Teens spend ‘$30 a week on alcohol’

HALF NSW’s teenagers believe their friends spend up to $30 a week on alcohol, a new survey has found. And 16 per cent of teenagers say the weekly grog spend is even higher.
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The thirst for alcopops also shows no sign of drying up, despite the Federal Government’s tax hike. Commissioned by NSW Health, the research will add to the controversy over alcopops and whether governments are fuelling moral outrage against youth drinking for political purposes.

Professor Sandra Jones from the University of Wollongong studied 1263 respondents aged between 12-17 years as part of research into the impact of ready-to-drink spirit beverages on young people. Teenage drinking patterns replicated other national surveys of the same target group, she said, with just under 90 per cent reporting they had consumed alcohol.

More than 40 per cent said they had consumed a drink in the past four weeks.

She said the survey results suggest alcohol consumption is seen by adolescents as normal behaviour, even condoned by parents. More than 60 per cent of young people believe alcohol use is common among their friends.

Up to 70 per cent of teenagers surveyed believe their parents support them trying alcohol, although fewer than one in 10 approve of them getting drunk.

“Ready-to-drink beverages remain popular and extremely affordable for young people despite the tax increase this year,” Professor Jones said.

“The research found drinking rates in this country among young people are very high … girls drink them because they feel they can control the rate of consumption and they like the taste. Boys drink them because they are cheap and easy to drink quickly for getting drunk.”

Health Minister John Della Bosca said the NSW Government has to tackle teenage drinking but he rejected suggestions the Government is creating a moral panic for political purposes. He said alcohol abuse is a genuine issue because it places pressure on busy emergency departments and can lead to chronic disease.

Mr Della Bosca said the Government has launched an interactive website to raise awareness among young people and their parents about the risks of binge drinking.

“This situation is serious enough for us to start looking at a major cultural shift in our attitudes towards alcohol and the way advertisers and the alcohol industry promotes alcohol products,” he said.

[email protected]南京夜网.au PARENTS BEWARE A survey of 12 to 17-year-olds reveals:

* Almost 90 per cent have consumed alcohol at least once;

* More than 40 per cent had consumed a drink in the past four weeks;

* 64 per cent believe alcohol use is common among their friends;

* Males prefer cola-based drinks; females, milk- or cream-based drinks.

Let the good times roll

Australia will look back on this year as a pretty successful one for the Wallabies. We can look to the future with optimism and, although things can quickly change, we are heading in the right direction on the international stage. We managed to win three out of five Tests on the spring tour – plus the win against the Barbarians – which gave us a tally of nine from 14 for the year. The good news is that we’re a team on the way up and those stats could very well improve.
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There is a lot of upside to the Australian team at the moment. Robbie Deans, Michael Foley and Jim Williams have done a great job. When I came into the job, the first thing that struck me was the lack of depth in the team. In the modern game, that’s a killer, particularly when players are involved in rugby for up to 10 months of the year. You have to operate on a squad system, something that has taken Australians a while to get their head around. It enables players to perform fresh, while the coaches can put some pressure on players who are competing for spots. We’ll continue to see the Wallabies team being tweaked from week to week in the years to come. Many people dub it the "rotation system" but it’s all about putting the best team on the field. There is little difference between some players and freshness, state of mind and form all come into the reckoning.

We’ve seen the likes of Drew Mitchell, Benn Robinson, Adam Ashley-Cooper, Hugh McMeniman and Stephen Moore all become genuine Test players after taking some time to settle in. The first-year success of Peter Hynes and Dean Mumm has been encouraging. Not everyone can be like John Eales, Jason Little and Tim Horan, who were genuine Test players from the moment they stepped into the international arena. In the modern game, for some it can take a year or two.

Our front-row stocks are stronger than ever, with the likes of Ben Alexander, Robinson, Sekope Kepu and even Al Baxter, who at the age of 31 still appears to have a good year or two left in him. One underrated player for us over a number of years has been Matt Dunning. He had a good year while adapting from loose to tight head. We should hope his recovery from his Achilles injury is swift.

In the lock position, it’s fair to say that Nathan Sharpe, at the age of 31, appears not to be one of Deans’s favourites. However, I think he’s had an outstanding year. When you’ve got guys like Mark Chisholm, McMeniman, James Horwill and Mumm if needed, it’s a good sign. All bar Sharpe and Baxter, they are not older than 27 and all have a number of big years left in the game. With David Pocock ready to take over from George Smith and Phil Waugh, and the emergence of Richard Brown sitting behind Wycliff Palu at No.8, our back-row stocks also look strong.

Our forward improvement has been out of sight. When we talk about forward stocks, we’ve still got the likes of Greg Holmes and Stephen Hoiles trying to force their way into the Wallabies squad. What has been required in the past few years has been a greater focus on technique and skill, which is happening.

There is also promise in the backs. With Sam Cordingley gone, Luke Burgess has come in. He is a talented young man who has struggled for consistency. He can produce a 10/10 performance one week and then throw in a 2/10 the next. He’s definitely more suited to the short-arm penalties of the Super 14, where his running game comes into play. But, at times, his kicking and passing have come under scrutiny at Test level. Like fellow 25-year-old McMeniman, he has had an outstanding first year in the big time after suffering a spate of injuries. If Burgess can string a couple of seasons together, he can be the Australian halfback for a long time. Deans will be scouring the Super 14 for Burgess’s back-up.

At five-eighth, Matt Giteau is still Australia’s best and most dominant back. His goalkicking this year has been magnificent under pressure. Still, I’m not convinced he’s as comfortable at No.10 as he can be but time will solve that. Deans also has Berrick Barnes, Quade Cooper and Kurtley Beale as back-up options. For 20 years, the Australian five-eighth scene was dominated by Stephen Larkham and Michael Lynagh. When one of those was hurt, it was always a struggle. We remember the agonising decisions Rod Macqueen had to make taking the punt on Larkham because of the lack of depth. It turned out to be a masterstroke. While depth is always an issue, that’s a position we’ve got covered now.

In the midfield, Stirling Mortlock and Ryan Cross are 31 but you would expect them to play for another couple of years. Cooper and Barnes are also comfortable at No.12, with Ashley-Cooper having an outstanding game against the Barbarians in that position. He’s an outstanding midfield option for the future. We always thought his best position was 13 or 14 but he showed in the Barbarians game that he’s more than comfortable at 12 and he’s playing with a tremendous amount of confidence. Another player on the way up.

Mortlock has grown tremendously as a captain. He fits the job at the moment. I remember talking to Eales about the captaincy and he said it’s something you have to work as hard at off the field as on it. Walking down the tunnel, Mortlock was always the guy you wanted to play with but he had some work to do away from the paddock. That’s something he’s worked at and he’s done a pretty good job this year.

With a good Super 14 season, Australian supporters can look positively to the future. We’ve got some good times ahead.

Ogilvy’s elegance sadly blown away by the breeze

THE best players make sport look easy. Think of Mark Waugh gliding that shot off his pads or Roger Federer’s grace on the court. And think Geoff Ogilvy, Australia’s top-ranked golfer.
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He has a fluent motion that allows him to hit the ball long without apparent effort – enough to make an amateur puke.

More than that, the world No.11 has become the consummate professional in recent years. There is nothing that he does that especially well by the high standards of the players around him. There is nothing he does poorly.

And the Victorian has the X-factor – he knows how to win.

The pre-tournament favourite started yesterday needing to do something special and it soon seemed possible.

He began the third round on the 10th tee and birdied, then hit a beautiful trap shot at the 13th to set up another birdie and holed a four-metre putt at the par-three 15th for another.

At the par-five 16th, he attacked the flag, cut left beside a deep swail. His pitch landed, almost held up on the edge of the green but disappeared into the collection area, leaving him a tricky chip. Ogilvy whipped out his lob wedge and hit the flag with his shot, making a safe par.

At the long par-three 17th, his tee shot disappeared into one of the hollows beside the green.

He chipped it close and made the one-metre par putt.

Then at the 18th he conjured a shot of exquisite beauty, a short iron approach that pierced the wind, landed a metre from the cup and stopped. Another birdie, and just 32 shots for his first nine holes, and Ogilvy was back in the tournament at five-under-par.

That he is out of contention tonight at three-under is due to a particular ailment. Ogilvy has failed to capitalise on Royal Sydney’s par-fives.

And with the wind whipping up, last week’s PGA champion drifted further down the leaderboard .

Eels battle gets uglier

Parramatta chief executive Denis Fitzgerald has warned voting members that a divided board would spell disaster as the battle for control of the Eels threatens to spill from the ballot box into the courtroom.
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Members will decide whether to retain the current board or elect a rebel ticket headed by Ray Price, Brett Kenny and Eric Grothe at today’s football club election.

However, the result won’t end the infighting between the factions, with rebel spokesman Terry Leabeater threatening to sue Fitzgerald over comments he made describing Kenny, Grothe and Price as having "unsuccessful working careers".

Fitzgerald, meanwhile, is taking legal action against News Ltd after Leabeater reportedly claimed the veteran chief executive had squandered tens of millions of dollars during his reign.

Fitzgerald, who has kept a low profile throughout the campaign, hit back against Leabeater’s allegations on the eve of the vote.

"What I will say is the figures that were put forward by Terry Leabeater … [he] has been telling lies about the situation from a position of very little knowledge," Fitzgerald told The Sun-Herald. "He is relying on rumours. If anything, Leabeater’s presence as a consultant and speaker on behalf of the rebel team is very much to the incumbent board’s advantage."

Former Wests, Bulldogs and Eels prop Leabeater retaliated by threatening defamation proceedings against Fitzgerald as the feud between the parties took another ugly twist.

"If they’re going to start playing this game, we can do it too," Leabeater said yesterday. It cut our guys to the bone, those little comments. There was no need for it at all.

"My attack would not have happened until [current director] Geoff Gerard came out and personally attacked [rebel members]."

Should neither side gain complete control of the board, Price promised the successful rebels would be prepared to work with the board members they were unable to overthrow.

However, Fitzgerald, who recently celebrated his 30th year as CEO of the club, urged members to keep the status quo to avoid a split board.

"I hope they would realise that a divided board would be no good for the continuing success of the club," Fitzgerald said.

"I would like to think the majority of our football members, who have been very loyal Parramatta supporters and most have been long-term football club members, realise the good job the current board has done over a long period of time."

The rebels have pointed to Parramatta’s 22-year premiership drought throughout their campaign – and the fact that Fitzgerald has been the common denominator throughout the period. However, the CEO, whose position is safe regardless of today’s vote, pointed to the current board’s business acumen and the fact that the Eels have won the club championship nine out of the past 12 years.

"We have a very experienced board with a combination of skills who have been willing to do a huge amount of work for the club over decades," said Fitzgerald, who added his team was "quietly confident" of success today.

While both sides have traded threats, barbs and insults, Price said there was no personal vendetta against Fitzgerald.

"We don’t care about Fitzy. This is about giving the football club a bit of discipline and power and passion," Price said. "We’ll be able to work with [Fitzgerald]. If they haven’t got it in their minds that the club comes first, they should bugger off now."

"We’re doing this for the club because we want to see it back up where it deserves to be."

Kenny added: "It’s not a personal thing. We just want to get in and do things to improve the place."

Appleby’s model method to lure in the Tiger

IT’S been a Tiger frenzy these past few days with some sections of the media asking everyone but the gatekeeper what they think about efforts to get Tiger Woods to Australia in the not-too-distant future.
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Stuart Appleby surely gave the best assessment.

"If we do get him, great. We need to understand that it may be a one-in-10-year experience. He is not going to play forever," he said. "We may get him once or twice in a 10-year period. We have to be aware that if we get him one year and don’t get him the next year, that’s cool.

"We don’t want to have a date with a supermodel and all of a sudden you are going out with someone else who is not so beautiful."

Scott drops bundle With Adam Scott’s withdrawal from both last week’s PGA and the Australian Open because of the knee injury suffered exiting the ocean after a spot of bodysurfing, the budget for both tournaments improved a little.

Scott, as a top-10 ranked player in the world at the time he signed the contract to play the events, received an appearance fee – estimated to be around the $100,000 mark – but his no-show cancelled that.

Not so saintly Next year’s Open is being played for the first time at the picturesque NSW GC layout on the cliffs of La Perouse, but the logistics of getting a big crowd in and out of the course are still being worked out.

The logical solution is to use neighbouring St Michael’s for parking and spectator entry access, but apparently the club is playing hard ball when it comes to appropriate compensation.

Coolum reception A bit belated, but a yarn well worth telling.

At Coolum last week, professional celebrity Deborah Hutton played with John Collins, of the band Powderfinger, and former star tennis player Todd Woodbridge in the Australian PGA pro-am – and they won.

Hutton was nominated by her teammates to make the victory speech and accept the trophies on their behalf. "I won’t be accepting any of these Srixon prizes. I’m a Callaway girl," she said, and immediately sat down.

So stunned was the assembled audience you could have almost heard a pin drop.

Shearer ready to rule? Sighted at Royal Sydney was 1982 Australian Open champion Bob Shearer riding in a golf cart with Australasian PGA Tour rules official Russell Swanson, himself a former tour player.

Could it be that Shearer is embarking on another facet of his career?

He has already completed the club rules test at his home club of Southern in Melbourne and is starting the more advanced state rules course.

Piping hot

KELLY SLATER won the Pipeline Masters yesterday as fears mount that the global economic crisis could threaten the world tour.
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The peerless Slater consolidated his ninth world title in emphatic style by claiming the last event of the year in the most famous waves of all. He has gone the full circle. As a teenager Slater was regarded as a precocious talent unable to overcome his fear of big waves. His home break at Cocoa Beach in Florida was less than formidable and his first trip to the North Shore of Hawaii terrified him.

Then he caught one bomb in Hawaii in his mid-teens that left him sitting in the water screaming "I can do this!" and the rest is his march into history.

Slater will begin his title defence at the Quiksilver Pro on the Gold Coast from February 28 but there are concerns on tour about future sponsorships of events by Quiksilver and Billabong because of their plummeting share prices.

They picked up the bill for six of this year’s 11 events at the most prestigious locations: Snapper Rocks on the Gold Coast, Teahupoo in Tahiti, Jeffreys Bay in South Africa, Hossegor in France, Mundaka in Spain and Pipeline. But Billabong shares recently plummeted 18 per cent to $8.20 in their biggest fall since being listed eight years ago and have since dropped again.

Quiksilver’s shares had fallen below $US1 and it reacted by axing its sponsorship of two lower-level events in Australia. Quiksilver Inc has its international base in California and has been in steady decline on the New York Stock Exchange since September.

The two dumped Quiksilver events were state junior championships. Quiksilver’s female surfwear firm, Roxy, has pulled out of its backing of a World Qualifying Series contest in Victoria.

The fear is that the cost-cutting could extend to world tour events, throwing the 11-event schedule into chaos. It would be the last resort for both Billabong and Quiksilver to lessen their presence on the world tour but the bottom line will always be a determining factor. Few other surf companies could afford to stage the multimillion-dollar events.

Australia’s former world champion Mark Richards is among those who believe surfing should entice major corporations such as Nike in an effort to boost prizemoney. Slater’s cheque for winning his 40th tour final yesterday was the same as he received 18 years ago in California for his first triumph: $US30,000. On today’s conversion rates, that’s $45,000.

Slater’s dream season finished with his sixth triumph of the year and first Pipe Masters since 1999.

"It’s inexplicable," he said. "I’m just stoked. I wasn’t even worried about surfing the event, so to surf it and win and get that board [a Gerry Lopez-designed surfboard trophy] – I’ll cherish that. My season is all about nines. Winning this event nine years later, I needed a ninth in the ninth event of the year to win my ninth world title – it’s crazy."

Slater beat American Chris Ward by 14 points to 7.23 in the decider. Australia’s Joel Parkinson, one of the superstars to be denied a world title by Slater’s dominance, claimed the Triple Crown for his consistent performances at Haleiwa (fifth), Sunset Beach (fifth) and Pipeline, where he finished ninth and became only the second surfer behind Slater to post a perfect 20 heat score.

The final 2008 rankings spat out by the ASP’s computer yesterday had a top 10 of Slater, Bede Durbidge (Aust), Taj Burrow (Aust), Parkinson (Aust), CJ Hobgood (US), Adrian Buchan (Aust), Adriano de Souza (Bra), Mick Fanning (Aust), Bobby Martinez (US), Jeremy Flores (France). Gilmore and Beachley waiting for waves to pick up

HONOLUA BAY, Hawaii: Small half-metre waves forced event organisers to call another lay day at the Billabong Pro Maui women’s tournament.

Newly crowned world champion Stephanie Gilmore blitzed the field with a near-perfect 9.75 on Wednesday to secure her place in the quarter-finals. Layne Beachley, in her final tournament as a full-time pro, is also through to the quarters and leads Gilmore in the race to secure the Triple Crown title.

Beachley has drawn South African Rosanne Hodge in the quarter-finals, while Gilmore will face fellow Australian Rebecca Woods.

Event organisers will reconvene this morning (AEDT) to assess conditions.

Dartnall’s right as rain

FOR a young man who’s never been in a golfing media centre in his life, 24-year-old Stephen Dartnall is taking it all in his stride. So, too, on the course where in the 2008 Australian Open championship at Royal Sydney he has shown rare poise to leave the big names in his wake.
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And "wake" was the operative word at RS yesterday as rain tumbled down until finally the well-drained course could take no more. Play was suspended about 3pm because of flooded greens and then finally abandoned for the day at 4.45pm. With 78 players still on the course, three of them who have completed just one hole, play will resume at 6.30am today. It is hoped to start the third round by 11.45am after the cut is made.

That cut seem likely to be at one over par, which will cut a swath through some of the big names. Defending champion Craig Parry, Stuart Appleby, the resurgent Peter Senior, Nathan Green and Stephen Leaney are all two over while John Daly is five over.

By the time play was abandoned, Dartnall was back in his rented digs, warm and dry, reflecting on what has been already – with his rounds of 65-68 for an 11-under-par 36-hole total – and what lies ahead at the weekend. He’s prepared for this moment since he was a kid, and now it is upon him.

The young West Australian has a two-shot lead from Tasmanian Mathew Goggin, runner-up to Geoff Ogilvy in the Australian PGA at Coolum last Sunday, with Sydney’s Ewan Porter a further stroke back. And the calls started coming through to his mobile again just like the night before after introducing himself to Australian professional golf during the afternoon.

Former tour player Lyndsay Stephen, in his commentator’s role with tournament telecaster Channel Seven, was basking in the reflected glory as his coach of about six years.

"He had a slow start to his career, working on his swing, technique and set-up, and he is just starting to get an insight into what the pressure of golf is all about," he said. "He’s started to really blossom. He has a fantastic attitude and controls his emotions really well."

Through 36 holes, Dartnall has accumulated one eagle, 12 birdies, and just three bogeys. He had missed just five greens in regulation in two days. Throw in his pre-qualifying 10-under 62 at New Brighton on Monday and he is 21-under par for three rounds of golf. Even Tiger Woods would think that acceptable.

Can he prevent the demons of the mind, given his lofty position? "You have to put it all in perspective and think you are just out here like you trained to do," he said. "That’s what I’m trying to do."

For a three-week period in 2006, Dartnall was ranked No.1 amateur in the world by the Royal & Ancient. Golf Australia recognised his talent by arranging a practice round with Geoff Ogilvy and Adam Scott leading into the open at RS two years ago. And then Dartnall made the cut in the tournament proper.

Of what lies ahead, he said: "I feel I have been playing well, but I suppose the good thing is that I have not got everything out of the two rounds. There is still room for improvement."

Goggin reckons there is, too, saying: "It was a bit of a struggle. I didn’t hit the ball well, I didn’t feel very comfortable. I feel fortunate to have eked out a 70 the way I played and [that] I’m not too far behind going into the weekend."

But, no way was he going to the practice range yesterday afternoon to sort out his problems. And not because of Huey’s eventual success in drowning the course.

"You get a good feel [on the range] and then you go to dinner," he said. "What’s the point of that? Golfers are the only competitive sportsmen who practise after competition. I think we have it the wrong way round. Come earlier the next day and get a good feel and walk to the first tee.

"Three or four years ago, I wouldn’t have shot 70. No way. I probably would have been frustrated and made a few bogeys and fallen back on the leaderboard," he added, referring to his vastly improved temperament.

Porter was the exact opposite to Goggin. On his own admission, he came to RS after a horrible year on the Nationwide Tour. He won the co-sanctioned Moonah Classic in Melbourne in early March and then played a further 22 events for earnings of just over $US10,000 ($15,090).

"I’ve been playing dreadfully," Porter said. "To be honest, my thoughts for this week were just to play four rounds."

His support team of locals from Cronulla, including former Test opener Phil Jaques, has picked up his spirits. "But I can’t wait for this tournament to end so I can have a month’s holiday. I don’t know where I’ll go but I’m looking forward to putting the clubs in the garage, locking them up and throwing away the key for a month."

He might feel a little differently come tomorrow afternoon if he stands on the podium.

Takeover and Ryan lift again

GLOBAL champion Takeover Target farewelled Perth racing when marching off with yesterday’s AJ Scahill Stakes at Ascot.
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The Joe Janiak-trained freak might be heading back to the east coast but yesterday’s Christmas Cup winner at Rosehill, Ready To Lift, is heading west for the Perth Cup on New Year’s Eve.

"Why not? – it is a $400,000 group 2 race," Ready To Lift’s trainer, Gerald Ryan, said. "A five-year-old mare in form, flying, why not have a crack?"

Ready To Lift flew past Christmas Cup favourite Rainbow Style to score impressively over the 2400 metres.

"I’ve been itching since she was a three-year-old to run her at a mile-and-a-half and this was the first chance," Ryan said.

For winning jockey Glyn Schofield, New Year celebrations might have to be reworked.

"I hope they give her a penalty, I can ride 53kg," Schofield said.

"I’ll have to reassess my schedule. She showed she can stay today, there is plenty of upside."

Takeover Target added yesterday’s group 3 race to the Winterbottom Stakes he won at Ascot a fortnight ago. The sprinter might well be the most-travelled thoroughbred of all time. His latest unbeaten trip to WA is yet another marathon feat by this amazing nine-year-old.

The gelding has made three successful trips to the UK, where Janiak and Jay Ford combined on their first outing to claim the King’s Stand Stakes at the Royal Ascot meeting.

A third in the Golden Jubilee four days later ensured Takeover Target was acclaimed as a winner of the Global Sprint Challenge.

The honour was sealed when Takeover Target claimed a group 1 sprint in Japan.

Before heading back to Royal Ascot this year, Takeover Target stopped off in Singapore in May and defied all-comers to claim another group 1.

In the UK, Takeover Target suffered leg problems again, but Janiak patched up his remarkable galloper up and it was off to WA, where the winning has continued.

The wrap

John Daly riles for the camera … IPL cradle-snatchers offer six-figure lollipops to Baby Blues … Rudd kicks $45.6 million into World Cup bid, sends sympathy card to NBL … Proteas waiting for insult to be added to injury … Ben Cousins to go from white stripes to Tiger stripes … Manny Pacquiao dishes out a golden hiding to Oscar the Slouch. Revelations A police interrogation is a scary experience, even for one of the toughest men in the NRL. In his new biography Be Your Best , Steve Price reveals the aggressive tactics used by officers in interviews during the sexual assault allegations against Bulldogs players in 2004. Walking into the station, Price recalls: "There were cells all along the wall full of people that had been locked up for whatever reason and they were going off their nut calling me names."
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And then came the questioning. "The interview room itself was a tiny little box with myself, the lawyer and three police officers crammed in there … the three officers had an obvious game plan to extract information. There were times when I would answer a question and they would say: ‘That’s not what your mate said.’ They were trying to scare me … they took a DNA swab from my mouth and the whole time they were hammering me with questions. It was just like you see in a movie – one playing good cop and the other playing bad cop – the only difference being that this was for real. I don’t ever want to experience something like that again. It scared the life out of me – and I was innocent! The officers would watch your body language so that if you answered a question a certain way they would say: ‘Why did you just move your hand when you said that?’ You constantly felt that you were doing something wrong …"

Price does not detail what happened in the swimming pool of the Coffs Harbour hotel – he was in his room at the time.

Having investigated the story at the time and afterwards, it’s my understanding that the woman who made the accusation was willingly having intercourse with up to six players in the pool but suddenly panicked and began screaming. The players backed away as the woman began claiming they had been raping her, and they all stared at each other in confusion. What ensued was the most infamous investigation in Australian sport, and resulted in the Bulldogs players being cleared of any crime. Get me my cab money Zucc’s sure-fire winner in the last: Punters, we missed out on seven in a row when Zucc’s tip finished second last week after a rough start – those clever enough to put an each-way bet still got their dough back. This one will return us to the winners’ circle. Bawdy’s Lament (box three) hasn’t raced since July but is in a strong kennel and gets his chance to open his city account in the final event at Wentworth Park tonight. Premonition Socceroos skipper Lucas Neill will be traded during next month’s transfer window. Neill earns £70,000 ($157,462) a week and the Hammers have made him an extension offer of "only" £30,000 ($67,483) a week, according to The Times . West Ham are struggling financially and will be keen to recoup money from a Neill deal, given his contract expires in six months and he becomes a free agent. If there is any justice in the world Carsten Charles Sabathia missed out on a gold medal in Sydney but he’s struck gold in the Major League. The man known as CC is tipped to become the richest pitcher in history when he signs a deal worth $US161 million ($243 million) over seven years to join the New York Yankees. Sabathia was selected in the initial 28-man United States squad for the 2000 Olympics and played in one pre-Olympic tournament game in Sydney, but was not on the official 24-man, gold medal-winning roster. Brother, can you spare a sledge? Michael Phelps, who stepped back into the pool last week for the first time since capturing eight gold medals in Beijing – establishing himself as the greatest Olympian of all time – tells The Guardian about his motivational tools. "In my locker for a while before Beijing I had a photo of Ian Crocker [the last swimmer to defeat Phelps]. And then I stuck up an article where Ian Thorpe said eight golds were impossible. I saw that every morning before training and that made me work harder." It’s not porn but you’ll like it Become an instant magician. Go to YouTube and search "Best card trick in the world", be amazed, and then see how it’s done by searching "Best card trick in the world – Revealed". If you’re not watching sport you should be listening to … Nashville . Solomon Burke. Big man, big voice and big album. Burke, with some help from Emmylou Harris, Patty Griffin and Patty Loveless, wraps his molasses-dripping voice around a disc of country-themed tunes. The preacher will convert you from the pulpit of soul with That’s How I Got To Memphis , Honey Where’s The Money Gone? , Does My Ring Burn Your Finger and We’re Gonna Hold On .

– Ears McEvoy Useless trivia A snail can sleep for three months.

Djite sacrifices the good life to thrive in Turkey

Six months after quitting the A-League for Turkey, Socceroo Bruce Djite is still not sure what’s surprised him most about playing football overseas.
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Sure, there’s added professionalism, the five-star training facilities at his club Genclerbirligi (pronounced Gench-Lair-Beer-Ligi) that include the pick of several pitches, a sauna, steam room and swimming pool.

Off the pitch, there’s the Muslim call to prayer five times a day and Ankara traffic where drivers think nothing of brazenly reversing down a four-lane freeway if they miss their exit.

If pushed, the former Adelaide United striker nominates a unique pre-season ritual as the greatest divide between football in Australia and Turkey. Djite had been warned what to expect by fellow Socceroo Mile Sterjovski, a former Genclerbirligi player, but was still unprepared for the reality.

"Mile said to wait until they bring out the goat," Djite said. "I thought he was joking. Then, the day of the first game of the season, we’d just eaten lunch, got told to go to the training fields. It was time. They were going to sacrifice a goat."

In many European countries, preseason prep is crowned by visiting a local church but, in Turkey, things go up a few gears. Djite confessed he baulked – along with several other foreign players – at the slaughter of a goat but the ceremony went ahead as it does every season.

The gods must have been unimpressed. Genclerbirligi’s season began poorly. A coach was sacked but a few other adjustments were made.

"It obviously didn’t work out how they planned it so about six weeks later they sacrificed two more goats," Djite explained. "It’s interesting in Turkey. I’m learning a lot."

Djite (pronounced Jee-tay) has quickly climbed the ladder of Australian football. In many ways, he should be the poster boy for local development. The 21-year-old played junior football in Sydney’s northern suburbs and attended the NSW Institute of Sport. He made the Australian Institute of Sport and was signed by Adelaide United in 2006, voted the A-League’s Young Player of the Year the following season.

He was a mainstay in qualification matches for the 2008 Olympic team before being bizarrely overlooked for the eventual goal-shy squad that travelled to China.

Djite may not have fitted into coach Graham Arnold’s Olyroos plans but Socceroos boss Pim Verbeek spotted enough potential to see him as a possible heir to Mark Viduka’s up-front role.

Earlier this year came the inevitable move to Europe that any ambitious young Australian player covets, a talent drain that will likely never be plugged. Djite claims he ticked all boxes before leaving home.

"I went the way that FFA would want you to do it but everyone has to pick their right time," he said. "There’s no right or wrong way but if I stayed in the A-League for another season, what if I had a bad year? Or what if I had a really bad injury? You have to take your chances when they come."

Djite joined a club that had previous form with Australians. Josip Skoko is still spoken of in glowing terms three years after leaving while Sterjovski and Nick Carle had short spells with the club last year. Fringe Socceroo James Troisi joined Djite in August.

Elsewhere in Turkey, Harry Kewell is reborn at Galatasaray – "Harry is loved in Istanbul," said Djite – while Michael Petkovic at Sivasspor has acquired legendary status for scoring a goal – as a goalkeeper.

According to Djite, there’s added pressure on foreigners to prove they bring something to a team that a local can’t, plus extra off-field attention that doesn’t exist in Australia.

"In Turkey, you get so scrutinised for going out at night. It’s a more quiet lifestyle and good for a young player who just wants to concentrate on football," he said. "The speed of the game and the intensity of the training was the hardest thing for me.

"I’ve picked up a bit of Turkish and everyone says that I’m learning quickly," he said, adding that his fluent French helped build rapport with teammates from Africa.

"There are no black people in Turkey. If you’re dark, you are [automatically considered] a footballer. I say I’m a student at university half the time."

Djite made his debut for the Socceroos this year in a friendly against Singapore. He has a background unique even among the multicultural heritage of many teammates and was eligible to be selected for four national teams. He was born in the United States to academic parents from the Ivory Coast and Togo, his family moving to Australia when he was three.

"I never wanted to play for any other country but Australia," Djite said. "I learned my football in Australia. I’m Australian."

His father is a professor at the University of Western Sydney. Was there pressure to follow a different career path?

"You have no idea," he laughed. "But I wanted to be a footballer since I was seven. I went to the Ivory Coast when I was six and went to a school there for a couple of months and everything there was football. I came back home to Australia and joined a local club. By the time I was 10 or 11, I was only concentrating on football."