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Power supply sting for pensioners

PENSIONERS and low-income earners are being unfairly stung by high energy supply charges, a report has found.
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The St Vincent de Paul Society report, Tasmanian Energy Prices July 2013-July 2014, tracked the state’s power tariffs and found electricity bills had fallen on average by between $290-$370 annually since last year.

But the report also found that low power consumers were paying proportionally higher costs per unit of energy than high consumption households.

“This has significant equity implications as some customer classes characterised by low and fixed income also use less electricity than the Tasmanian average,” the report said.

While supply charges have dropped by 13 per cent, customers are still paying between $320 and $460 a year in fixed charges.

Aurora pay-as-you-go customers pay about $160 more in fixed charges a year than those on the standard, regulated rate.

Tasmanian Council of Social Service chief executive Tony Reidy said the fixed portion of electricity pricing should be reduced.

“The impact is particularly felt by those households relying on fixed incomes such as Commonwealth allowances and benefits,” Mr Reidy said.

Mr Reidy said reducing the fixed portion of pricing would provide incentives for households to reduce their power usage through careful usage and better thermal efficiency in homes.

“The concession system for electricity and other essentials needs to be even better targeted and directed to those in most need,” Mr Reidy said.

Energy Minister Matthew Groom said the government was developing a comprehensive whole-of-state energy strategy.

“The energy strategy will provide a pathway to ensure we are making the most of our competitive advantage to attract business and ensure Tasmanians are paying lower power prices,” Mr Groom said.

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Region looks abroad

NATIONAL CONFERENCE: Victorian potato grower David Hotchkin, Mingbool potato grower Terry Buckley and Simplot Australia’s Peter Hardman, from Tasmania, joined four other industry leaders on a discussion panel at the 2014 Potato Industry Conference in Mount Gambier Monday. Picture: SAM DOWDYEXPORTS are the key to growth in the region’s nation-leading potato industry, according to Mingbool potato grower Terry Buckley.
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After recently visiting Indonesia and becoming involved in Asian market opportunities, Mr Buckley believes growers both in the South East and other parts of Australia should be looking to export their product to maximise their returns.

He spoke at a national industry conference held in the South East yesterday.

“I’ve seen their rapid westernisation – there is a big market there for potatoes,” he said.

“Even though our product appears to be too expensive for that market, we can achieve access through good-quality products and building relationships as they are looking to import potatoes.”

Mr Buckley was one of seven panellists for the industry discussion section of the 2014 Potato Industry Conference,at the Barn Palais.

Due to end this afternoon, the two-day conference has attracted international speakers and attendees from across Australia.

Mr Buckley said the conference was useful not only for gaining valuable industry knowledge, but also for networking.

“The conference is a great way to unite the industry and get to know people from other districts,” he said.

“Information on disease prevention was beneficial because it is something we all need to look closely at in order to produce a quality product.”

Member for Barker Tony Pasin officially opened the event yesterday morning.

“Investment in research and development, workforce training and retention and a strong focus on increasing access to markets, particularly in China and Asia, means the potato industry is in a strong position,” he said.

“This conference is the first to bring the industry as a whole together to discuss practical ways to leverage innovation, access markets and deal with the challenges facing the industry.

“Just in the electorate of Barker alone, the potato industry is worth approximately $170m at the farm gate with the benefits flowing throughout local communities in the Riverland, Mallee and the South East.

“Whether it is the fresh produce, processed or seed sectors, potatoes are a foundation industry for South Australia and one with a bullish future.”

Mr Pasin went on to suggest Australia’s prime agricultural and horticultural land provides a competitive edge.

“Australia’s competitive advantage is our pristine environment, soil composition, abundant water resources, disease and pest controls and our track record for innovation,” he said.

“In this the Asian Century, the Abbott Coalition Government is serious about securing Australia as the food bowl of Asia, which is why we are investing an additional $100m into agricultural research and development and undertaking the Agricultural Competitiveness White Paper and Horticultural Australia Review – all of which will benefit Australia’s potato industry directly.”

‘I fear for regional unis’

DEEP DISCUSSION: Labor Senator for NSW and Secretary of Labor’s education committee Deborah O’Neill with president of the student union Isaac Foster during a visit to the UTAS Cradle Coast Campus. Picture: Grant Wells.NEW South Wales Senator Deborah O’Neill visited the University of Tasmania’s Cradle Coast Campus yesterday to discuss proposed changes to higher education.
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The secretary of the Labor education committee was at the campus as part of her national tour of regional universities.

Senator O’Neill said she was concerned the proposed deregulation of fees and the shift of the HECS-HELP debt to a compounding interest rate would have on regional universities.

SenatorO’Neill said she even feared that regional universities would close as a result of the mooted changes.

“The group of eight look set to be advantaged by the proposed structures as they are, as two tiers of education will be formed,” she said.

“There will be a really big gap between the group of eight and regional universities.

“They [the proposed changes] are very discriminatory on regional areas.”

SenatorO’Neill said the proposed changes would make people from low-income areas less likely to engage in tertiary education.

“The more a degree costs, the less benefit people will see,” she said.

“It’s an incentivisation scheme almost to disengage people who live in regional areas.”

Member for Braddon Brett Whiteley was in strong disagreement with the senator’s views, saying he did not believe for one second that the higher tertiary education would be threatened by the proposed changes.

“[Universities] will need to understand that there is competition now in the market and they will have to be far more sensitive to the need of the consume, ie the students and the industry,” he said.

“I think in fact the deregulation of the higher tertiary sector could in fact provide regional campuses the opportunity to find some area of specialisation which could in fact give them an opportunity to stand out as a centre of excellence in particular areas.”

Mr Whiteley said the way fears about the changes were being communicated amounted to scare tactics.

“Over 1000 people are utilising the Cradle Coast facilities and I don’t believe for one moment that the future of the Cradle Coast campus is under threat from these proposed changes,” he said.

Tassie to feel budget pain more acutelyChallenging times ahead for UTASThis story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.

Green’s role in mill reopening stalemate to be examined

WHY Labor Leader Bryan Green apparently did little to help Forestry Tasmania get the mothballed Triabunna woodchip mill reopened will be probed.
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A parliamentary inquiry starting today will cover what Opposition leader Bryan Green and the former government did to ensure the Triabunna mill reopened in accordance with the forest peace deal.

A parliamentary inquiry starting today will also cover what Mr Green and the former government did to ensure the mill reopened in accordance with the forest peace deal.

Mr Green said he remained disappointed efforts to get the mill operating were “frustrated” by its owners (wealthy environmentalists Jan Cameron and Graeme Wood).

The Advocate obtained letters that showed FT’s efforts to get the mill restarted appeared to have been ignored by Triabunna Investments, a Cameron-Wood vehicle.

Triabunna Investments in 2011 called for tenders to reopen the mill.

FT offered to do so if it could not find another operator.

Three months later, FT’s then-managing director, Bob Gordon, wrote to Triabunna Investments about having heard nothing back.

Triabunna Investments last month said it received no economically viable tender.

The mill is still closed.

It was reportedly trashed last year to ensure it could not be used for forestry without major expenditure.

Mr Green said FT’s board decided to express interest.

Mr Green, who was resources minister at the time, said he was briefed on that, and encouraged FT.

“I supported the decision, but suggestions that ministers should interfere in the transactions between a GBE and a business goes beyond ministerial responsibility,” he said.

“I was, and remain, disappointed that efforts to get the mill going failed and were frustrated by the mill owners.”

Mr Green said he would be happy to answer any questions.

Barnett rejects claims on mill inquiryWhish-Wilson seeking unity on forestry issuesBooth family in machinery dealTriabunna mill subject of parliamentary inquiryBarnett seeks Triabunna mill ‘facts’This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.

Barnett seeks Triabunna mill ‘facts’

Lyons Liberal MHA Guy Barnett set up a committee to examine the circumstances of the Triabunna mill’s closure, but the state opposition says it’s just a drawn out witch hunt.THE chairman of the parliamentary inquiry into the destruction of the Triabunna woodchip mill hopes to “establish the facts” at public hearings in Hobart today, but the state opposition says it’s just a drawn out witch hunt.
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Lyons Liberal MHA Guy Barnett set up the committee to examine the circumstances of the mill’s closure, sale and dismantling by new owners, environmentalists Graeme Wood and Jan Cameron, after a national magazine exposed “disgraceful tactics of radical environmentalists”.

Mr Barnett said yesterday that he was “shocked and surprised” at the dismantling of the mill but also wanted to look at future opportunities for Triabunna.

“What we have seen are matters that need to be investigated,” Mr Barnett said.

“There are key questions that need to be asked,” he said.

Mr Wood and Ms Cameron are not on the witness list for the two day hearing, and Mr Barnett said witnesses have been written to and asked to give evidence.

Forest industry representatives dominate today’s witness list, including Forest Industry Association of Tasmania chief executive Terry Edwards and Forestry Tasmania chief executive Steve Whitely.

Triabunna Investments, which is owned by Mr Wood and Ms Cameron, hit back at criticism of their handling of the decommissioning of the site last month.

They maintain all staff acted in a lawful and professional manner in the decommissioning process.

But Mr Barnett has described it as a “very murky affair”.

Opposition Leader Bryan Green said the Liberals were “looking back at a time when the state needs ideas for the future”.

“Mr Barnett talks about future opportunities for Triabunna but who on the witness list does he suggest will do that?” Mr Green said.

An attempt by Denison Greens MHA Cassy O’Connor, who will also sit on the committee, to change the focus of the inquiry from a “political vendetta against a private investor” to rebuilding the economies in struggling regional towns failed.

Barnett rejects claims on mill inquiryWhish-Wilson seeking unity on forestry issuesBooth family in machinery dealBooth not critical of mill actionTriabunna mill subject of parliamentary inquiryGreen’s role in mill reopening stalemate to be examinedThis story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.

NSW Premier Mike Baird to block Cornwell expulsion despite ICAC revelations

NSW Premier Mike Baird. Photo: Peter Rae Andrew Cornwell. Photo: Daniel Munoz
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A motion to expel disgraced former Liberal MP Andrew Cornwell from the NSW Parliament will be blocked by the state government, which will use its majority in the lower house to vote down the move.

But the decision is expected to draw criticism of Premier Mike Baird from the opposition, Greens and independent MPs who believe Mr Cornwell should be forced out.

Mr Cornwell has admitted to a corruption inquiry that he accepted a $10,000 payment he understood to be a bribe from property developer Hilton Grugeon and used the money to pay his tax bill.

He also told the Independent Commission Against Corruption he accepted $10,000 in cash from another developer, Jeff McCloy, who is now mayor of Newcastle.

The money was used in Mr Cornwell’s campaign to win the seat of Charlestown. Property developers have been banned from donating to NSW political campaigns since 2009.

The expulsion motion is due to be moved by Greens MP Jamie Parker and may be brought on for debate as early as Tuesday afternoon.

But a government spokesman said on Monday night: “The government believes the ICAC inquiry should be allowed to run its course.”

It is understood the government feels the Greens motion is a stunt and no action should be taken against Mr Cornwell until ICAC hands down its findings, which are due by the end of the year.

However, Mr Parker said it would be “breathtaking if the Liberal Party provided political cover to an MP who has admitted this corrupt and unethical behaviour”.

“Failing to expel this MP would condemn the Liberals as a party not only condoning, but actively protecting corrupt behaviour,” he said.

Opposition leader John Robertson said Labor would vote in favour of the motion “because of the serious nature of what Mr Cornwell has admitted to”.

“I continue to be shocked by what we see playing out at ICAC,” Mr Robertson said.

“Despite promising to end the scandal, we continue to see a conga line of Liberals ministers and MPs dragged down to explain themselves.”

Independent MP for Sydney, Alex Greenwich, said he would vote to expel Mr Cornwell, but felt Mr Parker should have sought co-sponsors for the motion “to put it above party politics”.

“It is important the parliament restores community confidence and makes a united stand against corruption and expels those who have admitted to taking bribes,” he said.

Greg Piper, the independent MP for Lake Macquarie, said he would decide how to vote on the motion in due course. But he said it was “untenable for Andrew Cornwell to stay in parliament. One way or another he needs to leave.”

Mr Piper said he had been planning to move an expulsion motion against Mr Cornwell and was disappointed the Greens had chosen to “contaminate” the debate by “using it in a party political way”.

But Mr Parker said only one member could move for expulsion: “This isn’t about parties – it’s about the community’s faith in parliament”.

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Minister threatens sanctions over absenteeism in remote schools

Amata school kids performing at traditional dance for Indigenous Affairs Minister Nigel Scullion. Photo: Justin McManusIndigenous Affairs Minister Nigel Scullion has vowed to impose sanctions on parents in remote indigenous communities whose children are not attending school.
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Senator Scullion declared his intention after figures showed the strategy to boost school attendance in remote communities without sanctions had failed to significantly improve attendance.

The minister yesterday met Greg Wirth, principal of the Amata Anangu School, south of Uluru, where fewer than 60 per cent of enrolled pupils attended school during second term.

Figures were similarly poor across other communities in the Anangu Pitjantjatjara lands in the north-west of South Australia.

Mr Wirth said there had been a spike in attendance after the new approach started in term one, with school attendance supervisors employed to boost school attendance.

The minister announced his intention at Amata after handing out certificates to children with unblemished attendance records.

One local described the plan as: ”No school, no pay.”

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Cambodia asylum deal to go ahead despite intense opposition

Scott Morrison is yet to confirm if he will travel to Cambodia. Photo: Wolter PeetersFull federal politics coverage
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Australia’s secret refugee deal with Cambodia is about to be signed, amid growing opposition to the  transfer agreement.

With a deal imminent, the office of Immigration Minister Scott Morrison refused to confirm on Monday he was set to travel to Cambodia this week, while the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade would not admit Australia’s ambassador to Cambodia, Alison Burrows, had been in meetings with the Cambodian government.

Cambodian officials were more forthcoming with details of the government’s activities in the impoverished south-east Asian nation.

“Regarding the issue of refugees, Australia Immigration Minister [Morrison] will soon, in the upcoming days, visit Cambodia. The minister will visit a number of areas in Cambodia,” the interior ministry told the Phnom Penh Post.

A ministry official also confirmed that Australia’s ambassador to Cambodia had met Interior Minister Sar Kheng on Friday in final negotiations on the deal.

The federal government has not divulged any details of the refugee transfer plan, but it has been speculated it will pay Cambodia $40 million to take up to 1000 refugees from the detention centre on Nauru.

Removing 1000 refugees from Nauru would almost empty the island’s detention centre – it is holding 1146 people – but would overwhelm Cambodia’s refugee infrastructure. The country has 68 registered refugees and 12 asylum seekers.

There are concerns Australia could be violating international law by sending refugees in its care to a place where they might face persecution.

Cambodia arbitrarily arrests members of minorities and government opponents, the United Nations says, and has previously sent asylum seekers back to their home countries where they have been jailed, or even sentenced to the death penalty.

Cambodia has said it will run background checks on all refugees Australia wants to transfer and will only take people who agree to be moved.

Labor and the Greens have criticised the government’s secrecy over its Cambodia transfer plan.

“It is time for the minister for secrecy to come clean on what the dirty deal is,” Greens Senator Sarah Hanson-Young said. “What is it going to cost the Australian taxpayer and what are the arrangements.”

Labor’s immigration spokesman, Richard Marles, said the government’s record of asylum deals with other countries was woeful.

“It is completely unacceptable that Scott Morrison continues to keep the Australian public in the dark about any proposal to resettle asylum seekers in Cambodia.”

Fairfax sought comment from the Immigration Minister on the details of the deal with Cambodia, but questions were not answered.

Human rights advocates, refugee campaigners and legal experts have lined up to condemn any proposed transfer deal with Cambodia.

Human Rights Watch Asia deputy director Phil Robertson said Australia was outsourcing its refugee obligations.

“At its core, the Australia refugee dumping deal is all about Canberra violating its rights obligations and paying Phnom Penh to clean up the mess,” he said. ”Prime Minister Tony Abbott and his government should be universally condemned for his central role in trashing the principle of refugee protection in the region.”

Daniel Webb, from the Human Rights Law Centre, said the government’s argument that the transfer deal was a regional solution was flawed.

“Cambodia is a poverty-stricken nation with a poor human rights record and no history of refugee resettlement. There are more refugees in the world now than there has been at any time since the end of WWII.

”Only a tiny fraction seeks Australia’s protection. Yet when they do they’re locked up on remote Pacific islands while our government prowls around the region looking for somewhere else to dump them.”

Ian Rintoul, from the Refugee Action Coalition, said “shamefully, the government is trying to draw yet another poor country into undermining the human rights of refugees”.

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Gallop promises ‘top 10’ club for 2015 All Stars

Winner … Simone Pepe celebrates after scoring for Juventus against the A-League All Stars on Sunday.Juventus’ saviour Simone Pepe praised the standard of Australian football and admitted the Italian champions were somewhat surprised by the A-League All Stars who made them work hard for a narrow 3-2 victory on Sunday night.
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Less than a day after Juventus entertained Sydney, Football Federation Australia revealed it is in talks to bring another European heavyweight to Australia next year. Manchester City are believed to be the frontrunners.

FFA chief executive David Gallop prolonged the public excitement surrounding the All Stars event by confirming a deal is in the works to bring a world “top 10” club to Australia next year. Several high-profile teams are being lined up for the 2015 A-League All Stars clash. Manchester City are in the frame following their takeover of Melbourne City.

It’s understood the FFA disclosed to A-League clubs a $1 million direct profit from the Juventus friendly match and confirmed the All Stars concept will remain an annual fixture for the foreseeable future.

Gallop remained tight-lipped on the identity of the opponent, but said it is a club that will maintain the standard set by past guests, Manchester United and Juventus. “We’re already in heavy planning to make sure there is another big fixture,” Gallop said. “I can’t exactly announce the team yet, but I can promise it’s a big one. A club inside the top ten in the world and it will be something fans will be really excited about.”

The All Stars concept received a favourable response from the Juventus players. Pepe, who scored the winning goal for the Italian champions, praised the standard of Australian football. The 30-year-old winger was warned not to underestimate the A-League players by former AC Milan and Australia goalkeeper, Zeljko Kalac, but his teammates were forced to learn the hard way against an exhibition side intent on snaring an upset. 

“I was speaking to [Zeljko] Kalac today who came and found me in the hotel, because we knew each other, and he told me there’s been great improvement,” Pepe said. ”In fact, I saw tonight that it was a great team because in their game they have strong individuals with good quality, even if we are a little off condition they gave us a great game.”

Juventus were impressive in their tactical set-up but offered little intensity in the opening half as they organised their tactical structure before their first competitive match on August 21. Pepe watched the bulk of the game from the bench before entering as a late substitute and was impressed with the speed and physicality of the All Stars.

“When I was on the bench I was aware of it but when I was on the field I became more aware that they’re in good condition physically,” Pepe said.

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NRL Power Rankings: Round 22 – Josh Reynolds should have been told to pull his head in

Josh Reynolds undoubtedly did the wrong thing by his teammates last Friday night in Brisbane by acting like a goose but he was also let down by the Canterbury’s leaders.
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Reynolds, who has been encouraged at club and Origin level this year to sail close to the wind, went over the top against the Broncos. He was rightfully penalised for lashing out with his boots after being tackled by Sam Thaiday, he should have at least been sin-binned for his trip on Ben Barba and after his high tackle, the referees should have sent him straight off instead of signalling 10 minutes in the sin bin (yes, it didn’t affect the time he missed because there were only a few minutes left but it still sends a stronger message).

Somewhere between brain snap #1 and the final act of foul play, he should have been told to pull his head in by captain Michael Ennis, another renowned niggler, or the message should have come down from supercoach Hasler to show some discipline or he would send him to the sheds before the refs next had the chance to do so.

The upshot is he’s facing three weeks, the Bulldogs have lost their fourth match on the trot and are rapidly fading from the finals equation.

1. Manly (last week 1): Manly are still the team to beat. Souths dominated them on Friday night at the SCG but don’t be fooled into thinking the Rabbitohs are the benchmark just yet. Manly have consistently been the better team throughout the season.

2. South Sydney (2): But in saying that, the Bunnies were very impressive in toppling Manly 23-4, Sam Burgess was unstoppable through the middle and on the edges of the ruck. Only Sonny Bill Williams can match him as far as class in the finesse and grunt work that comes with being a modern-day forward in the NRL.

3. Roosters (3): You can’t blame them for not getting up for Monday night’s tussle with the Titans in the freezing rain in front of a quarter-full Allianz Stadium. But they did whatever was necessary and got the win.

4. Panthers (4): Supercoach Cleary’s side only broke the line three times against the Dragons in Wollongong but they made only four errors. They’ve reeled in the attacking flair in recent weeks as they’ve lost players to injury but they’re still racking up the wins.

5. Warriors (5): They were lucky to get away with the win over the Sharks but after racking up the half-century the previous weekend against another cellar dweller in Canberra, a touch of complacency can be overlooked just this once.

6. Cowboys (7): Supercoach Green is officially hardcore. Refusing to take Johnathan Thurston off during the 58-point annihilation of the Tigers because it would look soft is a risky strategy but it tells the other NRL teams that North Queensland aren’t mucking around as the business end of the season nears.

7. Storm (6): Winger Sisa Waqa scored four tries on the end of the Melbourne backline in the last-ditch loss in Newcastle. He’s off to Canberra next year. They need that sort of strike power but unfortunately he needs classy players inside him.

8. Eels (9): That’s two weeks in a row where Parramatta would have lost if not for Jarryd Hayne’s individual brilliance – polishing off Canberra after doing the same to Cronulla. Perhaps it’s time for the likes of Will Hopoate and Chris Sandow to shoulder more of the attacking burden.

9. Broncos (11): All five running forwards in the starting side, plus bench prop Ben Hannant, made more than 100 metres against the Bulldogs. Only one Canterbury forward, Tony Williams, did the same. End result, Broncos 41, Bulldogs 10.

10. Dragons (10): Josh Dugan is still relatively new to the centre position but one thing supercoach McGregor needs to instil in him is the will to go looking for the ball when it’s not coming your way. He was too quiet against Penrith and St George Illawarra can’t afford that from their best strike weapon.

11. Bulldogs (8): In freefall after four straight losses. They looked like over-achieving this year and giving the premiership a fair shake. Now it looks like they will miss the finals and be left thinking what might have been on their earlier-than-expected Mad Monday. Parramatta should towel them up this Friday.

12. Knights (15): It’s way too late to save their season but as far as consolation wins go, that after-the-siren victory at home over Melbourne after trailing by 10 with three minutes left is one of the best of all time. Travis Waddell, who stole the ball from Billy Slater to score the crucial second-last try, is a talented player and it’s a bit of a mystery why he hasn’t played more first grade during his stints at Canberra and Newcastle.

13. Titans (13): Incoming supercoach Henry needs to have a look at the roster. In particular, the majority of the first-grade forwards are getting a bit long in the tooth. An injection of some fresh blood is needed.

14. Sharks (14): If bench hooker Pat Politoni is ever entrusted with playing first grade again, he needs to be told – if you make a break when the team trails by four with a few minutes left and you have the fullback to beat with a teammate looming in support, pass it to him. Michael Gordon would have scored under the posts on Sunday in Auckland to register a boilover win but Politoni panicked as Warriors fullback Sam Tomkins backed off to put him in two minds.

15. Tigers (12): They melted in the tropical heat of Townsville. It’s a tough place to win at the best of times, let alone when most of your first-choice starting 13 is unavailable.

16. Raiders (16): They’ve forgotten how to win. Can’t blame them, they’ve won just once since beating the Cowboys in May. Despite their apparent ineptitude, they’re worth a sneaky investment this weekend against the Dragons, a team they have a mystical stranglehold on.

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