Socceroos may set up camp in Miami to avoid Honduran hostilities

It’s been 12 years since beat Uruguay to qualify for the World Cup, but the success of that play-off is still influencing the Socceroos’ approach to playing Honduras in their quest to reach Russia.
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Fairfax Media understands the Socceroos are looking at holding their pre-match training camp at a nearby neutral venue before flying into San Pedro Sula, Honduras, immediately before the game. It is a similar approach to how prepared for their first leg tie against Uruguay in 2005, training in nearby Buenos Aires in Argentina before travelling to Uruguay for the match in Montevideo.

In 2001, played Uruguay in Montevideo for a place in the 2002 World Cup and were subjected to an intimidating reception from supporters, including fireworks ignited around the hotel to disrupt the players’ sleep. That prompted a different approach in 2005 to avoid any potential disruption, by keeping the players away from the hostilities of local fans and media.

The 2018 World Cup qualifier away to Honduras will be played in one of the most dangerous cities in the world, at a venue that is notoriously intimidating. Should coach Ange Postecoglou choose to go down a similar road as Guus Hiddink did in 2005, Miami is firming as the most likely venue that will use as a training base.

Football Federation has already made tentative plans for the team to stay in Miami for several days before making the two-hour direct flight to San Pedro Sula on the eve of the match. It’s understood the national team coaches will make the final decision next week on where the team will be based.

While the chance of interference remains possible, the coaches are confident their players are more accustomed to difficult surroundings as a result of their experiences throughout this qualifying campaign. The most challenging environments the 2001 and 2005 teams that played Uruguay had previously experienced during qualification was in cities such as Honiara. By contrast, the 2018 hopefuls played in Bangladesh during a period of terrorist attacks targeting Westerners and required high-level security.

The Socceroos could charter a flight to take them from Honduras to Sydney after the first leg to afford the players as much recovery time before the second leg. The FFA assisted the Socceroos’ preparations for their AFC play-off tie against Syria with a chartered flight from Malaysia to Sydney and have not ruled out doing so for the final intercontinental play-off to get to Russia.

However, it may not be necessary as there are commercial flights available that could see the team arrive in Sydney only a few hours later than a chartered plane.

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Jesinta ponders ‘retirement’ as gay marriage celebrant

Jesinta Franklin considered adding “marriage celebrant” to her CV so she could officiate at her friends’ same-sex wedding this summer.
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But the David Jones ambassador and vocal supporter of marriage equality said that given the wedding is in Thailand, she didn’t end up needing a legal qualification to conduct the wedding of the US-born couple.

“We were hoping same-sex marriage would have been [legal in ] by then … but hopefully on November 7 we will at least know the outcome of the [postal] vote,” Franklin said at the Caulfield Cup preview day in Melbourne on Friday.

“I didn’t have to do [the course] and that was the most heartbreaking thing. When they asked me if I wanted to do it, I said I would love to … but when they told me … it’s not official on the day, it actually made me quite teary.”

Still, Franklin, 26, said if she “does a good job” and her friends can eventually marry legally in that she would consider obtaining the qualification.

“If I get asked again, maybe I will do the course – it could be my retirement plan,” she said. Equality for the win ?????? Just posted our #YES votes off. Our generation is the most likely to forget to vote yet we have the power to make the biggest impact. Don’t be complacent, this simple act means so much to so many people and is your chance to make a difference ?????? @amequalityA post shared by JESINTA. (@jesinta_franklin) on Sep 20, 2017 at 4:14pm PDTWhilst I was in the air many of my close friends marched the streets of Sydney for Marriage Equality. I wish I was there to stand proudly side by side with you all ?????? I believe all ns should be treated equally under the law, in every facet of society. Marriage equality might not be something that crosses your mind or something that will impact your life directly, but for many ns this impacts their lives daily. Later on this year I get the honour of officiating two of my best friends marriage at their wedding. I didn’t have to do a celebrants course or take part in any official paperwork because, heartbreakingly, I can’t marry them officially as their marriage is not recognised in . This truly breaks my heart because when I look at them I witness two of the most amazing, kind, caring human beings who love eachother endlessly. They both work hard, contribute to our society, pay taxes and all of the other things Aussies do, but they aren’t allowed to get married!? Marriage should be a right, not a privilege! So when you receive the postal vote for Marriage Equality don’t just think; I’ll do that later, or, what does it even matter? This is your chance to make a difference and do something that will positively change the lives of so many n’s. ?????????????????????? Ps stole your pic @alexrathgeber ???? ** I respect that not everyone shares the same views as me, however, if you choose to write anything degrading, derogatory or disrespectful on my page you will be deleted and blocked.A post shared by JESINTA. (@jesinta_franklin) on Sep 10, 2017 at 3:10pm PDT

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Ex-magazine music editor’s drug mules sent to jail

The drug mules were caught in the ultimate vice-like grip.
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One was a model, another was a DJ, a third was starting out as a music promoter and the fourth worked in events.

Each one was trying to break into Toronto’s arts scene when the then music editor of Canada’s Vice magazine, an industry heavy with alleged links to a Mexican drug cartel, approached them to carry drugs into .

For various reasons they reluctantly agreed, and when each in turn attempted to back out they learned it was already too late.

Toronto DJ Jordan Mykel Gardner, 27, New York model Nathaniel Brandon Carty, 23, music promoter Robert Wang, 25 and events management worker Kutiba Senusi, 24, were sentenced in the NSW District Court on Friday to minimum prison terms ranging from three years and four months to four years four months for importing commercial quantities of cocaine.

Their contact with n law enforcement began three days before Christmas in 2015, when customs officials at Sydney airport detected several passengers arriving on an American Airlines flight from Los Angeles with a large amount of luggage for a short stay.

They also had in common a stopover in Las Vegas and suitcases that tested positive for cocaine.

Between five drug couriers – including Porscha Wade, 20, who has also pleaded guilty but not been sentenced – a total of 28kg of cocaine with a street value of more than $22 million was seized.

Based on the agreed facts, Judge Dina Yehia found that drug ring figures including Vice journalist Slavo Pastuk had heavied and cajoled the mules into carrying the drugs and most had accepted the task under duress.

Gardner, an electronic music artist, had been living with Pastuk and rebuffed several approaches to do such a trip. He finally relented under pressure when Pastuk called him shortly before he was due to perform at a promotional event.

He tried to back out the next day, but by this time Pastuk had already obtained his passport and he now threatened to hurt Gardner’s girlfriend and family if he did not go through with it.

Gardner had overheard Pastuk telling his friend about those who had been tortured and killed for assisting the authorities. He believed that Pastuk was connected to a Mexican cartel, and he had no doubt that the threat was genuine.

But he told the court that he tried to pull out again in Las Vegas, when he was given the suitcase to take to and noticed that it smelled strongly of glue.

This time his contact grabbed him by the collar and pushed him against a car while holding a gun. He relented.

Senusi told the court he was dragged into taking the drugs after his friend, whom he had agreed to accompany on a drug run, bailed out due to his criminal record.

He demurred, but his friend said that if he did not go through with it “he could not guarantee his safety, or that of his brother”. He was told that others who tried to pull out had razor blades placed under their fingernails.

Wang agreed that for him, the trip was a way to ingratiate himself with Pastuk, who was influential in the music scene and promised to help him further his career.

But when he learned of Pastuk’s involvement with the Mexicans he tried to withdraw.

He texted Pastuk: “Sorry bro, thought about it a lot, just not a step that makes a lot of sense for me atm.” He was then told by a third contact that if he did not go through with it “bad things would happen”.

Carty, who Judge Dina Yehia found was “the most naive of the offenders”, had initially believed he was being given a free trip when Pastuk offered him a holiday in Sydney.

They had met at a Vice party in New York and Carty told Pastuk he had always wanted to visit .

“I can make that happen,” Pastuk allegedly replied. Tickets were organised the following day.

It was only when a mutual contact told Carty he would be required to carry some extra luggage that the model smelled a rat and tried to back down.

He then received a call from an unknown male: “The guy is really mad. This doesn’t look good. He has your passport so he’s going to know stuff about you.”

Judge Yehia said the offenders were low in the drug importation hierarchy.

“I am very firmly of the view that these offenders were exploited by people who were ruthless, persistent and manipulative in recruiting them,” she said.

She sentenced Gardner and Senusi to seven years and six months in jail with a non-parole period of four years and four months. They will be eligible for parole in April 2020.

Wang received a minimum four years, while Carty was sentenced to a minimum three years four months.

Judge Yehia said she took into account Carty’s immaturity and the fact he was “completely lacking in wiliness” in giving him a lighter sentence.

“He was completely out of his depth.”

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EDITORIAL: Playing Russian roulette with party drugs

MORE than a dozen young Hunter people have found themselves in hospital this week after taking “blue superman” pills they believed were the party drug ecstasy, or MDMA.
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Instead, the triangular tablets have been analysed and found to contain alprazolam, the key ingredient in a potent short-actingbenzodiazepine marketed as Xanax, which can be extremely dangerous when mixed with alcohol, as was apparently the case here.

There will be some readers who will say that those hospitalised brought it on themselves: that they deserved what they got for taking illegal drugs that they hadno way of knowing the contents of.

But the reality is that manyns use –or have used –illicit drugs, despite decades of warnings and a legal system that still relies heavily on prohibition as themain weapon in along-running “war on drugs”.

Despite prohibition, n law-makers have seen fit in some circumstances to bend to the reality of the situation by adopting policies based on “harm management” strategies.

Needle exchanges are a case in point. Countless syringes are distributed without charge every year by needle exchanges –including those in the Hunter–on the basis that clean needles demonstrably reduce the spread of dangerous blood-borne diseases including HIV-AIDS and hepatitis C.

In a similar light, there have been calls for some years now for pill testing to be available at music festivals, where a potentially sizeable slice of the audience will have run the risk of taking party drugs. Pill testing kits are available for purchase online but the NSW government has previously opposed their official use at festivals. The ACT government had approved pill testing at next month’s Spilt Milk festival in Canberra, but the organisers announced this week that the testing organisation had not been able to get the required documents and insurance, meaning the trial would notgo ahead.

The ACT has a reputation for progressive government and it would not surprise to see another Canberra festival proceed with testing before long. It is difficult to imagine the Coalition changing its mind in NSW –despite its support for medicinal cannabis –meaning that those determinedto break the law by taking party drugs are being left to play Russian roulette.

It’s a far from ideal situation.

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Newcastle Knights are still hoping to bolster their ranks for 2018.

VERSATILE: Slade Griffin, who played in Melbourne’s grand final win against the Cowboys, is joining Newcastle next season. Picture: APNEWCASTLE’S priority would appear to be outside backs as they strive to fill the remaining positions in their squad for 2018.
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After a productive recruitment campaign dating back to November last year, when Newcastle announced they had signed North Queensland tyro Kalyn Ponga 12 months in advance, Knights coach Nathan Brown has steadily rebuilt his roster.

It is understood he still hopes to add another two or three imports during the 2018 pre-season, although he has also stated on a number of occasions that he is willing to leave positions vacant in case players at rival clubs belatedly enter the market.

The Knights have announced the signing of two veteran front-rowers, Jacob Lillyman (Warriors) and Chris Heighington (Cronulla), in the past two weeks.

Along with Herman Ese’ese (Brisbane), they will bolster an engine-room rotation that already includes Daniel and Jacob Saifiti and Josh King.

Newcastle have also been linked to controversial young prop Matt Lodge, who has not played in the NRL since being sacked by Wests Tigers and de-registered after a much-publicised incident in New York in 2015.

Lodge, a former Junior Kangaroo who played 12 NRL games with the Tigers, spent this season with Redcliffe in the Queensland Cup.

The 22-year-old has also attracted the interest of Brisbane coach Wayne Bennett, although Newcastle are probably in a position to offer him a more lucrative deal than the Broncos.

Ideally, Newcastle would be hoping to sign one more prop before next season.

NEW RECRUIT: Former Sydney Roosters utility Connor Watson will get first crack at five-eighth for Newcastle next season. Picture: AAP

Brown is understood to be satisfied with his back-row depth. Former Queensland and Test forward Aidan Guerra will join Mitch Barnett, Sione Mata’utia, Jamie Buhrer, Sam Stone, Luke Yates and Lachlan Fitzgibbon, who was one of the finds of the season in 2017, scoring eight tries in 14 games. Former Melbourne utility Slade Griffin can also play back row as well as hooker.

Despite signing Shaun Kenny-Dowall (Roosters) mid-season and then Tautau Moga (Brisbane), Newcastle would welcome a couple more outside backs to provide depth.

At this stage, Kenny-Dowall and Moga are shaping as Newcastle’s likely centres, with Chanel Mata’utia to challenge Nathan Ross and Ken Sio for a wing berth.

Ponga is certain to start the season at fullback, with Dylan Phythian as his back-up, once he has recovered from knee surgery.

Brown has promised former Roosters utility Connor Watson first shot at five-eighth, alongside either Brock Lamb or Trent Hodkinson.

Lamb would appear the early favourite after his impressive 2017 campaign, but Hodkinson is vastly experienced and might benefit from playing behind a stronger pack. There has also been speculation, however, that Hodkinson is consideringcontinuing his career in England.

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