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Richie Porte climbs higher on Tour de France general classification as Miguel Angel Lopez wins epic mountain stage


Australia’s Richie Porte gritted his teeth and delivered a brave performance to finish fifth on the most difficult stage yet of this year’s Tour de France which finished at the summit of Col de la Loze.

The fifth placing on the stage moved Porte up from sixth overall to fourth in the general classification as Colombia’s Miguel Angel Lopez took advantage of the high altitudes so familiar to him in his native country and sprinted clear in the final kilometres to take the stage victory.

The win moved him into third position overall behind yellow jersey wearer Primoz Roglic, who was second on the stage ahead of his nearest rival and fellow Slovenian Tadej Pogacar.

“I feel emotional because of the work done at home with my family, my wife, my son, I dedicate this victory to them,” Lopez said.

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Lopez moved to within 1:26 of Roglic, who extended his lead over Pogacar to 57 seconds after the two engaged in an epic duel to the finish line, in which Roglic seemed to break his younger countryman’s spirit.

The pair, along with Porte and Roglic’s Jumbo-Visma teammate Sepp Kuss, had already engaged in a tough battle that started during the final ascent, which included gradients of 24 per cent on the final 21 kilometre climb.

“It was again a good day for us,” Roglic said.

“Of course, I always want to win but I gained some time and I saw that others had problems. I knew I could gain time today and that’s what we did.”

Painful climb to the finish

With four kilometres to go Kuss took off when the man who had led for much of the day — Ecuador’s Richard Carapaz — came back to the small chasing pack, but he was followed by Lopez who had far more speed.

Commentators speculated at the time that it was a poor move for Kuss to leave his teammate and yellow jersey wearer but Roglic confirmed it was all part of a plan.

“Also, the others tried to chase him back and it helped me realise many guys around me were struggling.”

Australia's Richie Porte wearing white rides up a French peak, mouth open as another cyclist smiles from behind.
Richie Porte pushes through the pain as he battles Sepp Kuss to the finish line on stage 17 of the 2020 Tour de France.(Reuters: Stephane Mahe)

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Porte did well just to hang on for as long as he did, having been dropped a few metres off the back of Roglic and Pogacar as they sought to jostle for second, but on multiple occasions the Australian managed to get back on their tail.

However with two kilometres to go the Slovenians showed their class and finally dropped the dogged Australian, who eventually crossed the line with American Kuss.

Porte finished the stage in fourth overall on the general classification 3’05” behind Roglic and 1’39” behind third-placed Lopez

Fans ignore COVID-19 protocols

Masked Tour de France fans converge as leading riders make a large climb.
Tour de France fans crowd around Tadej Pogacar as he makes the final climb to the stage 17 finish.(Supplied: SBS Television)

Present for the stage was French President Emmanuel Macron, but he was far from the only one and it would be hard to imagine that Tour organisers were happy with scenes that were beamed across the world as the leaders made the final climb.

This year’s Tour set against the backdrop of the global coronavirus pandemic has seen riders frequently tested and the usual crowds sparse, but that was not the case as large numbers of cycling fans closed in on the road and leaders during the final climb.

After the stage Mr Macron told reporters: “It’s extremely important to show that we can live with the virus.”

ABC/Reuters



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Sunshine Coast Lightning beat Giants 67-65 in Super Netball epic, Thunderbirds defeat Magpies



A fourth consecutive Super Netball final series beckons for Sunshine Coast Lightning after clutch shooting from Steph Wood clinched a thrilling 67-65 victory over the Giants.

Wood kept her cool in the dying seconds to nail a match-winning super shot at USC Stadium on the Sunshine Coast to secure the Lightning’s seventh win of the season and hurt the Giants’ top-four ambitions in the process.

The Lightning stay in third position on the ladder following the win, equal with the second-placed NSW Swifts on 28 points and six points behind Melbourne Vixens.

In Sunday’s second match, Adelaide Thunderbirds made a successful return to their home state with a solid 61-49 victory over Collingwood Magpies that maintained their Super Netball finals hopes.

Coming off a 20-goal loss to the Vixens, victory was crucial for the Giants’ semi-final hopes after falling two wins behind the fourth-placed West Coast Fever.

But after struggling to produce her best consistently through the season, Wood stepped up when it mattered most to break Giants hearts at the death.

“We knew it was not going to be an easy game,” Lightning goalkeeper Phumza Maweni said.

“We just needed to step up and make sure we kept the ball in hand and keep the game flowing, we were very hungry for this win.”

The loss, and the Thunderbirds’ victory, means the Giants are in sixth place on the ladder.

The round-five meeting between the Lightning and the Giants was shrouded in controversy after the send-off of Kristiana Manu’a reduced the Giants to just six players for the final nine minutes, with the Lightning storming home to win by one goal.

The rematch remained incident-free but there was no lack of drama as the gritty Giants stayed in the contest with timely long-range shooting.

Jo Harten levelled the scores with 15 seconds to play with her side’s 12th super shot of the match.

Scores were level at 18-all after a tight opening quarter and while the Lightning dominated the time in possession in the second period, they were unable to cash in on the scoreboard.

Super shots from Harten and Kiera Austin cut the Lightning’s half-time advantage to one goal, 32-31.

The third quarter played out in a similar fashion to the second, with the Giants relying on their long-range shooting to reduce a seven-goal deficit to one heading into the final period.

But the big-match experience of championship winners Wood and Karla Pretorius did enough to guide the Lightning home.

Sunshine Coast can seal a semi-final berth on Tuesday night with a win over the Fever at USC Stadium.

The Giants will fight to keep their season alive against the Magpies at the same venue on Wednesday night.

Thunderbirds win in Adelaide

After playing the first nine rounds of the season in Super Netball’s Queensland hub, the Thunderbirds opened a three-match stretch at home in Adelaide with a confidence-building win over the injury-ravaged Magpies.

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The Thunderbirds met some stern resistance from the visitors but finished strongly to snap a four-match losing streak and rise to fifth on the ladder, six points behind the Fever.

The attack pairing of South African Lenize Potgieter (41 goals from 46 attempts) and local product Georgie Horjus (12 goals, four super shots) continued to develop with the duo taking charge in the fourth quarter.

“I love it, she’s the one that keeps me calm in the circle,” Potgieter said about her blossoming partnership with 18-year-old Horjus.

“It’s great to work with her, she’s teaching me a lot of new things and I hope I’m helping her along the way as well.”

After recording just four victories in the first three years of Super Netball, the Thunderbirds outscored the bottom-placed Collingwood 18-8 in the final quarter to break through for their fourth win of this season.

With home matches against Queensland Firebirds and the Giants to come, the opportunity is there for coach Tania Obst’s up-and-coming squad to challenge for a top-four finish.

AAP/ABC



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Port Adelaide’s epic AFL win over Richmond shows why the Power are premiership contenders


To crack the premiership port would be slightly premature but to borrow from Port Adelaide’s club song, the flag is there for the taking.

On Saturday evening, the Power ground down reigning premiers Richmond by 21 points in the season’s most engrossing and revealing contest to date.

The Adelaide Oval clash was a genuine heavyweight bout between two sides destined to play a major role in the finals. Rather than words of motivation, an enswell would have been more appropriate, as the coaches readied their sides for each round of what was an epic battle.

The Power twice skipped out to significant leads and twice the tenacious Tigers reeled them in. The ground was only at 20 per cent capacity, but Adelaide Oval heaved with every significant moment, contentious call, gut-busting run or goal being greeted with vocal and impassioned responses.

That Richmond led by a point at three-quarter time was a true credit to a side grappling with an off-field controversy and missing premiership stars Dion Prestia, Bachar Houli, David Astbury and Shane Edwards, as well as captain Trent Cotchin.

Ultimately, Port Adelaide found another level in the final term with the hard-nosed Ollie Wines — who was outstanding all match — dragging his team to a statement-making victory.

Wines was inspirational in the final term, winning eight contested possessions and driving the ball forward as the Power amassed 19 inside 50s to two.

He finished with 28 disposals, 11 tackles and 10 clearances, while former captain Travis Boak was equally influential with 31 possessions and small forward Robbie Gray shone with his trademark creativity and clinical finishing.

The Power’s more experienced campaigners were superbly complemented by the side’s emerging youth.

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Zak Butters buzzed about ferociously and frequently broke through congestion with confidence belying a second-year player, second-gamer Boyd Woodcock caught the eye and mobile ruckman Peter Ladhams — in just his 10th AFL match — again demonstrated his immense potential.

Port Adelaide, who sit atop of the AFL ladder, possesses a precious commodity with a genuine power forward in Charlie Dixon and a highly dependable but unheralded backline led by captain Tom Jonas. It is hard to find a chink in the Power line-up.

Earlier this year, Port Adelaide chairman David Koch confirmed it was a case of making the finals in 2020 or farewelling coach Ken Hinkley. A year that started with a lack of job security may just end with Hinkley raising the premiership cup and feeling secure.

Giants have their concerns

Greater Western Sydney is doing just enough to maintain a top-eight position but the Giants continue to play beneath themselves.

For a side laden with talented and highly-skilled players, GWS’s lack of decisive ball movement has been an ongoing source of mystery.

In Friday night’s four-point win against Essendon on the Gold Coast, the Giants served up a first half their captain Stephen Coniglio described as “weak” in a powerful changeroom address that helped trigger his side’s revival.

Coniglio has endured a difficult first year as skipper with his own performance plummeting. His half-time address was his finest moment as captain and a clear sign that he is growing into the role.

Still troubling is the Giants forward line, which on paper looks imposing but on grass has too often proven impotent in season 2020.

Jeremy Finlayson, Harry Himmelberg and reigning Coleman medallist Jeremy Cameron are all well short of their best and clearly do not benefit from their teammates’ reluctance to move the ball quickly inside 50.

Things were so desperate against Essendon that star defender Phil Davis even floated forward but unfortunately he sustained a knee injury not long after.

Davis completed the match, displaying the bravery Coniglio had demanded during his rev-up. The Giants also showed more courage by playing with significantly more dare in the second half and they were rewarded as the Bombers squandered a 29-point lead.

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Essendon fans were understandably aggrieved by a questionable free kick given to Callan Ward and a resultant goal that was decisive in a controversial finish.

To my eye, the collision between Ward and Shaun McKernan was a classic example of two players competing fairly for the ball and should have resulted in a call of play on. Whether there was head-high contact is debatable and Ward was certainly guilty of accentuating what contact there was.

In reality, the closest umpire did call play on but was overruled by one of his colleagues in a flawed process that places no importance on the account of a key eyewitness.

Under AFL rules, an umpire can overrule if they are convinced a free kick was missed. But what if the umpire who made the initial decision is equally convinced there was no infringement?

How can the interpretation of the original umpire — the one closest to the incident — be completely dismissed, especially given the gravity of the decision?

Saints on the rise, Cats need to be wary

Speaking of outcomes, I’m fascinated to see who prevails in tonight’s mouth-watering clash between St Kilda and Geelong at the Gabba.

About a decade ago the Saints and Cats boasted two of the AFL’s most powerful line-ups and treated fans to some classic encounters, such as the 2009 grand final.

But while Geelong has maintained a competitive edge and remained a consistent finalist, the Saints have enjoyed a less successful recent history.

A St Kilda AFL player pumps his fist as he celebrates a goal against the Gold Coast Suns.
Will the Saints be celebrating a win against the Cats?(AAP: Dave Hunt)

In 2020, St Kilda has surged back to relevance and joined the Cats among the AFL’s top sides.

With the scalps of Port Adelaide and Richmond among their seven wins this season, the Saints have shown they are a side to be taken seriously, and long-suffering fans are even daring to believe a prized second premiership is possible.

If St Kilda wins tonight, those fans will not be on their own.



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Port Adelaide defeats Richmond by 21 points in AFL epic, Brisbane Lions prevail against Western Bulldogs


Port Adelaide dynamo Robbie Gray booted three goals to help the Power claim a coveted big scalp with a 21-point win over defending premiers Richmond.

The ladder-leading Power prevailed 13.15 (93) to 11.6 (72) in a Saturday twilight epic at Adelaide Oval.

Later on Saturday night, Brownlow Medal favourite Lachie Neale starred again to help Brisbane climb into second spot on the ladder with a comfortable 24-point win over the Western Bulldogs.

The Tigers could drop out of the top four at the end of round 11 as a result of the defeat to the Power.

They were playing 24 hours after the club issued a statement apologising for what it described as the “unacceptable” behaviour of two of their players, Nick Vlastuin and Jayden Short.

Vision had emerged of Vlastuin and Short grabbing at the genitals and backside of teammate Mabior Chol when the Tigers were singing the club song after recent matches.

Chol said he was not offended by the behaviour of his teammates but understood the behaviour was “not the sort of example” the players should be setting.

The 23-year-old kicked two goals against the Power, who trailed the Tigers at three-quarter time.

Gray was a stand-out with 22 disposals for the match, ex-captain Travis Boak gathered a match-high 31 touches and influential Peter Ladhams and Charlie Dixon kicked two goals apiece.

The Power’s blue-collar midfielders Ollie Wines (28 possessions) and Tom Rockliff (20 disposals) were solid and kicked a goal each, while Karl Amon and Zak Butters both collected 19 disposals and both booted a goal.

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Richmond struggled for clear winners, with Short, Kamdyn McIntosh and Vlastuin their major ball winners with 18 disposals each.

Megastar Dustin Martin (17 disposals, one goal) and Shai Bolton (16 possessions) were prominent in patches, while Jack Riewoldt booted three goals and Jake Aarts kicked two.

The Power stunned the Tigers early, booting four goals inside 14 minutes. Ladhams started the spree with a remarkable left-foot checkside from near a point post in the opening minute.

The Tigers then steadied with three consecutive goals to close the gap to seven points at quarter-time.

Both teams booted four goals in an exciting second stanza, which left the home side nine points up at half-time.

The Power rapidly built that lead in the third term with a Dixon snap from a tight angle and a Wines strike creating a 21-point buffer.

But just when the Tigers appeared on the ropes, they hit back with four consecutive goals.

Chol’s goals were followed by teammate Sidney Stack converting to give Richmond a one-point advantage at three-quarter-time.

But the Power then produced a defining burst to open the final quarter with three goals in just over four minutes to hold a 17-point break.

They held Richmond goal-less for the term to close out victory.

Neale, Hipwood star in Lions’ win

The Lions prevailed 14.12 (96) to 11.6 (72) against the Bulldogs in a fast-paced contest at the Gabba.

Charlie Cameron sent a huge scare through the home camp when he jumped for a mark and landed awkwardly during the final term.

The All-Australian forward lay clutching his left knee and hobbled from the field with trainers.

But he was assessed by club medical staff and sent back out on the field with the joint strapped before sitting out the last two minutes.

Prolific midfielder Neale led a dominant Lions midfield with a season-best 36 disposals, 12 clearances and a goal alongside fellow standouts Dayne Zorko (24 possessions) and Jarryd Lyons (26).

A Brisbane Lions AFL players runs for the ball as two Western Bulldogs opponents look on.
Lachie Neale (left) played a crucial role in the Lions’ victory over the Bulldogs.(AAP: Dave Hunt)

Their control of the contest led to a 54-46 inside-50 advantage and helped the Brisbane forwards deliver on their promise to improve their accuracy after kicking themselves out of the match in a loss to Richmond four days earlier.

Eric Hipwood kicked five goals for the winners in his best return of the season, as Callum Ah Chee, Zac Bailer and Hugh McCluggage kicked two apiece.

Jack Macrae led all ball-winners with 40 disposals for the Bulldogs, including 13 in the first term, and Marcus Bontempelli (30) was busy as usual.

But the visitors had few clear-cut winners in a third-straight defeat that left them sitting outside the top-eight.

Key forward Aaron Naughton kicked one goal from six disposals in his return from a syndesmosis injury as the Bulldogs’ talls struggled to fire in attack.

Mitch Wallis kicked three goals for the Dogs, including the first two of the match.

AAP/ABC



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AFL ladder leader Port Adelaide scores epic 21-point victory over Richmond



Port Adelaide dynamo Robbie Gray booted three goals to help the Power claim a coveted big scalp with a 21-point win over defending premiers Richmond.

The ladder-leading Power prevailed 13.15 (93) to 11.6 (72) in a Saturday twilight epic at Adelaide Oval.

The Tigers could drop out of the top four at the end of round 11 as a result of the defeat.

They were playing 24 hours after the club issued a statement apologising for what it described as the “unacceptable” behaviour of two of their players, Nick Vlastuin and Jayden Short.

Vision had emerged of Vlastuin and Short grabbing at the genitals and backside of teammate Mabior Chol when the Tigers were singing the club song after recent matches.

Chol said he was not offended by the behaviour of his teammates but understood the behaviour was “not the sort of example” the players should be setting.

The 23-year-old kicked two goals against the Power, who trailed the Tigers at three-quarter time.

Gray was a stand-out with 22 disposals for the match, ex-captain Travis Boak gathered a match-high 31 touches and influential Peter Ladhams and Charlie Dixon kicked two goals apiece.

The Power’s blue-collar midfielders Ollie Wines (28 possessions) and Tom Rockliff (20 disposals) were solid and kicked a goal each, while Karl Amon and Zak Butters both collected 19 disposals and both booted a goal.

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Richmond struggled for clear winners, with Short, Kamdyn McIntosh and Vlastuin their major ball winners with 18 disposals each.

Megastar Dustin Martin (17 disposals, one goal) and Shai Bolton (16 possessions) were prominent in patches, while Jack Riewoldt booted three goals and Jake Aarts kicked two.

The Power stunned the Tigers early, booting four goals inside 14 minutes. Ladhams started the spree with a remarkable left-foot checkside from near a point post in the opening minute.

The Tigers then steadied with three consecutive goals to close the gap to seven points at quarter-time.

Both teams booted four goals in an exciting second stanza, which left the home side nine points up at half-time.

The Power rapidly built that lead in the third term with a Dixon snap from a tight angle and a Wines strike creating a 21-point buffer.

But just when the Tigers appeared on the ropes, they hit back with four consecutive goals.

Chol’s goals were followed by teammate Sidney Stack converting to give Richmond a one-point advantage at three-quarter-time.

But the Power then produced a defining burst to open the final quarter with three goals in just over four minutes to hold a 17-point break.

They held Richmond goal-less for the term to close out victory.

AAP/ABC



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West Coast’s epic AFL win over Geelong sets the bar high as 2020 season edges towards finals


While we may have only just passed the halfway mark of the AFL’s home-and-away season, West Coast and Geelong gave a glimpse of what finals will resemble in this truncated and turbulent year of football.

In one of the best matches this season, the clash between the Eagles and Cats in Perth on Saturday night was one that highlighted the skilful nature of the two teams, despite a helter-skelter pace and unrelenting pressure.

It was tight, tense and captivating watching these powerful teams slug it out, with the Eagles prevailing by nine points.

The 2018 grand final hero Dom Sheed was a shining light for the Eagles with his accurate left foot and two important goals, Josh Kennedy booted four in another display that belied his veteran status, and Nic Naitanui was the architect of multiple West Coast assaults in a commanding ruck performance.

There was also Tim Kelly, who offered a glaring reminder to his former club of why they were desperate to keep him.

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For Geelong, Mitch Duncan underlined his importance as a calming influence and vital connector with his pin-point ball use, Tom Stewart was also at his damaging best in his second match back from injury, while Geelong 2011 premiership captain Cameron Ling must be impressed with the early signs shown by Brad Close, the second gamer who inherited his famous number 45.

While the Cats became only the second team this season to be overhauled when leading at three-quarter time, their performance — without Gary Ablett and captain Joel Selwood — was thoroughly impressive.

The Eagles have clearly shaken off their malaise in recent weeks to emerge as a premiership threat. But the Cats can’t be discounted either.

Lions are a flag threat

Brisbane’s rise up the table and return to September football was one of the stories of last season.

While the Lions ultimately bowed out with consecutive finals losses, this season they’re building a body of work that suggests a more productive flag tilt is imminent.

Brisbane’s 63-point win over Essendon was its biggest of 2020 and showed a huge gulf exists between the Bombers and the competition’s best sides.

Brisbane Lions AFL players celebrate in a group after a goal was kicked against Essendon.
The Lions are proving they are genuine premiership contenders.(AAP: Albert Perez)

Apart from an impressive round-five win over Collingwood, the Bombers have only beaten those on the bottom rungs of the ladder. Friday night was a chance to legitimise their place as a top-eight team, but they failed dismally.

A long injury list is unquestionably taking a toll and Essendon fans were rightly furious with some mind-boggling umpiring decisions, but the Lions were in a different league.

Speaking of mind boggling, the Bombers’ decision not to tag Brownlow Medal favourite Lachie Neale appeared foolish before the match and equally so in the aftermath.

Neale chalked up a match-high 33 disposals and kicked two goals to claim the three votes in the ABC Footballer of the Year. Dylan Clarke has proven his capabilities as a tagger but, oddly, is yet to be picked by the Bombers this season. On Friday night, it looked a costly omission.

Tigers regain their bite

Like Essendon, Richmond is missing key players through injury, but the Tigers have shown they not only have great depth, but a renewed hunger to defend their 2019 flag.

Wednesday night’s 41-point win over the Western Bulldogs kicked off the AFL’s “Festival of Footy” and the Tigers were in a festive mood as they produced their best performance of the year.

Emerging youngsters Jake Aarts and Noah Balta played key hands, with the latter earning the highest praise when he was likened to a young Alex Rance by his coach Damian Hardwick.

For the first time this season, Dustin Martin looked genuinely interested. Dusty went from coasting to carving in a dominant three-goal, 26-posession performance that should have opposition sides very nervous.

While Martin was back to his vintage best, it was awesome just to see Majak Daw back at all.

A North Melbourne AFL player watches the ball in front of him while surrounded by a teammate and an Adelaide opponent.
Majak Daw (centre) played his first AFL match in 706 days.(AAP: Dave Hunt)

Almost two years after his last senior AFL match, Daw returned for the Kangaroos in their clash with Adelaide and it could scarcely have been a greater celebration.

Daw, who suffered serious hip and pelvic injuries in a fall from Melbourne’s Bolte Bridge in December 2018, was engulfed by congratulatory teammates as he kicked a goal in the final quarter of the Roos’ 63-point triumph.

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It was a win for team and individual. North Melbourne ended a six-match losing streak and, in the process, kicked the highest score (119) of any side this season.

Conversely, it was ghastly for Adelaide and difficult to comprehend given the Crows had 10 players in their side on Saturday who lined up in the 2017 grand final.

Rookie coach Matthew Nicks felt compelled to used drink bottles to demonstrate basic team structures on the floor of the rooms at half-time. The coach has shown his bottle, it’s now for the players to find some too.



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Epic Games confirm ‘Fortnite’ as a PS5 and Xbox Series X launch title


Epic Games confirm Fortnite as a PS5 and Xbox Series X launch title

Fortnite will be available on the PS5 and Xbox Series X when they are launched as Epic Games confirm a next-gen upgrade for the popular battle royale game.

Fortnite is coming to the next-generation consoles PS5 and Xbox Series X. Epic Games made the announcement in an official blog post, revealing that the battle royale game would also be upgraded in the future.

The company also introduced a new developer toolkit called the Unreal Engine 5. This new game engine is designed to help developers create next-generation games.

Fortnite on the PS5 and Xbox Series X

“Today we’re excited to confirm that Fortnite will be headed to next-generation consoles at launch,” Epic says in their blog post. “This is the same Fortnite you know and love, ready to take full advantage of the newest consoles. We’ll be sharing more specific details in the coming months as we get closer to launch.”

The news doesn’t really come as a surprise because the game is one of the most popular titles out there. With around 350 million players, it’s definitely a money-making machine. Furthermore, introducing the game on a more technologically advanced platform would no doubt attract more players.

The effects of Fortnite on next-gen platforms

Performance and power are what Epic is going for in making Fortnite available on next-gen platforms. Because of the technological advancements made on the PS5 and the Xbox Series X, players can expect enhanced performance and stunning new visuals when playing the game.

Epic Games confirm Fortnite as a PS5 and Xbox Series X launch title

A next-gen upgrade? Not quite yet

While Epic Games would be making the game available on the PS5 and Xbox Series X, it won’t be a new version of the game. The game that will launch with the next-gen consoles will still be using the same game engine, the Unreal Engine 4.

Basically, it’s still the same game but on a different platform.

However, Epic is planning to upgrade Fortnite in the future. They will use their new Unreal Engine 5 to upgrade the popular battle royale so that it would be able to use the full capabilities of a next-gen gaming console.

So far, the company hasn’t disclosed any of the technicalities that would come with an upgraded Fortnite. However, Epic did say they would transition to the Unreal Engine 5 sometime in 2021.

Crossplay and Cross Progression Capabilities

Epic promises that they would fully support crossplay for Fortnite across various platforms. They will make it so the game would look and feel good no matter the platform used.

What’s more, is that they would also support cross progression. This means that any progress made by players on Fortnite would carry over to any platform they transition to.

 

Images courtesy of Fortnite (1) and (2)

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ME Bank’s epic PR fail results in policy reversal


Letters to customers outlining the change in policy were dated April 23, account adjustment was made on April 27 and the letters were posted on April 28, after the fact.

It meant the amount of money they could access or redraw had shrunk without warning. In some cases it was tens of thousands of dollars.

Instead of having staff available to answer their queries, customers were left hanging on the phone for hours, only to be told someone would call them back within 48 hours. Few received the follow up call in the promised timeframe.

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Customers turned to the media for assistance after failing to get answers from the bank. From there the crisis began.

Some of the stories were shocking. One customer said she had been using the draw down from her ME home loan to pay staff in a small business she runs until JobKeeper came through. The customer said she had $80,000 in the redraw but the unilateral decision by the bank to change its policy meant she couldn’t access any of it.

How could we recommend ME Bank to our children, both of whom are in the market for a home, when it behaves in such an unethical manner.

ME Bank customer

Another said her daughter was getting married in January and the plan was to use a substantial amount of the redraw to fund the costs of the wedding. “We’re not a risk to ME – we have managed our financial circumstances extremely well all the way through, and are certainly not at risk of defaulting on the loan. This action will damage the bank’s reputation with its loyal customers. How could we recommend ME Bank to our children, both of whom are in the market for a home, when it behaves in such an unethical manner.”

Others had planned to do some urgent repairs to their house. Some had lost their job or had their hours reduced due to the shut downs of large parts of the economy which has seen unemployment soar.

ME CEO Jamie McPhee says "we are deeply sorry" to customers.

ME CEO Jamie McPhee says “we are deeply sorry” to customers.Credit:Chris Pearce

“We worked hard to save this money to build a home for our children,” one customer said. “This has completely ruined our plans. We are both still working, our LVR [loan to value ratio] is 0.01 per cent… In essence we owe only $15,000 on our loan over a $1.2 million asset. If we redrew the whole redraw our LVR would have been 12 per cent. How is this justified?”

ME Bank caused huge grief to customers at the height of a global pandemic. As scientist Monica Genova said, “The timing of this, given the uncertainty of jobs during the pandemic is despicable to say the least.”

The bank’s failure to respond to customers compounded on itself and resulted in the Australian Financial Complaints Authority wading in to say it would look into the matter.

Shareholders equally felt compelled to express their displeasure publicly saying they wanted answers.

On May 5, ME chief executive Jamie McPhee finally posted a “we are sorry” and “we messed up” on ME’s website.

But it wasn’t enough. Customers were out for blood and wanted the policy reversed.

He then ratcheted up the apologies with a “we are deeply sorry”, along with a decision to reverse the policy for any customers who want it. That was on May 8.

“We were trying to do the right thing but we went about it the wrong way,” he said.

And to ensure there weren’t the previous shenanigans with customers not getting through to operators, he said ME had set up a dedicated hotline for any customer who wanted their redraw limits changed back.

The backflip was a win for customers. As one affected customer wrote: “The bank introduced a ‘new process’ today, and funds are being returned to account holders. Mine was returned this afternoon, following a call this morning. Thank you for being a crucial part of the ‘people power’ that forced this change.”

But at the end of the day the damage to ME’s reputation was self-inflicted. If it had handled itself better and gone on the front foot earlier, it would have mitigated the crisis.

The bank’s repeated refusal to answer basic questions, attracted suspicion.

So too were its attempts to explain its actions. They amounted to it being for their customers own good as “the redraw facility of some legacy home loans could lead to some customers falling behind their original repayment schedules.”

These explanations were treated with scepticism as a series of affected customers said they were ahead of their repayments and were not at risk of default. Some had a low loan to value ratio, some had virtually paid off their loan, some had never missed a payment.

The bank used a blunt instrument that appeared to treat all affected customers the same.

It raised questions about the bank’s handling of risk management.

McPhee said in a statement to customers that he wanted to reassure them that at no point did the bank remove funds from customer accounts or transfer any customer funds.”

Senator Andrew Bragg wants more transparency.

Senator Andrew Bragg wants more transparency.Credit:Nine

It is all semantics to customers who wanted to access the money but hit a roadblock.

ME Bank escaped the glare of the financial services royal commission. But its behaviour in the past few days and lack of transparency and refusal to answer questions has raised the interest of Liberal Senator Andrew Bragg, who has raised concerns on the transparency of the superannuation industry with regulators at the past few Senate Estimates / ASIC and parliamentary joint committee hearings.

“Super funds have breached the law, been fined by ASIC but have not notified members. This isn’t good enough,” Senator Bragg said. “Super has traded on opacity for 30 years which we can no longer afford.”

Given ME Bank is owned by 26 industry funds, that interest and quest for transparency is about to be ramped up.

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