BRISBANE – If Australia reclaims the world No.1 Test ranking this summer, it can thank a man who, by his own admission, was never good enough to play international cricket.
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It would not be the first time Mickey Arthur has conjured such a feat.

Australia’s coach is feeling a distinct sense of deja vu going into the Test series against South Africa at the Gabba today.

The closest Arthur ever got to playing Test cricket was making his first class debut against the rebel Australian side led by Kim Hughes on its controversial 1985 South Africa tour – and that was close enough.

“Rodney Hogg bowled the first ball. He was quick. He certainly let me know he was around,” recalled Arthur with a smile.

“I wasn’t good enough to play internationally but I always tried to get the best out of myself.”

Twenty years later he was coach of a South Africa team not only welcomed back to international cricket but aiming to dominate.

It realised that dream in 2009, just months before Arthur left, having helped transform a world No.5 side seen as mentally fragile into cricket’s No.1 ranked Test side – at one stage going nine straight series unbeaten and having secured their first Test series win on Australian soil in 2008.

Now Arthur wants to do it all again, this time as Australia’s mentor and with his former team in his sights.

And he admits that sense of deja vu is there, especially when captain Michael Clarke enters the Australian dressing room.

“When I look at the time that [Proteas captain] Graeme [Smith] and I got together for South Africa it was kind of the same as the time Michael and I have come together for Australia,” Arthur said.

“Graeme is a phenomenal leader. He has an aura about him and when he talks, people listen.

“Michael Clarke is exactly the same. They are very similar characters and [there are]definite parallels between them.

“They are both very positive and lead by example. And when they play well, the teams they lead tend to be successful.”

Statistics have been kind to Australia of late – it has won six of its past seven Tests and has not lost any of its five series under Clarke since the shattering 3-1 Ashes defeat in November, 2010.

Ranked world No.3, Australia is rightly proud of its record at the Gabba, not having lost a Test in Brisbane since 1988.

However, South Africa is quick to point out it has not played in Brisbane since 1963.

And armed with a pace battery fast-bowling great Allan Donald has described as South Africa’s “best ever”, it is looking to make a triumphant return.

Not that Australia needs to be reminded of the Proteas’ pace threat.

Six survivors remain from the team routed for 47 by Dale Steyn, then debutant Vernon Philander and Morne Morkel in Cape Town last year – Australia’s lowest score in 109 years.

While Arthur sounds proud that his former South African charges are again world No.hs1 after beating England on home soil this year, he also reminds the players he knows what got them there – and isn’t afraid to use it against them.

“I know the guys personally. I know exactly what makes them tick,” he said.

“Whether that can be used to win a Test series, I’m not sure.

“But I’ll certainly be giving a lot of the information to our players.”

Australia’s batsmen may need all the information they can get.

The home side looks to have a brittle top order with openers Ed Cowan and David Warner yet to convince everyone about their Test credentials, first-drop Rob Quiney on debut and No.4 Ricky Ponting overcoming a hamstring injury and the demons of his last South African tour.

No.5 bat Clarke is the only Australian in the world’s top 10 Test batting rankings at sixth.

The side has also lost Shane Watson (calf), robbing the first Test of a heavyweight all-rounder clash with Jacques Kallis, rated the “best since Bradman” by Arthur.

In contrast to Arthur, South Africa’s coach Gary Kirsten is a man who was definitely good enough to play international cricket – 101 Tests and 185 ODIs, in fact.

The second Test will be in Adelaide (November 22-26) before the finale in Perth.

Mickey Arthur

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Macquarie back rower Jake Josephs is playing a leading role for the Raiders in this year’s Group 11 under 18 competition.Macquarie Raiders coach Greg Edwards admits his side will have to overcome inconsistency to prove they are worthy favourites for this year’s Dubbo RSL Group 11 under-18 premiership.
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The competition leaders on Saturday night at Apex Oval overcame second-placed Forbes 26-4 but the coach wasn’t about to get carried away with the performance.

“We can’t win a grand final on that performance,” Edwards said.

“In the first half our defence was very good but we dropped a lot of ball and gave them good field position. It’s hard to go forward when you cough up the ball and push passes. You have to be patient.

“We hung in there, but against a side that wasn’t at full strength we struggled to put pressure on them and at 4-all at half-time we were certainly not good things to go on and win.

“But when we controlled the football, went to the edges of the rucks and played it wider, the breaks did come and we finished stronger.

“To be honest though the season has been about having easy and hard games and sometimes the intensity does drop off and then comes the unforced errors. The finals will bring out the best in us.”

Edwards said until his Raiders can put their defence and ball handling together then the competition will be wide open.

“I’m not reading anything into what Forbes showed tonight, they will certainly be there at the finish, probably along with CYMS and Parkes. It should be a good final series,” Edwards said.

The fact that Macquarie under-18s have lost only one game all season shows they are the side to beat and from numbers one to 17 they are strong all over the paddock.

They have a squad of 23 players including up and coming juniors Josh Merritt and Brody Chapman who were away on rep duty at the weekend and missed the game against Forbes.

But any side who fields quality players such as props Ben McQuillan and Anthony Egan-Smith who take the ball forward with plenty of energy has to be taken seriously.

“We’re lucky to have some very talented players,” Edwards said.

“Ben and Anthony were two of my best against Forbes, while Alan Arnold had one of his best games for the season in the centres.

“Having Steve Riley back at fullback is also a bonus. He’s been playing SG Ball with the Dragons and has just returned to Dubbo. He is very quick, scored two nice tries against Forbes and his ability to bring the ball up is another of his major assets.”

Spectators who have seen Lawrence Fogg play in the centres and Jake Josephs in the back row realise the potential Macquarie has. Both have been given first grade exposure this season and are thriving on the extra work.

Fogg on Saturday scored two tries for the under-18s and got another in first grade when named in the run-on side.

This weekend’s football will see the Raiders at homes to Parkes in what should be another excellent under-18s game.

In the other games, Cobar travel to Wellington, Forbes host CYMS and Narromine and Nyngan meet at Nyngan.

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Wests Tigers 26 Newcastle Knights 24
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IT WAS a victory born out of rubbish. Not the rubbish that Wests Tigers had dished up at times in the first half, nor the rubbish which came from Benji Marshall’s boot in the same period. It was in the rubbish bin in the dressing room at half-time where the Tigers won the day.

After Marshall had kicked out on the full three times – twice from kick-offs – in the first half, Tigers coach Tim Sheens told him to throw it away. "I say that to any player," Sheens said. "Throw it away and get back into the game."

Marshall did more than that. The same foot stepped majestically and magically for Beau Ryan’s crucial 62nd-minute try, before booting the sideline conversion after Dean Collis’s 74th-minute effort – a play in which he had handled twice – to give the Tigers victory.

"They’re the clutch plays, aren’t they?" Sheens said. "They’re the plays the boys get paid to make … in those conditions, given a cork and not feeling 100 per cent, it’s not an easy kick. I’m happy with that."

What he wasn’t happy with was Marshall’s efforts with the boot earlier. Nor was a flu-ridden Marshall, who admitted he was "down" at half-time. "I made a few mistakes, and I went into half-time feeling a bit down," Marshall said. "But the boys lifted me and said, ‘You can only go up from here."’

Sheens added: "Benji had three poor kicks – that shook him up a bit. I don’t think he played poorly in other areas, but that can shake you up. But he showed class."

What Sheens wants now is Marshall to perform when the pressure is on in other ways, when the forwards are not performing. "When Rob [Farah, the Tigers hooker] and the forwards do their job and really cart it well, he can play a lot better off that," Sheens said. "Any [number] seven can. The real good class sevens eventually can play off the back of even the not-good go-forward. And I think he’ll get there. But this is only game seven [at halfback] – and one last year I think in which Rob didn’t play. They’re only just starting to get an understanding."

The cart was there yesterday, certainly in the second half. Prop Keith Galloway led the forwards, with Sheens saying: "He’s a hard man to keep on the ground."

So too is Taniela Tuiaki, who was also a hard man to keep off the ground in the 47th minute when Kurt Gidley found himself underneath him to deny the winger a try. Referee Jason Robinson deferred the decision to video ref Bill Harrigan, who handed it straight back. Robinson ruled Gidley had held Tuiaki up.

"He tells me he got it down, but by the time the referee got there, the hand was under the ball," Sheens said. "It’s a difficult one. We did come back and score a little afterwards but it could have been a telling point."

Richie Fa’aoso’s last-minute ball to Junior Sau was a telling point, and on this occasion the decision went against the Knights. It was ruled forward, and the Knights, with a four-on-one overlap when the whistle blew, had lost their final opportunity to win the game.

Knights coach Brian Smith refused to use it as an excuse, preferring to lay the blame squarely on his team. And, to be fair on the officials, the Knights had allowed the Tigers back into the contest after leading 24-10 with 20 minutes remaining, after Jarrod Mullen blocked out the pain of an injured shoulder to score a wonderful individual try. It should have lifted the Knights but, instead, the Tigers milled behind their tryline and planned what would be a stirring comeback.

"The talk behind the line … I got there and there were a few heads that were down, and I looked up at the scoreboard and there was 21 minutes left, which is a heap of time in a game of footy. I told the boys that we’re still in the game and to pick ourselves up," Farah said. "I said, ‘One try will turn this game’, and the crowd will get behind us."

On cue, Marshall delivered.

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Steve Buesnel flies high in a match against Orange Tigers but it was the whole Demons team flying high at the weekend after a 126-point win against Young.To build a house the tradesmen need to follow the plans to get the job done and Dubbo Demons coach Terry Lyons uses the same principals to plot the success of his football team.
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He did it last year and the Demons claimed the Central West flag, but for some reason the game plans haven’t been that closely followed this season.

The Demons did show some improvement against Young at the weekend and won the match, kicking 26-20 (176) to 7-8 (50).

After coming off a 40-plus point loss to Cowra the previous week, the coach was more upbeat this time.

“I think the players realised that game plans do work,’ Lyons said.

“There was a bit more discipline on Saturday and it showed on the scoreboard.

“As we expected Young came out hard at us and crowded our main kickers such as Greg Richter up front, but once we cleaned out the ruck and gave our kickers more room it came together for us.

“Our last quarter was probably the best and Greg kicked six to give him 10 for the match, which was a great effort.”

The coach was displeased with the discipline and commitment of his players leading into and on game day against Cowra but the early week rain saw a gym session last Tuesday night and it seemed to go forward from there.

“We had to settle for gym work on Tuesday night which was a good break away from the field, but then on Thursday we got down to business and put a lot of work into our centre and boundary throw-ins,” Lyons said.

“That practice showed on Saturday and we won the majority of the ball in those areas. Young won a lot of the taps but Josh Gilroy came into his own in the latter stages and wore down their ruckman, which gave us more options.

“Overall though the Young win was a big improvement on the previous week and we’re now looking to go forward from here.

“But it’s the players who have to make it happen.

“All the games now are vital for us, bearing in mind that we will probably be in the bottom half of the finals draw – unless something unforeseen happens to Cowra or Orange.

“We have Bathurst at home on Saturday and it would be good for our confidence to beat them – especially seeing they will probably be our elimination semi-final opponents.”

Lyons’ thoughts on what could or couldn’t happen between now and finals were well founded with the Orange versus Cowra top of the table clash at Orange on Saturday called off during the third quarter after a melee involving players from both teams.

Several players have been reported and the CWAFL will investigate the incident at a meeting in Orange tonight. Of interest to the Demons will be if points will be allocated from the game.

At the time of the incident the Tigers were leading 11-10 (76) to 8-7 (55).

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Jockey Grant BuckleyThe heavy rating at Tyers Park may have had some trainers worried before the Bathurst race but Moment of Clarity’s trainer Sarah Murray-Leslie was one who was happy to have the softer track.
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The chestnut four-year-old gelding was the winner of the $12,000 XXXX Gold Open Handicap (1410m).

In it’s last start at Mudgee the horse went in as a favourite but could only manage sixth in a field of 12.

“He hates it hard and it was like running on bitumen (in Mudgee) so to come here and get a slow track was great especially at home,” Murray-Leslie said.

When race stewards inspected the Tyers Park track on Friday they had it rated at Heavy 9 but with the fine weather over the weekend it was upgraded to a Soft 7 before racing started and to slow before the second race.

Gregory McFarlane-trained Unlocked had firmed as $2.20 favourite before the race but it was Anne Blackett-trained Collingwood Storm that started strong.

Collingwood Storm took the lead early with On My Honour a length behind and Unlocked third.

At the 850m mark Collingwood Storm held it’s lead over Unlocked who was on the rails and On My Honour third with Moment of Clarity sitting behind Unlocked.

By the time Collingwood Storm had reached the 400m mark it’s lead over Unlocked had been reduced to a neck and Moment of Clarity was moving to the outside and closing on On My Honour.

When they reached the turn into the straight Unlocked had hit the lead wide with Moment of Clarity behind, but Moment of Clarity ($6.00) finished stronger and passed Unlocked to cross the line 1.75 lengths in front of Unlocked ($2.20) with Fly First ($4.20) half a length away in third.

“I had a really nice trail up behind Tye Angland (jockey on Unlocked) and I thought Tye was on the horse to beat.

When I got off his back and got past him down the straight I thought the race was over,” Moment of Clarity’s jockey Grant Buckley said after the race.

Murray-Leslie was very happy with Buckley’s ride and said she would now give the horse a rest.

“He was in a better part of the going out there, which is why you book the more experienced jockeys and that was right today,” Murray-Leslie said.

“I knew it would come down to the line but I think he won quite convincingly.

“We are looking at giving him a holiday now.

“I was contemplating taking him to Hawkesbury on Sunday for a 1500m race but he was going to have to carry 60 kilos and that’s not ideal for him.

So after that good win we might give him a couple of weeks let up, not start him for five weeks and see how it plays.”

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A LEGAL challenge to new anti-gang legislation will be one of the first moves a new bikie club council will make.
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In an unprecedented move, the largest outlaw motorcycle club in Australia, the Rebels, opened the gates of its Leppington national clubhouse to the media yesterday to show a publicly united front to the organised crime bill recently enacted by the State Government.

Members of all the main clubs in NSW except the Nomads arrived at the Bringelly Road clubhouse to shake hands and – publicly at least – present a peaceful and united front.

After watching a procession of bikies enter the fortified club house, the media were ushered inside by large, tattooed men wearing Rebels regalia.

Inside the large cement hall, with a boxing ring in one corner and a long bar against one wall, about 20 men in full club colours stood drinking and talking quietly.

Despite originally saying “interviews” would be available, the Rebels national president, Alessio “Alex” Vella, told the media there would be no questions and no comment except by barrister and long-time Rebels lawyer, Geoffrey Nicholson, QC, and a senior God Squad member who called himself “Fish”.

“We're here to unite as one voice, to reassure the public that there's no ongoing disputes between the clubs,” Fish said. “The council will be meeting for consultation and discussions on a regular basis. The clubs are united.”

Some clubs were on “runs” so could not attend, he said.

Mr Nicholson then addressed the media, attacking the Criminal Organisations Control Act passed this month.

“It's important to remember that all that activity has been carried out under existing laws, not under these new laws.”

The new laws were directed not only at the outlaw clubs, but at “any organisations or club in the community” and would limit freedom of speech and the freedom to associate, he said.

Basic civil liberties had been forsaken by the Government in order to target the clubs, Mr Nicholson said.

“Today a bike group, tomorrow perhaps a trade union, a dissident group. There is no restriction in that legislation,” he said.

The media were then ushered out and the metal gates of the clubhouse pulled closed.

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Michael Jarry (left) for Orana Spurs and Robbie Phair in the chase when the Dubbo Bulls and Orana Spurs met in Western Premier League soccer on Sunday. Bulls got up 4-1 in their best performance of the season.Three goals from Nelson Flick could ignite the Western Premier League season for the Dubbo Bulls.
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In the Dubbo local derby played at Lady Cutler on Sunday between the Monkey Bar Bulls and Orana Spurs, players from both sides went into the game as though it was a grand final.

Five goals were scored in the 90 minute session with the Bulls clearly the better side and deserved of the 4-1 victory.

According to Bulls captain Ray Pearson, it was probably the best they had played all year.

“The pity of it was that it’s taken us all season to play that well,” he said.

“Today we came together as a team and it showed, even though Duncan Ferguson was first to score for Spurs in the first minute.

“The boys didn’t panic after that goal and settled down to play good team football.

“The play was so effective we were ahead 2-1 at half time and a couple more (goals) in the second half proved good enough.”

While the Bulls had a few players out of the game, including effective mid fielder Tom McKeon, they clicked, and Spurs didn’t have the answers.

Pearson named Robbie Phair and Nelson Flick as his two best with their attack putting a lot of pressure on the Spurs defensive line for long periods.

For a number of years Flick has been a goal scoring machine for the Bulls but this season the team has struggled and so have the number of chances he has had to score goals.

Sunday was only the second win for the Bulls in eight games this season and before this game they had scored only nine goals in the same period to be on the bottom of the competition ladder.

“It hasn’t been our best season but hopefully after today there will be a spark of more enthusiasm and we can cause a few upsets in the remaining games,” Pearson said.

“Last week we were a bit unlucky against Canobolas Rangers when six or seven half chances didn’t convert into goals. The ball either hit the posts or went wide of the mark – today they went in.”

Round 11 of 14 home-and-away games will be played on Sunday with the Bulls taking on Westside Panthers and Spurs hosting Orange Waratahs – both games at Dubbo.

Canobolas Rangers and Bathurst 75s meet in Orange, in what should be a great game.

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The Herald takes its watchdog role seriously and works to disclose corruption, problems or issues that otherwise would be unknown. But we need your help, so please take the time to contact us. Confidentiality is guaranteed.
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Email us at: [email protected]南京夜網.au

Or send documents to: Investigations, C/o

The Sydney Morning Herald,

GPO Box 506, Sydney 2001.

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Megan Dunn. Hockey referee Matt Wright keeping a close watch on proceedings when the Dubbo Ravens met Bathurst St Pats on Saturday. After the game, St Pats coach Ben Weal was praiseworthy of the performance of Wright and Tim Miller.
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Megan Dunn at 16 may be old enough to have the key to her family home, but let’s go one better and give her the key to the city of Dubbo.

She deserves it after beating the best under-19 cyclists at the World Junior Championships in Cape Town, South Africa at the weekend.

Now and then special people come along and they are our best assets.

We spend hundreds of thousands of dollars promoting Dubbo but here in our city we have a treasure that is one of a kind.

Megan is only 16, in Year 11 at Dubbo Senior College and at worst will be here at home for another year.

Mr Mayor, Greg Matthews, please consider? Let’s have a mayoral reception for Megan when she returns home and why not have it at No.1 Oval in front of the grandstand on the track where this young sports star first got on a bike and rode in a race.

Send out invitations to the people, who matter, who have been a part of Megan’s world title success, but also have an open invitation to the people of Dubbo.

These are the same people who helped raise thousands of dollars for Megan to attend the world championships.

Open the gates, invite the sporting public of Dubbo and the many, many others who know her, and those who should be a part of getting to know her.

One thing is for certain, we will hear more of this dynamo on the bike.

Megan Dunn, you’re a champion and we applaud your success.

To Megan’s parents Neil and Joy, their family, coaches, Dubbo Cycle Club team mates and others, take a bow. You deserve it.

o o o

And let’s not forget Megan’s grandparents.

The telephones have been running hot in Peak Hill and Tomingley since Megan’s great win on Sunday.

Jim Dunn and his late wife Molly, have been long-time residents of Peak Hill while Doreen and Bill Millgate from Tomingley have followed Megan’s short career with great delight.

My thanks to the lady who telephoned to share the good news.

o o o

Ben Weal is a nice young man and coach of the Bathurst St Pat’s women’s team in the Premier Hockey League series who were here on Saturday.

Ben’s team won 8-0 against the Dubbo Ravens but the coach saved his best quote for the game umpires: “They’re the best we’ve had all year, well done guys.”

The referees he was referring to were Matt Wright and Tim Miller. Well done Matt and Tim, and thanks to Matt Weal for his encouragement to the whistle blowers – mostly whom get a spray from all and sundry on a regular basis.

o o o

Big game tonight for Darren Jackson’s NSW Country team in the Quad Series rugby league when they play the Great Britain Community Lions in the third round.

After losing narrowly to the Jim Beam Cup side in the first round, Jackson’s side scored a late try to get up 28-26 over Queensland Rangers Country on Saturday night.

Former Dubbo product Blake Dunn (now living in Wollongong) scored one of the six tries and hopefully more will come tonight.

NSW must win this game to make the final and that will most certainly be against Jim Beam Cup.

The final between teams 1v2 and the playoff (3v4) will be played on the Sunshine Coast on Saturday.

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It's crunch-time for the former Cronulla Sharks star who has returned from his French club to face trial in Downing Local Court this morning on whether he assaulted his girlfriend, Katie Milligan, with a broken glass. Bird has been charged with reckless wounding, assault occasioning actual bodily harm, public mischief and false accusations. He was dropped from his team after police laid charges and now captains the Catalans, a Super-League club in France.No god, please, we're secular
Nanjing Night Net

A FINE and police charges have not deterred the Popemobile imitator Ian Bryce from further public action. Bryce faces the Downing Centre today over charges incurred during World Youth Day when he installed a mannequin pontiff, complete with gold satellite phone and the words “broadband link to my invisible friend”, atop his silver Mazda and drove it to a WYD event at North Sydney Oval. Bryce was issued with a defect notice for “having a roof ornament likely to distract motorists” and was charged with using a vehicle that “did not comply with standards”. Bryce, the vice-president of the Secular Party of Australia, is organising a protest against the charges, for which he faces a fine of up to $2200 plus expenses. Supporters of his No To Pope movement are expected to gather outside the Downing Centre this morning. Bryce said the Secular Party had about 500 members and he expected at least “half a dozen” at the courtroom. “This is going to be a showdown,” he told The Diary. The Popemobile did have a second, more successful outing at the Mardi Gras, this time on the back of a white ute, but the vehicle will not be making an appearance today.POSITIVE DESIGNS

Wednesday night's fashion parade for Jayson Brunsdon will herald the designer's first public outing since completing a gruelling three-month bout of chemotherapy following the discovery he again had cancer. Brunsdon, who has been wearing a hat after losing his hair from the chemo, was diagnosed with testicular cancer last June. He underwent surgery to remove the diseased testicle and was initially given the all clear from doctors. However, he tells this week's Grazia magazine that doctors discovered more cancer cells during a routine check-up in January.

“I can tell you, chemo is everything people tell you it is like. It is absolutely draining and just horrible,” Brunsdon said. “You have to be as positive as you can about it too as so much about cancer is in your head, so I had to block any negativity out of my life. I am still learning to be positive about it.” Brunsdon said he was in remission but having check-ups every six months.BIKIE ALERT

Arts journalists were more than a little surprised last week when a media alert for the NSW Bikies Council arrived in email inboxes. The alert came from the unlikely source of the arts publicist Merran Doyle, who works for the Ensemble Theatre and various other freelance gigs. Doyle says the one-off job did not indicate a drastic career change but was rather a “favour for a close friend”, Geoffrey Nicholson, QC, the general counsel advising the bikies. At the press conference in Leppington yesterday Doyle admitted it was the first time she had met a real-life bikie. Her first impressions? “They were extremely friendly and accommodating, if a little scary looking.”ACTIVIST TO THE END

Bea Arthur, of The Golden Girls, had an unconventional dying wish. On Friday, just a day before her death in Los Angeles from a cancer-related illness, the 86-year-old actor and animal rights activist penned an open letter to the Australian television chef Curtis Stone expressing “disappointment at seeing foie gras in some of your most recent recipe collections”. People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals said the letter was due to be sent to media today.ROMEO, ROMEO

The “weight” is finally over and fans of The Biggest Loser will be put out of their misery when the winner is announced tonight. At least one Diary reader is still curious to know who “Romeo” is. In an episode aired last week, a contestant, Sammy, (weight loss to date 38.2 kilos) read a letter of encouragement from her fiance. However, she failed to read aloud one paragraph that remained visible on screen and appeared to be discussing the welfare of another family member. “Everyone here is very proud of you and we all love you and miss you … but our little Romeo … is still a shithead.”

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WHAT'S ON TODAY

* South Africa National Day.

* Peter Garrett to launch Bruno Benini photo archive at the Powerhouse Museum, Sydney.

* House of Representatives Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Affairs Committee inquiry into community stores in remote communities holds a hearing in Papunya, Central Australia.

STAY IN TOUCH

WITH COMIC GENIUSES

WHILE it lacks the international fame and central location of its southern cousin, the Sydney Comedy Festival includes many of the same acts. This year the sprawling, three-week festival will be held in venues from Enmore to the city and Parramatta. Hot shows this week include Australian expatriate Brendon Burns tonight at the Factory Theatre, Canadians Sugar Sammy and Jeremy Hotz, Irish funnyman Dylan Moran at the Sydney Opera House tomorrow, Danny Bhoy at The Enmore Theatre and Julia Morris at The Metro. Limited tickets are still available to the Cracker Night gala showcase at The Metro and Enmore Theatres on Wednesday night, starring international and local talent.

WITH THE RATINGS RACE

Weekend television can be torture for viewers indifferent to sport. In the first week of ratings since the two-week Easter break, Nine started with all guns blazing. Its double episode of Underbelly: A Tale Of Two Cities maintained an average audience of 1.8 million over two hours, putting it well ahead at the start of the week. It had a 31.1 per cent share of the audience to Seven's 24.9 per cent. It took a hit on Tuesday when Seven retaliated with Australia's Got Talent (1.6 million). By Thursday Nine was still in front, if only just, with a progressive audience share of 27.3 per cent to Seven's 27 per cent. By Friday it was game over when Seven's Better Homes and Gardens (host Johanna Griggs, pictured) averaged close to 1.5 million in the same timeslot as Nine's Friday night football – which pulled about half that, albeit in Sydney and Brisbane only. In Sydney more people watched Better Homes than the footy, dire times indeed for the once dominant game. Seven finished with a 28 per cent audience share to Nine's 26.1 per cent.

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