Month: September 2018

Strike never an option: Murray

ANDY Murray is pleased there will be no player boycott of the Australian Open, not that he ever considered such a drastic move. Having recently won his first grand slam singles title at the US Open, Murray believes the Melbourne Park variety of hardcourt suits him better.
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”I actually prefer the court at the Australian Open, the balls as well,” said the world No. 3 after his walkover into the third round of the Shanghai Masters, courtesy of a rib injury to Bernard Tomic’s conqueror, Florian Mayer.

”I think that surface is probably a little bit better for me. I feel I played some of my best tennis there over the last few years. I love the centre court there. I like the conditions on it. Yeah, it’s a good court for me.”

The blue Plexicushion of Rod Laver Arena has also hosted two of the four losing finals Murray endured before winning his first major at Flushing Meadows last month. When he returned after a short break to reach the semi-finals at last week’s Japan Open, the desire to overtake Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic to become the world No. 1 was among his latest goals.

Another grand slam title would help, obviously, and the next is the Australian Open, which Murray praised for its massive boost in prizemoney to $30 million, with a target of $40 million by 2016.

”I think the Australian Open has stepped up really well,” he said. ”They’ve obviously listened to the players and the ATP and have made a real effort to improve things.

”You know, from my side, I never viewed striking at the Australian Open as a real option.

”From all the players I’ve spoken to so far, everyone’s been very happy with the increases in the prizemoney and their plan over the next few years, as well.

”Hopefully that’s something we won’t need to worry about for a while.”

Linda Pearce is a guest of the Shanghai Rolex Masters.

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An anxious wait for Russell to revive career

FORMER Carlton defender Jordan Russell says he felt confident he would join Port Adelaide next season but now faces an anxious wait to see if he will revive his AFL career.
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Russell, an unrestricted free agent as he had been with the Blues for eight years but outside the top 25 per cent of paid players, flew to Alberton last week to meet Power officials and undergo a medical.

It is thought that had Leon Cameron accepted the Power’s senior coaching position, 116-game veteran Russell would have been able to head home in what appeared a ”done deal”.

However, the appointment of Ken Hinkley and senior assistant Alan Richardson, the latter joining from Carlton, changed that.

”We were in a similar boat [thinking it was a done deal] but they obviously thought that Leon Cameron was going to take the job,” Russell told The Age. ”Then Danyle Pearce left and [Troy] Chaplin left. I thought that week they were talking about putting an offer in.

”Then pretty much when all that stuff happened, it [his contract] all kept getting pushed back and pushed back. Then it got pushed to the next week and then they hired Hinkley and the other guys and got [Angus] Monfries across.”

It is understood the Power has said it would prefer to recruit a taller defender than the 188-centimetre Russell, who was runner-up in the Blues’ best and fairest in 2010. This could be Hawthorn’s Stephen Gilham.

Power list manager Jason Cripps yesterday confirmed Russell was no longer on his radar, although football manager Peter Rohde said he could yet be considered at the end of the trade period, highlighting the uncertainty the under-siege club finds itself in.

However, there has been interest elsewhere in Russell, who was taken with the ninth pick in the 2004 national draft and had been in the Blues’ leadership group for the past two years. He played 16 matches in 2011 after surgery on both hips and back spasms but finished the year in the VFL. He fell out of favour with coach Brett Ratten last season, managed only seven matches and was told he would not be a part of new coach Mick Malthouse’s plans.

”I am really looking forward to getting another opportunity,” Russell said. ”Things were rosy and then I got a bit of a reality check. I still have four or five more years of good footy and I don’t think I have hit my straps yet.

”I have a lot to give a club and am willing to go wherever it takes me to get that opportunity and ultimately forge a new career at a different club and forge some success at a new club.”

The rebounding half-back, who turns 26 next month, said the 2012 campaign was a year of ”wasted opportunities”.

”I was playing some really good footy in the twos and kept putting my hand up and saying, ‘What is going on, what is going on?’

”Week after week it didn’t quite fall my way. I think I was averaging 23 or 24 touches on the half-back line, six or seven tackles. I felt within myself I was ready to get back to playing seniors.

”I had a couple of opportunities but when I came up and played, I didn’t take them.”

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Businesses fight back against ‘cell yell’

Australia now has 6 million more mobiles than people, according to telecommunications industry analyst Paul Budde.
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The build-up of mobiles potentially means lots of maddening “cell yell” in commercial service areas – if business owners allow it.

Have you banned mobiles in your business? Tell us why by leaving a comment below

Countering the assumption that the customer is always right, some owners ban customers from mobile yakking. Meet Northern Beaches fitness guru Rebecca Mountford, who has two gyms at Narrabeen and Mona Vale.

Since founding her business more than five years ago, Mountford has run a permanent ban spelt out in the contractual terms and conditions signed by each new member. When members “do the wrong thing”, they are personally, politely asked to stop. Usually, offenders are “embarrassed and apologetic” – instantly complying, they promise not to do it again, she says.

If customers defy the ban, Mountford puts the request in writing. She may also put up mobile ban signs. One version politely asks visitors to refrain from spoiling others’ “quiet enjoyment”. The alternative, tougher sign, which Mountford describes as “sarcastic”, advises clients to take their mobiles outside for “crystal-clear” reception.

According to Mountford, her strategy works and reflects most customers’ wishes. If a “tradie” pacing the weights zone is allowed to gab through a handset about a job to a colleague, or if a “lady” on the treadmill can freely have a good mobile “chinwag”, customers will complain, Mountford says.

Besides making other gym-goers “uncomfortable”, conducting a phone call while galloping on a treadmill is dangerous, Mountford says.

James Pirina, who runs Pierre’s Patisserie at Turramurra on Sydney’s north shore, also opposes mobile chatter. Pirina first posted a mobile ban sign in his bakery a 18 months ago, after seeing a customer on a call at the counter just pointing at items.

“I thought there and then, enough is enough,” Pirina says.

At first, he just granted his staff permission to ask active mobile users if they minded putting the phone down while placing orders.

Because that tack flopped, Pirina put up signs politely asking customers not to use their mobiles when ordering. Only some customers took notice. Pirina’s next step was to write signs that bluntly read:

“If you are on the phone you will not be served.”

Placed at the cash register, the hardline signs grabbed attention and worked.

“Some customers are still very arrogant and don’t get off their phones, but most seem to be compliant with the request, so the overall result, I think, is good,” Pirina says.

According to business coach Alex Pirouz, mobile phone bans in service spaces are broadly acceptable because conducting a call there “is just rude”. The exception, Pirouz says, is a clothes shop where a customer may reasonably want to have a video chat with a friend for their view on a garment.

Any mobile ban that a business owner imposes should be couched in a manner that’s “safe and humorous and inviting”, Pirouz says. Further softening the blow, he notes, some mobile ban signs wisely feature smiley emoticons or depictions of full smiling faces and an explanation for the ban, which winningly shows respect.

Be diplomatic and customers will see that you are “not trying to be bossy or dictate rules – that’s what people hate the most”.

Etiquette experts in Australia and beyond share Pirouz’s view that a ban can be justified. In an April 8 report, Norwich, England coffee trader Darren Groom told the BBC he was “striking a blow for basic manners” by refusing to serve any customer who placed an order while on a mobile.

A source for the British etiquette guide, Debrett’s, Liz Wyse, praised Groom for his “brave stand” she described as “a public service”. The English newspaper The Daily Telegraph said that, for banning bad manners, Groom deserved a medal.

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Toying with trash: green start-up guru redefines garbage

Melbourne inventor Paul Justin, 37, sells what could be the “best toy ever”, according to Wired blogger Charlie Sorrel. Justin’s toy, Makedo, is a reusable, clip-based connector kit including a ‘safe-saw’.
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Made in China, where Justin has contacts, Makedo is sold in 40-plus countries and graces Selfridges, the Tate, and the Guggenheim, according to Justin’s publicist. The product easily enables you or your child to play Santa elf, and build anything from a cardboard dog to a spaceship, with boxes, plastic containers, loo rolls: whatever you rescue from your recycle bin.

At a time when The Guardian says trash is swamping the planet, Justin’s “Lego with a conscience” seems smart – hence the various impressive design awards he has won, including Red Dot, Good Design and Core 77.

Justin predicts that his three-year-old, five-staff studio start-up that designs and markets Makedo will hit profit soon.

“We’re heading into that zone,” he says, adding that he has yet to trump market resistance.

“It’s a hard slog, “I think the market’s very used to a very finished kind of package, where they say: ‘This is a toaster – I’m getting a toaster. It’s really straightforward.’

“Whereas, we’re saying: ‘Here’s some stuff – and what you need to do is go out and find some stuff to make.’ You need to tap into your imagination – and it feeds off your passions and your creativity.”

He adds that, to get the product right, he has had to go through numerous design “incarnations”. He has also laboured to get the pricing correct and become a global toy market player on a tight budget, with just five staff, who cover sales and product design among other areas.

But within his first year of trading Justin managed to establish a core group of quality distributors in the US and Europe. According to Justin, the distributors came on board because they grasped that Makedo was unusual and engrossing enough to connect with choosy consumers capable of deep, enduring loyalty. With that market in mind, he sells Makedo through speciality retail channels such as design stores and high-end, educational toy shops instead of mass-market chains.

Before founding Makedo, the father-of-four was the design director of a boutique product design and development agency called Buzz Products.

The spur for Makedo came from seeing his children follow their playful instincts for exploration.

“As adults, we fall into this trap of trying to finish stuff and do it properly – and there’s all this right and wrong. And I could see that just wasn’t how they functioned at all, ” he says.

“They were just going for it, following where their interests were. And that was the framework of thinking from which Makedo was born.”

Justin founded Makedo in July 2009, privately funding the venture on the back of a “think tank” meeting attended by four canny, creative associates including family. Everyone enthused.

“I was told in no uncertain terms that, if I were to pursue that idea, each one of the people at that table would be willing to back it,” he says. The session raised $200,000, which he promptly pumped into the business.

Practical business advice came from the Springboard Project run by The Australian Design Unit. Springboard lived up to its name, he says.

The project put him through his paces, making him address the business case for Makedo. Areas he studied ranged from intellectual property to financial planning: “all that stuff that you don’t learn in design school”, says Justin – an RMIT industrial design degree holder.

His dream is that his green product will shift how people think. He hopes to infuse what he calls “the youth of today” with a creative outlook: a vital asset in an evolving economy.

Meanwhile, Makedo is growing. So far, Justin has sold 250,000 kits and expects to shift many more.

“We are only at the very beginning,” he says, adding that, until now, he has just been introducing Makedo’s concept. He says he sees ample market potential in key countries such as the United Kingdom, America and Australia as Makedo moves from its niche beginnings to a broader audience.

His advice to anyone thinking of starting a business is simple.

“You’ve got to love what you do. You’ve got to be really into it because it’s going to become your whole world.”

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Diggers to end Afghan mentor role

Members of Australia’s Special Operations Command move through the Garmab Valley, in Oruzgan Province.Australia’s major combat role in Afghanistan is likely to end by December, with an announcement overnight that the ADF will soon be finished mentoring the four Afghan battalions in Oruzgan.
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The announcement, made by the Defence Minister, Stephen Smith, at a NATO conference in Brussells overnight, also means that Australia’s presence in the southern Afghan province will dramatically decrease early next year.

Mr Smith’s statement follows his announcement on Wednesday that the first of the four 400 – 600 man Afghan National Army battalions – called kandaks in Afghanistan – was this week declared to be able to operate without asssistance.

“We expect the other three infantry kandaks currently rated as effective with advisers to also commence independent operations by the end of the year.”

Australia’s main role in Oruzgan is to mentor Afghan soldiers and accompany them on patrols and other operations.

But Mr Smith’s statement – that mentoring at a kandak level will be over by January – means that role is all but finished.

“What this means is we are gong to start seeing Australian convoys rolling down to Kandahar, moving equipment out of Oruzgan by early next year,” said Lowy Institute analyst James Brown.

Kandahar, the province directly south of Oruzgan, is the headquarters for the country’s southern region and is where Australia will likely move their personnel and equipment ahead of leaving the country.

Mr Brown, who has served with the Australian army in Iraq and Afghanistan, said what the announcement meant was after more than a decade, Australia’s major combat role in Oruzgan was only weeks from ending.

“What they’re saying is the job is done,” he said.

“Which means we don’t need to have advisors out with [the ANA in Oruzgan] over the winter.

“Which means come spring we might have a bit of work doing some humanitarian assistance type roles – taking food out to villages and helping repairing bridges after the floods – but coming into the fighting season next year what that means is we won’t be going out with the Afghan patrols to fight.”

“Some sort of [combat] element will reman there, but that could be as small as a combat team sitting in [Tarin Kowt] ready to deploy as an absolute last resort.”

The international coalition running the war Afghanistan, ISAF, uses a series of classifications for the readiness of the 156 kandaks in the Afghan National Army.

The classifications are vital because they are the most important factor in the ISAF move towards handing security for the country over to the ANA.

ISAF has set December 31, 2014, as their deadline for security transition to Afghan forces, and there has been criticism that instead of improving the quality of Afghan forces, they have instead been gradually reducing the requirements for kandaks to move through the various classifications so they can be considered able to operate independently.

Mr Brown said there were many reasons the Australia government would be keen to see the four Oruzgan kandaks, which form the 4th Brigade of the ANA’s 205 Hero Corps, be declared independent.

“There’s election coming up in Australia where being able to show some tangible development in Afghanistan would be useful … so there’s that reason to start sending convoys down the road to Kandahar in May next year,” he said.

There are likely to be financial incentives for the government as well, given Australia’s contribution to the war in Afghanistan costs approximately a billion a year, he said.

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