Western Force to go after Ben Donaldson but NSW Waratahs back rookie No.10 to shine


The Western Force have declared their intention to go after rookie Waratahs No.10 Ben Donaldson but NSW co-coach Jason Gilmore is adamant the 22-year-old will handle the traffic and come through with the goods after having his position in the team questioned this week.

Force coach Tim Sampson praised the new Waratahs playmaker, who will make his first start at Super Rugby level in the must-win match in their penultimate round of Super Rugby AU’s regular season, and said he would come in for special attention.

Ben Donaldson playing for Randwick.

Ben Donaldson playing for Randwick.Credit:Karen Watson

“He’s quite a skilful young fella and has a nice passing game,” Sampson said. “He’ll be a handful but we’re going to put a lot of pressure through that area of the field with our defence. We’ll try and take away his space.”

Force captain Kyle Godwin added: “We’d be wanting to put pressure on him.”

Gilmore hit back, saying Donaldson’s calm character would help him overcome any Force barrage and reiterated Chris Whitaker’s promise that he was ready for a maiden Super Rugby start, having come off the bench a number of times last season.

“Every No.10 gets pressure put on them. It’s no different for [Force five-eighth Domingo] Miotti with us. We want to make him as uncomfortable as we can,” Gilmore said. “Donno is a pretty laid-back style of guy. He takes everything in his stride, so he’s a pretty composed player. He’s coming back from injury, played pretty well for Randwick [on Saturday], so he’s coming into this game feeling pretty good about himself. Tane [Edmed] is just behind him. We’re pretty confident with those two.”

The selection of Donaldson over Edmed has prompted debate in NSW rugby circles following Eastwood coach Ben Batger’s insistence that Edmed should have been picked.

Batger said it was “crazy” to pick Donaldson and slammed the logic of going with a player with next to no football under his belt this year.

“I definitely think people have forgotten about him,” said Gilmore of Donaldson, who he coached in the 2019 Junior Wallabies team. “Last year he played a lot of Shute Shield, came off the bench behind [Will Harrison], got some really good minutes against the Reds at the SCG and played really well.

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Philadelphia 76ers vs Brooklyn Nets, Ben Simmons interview Kevin Durant, James Harden, Kyrie Irving, Rudy Gobert


Ben Simmons chose an unusual moment to blow up the NBA news cycle.

Struggling through an ugly April where his points per game and assists have dropped to season-worst lows, the Aussie also saw his family generating unwanted headlines as extremely private matters became public.

Who knows when his interview with ESPN’s Rachel Nichols was originally scheduled, but it was odd to see Simmons on The Jump taking shots at Rudy Gobert and the Brooklyn Nets when he is hardly flying on a professional and personal front.

“Obviously, there’s a lot of respect for Rudy. I know what he’s capable of. I know he’s great down there in the paint, but he’s not guarding everybody and that’s just what it is,” Simmons said about his main rival for the Defensive Player of the Year Award.

“He guarded me in Utah … I had 42 (points) and apparently I’m not a scorer. It is what it is, but I have a lot of respect for him. At the same time, I think (the award is) mine this year.”

“Obviously, Brooklyn has a lot of talent,” he added, about the 76ers’ chief opposition for the number one seed in the Eastern Conference. “But at the end of the day, there’s only one ball, and you’ve got to play defence, too.”

To be fair, Simmons comments looked a lot spicier when they were chopped up and splashed all over social media in fancy graphics.

Nichols had to coax the comment about Gobert from the Sixers point guard and his view on the Nets isn’t that different to what many have said since James Harden joined Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving.

But that didn’t stop the American media machine going to work as they dissected Simmons’ stance for 24 hours.

“Ben Simmons does not watch film of opposing teams. Because if he did watch film, he would know that the Brooklyn Nets are sharing and moving the basketball as well as any team in the league,” Chris Broussard said. “And he’d also note that James Harden has been playing point guard better than Ben ever has … I mean, c’mon, Ben. Have you been paying attention?”

Nic Wright wondered whether Simmons was still perturbed about being included in trade rumours earlier this season when the 76ers were also reportedly pursuing Harden.

“Is some of this Ben Simmons a little, call it salty, because he was almost the one traded for Harden?” Wright said. “Yeah, I think so. I think Ben Simmons has a point to prove that Philly was lucky that the trade they reportedly offered was not made. So I do think there is a little extra oomph here for Simmons.”

It certainly promised to add some extra flavour to the 76ers’ crucial home clash against the Nets on Thursday as both teams entered the matchup with 37-17 records.

But it was announced before tip-off Brooklyn would be missing Durant, Harden and veteran bench additions Blake Griffin and LaMarcus Aldridge, leaving the title favourites severely shorthanded.

The Sixers took advantage by jumping out to 65-58 halftime lead. Simmons had nine points and three assists.

Philly was led by Joel Embiid’s 21 points and six rebounds, but his output was more than matched by Irving (23 points, seven assists).

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AFP launch fresh probe into Ben Roberts-Smith as he denies all allegations


Ben Roberts-Smith has denied a series of disturbing allegations, including that he buried a USB containing images of misconduct in his backyard, as Australian Federal Police confirmed they had launched a fresh investigation.

On Sunday, 60 Minutes and Nine newspapers published secretly-recorded audio of Mr Roberts-Smith vowing to “destroy” those levelling war crimes allegations against him, and lauding Seven boss Kerry Stokes for financing his legal battle.

Lawyer Mark O’Brien said allegations made about the Victoria Cross recipient and alleged war criminal were “entirely untrue”.

He issued a lengthy statement on behalf of Mr Roberts-Smith on Wednesday “given the continuing, sustained attacks”.

“The allegation that he ‘hid’ or failed to disclose material to the assistant inspector-general of the Australian Defence Force during the Afghanistan inquiry is false,” Mr O’Brien said.

“Mr Roberts-Smith fully co-operated with the Afghanistan inquiry.”

Allegations that Mr Roberts-Smith threatened a witness or potential witness for the inquiry to stop them giving evidence was also false, the lawyer said.

Mr Roberts-Smith further denied burying a USB in his backyard, with Mr O’Brien saying “this simply did not happen”.

The lawyer also rubbished the allegation that Mr Roberts-Smith’s former matrimonial home was raided by the AFP last year, or any other time, and that USBs were “covertly seized”.

RELATED: Ben Roberts-Smith lashes 60 Minutes report, Seven confirms he’ll stay

Earlier on Wednesday, AFP deputy commissioner of investigations Ian McCartney fronted a Senate estimates inquiry where he confirmed a new probe had been launched following the media reports.

“The AFP has opened an investigation into aspects of that reporting,” Mr McCartney said.

He was questioned over whether the AFP had possession of the USB but said he did not want to launch a “running commentary” over an ongoing case.

“What I can say (is) some of the allegations that have been raised are serious issues and it’s being treated as a priority by the AFP,” he said.

The USB reportedly contained images of soldiers misbehaving on military bases in Australia and Afghanistan as well as an image of a dead Afghan man with coins placed over his eyes.

“The AFP does have access to some material. Some of that material was actually … referred to the AFP by the journalist in question and also by his newspaper,” Mr McCartney said.

Mr O’Brien said no-one from the AFP had contacted Mr Roberts-Smith about their investigation.

“If they do, he will co-operate with any investigation, as he has always done,” Mr O’Brien said.

Mr McCartney confirmed the AFP had been made aware of the new information on March 25.

The matter was determined to be a sensitive investigation on March 29, the same day as the cabinet reshuffle.

He could not confirm whether former home affairs minister Peter Dutton or his successor Karen Andrews had been briefed on the meeting, saying whether to brief the minister was decided on a “case-by-case basis”.

The USB’s metadata suggested Mr Roberts-Smith had obtained, altered or transmitted the material after leaving the military, according to Nine newspapers.

Mr Roberts-Smith’s defamation trial against Nine is scheduled to begin in the Federal Court on June 7.

During a pre-trial hearing on Wednesday, another lawyer for Mr Roberts-Smith accused Nine of an “abuse of process” for airing the USB allegations.

Arthur Moses said the USB issue raised a “very serious matter”, given the media outlets aired the allegations before filing them in court ahead of the defamation trial.

“They publish it and then come here and file evidence. That is an abuse,” Mr Moses told Federal Court Justice Anthony Besanko.

“If they want to run the case, they should do it properly.

“It is inappropriate – we’re eight weeks out from a trial – and anybody who reads the media or watched the program can see there’s a concerted effort by the (media) to be publishing material prejudicial to the applicant in the lead up to the trial rather than doing it the normal way by filing their evidence.”

Mr Moses said he would ask the outlets for a copy of the USB or subpoena it so it went into the court record and could be examined.

He said the outlets needed to explain how they came to rely upon it at this late stage without foreshadowing it to the court earlier.

Justice Besanko said Mr Moses could make an appropriate application to the court based on his concerns.

Mr O’Brien also said Nine’s conduct so close to the commencement of the trial was of “grave concern”.

“(It) appears to be either an attempt to intimidate Mr Roberts-Smith into discontinuing his defamation proceedings, or to punish him for bringing them,” Mr O’Brien said.

“It will neither intimidate nor deter him from proceeding with the trial and bringing the respondents … to account.”

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North Melbourne Kangaroos star Ben Cunnington successful at AFL tribunal


North Melbourne star Ben Cunnington is free to play Geelong on Sunday after successfully having his rough conduct charge downgraded at the AFL tribunal on Tuesday night.

After deliberating for more than 20 minutes, the jury decided that Cunnington’s bump on Adelaide’s Rory Laird during the Crows’ round four win over North at Marvel Stadium was a “glancing blow,” leading to the charge being downgraded from medium impact to low impact and a $2000 fine rather than a one-match suspension.

A medical report from Crows doctor Marc Cesana said that an assessment of Laird following the incident had found no areas of concern and that he returned to play.

Ben Cunnington and Rory Laird.Credit:Getty Images

North, via barrister Rob O’Neill, tendered evidence of Laird’s rotations from earlier in the season to show the time he spent off the ground following the collision was “for a short time and a typical time.”

However AFL lawyer Andrew Woods said the fact there had been no injury did not determine impact. He said there was an “immediate and hard” impact on Laird and that “the extent of force was more than low.”

Woods added that the manner in which Cunnington connected with Laird had the potential to cause injury.

As part of the defence, O’Neill showed the jury of Richard Loveridge, Jason Johnson, Shane Wakelin footage from a 2020 incident in which Port Adelaide’s Zak Butters collected St Kilda’s Paddy Ryder, who had clutched at his head following that hit. O’Neill said that if anything that was a more serious incident than the Cunnington-Laird one and yet was still only deemed low impact.

But Woods sought to distinguish that incident, saying it was very different to the one at hand.

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NRL 2021: Casualty ward, injuries, Luke Thompson, Bulldogs, Ben Te’o, Broncos, Dylan Walker, Manly, NZ Warriors, Addin Fonua-Blake surgery, updates, news


The Bulldogs will be sweating on the fitness of star prop Luke Thompson after he went off with what looked like a hamstring injury against the Storm.

Thompson was seen clutching at his hamstring after chasing a runaway Storm try late in the second half of Melbourne’s 52-18 win at Stadium Australia.

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A KNIGHT AND A TITAN GO DOWN

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Both Newcastle and Gold Coast were served a blow in the first half of their clash on Saturday.

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St George Illawarra Dragons star Ben Hunt on the pain of playing 71 minutes with a broken leg


“The doctor put some numbing cream on it, then I got on the bike and sat on that nearly all of half-time to keep the legs ticking over. It wasn’t much fun running around in the second half.”

Hunt picked up the impact fracture in his right leg when tackled by Queensland Origin teammate Daly Cherry-Evans and Jack Gosiewski in the eighth minute. Replays show him feeling for his leg before playing on.

He received a knock on the same spot a week earlier in Townsville, a performance some good judges hailed as his best to date in the Red V.

“Trying to sleep on Friday night was rough, and when I went to recovery on Saturday morning all the boys were into me because they thought it was just a cork and I was on crutches,” Hunt said.

“Once I went for the scans they found the fracture. I’m in a moonboot now for a couple of weeks and basically have to keep the weight off.

“But I don’t need surgery and the timeframe they’ve given me to return is four to six weeks. There’s nothing we can do and we have to let it heal itself.

“It’s definitely a bugger because personally I felt like I was hitting my straps, and the boys were coming together really well, but that’s the way footy goes. Every team has their share of injuries. It’s my turn at the moment.”

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Hunt said a return for the Anzac Day clash against the Roosters would be the best-case scenario. Two Sunday games follow against the Wests Tigers and Bulldogs, before the Magic Round weekend against Melbourne.

The 31-year-old is desperate to get back for the Dragons. They were considered wooden-spoon contenders just a few weeks ago, but are now coming off wins over the Cowboys and Sea Eagles and head to Newcastle on Sunday brimming with confidence.

Hunt also knows if he can quickly regain his form it will not be lost on new Maroons coach Paul Green.

In the meantime, Hunt has backed Adam Clune to again do his Dragons’ No.7 jersey justice, especially with his excellent organisational skills.

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‘Holy crap’: Ben Simmons smashed by NBA’s shortest man


Anyone who watched Argentina’s Facundo Campazzo compete at the 2019 FIBA World Cup or during his days with Real Madrid knew he had a mean streak.

Now Ben Simmons does too.

The Philadelphia All-Star and the NBA’s shortest man engaged in a bit of hard-nosed back-and-forth play as the Nuggets blew out the Sixers on Wednesday — and it didn’t end well for the Aussie.

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After Campazzo, who stands just 178cm tall, drew an offensive foul on Simmons with a clear flop in transition, the 211cm Sixers point guard attempted to square up by catching the Denver back-up with a screen in the back court.

But the wily 30-year-old, who won two EuroLeague championships with Real Madrid, saw it coming.

Campazzo dropped his shoulder hard into Simmons’ chest, who wasn’t expecting such velocity from such a small man and was put on his backside.

Former Houston Rockets guard Chris Clemons began the season as the NBA’s shortest player at 175cm but tore his Achilles in a pre-season game and was waived in January.

The shortest player in history remains Muggsy Bogues, who enjoyed a long career in the league despite standing just 160cm tall.

The game against Denver was the fifth in a six-game road trip for Philly which began promisingly with wins against the Knicks, Warriors and Lakers but is beginning to run out of steam as the impact of Joel Embiid’s absence with injury starts to take hold.

The 76ers lost to the Clippers 122-112 on Monday and trailed the Nuggets by more than 20 points in the third quarter of today’s clash.

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Meghan Markle, Prince Harry hire Ben Browning for Archewell Productions and Audio


Meghan Markle and Prince Harry have hired a veteran Hollywood producer to helm part of their growing team as they continue to build their company in the US.

The former royals have assigned Ben Browning as head of content for Archewell Productions and Archewell Audio, the companies they launched to produce content for their rumoured $180 million Netflix and Spotify deals.

Browning, who more recently produced the Oscar nominated film Promising Young Woman, is known for his work on Sanctum, which he executive produced with James Cameron as a developer, as well as the Jennifer Lawrence and Chris Pratt led 2016 film, Passengers.

RELATED: Palace launches Meghan and Harry attack

“The Duke and Duchess of Sussex have founded a next-generation production company with best-in-class distribution partners in Netflix and Spotify, a clear agenda to inform and entertain, and an unparalleled global reach,” Browning said in a statement.

“From the moment they shared their vision for Archewell as a global production company that will spotlight diverse voices and share uplifting stories, I knew I wanted to help with this unique opportunity. It’s a thrilling company to be starting.”

Meghan and Harry’s office also confirmed today that their Archewell Foundation director, Catherine St-Laurent, had transitioned from chief-of-staff to a senior advisory role.

St-Laurent had first taken on her role within the company in April last year, and had previously worked for Bill Gates’ charitable ventures.

“She (St-Laurent) will continue to bring high-level strategic guidance to Archewell, which she helped launch and build over the course of the past year,” a spokesperson for Meghan and Harry said.

RELATED: Disturbing Meghan and Harry claim we missed in Oprah interview

Meghan and Harry launched Archewell Foundation in October last year, a non-for-profit organisation with a purpose to “drive systemic cultural change”.

Their audio and production companies were also announced last year, with Archewell Audio and Archewell Productions forming another arm of the brand.

One of their first projects was their Archewell Audio podcast, which was released on Spotify in December.

The first episode saw the couple introduce themselves as simply Harry and Meghan, before Meghan says: “One of the things my husband and I have always talked about is our passion for meeting people and hearing their stories.

“And no matter what the story they usually offer an understanding of where someone else is coming from. And in some way, remind you of a story about yourself.”

Harry added: “And that is what this story is all about. To bring forward different perspectives and voices that perhaps you haven’t heard before.”



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St George Illawarra Dragons captain Ben Hunt produces vintage showing against North Queensland Cowboys


In one of his best performances for the Red V, captain Ben Hunt proved the difference for the Dragons as they surged past the Cowboys 25-18 in a high-octane clash in Townsville.

While the rest of the round was largely played in torrential rain, Townsville served up a dry track that produced a lightning encounter as both sides traded blows throughout the 80 minutes.

There were simple errors from both sides but that seemed only to add to an end-to-end encounter where momentum shifted time and again. Neither side recorded a win in week one and the desperation to get off the mark in 2021 was clear.

Corey Norman almost produced the first two-point field goal in the game’s history on the stroke of half-time but he wandered just inside the 40m line as it sailed over the crossbar. That gave them an important buffer but it was man of the match Hunt who stepped up to the plate when it mattered.

Hunt has been on the end of rolling criticism since his big-money move from the Broncos and has admitted he struggles with the pressure of the spotlight. But he had no such trouble on Saturday night, playing an assured hand and scoring a key try as the Dragons clung on to return from the tropics with a vital victory.

Hunt said he had been challenged to take control of matches and the captaincy was sitting well with him.

Ben Hunt battles his way to the line for a try.Credit:Getty

“Hook [Dragons coach Anthony Griffin] really challenged me and Corey [Norman] to take the game on tonight. It’s just made me really sit back and think about other players in the team rather than looking after myself every week. I feel like I did that a bit already but I really wanted to take it to another level,” Hunt said.

The Dragons led 13-6 at the break as Mikaele Ravalawa and Josh Kerr returned fire after Coen Hess scored for the Cowboys after just a few minutes of play.

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Hawthorn claim all-time comeback over Essendon in Ben Rutten nightmare


Hawthorn have pulled off one of the all-time comebacks, coming from 40 points down to beat Essendon by one point in a round one thriller.

In a weekend that has already seen two other bottom four teams from last year in the Swans and Crows pull off major upsets, the Hawks never gave up despite a horror first half.

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At halftime, the AFL was already wondering where the Hawks would put their wooden spoon after an uninspiring first half that saw the sides go to the break with the Bombers leading 10.6 (66) to the Hawks’ 4.3 (27), with the lead as bad as 40-points in the second quarter.

But in an incredible turnaround, the Hawks erased the deficit in the third quarter as the teams battled for the victory down the stretch with Hawthorn hanging on for a 14.8 (92) to 13.13 (91) win.

Tom Mitchell was the best on ground with 39 disposals for the Hawks, including 17 in the third quarter when he got his side back into the contest.

But the game went right down to the wire with Devon Smith booting the Bombers ahead with two minutes left, before Tim O’Brien’s mark and snap stole the result for Hawthorn in brilliant start to the year.

It was the Hawks fourth biggest ever comeback and the biggest since round 12 of the 1999 season.

Hawks coach Alastair Clarkson said his halftime message was simple after his side struggled to get the ball forward in the first half.

“It was just ‘get our hands on the footy’ really,” he said post-game. “Essendon to their absolute credit were dominating possession of the footy and control of the ball in the first half. We were able to turn it around in the second half, it’s nearly as simple as that, to the credit of O’Meara and Mitchell, Shiels, our rucks in (Jon) Ceglar and [Ben] McEvoy.”

Incredibly, the sides each had an eight goal to one quarter with the Essendon unloading in the second quarter before Hawthorn responded in the third.

It would have been hard to swallow for AFL coaching debutant Ben Rutten with the loss the biggest halftime lead a debutant coach had given up.

Bombers coach Rutten was pleased with the first half but was frustrated as the Hawks bounced back.

“Certainly a game of two halves, that’s for sure. I think the pleasing thing from our point of view and why our players are so disappointed is because we showed some really good footy in that first half,” Rutten said.

“I think our work rate (really dropped off). We tried to be a bit cute, too precise, shallow entries and then Hawthorn were able to rebound the whole length of the ground a number of times, which is a good contrast to that second quarter.”

Fans on both sides couldn’t believe what they’d just witnessed.

Both sides face tough second round matches as well with Essendon playing Port Adelaide at Adelaide Oval on Saturday and the Hawks hosting the defending premier Richmond Tigers at the MCG on Sunday.

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