NSW govt hits schools for budget pitch

The NSW government’s $4.

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2 billion budget promise to help deal with the unprecedented surge in student enrolments is just the beginning, Education Minister Rob Stokes has declared.

The minister hinted there was more to come as he joined Premier Gladys Berejiklian and Treasurer Dominic Perrottet to put the sell on Tuesday’s budget.

“This is just the beginning,” Mr Stokes told reporters at Sydney’s inner west Croydon Public School on Wednesday.

“Obviously we’ve got a huge challenge ahead of us, but this money shows a real commitment and a real plan towards delivering the extra capacity that we’re going to need to support families and students across NSW.”

The government’s $1.6 billion boost to education infrastructure spending was a centrepiece of Mr Perrottet’s debut budget.

The treasurer devoted a whopping $72.7 billion for state infrastructure over the next four years, after a $4.5 billion surplus was forecast for this financial year.

A significant chunk will go towards the government’s roads and rail projects – including $3.2 billion alone for WestConnex – while $7.7 billion will be spent on hospitals.

While the government described its budget as “the envy of the Western world”, it was criticised for not doing more to address the rising cost of living.

The treasurer on Wednesday defended his handling of the spoils.

“There are a range of measures in the budget in relation to cost of living,” he said.

“Our energy rebates, (which is) $1 billion dollars over four years or our CTP reforms, which will reduce the cost of running a vehicle.”

The government’s $100 sport rebate for parents with school-aged children would also make a real difference.

“We’ll be doing consultation with certain community groups over the next few months because we want to make sure that we have as many sports available for kids to participate in,” he said.

With the state’s books expected to remain comfortably in the black over the next four years, Premier Berejiklian meanwhile urged residents to “watch this space”.

“As you know, major projects don’t just come out of thin air … we’re doing all the homework now,” she said.

Rio director steps down after UK charges

Rio Tinto director John Varley has stepped down from the mining giant’s board after being charged in a high-profile UK corruption investigation.

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Mr Varley, a former chief executive of Barclays, is among the four of the bank’s former senior executives charged by the UK’s Serious Fraud Office with conspiracy to commit fraud by false representation and unlawful financial assistance.

The charges follow an investigation into undisclosed payments to Qatari investors during an emergency fund raising by Barclays in 2008, when Mr Varley headed the bank.

Rio said in a statement on Wednesday that Mr Varley had resigned with immediate effect, but did not mention the charges.

“The board holds him in the highest regard and will miss his valuable insight,” chairman Jan du Plessis said.

“Personally, I am not only losing a senior independent director, but a close colleague, whose wisdom and support I am going to miss tremendously.”

Mr Varley joined Rio’s board as an independent director in September 2011, and was the chair of the board’s remuneration committee.

He was also tasked with leading the process to select a new chairman for Rio Tinto after Mr du Plessis announced in May he will retire before the 2018 annual general meeting, and take up a role as chairman of UK telco giant BT Group.

Rio said an announcement about the appointment of a new independent director and chair of the board’s remuneration committee will be made in due course.

Rio shares were down $1.49, or 2.5 per cent, at $58.23 at 1205 AEST, in a significantly weaker market.

SKorea says crashed NKorean drone had pics

South Korea’s military says a North Korean drone found earlier this month on a mountain near the Demilitarised Zone border is a “grave provocation” that violates the Korean War truce.

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The drone crashed while returning to the North and was found equipped with a camera and aerial photographs of a US anti-missile defence system site in a southern region of South Korea, South Korean officials told a briefing on Wednesday.

The origin and flight path of the drone were confirmed in an analysis of the onboard computer and camera, South Korea’s defence ministry and military officials told the briefing.

“The intrusion of our airspace by the North Korean drone and photographing of a military base is a violation of the Armistice and an agreement on non-aggression and is an act of grave provocation,” Jeon Dong-jin, an official of the Joint Chiefs of Staff office said.

“We strongly condemn the North’s continued attempts at penetrating the South with drones and once again, demand all acts of provocation are halted,” he said during the briefing.

“If North Korea continues to engage in acts of provocation against the South, our military will forcefully retaliate and we warn all responsibility for events occurring going forth is with the North.”

The drone had been launched in the Kumgang-gun area in Kangwon Province on May 2, the defence ministry’s spokesman Moon Sang-gyun told the briefing.

“The aircraft proceeded to fly for a total of five hours and thirty minutes and its assessed flight path matched the evidence seen in the photographs taken by it,” said Moon.

Moon added the drone had been found with roughly 550 photographs and the military assessed it aimed to collect information on South Korean military bases and the anti-missile Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) system located in Seongju, South Korea, 217km south of Seoul.

The drone had turned around in Seongju after taking photographs, Moon said, and later crashed in Inje-gun in the South’s Gangwon Province where it was found by South Korean military on June 9.

The US THAAD anti-defence system has been deployed in South Korea to counter a growing missile threat from North Korea. North Korean drones are known to have flown over South Korea several times.

No need for Origin III changes: Maloney

NSW don’t need to overreact to their spectacular State of Origin II collapse and make wholesale changes for game three, according to five-eighth James Maloney.

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Bookmakers have already installed the Blues as heavy underdogs for the Suncorp Stadium decider as Queensland attempt to farewell champion Johnathan Thurston a winner.

The Blues have lost the past six Origin deciders dating back to the beginning of the Maroons reign in 2006 – Thurston’s second series in the interstate arena.

Maloney urged coach Laurie Daley and adviser Peter Sterling to keep faith in the 17 players that dominated for most of this year’s campaign.

“I’m sure they will (keep the team). There’s no reason to change it. I don’t know that there’s reason to. It’s stuff we need to fix up,” Maloney said.

The Cronulla playmaker said the Blues would rely on their shellacking of Queensland in game one to give them the belief to spoil Thurston’s party.

He insists NSW have been the better team so far this series.

“We need to do what we did in game one and what we did for the first half in this game. I suppose when you look at it, we played well and beat them well game one,” he said.

“We threw a game away tonight that we should’ve won. We’ll go up there confident in doing the job, but she’ll still be a big ask.”

Maloney was at a loss to explain his team’s second-half fade-out at ANZ Stadium, and rued missing a strong opportunity to close out the series.

Up 16-6 at halftime, an ill-disciplined Blues invited Queensland back into the contest with 20 of their 27 missed tackles as well as costly errors and penalties.

Centre Jarryd Hayne was the chief culprit with three turnovers and two penalties, however the Blues still had a four-point lead with four minutes remaining.

“It’s a game we had to win. We should never have lost it from there. It was a disappointing last 15 or so minutes,” Maloney said.

“The first 40 we played worked, and we just seemed to do the same again. But along the way we made some decisions that weren’t what they should’ve been.

“We gave the opportunity after opportunity, and eventually they took it.”

Cordner fights tears after Origin II loss

NSW captain Boyd Cordner had to fight back tears as he struggled to comprehend how his Blues threw away a State of Origin series win on Wednesday night.

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Up 1-0 in the series, the Blues led by four points with four minutes remaining when Queensland centre Dane Gagai scored to give Johnathan Thurston a chance to nail his game-winning conversion.

A shattered Cordner admitted his men were guilty of ill-discipline in the second half.

“We worked really hard in the first half to put ourselves in a position to be up by ten points, I thought we came out in the second half really good and I thought we applied some pressure again,” Cordner said.

But what the Blues couldn’t do was continue to apply that pressure as they failed to complete several sets properly, giving up a number of seven-tackle opportunities.

“I just felt like we gave Queensland too much cheap ball. There was a stage in the second half where we weren’t finishing the sets the way we wanted to,” he said.

“It felt like we were getting on top, then gave away a cheap penalty for them out of yardage.

“If you do that in Origin, especially against Queensland, give them too much quality ball, they’ll make you pay like they did tonight.

“There was some positive signs there for us but it’s just so disappointing. To work so hard, and then to come down to that and get beat like that, it hurts.”

Cordner urged his teammates to use the defeat as motivation, and take solace from their game one effort in Brisbane ahead of what looms as a tough task in game three.

Queensland will now enjoy the advantage of hosting the final Origin game for Johnathan Thurston, and possibly Billy Slater and Cooper Cronk.

The latter pair have yet to decide whether they will continue playing NRL next year.

“It’s hard, but that’s the beauty of winning game one, we put ourselves in a position now to take it to game three,” Cordner said.

“Especially game one and how we performed up there, we know we can do it again. Stay tight, let it burn, let it hurt, get back together and we’ll be ready to go again.”

Murray-slayer Thompson wants more scalps

NSW’s State of Origin loss to Queensland may have darkened Jordan Thompson’s mood, but the man who beat Andy Murray hopes he can produce a better showing than the Blues on Thursday

The self-confessed Wests Tigers tragic, whose bedroom wall as a child was adorned with pictures of Brett Hodgson and Benji Marshall has seen his world turned upside after a ‘pretty crazy’ 24 hours.

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Beaten in qualifying by veteran Frenchman Jeremy Chardy on Sunday, Thompson hung around the west London club hoping he may get a lucky loser spot and then struck gold at Tuesday lunchtime.

Five hours later the unassuming 23-year-old from Cherrybrook, on Sydney’s north shore, found himself in demand by the world’s media after inflicting a shock win over world No.1 Andy Murray.

It was the first time in 13 matches Murray, who claimed his fifth Queen’s title and second Wimbledon crown last year, had lost on grass and also the first time he had even been beaten by an Australian player.

The world No.90 also became the first player since Roger Federer in 2015 to not have his serve broken by the game’s best returner.

Not being blessed with a huge serve, Thompson relies on a solid all round game to make life difficult for opponents as he has shown in the past in the Davis Cup, where he boasts an unbeaten singles record.

However, he acknowledged that he needs to back up on the best win of his career against giant American Sam Querrey, the 2010 winner of this tournament, on Thursday.

“That’s the difference between the top players and guys that are battling to reach the top-10, the ability to win consistently.” Thompson told AAP.

“I’ve had to turn off the notifications on my phone because of all the positive messages from back home as I need to stay focused … and prove that beating Andy wasn’t just a one-off.

“I haven’t got the bigger body frame like a (Thanasi) Kokkinakis. He has a big game. I don’t have that. I’ve just got to play to my game.”

After a battery of media interviews following his win over Murray, Thompson spent Wednesday morning watching NSW squander a 16-6 lead allowing Queensland to level the State of Origin series in Sydney.

“I don’t know how we lost that, I watched it on my phone,” he said.

“It’s too hard to even talk about. I love my footy and the Tigers – Brett Hodgson was my hero as a kid.

“It would have been an amazing 24 hours had we (NSW) won the game but if I can win tomorrow (Thursday) it will make up for it.”.

Crows coach backs Sloane to find AFL form

Star Adelaide midfielder Rory Sloane is being backed by his coach to shrug off Hawthorn’s taggers in Thursday night’s AFL match.

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Sloane started the season in stunning form, bolting into Brownlow medal favouritism.

But rival clubs have applied hard tags to the damaging onballer, limiting the star Crow in the past five games.

Sloane can expect similar tactics from Hawthorn when the 17th-placed Hawks meet the ladder-leaders at Adelaide Oval.

“He’s handling it well. He’s a professional and he’s a great player,” Adelaide coach Don Pyke said of his vice-captain.

“There’s some options for Rory there but I think that he will work his way though it – and I will back him in to do that.”

Hawthorn coach Alastair Clarkson said he would be asking for a team approach to shutting down the Adelaide playmaker.

“We quite often take the approach that it’s about team defence and your whole team being able to look after players like that,” Clarkson said.

“That will probably be the approach again but needless to say he’s a pretty special player for them.

“Particularly in the 18 months since Paddy (Dangerfield) has gone to Geelong, Rory has really stepped up with both a leadership role as well as an on-field role in terms of his importance.

“We need to be mindful he doesn’t have a big influence on the game but we’re hoping we won’t have to use just one bloke to nullify for the whole game.”

The Crows (nine wins, three losses) enter the fixture as hot favourites to down the struggling Hawks.

But Pyke was expecting the unexpected from Clarkson after both teams reset during last weekend’s bye.

“We may expect they do something slightly different coming off their first 12 games review, and we have obviously got to prepare for that,” Pyke said, citing the threats posted by Luke Hodge, Grant Birchall and Luke Breust.

“They are very capable. The comp is so even, they are 4-8 and sitting in 17th but they are really two games out of the eight.”

Dumbest half of football NSW played: Joey

NSW legend Andrew Johns has blasted the Blues’ for failing to target an injured Johnathan Thurston in their State of Origin II loss to Queensland on Wednesday night.

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In an extraordinary post-match tirade Johns labelled their second half performance as one of the dumbest halves of football in Origin history.

Johns pointed out how NSW strayed away from a first half assault on Thurston – led by second-rower Tyson Frizell – that set up a 16-6 halftime lead at ANZ Stadium.

The Maroons halfback missed a game-high four of his 13 tackles for the match.

“They had all the running, their gameplan was perfect,” Johns said on the Nine Network post game.

“You got a player out there that can not pick his arm up off the ground and they didn’t target him, his side of the field, or go at the defenders either side.

“If he’s buggered, the defenders either side are so nervous, then you manipulate the holes inside and outside him. But they didn’t go there once, I didn’t know what they were doing.”

Johns, who was part of five series triumphs, was stunned to see the Blues welcome the Maroons back into the game in the second period and reverted to robotic plays.

He accused the Blues of putting the cue in the rack.

“They stopped playing, then they went back to this out-the-back block plays and were no threat. We’ve got JT here who’s shoulder was absolutely buggered,” he said.

“How they didn’t identify that, was rubbish. You can see him there, he can not pick his right shoulder up. That’s the game plan. You just go at him the whole game.”

Johns is adamant Thurston is so injured that he will undergo surgery in the next few days.

“I think he’ll be going in for an operation this week,” he said.

“The way he was holding that shoulder, there’s no way he can continue, which speaks volumes for Thurston and the way he played on.”