Bracing for the big one

The map is uncannily similar to today’s: a spray of black dots showing the recorded sightings of a foul grey haze spreading across Europe, from Helsinki to Naples, from Heligoland to Majorca, and reaching eventually to Aleppo and Damascus – all of it caused by clouds of ash from an immense volcano erupting far across the sea in Iceland.But this was a map made from data collected in 1783. The volcano was called Laki, it erupted for eight dismal months without cease, ruined crops, lowered temperatures and drastically altered the weather. It killed 9000 people, drenched European forests in acid rain, caused skin lesions in children and the deaths of millions of cattle. And, by one account, it was a contributing factor (because of the hunger-inducing famines) to the outbreak six years later of the French revolution.Great volcanoes have a habit of prompting profound changes to the world – much greater in extent than the most savage of earthquakes and tsunamis, even though the immediate lethality of the latter is invariably much more cruel. Though ground-shaking events are generally fairly local in extent, their potential for killing can be terrific: 250,000 died after the Tangshan earthquake in China in 1975 and a similar number died in the Indian ocean tsunami of 2004. Volcanoes seem by contrast relatively benign: the accumulated total number of deaths in all of the great volcanoes of the past 300 years has probably not exceeded a quarter of a million: the total number of casualties from a hundred of the biggest recent eruptions has been no more than those from a single giant earthquake.But there is a significant difference. Earthquakes, once done, are done. Volcanoes, however, often trigger long-term and long-distance ill-effects, which generally far outweigh their immediate rain of death and destruction. Emanations of particles from the tiniest pinprick in the Earth’s crust, once lifted high into the skies by an explosive eruption, can wind themselves sinuously and menacingly around the planet, and leave all kinds of devastation in their train. They can disrupt and pollute and poison; they can darken skies and cause devastating changes in the weather; they can bring about the abrupt end to the existence of entire populations of animals and people.Earthquakes and tsunamis have never been known to cause extinctions but volcanoes and asteroid collisions have done so repeatedly – and since the Earth is still peppered with scores of thousands of volcanoes ever yearning to erupt, they and the dramatic long-term effects of their eruptions are in fact far more frequent, far more decisive, and far greater than those that are triggered by any other natural phenomenon on the planet.It is worth remembering that ours is a world essentially made from and by volcanoes. They are creatures that will continue to do their business over the aeons, quite careless of the fate of the myriad varieties of life that teems beneath them and on their flanks. Including, of course, ours.There is perhaps no better recent example of the havoc that a big eruption can cause than that which followed the explosive destruction of Mount Toba, in northern Sumatra, 72,000-74,000 years ago (which, in geological time, is very recent indeed). The relics of this mountain today are no more than a very large and beautiful lake, 100 kilometres long and 800 metres deep – the caldera left behind by what is by most reckonings the largest volcanic explosion known to have occurred on the planet in the past 25 million years.On the widely used volcanic explosivity index (VEI), Toba is thought to have been an eight – meaning that in the unusually flamboyant official language of vulcanology it was a super-plinian type eruption with mega-colossal characteristics (Iceland’s Eyjafjallajokull is by contrast listed as a strombolian type, with its characteristic regarded as merely gentle, and having a probable VEI rating of just two).About 2800 cubic kilometres of rock were instantly vaporised by the super-eruptive blast of Toba, all of which was hurled scores of thousands of metres into the air. This is what did the lasting damage, just as Iceland’s high-altitude rock-dust did in Europe. But while we merely suffered a large number of inconvenienced people and a weakening of the balance sheets of some airlines, the effect on the post-Toban world was catastrophic: as a result of the thick ash clouds the world’s ambient temperature plummeted, perhaps by as much as 5 degrees – and the cooling and the howling wave of deforestation and deaths of billions of animals and plants caused a sudden culling of the human population of the time, reducing it to maybe as few as 5000 people, perhaps 1000 breeding pairs. Many anthropologists believe that the event caused a sudden evolutionary bottleneck, with genetic implications that linger to this day. Put more crudely, humanity was nearly wiped out by Toba, and only by the merest hair’s breadth did our ancestors of 72,000 years ago manage to cling on and bequeath to us our existence.Mercifully, from humanity’s point of view, there have been very few Tobas known in history. They are probably so large that they reach the upper limit of the kind of eruptions that can physically occur on Earth – one VEI-8 event occurs only every 100,000 years or so. Yet of those known to have occurred, two have taken place in Britain (mainly because Britain has such a vast variety of geology, with almost every age of rock known in the world found somewhere between Cape Wrath and Dover). They are comfortingly ancient: both – the volcano that created Scafell in the Lake District, and the other that gave us Glen Coe in the Western Highlands – took place more than 400 million years ago.But others of the 47 known VEI-8 volcanoes are more alarmingly recent. Taupo in New Zealand erupted with mega-colossal force some 22,500 years ago. The newer of the great eruptions that helped form the mountains of today’s Yellowstone National Park in the United States took place just 640,000 years ago, and all the current signs – from such phenomena as the rhythmic slow rising and falling of the bed of the Yellowstone River, as if some giant creature is breathing far below – suggest another eruption is coming soon. When it does, it will be an American Armageddon: all of the north and west of the continent, from Vancouver to Oklahoma City, will be rendered uninhabitable, buried under scores of metres of ash. (I mentioned this once in a talk to a group of lunching ladies in Kansas City, soothing their apparent disquiet by adding that by ”soon” I was speaking in geologic time, and that meant about 250,000 years, by which time all humankind would be extinct. A woman in the front row exploded with a choleric and incredulous rage: ”What?” she said. ”Even Americans will be extinct?”)Ratcheting down the scale a couple of notches, to the only slightly less gigantic eruptions that are classified as VEI-7 and VEI-6, and a host of more familiar eruptions come into view. These include Santorini, the Aegean volcano whose destruction around 4000 years ago may have triggered the collapse of the Minoan civilisation; Laki, the 1783 Icelandic volcano mentioned above, and which most obviously parallels today’s events at Eyjafjallajokull; the Javan volcano of Krakatoa, which erupted so infamously in August 1883; and the rather more profoundly world-affecting eruption of 1815, also in the Dutch East Indies, of the huge stratovolcano on Sumbawa Island, known as Tambora. Each of these had massive effects, and all were global in their extent.Tambora is the most notorious, not least because it was so immense: almost 170 cubic kilometres of pulverised Sumbawan rock were hurled into the sky, which darkened, cooled and polluted a world that, unlike in Toba’s day, was already well populated and widely civilised. The consequences ranged from the dire – a lowering of temperature that caused frosts in Italy in June and snows in the US in July, and the failure of crops in immense swathes across Europe and the Americas – to the ludicrous: Irish migrants, promised better weather in New England, found it on landing to be every bit as grim as the Connemara and Cork they had left, and so either went home, or pressed on in hope to California.Krakatoa’s immediate aftermath was dominated initially by dramatic physical effects – a series of tsunamis that were measured as far away as Portland Bill and Biarritz, a detonation that was clearly heard (like naval gunfire, said the local police officer) 5000 kilometres away on Rodriguez Island, and a year’s worth of awe-inspiring evening beauty as the sky lit up with dazzling colours.There was an important legacy to Krakatoa’s eruption not shared by the other giant volcanoes of the time. Close mapping of the spread of the 1883 sunsets showed them girdling the Earth in a curious set of spirals, the stratospheric aerosols evidently being borne around the world on high-altitude winds that no one at the time knew existed. An atmospheric scientist in Hawaii mapped them and decided to call the air current the equatorial smoke stream. It later became, more elegantly and economically, the jet stream. There has to be some irony that the jet stream that drove this month’s Icelandic dust so dangerously over Britain and mainland Europe is a phenomenon that was first discovered as a direct consequence of the study of Krakatoa.And yet, of all the consequences of the truly great volcanoes of the past, the phenomenon of mass extinctions of life must surely be the most profound and world-changing of all. Between two and five major extinction events occur in the world every million years or so. Humans have not been privileged to observe one of them – hardly surprisingly, since they would probably occur so slowly as to be barely noticeable. However, with painstaking care, palaeontological evidence is being amassed to link sudden and catastrophic changes in world climate, changes that promote such extinction crises, with the known major eruptions of the past, and with what are known as flood basalt events (such as those that have been triggered specifically in the past by eruptions of Eyjafjallajokull and her neighbouring volcano in Iceland, Katla, which is itself well overdue for an eruption). It is a study that opens up a fascinating speculative possibility.For what if the kind of event that we have seen this month, and which caused such commercial inconvenience, is in fact not just a minor volcanic hiccup, but the beginning of an event that causes in time a mass extinction of some form of earthbound life? And, since we know from the history books that the massive eruption of Santorini once had the power to destroy one proud part of human society, what if the extinction we might be beginning to see turns out to be what will one day surely occur, and that is the extinction of us?Guardian News & MediaSimon Winchester is a journalist and author of Krakatoa: The Day The World Exploded.
Nanjing Night Net

America’s gaping hole: thousands queue up for free medical care

LOS ANGELES: They began arriving before dawn on a cold, misty morning, people of all ages lining up by the hundreds, some in wheelchairs, others hobbling on crutches, many of them missing teeth, all of them seeking the same thing: free medical care.It was a scene that could have been playing out in a Third World country or perhaps some place like post-hurricane New Orleans. But it was unfolding in Los Angeles on Tuesday, and the hundreds who showed up were mainly working people without health insurance.Kenny Gillett, 47, a welder, had not seen a doctor for two years, since losing his job and insurance when his employer went broke.Adriana Valenzuela, a self-employed and uninsured beautician, brought an eight-year-old son with a mouthful of cavities. Frank Carodine, 57, in a wheelchair, said he had lost parts of both legs to diabetes, which was now ravaging his right eye. He needed glasses. ”I’ve got coverage for my diabetes, I go to a clinic, but it doesn’t cover eye exams,” he said.Outside in the cold, several hundred people, some balancing toddlers on their hips, waited for their turn to enter the Los Angeles Sports Arena. Inside were hundreds of volunteer doctors, dentists, acupuncturists, chiropractors and other professionals, all brought together by a Tennessee non-profit group, Remote Area Medical.On this first day of the seven-day clinic, Maria Shriver, the wife of the Governor, Arnold Schwarzenegger, visited and said she was humbled by the scope of the volunteer effort.”What you’re seeing is a lot of Middle America here,” said RAM’s flamboyant founder, Stan Brock. ”Healthcare in this country is a privilege of the well-to-do and the well-insured.” At last year’s clinic 6000 were treated. More were expected this time.Jesse Serna, 51, a disabled warehouse worker, was waiting to get an aching tooth fixed.Referring to national healthcare reform, he said: ”We need it badly. We send people overseas when there’s a disaster. This is a disaster right here.”Associated Press, Los Angeles Times
Nanjing Night Net

India accuses one of its diplomats of spying for Pakistan

ISLAMABAD: The Indian government has accused one of its own diplomats of handing secrets to Pakistan’s notorious Inter-Services Intelligence agency.The Indian Foreign Office said on Tuesday that Madhuri Gupta, 53, a second secretary at its high commission in Islamabad, had been charged with espionage.Ms Gupta, who had worked in the press and information section for three years, was arrested on Friday after being called back to New Delhi on the pretext of discussing a regional summit in Bhutan this week. She was charged in court on Monday.”We have reasons to believe an official in the Indian high commission in Pakistan has been passing information to Pakistani intelligence officials,” said Vishnu Prakash, a spokesman for India’s Ministry of External Affairs. ”The official is co-operating with our investigations and inquiries.”The Press Trust of India reported that the head of India’s intelligence agency research and analysis wing in Islamabad was also under investigation.Indian officials did not elaborate on the nature of the secrets allegedly stolen by the junior diplomat. But the revelation is a big embarrassment for India’s diplomatic service on the eve of the Bhutan summit, where peace talks between the nuclear-armed rivals are high on the agenda.The arrest was not expected to derail a meeting between Pakistan’s Prime Minister, Yusuf Raza Gilani, and his Indian counterpart, Manmohan Singh, due to take place today. But it may dampen expectations of a resumption of peace talks, which collapsed after the 2008 Mumbai attacks in which more than 170 people were killed.India blames Lashkar-e-Taiba, a militant group with historical ties to the ISI, for the atrocity, accusing ”state elements” of orchestrating the carnage.The two countries, which have fought three wars, have a history of skulduggery and periodically engage in tit-for-tat expulsions of diplomats, usually at times of political or military tension.But it is rare for a diplomat to be accused of spying and analysts were divided on the political significance. Some felt it was unlikely to damage relations because the accused is an Indian national; others saw it as an ominous sign for an early resumption of peace talks.Guardian News & Media
Nanjing Night Net

British politicians castigated for plans that don’t add up

LONDON: The three main political parties contesting Britain’s election on May 6 are facing increasing scrutiny of their spending plans and have been accused by one of the nation’s most respected economic think tanks of fudging on the scale of planned cuts.As the Labour Prime Minister, Gordon Brown, the Conservative leader, David Cameron, and the new star on the political stage, the Liberal Democrat leader, Nick Clegg, prepare for tonight’s final television debate on the economy, all three have been excoriated by the Institute for Fiscal Studies, an influential independent policy body.The public has been well prepared for a period of austerity but, says the institute, which prepared an analysis of the three parties’ plans to slash Britain’s £163 billion ($271 billion) deficit, the real pain has not been properly explained.The institute described as ”vague” the three parties’ plans to slash between £30 billion and £40 billion from the budget in the coming year and said none had gone ”anywhere near” what will be needed to meet its debt reduction pledges and timetables.Each party has promised cuts that reflect its own philosophical bent, with Labour protecting front-line services – nurses, police and teachers – and proposing a rise in national insurance tax rise to plug the hole and the Conservatives proposing cuts in public service ”waste” to ensure no tax rises. The Liberal Democrats have promised big cuts of £47 billion, but only 23 per cent have so far been identified.Anxiety about Britain’s economic future was highlighted as news spread that Greece’s credit rating had been ”junked” by the international agency Standard & Poors. The London sharemarket suffered its biggest drop since the beginning of the year.The rising sense of financial and political uncertainty was reflected in reports in the Financial Times that the Conservatives were exploring a deal with Unionist politicians in Northern Ireland and with Welsh nationalists in an effort to avoid Liberal Democrat demands for electoral reform.Senior Conservatives are bitterly against moves to change the first-past-the-post voting system for some form of proportional representation, which they fear would entrench smaller parties such as the Liberal Democrats.Mr Clegg was enjoying a second week of strong opinion polls, and on Tuesday finally caught the attention of conservative newspapers, which had studiously ignored his party.In an interview with The Times, Mr Clegg said that he harboured the notion of becoming prime minister and that his party had stolen the mantle of the progressive centre left from Labour.”I think we have won the progressive argument in this election. Of course, not in terms of numbers of seats, and we’ll see on May 6 whether it’s numbers of votes. But intellectually, the assertion that the progressive cause is a Liberal one, not a statist Labour one.”The big choice, he told The Times, is between ”two competing pitches for change”: the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats. ”I think more … people in the Labour Party are coming to appreciate that. That’s why the big choice now, if not psephologically but intellectually, this is now a two-horse race between the Conservative Party and the Lib Dems.”
Nanjing Night Net

Hartigan calls Waldron chief rat of rort

News Ltd chief executive John Hartigan has called disgraced former Melbourne Storm CEO Brian Waldron the “chief rat” of the NRL club’s salary cap rorting.Hartigan was in Melbourne on Tuesday to address the Storm players and staff in the wake of the scandal which has rocked the News Limited-owned club and the competition as a whole.”We’ll go forward, we’ve got an inquiry in place which we have a lot of trust in,” said Hartigan.”We’ll root out the bad eggs and we’ll go from there.”Waldron – who quit the Storm several months ago to join new Super Rugby franchise the Melbourne Rebels before being forced to resign – broke his silence on the salary cap scandal late on Monday.Waldron claimed he told NRL boss David Gallop several years ago that there needed to be an amnesty period to allow the many clubs he believed were abusing the salary cap to come forward without fear of punishment.Waldron also said he was prepared to tell News Corp chairman and CEO Rupert Murdoch the exact nature of the company’s $66 million investment in the Storm dating back to its entry into the NRL in 1998.”I suggest he goes to the police and tells them because I’d be very interested,” responded Hartigan.”I want the truth to come out and that’s the furthest from the truth.”One thing needs to be purely understood here – we’ve got an inquiry in place and presumably it’ll come out.”Everyone is suggesting ‘why didn’t we pick it up through the books of the Storm?'”I think you’ve got to understand that the majority of these payments came through third party guarantees.”Now these guarantees were something between player-managers and side letters which were held at the home of one of the officials.”I’m all for exacting audits, but truly it’s very difficult to find that out when they’re being held on the side at a person’s house.”Acting CEO Matt Hanson was one of two senior Storm officials dumped by the club’s owners last week following revelations that Melbourne had exceeded the salary cap by a total of $1.7 million over several years.But Hartigan stood by his claim that Waldron was the chief instigator of the widespread breaches.”I said something last Thursday, he’s the architect of this whole badness in this club,” said Hartigan.”And I also suggested at another level that there were rats in the ranks.”I think it’s quite simple, if you draw a line between both of those comments I think it leads to the chief rat, and I have no question or doubt that it’s him.”Melbourne were stripped of the 2007 and 2009 premierships, fined heavily and banned from earning any competition points in 2010 for the salary cap breaches.Hartigan understood why the players might want to contest some of the sanctions, but he said News Ltd would not provide support or funding for any such appeals.AAP
Nanjing Night Net

Bolton sure he’s backed a title hope with Heart

JUST over four weeks ago, Clint Bolton reached the zenith of domestic football when his goalkeeping heroics helped Sydney FC claim the A-League championship. But while others still bask in the afterglow of that memorable March night, Bolton has already shifted his sights to a new challenge.While he admits he ”soaked it all up” in the fortnight after the grand final, the 34-year-old thought better than to savour the moment too long. Rather, Bolton has already started his pre-season with new expansion club Melbourne Heart.Bolton ruffled more than a few feathers with his exit from Sydney – most notably when he controversially posed in the new Heart kit while still contracted to the Sky Blues – but there are no hard feelings from his end. His energies are channelled on starting from the bottom with a fledgling franchise, just like he did when he signed with Sydney FC for the A-League’s opening season five years ago.”The obvious comparisons you can make is that there’s going to be teething problems and there’s going to be issues that need to be fixed,” Bolton said. ”In Sydney, we had a lot of problems at the start – even just small things, like training, kits and equipment. We’re going through the same things here but the good thing here is that they’re getting on top of it straight away, and they’re listening to the players.”It’s all worth it, though. I can start to sense the buzz, and I look around and I feel this is the start of something special. When you look at the coaching staff and the playing squad, you can see why they’re expecting big things from day one, just like they did in Sydney. And with what we’ve got already, there’s no reason we can’t compete for trophies in the first year.”Last week the Heart literally took their first steps as a team. Of the small group of players involved in the start of pre-season training, only Bolton, his former Sydney Olympic teammate Wayne Srhoj and ex-Newcastle Jets striker Jason Hoffman have played in the A-League. The rest of John van’t Schip’s squad, including departed Sydney duo Simon Colosimo and John Aloisi, will link up in the coming months.Bolton had the option of starting his pre-season training at a later date, but just a year after hitting rock bottom following John Kosmina’s push to elevate Ivan Necevski, his enthusiasm for the game is that of a wide-eyed debutant and he couldn’t spend winter twiddling his thumbs.”The coach wanted those of us who were around to get us together and I was more than happy to keep training. I was in good nick in the finals and mentally I’m feeling very fresh,” he said. ”A break would take me away from football, which is not where I want to be.”Still, it hasn’t all been smooth sailing. If holding out Necevski was tough, then digging in and producing his best when it was public knowledge Sydney FC were pursuing Liam Reddy took Bolton to the edge.”The reports were as far back as September and October in the paper about the Reddy signing, so I knew back then my future was clouded,” he said. ”But I couldn’t control who they were talking to. I could only control how I played and putting all my efforts into playing well. It was an easy sell [for Heart] after not being offered a contract by Sydney. I pretty much signed up the next day and knew this was the next step for me.”But with the final chapter closed on the harbour city, Bolton wants it known that he relished working under Sydney coach Vitezslav Lavicka. ”The hard work, discipline and team unity were what ‘Vitja’ instilled us and we learnt a lot from him,” Bolton said. ”But I’m just as confident John [van’t Schip] already has plans to bring those same qualities here.”
Nanjing Night Net

Rijkaard’s a winner: Neill

EXCLUSIVELUCAS NEILL has described his Galatasaray boss Frank Rijkaard as a ”really great man manager” but won’t buy into whether Football Federation Australia should appoint the legendary Dutchman as the next Socceroos coach.”He’s a born winner as a player and a manager,” Neill said. ”He’s coached and managed the very best and I feel quite lucky to be here and working under him. [But] if I say that that he’s going to be great for [the Socceroos], then I’m having a go at Galatasaray. If I say that I want to keep him here [in Turkey], that’s not good for Australia. There’s a million fans that will lynch me.”FFA is on the lookout for a replacement for Pim Verbeek at the conclusion of the World Cup and has approached Rijkaard, another Dutchman, about the post. Rijkaard’s offsider, Johan Neeskens, helped Guus Hiddink prepare the Australians for the 2006 World Cup and has also been sounded out.Neill, who joined Socceroos teammate Harry Kewell at Galatasaray, has enjoyed working under the former AC Milan midfielder in Turkey.”He is amazing,” Neill said. ”He is so well decorated in medals and appearances, when you look at his CV you realise how lucky you are.”You look at his CV and think, ‘Is he intimidating, is he really strict?’ He’s an unbelievable manager and you’re [afraid] to say a word to him and want to do everything he says – but he’s such a warm and open person and you can talk to him about everything, football and non football.”He’s so relaxed to be around that he gets that natural respect because of the reputation he’s earned as a player and as a manager already.”When he talks you just listen because you know what he’s going to say makes sense.”The comments are sure to further pique the interest of the FFA, which is determined to get the best available man to take over from Verbeek. Rijkaard is one of the game’s shrewdest tacticians, coaching the Netherlands to the semi-finals of Euro 2000 and overseeing Barcelona during their 2006 Champions League final win over Arsenal.”You can talk to him about anything,” Neill said. ”If you have any problems you can knock on his door and see him. He’s a very, very good guy and he gets success by getting respect from all the team. He is a really, really great man manager.”Galatasaray chairman Adnan Polat told the Istanbul Daily News Rijkaard was going nowhere.”Rijkaard signed a two-year contract with Galatasaray and we will be together next year,” he said.Neill said Kewell, who is recovering from a groin injury, had returned to training. ”He’s running around the pitch as we’re training,” Neill said. ”We’re really looking forward to getting him back in action so we can play in the same team at club level together.”Asked when Kewell was expected to make his long-awaited return, Neill replied: ”I don’t know, mate – you’d have to ask him. He keeps those cards close to his chest.”
Nanjing Night Net

Neill talking turkey on our Cup prospects

Before we delve into the Turkish delight that is living just outside of Istanbul, the fact he once aspired to become a veterinarian or even the small matter of how Australia will fare in South Africa, there is a more pressing proposition we have to put to Lucas Neill.Are there times, perhaps late at night, when the Socceroos skipper ponders what might have been? Does he dare to dream about how it could have unfolded had Italian defender Fabio Grosso not fallen to the turf like a man shot following your challenge? If the referee had punished rather than rewarded the most famous dive this side of Matthew Mitcham? Do you still fantasise about how far the Socceroos could have gone in the last World Cup had you not been dudded by the Azzurri?”Definitely,” Neill told The Sun-Herald. ”We were 10 seconds away from taking the world champions to extra time, with an amount of damage [to them]. People will say, ‘it was a penalty’ or ‘it wasn’t a penalty’ and if they hadn’t given it or if we’d gone to extra time we could have won or lost.”But if we had won, the momentum alone and the confidence we gained, I’m 100 per cent confident we would have beaten Ukraine. And then we would have been in the World Cup semi-finals. Italy went on to win the whole thing and got better as the tournament went on.”The disappointing thing for us is the goal that knocked us out happened so late in the game that we didn’t even get to kick off, to react to that goal. We didn’t even get 20 seconds, 30 seconds, one minute, to try to get the ball up the other end and create one more chance to try to equalise.”Our tournament was going so well, we’d gained so much momentum and everyone was buzzing. We felt we had two or three games left in us. And then all of a sudden … gone. Like that.”You know the moment. There’s practically no time on the clock. Grosso dribbles left and leaves Mark Bresciano in his wake. The penultimate obstacle between the defender and the net is Neill. It’s one-on-one.No one had got past Neill all tournament. Grosso tries the same move, which worked on Bresciano. Neill anticipates, slides his body where he thinks the ball will go … a microsecond later, a whistle sounds. One nation’s joy, another’s despair.”It’s one of those things. It could have been me, it could have been anyone,” Neill said. ”I don’t see myself as the guy who knocked Australia out of the World Cup. I do wish that we had a chance to correct the incident, correct the decision. Getting one or two minutes to do something about it. It drives me on to want to see if we can better ourselves, take on the rest of the world again in the biggest tournament in the world. It hurt. It hurt massively. It’s going to sound clichéd, like I don’t care, but that’s football. It happens. [It’s] the way you react to that, and I’ve certainly reacted in a positive way, to now be the captain of the country and ensure that we get an opportunity to be involved in [a big moment] like that again.”We’re happy to be involved where it can go either way again. Get a chance to do it. That’s what is frustrating. Everyone has taken that feeling and has waited four years for it to come around again so we can get back into World Cup action.”In 56 days, Neill will get his wish. The Socceroos will begin their campaign on June 13 against Germany in Durban. For Neill, it’s a very different preparation to last time.He’s a world away from England’s north, having signed to play alongside Harry Kewell at Turkish side Galatasaray.”We’ve got the swimming pool in the backyard and it’s probably only about a week away from being warm enough to spend all of our afternoons in the backyard pool,” Neill said. ”That’s something I haven’t been able to say for 15 years.”Language aside, there are other differences. The pace of the football remains the same, but it’s a different story off the pitch. ”The people here are very hard working but they want to do it at their own pace and their own time,” Neill said. ”If you want something done at 10 o’clock they seem to arrive at 11. I find that quite frustrating but it’s just the way it goes over here. Istanbul is famous for traffic and the ability to create a traffic jam from nothing. It’s probably the only negative about the place.”Minor gripes aside – ”there’s no golf here” – Neill can’t speak highly enough about the club or the country. The food, the nightlife, the people are all ”amazing”. There’s a particularly tight bond between the foreign players, who regularly socialise after training. Brazilian superstar Elano Blumer hosted the last get-together and this time it’s Neill’s turn.”We like to go out and eat or go to people’s houses as families and have barbecues and try different styles of food,” Neill said. ”I’m on the barbecue this weekend for an Australian barbecue. Last week it was a Brazilian barbecue.”But with the World Cup just around the corner, there are bigger fish to fry. The Socceroos, Neill concedes, can no longer enter the tournament as the ”surprise package” after their achievements in Germany. Bundled with Serbia, Germany and Ghana, group D may not quite be the Group of Death but the Socceroos will again have to play above themselves to progress.”In the world of football we’re considered the fourth best team in that group, but ask any Australian in the team if they feel like they’re the fourth best team in that group and they’ll give you a different answer,” Neill said.”The reality is the other three teams are capable of beating us. We need to make sure that we’re ready for everything they throw at us and we can come away with a few upsets, especially in the first game.”We’re victims of our own success a little bit because if we don’t get out of the group it will be considered a disappointing campaign.”But from the perspective that we qualified for a second World Cup in quite comfortable style, we made it look easier than it was.”We were criticised a bit about our style and how we went about it but we got there and that was the objective. We all want to get out of the group because that would signify another achievement and give us bigger hurdles to jump. It’s about building on the momentum you gain if you get out of the group, getting a bit of luck, being in the right position and maybe going on and maybe surprising ourselves and the nation.”According to FIFA, the Socceroos are ranked No.19. The World Cup provides an opportunity to rise in the pecking order, but waiting to crack the top 10 is like waiting for Turkish traffic to subside.”As far as attitude, spirit, determination and desire goes, we’re definitely in the top 10 in the world,” Neill said. ”As far as having depth and quality in our squad, we’re just not quite there yet. Not every one of our players is playing top-level football consistently in big European teams or leagues.”We’re getting there, we’re on our way. We’re knocking on the door. For whatever reason, we’re not quite there yet and it’s just a matter of time. While we’re not there we’ll maximise everything we have and use that Aussie spirit to try to overturn technique and skill, to overpower a few teams enough to upset supposed better teams than us.”That’s something Australia should never forget that we’ve got. That’s what makes us different. We can bring out technical players and they can be amazing. We can bring out skilful players, players who can win games on their own.”But the thing that makes Australia unique is spirit. It’s not just about working hard, it’s the teamwork. No one cares about who gets the glory in this team. Nobody cares who gets the headlines. It’s all about the Socceroos getting the headlines, about the Socceroos winning games for Australia. You can’t coach that.”We’re very lucky to get that because a lot of teams have to work hard to get a blend of our team spirit but that comes naturally to us.”It doesn’t matter who you come up against. Individuals don’t matter. It’s Australia versus the world. That’s all that counts. That’s something we should never take for granted.”Nor does Neill take his lot in life for granted. He has played 15 years of professional football in Europe, including stints at Blackburn Rovers, West Ham and Everton, and gone on to captain his country. Money and fame have followed.Not bad for a kid who grew up on the northern beaches of Sydney. But, in Neill’s words, ”it could have been completely different”.”Growing up, I wanted to be a vet because I loved animals. I was never going to get there with my test results. [If not a footballer], I thought I’d be a landscape gardener because I’d be outside all of the time in the garden. I could start work early and knock off early and go surfing. Probably something like that. Something outdoors, I couldn’t be stuck behind a desk all day.”In his own words: Lucas Neill on …BEING LUCAS NEILL ”I’m taking it all in my stride. I know I’m living the dream and I’ll never take that for granted. I’ve earned this ride, I’ve worked very hard and sacrificed a lot. I’m very proud of what I’ve achieved and there’s still loads I want to do with my life, in and out of football. Football has opened up so many great doors for me, I’ve met so many good people, I’ve seen the world, whether it’s been training grounds, airports or stadiums, I’ve managed to take in so many cultures. I’m just very proud of where I am. I know I’ve got a talent and I’ve never been one to rub it in anyone’s face.”ON GIVING BACK ONE DAY ”I’m going to take a little bit of everything and pass on what I’ve experienced. Whether I pass that on to kids when I eventually coach them or other players if I step into a higher coaching or manager’s role – I’ve not decided on my future but it would be a shame to waste all the years I’ve been able to work with [great managers] and not put that back into practice. Why would I want to come home and not pass on everything I’ve learned to the hopefuls of the future? If I can come back and set these guys on the right path by teaching them the foundations of football and the education of working hard, setting goals and trying to achieve those goals through sacrifice and hard work, I’ll be putting Australia in a better place.”ARRIVING AT GALATASARAY ”I’ve never experienced anything like that and I’m glad I have. It’s humbling but, at the same time, great for your ego. I hadn’t even signed the contract yet. To have that many cameras, photographers and interest over a player wanting to sign for that club, it makes you feel special and shows how serious they are about their football. Rumour has it there are 27 million Galatasaray fans in Istanbul. If they’re not Galatasaray fans they’re Fenerbahce or Besiktas [supporters]. They either love you or hate you and I’m not saying you are ever in any danger, but they love their football that much that you’re forever shaking hands or asking to pose for photos. They are so passionate fans of football, it’s crazy.”THE A-LEAGUE ”I’m a big supporter of it, we need it. It’s worrying that there’s a few clubs trying to keep their head above water. It’s frustrating because you know how good football is and how good the league can be; how important the league is for the future of football in Australia and the future of the national team. That’s why I want to get involved, because I know I can be part of a club that can take players from a very young age all the way through to the top level.”  PLAYING THE 2014 WORLD CUP ”Who knows? I’ll play for as long as my legs and body will take me. I’ll only play as long as I can keep up and maintain the level. Let’s see how far it gets us. I’m feeling good and I’m certainly confident that I will reach that level at this World Cup.”
Nanjing Night Net

$110,000 without bowling a ball: Cockley wins ‘cricket lotto’

INJURED NSW fast bowler Burt Cockley will have banked $110,000 from Cricket Australia – despite not having bowled a ball in anger for almost a year – by the time he returns for the start of the 2010-11 season, but don’t dare suggest he’s won the lottery.Cockley, who was picked to replace paceman Peter Siddle during last November’s one-day series in India, earns $5000 every time the Australian one-day team plays due to an injury clause in Australian player contracts.The powerfully built 24-year-old was expected to make his debut in the final game of the seven-match series in Mumbai, but the match was abandoned due to rain before the selectors named the team.His summer was written off because of stress fractures to his back, but he’s benefiting from a deal which ensures players injured while on national duty don’t suffer financial hardship.While Cockley realises some readers might think he’s won cricket’s answer to Lotto, he described it as ”hollow” cash because he’d prefer to be out working towards his ultimate prize – a baggy green cap.”I don’t play cricket for money,” said Cockley, who debuted for NSW two years ago.”Some people ask, ‘How good is the cash’ but all I see is the baggy green [cap] … it’s what I want most out of the game.”The injury payments have helped a lot. It’s the result of a system that I think shows care for the player. Cricket Australia hasn’t put me on the sideline and said, ‘Look after yourself and see you when you get back’ – they’ve helped me a lot.”Cockley hasn’t yet taken any of the Australian one-day gear out of his kit bag because he’d feel ”funny” wearing even the training gear to the gym until he actually plays. The Novocastrian has taken 30 wickets at an average of 30.43 from 10 first-class outings for the Blues after making his debut against Tasmania at Bellerive Oval in 2008.The stress fractures follow the bulging disc injury which forced him out of the Australia A team which played Pakistan’s A side last year, and it denied him a second stint in the Indian Premier League.”It’s been a very tough eight months,” he said. ”I was picked for the IPL and returned with a bulging disc. I worked on my action and while it came good, it was still a bit mixed. I came back that little bit too early and while I bowled well it probably wasn’t as good as what I am capable of.”But I was still picked for Australia A and then Australia, so I was proud to think that I’m capable of matching it with the best bowlers in the country when I do my thing.”Cockley is spending the off-season rebuilding his body through boxing, weights, yoga, running and three net sessions a week under the direction of state bowling coach Matt Nicholson.Tests conducted by CNSW show his fitness has improved to such an extent he’s now one of the fittest in the state squad.”Watching the new guys like Trent Copeland and Josh Hazlewood was great because I know they’ve worked hard for their opportunity,” he said. ”But it frustrates me to think I haven’t been able to show what I can do through injury. That’s made me even hungrier.”
Nanjing Night Net

White knight turns tide for Swans

North Melbourne 8.12 (60) Sydney 14.16 (100)THE retooled Sydney Swans’ tight opening-round loss to St Kilda and enterprising victories over the struggling Adelaide and Richmond sides had created increased, and in some cases massively overblown, expectations of a team still attempting the difficult task of rebuilding from the middle of the ladder.So while yesterday’s 40-point victory over North Melbourne was comprehensive, the tough but sometimes dour struggle at Etihad Stadium provided an early-season reality check. Despite their 3-1 record, the Swans are yet to prove they could challenge the pacesetters should they earn a finals berth.Coach Paul Roos partly attributed the Swans’ start to the season to the longer preparation made possible by missing last year’s finals. ”But we’re still a team learning a bit about each other,” he said. ”At this stage, we are going along nicely … but we all know how footy can change.”The greatest indication of Sydney’s steady improvement was that, on a day when a young, honest North team clung to the Swans for a good part of the afternoon, they were able to find the muscle and a few moments of inspiration to work their way over the line.Roos said his team had been lucky to trail by just one point at half-time, but was happy with their effort after the major break. ”First half, credit to [North Melbourne], they really came out and were on top of their game and fierce and competitive, and we probably just battled away,” he said.”Second half, probably our experience and just the younger guys probably had an edge fitness wise … we were able to keep on going a bit longer than they were.”The Swans’ signature moment came midway through the third quarter when big forward Jesse White rose high over North’s Lachlan Hansen to take a spectacular mark. The resulting goal was one of four in a row kicked by the Swans during a match-winning five-goals-to-two third term.Until then, the game had been claustrophobically tight. It was not until 10 minutes into the final quarter that Daniel Bradshaw killed the contest with a strong mark and goal, one of four for the day.As the bargain basement replacement for Barry Hall, the experienced former Brisbane Lion is more than fulfilling his role as a constant and reliable target. Bradshaw’s hard work in tight traffic – not something for which the occasionally petulant Hall was always renowned – was just as important as his late goals.The Swans have promised and, at times, delivered a more attacking style than last season. Yesterday’s defensive arm wrestle, in which they initially found themselves mired, was not of their own making.North Melbourne, in the early stages of rebuilding under a rookie coach, were clearly eager to put fierce man-on-man pressure on the Swans’ ball carriers. As a result, in enervating 28-degree heat at an open-roofed Etihad Stadium, neither team found much space or rhythm going forward and, when the Swans did find their tall forwards, they were usually far from goal or on tight angles.Thus the few moments of individual inspiration become even more important. As Sydney and North went goal for goal in the first half, Adam Goodes twice burst free to kick majors. Otherwise, most of what the Swans put on the scoreboard was the result of hard graft, the odd free kick or whatever space they could find.There were, however, some more good signs from the legion of the Swans’ off-season recruits. Youngster Lewis Jetta’s composure grows with each game and midfielder Daniel Hannebery accumulated 27 possessions and used the ball well.Kieren Jack had the job of curbing North’s premier midfielder, Brent Harvey, whose speed and creativity made him a constant threat in the first half. But Jack wore him down and had the better of the battle.North’s gifted but erratic forward Aaron Edwards also proved a handful for Swans defender Craig Bolton. He kicked two goals early on but as the Swans’ midfield got on top, North’s attack was inevitably starved for supply.The result was a valuable victory, albeit one that showed the Swans were still a fair way short of the standard set by the competition’s elite.
Nanjing Night Net