Eels’ French set to miss Knights NRL clash

Parramatta are taking no chances with fullback Bevan French as they turn their attention to a first NRL top-four finish in 12 years.

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The Eels are guaranteed to move into the top four with a win over last-placed Newcastle on Friday but look set to do it without their No.1 because of a hamstring injury.

The hype is building in Sydney’s west after Brad Arthur’s side strung together six wins in a row – the first time they have done so since they made the grand final in 2009.

With Cronulla and Brisbane facing off on Friday night, two points will see the Eels jump into fourth.

The Eels haven’t finished in the top four since their minor premiership win under coach Brian Smith in 2005 and Arthur’s side is charging at the right time of year.

“It’s exciting, you can sense the excitement around Parramatta, you can sense the excitement in the playing group,” Arthur said

“You work all year to try and play finals football, we’re no different from any other club and it has been a long time.

“We need to make sure we continue to play to our standards and expectations.”

The Eels look set to rule out French for the clash as they gear up for a finals push.

After French sat on the sidelines during the second half of last week’s win over Canterbury, Arthur said he would be taking no risks.

French is in form – having scored in each of his past six matches – and key to their chances after Clint Gutherson was ruled out for the year with an ACL injury.

“He’ll train today but it’s unlikely, we don’t want to take a risk with him,” Arthur said.

Will Smith and Josh Hoffman have been named on an extended bench and with one to come into the side should French be ruled out.

The Knights have shifted Dane Gagai to fullback to cover the loss of Nathan Ross (back) while veteran Shaun Kenny-Dowall returns.

The game will also be Eels skipper Tim Mannah’s 200th first grade match and Arthur urged his charges to do it for their teammate.

STATS THAT MATTER

* The Eels have now won nine of their past eleven games at their adopted home ground ANZ Stadium.

* The Knights’ victory over the Warriors last week represented their first back-to-back home wins since rounds one and four in 2015.

Blewett out, Haddin is new fielding coach

Australia’a new fielding coach Brad Haddin wants his side to reach the lofty standards set by Andrew Symonds and Ricky Ponting.

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Haddin, who has pursued a coaching career since retiring in 2015, will serve as one of coach Darren Lehmann’s assistants until the end of 2019.

The former wicketkeeper, who played 66 Tests and 126 ODI, was appointed Greg Blewett’s replacement on Thursday.

“I grew up in an era of players like Andrew Symonds and Ricky Ponting, who gave Australian cricket a real identity in the standards of world-class fielding,” Haddin said.

“They were the type of players who took it personally if the team wasn’t fielding well and that created a level for the rest of the group to aspire to.

“I want to hold this group accountable to that kind of standard and I believe we have the talent to do that.”

Australia’s sloppy fielding has angered both Lehmann and skipper Steve Smith at various points in recent years.

Haddin will also work closely with Matthew Wade, the gloveman who temporarily claimed his place in the Test XI between 2012 and 2013, and back-up stumper Peter Handscomb.

“Having someone with a pedigree such as Brad’s to bounce ideas off and fine tune their skills will be immensely valuable for our keepers,” Lehmann said.

Haddin has already worked with the national side in a coaching capacity. He mentored Handscomb on an ODI tour of New Zealand earlier this year, when Lehmann was with the Test squad in Dubai.

Blewett, who had been the national fielding coach since August 2014, resigned to spend more time at home and will now take charge of South Australia’s under-19 team.

The 45-year-old will also be an assistant coach with the Redbacks and Big Bash League franchise Adelaide Strikers.

Wilkinson faces big surfing test in Tahiti

Matt Wilkinson’s narrow lead in the surfing world title race faces a major test at the Tahiti Pro, where he’s never progressed past the quarter-finals.

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The Australian has long struggled at Teahupoo in French Polynesia, enduring third-round eliminations in the past four years after reaching the final eight in 2011.

The 28-year-old took the yellow leader’s jersey after winning in Fiji in June before his lead was cut to a mere 250 points when he lost in the quarter-finals last month at J-Bay.

Reigning world champion John John Florence is Wilkinson’s closest title rival this season and looms as a major threat in Tahiti after being second to Kelly Slater in 2016.

Wilkinson was also world series leader last year heading into Teahupoo — the seventh of 11 stops on the elite tour — before being overtaken by Florence.

The Hawaiian held onto the championship lead for the rest of the season, while Wilkinson fell away to fifth.

Wilkinson has vowed not to relinquish the yellow jersey this year and three-time world champion Mick Fanning said his compatriot’s result in Tahiti, with surfing scheduled to begin on August, could be decisive.

“His win in Fiji gave him a lot of confidence,” Fanning, ranked 11th in the title race, told AAP.

“I wouldn’t want to say he should try to ‘hold on’ because he still has to fight.

“But if he can get another big result in Teahupoo, he’ll be looking pretty good.”

Eleven-time world champion Slater won’t return to defend his title after sustaining a foot injury in South Africa.

World No.4 Australian Owen Wright will also contend for his first title after reaching the semi-finals in 2012 and 2015 before missing the 2016 season due to a head injury.

Wright sits 1800 points off the lead, while seventh-ranked Filipe Toledo of Brazil looms large after winning the J-Bay Open.

What more do banks have to do?: Labor

Labor wonders what the banking industry has to do before the federal government calls a royal commission into any misconduct.

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Treasurer Scott Morrison insists the government has left all options on the table to deal with the “epic failure” of the Commonwealth Bank board which is engulfed in another financial scandal.

But he ruled out a royal commission into the banking sector following CBA’s alleged 50,000 breaches of anti-money laundering laws.

Action needed to be taken now, Mr Morrison said, citing the government’s decision to increase the powers of the Australian Securities and Investments Commission and making senior bank executives more accountable.

In contrast, a royal commission would be a three-year “lawyers’ picnic”.

The government won’t be rushing its response out of concern it may frustrate financial transactions regulator AUSTRAC bringing the bank to court.

“That is priority one,” Mr Morrison said on Thursday.

“We are not going to give the Commonwealth Bank any leave passes by any actions we might take.”

But shadow treasurer Chris Bowen said the treasurer had taken the “biggest and best” option off the table in ruling out a royal commission.

“How much more evidence does the government need?” he asked.

Questioned about the position of CBA boss Ian Narev, Mr Bowen said neither the treasurer or alternative treasurer choose bank chief executives.

“What you do is move policy levers and the policy lever the treasurer has available is a royal commission,” he told reporters in Canberra on Thursday.

“Mr Narev’s position is between him and the board.”

Greens lash Forrest’s welfare card push

Billionaire businessman Andrew Forrest has been accused of using shock tactics to scare people into supporting cashless welfare cards.

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Mr Forrest has joined Western Australian indigenous and community leaders calling for the cards to be rapidly expanded, releasing a graphic video depicting welfare-fuelled violence and sexual abuse across the state.

He said opponents of the cards, including the Greens, were covering themselves in shame.

Greens senator Rachel Siewert said the mining magnate was using the same tactics as the Howard government in 2007 over the Northern Territory intervention and so-called “Basics Card”.

“Using violent imagery then offering a one-dimensional, paternalistic and previously failed approach to a complex problem shows that Andrew Forrest is more concerned about furthering his ideologies than looking at what works,” she said.

“We should stop wasting money on income management-style approaches and start looking at real solutions that work.”

The cards quarantine 80 per cent of welfare payments, which cannot be used to buy alcohol or gamble but can be used to pay for housing, food, clothing, household supplies and essentials.

The remaining 20 per cent of a welfare payment is placed in a person’s regular bank account and can be withdrawn as cash.

A recent review of two trials – the East Kimberley in WA and Ceduna in South Australia – found the cards had been effective in reducing alcohol consumption, illegal drug use and gambling.

The federal government will continue the trials and is looking for two more pilot sites.

Labor human services spokeswoman Linda Burney said the video circulated by Mr Forrest and supporters of cashless welfare cards was shocking.

But the opposition will not be making any decisions until the results of the first two trials are clear.

“It should not be the case that people and children are fearful to go home,” Ms Burney said on Thursday.

“Of course it had an impact but Labor’s position, as I said, is that we are waiting to see the evaluation which I’m told is imminent.”