Taxidermy: inside a wild trend | photos LIFELIKE: Tom Sloane with his mount of a marmoset at the Australian Taxidermy Championships in Victoria. Picture: Simon Schluter.
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LIFELIKE: Natalie Delaney-John with her mount of a common sparrow at the Australian Taxidermy Championships. Picture:

LIFELIKE: Mount of a wild dog and rabbit at the Australian Taxidermy Championships. Picture: Simon Schluter

LIFELIKE: Deer, boar and more at the Australian Taxidermy Championships in Victoria. Picture: Tim Connell

LIFELIKE: Mount of a Reeve’s pheasant at the Australian Taxidermy Championships. Picture: Tim Connell

LIFELIKE: Mount of a stag at the Australian Taxidermy Championships. Picture: Tim Connell

LIFELIKE: Mount of a brown trout at the Australian Taxidermy Championships. Picture: Tim Connell

LIFELIKE: Mount of a fox cub at the Australian Taxidermy Championships. Picture: Tim Connell

LIFELIKE: Mount of a leopard seal, entered by Tom Sloane in the 2016 Australian Taxidermy Championships. Picture: Tom Sloane

TweetFacebook“YOU can’t have teddy bear eyes ona fish. It’s just weird.”

If you stareddown the barrel of its pea-greensnout,Andrew Xanthoulakis’s trout had red eyes thatdomed out sideways. They’d beenshippedfrom the US.The fish’s demise, months ago, had triggered countless inventories and deadlines.

There were the fins to consider,the spinydorsals and the tail,ruffled chips ofbrown translucence. ThoseAmerican eyes.The faintly submarine-ishbody,shrunken, warped,restored from months of drying.

“And the thing aboutscales is they’reout everywhere,”Xanthoulakis, from Bacchus Marsh, said.

“Unlike fur, you’ve got nowhere to hide. Get the scales wrong and you’ve got two options:throw it outor fix it.”

The third Australian Taxidermy Championships were held atthe York on Lilydale, a one-storeypokiepalace inMelbourne’s Yarra Valleyoutskirts, wherethecars are flecked with mudand leisure timeis built around animals and recreational machinery.

On the same weekendafunction centre up the road was hostinga whippet breeders’summit.

Lilydale isone of the fewplacesin Australia with ataxidermy supplies shopand,with a sudden rush of those who might requireaflexiblerabbit ear-lineror a pig jaw-and-tongue set (no tusks), it wasin grand final mode.

In the early afternoon, the Australian Association of Wildlife Artists opened the doors ofthefunction room tothe public, who fell into a quiet reverence.

The animals, or mounts, had been assembled after painstaking journeys.

Deer had arrived in cargo hold herds,ducks stackedin truckshad nodded through roundabouts, glass-eyedboarhad quiveredatintersections.

Inside, a red fox balanced on a sheet of ironbark in the halogen glow,paw raised in fangy calculation, andtwo more locked sharp,white teeth in silent combat.

Families in matching camouflage inspectedhalf-deer, whole deer,a camel branching upwardin full-throated mid-bray.

There was a marmosetina bonzai tree;aReeve’s pheasant withtailfeathers down to the floor; a brushtail possum in the cleft of a branch, a red berry in its tiny left paw.

There was a fallowdeer withdappled hide somehow suggestive of water;a tawny frogmouth clutchingamouse; alionfish with spines fanned open; a replica orangutan frozen in furrowed resignation.

Xanthoulakis –stubbled, 40s, white Star Wars tee – quietlyagonised over hisfish’s puckeredleftunderfin, but lethimselfbe chuffed with its pale, dimpledunderbellyhe’d donewith terry towelling.

The trout was a full-skin mount, which meant after it dried–“most of this is drying” –Xanthoulakissculpted the plumpness back into its flesh and airbrushed its colours.

The airbrushhad requireda lacquer-based paint, so the fish’s dotty complexionwould “pop”. A water-based paint wouldn’t do.Such are the economies of scale.

Xanthoulakis mentally frisked histrout, suspended from a glass and wooden backdropmid-wriggle,with the air of a mechanic.

Which he was. Alove of fishing lured him outfrom beneath carsandinto the wild,to return withgreatscaly slabs for his freezer.

“The first piece I ever did looked like a sardine out ofa can, but I was absolutely rapt.”

Proud anglers come toXanthoulakis, one of thefew fish taxidermists in Australia, with instructions forkitschyBig Mouth Billy Bass-style wall-mounts, which he tries to talk them out of. He can makesomething better, he tells them. His taxidermy colleaguesare “doctors, lawyers, truck drivers, ditch diggers”.

Through the championship aisles–Novice, Masters, Small Mammal, Reptile –amblednuggety dudes in gun club polos, mud-caked desert boots andtrucker caps.

There were hipsters in busy shirts and black jeans up from Melbourne; some were the competitors.

“See what he’s done with the fins? Must’ve taken f—ing ages”.

Natalie Delaney-John –33, blonde-fringed, sleeveless plaid–had won a first placefor hermyna bird skeleton (described as a work of “skeletal articulation”)and her sparrow on a twig over a tiny reflectivepond.

“To be completely honest, I finished itlast night,” she said. “It was an all-nighter. Wine and tears got me through.”

Delaney-John hasdevouredtaxidermy lore since the Sunday shefound the skull of a bullat Melbourne’s Camberwell markets.

Finding a mass extinction ofTAFE and universitycourses in taxidermy sincethe 1970s, she started teaching her own.

Delaney-John has scarcely had a vacancy inthree years, and most of her students arewomen older than 50.

“They’re great. Taxidermygets pigeonholed as weird, or all about hunting –and a lot of people do come to it from hunting –but it’s not weird, it’s freakinggreat,” she said, in slightly more colourful language.

“Please don’t make it out to be weird. I can see the humourin, say,a photo of a cat helicopter.But when you see people really doing this, you think, this is the best. And it’s going to keep getting better.”

No one’s pet was mounted in the York onLilydale, but it wasclear thattaxidermy demandsa certain kind of love.

If you’re a taxidermy person you love animals, it was explained, an arguably more honest dutyof care that can meanhunting them, photographing them, perhaps raising them, all while noting the tilt of an ear or thecurl of a lip for the day youskin them.

That doesn’t mesh witha clean, Japanese-garden idea of an animalworld that’s chaotic andsubject to death, sure, but free ofthe sightof skinpeelingfrom flesh, thanks very much.

“Inspiration on a Saturday is wet preserving these amazing deformed baby piglets!” the Facebook page forDelaney-John’s taxidermy school posted.

“It looks like this guy’s brain has grown outside of his [skull emoji].”

In the video, astillborn piglet’s pinkbrain-sac fluttered gently, tissue-thin.

“I need it!” someone wrote.

Before the VictoriantaxidermistDennis Grundy heldthe firstnational titles in the Lilydale Scout Hall in2015, thosewith a use for Critter Clay oralbino mouse eyes had less opportunityto discuss them at length.

Permanentlydisplayed, three dimensionalanimals –oryx andantelopeshotabroad,made rigid for the house guestswith cotton and rags –were items offashioninVictorian England.

But they nevercarried the same currencyinthe Australian colonies.

There was aworking class sense to keepingpelts andhides, and a trip to themuseummight offer a glimpse ofatiger, orthe mounted headof agreat white shark. But preserving a pet? That was the realm of eccentrics.

Hitherto,most of Australia’s taxidermyhas splitbetweendisplays innatural history museums and a kind of post-1960s,stuffed-owl kitsch;thestag’sheadin abar draped in theteamcolours.

Taxidermy’s niche-ness as an art, perhaps, explains its reputation as animal“stuffing”. That’s not what it is.

It actually involvesskinning an animal, stretching its hide over a model –mass-produced from polyurethane, or one you’ve sculpted–and sewing it together.

Then it becomes a makeover from the inside out, often demanding the skills of a seamstress, a hairdresser and a sculptor.

Feathers and scales are trickier than fur, it’s widely agreed, but a lumpy moose head still looks funny. No one wants funny.

Handmade or store-boughtparts substitutefor whatcan’t be preserved, such as lips, ears,tongues ortheeyes ofatrout.

Tom Sloane –38, bespectacled,a bit frazzledon the day of the titles–has perhaps set the jaws and shaped the snarls of more native animals than most Australians have laid eyes on.

The formerTasmanian Museum and Art Gallery taxidermist, whoworks for himself, is knownfor hisowls, hawks, Tasmanian devils and, in a gaping market gap, platypuses.

“Imake their bills myself. No one sells them.”

Some taxidermists hunt their animals, while othersuse frozen rodentsbred forpet storepythons.

Sloane’s partner Nicole Zehntner –taxidermy’s Tom and Nicole met workingat the museum in Hobart –won atthis year’s titles with hermount of a baby saltwater crocodilefrom a farm in the Northern Territory.

Working on commission for educational displays has madeSloane ago-to taxidermist these days. Among his blue-chip clients: he does work forthe National Parks and Wildlife Service.

His vast taxidermy dominionranges fromoceantosky, his subjects, octopuses to sea eagles.

Themarmoset and its bonzaiwere Sloane’s –both won awards –as was thepheasant, another winner.

Last year, the providence ofalonely deathon a beach in Tasmaniagiftedhim the lithe corpse ofa leopard seal.

When restored,the sealwassnake-likewithsharp whiteteeth, eyes wet and livelyas your own, if only inthe moment you remembered it had been alive.

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FEELING OF UNEASE: University of Newcastle women’s convener Lucinda Iacono has backed a petition demanding, among other things, better lighting on campus. Picture: Simone De PeakTHEUniversity of Newcastle women’s convener has backedapetition forbetterlighting on campusand moretailored sexual complaintreporting.
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The online petition, fromthe Newcastle Universitywomen’sand queer collectives and titled “End rape on campus at UoN”, calls for improved lighting“[on] the pathways to residences…between the Shortland and Hunter sides of Callaghan campus [and]in all car parks”.

Its authors also wantchanges to what advocacy groups have criticised as the university’s “one-size-fits-all” sexual complaint reporting, as revealed by the Newcastle Herald this month.

On Friday nightthe petitionhad 750 of its target 1000 signatures.

The university women’s convener Lucinda Iacono said campuslightingprofoundly affected how safe students felt.

“We have quite a few members who have expressed concerns about walking inthose parts of the university,” Ms Iacono said.

“It’s that feeling of unease, that feeds the perception the university doesn’t want to be responsible for your safety on campus.”

But a university spokeswomansaid themain pathways and car parks are already lit, including those mentioned in the petition.

The university has implemented rolling lighting upgrades, the spokeswoman said, as well as security cameras and security guards available to escort students 24 hours a day.

If a student disclosessexual assault, the university said, a range of qualified responders can link them with support services on or offcampus.

“Should a student choose to formally report the matter to the university, they are supported and communicated with throughout,” the university said.

“Allegations are taken very seriously and, when they involve students, are investigated under the university’s Student Conduct Rule.”

A failure on the part of the university to address the lighting and reporting concerns,Ms Iacono said, could result in “direct action” protestsby students.

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IT’S known as Millionaire’s Row, but house prices on Whitebridge’s coveted Burwood Roadappear poised to reach even loftier heights.
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PRDnationwide Newcastle and Lake Macquarie principal Mark Kentwell has listed the “palatial property” known as Killara at 30 Burwood Road for expressions of interest, with a guide of $7.2 million.

“Burwood Road is known as Millionaire’s Row and there have been several properties traded for between $2 million and $4 million, but neveranything as substantial as this before,” Mr Kentwell said.

“It’s a standout in terms of price for this area,but there’s only a handful of properties that rank on this level in Newcastle.

“The attention to detail can’t be replaced or replicated –the price should be secondary.”

The agency is marketing the house as “designed for a life of extraordinary privacy, space and luxury”.

Poised to break the record TweetFacebookHerald previously reported Mr James lost a multi-million dollar tax battle in 2012. A group of 12 companies in his empirecollapsed in 2013 with reported debts in the tens of millions of dollars.

Builder and original owner Tony Murphy used 1840’sheritage-listed Tomago House as inspiration when he constructed Killara on 8631 square metres overlooking Dudley Beach in 1982.

Records show it last sold for $2.2 million in 2002.

The five-bedroom house was built from convict sandstock bricks, welsh slate and Wonder Bay sandstone.

It has four marble bathrooms, a chef’s kitchen constructed from Tasmanian oak with Corian benchtops, a garage for 10 cars, wrap-around sandstone verandah, central internal courtyard, a guest house with stables and a 15 metre saltwaterpool lined with glass tiles.

Its one-of-a-kind internal features include goldleaf wallpaper from England, custom-made plush Westminster carpet, Waterford crystal chandeliers,red granite floors andhand-picked logged red cedar joinery.

It also boastshand-crafted and hand-painted 20foot ceilings, copper guttering, stainless steel pipes, four custom-sourced working fireplaces and 32 French doors.

The expressions of interest period closes May 2, unless the house is sold prior.

“The right buyer needs to come along and experience it–and it is about an experience, not just a walk through,” Mr Kentwell said. “We’ve received national inquiries and even some international inquiries that we’re in the early stages of exploring –andit’s been on the market for a week.”

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Knights VS Panthers | as it happened Watene-Zelezniak bombs a try, catching a ball metres from an open line with a foot raking the sideline chalk. Picture: Fox Sports/Twitter
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Joe Wardle warming up ahead of the clash. Picture: @nrlknights/Twitter

TweetFacebooktried hard tonight knights, can’t do much with 34% possession #NRLPanthersKnights

— Stuart Collinson (@pommystu90) March 24, 2017#NRLPanthersKnights Penrith sitting on that largest ever winning margin now 40-0

— Stew Moses (@TheRiffMarn) March 24, 2017#NRLPanthersKnights 61% possession 84% completions wont lose you too many games

— Stew Moses (@TheRiffMarn) March 24, 2017Well that’s just made up. Referee genuinely seeing things. #NRLPanthersKnights

— Morgan Campbell (@M_Campbell23) March 24, 2017Oops! Should have been two to DWZ! #NRLPanthersKnights : https://t.co/cczt7zVAW6pic.twitter南京夜网/3OtMtzEXzn

— FOX SPORTS NRL (@FOXNRL) March 24, 2017HT | Not a great first half there, as we go into the sheds 22-0 down #NRLPanthersKnights#goKnights

— Newcastle Knights (@NRLKnights) March 24, 2017The Peach! ?#NRLPanthersKnights#NRLpic.twitter南京夜网/2P46hrT50D

— NRL (@NRL) March 24, 2017It’s one way traffic at the moment! Te Maire Martin delivers for the Panthers.#NRLPanthersKnights 16-0 after 27 minutes.#NRLpic.twitter南京夜网/FYsp77nwpu

— NRL (@NRL) March 24, 2017Vision of the @NRLKnights No Try Decision in the 12th minute of #NRLPanthersKnights.#NRLpic.twitter南京夜网/Xys1k09hPP

— NRL Bunker (@NRLBunker) March 24, 2017Kick off at Pepper Stadium!#NRLPanthersKnights#NRLpic.twitter南京夜网/zSclVfkkVA

— NRL (@NRL) March 24, 2017Wearing their new kit, @NRLKnights are warming up at Penrith … pic.twitter南京夜网/JU5zn13t4J

— Robert Dillon (@robertdillon174) March 24, 2017

JOE Wardle will make his NRL debut after the Knights adjusted their squad shortly before kick-off on Friday.

The Englishman slots onto the bench ofa rejigged side that will line Peter Mata’utia up at fullback.

His brother Sione moves from the second row to the centres, with Luke Yates replacing him in the engine room.

The Knights seek their second win against Penrith from 6pm on Friday.

Follow here for live updates, photos, a half-time wrapand a Robert Dillon match report at full-time.

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There is a new AFL-backed team undefeated on top of the Super Netball ladder after five rounds and it is not Collingwood. But that team, the Giants, will enter Saturday’s top-of-the-table clash with the Melbourne Vixens needing to overcome the most significant injury loss of the league’s inaugural season.
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Dynamic Giants captain Kim Green will have surgery to repair her ruptured anterior cruciate ligament on Thursday, with shooter Jo Harten to assume the on-court leadership in the former Diamond’s place. Harten, the 72-Test England international, is confident her squad has the depth to cover such a significant absence, and admiring of the way Green, 31, has handled such a devastating setback.

“It has been a difficult week for Kim, but she’s a trooper, she’s a champion and I’ve never seen anyone deal with an injury quite like her,” Harten said. “She is so professional, puts the team first all the time, which is incredible considering her circumstances, so it’s amazing to be around her at the moment.

“She’s still as much a part of our team as ever. We’re just rallying around each other at the moment. Obviously to lose someone of her stature is a big blow for our club. It’s the stuff she does off the court we’re going to miss the most.”

But nor can the on-court implications be underestimated, with Harten’s goal average of 28 assisted immensely by Green’s powerful feeds into the circle. Young Taylah Davies took the skipper’s place after the early mishap against the Thunderbirds, but a more formidable Vixens defensive unit is fresh from an exceptional performance against the Firebirds, even if midcourt recruit Khao Watts has been ruled out indefinitely after a knee arthroscope.

“We’ve got a lot of respect for the Vixens; we know they’re a very honest, hard-working team,” said the versatile 188-centimetre Harten, who has partnered goal attack Susan Pettit and shooter Kristina Brice this season. “They don’t have any flashy or fancy players, as such, but they just work hard for each other and I think they resemble us in a way – just want to fight for the ball, finish off games. it’s going to be a really hard, honest contest.”We love travelling to Melbourne – we obviously travelled a couple of weeks ago to take on Collingwood so we’re pumped to get back to Melbourne. It’s going to be a great atmosphere and a great occasion and we’ve been thinking about the NSW-Victoria rivalry, as well, which for me is something to be excited about and great to be a part of.”

The Vixens have not lost at home on Hisense Arena, although faded out to a wasteful draw in round three against the NSW Swifts, who host the Magpies at the Sydney Olympic Park Sports Centre on Sunday.

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How a 28-year-old investor used Uber to help him buy six properties

What Gen Y’s are sick of hearing about home buying

The 25-year-old with eight investment properties

Mina O’Neill, 28, and her husband Scott, 30, started buying properties in late-2010.

Now the rentvesting couple has a portfolio of 28 properties across Australia, including commercial and residential real estate.

Mina has an advertising and financial planning background, while Scott’s experience is in engineering. So when they put their minds together it was “all about the numbers” – a natural fit for them to get into investing.

After all their costs, such as council rates and maintenance fees, are considered their portfolio leaves them with an income of $300,000 a year.

They’ve put this income to good use – spending six months of 2016 overseas and they are intending to continue with this lifestyle in the future.

“Buying a property from Japan was hard though,” Mina laughed, “It cost $100 to send paperwork!”

But it’s not all sipping martinis and overseas holidays. Getting to this position has been a steep learning curve.

Their first purchase seven years ago was a house in Sutherland, near where they were living at the time.

Having saved up a modest deposit themselves, they moved into the property to avoid paying stamp duty and to get the $7000 grant available at the time.

“It needed a lot of work,” Mina said. The couple set about renovating it together, spending $45,000 to bring it up to scratch.

When they rented it out a year later, because it had a granny flat, they got a positive cash flow.

By 2012, they were ready to increase their passive income. They bought an apartment in Maroubra for $620,000.

This was also a renovation experience – costing them $20,000.

They then took a two-year hiatus on buying, to spend some time considering their options, speaking to mentors, making contacts with agents across the country and planning their next move.

“We looked for areas with above average [rental] yields, then looked for properties that would give us higher than average cash flow,” Scott explained.

By 2014, yields were too low for Sydney to be a consideration. Instead, in March, they bought a block of apartments for $480,000 in Port Macquarie.

Just two months later, they snapped up three Queensland apartments in Labrador – all on separate titles but in one block, later followed by another three in the same area with the same strategy.

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During this high growth phase of their investing, they also decided to quit their jobs and focus on Rethink Investing – a property investment advisory company.

Their plans did not stop there. By the end of 2014, they’d diversified into other apartment developments, a subdivision project and were ready to try something new.

In 2015, as well as buying two others houses, they bought their first commercial property – a fast food shop in Perth.

“The residential market isn’t doing well in Perth, but this was a good deal and it’s a long-term lease,” Scott said.

Considering the longer-term outlook for the economy and local demand for smaller-style food outlets, he was confident it was a good purchase.

They have since added a medical centre and a warehouse with a commercial office to their portfolio.

The warehouse, along with a house, a duplex and a development site, were bought in March 2017 and have yet to settle.

Now, they’re reaping the benefits of this effort. The reason they invested initially was never to accrue huge amounts of wealth – it was to allow them to have the freedom to make choices about when to work and how they could spend time together.

“We wanted to have the choice about when we open the computer, when we work and how we use our time,” Mina said.

They’ve been able to travel extensively using the income from the portfolio, and have been able to grow their business in the meantime.

Their latest purchase, a development site, is expected to take their portfolio value to $20 million. The project is expected to start in mid-2017. Scott and Mina’s golden rules for building a portfolioBuy under market value, with the potential to add value (for instance, through a cosmetic renovation) if possible.Focus on yield and cash flow. This will also help with bank serviceability later.Don’t only consider properties in your backyard – there are other markets outside Sydney and Melbourne.Outsource the work. Scott and Mina formerly self-managed, but now have professionals to do the heavy lifting. They allow the property managers to spend $200 a month on each rental before needing permission and have an email-only policy to ensure they don’t have constant phone calls.Rentvest. Rent somewhere cheaper so you can afford to invest.

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Lance Franklin is in ominous form, Kurt Tippett has had one of his best pre-seasons yet, Sam Reid is finally fully fit, and Plugger is even back in town.
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Version 2017 of the Sydney Swans, which rolls out against Port Adelaide on Saturday for round one, will be spearheaded by one of the most dominant forward lines in the league this season, complementing arguably the game’s strongest midfield and a defence that conceded less points than any other last season.

Icing the cake is the return of the league’s all-time greatest goal kicker Tony Lockett, who will work with Sydney’s forwards in a mentoring capacity this season.

Forward firepower let the Swans down in the 2016 grand final loss to the Western Bulldogs, their second failure at the final hurdle in the past three seasons.

Franklin injured his ankle in the first quarter against the Bulldogs and was well below his influential best. Tippett was still nursing a fractured jaw suffered three weeks earlier, while Reid didn’t even play.

Coach John Longmire must feel like he has a brand new forward line at his disposal, and he’s gone tall for the Power clash naming Franklin, Tippett and Reid in the front six.

Tippett won’t park himself up there for the entire game – he’ll still be required to perform his share of ruck duties although the emergence of 206 centimetre ruckman Sam Naismith last season will give the former ample time in his customary resting role up forward.

Crucially he comes into 2017 healthy, like he did 12 months ago when he was in All Australian form before a serious hamstring injury curtailed the back half of his year.

“He’s had a really good pre-season, he’s done every session. We’ve seen what he can do last year in the first half of the year, his impact as a ruckman who can kick goals as a forward,” Longmire told Fairfax Media.

“He was top three in our best and fairest the first half of the year and then you could arguably say he was one of the better ruckman in the competition.

“You tear the hamstring tendon and had to have an operation, it’s a pretty significant injury. He then came back on the death knock of the finals and then suffered a broken jaw in two places.

“The timing of his injury last year coincided a little bit with Naismith coming on as well. You need quality ruckmen on your list.”

Tippett has shown glimpses of his best through the pre-season, and his final hitout against St Kilda was his finest since tearing his hamstring in round 12 last year.

Franklin has also been his usual dominant self in the two pre-season games he has played, showing no ill effects of the shoulder surgery he underwent during the off-season.

He kicked a pair of goals in wins over GWS and the Saints, and laid off several more. More telling though has been his willingness to roam up the ground and collect the ball in midfield or on a wing before launching an attack into the forward line.

Entering his fourth year as a Swan and his 13th in the AFL overall, Franklin is showing no signs of slowing down.

“He wants to win and that’s always a handy trait to have,” Longmire said.

“From that aspect he’s been really good for us. He’s clearly got top-end talent but his competitiveness really stands out to us as coaches, just how much he likes to win, no matter what he does, whether it’s football, it’s any drill that we do, it’s table tennis, it’s anything.

“That’s something that you appreciated from far away but when you see him close up, you do get an understanding of how much he just loves to compete.”

The biggest change at the Swans since the grand final has been Josh Kennedy’s inauguration as captain, in place of Jarrad McVeigh and Kieren Jack.

The fact Kennedy is the successor is certainly no shock, although the switch came earlier than most had anticipated.

“It was pretty clear he had great leadership qualities, he was in our leadership group, he was a consistent performer,” Longmire said.

“We’re fortunate that we’ve got a number of players who we think are strong leaders at this footy club. He was always one that you were confident in him playing a pretty big part on and off the field and he’s been fantastic so far.

“He really loved the opportunity, he’s getting new experiences and it’s come at a good time for him just to be able to keep challenging himself. He’s certainly taken to it really well.”

The injured McVeigh and Jack remain in the leadership group which Longmire said would only strengthen the club.

“It’s a real benefit to have two ex-captains in the leadership group who can help see through your eyes as a captain,” Longmire said.

“There’s not too many times you can draw upon people who have been in those positions you’ve been in and he’s got two in the leadership group that can help him.

“I see that as only a positive for him. He’ll still do it his own way and that’s what Macca and Kieren will encourage him to do, but they’re still there if he needs them.” Subscribe to The Age Real Footy Podcast

SYDNEY SWANS

Coach: John Longmire

Captain: Josh Kennedy

Last five years:

2016 – Runner-up

2015 – Finished 4th, lost 2nd week finals

2014 – Runner-up

2013 – Finished 4th, lost prelim final

2012 – Premiers

Flag potential: Extremely high – Beaten favourites in the grand final last season, and the core of that team is still at the club. Several of the Swans’ stars were carrying injuries through that finals series, with Lance Franklin, Luke Parker, Kurt Tippett and Callum Mills all lacking fitness in the decider. More than capable of going one better this season.

Key three:

Lance Franklin – Still the most destructive player in the game and almost impossible to contain when he’s on his game. His booming left foot is capable from 65m out from any angle, and he’s just as adept in spotting up his teammates. Throw in that trademark physicality, and ‘Buddy’ is still one hell of a player.

Luke Parker – You’d be hard-pressed finding a more courageous AFL player than the hard-nosed Swans midfielder. He was a deserved runner-up in the Brownlow Medal last season to Patrick Dangerfield and looks set for another big year after offseason knee surgery.

Josh Kennedy – The newly promoted captain who remains one of the most prolific ball winners in the league. His second quarter in last year’s grand final was one of the finest terms of football you’re likely to see from an individual, with Kennedy almost single-handedly keeping the Swans in the game.

Wildcard: Isaac Heeney. The blonde-haired 20-year-old should enjoy more time in the middle this season after a stellar 2016 which was just his second in the league. One of the strongest pound-for-pound players in the league who has the courage to match his silky skills with hand and foot. He’s out indefinitely with glandular fever, but will give opposition coaches plenty of headaches once he makes it back on the field.

One to watch: Kurt Tippett. His first half of last season was vintage Tippett before a hamstring injury cost him 10 weeks and a broken jaw severely hampered his finals series. One of the highest paid players at the club, and he’ll be determined to string together a full season of his best football.

Ins: Darcy Cameron (Claremont WAFL), Shaun Edwards (Essendon), Sam Fisher (Canberra Demons), Oliver Florent (Sandringham U18), Jordan Foote (University of NSW), Robbie Fox (Coburg VFL), Will Hayward (North Adelaide SANFL), Jack Malbaum (Eastern U18), Toby Pink (Glenelg SANFL), Ben Ronke (Calder U18).

Outs: Abe Davis (delisted), Tom Derickx (retired), Kyle Galloway (delisted), Jack Hiscox (delisted), Ben McGlynn (retired), Tom Mitchell (Hawthorn), Toby Nankervis (Richmond), Ted Richards (retired), Xavier Richards (delisted).

Best lineup:

B: Nick Smith, Heath Grundy, Dane Rampe

HB: Callum Mills, Aliir Aliir, Jake Lloyd

C: Zak Jones, Dan Hannebery, Isaac Heeney

HF: George Hewett, Sam Reid, Lance Franklin

F: Tom Papley, Kurt Tippett, Kieren Jack

R: Sam Naismith, Luke Parker, Josh Kennedy

I: Daniel Robinson, Gary Rohan, Jarrad McVeigh, Callum Sinclair

Predicted finish: 2nd

Betting (Sportsbet)

To win the flag: $8

To make the top eight: $1.22

Draw

Round 1 Saturday, March 25 v Port Adelaide at SCG, 4.35pm

Round 2 Friday, March 31 v Western Bulldogs at Etihad Stadium, 7.50pm

Round 3 Friday, April 7 v Collingwood at SCG, 7.50pm

Round 4 Thursday, April 13 v West Coast Eagles at Domain Stadium, 6.10pm

Round 5 Saturday, April 22 v GWS Giants at SCG, 7.25pm

Round 6 Saturday, April 29 v Carlton at MCG, 2.10pm

Round 7 Sunday, May 7 v Brisbane Lions at SCG, 1.10pm

Round 8 Sunday, May 14 v North Melbourne at Etihad Stadium, 4.40pm

Round 9 Saturday, May 20 v St Kilda at Etihad Stadium, 1.45pm

Round 10 Friday, May 26 v Hawthorn at SCG, 7.50pm

Round 11 Bye

Round 12 Thursday, June 8 v Western Bulldogs at SCG, 7.20pm

Round 13 Saturday, June 17 v Richmond at MCG, 1.45pm

Round 14 Friday, June 23 v Essendon at SCG, 7.50pm

Round 15 Friday, June 30 v Melbourne at MCG, 7.50pm

Round 16 Saturday, July 8 v Gold Coast Suns at SCG, 4.35pm

Round 17 Saturday, July 15 v GWS Giants at Spotless Stadium, 7.25pm

Round 18 Saturday, July 22 v St Kilda at SCG, 7.25pm

Round 19 Friday, July 28 v Hawthorn at MCG, 7.50pm

Round 20 Friday, August 4 v Geelong Cats at Simonds Stadium, 7.50pm

Round 21 Saturday, August 12 v Fremantle at SCG, 1.45pm

Round 22 Friday, August 18 v Adelaide Crows at Adelaide Oval, 7.20pm

Round 23 TBC v Carlton at SCG, TBC

– with AAP

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AFL Round 1: Carlton v Richmond Scenes from the round one AFL match between the Carlton Blues and the Richmond Tigers at Melbourne Cricket Ground on March 23, 2017. Photo: Getty Images
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Scenes from the round one AFL match between the Carlton Blues and the Richmond Tigers at Melbourne Cricket Ground on March 23, 2017. Photo: Getty Images

Scenes from the round one AFL match between the Carlton Blues and the Richmond Tigers at Melbourne Cricket Ground on March 23, 2017. Photo: Getty Images

Scenes from the round one AFL match between the Carlton Blues and the Richmond Tigers at Melbourne Cricket Ground on March 23, 2017. Photo: Getty Images

Scenes from the round one AFL match between the Carlton Blues and the Richmond Tigers at Melbourne Cricket Ground on March 23, 2017. Photo: Getty Images

Scenes from the round one AFL match between the Carlton Blues and the Richmond Tigers at Melbourne Cricket Ground on March 23, 2017. Photo: Getty Images

Scenes from the round one AFL match between the Carlton Blues and the Richmond Tigers at Melbourne Cricket Ground on March 23, 2017. Photo: Getty Images

Scenes from the round one AFL match between the Carlton Blues and the Richmond Tigers at Melbourne Cricket Ground on March 23, 2017. Photo: Getty Images

Scenes from the round one AFL match between the Carlton Blues and the Richmond Tigers at Melbourne Cricket Ground on March 23, 2017. Photo: Getty Images

Scenes from the round one AFL match between the Carlton Blues and the Richmond Tigers at Melbourne Cricket Ground on March 23, 2017. Photo: Getty Images

Scenes from the round one AFL match between the Carlton Blues and the Richmond Tigers at Melbourne Cricket Ground on March 23, 2017. Photo: Getty Images

Scenes from the round one AFL match between the Carlton Blues and the Richmond Tigers at Melbourne Cricket Ground on March 23, 2017. Photo: Getty Images

Scenes from the round one AFL match between the Carlton Blues and the Richmond Tigers at Melbourne Cricket Ground on March 23, 2017. Photo: Getty Images

Scenes from the round one AFL match between the Carlton Blues and the Richmond Tigers at Melbourne Cricket Ground on March 23, 2017. Photo: Getty Images

Scenes from the round one AFL match between the Carlton Blues and the Richmond Tigers at Melbourne Cricket Ground on March 23, 2017. Photo: Getty Images

TweetFacebookIt was one of the better games you’d see Dustin Martin play. Already rated a big Brownlow Medal chance, the bustling Tigers midfielder pulled in a near-certain three votes with a highly-effective four-goal return in the big win over Carlton.

Richmond coach Damien Hardwick was similarly enthused about Martin’s output, but more so because the addition of new midfielders Josh Caddy and Dion Prestia to the club hasallowed Dusty to spend more time up forward – with obvious benefits.

“Look, he’s a very good player,” Hardwick said.

“He kicked – what, four (goals)? – and gave off two so it was a pretty special sort of game. The addition of Caddy and Prestia,it helps with Dusty being able to play more forward.

“Some times one player is going to get the benefit of others’ good work. Not to say that Dusty doesn’t do a lot of good work, but we were happy with that.”

Richmond were happy with their lot afterthe convincing 43-point triumph, notwithstanding a third quarter slump when the Blues moved to within striking distance as well as some squandered opportunities in the forward half.

“We’ve still got a fair bit of work to do. There’s some parts of a game that as a coach you’re probably never happy with, so we’ll endeavour to work on those,” Hardwick said.

“We had a number of opportunities where we probably could have scored goals and we sort of fluffed them up.

“Our conversion inside 50 is probably a little bit disappointing at stages, but I couldn’t fault the guys’ intensity and effort, and that’s all I want, that’s all our fans want and to see the effort they gave today was outstanding.

“The key for us is the consistency we’re looking for with that effort. We’ll get a great test against round two versus Collingwood next week.”

The new-look Tigers had a range of scoring sources aside from Martin and a quiet Jack Riewoldt. Dan Butler, Jason Castagna and Toby Nankervis all snagged two goals.

There was few negatives for the Tigers, however, particularly as they tinker with their game plan.

“From good defence comes good offence, and that’s what we saw,” Hardwick said.

“The 11 goals that I spoke of – you get 66 points from forward half turnovers, you’re going to be hard to beat.

“If we get that right, we’re going to be in games.”

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Washington: A moment of high drama has gripped the Trump presidency. For eight years, Republicans voted again and again to repeal Obamacare, but without ever drafting a replacement. And now that they control the White House and both chambers of Congress, they seemingly still can’t agree on the terms of a bill.
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Donald Trump’s self-congratulation as a dealmaker was on the line late on Thursday as he dared recalcitrant Republicans in Congress to defy him by holding to their refusal to back his terms for repealing and replacing Obamacare. Some because the makeover was too harsh, others because it was not harsh enough.

After haggling late into the night, the President issued an ultimatum through his budget director Mike Mulvaney – unless the rebels surrendered to his demands, he’d move on with the rest of his legislative agenda leaving Obamacare in place. And they could take their chances with angry Republican voters at the next election.

It was a huge gamble by Trump and House Speaker Paul Ryan, who authored the disputed bill that the GOP leadership offers as a replacement for Obamacare – their credibility is as much on the line as that of the congressional rebels.

The numbers had shifted through the evening in Trump’s favour, but the leadership reportedly was still a “handful” of votes short of being assured a win.

But Ryan opted to support Trump’s brinksmanship. Leaving the Capitol, he declared: “We’ve been promising the American people that we are going to repeal and replace this broken law,” Ryan said. “Tomorrow [Friday in DC] we’re proceeding.”

Trump meanwhile belted out a tweeted challenge: “Disastrous #Obamacare has led to higher costs & fewer options. It will only continue to get worse! We must #RepealANDReplace. #PassTheBill”.

Amidst warnings that failure posed an existential threat to the GOP, it became woefully clear earlier in the day that Trump and Republican leaders in Congress were in a cleft stick. The upshot of which was the postponement of a House vote freighted with symbolism, because it was to be taken on the seventh anniversary of Obamacare being signed into law.

Chaos and drama mounted in equal parts through the day, with White House officials insisting the vote would proceed and be carried, despite Trump’s failure to convince the uber-conservative Freedom Caucus, dozens of whose members were hauled into the West Wing.

Meanwhile, Republican whips armed with colour-coded charts on which they juggled the numbers, were attempting to corral other defiant congressional Republicans – on the floor of the House and in the corridors of the Capitol.

More arm-twisting was expected through Thursday night.

With no support from Democrats, Speaker Ryan could afford only 22 defections from a fractious conference of 237 members. By the headcount of The New York Times, he had only 145 firm ‘yes’ votes; along with 45 ‘undecided,’ 15 who were inclined to vote ‘no, and 32 firm ‘no’ votes.

The leadership had been banking on opponents of the bill going to water. “When the president calls someone and says, ‘I need your vote on this,’ it’s very hard to say no, when it torpedoes our entire conference, Trump’s entire presidency, and we end up losing the Senate next year and we lose members in the House,” New York Republican and Trump loyalist Chris Collins told reporters.

Florida Republican Dennis Ross agreed – “If we don’t pass this out of the House, this is the beginning of the end for us as a Republican Party.” But the Freedom Caucus was cocky; with spokeswoman Alyssa Farah claiming it had 25 solid “no” votes ??? enough to defeat the bill.

Trump’s tweeted appeals for support didn’t deliver the numbers. Nor did a video in which he sought to cajole members: “Go with our plan. It’s going to be terrific”.

Presidential and party credibility are on the line here. As the full impact of the health insurance makeover seeps in, voters have been walking away from Trump, whose approval rating is slumping into the mid 30s. And they are walking away from the GOP health plan by a factor of three to one among those who have made up their minds, according to a new Quinnipiac poll.

And the level of disapproval of the healthcare bill among two of Trump’s core constituencies likely is causing alarm in the White House – it was underwater by 26 points among non-college whites; and by 46 points among voters aged 50-64. Only 13 per cent of women said they favoured the health proposal.

Trump won voters aged 45 to 64 by almost 30 per cent. But under a proposal which the President balks at calling Trumpcare, premium costs would rise by more than $US2300 ($3010) a year for a 55-year-old earning $US25,000; by more than $US4400 for a 64-year-old on $US25,000; and by $US5800 for a 64-year-old on $US15,000, according to research by the powerful American Association for Retired Persons.

The Kaiser Family Foundation, a health think-tank, produced electoral maps showing the added costs would be felt profoundly in Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, states that were vital in Trump’s victory.

“Generally, people who are older, lower-income, or live in high-premium areas [like Alaska and Arizona] receive larger tax credits under [Obamacare] than they would under [Trumpcare],” the foundation says.

Trump gave ground to the Freedom Caucus, agreeing to their demand that it be left to insurers and their clients to decide the terms of policies, rather than have Washington insist that all policies must include benefits like maternity care, emergency services, mental health and wellness visits.

But moderates dug in, with Pennsylvania Republican Charlie Dent, who heads a moderate block known as the Tuesday Group, declaring: “I believe this bill, in its current form, will lead to the loss of coverage and make insurance unaffordable for too many Americans, particularly for low- to moderate-income and older individuals.”

Former president Barack Obama, who has been studiously quiet since leaving the White House in Late January, weighed in too, defending his legacy and urging bipartisan negotiation.

“I’ve always said we should build on this law, just as Americans of both parties worked to improve Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid over the years,” he said in an email to supporters. But we should start from the baseline that any changes will make our health care system better, not worse for hard-working Americans.”

After the postponement of Thursday’s vote members were warned that there could be another attempt on Friday – with White House Deputy Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders declaring: “We’re very confident that the bill will pass tomorrow morning”.

After so much angst and agony, that would be a remarkable outcome for Trump and the party. But if and when the bill clears the House, it faces even greater hurdles in the Senate where the GOP numbers are much tighter, 52-48.

Up to a dozen Republican senators reportedly oppose the Trumpcare bill, many of them fearful of the electoral repercussions of gutting Obamacare. Fears were expressed too that if Trump and the GOP congressional leadership can’t win the healthcare battle, they’ll face even greater fights on other priority items, like Trump’s proposed $US1 trillion infrastructure plan and his promised tax cuts.

White House spokesman Sean Spicer stayed upbeat, telling reporters at one stage: “Let’s get to the vote tonight”. But questioned on Trump’s responsibility for threatened failure of the legislation, he became defensive.

“I think the President has done a phenomenal job. There’s no question, I think, when you look at the effort that he’s put in, the number of meetings that he’s had and the changes that have been [made] to the bill, there’s no question how hard the President and his team, the Vice President, have worked to get this done,” Spicer said.

“At the end of the day, we can’t force somebody to vote.”

He too seemed to be daring Republicans to defy Trump. “The President’s made very clear that Republicans in particular have made a commitment to constituents, to the American people, that if given the opportunity to have a Republican President, a Republican Senate and a Republican House, that they would enact ‘repeal and replace’.

“You’ve taken a bunch of these free votes when it didn’t matter because you didn’t have a Republican President??? Well, this is a live ball now. And this is for real. And we’re going to do what we pledged to the American people and keep our word.”

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Director, producer and one half of James Packer’s RatPac Entertainment, Brett Ratner has labelled film review aggregation website Rotten Tomatoes “the worst thing we have in today’s movie culture.”
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Ratner, who rose to commercial fame directing the Rush Hour films, took aim at the website during a speech at the Sun Valley Film Festival in the US.

Rotten Tomatoes ranks films based on the balance of favourable vs. unfavourable critic reviews rather than ratings of the films themselves, with those attracting favourable reviews at a rate of 60 per cent or more considered ‘fresh’.

Ratner’s comments suggest filmgoers and studios alike rely too heavily on a number, rather than engaging with the ideas of any individual critic.

He told an audience that he has great respect for film critics and the traditional format, but has a problem with the way most people engage reviews in the online environment.

“When I was growing up film criticism was a real art. And there was intellect that went into that. And you would read Pauline’s Kael’s reviews, or some others, and that doesn’t exist anymore,” he said.

“Now it’s about a number. A compounded number of how many positives vs. negatives. Now it’s about, ‘What’s your Rotten Tomatoes score?'”

The producer-director continued, touching on a recent work produced in part by RatPac-Dune Entertainment – formed in a merger between his partnership with Australian mogul Packer, and Dune Entertainment.

“The Rotten Tomatoes score was so low on Batman v Superman, I think it put a cloud over a movie that was incredibly successful,” he said. “People don’t realise what goes into making a movie like that. It’s mind-blowing.”

“It’s just insane, it’s hurting the business, it’s getting people to not see a movie.”

Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice attracted a ‘tomatometer’ rating of just 27 per cent, from a total of 353 reviews, while in contrast, 63 per cent of the site’s non-professional userbase liked the film (of a total of 226,617 user ratings).

Despite the ratings, the heavyweight superhero combination brought in more than $1 billion ($US872.7 million) at the box office.

The review collating website has 12 director credits listed for Ratner, of which four have earned a ‘fresh’ 60 per cent or more, while his mileage also varies with the site as a producer.

It’s not the first time Rotten Tomatoes has copped criticism from hollywood types. In 2015, the site took flak from actor Meryl Streep regarding the ratio of males and females contributing to the sites rating system.

At a press conference at the BFI London Film Festival, she claimed 168 women were contributing to the website’s ‘tomatometer’ ratings – in comparison to 760 men, going on to suggest the imbalance skews the results and in turn, the industry – in favour of male interests.

The same year, arthouse horror director David Cronenberg, who boasts much more favourable reviews than Ratner under his direction, levelled similar criticisms to the latter.

He told a Canadian news outlet the effectiveness of critics is diluted as top critics are mixed in with the mediocre – reducing the entire process to a simple ‘thumbs up’ or ‘thumbs down’.

Cronenberg argued that while the diversification of opinion has given rise to some quality voices that would otherwise not have made it, the good is outweighed by the bad.

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