Wallabies staying stubbornly optimistic

Their pride may have taken a hit but the Wallabies insist their confidence hasn’t been mortally wounded by their latest Bledisloe Cup embarrassment.

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Players and coaches are back at work ahead of Saturday’s second Test against New Zealand at Dunedin’s Forsyth Barr Stadium, which Australia must win to keep the series alive.

Barring a form reversal of epic proportions or a sudden All Blacks capitulation, that seems highly unlikely – especially considering the Wallabies haven’t won across the ditch since 2001.

But after picking through the wreckage of last weekend’s demoralising 54-34 belting in Sydney, defence coach Nathan Grey said the team was staying stubbornly optimistic.

“No, they haven’t been wounded,” Grey said.

“It’s a matter of looking where we can improve things.

“The guys are resilient, they’re professional football players. They go through situations where they see things go wrong.

“Us, as coaches, look at where we can improve things and we work together to find those solutions. This week has been no different.”

The Wallabies have set up camp in Christchurch and will shift their training operations to Dunedin on Thursday evening.

There is one statistic they can hang their hat on as they slug through the final days of New Zealand’s bone-chilling winter – although they lost, they were only one point short of the highest score ever posted against their great rivals.

But most of their tries came in ‘garbage time’, with the All Blacks up by as much as 54-6 early in the second half, and Steve Hansen admitted they let themselves be “seduced” by the scoreboard.

That sort of talk spells more danger for the Wallabies, who should be braced for another ferocious opening from a side looking to atone for an uncharacteristically incomplete performance.

“Starting off really well is a big focus for this week and with defence, just sticking to our structures and trusting each other to make our tackles and back each other up,” winger Henry Speight said.

“That’s one of the main focuses we’ve looked into. You can’t let in that much points and try and chase them down.”

Finally, AFL finals loom again for Bombers

Everything about Essendon’s 2000 AFL premiership team said “dynasty”.

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No-one could have foreseen the succession of barren Septembers that would follow.

Provided they do not slip up against Fremantle – not out of the question, given their round-15 disaster against Brisbane – the Bombers will return to the finals.

They are eighth and control their own destiny.

It will be Essendon’s first finals series since 2014 and only their third September appearance in the last decade.

Much will be made of how much it will mean to Essendon, given their turnaround from the supplements debacle.

But the disastrous 2011-12 supplements program was itself a direct function of their slumping finals performances over the previous decade.

In 2000, Essendon lost only one game on the way to their 16th and most recent premiership.

The next season, Leigh Matthews awoke Brisbane with his famous “if it bleeds, we can kill it” challenge and the Lions beat Essendon in the grand final.

Brisbane, not Essendon, would have a dynasty.

The Bombers made the next three finals, but clearly were in decline.

Kevin Sheedy’s legendary reign as coach ended in 2007 and replacement Matthew Knights led Essendon to the finals only once – a 96-point hammering from Adelaide in 2009.

Knights was gone at the end of 2010, James Hird took over and what happened next became the biggest scandal in AFL history.

Essendon made the 2013 finals, but were thrown out as part of the AFL’s punishment for the ill-fated supplements regime.

For a club renowned as one of the strongest in the AFL, Essendon’s finals record over the past 16 years is winnow, not whale.

ESSENDON’S POOR FINALS RECORD SINCE THE 2000 FLAG

* 12 finals, five wins

* Most recent finals win in 2004 – four losses since

* Most recent finals appearance in 2014

* No preliminary final since 2001

* Thrown out of the 2013 finals series because of the supplements debacle.

Barcelona victim remembered for his smiles

Julian Cadman’s family will always cherish his smiles.

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The Australian boy’s grieving relatives say they feel blessed to have had the funny and cheeky seven-year-old in their lives.

Julian was sightseeing with his mum in Barcelona when terrorists struck, killing the dual Australian-British national and seriously injuring the Sydney woman.

Jumarie “Jom” Cadman remains in a Barcelona hospital, with her husband Andrew by her side after he flew to Spain from Sydney.

She has undergone surgery but will need several operations, Mr Cadman’s employer and friend Scott Bowman says.

“I’ve been told that she will be physically OK in the long run,” said Mr Bowman, who has set up a GoFundMe campaign to help the family.

Julian was a much-loved and adored family member, the Cadmans said in a statement.

“He was so energetic, funny and cheeky, always bringing a smile to our faces.

“We are so blessed to have had him in our lives and will remember his smiles and hold his memory dear to our hearts.”

Students, staff and parents at Julian’s Sydney school have been devastated by the death of the year two student, who hugged his teachers as he said hello each day.

The community of St Bernadette’s Catholic Primary in Lalor Park are deeply feeling the loss of the much-loved student, Catholic Education Diocese of Parramatta executive director Greg Whitby said.

“Julian was a delightful little boy – curious and energetic with a kind and generous heart,” Mr Whitby said on Monday.

Julian had attended St Bernadette’s since kindergarten.

He attended preschool in England before moving to Sydney.

Ms Cadman is a 43-year-old Filipina whose husband is British, the Philippines Department of Foreign Affairs said.

The family has been living in Australia for the past three or four years, it said.

Ms Cadman and Julian were in Barcelona for a family wedding.

They became separated when a van was driven into crowds on the busy Las Ramblas promenade on Thursday (Spanish time), killing 13 people and injuring more than 100.

The Cadman family thanked those who helped search for Julian, adding their thoughts and prayers were with all people affected by the attack.

Sydney woman Suria Intan, who was on the last few days of a European holiday with friends, was also seriously injured in the attack.

Two Melbourne men hit by the van, friends Robert Bogdanovski and Anthony Colombini, were released from hospital soon after.

Judge Trump’s substance, not style: Howard

The world should judge Donald Trump on substance and not style, says former Australian prime minister John Howard.

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Speaking at a US-Australia relations conference in Sydney on Monday evening, Mr Howard said the American president’s actions universally justified cause “for a positive response”.

“Its impossible to talk about our relationship without acknowledging that President Trump has brought a different style to the position,” Mr Howard told the function, hosted by Australian and US embassies and think tanks.

“It is very important to look to the substance of what the American administration is doing and not be distracted by the style and externalities.”

Mr Howard pointed to Mr Trump’s military response to the chemical attack on Syrian civilians by the Assad regime earlier this year as an example of good leadership.

“That was consummately executed, both in a military sense and also in a diplomatic sense and it won the applause of the world.”

Mr Howard went on to say he believed the seemingly continual turnover of senior White House staff was beginning to settle following this week’s ousting of controversial strategist Steve Bannon.

“I think I see a return to normalcy in the personnel,” Mr Howard said, prompting an subtle murmur.

Afterwards, his comments were described as “delusional” by audience member, Sydney University academic James Curran.

“I think he’s got the blinkers on with the US,” the history professor told AAP.

“He’s delusional in the belief that now that Bannon is gone, the Trump White House is slowly settling down into some kind of normalisation.”

Prof Curran challenged Mr Howard’s assertion that there was any “substance” behind Mr Trump’s unconventional style.

“I’m not too sure where the substance is, I haven’t seen it,” he said.

“Yes, he spoke about Syria strikes, well what was the strategy to back that up?”

Prof Curran said he didn’t believe Australia’s current prime minister, Malcolm Turnbull, was as confident in Mr Trump.

“As I understand it, Turnbull is privately scathing of Trump – privately scathing.”

Distinguished research fellow at Stanford University’s Hoover Institute Kori Schaki said while she believed Mr Howard had a point, she wasn’t convinced Mr Trump had yet proved it.

“I think style matters and I think words matter, so I’m not entirely persuaded by his argument,” Ms Schaki told AAP.

“But his point to watch what they do, not just what they’re saying – I do think he’s right about that.”