Rodda ready for debut after Coleman ruled out

Abrasive lock Coleman aggravated his shoulder in training on Thursday and Rory Arnold has moved from the bench to partner Rob Simmons in the starting lineup.

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The 21-year-old Rodda, who stands 2.02 metres tall and weighs in at 119 kg, has been brought into the replacements.

Rodda caught was asked to train alongside the Wallabies in Brisbane during their June tests and then elevated to the test squad after just 12 appearances for Queensland Reds.

He made an instant impression on Hooper.

“(I remember) playing him and thinking there’s a big lump of a bloke running at you you haven’t seen before,” said Hooper.

“But then in June, he was walking around in Reds gear and Cheik had him come in and do a bit of training with the guys.

“He ripped in straight away. It’s about taking your opportunity and Rodds, in the wrong gear that day, was taking his opportunity and putting us through our paces.”

The Rugby Championship clash in Dunedin shapes as the most important for the Wallabies this year having lost 54-34 to the All Blacks in Sydney last week, which saw the world champions put one hand on the Bledisloe Cup.

Hooper’s side were pilloried after the All Blacks romped to a 54-6 advantage after 48 minutes, with the biggest criticism being a lack of physicality in the tackle.

The openside flanker said that while players were never truly ready for a test debut, he felt Rodda would grab his opportunity if given the chance.

“You’re never ready,” Hooper said.

“You’re in the best possible position you can be in and you’ve just got to get out there and do what you do.

“He’s just got to get in the jersey and do his thing.”

Cheika, who finalised his bench with Melbourne Rebels loose forward Lopeti Timani preferred over Waratahs flanker Jack Dempsey, added that Rodda had been surprised to learn of his elevation just before their training run on Friday.

“I just told him out on the field go back in and kit up, you’re playing,” Cheika said.

“The look on his face was pretty excited so I am sure he’s going to have a good game on Saturday.

“He’s well worth the investment Izack, he’s got a really good attitude and he’s going to have a great test in his first game for Australia.”

(Reporting by Greg Stutchbury; Editing by Nick Mulvenney/Peter Rutherford)

Renewed Qantas takes off as rewards flow

Drastic restructuring, a boom in domestic travel and a well-timed exit from unprofitable mining industry routes have helped Qantas deliver its second-highest underlying full-year profit result on record.

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A year on from delivering the highest underlying profit in its 97-year history – a $1.5 billion result – Qantas on Friday posted an underlying annual profit of $1.4 billion for 2016/17 – the second highest on record.

Chief executive Alan Joyce said the result marked the completion of the turnaround plan which has repositioned Qantas as one of the most profitable airlines in the world.

“It’s fair to say those efforts have well-and-truly paid off,” he said.

Qantas began a $2 billion turnaround in 2014, a process that included 5,000 job cuts, major fleet changes and new routes.

Australia’s largest carrier also announced a $373 million buyback to increase shareholder returns, having only begun delivering dividends again a year ago after a seven-year drought.

Qantas employees also stand to benefit, with the airline announcing bonuses of $2,500 each to around 25,000 non-executive employees to mark its turnaround.

Central to that turnaround has been cuts to unprofitable routes, in particular services linked to the once-booming mining industry, in favour of popular destinations.

“There’s been a complete rejig of the market to balance from resources to other markets,” Mr Joyce said.

He said routes linked to mining, such as Perth to Karratha, had been axed, making way for in-demand flights like its recently launched Melbourne to Tokyo service.

The group’s two most profitable businesses, Qantas’ domestic operations and its low-cost carrier Jetstar, reached a record $865 million in underlying earnings before interest and tax.

Qantas International, which has faced intense price and capacity competition, saw an improvement of conditions in the second half and made $327 million in underlying earnings for the year.

The group’s statutory net profit of $852 million fell 17.2 per cent compared to a year ago, when results were boosted by gains from the sale of the Sydney Domestic Terminal.

Qantas expects international capacity to increase in the first half of 2017/2018 by around five per cent, driven by previously announced new routes into growing Asian markets.

The carrier also is investing in lounges, in-flight Wi-Fi, cabin upgrades and is looking at new aircraft and new businesses such as insurance and financial services to keep delivering sustainable returns.

Investors were impressed with the result and outlook and drove the airline’s shares up 22 cents, or 3.8 per cent, to $6.02 – their highest level since October, 2007.

Citi analysts said the buyback was greater than the market had expected and the underlying profit was ahead of market expectations.

The Citi team said other positives included expected increases to the airline’s domestic and international revenue per available seat-kilometre, a key efficiency measure, $400 million in transformation savings and longer term growth in customer loyalty.

Once the latest buyback is completed, it is expected that the number of Qantas shares will have been reduced by more than 20 per cent since October 2015.

QANTAS RESULTS AT A GLANCE:

* Net profit down 17.2pct at $852m

* Underlying profit before tax $1.4b, vs $1.5b

* Revenue down 0.9pct at $1.6b

* Final dividend of 7cps, unfranked, vs 7cps, fully-franked.

Who is Thailand’s Yingluck Shinawatra?

Yingluck Shinawatra was Prime Minister of Thailand from August 2011 to May 2014, when she was removed from office amid an abuse of power scandal.

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She is the younger sister of exiled business tycoon Thaksin Shinawatra, a highly divisive figure who was Thailand’s prime minister from 2001 to 2006 when he was ousted by a military coup.

When Yingluck stood for office in 2011, she was widely seen as a puppet or proxy for her brother, who still lives in self-imposed exile in Dubai while avoiding a jail sentence in Thailand.

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Mr Shinawatra founded and bankrolled the Pheu Thai party, which has won every Thai election since 2001.

Pheu Thai is hugely popular among rural voters in the north and north east of the country, who were long neglected by previous Thai administrations and benefited significantly from Mr Shinawatra’s pro-poor schemes and subsidies.

But the Shinawatras were widely seen by urban educated classes as corrupt, dodging tax on multi-million dollar businesses and using their public positions for private gain.

Before politics, Yingluck was managing director of telco firm AIS founded by Thaksin, and also of SC Asset Company, a Shinawatra family firm involved in property.

The criminal charge laid against her was over her government’s ill-conceived rice subsidy scheme which lost between $8 and $20 billion in public funds, but helped poor rice farmers who are the Shinawatras’ political base.

Yingluck and her supporters believe the case is a politically motivated attack led by junta leader Prayut Chan-O-Cha.

“I am a victim of a subtle political game,” she told Thailand’s Supreme Court on August 1.

“I was not involved in corruption and I did not consent to corruption.”

Supporters of Thailand’s former Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra outside the Supreme Court after Yingluck failed to show up.AAP

Thailand’s troubled politics 

Since Thaksin’s five year prime ministership, the country’s political landscape has been split into the red shirts – Thaksin government supporters; and yellow shirts – royalist, nationalist and urban middle class protesters who adopted the colour associated with the revered Thai king to protest Thaksin’s alleged corruption.

The return of a Shinawatra to the political stage in 2011 was polarising in an already divided country, but the Shinawatra electoral magic proved still potent. Yingluck won the election in a landslide to become Thailand’s first female prime minister.

But her government descended into political gridlock amidst mass protests and violent street clashes between red shirts and yellow shirts.

Yingluck was ousted from office by a Constitutional Court decision in May 2014, and shortly afterward the military took over again, dissolving the caretaker parliament, blockading streets in the capital Bangkok, and imposing martial law. It was the 12th coup in the country since 1932.

She was formally impeached in 2015 over the rice subsidy scheme.

Today, Thailand remains Asia’s only military dictatorship.

It is not clear whether the generals will allow another election to take place, but many believe they want Yingluck Shinawatra out of the picture before they do.

A conviction for Yingluck would mean a lifelong ban from politics and a jail sentence of up to ten years.

Her court case has been rescheduled for September 27 after she failed to appear on August 25. Her lawyer said she was sick.

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Surging Swans want more AFL momentum

Saturday’s clash is the calm before the storm for AFL premiership contenders Sydney but also a chance for redemption.

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The Swans are fully expected to defeat Carlton at the SCG in the final round of the regular season, making it 14 wins from their past 16 games.

In theory the carrot of a top-four finish is on offer, although it is likely to be snatched away by Richmond and/or Port Adelaide.

However, the hosts won’t be lacking motivation.

The Blues will finish either 15th or 16th on the ladder but they stunned the Swans in round six, condemning them to their worst start to a season since 1993.

“Our start of the year was very poor and Carlton knocked us off, so we certainly want to get one back on them,” much-improved youngster Jake Lloyd said.

“But that was a long time ago.

“We’ve got bigger things to look forward to and it’s important we’re not going into finals playing bad footy.

“We’ve taken great confidence out of beating probably the best side in the competition (Adelaide) in front of a hostile crowd of 50,000.

“We want to finish the season on a high.”

Lloyd, who has already played nine finals in an 89-game career, added there was a sense of calm about September.

The likes of Lewis Melican and Nic Newman are preparing for their maiden finals series but they’re very much in the minority at a club that have finished outside the top eight only once in the past 14 seasons.

“A lot of other younger guys and I have played finals. We sort of know what to expect,” Lloyd said.

“We also know not to look too far ahead.”

Blues coach Brendon Bolton also took a short-term view of proceedings when asked if Saturday’s game could be veteran Dale Thomas’ swansong.

“We’ve got to sit down and have a good chat,” Bolton said.

Carlton are set to adopt the same physical approach that rattled the Swans earlier this year.

“We like to play an aggressive style of footy and we’re learning to do that,” Bolton said.

“Our young group understands this competition demands that.”

Warringah desperate to end title drought

Warringah will carry sentimental favouritism when they line up against reigning premiers Northern Suburbs in the Shute Shield final on Saturday.

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The Rats have just a lone premiership in their 54-year history but even that comes with an asterisk, the 2005 trophy won in an abridged competition.

It has been an emotionally tumultuous season for Warringah with the tragic death in June of lower grade player Lachlan Ward – brother of first grade captain Sam.

“I have been coaching professionally for 17 years and I have never wanted to win anything more to be honest,” said coach Darren Coleman.

“It is not for me or for my CV. It is just wanting to give a little bit of happiness back to the Ward family, and I know a lot of the boys are saying the same.

“There is a core group of players that have played for the Rats for a long time, and coupled with the tragedy faced this year, it is quite a powerful tool around emotion and unity of purpose.”

Warringah will be at full strength with flyhalf and two-time Catchpole Medal winner Hamish Angus set to make a timely return after missing the past three weeks with a quad strain.

Coleman will endure a busier day than most with a training session lined up for his NSW Country Eagles side on Saturday morning, ahead of next weekend’s opening to the National Rugby Championship.

Both Coleman and Norths counterpart Simon Cron are tipping a tight contest.

Norths won 28-26 with an after-the-bell conversion early in the season, with Warringah victorious in the recent return match, 18-11.

They have over half their squad backing up from last season’s grand final victory over Sydney University, a result which ended their own 41-year drought.

It will be Cron’s final match at the helm before taking up a position with the NSW Waratahs’ coaching staff.

The grand final promises to be a gala occasion at North Sydney Oval, with close to 5,000 tickets pre-sold and the potential for a full house at the 20,000-capacity venue.

Sydney’s northern beaches have got behind their local team in recent weeks with 11,000 spectators on hand for last week’s derby win over Manly at Pittwater Park, while some 20 buses have been booked for the season decider.