Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Madden NFL scoring well, by Simon Canning - The Australian - 23rd September 2008

For two decades, the Madden NFL series has been one of the most dominant gaming franchises to be found on consoles.

America's National Football League, otherwise know as gridiron, is a game made to measure for the TV.

With the action tightly confined to the field, ample breaks to accommodate the advertising and the game play pre-programmed by coaches so that every player on the field follows an intricate route, it really is made to measure for the medium.

And, so too, has the Madden series been for consoles.

Madden, who took the Oakland Raiders to Super Bowl supremacy in 1977 and retired as the youngest coach to record 100 victories only to go on to become a much loved and respected commentator, is the lifeblood of the series.

Each year, Electronic Arts has built and tweaked the game, making it more intuitive for first timers and more rewarding for veterans - and Madden 09 continues the trend.

The NFL is a console natural and Madden offers a range of ways to play, but the best development for players of all levels is the arrival of what EA calls Madden IQ.

At the start of the game, the player is run through a series of drills that allows it to establish the player's ability.

Once completed, this gives the player an IQ, which then allows allows the gameplay to match the ability of the player.

Once established, the IQ constantly shifts and adjusts as the player improves, creating a challenging game that never becomes too demanding.

Madden is packed full of all the expected options, from creating players, building franchises and network play online.

It's an interface EA uses well and will be familiar to players of other EA franchises.

But the key to the game, played on a PS3, is it is beautiful to watch - particularly for those with an HD TV.

The players look and feel real and the gameplay, whether you are fighting for a few inches to secure a first down or launching a Hail Mary pass downfield to snatch a last second victory, matches the visuals.

And, as always, there is the Hall of Fame coaches' wry observations always in the background.

The NFL may not be everyone's cup of tea, but for console owners of every hue, Madden NFL 09 is a treat.

(Credit: The Australian)

SPECIFICATIONS
• Publisher: Electronic Arts
• Price: $99.95
• Rating: 8/10

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Saturday, September 27, 2008

In the grip of Wrestlemania, by Andrew Stevenson and Brad Walter - Fairfax - 17th August 2007

If you're going to live in a glass house, you shouldn't throw stones," warned Storm coach Craig Bellamy at the height of the latest grapple tackle controversy to engulf the NRL this week - before proceeding to lob a few rocks in the direction of the Broncos and the Eels.

"I'm sure they're as guilty of being as much around the neck and head as we are," Bellamy told a press conference in Melbourne after deciding on Wednesday that it was time to enter the wrestling ring, pointing fingers about game's obsessive use of wrestling and martial arts techniques to dominate the tackle.

Bellamy was even more specific in his finger-pointing during a recent interview with The Herald on wrestling, saying: "You can put it all down to Wayne [Bennett]."

Bennett may be the most outspoken critic of the wrestling phenomenon to have taken hold in the game of late, but it was under his watch at Brisbane where Bellamy says the trend originated.

And Bellamy should know, as he was assistant coach in 1998 when the Broncos employed Chris "The Hammer" Haseman, a combatant in mixed martial arts. Bellamy said Bennett signed the cheques and was supportive of the move to hire a wrestling coach.

"I was looking for one and told Wayne. Chris was working at the Police Academy and that's how I found him, through Wayne. He was the one who gave me Chris's name," Bellamy said.

Penrith captain Luke Priddis gave credence to Bellamy's view of how the NRL evolved into Wrestlemania when he said this week that he had learnt wrestling techniques while playing for the Broncos between 1999 and 2001.

"It was probably something that I learnt up in Brisbane, to be honest, but it wasn't so much twisting and trying to rip the head off, it was just a small turning of the neck to be in a position where you couldn't move," Priddis told Channel Seven.

However, Bennett has previously denied the claims. Last month he said: "We never talk about the grapple, we never practise it here, it's never been a part of our club here. But you see the teams that continuously do it. I could name the players. Every coach in the competition could name the players for you that continually grapple."

Haseman, who attained guru-like status among Broncos hard men Gorden Tallis and Shane Webcke and went on to work for the Australian Rugby Union, backed Bennett.

"Wayne, in my view, is a real rugby league purist so, to be quite honest, I had to convince Wayne on a weekly basis this is what we need," he said. "Bellamy is what you could say a new-age coach and he was really my supporter there."

If Haseman, now training Iraqi police, was The Man, he bequeathed the title to John Donehue when he provided the introduction Bellamy needed for a wrestling coach in Melbourne after taking charge of the Storm in 2003.

Wrestling coaches rave about Donehue; NRL coaches fear his power and techniques. And Bellamy won't let him speak to the media. "He's been painted as Darth Vader at some stage … he's a very gentle man who's very good at what he does."

Says Milton Dymock, Jim's brother and Cronulla's wrestling coach: "Chris started it off but the highly decorated one is John Donehue."

Donehue is also the man who brought the grapple tackle to the game, a point made by Larry Papadopoulos, wrestling coach to Souths and Parramatta and a former student of Donehue's.

"It was actually John [Donehue] throwing in a lot of these neck cranks and strangles that started to get noticed," Papadopoulos said. "That was when the shit hit the fan, when you had Melbourne screwing guys' necks up.

"We all know them but we don't use them because they're not legal in wrestling. But you can do all that kind of stuff in ju jitsu."

Parramatta coach Michael Hagan acknowledged the role of Papadopoulos, but defended his influence.

"The subtle difference in how they're used is that Larry has been informed that he's not to come into contact with the head or neck in any of the drills that we do," Hagan said. "The wrestle's effective component is one of slowing the ruck down and I guess that's the intent in most cases, if not all."

But after referee Sean Hampstead last weekend awarded five penalties in the Broncos-Storm match for grapple tackles and the match review committee detected Melbourne prop Jeff Lima using a new manoeuvre, dubbed the crusher, in which tacklers apply their body weight on the back of the ball carriers, people are beginning to question how the game got to this and what can be done about it.

"There's a difference between just hanging on to a bloke and some of the tackles that you saw on the weekend in that Brisbane-Melbourne game, where you could actually see the bloke was under pressure with his head being twisted and turned," Priddis said. "You talk to any player and you know the difference between someone just hanging on, trying to slow you down and having your head twisted and pulled sideways."

The use of wrestling coaches to teach tackling techniques is nothing new, but their influence has increased over the past decade in correspondence with the speed of the play-the-ball.

Many people believe the blame for that goes back to Super League and the introduction by the breakaway competition in 1997 of unlimited interchange. Teams were using up to 36 interchanges per match.

In contrast, the ARL had a limit of six interchanges but when the two competitions merged the unlimited rule was implemented for the first two seasons, won by Super League champions Brisbane and Melbourne, formed in 1998 mainly from former Super League players.

Submitting in tackles became the trend and to counter that defenders were coached to "waltz" with the ball-carrier in a bid to prevent a quick play-the-ball and enable their teammates to get back the 10 metres.

Over time that has evolved into "the battle on the ground", but it is now commonly accepted that things have gone too far and NRL chief executive David Gallop this week flagged a review of wrestling in the game at the end-of-season conference of clubs.

"Maybe there will come a time when you never hear the term wrestling, it will just be football," Haseman said.

Bennett would probably like that.

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Shane Warne still focusing on spin - but of the washing machine, by Alyson Rudd - The Times - 26th September 2008

For someone who believes that there ought to be a law against unauthorised biographies Shane Warne took the task of deciding upon the 100 best cricketers of his time for Shane Warne’s Century, his new book, very seriously. If evidence is needed that Warne did not simply pick his buddies, then it is to be found at No 93; yes, Arjuna Ranatunga. It is well known that Warne is not fond of the former Sri Lanka captain, whom he said was so unfit that he looked like he had swallowed a sheep.

“I apologise if I’ve forgotten anyone,” Warne said. It was a tricky task because his remit was to list, in order, the top 100 cricketers he had played alongside or against. “I took my time,” he said. “It was very hard but it was not about statistics; I don’t worry about averages.”

Instead he concerned himself with the players he had feared, who was the most entertaining, who played the game in the right spirit, who could be called a role model, whom he would most like to have resembled and whom he would pay money to see. This last criterion resulted in him placing Mark Waugh higher than Steve Waugh. “Steve’s numbers are better but Mark is graceful and I’d rather watch him,” Warne said. “I can’t be wrong. It’s my opinion.”

Warne admits that he was sensitive about what was written about him at the start of his career and was fascinated and annoyed that people would judge him without having met him. There are 13 unauthorised biographies of him and the first page of the first one did its utmost to make him a cynic. It said he lived in Black Rock, Melbourne, and drove a red Ferrari. In fact, he drove a blue one and lived somewhere else. “There should be a law that says you need permission to write about someone’s life,” he said.

The obvious question, then, is what would Warne want written about him in someone else’s list of the best cricketers? “That I always tried to give 100 per cent and never gave up, ever,” he said. “It’s never over until the last ball is bowled. I brought a lot of joy to a lot of people. I got the best out of myself. I was a tough competitor. Leg spin is hard and I stuck at it and changed the game; the laws of the game changed because of the way I bowled. I helped make the game popular.”

It would have to be added to any summary of his life that Warne, 39, possesses astonishing levels of enthusiasm and energy. He is heavily involved with Cricket Australia (CA) and is trying to find the next great spin bowler. He travels around the states and helps cricketers to understand spin bowling and its thought processes. “In a year or two I’ll provide two or three spinners that can succeed at first-class level,” he said.

He helps out with the women’s game and the under-19s and sits on the CA rules committee. He has two years of his contract left with Rajasthan Royals, the Indian Premier League side, where he is coach and captain. He writes for newspapers, including The Times. And he looks after three children. Brooke, 11, Jackson, 9, and Summer, 7, spend five days with him and then nine days with Simone Callahan, his ex-wife, with whom he has “a really good relationship”.

“I watch the kids swim, dance, gym, music, all school events,” he said. “My son recently won Cool Kid of the Week. Brooke is captain of the library.”

He has no help on his days in charge, so he has to make the packed lunches, tidy up and do the washing, help with the homework and put the children to bed. He even vacuums — but is not handy at all household chores. “I can’t iron,” he said.

“If cricket is all you have, you would miss the camaraderie and the adrenalin. I was like that for ten years, but kids changed my perspective. They are my No 1 priority. I’m at a great time in my life. My eldest is 11 and I can have a conversation with her, we can have lunch together. Cricket is not my job; my job is to be the best parent I can be. I can have a bad day at cricket and then my kids run up for a cuddle, so who cares if you got smacked around the park?”

Warne, like many doting parents, is upset by tales of children in distress. Unlike other doting dads, however, he has been able to save children’s lives. The Shane Warne Foundation is for seriously ill and underprivileged children in Australia. It saved, he says, 55 lives in two months by funding helicopters to transport children in remote areas to hospitals. He fought red tape, taxation laws and due-diligence procedures to reach the stage where the foundation is providing A$1 million (about £450,000) a year.

Warne has also developed a passion for poker and is in London for the World Series being held at the Empire Casino, Leicester Square that starts today. He will then dash off to Scotland for the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship, the pro-am golf tournament, next week. Spectators should be warned, though, that he is “going through a horror phase” with his golf.

He is a celebrity, socialises with celebrities and meets them in lifts. One night a man in a hotel lift in London said: “You’re Shane Warne.” It was Chris Martin, the Coldplay singer, which amused Warne because Yellow, by Coldplay, is the track he chose to accompany his entrance in one-day matches. “I said, ‘Hello, mate, I walk out to your song,’ ” Warne said. They went for a drink and are good friends.

Martin “likes his cricket”, said Warne, who believes that the game’s future is “OK” as long as people don’t get too greedy. “Don’t overdo it,” he said. “Look at one-day cricket — everyone loved it and now there’s too much of it. They mustn’t stretch Twenty20 or the crowds will drop.”

His mantra for cricket’s health is “less is best”. It is not a phrase that can be used to sum up his life.

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Friday, September 26, 2008

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When Five Channels Are Not Enough, by Peter Moss - The Australian Worker - 17th August 2001

Is Foxtel worth it for the sport? That depends on what you call sport, reports Peter Moss.

When I hooked up to pay tv in June - after years of resisting the lure - I was behaving just like the predictable consumer I like to deny I am.

The Foxtel marketers could have checked off my age, my income, my family situation, my interests and laid short odds about closing the deal. And they would have been dead right about the final trigger that overcame my ideological resistance - the promise of saturation coverage of my favourite sport.

I did not welcome the Murdoch/Packer takeover of AFL coverage which was announced earlier this year. But that was the event that delivered me to Foxtel, even though AFL coverage will not kick off until 2002.

Now, almost three months into our contract, could I recommend Foxtel, purely for the sport? The answer depends on what you call sport.

In Britain the dominance of soccer as a national sport - across regions, cultures and ages - guaranteed Murdoch success in pay tv from the day he bought exclusive rights to the Premier League.

But Australia has no equivalent. Australian rules football is the strongest winter sport, but large and important groups of fans prefer any of three competing codes. And cricket might be our biggest summer game - despite the indifference of almost anyone who didn't grow up playing it - but no pay tv provider has been able to win consistent dominance in cricket coverage. When Australia toured India, Foxtel had the rights. The Ashes tour is on Optus.

General sport media in Australia - like Channel Nine's now defunct Wide World of Sports or the magazine Inside Sport - have limited appeal because there is a limited audience for general sport. Archetypal events like the Olympics aside, the large majority of fans are interested only in their own specific sports.

You can check out Foxtel schedules on the internet and see how much, if any, of the coverage on the two general sport channels coincides with your interests. If rugby league, motorsport, golf, boxing and wrestling excite you, then you will like the look of Foxtel in 2001. My preferences run to AFL, tennis, cricket and the odd bit of horse racing. (Though I admit an embarrassing attraction to American wrestling, when stumbled upon.)

Foxtel's current AFL coverage is pathetic. They produce just one 30 minute program per week based around team selection on Thursday nights. Chaired by the talentless Steve Quartermaine, the panel's only bright light is rising coach Brian Royal.

Next year, Foxtel will become, with free-to-air Channels Nine and Ten, the official AFL broadcaster, showing three games live per week and the rest as replays. But there's more - a dedicated Foxtel channel will show nothing but AFL 24 hours per day all year round. The announcement did not make clear whether subscribers would be forced to pay extra to watch AFL, but my bet is that is exactly the plan. And with that we can expect a big influx of talent and resources.

They'll get my money.

But here's something to keep in mind next time you see the pay tv operators lobbying for a culling of the anti-siphoning list. When pay tv wins the rights to live coverage of an event, they often won't show it live in deference to the needs of free-to-air channels, and that applies even when the free-to-air broadcaster is not providing live coverage. The worst example I've come across is Foxtel's plans for Friday night AFL coverage from 2002. Channel Nine in Sydney and Brisbane will show a delayed replay of Friday night games from 11pm or later - a classic case where pay tv could have filled the gap, as Optus has until this year. But Foxtel will not broadcast the Friday games live because this would reduce the audience for Nine's replay.

Foxtel seems to have the tennis locked up. Since June I've enjoyed the French Open and Wimbledon - and the US Open starts at the end of this month. Live coverage with few advertisements and less bullshit from the commentators make Foxtel's tennis coverage a winner.

There's plenty of boxing on Foxtel - but if you want to watch Mundine or Tzuyu, it's overpriced pay-per-view. The regular coverage provides ammunition to those who would outlaw the sport - not on the grounds of safety, but of taste. The revolting sleaze of Jeff Fenech is omnipresent. The commentators build up c-grade Australian fighters as they pummel a seemingly endless line of desperate Philippinos who you imagine would never be allowed an upset.

It might be argued that American professional wrestling is officially no longer a sport since the promoters admitted the events are 100% staged. But wrestling remains the most popular sport among young US males and it's not hard to see why. As a child I was transfixed by Australia's World Championship Wrestling and its villains Tiger Singh and Killer Kowalski and the obese Haystacks Calhoun. Racing home from playing rugby league for Marist Brothers, I spent every Saturday for years watching grudge matches where the fighters might be tied together by a nine-foot leather strap and locked in a cage until one pleaded for mercy. Foxtel's wrestling coverage comprising Smackdown, Metal and Raw is War might have bigger budgets and more glamour, but it's the same gig.

Then there's Foxtel's Sky Racing channel, which broadcasts all TAB races with a brief betting update prior to each event. That's a big plus for punters who can't or won't spend their Saturday afternoons hanging around the local TAB.

Of course, Foxtel has plenty of non-sport channels - about 30. It's true they broadcast 90% crap, but the remaining 10% still leaves you with a lot more choice than free-to-air offers. The movies are the biggest winner at our place - this Saturday we can watch uninterrupted Hitchcock's Rear Window and Family Plot, followed by Vadim's Barbarella.

Pay tv is a bit like a mobile phone. You can get by without it for years, but once you sign up you're hooked for life.

Peter Moss is a Director of Lodestar Communications.

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Wednesday, September 24, 2008

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'Something is going to snap' - wrestling guru, by Andrew Stevenson - Fairfax - 24th September 2008

The martial arts expert who first taught wrestling techniques to rugby league players has damned his peers for their approach in introducing dangerous throws and grapples and warned the NRL to act immediately because of the high chance of serious injury.

Chris Haseman, who still works with the Broncos and has taught a generation of players, said referees needed to be fully versed in wrestling techniques, and that the NRL judiciary panel should include someone with a wrestling background.

"In order to be able to police an offence, you need to know what the offence is," he warned.

Haseman, who joined the Broncos in 1998, knows a wide variety of holds from martial arts and was sharply critical of the tackle of Sam Thaiday by Cam and Jeremy Smith in Saturday night's loss to the Storm because of the risk of permanent damage.

"I actually thought it was a really dangerous tackle," Haseman said. "I saw it very much as a grappling move, straight out of the grappling book.

"It will end bad. That's inevitable. It's not if - it's when. You're getting numbers in the tackle and you're adding joint manipulation. At the end of the day, something's going to snap."

So bad have things become that Haseman, a mixed martial arts and cage fighter of international repute, said rugby league was giving wrestling a bad name.

"Wrestling is not the enemy. There are some great skills that come from wrestling that are very useable in rugby league," Haseman said, emphasising that he coaches body positioning and balancing to develop effective tackles. "But once you get into jujitsu and martial arts tactics, that's an area of danger. Wrestling is being given a bad name."

Leonid Zaslavsky, a wrestling coach with the Australian Olympic wrestling team in Beijing, backed Haseman's comments. The Smith tackle would never be taught or permitted in wrestling, he said. Rugby league was giving the sport a bad name.

"The biggest problem is he [Smith] is taking him backwards against his own spine, which is a big no-no in wrestling. If it was a wrestling match, it would be stopped. And if he tried again, he would be penalised and even disqualified. It is definitely not a wrestling technique gone wrong. Saying this is wrestling is absolute and utter nonsense," he said.

Haseman, who was brought to the Broncos by Storm coach Craig Bellamy when he was Wayne Bennett's assistant, insists he has no regrets at his pioneering role at the Broncos, saying Bennett had always monitored everything he taught. Haseman also provided Bellamy with the introduction to Storm wrestling guru John Donehue when Bellamy took over in 2003.

"Unfortunately, people saw it [what Haseman did] as a great opportunity to bring the add-ons - neck locks, face cranks, spine cranks and chicken wings or whatever you want to call them," he said.

What makes martial arts techniques particularly dangerous in rugby league is that players are often pinned - as Thaiday was - by another tackler. "In one-on-one wrestling, there's nothing holding you on the ground and you'll probably go with it. The danger in football is that you have one or two other anchor points that secure the direction of the ball carrier. There's no opportunity to tap [surrender] or submit," he said. "And the referees aren't trained in it. In grappling or wrestling, referees are well versed in those skills and have a very good understanding of their application and when to get in there and intervene. With a football referee, that's not the case."

The NRL desperately needed to bring an understanding of wrestling to both referees and the judiciary, Haseman argued. "It's a classic case of you don't know what you don't know," he said.

The time for the NRL to draw a line in the sand on wrestling was years ago, Haseman said. "If the NRL is saying, 'This is how we want to play football', and Melbourne are using that threshold to apply these skills, then good on Melbourne. Craig [Bellamy] is doing everything that he's allowed to get away with," he said.

"But it's not about the Storm, it's about rugby league and making the sure the NRL get the framework of play fairly governed. There have to be some lines in the sand. If there aren't, then I think every team has the right to implement skills and tactics until they're told they can't do it."

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Monday, September 22, 2008

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WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP WRESTLING (Australia), by Ron Miller - News Limited - 22nd February 2008

GOLD COAST, Australia

Still remembered. The legends of wrestlings history making years.

World Championship Wrestling (Australia) was broadcast every Saturday and Sunday lunchtime by the 9 Network through the 60’s and 70’s, with record ratings, over 300 live promotions per year and set attendance records that may never be broken.

Success was guaranteed by the action filled TV show, the continuing parade of unusual characters, superb athletes, the personalities, the best wrestlers representing almost every country in the world including Australia whose epic battles filled the stadiums throughout the land.

Stars such as Harley Race, King Curtis, Killer Kowalski, Mario Milano, Spiros Arion, Brute Bernard, Bulldog Brower, Ox Baker, Playboy Gary Hart, Killer Karl Kox, Roy Heffernan, Andre the Giant, Dory Funk, John Da Silva, Skull Murphy, The Australians Larry O’Day, Ron Miller, George Barnes, Steve Rackman, John Grey and many more. The hero’s the villains who became household names, and are fondly embedded in the memories of most Australians.

The announcers and Referees famous in their own right, Mike Cleary, Ted Whitton, Jack Little, Sam Menacker, Wallaby Bob M’Masters, Ron Hanson, Mike Hunt etc.

World Championship Wrestling Australia was important enough for the National Screen and Sound Archive and the National Library to gratefully accept my donations of wrestling footage and memorabilia material. Scholars such as Dr. Barry York have researched and written about it as part of our history. The National Centre for History Education has published two features on the subject.

These memories of wrestling’s glory days are revived in Ron Millers RUFF TUFF & REAL documentary and classic matches collection DVD set.

Visit www.worldchampionshipwrestling.com.au for more news.

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Friday, September 19, 2008

Donald Trump Enters MMA with New Deal With Affliction

Donald J. Trump Grounds and Pounds the MMA World in New Partnership With Affliction!

NEW YORK, June 3 /PRNewswire/ — Affliction will pull out its Trump card Thursday when the company officially announces its partnership with Donald J. Trump at a press conference to be held in Trump Tower at 12:00PM ET. Trump will take the podium to address the press and outline his involvement with Affliction and their entry into the world of professional mixed-martial-arts (MMA) with their first event named, “Affliction Banned,” slated for July 19th 2008 at the Honda Center in Anaheim, California.

“We are very excited to be partnering with the most recognized and accomplished business mogul in the world, ” said Tom Atencio, vice president of Affliction. “Trump is a true visionary who shares our belief in the future of MMA.”

“I have been a fan of professional sports since childhood, and I am particularly impressed by the athleticism, courage, and strength of these disciplined athletes,” said Donald J. Trump. “This particular sport resembles my business style of being fast paced, strategic, and aggressive … remembering to never give up. I am particularly excited to partner with Affliction and become a major player in promotion of MMA; the youngest and fastest growing sport to emerge in the last century.”

“Affliction Banned” features a star-studded fight card with Fedor “The Last Emperor” Emelianenko (27-1), the former undisputed PRIDE(R) champion and Russian M-1(R) legend, taking on former 2-time UFC(R) heavyweight title-holder Tim “The Maine-iac” Sylvia (24-4), in the main event.

The exciting four-fight undercard is loaded with Josh “The Baby Faced Assassin” Barnett (22-5), of Seattle, facing-off stateside for the first time in two years in a grudge match against the only opponent to ever knock him out, Brazilian strongman Pedro “The Rock” Rizzo (16-7).

Three-time All-America wrestler Mike Whitehead (20-5), of Salt Lake City, will battle Brazilian sensation Renato “Babalu” Sobral (29-7), of Costa Mesa, California. 2000 Olympic wrestling silver medalist Matt “The Law” Lindland (20-5), of Oregon City, faces Brazilian favorite Fabio “Negao” Nascimento (8-3). “Big” Ben Rothwell (29-5), of Kenosha, Wisconsin, is scheduled to fight an opponent to be determined in this groundbreaking event.

“Affliction Banned” will be distributed on Pay-Per-View and air live (9 PM/ET, 6 PM/PT) on cable and satellite viewing in the USA and Canada via iN Demand, TVN, Shaw Communications, Viewer’s Choice Canada, DirecTV, DISH Network, Bell ExpressVue and Star Choice for a suggested retail price of $39.95. The telecast will be available in both standard and high definition television.

Tickets are on sale at the Honda Center box office and through Ticketmaster.com.

To download all video, photos and PR related media go to: http://www.afflictionclothing.com/banned/press1.html Username: press1 Password: press1

Affliction

Already a mainstay for the most elite athletes, heaviest bands, A-listers and the fashion conscious, Affliction Clothing’s ability to set the bar high in fashion is evident in its collection’s indulgence of style and design, focus on quality, and its trademark series of divinely executed, dark and powerful themes. (http://www.afflictionclothing.com)

The Trump Organization

The Trump Organization encompasses global real estate development and global licensing, sales and marketing, property management, golf course development, entertainment, entertainment and product licensing, brand development as well as restaurants and event planning. Donald J. Trump is the Chairman and President of the Trump Organization, a privately held company in New York. (http://www.Trump.com)

SOURCE Affliction

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Saturday, September 13, 2008

New spin on high-stakes poker, by Clinton Van Der Berg - Business Times - 7th September 2008

Cricket and boxing bad boys Warne and Fenech trade knockout blows across the table

You could never mistake Shane Warne for a fighter.

Tanned, blond and handsome, the cricket pin-up says he wouldn’t have the guts to take a punch anyway.

That he would leave to his mate Jeff Fenech, the hell-raising three-time world champion who would, in turn, never be mistaken for a male model. He has a nose only a boxer’s mum could love and the coarse texture of his face is testament to a life spent eating leather.

You wouldn’t expect them to have much in common, but the two share a reputation for being among the bad boys of Australian sport. Controversy could be Warne’s middle name given his shenanigans over the years.

Fenech’s had his share of nonsense too: he’s been stabbed, shot at and is known to handle himself in bar fights. It’s a habit he shares with good mate Mike Tyson.

Now there’s another bond that connects Warne and Fenech: poker.

It’s an ironic choice for Warne given how he likens the card game to cricket. “You’ve gotta be patient, disciplined ... it’s all about position, how much you bet, how you read people.”

As Freudian slips go, it’s a clanger, but there’s no mistaking Warne’s passion for the game. He was in South Africa this week for the Sun City Million Dollar Poker Tournament — and not just for celebrity value.

He contested the World Series in Las Vegas earlier this year, ending 726th out of 7000 starters.

“I did okay,” he says. “After two 14-hour days, I lasted seven hours into day three, so it was 35 hours at the table. I was really happy.”

Fenech, 44, plays a first-rate hand too. Days before his comeback fight against Azumah Nelson earlier this year, he was up until 4.30am, winning a major poker tournament in Melbourne.

“I needed some sleep for the fight, but I kept doubling up, so it went on until I won. I called people the whole day to tell them. It was more exciting than any fight. I knocked out a lot of guys (in the poker). If that hadn’t happened, I would have used my left hook.”

Warne and Fenech are now in that unfamiliar place all sportsmen occupy: the transitional phase between sport and life largely beyond it. Warne, 39, has quit international cricket, but is clearly energised by the Indian Premier League (his team, the Rajasthan Royals, won the inaugural title), various business interests, his charity foundation and poker.

No more “fat boy” headlines for him either: he’s been exercising for months and, at 87kg, is the picture of good health.

Fenech trains fighters in his own gym and is heavily involved in charity work. He’s obviously enjoying poker, which is as far removed from the blood and guts of the ring as possible. It’s a long way from his days as a rabble-rouser.

“I try and ensure I’m an everyday guy,” says the former three-time world champion who fought with the fury and power of a mini-Tyson.

“But in the late ’80s, early ’90s, I didn’t like myself much. I had too much success, things got to my head. I got a bit carried away, but I quickly changed that. Although I’ve done some great things in boxing, I never thought I was better than anyone else.

“The real heroes are the mums and dads who look after handicapped kids. That’s why I help with the Special Olympics.”

Warne reckons he’s been lucky. He’s pleased how he retired from international cricket — “to walk off with Glenn McGrath was a real honour” — and he can pick and choose how to occupy himself. He has multiple business interests, but it’s poker he can’t get enough of.

He talks animatedly of his approach, with much the same enthusiasm he brought to his leg-spin art. “You’ve just gotta hang in there and maximise when you get a good hand,” says Warne, who was once fined for sending an SMS in the middle of a poker game. “It’s no use having the best hand and everyone folds all the time. You’ve got to find a way to make it work. Also, the beauty of poker is that anyone can play — they can be chairmen, CEOs or car salesmen. The mixture is good fun.”

And the pressure? Warne eats it for breakfast. “A lot of people don’t want the ball to come to them in cricket. I was very lucky: I wanted the ball. That’s in my nature. If there was one run to win, one wicket to get, I wanted the ball in my hand. I’m an aggressive cricketer and I’m an aggressive poker player.”

The other appeal is travel. As the captain of 888.com’s world team, he gets to visit new places and is seldom away from home for more than a week, a welcome change from three month-long cricket tours.

Warne loves the revolution cricket finds itself in, saying the popularity of Twenty20 cricket fits perfectly with our “super-fast culture”. He just wishes the ICC would get its head around IPL cricket and embrace it rather than fight it.

For all that, Warne says international cricket, more particularly Test cricket, must have primacy. “If you ask any top player, what they want is to be regarded as a top Test player. It’s the ultimate test of discipline, fitness, skills, technique and stamina.”

Warne loved his time as captain-coach of the Rajasthan Royals. He took a famously relaxed attitude to the role. Armed with a beer or a cold drink, players typically gathered around the hotel pool to discuss how to construct an over, how to work a batsman or how to read a scenario.

Warne sticks to his belief that coaches are overrated at international level. “Don’t need ’em,” he says. “At that level, it’s all about attitude and the way you think. All that happens in international cricket is your attitude changes. It’s nothing to do with technique. You have b ad days, you have good days — that’s sport. Hopefully if you’ve prepared right and have the right attitude, you’re gonna be okay.”

He’s looking forward to the year-end cricket series between Australia and SA. “I think Australia will do well in the one-day stuff, but the Tests will be very interesting, very exciting.”

If cricket seems in robust health, Fenech paints a dreary picture of boxing. “It’s on the way out,” he says. “It’s all about mixed martial arts in the US. Until someone in boxing makes competitive fights from day one, boxing’s gonna go backwards.”

He cites the example of the upcoming “superfight” between Oscar De La Hoya and Manny Pacquiao, the most exciting fighter in the sport.

“Oscar’s best weight was at light-middle and Manny’s best is featherweight, and they say Manny has a great chance to win. Come on! And they’re paying these guys 20-30-million.

“The last big fight was Oscar against Floyd Mayweather — and neither of them had a mark on their face afterwards. The other day, Australian Billy Dib was carrying on like a fool after beating your guy (Zolani Marali). I felt ashamed for the Aussie — he lost every round. He’s an embarrassment to the sport. Decisions like that turn people off the sport.”

He says he would have loved to fight Brian Mitchell. “I respect him, he was a great fighter. .. but none of them wanted to fight Azumah the way I did.”

Pointing to Warne, he says the reason they’re mates is because “we’re both winners.”

“You reckon?” asks Warne.

“You betcha,” laughs the fighter.

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2008 QUIT Targa West Rally News

2008 QUIT Targa West Rally News

Saturday 6 September

Stage 11 - Western Range 1
Car 59 has blown a head gasket and did not start the stage.
Car 28 is stopped on stage after sliding off road.
Car 43 is returning to service.

Competition Modern
Jim Richards (Porsche 911 GT2) has jumped into second, now leading Steven Jones (Nissan Skyline GTR) by 2seconds. However, Kevin Weeks has increased his lead to 22seconds.

Competition Classic
Kim Stewart (Ford Mustang GT350) has completed a fantastic stage jumping into third. Shane Atwell (Porsche 911 RS) and Hans de Corti (Porsche 911 Carrera RS) are fighting for fourth place with only one second separating them.

Challenge Modern
The battle for top spots is on with less than a minute separating the top four cars of Kym Illman (Porsche 997 Turbo), Simon Gunson (Ford F6 Typhoon), Bruce Hawley (Nissan Skyline R34 GTR) and Robert Darrington (Aston Martin Vantage).

Paul Davies (Holden HDT VC Retro) put in a blinder, taking the stage by 2seconds.

Challenge Classic
Colin Marsh won the stage by 15seconds! Andy van Kann (Toyota Levin) has regained the outright lead, taking 5seconds out of Nick Rahimatulla (Alfa Romeo 2000 GTV 105 Series) on the stage.

Stage 10 - Muchae 1
Competition Modern
Kevin Weeks (Lamborghini Superleggera) has increased his lead over the chasing cars of Steven Jones (Nissan Skyline GTR) and Jim Richards (Porsche 911 GT2) at the end of SS10, the first stage of today’s competition.

Competition Classic
Alister McRae is continuing to build on his commanding lead. David Moir (Datsun 240Z) is holding onto second but is facing a renewed fight from Hans de Corti (Porsche 911 Carrera RS) and Laurie Burton (Porsche 928 S).

Challenge Classic
Nick Rahimatulla (Alfa Romeo 2000 GTV 105 Series) and Andy van Kann (Toyota Levin) are tied in first more than two minutes ahead of their nearest rival Martin Eyer (Triumph TR8).

Leg 2 Start
82 Cars have started day two of QUIT Targa West. Today’s event takes crews north to Muchea then through the Chittering Valley to Toodyay.

There’s no stopping Kerry Wade’s co-driver, Alan Stean, he has rejoined the rally co-driving for David Moir as David’s co-driver, Vicki Moir, has taken ill.

Friday 5 September

City of Perth and Kalamunda Shire Excited!
City of Perth and the Shire of Kalamunda have praised the organisers of QUIT Targa West which got underway this morning with a fantastic display in the Murray St Mall.

After further increasing their support of the event in 2008, City of Perth look set to continue their association in 2009, with a council representative saying they can't wait for next year!

The lunch stop in the main street of Kalamunda also received high praise with representatives from the Kalamunda Council voicing their enthusiasm about the event.

One of the major tarmac rallies in Australia, QUIT Targa West is currently running through the Shire of Kalamunda and will continue through the Shires of Chittering and Toodyay over Saturday and Sunday.

City of Perth and the Shire of Kalamunda have praised the organisers of QUIT Targa West which got underway this morning with a fantastic display in the Murray St Mall. After further increasing their support of the event in 2008, City of Perth look set to continue their association in 2009, with a council representative saying they can't wait for next year! The lunch stop in the main street of Kalamunda also received high praise with representatives from the Kalamunda Council voicing their enthusiasm about the event. One of the major tarmac rallies in Australia, QUIT Targa West is currently running through the Shire of Kalamunda and will continue through the Shires of Chittering and Toodyay over Saturday and Sunday.


Weeks takes day one honours...

Kevin Weeks/Rebecca Crunkhorn have taken the Competition Modern honours on day one of QUIT Targa. Weeks, driving a Lamborghini Superleggera, completed the leg in 22:34.0 and holds a seven second lead over his closest rivals, Steven Jones/Rauri Souter-Dawson (Nissan Skyline GTR), who are a further two seconds ahead of Jim Richards/Barry Oliver (Porsche 91 GT2).


Alister McRae, competing in his first QUIT Targa West, has a convincing 1:26.0 lead in the Competition Classic class in his Porsche 911 RS. McRae/Hayes posted an overall time of 23:25 which is only 51.0 seconds behind Kevin Weeks. David Moir/Vicki Moir (Datsun 240Z), Kim Stewart/Frank Zanotti (Ford Mustang GT350) and Hans de Corti/Mark de Corti (Porsche 911 Carrera RS) have a bit of work to do tomorrow if they want to put any pressure on McRae.

A close battle still ensues in the Challenge Modern class between Kym Illman/Antonia Spiers (Porsche 997 Turbo) and Bruce Hawley/Karl Howard (Nissan Skyline R34 GTR) with Illman edging out Hawley by 14.0 seconds at the end of competition today.

Andy van Kann/Brook Martinsen have jumped to a 53.0 second lead in the Challenge Classic class heading into day two of competition. Nick Rahimatulla (Alfa Romeo) had a disappointing last stage, dropping him to second and previous leader Colin Marsh (Ford Escort) missed the final stage of the day. The result for van Kann and Martinsen was one of the standout performances of the day given it was Martinsen’s first attempt at co-driving.

Andy van Kann, who auctioned off the co-drivers seat in his Toyota Levin for Camp Quality, will be joined by a new co-driver Jamie Marquet tomorrow. Both Martinsen and Marquet are involved with Camp Quality through family and personal experiences with cancer.


Results Update SS07 - Canning Mills
Competition Modern
Kevin Weeks has increased his lead over tarmac legend Jim Richards with the gap between his Lamborghini Superleggera and Richard's Porsche 911 GT2 now out to 10seconds. Klark Quinn (Mitsubishi Lancer Evo 9) sits in third position only one second in front of Tony Longhurst (Subaru Impreza WRX), both drivers are facing a close battle with youngster Steven Jones (Nissan Skyline GTR) a further 2seconds behind.

Competition Classic
Alister McRae (Porsche 911 RS) has a handy one minute leave over Burton (Porsche 928 S), Moir (Datsun 240Z) and Stewart (Ford Mustang GT350) who are jostling for seond place with only 5 seconds separating them.

Challenge Modern
Illman (Porsche 997), Hawley (Nissan Skyline) and Gunson (Ford F6 Typhoon) were neck and neck for the first three stages today, but a slow time for Gunson on SS04 has seen him trail behind the other two. At the end of SS07 Illman is holding out Hawley by a slim 5 seconds with Darrington sneaking up on them a further 21seconds behind.

Challenge Classic
Marsh (Ford Escort), Rahimatulla (Alfa Romeo) & van Kann (Toyota Levin) have been swapping positions throughout the day for honours in the Challenge Classic class. At the end of SS07 Marsh is leading the class with Rahimatulla 34seconds behind.


Emergency Crews tested on SS03 & SS06 - Zig Zag
There were two incidents on day one of QUIT Targa West. The incidents occurred on stages 3 & 6, the scenic Zig Zag Rd in Perth's hills, early in the rally. Experienced champion race driver Kerry Wade (Mitsubishi Lancer Evo 9) driving Ross Dunkerton's 2006 QTW winning car, had an incident at speed. Both Kerry and co-driver Alan Stean are reported to be ok owing to stringent safety regulations required by Confederation of Australian Motorsport to be installed in their vehicle.

Well known Perth motoring journalist Bill Buys (Proton Satria GTi) with his son Robert also had an incident on the second running of the same stage. Both Bill and Robert have been taken to hospital for observation. The Clerk of Course, Ross Tapper, will issue an update on their condition as available.

Both cars were attended by medical crews within minutes of the respective incidents. To allow the emergency response teams to do their job safely, competition was halted on both of these stages. Competitors who were unable to record a competition time for these stages will be allocated a derived time by the organisers.

QUIT Targa West uses medical teams who are considered amongst the best trained emergency response teams in the world, specialising in trauma incidents. The Clerk of Course reiterated that the event does not compromise on safety and is extremely pleased with the response times and performances of the emergency medical crews.

SS01 - Barbagallo Raceway
Alister McRae (Porsche 911 RS) posted a great time in the Competition Classic class sitting in equal fourth outright along with Quinn and Jones. He leads the Competition Classic class by 9 seconds, ahead of Shane Atwell (911 RS) and Michael Miller (Holden VH SS Commodore).

After the completion of the opening stage of QUIT Targa West the following competitors are leading the Challenge classes:

Challenge Modern



Kym Illman/Antonia Spiers


Porsche 997 Turbo


2:51.0

Simon Gunson/Murray Armenti


Ford F6 Typhoon


2:57.0

Robert Darrington/David Abetz


Aston Martin Vantage


3:00.0


Challenge Classic




Colin Marsh/Suzanne Marsh


Ford Escort


3:00.0

Andrew Van Kann/Brook Martinsen


Toyota Levin


3:02.0

Nick Rahimtulla/Peter Murray


Alfa Romeo 2000 GTV 105 Series


3:03.0
Ceremonial Start
It has not been the perfect start to the event for Tony Quinn and his co-driver Naomi Tillett with their Porsche 911 GT3 suffering from some electrical gremlins before it had even had the chance to cross the start line. Some quick work seems to have rectified the problem but we'll be keeping an eye out on their progress throughout the morning stages.

Competitors have now headed to Barbagallo Raceway, Western Australia's biggest raceway, which is providing the perfect stage for crews to warm up before heading out for the first road stage of the event.



Thursday 4 September

Prologue completed...
The QUIT Targa West Prologue has been run and won at the Perth Motorplex this afternoon with cars completing two laps around the 3.47km circuit to determine the starting order of the rally which gets underway tomorrow morning.

2007 Class winners, Jim Richards and Barry Oliver will be defending their title in the Competition Modern Category, whilst Hans and Mark de Corti will have some strong competition from Alister McRae and Bill Hays in the Competition Classic Category. The Challenge Classic Category will be a close call with Tony Clarke looking to fend off competition from Andy Van Kann and co-drivers Brook Martinsen and James Marquet.

After the completion of both laps the following competitors are topping the time sheets:

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Bill Buys among injured in Targa West crashes, by Nick Taylor - The Sunday Times - 5th September 2008

Four drivers have been injured in two separate crashes in the Targa West Rally on the outskirts of Perth - the same event which claimed the life of Peter Brock.

Two years ago Australia was shocked by the death of motor racing legend Brock after he crashed near Gidgegannup in the rally.

The first crash today happened about 12.30pm when a car driven by West Australian Kerry Wade with co-driver Alan Stean from Queensland went off the zig zag scenic drive in Kalamunda.

Both men got out of the car and were examined by a doctor and a paramedic at the scene.

About an hour later the father-son team of WA motoring writer Bill Buys, 65, and Robert Buys crashed on the same stretch of the zig zag route.

A doctor and paramedic were soon on the scene and Bill Buys was treated in the car before being removed.

They were both taken to Royal Perth Hospital.

Their injuries are not known but a rally spokeswoman said they were not believed to be serious and both men were in a stable condition.

Weeks puts Lamborghini in front

Kevin Weeks, driving a Lamborghini Superleggera, led the premier Competition Modern class of the rally at the close of day one today.

Weeks ended the day seven seconds ahead of Steven Jones (Nissan Skyline GTR), and a further two seconds ahead of Jim Richards (Porsche 911 GT2)

It is Weeks' third drive in the event, with mechanical failure and bad luck cruelling his bids for an outright win in past years.

“We’re rapt to be up the front,” Weeks said of his time today with co-driver Rebecca Crunkhorn.

“We made a few errors today and I’m bit disappointed with some of the stages, but it’s a good thing to be in the lead, definitely better than being behind.”

In the Competition Classic class, international rally star Alister McRae (Porsche 911 RS), who is competing in his first QUIT Targa West, holds a commanding lead of more than one minute.

David Moir (Datsun 240Z) sits in second, ahead of David Bartlett (Ford Escort) in third.

“It’s gone very well, we’re (McRae and Bill Hayes) obviously pushing reasonably hard but at the same time we’re not taking risks,” McRae said.

“The car’s going well, the tyres are working well and to be so far in front is fantastic. There are still two days to go, so long way yet but we’re happy with where we are!”

Kym Illman (Porsche 997 Turbo) leads the Challenge Modern class ahead of Bruce Hawle (Skyline R34 GTR) and Rob Darrington (Aston Marton Vantage).

In one of the stand-out performances of the day, Andy Van Kann and co-driver Brook Martinsenwill take a 53 second lead into the Challenge Classic class tomorrow.

Van Kann, who auctioned off the ride in the co-drivers seat of his Toyota Levin for Camp Quality, will be joined by a new co-driver, Jamie Marquet, tomorrow.

Both Martinsen and Marquet are involved with Camp Quality through family and personal experiences with cancer.

An excited Van Kann joked at the end of the day that it was his plan all along to head the field with a novice co-driver.

“Brook is a champion co-driver, it’s his first time but it’s as though he was born to do it, he’s a natural,” he said.

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Couture Returns to Defend Heavyweight Crown against Lesnar on Nov. 15, by Thomas Gerbasi - 2nd September 2008

If we’ve learned one thing in combat sports, it’s to never say old adage was solidified once again today, as UFC President Dana White announced the November 15th return to the Octagon of heavyweight champion Randy Couture to face Brock Lesnar in the main event of UFC 91 at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas.

The announcement comes after nearly a year of contentious relations between the organization and Couture, who walked away from the UFC in October of 2007 with two fights remaining on his contract. But in August, the heavyweight champion and the organization worked on a renegotiation of his contract that will enable ‘The Natural’ to finish his Hall of Fame career with the UFC.

“We had some problems with Randy, we’ve resolved them all, and he’s always been the heavyweight champion of the UFC,” said White. “It took us some time to get everything straight, but I think we’re all good now and ready to move forward and get Randy back out there fighting again.”

”I think we cleared the air and addressed a lot of the issues, we’re both in a different place, and both the company and myself are trying to move forward,” said Couture. “I think we understand each other, and I certainly would much rather fight in the Octagon than anywhere else. Spending the last year in legal fights is not someplace where I’ve had a very good time. At 45, I can’t sit around in court rooms for very long – I want to fight.”

Couture’s first order of business – taking on the imposing 6-3 ½, 265 pound Lesnar, a former NCAA Division I National Wrestling Champion whose arrival in the UFC earlier this year shook the foundations of the MMA world. Add in the former pro wrestling superstar’s spectacular victory over Heath Herring at UFC 87 in August, and the stage is set for what will most certainly be one of the most highly-anticipated heavyweight title fights in history.

“I haven’t looked at tape yet and studied him,” said Couture of Lesnar. “Obviously, he’s a great big guy, and on the ground or standing, he poses some interesting problems, so I’ve got to go to work and find the answers to those questions.”

“My whole goal coming into this company was to get a shot at the UFC heavyweight title, so for me, this is a great opportunity, one that anybody in my position wouldn’t turn down,” added Lesnar. “Randy poses all kinds of threats, and we’re gonna try to nullify them and try to win the title that night.”

You don’t have to convince White when it comes to the importance of this matchup.

“I can tell you this right now,” said White. “Couture vs Lesnar will be the biggest fight in UFC history.”

And though some might question whether Couture
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- 45 years old and more than a year removed from his last fight – will be able to keep up with a younger, faster, and stronger challenger, keep in mind that the Las Vegas resident has made a career of baffling oddsmakers, most recently in March of 2007, when he returned from a year-long retirement to shutout 6 foot 8, 263 pound Tim Sylvia to win the UFC heavyweight crown a record third time.

Couture went on to successfully defend the title with a third round TKO of Gabriel Gonzaga in August of 2007, but two months later, the title was left in limbo, leaving Brazil’s Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira to swoop in and take the interim belt by submitting Sylvia in February. Nogueira is scheduled to clash with his fellow Ultimate Fighter 8 coach (and former heavyweight champion) Frank Mir in December, with the winners of these two heavyweight megafights to meet sometime in 2009.

“The winner of the Brock-Randy fight will be the heavyweight champion of the UFC,” said White. “Obviously, the reality show is already in motion, and those two (Nogueira and Mir) are already scheduled to fight, so they’ll fight for the interim (title) and then it will be Champion vs Champion when this thing’s all done. So it’s a pretty interesting little tournament.”

Of course, Lesnar will have something to say about putting a dent in Couture’s fighting plans, and he’ll get his chance to say it on November 15th.

“Things happen in mysterious ways, and I’m fortunate and honored to get in the Octagon with Randy, so it’s very exciting all the way around,” said Lesnar.

As for Couture, it’s been a long, strange trip to get to this point, but suffice to say, he’s happy to put acting, book tours, and speaking engagements on the side for now in order to get back to where he belongs – the Octagon.

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British tabloids catch Warne in action - The Age - 8th May 2006

Shane Warne doesn't waste time. Less than a month into Warne's English county cricket season another sex story has appeared in the British tabloids.

Pictures in Sunday's edition of the tabloid News of the World show Warne and two 25-year-old models involved in sexual positions with a blow up toy, allegedly taken on Thursday night.

The alleged sexual episode occured in west London during Warne's Hampshire game against Middlesex when he claimed 7-99.

One of the models, Coralie Eiccholtz, has known Warne for a few years but said things only started heating up after she learnt that the cricketer had separated from wife Simone.

"I've known him for years but nothing happened before because I knew he was married," said the New-Zealand born Eiccholtz.

"But since his split he's been texting like mad. He even sent me one during a match."

The other model Emma Kearney praised Warne's performance.

"Shane's a stallion and very willing to experiment. He loved playing around with the inflatable and was up for anything," she said.

After the 10-wicket win over Middlesex, Warne claimed he was suffering.

He said in an interview: "If I'm honest, I'm tired out."

Warne's management did not immediately return calls today.

Warne has a history littered with sexual and mobile phone indiscretions, most of them occurring either on tour or in the UK during a county cricket stint.

A series of tales were published in various tabloids prior to and during the Ashes series last year, leading to the end of his marriage to Simone.

The champion legspinner was dumped by sponsor the Nine Network during the Ashes for his off-field behaviour.

There is speculation the Nine Network are in negotiation to re-sign the Victorian, but that was before his latest scandal made headlines.

One of his current sponsors, Messages On Hold, reaffirmed their commitment to Warne today.

"Obviously what Shane does in his private life as a single man is up to him. Certainly his conduct at staff and client functions has been nothing short of exemplary," said managing director Kym Illman.

"Whilst we are acutely aware that some people will react negatively to this latest news report, we are focused on his undeniable cricketing brilliance and the powerful impact he has on the vast majority of our clients."

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Setanta Sports News rebrands to take on its Sky rival - Guardian News and Media Limited - 4th September 2008

As the Virgin Media and Setanta joint venture channel nears its first birthday, it has toned down its previous "busy" look

Setanta Sports News has unveiled an on-screen revamp as it approaches its first birthday in a bid to create a simpler look and provide greater contrast with its rival, Sky Sports News.

The channel, which launched in November last year, has seen its audience grow steadily, hitting a record reach of 784,000 viewers on Monday.

This week's on-screen revamp has seen its branding brought more into line with Setanta Sports 1 as well as the toning down of its previous "busy" look with the ditching of one of the two news tickers at the bottom of the screen.

Setanta Sports News editor-in-chief Geoff Hill said he expected the channel's ratings to continue to grow as it geared up for its busiest season ever after Setanta Sports became the FA's broadcast partner, picking up rights to England internationals and FA Cup games in addition to its existing live Premier League coverage.

A spike in viewers is expected tomorrow when England's World Cup qualifying campaign kicks-off, with live coverage of the game on Setanta Sports.

Hill said:

We are a television medium and if we have rights it makes our coverage better. The World Cup qualifying matches on Saturday will be the biggest story in town.

The sports news channel, a joint venture between Virgin Media and Setanta, with its output produced by ITN under a three-year contract, was created after Sky Sports News was withdrawn from the Virgin Media cable TV network following the row with BSkyB over carriage fees.

Setanta Sports News now has a staff of more than 60 based at ITN's central London headquarters, although it is still about a third of the size of Sky Sports News' team.

Sky Sports News, which has been on air for a decade and continues to be the channel of choice for other news organisations, had an average daily reach of 1.6 million viewers for the week ending Sunday August 24. In the same week Setanta Sports News had an average reach of 317,000 viewers.

Hill said he didn't expect Setanta Sports News to overtake its rival but instead wanted it to be a contrast and praised the fact that the total audience for sports news was growing.

He added:

I don't know if overtaking Sky is possible. What we need to do is compete with them and offer viewers more. We try and offer something different. We have 12 appointment to view shows in our schedule.

We are also a bit less formal than Sky Sports News. We try not to be too serious in terms of interacting with our viewers. Sport is very important but it can be fun too.

There are three million people out there who want to watch sports news and there is evidence there is a growing number of people watching both channels.

With Setanta Sports News having a monopoly on viewers on the Virgin Media cable network, Hill said the battle with Sky Sports News was now on its rival's home ground - Sky's own digital satellite TV service.

He added:

Every increase in viewing we get will come from the digital satelitte platform. That is the battleground. Sky Sports News will be a hard habit for people to give up but we have something different for them.

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