Cats get midfield boost for Pies AFL clash

Repentant Geelong midfielder Mitch Duncan is keen to repay the Cats for his brain snap moment against Sydney that cost him a week on the sidelines.

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Duncan returns to the line-up to face Collingwood at the MCG on Saturday after serving a one-match ban for striking Tom Papley.

The altercation cost his side a goal at a pivotal moment in the round 20 loss to the Swans and meant he was a frustrated observer as the undermanned Cats posted a gutsy win over Richmond.

“He was pretty disappointed with that,” Geelong midfield coach Matthew Knights told AAP.

“He’s usually a very disciplined player. I think it’s just one of those incidents that he’ll look at learn from pretty quickly.

“He really loves the team environment and he loves the Geelong footy club … there will be an element of him that will be wanting to give back to the group.”

Duncan is a welcome addition to a midfield unit still missing skipper Joel Selwood, who is tentatively slated to return to full training after ankle surgery in the bye round.

Duncan was included in the side along with forward Wylie Buzza, while Rhys Stanley (calf) and Brandan Parfitt (omitted) departed.

Nathan Buckley handed a much-anticipated AFL debut to Josh Daicos, son of Collingwood great Peter, but Jordan De Goey (hip), Tyson Goldsack (soreness) and Alex Fasolo (shoulder) dropped out of the side.

They joined Scott Pendlebury, Levi Greenwood, Daniel Wells and Will Hoskin-Elliott on a lengthy injury list, while star ruckman Brodie Grundy will sit for a second week as he serves a suspension.

The injury-depleted Pies are out of finals contention in 13th spot on the ladder, while the Cats are vying for a top-two finish.

But Buckley’s side has proved a tough nut for the Cats to crack in recent times, Chris Scott’s men losing their past three meetings.

“Even though they’ve had an indifferent season their best is very good,” Knights said.

“They’ve certainly played well against us in previous encounters.”

Peats launches defence of Henry

Gold Coast hooker Nathan Peats has launched a vigorous defence of coach Neil Henry arguing he shouldn’t cop the axe for the side’s underwhelming NRL season.

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A frank and forthright Peats described as “bull****” stories linking young halves Kane Elgey and Ash Taylor to an early exit from the club unless Henry was sacked.

Henry may have coached his last game in charge of the Titans following their 30-8 drubbing at the hands of Parramatta in Sydney on Thursday night.

Henry’s future is under a cloud after he this week was forced into an emergency crisis meeting with the club over his strained relationship with fullback Jarryd Hayne.

However NSW No.9 Peats said it shouldn’t be Henry’s head on the chopping block and reinforced the senior playing group’s support for their coach.

“He’s not on the field missing tackles and giving away fifth tackle penalties,” Peats said.

“He’s up in box and giving us our game plan and we’re just not executing it, we’re not doing the right stuff. We’re making it too hard for ourselves.

“In the second half (against Parramatta) we were out on our feet because we were giving away s*** penalties all the time. He’s not to blame.”

Peats hit out at rumours there were large sections of the playing group disgruntled with Henry.

“That’s why I don’t believe everything I read,” Peats said.

“I think it would be (unfair to sack Henry). We all respect him as a coach and the leadership group love him and the squad love him.

“There might be two or three blokes who are unhappy with their contract situation or where they’re going next year but that happens at every club.”

He savaged reports Elgey and Taylor were unhappy with Henry and holding the club to ransom unless he was released from the final year of his contract.

“Don’t believe everything you read these days,” Peats said.

“For (them) to come out and say (they’re) not going to sign unless the coach isn’t there, is just rubbish.”

Labor seeks details on senator road links

Labor believes Queensland senator Barry O’Sullivan has serious questions to answer over his possible links to a federal government-funded road projects which could disqualify him from parliament.

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The Liberal-National Party senator owns a portion of a company called Jilbridge Pty Ltd which is listed on his pecuniary interest register.

Jilbridge has a share of O’Sullivan and Sons Pty Ltd, which is a shareholder in Newlands Civil Construction, which is managed by the senator’s son.

Network Ten on Friday night dug out archive footage of Senator O’Sullivan praising the Natural Disaster Relief and Recovery Arrangements agency during a Senate estimates hearing in May.

Months before Newlands had successfully tendered for a $2.2 million contract to repair flooded roads in central Queensland and the commonwealth is the main source of the money, Ten reports.

On Thursday, it emerged Newlands has a four-project contract with Nexus Infrastructure – one of the partners on the Toowoomba Second Range Crossing, a $1.6 billion road bypass.

The federal government is contributing $1.14 billion, or 80 per cent of the project cost, and the Queensland government’s share is 20 per cent through a public-private partnership.

It is understood Nexus has an agreement with the Queensland government but not the government, however clarification was being sought from the company.

The Nexus website for the road project features not only the Queensland crest but the federal government’s logo and “Building our Future” slogan.

Under section 44 of the constitution, a member or senator can be disqualified from parliament where there is “any direct or indirect pecuniary interest in any agreement with the public service of the commonwealth”.

Former Family First senator Bob Day fell foul of the section in the High Court over his interest in an Adelaide electorate office, which he argued was at arm’s length.

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull on Friday declined to say whether he had spoken to the Liberal-National Party senator.

Attorney-General George Brandis told a Senate committee hearing on Friday he had not sought any advice on the matter from the solicitor-general.

Labor senator Penny Wong said the Day case pointed to why the government should seek legal advice.

“(Senator O’Sullivan) has serious questions to answer and the prime minister cannot simply arrogantly seek to dismiss this and cover this up,” she said.

Senator O’Sullivan said in a statement on Thursday he did not “either directly or indirectly, hold a pecuniary interest in any agreement with the public service of the commonwealth”.

“Importantly, a review by Newlands Civil Construction has proven that it does not hold any agreement with any company or entity that has an agreement with the public service of the commonwealth.”

Constitutional law expert George Williams said Senator O’Sullivan’s case warranted further examination because the Day case broadened the scope for disqualification for having a financial interest.

‘We owe him a lot’: ALP’s Johno farewelled

Both sides of politics have turned up to farewell John ‘Johno’ Johnson, the man described as “the heart, soul and sinews” of the NSW Labor party, at his state funeral.

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More than 1600 mourners filled St Mary’s Cathedral in Sydney on Friday to farewell the man former NSW premier Bob Carr described as “a character with character”.

Dignitaries at the funeral were led by NSW Governor David Hurley.

Politicians included former Labor prime minister Bob Hawke and other former premiers Barry Unsworth, Nathan Rees and Morris Iemma and Kristina Keneally.

Mr Johnson’s political foes, but personal friends, former Liberal prime minister Tony Abbott and former Liberal premier Barry O’Farrell also attended.

Four bishops, including the Archbishop of Sydney Anthony Fisher and more than 20 priest celebrated his Pontifical Mass of Christian Burial.

Mr Johnson, who served as the NSW upper house president from 1978 to 1991, and won respect from all sides of politics, died in Sydney last Wednesday aged 87.

He was a staunch Catholic and made a papal knight of the Order of St Gregory the Great in 2006. Pope Francis promoted him in 2015 to the top echelon of the award.

Mr Carr delivered the eulogy, saying the separation of Church and State was not a fetish for Johno as “he adored the Cross on the Calvary and rallied to the Light on the Hill”.

“‘I owe you a lot’, I said on my first and last visits to Johno on his sick bed,” Mr Carr said.

“We all owe him a lot,” he told the service.

Mr Carr said Mr Johnson was loyal to leaders.

“Johno treated Neville (Wran) with awe, Barrie with unstinted affection. He saw me as a co-conspirator and a useful fellow traveller who would protect his interests in his church.

“He was charmed by Kristina but thought she lived in theological error.

“He saw Luke as an altar boy … of great promise.”

Archbishop of Sydney, Anthony Fisher also paid tribute to Mr Johnson describing him as a man of integrity, who was a “true believer… a decent man with deep commitments, a man who practised what he preached with energy and compassion.”

He also spoke of Mr Johnson as a champion of Catholic social teaching.

He said his ideals made him a champion for the rights of the unborn and the elderly.

The same ideals “made him campaign for workers from those would exploit them and the needs of the homeless from those who would neglect them”.

And in a lighter vein, referring to his fame for ALP fundraising, Archbishop Fisher said he could see “Johno selling raffle tickets to St Peter or organising a faction in purgatory”.

A poignant moment during Friday’s funeral came when one of Mr Johnson’s young relatives was lifted up to place the politicians’ trademark trilby hat on the pile of white flowers on his coffin.

Second Vic council enters Aust Day debate

A second Melbourne council is set the delve into the Australia Day debacle started by Yarra, holding a vote next week on the future of the national day for its residents.

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Darebin City Council, in Melbourne’s north, added urgent business to its Monday meeting schedule, with councillors to decide how the council will commemorate Australia Day from 2018 onwards.

The council will consider either keeping January 26 unchanged and adding an advocacy campaign, or hold its citizenship ceremonies on the eve of Australia Day.

“Should Council want to take further actions regarding Australia Day events in Darebin, a strong and confirmed position through Council resolution will be required,” it said in its Australia Day briefing for Monday’s meeting.

The move follows action by Yarra City Council on Tuesday, which voted to stop referring to January 26 as Australia Day and ceasing its citizenship ceremonies on that day.

That resulted in the federal government on Wednesday banning them from performing any citizenship ceremonies at any time of year.

Assistant Minister for Immigration Alex Hawke was due to speak with Yarra City mayor Amanda Stone about the ban on Friday, but they were yet to have discussions by the end of the working week.

The government has hinted Yarra City Council could reclaim its power to host citizenship ceremonies if it reverses its controversial decision.

The minister has accused the council of politicising Australia Day and was outraged by the vote by councillors, warning such a move would be in breach of the Australian Citizenship Ceremonies code.

Darebin Council said it recognised there was a significant risk in adopting its second option to not hold ceremonies on Australia Day in light of Mr Hawkes’ ban for Yarra.

“Option Two in this report presents a serious and significant risk to Council and may be deemed to be an action that is politicising citizenship ceremonies and therefore a breach of the Code,” the briefing said.

Darebin will debate its options at a meeting on Monday night.