Blog Archives

Tahs’ new generation prepare for Crusaders showdown

Holloway, Hanigan, Wells and Dempsey. They are no household names but they’re the four loose forwards quietly finding their feet, and some influence, within the new generation Waratahs.
SuZhou Night Recruitment

Jed Holloway and Jack Dempsey announced their arrival last season but both battled injury early this year, with Dempsey getting used to life in a moon boot currently and Holloway still enjoying the thrill of making his return.

Ned Hanigan and Michael Wells are the players enjoying their time in the sun as a result, both impressing with tries against the Rebels in the Waratah’s comeback win in Melbourne last week.

Forwards coach Cam Blades praised Hanigan’s contribution at No.6 as “outstanding”, while Wells’ 77-minute try helped seal the comeback.

Sunday presents a tougher test for the new kids in the form of New Zealand conference leaders the Crusaders, a team for whom the term ‘comeback win’ has become a catch cry in this season’s opening rounds.

“Everyone talks up the Kiwi teams as that benchmark and any competitive team wants to test themselves against the benchmark,” Wells said.

“That’s a big thing for us. If we want to be the best at the end of the year we’re going to have to step through. We’ve put ourselves in a position where our backs are against the wall, being one and three last week. We got a win out when we really needed to and we’ve got to keep building from there and continuing to win.

“If that means going through the best opposition that’s what it is, we’ve got to continue to do it.”

Wells returned to the starting line-up in Melbourne after an ankle injury claimed most of Dempsey’s season two weeks ago.

The one-season Brumby and Norths product, who was instrumental in his club’s drought-breaking Shute Shield win last year, said he was delighted to notch his first Super Rugby try but was more pleased to contribute to a belief-building win.

That late victory, termed rugby’s equivalent of “chicken soup for the soul” by coach Daryl Gibson, will be important against the well-drilled New Zealand outfit, who are yet to feel the sting of defeat.

“Outsiders watching don’t expect n teams to win, so if you buy into that belief of ‘we’re the underdogs here’, you can find yourselves in the position where you should win a game and you’ll find a way to lose it,” Wells said.

“Hopefully if we find ourselves in a similar position … I think the team’s got enough belief to get through and last week really helps with that. We had two tries in three minutes to really put us ahead at the end and knowing we can do that against a team that was all over us in the first half, putting a lot of points on us, it puts us in a good position against the Crusaders.”

The Waratahs trained without Test players Bernard Foley and Rob Horne on Monday, as well as Holloway, but forwards coach Cam Blades said he did not think any of them were at risk of missing Sunday’s match.

The Crusaders will arrive in Sydney high on confidence and battle-hardened after eking out wins against the Reds and Blues.

Blades, whose forwards put out a greatly improved performance in Melbourne to make the job easier for returning No.10 Foley said the Waratahs would be prepared for battle.

“The Crusaders are a great side, they’ve taken guys apart in the set piece throughout the year,” he said.

“Every side’s got their vulnerabilities and we’ll be looking to exploit those on Sunday. The Crusaders all year have gone to their forward pack as their launch pad to everything they’ve done.

“They’re obviously the benchmark at the moment and you like testing yourself against those sorts of teams.”

‘The monetary policy tide has turned’

The last time Fairfax Media spoke to Alberto Gallo, Algebris’ head of macro strategies, he was predicting that would be swept along by what seemed at the time a relentless trend across developed markets towards zero policy rates.
SuZhou Night Recruitment

That was May and the RBA had recently cut its cash rate target to 1.75 per cent. The central bank under then-governor Glenn Stevens cut once more to 1.5 per cent in August before hitting the pause button. A “neutral” stance that seems now ingrained under new boss Philip Lowe.

No surprise then that these days the London-based Mr Gallo is no longer predicting further heavy falls in the RBA’s cash rate target.

So what happened?

“We had a reversal in global interest rates, which is stronger than the local dynamics,” Mr Gallo says simply. This reversal “was driven by Trump and the general rise of nationalist politics and government spending, which has reflated bond markets at the long end of the [yield] curve”.

In other words, and as he says, “the monetary policy tide has turned”.

“We are not talking about hyperinflation and very high interest rates,” Mr Gallo says. “But the for the time being, effectively the Bank of Japan is the only central bank that remains on an easing footing.

“If you think about the policy rate in I don’t think there is room to increase it very soon, because of leverage we have in the system. We are bit stuck in an environment where it’s not easy to increase it, which is similar to other economies.”

Mr Gallo reckons the US Federal Reserve’s funds rate will top out at around 2 per cent at the highest, a mere four further quarter percentage-point hikes. “In theory, they could get to an equilibrium rate of 3-3.5 per cent, but I’m a bit more conservative.”

The Bank of England has turned more hawkish, and the ECB will “gradually normalise interest rates” in the coming 12 months, Gallo says. And he believes that this process should come before the European Central Bank starts reducing its quantitative easing program – in effect, the reverse sequence to the Fed.

“In Europe, bank lending is more important, and it’s not profitable if interest rates are zero,” he explains. “So if in three or six months rates do become a bit more positive, then banks are more incentivised to lend.

“The other reason is that if you do [QE] tapering first it puts extra pressure on France and Italy’s long-term funding costs, and as a result you worsen the situation for countries that are more comfortable with low bond rates,” he says.

“The bottom line is, I don’t think we are heading for a very high interest rate environment. We are heading towards a normalisation in the economies that have de-levered. The US has de-levered the most in the private sector. The UK has not de-levered, and Europe has de-levered to some extent but” – and this is crucial for Mr Gallo – “markets have only priced in the US reflation story.”

That means there are likely to be more opportunities in Europe than in the United States where investors are complacent about the potential negatives around US President Donald Trump’s policy agenda.

Europe, Gallo says, “is at a sort of crossroads, where you have the populist wave which is clearly not winning”. He points to the defeat of the Dutch far-right in recent elections, and expects Marine Le Pen of the anti-immigrant, anti-euro National Front to be defeated in the second round of presidential voting in May.

“But if politicians don’t act in the coming years then you might have a breakdown there as well,” Gallo warns.

There is also a generational aspect to the way advanced economies are largely shying away from wholesale change.

“Trump and Theresa May are from the boomer generation, a generation that engineered the support for public debt. And what the baby boomers are trying to defend is the old world based on debt and heavy industry and infrastructure and manufacturing, they are not trying to increase innovation or new businesses.

“But manufacturing is not going to come back because you’re not competing [in the US case] with Mexican workers, you are competing with robots.

“What we need is something different.”

‘I got smashed’: Why Ange will never again compromise his style

Socceroos coach Ange Postecoglou has issued a strong defence of his controversial new tactics, vowing to keep the same ultra-attacking formation and to never waver from his football ethos.
SuZhou Night Recruitment

For the first time since before the Asian Cup in 2015, the n national find themselves surrounded by pressure as the weight of expectation to qualify has provided little patience for recent lacklustre performances. Failure to beat UAE in Tuesday night’s vital World Cup qualify make the prospects of missing out on the 2018 World Cup in Russia a realistic outcome, but Postecoglou won’t go back on his style of fluid football simply to reassure nervous supporters.

He kowtowed to the mantra of others just once and the ramifications seemed career-ending. Poor performances with the national youth team culminated in an infamous live spat on-air with SBS pundits Les Murray and Craig Foster, proceeded by his sacking from the FFA in 2006.

“I got smashed, I was unemployable,” Postecoglou said. “That was the only time in my career I compromised my beliefs, never again mate. We’re doing that dance, I’ll cop it a bit but we’ll see it through. It doesn’t faze me.”

Lessons from the past have made him defiant and a 3-2-4-1 system will likely be deployed again against the UAE. His reason is simple, hinged on the belief should never play defensive, pragmatic football.

As the first n coach to break the near decade-long reign of foreign coaches, most of whom had little faith in our domestic footballers to take on bigger nations and punch above their weight, Postecoglou is a man on a mission.

“I don’t forget while others do,” he said. “What I kept hearing and why I wanted the job was that’s not how n teams should play. Unfortunately for everyone they’ve got the coach they wanted. I’m going to do it and sometimes you have to be careful what you wish for.”

The new system is slight on defenders, it’s one where the only width is provided by wingers – not wing backs – and tailored by Postecoglou to suit the strengths of the best players available. However, it failed to impress in its first test when deployed against Iraq where direct, aerial play and long balls down the wings unravelled too easily, with the Socceroos fortunate to survive a 1-1 draw in the neutral venue of Tehran.

It’s a formation that’s taken 18-months to develop and despite playing three friendly games against Greece and England, Postecoglou had no hesitation to try it for the first time in a meaningful contest.

“You’re talking about testing these things – this is not a test … If we’d won 3-0 people would be saying what a masterstroke. I’ve been in this game too long, and we’ve done this dance too often, it always ends the same way,” Postecoglou said.

failed to win in its past four qualifiers and while their chances of reaching Russia remain in their grasp with three of their four games at home and matches against the top two – Saudi Arabia and Japan – there’s no hiding the pressure mounting on Tuesday night. For Postecoglou, his response isn’t to revert to conservatism, rather continue with an aggressive approach focused on what his team does with the ball, rather than how they cope without it.

“What’s the pressure? That if we don’t qualify what happens, I lose my job? We qualified last time and the coach still lost his job and none of us were happy. What I’m saying is all of us want to qualify but we’re determined on continuing this path to be a certain type of team and all of us are behind it, the players embrace it, they’re quite happy with it,” he said.

While ‘s chances of qualifying for the World Cup are in the balance, Postecoglou’s eyes are set further. He doesn’t just want to reach Russia, but to make a mark there, and the only way he believes he can is if it’s done his way.

“For 20 years in coaching what I’ve been consistent in producing is teams that win things. I do it in a certain way, it does get scary, I understand that, I’m glad people care and I’m glad people are talking about it, I’m glad people are nervous and anxious and I’m glad they’re passionate about it I’ve got no issue with that,” he said. “But, if that somehow, people think that’s going to cause a reaction or pressure in me, that’s not what drives me.”

Tigers to meet Cleary this week as round-six start date looms

The Wests Tigers will meet with Ivan Cleary this week to sort out a deal that could parachute the coach in to rescue their season as early as round six against the Cowboys.
SuZhou Night Recruitment

Fairfax Media understands the Wests Tigers board has given the green light for the club to head hunt Cleary and will open negotiations with the former Panthers and Warriors coach this week.

Speculation has been rife surrounding Cleary and a potential move to Belmore to replace Des Hasler as Canterbury coach, however it appears almost certain he will end up at the Tigers as early as after this Sunday’s game against the Dragons.

The Tigers are conscious of the fact they don’t want this season to spiral out of control and are holding on to hope of playing finals football for the first time since 2011.

The club is also mindful of the fact there may be other NRL jobs available to Cleary if they delay negotiations and are keen to put pen to paper.

The club hierarchy were quick to point out a noted “improvement in effort” from the Tigers against Melbourne on Sunday, however they were unable to put in a complete performance against an out of sorts Storm line-up.

But their skipper Aaron Woods insists it’s too early to put a line through their 2017 campaign despite winning just one of their first four games.

“This season is not a write off,” Woods said.

“As we saw yesterday, we should have beaten Melbourne. A couple of things didn’t go our way. We played a good 50 or 60 minutes, but that’s not enough to compete with NRL standards.

“We’re still a massive chance and I believe in the boys we have. There’s no bloke not trying. Sunday was just one step in the right direction. We have a lot more steps we need to take but we know we have to work hard and get ourselves out of it.”

Cleary is the master of the rebuild, taking the Warriors to the grand final and also overhauling the Panthers into the premiership force they’ve now become.

The pending appointment of Cleary will mark the beginning of a significant period for the Tigers, who remain hopeful of retaining the “big four” of Woods, James Tedesco, Mitchell Moses and Luke Brooks.

Brooks will miss this Sunday’s clash with the high-flying St George Illawarra, however Mitchell Moses is expected to recover from a sternum knock to take his place in the side.

If negotiations progress as quickly as hoped, it will be quite a baptism of fire for Cleary taking his new side to Townsville on the competition’s hardest road trip for a clash against the Cowboys.

If there is a delay in the club’s dealings with Cleary, the Tigers’ following game is against the Eels on Easter Monday.

Cleary has a monumental task ahead of him. While off the field the club is enjoying the largest growth in membership of any team in the NRL, on the field their best players are frustrated by the lack of success.

“I’ve played just two semi-final matches,” Woods said.

“That’s frustrating. I’ve played more Origins and games for than finals. Lucky I have got to play in big games because of them. It’s something I want to turn around. I want to play in big games for this club. It’s not ideal the situation we’re in at the moment.”

While the off-contract players want to know who will be coaching the Tigers before committing to the club, they insist they aren’t part of the plans to recruit the coach.

“I don’t want to know because I keep getting dragged through everything,” Woods said.

“No one believes what I say. It is what it is.”

‘Survivors have waited too long’: 4000 institutions named in sex abuse inquiry

Thousands of institutions have been implicated in allegations of child sexual abuse, according to new data released by a royal commission.
SuZhou Night Recruitment

As the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse commences its final public hearing, chairman Justice Peter McClellan has urged child protection reform and proper redress for victims.

The $500 million inquiry is ‘s longest royal commission, starting in 2013 and due to finish with a final report to the federal government in December.

In his opening remarks to the hearing, Justice McClellan said governments and institutions needed to focus on redress and regulatory changes, “designed to ensure that so far as possible no child is abused in an institutional context in the future”.

“Survivors have waited too long for an effective response to their suffering and the future protection of n children must be given the highest priority,” he said.

Justice McClellan and five commissioners have heard the testimony of more than 6500 child sexual abuse survivors in private sessions, with another 2000 people still awaiting a meeting.

More than 1200 witnesses have appeared at the commission in 400 days of public hearings.

Data gleaned largely from private sessions found there were more than 4000 institutions where alleged abuse of children occurred.

Religious institutions were most frequently named, with 60 per cent of survivors in private sessions reporting child abuse in a religious organisation. Just over one-third of survivors reported abuse in a government-managed institution.

“It is remarkable that failures have occurred in so many institutions,” Justice McClellan said.

“It is now apparent that many of the characteristics of failure within institutions are common.”

An analysis of alleged perpetrators found members of the clergy were most commonly identified by those attending private sessions, followed by teachers and residential care workers. The majority of alleged perpetrators were adult males, accounting for 94 per cent of reported abusers.

Counsel assisting the commission Gail Furness SC told the inquiry the statistics are likely to represent a fraction of child sexual abuse survivors.

“It is very likely that there are very many people who have been sexually abused in institutional contexts in as children who have not attended a private session,” she said.

The commission heard 64 per cent of people who attended a private session were male. Almost half reported they were abused when aged between 10 and 14 years, while 28 per cent were aged between five and nine years when the abuse allegedly occurred.

“When a child is sexually abused, the effects can be devastating,” Ms Furness said. “For some, the impacts of the abuse, and an institution’s response to it, last for their whole lives.”

The impact of abuse is widespread, the inquiry heard.

“Child sexual abuse affects the whole community,” Ms Furness said.

“The effects ripple outwards, adversely affecting victims’ parents, siblings, partners, carers and children.”

The hearing into the nature, cause and impact of abuse continues. Blue Knot Helpline 1300 657 380

Bunnings, Foxtel and Caltex join YouTube ad boycott

BUNNINGS AFR 050811 PHOTO BY ROB HOMER —- new bunnings warehouse opening in the outskirts of melbourne — john gillard managing director of bunnings outside store AFR FIRST USE ONLY SPECIALX 40313 Photo: Rob HomerBunnings, Foxtel and Caltex have joined the cascading global advertiser boycott of YouTube, as n companies lose faith in the Google-owned video platform’s ability to isolate their brands from bigoted and extremist content.
SuZhou Night Recruitment

Vodafone, Nestle, Holden and Kia have also temporarily suspended all advertising from YouTube because it was appearing alongside offensive videos. It follows boycotts by a string of global companies, highlighting the poor levels of control Google has over its content and the risk posed to brands choosing to advertise on it.

Pay TV provider Foxtel said on Monday that it had become concerned about how Google was promoting its brand after learning of a Foxtel pre-roll video ad running on a page that publishes anti-Semitic material.

“Therefore, we have made the decision to suspend our advertising on YouTube until we are assured that the situation is resolved,” a Foxtel spokesman said.

The Foxtel ad was on a video interview with Perth man Brendon O’Connell, who in 2011 was found guilty of six counts of racial hatred. The same YouTube account has published videos including a Holocaust denial documentary called The greatest lie ever told.

Ads for Seek and Bunnings Warehouse were also appearing on the same video, prompting the Wesfarmers-owned hardware chain to suspend all YouTube ads while it works with Google to “find a solution”, a spokeswoman said.

Meanwhile service station giant Caltex has suspend all digital advertising, including on platforms other than YouTube, after it became aware of a pop-up ad on a video published by Blair Cottrell, a lead figure in the far-right n nationalist United Patriots Front who is facing charges in Victoria for making anti-Islam videos.

Caltex would “work with our advertising agency to identify keywords that will ensure more appropriate placement for our ads”, a company spokeswoman said.

Accounting software giant Xero learnt on Monday it was paying for a pre-roll ad on a video published by a September 11 conspiracy theory page, which featured alleged anti-Semitic conspiracy theorist David Icke accusing Donald Trump of being “100 per cent owned by Israel” and of handing control of the American economy to “Zionists”.

Xero said it was temporarily suspending YouTube advertising after Fairfax Media alerted it to the video. ‘High risk profile’

The UK government kicked off the boycott on March 17 by pulling advertising from YouTube and summoning Google executives to cabinet to explain why government ads were appearing next to extremist material.

This followed revelations in London-based paper The Times that offensive videos spouting racist, nationalist, or extremist material were carrying advertising – and receiving revenue from – UK government agencies.

Google apologised in a blog post and promised to review which videos are monetised. A few days later it offered advertisers greater control over where their ads appear, but said it will not limit what appears online.

However, this promise has not quelled concerns.

Chief executive of Omnicom Media Group , Peter Horgan, said the internet offer strong targeting and efficiency opportunities than curated platforms like television, newspapers and magazines, but this reach comes with a higher risk profile.

“It is a trade-off between the opportunities that the online world affords with the high-risk profile that goes with it,” Mr Horgan said.

He added that Omnicom has checks and balances in place and is “confident that approach will catch the vast majority of offensive videos”.

Google’s advertising targets individuals based on demographic information collected through browsing habits. For example, young men living in Sydney or baby-boomer females who want to travel.

Google’s AdWords then follows potential customers around the internet as they visit different sites. Ads only appear on sites visited by the target customer.

Advertisers can choose to ban particular sites or videos, but have to opt out by supplying a list of keywords or individual channels. The onus is on the advertiser to limit the brand damage. 500 per cent increase

The managing director of Regital in , Jonny Whitehead, says he has seen a “500 per cent increase” in meeting requests for its Adparlor product in recent weeks.

Adparlor’s technology allows advertisers to opt into safe videos that still target the right audience, according to Mr Whitehead, while Google’s checks and balances force advertisers to opt out of specific videos or channels. This leaves them exposed to the majority of online content.

Regital charges a 30 per cent loading on top of Google’s pay per view fees, but with demand for online video advertising greater than supply, there is little option for advertisers who are unwilling to risk their reputation in the online jungle.

Meanwhile, Sydney-based investment advisory firm Jevons Global is going to start shorting shares in Google’s parent company, Alphabet Inc. Shares have already fallen by 4 per cent from $US872.37 to $835.14 since The Times’ first article appeared.

Jevons founder, Kingsley Jones, says he estimates there is “downside in the Google stock of 10 per cent to 20 per cent at this time” and he planned to increase his short position when the US market opened on Monday evening.

Redfern pub conversion breaks suburb record, selling for $4.4 million

Unliveable Redfern cottage sells for $1 millionRedfern time capsule fetches $810,000 at auctionYoung and wealthy buying up in Sydney’s hipster suburbs
SuZhou Night Recruitment

Redfern has a new house price record after the former Imperial Hotel, which became the Redfern Hotel in 1935, sold for an impressive $4.4 million at auction over the weekend.

The property at 88 George Street, Redfern, which was at one point used as an art gallery, had been converted by the sellers into a five-bedroom, three-bathroom residential dwelling.

The home garnered a lot of interest, with over 100 groups coming to view the property, but in the end it came down to just three bidders.

The new owner bought it as an investment property to begin with but has plans to move in later, according to agent William Phillips from Bresic Whitney Darlinghurst.

He said such a large property – with 319 square metres of living space – was hard to come by in inner-city neighbourhoods, compared to the average terrace size of 100 square metres.

88 George Street also came with a DA attached, which Phillips said provided scope to increase the internal space, which was appealing to buyers.

“The industrial or warehouse offerings in the inner city have consistently broken suburb records,” he explained, attributing it to the individual nature of properties.

“Buyers with creative flair – they don’t want to buy a cookie cutter property. They want something they can add their creative touch to, or one that has already had it added.”

The previous record holder, also on George Street, was a former warehouse used to make bombs during World War II. It was ripe for conversion and sold for $3,615,000 in December 2015.

“That was a raw warehouse,” he adds. “This one has already been done.”

Conversions have also proven to be record breakers over in the inner east. Paddington’s most expensive home is the former Windsor Castle Hotel, which reportedly sold for around $13 million in 2015.

A converted garage in Paddington sold for $10 million at the start of this year. In May last year buyers paid $215,000 over reserve for a converted warehouse in Tempe, and a former mechanic’s garage in Newtown sold for $2.42 million in February 2016.

Bishop, Keenan move to head off backbench revolt over China extradition treaty

Foreign Minister Julie Bishop and Justice Minister Michael Keenan have moved to quell a backbench revolt over a China- extradition treaty.
SuZhou Night Recruitment

Fairfax Media has been told that several MPs have even discussed crossing the floor, if necessary, to sink the extradition treaty, which has been roundly criticised by the Law Council of , human rights group Amnesty and by members of the Senate crossbench.

Ms Bishop and Mr Keenan called the snap meeting of MPs on Monday morning in a move designed to head off those rising concerns.

About a dozen Coalition MPs attended the hour-long meeting late on Monday afternoon, with more than one participant describing it as “tense”.

An MP in the room said the prospect of Liberal MPs crossing the floor to disallow the motion had not been discussed in the meeting. However, that dramatic move had been discussed before and after the meeting, because of serious concerns about the treaty, which will facilitate the two nations being able to return an accused criminal to the other country to face trial.

If Labor decided to disallow the treaty, which would effectively kill it off, it would not be necessary for Coalition MPs to have to cross the floor.

n Conservatives senator Cory Bernardi announced last week that he planned to disallow the treaty, citing concerns about the treaty’s human rights safeguards, the 99.9 per cent conviction rate in Chinese courts in 2015 and the fact would be the first of the “five eyes” nations – an intelligence alliance with the US, Britain, Canada and New Zealand – to sign a bilateral extradition treaty with China.

The ALP will discuss the matter at its shadow cabinet meeting on Monday night and formally adopt a position on Tuesday when the caucus meets.

The federal opposition is expected to join Senator Bernardi, the Greens and the Nick Xenophon Team and disallow the treaty.

The Turnbull government quietly tabled the treaty, which was signed by former prime minister John Howard in 2007 but has never been ratified on March 2. It can be disallowed by the Senate or the House within 15 sitting days, otherwise it will come into effect.

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull defended the treaty on Monday, arguing it had been entered into many years ago and needed to be ratified.

“We are urging the opposition and the crossbenchers to support the ratification. There are very considerable protections in the treaty and it is an important part of our co-operation with China on law enforcement,” he said.

“I just note today a very large, yet another very large drug bust – well over $100 million of methamphetamine, which has been intercepted, which had it not been for that co-operation, would have been on the streets in destroying n lives. So that co-operation is very important.”

The federal government argues sufficient safeguards are in place and that the treaty would allow to refuse extradition where a person could face the death penalty, torture, cruel treatment, or face political charges.

The Law Council has consistently advised against ratifying the treaty because “suspects cannot be assured a fair trial given the inadequate separation between Chinese courts and the Chinese government”.

Follow James Massola and Amy Remeikis on Facebook for more.

Follow us on Facebook

Rugby, AFL show hyperbole rules, for better or worse

A snowball is a tricky thing to stop, especially in sport. Try injecting some reality into the hyperbole-heavy narratives around the AFL women’s competition and n rugby.
SuZhou Night Recruitment

On one end of the spectrum is a code enjoying wild praise for its work drawing level with the rest of the pack in professional sport, having finally made room on the big stage for its women players.

On the other end is a code locked in a cycle of negativity, helpless to arrest the snowball effect of recent poor results, financial strife and a rare appetite for self-flagellation.

The AFL women’s competition was not God’s gift to women’s sport, as much of the coverage has implied in the non-sports sections of newspapers and radio programs around the country during the past two months.

Blame the far-reaching, cashed up tentacles of the AFL publicity machine and a degree of media fecklessness, but AFLW 1 was akin to the debut of a hyped rookie: imperfect but compelling nonetheless. As Fairfax Media columnist Greg Baum wrote after Saturday’s grand final: “These are part-timers, minimally trained, hastily gathered, pioneers. It is the next wave that will make the lasting mark.”

None of this is to denigrate the competition or its players, but nor should the feel-good factor prohibit clear-eyed analysis of why it worked.

The AFL did everything right in its strategy for the inaugural season, centred around two calculated calls.

First, they offered the competition as a pre-season product, timing the eight-week run as a primer to the AFL men’s season, when fans were guaranteed to be at their hungriest for footy and at their most willing to embrace a women’s version in its earliest iteration.

Second, they offered free entry to every game, removing any structural impediment to footy fans embracing it. The verdict was unanimous. The 24,568-odd who watched the Carlton-Collingwood season opener at Ikon Park in Melbourne set an n record at a stand-alone women’s sports event.

The numbers tailed off quickly to an average of 3000-4000 per game in the last two rounds, before peaking again with 15,610 for the grand final at Metricon Stadium, the second-highest crowd of the season by more than 5000.

The third element – the one that no one could guarantee or predict – was that the public embraced it, to an extent that must have surprised even the competition’s loudest cheerleaders inside and outside the AFL. Their challenge now will be to keep up with demand and honour the players’ sweat and fans’ passion with improvements to competition length, player salaries and other conditions, season on season.

The point? Positivity breeds positivity breeds positivity. The code can claim a resounding success.

The snowball effect in rugby has had the opposite effect.

Last week a curious piece of research bounced from inbox to inbox in rugby circles. Pollsters Roy Morgan published research showing a 63 per cent drop in rugby participation in 15 years since 2001, down from 148,000 participants to 55,000, putting it in the company of ballroom dancing, archery and squash for popularity.

Never mind the phone survey used a sample size of 14,000 and was at odds with n Sports Commission data released late last year reporting a participation figure close to triple that. The n Rugby Union will claim 255,000 participants in its forthcoming annual report. On club XVs numbers alone – the patch legitimately under siege from ns’ changing attitudes to club sport – participation sits about 85,000.

But the facts matter little in the face of the dirty, brown snowball hurtling out of control at rugby’s fragile self-image.

A headline on fansite The Roar last week bellowed it was “time to admit n rugby was dying”. A hysterical call if ever there was one, but who can mount an argument against it when the ARU has taken a vow of silence over the future of Super Rugby and, in doing so, allowed three weeks of damaging speculation to foment negativity about the code.

Never mind ‘s World Cup final berth less than two years ago, the Waratahs’ Super Rugby title the year before that, and that small matter of the womens sevens team’s Olympic gold medal in Rio last year.

The Waratahs lose three games in a row and the snowball picks up speed. Roy Morgan drop a well-timed bomb and rugby is dying! It is left to the code’s true believers, the Shute Shield, which kicks off this weekend, to save the game they play in heaven, at the arse end of the world.

Frisky business: the $5000 indie film that conquered Hollywood

Actress and filmmaker Claudia Pickering has produced a feature film for just $5000 and successfully sold it into international release. Photographed at her home in Freshwater. Tuesday 21st March 2017. Photograph by James Brickwood. SMH ARTS 170321 Photo: James BrickwoodThis is the story of the $5000 feature film that conquered Hollywood.
SuZhou Night Recruitment

If you’d suggested that to Claudia Pickering, architect-turned-actress-turned-filmmaker, a few years ago she – like most people – would have laughed at you. Then by chance she saw a feature film that had been produced for just $100,000.

Stunned by its impact, “I was like, if I was moved by this film that this guy spent nothing on to make, why can’t I do it?” she says. “That’s where my head was at. If he can do it I can do it.”

The result of that is Frisky, which Pickering produced, directed and wrote. Its marketing line: “Based on true events, Frisky is an honest, tongue-in-cheek look at what it is to be a woman in the limbo years between college and the real world.”

Though not strictly an autobiographical piece, Pickering concedes it is “mostly based on things that I lived”, including her move to San Francisco, where the film is set. “I sort of took these real things that happened during each of those times and mushed them into one timeline,” she says.

The film’s budget was just $5000 with the bulk of the money spent on post-production sound and colour. It was a shrewd strategy that put all the money on the screen.

Frisky’s pleasing fluidity in part comes from Pickering’s natural instinct as a filmmaker: her degree is in architecture and she worked for two Sydney architecture firms, Peter Stutchbury and Casey Brown.

“I was always interested in how people experience space, how it makes them feel rather than simply how they see it,” she says. “[But] while I was going through my master’s degree I had a bit of an epiphany and just went, why am I not performing?”

Architecture, she notes, is an excellent preparation for filmmaking. “It makes you a damn good producer because you learn how to guide creative projects from conception to conclusion,” she says. “To get shit done on budget.”

Though the film was not initially conceived as a “female-only” project, by quirk of fate almost all of its crew were women. “I was running the show; you just naturally gravitate towards people that resonate with you and get your project, so of course they’re going to be chicks,” she says.

“You can see why on the flip side that happens with men because there are so many men at the top and it ends up being men filling up the ranks, at least in the n and American film industries,” she says. “That’s why it’s so important for us to be putting more women at the top of the mountains.”

What then followed was a series of dominos: at Tropfest Pickering’s fiance met someone who had a contact at the distribution company Heritage, who in turn passed their project to Loveology, who took it to the Cannes Film Market and secured a deal with Gravitas.

Gravitas has launched Frisky internationally via the video-on-demand platforms Vimeo, iTunes, Google Play, Amazon, XBox, Vudu and YouTube Red – essentially in a $5 rental/$15 purchase to own environment – as well as several US and Canadian television platforms including DirectTV, Dish and Cox.

The film was also supported by the Los Angeles-based n entertainment industry advocacy body, ns in Film (AiF) who screened the film at Hollywood’s Raleigh Studios to coincide with its launch on US on-demand platforms.

“I cannot explain to you how much that ns in Film screening has been such a big deal,” Pickering says. “Suddenly I am getting emails, I’ve been offered representation in the US, I am speaking to the heads of funding bodies in … people I’ve been working towards meeting. Suddenly all these doors are opening.”

The endorsement from ns in Film, she says, effectively legitimised her work, Pickering says. “It just suddenly put it out there. It’s kind of way better than any festival that it went into over the last couple of years in terms of the massive knock-on effect that it’s had for me.”

A curious footnote is that despite the success of the film in the US, Pickering is not harbouring any ambition to shift her base to Los Angeles permanently.

“I’m not trying to go to LA. I’m marrying an American [so] I will be back and forth from America for the rest of my life regardless, but in terms of filmmaking I’m excited about as the place to make stuff,” she says.

“I f—in’ love so much. I’m so happy to be back that I feel like why would I change what makes me unique? I’m n. That’s my voice. Maybe I’ll end up in LA and do some projects but is my home and it surely is where my heart is.”