Pressure mounts on Green to play Scott

Pressure is mounting on North Queensland coach Paul Green to make one of the toughest calls of his coaching career and bring Matt Scott back for Sunday’s NRL grand final.

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Scott won’t have played for 205 days come kick off against Melbourne on Sunday, but Cowboys players have spoken of his desire to return from a season-long knee injury before Saturday’s preliminary final win over the Sydney Roosters.

Scott was a late omission in the No.21 jersey, but fellow injured co-captain Johnathan Thurston declared he thought he’d be “fit to play” the Storm on Sunday night.

Senior Cowboys Jason Taumalolo and Michael Morgan have also voiced their support on the impact he would have on the team if he returned.

“It’d be a huge confidence boost, but at the same time someone gets to miss out,” Taumalolo said.

“Everyone that’s been playing has been great, but I think it’s inspirational to see our co-captain make himself available.

“At the moment it’s a tough decision. I’ll leave that to Greeny.”

Green dodged questions on Scott’s selection on Saturday night, but confirmed on the return to Townsville on Sunday the prop would again be named in his 21-man squad on Tuesday.

Only second-rower Ethan Lowe (black eye) picked up an injury in Saturday night’s win, but Coen Hess (knee), John Asiata (broken hand) and Shaun Fensom (knee) are all playing through pain.

Scott has played 16 finals matches since he debuted for the Cowboys in 2004, and has led their forward pack since he became a Queensland State of Origin regular in 2009.

If he was to come into the side, it would most likely be in place of interchange forward Corey Jensen, who debuted for the Cowboys in round seven this year and has averaged 23 minutes off the bench.

It’s expected Scott would come off the bench and play two stints totalling 30 minutes – as was the plan if he had turned out against the Roosters.

On his departure from Sydney on Sunday morning, five-eighth Morgan told Fox Sports News even that time would be valuable.

“A guy like Matt Scott, to have him in the team in a game like this as well, it would be huge … just his influence across the team,” Morgan said.

“He obviously wouldn’t need to play too many minutes, it would be about his presence and what he could bring for the side – his leadership qualities and just his experience can’t be underrated.

“I certainly trust the guys who are there. They’ve certainly shown that in the last few weeks and through the season that they’re more than capable of doing the job for us and doing the job well.”

Morgan dismisses NRL fairytale talk

North Queensland’s heroic Cowboys have moved to play down talk of a sporting miracle as they close in on a historic NRL premiership.

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Hard work and a great coach have underpinned the side’s unlikely surge to the season decider, according to the Cowboys’ new talismanic halfback Michael Morgan.

After scraping into the finals in eighth spot and without injured co-captains Johnathan Thurston and Matt Scott, Morgan shed light on the club’s inspired run to Sunday’s grand final against Melbourne at ANZ Stadium.

The injury-riddled Cowboys squeezed into the playoffs after Canterbury upset St George Illawarra in the last round, before ending Cronulla’s title defence and also eliminating Parramatta and the Roosters to set up an improbable showdown with the Storm.

“We’ve worked hard while doing it. It hasn’t just been a big fairytale and things have just gone our way for no reason,” Morgan told Fox Sports before the Cowboys received a heroes’ welcome upon arrival home in Townsville on Sunday.

Morgan can’t praise coach Paul Green enough for what he’s done in the charge to the decider.

“He’s a great coach. I’ve learnt so much off him and I’m still learning,” Morgan said.

“I’ve been coached by him now since 2014 when he got here. Every year I’ve continued to learn and develop my game and he’s been a massive influence on that.

“If ever there’s certain tips for a certain part of my game, whether it’s kicking, passing, running, he’s an extremely smart coach in the way he coaches and the mindset he gets his players in and deserves a lot of credit for what he’s done this year.”

As for Melbourne, Morgan is under no illusions about the task facing his side against the dominant minor premiers who crushed Brisbane 30-0 in their preliminary final on Friday night.

“We can go one more,” Morgan said.

“Just try and limit their opportunities. They are going to get some and they’ll create their opportunities.They do that really well.”

The grand final is the first to pit the No.1 team versus eighth, the very fixture the NRL didn’t want when it scrapped the controversial McIntyre finals system in 2011.

Eerily, the last time the eighth-placed team made the grand final occurred in 2009, when the Storm’s superstar trio Billy Slater, Cooper Cronk and skipper Cameron Smith, along with Greg Inglis, combined to end Parramatta’s Jarryd Hayne-inspired charge with a 23-16 victory.

That title, as well as their 2007 premiership, was subsequently stripped from the Storm for the club’s salary-cap rorting.

Eight years on and Slater, Smith and Cronk – in his emotion-charged farewell from the Storm – get the chance to finally become dual premiership winners.

As too will Morgan and up to a dozen of North Queensland’s survivors from the 2015 golden-point grand final win over Brisbane.

Whether Scott lines up, after tearing his ACL in round two more than six months ago, will be the question all week, with Green again saying the former Test prop will be included in an extended 21-man squad.

Apathy threatens marriage equality success

The Yes campaign has warned same-sex marriage supporters not to get complacent about winning the same-sex marriage survey.

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With almost all same-sex marriage survey forms now delivered to people on the federal electoral roll, acting Labor leader Tanya Plibersek says the difficulty will be making sure people actually return their forms.

“I think that the biggest threat to the Yes campaign’s success is people assuming that this is in the bag because they know that a majority of Australians support marriage equality and they think, ‘well, my vote won’t matter …. everybody else will post back their Yes vote’,” she told ABC TV on Sunday.

“Apathy is the biggest risk here.”

Cabinet minister Greg Hunt, who supports marriage equality, was optimistic but also sounded a caution, saying on Sky “nobody should ever presume an electoral outcome.”

Both sides of the debate have ramped up their campaigning in recent days.

The Coalition for Marriage launched its Victorian No campaign on Saturday night, with the event crashed by two women who kissed on stage, lips remaining locked as they were dragged off by security.

While the Yes side has started doorknocking tens of thousands of homes across the nation and raised eyebrows with an SMS campaign.

The tactic had many wondering how the campaigners got their phone numbers, but Equality Campaign’s Queensland director Peter Black defended the action.

“We are doing everything we can in our power to reach the Australian public,” he said in Brisbane on Sunday.

“The numbers were computer generated, there’s been no privacy invasion at all,” he said.

Ms Plibersek condemned bad behaviour on both sides – citing the same-sex marriage supporter who headbutted Tony Abbott in Hobart and the person who beat up Kevin Rudd’s godson for standing up for marriage equality.

But people “getting their goat up” about the Yes text messages was “ridiculous”.

“We didn’t want this postal survey to happen. And then, when the Yes campaign actually goes out and campaigns … the No campaign is saying that it is really unfair that people are urging a Yes vote,” she said.

Mr Hunt said while the news focused on “the margins and the extremes” most Australians were forming their own opinions.

“I actually think there is likely to be a moderation of the extremes because they’ve been called out,” he said.

“The message for those who are campaigning for Yes is make this about people’s right to marry and make this about acceptance.”

The Bureau of Statistics advises anyone yet to receive a form by late on Monday to contact them.

Telephone and online responses also open Monday.

The result of the voluntary postal survey on same-sex marriage is due on November 15.

Bangladesh imposes mobile phone ban on Rohingya refugees

Bangladesh’s four mobile phone providers were threatened with fines if they provide any of the nearly 430,000 newly arrived refugees from Myanmar with phone plans while the ban is in force.

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“For the time being, they (Rohingya) can’t buy any SIM cards,” Enayet Hossain, a senior officer at the telecoms ministry, told AFP on Sunday.

The decision Saturday to impose a communication blackout on the stateless Muslim minority was justified for security reasons, said junior telecoms minister Tarana Halim.

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Bangladesh already prohibits the sale of SIM cards to its own citizens who cannot provide an official identity card, in a bid to frustrate the organisational capacity of homegrown militants.

“We took the step (of welcoming the Rohingya) on humanitarian grounds but at the same time our own security should not be compromised,” Halim said, without elaborating on what specific risk the Rohingya posed.

Bangladesh’s telecoms authority said the ban could be lifted once biometric identity cards are issued to the newly arrived refugees, a process the army says could take six months.

It is just the latest restriction imposed on the Rohingya who have fled in huge numbers from violence in neighbouring Rakhine State into squalid camps in Bangladesh’s southernmost Cox’s Bazar district in the past four weeks.

0:00 Bangladesh announces tough new restrictions on the movement of Muslim Rohingya refugees Share Bangladesh announces tough new restrictions on the movement of Muslim Rohingya refugees

The nearly 430,000 refugees have been herded by the military into a handful of overstretched camps near the border, where tens of thousands live in the open without shelter.

Many have been evicted from squatting in forest and farmlands by police and soldiers, who have been ordered to keep the Rohingya from seeking shelter in major cities and nearby towns.

Roadblocks have been erected along major routes from the camp zones, where a dire shortage of food, water, shelter and toilets is creating what aid groups describe as a humanitarian crisis.

Some 5,100 have already been stopped at these checkpoints and returned to the designated camps, police said.

“We have set up 11 check posts across the Cox’s Bazar highway to stop the Rohingya refugees from spreading further toward the interior,” Cox’s Bazar police chief Iqbal Hossain told reporters.

 

Same-sex marriage ‘Yes’ campaign ‘can’t leave any stone unturned’ with text and door-knock drive

Thousands of same-sex marriage supporters have door-knocked around the country, encouraging Australians to post their votes.

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Teams of volunteers hit the streets of Leichhardt, in Sydney’s inner west, on Sunday in what the Equality Campaign says is the county’s largest door-knocking event.

“This is incredibly important for people, this is about their lives and their dignity and we have a duty as a campaign to do everything in our power to win this on their behalf,” Equality Campaign executive director Tiernan Brady said on Sunday.

In the past 15 years, support for same-sex marriage has more than doubled from 30 per cent to 65 per cent, he said.

0:00 Turnbull throws support behind ‘yes’ campaign Share Turnbull throws support behind ‘yes’ campaign

“That’s because people talk to their family, talk to their work colleagues and talk to their community about their lives,” he said.

When asked about the controversial text message campaign urging people to vote ‘yes’, Mr Brady said “We can’t leave any stone unturned in our quest to deliver equality to people.”

“There are 16 million people out there with a vote and we have a duty to use every mechanism in our power to talk to every one of them about why marriage equality matters, about why it’s so important to post your vote and why marriage will take nothing from anybody but will make Australia a fairer place for all,” he said.

0:00 Cory Bernadi speaks at same sex marriage ‘No’ campaign launch Share Cory Bernadi speaks at same sex marriage ‘No’ campaign launch

Excited first time door-knockers Matt Dempsey, 23, Kate Littrich, 23, and Kurt Hughes, 21, were expecting a positive response from Leichhardt locals.

“We’re all pretty active on social media and we’ve seen some negative stuff thrown around there but I think it’s very different when you’re face to face with someone, they’re less inclined to be so upfront,” Mr Dempsey told AAP.

“When you get to people on a personal level – we’re standing there in front of them – I think we’ll get a different response.”

 

0:00 Same-sex marriage around the world Share Same-sex marriage around the world