Brown sorry his mate Bradshaw was booted – but he is still looking to crush the Swans

IT WAS the question Jonathan Brown knew would come, but that didn’t make it easier to answer.Brown was sitting face to face – albeit via video-conference link – with Daniel Bradshaw. The pair are former teammates, spent a decade together – most of it alongside each other in the Lions’ forward line – played together in 140 games, including three grand finals, and won two flags. But more significantly the pair, who both grew up in country Victoria before heading to Brisbane, were, and still are, good mates.The mateship remained but everything else changed last October when Bradshaw, a valued servant for 14 seasons with the Lions, was offered as trade bait to Carlton for Brendan Fevola. That deal wasn’t done but the damage was. A gutted Bradshaw walked away from the club, and eventually landed at the Swans, while Brisbane snared Fevola.It didn’t take long for the Sydney media to ask Brown whether he thought the Lions made the right move getting Fevola at Bradshaw’s expense. ”You open up with a good one there,” Brown said. ”I’m not comfortable to answer that, mate.”Then followed five seconds of awkward silence, while everyone waited to see if he would elaborate.”At the end of the day both clubs have benefited from it,” he said. ”Who’s there and who’s not, we can argue about that all day long and footy fans will argue about that, but both players are playing well for both clubs.”Braddy is a close mate of mine so it’s just … at the end of the day I’m just happy he’s playing good footy.”Quizzed on whether it was one of his tougher moments hearing Bradshaw was leaving, Brown said he had no doubt, but that is football.”It’s always disappointing to see a great player go and a great mate go, but players play and management manages, so we go along with the decisions that have been made,” said Brown, who said he was a definite starter for the SCG clash between the Swans and the Lions after battling a ”sore stomach” last week.”That’s the business of football unfortunately. I obviously can’t really comment about too much because I’m still at the same footy club.”Bradshaw has made it clear he’s moved on from the decision made by his former club and its coach – his premiership-winning teammate Michael Voss.He feels ”somewhere down the track we’ll be able to work it out”, but realises like Brown that player movement is part of football.”I don’t want to spend too much energy worrying about it,” Bradshaw said. ”It’s fair to say I’m over it now. I’ve moved on and it’s not something I think about any more, but I’d be lying if I said I wouldn’t be a little bit nervous heading into Saturday.”We [he and Brown] haven’t really spoken too much about it [what went on]. I’m not really looking back, I’m more about looking forward, and not worrying about what happened six or seven months ago.”Bradshaw said he would ”catch up” with a few former teammates after Saturday’s game, but the coach? ”No, I don’t think so,” he said.Bradshaw said he was ”obviously very keen to do well,” but winning was what mattered.”I wouldn’t want to play well and we lose,” he said. ”If I don’t kick a goal and we still end up in front I’ll be a happy man.”
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Clarke grateful teammates were there for him in his hour of need

Australia’s Test captain-in-waiting, Michael Clarke, has defended his decision to return from the New Zealand tour to end his engagement to Lara Bingle.Clarke said he was unable to focus on playing at the time, and needed to end the personal drama. In the face of criticism that his leaving jeopardised his suitability for the captaincy, he returned to the tour and scored a match-winning century.”I [decided] to go home because I thought that was in the best interests of myself and the team,” he said. ”I wasn’t in a position to perform the way I need to perform at the highest level, so with the support of family, friends and my teammates I made that decision.”And with the help of the same people I [decided to] come back, and I was in a better position to … get some runs.”Ricky [Ponting] and all the players gave me the freedom to make my choice and I feel, at the time, I made the right choice. I believe I made the right choice to go home, and the right choice to come back when I did. I don’t want to go too much into my personal life, but people go through these things. I’m very lucky I had the freedom to go home and then come back.”That was part of the reward in scoring runs – it was great for me personally but it was also a bit of a thank you to my teammates.”While former Australian cricketer Glenn McGrath recently stage-managed the announcement of his new relationship in a bid to limit the invasion of his privacy by the media, Clarke said he was in a different situation. ”Everybody makes their own decisions. For me, it’s about accepting that it’s not just about what I do on the field but off the field as well.”I’ll try throughout the rest of my life to keep as much of my personal life as personal as possible, with the understanding – I don’t know why – but people want to hear about it.”It’s a wonderful feeling to know you’ve got family and friends that you can trust 100 per cent through good times, through tough times. It’s something I’ve always been proud of, my closeness to my friends, to my family, and to my teammates.”Clarke admitted he still cared what critics thought of him, after fans and former players reacted to his decision to abandon the tour because of personal problems. ”I read it; people are entitled to their opinion,” he said. ”I can’t change their opinions. I felt at the time that I made the right decision for me personally, but also for the team.”People are going to say what they like and have their opinion and I respect that opinion. That’s the way it is. I still care that other people think. But what I’ve learnt is the acceptance that people get paid for a comment, to sell papers, to sell magazines. So accept and make sure you do what you need to do to perform in your next game.”There is little scope for Clarke to lead a sheltered existence and he realises the scrutiny on his next relationship will be as severe, if not more so, than on his former engagement to Bingle.”I hope not, but I think it will be, and I’ll continue to try to keep as much of my personal life personal, but I accept that if somebody gets a photo of me they’re going to write about me, I have to accept that,” Clarke said.”I would have liked [the break-up] to be more personal. I think it’s a part of what professional sportsmen do these days – it’s not just about what you do on the field, it’s off the field as well. We’re seeing that more and more every day. People are interested in what you’re doing off the field, a lot of the stuff you can’t control.”It’s about understanding and respecting that the media have a job to do; they’re trying to sell newspapers, magazines [and] channels are fighting for who is watching what.”No doubt there are times when I’d love my personal life to stay very personal, but there are parts you can’t control.”Clarke also said that when Andrew Symonds was sacked last year and sent home from the World Twenty20 tournament in England, he learnt a lesson about the importance of the team over the individual.”It gave me experience about leadership and that you make decisions that are in the best interests of the team; Ricky has taught me that,” Clarke said.”It is never personal – being in a leadership role, it’s about trying to do the best thing for the team and sometimes you’ve got to make a hard call. But if it’s in the best interest of the team, you make that call.”That is one thing Punter [Ponting] has always done, and has always shown in any team I’ve played with – the team comes first.”
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Storm’s loss may be Broncos’ gain

BRISBANE will set their sights on luring one of the Storm’s four stars north if Broncos centre Israel Folau signs today for Super rugby franchise Melbourne Rebels.The Rebels are almost certain to today announce Folau as their latest signing, with the 21-year-old to tell his NRL club Brisbane he will not be triggering a two-year option to remain in Queensland. His offer to switch codes is about $600,000 a season, not the $1 million figure reported this week, and includes about $100,000 in top-up funding from the Australian Rugby Union.However, Folau’s decision to become the latest in a succession of high-profile converts to the 15-a-side game is likely to bring grave ramifications for his representative aspirations this season, with Australian and Queensland officials last night indicating he would be overlooked for selection for the May 7 Test against New Zealand and then the State of Origin series if he agrees to join the Rebels. It would also leave the Broncos, already operating about $300,000 under the salary cap due to the departures of Joel Clinton (to England) and PJ Marsh, who was forced into premature retirement last month by a neck injury, on the hunt for a replacement with plenty to spend.Brisbane continue to negotiate with former Broncos Petero Civoniceva and Ben Hannant but chief executive Bruno Cullen conceded yesterday they would be on the look-out for another star if Folau walked. Storm quartet Cameron Smith, Billy Slater, Greg Inglis and Cooper Cronk would be on their list, with at least one likely to leave Melbourne in the wake of the salary cap fiasco.”Israel going would mean we’re perhaps one marquee player short,” Cullen said. ”But we wouldn’t be acting like vultures about it. We’d give plenty of space to think about what they’re going to do and when they’ve done that we certainly might be in the market for one of them. Melbourne players are generally all signed to contracts, though. Everyone is forgetting that – no one is allowed to talk to them before November this year.”Cullen said he anticipated a final decision by Folau today. He has been told the Rebels’ total offer to Folau exceeds $1m.”It’s just a matter of him saying yes or no to the option,” he said. ”When someone gets thrown that amount of money at them it has to be a tough decision to say no. But … he’s very positive about liking league and wanting to play for the Broncos.”Brisbane captain Darren Lockyer said a Storm player would be an ideal replacement in a back line that also lost Karmichael Hunt last year. ”If Israel does leave, there’ll be some money to go and buy someone,” Lockyer said. ”A lot of those Storm boys are from Brisbane.”The Rebels’ interest in Folau was revealed by the Herald on March 18. The franchise, until last week run by ex-Storm chief Brian Waldron, has secured an appealing roster including England’s Danny Cipriani and former Wallabies captain Stirling Mortlock.Folau’s decision is understood to be based around lifestyle as much as money. The Herald believes he stands to earn just over $600,000 a season with the Rebels, with the ARU providing $100,000 to top up a base salary of $140,000. The rest of his income would comprise third-party payments, which are understood to total about $250,000, and match payments of $6000 for every Super 15 game.He could also earn $12,000 per Test if selected by the Wallabies.
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Sunnis describe torture by Iraqi guards at secret Baghdad prison

BAGHDAD: Iraqi men were raped, electrocuted and beaten in a ”secret prison” in Baghdad, Human Rights Watch said in a harrowing report reminiscent of the abuses at Abu Ghraib.The organisation interviewed 42 men who had recently been transferred from a jail where they say the brutality took place to another prison in Baghdad, after details of misconduct were passed to the government.Human Rights Watch described the prisoners’ accounts of abuse as ”credible and consistent”, and said there must be an independent and impartial investigation. It called for prosecutions at the highest level.”The horror we found suggests torture was the norm in Muthanna,” the watchdog’s deputy Middle East director, Joe Stork, said, referring to the west Baghdad prison where the men were held until recently.”The government needs to prosecute all those responsible for this systematic brutality.”The men held at the prison were Sunni Arabs from the northern province of Nineveh, who were arrested between September and December last year, the report said yesterday.The existence of the jail has caused alarm for the Prime Minister, Nouri al-Maliki, whose officials said it was shut two weeks ago after the Los Angeles Times reported the abuse allegations.Human Rights Watch said Iraqi prison guards hung blindfolded prisoners upside down during interrogations, then kicked, whipped and beat them before placing a dirty plastic bag over their heads’ to cut off their air supply.When prisoners passed out, they were awoken by electric shocks to their genitals or other parts of the body, the report said.The detainees, who were interviewed at the Al-Rusafa detention centre in Baghdad on Monday, said that interrogators and security officials sodomised some men with broomsticks and pistol barrels.In other developments, Iraq has delayed until next week a ruling on whether nine winning candidates in the parliamentary election held on March 7 will be disqualified, an official said, in another hold-up for the country’s political process.Agence France-Presse
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Climate scientists seek trees of knowledge

THEY trekked for a fortnight through Nepal to reach a hemlock tree that had survived for more than 1000 years. In the snows of Japan they cut wood cores from ancient spruce and in the mountains of Vietnam they sought out centuries-old po mu trees.The challenge in northern Australia was to find old cypress pines that had not been chopped down by farmers for fence posts.This 15-year project, sampling wood from thousands of trees at more than 300 sites from Siberia to Indonesia, and Pakistan to Japan, has allowed a history of the Asian monsoon rains to be reconstructed for the first time.The annual tree rings – a natural record of wet and dry years – have revealed unprecedented details of devastating droughts that have shaken civilisations during the past 1000 years. One dry spell may have played a powerful role in the 1644 fall of China’s Ming dynasty, according to the researchers, led by Edward Cook, of Columbia University in the United States.Their analysis has narrowed the drought down to a three-year period, from 1638 to 1641. It was particularly severe in north-eastern China, which suggests it could have influenced a rebellion of peasants that hastened the demise of the dynasty in Beijing more than 350 years ago.Nearly half the world’s population relies on the monsoon rains in Asia for water to drink and to cultivate their crops. Yet scientists cannot simulate this vital weather pattern well in their climate models, which makes it difficult to predict what will happen as the globe continues to warm.Reliable instrumental records of rainfall and temperature only go back to about 1950, which is why the researchers turned to the trees. ”This reconstruction gives climate modellers an enormous data set that may produce some deep insights into the causes of Asian monsoon variability,” says Dr Cook, whose team’s study is published in the journal Science.An Australian tree-ring specialist, Patrick Baker, of Monash University, says the research is ”hugely important”. With so many people dependent on the rains, it provides a picture of weather events that have had a big impact on societies in the past and which could occur in future.”It says, over the past 1000 years, these are the extremes. And it’s very reasonable to ask, ‘Are we prepared for this?’,” he says.Not many tree species in the tropics have clearly defined annual growth rings. To identify an Australian tree with rings that reflect rainfall, Dr Baker searched through the CSIRO’s vast collection of woods in Melbourne, where he hit upon the cypress pine, Callitris intratropica.While a lot of trees in the north of Australia are rotted by termites, cypress pines are resistant to their attack. This made finding large, long-lived ones a challenge. ”The problem is the older ranchers and cattle farmers used them for fence posts,” he says.With colleagues, however, he has been able to track down some pines up to 160 years old in the Northern Territory, and help reconstruct a record of monsoon activity over this period.In Asia, a severe failure of monsoon rains between 1756 to 1768 is not documented in historical records, but it is obvious in the ancient teak trees of Thailand and the cypress trees of Vietnam. The story they tell appears to confirm suspicions of historians that climate must have played a role in the simultaneous collapse at that time of kingdoms in Thailand, Vietnam and Burma.Another drought that hit in 1790 to 1796, causing famines in India, had an impact as far away as Mexico, where the drying up of a large lake led to disputes over the land that emerged.In a study published last month, members of the team, along with University of Sydney researchers Professor Roland Fletcher and Dr Daniel Penny, also used tree ring data to suggest climate was a factor in the demise of the Khmer empire in Cambodia nearly 600 years ago.
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