday. Tonga has played just 12 games for Parramatta since leaving the North Queensland Cowboys to rejoin the club he debuted for back in 2002.

Roosters coach Trent Robinson has named exciting young prop Kane Evans on an extended bench.

Evans is expected to make his NRL debut in place of Aidan Guerra, who played NSW Cup for feeder club Newtown on Saturday.

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