Monthly Archives: May 2019

Pressure for September AFL spots at Roos

Try telling recalled pair Lachie Hansen and Jamie Macmillan that North Melbourne’s AFL clash with Melbourne is meaningless.

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Regardless of what happens at Etihad Stadium on Saturday night, the Kangaroos are guaranteed to finish sixth and host an elimination final the following weekend.

But the question of which 22 players take the field for the club’s first home final since 2007 is very much up in the air.

Defenders Macmillan and Hansen were among five inclusions for the game against the 17th-placed Demons, with Michael Firrito, Lindsay Thomas, Levi Greenwood, Todd Goldstein and Luke McDonald out.

“I’m not stupid,” Macmillan said, agreeing the weekend was his audition for finals.

“Both Lachie and I know we’ve got this one chance to put our name up … and hopefully come match committee next week they’ll have to think a little harder.

“This week we have got some guys that have been managed, they’ll be coming back in.

“So we’re going to fight for our lives this weekend.”

Macmillan has not played since round three, when the 22-year-old suffered a serious leg injury and is desperate to find form and match fitness.

Hansen has missed North’s past three matches due to a hip injury, but played 17 games this season.

But the No.3 pick from the 2006 draft felt just as unsure about his place in the side as Macmillan.

“I know if I don’t perform against Melbourne, I might lose my spot straight away,” Hansen said.

Hansen suggested aside from creating more pressure for spots, the Kangaroos had a lot to gain from Saturday night.

“We want to have a win, of course. We want to take good form into the finals,” he said.

“Structurally get everything right and sound. Crash in and take the momentum into next week.”

North are likely to face Essendon in week one of the finals.

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Masters losses no blow to Woolies’ profit

Woolworths is taking mounting losses from its battle with Bunnings in its stride, as its supermarkets and bottle shops continue to grow.

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The retail giant’s profit rose 8.5 per cent to $2.45 billion in the year to June 30, and expects growth of between four and seven per cent in the 2014/15 year.

Profit growth came despite a $169 million loss from the Masters hardware chain, and a 19 per cent slide in Big W’s earnings.

Margins and sales improved where it really counts – its giant food and liquor business – which accounts for the vast majority of the company’s earnings.

“It is and has been for a very very long time the engine room of the Woolworths group and that remains the case,” chief executive Grant O’Brien said.

“What I’m most thrilled about with today’s result is that it is showing improved momentum across our food an liquor business.”

Woolworths’ gross margin improved nine basis points to 25.19 per cent in the year, despite a 3.1 per cent slide in prices.

Comparable sales rose three per cent in the year, and 3.3 per cent in the fourth quarter.

But that disappointed investors, as it failed to match fourth quarter comparable sales growth of 4.1 per cent by rival Coles.

Woolworths shares were down 86 cents, or 2.3 per cent, at $36.09 at 1400 AEST.

Mr O’Brien said weak consumer sentiment and an uncertain economic outlook meant trading conditions would remain challenging in the current financial year.

Uncertainty about key measures in the Abbott government’s first budget was also not helping, he said.

“Improved certainty in the political area is important for consumers and we would look forward to that being the case,” Mr O’Brien said.

“Certainty around some of the budget measures would certainly go some way to addressing that, in my view.”

OptionsXpress market analyst Ben Le Brun said Woolworths’ bottom line result was more or less in line with expectations.

The retailer needs grocery prices to start growing before it delivers better results, he said.

“Once inflation starts returning and grocery prices start rising that will stand Woolworths and (Coles owner) Wesfarmers in good stead,” Mr Le Brun said.

He said investors may also have been disappointed the company didn’t offer a better return to shareholders, like the $1.1 billion capital return Wesfarmers announced earlier this month.

HARDWARE, BIG W BUCK THE EARNINGS TREND

– Food, liquor and petrol up 7.2 pct to $3.37b

– New Zealand supermarkets up 4.2 pct to $NZ310m

– Hotels up 6.5 pct to $275m

– Home Improvement made a loss of $169m

– Big W down 18.8 pct to $153m

STEADY PROFIT RISE FOR WOOLWORTHS

* Net profit of $2.45b, up 8.5 pct from $2.26b in 2012/13

* Sales revenue of 60.8b, up 3.9 pct from $58.5b

* Final divided of 72 cents, up from 71 cents

* The reporter owns shares in Woolworths

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South Korea’s Kim leads Portland Classic

South Korea’s Kim In-Kyung fired a seven-under-par 65 to take a one-stroke lead after the first round of the LPGA Tour’s Portland Classic on Thursday.

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Kim, who teed off in the final group of the day, used a string of four straight birdies on the back nine to record her lowest round of the season by two strokes.

“I hit the ball well and made some putts coming down. This is a really good golf course,” Kim said.

Americans Jennifer Song and Amelia Lewis are tied for second place at six-under at the Columbia Edgewater Country Club.

Anna Nordqvist, who has two victories this season, shot a five-under 67.

She was joined in fourth place by Laura Diaz, Paraguay’s Julieta Granada, Mina Harigae, Alison Walshe, Emma Jandel and Paula Reto of South Africa.

US Solheim Cup captain Juli Inkster carded a four-under 68. Inkster is tied for 11th in a group that includes France’s Karine Icher, Chella Choi, Jennifer Kirby, China’s Lin Xi Yu and Jacqui Concolino, of the US.

Kim, who is seeking her fourth career win on the US LPGA Tour, recorded her last victory in North America four years ago at the Lorena Ochoa Invitational.

In 11 starts this year, she has one top-25 finish at the Swinging Skirts LPGA Classic.

“Seems like every week it’s like 66, 65,” said Kim, who won on the Ladies European Tour earlier this year.

“So I didn’t really think about scoring that much. With this golf course you just gotta play your game, and then you get rewarded.”

Defending champion Suzann Pettersen shot a one-under 71 and is six strokes back from Kim in a tie for 39th.

Amateur qualifier Gigi Stoll had three birdies and two bogeys to match Pettersen with a 71.

Natalie Sheary was disqualified for signing an incorrect scorecard and Irene Coe withdrew during the first round with a back injury.

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Refreshed Murray beats Bachinger in straight sets

Murray, the 2012 U.

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S. champion and 2013 Wimbledon winner, looked fresh and strong in cool, breezy conditions as he rolled to a 6-3 6-3 6-4 victory at Arthur Ashe Stadium in his first meeting against the German.

The Briton, never broken in the one hour 46-minute match, ripped 36 winners, more than doubling the 17 unforced errors he was charged with.

Murray said he was well over the effects of the cramps he suffered in Monday’s first-round match against Dutchman Robin Haase.

“I felt fine the last couple days. Had no problems on the Tuesday or Wednesday,” the Scotsman said. “I practiced well and didn’t have any problem. Tonight was fine, too.”

Murray also had few problems deflecting questions about his thoughts on a referendum on Scottish independence next month.

“I haven’t thought that much about that yet because I don’t think it’s looking too likely that it’s going to happen,” said the London-based Murray, adding that he had watched about 45 minutes of the second debate.

Murray did concede he would play for Scotland at the 2016 Rio Olympics, if they gained independence from the rest of Britain, though was not keen on getting too drawn into a political discussion.

“I’m not going into that,” he said. “I don’t want to talk about politics in here. I’ll worry about my tennis.”

Murray will next meet Russian Andrey Kuznetsov, who eliminated 31st seed Fernando Verdasco of Spain in five sets 6-3 4-6 4-6 7-5 6-3.

“He’s had a couple big wins in the slams this year,” said Murray. “He beat (David) Ferrer at Wimbledon and obviously today against Verdasco.

“I’ve never played him before. I don’t know his game that well, but I’ve seen him play a little bit. He hits the ball pretty flat.

“Likes to go for his shots a lot. This court’s fairly quick, so that will probably help him.”

(Reporting by Larry Fine; Editing by Greg Stutchbury)

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Essendon coach puzzled over injury

Essendon coach Mark Thompson is puzzled by Jake Carlisle’s hamstring injury and has suggested the key forward could have been playing this weekend.

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The finals-bound Bombers have ruled Carlisle out for Saturday’s last-round clash with Carlton at the MCG.

Carlisle spoke this week about how he expected his tight hamstring would only put him out for one or two matches.

“I don’t know. I’ve never heard of a one-week hamstring injury,” Thompson told reporters on Friday.

“He probably more than likely won’t play (next week).

“They’re saying it’s not very big. It’s only a few fibres and it should be right.

“But if that was the case he’d be playing this week.

“You’ve just got to get off the fence don’t you and decide if it’s a hamstring or not.

“If it is it’s two weeks and if it’s not you should be playing this week and have a crack at it.”

Essendon have recalled ruck/forward Tom Bellchambers to assist No.1 ruckman Patrick Ryder.

Thompson says if Bellchambers can find form against the Blues, he’ll be retained for next week’s elimination final.

Bellchambers has played six senior games this season.

Listed at 108kg, Bellchambers has lost weight and been doing lots of cross-training.

“He’s had a cow of a season. He has been absolutely destroyed by the pre-season injury to his ankle,” Thompson said.

“If he doesn’t play well, unfortunately we won’t go with him.

“We’re hoping that it does work. It was our most preferred set-up at the start of the year.”

Essendon have also recalled gun utility Dyson Heppell after one week out with a broken hand.

“We’re not in that position where we can flirt with anything. We need to win,” Thompson said.

“We need to go into the first final in good form.”

Port Adelaide thrashed Carlton by 103 points in last week’s round-22 game and coach Mick Malthouse said his Carlton side were tired.

“It’s amazing what can happen in a week. I’ve seen it all before,” Thompson said.

“I hope he’s not trying to psyche our players out because it’s not going to happen.

“We know the cue is not in the rack for them. We know he’s trying to motivate them by saying they’re tired.

“They’ll come out and they’ll try to really attack us. We know that’s coming.”

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