Damien Oliver suspended for 12 meetings

Champion jockey Damien Oliver is now in danger of missing a plum ride on Wandjina in the $500,000 Australian Guineas on Saturday week after stewards outed him for 12 meetings at Ballarat on Thursday.
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However, Oliver is free to ride at the rich Caulfield meeting on Saturday where he has a solid book of mounts in most of the major races. Oliver said after the suspension that he would definitely appeal the careless riding charge next week.

“I didn’t know we started riding in lanes, but I guess we will find out at my appeal,” Oliver said.

The suspension means he will not only miss the ride on Wandjina but also Adelaide Cup favourite Pelicano.

Oliver’s manager, Mark van Triet confirmed the Melbourne Cup-winning jockey would appeal on Friday morning in a bid to have the hearing held “ASAP”.

While Saturday’s Caulfield race meeting will highlight three group 1 events, the drawcard will be a race of lesser standing but featuring the return of Melbourne Cup winner Protectionist.

Some of the quickest handicap sprinters from around Australia will line up in the Oakleigh Plate and the Blue Diamond Stakes is poised to show that fillies are still the dominant gender when it comes to the state’s most important race for two-year-olds.

However, some of the main players in racing still regard Protectionist, the brilliant winner of Australia’s biggest staying race and now arguably in line to become the world’s best stayer, to be the drawcard on the club’s most important autumn race card.

Racing Victoria general manager of racing Greg Carpenter said he was genuinely excited about the return of the former German horse now prepared in Newcastle by Kris Lees.

“It was an outstanding win in the Melbourne Cup, a win just as good as Makybe Diva in her three years of successes. He’s a wonderful young stayer with so much ahead of him,” Carpenter said. “It’s a day of great racing at Caulfield but Protectionist adds that extra dimension to the card.”

Protectionist will line up in his first race start since winning the Cup in the Peter Young Stakes over 1800 metres.

While having only his first start back at an unusual distance, jockey Craig Williams sees his lack of racing as no obstacle.

“He’s a great stayer stayer with so much more to give. Overseas horses like Protectionist have proved time and again that they are able to produce big runs in races like this,” he said.

“On Saturday at Caulfield we will be seeing a very special stayer. I’ve ridden him before and he feels to me like a horse that will just get better as time goes on. He showed when he won the Melbourne Cup just how strong a stayer he is.

“He was beaten at Caulfield on his first time there but this will be his second effort at Caulfield and he should have benefited from the run.

“And I’ll just sit down with Kris Lees and the owners and map out a strategy of course. We’ll just have to take into account things like which way the wind is blowing and if there are any biases in the track.”

High-class two-year-old Fontiton continues to be the public elect for Saturday’s $1 million Blue Diamond Stakes but Williams believes that Fontiton’s stablemate Thurlow, his mount in the race, could well be a threat.

“I know the favourite is very good, but they’ve taken the blinkers off Thurlow and replaced them with winkers [and] that should give her more sight to focus on the job at hand,” he said.

Trainer John Sadler is quietly confident of winning his second Oakleigh Plate with the lightly raced sprinter Vain Queen.

Sadler said that he was pleased with Vain Queen’s build up for Saturday’s race and was confident that with the right run his mare would be in the mix.

“Sure her winning record suggests she’s better off up the straight at Flemington where she’s excelled in the past, but her runs around a turn have been OK as well. Actually she didn’t have much luck one day at Caulfield, so I don’t think she’ll have any problem come Saturday,” he said.

Sadler believes there are up to 10 winning chances, but believes the main danger could be Shamal Wind.

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ICC Cricket World Cup 2015: Pressure building on mechanical Proteas after tardy World Cup start

Your team by team guide to the World Cup
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South Africa are facing mounting criticism over their high number of support staff at the World Cup after an underwhelming start to their campaign.

Regarded as being too rigid and controlled after a string of World Cup flops, the Proteas have been told to relax by former players and coaches.

Former New Zealand great Martin Crowe urged South Africa captain A.B. de Villiers to be more “bold” and “courageous” in his leadership and “feel the presence” of Nelson Mandela.

The Proteas, who face the West Indies in Sydney on Friday, have 18 coaches and support staff accompanying their 15-man squad – which is more than any other nation at the tournament. It includes two coaching consultants – Gary Kirsten and Michael Hussey, both left-handed batsmen with World Cup-winning experience – and a coach specialising at death bowling, Charl Langeveldt.

The Proteas, however, have not brought a sports psychologist to Australasia as part of a ploy to play down their sad history of underachieving in world cricket’s biggest event.

Steve Rixon was bemused South Africa had hired Langeveldt, a former Proteas paceman, when they already had Allan Donald as fast bowling coach.

Rixon, a former member of the Australian coaching staff, is not a fan of the modern trend of large support teams. “What it indicates to me is a lot of guys doing specialist stuff,” Rixon said. “For example, in South Africa you have guys employed to do death bowling. That’s overkill, that tells me somebody is not properly doing their job.”

Herschelle Gibbs, one of South Africa’s best modern-day batsmen, made known his displeasure during the Proteas’ heavy loss to India on Sunday. “Don’t think we need all the extra back room staff either … keep it simple,” Gibbs tweeted.

Crowe, in an open letter to de Villiers on website cricinfo, urged the skipper to “chill”, “take a leap of faith” and “feel Mandela in your bones”.

He said de Villiers needed to get Dale Steyn to relax and “get rid of the stunned mullet look”.

Crowe said Faf du Plessis, de Villiers’ “long-time sparring partner”, was carrying the “weight of the world on his shoulders, plus a small chip that needs removing”.

“You are the one that needs to pull it out, as I sense it’s there because you have left him so far behind over this decade,” Crowe wrote. “Encourage him to drop the burden he appears to be carrying, let him know that he can have some of your runs this tournament. That you can bat side by side, brothers in arms. You need him to be free.”

De Villiers said he had taken the “valuable points” from Crowe’s letter but denied the South Africans were tense. “I really believe the team is in a good space. We have the right amount of management here,” de Villiers said.

“Every single person knows his role. We didn’t do those roles well in the last game, and we need to do better tomorrow.”

Chris Gayle, who made a World Cup record 215 on Tuesday, is expected to line up for the Windies despite missing training with a sore back. The Windies do not know the exact nature of the problem but say it is a condition he can manage while playing.

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Gold Coast Titans hopeful players can return to field after court appearances

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The Gold Coast Titans are hopeful their accused players can return to the field after their court appearances in coming weeks but the Queensland Reds are taking a wait-and-see approach to the playing future of star signing Karmichael Hunt.

Titans coach Neil Henry said he was content for Beau Falloon, Jamie Dowling, Greg Bird, David Taylor and Kalifa Faifai Loa to all resume their playing careers after their initial court appearances at Southport.

Falloon and Dowling are due to appear before a magistrate to face drugs charges next Thursday, two days before the Gold Coast’s season opener against the Wests Tigers, while the remaining trio will appear on March 9.

The lawyer for four of the players, Campbell MacCallum, has suggested they would fight the charges, but the Queensland Crime and Corruption Commission has yet to lay out the full brief of evidence compiled against the defendants.

If they do contest the charges, the cases will be prolonged and could take up to 18 months as they progress through the courts towards a verdict.

Henry said there had been precedents set with players going to court and then continuing to compete on the field until the matter had been settled.

“It’ll be a distraction but that’s happened before,” Henry said. “There’s been players who’ve had to go to court but they’ve still played, they haven’t been stood down, in a variety of codes, not just rugby league.

“In fact, playing football and being around their mates will be a real bonus. The isolation at the moment is making it really difficult for our players.”

While MacCallum has publicly voiced his thoughts on the CCC charges, Hunt’s lawyer Angelo Venardos has declined to make any public comment about his client’s predicament and it is unknown how the former Broncos and Gold Coast Suns player may plea.

Meanwhile, the Reds have taken a lower-profile stance, allowing Hunt to train on a restricted basis but not committing to any future course before they are given a clearer picture of the legal landscape.

The Reds have backed their player and said his welfare remains paramount during a challenging time. The Super Rugby franchise has trodden carefully since day one, even going as far to split legal hairs and suggest Hunt had yet to be formally charged.

Meanwhile, Broncos back-rower Corey Parker has scoffed at rumours the club could be the next implicated in the cocaine scandal.

“It is a frenzy,” Parker said. “All you guys [media] are here tiptoeing around the same question. But all it is innuendo and rumours.

“I have got nothing else for you [on the topic].”

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Lions v Stormers

Highlanders v RedsForce v HurricanesCheetahs v BluesChiefs v CrusadersRebels v BrumbiesBulls v Sharks
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Ellis Park, Johannesburg, Sunday 4.10am (AEST) Last meeting: Round 10 2014 – Stormers 18-3, NewlandsHead-to-head:  Played 19 Lions 5 Stormers 14In Johannesburg:  Played 10 Lions 3 Stormers 7Referee:  Andrew Lees (AUS)TV: Live, FoxSports 502Ladbrokes: Lions $2.50, Stormers $1.53 BetEasy: Lions $2.50, Stormers $1.53

AAP writes: The winless Lions are sitting where they seem most comfortable – at the bottom of the table – while the Stormers have put in two strong performances to be the competition’s surprise front runners. The Stormers have won 12 of their past 13 matches against the Lions, and boast a pretty good record in Johannesburg. That said, the men from Cape Town got a shock when the two sides met this time last year, receiving a 34-10 flogging from their less-fancied countrymen.

LIONS: TBA

STORMERS: TBA

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Internet access for prisoners a ‘human right that could cut reoffending’

Giving prisoners access to the internet could reduce reoffending,  a prominent human rights group has told the Victorian Ombudsman.
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With workplaces moving online and study increasingly contingent on web access, depriving prisoners of the internet could limit employment options, adding to recidivism problems, Liberty Victoria argues.

But Victims of Crime commissioner Greg Davies said there were no guarantees the internet would not be abused by prisoners, resulting in potentially harmful outcomes for victims of crime. Mr Davies stopped short of a blanket rejection of the idea.

Liberty Victoria president George Georgiou, SC, said access to education was also a human right.

“It is in the community’s best interest that efforts be made to rehabilitate prisoners; after all, most prisoners will one day be released back into the community and education is part of that process of reintegrating a person back into the community,” he said.

The case was made in a submission to a Victorian Ombudsman’s inquiry into prisoner rehabilitation and published this week. It follows a prisoner internet trial at the Alexander Maconochie Centre in the ACT, which has been operating since at least 2010.

The rate of recidivism – or the number of prisoners who return to jail – reached a 10-year high of 40 per cent in 2013-2014, The Age revealed in January.

Mr Davies said internet access should be limited to certain types of prisoners, and that did not include paedophiles or people who had used the internet to commit crimes.

“While risks can be mitigated, they can never be completely removed,” he said.

“Nobody can suggest that somebody who is in jail for sexually abusing children should have access to the internet at the expense of the taxpayer. If they want to improve their minds I’m sure they can get access to an encyclopaedia.”

Mr Georgiou said there were ways to reduce the risk of abuse, including networks that limit the sites and emails a person can access, secure logins, curfews and supervision.

“It should be open to all prisoners unless they do something to justify having it taken away,” he said.

Corrections Minister Wade Noonan said prison education centres had libraries and access to computers, and staff with internet access could find and print study resources for prisoners.

“Prisoners are not allowed access to the internet,” he said. “Community safety requires that prisoners do not have unfettered access to the outside world.”

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