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Brit Button says McLaren won’t challenge

Three-time Australian Formula One champion Jenson Button says he won’t be adding a fourth title this year with McLaren.

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The former world champion Brit said his McLaren-Honda hadn’t done enough in the pre-season to challenge in Melbourne in the first grand prix of the year.

McLaren completed substantially less mileage than its F1 rivals in testing amid repeated problems with Honda’s new engine, and was also disrupted by an accident that left Spaniard Fernando Alonso in hospital and unable to compete at Albert Park.

“We all know it’s not going to be the easiest weekend for us,” Button said on Thursday.

“Will we be challenging for a win? No we won’t be.

“In winter testing we had our difficulties but in terms of the way that the car feels and the way that the engine feels is a really good platform.

“It’s just going to take time … this weekend for us is more about just getting the best out of everything that we have.”

McLaren finished behind the field in terms of kilometres and laps covered in testing following the team’s switch to Honda power units from this term.

Button, who joined McLaren in 2010, said they were a year behind in development of the complicated system compared to Mercedes, Ferrari and Renault.

But he felt it wouldn’t be long until the team was challenging.

“If you look at the layout of the power unit and how tight everything is in the car, you would say it’s very aggressive and you can see that Honda is here to win,” said Button, who won in Melbourne in 2009, 10 and 12.

“It’s just a matter of time before we are fighting at the front.”

Button said he hadn’t been in contact with Alonso and wasn’t sure when he would return to racing following his concussion from the heavy crash during testing.

Denmark’s Kevin Magnussen is standing in for the dual world champion.

Button said he had studied the data from the crash and there was no technical issue with the car.

Former bikie Mitchell denied bail in Vic

Ex-Bandidos enforcer Toby Mitchell believes he is smarter than police and above the law, says a judge who denied him bail.

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Mitchell claims two assassination attempts have left him too ill to be kept in prison while waiting to face trial on extortion and assault charges.

But Victorian Supreme Court Justice Betty King said his “contempt” for police means even the strictest bail conditions could not ensure the safety of the man he allegedly threatened at gun point.

“He is from a milieu that don’t respect or view the police in the same way as the majority of the community; they have a contempt for the police and the laws they enforce,” Judge King said.

She said police monitored Mitchell’s calls from prison in which he dismisses his assault on the man.

“I slapped the c*** in the head, that’s it,” Mitchell said in one call.

“I won’t get any time for it, a slap on the street.”

Judge King said that in another intercepted call, Mitchell is asked if the police monitor the conversation.

“They will, but I don’t say anything wrong, I’m too smart for them,” Mitchell said.

Those calls, Justice King said, indicate a disregard for the law.

“The applicant believes, as he states in the (prison) calls, that he is smarter than the authorities, which demonstrates a belief that he can live outside the law,” she said.

The connections Mitchell has “made and clearly retained” in his former role as the sergeant-at-arms of the Bandidos posed a risk both to his victim, and civilian witnesses, Judge King said.

Police allege Mitchell, 40, punched a man and demanded $300,000 at a busy South Melbourne cafe in January.

He also allegedly shoved a gun into the stomach of the man – who cannot be named – and threatened to shoot him and his infant daughter.

Defence barrister Christopher Dane QC said his client would plead guilty to assault, but denied brandishing a gun.

Mitchell is facing a string of charges, including extortion with threats to kill, intentionally causing injury and possessing a gun.

He faces a committal mention hearing on the charges on May 6.

Mitchell, in a black and gold tracksuit, smiled at family members in the court as Judge King delivered her ruling.

Williamson back training, doubt over Milne

Star batsman Kane Williamson looks to have got over a stomach bug, but paceman Adam Milne remains in doubt for the Black Caps’ last cricket World Cup pool match against Bangladesh.

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New Zealand have fielded the same 11 in compiling a 100 per cent record from their five matches so far, with Milne the third seamer behind Tim Southee and Trent Boult.

But the 22-year-old right-armer picked up a shoulder injury making a diving catch against Afghanistan in Napier last Sunday.

Skipper Brendon McCullum said Milne was still feeling a little stiff and sore, and would be assessed again on the morning of the match in Hamilton on Friday.

If Milne is ruled out, it will open the way for either Kyle Mills or Mitch McClenaghan to come into the side.

Williamson was one of three players to be hit by a bug after the win over Afghanistan.

The two others, Daniel Vettori and Grant Elliott, were at training when the squad regathered on Wednesday.

Williamson missed that session, but he arrived for practice on Thursday, with the Black Caps forced inside by rain.

“It’s hard to keep him down too long,” McCullum said.

“He will be indoors for a good three or four hours, no doubt, knowing Kane, but he seems fine.”

Bangladesh, who like New Zealand have already qualified for the quarter-finals, have a selection doubt in their camp as well.

Skipper and pace spearhead Mashrafe Mortaza is battling a sore throat to add to the calf injury he played through in his side’s 15-run win over England in Adelaide on Monday.

A decision on whether he will face the Black Caps will be made on match day.

Calf injury sidelines Bronco Dale Copley

Brisbane have suffered a late blow ahead of their NRL clash with Cronulla on Friday night after an injury to Dale Copley.

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The speedster trudged off the field towards the end of the Broncos’ final training session with a calf injury and coach Wayne Bennett confirmed he will not travel to face the Sharks in Sydney.

Young utility Corey Oates will be named in Copley’s place on the left wing.

“He limped off, he won’t be back, he won’t play tomorrow night,” Bennett said.

“Corey has done everything right, he played well last week for the Capras (in the Queensland Cup).

“The feedback on him was good so hopefully he takes his chance.”

Bennett said he expected Copley to be out for longer than just this weekend, with scans set to determine the full extent of the injury.

The Broncos’ leading tryscorer last year, Copley’s absence will suck further experience from a Brisbane side still reeling from their opening round loss to South Sydney last week.

Bennett is already set to hand NRL debuts to rookies Kodi Nikorima and Joe Ofahengaue, who have been named to start off the bench against Cronulla.

Bennett said he was looking forward to see what the pair can produce.

“I have no fears for Joe,” he said.

“He won’t be a regular this year but he’s on the journey to becoming an NRL player here.

“(Nikorima) is quick, hopefully he brings something.

“I just want to let them get out there and play and get it behind them.

“It’s always nice to see them get an opportunity – I just want to see them nail it. That would be nicer.”

Nikorima and Ofahengaue will be joined on the bench by veteran forward Sam Thaiday, who became the first victim of Brisbane’s poor start to the NRL season with his demotion earlier this week.

Bennett was curt when asked about how Thaiday had responded to being dropped.

“I don’t know,” he said.

When asked about Thaiday’s mood, Bennett was equally succinct.

“He’s all good. No dramas,” he said.

I still want to be captain: Sutton

John Sutton says he still harbours ambitions to captain South Sydney despite being stripped of the role following the Arizona incident.

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Sutton was replaced by Greg Inglis after it emerged he was arrested and spent a night in jail following a booze-fuelled run-in with a security guard on the Rabbitohs’ NRL pre-season trip in November.

The saga became a distraction during the pre-season when details emerged through the press and the club was fined $20,000 by the NRL.

Sutton, speaking about the incident for the first time at Redfern on Thursday, said he had moved on before the details come out in the media.

He called the episode a wake-up call but had not closed the door on the idea of captaining the club again.

“I’m happy with where I am at the moment, but if Greg goes and plays Origin and Madge (coach Michael Maguire) gives me the call-up, then I’ll definitely take the call-up,” he said.

“All I’m worried about now is playing the best footy for this team.”

Sutton led the side out in its pre-season trial at Redfern against Queensland Cup side Northern Pride, indicating Maguire could hand him the role again in Inglis’ absence.

The Rabbitohs have shown no ill effects during the pre-season, winning the Auckland Nines and the World Club Challenge before comprehensively beating Brisbane in round one.

“It wasn’t so much hard for me. I dealt with it a long time before it came out,” Sutton said.

“But more for my partner and family to see my mug shot everywhere, it was pretty disappointing in that way. They went through it the first time as well.

“But I’ve got a very supportive family and we moved on.”

Australian teen Jake Bilardi involved in Iraq suicide bombing, IS claims

Unconfirmed reports suggest 18-year-old Australian Jake Bilardi has been involved in a suicide attack in Iraq.

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“This is a horrific situation, an absolutely horrific situation,” the prime minister told reporters in Melbourne.

“It’s very, very important that we do everything we can to try to safeguard our young people against the lure of this shocking, alien and extreme ideology.”

Teenager Jake Bilardi from Craigieburn was recently identified as the young man shown in an image published in December, holding an assault rifle in front of an IS flag.

Propaganda images are now circulating on the Internet, claiming to show a suicide bomber, dubbed Abu Abdullah al-Australi — Bilardi’s pseudonym— before an attack on an Iraqi army unit in Anbar province west of Baghdad.

Fairfax quotes a Twitter account associated with IS, which has tweeted a photograph of Bilardi sitting underneath an IS flag, with the caption: “For today’s Martyrs”.

The authenticity of the images has not yet been verified.

Seven almost simultaneous suicide car bombs in Ramadi on Wednesday killed at least 10 people and wounded 30, police and medics said.

Australian Jake on a suicide attack in ramadi. Another proof of Daesh is using foreign recruits as cannon fodder. pic.twitter广西桑拿,/tSk8ubmjjL

— Issa (@issa_kobani) March 11, 2015

The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade says it’sdifficult to confirm deaths of Australians in the region.

“The Australian government’s capacity to confirm reports of deaths in either Syria or Iraq is extremely limited,” DFAT said in a statement.

“Due to the extremely dangerous security situation, consular assistance is no longer available within Syria.”

It says Australians involved in overseas conflicts are “putting their own lives in mortal danger”.

“Any Australians fighting with non-state militia in Syria or Iraq should end their involvement in the conflict now and leave the conflict zone.”

‘Shy maths whizz’

Previous reports in Australian media describe Jake Bilardi as a shy, maths whizz who dropped out of high school last year after converting to Islam and bought a one way ticket to Istanbul, before travelling to Iraq and Syria to fight for the so-called caliphate.

Last December a picture emerged on Twitter showing the teen sitting between two bearded men and holding an assault rifle.

He was wrongly identified as British after his photograph hit Twitter, and a user identified the young man “Jonathan Edwards”. The tweet said he had “applied for Ucas (Britain’s Universities and Colleges Admissions Service) to [sic] late and wasn’t accepted in any university, so he joined the Islamic state”.

After Britain’s Daily Mail and Daily Telegraph newspapers ran the story, Abu Dawud laughed that the had “trolled” and “humiliated” the British media, by making up the story. 

Mum’s death triggered ‘search for answers’

It’s understood Jake came from a non-Muslim family.

Family members have previously said he became radicalised when he went “searching for answers” after the death of his mother.

He was a regular visitor at an Islamic Youth centre in Melbourne’s northern suburbs for between 9 and 12-months before he left Australia.

He participated in lectures, conferences and prayer and was apparently quiet, but friendly.

Former students at Craigieburn Secondary College remember Jake as quite and extremely shy.

Former school colleague Jake Coglan says Jake was somewhat “awkward,” extremely light framed and from time-to-time, the target of school-yard bullies

He wasn’t going to defend himself any time soon so people were going to take an opportunity to pick on him – that’s what some kids do these days,” he said.

‘Government must tackle cyber recruitment’

Sydney based doctor Jamal Rifi says the government needs to be more pro-active tackling the terror-group’s effective use of cyber-recruitment

“They’ve used every trick in the book to get into these people’s minds – what we need we need to win the propaganda war,” he said.

Last August the federal Government pledged more than 13-million dollars for community-based education programs  but Dr Rifi says he’s yet to see the evidence on-the-ground

“They put a lot of effort into military action and police action but there is nothing in terms of preventative action and de-radicalisation,” he said.

The Prime Minister said recently the government was set to launch a new campaign specifically targeting cyber-recruitment

‘Australian recruits used as fodder’

Professor Greg Barton from Monash University’s Global Terrorism Research Centre said using young Westerners in suicide missions was a “very cynical move from a very cynical operation”.

Young people from Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane who don’t speak any Arabic and don’t have any combat experience weren’t of much use to IS, apart from propaganda value, he said.

“So many of them become patsies who are told to strap on a vest or hop in the driver’s seat of suicide vehicle,” he told Sky News.

Reports ‘could be propaganda’

IS may have used Bilardi to demonstrate Westerners will “put their lives on the line for the movement”, says Michael Wesley, the director of the Coral Bell School of Asia Pacific Affairs at the Australian National University.

However, he cautioned the reports of Bilardi’s involvement could be IS propaganda and he might be alive.

“I wouldn’t put it beyond them to make things up,” Professor Wesley told ABC Radio.

 

 With AAP.

United cannot afford Spurs slip in top-four race

United were knocked out of the Cup by Arsenal in the quarter-finals on Monday, a result which effectively ended their hopes of major silverware for the second season in a row.

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Finishing in the top four and qualifying for Europe’s top tier competition is now considered essential but United’s 10-game run-in to the end of the season also includes matches against Liverpool, Manchester City, Chelsea and Arsenal.

Fourth-placed United, who have 53 points from 28 matches, hold a slender two-point advantage over resurgent Liverpool, while Spurs are a further point back in sixth.

Tottenham have won at Old Trafford in the last two seasons having not previously tasted victory there since 1989 and they are unbeaten against United in their last five meetings.

The Manchester side can ill-afford another loss to Mauricio Pochettino’s team but, after defeat by Arsenal exposed their much-discussed flaws, manager Louis van Gaal knows his side must recover quickly with a top-four finish at stake.

“All the players are very disappointed and that’s logical,” the Dutchman said after the Arsenal defeat. “We have to see how we recover from that.

“I can’t say the motivation of the team was bad — it’s always good. We showed fantastic fighting spirit again.

“This is a big blow for us but we are sportsmen, so we have to recover.”

Champions Manchester City travel to relegation-threatened Burnley in Saturday’s late kick-off knowing they must not allow leaders Chelsea to extend their five-point lead at the top.

Jose Mourinho’s Chelsea side host Southampton on the back of their surprise Champions League defeat on away goals by Paris St Germain at Stamford Bridge on Wednesday.

Third-placed Arsenal welcome London rivals West Ham United to the Emirates on Saturday hoping to give themselves a bit of breathing space from the teams battling it out for fourth.

Liverpool are the side to beat on current form, however, as Brendan Rodgers’s team are unbeaten in the league since mid-December and are ready to pounce if United falter.

They travel to ninth-placed Swansea City on Monday, hoping to record their third win of the season against the Welsh side after beating them at Anfield in the league and League Cup.

(Editing by Ken Ferris)