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Socceroos heading to Sharjah to meet China



China’s inability to play World Cup qualifiers at home means it will ‘host’ the Socceroos in Sharjah later this month.

The Socceroos will return to the Middle East following their Sydney clash against Saudi Arabia, with confirmation their World Cup qualifier against China will be played in the United Arab Emirates.

The Australians will play on home soil for the first time since October 2019 when they host the Saudis – who top Group B in the third round of AFC World Cup qualifying – at CommBank Stadium on Thursday week.

However, while Covid-19 travel restrictions have been lifted to allow the Socceroos to again play at home, it’s a different case in China.

As a result, the Chinese national team must continue to play its home matches on foreign soil.

China will “host” the Socceroos in the early hours of the morning of Wednesday, November 17 (AEDT) at the 18,000-capacity Sharjah Stadium.

The Socceroos will have no qualms about playing the match in the UAE after winning a host of games in the Middle East in the past two years.

However, the timing of the match against China isn’t good for A-League champions Melbourne City, who start their title defence on Friday, November 19 at AAMI Park against Brisbane Roar.

City’s star attackers, Mat Leckie, Jamie Maclaren and Andrew Nabbout, are all expected to be named in Graham Arnold’s latest Socceroos squad, set to be announced on Friday.

Any City players chosen in the squad face a tight turnaround in their bid to play in the opening match of the A-League season.

City faced a similar situation in last season’s finals series, but managed to defy the absence of Maclaren, Curtis Good and Connor Metcalfe – who were on Socceroos duty in Kuwait – to win the title.

Socceroos coach Arnold arrived back in Australia on Monday after a stint of almost six months overseas.

Sydney FC defender Rhyan Grant and Melbourne Victory attacker Chris Ikonomidis – the only two A-League players in the Socceroos squad for last month’s World Cup qualifiers against Oman and Japan – are both out of quarantine and training with their clubs.

The Socceroos, whose 11-game winning streak was ended by Japan, are in second place in Group B, three points behind Saudi Arabia, who have a perfect record of 12 points from four matches.

China has just three points from four matches, with only Vietnam behind them on the Group B ladder.

The top two teams from Group A and Group B will automatically qualify for next year’s World Cup in Qatar.

Originally published as The Socceroos’ road to next year’s World Cup will take them to Sharjah to meet China




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Teenager in hospital after high school stabbing in Melbourne’s west



A teenager is in hospital following a stabbing at a secondary school. Another student is assisting police.

A teenager is in hospital after an apparent stabbing at a high school in Melbourne’s west.

Victoria Police officers were called to the Hoppers Crossing Secondary School in Fraser St just after 11.30am on Wednesday.

A teenage boy sustained minor injuries, a spokeswoman said.

Another student is currently assisting police with their inquiries.

Paramedics treated a person for upper body injuries and they were taken to the Royal Children’s Hospital in a stable condition, Ambulance Victoria said.

Caller Dianne told 3AW radio her grandson, who is a student at the school, told her there had been a stabbing.

“It was quite a big knife,” she told the station on Wednesday.

“It’s my grandson’s friend, so it’s said.

“But he’s going to be alright.”

The incident is understood to have occurred in the food tech rooms, she said.

Hoppers Crossing Secondary College declined to comment, referring inquiries to police.

Originally published as Teenager in hospital after high school stabbing in Melbourne’s west




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Will Pucovski won’t be ready for opening Ashes Test after being ruled out of Victoria’s clash with NSW



David Warner will have a new opening partner for the Ashes after Will Pucovski’s concussion comeback hit another hurdle.

Batting star Will Pucovski hasn’t yet returned to the nets a month after his 10th concussion and may not be available for Australia until the middle of the Ashes.

Pucovski won’t play for Victoria against NSW at the MCG in a Sheffield Shield clash starting this Friday, which is a “touch too soon” as he continues to recover from the effects of the concussion suffered on October 5 at training.

Victorian coach Chris Rogers said there was a “strong desire” to get the 23-year-old into the Test team, but everyone was taking a long-term view of Pucovski’s cricket future.

Rogers said Pucovski, who was the frontrunner to open with David Warner during the Ashes, could be ready for one of the later Tests in a “best-case scenario” as he returns to full fitness.

“He hasn’t quite recovered as well as hoped. In discussions with the medical team and the national selectors it was felt we would give him a bit more time to select him to play for Victoria,” Rogers said.

“He hasn’t started hitting the nets, I think that was the main concern. It’s really difficult just to walk into one of these games unprepared. All the people who are in these conversations understand we have an immense talent on our hands and we want him to be playing for five to 10 years, so these are the decisions we are going to make in his best interests to set him up to have a long career.

“There’s some symptoms which are just a little too close to the game.”

Pucovski trained on Wednesday and was “positive” about how his recovery was tracking.

But his playing return may not come until a yet-to-be-confirmed third Sheffield Shield game in mid-November or even a Victorian second XI game.

Rogers said that would delay any chance of him playing in the Ashes until mid-series.

“No doubt it’s a setback. I’d say now it’s unlikely he’d play in the first Test,” he said.

“Hopefully, if we play a third Shield game in mid-November and there may be a second XI game for Victoria as well, that might prepare him for one of the matches in the middle of the Ashes series. That’s the best-case scenario.

“He was very positive about how it was all tracking and pretty hopeful of playing soon, but he felt this match was a touch too early.”

Rogers said Pucovski, who hasn’t played a game since injuring his shoulder in his Test debut last January, was “frustrated” by this latest concussion and its lingering effects.

But the young star also knows he has to be fully ready when he makes a playing return.

“He hasn’t played for seven months. You have to walk straight back in the cauldron and perform against very good opposition. That would have been playing on his mind,” Rogers said.

“Of course he wants to play for Australia for a long time to come. There’s a strong desire to get him into that Australian side, he’s such a talented player.

“I think the decision is to look after him and allow him a bit more time to prepare in the right time rather than rush him to matches which are going to have a lot of intensity and scrutiny.”

Originally published as Batting gun Will Pucovski won’t be ready to play for Australia until the middle of the Ashes as he recovers from another concussion




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Northern Territory weather: Rain falls on Uluru national park, waterfalls gushing



Rare scenes spotted in the outback have been described as ‘rare and magical’ as tourists flock to see the unique weather event.

A dumping of rain has created a “rare and magical” waterfall scene in the Northern Territory’s Uluru and Kata Tjuta national park overnight.

More than 22mm of rain fell on the popular outback destination, causing rock holes to overflow and gushing waterfalls down the sides of Uluru and Kaṉtju Gorge.

“While that doesn’t sound like much, the annual average rainfall is just under 300mm,” Parks Australia said via the reserve’s Facebook account.

It mentioned locals and tourists had braved the wet conditions to catch a glimpse of the “unique weather event”.

“With a hot summer ahead, the rain is welcome and locals are hoping for more of it over the coming months,” the post continued.

So much water had flowed down to Kaṉtju Gorge that the viewing platform was almost underwater, the post read.

The waterfalls streaming down the gorge also sparked the burrowing frogs to come out of hiding.

“After 22mm of rain overnight, these noisy creatures which sound like sheep are in frog heaven,” the post read.

“For most of the year these frogs are underground, avoiding hot and dry conditions. They emerge after rain to breed, feed and return underground to evade perishing in the harsh weather conditions.

“They call profusely after enough rain has fallen to entice them from their burrows.”

The rain comes amid scorching temperatures in the NT and Queensland in October, with meteorologists reporting a two-degree increase in average temperatures.

According to the Bureau of Meteorology, October was hotter than usual for Australia as a whole, with every state except Victoria noticing significantly warmer-than-average weather.

Queensland experienced its fourth-warmest October ever, with an average increase of 2.12 degrees.

The NT experienced an increase of 2.11 degrees, its third-warmest October on record.

Darwin sweated through its warmest-ever October night on record on the 20th, reaching 26.6C, while Brisbane recorded its hottest October day since 2004, with a top of 36.6C on October 4.

Originally published as Gushing waterfalls as massive dumping of rain falls on Uluru national park




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Victoria politics: Liberal MP Tim Smith insists he is not an alcoholic amid drink driving scandal



A drink-driving MP is under intense pressure to quit the Liberal Party after its leader said he did not want him to contest the next election.

A Victorian Liberal MP who crashed his car into a family home while drunk has insisted he is “not an alcoholic” while vowing to never drink alcohol again while in public life.

Tim Smith resigned from the front bench and his position as the state’s attorney-general after he crashed his car into a Hawthorn home on Saturday, returning a blood alcohol reading of 0.131.

Mr Smith on Wednesday begged for forgiveness and said he was assessing his future in politics amid speculation his career was over.

“I hadn’t eaten all day, the reading was much higher than I could ever have imagined. I was shocked and amazed by what happened with regards to the reading,” he told 9 radio.

“I have done something shameful and stupid and I’m so, so sorry for the embarrassment and the harm that I have caused.”

Police said Mr Smith crashed his car into a parked vehicle before ploughing into the wall of a family home on Saturday night.

He has lost his licence for 12 months.

The crash caused significant damage to the home’s wall, causing a crack in the interior plaster within the room where an eight year-old boy was sleeping.

He has apologised to the family and will pay the estimated $100,000 in damages.

Mr Smith denied he was an alcoholic and claimed he did not have mental health issues, describing the incident as “an appalling lapse of judgment”.

“I certainly spoke to my GP about not ever drinking again, certainly whilst in public life,” he said.

“I don’t think I’m an alcoholic but I certainly have consumed too much alcohol on too many occasions.”

Opposition Leader Matthew Guy this week met with the reportedly distressed MP and made it clear he “wouldn’t find his way onto the frontbench of any parliamentary Liberal Party I lead”.

An angry Mr Guy said he told Mr Smith to not recontest the next election.

“I made it clear that I didn’t want him to nominate at the next election,” Mr Guy told reporters on Tuesday.

“I think he’s exceedingly remorseful, you know, this has potentially cost him his career and you would expect anyone in that position to be not just remorseful but certainly very sorry for what has occurred.”

While Mr Smith said his actions were “the most stupid thing I’ve ever done”, he declined to commit to quitting politics altogether, instead telling the radio station he was reflecting on his future in politics.

It’s expected he will make a decision the next two weeks before preselection nominations.

Mr Smith has been meeting with Kew branch members and senior politicians and has reportedly told some he will ride out the scandal.

“The (branch members) are very disappointed, they’re very angry and I suppose the key question to them is should one horrendously poor judgment render someone’s career over immediately,” he said.

“I can’t give you a definitive answer this morning, but I’m certainly speaking to the branch members in Kew.”

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Originally published as Liberal MP Tim Smith breaks silence following drink-driving scandal




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Tullamarine crash: Van with nine people inside rolls, treated by paramedics



Paramedics have treated nine people at the scene of a nasty crash where a van rolled onto its side.

Nine people crammed inside a van have been injured after it crashed and rolled onto its side in Melbourne’s northern suburbs.

Emergency services were called to the intersection of the Western Ring Rd and Tullamarine Freeway in Tullamarine about 10.15pm on Tuesday.

Police believed a van carrying nine people rolled onto its side after it collided with another vehicle.

Everyone inside the van was treated by paramedics and suffered non-life-threatening injuries.

The driver of the other vehicle involved in the incident attended Broadmeadows police station and was assisting police with their inquiries.

Anyone with information should phone Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000.

Originally published as Nine people injured after van and car collide in Tullamarine




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Rollercoaster session for ASX, fails to hold onto post-Reserve Bank of Australia meeting rally



The ASX surged after the RBA flagged keeping the cash rate at its historic low for another two years, but couldn’t hold onto the gains.

The Australian sharemarket slumped lower despite positive overseas leads and after failing to hold onto its post Reserve Bank of Australia meeting rally.

The benchmark S&P/ASX200 index closed 0.63 per cent lower at 7324.3, while the All Ordinaries Index erased 0.59 per cent to 7646.6.

Ord Minnett said US stocks rose overnight in generally lacklustre trade, as investors looked ahead to the Federal Reserve’s monetary policy meeting on Wednesday, while European stocks hit record highs as expectations of interest rate hikes supported bank stocks.

CommSec analyst Steven Daghlian said the local bourse started out in the green but faded as investors traded tentatively awaiting the outcome of our own central bank’s monthly board meeting.

OMG chief executive Ivan Tchourilov said it had been a rollercoaster, with the ASX gaining ground after the RBA determined to keep the cash rate on hold, as expected, while noting higher than expected inflation.

“The Reserve did well to remain ambiguous on expectations, although we’re still looking at a 2023 interest rate hike instead of the previous 2024 forecast,” Mr Tchourilov said.

“Commodity prices were mixed, as was our resources sector.”

After iron ore prices slumped, Rio Tinto lost 2.54 per cent to $88.66, BHP dropped 2.34 per cent to $35.56, Fortescue shed 2.65 per cent to $13.95 and Champion Iron sank 7.22 per cent to $4.24.

Nickel miner IGO plunged 8.42 per cent to $8.92, while Whitehaven Coal plummeted 9.54 per cent to $2.37.

Origin Energy slid 1.95 per cent to $5.02, while Beach Energy dropped 3.93 per cent to $1.34 after announcing its managing director and chief executive Matt Kay had handed in his resignation to pursue other opportunities.

But battery minerals company Magnis Energy Technologies was a stellar performer, rocketing 18.48 per cent to 54.5 cents.

“Magnis released their annual report after market close yesterday and the market is starting to see some value in Magnis’ proposition,” Mr Tchourilov said.

“Despite operating at a loss without a finished product, they have $665m in binding offtake sales lined up for 2022.

“The patented battery technology is gaining traction in the US market, where a new battery plant is being built in New York to meet demand.

“Magnis has already returned 280 per cent in share price this year, but will be one to watch especially closely into 2022 when battery production begins to ramp up.”

Insurance providers retreated after Insurance Australia Group downgraded its full-year guidance, upping its assumptions for hail and severe storm impacts in South Australia and Victoria last month to $1.045bn, from $765m previously.

“Cost allowances for natural perils have been lifted significantly after the first quarter came in more expensive than expected,” Mr Tchourilov said.

“Margin guidance for the period has slipped a full 3 per cent and they’re allowing room for extreme weather events to continue into next year.

“IAG is maintaining strong underlying performance as reported in its end of year results. However, if the first quarter is anything to go by, it will be an expensive year for insurance providers.”

IAG shares tumbled 7.03 per cent to $4.50, while Suncorp gave up 4.15 per cent to $11.31 and QBE softened 2.39 per cent to $11.83.

Financial technology platform provider Praemium Ltd leapt 14.46 per cent to $1.42 after knocking back Netwealth Group’s $785m takeover offer, saying the bid did not appropriately value its current performance and near-term trajectory.

Wealth manager Netwealth gave up 2.06 per cent to $17.15.

ANZ fell 1.1 per cent to $27.84, Commonwealth Bank backtracked 0.5 per cent to $105.76, National Australia Bank declined 0.88 per cent to $28.20 and Westpac slumped 2.73 per cent to $23.13 a day after releasing disappointing full-year results.

However, Morningstar equity analyst Nathan Zaia said Westpac could fix its productivity issues, noting it was the cheapest of the major banks.

Property stocks fared well, with Goodman Group surging 5.57 per cent to $23.49 after upgrading its full-year guidance, while Charter Hall Group rose 3.28 per cent to $18.59 after doing the same on Monday, while Lendlease added 2.39 per cent to $10.70.

Mr Daghlian said Goodman, the largest industrial property group on the ASX, which operates in 17 countries, was pocketing higher earnings partly because of demand for warehouses had surged during the pandemic-driven e-commerce boom.

Meal kit delivery service Marley Spoon continued to tumble after downgrading its full-year guidance last week, sinking 11.9 per cent to 92.5 cents.

The Aussie dollar was fetching 74.76 US cents, 54.76 British pence and 64.4 Euro cents in afternoon trade.

Originally published as Rollercoaster session for ASX, fails to hold onto post-Reserve Bank of Australia meeting rally




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FFA Cup: Adelaide City president furious about December date with an A-League team



Adelaide City president Greg Griffin isn’t pleased about the timing of his NPL club’s FFA Cup clash against A-League opposition.

Angry Adelaide City president Greg Griffin says the fabric of the FFA Cup has been lost, with NPL clubs forced to play out-of-season against A-League teams.

City, which hasn’t played since winning last month’s NPL South Australia grand final, must wait until next month to play its Cup round-of-32 clash against the winner of the November 24 playoff between A-League clubs Perth Glory and Melbourne Victory.

While City will have the advantage of hosting the match, Griffin said it was unfair of Football Australia to expect his club’s semi-professional players to keep training in their off-season and play an in-season A-League team.

“We’re at a massive disadvantage,” said Griffin, a former chairman of three-time Cup winners Adelaide United.

“The idea of the FFA Cup was to give NPL teams in-season the chance to play A-League teams not in-season.

“The whole Cup has been comprised this season.”

Due to border restrictions between Western Australia and Victoria, the Glory vs Victory match will be played in Adelaide later this month, robbing Perth of deserved hosting rights after the Glory finished three places higher than wooden spooners Victory on last season’s A-League ladder.

“The Victory are being pandered to. They should have been forced to forfeit the match and then we (City) could have played the Glory this week,” Griffin said.

“Our players can’t take a month off and then come back to play the game.

“I wrote to FA and told them we’d be fielding our under 15 team for the game.

“Of course we won’t do that, but our players all have day jobs and families, and will have to make sacrifices.”

FA refused to comment on the matter.

Originally published as FFA Cup: Adelaide City president furious about December date with an A-League team




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Geelong crime: Swimming pool stolen at construction site in Wandana Heights



Police are investigating after thieves managed to steal this 7m, $14,000 item from a construction site.

Thieves have stolen a large $14,000 glass swimming pool from a construction site in regional Victoria sparking a police investigation into the bizarre theft.

The crooks entered the suburban Geelong premises on Moncrieff Cres in Wandana Heights and managed to haul away the 7m fibre pool on the back of a white truck on October 20 between 10.30pm and 11pm.

Police said the truck had grey and silver tape or plastic covering in what could be a company name on both sides.

It also displayed yellow ‘over-size’ signs on the front and rear.

The pool was described as a slate colour and the brand was ‘modern pool’.

Anyone with information should phone Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000.

Originally published as Thieves steal $14k pool from construction site in Wandana Heights




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NSW Covid updates: Restrictions could ease earlier at 95 per cent double dose



NSW Premier Dominic Perrottet has hinted restrictions could ease earlier than planned if the state achieves a key vaccination milestone.

The next phase of freedoms in NSW could come into play even earlier than planned.

Premier Dominic Perrottet flagged the removal of the state’s remaining restrictions could be brought forward as people continue to turn out in droves to get the Covid vaccine.

December 1 was penned as the next day that more freedoms would be granted. Almost all restrictions would be removed – even for the unvaccinated.

But that date could be changed.

“We set a road map to provide clarity and certainty for people, but we want to drive that vax rate up as high as we can up to around 95 per cent,” Mr Perrottet told The Today Show.

“Ultimately there are opportunities to bring forward some of that relaxing of restrictions.”

Mr Perrottet said the 95 per cent target was achievable.

From December 1 most restrictions will ease, albeit with some density rules, while masks will still be required on public transport, planes and in airports, as well as for front-of-house hospitality staff.

As of midnight on Friday, 93.5 per cent of eligible NSW residents had one dose and 87.5 per cent were fully vaccinated.

The state could achieve the 90 per cent double dose target later this week.

Travel between Greater Sydney and the regions resumed on Monday for the fully vaccinated.

Mr Perrottet said on Monday today marked a “very important milestone”.

“We’ve said we can move things forward, we will, but ultimately we want to have as many people across the state to have the opportunity to get vaccinated. That’s the key to opening up safely,” he said.

“There will be challenges that come our way as we move forward the next six months, the next 12 months.

“I’m very confident we’ve got the balance right here. We might make mistakes from time to time, but ultimately I think we’re in a very good position.”

Health Minister Brad Hazzard praised people for coming forward to get vaccinated.

“The people of NSW can be proud of our vaccination rate, and there’s no reason we can’t reach 95 per cent double dose vaccination to help ensure we get on top of this pandemic,” he said.

“NSW can be one of the highest vaccinated jurisdictions in the world.”

NSW recorded 135 cases on Monday and four deaths.

Originally published as Dominic Perrottet hints at easing restrictions once 95 per cent vaccine target is met




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