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Australian News

WBBL, ODIs show cricket passed its post-coronavirus tests of TV popularity with flying colours


The 10cc song Dreadlock Holiday is often used in cricket promotions with the line “I don’t like cricket, I love it!” apparently reflecting a devotion to the summer game.

Usually ignored is that the tourist in Jamaica, who utters the famous line, does so at knifepoint during a mugging and only feigns a love for cricket and reggae to avoid being robbed, or worse.

Yet it turns out — to the apparent surprise of those who have paid hundreds of millions to broadcast the game — you don’t have to put a blade to the throats of Australians to get them to like cricket. Indeed, they still love it.

Last Saturday night, a peak audience of 429,000 watched Sydney Thunder upset Melbourne Stars in the WBBL final, despite Seven’s decision to show the animated movie Frozen on its primary channel and bump the tournament decider to Seven Mate.

But surely after 86,174 turned up at the MCG for this year’s stupendous T20 World Cup final it was apparent young girls were now as enamoured by hard-hitting batters as they are with cartoon princesses?

The WBBL final was sandwiched between — but not overshadowed — by the first two men’s one-day internationals between Australia and India. Those games drew a peak audience of almost 400,000 on Friday night and 448,000 on Sunday (this made it one of the day’s top 10 most-watched programs despite being shown only on pay-per-view TV).

This exclusivity remains a bugbear for those fans who do not have access to Fox Sports or its little cousin Kayo Sports, and who remain understandably aggrieved by the absence of Steve Smith’s eminence and Glenn Maxwell’s almost comedic batting stylings from their screens.

An Australian male batter points his bat to his right after scoring a century against India in Sydney.
Free-to-air viewers did not get to see Steve Smith’s exploits in the first two men’s ODIs.(AAP: Dean Lewins)

This controversial contractual arrangement brings the possibility that cricket will lose viewers in the long term, as it did in England when the game disappeared from free-to-air screens.

But to put the dilemma in its brightest context for Cricket Australia (CA), the fact potential viewers are complaining that they can’t watch the current ODI series when the 50-over game was supposed to have been usurped by its little brother T20 only emphasises the enduring popularity of international cricket as a whole.

Yet it was only a few weeks ago that it seemed cricket would be broadcast at knifepoint this season with reluctant TV networks attempting to wriggle out of water-tight contracts or demanding considerable discounts.

The obvious assumption was that Seven and Fox Sports were suffering a severe case of buyer’s remorse for their combined six-year $1.182 billion deal and were using the cover of COVID-19 to abandon the game.

Seven’s chief executive James Warburton, particularly, used the blunt instrument of inflammatory and even insulting statements toward CA in order to argue Seven could not have been handed worse content if Australia played a nine-Test series against Angola.

At the same time, the inevitable delay in releasing the summer schedule was weaponised against CA and unflattering comparisons made with the AFL and NRL, which had swiftly agreed to modified rights deals that would ensure revenue flow as they cobbled shortened seasons together.

Never mind that anyone who has so much as tried to read an ICC schedule could tell you putting together a pandemic-era cricket fixture would involve more moving pieces than a Meccano set, and certainly more complexities than any domestic football competition.

And that was without considering the delicate negotiations required to put India’s cricketing princes in quarantine and working out where they could be transported and accommodated and when.

But despite the gloom and doom created by broadcasters who might normally do cartwheels to promote the game, cricket has passed its initial post-COVID tests of televisual popularity with flying colours.

BBL, Tests striving for eyeballs

On December 10, potentially the most contentious element of the cricket viewing schedule arrives, the BBL, a competition which now includes various bells and whistles aimed at maintaining viewer interest over 40 overs, let alone the marathon 61-game season.

But far more than Power Surges, Bash Boosts and hastily recruited imports, perhaps the greatest gift to the BBL is the likely postponement of the Australian Open tennis, which could remove a fearsome rival for eyeballs from the second half of January and hand the sports-minded TV audience to Seven and Fox Sports.

Nathan Lyon raises his hand to high-five Marnus Labuschagne
Cricket Australia and its broadcast partners are desperate for the men’s Test series to draw in the viewers.(Photosport via AP: Andrew Cornaga)

As for the Test series?

An unexpected fear created by two crushing ODI victories is that the Australians might prove dominant this summer, especially with India captain Virat Kohli to leave for paternal duties after the first Test.

Although it should be remembered that almost two decades of ritual humiliations inflicted by the stellar Australian teams of the 1990s and 2000s only got the patriotic juices of local viewers flowing as Shane Warne, the Waugh twins, Glen McGrath and others became daytime TV superstars.

Now Steve Smith’s back-to-back centuries provide the promise of a run-soaked summer, while an injury to opener and part-time selector David Warner only enhances the prospects of a much-anticipated debut by young Victorian prodigy Will Pucovski.

All of which has 10cc’s misunderstood earworm ringing in your head — we don’t like cricket, we love it.

So much so that, if you were a TV executive with the rights to such a popular product, you would surely be happy to put it to air without having a contractual knife held to your throat.



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Australian News

Boy, 5, injured by flying wheel after burnout


The family of a five-year-old boy hit by the wheel of a car that flew off an allegedly unregistered ute doing a burnout north of Brisbane are “absolutely distraught”.

The boy remains in an induced coma in the Queensland Children’s Hospital after the “freak accident” on Wednesday afternoon.

Police said the boy suffered “life threatening head injuries” when the 18-year-old, allegedly unlicensed, driver of blue Ford Falcon “hooned” his way through a busy intersection in Caboolture at 4.30pm.

The rear left wheel somehow dislodged from the car, and hit the five-year-old, who was walking with his father and brother on the footpath outside a shopping centre.

Sergeant Greg Prince from Burpengary Forensic Crash Unit described the incident as “just madness”.

“There was someone out there on the road who shouldn’t have been in the car in the first place doing hoon offences … And now he’s seriously affected the life of a five-year-old,” Sergeant Prince told reporters on Thursday afternoon.

“The family is absolutely distraught.”

Queensland Ambulance crews rushed to the incident on the corner of King Street and Morayfield Road where they found the child unresponsive, and had to resuscitate him.

“He was not breathing,” Sgt Prince said.

“His family are meeting with specialists and doctors on Thursday afternoon … He remains in an induced coma.”

Sergeant Prince praised the efforts of paramedics, who all but saved the boy from death.

“They got the boy to where he is,” he said.

The 18-year-old driver was arrested at the scene and charged with dangerous operation of a vehicle causing grievous bodily harm, driving unlicensed, driving unregistered, offences involving registration certificate, and safe but otherwise defective vehicle.

He appeared in Pine Rivers Court via videolink on Thursday

Police say they are still investigating how the wheel came to be dislodged from the ute, but that reports suggested the driver had done “a number of burnouts during the afternoon”.

“We are calling for anyone who may have mobile phone or dashcam footage to come forward and assist with the investigation,” Sgt Prince said.



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Australian News

Christophe Dominici, flying France winger and ‘rugby genius’, dies aged 48



Former French rugby international Christophe Dominici, whose dazzling runs made him one of the country’s best wingers, has died aged 48.

His former club Stade Français confirmed his death, saying it did so with “immense sadness”.

“A rugby genius and companion without equal, he will leave a great void in our big family. Our thoughts go to his family, his wife Loretta, and his daughters Chiara and Mia.”

Dominici won 67 caps for France between 1998 and 2007, scoring a memorable try in France’s stunning 43-31 victory against New Zealand in the 1999 World Cup.

He started his club career at RC La Valette in 1991 before joining Toulon in 1993 and Stade Français in 1997, ending his career there 11 years later.

He won five French national titles with Stade Français and four Six Nations titles with Les Bleus, including two grand slams in 1998 and 2004.

“So much sadness. Christophe Dominici was an immense player, an artist, a funambulist [tightrope walker]. His sudden death is a shock,” France’s sports minister Roxana Mărăcineanu said.

An emotional-sounding Education Minister Jean-Michel Blanquer announced his death at the National Assembly in Paris, prompting politicians to immediately stand and applaud the beloved former player.

Teammates and opponents alike shared their memories of Dominici and sadness at the news, with England’s World Cup-winning flyhalf Jonny Wilkinson, Ireland great Brian O’Driscoll and South Africa star winger Bryan Habana among those who paid tribute to the try-scoring winger.

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“I’m devastated. With his crappy physique, he beat all the best defences in the world. It really sucks to lose him at 48,” his former France and Stade Français teammate Sylvain Marconnet said.

Former teammate Frédéric Michalak, who played in two World Cups with Dominici, spoke about the huge influence he had on young internationals breaking through.

“He was a bit like our big brother. He had a strong character while being sensitive at the same time,” Michalak told L’Equipe.

“He was always there for us, reassuring us. I shared many good times with him.”

Michalak, who burst onto the scene as a mercurial scrumhalf at the 2003 World Cup, remembered how Dominici brought the squad together at the 2007 World Cup after Les Bleus had lost the opening game 17-12 at home to Argentina.

“He organised a night out to get us back on the right track. He was our engine in 2007, he was a leader of men,” Michalak said.

“He had exceptional qualities as a player, you could see in his eyes how determined he was.”

Wires



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Business

Tesla is flying high, but its $US300b value will be brought back to earth


Tech guru Richard Windsor, a Tesla champion, says the price is too rich even for him. “Now would be a good time to take some or all of the money off the table,” he said. Yet the Tesla phenomenon remains, a mortal threat to car incumbents everywhere.

German technology investor Frank Thelen, from Freigeist Capital, says the company is in a “positive spiral” akin to Google’s lead once it had established a self-reinforcing lockhold through control over terabytes of data.

Tesla already has 900,000 vehicles on the road equipped with sensors. These are building up a data bank, constantly learning how to overcome the pitfalls of robotic self-driving. Nobody else is close. Mr Thelen thinks Tesla has already reached an “iPhone sorpasso”, sending the likes of VW or BMW into terminal run-off.

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Anthony Ginsberg, from ETF specialists HANetf, says Tesla is poised to cream off chunks of value-added across the industry by selling its intellectual property and battery technology to Old Autos through leasing agreements. Tesla’s direct car sales tell only a fraction of the bigger story. Personally, I think the Germans will bounce back, but they have left it dangerously late. VW’s futuristic chief, Herbert Diess, warns that the German industry could succumb to the Coventry syndrome, going the way of the British car industry in the 1970s. Downfall can be swift. Britain was the world’s biggest exporter of cars in the 1950s, before being crippled by strategic errors and complacency.

There is no exact parallel with Germany but one has to ask: what were VW directors smoking when they told each other that Tesla would fall flat on its face trying to engineer a good car? And what were Daimler executives smoking when they ditched their 10 per cent holding of Tesla in 2014, concluding that the company was going nowhere?

So far the omens are not good for challengers in the US market. Porsche’s Taycan has flopped this year, while Jaguar has sold just over 1000 of its I-Pace sports utilities.

Elon Musk's Tesla dominates the electric car market but traditional car powerhouses are ramping up their efforts to close the gap.

Elon Musk’s Tesla dominates the electric car market but traditional car powerhouses are ramping up their efforts to close the gap. Credit:Bloomberg

The software is not integrated. The “companion apps” that give the best EV’s an edge – and will be a big source of future revenue – are not fully functional in most models. Mr Windsor says a Land Rover driver needs three different apps: one to plan routes; a second to remote start the vehicle; a third to check the user guide.

The maximum range of the Taycan and the Audi e-tron is around 200 miles (321 kilometres). Most Tesla models surpass 300 miles. The cheapest Model 3 can run for 250 miles. The European Battery Alliance has launched a “Manhattan Project” to crack the technology, with a large infusion of EU state aid.

Mr Thelen says the battery gap is too wide to close. “No German electric car can even begin to compete with Tesla models that are already eight-years-old,” he said.

That may be going too far, but what is clear is that the Europeans lag horribly on autonomous vehicles. Tesla’s self-drive prototypes certainly have problems. The Mobileye on a robotaxi recently mistook a slightly obscured 35mph speed sign for 85mph. Deep learning has a way to go. But the company has eliminated so many of the early glitches that these vehicles are already eight times safer than human drivers.

VW’s Diess is betting the farm on EVs – computers on wheels, as he calls them – mobilising €30 billion ($49.3 billion) for breakneck investment to close the gap. “The era of the classic car-maker is over. What passes for success today could soon be worth nothing,” he says.

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His hair-raising pep talks to VW staff should be taken with a pinch of salt. His aim is to shake the management structure to its foundations. It is “Tesla or us”, he says, and the battle for critical scale and ascendancy will be decided within four years. It will be an uphill struggle. VW’s 5000 software specialists know how to programme IT components from dozens of suppliers, but not how to integrate the internet into every aspect of the car. Its manufacturing system is geared to the one thing the company does superbly well: building combustion engines.

Volkswagen will get there now that it has abandoned all hopes of fossil redemption. The threat of extinction concentrates the mind wonderfully. Today it is worth a third of Tesla. My guess is that VW will be worth just as much before long.

Telegraph, London

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Australian News

Boeing 747 outlines shape of Qantas flying kangaroo in last flight


The Boeing 747’s farewell flight is forming the shape of the iconic Qantas kangaroo in the air.

The bizarre spectacle can be seen on flight tracking website FlightRadar24.

Residents around Sydney and the NSW south coast farewelled the Queen of the Skies as the Boeing 747 departed Sydney about 2pm one last time.

The aircraft flew low over the Harbour Bridge, the city’s CBD, northern and eastern suburb beaches as well as the HARS Museum in Albion Park.

After 50 years of service, the Boeing 747 aircraft will no longer service the Australian airline. It will be sent California to be parked and stripped for parts in the aircraft graveyard in the Mojave Desert.

anthony.piovesan@news.com.au



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Australian News

Melbourne tests positive for virus after flying to Brisbane for work


A Melbourne man was infectious with COVID-19 when he flew to Bundaberg via Brisbane for a fruit picking job this week.

The 24-year-old socialised with about 15 family members and friends during an overnight stay after flying to Brisbane on Virgin VA313 on Monday.

The next day he flew on Virgin flight VA2905 to Bundaberg, where he was starting work as a picker on a strawberry farm, Deputy Premier Steven Miles said.

He is the only coronavirus case reported in Queensland on Saturday.

“This is a time for heightened alertness for all our population in Brisbane and Bundaberg,” Chief Health Officer Dr Jeannette Young said.

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Contact tracing for everyone who has been in contact with the man is now underway, including passengers on the same flights.

He entered the state as an exempt seasonal worker and after landing in Bundaberg, the man was collected by his employer, staying in shared accommodation and working a shift alongside others before being diagnosed with coronavirus.

The man has mild symptoms and is in isolation in Bundaberg under clinical supervision.

Four people who shared the accommodation with him have tested negative and a clinic has been set up at the farm where he was working, to test other people there.

His family and friends are now being tested under quarantine. “We have a lot of resources we can now pour into this,” Dr Young added.

She is telling Queenslanders not to wait for a phone call from a contact tracer and to instead get tested if they have symptoms.

“This applies to people who have attended large gatherings today and over the past week. Queenslanders have done extremely well to keep COVID-19 cases to a minimum but now is not the time to get complacent and undo all our good work,” warned Dr Young.

The Melbourne man’s diagnosis brings the state’s total confirmed cases to 1061 and health officials across the state have now carried out 205,628 tests.

Dr Young said strawberries remain safe to eat.

– with wires



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Local News - Victoria

Is anyone flying? Melbourne Airport passenger numbers at record low


Madeleine, of Hawthorn, whose GP partner is working for three months in remote Northern Territory communities, was relieved to have Suzy here to support her.

While other states such as Queensland, South Australia and Tasmania have strict controls over who can enter, visitors can now enter Victoria without permits or quarantine, although those flying in from overseas must still quarantine in a hotel for 14 days.

The departures screen at Melbourne Airport on Wednesday morning.

The departures screen at Melbourne Airport on Wednesday morning.Credit:Wayne Taylor

Yes, some of us are flying but passenger numbers through Melbourne Airport plunged to record lows during COVID-19 restrictions.

In April — the latest month tallied — there were 63,240, not including transiting passengers, which airport CEO Lyell Strambi said was the lowest ‘‘since the airport first opened 50 years ago’’.

It was an extraordinary 98 per cent drop on the 3.1 million passengers in April, 2019.

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Mr Strambi said the low in flight numbers during COVID-19 came on Easter Saturday, April 11, when there was just 29 flights taking off and landing.

But on Wednesday, almost eight weeks later, there were still just 31 passenger flights — 16 departures and 15 arrivals.

‘‘The lack of passengers is not only hurting airlines, but also our café and restaurant owners and their staff, our transport operators and hotels,’’ Mr Strambi said.

‘‘The flow-on effects are huge, especially since the airport supports around 20,000 jobs.

‘‘A full recovery is going to take time but we know demand for air travel is strong and we’re supportive of a domestic re-start as soon as it is safe to do so.’’

Another passenger on Wednesday, Rod McKenzie, 65, said Melbourne Airport seemed ‘‘like a ghost town’’.

On the bright side, ‘‘normally there’s queues everywhere and you have to allow a lot more time’’.

Mr McKenzie, from Aireys Inlet, was flying to Brisbane with Qantas to pick up a $50,000 motor home imported from Japan, which he plans to drive back to Melbourne.

'Like a ghost town': Rod McKenzie was off to Brisbane on Wednesday.

‘Like a ghost town’: Rod McKenzie was off to Brisbane on Wednesday.Credit:Wayne Taylor

Mr McKenzie needed a special pass to enter Queensland, giving ‘‘a good reason’’ for travelling.

‘‘And they accepted it,’’ he said. ‘‘I didn’t think I’d get one, I was shocked.’’

Meriana Ferris, 39, said the airport seemed ‘‘so empty’’ compared to her last time here late last year when it was ‘‘packed’’.

On Wednesday, she and her five children, ages 6 to 17, were returning to live in Brisbane, after trying out Melbourne for eight months.

Moving back to Brissie: Meriana Ferris, centre, and her children at Melbourne Airport.

Moving back to Brissie: Meriana Ferris, centre, and her children at Melbourne Airport.Credit:Wayne Taylor

Her husband Anaru, 38, will follow in December.

Ms Ferris said Melbourne was ‘‘too cold’’, and the lifestyle too fast for her. ‘‘I like Melbourne. I just haven’t given myself enough time to love it’’.

Ms Ferris was confident Qantas’ ‘‘precautions and procedures’’ would ensure flying was safe from COVID-19, and the family carried masks and hand sanitisers.

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Australian News

Helicopter flying to Maroubra Beach, three people ‘in trouble’


A rescue helicopter has been dispatched to Maroubra Beach in Sydney’s eastern suburbs.

“Sydney’s Lifesaver 21 is responding to a report of three people in trouble at Maroubra,” Westpac Life Save Rescue Helicopters said on Twitter on Saturday afternoon.

As at 1.30pm, NSW Ambulance had not received any calls for assistance.

According to a Saturday morning lifeguard report, there were “minimal” rips at the beach and cloudy conditions were forecast with a moderate swell, one-metre waves and slight winds.

In summary it was considered a “beautiful day”.

More to come



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