Abundant takes extreme veggies to market

It has bred tough tomatoes that can sweat out Pakistan’s summer and “cutecumbers” that need little water, now specialist seed supplier Abundant Produce is planting itself on the ASX.

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Abundant Produce specialises in developing seeds that can grow in extreme conditions.

“We are breeding under quite extreme conditions and we put our breeding populations through the stress of hot and cold,” Abundant Produce chief executive Graham Brown told AAP.

The company’s tomatoes can survive 50 degree temperatures thanks to a bit of outback muscle, combining a standard tomato with the Australian bush variety.

Abundant is expected to list next week at an issue price of 20c a share, giving the Sydney-based outfit an estimated market capital around $9 million.

Its hardy cucumber seeds, already selling to Bunnings and US-based seed giant Burpee, will be shortly followed by tomatoes and chillies, pumpkins and other offerings are in development.

Abundant aims to sell seeds to large growers, international seed companies and fresh produce companies and Mr Brown is hoping the new varieties will prove popular at retail level.

“Consumers have a shorter attention span. They’ll want the new taste experience,” he said.

Already describing the new “cutecumber” as perfect for school lunch boxes, Mr Brown said Abundant is targeting a gap in the market for new and interesting breeds of vegetables.

Abundant does not use genetic modification for its seed products, with Mr Brown saying it was a practical and ethical choice to steer clear.

“It also differentiates ourselves from the bigger players… given the choice I’d probably choose to have non-GMO (genetically modified organism),” Mr Brown said.

The company has worked with Sydney University’s Plant Breeding Institute – with which Mr Brown has a longstanding relationship – to create hybrid seeds through techniques such as cross-breeding.

Although testing is done mainly at a facility in western Sydney, Abundant also puts its products to the test in the hot Punjab province of Pakistan.

As part of an aid program the company helped develop tomatoes that can survive the extreme conditions of the region.

The hardier seed gave farmers a more valuable crop, Mr Brown said.

America is great right now: Obama taunts Trump

US President Barack Obama has opened his final presidential campaign – against Republican front-runner Donald Trump.

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His name won’t be on November’s ballot, but Obama is slowly embracing his role as the anti-Trump, using the contrast between himself and the boastful billionaire to paint Trump as anything but presidential.

A Trump victory in the presidential race would mark an overwhelming rebuke to Obama and the likely demise of many of his policies.

So with Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders still fighting it out in the Democratic primary, it has fallen increasingly to Obama to take on Trump in ways that no other Democrat can.

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For months, Obama and his aides mostly avoided getting dragged into the fray or letting the campaign din distract from Obama’s agenda.

The White House would sidestep questions about the latest Trump controversies, refusing to turn Obama into a pundit on the race to replace him.

When Obama waded in, it was only to offer implicit rebukes of the Trump phenomenon, such as Obama’s assertion in September that “America is great right now” – a not-so-veiled reference to the business mogul’s campaign promise to “make America great again.”

Now the Trump critique is coming with increasing frequency and ease. Asked whether Trump’s proposals were already damaging US relations, Obama answered unequivocally: “Yes.”

“I am getting questions constantly from foreign leaders about some of the wackier suggestions that are being made,” Obama said. “They don’t expect half-baked notions coming out of the White House. We can’t afford that.”

The Democratic National Committee quickly circulated video of Obama’s remarks, arguing they illustrated how Trump “simply doesn’t have the temperament necessary to be commander in chief.”

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Yet by calling attention to Trump’s positions, the White House risks further elevating him, while giving Obama’s critics a fresh reason to get behind the billionaire businessman.

Obama has said repeatedly he doesn’t believe Trump will win, and White House officials said there was no concerted effort to insert Obama more visibly into the election debate. After all, every minute Obama spends talking about Trump is a minute wasted when it comes to Obama’s many unfinished pieces of business.

Eagle Priddis the poster boy for success

If West Coast midfielder Matt Priddis ever gets a trophy named in his honour, it should be a macaroni figurine awarded to the most professional player.

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Persistence, professionalism, and precision are three of the best words to sum up Priddis, who will notch his 200-game milestone in Saturday night’s western derby against Fremantle at Domain Stadium.

Even getting to one AFL game was an achievement for Priddis.

The curly-haired midfielder spent three years banging on the draft door before finally getting a chance on West Coast’s rookie list.

What Priddis lacked in speed and finesse, he made up for with unwavering commitment.

Such is Priddis’ attention to detail, he revealed several years ago of his knack of weighing out 275 grams of pasta – no more or no less – to eat for dinner the night before each game.

It’s this level of dedication that has helped take Priddis to the top, culminating in his 2014 Brownlow Medal success.

When teenagers are drafted to West Coast, Priddis soon becomes their poster boy for success.

“I’m sure every club has their warriors. But he’s ours,” Eagles coach Adam Simpson said.

“He’s a great role model for the club and for the AFL, and any young kids coming through.”

West Coast defender Jeremy McGovern was the perfect example of how talent means nothing if it’s not accompanied by a strong work ethic.

The 23-year-old was banished from the team in late 2013 after rocking up to day one of pre-season training overweight.

McGovern worked hard to get back into shape, and he’s now considered as one of the best swingmen in the AFL.

He said Priddis was a constant inspiration for everyone at the club.

“He sets the standard for everyone, which is what you need in a club and you need in a leader,” said McGovern.

“A lot of the young boys look up to him.”

Even Fremantle coach Ross Lyon can’t help but admire Priddis.

“To come off a rookie list – as Denis Pagan says: `It doesn’t build character, it eliminates the weak’,” Lyon said.

“So he’s clearly a strong character.

“He just reflects possibility mindset – that anything is possible if you apply yourself.”

Lindt siege was a terror incident: coroner

Man Haron Monis carried out an act of terror when he held 18 people hostage in Sydney’s Lindt Cafe, NSW Coroner Michael Barnes has found.

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“The siege was a terrorist incident,” the coroner said on Wednesday as he handed down his inquests into the fatal events of December 2014.

The conclusion on whether the 17-hour siege was a terror attack or not was important to assessing the actions of the agencies involved.

Experts on terrorism, radicalisation and Islamic State gave evidence at the inquest into the siege that resulted in the deaths of Monis, cafe manager Tori Johnson and Sydney barrister Katrina Dawson.

Monis had walked into the Lindt Cafe in Sydney’s Martin Place on the morning of Monday December 15 with an ageing sawn-off shotgun and an Islamic flag and took 18 people hostage.

It ended when Monis was shot by specialist police who stormed the cafe after Mr Johnson was killed.

Ms Dawson was fatally wounded after being hit by police bullet fragments.

Mr Barnes looked at the command system operated during the police response.

“Generally, it worked well,” he added.

The NSW Police Tactical Operations Unit was called out and a forward command post established.

“The transition from a system for dealing with a routine high-risk situation to that of a terrorist incident also proceeded swiftly and in accordance with relevant policies,” Mr Barnes said.

“There is a clear dividing line between senior executive officers of the police force and operational incident commanders responsible for decisions about the management of a terrorist incident.”

The primary police strategy was to contain and negotiate.

“That was adopted during the Lindt cafe siege. Sadly, it failed.”

Mr Barnes’ report examined how that strategy was applied.

“Contain and negotiate was the appropriate initial response to the siege. It continued to be so even after the siege was assessed to be a terrorist event” he said.

“How long it remained at the appropriate primary response depended upon a rigorous evaluation of its effectiveness. There was no evidence of an adequate examination was made.”

He recommended the NSW Police Force review the training and accreditation of negotiators and consider drawing on international experience.

But Mr Barnes “readily accepted” the view of an international expert who told the inquest the siege “would have challenged any police force in the world”.

For the NSW police force, “the challenge was greatly increased the fact that this was the first terrorism-related siege in Australia”.

“Training and exercising cannot completely equip any organisation to respond to a novel threat.”

Kohli wants relaxed India at Champs Trophy

India’s best chance of defending the Champions Trophy title next month will be if they do not burden themselves with that prospect, skipper Virat Kohli said on Wednesday.

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Kohli was part of the Indian team that defeated hosts England in the 2013 final at Edgbaston, and he said he recalled no creased foreheads in that victorious dressing room.

The same carefree attitude has been the hallmark of the Indian team that are currently the No.1 Test side, and Kohli saw no reason why it would not work in the one-day format.

“I think the first challenge is not to think that we are defending the title,” the 28-year-old told reporters.

“When we went there last time, we just wanted to enjoy ourselves as a young unit and we ended up winning the tournament and creating a team which has done so well so far.

“Right now, the mindset is very similar – to go out there and enjoy our cricket, which we’ve done in the past couple of years.”

Kohli demanded from his team the kind of “ruthlessness” evident when they won 10 of 13 Tests on home soil last season.

India’s batting mainstay also reminded his team that there would be little margin for error in the June 1-18 tournament featuring the top eight one-day sides.

“Because the tournament is much shorter (than World Cup) and you got top eight teams in the world, the competitiveness of the tournament is much higher, right from the word go,” he said.

“In Champions Trophy, you need to be on top of your game from game one.

“If not, your chances go down pretty soon.

“I think that’s the biggest challenge in Champions Trophy.”

Troops deploy as Britain goes on top terror alert

Britain deployed soldiers to key sites Wednesday and raised its terror alert to the maximum after the Manchester suicide bombing by a local man of Libyan origin who may have been radicalised in Syria.

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Security services believe the suspected bomber, Salman Abedi, was likely to have had help from others in staging the attack that killed 22 people including a girl aged just eight.

Interior minister Amber Rudd said the 22-year-old had been on the radar of the intelligence community before the massacre late Monday at a concert by US pop star Ariana Grande.

Investigators were trying to piece together the last movements of Abedi, a Manchester-born man of Libyan descent whose parents had reportedly fled the now fallen regime of Moamer Kadhafi.

After arresting a 23-year-old man on Tuesday, police said they had taken three more men into custody on Wednesday in south Manchester, where Abedi lived.

Abedi was reported to be a former business student who dropped out of university and turned to radical Islam.

French Interior Minister Gerard Collomb said the bomber had “likely” been to Syria, citing information provided by British intelligence services to their counterparts in Paris.

Collomb told French television the suspect “grew up in Britain and then suddenly, after a trip to Libya and then likely to Syria, became radicalised and decided to carry out this attack”.

“In any case, the links with Daesh are proven,” he said, using a term for the Islamic State group, which claimed responsibility for the attack on Tuesday.

British police and intelligence agencies have arrested three more suspects in connection with the Manchester suicide bombing.

Three more men arrested over bombing in Manchester

 

They said three men were arrested on Wednesday in south Manchester, where a day earlier a 22-year-old man was also arrested and a number of homes were searched following a suicide bombing at a pop concert in Manchester.

 

Security services believe the suspected bomber, Salman Abedi, was likely to have had help from others in staging the massacre that killed 22 people including one girl aged just eight.

More raids – and three more arrests – in #Manchester @SBSNews pic.twitter长沙桑拿按摩论坛,/Yv9gWbRHD8

— Brett Mason (@BrettMasonNews) May 24, 2017

Interior minister Amber Rudd said the 22-year-old had been on the radar of the intelligence community before the attack late Monday at a concert by US pop star Ariana Grande.

She said he had been known to security forces “up to a point”.

Security services were trying to piece together the last movements of Abedi, a Briton of Libyan descent, amid media reports he had travelled recently to Libya and possibly Syria.

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Rudd declined to give any further information about Abedi but told BBC radio: “It was a devastating occasion, it was more sophisticated than some of the attacks we’ve seen before, and it seems likely – possible – that he wasn’t doing this on his own.”

The minister said she was “not surprised at all” that the attack had been claimed by the Islamic State group, but said there was no information yet to confirm the extremist organisation’s active direction.

Britain ordered soldiers to key sites on Wednesday after going on maximum alert for fear of an imminent new terror strike.

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Prime Minister Theresa May placed the country on its highest level of terror alert – “critical” – for the first time since June 2007, following an attack on Glasgow Airport.

The last time troops were deployed on British streets was after an airliner plot in 2007.

Troops will fan out at sites such as Buckingham Palace, Westminster and foreign embassies in London to free up armed police for anti-terror duties.

May said a new attack “may be imminent” but the authorities stressed that the soldiers would remain under police command.

“This is a temporary arrangement in order to respond to an exceptional event,” Rudd said.

Related reading’Sing with the angels’

The attack was the deadliest in Britain since July 7, 2005 when four suicide bombers inspired by Al-Qaeda attacked London’s transport system during rush hour, killing 52 people.

A Polish couple living in Britain were confirmed among the Manchester victims, along with 15-year-old Olivia Campbell, whose mother had issued heartrending appeals for help when her daughter was still listed as missing.

Next to a photograph of Olivia, Charlotte Campbell wrote on Facebook: “RIP my darling precious gorgeous girl Olivia Campbell taken far far to soon go sing with the angels and keep smiling mummy loves you so much.”

A total of 59 people were taken to hospital, many with life-threatening conditions. Twelve of them were aged under 16.

British media said Abedi was born in Manchester and that his Libyan parents had fled the regime of dictator Moamer Kadhafi.

Police on Tuesday staged an armed raid on a Manchester address believed to be where Abedi lived, carrying out a controlled explosion to gain entry after arresting a 23-year-old man as part of the investigation.

Messages of hope at vigil

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Abedi was reported to be a former business student who dropped out of university and turned to radical Islam.

Britain’s best-selling newspaper The Sun carried pictures Wednesday of eight-year-old Saffie Rose Roussos, who was killed in the attack, and of Abedi under the words “PURE” and “EVIL” respectively.

Monday’s attack came just over two weeks before Britain votes in a general election and campaigning remained suspended by all the main political parties.

Related readingBlack armbands

The plan for the troop deployment, which has never before been used and is codenamed Operation Temperer, was first revealed after the November 2015 Paris terror attacks and is believed to allow up to 5,000 troops to be deployed.

France has already grown used to the sight of rifle-toting soldiers on the streets of its major cities under a state of emergency imposed after the attacks on the Bataclan concert hall and elsewhere in Paris.

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British police had already announced extra security measures for upcoming sporting fixtures including Saturday’s FA Cup football final.

Manchester was the latest in a series of deadly incidents across Europe claimed by IS jihadists that have coincided with an offensive on the group’s redoubts in Syria and Iraq carried out by US, British and other Western forces.

@SBSNews The two prior critical UK terror threat levels (2006 and 2007) remained in place for less than a week @SBSNews pic.twitter长沙桑拿按摩论坛,/lBTGCR0WwN

— Brett Mason (@BrettMasonNews) May 23, 2017

In a city famed globally for its football teams and pop bands like Oasis, The Stone Roses, The Smiths and Take That, showbusiness stars and teams have joined political leaders worldwide in expressing their horror at the carnage.

“Words don’t really do justice for how we all feel. We’re numb,” Manchester United’s executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward said, ahead of Wednesday evening’s Europa League final against Amsterdam giants Ajax.

The players will wear black armbands for the game in Stockholm and a minute’s silence will be held.

In the city centre Tuesday evening, thousands gathered for a multi-faith vigil outside the town hall to remember the victims, with defiant chants of “Manchester! Manchester!” ringing around.

Witnesses describe Manchester attack

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Research breakthrough in women’s disease

Researchers are one step closer to identifying genes linked to a gynaecological disease affecting one in 10 Australian women.

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A global study into the genetic causes of endometriosis has identified a wider array of genetic links to the disease than what was previously known.

The team of researchers, co-led by University of Queensland Professor Grant Montgomery and QUT Associate Professor Dale Nyholt, confirmed nine previously identified genomic regions – sections of DNA that contain our unique genetic code – and discovered an additional five.

The findings will pave the way for better diagnostics and treatments in future.

“We found regions of the genome where there is an increased risk of endometriosis, and that is the first step to finding what genes are affected and how they increase risk,” Prof Montgomery said.

DNA samples taken from 17,045 women living with endometriosis were collected by Australian and overseas researchers and compared to 191,858 samples from women without the disease.

“We don’t understand what the causes of endometriosis are, but if we can find the specific genes affected, then we will be able to understand the biology and the cause,” Prof Montgomery said.

“The next step is to actually work out the genes that are involved.”

Ten per cent of Australian women live with endometriosis, a condition where cells similar to those found in the lining of the uterus grow outside of it, most commonly in the pelvis.

In some cases, the tissue is also found around the heart, lungs, kidneys or other organs.

Symptoms can include severe pain, difficult menstrual cycles, painful sex and infertility.

Endometriosis costs Australian society $7.7 billion a year, with two-thirds of that attributed to lost productivity and the remaining $2.5 billion to direct healthcare fees, a 2014 University of Sydney report found.

Queensland Endometriosis Association president Jessica Taylor said she often heard stories from women who, like her, were incorrectly diagnosed with other medical conditions before their endometriosis was detected.

“On average it takes seven to 10 years for a diagnosis and … if there were measures in place to pick up the disease earlier people wouldn’t go through the horrors that so many do,” the 24-year-old said.

“If you can catch it early, that would change someone’s life. “

Al-Qaeda ‘learning social media from IS’

Al-Qaeda is learning from the way Islamic State is using the internet to radicalise young people and it has Australian authorities concerned.

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The federal government is making social media a key focus in its bid to counter violent extremism and the narrative being pushed by terrorists.

The Attorney-General’s Department sees it as a “significant and enduring issue”, deputy secretary Katherine Jones told a Senate estimates hearing.

But it was not strictly associated with IS – also known as ISIL.

“We see other groups such as al-Qaeda learning from ISIL in terms of much more sophisticated use of social media,” she said on Wednesday night.

“Notwithstanding that ISIL itself may be experiencing some diminishing in its territorial control in Iraq and Syria, we consider the ongoing risks associated with that extremist material to be quite significant.”

Almost $12 million has been allocated towards countering violent extremism in 2016/17, boosted by a one-off funding injection.

Part of that money is being spent on helping NSW set up a support line for families to reach out if they have concerns about their children.

Ms Jones hopes it will be launched in the near future.

“It’s a really important initiative in order to have an alternative mechanism for families or friends of people who are radicalising … so people don’t have to go to law enforcement,” she said.

Attorney-General George Brandis told the hearing countering violent extremism is a relatively new area and the way programs are delivered has evolved across time and agencies.

Intervention programs have now been rolled out in all states and territories, with different techniques being used to help deradicalise young people or those at risk of being radicalised.

Ms Jones said the department was working on a national framework to assess the success of the programs, with evidence only anecdotal at this stage.

“The feedback we’re getting is that people are engaging with programs.”

MPs vote against Tasmanian euthanasia bill

A clear majority of Tasmania’s lower house has voted against a bill which proposed legalising voluntary euthanasia.

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MPs on Wednesday spent hours deliberating reasons for and against legislation to give Tasmanians with an eligible medical condition, who are judged competent, access to a lethal drug to end their life.

But the bill was defeated 16 to eight in a conscience vote on Wednesday night.

State Greens leader Cassy O’Connor, who had co-authored the Voluntary Assisted Dying Bill, said every day the parliament avoided the issue, it was “another day of suffering and potentially choices for people for whom palliation does not and cannot provide relief”.

She promised to introduce the legislation as a private member, if re-elected, in the next term.

Health Minister Michael Ferguson said the bill would leave vulnerable people exposed to exploitation and remove protections safeguarding the sanctity of life.

“This is in fact a dangerous bill that will in fact create a different group of cruel tragedies,” he said on Wednesday.

“We’ve said every suicide is too many yet before us is a bill that would sanction suicide.”

Former Tasmanian premier Ms Giddings stressed the proposed law would act as a last resort for people suffering intolerable pain, and palliative care options often subjected patients to “state-sanctioned torture” preventing them from ending their lives with dignity.

Liberal premier Will Hodgmanm, who opposed the bill, had insisted party members voted with their heart, leading to Nic Street being among the bill’s supporters.

NSW and Victorian parliaments are also considering similar bills amid support for euthanasia rights.

Australian readers seeking support and information about depression can contact Lifeline on 13 11 14.

Lance Franklin impressed with young Swan

Will Hayward has played only eight AFL games but already made a big impression on Sydney teammate Lance Franklin.

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Hayward, who joined the club during last year’s draft, made his debut in round two and hasn’t looked back.

Forwards generally take a long time to develop but Hayward has already stepped up superbly, booting 11 goals.

Franklin, who is regarded as a mentor by many young guns at the SCG, has been suitably impressed with the 18-year-old.

“He’s been super … to do that in your first year is a really good effort,” Franklin said of the South Australian’s capacity to keep the scoreboard ticking over at such a young age.

“He’s probably the most exciting kid coming through (at the Swans).”

Franklin will take centre stage on Friday night, when the Swans host his former side Hawthorn at the SCG, in a crunch clash.

Sydney dropped their opening six games of the year but have since impressed in comfortable victories over Brisbane, North Melbourne and St Kilda.

Franklin suggested there was one clear difference between the way his side played earlier this year compared to now.

“Working as a team, helping your teammates and just that contested side of the game; that’s really what has got us back in the game,” he said.

“Hanners (Dan Hannebery), Joey (Kennedy) and Parks (Luke Parker) are playing some good football, getting it going forward and giving us a chance to win the game.”

The Swans and Hawks have built a special rivalry in recent years, notably contesting the 2012 and 2014 grand finals.

But this year both powerhouses have tumbled down the ladder, banking a combined six wins across the opening nine rounds. It means the Swans and Hawks’ finals hopes are already in the balance.

“We didn’t get off to the start we would have liked to as a club but the last three weeks have been really good,” Franklin said.

“No doubt (the Hawks will be desperate). Obviously they lost last week against Collingwood so they’re going to come out firing, we’ll have to be at our best to get the win.”

The Swans are expected to resist the urge to rush former co-captain Kieren Jack back from a hip injury when they name their side on Thursday night.

Blues defend Walters on Slater Origin snub

NSW winger Blake Ferguson has leapt to the defence of Queensland coach Kevin Walters following his gut-wrenching decision to drop Billy Slater for State of Origin I.

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Walters has been pilloried both sides of the border after seemingly shutting the door on the Melbourne champion’s 27-game Origin career, a call which reduced him to tears.

Even north Queensland maverick politician Bob Katter on Wednesday joined the pile on, accusing the Queensland selectors of being in the pocket of Brisbane after selecting Broncos skipper Darius Boyd in the No.1 jersey.

However Ferguson defended the selection of his Kangaroos teammate, calling him the best custodian in the league over the last few years.

“I think Darbs is the form fullback in the comp and he’s been playing a couple of years at fullback (for the Maroons),” Ferguson said.

“It’s sad to see someone like Billy Slater miss out but Darbs has shown he’s earned that position.”

Walters made the difficult decision to stick with Boyd at fullback, resisting the temptation to play him on the wing and Slater in the No.1.

Slater has returned in stunning form this year following back-to-back shoulder reconstructions but given he is 33, Walters has decided to move on.

Katter on Wednesday made the unusual step of turning on his own and in a press release riddled with spelling errors accused Walters of nepotism and claimed only one per cent of Queenslanders supported Boyd’s selection ahead of Slater.

“Darrius (sic) Boyd wouldn’t know what a linebreak was if he fell over it on a dark night,” Katter’s statement said, ignoring Boyd’s record of two linebreaks, 10 linebreak assists and six try assists this year.

“We don’t deny Darrius Boyd is a solid rock on which you can build an NRL team.

“However that is not needed at State of Origin level when you have arguably all-time great players such as Cameron Smith, Cooper Cronk and Johnathan Thurston.”

Qld back nice guy Cordner as NSW captain

The days of the NSW skipper as public enemy No.

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1 in Queensland appear numbered.

The thought may have seemed inconceivable with 16-time captain Paul Gallen at the Blues helm.

Especially after his now infamous “two heads” jibe at Maroons fans.

But new Blues skipper Boyd Cordner won’t be infuriating anyone north of the Tweed River any time soon, judging by rare praise from the Maroons.

Cordner’s predecessor Gallen gleefully revelled in the role of Origin villain in Queensland.

He quickly became the man Maroons fans loved to hate, ruffling most feathers when he described them as “two heads” in 2014.

However, Cordner may yet get cheers not jeers from the Suncorp Stadium crowd at Origin I next Wednesday night judging by the Queensland team’s reaction to his looming debut as NSW captain.

“He’s actually a very likeable guy,” Queensland and Test skipper Cameron Smith said.

“I’ve only got good things to say about Boyd. He’s a very impressive player and person as well.

“I can only applaud him being given the captaincy of the Blues – I’m sure he’ll do a great job.”

Sydney Roosters backrower Cordner, 24, became the youngest Blues skipper in 21 years when he was handed the reigns for 2017.

He held out the likes of Wests Tigers captain Aaron Woods and Canterbury back-rower Josh Jackson in order to take over from veteran prop Gallen.

“It’s probably the best decision NSW could have made, not that I worry too much about their decisions,” Queensland prop Dylan Napa said of Roosters teammate Cordner.

“I wish him, well, not too much luck. He’s a great leader and an even better bloke. He’s probably my best mate at the Roosters.”

France, Germany agree to Trump’s IS plan

France and Germany will agree to a US plan for NATO to play a bigger role in the fight against Islamic militants at a meeting with President Donald Trump, but insist the move is purely symbolic, four senior European diplomats said.

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The decision to allow the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation to join the coalition against Islamic State in Syria and Iraq follows weeks of pressure on the two allies, who are wary of NATO confronting Russia in Syria and of alienating Arab countries who see NATO as pushing a pro-Western agenda.

“NATO as an institution will join the coalition,” said one senior diplomat involved in the discussions. “The question is whether this just a symbolic gesture to the United States. France and Germany believe it is.”

Flying to the NATO meeting in Brussels with Trump, US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said on Wednesday it would be an important step for the Organisation to join the US-led, 68-nation coalition.

“I think they’re going to support NATO joining and becoming a formal member,” he said, referring to “a couple of countries that are still thinking it over” but not giving details.

Trump has said he wants to focus on fighting Islamic terrorism and, in a brief encounter with the Belgian prime minister, referred to a suicide attack claimed by Islamic State that killed 22 people in Manchester on Monday.

“It’s a horrible situation…. unthinkable. But we will win,” Trump said. “We are fighting very hard, doing very well under our generals … We will win this fight.”

A senior French diplomat said Paris was ready to accept NATO joining the coalition fighting Islamic State, but that its role would be limited to training and intelligence, things allies were already involved in.

US and other European officials want to show Trump, who called NATO “obsolete” because he said it was not doing enough against terrorism, that the alliance is responding.

While Islamic State is on the verge of defeat in its Iraqi stronghold of Mosul and bracing for an assault against its de facto capital in Raqqa, Syria, U.S. officials are concerned fleeing militants could leave a vacuum that could prompt Arab tribal fighters to turn on each other to gain control.

All 28 NATO allies are members of the coalition, but the alliance as a formal member could become more involved, contributing equipment, training and the expertise it gained leading nations against al-Qaeda and the Taliban in Afghanistan.