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One in 10 surgery deaths due to flawed care or injury caused by treatment

Dangerous: Surgery risks can outweigh benefits. Photo: Nic Walker Dangerous: Surgery risks can outweigh benefits. Photo: Nic Walker
Nanjing Night Net

Dangerous: Surgery risks can outweigh benefits. Photo: Nic Walker

Dangerous: Surgery risks can outweigh benefits. Photo: Nic Walker

More than one in 10 deaths during or after surgery involved flawed care or serious injury caused by the treatment, a national audit has found.

The Australian and New Zealand Audits of Surgical Mortality shows delays in treatment or decisions by surgeons to perform futile surgeries are still the most common problems linked to surgical deaths.

But surgery also appears to be getting a little safer, with the audit, which covers almost every surgery death in Australia, finding fewer faults with the medical care provided to patients than it has in the past.

Audit chair Guy Maddern said of the deaths where there were concerns, about 5 per cent involved serious adverse events that were likely to have contributed to the person’s death.

In about 8 per cent of cases, the audit found some area of care could have been delivered better.

“These are the sorts of deaths where it was a difficult surgery, and instead of going straight to an operation, maybe additional X-rays and imaging should have been pursued, or maybe the skill set of the team that was operating could have been more appropriate,” he said.

“Sometimes, of course, the result would have been exactly the same.”


Professor Maddern said some surgeons, particularly in general surgery, orthopaedics, and, to a lesser extent, neurosurgery, still needed to work on deciding not to proceed with surgeries where the risks outweighed the benefits.

“People are thinking a little bit longer and harder about whether an operation is really going to alter the outcome,” he said. “These are the types of cases where you know before you begin that it is not going to end well.”

However, in some areas with many patients with complex conditions, things were just more likely to go wrong.

The report, which includes data from nearly 18,600 deaths over five years, found in 2013 the decision to operate was the most common reason a death was reviewed.

Overall, delays in treatment, linked to issues such as patients needing to be transferred or surgeons delaying the decision to operate, were still the most common problem, and in about 26 per cent of the deaths no surgery was performed.

Between 2009 and 2013, the report shows a decrease in the proportion of patients who died with serious infection causing sepsis from 12 per cent to 9 per cent, while significant post-operative bleeding decreased from 12 per cent to 11 per cent. Serious adverse events halved from 6 per cent of deaths in 2009 to 3 per cent in 2013.

Every public hospital now participates in the audit, along with all private hospitals in every state except NSW. However, Professor Maddern said he was pleased NSW private hospitals had agreed to participate in future.

Doctors are now provided with regular case studies from the audit, in which de-identified information about the death is provided, so they can learn from any mistakes.

“What we are seeing is an overall decrease in deaths associated with surgical care, which may be due to many things, and we think the audit is helping,” he said. “It’s making people think twice.”

Professor Guy Maddern’s tips on protecting yourself in surgery

1. If you are away from a major hospital, get yourself to one. A particular problem, Professor Maddern says, exists when rural patients resist transfers to major hospitals because they don’t want to leave their families.

2. Lose weight and don’t smoke.The proportion of deaths where obesity was a factor increased slightly this year. “An operation done on a thin person relative to a fat person can have a completely different outcome,” Professor Maddern says. This is particularly important for older people, who have the most operations.

3. Go to a hospital that performs a lot of the type of surgery you are going to have, particularly if it is complex. Remember, practice makes perfect.

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.

Mariners boss supports owner’s right to move games

Central Coast Mariners coach Phil Moss says his club’s owner should have the freedom to decide whether to host a specified number of games away from Gosford each season as part of his investment into the club.
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The Mariners will play their second A-League game in Sydney’s northern suburbs on Friday night when they host Melbourne Victory at North Sydney Oval in what is part of their strategic push down the Pacific Highway.

Club owner Mike Charlesworth has long been eager to move the club into new markets in the northern beaches and north shore by hosting more home game each season at North Sydney Oval and Brookvale Oval while maintaining a footprint on Central Coast.

Friday night’s game at the historic ground is the first of two Mariners games in Sydney this season with the club scheduled to play Adelaide United at Brookvale Oval on February 7.

The club claims 20 per cent of their membership in Sydney’s northern suburbs and the games coincide with the establishment of a Mariners academy aligned with Northbridge Football Club.

Moss preferred to focus on football rather than weighing into the debate but supports the broader concept of A-League owners having more control over their football investments.

“If the owner sees fit to tap into the north shore of Sydney to play some games here than that’s totally his prerogative, he’s put a lot of money into this football club out of his own pocket.

“Whatever decision he makes is the decision we live with and our job is to win football games whether that’s on the Central Coast, North Sydney or in Brookvale,” Moss said.

The club reassured fans of their commitment to the Central Coast, which is also the preferred regular home ground of the players.

“Our home is Central Coast,” captain John Hutchinson said.

“We are Central Coast, our stadium is in Gosford and the more games we can play there, the better. But we understand that we need to play a game or so every season away from Central Coast Stadium but we love playing there.”

North Sydney Oval came under criticism from Melbourne Victory coach Kevin Muscat over its hard surface and Mariners sources suggested Muscat asked his close friend, Mark Bosnich, to inspect the field on his behalf on Wednesday.

The condition of the playing surface appeared much softer than expected with the impact of the cricket pitch lessened, giving Hutchinson no concerns of the field.

“The field looks amazing, obviously the cricket pitch doesn’t look too bad and the grass looks fantastic but, as we’ve alluded to, our home is Central Coast and our home is Central Coast stadium but to come here is a fantastic opportunity,” Hutchinson said.

South Korean Kim Seung-yong has been out of the Mariners’ squad in recent weeks and linked with a return to his native country for personal reasons but Moss quashed those suggestions and said he is likely to play against the Victory on Friday night, either starting or from the bench.

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Australian shares gain despite GDP slowdown

S&P/ASX 200: full tableTop gainers and losers
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Australian shares pushed higher for a second day in a row as energy stocks continued to rally after slumping on last week’s global oil price shock.

The market posted broad gains in spite of the most disappointing quarterly economic growth reading in nearly six years.

The benchmark S&P/ASX 200 Index and the broader All Ordinaries Index each lifted 0.8 per cent, on Wednesday to 5321.8 points and 5301.2 points respectively, after taking a positive lead from the United States and Europe.

Local shares continued to move higher in the afternoon despite Australian Bureau of Statistics data that showed much weaker than expected economic growth in the September quarter. Gross domestic product grew by just 0.3 per cent over the three-month period, missing consensus forecasts for a rate of 3.1 per cent.

“The third quarter GDP result was a big miss for the market … the biggest downside surprise since the fourth quarter 2008,” Citi chief economist Paul Brennan said.

Coming a day after the Reserve Bank of Australia held rates at a record-low 2.5 per cent for the 15th month in a row, some strategists noted the weaker than forecast GDP added weight to the argument for another rate cut this cycle.

“The RBA is likely to be disappointed by the small increase in GDP, and we have lowered our forecast for 2015 growth,” Barclays’ economist Kieran Davies said.

The big four banks were all stronger. Commonwealth Bank of Australia rose 0.8 per cent to $81.40, while Westpac Banking Corporation added 0.3 per cent to $32.84. ANZ Banking Group gained 0.2 per cent to $31.77, and National Australia Bank added 0.1 per cent to $32.43.

The battered energy sector was broadly higher despite Brent crude oil slipping 2.2 per cent to $US71 a barrel on Tuesday night. After Monday’s sharp sell-off across the energy sector, investors are re-evaluating the value of oil and gas producers on a case-by-case basis.

“The swift sell-off in energy stocks, in response to the recent slump in oil prices, created an attractive entry point for long term investors into any high quality producer with a cost of production below the current commodity price,” Wingate Asset Management portfolio manager Chad Padowitz said.

Australia’s biggest oil producer Woodside Petroleum lifted 2.2 per cent to $35.64, and Oil Search added 0.3 per cent to $7.72, while Santos dropped 1.2 per cent to $9.08.

Liquified Natural Gas was the best-performing stock in the ASX 200, climbing 13.9 per cent to $2.86.

Mr Padowitz expects there will be about a six-month lag time before global oil supply contracts.

“In the meantime things will be volatile but I will be surprised if the oil price is not back north of $US80 per barrel in 12 months time”.

BHP Billiton edged up 0.1 per cent to $30.44. A number of US analysts have noted the resources giant’s US shale business is better placed to weather the oil price shock than most rivals.

Rio Tinto inched ahead 0.1 per cent to $57.98, while iron ore miner Fortescue Metals Group added 5.5 per cent to $2.71 as several senior executive positions were cut amid ongoing cost reductions.

The spot price for iron ore, landed in China, fell 0.6 per cent to $US70.67a tonne on Wednesday – down 47.5 per cent year-to-date.

Food and liquor giant Woolworths added 2.2 per cent to $30.90 as it announced the acquisition of Chinese alcoholic drinks distributor Summergate. Main rival Wesfarmers, owner of Coles, rose 1.6 per cent to $41.64. Among other major stocks Telstra Corporation rose 0.2 per cent to $5.68, while Medibank lifted 0.5 per cent to $2.15.

A renounceable rights issue from Harvey Norman was the worst-performing security on the ASX 200, dropping 9.8 per cent. The household goods retailer’s regular stock was up 0.3 per cent at $3.66.

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HSBC commodities boss backs Australia’s competitive edge on LNG

Jean-Francois Lambert, the London-based head of commodities and structured trade financing at HSBC. Photo: Dominic Lorrimer/Fairfax MediaThe global head of commodities at the world’s biggest trade bank has rejected the growing pessimism  over the future competitiveness of Australia’s liquefied natural gas, insisting the country has a “tremendous” advantage to compete against the United States and others.
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Jean-Francois Lambert, the London-based head of commodities and structured trade financing at HSBC, said the costs involved in investing in LNG supply facilities in the US, and the expense of shipping and logistics were being underestimated.

Exports from the US were also taking longer to start up and reach the market than initially anticipated.

“Whatever happens in the States it is not going to happen fast, and even if the States were going to move into a very aggressive export of LNG, which I doubt, I think the competitive edge of Australia is going to remain massive,” Mr Lambert said in an exclusive interview in Sydney.

Mr Lambert also said the sentiment about oil demand, amid the recent sharp drop-off in crude oil prices, was overly pessimistic, pointing to higher crude oil prices down the track.

He said it was not in anyone’s interest, including Saudi Arabia, for crude prices to fall much further south, signalling the likelihood of action to turn around the decline.

Brent crude oil prices fell to a five-year low of $US67.53 a barrel on Monday after last week’s decision by the Organisation of the Petroleum Exporting Countries not to rein in production to tackle a supply glut.

Mr Lambert didn’t rule out a further move down, noting that “when markets go bearish, they find every good reason to get more bearish”.

But based on world oil demand still growing at more than 3 per cent, including at 1 per cent in the large euro zone region, growth “is not that bad”, he said.

“It can well be that there is a good equilibrium around $US80 to $US85 maybe for a while, but long term, more oil needed, more energy needed, more everything needed in the commodity space,” he said.

With Australian LNG revenues directly linked to crude oil prices, the slump in crude has raised doubts around the profitability of the $200 billion wave of supply projects under construction in Queensland, Northern Territory and Western Australia.

Mr Lambert said that while the strategy of tying LNG sales against crude oil under long-term contracts was not so comfortable in a low oil price environment, it was a “sound” one that would stand Australian ventures in good stead for the long term.

“I don’t see that the States has positioned themselves to be a very large exporter of LNG,” Mr Lambert said.

“I think that all in all it will be a new supply of gas, but is this going to be a cheap resource? No, it will [just] be a new supplier.

“Australia is going to retain a huge competitive advantage in the commodity space versus the rest of the world.”

HSBC is the world’s biggest trade intermediary, speaking for about 10 per cent of global trade finance, giving Mr Lambert an insight into the perspectives of commodities buyers and sellers around the globe.

He said the drops in crude oil and iron ore prices – down 47 per cent this year – were “a very natural correction” that didn’t change the long-term outlook.

“Does it mean that people are not going to invest in commodities? Maybe people don’t want to invest financially in commodities, but as a producer, as a trader, I can assure you that commodities will remain very, very strong, very important.”

The low prices in some key commodities were also fuelling savings that would reap long-term benefits.

“It is not bad for the economy at the end of the day, and it is not bad for China, your main customer,” he said.

Mr Lambert envisages a “stabilisation” of oil prices that will enable investments in new supply projects, even if they are deferred for six months or so to “see where the market is going”.

Mr Lambert said the scene had been set for a period of volatility in crude oil markets after relatively stable prices for three or four years, when traders’ margins were being increasingly squeezed.

At the same time, economic uncertainty prevailed alongside rising geopolitical tensions around the world.

“My guess was that volatility would be back,” he said. “And volatility is back. Had I expected the [oil] price would drop as they have, no, but that in itself you can see the strategic play of Saudi Arabia in this respect.”

Mr Lambert said the latest price slump after the OPEC decision to maintain quotas had done little to derail the US shale boom.

“You might have some marginal fields that are being hurt now, that are coming under pressure, but, overall, no, it doesn’t put the whole shale strategy off track at this stage,” he said.

Mr Lambert remains bullish about demand for iron ore, despite projections of lower prices next year, pointing to the urbanisation still to come in China, and the need for infrastructure across the world, even in the US.

He said the strategy of majors such as BHP Billiton and Rio Tinto to ramp up output was justified by the demand outlook and their low cost position.

“China is halfway in its urbanisation process. No matter what bubbles and things we are hearing about here and there, the long-term trend is there,” Mr Lambert said.

He said that despite the current weak prices, the majors that had made large investments in new production had the means to sustain them.

“The price is much lower than it was one year ago but the profitability of the big players remains extremely high. What could they do, mothball these investments?”

Mr Lambert said the closure of high-cost capacity such as mines in Sierra Leone and of lower quality production in China were playing into the hands of the big players.

“Yes, they are taking market share, and yes, some producers will be hurt,” he said. “This is efficient; they have better logistics, and it’s cleaner.”

Mr Lambert also urged Australian agricultural companies to capitalise on the competitive advantage they enjoyed against rivals overseas as China positioned itself to become a major player in the sourcing of soft commodities.

“If I were Australian companies producing, I would pay attention to that, and I would try to build a relationship and establish the links with these people, because no matter what, these future Chinese trading houses or Chinese buying houses, supply chain managers, are going to be big,” he said.

“In Australia, you have a major customer for everything and this is China. Rather than be scared about that it, I think it’s a fantastic opportunity.

“China is the key engine of the growth in the world, of the trade flows; it is already and going to remain for a long time your key customer, so embrace it.”

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.

Brazilian miner Vale considering float of nickel and copper assets

Brazilian mining giant Vale could follow BHP Billiton’s lead by spinning-off a group of its businesses to form a new company next year.
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Vale told investors on Wednesday it was considering a float for its nickel and copper assets, after becoming concerned those businesses were not being valued properly by the market.

In comments that echoed BHP’s drive for a simpler, more focused business model, Vale chief executive Murilo Ferreira said the Brazilian company had to become “thinner” to prevail against plunging commodity prices.

“We need a stronger and thinner company, one that can run a marathon very easily,” he told an investor briefing on Wednesday morning.

“The low ferrous, non-ferrous, oil and gas prices is a marathon and we need to be very lean with regards to cost and productivity.”

While not certain to go ahead, Vale said it was evaluating a model that would base the new company in Toronto, so it could be close to operations like the Voisey’s Bay nickel mine in the Canadian provinces of Newfoundland and Labrador.

The new company could also include the nickel exploration acreage Vale has picked up recently in Western Australia’s Fraser Range, although those assets were not named in the presentation.

Nickel has been one of the few commodities to avoid a price slump over the past week, and prices for copper and nickel are predicted to rise over the next five years because of supply shortages.

Mr Ferreira said Vale had not decided on the value of the proposed spin-out, but the company hinted it expected the assets to be worth $US30 billion to $US35 billion.

“The idea is to unlock the value of our base metal assets. That is what we have in mind,” he said, adding that Vale would ideally like to retain more than 50 per cent of the spun-out entity.

BT Investment Management analyst Brenton Saunders said investors would probably be attracted to such a product, but would probably prefer more than 50 per cent of it to be available in the free float.

‘”The success of it will ultimately depend on the extent to which they unwind it and how independent the new company becomes and the size of the free float, because if it is still notionally managed under the Vale umbrella by Vale executives it may not work,” he said, pointing to the performance of gold major Barrick’s African spin-out, which remains 64 per cent owned by Barrick.

Vale has a market capitalisation of almost $US45 billion, but the company said its enterprise value was closer to $US75 billion.

The proposal continues an era in which big mining, oil and gas companies have been selling assets and considering other innovative ways to simplify their business models.

BHP confirmed its plan to demerge a group of non-core assets in August, while Rio Tinto spent much of 2012 trying to spin-off a group of struggling Australasian aluminium assets.

Mr Saunders said Vale’s spin-out proposal appeared to have different motivations to BHP’s, which was being pursued out of a desire to simplify and concentrate a large, diverse portfolio.

“(BHP’s) is more a portfolio consideration, whereas I suspect strongly the Vale one is a capital consideration. They want to be able to raise money and they might use this as a mechanism to raise money to be able to finish developing their iron ore expansion, so the motivations are very different, I suspect,” he said.

Mr Saunders said there was no danger of the two spin-outs crowding each other out, given the company that BHP plans to demerge will be listed in Australia, South Africa and London, whereas Vale’s proposal appears bound for a Toronto listing.

“Like Australia, Toronto has a bit of a dearth of reasonable quality mid-tier base metal assets. Outside of First Quantum, Lundin Mining and a couple of others they really don’t have a lot, so I suspect there would be quite a lot of natural interest,” he said.

Vale’s proposal comes after prices for the company’s most important product, iron ore, slumped by almost 50 per cent over the past year.

The spin-out is not the only option being considered for raising some spare cash, with Vale also considering a sale of preference shares, as well as divestments of $US5 billion to $US10 billion.

Vale’s coal and fertiliser divisions could be divested under the process, Mr Ferreira said.

While BHP and Rio have been reducing or deferring their capital spending on iron ore expansions this year, Vale confirmed it would spend $US6.35 billion on iron ore projects next year.

Most of that money will form part of a $US20 billion iron ore expansion in the Carajas region of Brazil, which will boost exports to 400 million tonnes a year by 2017.

Vale will devote more than $US10 billion to capital projects next year, meaning it will spend more than Rio but less than BHP.

When asked about the health of the global economy, Mr Ferreira said he was most concerned about Europe, but the gradual reduction of disparities between living standards in the developed world and the developing world would continue to drive growth for commodities.

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St Kilda forward Ahmed Saad glad to be a Saint again

Hastings: Born-again St Kilda forward Ahmed Saad is finally back on an AFL list and declared on Wednesday he “can’t wait to get into it.”
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The 25-year-old was delisted at the end of 2013 after being banned for 18 months for using an illegal  energy drink. St Kilda selected him with pick 19 in the rookie draft, giving the small forward the chance to resume his 29-game AFL career.

Carlton had shown interest in Saad, who met Carlton coach Mick Malthouse in recent weeks, but when the Blues used their first choice in the draft on teenager Billy Gowers the Saints were free to swoop, allowing Saad to be reacquainted with his old teammates.

“[I’m] absolutely rapt that the Saints showed faith again and there’s nowhere I’d rather be than here,” Saad said on Wednesday after being greeted by Sam Gilbert, Sam Fisher, Farren Ray and Leigh Montagna during a club visit to an aged persons home at Hastings.

“The media talks, there was interest from clubs and up until this morning I had to wait like every other player in the rookie draft and  see when my name got called out,” Saad said.

Having kicked 45 goals across his two seasons at the Saints, Saad offers a handy attacking option for St Kilda, who were heavily reliant on captain and best and fairest winner Nick Riewoldt to kick a winning score in 2014. Riewoldt kicked 49 goals this year, with the now-departed Rhys Stanley the next best at the club with 18.

Though the terms of his ban mean he will not be able to train again with the club until January 1, Saad believes he can work his way up to the senior list and into the Saints’ line-up for the opening-round clash with GWS.

“I’ve come back in good shape and my results have proven that,” he said, “so I’m definitely doing everything I can. I’ve got a personal trainer and he’s got me in really good shape.

“I’ve put in all the hard work on my own, so as soon as I get back with the team it’ll be easier for me to get back with the team and actually train and do everything like that. I’m just going to put me head down and work hard and hope that I can come back and play round one.

“I’ve missed a year of footy, I don’t want to miss any more, so I want to do my best to get back into the team.”

With his 18-month exile for drinking an energy drink containing a banned stimulant all but over, Saad was beaming as he reflected on the difficult journey he had been through since testing positive midway through 2013. He was thankful for St Kilda’s moral support throughout the ban.

“I tried to stay positive, as much as I can, to control everything I can control. What happened happened, and I got banned for it. I just had to cop it on the chin.

“As soon as I found out it was just going to be one season I made sure I put in all the hard work so I could give myself the best chance to come back. Rules are rules and what I did is wrong, but it is what it is.”

St Kilda recruiting manager Tony Elshaug was glad the club had been able to land their man in the rookie draft’s second round, despite the interest from other clubs.

“When we drafted Ahmed three or four weeks ago we were excited then, and we’re just as excited now,” Elshaug said.

The Saints also claimed small midfielder and forward Jack Sinclair, the grandson of former Saint Bill Gleeson, tall utiliy Brenton Payne, the grandson of dual Essendon premiership player Charlie Payne, and rookie-listed veteran Adam Schneider.

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The long march as they say goodbye

Procession: Mourners walk behind the hearse at Phillip Hughes’ funeral in Macksville. Procession: Mourners walk behind the hearse at Phillip Hughes’ funeral in Macksville.
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Procession: Mourners walk behind the hearse at Phillip Hughes’ funeral in Macksville.

Procession: Mourners walk behind the hearse at Phillip Hughes’ funeral in Macksville.

Australia captain Michael Clarke composes himself while speaking at the funeral service of Phillip Hughes. Photo: Reuters

As it happened: our coverage of Phillip Hughes’ funeralThousands farewell Hughes in MacksvilleMegan Hughes’ promise to her brotherMichael Clarke fights back tears in emotional tributeSean Abbott’s toughest day

Only cars heading north along the Pacific Highway for Christmas and the odd stray cow bring traffic to a grinding halt in Macksville.

And so does Phillip Hughes, the son, brother, cousin, best mate, cattle farmer and international cricketer who was laid to rest in his home town on Wednesday afternoon.

We’ve heard it enough times over the past week since his death after an innocuous bouncer hit him in the side of the neck during a Sheffield Shield match at the SCG – that the 25-year-old was a man of the people.

As thousands of mourners fell in line behind the slow-moving hearse carrying his small but prolific frame through the streets of his home town, it truly explained how much.

Prime Minister Tony Abbott walked shoulder-to-shoulder with Australian cricketers past and present, and members of the Hughes family.

The farmers, teachers, tradesmen, nurses – all of the shattered townsfolk of this region – marched alongside members of the Indian cricket team and boxer Anthony Mundine.

Shane Warne and Brian Lara, two giants of the game, wore suits and walked with them. Standing next to Warnie was a local, resplendent in work boots, green fluoro socks and King Gees.

“He was so proud of Macksville,” said Australian captain Michael Clarke. “And it is easy to see now why.”

For an afternoon and night, they were one and the same with household names.

Hughes’ hearse deviated one way. The rest of the throng jammed the nearby pubs or the wake at the Macksville Ex-Servicemen’s Club.

The mood wasn’t sad, but buoyant. You suspect the man of the hour would’ve approved.

The ex-servicemen’s club is a place that rarely draws a big crowds, let alone on a Wednesday.

After the funeral, legendary cricketers mixed with locals at the wake.

Clarke introduced Lara to Hughes’ mum, Vinnie, and then his brother Jason.

Deeper inside the club, Hughes’ teammates raised a glass to their departed mate.

Most of the Australian players had arrived at the service at Hughes’ old high school via bus, and were supposed to leave for the wake the same way.

Their spontaneous decision to walk with the masses down Wallace Street showed how united they have become in grief.

Curiously, one of them was not Clarke, who left Macksville High School driving a 4WD with his wife, Kyly.

Maybe his troublesome left hamstring was the reason. Maybe he wants to play in the first Test in Adelaide, in honour of his fallen mate.

Clarke didn’t have to walk. For much of the past week he has also carried many on his shoulders.

“He would definitely be calling me a sook right now, that’s for sure,” Clarke told more than 1000 mourners inside the hall. “I don’t know about you, but I can’t help looking for him.

He then told us of the moment last Thursday night when he stood on the exact spot on the SCG pitch where Hughes had been felled.

“I stood there at the wicket, I knelt down and touched the grass, and I swear he was with me, picking me up off my feet and checking that I was OK,” Clarke said.

“Telling me to dig in and get through to tea. Telling me off for that loose shot that I played. Chatting about what movie we might watch that night, then passing on a useless fact about cows.

“I could see him swagger back to the other end, grin at the bowler, and call me through for a run with such a booming voice the bloke in the carpark could hear it … His spirit has touched the SCG and it will always be.”

Phillip Hughes chased the definitive Australian dream: of a young bloke from the bush who wanted nothing more than to wear the baggy green.

“Ever since Bradman, the image of the innocent country boy playing in the backyard, while dreaming of wearing a baggy green cap, has become entrenched in our psyche,” said Cricket Australia boss James Sutherland.

“It’s our foundation myth as a cricketing nation – and Phillip lived that dream.”

As mourners sweltered in the hall, Hughes’ cousin Nino Ramunno illuminated the moment a cricketing star first exploded.

It had been at an under-10s game. His older brother Jason needed an extra player for his team.

“No,” was the stern reply from Phillip.

“Wuss,” Jason shot back.

On debut, as a tail-ender, he scored 25 runs and fell in love with the sport.

On the grounds and synthetic pitches near the high school hall and beyond, Hughes became such an emerging talent that Sydney clubs started sniffing.

It was coach Neil D’Costa from Western Suburbs who came with the most ambitious blueprint: to replace an ageing warrior in Matthew Hayden in the Australian Test team.

“Are you ready for it?” D’Costa, the man also responsible for fostering the rise of Clarke, asked him.

Three years later, Hughes made his Test debut against South Africa in Johannesburg.

Throughout it all, Australian players past and present, sat with ashen-faces. The past week has taken its toll.

There was obvious concern and care from so many others for Sean Abbott, who delivered the bouncer in a Shield match that led to Hughes’ death a week ago.

Yet nobody appeared as devastated as another fast bowler, James Pattinson, who clutched at his girlfriend.

On the sporting field, men are supposed to be unbreakable. Off it, they are as fragile as the rest of us.

So what now? Play some cricket. Or at least try to.

“I promise to get on the horse and play the game we love,” assured Jason Hughes. “I will endeavour to be the best player I can be.”

Said Clarke at the end of his emotional eulogy: “We must dig in and get through to tea. And we must play on. Rest in peace, my little brother. See you out in the middle.”

Notwithstanding the ales downed at Macksville’s overflowing pubs, and the wake at the ex-servicemen’s club he once played for, the only thing that eases the pain now is love and time.

Hughes had an abundance of one, but has been cruelly denied the other.

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.

Phillip Hughes’ funeral Sean Abbott’s toughest day

Sean Abbott arrives at Phillip Hughes’ funeral on Wednesday. Photo: Edwina Pickles Sean Abbott arrives at the funeral in Macksville. Photo: Edwina Pickles
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‘I keep looking for him, I know it’s crazy’: Michael Clarke fights through tears as he speaks at the service. Photo: Cameron Spencer/Getty Images

As it happened: our coverage of Phillip Hughes’ funeralThousands farewell Hughes in MacksvilleMegan Hughes’ promise to her brotherMichael Clarke fights back tears in emotional tribute

Everyone in Macksville was bracing themselves to farewell Phillip Hughes but, truth be told, they were also there to rally behind Sean Abbott.

Photographers focused on Abbott when he walked down the street towards the school hall where the funeral was held.

He is not a cricketer instantly recognised by the general public, but from the moment Hughes’ family turned off his life support in the most tragic circumstances on Thursday, Abbott’s anonymity perished forever.

The 22-year-old walked off the NSW team bus having sat in the middle section. He was behind Josh Hazlewood, a man with whom he has bowled in tandem numerous times.

Knowing the camera lenses were well and truly fixed on him, he did not falter. Walking slowly down the road to the hall, he knew this would be the toughest battle of his short life and career to date.

Other mourners reached out to shake Abbott’s hand, most notably former Test and one-day cricket dynamo Dean Jones, before he hurriedly walked into the service in the company of his NSW teammates; those who have seen his transformation from an 18-year-old tearaway playing in the Big Bash League alongside his Western Sydney teammate Patrick Cummins, to a reliable workhorse with bat and ball in a baggy blue cap.

His mother, Georgina, and father, Nathan, walked by his side. They have been his rock during the past week, as have dozens of cricketers who have supported each other in these terrible times.

Mr Abbott looked like a father on a mission to support his eldest boy. Mrs Abbott shied away from the cameras, not wanting to deal with the media scrutiny that has resulted from an innocuous short ball delivered by a prodigiously talented young fast bowler.

Abbott’s girlfriend, Brier Neil, was also by his side. She grabbed Abbott’s waist tightly as she walked next to him down Wallace Street, through the Macksville locals and into the sanctuary of the RSL club.

Channel Nine opted against showing vision of Abbott during the service, which was a tremendously respectful move. Simply turning up to the funeral was an incredibly brave act.

We have seen now how it has affected Australia, but spare a thought for Abbott, who has been travelling “surprisingly well”, according to a close friend.

Abbott was tagged in a photo on social media a few days ago smiling. What a welcome relief this is for Australian Cricket.

He has undergone something no 22-year-old should have to, but there is no doubt that tonight, next week and for the rest of his career, he will have the love and support of cricketers and Australians alike.

But first he had to get through a warm day in Macksville, with his mates by his side, before he could look to the future knowing everyone is behind him.

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.

A case of trading places for Essendon recruit

New recruit: Essendon’s Shaun McKernan. Photo: Josh RobenstoneFootball can be a game of swings and roundabouts. And Essendon, and particularly their new recruit Shaun McKernan, now know a little better just how much.
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In a recruiting story with a nice touch of symmetry about it, the former Adelaide key forward and ruckman on Wednesday was picked up by the Bombers in the rookie draft, having been delisted by the Crows after six seasons and 34 games.

McKernan had effectively been squeezed out of a spot in Adelaide’s best 22 by the rapid emergence of Josh Jenkins, who previously had also been a rookie list player for Essendon, and himself squeezed out of senior contention by too many rivals.

The pair have now effectively traded places. Not that McKernan, publicly unveiled as a Bomber only a few hours after his name had been called, had had time to ponder the irony. “I hadn’t thought about it at all this morning, but now you mention it, I guess it is,” he smiled.

And while Jenkins at this stage clearly has the better of the deal, entrenched on a senior list with a bright future, McKernan, who has spent the past fortnight training with St Kilda, at least has earned another crack at changing that.

“There’s no doubt I’d rather be in his place, but I’m happy to come to a club like Essendon. Look at the amount of big games you get to play. I’m just proud to be part of the club,” he said.

McKernan might also not have quite the same long queue of big men ahead of him for a spot as Jenkins once did.

When Jenkins left Essendon at the end of 2011 without having played a senior game, his path had been effectively blocked by the presence of David Hille, Paddy Ryder and Tom Bellchambers in the ruck, while up forward the Bombers still had hopes for Scott Gumbleton and a couple of promising youngsters in Michael Hurley and Jake Carlisle.

Three years on, the Dons still have plenty of talls, Joe Daniher now an essential part of the mix. But in the ruck, Hille is long retired, Ryder a controversial departure, and Bellchambers coming off an injury-riddled year, with only former Greater Western Sydney’s Jonathan Giles for back-up.

But McKernan knows he is going to have to produce more consistency to grab any opportunity than he did at Adelaide, where by his own admission he was “up and down”.

“I think I had some good moments and bad moments,” he said. “I look back and 2011 was my best year, playing 16 games, and probably since then I’ve just fallen out of the side.

“I think my best is more than capable to play at the level, it’s probably just those patches of bad moments I need to get out of my game. There are things I want to put in place to make sure I can be a better, more consistent player. I know my time is now.”

McKernan is 17 years younger than older brother and dual North Melbourne premiership player Corey McKernan, who he says fully appreciates another touch of irony about his sibling ending up at the Roos’ great foe of the late ’90s and early 2000s.

“As you can imagine, Corey doesn’t have much love for Essendon, but he’s still happy that I’m here,” he said. “He’s just rapt that I’ve got another chance. He said to me: ‘Now you’ve got a second chance, you don’t want to get in this position again. Just make sure you leave nothing unturned and give it everything you’ve got’.”

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.

How Hawthorn made its mind up on Langford No.3

This time last year Lachie Langford liked the idea of playing for Hawthorn, but was not sure how it could happen, given he had simply not ever played much football. This time four months ago he was even less certain, having torn ankle ligaments, suffered a stress fracture after being kneed in the back and played only five games for Melbourne Grammar. “There was only one club that would ever have drafted me,” he said, “and even Hawthorn had hardly seen me.”
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The Hawks were watching for a reason – Langford’s last name – but needed to be sure of a number of things before calling his name with their third choice in Wednesday’s rookie draft. First they had to be convinced of his talent and that was difficult, given all of the issues above. But in an early-season game against Xavier College he did well enough for Graham Wright, the club’s list manager, that to have his interest was piqued, taking a couple of nice marks, kicking the ball well and running hard from start to finish.

The club sought extra match vision from the school – happy for people to think it was because they wanted to watch more of Ed Vickers-Willis, a second-round draft pick last week – and had Langford out to the club for a couple of week days in August so that their medical, conditioning and coaching staff could spend a bit of time with him and get a sense of his potential.

They all liked what they saw, which meant another few things had to happen. Hawthorn chose not to nominate Langford as a father-son selection – even as a pre-nominated rookie – because it didn’t want to encourage other clubs to look at and start researching him. It also wanted to be sure that it didn’t commit to choosing him if that meant overlooking another, more certain prospect. “If we were picking him,” said Wright, “it had to be with the right pick. But our guys were happy with what they saw. “He’s grown about five centimetres in the last 12 months, so we think he’ll continue to grow, he’s got a good tank, his speed is OK, he has long arms, he’s strong overhead. He’s athletic, and he’s the sort of kid who wants to achieve, with whatever he’s doing. Looking at him, there was just something there.”

From there, Langford had to decide what he wanted to do. He had always wanted to play for Hawthorn, his desire growing stronger as he watched his brother Will claim his spot in the side, and when he went to the MCG to watch the club win this year’s premiership. But he is also academic, and wanted to finish his final school year with no distractions. In the end, he waited until the day after his last exam – the day draft nominations were due – to drop his form into the AFL offices.

“It wasn’t a really hard decision. I’d always had the dream, but in the past two years as I’ve gotten older and gained a greater awareness of how hard it is to get to AFL level, I thought it was unlikely and I was just not expecting it,” Langford said. “I was hardly playing, I wasn’t sure how they could have assessed me, I’d only done those two sessions at the club and because of my injury history I’d barely played, so it was something I never expected to have to make a decision on.

“My parents wanted to make sure I finished school off without being distracted by footy talk, they’ve always had my best interests at heart, and that was something I wanted to do as well. I still do want to study next year, but it’s every kid’s dream to be drafted and the only thing I had to think about was whether I thought I was ready to do it mentally and physically. I was always going to decide I was, and now that I have, I’m going to put everything that I have into it.”

Grand final day was always in the back of his mind . “Watching William play this year, and succeed, and entrench himself in the team was very good to see, and it made me think that maybe I can do it too,” Langford said. “I started to think seriously about it just as he started to come into his own, and then watching Hawthorn go on to win the grand final was far-and-away the best week of my life. I can’t think of anything I want more now than to go in there and work hard and do everything I can to fulfil my potential as a player. I’m very lucky that I have the chance to do that.”

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.

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